The science behind the sixth seal: Revelation 6:12

The science behind the earthquake that shook Southern New England

Did you feel it? At 9:10 am EST Sunday morning, a Magnitude 3.6 earthquake struck just south of Bliss Corner, Massachusetts, which is a census-designated place in Dartmouth. If you felt it, report it!

While minor earthquakes do happen from time to time in New England, tremors that are felt by a large number of people and that cause damage are rare.

Earthquake Report

The earthquake was originally measured as a magnitude 4.2 on the Richter scale by the United States Geological Surgey (USGS) before changing to a 3.6.

Earthquakes in New England and most places east of the Rocky Mountains are much different than the ones that occur along well-known fault lines in California and along the West Coast.

Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts fall nearly in the center of the North American Plate, one of 15 (seven primary, eight secondary) that cover the Earth.

Earth’s tectonic plates

Tectonic plates move ever-so-slowly, and as they either push into each other, pull apart, or slide side-by-side, earthquakes are possible within the bedrock, usually miles deep.

Most of New England’s and Long Island’s bedrock was assembled as continents collided to form a supercontinent 500-300 million years ago, raising the northern Appalachian Mountains.

Plate tectonics (Courtesy: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Fault lines left over from the creation of the Appalachian Mountains can still lead to earthquakes locally, and many faults remain undetected. According to the USGS, few, if any, earthquakes in New England can be linked to named faults.

While earthquakes in New England are generally much weaker compared to those on defined fault lines, their reach is still impressive. Sunday’s 3.6 was felt in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire.

USGS Community Internet Intensity Map

While M 3.6 earthquakes rarely cause damage, some minor cracks were reported on social media from the shaking.

According to the USGS, moderately damaging earthquakes strike somewhere in the region every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt roughly twice a year.

The largest known New England earthquakes occurred in 1638 (magnitude 6.5) in Vermont or New Hampshire, and in 1755 (magnitude 5.8) offshore from Cape Ann northeast of Boston.

The most recent New England earthquake to cause moderate damage occurred in 1940 (magnitude 5.6) in central New Hampshire.

Blast outside the Temple Walls injures more than 20 people: Revelation 11

Gaza blast injures more than 20 peopleA blast in a residential area of Hamas-ruled Gaza strip injured more than 20 people, said Palestinian officials. The explosion took place inside home of a member of Gaza’s armed groups.“An explosion occurred in a house in Beit Hanoun this morning, resulting in a number of injuries,” the interior ministry said.An investigation had been launched into the cause of the blast but it is understood to be accidental. AFP cited medical sources who said that 20 people were injured and condition of 2 of them is serious.Witnesses said several homes were damaged as a result of the explosion in the home of an “activist”. Police cordoned off the area.There was no immediate official explanation of the explosion, but the Israeli military said it was the result of militants “storing weapons in residential homes”.Houses “have been turned into warehouses for weapons… and missiles for terrorist organisations, and those who pay the price in the end are innocent civilians,” the military’s Arabic-language spokesman, Avichay Adraee, said on Twitter.Islamist group Hamas seized control of Gaza from rival Palestinian movement Fatah in a near civil war in 2007.Since then, Hamas has fought three devastating wars with Israel, which has maintained a crippling blockade on the territory of some two million people.

The Rising Power of the Chinese Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Analysis: Biden faces a more confident China after US chaos

Associated PressJanuary 21, 2021

BEIJING (AP) — As a new U.S. president takes office, he faces a determined Chinese leadership that could be further emboldened by America’s troubles at home.

The disarray in America, from the rampant COVID-19 pandemic to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, gives China’s ruling Communist Party a boost as it pursues its long-running quest for national “rejuvenation” — a bid to return the country to what it sees as its rightful place as a major nation.

For Joe Biden, sworn in Wednesday as the 46th president, that could make one of his major foreign policy challenges even more difficult as he tries to manage an increasingly contentious relationship between the world’s rising power and its established one.

The stakes are high for both countries and the rest of the world. A misstep could spark an accidental conflict in the Western Pacific, where China’s growing naval presence is bumping up against America’s. The trade war under President Donald Trump hurt workers and farmers in both countries, though some in Vietnam and elsewhere benefited as companies moved production outside China. On global issues such as climate, it is difficult to make progress if the world’s two largest economies aren’t talking.

The Chinese government expressed hope Thursday that Biden would return to dialogue and cooperation after the divisiveness under Trump.

