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.”

UN Tries to Keep the Iranian Horn in Check

UN nuclear watchdog gains access and inspects SECOND site in Iran after stand-off

THE United Nations watchdog has gained access to a second site in Iran where undeclared nuclear activity may have taken place in the early 2000s.

By Steven Brown 21:18, Fri, Oct 2, 2020 | UPDATED: 21:18, Fri, Oct 2, 2020

Last month, Tehran announced it would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to two sites following a visit to Iran by director general Rafael Grossi. The exact locations have not been revealed.

In a statement, the IAEA said: “As part of an agreement with Iran to resolve safeguards implementation issues specified by the IAEA, the agency this week conducted a complementary access at the second location in the country and took environmental samples.”

Iran agreed to allow the IAEA access to both sites on specific dates later this month.

Earlier this year, Tehran denied the agency access to the locations which prompted IAEA’s board of governors to pass a resolution urging Iran to comply with its requests.

In March, the IAEA identified two sites as places where Iran could have stored or used undeclared nuclear material or undertaken nuclear-related activities without declaring them.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Image: Getty)

Iran has launched multiple missile tests (Image: Getty)

One site was reported to be in Abadeh, south of Isfahan.

This location was flagged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the site of an alleged secret nuclear facility in 2019.

Back in July, it was claimed there are multiple underground cities armed with long-range missiles throughout Iran.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Navy commander Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said the weapons were a “nightmare” for Iran’s foes.

Tensions between Iran and the US rise (Image: Getty)

It is believed these cities are in possession of advanced, long-range missiles with newer weapons on the way.

Reports of the new armed underground cities raised alarms in the Pentagon, who criticised Tangsiri’s remarks.

A spokesperson told Newsweek: “Iran claims to want good relations with its neighbours, yet it continues to threaten them with even greater levels of violence.

“Iran is the greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East.

US firepower vs Iran firepower (Image: Express)

“Statements like this demonstrate clearly that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its leaders are a destabilising force in the region.”

Over recent years, Iran has shown off a series of underground tunnels and command centres across the country.

These tunnels are home to the largest and most advanced missile program in the Middle East.

Despite some analysts trying to pinpoint the facilities, Admiral Tangsiri said Iran’s foes had “inaccurate information”.

Donald Trump issues new sanctions on Iran (Image: Getty)

Tensions between the US and Iran have intensified over recent months.

The two countries were on the brink of war back in January after US forces killed Iranian major general Qassem Soleimani during a missile strike in Iraq.

General Soleimani was travelling through Baghdad when his convoy was struck by three US missiles.

Just days after the attack, Tehran retaliated and launched a series of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing US troops.

IAEA director general Rafael Grossi (Image: Getty)

Washington has been seeking an extension of a United Nations (UN) arms embargo against Tehran, under the Trump administration.

This is set to expire in October under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal which the US withdrew from.

The nuclear deal had restricted Iran’s nuclear weapons capability in return for sanctions relief.

However, Mr Trump abandoned the agreement in 2018 and has gone on to introduce a number of sanctions on Iranian oil exports.

The winds of God‘s wrath makes landfall in Mexico: Jeremiah 23

Tropical Storm Gamma makes landfall near Tulum, Mexico; hurricane warning issued – CNN

Tropical Storm Gamma made landfall on the eastern side of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula near Tulum about 11:45 CT, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Maximum sustained winds were close to hurricane strength at 70 mph, the center said.

The government of Mexico has issued a hurricane warning for the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula from north of Punta Allen to Cancun, including Cozumel, the center said.

Gamma gained strength Saturday morning, when it was moving at speeds up from 50 mph.

A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area, in this case within the next six hours. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion, the hurricane center says.

Gamma is forecast to bring extremely heavy rain to portions of Mexico over the next several days. Flash flooding and mudslides remain a concern as Gamma makes landfall across the Yucatán on Saturday.

Get the latest updates and track the path of the storm >>>

On the current forecast track, the center of Gamma will move inland over the eastern Yucatan Peninsula later Saturday and will continue to track across the Yucatan through Sunday.

Gamma was not expected to impact the United States over the next week.

Gamma is not expected to become a major hurricane.

The Iranian horn mocks President Trump

Iranians call COVID-19 diagnosis ‘lesson’ for Trump

To many Iranians, the news that US President Donald Trump has the novel coronavirus is poetic justice.

Al-Monitor Staff

Iranian officials, who are typically quick to react to bombshell stories, appear to have chosen cautious silence in the immediate raucous debates triggered by the announcement that US President Donald Trump had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Unsurprisingly, the officials have also avoided sending any warm thoughts or prayers for the leader of the country they have considered Iran’s number-one enemy for four decades.

