Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating EarthquakeRoger BilhamGiven recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.
When Tehran makes threats, Biden ‘is going to hop to it and respond to them,’ ex-DNI tells ‘Your World’
Iran has already shown it can pressure the Biden administration into granting concessions related to its nuclear weapons program, former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell told “Your World” Friday.
The Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018, but Biden campaigned on reentering it and rescinded Trump’s efforts to reimpose United Nations sanctions against Iran.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that the Biden administration would “accept an invitation from the European Union High Representative to attend a meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program.”
The announcement came days after a rocket attack on a U.S. airbase in northern Iraq that was claimed by an Iranian-linked Iraqi Shiite militia. However, the Biden administration has yet to formally blame any group for the attack.
“We’ve seen with the Iranians over the last two days a threat,” Grenell told host Neil Cavuto. “They said that if we didn’t drop all the sanctions … that they would not allow the inspectors back in. We already have a very weak inspection regime there.”
Grenell noted that Europe’s foreign ministers have said Iran’s threatening rhetoric is not a good sign for the prospects of peace, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Biden have taken the opposite approach.
“The lessons, I think, that the Iranians learn [is], when they use threats against the United States, the Biden administration is going to hop to it and respond to them,” he said. “I think it’s a really slippery slope.”
David Rutz is a senior editor at Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @davidrutz.
Updated 12 February 2021 AFP AP February 12, 2021 02:25
MOSCOW: Russia has urged Iran to show restraint after it started producing uranium metal in a new breach of limits laid out in Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
“We understandz do the logic of their actions and the reasons prompting Iran. Despite this it is necessary to show restraint and a responsible approach,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency RIA Novosti.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Wednesday that it had verified the production of 3.6 grams of uranium metal at a plant in Iran.
The landmark deal — reached in 2015 by the US, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain — contained a 15-year ban on “producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys.”
Iran said last month it was researching uranium metal production, a sensitive issue because uranium metal can be used as a component in nuclear weapons.
Ryabkov said Iran’s move demonstrated Tehran’s “determination not to put up with the current situation,” after it warned that time was running out for US President Joe Biden’s administration to save the agreement.
In 2018, US President Donald Trump dramatically withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran.
Trump’s successor Biden is seeking to revive the agreement, but the two sides appear to be in a standoff over who acts first.
Ryabkov’s remarks came as Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Thursday began a ground forces drill near the Iraqi border, state TV reported.
The report said the annual exercise was ongoing in the southwest of the country and had aimed at readiness and assessment of forces.
Drones and helicopters will be used in the drill, too.
In recent months, Iran has increased its military drills as the country tries to pressure President Biden over the nuclear accord.
In January, the Guard conducted a drill and launched anti-warship ballistic missiles at a simulated target in the Indian Ocean.
A week before that, Iran’s navy fired cruise missiles as part of a naval drill in the Gulf of Oman, state media reported, under surveillance of what appeared to be a US nuclear submarine. That came after speedboats parade in the Gulf and a massive drone exercise across the country.
Mon, February 15, 2021, 1:40 PM
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian health workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 in Bethlehem
By Rami Ayyub and Nidal al-Mughrabi
TEL AVIV/GAZA (Reuters) – The Palestinian Authority (PA) accused Israel on Monday of holding up the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines into Gaza, where Palestinians have yet to receive any doses.
A Palestinian official told Reuters that the PA tried to send 2,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine from the occupied West Bank to Gaza on Monday, but that Israel stopped the shipment at a West Bank checkpoint “and informed the Palestinians there was no approval to continue to Gaza.”
An Israeli security official said the PA’s request to send the 2,000 doses was “still being examined” and that “an approval hasn’t yet been given”.
The body charged with approving the transfer is Israel’s national security council, part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the Israeli security official said.
Netanyahu’s office did not immediately provide comment.
PA officials say they submitted the transfer request to Israeli defence authorities soon after receiving an initial shipment of 10,000 Russian doses in the West Bank on Feb. 4.
“Today, 2,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine were transferred to enter the Gaza Strip, but the occupation authorities prevented their entry,” a statement from PA Health Minister Mai Alkaila said.
“These doses were intended for medical staff working in intensive care rooms designated for COVID-19 patients, and for staff working in emergency departments,” the statement added.
The vaccine shipment was returned to Ramallah because it needs to be kept under cold temperatures, the Palestinian official said.
The delay highlights the challenges that Palestinians may face inoculating citizens across the West Bank and Gaza – two geographically-divided areas that Israel captured in a 1967 war and which are home to 5.2 million Palestinians.
