Real Risk, Few Precautions (Revelation 6:12)

By WILLIAM K. STEVENS

Published: October 24, 1989

AN EARTHQUAKE as powerful as the one that struck northern California last week could occur almost anywhere along the East Coast, experts say. And if it did, it would probably cause far more destruction than the West Coast quake.

The chances of such an occurrence are much less in the East than on the West Coast. Geologic stresses in the East build up only a hundredth to a thousandth as fast as in California, and this means that big Eastern quakes are far less frequent. Scientists do not really know what the interval between them might be, nor are the deeper-lying geologic faults that cause them as accessible to study. So seismologists are at a loss to predict when or where they will strike.

But they do know that a temblor with a magnitude estimated at 7 on the Richter scale – about the same magnitude as last week’s California quake – devastated Charleston, S.C., in 1886. And after more than a decade of study, they also know that geologic structures similar to those that caused the Charleston quake exist all along the Eastern Seaboard.

For this reason, ”we can’t preclude that a Charleston-sized earthquake might occur anywhere along the East Coast,” said David Russ, the assistant chief geologist of the United States Geological Survey in Reston, Va. ”It could occur in Washington. It could occur in New York.”

If that happens, many experts agree, the impact will probably be much greater than in California.Easterners, unlike Californians, have paid very little attention to making buildings and other structures earthquake-proof or earthquake-resistant. ”We don’t have that mentality here on the East Coast,” said Robert Silman, a New York structural engineer whose firm has worked on 3,800 buildings in the metropolitan area.

Moreover, buildings, highways, bridges, water and sewer systems and communications networks in the East are all older than in the West and consequently more vulnerable to damage. Even under normal conditions, for instance, water mains routinely rupture in New York City.

The result, said Dr. John Ebel, a geophysicist who is the assistant director of Boston College’s Weston Observatory, is that damage in the East would probably be more widespread, more people could be hurt and killed, depending on circumstances like time of day, and ”it would probably take a lot longer to get these cities back to useful operating levels.”

On top of this, scientists say, an earthquake in the East can shake an area 100 times larger than a quake of the same magnitude in California. This is because the earth’s crust is older, colder and more brittle in the East and tends to transmit seismic energy more efficiently. ”If you had a magnitude 7 earthquake and you put it halfway between New York City and Boston,” Dr. Ebel said, ”you would have the potential of doing damage in both places,” not to mention cities like Hartford and Providence.

Few studies have been done of Eastern cities’ vulnerability to earthquakes. But one, published last June in The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, calculated the effects on New York City of a magnitude 6 earthquake. That is one-tenth the magnitude of last week’s California quake, but about the same as the Whittier, Calif., quake two years ago.

The study found that such an earthquake centered 17 miles southeast of City Hall, off Rockaway Beach, would cause $11 billion in damage to buildings and start 130 fires. By comparison, preliminary estimates place the damage in last week’s California disaster at $4 billion to $10 billion. If the quake’s epicenter were 11 miles southeast of City Hall, the study found, there would be about $18 billion in damage; if 5 miles, about $25 billion.

No estimates on injuries or loss of life were made. But a magnitude 6 earthquake ”would probably be a disaster unparalleled in New York history,” wrote the authors of the study, Charles Scawthorn and Stephen K. Harris of EQE Engineering in San Francisco.

The study was financed by the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The research and education center, supported by the National Science Foundation and New York State, was established in 1986 to help reduce damage and loss of life from earthquakes.

The study’s postulated epicenter of 17 miles southeast of City Hall was the location of the strongest quake to strike New York since it has been settled, a magnitude 5 temblor on Aug. 10, 1884. That 1884 quake rattled bottles and crockery in Manhattan and frightened New Yorkers, but caused little damage. Seismologists say a quake of that order is likely to occur within 50 miles of New York City every 300 years. Quakes of magnitude 5 are not rare in the East. The major earthquake zone in the eastern half of the country is the central Mississippi Valley, where a huge underground rift causes frequent geologic dislocations and small temblors. The most powerful quake ever known to strike the United States occurred at New Madrid, Mo., in 1812. It was later estimated at magnitude 8.7 and was one of three quakes to strike that area in 1811-12, all of them stronger than magnitude 8. They were felt as far away as Washington, where they rattled chandeliers, Boston and Quebec.

