January 20, 2010New York City isn’t immune to earthquakes; a couple of small tremors measuring about 2.5 on the Richter scale even struck back in 2001 and 2002.But on August 10, 1884, a more powerful earthquake hit. Estimated from 4.9 to 5.5 in magnitude, the tremor made houses shake, chimneys fall, and residents wonder what the heck was going on, according to a New York Times article two days later.The quake was subsequently thought to have been centered off Far Rockaway or Coney Island.It wasn’t the first moderate quake, and it won’t be the last. In a 2008 Columbia University study, seismologists reported that the city is crisscrossed with several fault lines, one along 125th Street. With that in mind, New Yorkers should expect a 5.0 or higher earthquake centered here every 100 years, the seismologists say.Translation: We’re about 30 years overdue. Lucky for us the city adopted earthquake-resistant building codes in 1995.1884 A Forewarning Of The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)
FARES AKRAM , Associated Press Updated: May 26, 2021 2:25 p.m.
Yahya Sinwar, center, the Palestinian leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, meets with foreign press, in Gaza City, Wednesday, May 26, 2021.Khalil Hamra/AP
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday said 80 militants were killed during the 11-day war with Israel that ended last week, providing the group’s first official tally for losses sustained in the fighting.
Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry has put the number of Palestinians killed in the Israeli offensive this month at 254, including 66 children, 39 women, and 17 people above the age of 60. But it did not give a breakdown between civilians and combatants.
Speaking to The Associated Press, Hamas leader Yehiyeh Sinwar said those killed last week included 57 members of his group’s armed wing, 22 members of the smaller Islamic Jihad group and one member of a small group called the Popular Resistance Committees.
Hamas presented a list from the Health Ministry identifying women and children who died. The oldest was a 90-year-old man, while there were eight children aged 2 or under. The list has not been independently verified, but many of the names were already well known.
Twelve people were killed in Israel — mostly from rocket fire — and all but one were civilians.
As with previous rounds of fighting, the number of civilian deaths has become an issue of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that some 200 militants were killed but has not provided any evidence backing up the figures.
The International Criminal Court has launched an investigation into possible war crimes by both Hamas and Israel — including the possibility of disproportionate force by Israel and indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas.
Israeli officials say any civilian casualties are unintended and that the army takes great effort to avoid them. They accuse Hamas of putting civilians in danger by launching rockets from residential areas and inviting Israeli reprisals. They also note that Hamas rockets are fired indiscriminately toward Israeli population centers.
During the latest round of fighting, Israel said it targeted only Hamas’ military infrastructure and accused the group of taking shelter in residential areas and digging tunnels beneath houses. Some 1,000 buildings, including four high-rise towers, were destroyed, according to U.N. estimates. Israel says the buildings were either used as militant command centers or used to hide tunnels.
Sinwar denied the Israeli claims. “It is lying when it says there are military targets in these areas or under the ground,” he said.
One of the high-rise buildings hit by Israel housed The Associated Press’ offices in Gaza. Israel has said Hamas military intelligence used the building, though it has not publicly presented any evidence backing up the claim.
AP’s president and chief executive, Gary Pruitt, has said the agency had no indication of a Hamas presence in the building and was never warned of any possible presence. He has urged Israel to present its evidence and called for an independent investigation into the destruction of the building.
Sinwar, meanwhile, also denied Israeli claims that it had killed scores of militants in a late-night maneuver during the fighting.
On May 13, Israel scrambled forces along the Gaza border and told some media that it had launched a ground campaign in what reportedly was a ruse meant to send militants into hiding in the tunnels. Israel then heavily bombed the tunnel area, claiming to have inflicted heavy casualties.
Sinwar said Hamas recognized the “trick” and ordered militants to evacuate the tunnels. He said none of his fighters were killed. “This is a lie for which you should bring the occupation accountable,” he told foreign reporters.
He said, however, that 18 Hamas militants were killed in a tunnel several days earlier in a different part of Gaza. Their bodies were recovered after the cease-fire took effect, he said.
Hamas is an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction. It has fought four wars and numerous skirmishes against Israel since seizing control of the Gaza Strip from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in 2007.
The latest round of fighting was triggered by weeks of clashes in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. The protests were directed at Israel’s policing of the area during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinians by Jewish settlers in the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Hamas initiated the war by launching a barrage of long-range rockets toward Israel. Despite the heavy damage to Gaza, Sinwar said his group would never recognize Israel and was ready to fight again over Jerusalem.