Israel controls all entry and exit points to the West Bank and most of the coastal and land boundaries of the Gaza Strip, apart from a narrow border adjoining Egypt in the south.
Both Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on the coastal strip, citing security fears about the Islamist militant group Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007.
Palestinians and rights groups have accused Israel, a world leader in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, of ignoring its duties as an occupying power by not including the Palestinian populations of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in their inoculation programme.
Israeli officials have said that under the Oslo peace accords, the Palestinian Health Ministry is responsible for vaccinating people in Gaza and parts of the West Bank where the PA has limited self-rule.
The PA began administering vaccines to health workers in the West Bank on Feb. 2, after receiving a small shipment of Moderna Inc vaccines from Israel.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Stephen Farrell and Sonya Hepinstall)
TIKRIT, Iraq , Feb 20 (Reuters) – Three rockets hit theIraqi military air base of Balad north of Baghdad on Saturday,injuring one Iraqi contractor, Iraqi security officials said onSaturday.
No group immediately claimed the attack. It was the secondsalvo of rockets to hit a base hosting U.S. forces orcontractors in less than a week.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because theyare not authorised to speak to the media. Armed groups that someIraqi officials say are backed by Iran have claimed similarincidents in the past.(Reporting by Ghazwan Hassan; Writing by John Davison; Editingby Giles Elgood)
Friday, 19 February 2021 2:30 PM [ Last Update: Saturday, 20 February 2021 6:17 AM ]
Newly-released satellite images have revealed that the Israeli regime — the sole possessor of nuclear arms in the Middle East — is conducting “significant” constructive activities at the highly-secretive Dimona nuclear facility in the Negev Desert.
Citing commercial satellite imagery of the facility, the International Panel on Fissile Material (IPFM), a group of independent nuclear experts from 17 countries, reported Thursday that “significant new construction” had been underway at the Dimona complex.
The construction site sits “in the immediate vicinity of the buildings that house the nuclear reactor and the reprocessing plant,” the report said.
The IPFM’s website said the construction had “expanded and appears to be actively underway with multiple construction vehicles present,” adding, however, that the purpose was not known.
It was unclear when the construction work began, but Pavel Podvig, a researcher with the program on science and global security at Princeton University, told The Guardian that the project had apparently been launched in late 2018 and 2019.
“But that’s all we can say at this point,” he added.
Israel has tightly withheld information about its nuclear weapons program, but the regime is estimated to be keeping at least 90 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, according to the non-profit organization Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
The warheads, FAS said, had been produced from plutonium obtained at the Dimona facility’s heavy water reactor.
Israel in possession of close to 100 nuclear warheads: SIPRI
A new report reveals that the Israeli regime, which has a long-standing policy of not commenting on its nuclear arsenal, is in possession of approximately 100 nuclear warheads.
Dimona, which is widely believed to be key to Israel’s nuclear arms manufacturing program, was built with covert assistance from the French government and activated sometime between 1962–1964, according to reports.
Israel has acknowledged the existence of the Dimona nuclear reactor, but neither confirms nor denies the purpose of the facility, which is assumed to be the manufacturing of nukes.
Meanwhile, environmentalists have warned that Dimona — one of the world’s oldest nuclear facilities — could pose enormous environmental and security threats those living in the area and to the entire Middle East, calling on the regime to shut down the complex.
Turning a deaf ear to international calls for nuclear transparency, the regime has so far refused, with the US’s invariable support, to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that is aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
As Washington’s focus switches from war on terror to its rivalry with China, Pakistan finds it has lost priority billing in US foreign policy
With Islamabad clashing with India over Kashmir, and taking billions of dollars of investment from Beijing, it may decide its future lies with China
A month after Joe Biden assumed the US presidency, Pakistan is increasingly concerned that the direction of its future relationship with the United States could be determined by Washington’s competition with China and the role that neighbouring nemesis India might play in it.
Since assuming power on January 20, Biden’s administration has placed great emphasis on strengthening the role of the Quadrilateral Alliance comprising the US and its key allies in the Indo-Pacific geopolitical theatre: Japan, Australia and India.
Building a “stronger regional architecture” under the umbrella of the Quad to counter China’s expanding role in the Indo-Pacific has figured prominently in US government readouts about recent conversations between the US secretaries of state and defence and their Indian counterparts, as well as for Biden’s video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 8.
As China’s close ally and India’s historical enemy, “Islamabad will want to avoid getting in the crosshairs of US-China competition”, said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistan ambassador to the US, United Nations and Britain. “And while it seeks an improved relationship with the US, it is obvious to Islamabad that Pakistan’s strategic future lies with China.”