However, Iranian media outlets, analysts and members of the public have reacted in messages largely about Trump’s “lesson” and how the virus affects those who underestimate it. “No one, absolutely no one, could be immune from COVID’s claws,” read an article from the conservative state-funded news agency Young Journalists Club. 

London-based Reformist and former Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani offered a chronology of Trump’s actions before catching the virus, from his effort “to reduce the pandemic to the level of a ploy by Democrats” to his “ridicule” for the mask worn by his rival Joe Biden.

Veteran Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi wrote, “Perhaps the quarantine period will give him enough time to come to recognize the fact that life is too fragile and not worth all the hue and cry … and one’s health can be simply threatened with a microscopic virus. This could make him reconsider his behavior.”

There was also analysis of the obesity and age risk factors that could make the American president a critical case. Some outlets focused on how the news rattled the US stock market and how the situation could impact the American economy. There were also conspiracy theories that the entire episode is a “lie” to which Trump has resorted as a fresh populistic tactic to draw public sympathy at a critical moment to tilt the outcomes of the Nov. 3 polls.

As have been trending across American social media, edited pictures of Trump getting shots of disinfectants — ridicule of his own suggested remedies — also made the rounds on Iranian platforms.

Iran, the Middle East’s worst-hit country, announced another 187 coronavirus mortalities on Friday and an infected population now past 464,000. The country is currently experiencing a third wave of the pandemic, with extremely alarming rates in the capital Tehran, where hospitals are reaching capacity due to an influx of patients with severe symptoms.

From the early days of the outbreak in Iran, a large number of senior Iranian officials have been infected, from a deputy health minister to over two dozen lawmakers and powerful former parliament speaker Ali Larijani. The country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 81, has taken extreme precautions, delivering only televised speeches and attending no public events.

The US president’s infection was celebrated by some Iranian conservative media outlets that suggested karma was catching up to him and that Trump was paying the price for his order to kill top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.

“In these chaotic days, Trump’s death is the only news that could make us feel better,” wrote one Iranian Twitter user, who was supported in a reply: “I don’t want him to die of the coronavirus. I’d rather to see him get killed in a drone or missile attack on his convoy,” the other user tweeted in an open reference to how Soleimani was hit outside Baghdad’s international airport in January. 

Hamas can’t control arms proliferation outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Why Hamas can’t control arms proliferation in Gaza

Amid the uncontrollable proliferation of weapons in the Gaza Strip, human rights centers and institutions sounded the alarm, while Hamas seems unable to prevent citizens from obtaining arms.

Rasha Abou Jalal

In late September, firearms and white weapons were used in several family feuds that erupted in various governorates in the Gaza Strip. These resulted in casualties among citizens, especially among women and children. Most recently, on Sept. 27, during a family quarrel in the city of Nuseirat, in central Gaza, five people were stabbed with knives.

In a statement issued Sept. 26, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights listed several family fights where firearms were used, most notably a quarrel that occurred between two families in Shajaiya neighborhood in eastern Gaza City, on the evening of Sept. 25. “As a result, four persons sustained injuries, one of whom is in serious condition,” the statement read.

The center called on “the relevant authorities to uphold the rule of law and prevent parties to a dispute from taking the law into their own hands. The authorities must launch a prompt, comprehensive and credible investigation into the tragic events and hold perpetrators to account through a sound legal process.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in a Sept. 26 statement expressed its concern about the increasing societal violence and the use of weapons in family and personal quarrels, which threatens civil and societal peace. It urged the competent authorities to prosecute perpetrators and bring them to trial, and to take more stringent measures to confront the increasing use of weapons outside the rule of law.

In statements to Al-Monitor, Gaza’s Interior Ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozm warned against the proliferation of weapons in Palestinian society. “This is a result of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the youth’s affiliation with the Palestinian resistance factions fighting Israel. But these are unjustified reasons.”

He expressed his concerns over the use of arms in family quarrels. “The ministry deals firmly with the use of weapons and shooting during family feuds. Shooters and weapons users are arrested, and their firearms are confiscated.”

Bozm noted that his ministry imposed security stability in all areas where family quarrels erupted. “It is working with the help of tribal mediators and dignitaries to contain these quarrels and prevent their spread, to achieve civil peace and maintain security and order.”

In addition to the spread of the resistance’s weapons in Palestinian society, other weapons reached the Gaza Strip through border tunnels dug between Egypt and Gaza, which the Egyptian army destroyed in 2014. Some of these tunnels were used by the families that owned them to import and smuggle unlicensed weapons from Egypt to the besieged enclave and sell them to citizens for personal protection purposes.

