New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

How vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?Ashley Fetters
New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnelsair conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.
The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.
The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.
Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?
Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There’s a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It’s well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”
And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)
Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.
Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.
The Montague Tube, which sustained severe damage during Hurricane Sandy.
MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann
Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)
One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”
Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.
And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.
So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?
“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”
Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail, and we may include it in a future column.

Israeli authorities ban celebration for new freed Palestinian detainees outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli occupation authorities ban celebration for new freed Palestinian detainees

Saturday, 03 April 2021 4:43 PM  [ Last Update: Sunday, 04 April 2021 12:40 PM ]

By Wafaa Al-Udaini

The day of freedom from prison is a special day for Palestinian political prisoners and their families. It is considered a national day where celebrations are held, and fireworks launched.  

Yet, according to Israeli laws against Palestinians of Jerusalem al-Quds, freed prisoners of Jerusalem al-Quds are not allowed to hold any kind of celebration, whether in their neighborhood or in their own homes. 

Furthermore, freed prisoners are often re-arrested by the occupation police to sign pledges to not hold any celebrations, ceremonies and even the Palestinian flag; they are also not allowed to receive guests who wish to congratulate them on their release. 

On Tuesday, March 30, 2021, the Israeli occupation forces stormed the home of Majd Barbar, former Palestinian political prisoner, released after 20 years of detention, one day earlier. They kidnapped him and attacked family members and friends who were present in his home, in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds. 

Barbar was released again after one day of detention, but under several conditions, including pledging not to hold celebration events, not to raise the Palestinian flag, not launching fireworks; and to pay a financial guarantee of 1,000 NIS.  

Barbar is a father of two and has been detained by the Israeli occupation forces since 2001. On the day of his release, his family, friends and neighbors of his Jerusalem al-Quds neighborhood welcomed him grandly. Several touching videos of this welcoming back reunion featuring Majd Barbar with his loved ones went viral on social media. 

Zaina, 20-year-old daughter of Majd said, “The occupation always tries to snatch any joy and happiness from our hearts. It’s really unfair! The moment of my father’s freedom is so significant in our lives; Israel took him away from me since I was 15 days old.”

Ali Almoghrabi, spokesperson of the Asra Information Office, said that this is a familiar pattern with Palestinian political prisoners held in the Israeli military prisons. “When they end their sentence, they are re-arrested. This Israeli policy is mostly used in Occupied Jerusalem al-Quds. Some ex-prisoners have been forcibly deported from their hometown for days, while others have been prohibited from celebrating or participating in any political or peaceful events,” he stated.  

“The occupation aims at keeping Palestinians of Jerusalem al-Quds in states of pain, frustration and sadness. It doesn’t want them to connect with their Palestinian identity”, he added. 

For Jerusalemite ex-prisoners, the Israeli authorities re-detained many of them as they walked out of prison after serving long years. 

“They were kidnapped and re-detained by Israeli forces and then re-released under restricted conditions by signing pledges to not celebrate or participate in any political or peaceful events”, said Amjad Abu Assab, head of the Committee of Families of Prisoners from Jerusalem al-Quds. 

Ali Almoghrabi, stated in an interview, “Such celebrations are considered as one of the popular resistance methods so the Occupation tries to stop them and kill any spirit of resistance or patriotism.” 

The total number of Palestinians held in Israeli jails today is nearly 5,000, of whom 450 remain in administrative detention. Over 500 prisoners, including women and minors, are from Jerusalem al-Quds alone. 

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, the Israelis follow this policy in order to keep Palestinians in Occupied Jerusalem al-Quds oppressed and disappointed so that no one can see the prisoner as a hero.  

“The Israeli policy of no-celebration is nothing new,” the spokesman of Asra Information Office explained. “All the Israeli policies used against the prisoners are totally racist. They want to bury the Palestinian identity from Jerusalemites to show that Jerusalem al-Quds is completely Jewish.” He added that this policy is not implemented on the Israelis. 

The Israelis also use another policy to oppress and harass newly freed Jerusalemites by deporting them to another city. Such a gross injustice happened to Waseem Aljallad a year ago. 

Wassem Aljallad, 42, from Jerusalem al-Quds was re-detained and transferred to al-Maskubiya police station immediately after he had been freed from a 15-year prison sentence.  

Aljallad was a new groom when he was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces. While the latter raided his home to re-arrest him, he was in pyjamas, and they dragged him this way out of his home. He was accused of participating in anti-occupation military operations. 

