The Ramapo Fault and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/RamapoFaultSystem.png 

Living on the Fault Line

Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo

The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.

After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.

Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.

During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.

“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”

Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.

Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.

After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.

Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.

Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.

The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.

For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.

Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”

The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.

This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”

Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”

But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.

Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.

All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.

For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.

Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.

To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.

In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.

As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)

In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.

The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hazus.htm).

Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.

Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.

This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.

For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at nycem.org.)

All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.

Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”

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For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.

In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.

Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”

Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.

This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”

A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.

“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”

Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.

Trump Begins His Push For Martial Law

Trump deploys feds to more states under ‘law-and-order’ push

By COLLEEN LONG and JILL COLVIN, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he will send federal agents into Chicago and Albuquerque to help combat rising crime, expanding the administration’s intervention in local enforcement as he runs for reelection under a “law-and-order” mantle.

Using the same alarmist language that he has employed in the past to describe illegal immigration, Trump painted Democrat-led cities as out of control and lashed out at the “radical left,” even though criminal justice experts say the increase in violence in some cities defies easy explanation.

“In recent weeks there has been a radical movement to defend, dismantle and dissolve our police department,” Trump said at a White House event, blaming the movement for “a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.”

“This bloodshed must end,” he said. “This bloodshed will end.”

The decision to dispatch federal agents to American cities is playing out at a hyperpoliticized moment when Trump is trying to show that he stands with law enforcement and depict Democrats as weak on crime. With less than four months to go before Election Day, Trump has been serving up dire warnings that the violence would worsen if his Democratic rival Joe Biden is elected in November, as he tries to win over voters who could be swayed by that message.

In trying to explain the spike in violence, experts point to the unprecedented moment the country is living through — a pandemic that has killed more than 140,000 Americans, historic unemployment, stay-at-home orders, a mass reckoning over race and police brutality, intense stress and even the weather. Compared with other years, crime is down overall.

Local authorities have also complained that deploying federal agents to their cities has only exacerbated tensions on the streets.

Hundreds of federal agents already have been sent to Kansas City, Missouri, to help quell a record rise in violence after the shooting death of a young boy there. Sending federal agents to help localities is not uncommon. Barr announced a similar surge effort in December for seven cities that had seen spiking violence.

Usually, the Justice Department sends agents under its own umbrella, like agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or the Drug Enforcement Agency. But this surge effort will include at least 100 Department of Homeland Security Investigations officers working in the region who generally conduct drug trafficking and child exploitation investigations.

DHS officers have already been dispatched to Portland, Oregon, and other localities to protect federal property and monuments as Trump has lambasted efforts by protesters to knock down Confederate statutes.

But civil unrest in Portland only escalated after federal agents there were accused of whisking people away in unmarked cars without probable case.

The spike in crime has hit hard in some cities with resources already stretched thin from the pandemic. But local leaders initially rejected the move to send in federal forces.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot later said she and other local officials had spoken with federal authorities and come to an understanding.

“I’ve been very clear that we welcome actual partnership,” the Democratic mayor said Tuesday after speaking with federal officials. “But we do not welcome dictatorship. We do not welcome authoritarianism, and we do not welcome unconstitutional arrest and detainment of our residents. That is something I will not tolerate.”

In New Mexico, meanwhile, Democratic elected officials were cautioning Trump against any possible plans to send federal agents to the state, with U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich calling on Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, who will be at the White House on Wednesday, to resign.

“Instead of collaborating with the Albuquerque Police Department, the Sheriff is inviting the President’s stormtroopers into Albuquerque,” the Democratic senator said in a statement.

But federal gun crimes generally carry much stiffer penalties than state crimes — and larger-scale federal investigations that can cross state lines tend to make a big impact.

The Justice Department will reimburse Chicago $3.5 million for local law enforcement’s work on the federal task force. Through a separate federal fund, Chicago received $9.3 million to hire 75 new officers.

Two dozen agents will be sent to Albuquerque, and the administration made available $1.5 million in funding for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department for five new deputies and $9.4 million for 40 new Albuquerque officers.

In Kansas City, the top federal prosecutor said any agents involved in an operation to reduce violent crime in the area will be clearly identifiable when making arrests, unlike what has been seen in Portland.

“These agents won’t be patrolling the streets,” U.S. Attorney Timothy Garrison said. “They won’t replace or usurp the authority of local officers.”

Operation Legend — named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was fatally shot while sleeping in a Kansas City apartment late last month — was announced on July 8. The first arrest came earlier this week.

Garrison has said that the additional 225 federal agents from the FBI, DEA, ATF and the U.S. Marshals Service join 400 agents already working and living in the Kansas City area.