“If the whole world doesn’t move to stop and put a limit to the actions of the occupation in Al-Aqsa mosque, Sheikh Jarrah and the holy city in general, it will be a reason to ignite a big religious war in the region,” he said.
Iran is enriching uranium at levels ‘only countries making bombs are reaching,’ UN’s nuclear watchdog warns
- The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog raised alarms about Iran’s uranium enrichment.
- Rafael Grossi told the Financial Times it’s at a level “only countries making bombs are reaching.”
- “You cannot put the genie back into the bottle,” Grossi warned.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Iran is enriching uranium up to purity levels that “only countries making bombs are reaching,” the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog warned in an interview with the Financial Times.
“A country enriching at 60% is a very serious thing — only countries making bombs are reaching this level,” Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the Times.
“Sixty percent is almost weapons grade, commercial enrichment is 2, 3 [percent],” Grossi said. “This is a degree that requires a vigilant eye.”
Under the 2015 nuclear deal, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to limit uranium enrichment to 3.67%.
Then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in May 2018, reimposing sanctions on Iran. The decision to pull out of the deal, combined with the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran, pushed tensions between Washington and Tehran to historic heights.
Iran remained in compliance with the deal until roughly a year after Trump withdrew, but then gradually began to take steps away from it.
After Trump in January 2020 ordered a drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, the Iranian government effectively abandoned the JCPOA altogether. The fallout from the dismantling of the deal and the Soleimani strike sparked fears of a new war in the Middle East, though both sides ultimately stepped back from a broader confrontation.
In April 2021, Iran announced it was enriching uranium up to 60%. Weapons-grade levels are close to 90%. Iran has also developed more advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium more rapidly.
“You cannot put the genie back into the bottle — once you know how to do stuff, you know, and the only way to check this is through verification,” Grossi told the Times. “The Iranian programme has grown, become more sophisticated so the linear return to 2015 is no longer possible. What you can do is keep their activities below the parameters of 2015.”
President Joe Biden has made reviving the JCPOA, which was negotiated when he was vice president in the Obama administration, a top priority. The JCPOA was designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in exchange for sanctions relief.
Iran has consistently said it doesn’t have ambitions of developing a nuclear weapon. But France, Germany, and the UK, all signatories of the JCPOA, last month said that Iran had “no credible civilian need for enrichment at this level.”
An annual threat assessment released by the US intelligence community last month, however, said that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that we judge would be necessary to produce a nuclear device.”
At the moment, US and Iranian diplomats are engaged in indirect talks in Vienna — with the help of European intermediaries — aimed at restoring the JCPOA. Iran has insisted that the US must lift sanctions before it fully returns to the deal. But the Biden administration has maintained it will not provide sanctions relief until Iran shows that it’s once again complying with the terms of the 2015 agreement.
The general aim of the Vienna talks is to reach an agreement that would see both countries return to compliance with the JCPOA simultaneously. Though disagreements remain, all the involved parties have said the talks have shown positive signs.
Iran this week agreed to a one-month extension of limited inspections of its nuclear activities by the IAEA, providing a boost to the Vienna talks. Negotiators in Vienna began a fifth and potentially final round of the talks on Tuesday.
The cost jumped $140 billion in just 2 years. Here’s why.By Kyle Mizokami MAY 26, 2021
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimate of nuclear weapon expenditures over the next decade has jumped a staggering $140 billion in just 2 years.
The estimate, which the agency provided to Congress to give an idea of how much it will take to build new missiles, ships, and planes, as well as revamp America’s vast nuclear infrastructure, comes as key members of the legislature are pushing to cut nuclear weapons spending over the next 10 years.
The CBO’s “Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces 2021 to 2030” report estimates spending on nuclear weapons between 2021 and 2030 will cost $634 billion. That’s 28 percent higher than in 2019, when the CBO last published an estimate for nuclear spending between 2019 and 2028. The agency says the bulk of the increase is due to inflation and the inclusion of new nuclear programs set to start between 2028 and 2030.
The Pentagon hasn’t spent much—relatively speaking, of course—on new nuclear weapons systems in the 30 years since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. operates just one intercontinental ballistic missile (the Minuteman III), 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines fitted with the Trident II D-5 missile, and a mixture of B-52 and B-2 bombers.
