The Sixth Seal Is Past Due (Revelation 6:12)

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by , 03/22/11

filed under: News

New York City may appear to be an unlikely place for a major earthquake, but according to history, we’re past due for a serious shake. Seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory say that about once every 100 years, an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 rocks the Big Apple. The last one was a 5.3 tremor that hit in 1884 — no one was killed, but buildings were damaged.

Any tremor above a 6.0 magnitude can be catastrophic, but it is extremely unlikely that New York would ever experience a quake like the recent 8.9 earthquake in Japan. A study by the Earth Observatory found that a 6.0 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and a 7.0 magnitude hits about every 3,400 years.

There are several fault lines in New York’s metro area, including one along 125th Street, which may have caused two small tremors in 1981 and a 5.2 magnitude quake in 1737. There is also a fault line on Dyckman Street in Inwood, and another in Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County. The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigationrates the chance of an earthquake hitting the city as moderate.

John Armbruster, a seismologist at the Earth Observatory, said that if a 5.0 magnitude quake struck New York today, it would result in hundreds of millions, possibly billions of dollars in damages. The city’s skyscrapers would not collapse, but older brick buildings and chimneys would topple, likely resulting in casualities.

The Earth Observatory is expanding its studies of potential earthquake damage to the city. They currently have six seismometers at different landmarks throughout the five boroughs, and this summer, they plan to place one at the arch in Washington Square Park and another in Bryant Park.

Won-Young Kim, who works alongside Armbuster, says his biggest concern is that we can’t predict when an earthquake might hit. “It can happen anytime soon,” Kim told the Metro. If it happened tomorrow, he added, “I would not be surprised. We can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.”

Armbuster voiced similar concerns to the Daily News. “Will there be one in my lifetime or your lifetime? I don’t know,” he said. “But this is the longest period we’ve gone without one.”

Via Metro and NY Daily News

Images © Ed Yourdon

Betting on the Iraqi Horn (Daniel 8:4)

Betting on the Iraqi army

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s firing of National Security Agency head Faleh al-Fayyad, who is known for his close ties with Iran, is a very important development on the Iraqi scene.

At the same time, Kadhimi ordered the formal separation of the position of head of the National Security Agency and national security adviser. Fayyad had a monopoly on both positions, which had prompted Iran to consider him for prime minster of Iraq. Kadhimi’s moves, however, constitute another notch on the scale of wrestling power in Iraq from Iran’s grip, especially in the management of the security apparatus, which not so long ago was completely under Tehran’s control.

There is evidence that the dismissal of Fayyad is a positive development. The new head of the National Security Council is Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Asadi, a career officer in the Iraqi Army. Asadi participated in the Iraq-Iran war between 1980 and 1988, but on the Iraqi side this time, and not like many other post-regime change officials who were loyal to Iran instead of their home country.

It is clear, however, that Kadhimi is not completely free of the usual pro-Iran restraints. The evidence of this is his appointment of Former Interior Minister Qassim al-Araji as national security adviser. The problem with someone like al-Araji is that he belonged to the Badr Brigade, one of the militias affiliated with Iran whose leading members had returned to Baghdad from Tehran on the back of an American tank in 2003.

Fayyad was an important figure in the Iraqi system. In addition to serving as both head of the National Security Agency and a national security adviser since 2014, he has also chaired the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) since 2018. This authority is nothing less than a bunch of sectarian militias known to be loyal to Iran.

It is no secret that the PMF has been an Iranian project from the beginning. Its aim has always been to establish an Iraqi regime similar to that of the “Islamic Republic” in Iran, where the real authority is in the hands of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which in turn gets its orders directly from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran’s ambition was, and still is, for the PMF to become a branch of the IRGC in Iraq so that Iraq becomes a true Iranian colony. But this is exactly what an overwhelming majority of Iraqis are rejecting, including Arab Shias who rose up late last year and virtually toppled the government of Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

Even though they paid a heavy price, they nevertheless proved that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis reject Iran’s guardianship in all its forms. The best proof of this rejection was the burning down of the Iranian consulate in Najaf and forcibly countering Iranian attempts to impose a pro-Tehran prime minister to replace Abdul-Mahdi.

Kadhimi’s battle to wrestle back the Iraqi state from the clutches of Iran’s proxies is still in its infancy. He is advancing sometimes and retreating at other times, as happened when he had members of the pro-Iran Kata’ib Hezbollah militia arrested and then released. These individuals had in their possession missile launchers they intended to use against various American targets in Baghdad.

Fayyad’s dismissal was certainly a big bite out of Iran’s influence inside Iraq. But it is evident that Tehran still holds plenty of playing cards in the country. This is why we see persistent Iraqi efforts to restore to Iraq the institutions of the Iraqi state.

No sane person will deny that Iran and its expansionist project are shrinking daily. This is not only due to the loss of the infamous Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force who was assassinated soon after his arrival at Baghdad airport with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the PMF, but there is also another factor that plays a role in making the 2020 Iran different from the one that had full control over Iraqi decisions, especially in the security sector.

There is no longer an Iranian High Commissioner in Iraq. The last time Esmail Qaani, Soleimani’s successor, visited Baghdad, he had to secure a visa to enter the country. In other words, Qaani does not have Soleimani’s capacity to impose his will on Iraq and manage its affairs. He does not have his network of personal relationships with the leaders of the sectarian militias that make up the PMF and does not speak Arabic. But most important of all, Iran has begun showing its truly weakened state after US sanctions seriously damaged its economy.

We can soon be surprised to learn that the fires and explosions that recently targeted certain strategic sites in Iran were important messages telling Iran that it won’t be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon and that the days of the administration of former US President Barack Obama are over, whether Donald Trump remains president or not.

It is not a necessary condition that Iran must first regress for Iraqis to recover their country. Surely, other great challenges stand in the way of Kadhimi’s government. At the forefront of these challenges is the miserable economic situation that the country has reached in the shadow of corruption and its dependence on oil and nothing other than oil. In addition, there is a need for the Iraqi government to revive the one thing with which it can face up to the PMF, which aspire to replace the Iraqi armed forces, namely the Iraqi army that the Americans committed the crime of dissolving in the wake of their 2003 occupation of Iraq.

The PMF are currently plagued by deep internal divisions, especially in light of their Iranian master’s disability, marked by Tehran’s inability to fund certain Iraqi militias who survive on Iranian handouts, and by its inability to force the Iraqi government to provide more funds for sectarian militias. Could this important development signify the beginning of the rehabilitation of the century-old Iraqi military institution, and what that means in terms of the impossibility of any coexistence between the sectarian militias and this venerable institution?

There is no place for any sectarian militia in a country that respects itself and wants to be a state. We have an example of that in the events rocking Lebanon right now, where a longstanding civilised and modern country is collapsing because of Hezbollah and its weapons. Can Iraq do better than Lebanon? All indications are that it can succeed in getting rid, albeit with difficulty, of Iran’s illegal weapons, but the biggest problem will remain rampant corruption and Kadhimi’s government’s ability to come up with a viable economic plan to restore Iraq’s dignity.

This would be possible if the military establishment ultimately settles the situation in the interest of Iraq first and foremost … and not in the interest of Iran’s interests in Iraq. So, who then in Iraq will have the upper hand in the end to rescue the country from the disastrous effects of illegal weapons? And is betting on the Iraqi army to do just that still possible?

How the Bowls of Wrath Will Be (Revelation 17)

July/August 2020

Seventy-five years ago, the United States tested the first nuclear weapon in New Mexico and then used one to destroy Hiroshima and another to destroy Nagasaki. As devastating as they were, those atomic bombs were small by today’s standards, each exploding with just a tenth of the explosive yield of typical warheads now deployed on missiles, submarines, and planes by a handful of countries. Fortunately, no nuclear weapons have been used in combat since the bombings in Japan, but the risk of nuclear war ebbed and flowed throughout the Cold War. It has been increasing in the past three years. The United States and Russia have abandoned long-standing nuclear arms control treaties, started to develop new kinds of nuclear weapons, and expanded the circumstances in which they might use nuclear weapons. However a nuclear exchange might start, it could quickly escalate from a local disaster into a global catastrophe.

To illustrate how this could happen, Princeton University’s Program on Science & Global Security (SGS) developed a simulation that shows a plausible step-by-step escalation of nuclear war between the United States and Russia that starts in Europe. The images that follow are moments taken from the simulation’s four-minute video.

