New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

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How vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?
Ashley Fetters
New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnelsair conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.
The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.
The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.
Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?
Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There’s a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It’s well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”
And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)
Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.
Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.
The Montague Tube, which sustained severe damage during Hurricane Sandy.
MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann
Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)
One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”
Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.
And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.
So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?
“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”
Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail tips@curbed.com, and we may include it in a future column.

Joe Biden WILL Push Iran and Pakistan Closer Together

Will Joe Biden Push Iran and Pakistan Closer Together?

Shortly after Joe Biden’s win in the U.S. presidential election, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif traveled to Islamabad for two days of talks. Political ties between Iran and Pakistan are warm, but their relationship has grossly underperformed in the economic and security domains.

That is partly owing to Donald Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018 and reimposed draconian sanctions, while adding a raft of new penalties relating to terrorism and human rights. But Trump will soon be gone, and his replacement, Joe Biden, has vowed to re-enter the JCPOA.

Zarif and his Pakistani counterpart discussed ways to expand trade and economic cooperation. In theory, sanctions relief resulting from a revived JCPOA could help to realize their goals. But there is reason to doubt that Iran-Pakistan relations will significantly improve during Biden’s presidency.

First of all, it is far from guaranteed that Biden will be able to re-join the JCPOA. The current Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, is a political moderate who negotiated the Iran deal from 2013-15 but is due to leave office next year. Iran’s reformers have been losing popularity, and it is likely Rouhani will be replaced by an anti-American hardliner.

Moreover, the Iran deal is now quite unpopular with Iranians, who have not seen the sort of economic benefits that they expected. And trust in the United States is low, given that Trump abrogated the JCPOA unilaterally, even though Iran was complying with its terms, and proceeded to cripple the Iranian economy amid an escalating pandemic.

There is also the risk that Trump will pile on more pressure and provoke retaliation from Iran before he leaves office. He reportedly considered a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities soon after the election. Such tactics could trigger a military confrontation, greatly complicating a U.S. return to the JCPOA.

Added to that, Trump is apparently planning a “flood” of lame-duck sanctions before January. Iran might respond by dialing up its nuclear activities in further violation of the JCPOA. Tehran started breaching the agreement in 2019 when the United States revoked oil waivers. While those steps are currently reversible, continued infringements could ruin the deal.

Even if the JCPOA does survive, resuscitating it will be a fraught and drawn-out process. Biden has vowed to pursue a follow-on agreement that addresses Iran’s ballistic missile program, use of regional proxies (such as Hezbollah), and sunsets in the original deal which see limitations on Iranian nuclear activity expire.

Any attempt to rein in Iran’s defensive capabilities by constraining its missile program or use of proxies, while addressing nuclear sunsets, may well be rejected by Tehran. Iran might also demand compensation from the United States for re-imposing sanctions, which would likely be a non-starter in Washington.

Then there is the tricky issue of the United States’ regional partners, principally Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, who were very uncomfortable with the initial nuclear deal and would surely be displeased with an attempt to revive it. Added to that, Iran will not be a priority for the Biden administration as it tries to grapple with the coronavirus health and economic crises.

On the plus side, the Democratic Party is more united behind the JCPOA than it was in 2015. Almost all of the party’s presidential candidates pledged to return to the deal. However, the Senate will likely remain in Republican hands, potentially throwing congressional obstacles in Biden’s way.

To help the next president navigate through this minefield, analysts have proposed a sequenced approach to resuscitating the agreement. The United States and Iran would gradually return to compliance with the JCPOA by 2021, when Rouhani leaves office. Then they could proceed to broader talks about missiles and regional security.

But restoring the JCPOA is no panacea. The deal only lifts ‘secondary sanctions’ that prohibit third parties from doing business with Iran. It does not remove ‘primary sanctions,’ which apply to American companies but also affect non-U.S. entities by restricting their ability to trade in dollars.

This helps explain why commerce between Iran and Pakistan remained low even after the nuclear deal was implemented. In 2015 the two countries pledged to boost trade to $5 billion by 2021, but they never got close to achieving that goal. If history is any guide, Pakistan would only see meager economic benefits from JCPOA sanctions relief.

Of course, there are other factors constraining trade, including high tariff barriers in Iran and woefully inadequate transport connectivity between the two countries. Moreover, years of economic mismanagement have left Pakistan with a chronic trade deficit. Efforts to boost exports have been further hampered by the coronavirus economic slump.

Another obstacle may come from Iran’s nemesis, Saudi Arabia, which has close economic and security ties with Pakistan and exerts considerable influence there. Saudi pressure apparently blocked the progress of a long-delayed and now-defunct gas pipeline between Pakistan and Iran. While Saudi-Pakistan ties are waning, somewhat, they remain strong.

