Don’t Forget About the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Don’t forget about earthquakes, feds tell city

Although New York’s modern skyscrapers are less likely to be damaged in an earthquake than shorter structures, a new study suggests the East Coast is more vulnerable than previously thought. The new findings will help alter building codes.By Mark FaheyJuly 18, 2014 10:03 a.m.The U.S. Geological Survey had good and bad news for New Yorkers on Thursday. In releasing its latest set of seismic maps the agency said earthquakes are a slightly lower hazard for New York City’s skyscrapers than previously thought, but on the other hand noted that the East Coast may be able to produce larger, more dangerous earthquakes than previous assessments have indicated.The 2014 maps were created with input from hundreds of experts from across the country and are based on much stronger data than the 2008 maps, said Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project. The bottom line for the nation’s largest city is that the area is at a slightly lower risk for the types of slow-shaking earthquakes that are especially damaging to tall spires of which New York has more than most places, but the city is still at high risk due to its population density and aging structures, said Mr. Petersen.“Many of the overall patterns are the same in this map as in previous maps,” said Mr. Petersen. “There are large uncertainties in seismic hazards in the eastern United States. [New York City] has a lot of exposure and some vulnerability, but people forget about earthquakes because you don’t see damage from ground shaking happening very often.”Just because they’re infrequent doesn’t mean that large and potentially disastrous earthquakes can’t occur in the area. The new maps put the largest expected magnitude at 8, significantly higher than the 2008 peak of 7.7 on a logarithmic scale.The scientific understanding of East Coast earthquakes has expanded in recent years thanks to a magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia in 2011 that was felt by tens of millions of people across the eastern U.S. New data compiled by the nuclear power industry has also helped experts understand quakes.“The update shows New York at an intermediate level,” said Arthur Lerner-Lam, deputy director of Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “You have to combine that with the exposure of buildings and people and the fragility of buildings and people. In terms of safety and economics, New York has a substantial risk.”Oddly enough, it’s not the modern tall towers that are most at risk. Those buildings become like inverted pendulums in the high frequency shakes that are more common on the East Coast than in the West. But the city’s old eight- and 10-story masonry structures could suffer in a large quake, said Mr. Lerner-Lam. Engineers use maps like those released on Thursday to evaluate the minimum structural requirements at building sites, he said. The risk of an earthquake has to be determined over the building’s life span, not year-to-year.“If a structure is going to exist for 100 years, frankly, it’s more than likely it’s going to see an earthquake over that time,” said Mr. Lerner-Lam. “You have to design for that event.”The new USGS maps will feed into the city’s building-code review process, said a spokesman for the New York City Department of Buildings. Design provisions based on the maps are incorporated into a standard by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which is then adopted by the International Building Code and local jurisdictions like New York City. New York’s current provisions are based on the 2010 standards, but a new edition based on the just-released 2014 maps is due around 2016, he said.“The standards for seismic safety in building codes are directly based upon USGS assessments of potential ground shaking from earthquakes, and have been for years,” said Jim Harris, a member and former chair of the Provisions Update Committee of the Building Seismic Safety Council, in a statement.The seismic hazard model also feeds into risk assessment and insurance policies, according to Nilesh Shome, senior director of Risk Management Solutions, the largest insurance modeler in the industry. The new maps will help the insurance industry as a whole price earthquake insurance and manage catastrophic risk, said Mr. Shome. The industry collects more than $2.5 billion in premiums for earthquake insurance each year and underwrites more than $10 trillion in building risk, he said.“People forget about history, that earthquakes have occurred in these regions in the past, and that they will occur in the future,” said Mr. Petersen. “They don’t occur very often, but the consequences and the costs can be high.”

The British Nuclear Horn Grows: Daniel 7

Trident nuclear warhead numbers set to increase for first time since Cold War

Defence and foreign policy review expected to signal rise, in move analysts say is diplomatically provocative

Dan Sabbagh Defence and security editor

Fri 12 Mar 2021 14.15 EST

Downing Street’s integrated review of defence and foreign policy is expected next week to signal a potential increase of the number of Trident nuclear warheads for the first time since the end of the cold war.

