New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

 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.

The nuclear button: Revelation 16

Editorial

IT’S been a rough week in Washington. After a right-wing, pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol in an unprecedented, deadly rampage, there is more bad news for the outgoing American president. While the Democrats are preparing an impeachment motion, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has spoken to the US military’s top brass to ensure an “unhinged” Donald Trump does not have access to nuclear launch codes in his last days in office. The Trump presidency has of course been known for strange happenings both domestically and on the international front, and these developments are perhaps an apt denouement to an administration that has, to put it mildly, broken quite a few taboos of American politics. Jokes aside, it is indeed a matter of concern that senior members of the American political establishment are consulting their generals to ensure a sitting president does not abuse his authority where the use of nuclear weapons is concerned.

However, the irony here is inescapable. Not too long ago Pakistan used to receive lectures from the Americans regarding the security of this country’s nuclear weapons. Specifically, concerns were aired about Pakistan’s nukes falling into the hands of extremist groups. While that situation has not arisen, America’s political elites are now questioning their own president’s competency to handle the nuclear button. Frankly, after the Capitol storming anything can be expected from the US leader and it is hoped that America’s nukes remain in safe hands. Moreover, as Joe Biden’s inauguration draws closer — an event Mr Trump will not attend, again breaking with tradition — the American establishment must ensure that their outgoing leader does not indulge in any brinkmanship domestically or internationally. This includes provocations in the Middle East, specifically targeting Iran, Mr Trump’s favourite foreign bogeyman, as well as other rival states such as China. While Mr Biden may not bring revolutionary changes to Washington, many Americans, and most of the rest of the world, will breathe a sigh of relief when normality returns to the White House.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2021

Donald Trump’s parting gift to the world will be war with Iran: Revelation 16

Donald Trump’s parting gift to the world? It may be war with Iran

Daniel Ellsberg

President Trump’s incitement of criminal mob violence and occupation of the Capitol makes clear there is no limitation whatever on the abuse of power he may commit in the next two weeks he remains in office. Outrageous as his incendiary performance was on Wednesday, I fear he may incite something far more dangerous in the next few days: his long-desired war with Iran.

Fears mount that Trump’s final 13 days in office pose a security threat

Could he possibly be so delusional as to imagine that such a war would be in the interests of the nation or region or even his own short-term interests? His behavior and evident state of mind this week and over the last two months answers that question.

The dispatch this week of B-52’s nonstop round-trip from North Dakota to the Iranian coast – the fourth such flight in seven weeks, one at year’s end – along with his build-up of US forces in the area, is a warning not only to Iran but to us.

In mid-November, as these flights began, the president had to be dissuaded at the highest levels from directing an unprovoked attack on Iran nuclear facilities. But an attack “provoked” by Iran (or by militias in Iraq aligned with Iran) was not ruled out.

US military and intelligence agencies have frequently, as in Vietnam and Iraq, provided presidents with false information that offered pretexts to attack our perceived adversaries. Or they’ve suggested covert actions that could provoke the adversaries to some response that justifies a US “retaliation”.

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s top nuclear scientist, in November was probably intended to be such a provocation. If so, it has failed so far, as did the assassination exactly a year ago of General Suleimani.

But time is now short to generate an exchange of violent actions and reactions that will serve to block resumption of the Iran nuclear deal by the incoming Biden administration: a pre-eminent goal not only of Donald Trump but of the allies he has helped bring together in recent months, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Evidently it would take more than individual murders to induce Iran to risk responses justifying a large-scale air attack before Trump leaves office. But US military and covert planning staffs are up to the task of attempting to meet that challenge, on schedule.

I was a participant-observer of such planning myself, with respect to Vietnam half a century ago. On 3 September 1964 – just a month after I had become special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, John T McNaughton – a memo came across my desk in the Pentagon written by my boss. He was recommending actions “likely at some point to provoke a military DRV [North Vietnam] response … likely to provide good grounds for us to escalate if we wished”.

Such actions “that would tend deliberately to provoke a DRV reaction” (sic), as spelled out five days later by McNaughton’s counterpart at the state department, the assistant secretary of state William Bundy, might include “running US naval patrols increasingly close to the North Vietnamese coast” – ie running them within the 12-mile coastal waters the North Vietnamese claimed: as close to the beach as necessary, to get a response that might justify what McNaughton called “a full-fledged squeeze on North Vietnam [a progressively all-out bombing campaign]”, which would follow “especially if a US ship were sunk”.

I have little doubt that such contingency planning, directed by the Oval Office, for provoking, if necessary, an excuse for attacking Iran while this administration is still in office exists right now, in safes and computers in the Pentagon, CIA and the White House. That means there are officials in those agencies – perhaps one sitting at my old desk in the Pentagon – who have seen on their secure computer screens highly classified recommendations exactly like the McNaughton and Bundy memos that came across my desk in September 1964.