The Trump administration is facing growing pushback in Portland. Multiple lawsuits have been filed questioning the federal government’s authority to use broad policing powers in cities. One suit filed Tuesday says federal agents are violating protesters’ 10th Amendment rights by engaging in police activities designated to local and state governments.

Oregon’s attorney general sued last week, asking a judge to block federal agents’ actions. The state argued that masked agents had arrested people on the streets without probable cause and far from the U.S. courthouse that’s become a target of vandalism.

Federal authorities, however, said state and local officials had been unwilling to work with them to stop the vandalism and violence against federal officers and the U.S. courthouse.

___

Associated Press writers Michael Tarm in Chicago and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.

America Tries Desperately to Cover Her Nuclear Assets

America’s New Quest for Adequate Nuclear Deterrence

Nuclear testing is a hot-button issue once again. First, days after reports that administration officials had discussed resuming tests, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) amended its version of the2021 National Defense Authorization Act, adding $10 million for nuclear test readiness.

This action sparked immediate criticism, with opponents raising fears of provoking an all-out global arms race. Then, the House Appropriations Committee included a provision in its annual appropriations bill prohibiting the use of funds to conduct a nuclear test. On Monday, the House voted to include that same prohibition in its annual defense policy bill.

Alarmism over the administration’s mere discussion of nuclear testing distracts from any reasoned conversation of a legitimate issue worthy of debate: the state of nuclear test readiness. Conducting a nuclear test is no easy, routine task, and if the SASC amendment is approved, then the $10 million would not be spent on conducting one. Rather, it would be used to maintain the capabilities and infrastructure necessary to conduct a nuclear test, should the need arise.

The United States has been under a self-imposed nuclear testing moratorium since 1992. Instead of testing, the Department of Energy has relied on a program called “Stockpile Stewardship” to certify U.S. nuclear weapons will work as intended. The program uses a combination of scientific experiments and computer simulations. Experts have testified this program allows the federal government to have a great deal of confidence our nuclear stockpile remains safe, secure, and reliable—without resorting to nuclear testing.

While the Stockpile Stewardship Program has sufficed for the last twenty-four years to certify the nuclear stockpile, it does not eliminate any future need to conduct a nuclear test. When President Bill Clinton signed a 1993 directive establishing the program, he also mandated that the U.S. maintain the ability to conduct an explosive nuclear test within twenty-four to thirty-six months of a presidential decision to do so. Even as he pursued a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Clinton recognized the need to maintain a testing capability in order to ensure the ability to keep our nuclear deterrent safe and reliable.

That need remains just as strong today. One reason to conduct a nuclear test is technical. Should a flaw be discovered in one or more types of our nuclear weapons, testing might be the only means to verify we have corrected the problem.

For example, there is disagreement over how aging affects the plutonium used in the cores of nuclear warheads. Most of our current warheads were manufactured during the height of the Cold War. If scientists discover that the decades-old plutonium is beginning to affect the safety or reliability of nuclear warheads, then they might need to test to determine if the bulk of the stockpile can still function. Computer simulations, while very useful, are only as good as their inputs.

Another possible reason for a test is geopolitical,i.e. driven by actions of U.S. adversaries that might affect our national security. For example, were an adversary to develop a defense against nuclear weapons that calls into question the effectiveness of U.S. nuclear warheads, then the United States might need to test its warheads in that simulated contested environment.

Should the United States find itself in one of these situations, then having some level of readiness to test will mitigate the risk to the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Successful deterrence depends on our adversaries believing that our nuclear weapons will work as intended.

So long as there continues to be no reasonable path to nuclear disarmament, the United States must maintain a strong nuclear deterrent. Looking forward potentially hundreds of years into the future, it defies logic to assume that the United States will never again need to test a nuclear weapon, especially as the nuclear arsenal continues to age.

But today, our test readiness is weak. Prior to 1992, the United States tested nuclear warheads in underground holes at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. Unused for almost thirty years now, nearly all of the capabilities needed to conduct a test have eroded. To resume testing, the United States would likely need to start from scratch—from acquiring geological tools that no longer exist to regaining the intellectual know-how to test a nuclear explosive. It’s unclear whether Nevada would even still work as a test site.

In its latest annual report to Congress, the Energy Department noted the potential difficulty of meeting the twenty-four- to thirty-six-month test readiness requirement.Fully complying with domestic regulations, agreements, and laws would “significantly extend the time required for execution of a nuclear test,” the report noted.

With this information, the SASC’s initiative to authorize a small amount of funding for test readiness only makes sense. While there is no annual appropriation for nuclear test readiness, the Energy Department currently exercises some capabilities at the national security laboratories to practice test readiness, such as conducting scientific experiments that do not result in nuclear explosions. A designated $10 million for test readiness within existing budgets would help bolster these and similar capabilities.