“It is normal for China and the United States to have some differences,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. “Countries with different social systems, cultural backgrounds and ideologies should and can coexist … and work together to achieve peace and stability and development in the world.”

But Kurt Tong, a former U.S. diplomat in Asia, sees a stalemate in the coming few years in which China keeps doing what it has been doing and the U.S. is not happy about it.

“I think it’s going to be a tough patch, it’s just going to be more disagreements than agreements and not a lot of breakthroughs,” said Tong, now a partner with The Asia Group consultancy in Washington, D.C.

A more confident China may push back harder on issues such as technology, territory and human rights. Analysts draw parallels to the 2008 global financial crisis, from which China emerged relatively unscathed. The country’s foreign policy has grown increasingly assertive since then, from staking out territory in disputed waters in the South China Sea to its more recent use of Twitter to hit back at critics. China’s relative success in controlling the pandemic could fuel that trend.

The U.S. has also shifted, with wide support among both Republicans and Democrats for treating China as a competitor, and embracing the need for a tougher approach to China, if not always agreeing with how Trump carried it out. Biden needs to be wary of opening himself up to attacks that he is soft on China if he rolls back import tariffs and other steps taken by his predecessor.

His pressing need to prioritize domestic challenges could give China breathing room to push forward its agenda, whether it be technological advancement or territorial issues from Taiwan to its border with India.

Biden has pointed to potential areas of cooperation, from climate change to curbing North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, but even in those areas, the two countries don’t always agree.

The pandemic, first viewed as a potential threat to President Xi Jinping’s leadership as it spiraled out of control in the city of Wuhan in early 2020, has been transformed into a story of hardship followed by triumph.

The Communist Party has sought to use the pandemic to justify its continued control of the one-party, authoritarian state it has led for more than 70 years, while rounding up citizen-journalists and others to quash any criticism of its handling of the outbreak.

That effort has been aided by the failure of many other nations to stop the spread of COVID-19. Biden takes over a country where deaths continue to mount and virus-related restrictions keep it in recession. China is battling small outbreaks, but life has largely returned to normal and economic growth is accelerating.

“It would have been more difficult for them to push that narrative around the world if the United States had not done such a poor job,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C. “That’s a theme that runs through many issues, that China’s just able to point to the United States and democracy in general as not delivering good governance.”

It’s impossible to gauge support for the Communist Party in a country where many would be unwilling to criticize it publicly, for fear of repercussions. But Niu Jun, an international relations professor at Peking University, said that objectively, public trust should rise given China’s faster recovery from the outbreak.

“To ordinary people, the logic is very simple,” he said, predicting the pandemic would spark public thinking and discussion about which system of governance is more effective.

“The party’s policies are good, our policies are not like the ones in foreign countries, ours are good,” said Liu Shixiu, strolling with her daughter in Wuhan, the city that bore the brunt of the pandemic in China. “We listen to the party.”

It is unclear whether the Communist Party foresees exporting its way of governance as an alternative to the democratic model. For now, Chinese officials note that countries choose different systems and stress the need for others to respect those differences.

As China becomes more and more confident, maybe they’ll try to shape the internal operations or ways of thinking of other countries,” Tong said. “But to me, it feels more like they don’t want anyone to be able to say that China is bad and get away with it.”

The leadership wants China to be seen and treated as an equal and has shown a willingness to use its growing economic and military might to try to get its way.

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Associated Press video journalist Emily Wang Fujiyama contributed to this report.

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Moritsugu, The Associated Press’ news director for Greater China, has reported in Asia for more than 15 years.

The Russian Nuclear Horn Welcomes Babylon the Great Back: Daniel 7

Russia Welcomes US Proposal to Extend Nuclear Treaty

1/23/2021 | 12:47 PM CST

Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian ambassador at the international organizations in Vienna, also hailed Biden’s proposal as an “encouraging step.”

“The extension will give the two sides more time to consider possible additional measures aimed at strengthening strategic stability and global security,” he tweeted.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, noted in a statement that Russia always has called for maintaining the treaty and said Russian diplomats are ready to quickly engage in contacts with the U.S. to formalize its extension for five years “without any delay.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the U.S. decision and Russia’s reiteration. He encouraged both countries “to work quickly to complete the necessary procedure for the New START’s extension before the Feb. 5 expiration and move as soon as possible to negotiations on new arms control measures,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“A five-year extension would not only maintain verifiable caps on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals but will also provide time to negotiate new nuclear arms control agreements to grapple with our increasingly complex international environment,” Dujarric said.