Whitehall sources indicated that a cap on total warhead numbers – currently set at 180 – is expected to increase, although the exact figure is not yet known, in a move that analysts said was diplomatically provocative.

The UK’s stockpile of nuclear weapons peaked at about 500 in the late 1970s, but had been gradually decreasing ever since as the perceived threat from the Soviet Union and now Russia had been assumed to be decreasing.

The last strategic defence review, in 2015, committed the UK to “reduce the overall nuclear weapon stockpile to no more than 180 warheads” by the mid 2020s – and reducing the numbers of operationally available warheads to 120.

Each warhead is estimated to have an explosive power of 100 kilotons. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the second world war was about 15 kilotons.

The full reasons for the anticipated move are not yet clear but it comes amid speculation it is designed to help persuade the US to co-fund aspects of a Trident replacement warhead for the the 2030s. Its costs, too, are uncertain.

“If this is confirmed, this would be a highly provocative move,” said David Cullen, the director of the Nuclear Information Service. “The UK has repeatedly pointed to its reducing warhead stockpile as evidence that it is fulfilling its legal duties under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

“If they are tearing up decades of progress in reducing numbers, it will be a slap in the face to the 190 other members of the treaty, and will be regarded as a shocking breach of faith.”

Britain has operated its own nuclear weapons since the 1950s but for the past 60 years, following an agreement between the then prime minister, Harold Macmillan, and the then US president, John F Kennedy, the UK has been heavily dependent on US technology.

Trident missiles are deployed in four submarines, one of which is continuously at sea to make sure it can strike back in the event of an unprovoked nuclear attack. It relies on an existing US W76 warhead, based on a 1970s design, called Holbrook.

However, the W76 is ageing, and the US has proposed developing a more powerful replacement, called the W93. The UK is particularly keen for the US to start work on the W93 and last summer the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, lobbied Congress for the work to go ahead.

British MPs voted to renew Trident in principle in 2016, but the Commons is expected to have to vote on a new warhead at some point. In 2016, the Conservatives almost uniformly backed renewal, the SNP voted against, while Labour was split.

The MoD has said developing the next generation of Dreadnought submarines to carry the new warhead would cost £30bn plus a £10bn contingency. But officials have so far refused to say how much the warhead would cost.

An MoD spokesperson said: “The UK is committed to maintaining its independent nuclear deterrent, which exists to deter the most extreme threats to our national security and way of life.

“Replacing the warhead and building four new Dreadnought class submarines are UK sovereign programmes that will maintain the deterrent into the future. We will not comment on speculation about the integrated review, which will be published on Tuesday.”

The Power of the Chinese Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

When it comes to China’s nuclear weapons, numbers aren’t everything

Threat inflation tends to lead to poor policy outcomes. When it comes to China’s nuclear arsenal, it’s important for American leaders to accurately understand the nature of the problem. Nuclear risks between the United States and China manifest differently than those of the past U.S.-Soviet nuclear competition, or that of the United States and Russia today.

Concerns regarding nuclear use in the U.S.-China context stem from, among other things, mutual mistrust and the manipulation of risk below the nuclear threshold, largely from qualitative force posture and strategy choices each country has made. Quantitative factors — most importantly the size of China’s nuclear arsenal — are less pressing.

Despite this reality, a recent exchange between Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Adm. Philip Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, reveals how the nature of nuclear risk with China continues to be mischaracterized in Washington. Cotton expressed concern during a Senate hearing that China may attain “nuclear overmatch” against the United States if it were to triple or quadruple its nuclear stockpile. Adm. Davidson agreed.

But Cotton misstated the degree to which China may expand its nuclear warhead stockpile relative to the United States. In doing so, he suggests the United States should focus more on quantitative nuclear arms racing, stating that “it is much better to win an arms race than to lose a war.”

Cotton’s framing gets several facts wrong. First, the U.S. Defense Department’s most recent report on the Chinese military states that China’s warhead stockpile is “currently estimated to be in the low-200s.” This pales in comparison to the total U.S. inventory of 5,800 nuclear warheads.