The SASC amendment does not herald an imminent return to nuclear testing, and should not warrant such reactionary testing prohibitions in any final policy or spending bill. Rather, Congress should follow the example set by the SASC and continue to debate the merits of this issue that affects the credibility of the U.S. strategic deterrent, our main defense against Russia’s and China’s growing nuclear arsenals.

Improving test readiness would comply with Clinton’s direction and add to U.S. national security. Congress funds readiness for all other military contingencies. There’s no reason to make nuclear test readiness taboo.

Patty-Jane Geller is a policy analyst specializing in nuclear deterrence and missile defense at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense.

Image: Reuters

Israel Continues to Stir Up Strife

Israel Strikes Syria, Warns Russia Over Iranian Missiles – Breaking Defense

Air Warfare, Allies, Threats

Arie Egozi

Iranian Khordad anti-aircraft missile system (Iranian TV still)

TEL AVIV: As Israel ramps up airstrikes on Iranian forces and their proxies in Syria, with at least five reported dead, Israeli sources are increasingly anxious that Iran will deploy its Khordad anti-aircraft system to Syria.That would pose a potentially lethal threat to Israeli pilots. Israel has asked Russia to rein in Iran; instead, Russia sent an aircraft to shadow Israeli strike planes.

Israeli aircraft met heavy fire last night over Damascus, and their retaliation reportedly destroyed some Syrian anti-aircraft batteries. At least one Israeli plane was also met in the air by a Russian aircraft scrambled from Syria’s Khmeimim Air Base, according to Russian website Avia Pro. While sources tell Breaking Defense that the Russians didn’t open fire or interfere with the Israeli strike in any evident way, but the maneuver showed their capability to intercept Israeli aircraft if desired.

The backstory to the current crisis: On July 9th, the Iranian Chief of Staff, General Muhammad Bakri, arrived in Damascus to sign a new military agreement with Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub. The main pillar of this agreement: an Iranian promise to supply Syria with advanced surface-to-air missiles to Syria.

On July 17th, Israeli defense minister Beny Gantz called his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoygu, to warn himIsrael would not let Iran develop nuclear weapons or strengthen its military presence on its northeast border.In particular, Gantz said Israel would not tolerate the deployment of the Iranian Khordad and asked Russia to pressure Iran not to send the anti-aircraft weapon to Syria.

Last year, Russia deployed its S-300 anti-aircraft system to its bases in Syria. The S-300 is more powerful than the Khordad but Russian crews retain full control of those weapons and have not let the Syrians use them. Iran would have no such compunctions about letting its Khordad be used to shoot down Israeli planes.

“The Russian S-300 in Syria are still operated by the Russians and are not operated against aerial threats,” Israeli defense analyst Tal Inbar told Breaking Defense. “The Iranian missile in the hands of the Syrians will create a problem.”

The Khordad is a “very capable air defense system,” Inbar warned. It was the Khordad that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps says it used last June to shoot down an American RQ-4A Global Hawk drone , sparking a crisis between the two countries.

Iran developed the Khordad  based on Russian technologies – it strongly resembles the Russian Buk — putting it into service in mid-2010. It can reportedly engage up to four targets at once with two missiles apiece, at an engagement range of up to 200 km (124 miles), complementing longer-ranged systems bought from Russia, like the S-200 and S-300PMU.

The weapon, also known as Khordad-3, is officially named “3rd of Khordad,” a date in the Iranian calendar.

Even Trump’s Competitor is an Idiot

Biden, Russia’s not Iraq! Threatening the Kremlin over non-existent election meddling endangers not only the US but the world too

Scott Ritter

is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

21 Jul, 2020 20:54

Together with his fellow Democrats, Joe Biden’s playing a dangerous game of Russia-baiting that lacks any basis in fact, and could lead to a precipitous fracturing of US-Russian relations.

The Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president has put his foot down, so to speak, when it comes to the issue of Russian interference in US elections.

“I am putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice,” Biden announced in a lengthy statement. “If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government,” he wrote.

If such interference is detected, he declared he would direct his administration “to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators.” According to Biden, the costs that could be imposed on Russia include “financial-sector sanctions, asset freezes, cyber responses, and the exposure of corruption.” More ominously, he noted that “a range of other actions could also be taken, depending on the nature of the attack. I will direct our response at a time and in a manner of our choosing.”

It doesn’t matter that the notion of Russian interference in US elections is little more than politicized fiction intended to explain away Hillary Clinton’s embarrassing 2016 electoral loss to Donald Trump, further sustained for the sole purpose of undermining the Trump presidency.

