New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

How vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?

Ashley Fetters

New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnels; air conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.

The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.

The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.

Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?

Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There’s a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It’s well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”

And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)

Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.

Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.

Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)

One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”

Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.

And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.

So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?

“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”

Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail, and we may include it in a future column.

Israel Strikes Hamas Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

IDF Strikes Hamas in Response to Rocket Fire

Hana Levi Julian

28 Kislev 5780 – December 26, 2019

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson / Flash 90

IDF tanks and Israeli aircraft attacked a Hamas military post in northern Gaza late Wednesday night in retaliation for a rocket attack fired at the city of Ashkelon at around 9 pm from the enclave.

Iron Dome Shoots Down Rocket Aimed at Ashkelon

Israeli Air Force aircraft also targeted a port west of the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis at around 1 am Thursday, according to the Hamas-linked Shehab news agency.

Explosions were reported in northern and central Gaza as well.

Among the sites that were hit were positions west of Deir el-Balah in central Gaza, a new port at Khan Younis, a position of the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades Hamas military wing, a position at Asqalan and a site in the town of Beit Lahiya, all of those in northern Gaza and struck multiple times early Thursday morning according to Arab media.

There were no reports of injuries.

The IDF launched the air strikes in response to the rocket attack, which took place during an event attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara in the southern coastal city.

The prime minister’s security team immediately ushered the Netanyahus to safety – as they are mandated to do by law – in a scene similar to that which took place in September during a campaign event in Ashdod.

During that incident, the prime minister insisted on returning to the stage to continue his speech. Most of the ministers who were present also remained in the room, as did attendees.

The German Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Heiko Maas against unilateral removal of nuclear weapons from Germany


Only a world without nuclear weapons can be a “safe world,” the German foreign minister said on a trip to Hiroshima. But that requires international consensus, and Germany won’t be taking the first step.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Hiroshima on Friday to commemorate victims of the 1945 nuclear attack and  promote a nuclear-weapon-free world.

“One day living in a nuclear-weapon-free world has to remain our goal,” he said. “Even though that will not be easy and may take a long time.”

Germany not to disarm

However, the foreign minister said he was against a unilateral German withdrawal of nuclear weapons.

“It’s no use if nuclear weapons are just moved from one country to another. If they are to disappear then they should disappear everywhere,” he said. “As far as nuclear disarmament is concerned, we need agreements on a broad basis, not only in individual countries.”

Germany currently stores around 20 US nuclear warheads. The armed forces have Tornado jets on standby to deploy them if necessary.

Infografik nukleare Sprengköpfe weltweit EN

In the memorial book of the Peace Museum of Hiroshima, Maas wrote: “The memory of suffering by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never fade. We have a shared responsibility to ensure that such suffering is never repeated. For a peaceful world without nuclear weapons!”

Attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The US nuclear attack on Hiroshima at the end of World War II almost completely destroyed the city and killed around 140,000 people, mostly civilians.

Tens of thousands died subsequently as a result of the long-term effects of the radiation. Three days after the attack on Hiroshima, US forces dropped another nuclear bomb on the city of Nagasaki, where a further 70,000 people died.

The bombings remain the only use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict in history.

Nuclear disarmament efforts will be discussed at the upcoming G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Nagoya, which Maas will attend.

The agenda also includes talks on free trade, the United Nations’ goals for sustainable development, and policies on Africa.

mvb/rt (AFP, dpa)

‘Deadliest ever’: the Russian Nuclear Horn

FILE PHOTO. A Yasen-M submarine. Russia’s Defense Ministry / Global Look Press

‘Deadliest ever’: Russia launches new 4th-gen nuclear-powered submarine

25 Dec, 2019 15:13

The advanced Yasen-M nuclear-powered submarine has been launched in Russia. The new ship, which is expected to join the Navy next year, is capable of carrying all existing Russian cruise missiles – and likely more.

The launch ceremony was held at the Sevmash shipyard in Russia’s northwestern city of Severodvinsk on Wednesday. It comes just a few days after the shipyard marked its 80th anniversary – and an event such as this is the best way to mark the occasion, Deputy Director General of Sevmash Sergey Voronko said.

Footage of the launch ceremony was released to the general public – and it does not show much, since the new vessel remains top secret. The video only shows the stern of the submarine and its propeller in detail, giving room for speculation.

The new vessel called the Novosibirsk, which is expected to join the ranks of the Russian Navy next year, is the first mass produced submarine of its type. The maiden Yasen-M submarine, the Kazan, is still undergoing naval trials and is expected to join the Navy in 2020 as well. Four more submarines of the type are under construction, and at least two more are expected to be laid down later – presumably next year.