Worse still, for Islamabad, its arch-enemy India would likely benefit more from a revival of the JCPOA than Pakistan would. Before Trump withdrew from the deal, India imported significant amounts of oil from Iran and also moved forward with gas and infrastructure deals, such as the Chabahar port project. Those deals have stalled but might be revamped.

Closer ties between India and Iran could also mitigate Tehran’s support for the Kashmir cause. In recent years, the Iranian supreme leader and other officials have been more supportive of Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir. But a renewal of Indian trade and investment may force Iran to moderate its tone.

The read-outs from Zarif’s meeting in Islamabad were revealing for what they did not mention. While the Pakistani statement referred to Kashmir, there was no explicit reference in the Iranian text. In previous bilateral visits, the two sides pledged to connect Chabahar with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). But there was no talk of CPEC this time.

With a revival of the JCPOA on the horizon, Iran will not want to antagonize Delhi by courting its main strategic rivals in Beijing and Islamabad. Tehran must tread carefully, as it is currently negotiating a strategic partnership with China at the same time as Chinese and Indian troops are locked in a protracted stand-off on the disputed Himalayan border.

A restoration of the JCPOA could actually inflame tensions between Pakistan and Iran. If India capitalizes on sanctions relief to re-enter the Iranian market and improve its political relations with Tehran, we may see a resurgence of old Pakistani fears that India is using Iran as a launch-pad for intelligence operations inside Pakistan.

Those fears were seemingly confirmed in 2016 when alleged spy Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested in Pakistan after entering the country via Iran. And, since then, Pakistani concerns about Indian covert operations have only increased. The government recently issued a dossier detailing Delhi’s apparent links to various terrorist groups.

In this feverish environment, sparks could fly on the Iran-Pakistan border. Both countries have long accused the other of harboring militant groups. Terror attacks have sometimes led to cross-border shelling and could result in further violence if Islamabad sees an Indian hand in Iran-based terrorist activity.

Afghanistan is another possible flashpoint. The two countries were on opposing sides in the 1990s, when Pakistan backed the Afghan Taliban and Tehran supported their adversaries, the Northern Alliance. Since then, Iran has cultivated closer ties to the Taliban, while cooperating with Pakistan on the peace process.

But they are not entirely on the same page. Iran is more eager than Pakistan to see a broad, inclusive government in Kabul that is not monopolized by the Taliban. Indeed, Tehran opposed the peace settlement signed in Doha in February 2020 as it excluded the Afghan government.

However, Pakistan and Iran might collaborate more closely if Biden pursues a regional security dialogue as part of his follow-on agreement to the JCPOA. Because Islamabad has good political relations with both Tehran and Riyadh, it has helped mediate between the two rivals to defuse regional crises in recent years and could do so again.

But, while the Biden era might see a modest improvement in Iran-Pakistan ties, major progress is unlikely.

Rupert Stone is a freelance journalist working on issues related to South Asia and the Middle East. He has written for various publications, including Newsweek, VICE News, Al Jazeera, and The Independent.

Image: Reuters.

The winds of God‘s wrath destroys Somalia: Jeremiah 23

Somalia’s Strongest Tropical Cyclone Ever Recorded Could Drop 2 Years’ Rain In 2 Days

Matthew S. Schwartz

November 22, 20205:25 PM ET

The strongest tropical cyclone ever measured in the northern Indian Ocean has made landfall in eastern Africa, where it is poised to drop two years’ worth of rain in the next two days.

Tropical Cyclone Gati made landfall in Somalia on Sunday with sustained winds of around 105 mph. It’s the first recorded instance of a hurricane-strength system hitting the country. At one point before landfall, Gati’s winds were measured at 115 mph.

Gati is the strongest tropical cyclone that has been recorded in this region of the globe; further south than any category 3-equivalent cyclone in the North Indian Ocean,” said Sam Lillo, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Physical Sciences Laboratory.

Its intensification from about 40 mph to 115 mph was “the largest 12-hour increase on record for a tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean,” Lillo added.

One reason Gati intensified so quickly is because the size of the cyclone itself is quite small, Lillo said. The warm water in the area coupled with low wind shear also contributed to the rapid strengthening, Accuweather reported.

“With climate change we’re seeing warmer ocean temperatures and a more moist atmosphere that’s leading to a greater chance of rapid intensification for tropical cyclones like Gati,” meteorologist and climate journalist Eric Holthaus told NPR. “Gati’s strength is part of that broader global pattern of stronger storms.”

And those storms are leading to a lot more rain. Northern Somalia usually gets about 4 inches of rain per year; data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show Gati could bring 8 inches over the next two days — “two years worth of rainfall in just two days,” Holthaus said. Some isolated areas could see even more than that.