Because the New Madrid rift is so active, it has been well studied, and scientists have been able to come up with predictions for the central Mississippi valley, which includes St. Louis and Memphis. According to Dr. Russ, there is a 40 to 63 percent chance that a quake of magnitude 6 will strike that area between now and the year 2000, and an 86 to 97 percent chance that it will do so by 2035. The Federal geologists say there is a 1 percent chance or less of a quake greater than magnitude 7 by 2000, and a 4 percent chance or less by 2035.

Elsewhere in the East, scientists are limited in their knowledge of probabilities partly because faults that could cause big earthquakes are buried deeper in the earth’s crust. In contrast to California, where the boundary between two major tectonic plates creates the San Andreas and related faults, the eastern United States lies in the middle of a major tectonic plate. Its faults are far less obvious, their activity far more subtle, and their slippage far slower. 

Any large earthquake would be ”vastly more serious” in the older cities of the East than in California,  said Dr. Tsu T. Soong, a professor of civil engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo who is a researcher in earthquake-mitigation technology at the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research. First, he said, many buildings are simply older, and therefore weaker and more  vulnerable to collapse. Second, there is no seismic construction code in most of the East as there is in California, where such codes have been in place for decades.

The vulnerability is evident in many ways. ”I’m sitting here looking out my window,” said Mr. Silman, the structural engineer in New York, ”and I see a bunch of water tanks all over the place” on rooftops. ”They are not anchored down at all, and it’s very possible they would fall in an earthquake.”

 Many brownstones, he said, constructed as they are of unreinforced masonry walls with wood joists between, ”would just go like a house of cards.” Unreinforced masonry, in fact, is the single most vulnerable structure, engineers say. Such buildings are abundant, even predominant, in many older cities. The Scawthorn-Harris study reviewed inventories of all buildings in Manhattan as of 1972 and found that 28,884, or more than half, were built of unreinforced masonry. Of those, 23,064 were three to five stories high.

Buildings of reinforced masonry, reinforced concrete and steel would hold up much better, engineers say, and wooden structures are considered intrinsically tough in ordinary circumstances. The best performers, they say, would probably be skyscrapers built in the last 20 years. As Mr. Silman explained, they have been built to withstand high winds, and the same structural features that enable them to do so also help them resist an earthquake’s force. But even these new towers have not been provided with the seismic protections required in California and so are more vulnerable than similar structures on the West Coast.

Buildings in New York are not generally constructed with such seismic protections as base-isolated structures, in which the building is allowed to shift with the ground movement; or with flexible frames that absorb and distribute energy through columns and beams so that floors can flex from side to side, or with reinforced frames that help resist distortion.

”If you’re trying to make a building ductile – able to absorb energy – we’re not geared to think that way,” said Mr. Silman.

New York buildings also contain a lot of decorative stonework, which can be dislodged and turned into lethal missiles by an earthquake. In California, building codes strictly regulate such architectural details.

Manhattan does, however, have at least one mitigating factor: ”We are blessed with this bedrock island,” said Mr. Silman. ”That should work to our benefit; we don’t have shifting soils. But there are plenty of places that are problem areas, particularly the shoreline areas,” where landfills make the ground soft and unstable.

As scientists have learned more about geologic faults in the Northeast, the nation’s uniform building code – the basic, minimum code followed throughout the country – has been revised accordingly. Until recently, the code required newly constructed buildings in New York City to withstand at least 19 percent of the side-to-side seismic force that a comparable building in the seismically active areas of California must handle. Now the threshold has been raised to 25 percent.

New York City, for the first time, is moving to adopt seismic standards as part of its own building code. Local and state building codes can and do go beyond the national code. Charles M. Smith Jr., the city Building Commissioner, last spring formed a committee of scientists, engineers, architects and government officials to recommend the changes.

”They all agree that New York City should anticipate an earthquake,” Mr. Smith said. As to how big an earthquake, ”I don’t think anybody would bet on a magnitude greater than 6.5,” he said. ”I don’t know,” he added, ”that our committee will go so far as to acknowledge” the damage levels in the Scawthorn-Harris study, characterizing it as ”not without controversy.”

For the most part, neither New York nor any other Eastern city has done a detailed survey of just how individual buildings and other structures would be affected, and how or whether to modify them.

”The thing I think is needed in the East is a program to investigate all the bridges” to see how they would stand up to various magnitudes of earthquake,” said Bill Geyer, the executive vice president of the New York engineering firm of Steinman, Boynton, Gronquist and Birdsall, which is rehabilitating the cable on the Williamsburg Bridge. ”No one has gone through and done any analysis of the existing bridges.”