What’s more, social media is being used as a marketplace to promote the sale of unlicensed weapons. Weapons are sold on Facebook accounts, without any supervision by the official authorities in the Gaza Strip. “Gaza Arms Market” Facebook page, for example, has more than 1,100 followers. It posts brochures with weapons and ammunition for sale, such as pistols, machine guns and even grenades.

The Palestinian Firearms and Ammunition Law No. 2 of 1998 prohibits the possession, acquisition and carrying of firearms or parts thereof or bullets without a license from the Ministry of Interior. It imposes prison sentences of three months to three years, with penalties ranging from 5,000 to 7,000 Jordanian dinars ($7,000 to $9,800).

However, Salah Abdel-Ati, director of the International Commission to Support the Palestinian Rights, told Al-Monitor, “This law is not applied in the Gaza Strip. Even in cases where the shooters are arrested, they are released when the family dispute is resolved through tribal mediation.”

He added, “The resistance weapon widespread in Palestinian society comes from the need to confront any possible Israeli military aggression against Gaza. These weapons should not be used at all in any of the internal conflicts. This shakes the pillars of civil peace. Factions must control these weapons and prevent their indiscriminate use.”

Abdel-Ati said this requires the security services to fulfill their duties to curb the proliferation of weapons among citizens, and to enforce the Palestinian law and its penalties.

Conflict in Kashmir before the first nuclear war: Revelation 8

India says Pakistani shelling kills 3 soldiers in Kashmir

Aijaz Hussain, Associated Press

9:38 am EDT, Thursday, October 1, 2020

Photo: Mukhtar Khan, AP

Indian army soldiers guard on top of their armored vehicle as they return from an overnight gun-battle with suspected rebels at Samboora village, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. Two suspected rebels were killed and a soldier was injured in the overnight gun-battle, police said.

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — At least three Indian soldiers were killed and five others wounded by Pakistani shelling along the highly militarized frontier dividing Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals, the Indian army said Thursday.

Indian army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia said two soldiers died and four were wounded on Thursday when Pakistani soldiers fired mortar rounds and other weapons in the northwestern Nowgam sector along the Line of Control in Kupwara district.

Kalia called the incident “an unprovoked violation” of a 2003 cease-fire accord and said Indian troops gave a “befitting response.”

Separately, one soldier was killed and another wounded in Pakistani shelling and firing in southern Poonch district along the frontier on Wednesday night, said Lt. Col. Devender Anand, another Indian military spokesman.

Pakistan did not directly comment on the deaths. In the past, each side has accused the other of starting border skirmishes in the disputed Himalayan region, which both claim in its entirety.

However, Pakistan summoned an Indian diplomat on Thursday to register a protest over a cease-fire violation leading to serious injuries to a 65-year-old woman on Wednesday, the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Earlier Thursday, Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri accused New Delhi of escalating tension along the Line of Control “to divert world attention from its human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir.”

Chaudhri said at a weekly media briefing that India has committed 2,404 cease-fire violations since January in which 19 people were killed and 192 others were wounded in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

On Tuesday, Pakistan’s military said Indian troops opened fire across the border in the region, killing a 15-year-old boy and a soldier and wounding four villagers.

The Indian government says Pakistan has committed more than 3,000 cease-fire violations so far this year.

The two neighbors have fought two wars over the territory, and India accuses Pakistan of arming and training insurgents fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or unification with Pakistan. Pakistan denies the charge and says it offers only diplomatic and moral support to the rebels.

Tensions soared in February 2019, when a suicide bombing killed 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, and India retaliated with airstrikes inside Pakistani territory. Pakistan shot down one of the warplanes in Kashmir and captured a pilot who was quickly released. India said the strikes targeted Pakistan-based militants responsible for the suicide bombing.

Relations have been further strained since August last year, when India revoked the Muslim-majority region’s decades-old semi-autonomous status and divided the region in two federally governed territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, touching off anger on both sides of the frontier.

Since then, rival troops have traded fire almost daily along the rugged and mountainous frontier, leaving dozens of civilians and soldiers dead on both sides.

The violence comes amid heightened tensions between India and China along their disputed border in Ladakh region, where the two Asia giants are locked in a monthslong bitter standoff. The high-altitude desert region borders China on one side and Pakistan on the other, and is the world’s only junction of three nuclear-armed nations.

In recent months, the two countries have amassed tens of thousands of additional troops in the already militarized region. In June, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash on a high ridge between soldiers using clubs, stones and their fists.