SGS researchers used independent assessments of current U.S. and Russian force postures, nuclear war plans, and nuclear weapons targets. The simulation was also supported by extensive data sets of the nuclear weapons currently deployed, weapon yields, and possible targets for particular weapons, as well as the order of battle estimating which weapons go to which targets in which order in which phase of the war to show the evolution of the nuclear conflict from tactical, to strategic by city-targeting phases. It is estimated that there would be more than 90 million people dead and injured within the first few hours of the conflict.

The immediate fatalities and casualties that would occur in each phase of the conflict are determined using data from NUKEMAP, an online tool to estimate casualties that was developed by Alex Wellerstein at the Stevens Institute of Technology. The actual fatalities would be significantly increased by deaths occurring from the collapse of medical systems, as well as nuclear fallout and other long-term effects, including a possible global-scale nuclear winter.

The simulation was developed by SGS researchers Tamara Patton, Moritz Kütt, and Alex Glaser, together with Bruce Blair, Zia Mian, Pavel Podvig, and Sharon Weiner, with sound by Jeff Snyder and graphics by Alex Wellerstein. It was originally prepared as part of the “Shadows and Ashes” exhibition at Princeton University’s Bernstein Gallery curated by Mary Hamill, the gallery director.

Russia and Babylon the Great Show Their Nuclear Might

July/August 2020

By Michael Klare

As tensions between the United States and Russia have intensified, both nations have engaged in airborne “show of force” operations intended to demonstrate their intent to resist intimidation and defend their territories. Such operations can prove hazardous when the aircraft of one antagonist come perilously close to those of another, a phenomenon that has occurred on numerous occasions over the past few years. The recent maneuvers, however, appear to have raised the stakes, as the two rivals have increased their use of nuclear-capable aircraft in such operations and have staged them in militarily sensitive areas.

A U.S. F-22 aircraft accompanies a Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bomber during an intercept near Alaska on June 16. (Photo: North American Aerospace Defense Command)

The pace and extent of recent air operations have exceeded anything since the end of the Cold War. The United States has flown a number of missions near Russia, sometimes going places for the first time with strategic bombers. These include (1) two missions in March and June by U.S. B-2 stealth bombers above the Arctic Circle in exercises intended to demonstrate NATO’s ability to attack Russian military forces located on the Kola Peninsula in Russia’s far north; (2) a first-time U.S. B-1B bomber flight on May 21 over the Sea of Okhotsk, a bay-like body of water surrounded by Russia’s far eastern territory on three sides; (3) a May 29 flight by two B-1B bombers across Ukrainian-controlled airspace for the first time, coming close to Russian-controlled airspace over Crimea; (4) a June 15 mission by two U.S. B-52 bombers over the Baltic Sea in support of a NATO exercise then under way, coming close to Russian airspace and prompting menacing flights by Russian interceptors in the area; and (5) a June 18 flight by two U.S. B-52 bombers over the Sea of Okhotsk, a first appearance there by that type of aircraft, again prompting Russia to scramble fighter aircraft to escort the U.S. bombers away from the area.

For its part, Russia conducted a March 12 flight of two nuclear-capable Tu-160 “Blackjack” bombers over Atlantic waters near Scotland, Ireland, and France from their base on the Kola Peninsula in Russia’s far north, prompting France and the United Kingdom to scramble interceptor aircraft. In addition, nuclear-capable Tu-95 “Bear” bombers, accompanied by Su-35 fighter jets, flew twice in June within a few dozen miles of the Alaskan coastline before being escorted away by U.S. fighter aircraft.

In conducting these operations, U.S. and Russian military leaders appear to be delivering two messages to their counterparts. First, despite any perceived reductions in military readiness caused by the coronavirus pandemic, they are fully prepared to conduct all-out combat operations against the other. Second, any such engagements could include a nuclear component at an early stage of the fighting.

“We have the capability and capacity to provide long-range fires anywhere, anytime, and can bring overwhelming firepower, even during the pandemic,” said Gen. Timothy Ray, commander of the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, the unit responsible for deploying nuclear bombers on long-range missions of this sort. Without saying as much, Russia has behaved in a similar manner. From his post as commander of U.S. air forces in Europe, Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian observed, “Russia has not scaled back air operations in Europe since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and the number of intercepts of Russian aircraft [by NATO forces] has remained roughly stable.”

