The Sixth Seal Will be in New York (Rev 6:12)

By Simon Worrall


Half a million earthquakes occur worldwide each year, according to an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most are too small to rattle your teacup. But some, like the 2011 quake off the coast of Japan or last year’s disaster in Italy, can level high-rise buildings, knock out power, water and communications, and leave a lifelong legacy of trauma for those unlucky enough to be caught in them.

In the U.S., the focus is on California’s San Andreas fault, which geologists suggest has a nearly one-in-five chance of causing a major earthquake in the next three decades. But it’s not just the faults we know about that should concern us, says Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake. As she explained when National Geographic caught up with her at her home in Portland, Maine, there’s a much larger number of faults we don’t know about—and fracking is only adding to the risks.

When it comes to earthquakes, there is really only one question everyone wants to know: When will the big one hit California?

That’s the question seismologists wish they could answer, too! One of the most shocking and surprising things for me is just how little is actually known about this natural phenomenon. The geophysicists, seismologists, and emergency managers that I spoke with are the first to say, “We just don’t know!”

What we can say is that it is relatively certain that a major earthquake will happen in California in our lifetime. We don’t know where or when. An earthquake happening east of San Diego out in the desert is going to have hugely different effects than that same earthquake happening in, say, Los Angeles. They’re both possible, both likely, but we just don’t know.

One of the things that’s important to understand about San Andreas is that it’s a fault zone. As laypeople we tend to think about it as this single crack that runs through California and if it cracks enough it’s going to dump the state into the ocean. But that’s not what’s happening here. San Andreas is a huge fault zone, which goes through very different types of geological features. As a result, very different types of earthquakes can happen in different places.

As Charles Richter, inventor of the Richter Scale, famously said, “Only fools, liars and charlatans predict earthquakes.” Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? After all, we have sent rockets into space and plumbed the depths of the ocean.

You’re right: We know far more about distant galaxies than we do about the inner workings of our planet. The problem is that seismologists can’t study an earthquake because they don’t know when or where it’s going to happen. It could happen six miles underground or six miles under the ocean, in which case they can’t even witness it. They can go back and do forensic, post-mortem work. But we still don’t know where most faults lie. We only know where a fault is after an earthquake has occurred. If you look at the last 100 years of major earthquakes in the U.S., they’ve all happened on faults we didn’t even know existed.

Earthquakes 101

Earthquakes are unpredictable and can strike with enough force to bring buildings down. Find out what causes earthquakes, why they’re so deadly, and what’s being done to help buildings sustain their hits.

Fracking is a relatively new industry. Many people believe that it can cause what are known as induced earthquakes. What’s the scientific consensus?

The scientific consensus is that a practice known as wastewater injection undeniably causes earthquakes when the geological features are conducive. In the fracking process, water and lubricants are injected into the earth to split open the rock, so oil and natural gas can be retrieved. As this happens, wastewater is also retrieved and brought back to the surface.

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Different states deal with this in different ways. Some states, like Pennsylvania, favor letting the wastewater settle in aboveground pools, which can cause run-off contamination of drinking supplies. Other states, like Oklahoma, have chosen to re-inject the water into the ground. And what we’re seeing in Oklahoma is that this injection is enough to shift the pressure inside the earth’s core, so that daily earthquakes are happening in communities like Stillwater. As our technology improves, and both our ability and need to extract more resources from the earth increases, our risk of causing earthquakes will also rise exponentially.

After Fukushima, the idea of storing nuclear waste underground cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Yet President Trump has recently green-lighted new funds for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Is that wise?

The issue with Fukushima was not about underground nuclear storage but it is relevant. The Tohoku earthquake, off the coast of Japan, was a massive, 9.0 earthquake—so big that it shifted the axis of the earth and moved the entire island of Japan some eight centimeters! It also created a series of tsunamis, which swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant to a degree the designers did not believe was possible.

Here in the U.S., we have nuclear plants that are also potentially vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, above all on the East Coast, like Pilgrim Nuclear, south of Boston, or Indian Point, north of New York City. Both of these have been deemed by the USGS to have an unacceptable level of seismic risk. [Both are scheduled to close in the next few years.]