His family planned to hold his wedding ceremony again after finishing his sentence, but the Israeli authorities forced him to cancel his wedding ceremonies and not to celebrate his release nor to attend any gatherings as a condition to his re-release. 

They also deported him from Jerusalem al-Quds for two weeks and compelled him to pay a financial guarantee of $1,400 and another unpaid amount of $25,000. He was released one day after the expected day on July 2019. His mother said in pain that they waited this day.  

The harassing policies that Israel applies against newly freed Palestinian prisoners vary according to the prisoners’ home regions and positions. Since the Israeli occupation forces fully control Jerusalem al-Quds, they have completely banned celebrations there. In the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, prisoners are sometimes released at dawn or midnight to ensure families and friends cannot immediately greet and celebrate with the newly freed Palestinians. In cases where the detention of Palestinian political prisoners has grabbed media attention, like for teenager Ahed Tamimi, long-hunger-striker Khader Adnan, and journalist Mohammed AlQeeq, the Israeli authorities apply yet again different post-release policies. 

Several human rights organizations demand that Israel stops these sadistic and harassing policies of freed Palestinian political prisoners. 

Wafaa al-Udaini is a Palestinian journalist based in Gaza.

(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)

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The forgotten nuclear threat: Revelation 16

Keystone/Getty Images

February 28, 2021

Constraints on nuclear proliferation have lapsed or been loosened in recent years. How great is the danger? Here’s everything you need to know:
Who has nuclear weapons?

4 The vast majority — some 91 percent — of the world’s 13,400 nuclear weapons are owned by the U.S. and Russia, which each have the power to render Earth an uninhabitable nuclear wasteland. The other early developers of nuclear arsenals were the U.K., China, and France. In an attempt to prevent further spread, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was adopted in 1970, pledging those five powers to eventually disarm in return for other states promising not to pursue the bomb. But more than 50 years later, all four of the countries that aren’t party to the treaty — India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea — have nuclear arsenals (although Israel has never confirmed it), and at least one signatory, Iran, has taken steps to build its own. Another treaty, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, just came into force in January, but none of the nuclear states signed it. Though public concern about nuclear war has faded since countries became preoccupied with terrorism, climate change, and now, viral pandemics, the threat remains very real. Potential triggers of nuclear conflict include India’s border disputes with both Pakistan and China, Iran’s threats to destroy Israel, Israel’s pledge to prevent Iran from getting nukes, China’s designs on Taiwan, and North Korea’s threat to South Korea.
What about arms control treaties?

5 Few remain. During the Reagan era, the U.S. and the Soviet Union agreed to slash their nuclear arsenals, but most arms control treaties since then have lapsed. The Bush administration pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, which sparked an arms race in missile-defense systems, and President Trump yanked the U.S. out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, saying that Russia had violated it. So the only remaining arms treaty the U.S. observes is New START, a pact with Russia negotiated under the Obama administration. That treaty cut the number of deployed nuclear warheads that each side can have by more than half, to 1,550. Former President Trump was planning to let the treaty expire this month. But just after taking office, President Biden agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend the treaty for five more years. Biden also will try to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

What is Iran’s capability?

6 Israeli intelligence says that the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist in November set Iran’s nuclear program back, and that it would need two years to build a nuclear weapon. In the early 2000s, the International Atomic Energy Agency discovered that Iran had been cheating on the NPT with a clandestine program to enrich uranium. Under the 2015 treaty negotiated by the Obama administration, Iran agreed to radically slash its stockpile of uranium and limit the number of centrifuges that it can use for enrichment. But since the Trump administration pulled out of the deal in 2018 and hit Iran with new sanctions, Iran has resumed production of 20 percent enriched uranium, getting nine-tenths of the way toward weapons-grade fuel.
What happens if Iran goes nuclear?

7 It would set off a chain of proliferation. Saudi Arabia, Iran’s enemy, has said it would seek nukes if Iran got them, and Turkey and Egypt could follow. The threat from North Korea, meanwhile, is alarming to Japan and South Korea, where factions have argued for the development of their own nuclear weapons as deterrents. Since it first tested a nuclear weapon in 2006, North Korea has built dozens of bombs and hundreds of missiles, and it now has intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach anywhere — including the continental United States. Our allies are now wondering, says Ivo Daalder of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, “Will you sacrifice us for you? Will you save Seattle at the price of Seoul?” The more nuclear weapons there are in the world, of course, the more likely it is that one could be fired by accident or fall into terrorist hands.
What comes next?