In general, he said, the large suspension bridges, by their nature, ”are not susceptible to the magnitude of earthquake you’d expect in the East.” But the approaches and side spans of some of them might be, he said, and only a bridge-by-bridge analysis would tell. Nor, experts say, are some elevated highways in New York designed with the flexibility and ability to accommodate motion that would enable them to withstand a big temblor.

Tunnels Vulnerable

The underground tunnels that carry travelers under the rivers into Manhattan, those that contain the subways and those that carry water, sewers and natural gas would all be vulnerable to rupture, engineers say. The Lincoln, Holland, PATH and Amtrak tunnels, for instance, go from bedrock in Manhattan to soft soil under the Hudson River to bedrock again in New Jersey, said Mark Carter, a partner in Raamot Associates, geotechnical engineers specializing in soils and foundations.

Likewise, he said, subway tunnels between Manhattan and Queens go from hard rock to soft soil to hard rock on Roosevelt Island, to soft soil again and back to rock. The boundaries between soft soil and rock are points of weakness, he said.

”These structures are old,” he said, ”and as far as I know they have not been designed for earthquake loadings.”

Even if it is possible to survey all major buildings and facilities to determine what corrections can be made, cities like New York would then face a major decision: Is it worth spending the money to modify buildings and other structures to cope with a quake that might or might not come in 100, or 200 300 years or more?

”That is a classical problem” in risk-benefit analysis, said Dr. George Lee, the acting director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Center in Buffalo. As more is learned about Eastern earthquakes, he said, it should become ”possible to talk about decision-making.” But for now, he said, ”I think it’s premature for us to consider that question.”

Iran Ready to Build a Nuclear Bomb

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani gives a press conference in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani gives a press conference in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) 

Associated Press

Iran has stockpiled enough uranium to produce a nuclear weapon in the latest sign Trump’s strategy has ‘failed miserably’

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Iran has reportedly stockpiled enough uranium for a nuclear weapon for the first time since President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal, in the latest sign that his maximum pressure strategy is failing.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said Iran has tripled its stockpile of low-enriched uraniumsince November, according to a new reportper the New York Times.

Iran has also for the first time refused to allow IAEA inspectors to gain access to sites where there’s evidence of past nuclear activity.

Under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran could only stockpile 300 kg or about 660 pounds of low-grade uranium. But Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal in May 2018 has seen Iran take gradual steps away from the Obama-era pact, including breaching the stockpile cap on low-grade uranium.

Iran now has over 1,000 kilograms, or 2,200 pounds, of low-grade uranium. Tehran’s uranium stockpile is enriched up to 4.5%. This violates the JCPOA’s cap of 3.67% on uranium enrichment, but it’s still far below weapons-grade levels needed for a nuclear bomb (90% enrichment).

Iran is also still a long ways from possessing the technology necessary to develop a missile capable of carrying a warhead long distances (such as targets in the mainland US). But France, Germany, and the UK in December accused Iran of developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, potentially capable of reaching Israel and parts of Europe. Meanwhile, Iran has maintained it has no intention of developing a nuclear weapon.

The latest moves from Iran appear to be more about ramping up pressure on European powers scrambling to save the JCPOA, rather than serious steps toward building a nuclear weapon.

“I’ve seen nothing to suggest Iran is interested in building a nuclear weapon. But it is clear that the United States’ strategy of threatening and pressuring Iran to abandon all of its nuclear activities has failed and failed miserably. President Trump has isolated America from its allies and weakened our leverage over Iran,” Jon Wolfsthal, who served as the nuclear expert for the National Security Council under former President Barack Obama and is now a senior adviser at Global Zero, told Insider.

“Tehran is now much closer to building a nuclear weapon than it was when Trump took office. That’s a direct result of decisions Trump has made and it appears he has no fallback options,” Wolfsthal added. “Once again his overconfidence in his own abilities and his determined approach to overturn everything done by his predecessor has made America less safe.”

Since Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, his administration has hit Tehran with a slew of economic sanctions as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign. Trump and his top advisers, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have been adamant that this strategy will squeeze Iran into sitting down and negotiating a more stringent version of the 2015 deal orchestrated by the Obama administration.

Building the Australian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

B61 in an underground Weapons Storage and Security System (WS3) vault at Volkel Air Base, Netherlands (Source: US Air Force/Wiki Commons)

Various NATO member-states have long contributed to the Cold War-era alliance by playing host to US nuclear weapons, as part of a special arrangement in which ‘nuclear sharing’ is a core principle of the collective defence and deterrence – with conversation about developing Australia’s deterrence, is it time to follow suit?

