Earthquakes in the northeast U.S. and southeast Canada are not as intense as those found in other parts of the world but can be felt over a much larger area. The reason for this is the makeup of the ground. In our part of the world, the ground is like a jigsaw puzzle that has been put together. If one piece shakes, the whole puzzle shakes.In the Western U.S., the ground is more like a puzzle that hasn’t been fully put together yet. One piece can shake violently, but only the the pieces next to it are affected while the rest of the puzzle doesn’t move.In Rochester, New York, the most recent earthquake was reported on March 29th, 2020. It was a 2.6 magnitude shake centered under Lake Ontario. While most did not feel it, there were 54 reports of the ground shaking.So next time you are wondering why the dishes rattled, or you thought you felt the ground move, it certainly could have been an earthquake in New York.Here is a website from the USGS (United Sates Geologic Society) of current earthquakes greater than 2.5 during the past day around the world. As you can see, the Earth is a geologically active planet!Another great website of earthquakes that have occurred locally can be found here.To learn more about the science behind earthquakes, check out this website from the USGS.
Russia’s Military Has a Super Weapon: Meet the Father of All Bombs
The Russian military operates one of the world’s largest and most diverse arsenals of thermobaric explosives—but just how much of a threat are these weapons, and how has the Kremlin used them in the past?
First, the basics. Thermobaric weapons are a type of explosive that consumes surrounding oxygen to create a high-temperature explosion within a wide blast radius. The blast wave generated by these explosives is longer and more intense than traditional bombs. Thermobaric weapons are widely considered to be among the most destructive non-nuclear explosives, and for good reason. The most common weapon of this type is the fuel-air explosive (FAE), a two-charge weapon that disperses and detonates a chemical cloud, creating a powerful blast wave that is particularly potent against fortified or otherwise enclosed positions like bunkers and foxholes.
Both the United States and the Soviet Union dabbled in thermobaric weapons from the 1960s onward. The U.S. military notably procured a slew of FAE bombs from the BLU and CBU families, some of which were used during the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, the USSR and its Russian successor found a wide range of uses of thermobaric systems. One of the most prominent entries in Russia’s thermobaric roster is the TOS-1multiple launch rocket system and its modernized TOS-1A/TOS-2 variants. With up to thirty missile tubes that can be salvo launched in around fifteen seconds, TOS-1 batteries can cause a staggering degree of destruction within a short time span. These weapons were first used in the latter years of the Soviet-Aghan War, though the full extent of their destructive potential was revealed during the Second Chechen War. Determined not to repeat the costly mistakes of the First Chechen War, Russian heavy artillery and rocket batteries, partly consisting of TOS-1 units and RPO-A Shmel rocket launchers with thermobaric warheads, leveled large swathes of the Chechen capital Grozny to pound the rebels into submission. More recently, international organizations have alleged that TOS-1M’s, presumably supplied by the Kremlin, were being operated by Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
Russia’s defense industry has developed thermobaric warheads for many of its rocket launchers and anti-tank guided missile systems, including the 9M123 Khrizantema, RPG-26, and 9M133 Kornet. These weapons have been employed in conflicts around the world, particularly over the course of Russia’s military intervention into the Syrian Civil War. One of Russia’s latest short-range ballistic missile systems, the Iskander-M, is compatible with thermobaric warheads. Several variants in the prolific KAB family of guided bombs come with thermobaric warheads, as does the S-8 rocket and several other types of Russian air-launched munitions.
By far the most famous and controversial thermobaric weapon is Russia’s Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power, also known as the Father of All Bombs (FOAB). If Russia’s reported specifications are true, then the FOAB, which has a payload equivalent to forty-four tons of TNT and blast radius of roughly three hundred meters, would be the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the world, with destructive potential close to that of a tactical nuke. The FOAB was tested in Syria for the time in 2017. Some military observers have cast doubt on the bomb’s capabilities and technical nature, which remain unconfirmed at this point.
Russia’s military has invested relentlessly into thermobaric weapons since the Soviet collapse, and there is no indication that this long-standing trend will change anytime soon. In addition to being thoroughly represented throughout Russia’s ground forces and air-launched arsenal, many of these systems have seen marked export success in past years.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.
Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers say, “This war will last forever”
The Iranian regime has reportedly begun to restock its Islamist proxy in the Gaza Strip – Hamas, which entirely controls the enclave – with the resources to produce thousands of new rockets, according to a report on Tehran state TV.
In the recent 11-day conflict, which ended last month and for which a fragile Egyptian-brokered ceasefire still holds, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired more than 4,300 rockets toward Israel’s population centers. For nearly two weeks, Israel’s citizens were forced to sporadically seek refuge in bomb shelters as terrorists fired rockets indiscriminately.
“With the end of the Israeli regime’s latest aggression, the Palestinian resistance has resumed the process of rocket production,” Fathi Hamad, a member of Hamas’ politburo, was quoted as saying over the Memorial Day weekend by Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency, reported The Washington Free BeaconI.
Hamas’ leaders also warned that despite the current period of calm, “This war will last forever,” which seems entirely in keeping with the organization’s charter.
The statement seemed to show that despite the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) claim that it destroyed dozens of kilometers of attack and smuggling tunnels, much of the terrorist network remains intact.
Both Iranian and Hamas military leaders talked up the effects of the recent conflict, with variations on a theme that the Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers surprised Israel with their weaponry and that they will eventually be victorious.
TEL AVIV, May 17. /TASS/. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) planes and drones hit five houses of Hamas movement commanders in the Gaza Strip, used as military headquarters, the IDF press service said Monday.
“The jets and drones attacks five houses of Hamas commanders across the entire Gaza Strip. The attacked houses were used as terrorist headquarters,” the Israeli military said. “The IDF attacks terrorist targets across the entire Gaza Strip and acts with all necessary force.”
The missile exchange between the IDF and Gaza militias has continued since May 10. According to the latest reports, at least 10 Israelis were killed and hundreds were injured, while over 200 Palestinians died and over 1,300 were injured.
Iran has failed to explain traces of uranium found at several undeclared sites, a report by the UN nuclear watchdog showed on Monday (31 May), possibly setting up a fresh diplomatic clash between Tehran and the West that could derail wider nuclear talks, writes Francois Murphy.
Three months ago Britain, France and Germany scrapped a US-backed planfor the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors to criticize Iran for failing to fully explain the origin of the particles; the three backed off as IAEA chief Rafael Grossi announced fresh talks with Iran.
“After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles at any of the three locations where the Agency has conducted complementary accesses (inspections),” a report by Grossi to member states seen by Reuters said.
It will now be up to the three European powers to decide whether to revive their push for a resolution criticising Iran, which could undermine wider negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal at talks currently under way in Vienna. Grossi had hoped to report progress before the board meets again next week.
“The Director General is concerned that the technical discussions between the Agency and Iran have not yielded the expected results,” the report said.
“The lack of progress in clarifying the Agency’s questions concerning the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations seriously affects the ability of the Agency to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme,” it added.
In a separate quarterly report also sent to member states on Monday and seen by Reuters, the agency gave an indication of the damage done to Iran’s production of enriched uranium by an explosion and power cut at its Natanz site last month that Tehran has blamed on Israel.
Iran’s quarterly increase in its stock of enriched uranium was the lowest since August 2019 at just 273 kg, bringing the total to 3,241 kg, according to an IAEA estimate. It was not able to fully verify the stock because Iran has downgraded cooperation.
That total is many times the 202.8 kg limit set by the nuclear deal, but still well below the more than six tonnes Iran possessed before the deal.
At Iran’s main enrichment plant, which is underground at Natanz, the agency verified on May 24 that 20 cascades, or clusters, of different types of centrifuges were being fed with uranium hexafluoride feedstock for enrichment. A senior diplomat said that before the explosion that figure was 35-37.
After Washington pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018 under President Donald Trump and re-imposed crippling economic sanctions against Tehran, Iran began breaching the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities as of 2019.
One of its more recent breaches, enriching uranium to 60%, a big step towards weapons-grade from the 20% it had previously reached and the deal’s 3.67% limit, continued. The IAEA estimated that Iran had produced 2.4 kg of uranium enriched to that level and 62.8 kg of uranium enriched to up to 20%.
Iran’s production of experimental quantities of uranium metal, which is prohibited under the deal and has prompted protests by Western powers because of its potential use in the core of nuclear weapons, also continued. Iran produced 2.42 kg, the IAEA reported, up from 3.6 grams three months ago.