8 The next nuclear summit — the NPT review conference held every five years — takes place in August. That will be a chance for the Biden administration to reassure allies and to open negotiations with rising power China. China is planning to double its arsenal to 200 warheads over the next decade, and it has been pouring money into new missile designs. Adm. Charles Richard, head of the U.S. strategic command, says China will soon be a nuclear peer of the U.S., just as Russia is. “For the first time ever, the U.S. is going to face two peer-capable nuclear competitors who are different, who you have to deter differently,” he said. “We have never faced that situation before.”

The trouble with missile defense

9 Missile defense is a system designed to shoot down incoming nuclear missiles before they hit. But if a country can shoot down, say, 100 enemy missiles, the enemy has an incentive to fire 200 to overwhelm the defense, leading to an offensive and defensive arms race. So in their arms control treaty, the U.S. and Soviets banned most missile defenses, relying instead on deterrence — the threat of mutual assured destruction. The U.S. pulled out of that pact in 2002, saying it needed the ability to defend against a launch by a terrorist or a rogue state such as Iran or North Korea. Since then, it has deployed defense systems in South Korea and sold anti-ballistic Patriot missiles to more than a dozen countries. The danger with missile defense is that if a country believes it can reliably defend itself against retaliatory nukes, it loses the deterrence of conducting its own first strike. But so far, despite billions in expenditures, missile defense is more of a fantasy than a reality. Patriot missiles failed to knock down most missiles fired by enemies in the Saudi-Houthi conflict and the 1991 Gulf War. In fact, says arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis, there is no evidence that a Patriot “has ever intercepted a long-range ballistic missile in combat.”

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

Why South Korea and Australia Will Nuke Up: Daniel 7

America’s Asian Allies Need Their Own Nukes

Want to cut costs and contain China? Allow friendly nuclear proliferation.

Doug Bandow

December 30, 2020, 6:00 AM

People watch a television showing footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul, on Jan. 1, 2020. Jong Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

Nobody envies U.S. President-elect Joe Biden at the moment. The problems he faces seem insurmountable.

China likely will be the administration’s most serious foreign challenge. The United States is wealthier and more powerful, but remains committed—overcommitted, in fact—around the globe. The world’s finest—and most expensive—military goes only so far.

Moreover, domestic needs and international wants will increasingly clash. As America entered 2020, the federal budget deficit was expected to run to $1.1 trillion. Combating the coronavirus pandemic and providing economic relief pushed that number to $3.1 trillion. It will be more than $2 trillion this year, and could go much higher, if Congress and the president agree on a new stimulus package. The Congressional Budget Office had predicted another $10 trillion in red ink over the coming decade, but the additional COVID-19 deficit, reflecting a combination of increased outlays and decreased revenues, could be as much as $16 trillion.

China is a challenge—but it’s not a direct military threat to the United States itself. Without such a threat, it will be difficult if not impossible to rouse public sentiment sufficiently to fund the sort of military expansion necessary to overawe and defeat a rising China in its own neighborhood. It costs much more to project power than deter its use, especially across an ocean several thousand miles wide. But there’s a cheaper and more effective solution to keeping the peace: Let America’s allies have nukes.

Can the United States defend Taiwan, destroy Chinese naval outposts on artificial islands, keep sea lanes open, protect territories claimed by Japan and the Philippines, and so on? Beijing is focused on developing Anti Access/Area Denial capabilities: It costs much less for China to build missiles and submarines capable of sinking aircraft carriers than for the United States to construct, staff, and maintain the latter. The Pentagon is concocting countervailing strategies, but they will be neither cheap nor risk-free. How much can Americans, facing manifold, expensive challenges at home and elsewhere abroad, afford to devote to containing the PRC essentially within its own borders?

And should the United States even attempt to do so? It will be difficult to generate sustained public support for sacrificial military spending to, say, ensure that the Senkaku Islands remain under Japanese control. Japan analysts at Washington think tanks might wax eloquent in their latest webinar about the vital American interests at stake, but the public will be more skeptical. And, in fact, many of the Washington policy community’s greatest fears understandably don’t matter much to the American people.

