Authorities Expecting The Sixth Seal? (Rev 6:12)

US Raises Threat of Quake but Lowers Risk for Towers

New York Times


JULY 17, 2014

Here is another reason to buy a mega-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”

The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.

“The eastern U.S. has the potential for larger and more damaging earthquakes than considered in previous maps and assessments,” the agency said, citing the magnitude 5.8 quake that struck Virginia in 2011.

Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.

“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”

Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”

He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.

The city does have an earthquake building code that went into effect in 1996, and that applies primarily to new construction.

A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.

“Could there be a magnitude 6 in New York?” Mr. Armbruster said. “In Virginia, in a 300 year history, 4.8 was the biggest, and then you have a 5.8. So in New York, I wouldn’t say a 6 is impossible.”

Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.”

The Prelude to War Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Gaza escalation; a prelude to Hamas-Israel war?

Ben Caspit May 10, 2019

The most recent round of violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip on May 4 and 5 was more violent and deadlier than the ones before. For the first time in a long while, Israel’s military skipped directly to measures it usually reserves for more advanced stages of such fighting, killing Hamas targets and demolishing the organization’s command centers located in residential apartment buildings in Gaza. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad seem to have had the same idea of an advanced fighting stage. According to Arab media reports, the two groups tried to breach the defenses of Israel’s anti-missile Iron Dome batteries with heavy barrages designed to overwhelm the system’s interceptor rockets and improve the prospects of penetration. “Iron Dome’s success rate is still high,” an Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “but when you let loose many missiles at once, naturally the numbers of non-intercepted missiles grow accordingly. It is still the same 8% [of non-intercepted missiles], but when 10 missiles penetrate the defenses, the effect is different than when two do.”

For Israel, this resulted in a grim toll: four civilian deaths and searing, incontrovertible proof that it cannot defend itself hermetically against a hail of rockets, anti-tank missiles and artillery shells, a further indication that the addiction to Iron Dome has some unhealthy aspects, as well.

Factors that accelerated the escalation were at play this time on both the Israeli and Gaza side. On the Israeli side, there is a new, energetic army chief, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, who appears to have had enough of the periodic rounds of fighting with Gaza occurring at shorter and shorter intervals. On the other side, the Islamic Jihad is becoming increasingly independent, shaking off all restraints, ruining Hamas plans and spoiling its parties. Members of the Israeli government’s security Cabinet say intelligence reports point to two possible motivations for this Islamist group’s decision. One is that the group is carrying out orders from Tehran, which is in desperate need of a violent clash between Israel and the Palestinians. The other, a security source said on condition of anonymity, is that the Islamic Jihad is simply a gang of “irresponsible, childish and violent people,” as its leaders were described in one intelligence report (reported here May 3).

Either way, everyone in Israel understands that the relatively short round that ended through Egyptian-Qatari mediation was only a teaser. Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who stepped down in November over what he described as Israeli inactivity vis-a-vis Gaza and because his demand for broad military action in the Strip was rejected, is warming up on the sidelines. Leaks by associates of the hawkish right-wing politician indicate that he has reached an understanding regarding Gaza with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is expected to appoint Liberman anew as defense minister in the fifth government Netanyahu is cobbling together. This cannot be good news for Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Liberman is also counting on Kochavi; before Liberman quit as defense minister, he tagged Kochavi to become chief of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) despite Netanyahu’s preference for another candidate, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir. Kochavi has already delivered a first installment. In the latest round with Gaza, Kochavi ordered the air force to bomb joint Hamas and Islamic Jihad command centers, some located in apartment buildings, and provided a sample of Israel’s capabilities in carrying out “targeted eliminations” of its enemies when it fired an airborne missile at a vehicle carrying Hamad Hudri, who served as Iran’s paymaster in Gaza before he was killed.

The IDF denies that Kochavi is changing the policy adopted by his predecessor Gadi Eizenkot, who worked hard to prevent escalations that could lead to yet another pointless war with Gaza. Military officials say the reason for the apparent shift is far simpler. The attacks against Hamas and Islamic Jihad infrastructure have played themselves out and are no longer effective. There are no more valuable targets for Israel to strike and with which to exact a heavy price from the terror organizations. The IDF escalated its response to the attacks from Gaza in this past round because it had no other choice.

There remains the question of the goal. No one in Israel is fooling themselves into thinking that even with its stepped-up measures, Israel had restored its deterrence vis-a-vis Gaza and that calm would return to the Strip and its surroundings. Senior Israeli military officials were quoted last week warning that unless significant measures are adopted to alleviate the humanitarian and economic crisis in Gaza, renewed violence is only a matter of time. Israel’s security Cabinet, which has long served as a rubber stamp for Netanyahu’s one-man rule, was quick to hit back at the unnamed officers. No winners emerged from this clash, either. It, too, probably foreshadows things to come.

The one bright spot is Qatar. The oil and gas principality has been engaged in a complex love-hate relationship with Israel in recent years. On the one hand, Qatar is closely aligned with various terrorist groups, funding militias and stirring up incitement through its very own Al Jazeera network. On the other hand, it has served as a significant moderating factor using its financial resources to ease tensions. At the end of the flare-up, Qatar announced it would give the Palestinians nearly half a billion dollars in aid. This is supposed to throw Hamas a lifeline. The money is not destined only for Gaza, on the contrary: Most of it [$300 million] will go to Palestinian President head Mahmoud Abbas, whose fiefdom is also experiencing rapid economic deterioration (as reported here in the past).

According to senior Israeli sources, unlike previous times, this time the Qataris are willing to accept close and significant monitoring of the funds reaching Gaza, including Israeli oversight. This increases the prospects of funds reaching needy individuals and alleviating the deep crisis in the enclave — rather than being diverted to the terrorist organizations operating there. This is not enough, Israeli military sources say, but for the time being, it will have to do.