Also on Russian Navy to get carrier for nuclear super-torpedo Poseidon next year – manufacturer

While little is known about the new submarine, it is said to be significantly more advanced than its predecessor – the original Yasen-class submarine. The new vessels are capable of using every type of Russian naval-based cruise missile – the multi-purpose Kalibr and anti-ship Oniks in particular – as well as carrying massive 533-mm homing torpedoes.

The submarines are also likely to carry the new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, since it can be launched from the same tubes used for the Kalibr and Oniks – though there has been no official confirmation yet. Moscow has been keen on fitting new munitions on more of its ships lately – and this is unlikely to exclusively affect surface vessels.

Also on Russia to expand number of Zircon hypersonic cruise missile-capable ships

The launch of the Novosibirsk did not go unnoticed, creating quite a fuss in the Western military media. The National Interest called the new vessel a Russian “Christmas gift for the US Navy,” branding it Moscow’s “deadliest submarine ever.”

Congress’ Christmas gift to Babylon the Great: a new nuclear weapon

Congress’s Christmas gift to Trump: A new nuclear weapon

By John Tierney, opinion contributor

December 24, 2019 – 02:00 PM EST

In reaction to the Trump administration’s inept negotiating process on denuclearization, the North Koreans have threatened to send an ominous “Christmas gift.” Unfortunately, Americans are already certain to get a different nightmarish present, compliments of the U.S. Congress.

Absent convincing logic or reason, and against the House of Representative’s inclinations, legislators overwhelmingly decided to provide President Donald Trump with a new nuclear warhead — one that his administration thinks is “more usable.” Indeed, upon signing the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, this president — only the third in U.S. history to be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors — will be in the position to gain control over the new nuclear weapon he first requested in 2018, a submarine-launched “low-yield” warhead.

The United States has the most sophisticated conventional and nuclear arsenals in the world, with capabilities to respond to any limited use of nuclear weapons in multiple ways, including a thousand existing low-yield options that can be delivered by air. In fact, Congress and the last two administrations have already devoted billions of dollars to ensure these assets can effectively penetrate the most advanced air defenses. Based on existing bipartisan-supported plans, those investments are sure to continue.

The Trump Administration has never given a convincing explanation why current bloated investments in upgrades to the U.S. nuclear deterrent are insufficient or why the deployment of the new warhead would make any real change in our current deterrent forces.

Their half-hearted case for this new warhead is fragile, bordering on specious. It contends that Russia has a doctrine whereby it would employ nuclear weapons on a limited basis to end a conventional conflict with NATO. But there is scant evidence of this doctrine’s existence and the question remains: If the current and planned air-launched options cannot properly respond to any such Russian action, why are American taxpayers being asked to spend billions of dollars on those systems?

Moreover, while the yield of this “low-yield” nuclear weapon is estimated to be roughly one-third to one-half of the yield of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima and killed approximately 80,000 people, this is still a weapon that could kill tens of thousands of people in seconds. Launching even a “low-yield” nuclear weapon off a submarine greatly increases the chances of nuclear miscalculation. How would an adversary know the size of the weapon being launched at them? They would not, and would likely respond as if the worst-case scenario was occurring, exponentially increasing the risk of nuclear escalation.

It’s true that the aftermath of a low-yield nuclear warhead detonation would be less extreme than that of higher-yield warheads, but this does not mean that they are somehow less risky to deploy or use. In addition to the destructive effects of any nuclear explosion, the breaking of the existing nuclear-use taboo would invite the kind of retaliation from nuclear-armed adversaries likely to result in a catastrophic all-out nuclear war.

Former military leaders and government officials, from former NATO Supreme Allied Commander retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis, to Former (Reagan) Secretary of State George Schultz, to former (George W. Bush) Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, have been outspoken in opposition to low-yield warhead development.

Most leading Democratic presidential candidates have also publicly registered opposition, but Senate Democrats seemed to have ignored these views when negotiating the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act. Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) affirmed their opposition in the Council for a Livable World’s nuclear policy questionnaire, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) signed a letter with 17 other Senators to the Senate Armed Services Committee leadership outlining opposition to the deployment of the new warhead. (Curiously, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has formally declined to take a position on this issue.)

The president sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021 will inherit the responsibility of handling the strategic and political consequences of the impending deployment of this destabilizing weapon — along with an active arsenal of about 4,000 nuclear weapons — so American voters deserve to know where all presidential candidates stand on the matter.