For instance, it isn’t terribly important that Beijing has grabbed control of Mischief Reef and Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines. Ownership of such specks of land yield control over fish and hydrocarbons, but that does not make them worth Americans’ blood. Nor are the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Indeed, American involvement is not the best response, and certainly shouldn’t be the first response in such contingencies. It is self-evident that such activities matter more to allied and friendly nations than to America. The best constraint on the PRC comes from its neighbors. It is surrounded by nations it’s fought with in the last century, both as victim and invader: Russia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and India. New middling powers include Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Just as Beijing is concentrating on deterring U.S. military intervention in the region, other countries can create forces capable of deterring China. They surely have an interest to do so —and not just to hold outlying territories. The independence of these and other nations matters more than their control over disputed lands.

Of course, these nations, which vary widely in size, wealth, and government, typically contend that they can ill afford to mount a defense, and that historical or political differences prevent them organizing together. Despite some truth to their objections, such claims should not become excuses for cheap riding. If these states are under threat, one much greater than that facing the United States, with pacific neighbors south and north, and vast oceans east and west, they have a powerful incentive to act. Yet America’s friends and allies have taken a shockingly lackadaisical attitude toward their own security. Even if the United States backstops their independence, American involvement should be a last resort.

If these states are under threat, one much greater than that facing the United States, with pacific neighbors south and north, and vast oceans east and west, they have a powerful incentive to act.

The Europeans have pioneered freeloading on Washington’s vast military spending, but the Asians are not far behind. If Tokyo is truly worried about losing a few barren pieces of rock—or, more seriously, fears an invasion of its main islands—why doesn’t it devote more than 1 percent of spending on defense? The tribulations of history are well-known, but they are no justification for expecting badly cash-strapped Americans to step into the breach.

The Philippines barely makes an effort, devoting less than a 1 percent of its GDP to its armed forces. A few years back its defense minister complained that the navy could barely sail and the air force could barely fly. The navy’s flagship is a half-century old U.S. Coast Guard cast-off. Manila hopes to borrow the U.S. Pacific fleet in case of trouble.

What Does the Future of America’s Nuclear Briefcase Look Like?

Worse, Taiwan, by far China’s most endangered neighbor, spends less than 2 percent of GDP to protect itself—although a recently proposed budget envisages raising this considerably. Military outlays have gotten caught in the political crossfire between the two major parties. Grant Newsham of the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies cited “successive Democratic Progressive Party and Kuomintang administrations’ mystifying but steadfast refusal to properly fund defense—even though Taiwan is a wealthy nation and facing a serious threat from mainland China.”

Why are countries so unwilling to do more on their own behalf? Perhaps they do not believe Beijing poses a threat—or they are convinced that America will step in if necessary. Growing concern over the PRC and its perceived ambitions appears to have loosened the military purse strings of some Chinese neighbors—but not nearly enough. U.S. officials have tried complaining, whining, and demanding, with only indifferent success. Better for the incoming administration to tell allies and friends that while America “is back,” as the president-elect has proclaimed, that doesn’t mean Americans should carry a burden that rightly belongs to others. Nor should other governments want to put their nations’ futures into someone else’s hands, even those belonging to the United States.

This applies with greatest force to the principle of extended deterrence, which friendly governments seem to assume is their due. Washington’s threat to go nuclear on its allies’ behalf—an implicit promise of undetermined reach in unstated circumstances—is an extraordinary commitment, since it treats other nations’ interests of varying importance as existential for America. This strategy is most likely to work if the opponent does not possess nuclear weapons or Washington’s interest in its ally’s security is at least as great as that of the nuclear-armed adversary. That is not the case in today’s potential East Asia-Pacific conflicts.

This applies with greatest force to the principle of extended deterrence, which friendly governments seem to assume is their due.

Put bluntly, none of the contested interests are worth the resulting risks to America’s homeland. Certainly not the various islands, reefs, shoals, islets, rocks, and other detritus strewn about the South China Sea, East China Sea, and other waters nearby. Nor the Philippines, a semi-failed state, almost uniquely badly governed. Taiwan is a better, or certainly a more valuable, friend, but is little more important to America’s defense than Cuba is to Chinese security, which isn’t much.

It is difficult to make a credible case for extended deterrence even for Japan. Would any American president really trade Los Angeles for Tokyo? The promise is made on the assumption that the bluff will never be called: Advocates simply assume perfect deterrence. However, history is littered with similar military and political presumptions, later shattered with catastrophic consequences.