Of these, 3,800 are available for deployment, with approximately 1,400 warheads already on alert delivery systems. Additionally, 150-200 gravity bombs sit in protected bunkers at five European air bases. Insofar as “overmatch” — a concept with little use to nuclear strategists — exists, it is squarely with the United States.

Cotton also incorrectly suggests that the U.S.-Russia New START arms control pact limits the United States to “800 deployed nuclear weapons.” In reality, New START permits 1,550 deployed warheads (including bombers counted as a single warhead apiece per treaty rules).

So why are senior officials and members of Congress so focused on numerical comparisons? Examining qualitative differences between U.S. and Chinese nuclear forces and accompanying doctrines is harder to do. These differences tell a slightly less alarmist story when it comes to the bilateral nuclear competition, but by no means present easy answers to the project of deterring China or avoiding nuclear war.

Since China’s first nuclear test in 1964, its leaders have not sought to “race to parity” with the United States and Russia. This policy originates in part from former chairman of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, whose had a dismissive view of nuclear weapons, calling them “paper tigers.” But even as China has modernized its nuclear forces and practiced more sophisticated nuclear operations, it maintains a lean nuclear force — one postured to survive an adversary’s first strike and still credibly maintain the “minimal means of reprisal.” Ongoing Chinese investments in road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles and better submarine-launched ballistic missiles support this goal.

Authoritative Chinese sources, like the 2013 edition of Science of Military Strategy, acknowledge that Beijing needs to be wary of arms control and the potential trade-off between transparency and security due to its “relatively small and weak” nuclear force.

U.S. Strategic Command disregards China’s “no first use” policy, maintained since 1964; still, the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force operates as if the policy is in effect. Unlike the United States, Beijing demates most warheads from their delivery systems in peacetime and only conducts launch exercises that simulate retaliatory nuclear operations.

Despite this, however, China is increasing the size and diversity of its nuclear arsenal. Even if it is nowhere close to matching the U.S. in sheer size, new types of Chinese systems may introduce important sources of escalation risk.

For just one example, consider the DF-26: a dual-capable missile system capable of “hot-swapping” conventional and nuclear warheads. This payload ambiguity is likely a feature — not a bug — for Chinese leaders seeking to manipulate risk in a crisis and thereby enhance deterrence; but it could also amplify escalatory incentives in a crisis.

The United States is in the process of modernizing its aging nuclear arsenal. Modernization goals have largely been designed to pace Russia’s expansive nuclear arsenal. Given the significantly more complex strategic deterrence requirements present in a U.S.-Russia context, any U.S. nuclear force that credibly deters Russian nuclear first-use will also do so for China.

Overinflating the nature of the challenge from China’s nuclear forces would be especially unwise if it leads to U.S. overinvestment in nuclear systems, when the challenges in the Asia-Pacific region today require improved conventional deterrence. Strategy, after all, requires matching ends with means. Bipartisan support already exists for new conventional firepower, as evidenced by approval for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative.

Finally, it is precisely because mistrust remains high and is growing between the U.S. and China that the two should consider arms control talks out of a mutual interest in averting war and minimizing the costs of war if deterrence should fail.

For many Americans, arms control brings to mind New START-style measures, including numerical data exchanges and reentry vehicle on-site inspections. But arms control — in its broadest sense — can include qualitative risk-reduction measures. Washington can address uncertainty regarding the growth potential of China’s warhead stockpile, for instance. Securing reciprocal commitments to cease fissile material production is a smart first step.

Chinese leaders, meanwhile, should view the Cotton-Davidson interaction as an example of how U.S. officials may interpret China’s nuclear modernization in a vacuum of information and dialogue. Chinese officials have ducked U.S. offers for strategic dialogue in recent years; hopefully, following an upcoming ministerial meeting, U.S. and Chinese civilian and military officials can discuss — and begin to define — strategic stability. By beginning this dialogue, U.S. officials can focus on solving the qualitative challenges that actually exist, rather than getting bogged down in imagined concerns about “overmatch.”

Pranay Vaddi is a fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where Ankit Panda is a Stanton Senior fellow of the same program. Vaddi previously worked at the U.S. State Department. Panda has consulted for the United Nations on nonproliferation and disarmament matters.

Khamenei Hits Out at Babylon the Greats Presence in Syria, Iraq

Friday, 12 March, 2021 – 07:15

Khamenei Hits Out at US Presence in Syria, Iraq

Asharq Al-Awsat

The United States repeated on Thursday it will not offer Iran unilateral incentives to attend talks about both sides resuming compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“We will not offer any unilateral gestures or incentives to induce the Iranians to come to the table. If the Iranians are under the impression that, absent any movement on their part to resume full compliance with the (nuclear deal), that we will offer favors or unilateral gestures, well that’s a misimpression,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

According to Reuters, Price suggested Washington would consider each side taking steps to resume compliance with the agreement once they are at the negotiating table.

“If and only if Tehran comes to the negotiating table would we be in a position, would we be prepared, to discuss proposals that would help push both sides back on that path of mutual compliance to the deal,” he said. “Ultimately, that is where we seek to go: compliance for compliance.”

Price was referring to the deal between Iran and six major powers under which Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for the easing of US and other economic sanctions.

The deal made it harder for Iran’s atomic program to be used to produce nuclear weapons, an ambition Tehran denies. Former US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018 and restored US sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to begin violating the deal’s nuclear restrictions about a year later.

Of course Iran is Itching to Get Hands on Nuclear Weapons

Is Iran Itching to Get Hands on Nuclear Weapons?

In an interview on state television early last month, Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi seemed to make a masked threat regarding the Middle Eastern nation’s long pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

“The supreme leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) has explicitly said in his fatwa that nuclear weapons are against sharia law and the Islamic Republic sees them as religiously forbidden and does not pursue them,” he said.

“But a cornered cat may behave differently from when the cat is free. And if they (Western powers) push Iran in that direction, then it’s no longer Iran’s fault.”

According to Maysam Behravesh, a research associate at Clingendael, the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, it was an “unprecedented public threat (that) captured wide media attention.”

“Domestic critics, particularly hard-liners, slammed President Hassan Rouhani’s intelligence minister for harming Iranian interests by undermining Khamenei’s religious edict against weapons of mass destruction,” he recently wrote in Foreign Policy. “Middle East watchers abroad focused on the fatwa factor as well, mostly to demonstrate Iranian leaders’ untrustworthiness. Others construed Alavi’s statements as a ‘pressure’ tactic to spur the Biden administration into rejoining the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. All these responses misunderstand the real significance of Alavi’s ‘cornered cat’ threat. The whole debate over Khamenei’s fatwa banning nuclear weapons has always been much ado about nothing; it never really mattered in the first place for either side.”

Alavi’s statements came after a series of embarrassing security breaches and counterintelligence failures. In recent years, Iran has lost Qassem Soleimani, the chief architect of its regional strategy, and it culminated with the assassination of Iran’s nuclear strategy architect Mohsen Fakhrizadeh near Tehran last November.

Shortly after the assassination of Soleimani, a conservative media outlet in Tehran published a piece asking its readers about nuclear weapons deterrence and the ways it can advance the country’s national security interests.

“Some analysts believe that Iran’s possession of a nuclear deterrent will check Israel’s regional ambitions, while others maintain that it can deter big powers from stoking tensions and starting new wars in the region,” the article read.

In another conservative publication, it contended that the United States’ “destructive policies” against Iran and “Europeans’ inaction” have only pushed Iran to make the “big decision.”

“Why should Iran commit to international regulations and refrain from constructing nuclear weapons while its enemies are all equipped with these weapons and threaten to destroy Iran on a daily basis?” asked another analysis that was published.

According to Behravesh, there are no Iranian public opinion polls that gauge citizens’ view of nuclear weapons or how it may have changed over the past decade.

But a new survey conducted jointly by the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland and the Canada-based polling agency IranPoll indicates that “anti-compromise views and sentiments have considerably hardened over the past years.” Most notably, public support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action dropped significantly from 76 percent in August 2015 to just 51 percent in February 2021.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters

Revenge Vowed from outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Hamas blames Israel for death of 3 Gazan fishermen; Islamic Jihad vows revenge

Gaza leaders say anglers fished out Israeli drone, which then exploded; deny experimental shell fired toward sea struck fishermen’s boat; Israel has denied any connection

By Aaron Boxerman11 Mar 2021, 9:17 pm

The Hamas terror group blamed Israel on Thursday for an explosion that killed three fishermen off the coast of Gaza earlier this week, leading several armed factions in Gaza to vow revenge.

Israel has denied any involvement in the incident.

At least 7 dead, 53 wounded in Afghan car bomb attack

Hamas Interior Ministry spokesperson Iyad al-Bozm said that the three fishermen were killed by an explosion caused by a toppled Israeli drone that had been caught in their net.

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“The three fishermen from the Al-Lahham family were killed due to the detonation of an explosive device installed on a quadcopter belonging to the Israeli occupation, which got stuck in their nets and exploded while they were extracting it,” al-Bozm said.

Although al-Bozm ruled out a direct Israeli strike on the ship, he said that Hamas “holds the Israeli occupation fully responsible.”

The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately respond to requests for comments on Hamas’s new claims, though after the incident took place it denied involvement, saying there had been “no Israeli fire” toward Gaza and “This is an internal Gaza incident.”

Palestinian fishermen, mask-clad due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prepare their fishnets along a beach off the Mediterranean Sea; in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 2, 2020. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The explosion occurred close to the coast of Khan Younis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday. The three deceased fishermen, Yahya Mustafa al-Laham, Hamdi al-Laham and Zakaria al-Laham, were two brothers and their cousin, Gaza fishermen’s union head Nizar Ayyash told local media.

“They were the martyrs of their daily bread,” the al-Laham family said in a statement on their official Facebook page on Sunday. The three had died, the family said, after “a local mortar struck their boat.”

According to the Hamas Interior Ministry, the drone alleged to have exploded on Sunday had been there since February 22 during a clash between a Hamas naval unit and the Israeli military.

Observers had suspected that a mortar or rocket launched by Hamas had unintentionally struck the fishermen’s boat, killing them instantly. Hamas regularly fires experimental rockets toward the sea, both to test their military capacities and as a show of force.

Witnesses also testified to local human rights groups that mortars had been fired immediately prior to the explosion, but Hamas dismissed the possibility that a shell had struck the fishermen’s boat.

“After inspecting the experimental missile launch platform, the coordinates of its fall, reviewing camera footage from resistance observation points, and confirming the exact timing of the launch, it became clear that the explosion site was completely outside the range of the missile firing zone,” al-Bozm said.

Israel limits the permitted fishing zone off the Gaza Strip as part of a blockade on the Hamas-controlled enclave, which it says is aimed at preventing arms from reaching Palestinian terror groups.

A masked spokesman for a Gaza terror group gives a speech during a military drill by Hamas and other armed Palestinian terror groups, on a beach in Gaza City on December 29, 2020. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

The Gaza fishing zone extends approximately 17 miles off the coast of the enclave. Hamas rockets have been seen to reach as far as Tel Aviv, which lies about 40 miles north of the Gaza Strip.

Islamic Jihad vowed revenge against Israel following Thursday’s announcement by Hamas, saying that Israel bore responsibility for the fishermen’s deaths.

“The occupation is behind this hideous crime and has committed this odiousness. A response will surely arrive from the Palestinian resistance,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement.

Sunday’s incident was not the first time that technical errors with weaponry were said to harm or even kill civilians living in the Gaza Strip. In the past, blasts have sometimes been caused by accidents as operatives of terrorist organizations in the territory built bombs or otherwise handled explosives.

Last month, a blast ripped through a building in northern Gaza, injuring at least 36 civilians. The Israeli military charged that Palestinian terror groups had stored weapons inside civilian homes. Hamas promised to investigate the incident, but no conclusion has yet been reached