It is too late to stop this particular weapon from being built, but — whether future weapons of this nature will be built or deployed — this is unlikely to be the last fight over the desire to develop new, unnecessary nuclear capabilities that would add fuel to the increasing prospect of a dangerous arms race.

Members of Congress would do well to take their cues from leading Democratic presidential contenders and refuse to provide any further funding for new, unnecessary capabilities in search of a strategy. No one ever wants a nuclear war for Christmas.

John F. Tierney is the Executive Director of the Council for a Livable World. As a nine-term Democratic Representative from Massachusetts, he was chair of the National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the Government Oversight and Reform Committee and a former member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The Russian Horn’s New Nuclear Threat (Daniel 7)

Putin’s nuclear threat: Russia ‘only country in world’ with deadly hypersonic weapons

VLADIMIR Putin has goaded NATO by bragging that Russia is the only country in the world with deadly hypersonic weapons, which he said could be equipped with nuclear payloads.

By Ciaran McGrath 14:31, Tue, Dec 24, 2019 | UPDATED: 21:43, Tue, Dec 24, 2019

Russia launch nuclear capable Avangard missile

Speaking at a meeting with top military officials, Mr Putin said that for the first time in history, Russia has an edge in designing a new class of weapons, unlike in the past when it was catching up with the US. He said the first unit equipped with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle was set to go on duty this month.

Meanwhile the air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missiles have already entered service.

Mr Putin first mentioned the Avangard and the Kinzhal among other prospective weapons systems in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018.

At the time, Mr Putin said the Avangard has an intercontinental range and could fly in the atmosphere at a speed 20 times the speed of sound.

The warhead of the Avangard hypersonic boost-glide weapon being tested (Image: GETTY)

He noted that the weapon’s ability to change both its course and its altitude en route to a target makes it immune to interception by the enemy.

Speaking on Tuesday, he described the Avangard as a “weapon of the future, capable of penetrating both existing and prospective missile defence systems”.

The Kinzhal, which is carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, entered service with the Russian air force last year.

President Vladimir Putin watches the launch of the Avangard last year (Image: GETTY)

Mr Putin said that the missile flies 10 times faster than the speed of sound, has a range of more than 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) and can carry a nuclear or a conventional warhead.

The US and other countries have also worked on designing hypersonic weapons, but they have not yet entered service.

Mr Putin returned to the subject in December 2018, claiming hypersonic weapon test had been a “complete success”, describing it as “big moment in the life of the armed forces and in the life of the country”.

A display of a flight of the warhead of the Avangard hypersonic boost-glide weapon (Image: GETTY)

Hypersonic weapons travel several times the speed of sound (Image: GETTY)

Rafaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, commented: “The test of a new hypersonic missile, which Mr Putin boasts in “invulnerable” to western defences, heralds a world that we thought we had consigned to history.”

Writing in the Sunday Times, he added: “Moscow feels compelled to demonstrate a sense of global confrontation to enhance national power and to explain at home the imposition of economic sanctions and the vilification of Russia in the international media.

He added: “Moscow sees the current confused order as a prime environment in which to asset its meddlesome influence abroad and build a narrative at home of international power and importance.

Countries with nuclear weapons (Image: Daily Express)

“We are able to respond in only a piecemeal fashion and struggle to maintain a unified line for long.

“Previously the clarity of a structured order between the Soviet and western blocs defined who the enemy was and what we would need to do in response to the weapons they were developing.”

He concluded: “Travel to Beijing, Moscow or Tehran and you hear views we would dismiss as conspiracy theories being shared among some of the most sophisticated thinkers as mainstream perspectives.

A CGI image showing the Avangard in space (Image: GETTY)

“Doubtless they observe the same phenomenon when they visit us.

“The biggest danger we face is not large-scale military conflict fuelled by hypersonic weapons.

“It is a miscalculation of one another’s aims and intentions that precipitates confrontations and spirals out of control into conflict.”

Antichrist’s Movement plays key role in protests

Iraq’s Sadrist movement plays key role in protests

A defining feature of Iraq’s protests has been the complete rejection of all political parties, but a group led by a Shia Muslim leader has managed to stay onside.

by Simona Foltyn

A defining feature of Iraq’s months-long anti-government demonstrations has been the complete rejection of all political parties.

But one movement has managed to stay onside: the Sadrists, led by Shia Muslim leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn reports from Baghdad.