The danger surrounding South Korea is most acute, and not because of Beijing. Rather, the threat is North Korea’s nuclear program. Pyongyang has no interest in attacking the United States but can be expected to defend itself. It would have a strong incentive to use nukes if Washington threatened the North’s defeat. Yet nothing in the Korean peninsula is worth the sacrifice of American cities.

What to do? There is one way to square the circle. The Biden administration should reconsider reflexive U.S. opposition to “friendly proliferation.” Ironically, current policy ensures that nuclear weapons are held by only the worst Asian states—authoritarian and revisionist China and Russia, Islamist and unstable Pakistan, illiberal and Hindu nationalist India, and totalitarian and threatening North Korea. Against all these, Washington is supposed to defend Japan and South Korea, certainly, the Philippines and Australia, possibly, and Taiwan, conceivably. That is dangerous for everyone, especially the United States.

Ironically, current policy ensures that nuclear weapons are held by only the worst Asian states—authoritarian and revisionist China and Russia, Islamist and unstable Pakistan, illiberal and Hindu nationalist India, and totalitarian and threatening North Korea.

Reversing a policy supported by neoconservative nation-builders, unilateral nationalists, and liberal internationalists would not be easy. The change would be dramatic, and not without risk, whether from potential terrorism, nuclear accidents, or geopolitical provocations. Although the nuclear age has been surprisingly stable, proliferation necessarily creates additional risks for conflict and leakage. Nevertheless, the existence of nuclear weapons probably helped contain conventional conflict, especially between the United States and the Soviet Union. Even more, nations are convinced that modest arsenals keep rival states at bay, which is why countries as disparate as Israel, North Korea, and India have developed arsenals at great cost.

All of these countries, except the Philippines, are easily capable of developing their own nuclear weapons. Of course, they might decide not to do so, as is their right. However, there is significant popular support in South Korea for amassing a countervailing arsenal. The issue is understandably far more fraught for Japan. However, Japanese enthusiasm for pacifism always has reflected a belief that Washington would come to that country’s defense. If that was no longer certain, the Japanese people might react differently.

Australia is another potential nuclear state. Until recently, Canberra might have been hesitant to risk its commercially advantageous relationship with the PRC. However, under sharp economic assault from Beijing today, Australians may be more inclined to add the ultimate weapon to their military repertoire.

Taiwan is in greatest need of such a weapon, but developing one would be highly destabilizing, since Beijing would be tempted to preempt the process. The alternative would be for Washington to fill Taiwan’s need, with a profound impact on Sino-American relations. Proliferation would not be a good solution—but it might be the least bad one.

No doubt, a nuclear-armed China would react badly to better-armed neighbors, but it is no happier with a more involved United States. Moreover, the prospect of American friends and allies developing nukes might prompt the PRC to change course, backing away from confrontation, seeking diplomatic answers for territorial disputes, and pushing North Korea harder to limit if not roll back its nuclear program. Two or three additional nations choosing nukes would permanently transform the regional balance of power, to China’s great disadvantage.

The PRC, not Russia or the Middle East, will pose the defining challenge to the Biden administration. Grappling with such a rising power will be very different to confronting the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It is easier to know what not to do with China than what to do. Don’t go to war. Don’t stage a new cold war. Don’t sacrifice core values and basic interests. Don’t make the issue all about Washington. Don’t waste money and credibility on overambitious, unsustainable attempts at containment. Don’t attempt to dictate to the PRC.

But what to do? The United States should think creatively about new approaches to old problems. One way to do so is to stop hectoring partners and preventing them from doing what they want to do. Including, perhaps, developing nuclear weapons.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of several books, including Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World.

More from Foreign Policy

Small Earthquake Hits New York State Before the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6:12

Small Earthquake Hits New York State Over the Weekend

HopkinsPublished: March 22, 2021

You may not normally associate New York with earthquakes, but they do occasionally occur. In fact, an area just north of the Hudson Valley felt an earthquake hit Saturday evening. The United States Geological Survey says the small tremor occurred near Altamount, NY, in Albany County, at around 6:39 P.M. Saturday. News 10 is reporting that the quake measured a 2.0 on the Richter Scale. There were no reports of any damage, except for a few likely confused residents, and perhaps a cup or two that tipped over on the kitchen table.