___

Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

Get ready for the nuclear catastrophe: Revelation 8

UN chief: World is living in `shadow of nuclear catastrophe’

In this photo provided by the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres briefs reporters during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at U.N. headquarters in New York. (Rick Bajornas/UN Photo via AP) (Associated Press)

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Friday that the world is living “in the shadow of nuclear catastrophe,” fueled by growing distrust and tensions between the nuclear powers.

The U.N. chief told a high-level meeting to commemorate the recent International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons that progress on ridding the world of nuclear weapons “has stalled and is at risk of backsliding.” And he said strains between countries that possess nuclear weapons “have increased nuclear risks.”

As examples, Guterres has expressed deep concern at the escalating disputes between the Trump administration and China. Relations between the U.S. and Russia are at a low point. Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are feuding over Kashmir, and India just had a border skirmish with China. And North Korea boasts about its nuclear weapons.

Without naming any countries, Guterres said programs to modernize nuclear arsenals “threaten a qualitative nuclear arms race,” not to increase the number of weapons but to make them “faster, stealthier and more accurate.”

Guterres also pointed to the only treaty constraining the size of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals — the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia — which is set to expire next year.

“It is imperative” that the two countries extend it without delay for the maximum five years, he said, waring that without a treaty there is an “alarming possibility of a return to unconstrained strategic competition.”

The secretary-general said the nuclear non-proliferation treaty or NPT, which marks its 50th anniversary this year, remains the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The five-year review of its implementation was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic until next year and Guterres urged its 191 parties to use the extra time to strengthen the treaty, including making “tangible progress towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Guterres said he also looks forward to the entry into force of the first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons, which was adopted in July 2017 by 122 countries. Once it has 50 ratifications, the treaty will enter force in 90 days, and with Malaysia’s ratification on Sept. 30 it now has 46.

At Friday’s high-level meeting, 103 of the 193 U.N. member nations were scheduled to speak for two minutes each. But many spoke longer so only 79 delivered addresses, and the U.N. said it would post the rest.

Of the major nuclear powers, Russia and China were on the speakers list but didn’t get to speak. The United States Britain and France skipped the meeting. So did North Korea and Israel, which is widely reported to have a nuclear arsenal but has never admitted it publicly. India and Pakistan were scheduled to speak, but only India got to deliver remarks.

Many speakers recalled that the meeting took place 75 years after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed 210,000 people and sped the end of World War II.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose country is still part of a 2015 agreement with Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapon, said the meeting “provides a unique opportunity to mobilize the world to liberate humanity from the nuclear nightmare.”

In brief prerecorded remarks, Zarif accused the United States of “developing new nuclear weapons and recklessly lowering the threshold of their deployment.” He said the U.S. has also caused “immense damage to the NPT by unlawfully withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and the 1987 intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia on missile.

Zarif also lashed out at U.S. support for Israel, “the sole possessor of nuclear arsenal in our region.” He demanded that the international community “compel Israel — which has aggression in its very DNA — to promptly accede to the NPT and destroy its nuclear arsenal” and submit to “the most intrusive inspection regime.”

The Iranian minister also called on the General Assembly “to declare as a binding norm of international law that a nuclear war cannot be won — and must never be fought,” and to develop a concrete program for “time-bound nuclear disarmament.”

“Just imagine if the billions wasted on instruments of global annihilation were allocated to help fund the fight against COVID-19,” Zarif said.

India’s Foreign Minister Harsh Vardhan Shringla reiterated the country’s longstanding commitment to nuclear disarmament through a step-by-step process, and said all states possessing nuclear weapons need to hold a “meaningful dialogue” to build trust and confidence.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in spite of the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of the atomic bombings, “the nuclear threat is as present as ever and multilateralism is under severe pressure.”

“Polarization and a lack of trust” are “a dangerous mix, one which we cannot afford to ignore,” she said.

Linde called on the U.S. and Russia to promptly extend New START and welcomed recent discussions “on a broader, follow-on agreement, which could also include China.”

Sweden has launched the Stockholm Initiative on Nuclear Disarmament with 15 non-nuclear nations aimed at building “political support for a result-oriented disarmament agenda within the NPT framework,” she said, urging other countries to join the effort.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said “no significant progress” has been made by nuclear weapon states in reducing their arsenals, and their current modernization efforts have resulted in “the ever-enlarging trust deficit among countries.”

She called for enforcement of the NPT, strengthening disarmament, the early entry into force of the nuclear test ban treaty, and for all nuclear weapon states to become parties to nuclear weapons free zones.

“Maintaining nuclear weapons, is clearly, a zero-sum situation, while total abolishment of such weapons, will ensure that humanity prevails,” Marsudi said.

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