All eyes are now on the drama playing out between Tehran and Washington — including Iran’s announcement this week over uranium enrichment — which also involves Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and many others. Netanyahu is far more invested in this front; the southern one interests him a lot less. He views the obstruction of Iran’s nuclear capability as a historic task of biblical dimensions, regarding the terrorist groups in Gaza as nothing more than annoying background noise of limited threat potential.

However, others think differently. Newly sworn-in Blue and White Knesset member Zvi Hauzer, formerly Netanyahu’s Cabinet secretary (2009-13), is waging a campaign to demilitarize Gaza. Hauzer believes that those who dismiss Hamas will get Hezbollah instead. After all, that is exactly what happened to Israel in Lebanon. “Just as the international community, along with a real military threat, forced Assad to give up his chemical weapons, the same should be done with Gaza,” he told Al-Monitor. “Hamas and Jihad have to understand that they are risking their hold on power and their lives if they continue firing rockets at Israel. Once they realize this, we will see a convoy of thousands of rockets and missiles transported from the Strip southward toward Egypt. Until then, the violence will continue.”

The Strait of Hormuz Gravely Threatened (Rev 6:6)

Crude oil tanker, Amjad, which was one of two reported tankers that were damaged in mysterious

Four ships ‘sabotaged’ in the Gulf of Oman amid tensions

Four commercial ships were targets of a “sabotage attack” off the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday, the country’s foreign affairs ministry has said.

The incident reportedly took place near Fujairah port, just outside the Strait of Hormuz, but caused no casualties.

Saudi Arabia confirmed that two Saudi oil tankers sustained “significant damage”.

Another vessel was Norwegian-registered, whilst the fourth was reportedly UAE-flagged.

Iran, which borders the strait, has called for a full investigation.

Tensions are high in the region. About a fifth of oil that is consumed globally passes through the area.

Last month, Iran threatened to “close” the Strait of Hormuz if it was prevented from using the waterway.

This followed a US decision to end exemptions from sanctions for major importers of Iranian oil.

The US has deployed warships to the region in recent days to counter what it called “clear indications” of threats from Iran to its forces and maritime traffic. Iran dismissed that allegation as nonsense.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unplanned visit to Brussels on Monday to discuss Iran with European foreign ministers.

What do we know about the incident?

Few details have been released about the incident, which is said to have taken place at about 06:00 (02:00 GMT) on Sunday within the UAE’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the emirate of Fujairah.

The UAE foreign ministry said on Sunday that it was investigating.

The ministry also denied as “baseless and unfounded” media reports of fires and explosions at Fujairah port, and insisted operations at the facility were normal.

Map of the Strait of Hormuz

On Monday morning, the official Saudi Press Agency quoted the country’s energy minister, Khalid al-Falih as saying two Saudi oil tankers had been among the ships targeted.

“One of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to Saudi Aramco’s customers in the United States,” he added.

Industry sources told the BBC that the Saudi tankers affected were the Amjad and Al Marzoqah.

Saudi-based Al Arabiya TV aired what it said were the first images of the damaged ships on Monday.

A picture released by the UAE shows a Norwegian-flagged vessel, Andrea Victory, with damage to its hull.

A picture taken of Norwegian oil tanker Andrea Victory with damage to its sideImage copyrightHANDOUTImage captionNorwegian firm Thome Ship Management said one of its vessels had been “struck by an unknown object” off FujairahPresentational white space

Thome Ship Management, a Norwegian firm which manages the ship, said in a statement that it had been “struck by an unknown object on the waterline” while anchored off Fujairah. No crew members were harmed.

News agency Reuters reports that the fourth vessel is the UAE-flagged A. Michel, a fuel bunker barge.

Intertanko, an association of independent tanker owners and operators, said it had seen pictures showing that “at least two ships have holes in their sides due to the impact of a weapon”, Reuters news agency reported.

UAE Navy boats are seen next to Al Marzoqah, a Saudi Arabian tankerImage copyrightREUTERSImage captionUAE Navy boats have been pictured next to Al Marzoqah, a Saudi Arabian tanker which was reportedly “sabotaged”

Who is to blame?

Saudi Arabia and the UAE did not accuse any groups or countries.

However, Mr Falih said the damage was intended “to undermine the freedom of maritime navigation, and the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world”.

“The international community has a joint responsibility to protect the safety of maritime navigation and the security of oil tankers,” he added.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was cited by the semi-official Isna news agency as saying “such incidents have negative impact on maritime transportation security”. He asked for regional countries to be “vigilant against destabilising plots of foreign agents”.

Oil prices in trading rose on Monday morning, with the global benchmark Brent crude climbing 0.78% to $70.94 a barrel. US oil – known as West Texas Intermediate – was meanwhile up 0.71% at $62.14.

Presentational grey line

Murky waters around the Gulf

Analysis box by Frank Gardner, security correspondent

Whoever was behind this offshore incident, it adds yet one more layer to the increasingly complex strategic picture in the Gulf.

The White House accuses Iran of threatening its interests in the Gulf – without saying how exactly – and has dispatched an aircraft carrier group and amphibious assault ship to the Gulf, hoping to intimidate Tehran. The US has also sent a squadron of B52 bombers to an airbase in Qatar, a country that actually enjoys friendly relations with Iran.

The Iranians, for their part, have hinted that “a third country” could be to blame – historically, that has tended to mean Israel – and have called for a full investigation.

Oil tankers have been attacked in the region before, by al-Qaeda off Yemen in 2002, by Somali maritime pirates in the Gulf of Oman, and more recently by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.

Until verified facts emerge it will be hard to ascertain who is to blame in this case.