Yes, earthquakes do happen in the northeastern U.S and Canada occasionally. 2020 actually started off with three small earthquakes, on January 3, 7, and 13 respectively. The third was the strongest of the trio, measuring a magnitude 3.3, that hit several miles south of the town of Ormstown, Quebec a little after 5:30 A.M. The Times Union says the quake was felt as far south as the town of Ticonderoga, NY in Essex County, and as far west as the city of Ogdensburg on the New York-Ontario border. The effects were also felt as far north as Montreal.

Some even strike even closer to home here in the Hudson Valley. In April 2017, a small 1.3 tremor occurred around two and half miles west of Pawling. In early 2016, an even smaller quake happened near Port Chester and Greenwich, CT. While still nothing to really worry about, the thought of any sort of tremors in this part of the U.S. gets some people talking. We don’t quite have the level of awareness and preparation that people in California have had to live with.

The most well known fault line near our area is the Ramapo fault line. The 185 mile system of faults runs through parts of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and has been known to spawn usually small earthquakes.

On August 23, 2011, a 5.8 quake, that was centered in Virginia, was felt all the way up the east coast. Several moderate (at least a 5 on the richter scale) quakes have occurred near New York City in 1737, 1783 and 1884. Is the area overdue for a much larger quake at some point in the future?

Another Dance With the Devil

Iran talks set up delicate dance for Biden team


The Biden administration is moving forward on steps to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, with officials set to participate in high level discussions with signatories to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna next week. 

The U.S. and Iran are not expected to meet face to face, although administration officials have said they remain open to direct talks. 

The Vienna meeting marks the most forward movement for the Biden team, which will engage with European, Russian and Chinese counterparts over what steps the U.S. can take to achieve a “mutual return” for both America and Iran.

The meeting is likely to draw intense scrutiny from Capitol Hill, where hundreds of lawmakers have signed on to a handful of letters to the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken over their concerns of engaging with Iran.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee led by Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), tweeted support for the meeting.

“This is an important, though preliminary step. Tough and smart diplomacy in close coordination with our European allies and regional partners is the best way to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and restore full compliance with the JCPOA,” he said.

President Biden has made rejoining the deal a priority foreign policy for his administration. He appointed as U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, a key member of the negotiating team that brokered the 2015 agreement. 

The deal, negotiated during the Obama administration while Biden was vice president, put significant, but temporary, limits on Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for sanctions relief from the U.S. and international community. 

Critics argue it did not go far enough in preventing Iran from ever attaining a nuclear weapon and did not address a range of malign activity by the Islamic Republic, including its ballistic missile programs, support for proxy fighting forces across the Middle East, support for terrorism and human rights abuses.

“The United States must not once again abandon the leverage that is bringing Iran back to the negotiating table without confronting both Iran’s nuclear and non-nuclear activities that need to be stopped,” 140 House Republicans wrote in a letter to President Biden in February, opposing a return to the JCPOA.  

The former Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran when it withdrew from the deal in May 2018, and added an array of other punitive measures as part of a “maximum pressure campaign” aimed at forcing Tehran to the negotiating table for a stronger agreement.

Tehran maintains its nuclear program is peaceful but nuclear watchers say the Islamic Republic is likely only a few months away from building a bomb. Iran began increasing its uranium enrichment in 2019, breaking the terms of the JCPOA in retaliation for the sanctions imposed by the then-Trump administration. 

The Biden team and Iran have been in a “who goes first” conundrum over each side’s demands.

The U.S. has been worried by Iran’s enrichment of uranium up to 20 percent, far above the deal’s limit of 3.67 percent. Uranium is considered weapons grade when enriched to approximately 90 percent.

The Biden team has called on Iran to reverse its uranium enrichment before sanctions are eased. Tehran calls this a nonstarter. 

The meeting in Vienna will seek to establish a road map of steps both sides can take to bring them back to compliance with the deal, including identifying “sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures,” according to a statement released Friday by the JCPOA signatories – China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Iran.

State Department Principal Deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter said in a briefing with reporters that the U.S. would not preview any specific sanctions to be lifted, but that sanctions relief steps will be discussed during the meeting. 

“We’re going to talk about nuclear steps that Iran would need to take in order to return to compliance with the terms of the JCPOA and, we won’t preview any specific sanctions, but we’ll definitely say that sanction relief steps that the U.S. would need to take in order to return to that compliance as well, we’ll be up for discussion,” she said.

Naysan Rafati, senior Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, said that both Washington and Tehran are in agreement about returning to the JCPOA, but that the path to mutual compliance is not going to be easy. 

“The discussions are likely to encounter challenges regarding scope and sequencing on both the nuclear and sanctions relief fronts, as well as skepticism in Washington as well as Tehran,” he said. 

Democratic and Republican lawmakers have sought to close the gap on their disagreements of the utility of the JCPOA as part of efforts to promote a united front in their opposition to Iran’s alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon and destabilizing actions in the region. 

Last month, 40 senators from both sides of the aisle signed a letter to the president urging the use of all diplomatic and economic tools to prevent Iran from developing the ability to attain a nuclear weapon.

“Iran should have no doubt about America’s policy. Democrats and Republicans may have tactical differences, but we are united on preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon and addressing the wide range of illicit Iranian behavior. We look forward to working with you to achieve these objectives,” the senators wrote. 

Likewise, a bipartisan letter signed by 140 House members called for addressing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and its other troubling actions. 

“As Democrats and Republicans from across the political spectrum, we are united in preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon and addressing the wide range of illicit Iranian behavior,” they wrote.

Lawmakers are also concerned over sanctions relief for Iran without meaningful verification that it has taken steps to put itself back in compliance with the JCPOA.  

Secretary of State Antony Blinken answered in the affirmative when questioned by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) during a hearing last month that the U.S. would not make any concessions to get a meeting with Iran nor lift sanctions until Iran is verifiably in full compliance with the JCPOA, or on a negotiated path toward full compliance. 

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) further pressed Blinken to commit to formally consulting with Congress before lifting any sanctions. 

“We’re determined to consult on the takeoff not on the landing across the board – but, yes particularly when it comes to Iran,” Blinken said. 

Russian troops prepare for war near eastern Ukraine

Russian troops amassing near eastern Ukraine

By Staff

April 1, 2021


The editorial in last week’s issue of The Ukrainian Weekly focused on the rising level of violence occurring in Donbas. We noted that, according to a March 20 report by Radio Svoboda, it appeared that the number of “separatist” forces near the occupied towns of Horlivka and Mospino, both in the Donetsk region, had increased recently. Sadly, new reports this past week indicate that the situation has not improved. In fact, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, Lt. Gen. Ruslan Khomchak, this week notified Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, that Russian troops were amassing near the country’s border in the “north, east and south,” including in occupied Crimea.

In response to Mr. Khomchak’s comments, during a conference call with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin placed the blame for the rising tensions on Ukraine.

The Russian side expressed serious concern over the escalation of armed confrontation that is being provoked by Ukraine along the line of contact and its effective refusal to implement the agreements of July 2020 … to strengthen the cease-fire regime,” the Kremlin said in a statement released on March 30.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military said that four of its soldiers were killed in shelling on March 26 that targeted Ukrainian military forces. In a statement released that same day, the Ukrainian military said that “the armed forces of the Russian Federation once again violated the cease-fire” of July 2020. The statement said that Ukrainian positions were targeted with “82-mm mortars, automatic grenade launchers and large-caliber machine guns prohibited by the Minsk agreements.” Those attacks occurred near Shumy, north of Donetsk. According to RFE/RL, 19 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the year.

In the past week, and in response to the buildup of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, the U.S. military’s European Command took the step of raising its watch level from possible crisis to potential imminent crisis – the highest level in its ranking system. Moreover, according to a March 30 report in The New York Times, “European monitors have spotted new weaponry on the Russian-backed side in recent weeks.”

Some military and foreign policy experts in Washington have said that Moscow could be testing the Biden administration’s commitment to Ukraine, while others have claimed Mr. Putin is merely rattling the proverbial saber. Whether or not this is the case, we urge those in the U.S. presidential administration and in Congress to consider what more proof they need of Mr. Putin’s malign intentions in Ukraine. Russia did in fact annex Crimea. Russian troops have in fact occupied Ukrainian territory and violated Ukraine’s sovereignty. Russia does in fact continue to violate the terms of the July 2020 ceasefire.

One might wonder whether this situation would have been different had Ukraine not agreed to destroy what was at the time the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world in exchange for guarantees from the signatories of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, among them the Russian Federation and the United States of America. Those guarantees included a stipulation “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine,” which in fact has not occurred. We hope that officials in the U.S. might consider the message this sends to other countries in the world who are either stockpiling, building, or trying to develop their own nuclear weapons.