The Iranian authorities have attempted to cover up evidence regarding the scale of the 1988 massacre. Persons who are familiar with the incident have estimated that the overall death toll was around 30,000, mainly activists of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK), the main Iranian opposition movement. The identities and final resting places may never be known for some of these victims, as the Iranian regime has already completed plans at other sites much like those which are now pending in Khavaran. The activists involved in the Thursday gathering were relatives of the MEK victims in the 1988 massacre.
Very weak Iraqi Prime Minister and Commander in Chief Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is under immense pressure from forces under his command — well, under his command on paper. These forces fall into that category in name only; they are loyal to Tehran in their words and actions and they are free to do whatever they want in Iraq. They are killing protesters, attacking the US mission, and attacking Saudi Arabia and Israel with impunity. Their actions are now reaching boiling point. This force is the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), also known as Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi. The Hashd is a grouping of militias under the umbrella command of Vilayat-e Faqih loyalists Hadi Al-Amiri and Abu Fadak. They have rockets, missiles and drones supplied by Iran and have built weapons factories to arm the resistance and attack US allies in the region. Who is Al-Amiri? He is the commander of the Badr Corps, commander of the Hashd and leader of the Fatah Alliance — the largest voting bloc in the Iraqi Council of Representatives. This is his latest statement and it is alarming that this man, with so much power and who is answerable to the prime minister, can openly threaten Al-Kadhimi and do so without consequence. He said: “PM Kadhimi monopolizes power & is a dictator. The illegal arrest of PMF commander yesterday shows he wants to hurt the respect for PMF & the nation.” Al-Amiri’s statement was made following last week’s detention of Qassim Musleh. Musleh is the leader of a militia responsible for conducting attacks against Iraqis and the US mission in Iraq. Multiple reports indicate Musleh has been released to Al-Amiri and Fadak after militias surrounded Al-Kadhimi’s office and demanded he be turned over to the Hashd command. Who is Fadak? He replaced the designated terrorist killed alongside Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, in a US drone strike in January last year. That man killed alongside Soleimani was Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, the commander of Kata’ib Hezbollah and deputy commander of the Hashd. Fadak, who is also now a designated terrorist, succeeded Al-Muhandis in both roles. Iran’s premier proxies dominate the Hashd command and control 100,000 militiamen. They use visible force and threats to insist Al-Kadhimi does what they say — and does so always. As long as they continue to have primacy, every future prime minister will also do what they say. Al-Kadhimi is powerless to say no to Tehran’s proxies. Not only are these loyal proxies powerful, they control the Council of Representatives. Isn’t that crazy? Iran’s Iraqi militias in the Fatah Alliance formed the largest voting bloc by allying with former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition to form the Al-Bina’a group. The members of this alliance are so brazen in their power and control of Baghdad that they wear suits when voting to condemn the US and call for its expulsion from Iraq, and fatigues when killing Iraqis and attacking American positions. Iran’s militias have primacy over Iraq’s legislative body and its internal security. These militias operate with impunity and kill Iraqis through the placement of Fatah and Badr operatives in the security ministries. The security ministries stand down or facilitate militia attacks, while officials in Baghdad delay any response and attempt to obfuscate the Hashd’s role in these attacks. The cancer that is ensuring Iraq’s future looks like the chaos in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen is spreading. It is the major threat to Iraqis, the US mission in Iraq and US allies in the region. It does Iran’s bidding and is helping Tehran get all it can from the Biden administration in Vienna, where talks to lift US sanctions on Iran as part of the nuclear deal are ongoing. The Hashd, not Daesh, is the biggest threat to Iraq’s security, economy and sovereignty. This protected group owns the Iraqi government, even while being opposed by 80 percent of the Iraqi population. This is how Kata’ib Hezbollah, Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq and Badr openly threaten the prime minister and the US mission in Iraq. This is how they kill Iraqis with impunity. What can Al-Kadhimi do? Firstly, he can admit he has no sway over the militias and maybe come clean that he is, more often than not, like-minded with them. After all, the militias had to approve Al-Kadhimi for the position of interim prime minister. We must remember that Esmail Ghaani of the Quds Force and Hassan Nasrallah of the Lebanese Hezbollah both urged Muqtada Al-Sadr and Fadak to get onboard with a nominee that would be no threat to the Iranian proxy network in Iraq. To date, Al-Kadhimi has not disappointed. Well, maybe for the occasional 24 to 48 hours of political theater that, in each case, amplifies and demonstrates the hold the militias have on the government of Iraq. With each release of a militia leader and concession, the militias grow more violent and powerful. With each release and concession, Al-Kadhimi puts good men in the special operations forces in danger of being killed by the militiamen that have saturated the Iraqi security services. The US cannot share intelligence with the Iraqi government without tipping off the militias due to this infiltration. Washington continues to deny Iran’s influence through the Badr Corps’ hold on the Iraqi security ministries, and it continues to state that Baghdad is a partner against the militias. The only way to save Iraqis is for the US to stop supporting Baghdad and begin supporting Iraqis. A statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price, stating that the US continues to support the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government, is at odds with reality. The US cannot continue to support a government that is killing its people — American law does not allow it. That is why the US Department of Defense and State Department continue to blame these killings and attacks on “rogue militias.” Kata’ib Hezbollah, Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq and Badr are not rogue militias outside government control: They are the militias controlling the government through intimidation, alliances and threats. They do so with Iran’s Quds Force standing right behind them.
