If the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.Based on historical precedent, Armbruster says the New York City metro area is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 once a century.According to the New York Daily News, Lynn Skyes, lead author of a recent study by seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory adds that a magnitude-6 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and magnitude-7 every 3,400 years.A 5.2-magnitude quake shook New York City in 1737 and another of the same severity hit in 1884.Tremors were felt from Maine to Virginia.There are several fault lines in the metro area, including one along Manhattan’s 125th St. – which may have generated two small tremors in 1981 and may have been the source of the major 1737 earthquake, says Armbruster.There’s another fault line on Dyckman St. and one in Dobbs Ferry in nearby Westchester County.“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” explained Skyes after the study was published.He adds: “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” says the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation on its website.Armbruster says a 5.0-magnitude earthquake today likely would result in casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.“I would expect some people to be killed,” he notes.The scope and scale of damage would multiply exponentially with each additional tick on the Richter scale. (ANI)
Indian soldiers come out of the house of a leader of the People’s Democratic Party where a personal security officer was killed in a rebel attack in Srinagar, Kashmir, Dec. 14, 2020. (AP Photo)
by German Press Agency – DPA
Dec 19, 2020 3:22 pm
Pakistan summoned a senior Indian diplomat on Saturday to protest an alleged cease-fire violation and the “deliberate targeting” of United Nations observers in the disputed Kashmir region.
“It was communicated to the Indian side that the brazen act was a flagrant violation of established international norms and represented a complete disregard for principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
On Friday, Pakistan accused Indian troops of “deliberately” opening fire on a U.N. vehicle carrying two observers on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control (LoC), a de facto frontier that divides Kashmir into two parts controlled by Pakistan and India.
The U.N. observers were on their way to meet with the victims of the Indian cease-fire violation. Both the observers remained unharmed and were evacuated by the Pakistani army.
Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing, released photos that showed bullet holes in a vehicle bearing U.N. markings.
An Indian decision in August last year to strip the part of Kashmir it controls of its special autonomous status has triggered fresh tensions and deadly skirmishes.
“This year alone, India has committed 2,992 cease-fire violations to date, resulting in 27 deaths and serious injuries to 249 innocent civilians, including 92 women and 68 children,” a foreign office spokesperson told a weekly press briefing on Friday.
The nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors have already fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, a scenic Himalayan valley.
Source: Xinhua| 2020-12-20 08:04:32|Editor:
A municipal employee disinfects a street in the Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis amid a lockdown, on Dec. 19, 2020. A full lockdown and curfew have been imposed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to curb the growing numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths. (Photo by Yasser Qudih/Xinhua)
A man walks past closed shops in the West Bank city of Bethlehem amid a lockdown, on Dec. 19, 2020. A full lockdown and curfew have been imposed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to curb the growing numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths. (Photo by Mamoun Wazwaz/Xinhua
Palestinians walk on a street in the West Bank city of Bethlehem amid a lockdown, on Dec. 19, 2020. A full lockdown and curfew have been imposed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to curb the growing numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths. (Photo by Mamoun Wazwaz/Xinhua)
Amid a low in relations, the U.S. is closing its last two consulates in Russia.
But as his administration winds down, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is publicly blaming Moscow for a massive cyberattack that has affected several government agencies, including the most sensitive ones that oversee the nuclear weapons stockpile and COVID-19 vaccine research.
Less than 24 hours later, Trump contradicted that with his first comments on the SolarWinds hack, tweeting that it was exaggerated by the media and that China could be responsible.
It fits a familiar pattern of the last four years — senior Trump officials trying to be tough on Moscow, while Trump downplays the threat. Amid the ongoing hack, Pompeo is also closing the last two U.S. consulates in Russia, citing the caps on American personnel that Moscow has forced on the U.S. mission in recent years.
Once welcomed by Trump, those caps, which have hamstrung U.S. diplomats, were Russian retaliation against U.S. sanctions for its aggression online, in neighboring Ukraine, and with chemical weapons.
“This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity,” Pompeo told conservative radio host Mark Levin late Friday, hours before Trump’s tweet.
Michael Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, pauses while speaking at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta,, Dec. 9, 2020.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
But Pompeo also indicated that the administration is not planning to take any action against Vladimir Putin’s government, at least not publicly: “There are many things that you’d very much love to say, ‘Boy, I’m going to call that out,’ but a wiser course of action to protect the American people is to calmly go about your business and defend freedom.”
The SolarWinds hack is a “significant and ongoing cybersecurity campaign,” according to the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The intrusion involves software from SolarWinds, which makes IT management tools, that had been “Trojanized” with a vulnerability that could be exploited by hackers to steal information, manipulate systems or plant trap doors and other exploits for future use.
Russia has denied responsibility for the hack. So far, the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Energy, as well as the National Institutes of Health all have reportedly been affected.
The magnitude of this ongoing attack is hard to overstate,” Trump’s former homeland security adviser Thomas Bossert wrote this week. “If it is Russia, President Trump must make it clear to Vladimir Putin that these actions are unacceptable. The U.S. military and intelligence community must be placed on increased alert; all elements of national power must be placed on the table.”
After days of silence, Trump claimed on Saturday that the media is exaggerating the security breach’s impact. He said he has “been fully briefed and everything is well under control.”
He went on to tweet that China may be behind the attack instead of Russia and claimed that there “could also have been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election.”