Leaders on both sides have been more reticent when it comes to the nuclear implications of these maneuvers, but there is no doubt that such considerations are on their minds. Ray’s talk of “overwhelming force” and “long-range fires” could be interpreted as involving highly destructive conventional weapons, but when the aircraft involved are primarily intended for delivering nuclear weapons, it can have another meaning altogether.

Equally suggestive is Harrigian’s comment, made in conjunction with the B-52 flights over the Baltic Sea on June 15, that “long-range strategic missions to the Baltic region are a visible demonstration of our capability to extend deterrence globally,” again signaling to Moscow that any NATO-Russian engagement in the Baltic region could escalate swiftly to the nuclear level.

Russian generals have not uttered similar statements, but the dispatch of Tu-95 bombers to within a few dozen miles of Alaska, which houses several major U.S. military installations, is a loud enough message in itself.

Although receiving scant media attention in the U.S. and international press, these maneuvers represent a dangerous escalation of U.S.-Russian military interactions and could set the stage for a dangerous incident involving armed combat between aircraft of the opposing sides. This by itself could precipitate a major crisis and possible escalation. Just as worrisome is the strategic implications of these operations, suggesting a commitment to the early use of nuclear weapons in future major-power engagements.

The Unlawful Actions of Trump and Babylon the Great

US drone strike on Iran’s Qassem Suleimani ‘unlawful’, UN investigator says

The Nationalabout 13 hours ago

Thank you for your reading and interest in the news US drone strike on Iran’s Qassem Suleimani ‘unlawful’, UN investigator says and now with details

Hind Al Soulia – Riyadh – The January US drone strike in Iraq that killed top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani and nine other people represented a violation of international law, a UN human rights investigator said on Monday.

The United States has failed to provide sufficient evidence of an ongoing or imminent attack against its interests to justify the strike on Soleimani’s convoy as it left Baghdad airport, said Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The attack violated the UN Charter, Ms Callamard wrote in a report calling for accountability for targeted killings by armed drones and for greater regulation of the weapons.

“The world is at a critical time, and possible tipping point, when it comes to the use of drones. … The Security Council is missing in action; the international community, willingly or not, stands largely silent,” Ms Callamard, an independent investigator, told Reuters.

Ms Callamard is due on Thursday to present her findings to the Human Rights Council, giving member states a chance to debate what action to pursue. The United States is not a member of the forum, having quit two years ago.

Ms Soleimani, leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, was a pivotal figure in orchestrating Iran’s campaign to drive US forces out of Iraq, and built up Iran’s network of proxy armies across the Middle East. Washington had accused Suleimani of masterminding attacks by Iranian-aligned militias on US forces in the region.

“Major General Suleimani was in charge of Iran military strategy, and actions, in Syria and Iraq. But absent an actual imminent threat to life, the course of action taken by the US was unlawful,” Ms Callamard wrote in the report.

The January 3 drone strike was the first known incident in which a nation invoked self-defence as a justification for an attack against a state actor in the territory of a third country, Ms Callamard added.

Iran retaliated with a rocket attack on an Iraqi air base where US forces were stationed. Hours later, Iranian forces on high alert mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner taking off from Tehran.

Iran has issued an arrest warrant for US President Donald Trump and 35 others over Suleimani’s killing and has asked Interpol for help, Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr said on June 29, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Together, the pair planned countless Hezbollah actions inside and outside of Lebanon.

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Israel Launches Gaza Strikes Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Israel Launches Gaza Strikes after Militants Fire Rockets

Monday, 6 July, 2020 – 05:30

Smoke trails are seen as rockets are launched towards Israel from the northern Gaza Strip July 12, 2014. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Asharq Al-Awsat

The Israeli military said aircraft struck targets in the northern Gaza Strip late Sunday following a barrage of rocket fire into southern Israel. No casualties were reported on either side.

In a statement, the military said attack helicopters and fighter jets struck “underground infrastructure” belonging to Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement.

Earlier Sunday, the army said a total of three rockets were fired by Gaza militants toward Israel, setting off air-raid sirens in southern Israel.

It said one of the rockets was intercepted by the Iron Dome Defense system, while Channel 12 TV said the other two landed in open areas.

After three wars and numerous skirmishes over the years, Israel and Hamas have largely observed an unofficial ceasefire in recent months.

But tensions have been rising as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he hopes to soon begin annexing parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket fire. A number of armed groups operate in Gaza.

