It was around 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16, that the 2.1 magnitude earthquake was recorded. It was a shake-up that took place in northeast Summerville, neighboring the Berkley and Dorchester county border, and largely went unnoticed by locals.
Generally earthquakes that are less than a magnitude 3.0 are not felt, explained Mario Formisano, Dorchester County Director of Emergency Management.
However, there have been approximately 50 reports of residents who said they felt its effects, according to the United States Geological Survey. Still, there remains no reports of injury or damage.
The very nature of earthquakes are completely unpredictable, which is why members of the Dorchester County Emergency Management Department have exercised earthquake preparedness scenarios multiple times throughout the past decade.
Formisano said that because of the counties positioning along the seismic zone, a mitigation plan has been put in place, identifying earthquakes as a major natural hazard for the area. This plan outlines mitigation strategies developed to reduce impacts in the case of a more severe quake.
Though records indicate that the last several earthquakes have registered at magnitudes low enough for there to be little to no impact, the area is not unaccustomed to facing a quake of larger volume.
With a magnitude of 7.3, the historical Charleston earthquake of 1886 led to economic losses of approximately $23 million dollars and at least 60 deaths all within the first moments of its impact, according to a report by the USGS.
Additionally, within 10 minutes, the effects of the quake were reported to have been experienced in places as far away as New York, Missouri and Illinois.
Over the next 30 years, the USGS reported that more than 400 aftershocks were felt in the surrounding Charleston area, contributing to additional wreckage.
“The risk has and will always exist for a major earthquake in our area,” Formaisano said. “That combined with the unpredictability of earthquakes is a reminder for residents and business to always be prepared.”
Within one month two stories of illegal possession and sale of uranium being caught by Indian police have surfaced. Of course, any attempt to smuggle radioactive material must be a cause for concern and Pakistan should report these to the IAEA and question why these incidents have not been recorded in the IAEA’s Incident Trafficking DataBase (ITDB) – because the last one checked they were not there. However, it is not just these particular instances in themselves that should have aroused Pakistan’s and, in fact, the international community’s concern.
What should also be of concern is the fact that this incident is simply one more in a history of nuclear materials going missing or attempting to be smuggled out of India. Unfortunately, the international community has chosen to remain silent on India’s nuclear transgressions, of which there have been many. The fast pace and largely indigenous inputs into its nuclear facilities created safety issues from the start.
According to an Indian parliamentary report, 147 mishaps or safety-related unusual occurrences were reported between 1995 and 1998 in Indian atomic energy plants. Of these, 28 were of an acute nature and 9 of these 28 occurred in the nuclear power installations. In a paper presented at the IDSA, New Delhi, on October 10, 1988, Leventhal and Chellaney pointed to structural design and operational problems that were troubling India at that time.
In the context of nuclear material theft, reports emerged of uranium theft on August 27, 2001 – when police in West Bengal revealed that they had arrested two men with more than 200 grams of semi-processed uranium. According to Indian press reports, Indian intelligence officials believed that a uranium smuggling gang was operating in West Bengal. While reports of Indian involvement in the theft of nuclear fissile material date back to the early 1970s, the magnitude of the threat increased manifold in the 1980s and 1990s. In the late 1980s, the CIA had concluded that India was trying to develop a sophisticated Hydrogen bomb. In 1994, on a tip-off, a shipment of beryllium was caught in Vilnius, worth $24 million. The buyer was thought to be either from India or North Korea – though the shipment was caught before it could reach the buyer.
In July 1998, India’s Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBI) unearthed a major racket in the theft of uranium in Tamil Nadu, with the seizure of over 8 kg of the nuclear material in granule form and the arrest of three men. The contents of this theft were sent to the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) for preliminary analysis and the Centre declared that there were two kinds of substances found in what they said was 6 kg of uranium – natural uranium (U237and U238) and U 235, which is weapons grade uranium.
The investigations also led to cases of further seizure of uranium on July 31, 1998 – of 31 grams in addition to 2 kg, caught from another accomplice of the two engineers. The approximate abundance of uranium U235 in the samples indicated a 1.40 percent and 2.20 percent of enrichment. This showed that the uranium was neither an ore of uranium nor depleted uranium, but had its existence in an atomic research centre. Meanwhile, the director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research denied the possibility that the uranium could have come from the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam near Chennai. However, later, when the CBI vowed to go ahead with the investigation, MAPS stated that the substance caught was not uranium but limenite – a non-strategic substance with ordinary applications.
The shift in the stance of the research centre, from their initial report of a relatively high level of uranium enrichment to its total absence in the substance, caused a considerable problem for the prosecutors as they could not pursue charges against the persons. Later, as a result of this lead, the CBI seized 2 more kilograms of uranium and 31kg of platinum. However, due to the change of statement by the atomic research centre, the case was buried.
Again, on May 1, 2000, Mumbai police seized 8.3 kgs of uranium. The uranium was termed as depleted but radioactive uranium by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). In this instance, the source of this uranium theft – as cited by the police – had been a local hospital, the Lilavati Hospital, in Bandra. The fissile material had been found in the custody of scrap dealers who were caught and charged under the Atomic Energy Act. However, the Lilavati Hospital authorities maintained that no fissile material/uranium was missing from the hospital. The consistent denial by the hospital authorities and the fact that no material was found missing from the hospital equipment indicated that the source of the material was not the hospital. All radioactive materials from the Indian hospitals are technically accounted for and are to be returned to the relevant nuclear research centre. So how could it have found its way to the scrap dealers?