“The system may impact Socotra, Somalia, Yemen and western Oman from [Sunday] night into Monday and potentially Tuesday, with the main threat being heavy rain and flash flooding,” said AccuWeather’s lead international meteorologist, Jason Nicholls, told the site.

A United Nations alert warned the storm posed an immediate threat to the marine shipping lane that links Somalia and the Gulf states.

Gati is much more intense than the previous strongest storm to hit Somalia — a 2018 cyclone that brought winds of 60 mph.

Iran pins Biden into a corner: Daniel 8

Iran: We Will Not Re-Negotiate the Nuclear Deal Again

Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, Jerusalem Center – Iran Desk,   November 22, 2020

Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

• In Iran’s domestic arena, six months before the Iranian presidential elections, the U.S. presidential election re-ignited the controversy between proponents and opponents of dialogue with the United States. President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif, and other proponents of dialogue with the United States are facing fierce fire from the conservative camp that is backed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei, who dismisses the U.S. election results and has continued to preach his Economic Resistance Doctrine.

• Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, declared that Iran would not be willing to make changes to the nuclear deal. “The agreement belongs to the past and is not open for discussion again … The United States violated UN Resolution 2231, withdrew from the nuclear agreement, caused enormous damage to the Iranian people, and must compensate for it.”

• The reformist camp called on President Rouhani to use his influence over Khamenei to the fullest extent to urge him to agree to a move toward talks with the United States. They have called to restart negotiations if the Biden administration returns to the nuclear deal or conducts behind-the-scenes talks on the required conditions that the United States would demand from Iran to enable it to return to the agreement framework.

• The conservative camp in Iran emphasizes that there is no real difference between Biden and Trump and that Democrats are just a “prettier face” with the same policy and the same intentions that were implemented so far by the Republicans against Iran.

• The conservatives state that only if the United States fulfills a long list of conditions that Iran will impose on it would they agree to return to the negotiating table with Washington regarding the nuclear deal. However, they would by no means enter into a dialogue on other issues, including ballistic missiles, human rights, or regional issues.

The front page of the Iranian newspaper Sobhe No (Morning News), November 11, 2020, addressing President Trump: “Go to hell, Gambler!” (When Trump once stated he would like to meet with Iran’s president, the late Gen. Qassem Soleimani responded, “Mr. Trump, gambler, you have business with me, but I will tell you: go to hell!”)

The U.S. elections continue to draw the attention of the Iranian leadership and media, which reports on its front pages the election process, its disputed results, and implications. Most of the publications mocked the confusion, division, and the United States’ lack of direction. The Vatan Emrooz newspaper illustrated this in a bloody cartoon published on its front page on November 11, 2020, depicting Trump’s expected departure, which will deepen the left-right chasm within the United States.

Israel launches attack targeting Hamas outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israel launches attack targeting Hamas in Gaza

Palestinian men inspect the damage at the site of an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis on Sunday. A rocket was fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the army said, shortly after warning sirens sounded in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 22 (UPI) — Israel said Sunday its military struck Hamas targets in Gaza overnight in retaliation for a rocket fired earlier from the region toward Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said Air Force jets struck two rocket ammunition manufacturing sites, underground infrastructure and a military compound.

We really are due for the sixth seal: Revelation 6:12

Opinion/Al Southwick: Could an earthquake really rock New England? We are 265 years overdue

On Nov. 8, a 3.6 magnitude earthquake struck Buzzard’s Bay off the coast of New Bedford. Reverberations were felt up to 100 miles away, across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and parts of Connecticut and New York. News outlets scrambled to interview local residents who felt the ground shake their homes. Seismologists explained that New England earthquakes, while uncommon and usually minor, are by no means unheard of.

The last bad one we had took place on Nov. 18, 1755, a date long remembered.

It’s sometimes called the Boston Earthquake and sometimes the Cape Ann Earthquake. Its epicenter is thought to have been in the Atlantic Ocean about 25 miles east of Gloucester. Estimates say that it would have registered between 6.0 and 6.3 on the modern Richter scale. It was an occasion to remember as chronicled by John E. Ebel, director of the Weston observatory of Boston College:

“At about 4:30 in the morning on 18 November, 1755, a strong earthquake rocked the New England area. Observers reported damage to chimneys, brick buildings and stone walls in coastal communities from Portland, Maine to south of Boston … Chimneys were also damaged as far away as Springfield, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut. The earthquake was felt at Halifax, Nova Scotia to the northeast, Lake Champlain to the northwest, and Winyah, South Carolina to the southwest. The crew of a ship in deep water about 70 leagues east of Boston thought it had run aground and only realized it had felt an earthquake after it arrived at Boston later that same day.

“The 1755 earthquake rocked Boston, with the shaking lasting more than a minute. According to contemporary reports, as many as 1,500 chimneys were shattered or thrown down in part, the gable ends of about 15 brick buildings were broken out, and some church steeples ended up tilted due to the shaking. Falling chimney bricks created holes in the roofs of some houses. Some streets, particularly those on manmade ground along the water, were so covered with bricks and debris that passage by horse-drawn carriage was impossible. Many homes lost china and glassware that was thrown from shelves and shattered. A distiller’s cistern filled with liquor broke apart and lost its contents.”

We don’t have many details of the earthquake’s impact here, there being no newspaper in Worcester County at that time. We do know that one man, Christian Angel, working in a “silver” mine in Sterling, was buried alive when the ground shook. He is the only known fatality in these parts. We can assume that, if the quake shook down chimneys in Springfield and New Haven, it did even more damage hereabouts. We can imagine the cries of alarm and the feeling of panic as trees swayed violently, fields and meadows trembled underfoot and pottery fell off shelves and crashed below.

The Boston Earthquake was an aftershock from the gigantic Lisbon Earthquake that had leveled Lisbon, Portugal, a few days before. That cataclysm, estimated as an 8 or 9 on the modern Richter scale, was the most devastating natural catastrophe to hit western Europe since Roman times. The first shock struck on Nov. 1, at about 9 in the morning.

According to one account: ”Suddenly the city began to shudder violently, its tall medieval spires waving like a cornfield in the breeze … In the ancient cathedral, the Basilica de Santa Maria, the nave rocked and the massive chandeliers began swinging crazily. . . . Then came a second, even more powerful shock. And with it, the ornate façade of every great building in the square … broke away and cascaded forward.”

Until that moment, Lisbon had been one of the leading cities in western Europe, right up there with London and Paris. With 250,000 people, it was a center of culture, financial activity and exploration. Within minutes it was reduced to smoky, dusty rubble punctuated by human groans and screams. An estimated 60,000 to 100,000 lost their lives.

Since then, New England has been mildly shaken by quakes from time to time. One series of tremors on March 1, 1925, was felt throughout Worcester County, from Fitchburg to Worcester, and caused a lot of speculation.

What if another quake like that in 1755 hit New England today? What would happen? That question was studied 15 years ago by the Massachusetts Civil Defense Agency. Its report is sobering:

“The occurrence of a Richter magnitude 6.25 earthquake off Cape Ann, Massachusetts … would cause damage in the range of 2 to 10 billion dollars … in the Boston metropolitan area (within Route 128) due to ground shaking, with significant additional losses due to secondary effects such as soil liquefaction failures, fires and economic interruptions. Hundreds of deaths and thousands of major and minor injuries would be expected … Thousands of people could be displaced from their homes … Additional damage may also be experienced outside the 128 area, especially closer to the earthquake epicenter.”

So even if we don’t worry much about volcanoes, we know that hurricanes and tornadoes are always possible. As for earthquakes, they may not happen in this century or even in this millennium, but it is sobering to think that if the tectonic plates under Boston and Gloucester shift again, we could see a repeat of 1755.

More Killings in Kashmir before the first nuclear war: Revelation 8

Pakistan: Soldier, four fighters killed in Afghan border attack

The Pakistani military said two soldiers were also injured during the raid in Pakistan’s North Waziristan.

Such incidents have raised fears that the Pakistani Taliban is regrouping [File: Saood Rehman/EPA]

Pakistan’s military has said a soldier and four rebel fighters have been killed in a shoot-out during a raid near the border with Afghanistan.

The military said two soldiers were also injured during the raid on Sunday in the Spinwam area of North Waziristan, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

North Waziristan served as a headquarters for local and foreign rebels until 2017, when the army said it had cleared the mountainous region of fighters following several operations. The region still sees sporadic attacks, mainly targeting security forces.

Such incidents have raised fears the Pakistani Taliban is regrouping.

Separately, in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, a Pakistani official said Indian cross-border firing killed a seven-year-old girl and wounded 10 villagers.

Umar Azam, the deputy commissioner of Kotli district in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, said Pakistani troops returned fire across the border.

There was no immediate comment from India.

The fighting came amid increasing tensions between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours.

Earlier this month, Pakistani and Indian troops exchanged fire across the frontier, leaving 12 people dead, including three Indian and one Pakistani soldier, and wounding at least 36 on both sides. The fatalities were some of the highest reported in recent years.

A ceasefire has been in effect since 2003 across the length of the Line of Control, which divides Pakistan-administered and Indian-administered Kashmir, but it is frequently violated by both India and Pakistan, with each routinely blaming the other for initiating hostilities.

Both countries claim the disputed mountainous territory of Kashmir in full but administer separate portions of it. They have fought two of their three wars over the region since gaining independence from the British in 1947.

In 1948, the UN Security Council passed a resolution mandating that both sides cease hostilities to pave the way for a plebiscite where Kashmiris would be given the right to choose between joining either Pakistan or India.