I regret I did not copy and convey those memos to the foreign relations committee in 1964, rather than five years later

I will always regret that I did not copy and convey those memos – along with many other files in the top-secret safe in my office at that time, all giving the lie to the president’s false campaign promises that same fall that “we seek no wider war” – to Senator Fulbright’s foreign relations committee in September 1964 rather than five years later in 1969, or to the press in 1971. A war’s worth of lives might have been saved.

Current documents or digital files that contemplate provoking or “retaliating to” Iranian actions covertly provoked by us should not remain secret another moment from the US Congress and the American public, lest we be presented with a disastrous fait accompli before January 20, instigating a war potentially worse than Vietnam plus all the wars of the Middle East combined. It is neither too late for such plans to be carried out by this deranged president nor for an informed public and Congress to block him from doing so.

I am urging courageous whistleblowing today, this week, not months or years from now, after bombs have begun falling. It could be the most patriotic act of a lifetime.

Daniel Ellsberg was the whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers, which revealed the US government had lied to the American public about the Vietnam war

The Threat of the Russian and Chinese Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

US aircraft carriers still rule the seas, but Russia and China both have plans to change that

Benjamin Brimelow

Jan 10, 2021, 4:45 PM

In August, China launched two ballistic missiles that, according to a Chinese military expert, hit a moving target ship in the South China Sea thousands of miles from their launch sites.

If true, the test — which came a month after the US deployed two carrier strike groups to the region and a day after a US U-2 spy plane observed a Chinese navy live-fire drill — is the first known demonstration of China’s long-range anti-ship ballistic missiles against a moving target.

“We are doing this because of their provocation,” Wang Xiangsui, a former Chinese colonel and professor at Beijing’s Beihang University, reportedly said in reference to the deployments, calling the test “a warning to the US.”

Not to be outdone, the Russian navy conducted its third test launch of the Zircon hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile in the White Sea in December. Launched from a frigate, the missile reached a speed of Mach 8 before hitting a “coastal target” more than 200 miles away.

The tests are just the latest indication that American aircraft carriers, long viewed as kings of the seas, may soon face a real threat to their existence.

High-priority targets

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and other US Navy ships during a passing exercise with the Indian navy in 2012. US Navy Photo

America’s carriers have always been among the biggest targets for rivals. While the Soviets publicly lambasted carriers as “the oppressor of national liberation movements,” they recognized them as a dominant weapon platform.

This was especially the case after they realized US carrier air wings included aircraft carrying nuclear payloads.

Declassified CIA documents reveal that by the 1980s, the Soviets rarely criticized carriers in internal discussions and even praised them for providing “high combat stability.” One document from 1979 stated that carriers would be “the highest priority in anti-ship attacks” in potential war scenarios, with amphibious assault ships probably close behind.

Plans to deal with carriers were based almost entirely on anti-ship cruise missiles fired from submarines, bombers, and surface ships — ideally all at once. To that end, the Soviet navy emphasized cruise missile technology and missile-carrying capacity on all of its vessels — even on its own aircraft carriers.

Soviet navy Kiev-class aircraft carrier Minsk, February 9, 1983. US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Glenn Lindsey

Soviet navy Tu-16, Tu-95, and Tu-22 bombers were the primary aerial delivery systems. Cruisers of the Kynda, Kresta, Slava, and nuclear-powered Kirov classes were the primary surface delivery platforms.

A host of nuclear-powered and diesel-electric submarines, like the Oscar II- and Juliett-class, would fire those missiles from underwater and on the surface.

But even this may not have been enough. US carrier defenses and air wings were deemed so strong by the Soviets that as many as 100 bombers would be sent to attack one carrier, with losses expected to be as high as 50%. Soviet pilots weren’t even given detailed flight paths for their return.

It was also feared that the missiles could be shot down or intercepted, so the Soviets concluded that many had to be armed with nuclear warheads.

Waning carrier dominance

USS Nimitz departs Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, June 8, 2020. US Navy/MCS 2nd Class Natalie M. Byers

With the Cold War over and the Soviet Union gone, American carrier dominance seemed more than assured. Those carriers have played key roles in conflicts the US has been involved in since the 1990s.

But the post-Cold War order is slowly being challenged — mainly by China’s meteoric rise in military power, which has implications for the carrier’s dominance.

American carriers are among Beijing’s biggest concerns. Their presence helped deter an invasion of Taiwan in the 1950s, and in 1996 two carrier battlegroups embarrassed China by operating freely around Taiwan during a period of heightened tensions, forcing Beijing to recognize US military power.

Since then, China has invested heavily in anti-carrier capabilities. It first bought a slew of weapons from Russia, including Su-30MKK multirole fighters, 12 Kilo-class attack submarines, and four Sovremenny-class guided-missile destroyers.