Australia’s earliest strategic relationship with the British Empire established a foundation of dependence that would characterise all of the nation’s future defence and national security relationships both in the Indo-Pacific and the wider world.

As British power slowly declined following the First World War and the US emerged as the pre-eminent economic, political and strategic power during the Second World War – Australia became dependent on ‘Pax Americana’, or the American Peace. 

Recognising this, Australia’s strategic and defence planning has been intrinsically defined and impacted by a number of different, yet interconnected and increasingly complex factors, namely:

  • The dominance, benevolence and continuing stability of its primary strategic partner;
  • The geographic isolation of the continent, highlighted by the ‘tyranny of distance’;
  • A relatively small population in comparison with its neighbours; and
  • Increasingly, the geo-political, economic and strategic ambition and capabilities of Australia’s Indo-Pacific Asian neighbours.

These factors have formed the basis of Australia’s deterrence doctrine, depending upon larger, “great and powerful” friends to provide the real strategic deterrence to Australia’s ad hoc tactical deterrence capabilities.

While conventional power projection capabilities alongside economic and soft power deterrence plays a role in this balancing act, the nuclear umbrella provided by the US and, to a smaller degree, the UK has provided Australia with a greater degree of security in the face of potential regional adversaries.

Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War cementing America’s position as the pre-eminent world power – this period was relatively short lived as costly engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, peace-keeping interventions in southern Europe and enduring global security responsibilities have drained American ‘blood’ and ‘treasure’.

In doing so, these expeditions have served to erode the domestic political, economic and strategic resolve and capacity of the US to unilaterally counter the rise of totalitarian regimes and peer competitors in both China and Russia. 

NATO’s nuclear sharing paradigm

While Australia has long been recognised as a global middle power, straddling the line between lower tier and global power, nuclear weapons and nuclear energy have remained highly contentious. Looking more broadly, many of Australia’s NATO contemporaries seem to have fewer compunctions about both nuclear energy and, critically, nuclear ordnance.

As part of the NATO agreement,the US has provided European NATO allies with a successive series of nuclear ordnance options across bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy and, up until recently, Turkey as a means of providing a tactical and strategic deterrence to potential Soviet aggression. 

Looking further abroad, but still within the confines of the NATO alliance structure, Australia’s Commonwealth ‘cousin’ Canada has a history of sharing nuclear ordnance with both the US and the UK, largely through the auspice of the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD).

Canadian military units deployed to Europe throughout the Cold War frequently hosted a range of American and British nuclear ordnance, ranging from the B57 tactical nuclear weapon, which was deployed with the Canadian Air Force’s CF-104s in Germany, through to the MGR-1 Honest John with a 1-kiloton W31 nuclear warhead.

Additionally, Belgium, Italy and Germany all continue to partake in the NATO nuclear weapons sharing program, with the modern B61 nuclear weapons divided between a range of facilities, for deployment upon existing tactical strike aircraft including the Belgian Air Force’s F-16s and future F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the German and Italian Eurofighter and the Panavia Tornado aircraft.

The rollout of the next-generation of the B61 weapons system, the Mod 12, will also see the platform integrated with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet to be deployed across US and NATO-allies in Europe.

NATO’s distributed nuclear deterrence strategy is based on what Dr Karl-Heinz Kamp and US Air Force Major General (Ret’d) Robertus Remkes describe as, “The logic of nuclear deterrence is to change the risk calculation of a potential aggressor by threatening unacceptable damage through nuclear retaliation.

“In that sense, a nuclear posture sends the political message to an opponent or potential attacker that they cannot expect any gain or benefit from their aggression being sufficient to justify the nuclear devastation they will suffer on their own territory.”

This stratagem fits in line with recent conversations launched by Marcus Hellyer, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s (ASPI) senior analyst for defence economics and capability, beginning with ‘Deterrence and long-range strike capability for Australia’, in which he begins to debate the options available to Australia.

It is pivotal to identify that Hellyer does not in anyway articulate the development and introduction of an independent Australian nuclear arsenal (at least not yet anyway).

However, Hellyer’s core driving force behind the radical shift in thinking regarding the introduction of an Australian long-range deterrent is based on the fact that “we could no longer take American military primacy for granted”.

Crossing the “nuclear Rubicon” 

Enter widely respected Australian strategic and defence policy analyst Hugh White, who recently kicked the hornets nest of debate with his new book, How to Defend Australia, and a series of supporting opinion pieces.