Biden indicated during the campaign that he favored the preservation of the New START treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as U.S. vice president.

The talks on the treaty’s extension also were clouded by tensions between Russia and the United States, which have been fueled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other irritants.

Despite the extension proposal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden remains committed to holding Russia “to account for its reckless and adversarial actions,” such as its alleged involvement in the Solar Winds hacking event, 2020 election interference, the chemical poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the widely reported allegations that Russia may have offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Asked to comment on Psaki’s statement, Peskov has reaffirmed Russia’s denial of involvement in any such activities.

After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries.

Arms control advocates have strongly called for New START’s preservation, warning that its lapse would remove any checks on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.

Last week, Russia also declared that it would follow the U.S. to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty allowing surveillance flights over military facilities to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West.

While Russia always offered to extend New START for five years — a possibility envisaged by the pact — Trump asserted that it put the U.S. at a disadvantage and initially insisted that China be added to the treaty, an idea that Beijing flatly rejected. Trump’s administration then proposed to extend New START for just one year and also sought to expand it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons.

Moscow has said it remains open for new nuclear arms talks with the U.S. to negotiate future limits on prospective weapons, but emphasized that preserving New START is essential for global stability.

Russian diplomats have said that Russia’s prospective Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile and the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle could be counted along with other Russian nuclear weapons under the treaty.

The Sarmat is still under development, while the first missile unit armed with the Avangard became operational in December 2019.

The Russian military has said the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound and could make sharp maneuvers on its way to a target to bypass missile defense systems. It has been fitted to the existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of older type warheads, and in the future could be fitted to the more powerful Sarmat.

It’s time for the Antichrist’s men to lay down weapons

It’s time for Iraq’s militias to lay down weapons

Militias need war to legitimise them. That is how the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and elsewhere in the region justify their existence. Iraq has seen plenty of war for 40 years, but the latest threat, from ISIS, has been seen off with American help, and the US will soon withdraw its troops. If there ever was a need for the militias – which is doubtful – it is no longer there. But despite all entreaties, the Iraqi militias refuse to go.

In the words of Abdul-Aziz Al Muhammadawi, also known as Abu-Fadak or Al Khal (meaning “uncle”), the armed militia he leads, the Popular Mobilisation Unit (PMU), is “more legitimate than all other armies” and will remain in existence “until God wills otherwise”.

Until then, “Uncle” will refuse the options offered by Baghdad of either disarming all militias and transforming them into political parties, or of being absorbed into Iraq’s regular military and security forces. Abu-Fadak, of course, ultimately takes his orders from another capital, and Tehran says the militias must retain their arms in order to “liberate” Iraq from “American military occupation”.

As an argument, this is extremely tenuous. The number of US troops in Iraq now is down to only 2,500. They are mostly engaged in training high-level Iraqi military personnel and no one in Washington regards their presence in Iraq as open-ended. The days of highly visible US patrols are long gone. To describe such a low-key presence as an “occupation” strains credulity.

The majority of Iraqis are heartily sick of the pro-Iran troublemakers. Conscious of public opinion and with an eye on the forthcoming elections, the prime minister, Mustafa Al Kadhimi, has called for the militias to disband. Even Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, who is regarded as the spiritual leader of Iraqi Shias, has publicly stated that it is time for them to go.

So have some of the most influential Iraqi Shias, such as Muqtada Al Sadr (cleric, politician and head of his own militia), Ammar Al Hakim (cleric and former head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) and even former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, who began his career as a Shia dissident during the time of Saddam Hussein.

The elections due to be held in June are another factor concentrating Shia minds. No Shia seeking political office stands a chance against a rival who has the backing of an armed group.

Yet the PMU’s Abu-Fadak continues to insist that Iraq’s pro-Iran militias answer only to divine command and exhorts the political class and the people of Iraq to learn to live with them, just as in Tehran the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its leader, Ali Khamenei, hold the true reins of power, while the president, Hassan Rouhani, is a mere figurehead with a weak army.

Militias are all too often no more than bands of thugs. In the absence of war, they are apt to turn their sights on civilians and to organised crime, leading to civil war. Certainly, that has been the experience of other countries in the region. Consider the years of carnage wreaked by the Iran-backed Houthis of Yemen.

It is also true that when regular armies are pitted against militias, it is the regulars who come off worse. The only options in such situations seem to be either wholesale destruction of territory – as in Iraq – or precision airstrikes that only curtail the power of the militias but do not quash it completely, as in Yemen.