Israel says it holds Hamas, as the controlling power in Gaza, responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory.

Iran Confirms Israel Targeted Advanced Uranium-Enrichment Centrifuges

Mystery Blasts: Iran Confirms Target Was Advanced Uranium-Enrichment Centrifuges

(CNSNews.com) – Iran reported another in a series of unexplained explosions at the weekend, as officials confirmed that a previous incident last Thursday had targeted a key facility in the regime’s nuclear program, a center where advanced centrifuges are being developed.

Saturday’s blast took place at a power station in Ahvaz in southwestern Iran, triggering a “massive blaze” that took firefighters two hours to bring under control, the official IRNA news agency reported. No injuries were reported in the fire, which temporarily disrupted electricity supply in the oil-rich Khuzestan province.

About 70 miles away, a chlorine gas leak occurred at a petrochemicals plant near the Persian Gulf coast, requiring 70 workers to be treated for chlorine inhalation.

They were the fourth and fifth unusual incidents reported in nine days, prompting suspicions of a deliberate sabotage campaign by enemies of the regime. Iran has in the past accused the United States and Israel of trying to disrupt its nuclear program in particular.

In the deadliest of the incidents, early last week, 19 people were killed and 14 injured in a blast and fire at a medical center in Tehran, blamed variously on a gas leak and an oxygen tank explosion.

Several days earlier, authorities also blamed a gas leak for an explosion at a missile facility at Parchin military base. U.S. defense officials regard the regime’s ballistic missile program as one of the most dangerous security threats in the region.

And on Thursday, a fire erupted at Natanz, home to a uranium enrichment plant central to the nuclear program.

Supreme National Security Council of Iran spokesman Keivan Khosravi said the following day that experts had determined the cause of the fire following “a detailed assessment of the impacts, quality and extent of the damages.”

But he said details would be made public at the appropriate time, “due to security considerations.”

Both Khosravi and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) played down the extent of the damage, and said there were no nuclear materials at the site, initially described as an “industrial shed.”

But on Sunday, IRNA quoted AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi as saying the building was in fact a center for assembling advanced centrifuges. (The Institute for Science and International Security, which closely studies Iran’s nuclear program, said earlier that the damaged site was a centrifuge assembly workshop which it first identified in 2017.)

Centrifuges are devices that spin at high speeds to enrich uranium, producing fuel for nuclear power plants or, when enriched to very high levels, for nuclear weapons.

The 1995 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – a response to the international community’s suspicions that the regime was developing a nuclear weapons capability under the cover of a civilian program – restricted Iran to operating a specified number of first-generation centrifuges known as “IR-1,” and to enriching a limited quantity of uranium to a maximum of 3.67 percent.

After the Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA, Iran began to take steps away from its obligations, including increasing the purity of enrichment to 4.5 percent; increasing the number of centrifuges operating; and beginning to operate a range of more advanced centrifuges. Those moves were confirmed again most recently in an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring report last month.

Kamalvandi said the damage caused to equipment in the blaze at Natanz would possibly cause delays to the operation of advanced centrifuges there.

Uncorroborated claims of responsibility online for a purported cyber-attack at Natanz prompted the head of the regime’s civil defense division, Gholamreza Jalal, to warn that Iran would retaliate against any perpetrator of a cyber-attack on its nuclear facilities.

“Responding to cyber-attacks is part of the country’s defense might,” Jalali said. “If it is proven that our country has been targeted by a cyber-attack, we will respond.”

In a weekend radio interview, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in response to questions about the blasts in Iran, “Not every event that happens in Iran is necessarily connected to us.”

He also reiterated Israel’s concerns about the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, to the region and the world, and said “we will do everything to prevent that from happening.”

In 2010, Natanz was targeted with a sophisticated computer virus named Stuxnet, which experts assessed destroyed around 1,000 centrifuges out of about 9,000 then operating there. The regime blamed the United States and Israel for what appeared to be an attempt to retard its nuclear activities.

The IAEA confirmed at the weekend that Iranian authorities had reported Thursday’s fire at Natanz and had stated that “there had been no nuclear material or other radioactive material in the building.”

“Iran said the cause was not yet known, adding there were no injuries or radioactive contamination,” said the U.N. atomic agency, whose inspectors regularly visit the site, but were not present at the time of the fire.