The cancer that is ensuring Iraq’s future looks like the chaos in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen is spreading.
The US must acknowledge that it has all the leverage in Iraq and with Iran. Iran needs Iraq to stay in good economic favor in order to reap the benefits of its penetration and dominance of Baghdad’s political, military and economic sectors. Iran needs the US to lift sanctions for the regime to survive. It is giving the US all the evidence in its actions that American sanctions are strangling Tehran and that Iraq is a lifeline for the regime: A lifeline the US can cut off with simple and effective Treasury Department designations. The US should increase sanctions on Iran and enforce them. It should also sanction Al-Maliki for human rights violations, along with Al-Amiri and Badr for facilitating attacks against Iraqis, the US mission in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Nothing happens in Iraq without Al-Amiri’s knowledge or his facilitation thanks to his role as the owner of the space where Iran’s militias operate and conduct attacks. The Pentagon leaked last week that it is preparing strikes on militia targets for President Joe Biden’s approval as a warning to the militias. The only way to get their attention is to target them without warning and in Iraq. The tactic of targeting empty bases in Syria is not a deterrent. A combination of sanctions, designations and targeted attacks is the perfect balance. This is the only message Tehran and its proxies understand. Iran does not care if the US targets its Arab proxies in Iraq — it only cares if its proxies in Iraq realize this.
Michael Pregent, a former intelligence officer, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
Taking a leaf out of the barbaric history of the US-crafted nuclear holocaust, in a show of power, India and Pakistan tested nuclear bombs, spending billions to nurture hostilities while leaving people lurching in abject poverty.
03 Jun 2021
On May 11, 1998, India conducted three nuclear bomb explosions in Pokhran, followed by two more explosions on May 13. Operation Shakti was a success. In response to Indian jingoism, on a sizzling sweltering May 28, Pakistan successfully conducted five nuclear tests at Chagai, followed by another in the Kharan desert on May 30. The war mania that followed the tests led to frenzied celebrations among the middle class on either side of the divide.
In a paper on “The Cost of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia”, Peter Lavoy, the former director for Counterproliferation Policy in the United States, wrote: “New Delhi and Islamabad refuse to reveal what they spend on nuclear weapons or delivery systems. Based on likely labour, facility, and material costs, however, one can estimate that each state has allocated more than $1 billion to design and manufacture a small number of nuclear-capable missiles (Prithvi and Agni for India and Ghauri and Shaheen for Pakistan). Each side is likely to have spent five times that figure for the production of fissile materials and manufacture of a few weapons.”
Massive international sanctions were the first outcome of the explosions. The then Pakistani prime minister, while congratulating the people of Pakistan, froze their foreign currency accounts to retire the growing foreign debt. It became one of the biggest scams of history and “led to brutal economic nuisance both internally and externally. The stock market crashed because the investors lost their confidence,” The Economist commented in its August 1998 edition. It went on: “After the euphoria of its nuclear tests, Pakistan faces [faced] economic collapse and political bankruptcy.” So, the bombs had fallen directly upon the people; they were the mutations.