The Minuteman III dates to the 1970s, while the Ohio-class submarines launched in the 1980s, and the bombers are a mixture of 1960s and 1990s aircraft. With the possible exception of a stealth bomber or two, the Pentagon hasn’t built a major nuclear delivery system in the 21st century.
But the U.S.’s spending holiday on nukes is coming to a head. While the Pentagon has updated the three legs of the nuclear triad—ICBMs, submarines, and bombers—the branch has new versions of all three systems in the pipeline.
The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) missile is set to replace Minuteman III, the Columbia-class missile submarines will replace the older Ohio class, and the new B-21 Raider bomber will replace the B-2. The Pentagon also plans to introduce new nuclear-tipped aircraft and submarine-launched cruise missiles.
The B-21 Is the Coolest Plane We’ve Never Seen
The 2-year increase accounts for upgrades to nuclear weapons laboratories, fuel processing facilities, testing grounds, and other sites. Like the weapons inventories themselves, these sites have been passed over for funding as nuclear weapons have taken a backseat to counterterrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The CBO estimates it will cost approximately $142 billion to modernize these sites over 10 years.
The high cost of nuclear weapons is leading calls to cuts in nuclear modernization. The Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act, which Congress introduced this week, calls for cuts amounting to $78 billion.
The cuts include canceling the GBSD ballistic missile, Long Range Stand Off nuclear cruise missile, and the new submarine-launched nuclear-armed cruise missile. The SANE Act would also reduce the number of active warheads by 500 warheads to 1,000, limit nuclear warhead production, kill the modernization of other warheads, and retire the B83 nuclear gravity bomb, which is the largest warhead in the U.S. arsenal at 1.3 megatons (1,300,000 tons of TNT).
Does a Nuclear ‘Dyad’ Make More Sense?
In killing off a replacement for the Minuteman III, the SANE Act would effectively reduce the nuclear arsenal from a triad of land-based missiles, submarines, and bombers to a dyad of submarines and bombers.
This would save a lot of money in the long run (the total GBSD acquisition costs are an estimated $100 billion) but it could also increase technical risk, as a flaw found in the remaining nukes could suddenly sideline hundreds of weapons. How much risk is the U.S. willing to accept while Russia and China operate hundreds of nukes of their own?
MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian military said Tuesday it has deployed three nuclear-capable long-range bombers to its base in Syria, a move that could strengthen Moscow’s military foothold in the Mediterranean.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said that three Tu-22M3 bombers have arrived at the Hemeimeem air base, located in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia and the main hub for Moscow’s operations in the country.
The ministry said bomber crews would fly a series of training missions over the Mediterranean. The Tupolev Tu-22M3, code-named Backfire by NATO, is a supersonic twin-engine long-range bomber which is capable of carrying nuclear weapons and has a range exceeding 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles).
Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since September 2015, allowing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government to reclaim control over most of the country following a devastating civil war.
The Russian ministry said the runway at Hemeimeem had been extended to host the heavy bombers and a second runway has been modernized.
Russia also has expanded and modified a naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, the only such facility that Russia currently has outside the former Soviet Union.
As part of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to beef up Russia’s military amid tensions with the West, the Russian navy in recent years has revived the Soviet-era practice of constantly rotating its warships in the Mediterranean.
The bombers’ deployment marks the first time since Cold War times that Moscow has stationed heavy bombers in the region.
About 60 Tu-22M3s are estimated to remain in service with the Russian air force, and some have flown bombing missions to strike militants in Syria from their bases in Russia.
Russian media reports said that the Tu-22M3 could be modernized to carry the latest hypersonic missiles.
At least three rockets were fired last Monday towards the Iraqi military air base in Balad, just north of Baghdad, Iraqi security officials told AFP news agency. The base houses American company Sallyport, which maintains F-16 Iraqi aircraft purchased from the US. There were no casualties, the Pentagon said in a statement, although one foreign contractor working for Sallyport was injured. The attack comes less than 24 hours after two rockets targeted Iraq’s Baghdad airport base hosting US-led coalition troops. While no group has claimed responsibility for either attack, similar assaults have been perpetrated by Iranian-backed militia in the past, Reuters reports.