White set the scene for the Australian public, presenting perhaps one of the most asinine questions of recent strategic debate:

“Should Australia defend itself? Our choice is not an easy one. Just because we probably can build the forces to defend ourselves does not mean we necessarily should. As we have seen, the costs would be very high, and it is not a foregone conclusion that the benefits outweigh those costs.”

While this represents a quick summary of White’s proposal, it broadly encapsulates his modus operandi – that is the path of least resistance and a belief that Australia is incapable of affecting its own future.

However, his most controversial option,the possibility of Australia developing or acquiring a domestic nuclear capability, remains an interesting conundrum for Australia’s political and strategic leaders and public to consider as the region we are increasingly dependent upon continues to evolve and challenge our preconceptions of how we think the world should work.

While floating the idea, White specifically states he “neither predicts nor advocates” for the development of a domestic nuclear arsenal, yet it has been met with increasing debate and dialogue, with many taking to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute to discuss the options and the very idea of Australia’s own nuclear arsenal, and the supporting doctrine required.

A key component of this discussion is reshaping the debate, ASPI senior fellow Rod Lyon clearly articulates this in what he describes as “crossing the nuclear Rubicon”:

  • “Australians [need] to think differently about nuclear weapons — as direct contributors to our defence rather than as abstract contributors to global stability;
  • a bipartisan political consensus to support proliferation, during both development and deployment of a nuclear arsenal;
  • a shift in Australia’s diplomatic footprint, to build a case for our leaving the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and abrogating the Treaty of Rarotonga, while still being able to retail a coherent story of arms control and nuclear order;
  • serious investment in the technologies and skill-sets required to construct and deploy, safely and securely, both nuclear warheads and appropriate delivery vehicles; and
  • a strategy which gives meaning to our arsenal and an explanation of our thinking to our neighbours and our major ally.”

Lyon also goes on to expand on White’s central premise for considering an Australian nuclear option, what White calls “nuclear blackmail”, defined more simply as nuclear coercion by a nuclear armed and conventionally well-equipped great power, providing examples of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and, most relevant for Australia, French concepts of ‘minimum deterrence’.

Lyon states the French Cold War nuclear doctrine, which “called for an arsenal that could ‘rip the arm off’ a superpower, leaving it an amputee among its more able-bodied peers”, fits in well with Australia’s existing conventional doctrine, which is focused on controlling the sea-air gap and limiting a hostile nation’s attempts to coerce the otherwise isolated nation.

Building on this, Lyon articulates: “So, should Australia build its own nuclear arsenal? I think the answer is, ‘Yes, if it needs to.’ That’s a big ‘if’ — indeed, a series of big ‘ifs’: if the regional strategic environment becomes appreciably darker; if US extended nuclear deterrence is no longer available, or patently incredible; and, perhaps just as importantly, if there’s bipartisan Australian acceptance of the need for an indigenous arsenal.”

Leased nuclear weapons or a model based on France or Israel? Or a little from column A and a little from column B? 

Lyon’s French option is one that requires closer consideration and study as France’s nuclear doctrine is dependent upon large, nuclear-powered, ballistic missile submarines that serve as a continuous-at-sea-deterrence doctrine similar to the model used by the British Royal Navy and its own nuclear deterrence strategy.

Shifting to the Middle East, Israel, while not a ‘declared’ nuclear weapons state (NWS), received early support from France and has an estimated arsenal of between 80 and 400 warheads spread across free-fall nuclear bombs, submarine-launched cruise missiles stationed onboard their fleet of five, modified, German designed and built Dolphin Class conventional submarines and the Jericho series of intermediate to intercontinental range ballistic missiles.

Both the French and Israeli models provide interesting concepts for Australian consideration, should the nation seek to pursue a domestic nuclear arsenal – particularly the submarine leg of their respective nuclear deterrence forces could be extrapolated for implementation on Australia’s existing Collins Class and future Attack Class vessels to serve as an Australian force multiplier and strategic leveller in the face of a rapidly evolving regional order.

It is important to recognise that any decision to acquire or develop nuclear weapons is not an easy decision to make and should not be taken lightly and should be done in full view of the Australian public following the presentation of the facts for the public’s consideration.

Your thoughts

Long-range tactical and strategic deterrence capabilities combined with the qualitative edge of Australian personnel and technological advantages of these platforms, ensured Australia unrestricted regional dominance against all but the largest peer competitors.