DF-26 ballistic missiles pass Tiananmen Gate in Beijing during a military parade for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, September 3, 2015. Andy Wong/Pool via REUTERS

But missiles have been China’s main focus. It has amassed one of the world’s largest and most advanced missile arsenals, 95% of which falls outside the limits of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which prohibited the US and Russia from having missiles with ranges between 310 miles and 3,100 miles. The US recently withdrew from the treaty, and China was never party to it.

The two missiles tested in August were variants of the DF-21 and DF-26, which have ranges up to 1,300 and 2,400 miles respectively.

Flying higher, faster, and farther than Soviet cruise missiles, China’s anti-ship ballistic missiles could overwhelm the anti-missile defenses of a carrier and its escorts, and force the carrier to stay far enough away to render its air wing useless.

A US Defense Department report released this year stated that China’s missile development was one area in which Beijing has “achieved parity with — or even exceeded — the United States.”

New threats

A Zircon hypersonic cruise missile is launched from the Russian frigate Admiral Groshkov, in the White Sea north of Russia, October 7, 2020. Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

Hypersonic missiles are another serious threat.

Able to fly at speeds over Mach 5 (over 3,800 mph), hypersonic missiles are too fast for anti-missile defenses to respond effectively. They can also change direction mid-flight, making it virtually impossible to intercept them.

China has two hypersonic weapons in service: the DF-17, and the DF-100. Russia has a number of hypersonic weapons in development, with the Zircon the most promising. Russian officials have said they hope to be able to arm all new ships in the Russian navy with hypersonic weapons.

British officials have already voiced concern about the threat that Russian hypersonic weapons could pose to their carrier.

“Hypersonic missiles are virtually unstoppable,” a senior British naval source told The Daily Mirror. “With no method of protecting themselves against missiles like the Zircon the carrier would have to stay out of range, hundreds of miles out at sea.”

“Its planes would be useless and the whole basis of a carrier task force would be redundant,” the source said.

The true capabilities of Russia’s and China’s new anti-carrier weapons are still unknown, but recent tests prove that US Navy carriers may not enjoy unquestioned dominance for much longer.

Save the Oil and the Wine: Revelation 6:6

Why the Strait of Hormuz Is a Global Oil Flashpoint

Verity Ratcliffe

The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, is rarely far from the center of global tensions. A major shipping route that handles around one-third of the world’s waterborne oil, it’s closely watched for signs of disruption. Iranian forces have targeted merchant ships traversing the chokepoint several times since early 2019 amid rising tensions with the U.S. and its allies. In January 2021, Iran seized a South Korean tanker sailing through the area. While Iran has threatened to block transit in the past, the strait has always remained open.

1. Where is the Strait of Hormuz?

Shaped like an inverted V, the waterway connects the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean, with Iran to its north and the United Arab Emirates and Oman to the south. It’s almost 100 miles (161 kilometers) long and 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, with the shipping lanes in each direction just two miles wide. Its shallow depth makes ships vulnerable to mines, and the proximity to land — Iran, in particular — leaves large tankers open to attack from shore-based missiles or interception by patrol boats and helicopters.

Critical Passageway

Attacks on oil tankers in 2019 raised tensions around the Strait of Hormuz

2. What’s its role?

It’s essential to the global oil trade. Tankers hauled nearly 12 million barrels per day of crude and condensate from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and the UAE through the strait in 2020, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The strait is also crucial for liquefied natural gas, or LNG, with a quarter of the world’s supply — mostly from Qatar — passing through in 2020.

3. What’s been happening?

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps detained a South Korea-flagged ship carrying petrochemicals as it traversed the strait on its way to the UAE on Jan. 4. Iran linked the detention to a dispute over $7 billion of its funds trapped in South Korea because of U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Several other tankers have been seized, including the U.K.-flagged Stena Impero in mid-2019. Iranian forces also boarded a small tanker in August 2020 in the Gulf of Oman and shot down an American spy drone flying over the strait in 2019. Several companies have temporarily suspended shipping via the route in the past because of security concerns.

4. Why would Iran disrupt shipping?

U.S. sanctions aimed at stopping oil sales have battered Iran’s economy, which has been shrinking since 2018. By disrupting the strait, Iran shows it has the power to hit back at the U.S. and drive up crude. Any boost in the price of oil also helps make up for the revenue Iran is losing due to the sanctions. Joe Biden has signaled he wants to use his presidency to improve U.S. relations with Iran. But tensions between the two countries have worsened due to the sanctions, the U.S. assassinating a top Iranian general in early 2020, and the killing of a leading Iranian nuclear scientist later in the year, which Iran accused Israel of orchestrating. The Islamic Republic said in January 2021 that the U.S. owes it $70 billion in compensation for the oil sanctions and that it would increase its nuclear activities by enriching more uranium.