While no public response seems to be coming soon, the U.S. is being forced to take another step that will cut into relations with Russia — closing its last two consulates in the country.
Australia, US to develop hypersonic missiles to counter China
Australia’s defence minister says ‘game-changing’ project with US will help deter aggression against its interests.
Australia and the United States will jointly develop hypersonic cruise missiles, the Australian defence minister announced on Tuesday, pledging to invest in “advanced capabilities” that will give the country’s military “more options to deter aggression” against its interests.
Both China and Russia are developing similar missiles.
The weapons are capable of travelling at more than five times the speed of sound and the combination of speed, manoeuvrability and altitude makes them difficult to track and intercept.
Linda Reynolds, the Australian defence minister, called the bilateral project with the US a “game-changing capability”, but did not reveal the cost of developing the missiles or when they would be operational.
“Investing in capabilities that deter actions against Australia also benefits our region, our allies and our security partners,” she said.
“We remain committed to peace and stability in the region and an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
The United States’ Acting Under Secretary of Defense Michael Kratsios said the project, officially known as the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE), builds on 15 years of collaboration between the US and Australian military.
“This initiative will be essential to the future of hypersonic research and development, ensuring the US and our allies lead the world in the advancement of this transformational warfighting capability,” he said in a statement.
Australia had set aside up to 9.3 billion Australian dollars ($6.8bn) this year for high-speed, long-range missile defence systems, including hypersonic research.
In July, Australia said it would boost defence spending by 40 percent over the next 10 years to acquire longer-range strike capabilities across air, sea and land as it broadens its military focus from the Pacific to the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia’s collaboration with the US on missile development, however, could inflame tensions with China.
The relationship between both countries has been tense after Australia discovered what it said were Chinese influence campaigns, and has deteriorated further this year after Canberra asked for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 pandemic.
Beijing has introduced a string of economic sanctions on Australian goods, and relations hit a new low on Monday after a senior Chinese official posted a fake image of an Australian soldier holding a blood-covered knife to the throat of an Afghan child.
China has deployed, or is close to deploying, hypersonic systems armed with conventional warheads, according to defence analysts.
Russia deployed its first hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles last year, while the Pentagon, which tested a similar hypersonic missile in 2017, has a goal of fielding hypersonic war-fighting capabilities in the early to mid-2020s.
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said on Tuesday that Australia hopes to begin testing prototypes of the air-launched, long-range missiles within months.
The hypersonic missiles will be designed to be carried by the Australian air force’s existing fleet of aircraft including Growlers, Super Hornets, Joint Strike Fighters as well as unmanned aircraft including drones, the newspaper reported.
Sputnik News2 days ago
Under the Trump administration, the US withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), arguing that Iran had violated its terms and that the deal was not beneficial. The move reimposed sanctions lifted under the deal and was one of many decisions by the administration that heightened tensions with the Middle Eastern country.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani remarked Thursday that he has “no doubt” that the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden would prompt Washington to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal.
In remarks made during the inauguration ceremony of nearly 100 infrastructure projects, Rouhani told viewers that the “three-year resistance of the Iranian nation will force the future US administration to succumb to the people and return to their commitments and break the sanctions.”
“Our first task is to try to make sanctions ineffective or less effective,” he said during a video conference, adding that efforts “should not be delayed even for an hour.”
Iranian officials have stated the nation would be willing to return to the JCPOA on the condition that serious concessions are made, and that the US would compensate Iran in some manner for the economic setbacks caused by the sanctions.
As for Biden, the president-elect previously indicated that he would restart talks with Iran, noting that his first step in easing tensions with the country would be to rejoin the agreement; however, it’s unclear how soon into his administration the issue may be taken up.
Rouhani’s comments come just one day after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to make similar remarks in support of the US rejoining the Obama-era agreement, which both Rouhani and Biden played a role in establishing.
Khamenei had said during a televised address that Iran needs to work to nullify the sanctions, but that “if the sanctions can be lifted in a correct, wise, Iranian-Islamic and dignified manner, this should be done.”
The respective remarks indicated a rare union between the two Iranian officials, who have previously butted heads over how to best handle certain matters.
In May 2019, Khamenei criticized both Rouhani and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif over the agreements settled on for the 2015 deal, telling university students during an event that he had “warned” the pair “several times” about his concerns. The comments echoed those he made in August 2018, when Khamenei said that Iranian negotiators had “trespassed the red lines.”
Supported by several Republican allies, US President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he would be withdrawing the US from the nuclear deal that was agreed on by Iran and six other global powers – China, the EU, Germany, France, Russia and the UK. The move effectively began the process of reimplementing a series of sanctions on Iran’s oil sales, financial transactions and construction imports as part of Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure” strategy.
Tensions between Iran and the US have remained heated throughout much of Trump’s term, with matters hitting an all-time high after the January 3 assassination of senior Iranian military leader Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
Rouhani, more recently, stated that while he was “not excited” by Biden’s victory, he was indeed “happy” that the “terrorist Trump” would soon be leaving the Oval Office.
Associated PressDecember 18, 2020
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s foreign minister has accused neighboring India of planning a “surgical strike” against his Islamic nation. The minister spoke during a televised news conference in the United Arab Emirates on Friday. He did not offer evidence to support his claim but added that Pakistan is fully prepared to respond to any such attack from India, which he said could endanger peace in the region. Qureshi is currently on a two-day visit for talks with senior UAE government officials. Nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India often accuse one another of planning attacks and have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain.