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.
28th March 2021
Iran: Fordow enrichment facilities
Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently stated that Iran must come clean about its past nuclear work if there is to be the hope of salvaging the 2016 nuclear deal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was originally intended to close the file on that issue, but soon after it was implemented, it became clear that the regime was still actively hiding its history of nuclear work at, at least one site, even after the deal was implemented. More recently, the IAEA has identified unexplained uranium particles in soil samples from at least two more locations, thereby broadening the possible military dimensions of the regime’s activities.
Weeks before Grossi made his latest statement on the lack of Iranian transparency, the National Council of Resistance of Iran held a press conference to share additional details about one of the two newly-identified nuclear sites. The information was collected by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI-MEK), which was also the entity responsible for exposing the first key details of the regime’s clandestine nuclear weapons program, including the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment site and the Arak heavy water plant.
The NCRI’s press conference drew explicit comparisons between the new information about a site at Abadeh and the now-established information about the Parchin military base, which came under suspicion of nuclear activity in 2012 but was not accessed by the IAEA until 2017, well after the nuclear deal went into effect. The NCRI found that in each case, the site was subject to similar sanitization methods led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In the case of Abadeh, all buildings on the site were reportedly destroyed in 2019 after it became clear that their existence and purpose had been exposed. Afterward, IRGC contractors attempted to remove and replace a thick layer of soil in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to eliminate traces of nuclear material.
The same process had been observed at Parchin, with satellite images confirming that the entire area had been razed and overhauled. Despite this clear evidence of tampering, Tehran continued obstructing the IAEA’s access to the site for months. Unfortunately, the JCPOA’s weak provisions concerning undisclosed sites and especially military sites made this fairly easy.
Since the withdrawal of the US from the deal, the overarching focus of European leaders has been to salvage that agreement by any means necessary. So it goes without saying that the problems of insufficient IAEA access have never been addressed. Quite to the contrary, they have been exacerbated by Iran’s efforts to retaliate against the re-imposition of US sanctions – efforts that have been aimed at Europe at least as much as at America but have received little to no coordinated response from Western powers.
In February, in accordance with a law that was passed late last year, Iran ceased compliance with the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and effectively revoked the IAEA’s already-limited rights of access to the country. Although the regime stopped short of kicking international inspectors out altogether, it has explicitly threatened to do exactly that if its adversaries don’t capitulate to the pressure, remove sanctions, and provide new concessions in order to buy Iran’s continued recognition of the JCPOA.
Neither Europe nor the US can allow themselves to be blackmailed in this fashion. The nations of Europe must thoroughly revise their approach to the issue in the wake of the IAEA’s latest findings regarding undeclared nuclear sites. If Tehran is not subjected to additional pressure, the mullahs will no doubt conclude that both their deception and their threats have paid off and will continue to do so.
This is an especially dangerous proposition when those threats have become so blatant, and that deception has become a recognizable source of pride for Iranian officials. On February 9, Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi highlighted one of Tehran’s main defenses of its “peaceful” nuclear program but did so in a way that plainly discredited it. “The fatwa forbids the production of nuclear weapons,” he said, referring to a religious edict from the regime’s Supreme Leader Khamenei that says such weapons are contrary to Islam, “but if they push Iran in those directions, it is not Iran’s fault. Those who pushed Iran in that direction will be to blame.”
This statement was arguably the highest-level public recognition of the regime’s potential nuclear weapons capability, and it should have sparked an immediate reassessment of the issue by anyone who has ever doubted the conclusion that Tehran is intent on obtaining nuclear weapons.
If Alavi’s tacit admission was not enough of a motivator for any given Western policymaker, they should only need to look at some of the comments that Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, has made since the beginning of 2019. In interviews with state media, he has openly boasted about deceiving the international community over a range of JCPOA provisions. Based on those remarks, it appears that Iran’s plutonium pathway to nuclear weapons capability has remained open via the Arak heavy water plant, while reductions in uranium enrichment were implemented in such a way as to be rendered almost meaningless.
“They thought that they won the negotiation,” Salehi said of Western participants in JCPOA negotiations. “…But we had a countermeasure, and while we proceeded with the case, they didn’t achieve what they planned for, and we did not become trapped in the enrichment deadlock… So, when you enter negotiations, you may accept something, but you have countermeasures. But you can’t reveal your cards, and afterward, your opponent, who thought you were trapped, suddenly sees you are continuing your enrichment.”
Although Tehran is certainly prone to overreaching rhetoric, this statement was already proven not to be empty by the time it was made. By the end of 2019, Iran had already ramped up the size of its nuclear stockpiles and the level of its uranium enrichment to the degree that was shocking to many supporters of the JCPOA. Since then, the regime has seemingly expanded its nuclear activities to the point of actually exceeding what it had accomplished prior to the start of negotiations in 2015.
If the JCPOA had represented adequate pressure over this issue, such a rapid resumption of nuclear activity should never have been possible. But of course, no amount of pressure could be adequate if it did not result in the regime adopting full transparency about the scale and detail of its prior nuclear activities or their military dimensions. So, whether the international community pushes for the initial reimplementation of the existing deal or chooses instead to start from scratch at this moment, it should be clear that the previous deal did not restrict the regime, and the regime was able to go back promptly to the point where it singed the deal.
03/28/2021 Iraq (International Christian Concern) – A recently formed Iraqi parliament committee has returned at least 50 houses and other properties to their rightful Christian owners. The committee was formed in January by a prominent Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, to explore the complaints from Christians regarding illegal property expropriations.
Iraq’s Chaldean patriarch, Cardinal Sako, expressed commendation for the work that has already been done and suggested that it would encourage Christians to return home to Iraq. Some also linked the progress of the committee in part to the Pope’s visit earlier in March. Christians are hesitant to return to Iraq for many reasons, one of which being the loss of property that began in 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein. Legalized theft of Christian property turns a blind eye to those seizing homes, land and other belongings, despite the fact that many Christians still retained their legal paperwork to their homes.
Only around one-fifth of Christians remain in Iraq after the conflicts and economic hardship the country has faced.
US must prepare for cold war with China
BY LAWRENCE J. HAAS, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
CNN NewsourceMarch 28, 2021
US & World
Here’s a look at nuclear nations.
Information about nuclear stockpiles varies from source to source. The information below is sourced to the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
China – 290 warheads, approximately 90 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
France – Approximately 290 warheads.
India – 150 nuclear warheads.
Pakistan – 90-110 nuclear warheads.
Russia – 1,444 warheads on 527 ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), and warheads designated for heavy bombers.
United Kingdom – Approximately 225 strategic warheads.
United States – 3,822 nuclear warheads.
Countries with unconfirmed nuclear weapons
Israel – Suspected to have enough plutonium for 100-200 nuclear weapons.
North Korea – Has conducted at least six nuclear tests since 2006. Claimed, in 2017, to have successfully conducted their first test of an ICBM.
Iran – World powers, including the United States, want to curb Iran‘s nuclear program to keep it from developing a nuclear bomb. For more details on Iran’s program, visit Iran’s Nuclear Capabilities Fast Facts.
July 14, 2015 – After 20 months of talks, negotiators finalize a landmark nuclear deal between Iran, the United States and five other countries. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) states “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will (it) ever seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons.” The agreement, which has a 15-year time frame, requires Iran to reduce its centrifuges by two-thirds. It also bans enrichment at key facilities. In exchange, the country will get relief from economic sanctions and permission to continue its atomic program for peaceful purposes.
May 8, 2018 – US President Donald Trump announces that the United States is officially withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.
Countries that have the ability to build nuclear weapons, but claim not to have any nuclear ambitions
Japan – On November 30, 2006, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso stated that Japan possesses the knowledge and ability to produce nuclear weapons but has no plans to do so.
Countries that have abandoned nuclear weapons or weapons programs in recent years
Belarus – Still has a civilian nuclear research program.
Kazakhstan – Although it inherited nuclear warheads after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan transferred the inventory back to Russia.
Ukraine – After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons. The weapons were transferred back to Russia.
South Africa – Became a non-nuclear weapons state in 1991.
| Mar 27, 2021 11:00 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Source: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP
Last week, a former CIA director came forward with the idea of a lesser-discussed option. James Woolsey wrote in the National Review that the Iranian regime might already possess the nuclear bomb. Whether or not that assessment is accurate, the piece triggered various conflicting arguments inside the Beltway, but no one disputed that the threat should be addressed sooner rather than later.
In February, the Iranian regime’s Intelligence Minister, Mahmoud Alavi, appeared on live state-run television to issue a dire warning to the West. He boasted that the regime would build nuclear weapons if the U.S. and its allies did not lift the sanctions. Whatever one may think of that warning, the international community must respond to ensure that the regime gets a clear message about its intimidation and bullying.
In his interview, Alavi said: “Our nuclear program is peaceful … but if they push Iran in [the non-peaceful] direction, then it would not be Iran’s fault but the fault of those who pushed it in that direction.”
Alavi’s remarks raised some eyebrows in major capitals, but it did not strike a nerve. There was no worldwide condemnation of, nor any calls on the Iran regime to clarify its stance. The mainstream media did not pay much attention either.
For decades, the Iranian regime has blackmailed its way out of every single international and regional crisis. It blew up the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, flattened the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, took hostages from a colorful array of nations, hijacked ships and tankers, slaughtered demonstrators, sniped intellectuals, assassinated dissidents, and the list goes on and on.
No continent has been spared. A 2009 BBC documentary exposed a shocking conversation between the Iranian diplomatic delegation with their European counterparts. They bluntly said: “Let us build our nuclear program, and we will not kill your soldiers in Iraq.”
Tasnim, a website affiliated with the IRGC’s notorious Quds Force, rushed to whitewash Alavi’s comments, claiming that he was not talking on behalf of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. However, another state-run website Tabnak suggested that it “might” reflect the strategic thinking of the Iranian regime’s leadership, pointing to the concept of nuclear deterrence.
Another important factor was the new tone of the regime’s apologists in Washington. Frustrated of the Biden administration’s decision not to rush back to the nuclear deal, they blamed the U.S. prudence for Alavi’s comments.
The very fact that the intelligence chief, who reports directly to Khamenei and Hassan Rouhani, made those statements leaves little room for interpretation. To date, no official speaker of the Iranian regime has denounced or even downplayed Alavi’s remarks.
The regime claims that Khamenei has issued a religious fatwa forbidding making or using nuclear weapons. However, any serious analyst knows about the mullahs’ concept of Taqiya (deliberately lying for expediency). No one has seen the fatwa, and even the supposed date of it was highly suspect, coming long after the NCRI exposed the regime’s clandestine nuclear program in 2002.
Even though President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry put their faith in the fatwa and although the JCPOA was merely built on trust on the West’s part, everyone knew that this was more a political rather than a religious matter. The Supreme Leader also revealed his mindset on his website. A piece titled ‘Four narratives of the experience of the cost of compromise,’ published on June 7, 2017, reads:
“Reconciling with the West in the hopes of lifting the sanctions, he [former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi] not only failed to achieve his goal but paid billions of dollars in compensation and destroyed his nuclear and ballistic missile program. Many years later, there was nothing left from Muammar Gaddafi”.
Lacking legitimacy inside Iran, the mullahs have resorted to domestic suppression, and the nuclear program is supposed to give them the international ‘hands-off’ status they desperately need. Unlike North Korea, however, the Iranian regime will not be contained within its borders. Therefore, the international community can ill-afford to remain silent or sit idle vis-à-vis the regime’s belligerent posture.
Before the nuclear deal, six U.N. Security Council resolutions brought the regime to its knees, forcing it to negotiate. To achieve leverage in dealing with Tehran, one must point to some of its most brazen acts of terrorism on Western soil.
During the investigations of Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat whom a Belgian court convicted in February 2021 for masterminding a foiled bomb plot in Paris, European intelligence services learned about his green book that contained the names of dozens of MOIS agents and spies active across the continent.
There have been many calls on the U.S. and its E.U. allies to investigate the regime’s lobbies and those who try to influence policymakers and manipulate public opinion in the regime’s favor. By investigating and holding these individuals accountable, the West will make it clear to the cunning mullahs that it will no longer be extorted or pushed around by a terrorist regime. They might have appeased them in the past, but all signals coming out of Iran, especially the Supreme Leader’s latest remarks during his Nowruz address, show that it is now time to hold the regime to account for its rogue behavior.
February 23, 2021
Israeli forces in Hebron, West Bank on 23 January 2021 [Mamoun Wazwaz/Anadolu Agency]
March 26, 2021 at 4:16 pm
The Israeli army detained three prominent Hamas leaders the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.
Eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that an Israeli soldier detained Hatem Qaffeisha, 58, a top Hamas leader in Hebron and a Palestinian lawmaker.
Former Local Governance Minister Isa Al-Jabari, 55, and top Hamas figure Mazen Al-Natsha, 49, were also detained.
The three figures have been jailed several times by the Israeli army.
Hamas has warned of Israeli plans to stage a mass arrest campaign against its members ahead of the Palestinian elections slated for May.
READ: Hamas is building international links to guarantee acceptance of the election results
In February, key Hamas members were detained including Mustafa Al-Shannar, Adnan Asfour, Yaser Mansour, Khalid El-Haj, Abdel-Basit El-Haj, Omar Al-Hanbali and Faze’ Sawafteh.
Hamas also accused the Israeli authorities of threatening its members with imprisonment if they run in the upcoming elections.
Palestinians are scheduled to vote in the legislative elections on 22 May, presidential polls are to be held on 31 July and the National Council elections on 31 August.
The last legislative elections were held in 2006, with Hamas coming out on top.