From the moment the Clinton campaign became aware there was a major leak of potentially damaging data from the computer servers of the Democratic National Committee, campaign manager Robby Mook began manufacturing a ‘Russia-did-it’ narrative. That was magnified, in turn, by Perkins Coie, the law firm behind the funding of the infamous Steele dossier, and subsequently picked up on by the FBI and CIA to justify a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, alleging collusion with Russia. It doesn’t matter that virtually every aspect of the Russian election interference narrative has been debunked.

Also on rt.com ‘Russian agent’ or Steele’s patsy? ‘Revealed’ identity of primary sub-source for Russiagate dossier sparks fresh speculation

Facts do not matter

Facts no longer matter – only perception.This is why the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, continues to repeat the mantra “all roads lead to Putin,” when, in fact, as regards the Trump administration, they clearly do not. It’s also why the Democratic Congressional leadership would ask for a “defensive counterintelligence briefing” from the FBI regarding Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election when, in fact, they already know no such intelligence exists.

The Big Lie is a tactic that dates back to Nazi propagandists,and it was seemingly perfected by Pelosi and her fellow Democrats in their collective effort to propagate the Russian collusion narrative.

The truth has always been an elusive commodity in American politics, especially during the “silly season” of a presidential campaign, when promises are made with no intention of ever keeping them, and minor indiscretions are transformed into existential crises. While the impact of this trend toward diminished honesty and integrity can be damaging politically, beyond the fact that American democracy is being built, literally, on a body of lies deliberately told and willingly received, the potential for inflicting meaningful physical and fiscal harm on the United States by the telling of these lies is minuscule.

Not so with the Russia-did-it fantasy being woven by the Democrats. Take Joe Biden’s statement regarding his plans to retaliate against Russia in the event of any interference by Moscow in the 2020 US presidential election. He speaks of “cyber responses,” and “a range of other actions” that ominously point to something more than a mere slap on the wrist.

Biden would do well to read Russia’s recently released document governing its nuclear deterrence policy, where any attack, cyber or otherwise, on the “critical state or military facilities of the Russian Federation the failure of which will lead to the disruption of the retaliatory action of nuclear forces” could trigger a nuclear launch.

Also on rt.com Democrats cry ‘foreign meddling’ in 2020 election in letter to FBI, reportedly over probe of Biden dealings in Ukraine

Pandemic of Russophobia

But Biden, Pelosi, and the rest of the Democrats aren’t the only Americans infected by what can only be described as a pandemic of Russophobia. A coterie of former “national security experts” has taken upon themselves the task of painting Russia as an enemy of the United States.A recent example of this came in an op-ed published in the Washington Post by a quartet of retired CIA officials, who used it to bash the Trump administration’s efforts to build a cooperative relationship with Russian intelligence. “Putin’s Kremlin,” these former spies wrote, “is not interested in a constructive relationship with the United States. Instead, Putin sees himself in a political war with us. And he benefits domestically by blaming the United States for all his ills.”

The average reader might be excused from comprehending that the authors of this screed were, at one point or another in their careers, involved in committing the very acts against Russia – recruiting agents, interfering in domestic politics, stealing secrets – that they now accuse Russia of undertaking.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Russian intelligence services carry out robust collection operations targeting the United States. Such is the reality of life. For these former CIA officers to single out such action as an unforgivable sin, given their own resumes, is the height of hypocrisy. It also exposes the intellectual vacuum that exists among these so-called “experts” when it comes to assessing Russia during the time of its current president, Vladimir Putin.

Also on rt.com Injustice & inequality are the real cause of US riots – but establishment who ignored the problem now cowardly blame Russia

The US intelligence community – past and present – doesn’t have a monopoly on Putin-based Russophobia. This has been a trend in American academia ever since the demise of Boris Yeltsin, the former Communist Party apparatchik turned democratic leader of post-Soviet Russia whose ties with, and inability to stand up to, the United States undermined Russian sovereignty.

Putin’s efforts to repair the damage done by Yeltsin’s obsequious surrender to American political and economic pressure has been the source of resentment for a generation of post-Soviet Russian specialists, including the likes of Michael McFaul (President Obama’s principal advisor on Russia), Anne Applebaum, Masha Gessen, Fiona Hill, and others.

The collective impact of this Russophobia within the American political body has created a cognitive dissonance that long ago transformed into the pathogenesis of psychosis. The five cognitive distortions that are keyed to such psychotic behavior – jumping to conclusions, intentionalizing, catastrophizing, emotional reasoning and dichotomous thinking – are all present in the words and actions of American politicians, academics, and journalists in their treatment of Putin’s Russia today.