The strike marks the latest of over 30 rocket or bomb attacks on US interests in Iraq since President Joe Biden took office in January, adding to the dozens of similar attacks that were carried out during the Trump administration, according to a report from Al Jazeera. The targets of these attacks have ranged from US troops, Iraqi supply convoys, and the US embassy, resulting in the deaths of two foreign contractors, one Iraqi contractor, and eight Iraqi civilians this year alone. Although Washington has often blamed Iran-backed military factions based in Iraq for such attacks, they have yet to publicly identify whom they believe is responsible for the most recent rocket strikes. “We’re going to respect that,” said US Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby of the responsibility of the Iraqi authorities to investigate the matter independently.
Failure to deter or condemn such acts of violence sets a dangerous precedent. However, the attacks come at a delicate time for President Biden as he seeks to restart diplomatic negotiations with Tehran about re-entering the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement from which former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew as part of his “maximum pressure” campaign. The possibility of Iranian involvement in the continued rocket strikes raises questions about whether escalating tensions between the US and Iran may threaten the Biden administration’s agenda. According to a report from US News in March, Iran has rejected the prospect of a new deal until Biden lifts the crippling economic sanctions which Trump put in place upon pulling back from the accord. Meanwhile, Iran has continued to pursue uranium enrichment at levels which the State Department says clearly indicate the development of nuclear weapons.
Relations between the US and Iran have been especially strained since Trump ordered the drone strike in January 2020 that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who had been responsible for coordinating the militias in Iraq, as well as a prominent Iraqi commander of those forces. Revenge for the assassinations has fuelled the continued attacks on US interests in Iraq, though Biden’s response has been more conciliatory than his predecessor’s. A retaliatory airstrike in February by US forces on an Iranian-backed militia position in Syria was seen as a calculated attempt to deter the attacks without escalating tensions with Iran, notably taking place outside Iraq so as to avoid provoking the pro-Iranian militia there, US News reports.
Still, there have been calls from Iraqi lawmakers for the removal of US troops from the region. In a statement made after a similar rocket strike in March, the commander in chief of Iraq’s security forces stressed the importance of Iraq distancing itself from regional and international competitions for power. However, Iraq is in a particularly vulnerable position because of its joint dependence on the United States for support in its fight against ISIS and on Iran as its largest neighbour and trading partner. Although a non-binding resolution passed by the Iraqi Parliament in 2020 urged the expulsion of all foreign troops from Iraq, over 2,500 US troops remain in the country even after strategic talks between Baghdad and Washington over US military presence.
Escalating tensions between the US and Iran, then, not only place the likelihood of a nuclear agreement in jeopardy, but also pose a threat to security in Iraq, who has borne the brunt of the violence and damage caused by the Iranian attacks. It is critical that Biden’s attempts to move forward diplomatically involve Iraq and that talks with the Iraqi government over the removal of US troops continue alongside the push for revived negotiations with Iran if peace in the region is to be anything but a zero-sum game.
TEHRAN, May 24 (Xinhua) — Iran is still enriching uranium at the purity of 60, 20 and 5 percent, and it has already accumulated over 90 kg of 20-percent enriched uranium, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday.
The official made the statement after a telephone conversation held around noon with Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iranian official IRNA News Agency reported.
In the conversation, Salehi reportedly informed Grossi of Tehran’s decision to extend a temporary agreement regarding the IAEA’s monitoring of Iranian nuclear activities for one month until June 24.
According to a law passed by Iran’s parliament in December, the AEOI is required to accumulate 120 kg of 20-percent enriched uranium every year, Salehi noted.
Nevertheless, Iran is obliged under the 2015 nuclear agreement to limit its uranium enrichment to a 3.67 percent purity and to stockpile no more than 300 kg of the material.
Iran started gradually reducing its commitments to the agreement one year after former U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally took his country out of the deal in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
Iran’s reserves of 60-percent enriched uranium have by now exceeded 2.5 kg, and the 5-percent enriched uranium reserves are over 5 tonnes, Salehi added.
The three-month agreement between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog was reached right before a law passed in December 2020 by Iran’s parliament came into effect, which mandates Iran’s executive branch to stop implementing the IAEA’s Additional Protocol if sanctions on Iran that should be lifted under the 2015 nuclear agreement continue to be in place by Feb. 23.
Representatives from China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and Iran are expected to meet later this week in Vienna to continue negotiations aiming at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Enditem