5. Has Iran ever closed the strait?

Not so far. During the 1980-88 war between Iraq and Iran, Iraqi forces attacked an oil export terminal at Kharg Island, northwest of the strait, in part to provoke an Iranian retaliation that would draw the U.S. into the conflict. Although Iran didn’t try to shut the strait, there followed the Tanker War in which the sides attacked 451 vessels between them. That significantly raised the cost of insuring tankers and helped push up oil prices. When sanctions were imposed on Iran in 2011, it threatened to close the strait, but ultimately backed off. Oil traders doubt the country would ever close the strait entirely because that would prevent Iran from exporting its own petroleum. Moreover, Iran’s navy is no match for the U.S. Fifth Fleet and other forces in the region.

6. Can it be protected?

During the Tanker War, the U.S. Navy resorted to escorting vessels through the Gulf. In 2019 it dispatched an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region. The same year, the U.S. started Operation Sentinel in response to Iran’s disruption of shipping. Nations including the U.K., Australia, Bahrain and the UAE have since joined the operation, known now as the International Maritime Security Construct.

7. Who relies most on the strait?

Saudi Arabia exports the most oil through the Strait of Hormuz, though it can divert flows by using a 746-mile pipeline across the kingdom to a terminal on the Red Sea. The UAE can partly bypass the strait by sending 1.5 million barrels a day via a pipeline from its oilfields to the port of Fujairah on the Gulf of Oman. Some of Iraq’s oil is shipped by sea from the Turkish port of Ceyhan, but 85% travels through the strait, making it highly reliant on free passage. Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain have no option but to ship their oil through the waterway.

The Reference Shelf

• Bloomberg coverage of Iran’s seizure of a South Korean ship in January 2021 and boarding of a small tanker in August 2020.

• Tankers were attacked in and around the Strait of Hormuz in 2019 in May, June and July.

• Bloomberg stories on tanker attacks rattling shipping and insurance industries and driving up war risk premiums.

• QuickTakes on the U.S.-Iran conflict and the Iran nuclear deal’s uncertain path under Biden.

• A U.S. Energy Information Administration report on World Oil Transit Chokepoints.

• Bloomberg Opinion columns by James Stavridis on how Iran’s provocations are a warning shot to Biden and Bobby Ghosh on how a dismal 2020 everywhere was even worse for Iran.

— With assistance by Grant Smith

India and Pakistan Years of Tension Before the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

India and Pakistan Years of Tension Between the 2 Nuclear Armed Rivals

CTN NewsJanuary 9, 2021

From sandbagged Indian army bunkers dug deep into the Pir Panjal mountains in the Himalayas, villages on the Pakistan-administered side of Kashmir appear precariously close, on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) that for the past 73 years has divided the India and Pakistan the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Tens of thousands of soldiers from India and Pakistan are positioned along the two sides. The apparent calm is often broken by the boom of blazing guns, with each side accusing the other of initiating the firing.

The terrain is tough and the life of civilians living in the area is even tougher, with them often caught in the line of fire. Over the last year, troops from the two sides have traded fire almost daily along the frontier, leaving dozens of civilians and soldiers dead.

The Associated Press journalists were recently allowed to cover the Indian army’s counterinsurgency drills in Poonch and Rajouri districts along the LoC. The training focused on tactical exercises, battle drills, firing practice, counterinsurgency operations and acclimatization of soldiers to the harsh weather conditions.

Strained relations

In the winter, when mountain passes in the high reaches are blocked by snow, Indian troops move into bunkers and carry out long-range patrols to maintain a tight vigil along the frontier.

In some places in Rajouri, local groups called Village Defence Committees have been formed to aid the Indian army in keeping a close watch.

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

Relations have been further strained since August 2019, when predominantly Hindu India revoked the Muslim-majority region’s semi-autonomous status and divided it into the federally governed territories of Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh, touching off anger on both sides of the frontier. – Al Jazeera

Another Israeli Invasion Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Soldiers Invade Village Near Tubas

Israeli soldiers invaded, on Thursday at night, the village of Tayasir, east of Tubas in northeastern West Bank, and searched many homes.

Media sources in Tubas, said several army jeeps invaded Tayasir before storming and ransacking many homes and interrogated many Palestinians while inspecting their ID card.

Several Palestinian youngsters protested the invasion and hurled stones at the invading soldiers who fired gas bombs and concussion grenades.

On Thursday at dawn, the soldiers abducted three Palestinians from Qalqilia, in northern West Bank, and in Hebron, in the southern part.

In the besieged Gaza Strip, Israeli navy boats attacked with live fire several fishing boats in Palestinian waters, north of Gaza city, in addition to farmers on their lands, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the coastal region.