Yucca Mountain is meant to address our need to store the huge amounts of nuclear waste that have been accumulating for more than 40 years. Problem number one is getting it out of these plants. We are going to have to somehow truck or train these spent fuel rods from, say, Boston, to a place like Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. On the way it will have to go through multiple earthquake zones, including New Madrid, which is widely considered to be one of the country’s most dangerous earthquake zones.

Yucca Mountain itself has had seismic activity. Ultimately, there’s no great place to put nuclear waste—and there’s no guarantee that where we do put it is going to be safe.

The psychological and emotional effects of an earthquake are especially harrowing. Why is that?

This is a fascinating and newly emerging subfield within psychology, which looks at the effects of natural disasters on both our individual and collective psyches. Whenever you experience significant trauma, you’re going to see a huge increase in PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide, and even violent behaviors.

What seems to make earthquakes particularly pernicious is the surprise factor. A tornado will usually give people a few minutes, if not longer, to prepare; same thing with hurricanes. But that doesn’t happen with an earthquake. There is nothing but profound surprise. And the idea that the bedrock we walk and sleep upon can somehow become liquid and mobile seems to be really difficult for us to get our heads around.

Psychologists think that there are two things happening. One is a PTSD-type loop where our brain replays the trauma again and again, manifesting itself in dreams or panic attacks during the day. But there also appears to be a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. If your readers have ever been at sea for some time and then get off the ship and try to walk on dry land, they know they will look like drunkards. [Laughs] The reason for this is that the inner ear has habituated itself to the motion of the ship. We think the inner ear does something similar in the case of earthquakes, in an attempt to make sense of this strange, jarring movement.

After the Abruzzo quake in Italy, seven seismologists were actually tried and sentenced to six years in jail for failing to predict the disaster. Wouldn’t a similar threat help improve the prediction skills of American seismologists?

[Laughs] The scientific community was uniform in denouncing that action by the Italian government because, right now, earthquakes are impossible to predict. But the question of culpability is an important one. To what degree do we want to hold anyone responsible? Do we want to hold the local meteorologist responsible if he gets the weather forecast wrong? [Laughs]

What scientists say—and I don’t think this is a dodge on their parts—is, “Predicting earthquakes is the Holy Grail; it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. It may never happen.” What we can do is work on early warning systems, where we can at least give people 30 or 90 seconds to make a few quick decisive moves that could well save your life. We have failed to do that. But Mexico has had one in place for years!

There is some evidence that animals can predict earthquakes. Is there any truth to these theories?

All we know right now is anecdotal information because this is so hard to test for. We don’t know where the next earthquake is going to be so we can’t necessarily set up cameras and observe the animals there. So we have to rely on these anecdotal reports, say, of reptiles coming out of the ground prior to a quake. The one thing that was recorded here in the U.S. recently was that in the seconds before an earthquake in Oklahoma huge flocks of birds took flight. Was that coincidence? Related? We can’t draw that correlation yet.

One of the fascinating new approaches to prediction is the MyQuake app. Tell us how it works—and why it could be an especially good solution for Third World countries.

The USGS desperately wants to have it funded. The reluctance appears to be from Congress. A consortium of universities, in conjunction with the USGS, has been working on some fascinating tools. One is a dense network of seismographs that feed into a mainframe computer, which can take all the information and within nanoseconds understand that an earthquake is starting.

MyQuake is an app where you can get up to date information on what’s happening around the world. What’s fascinating is that our phones can also serve as seismographs. The same technology that knows which way your phone is facing, and whether it should show us an image in portrait or landscape, registers other kinds of movement. Scientists at UC Berkeley are looking to see if they can crowd source that information so that in places where we don’t have a lot of seismographs or measuring instruments, like New York City or Chicago or developing countries like Nepal, we can use smart phones both to record quakes and to send out early warning notices to people.

You traveled all over the U.S. for your research. Did you return home feeling safer?

I do not feel safer in the sense that I had no idea just how much risk regions of this country face on a daily basis when it comes to seismic hazards. We tend to think of this as a West Coast problem but it’s not! It’s a New York, Memphis, Seattle, or Phoenix problem. Nearly every major urban center in this country is at risk of a measurable earthquake.

What I do feel safer about is knowing what I can do as an individual. I hope that is a major take-home message for people who read the book. There are so many things we should be doing as individuals, family members, or communities to minimize this risk: simple things from having a go-bag and an emergency plan amongst the family to larger things like building codes.

We know that a major earthquake is going to happen. It’s probably going to knock out our communications lines. Phones aren’t going to work, Wi-Fi is going to go down, first responders are not going to be able to get to people for quite some time. So it is beholden on all of us to make sure we can survive until help can get to us.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

China’s New Nuclear Threat (Revelation 7)

A Direct Threat to the U.S. Military: China’s New Hypersonic Weapons

China celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1 in typical fashion – with a military parade. Some of the new weapons on display that day provide cause for serious concern among U.S. policymakers.

China showcased its new stealthy bat-winged unmanned aerial vehicle—the Gongji-11. But more significantly, it displayed the new road-mobile DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile and its submarine-launched ballistic missile, the JL-2. The DF-41 ICBMs are capable of striking the United States while carrying multiple nuclear warheads. The U.S., meanwhile, depends on nuclear delivery platforms that are in some cases 30-40 years old.  China is nearly done with an across-the-board modernization of all its platforms.  The U.S. does not even have a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile.

But that’s not the worst of it.

The starkest example of China’s new capabilities was its unveiling of its DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle. These vehicles are capable of traveling at least five times the speed of sound (greater than Mach 5). They use a standard ballistic missile booster at the outset but become a low-flying projectile for their second stage. They can be used to hit a target after the first stage’s ballistic re-entry.  Hypersonic glide vehicles are especially problematic because they are difficult to detect and defend against.

Despite aspirations, the United States has yet to successfully test a hypersonic glide vehicle. Much of this has to do with the fact that the U.S. industrial base is not yet ready to begin producing these weapons. Conversely, the Chinese have thrown mass amounts of research and development money into hypersonics and prioritized their production. Experts have seen this showcase not only as a display of their rapidly growing military capabilities but also a sign of their intent to be a major military power.

This could all be chalked up to military gamesmanship, but it presents a vivid reminder to the U.S. military and policymakers that our military capabilities are currently outmatched in this area. Perhaps the most alarming aspect of all is that the United States has little to no hypersonic defensive systems.

Most of the Department of Defense’s funding for hypersonics is devoted to creating offensive weapons, not defending against them. Of the $2.6 billion devoted to the hypersonic program, only 6% is assigned for defensive systems. Perhaps it would be wise to devote more money to defensive systems, as both China and Russia are expected to be able to attach nuclear warheads to hypersonic glide vehicles as early as next year.

In addition to lacking the necessary industrial capabilities to even produce these weapons, the U.S. has no current plans to build these vehicles with a capacity to carry nuclear warheads. As a result, American hypersonic glide vehicles will need to be more precise in order to match our adversaries’ capabilities. This will make them more difficult to build as a whole than their Chinese (or even Russian) counterparts.

Regardless of whether the weapons displayed by the Chinese are fully operational, one thing is certain: The United States appears woefully unprepared to deal with this potential threat.

This first appeared in The Daily Signal here.

A Two-State Solution Is NOT Possible (Revelation 11)

Is a Two-State Solution Still Possible?

While sympathy for Palestinian self-rule is understandable, proponents of the two-state solution must resolve seven tough questions before it can be realistic.

The two-state solution—one for Palestinian Arabs, one for Israel, living side by side in peace and security—has long been an inviolable principle for both the U.S. and Israel. But today, intractable obstacles make two states seem more a dangerous fantasy than a viable alternative.

What are the facts?

Hope of Palestinian independence by the United States and Israel has since 2000 produced three offers of a Palestinian state in up to 97% of Judea-Samaria (the West Bank), including a capital in Jerusalem. But profound changes in the region—and persistent Arab rejection of these offers—make a Palestinian state threatening to Israel and the entire region. Until we can resolve these thorny questions, two states can’t yet be considered a solution:

1When will Palestinian Arabs recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people? For 71 years, the Arabs have steadfastly refused to accept the Jewish state—preserving the hope that someday the Jews will be driven from the Holy Land. Indeed, according to a recent poll, 57% of Palestinians believe their main national goal should be a one-state solution, reclaiming all of historic Palestine from the river to the sea. Should Westerners insist on something most Palestinians don’t want?

2When will the two warring Palestinian factions—Hamas and Fatah—reconcile? Ever since Hamas, the Muslim terror group, won Palestinian elections in 2006 and then violently seized Gaza, it has waged war with the ruling Fatah party in the West Bank. Not only are Gaza and the West Bank separated geographically, but for 13 years these two factions have fought bitterly, despite their peace efforts and those of other Arab nations. Until Fatah and Hamas declare peace, Israel has no negotiating partner.

3When will Hamas retract its sworn mission to destroy Israel? Hamas controls Gaza and is today allied with Iran—both of which advocate Israel’s destruction and spend tens of millions of dollars supporting anti-Israel terror attacks. How can Israel achieve security when the Hamas charter and its every action focus on eliminating the Jewish state by military force?

4 When will the Palestinians hold national elections? Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was elected to a four-year term in 2005. He has now served 14 years without standing for election, and neither Palestinians in Judea-Samaria nor Gaza have held national elections since 2006—they are totalitarian entities. Will creating a new Arab dictatorship help create peace?

5 When will the Palestinians create a self-sustaining economy? While the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas have received billions of dollars in aid from the U.S., the European Union and Arab states, neither group has invested in infrastructure sufficient to create viable economies. Unemployment in the West Bank is 18%; it’s 52% in Gaza.  Without massive international welfare, both entities would collapse.

6What would prevent terrorist Hamas from conquering a new Palestinian state? Hamas clearly has superior military might: It violently took over Gaza in 2007, today has 20,000 men under arms and commands tens of thousands of rockets. It also has a well-organized political arm and is supported financially by Iran. If a Palestinian state were formed under the Palestinian Authority, how could the U.S., Israel, Jordan and Egypt protect the new state from a coup by Islamist Hamas terrorists?

7 When will the Palestinians institute political freedoms and rule of law? Like many Middle East dictatorships, neither Palestinian “governments” support civil rights or rule of law. The U.N. Special Coordinator has reported that in Palestinian jurisdictions, “conditions for rule of law” are non-existent. Human Rights Watch reports that the PA is “arresting, abusing and criminally charging journalists who express peaceful criticism.” Civilian security in both territories is completely outside of civilian control.

At one time, a two-state solution seemed reasonable—before the Palestinians turned down generous peace offers by Israel in 2000, 2001 and 2008, before Hamas seized Gaza and launched three wars against Israel, before Iran blossomed into a regional cancer, before the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, before ISIS and al Qaeda, and before 14 years of corrupt rule by Mahmoud Abbas. Until major problems are resolved, the two-state solution seems at best indefensible—and, worse, irresponsible and dangerous.

Russia prepares for nuclear war (Revelation 16)

Russia slates drills for nuclear forces

MOSCOW — Russia’s military will this week undertake a sweeping drill of its strategic nuclear forces.

The Defense Ministry said the three-day exercise will begin Tuesday and involve 12,000 troops, 213 missile launchers, 105 aircraft, 15 surface warships and five submarines.

It said in a statement Monday that the war games will feature practice launches of missiles.

Maj. Gen. Yevgeny Ilyin, the head of the ministry’s international cooperation department, said at a briefing for foreign military attaches that two intercontinental ballistic missiles will be launched at practice targets on the Kura testing range on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

He added that strategic bombers will also fire cruise missiles at test targets at several firing ranges.

Russia has expanded the scope of its military drills in recent years amid rising tensions with the West.

Iran Prepares to Abandon Nuclear Deal

Iran to continue scaling back commitments to nuclear deal: Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during press conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Tehran, Iran, October 13, 2019. Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday Tehran would continue to scale back its commitments to the 2015 nuclear agreement until the European Union fulfils promises it made under the deal.

Iran has gradually scaled back its nuclear commitments since May after the U.S. pulled out of the deal and has called on European parties to the pact to salvage the deal by shielding Iran’s economy from U.S. penalties.

Rouhani, speaking on state television, also said Iran would start working on more advance uranium enrichment centrifuges.

Reporting by Parisa Hafezi, Writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Alison Williams