The rapidly evolving regional environment requires a renewed focus on developing a credible, future-proofed long-range strike capability for the RAAF and RAN to serve as critical components in the development of a truly ‘joint force’ Australian Defence Force capable of supporting and enhancing the nation’s strategic engagement and relationships in the region.

For Australia, a nation defined by this relationship with traditionally larger, yet economically weaker regional neighbours, the growing economic prosperity of the region and corresponding arms build-up, combined with ancient and more recent enmities, competing geopolitical, economic and strategic interests, places the nation at the centre of the 21st century’s ‘great game’.

Enhancing Australia’s capacity to act as an independent power, incorporating great power-style strategic economic, diplomatic and military capability serves as a powerful symbol of Australia’s sovereignty and evolving responsibilities in supporting and enhancing the security and prosperity of Indo-Pacific Asia.

Get involved with the discussion and let us know your thoughts on Australia’s future role and position in the Indo-Pacific and what you would like to see from Australia’s political leaders in terms of shaking up the nation’s approach to our regional partners.

We would also like to hear your thoughts on the avenues Australia should pursue to support long-term economic growth and development in support of national security in the comments section below, or get in touch with Stephen.Kuper@momentummedia.com.au or at editor@defenceconnect.com.au.

The Mighty Russian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

‘We’re beating the competition & outperforming everyone’ – Putin praises Russia’s nuclear technology prowess

5 Mar, 2020 11:31 / Updated 6 hours ago

They say there are two Russias, the one in many Western minds – think “a gas station masquerading as a country” – and the real deal, where 146 million people live, which is often at the cutting edge of technology.

When it comes to nuclear power, Russia is undoubtedly one of the world’s leaders and, according to President Vladimir Putin, such investment is paying off. Speaking to the TASS news agency, he said that Russia is trouncing the competition in the field.

©Ruptly

“In the high-tech sector and the nuclear industry, we have been making great strides,” Putin said. “We’re beating the competition, we’ve outperformed everyone. We’re the world’s largest manufacturer of nuclear units for power plants. Not weapons, this is state-of-the-art technology.”

Also on rt.com Russia’s pioneering floating nuclear power plant begins delivering electricity to remote Arctic region

This isn’t the first time Putin has talked up the achievements of Russia’s nuclear industry.

In September 2019, the president spoke about how Russia’s nuclear industry plays a vital role in providing strategic balance in the world.

“Among the undoubted successes of the current generation of nuclear scientists is the creation of a new generation of weapons that can provide strategic balance in the world for decades to come,” he said.

©Ruptly

Russia’s achievements created International headlines when the world’s first floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) Akademik Lomonosov was launched. Designed to provide power to remote areas of the country, the plant-cum-ship arrived in Chukotka in autumn 2019 and began powering the far-eastern region in December.

However, the ingenuity of a floating power station didn’t receive universal acclaim, with some media outlets and activists dubbing the boat ‘Chernobyl on Ice’ or a ‘Floating Chernobyl.’

Gaza’s Terrorists Bombed a Playground (Revelation 11)

By Yael Eckstein, Voices Contributor

Last week another barrage of rockets rained down on the Israeli communities bordering the Gaza Strip. It happens so frequently here that it seems the world hardly notices, anymore.

Another warning. Another rocket. Another day.

The terrorists in the Gaza Strip aim them directly into the communities of the elderly, targeting also parents and their children in towns like Sderot. Then last week, they hit a playground – a playground – not far from a park where we will soon install six new, mobile bomb shelters provided by Christian friends of the Jewish people.

As a mother of four, it’s terrifying to see pictures of that playground destroyed by Gazan terrorists with their rockets. I can’t imagine the number of young lives that would have been lost if Israel had not worked as hard as it has to provide an early warning system to its citizens, while also destroying many rockets in the air, and had organization like ours take it as our personal responsibility to do our part in protecting the Jewish people.

Because the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews engages in extensive humanitarian work throughout this part of Israel, our staff is connected via a messaging service, so that anytime another incident happens, we are immediately notified. In these moments of crisis, we have volunteers and staff calling and visiting the elderly living alone to check on them and ensure their safety. It seems as if our phones never stop lighting up, and neither does the sky above us. Day or night, there’s always an alert warning us that another Israeli community is in the line of fire.

This latest attack, on a playground, occurred just hours after a much-publicized rift between AIPAC and Senator Bernie Sanders. AIPAC’s annual meeting is being boycotted by Sanders, which has caused particular alarm among Jews around the world.

The senator told the American people in a tweet, “I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason I will not attend their conference.”