The distortions peddled by these so-called “experts,” backed up by the legion of similarly affected former national security veterans, has colored domestic American thinking on Russia to the point that virtually any allegation can be leveled against Russia and its leadership, regardless of credulity or corroboration, and it will be accepted as fact by a population pre-programmed to accept at face value whatever narrative it is spoonfed.

In this way, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) can continue to question President Trump about uncorroborated allegations pertaining to Russian “bounties” in Afghanistan without any repercussion.

Americans would do well to remember the last time such a psychosis swept over the nation – in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Joe Biden was a proponent of that conflict, and played a major role in selling it to the American people. Pro hint, Joe: Russia isn’t Iraq. You and your fellow Democrats will put America and the rest of the world in grave peril, should you proceed with acting out on your schizophrenic cognitive biases regarding Russia.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Iran Promises Babylon the Great Payback (Daniel 8:4)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tore into the US with loaded rhetoric on Tuesday. (AFP/File)

Khamenei threatens US with ‘reciprocal blow’ over Soleimani strike

• American presence in any country causes corruption, the ayatollah said

• Iran “will never forget” the US killing of Suleimani, he added

Updated 21 July 2020

AFP

July 21, 2020 17:42

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader told Iraq’s visiting premier on Tuesday that Tehran will not interfere in Baghdad’s relations with Washington, but warned that the US presence next door to the Islamic republic was a cause of insecurity.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi of Iraq met Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the Iranian capital during his first trip abroad since taking office.

“Iran will not interfere in Iraq’s relations with America but expects Iraqi friends to know America and realize that their presence in any country causes corruption, ruin and destruction,” the Iranian leader said, according to his official website.

“The Islamic republic expects… (the Iraqi) parliament’s decision to expel the Americans to be adhered to since their presence is a cause of insecurity.”

Khamenei pointed to the US killing of Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani in a January drone strike in Baghdad, after which parliament voted to expel US troops.

“They killed your guest in your house and blatantly confessed to it.”

Iran “will never forget this and will certainly deal a reciprocal blow to the Americans,” Khamenei said.

Iran retaliated for Soleimani’s death days after by firing a volley of missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq, but US President Donald Trump opted against responding militarily.

While the attack on the western Iraqi base of Ain Al-Asad left no US soldiers dead, dozens suffered brain trauma.

According to Khamenei, Iran was opposed to “whatever may weaken the Iraqi government” in contrast to the US, which he said did not want “an independent, strong Iraqi government elected by popular vote.”

Kadhemi had been scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia as his first trip abroad, then quickly follow it up with a trip to Tehran.

The Saudi leg was postponed after King Salman was hospitalized on Monday.

Kadhemi rose to the premiership in May after serving as head of Iraq’s National Intelligence Service for nearly four years.

He formed close ties to Tehran, Washington and Riyadh during that time, prompting speculation he could serve as a rare mediator between the capitals.

His trip to Tehran comes after he received Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif in Baghdad on Sunday.

Relations between the two countries were not always close — they fought a bloody war from 1980 to 1988.

Tehran’s influence in Baghdad grew after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq toppled the government of Saddam Hussein.

Iran now has significant leverage over many of Iraq’s Shiite political groups.

Iraq’s delegation includes the ministers of foreign affairs, finance, health and planning, as well as Kadhemi’s national security adviser, some of whom also met their Iranian counterparts.

Kadhemi also held talks with President Hassan Rouhani to discuss closer trade ties, fighting the novel coronavirus and efforts to ensure regional stability, state television said.

 

Hamas, Fatah plan to meet in rally outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Hamas, Fatah plan to meet to schedule joint rally against annexation

July 22, 2020, 02:29 AM

‘This will open a new era of relations between Hamas and Fatah’

Senior Fatah and Hamas officials are meeting in Gaza on Tuesday to discuss a joint rally they plan to schedule in the coming days, Saudi television outlet Al-Resalah reported.

Leaders of rival Palestinian movements are expected to speak at the meeting, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh.

This will open a new era of relations between Hamas and Fatah,” said Hussam Badran, a senior Hamas official.

A major conflict between the two movements led Hamas to expel Fatah in a bloody coup from the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Since then, several unsuccessful attempts have been made to create a unified Palestinian political front.

Despite a possible speech by Mahmoud Abbas, many Palestinians remain deeply skeptical about the willingness of the two sides to reach an agreement.

Earlier this month, the rival movements pledged to “unite” against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. 

During a rare joint press conference, Fatah and Hamas, respectively in power in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, had said they wanted to open “a new page.”