Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger Bilham

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

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‘Death to Israel’ shouted by Iranians

‘Death to Israel’ shouted as Iranians protest IRGC blacklist

Thousands chant “death to America” and “death to Israel” as they protest US decision to blacklist Revolutionary Guards.

Thousands of Iranians in Tehran on Friday chanted “death to America” and “death to Israel” as they protested the US decision to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization, i24NEWS reports.

After Friday’s prayer ended at mosques in Tehran, thousands gathered at the Enqelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) square in the Iranian capital, burning Israeli and American flags.

US President Donald Trump officially designated the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization on Monday, calling the decision an “unprecedented” move which “recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.”

The decision effectively means that anyone who deals with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps could face prison in the United States.

Shortly after the US announced its move, Iran countered by declaring the United States a “state sponsor of terrorism” and US forces in the region “terrorist groups”.

On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed that the Islamic Republic will hold the US accountable for provocations against the IRGC in a letter to the UN Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“The US and several puppet governments will bear responsibility for dangerous consequences of the adventurism,” Zarif said according to the IRNA news agency.

“The provocative move will raise tensions to an uncontrollable level and increase threats in the region,” he added.

Iranians regularly shout “death to America” and “death to Israel” at public rallies.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently claimed that the slogan “death to America”, is directed at Trump and US leaders, not the American nation.

Khamenei said that the chants will continue as long as Washington continues its “hostile policies”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, often touted as a “moderate” president, has personally presided over “Death to America” chants during rallies in Iran, even though he claimed that Iranians “respect the American people”.

Similarly Zarif, with whom the Obama administration negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal, was caught on camera last year joining in a public chant against the US, UK, and Israel.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

Another Teenager Killed Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

A relative of a Palestinian who was killed at the Israeli-Gaza border fence during a protest, reacts in the northern Gaza Strip April 12, 2019.

Israeli soldiers kill Gaza teenager during border protest

Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) – Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian teenager taking part in protests along the Gaza border on Friday, Palestinian health officials said, the first fatality since Gazans marked the one-year anniversary of the weekly demonstrations in March.

The Israeli military said about 7,400 Palestinians massed along the frontier, some throwing rocks, and that there were several attempts to approach the fence into Israel.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said a 15-year-old boy died after being shot by Israeli gunfire. An Israeli army spokesman said the troops were responding with riot dispersal means.

Tensions rose after a rocket fired from Gaza wounded seven Israelis north of Tel Aviv on March 25. Israel mounted a wave of air strikes following that attack on targets it said belonged to Hamas, the Islamist group which rules the coastal enclave.

The cross-border violence immediately played into Israel’s election campaign, which concluded earlier this week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heading toward a record fifth term in office.

But Egyptian mediators intervened to avoid further escalation by persuading Israel to lift restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza and expand the breadth of Mediterranean waters where Gazans can fish.

The protesters are demanding an end to a blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt, and want Palestinians to have the right to return to land from which their families fled or were forced to flee during Israel’s founding in 1948.

Israel rejects any such return, saying it would eliminate its Jewish majority.

More than 200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops since the ‘Great March of Return’ started on March 30 last year, according to Gaza health officials. An Israeli soldier was also killed by a Palestinian sniper.

Last month’s anniversary rally was smaller than expected, despite concerns that the event, during which four Palestinians were killed, would see a major escalation.

Israel seized Gaza in the 1967 Middle East War and pulled out its troops and settlers in 2005. It says its blockade is necessary to stop weapons reaching Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel and fired thousands of rockets at it in the past decade.

Israel’s use of lethal force at the border protests has drawn censure from the United Nations and human rights groups. U.N. investigators in February said Israeli forces might be guilty of war crimes for using excessive force.

Israel says its troops have no choice because they are trying to stop militants breaching the fence and attacking Israeli communities nearby. Palestinians have also launched incendiary balloons and kites into Israel.

(Writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Antichrist says computer game destroying Iraqi youth

Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr says computer games are destorying Iraqi youth. Reuters

Moqtada Al Sadr says computer game destroying Iraqi youth

Mina AldroubiApril 11, 2019

Iraq’s culture and society are in decline due to an increasing obsession over an online multiplayer computer game, populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr said on Thursday.

The cleric is calling for tighter government controls to combat computer game “addiction”. In particular, he is worried about over PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, PUBG for short.

Iraqi media have reported incidents of suicide and divorce related to the game during the past year.

“It saddens me to see our youth are brainwashed by PUBG,” Mr Al Sadr said.

The game is a best seller with over 400 million players across the world. It was developed by South Korean firm Blue Hole, and based on a first-person shooter battle for survival format.

“Iraq’s society is deteriorating as its youth are occupied by the fighting in PUBG’s battlefields,” Mr Al Sadr said on Twitter.

Mr Al Sadr launched an insurgency against the US occupation of Iraq, and in recent years has revived himself as an Iraqi nationalist who opposes foreign meddling in the country.

“What is the point of this game? What will you benefit if you had killed one or two people while playing PUBG? It is not a military or an intellectual game,” he said.

Numerous Fatwas have been issued across the county, saying that wasting time on the game is “un-Islamic”.

The Kurdish Union of Islamic Scholars declared the game as “haram” as it is “wasting” people’s valuable time.

“The game will badly affect vision when played on mobile phones, it will impact the body too,” Iran Rasheed, a member of the Kurdish Union said.

“The game benefits no one,” Mr Rasheed said.

Iraqi news outlets have published in-depth reporting on the craze and even said it has led to 40,000 divorces around the world and more than 20 cases in Iraq, although it didn’t cite the source for such claims.

Iraqi army officials have warned that soldiers are neglecting their duties because of the mobile version of PUBG.

The health impacts of gaming are debated. But psychiatrists warn that individuals should be aware of the game’s possible long-term impacts, including some evidence it can make users less empathetic.

The game allegedly inspired an Iraqi teen to commit suicide in January, Iraq’s Independent Human Rights Commission said in a statement.

The 17-year-old’s family said his death was a “wake up call for the dangers that Iraqi children are being exposed to.”

But Iraqi youth have brushed aside the warning, arguing that they have nothing better to fill their time with.

“The most important thing for us, as male youth, is this game. It’s our life, we have nothing better to do with our time. Everything has been taken away from us,” Mustafa Abeed, 22, an unemployed engineer told The National.

“I graduated from university last summer, I’m struggling to find a job, so this game is a distraction for us,” Mr Abeed said.

Iraq’s youth make up around 60 per cent of Iraq’s nearly 40 million population.

Aapproximately 17 per cent of men and 27 per cent of women are unemployed, according to World Bank figures.

“We all love this game, it’s become a part of our daily routine,” Hamza Naji, 20, said.

“I have taken Sayid Moqtada Al Sadr’s statement on board but every day I play this game, I cannot stop,” he said.

But not all have decided to put aside the cleric’s calls.

“We are ruled by corrupt politicians the country is in shambles and its youth are distracted by video games, this is a disgrace,” a Baghdadi housewife, Susan Ali, 45, told The National.

“This is a habit that’s ingrained in their minds, the statement unfortunately, will do nothing to change this,” Ms Ali said.

Updated: April 11, 2019 05:32 PM