There was an immediate avalanche of criticism from virtually every one of the major, American Jewish organizations — left, right and center. Traditionally, gatherings like AIPAC are bipartisan and have existed to find common ground among all of America’s politicians in order to bring peace and security to Israel.

The criticism of Sanders was justified. For as long as the rockets keep falling on Israel from terrorists in the Gaza Strip, and whatever the machinations of American politics bring us in 2020, there is no room for any waffling by any American politician as it relates to the United States’ unwavering support for the State of Israel.

We must all stand against this renewed and unjustified politicization of Israel in American politics. While American politicians argue about policy and consider optics, in Israel, our mothers and fathers, along with their children, will have just have to keep running towards their bomb shelters the next time they hear a siren.

Their ultimate hope will rest in the God of Israel, and the strength of the State of Israel.

But, hopefully, their hope will also remain fixed upon the confidence drawn from our American allies, in both political parties.

For the sake of Israel’s children, American people who cherish freedom must not allow the further politicization of the State of Israel where some things are clearly, morally right and morally wrong.

There is no room for hedging when rockets fall in playgrounds.

Yael Eckstein is the president of the International Fellowship of Christian and Jews. As President, Eckstein oversees all ministry programs and serves as the organization’s international spokesperson. She can be heard on The Fellowship’s daily radio program airing on 1,500 stations worldwide. Before her present duties, Yael served as global executive vice president, senior vice president, and director of program development and ministry outreach. Based in Jerusalem, Yael is a published writer, leading international advocate for persecuted religious minorities, and a respected social services professional. As President of The Fellowship, she also holds the rare distinction of being a woman leading one of America’s largest religious not-for-profit organizations. www.IFCJ.org

Why India-Pakistan’s Nuclear Rivalry Means the END (Revelation 8 )

Why India-Pakistan’s Nuclear Rivalry Is Deadly Serious

While the United States is preoccupied by the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of potential adversaries such as Russia, China or North Korea, the danger of nuclear conflict may actually be greatest between two of its allies, Pakistan and India. The two nations have engaged in four wars starting since their partition along religious lines in 1947. A fifth could be drastically more costly, as their nuclear capabilities continue to grow and diversify.

Several years ago I made the acquaintance of a Pakistani nuclear science student in China. Curious about the thinking behind his country’s nuclear program, I asked if he really believed there was a possibility that India would invade Pakistan. “There’s still a lot of old-school thinkers in the Congress Party that believe India and Pakistan should be united,” he told me.

I doubt there are many observers outside of Pakistan who believe India is plotting to invade and occupy the Muslim state, but a feeling of existential enmity persists. The third conflict between the two countries in 1971 established India’s superiority in conventional warfare—not unexpectedly, as India has several times Pakistan’s population.

The bone of contention has always been the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. At the time of partition, the predominantly Muslim state was politically divided over which nation to join. When Pakistani-allied tribesmen attempted to force the issue, the Hindu maharaja of the region chose to accede to India, leading to the first war between India and Pakistan. Ever since, the line of control between the Indian and Pakistan side has remained bitterly contested, with artillery and sniper fire routinely exchanged.

Pakistan intelligence services have infiltrated insurgents and plotted attacks across the border for decades, and Indian security troops have been implicated in human-rights violations and killings of the locals as a result of their counterinsurgency operations.

How the Antichrist could snuff out Iraq’s mass street protests

Followers of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr take part in a “million-person” march in Baghdad in January. (Emilienne Malfatto/for The Washington Post)

BAGHDAD — When Iraq’s anti-government protests began last year, it was supporters of renowned Shiite Muslim cleric ­Moqtada al-Sadr who added heft.

They came in the thousands, manning front lines during clashes with riot police and providing security for the demonstrators as they settled in for the long haul.

Now, it might be Sadr who extinguishes their fight.

A flurry of statements from the cleric in recent months has fractured the movement, prompting accusations of betrayal. He has pulled his supporters away from protest camps and then sent them back to battle those who remained.

Threats made by his militiamen have sent political activists into hiding. Sadr’s followers have attacked his critics with knives.

“They’re insulting Sadr, and we can’t allow it,” cried one of his supporters, Saeed Alaa al-Yassiri, on a recent day in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square as his group pushed demonstrators back with sticks and knives. “They’re serving American agendas now. This square needs to be cleaned.”

Sadr is a storied figure in Iraq, with a history of agitation against U.S. troops and fierce loyalty from tens of thousands of pious and working-class acolytes.