For India, nuclear explosions were necessary to meet the “Sino-Pak threat”. For Pakistan, “it was a suitable reply to India”. Both states submitted themselves to “the peaceful production of the means of destruction”, which, as Herbert Marcuse warned, “deforms the defenders and that which they defend”. How could destruction be an alternative to peace? The ordinary peaceful Japanese citizens suffered the brunt of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not the ruling class who lived in Tokyo. And those who congratulated people on procuring lethal bombs knew that history precisely but acted indifferently.
Barring the United Kingdom, France, and Russia, the western condemnation of India after Pokhran was unequivocal. Yet, inwardly, they smiled at the obscenity and vulgar narcissism of a show of power by two poverty-ridden states. The nuclear race, like any race for ammunition, suited their long-term hegemonic interests. The end of the Cold War necessitated the realisation of capital through a nuclear war or at least a nuclear arms race in the periphery. Who could have gratified their destructive instinct better than the ruling class of India and Pakistan, where fear and phobia are ingrained deeply in the psyche of the middle class? But where is their enemy? Over a billion people live in India and Pakistan, the majority devoid of basic amenities, yet their governments foster enmities and hostilities across an imaginary line drawn by Cyril Radcliffe.
Much before the COVID-19 crisis, the Indian government admitted 22% of its population lives below the poverty line, which has many definitions but no consensus. Nearly one-sixth of total diabetics belong to India. A large number die of preventable diseases that the West has eradicated. Tuberculosis, the poor man’s disease, is still the biggest threat to life in India and Pakistan.
In Pakistan, according to the Asian Development Bank, 24.3% of the population lived below the national poverty line in 2015, while 38.8% of the national population was poor based on the multidimensional poverty index. For every 1,000 babies born in Pakistan, 67 died before their fifth birthday. The picture of the debt-to-GDP ratio of 76.73% is equally dismal. The external debt stands at around $105 billion (2019). Pakistan spends 4% of its GDP on the military, making it the ninth-highest military spending country (just below Israel at 4.3%) and 2.6% on health, a highly overestimated if not altogether fictional figure.
What changes the nuclear options have brought in the destiny of the people of Pakistan remains the existential question. If the whole idea behind the exercise was a reduction in the military expenses, it backfired, and if it was meant to strengthen defence against Indian aggression, things have not really turned out as expected.
“External policy”, for Max Horkheimer, is “the continuation of the internal policy”, and internally, the establishment became more active and coercive. According to Human Rights Watch, the American invasion of Afghanistan spurred former president Gen Pervez Musharraf to arrest several alleged terror suspects who later went missing. An inquiry commission to investigate the ‘forced disappearances’ has so far received 3,000 such instances. (See Amnesty International, 2016). Emboldened by US backing, Musharraf allegedly went on a killing spree. Akbar Bugti, a former conformist and ex-governor of Balochistan, was assassinated after “months of failed attempts” by the armed forces to capture him in his hometown. “The army’s bombing of Dera Bugti resulted in indiscriminate killing and displacement of 1,60,000 people in the region,” journalist Rosheena Zehra wrote in The Quint in August 2017. Bugti, Brutus of his people, became a symbol of Baloch resistance.
Another spontaneous movement led by the students from the northwest, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), spread like wildfire. It blamed the Army for the destruction of the region and supporting Taliban-led terrorism. The state crackdown was immediate. In recent days, one of its prominent leaders, Arif Wazir, was murdered brutally. The incident was ignored by the media and the State did not condemn it either. He was the 18th identically-assassinated member of his family.
At around this time, the body of a Baloch dissident was found in a canal in Uppsala, Sweden. Later, another body of a female Baloch dissident was found in Toronto. A 2011 report in the New York Times had presaged that Inter-Services Intelligence spies have approached academics and journalists in the United States and threatened them not to speak about the insurgency in Baluchistan or human rights abuses by the Pakistani Army.
History has proven that armies that fight wars against their people invariably end up losers. The invitation to graze while fighting a thousand-year war to save one’s faith sounds neither romantic nor pragmatic. It is doctors, engineers and workers of the world who signify the life unvanquished, not those who make the nukes that destroy humanity.
“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in,” wrote Leonard Cohen. Is COVID-19 the crack from where the light will enter the India-Pakistan divide, lead their people to fight the inhuman system of capitalism and live-in peace?
The author is an Australian Pakistani writer, columnist and academic associated with Western Sydney University. The views are personal.