But this does not mean all hope is lost for Iraq. Many of the militiamen currently loyal to Iran are mostly young and malleable. If the Iraqi leadership acts wisely and harnesses the support of Al Sistani, Baghdad can outmanoeuvre, out-fund and out-gun the militias.

The task facing Iraq’s political class now is to act together against the tools of Tehran’s incessant meddling in the affairs of others. If they fail to do this and instead continue bickering and jockeying among themselves for power, they will surrender true power to the puppet-masters across the border in Iran.

— Syndication Bureau

Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington bureau chief of Kuwaiti daily Al Rai and a former visiting fellow at Chatham House in London.

Twitter Finally Shuts Down Khamenei’s Account

Twitter bans Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei after Trump threat

AP

 

Twitter said on Friday it had permanently banned what it called a “fake” account thought to be connected to the office of Iran’s supreme leader, shortly after a posting that seemed to threaten former President Donald Trump.

In the image posted late Thursday by the account linked to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Mr. Trump is shown playing golf in the shadow of a giant drone, with the caption “Revenge is certain” written in Farsi.

In response to a request for comment from The Associated Press, a Twitter spokesman said that the tweet had violated the company’s “abusive behaviour policy,” and that the account had violated its “manipulation and spam policy.” In a later statement, he said Twitter had determined the account was “fake,” without elaborating how it came to the conclusion.

The suspended account, @khamenei_site, linked Khamenei’s own website and frequently posted excerpts from his speeches and other official content.

Other accounts thought to be tied to Khamenei’s office that did not tweet the golf-drone photo, including his main English language account, remained active.

The photo had also featured prominently on the supreme leader’s website.

Earlier this month, Facebook and Twitter cut off Mr. Trump from their platforms for allegedly inciting the assault on the U.S. Capitol, an unprecedented step that underscored the immense power of tech giants in regulating speech on their platforms.

Activists soon urged the companies to apply their policies equally to political figures worldwide in order to combat hate speech and content that encourages violence.

The warning in the caption referenced Khamenei’s remarks last month ahead of the first anniversary of the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

In his speech, Khamenei did not call out Mr. Trump by name, but reiterated a vow for vengeance against those who ordered and executed the attack on Soleimani.

“Revenge will certainly happen at the right time,” Khamenei had declared.

Iran blocks social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, and censors others. While top officials have unfettered access to social media, Iran’s youth and tech-savvy citizens use proxy servers or other workarounds to bypass the controls.

Soon after Trump’s ban from Twitter ignited calls to target tweets from other political leaders, the company took down a post by a different Khamenei-linked account that pushed a COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theory.

Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran, had claimed that virus vaccines imported from the U.S. or Britain were “completely untrustworthy.”

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The Pakistani horn successfully tests medium-range missiles

Pakistan successfully tests medium-range missile

Pakistan’s military did not say whether the test-fired Shaheen III missile was capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

By

Asad Hashim

21 Jan 2021

Karachi, Pakistan – Pakistan has successfully test-fired the surface-to-surface Shaheen III ballistic missile with a range of 2,750km (1,710 miles), its military says.

The missile test, conducted on Wednesday, “was aimed at re-validating various design and technical parameters of the weapon system”, said a statement from the military’s press wing.

The statement said the missile’s point of impact was in the Arabian Sea, and that the test was witnessed by the chairman of Pakistan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Lieutenant-General Nadeem Zaki Manj, and other top officials.

Pakistan’s military did not say whether the tested version of the Shaheen III missile was capable of carrying nuclear weapons, although it has previously been described as having that capability.

Shaheen III, a land-based surface-to-surface medium-range ballistic missile, shown during a military event [File: T Mughal/EPA]

Pakistan is one of eight nations worldwide with stated nuclear weapons capability.

Its eastern neighbour and rival India, with whom it has fought three full-scale wars since both countries gained independence from Britain in 1947, also has nuclear weapons.

The Shaheen III is Pakistan’s longest-range missile system, developed with the intention of being capable of reaching Indian island territories to deny Indian forces the ability to establish a “second strike capability”, according to comments made by retired Lieutenant-General Khalid Kidwai, the former chief of Pakistan’s nuclear plans division in 2015.

“Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee asserted that Pakistan desires peaceful co-existence in the region and its strategic capability is to deter any aggression against the sovereignty of Pakistan,” said the military statement after Wednesday’s test.

Both South Asian countries routinely conduct missile tests, of which they notify the other in advance as per a 2005 bilateral missile test pact.

President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated the military and the scientists involved after the successful test.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.