But he is also something of a shape-shifter; in the years since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the cleric has positioned himself variously as a sectarian militia leader, a revolutionary figure and a nationalist who can unify the country. His reliance on Iranian support has also waxed and waned, depending at times, it has seemed, on the optics for his political base.

Since October, Iraq’s protesters have been calling for an end to government corruption and politics shaped by the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. (Video: Mustafa Salim, Ali Dabdab, Louisa Loveluck, Joyce Lee/Photo: Emilienne Malfatto for The Washington Post/The Washington Post)

But Iraq’s youth movement has emerged as a challenge to his long-standing image as a man who can command the country’s streets. As the largest spontaneous uprising in the country’s history, the protest movement has already felled one government and rejected a prime ­minister-designate that Sadr had backed. The candidate, Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, stepped aside Sunday.

More than 500 demonstrators have been killed by Iraq’s security forces and Iran-backed militias since October, human rights and security officials say. The violence has turned what started as anti-corruption protests into a revolt against the entire political system, with growing anger and mockery directed at Iran’s leading role — and now at the cleric himself.

“In this sense, it is the nature of Iraq’s protest politics that has changed, not Sadr himself,” said Ben Robin-D’Cruz, a researcher on Iraqi politics at the University of Edinburgh.

Sadr’s followers joined the protests on day one. Young men from Sadr City — a poor and sprawling district of Baghdad named for his father, a slain ayatollah, where he has long enjoyed popular support — turned up spontaneously and repeatedly clashed with Iraq’s riot police.

The protesters say they are fed up with the endemic corruption and lack of political freedoms that grew out of a political system forged in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion. Despite initial support for their demands, Sadr called for a separate march with the support of Iran-backed militias in late January and then tweeted — apparently from Iran — that he would “try not to interfere in the [protests], either negatively or positively.”

He ordered his supporters to leave Iraq’s protest camps days later, and then he sent them marching back, this time in opposition to the young crowds they once camped alongside.

“It’s not the riot police attacking us anymore, it’s them,” said Walid Fadhil, 27, watching warily on a recent day as the violence unfolded.

Dozens of people have been killed or wounded in the latest clashes.

“It’s changed everything,” said Reem, a 28-year-old protester in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, waving her hand toward the tents that have emptied out in recent weeks.

Anti-government protesters chant and march in Baghdad in January. (Emilienne Malfatto/for The Washington Post)

On her cellphone was an image, apparently showing an ominous, online chat between a member of Sadr’s militia and another person she knew. The chat included photographs of mostly women protesters, among them Reem. “We have information about 40 people from the protests,” the message read below it. “We should take care of them.”

Political experts say Sadr has long sought to balance the needs of Iraq’s streets and the Iran-backed militia structure of which he is a part. But as tensions escalate between Iran and the United States, especially in the wake of President Trump’s decision to kill Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraq’s most influential militia leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Sadr’s room for maneuver has diminished.

Sadr decided it was time to trade in his backing for the protest movement for a central role in the coalition of Iranian-backed militias, Robin-D’Cruz said.

“For Sadr, reform means a gradual movement towards putting the country on track rather than the radical reform that the protesters are taking about, which is basically the fall of the entire political class and system,” said Abbas Kadhim, director of the Atlantic Council’s Iraq Initiative.

Many of Sadr’s supporters have followed his instructions, withdrawing from the protests. But others have questioned him, in some cases for their first time. “It was hard to understand why he would do this to us,” said a young man in Tahrir Square, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his situation. “He gave the order to leave, but some of us will stay. This is a fight for Iraq, not for politicians.”

Some protesters say they have received threats, urging them to depart, and some have acquiesced. Others have dismantled tents they had lived in for months and then melted into the crowds.

Sajad Jiyad, director of the Baghdad-based Bayan Center research organization, said Sadr’s shifting position will make it harder for him to claim he’s above Iraq’s political cut and thrust. “It’s now apparent to everybody that he is part of the same political elite,” Jiyad said. “It reinforces the idea of this being the political elite on the one side, the average protester on the other.”

In Tahrir Square last week, Reem described the cleric’s reversal as the start of a “major change.” Many protesters had departed, worried about escalating violence and heightened factionalism.

Her tent had once been a hub for some of the city’s most well-known activists. But most had left for Turkey, following threats from Iran-backed militias and individuals associated with Sadr.

“They could deal with threats to themselves, but not to their families,” Reem said. “This was about kidnapping, killing.” But she would be staying, she insisted.

“I leave here in victory or a coffin. No other way,” she said.