When the stolen material was sent for further analysis to establish the exact nature of the radioactive substance, BARC stated that the material found was primarily a shielding material used as counterweight in aircrafts and had no relevance to nuclear weapons technology. Despite the fact that the material was radioactive and could pose health hazards, K S Parsatarathy, the secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) stated that the 8.3 kg material seized contained merely two percent of uranium U235, which made the material depleted, having a zero weapon value.
The incident might have been an exception, but on November 5, 2000, the CBI recovered 25 kg of radioactive uranium from a person in the Bibi Cancer Hospital – the material was to be returned back to BARC. The person singled out in this case of uranium seizure was also a scrap dealer. According to the scrap dealer, he had bought a machine from the hospital as scrap and was, therefore, the natural owner of the radioactive substance found in the machine. Yet, according to the restrictions imposed on hospitals by BARC they are not allowed to sell radioactive materials to scrap dealers and the hospital had stated that the material was accounted for. The material once again, according to BARC, was depleted uranium. In this case, as in the earlier case, the Bibi Cancer Hospital in its initial statement denied the charges levelled against the hospital but later the hospital withdrew from its earlier stance and admitted that it had sold parts of the machine. Interestingly, the Bibi Cancer Hospital’s record did not show the use of any such machine that used uranium as a radioactive substance.
On November 13, 2000, the IAEA reported that the Indian police seized three uranium rods and arrested eight persons on charges of illicit trafficking of nuclear material. The critical question here is: where did the rods come from? The suspicion was that the civil nuclear facilities were vulnerable to such thefts. Again, on November 7, 2000, according to the IAEA, the Indian police seized 57 pounds of uranium and arrested two men on charges of illicit trafficking of radioactive material. Once again, the radioactive material was traced back to a nearby hospital, which denied any reports of missing uranium from its stocks. The fact that the seized radioactive material had been found in the form of three uranium rods reflects the possibility that the origin of these rods may be from a civilian nuclear power plant, or from one of the rapidly expanding Indian nuclear research facilities – rather than from a hospital.
While reviewing the various cases of uranium theft in India, certain disturbing questions arise as to how and why, in most cases, the uranium was found in the hands of scrap dealers. Why were charges not leveled against those found in possession of the radioactive material? Why, in a number of cases, did the hospitals change their position on the thefts? Who are the potential buyers for the scrapped radioactive material in India, and is the material intended for internal or international buyers? In fact, one can legitimately wonder whether there is a nuclear mafia present in India. Equally of concern are the issues raised about the security of the Indian nuclear facilities, including their research facilities.
When one puts all the reported theft cases together, some patterns can be discerned. Most of the accused have been scrap dealers who are obviously used as front men, which may well indicate the prevalence of organised crime relating to nuclear materials. Again, in almost all the cases, the charges were dropped against those found in possession of the material, and in most of the cases the initial assessments of the material were later altered. The source of origin, in most cases, as stated by the police, have been cancer hospitals – although the nature and quality of the uranium found in the use of the hospitals has differed from case to case. But in all the cases involving hospitals, the latter have denied any material going missing or being stolen. In any case, the amounts supposedly stolen from hospitals are far more than the normal requirements of these hospitals.
So, the focus has to shift to Indian nuclear facilities and the whole issue of their safety – especially in relation to theft and nuclear terrorism. This, in turn, raises concerns about the employees of these facilities and their links to possible mafias. Also, the whole issue of safety of transportation of nuclear materials from the mining stages to the spent fuel storage becomes critical in the dynamics of nuclear theft and technical safety of the facilities. While the rising incidents of nuclear theft create the possibility for a lucrative underground market for potential terrorists, unsafe nuclear facilities create risks for the surrounding populace – which has to live in constant terror of a nuclear accident.
To be continued
Data for some of this paper has been derived from a Monograph co-authored by Mazari & Sultan, entitled ‘Nuclear Safety & Terrorism: A Case Study of India’, for the ISSI. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
The Gaza tower block housing news outlets destroyed in an Israeli strike
Israel says a media building destroyed by one of its air strikes in the recent Gaza conflict was being used by the Hamas militant group to try to jam its Iron Dome missile defence system.
The Jala Tower housed the offices of Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera.
AP news agency said it had not seen evidence to support Israeli allegations that militants were operating there.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, denied it had offices in the building and called its destruction “a scheming war crime”.
“The Israeli occupation’s repeated lies about the presence of Hamas offices in Jala Tower is a failed attempt to justify its crime by targeting a civilian tower that houses media offices and international television channels,” spokesman Hazem Qassem told the BBC.
The recent conflict began after weeks of spiralling Israeli-Palestinian tension in occupied East Jerusalem which culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews.
Hamas began firing rockets into Israel after warning it to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory air strikes from Israel on Gaza targets.
At least 256 people were killed in Gaza, according to the UN, and 13 people were killed in Israel during 11 days of fierce fighting before a ceasefire was agreed on 21 May.
The UN said at least 128 of those killed in Gaza were civilians. Israel’s military said 200 were militants; Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, put the number of fighters killed at 80.
‘Full release of evidence’
Following the attack on the tower block on 15 May, both AP and Al Jazeera demanded an explanation from the Israeli government.
Israel’s envoy to the UN and ambassador to the US, Gilad Erdan, travelled to AP’s offices in New York on Monday and the Israel Defense Forces also released a statement on Tuesday.
Mr Erdan told executives of the US news agency that the building housing its Gaza operation was being used by Hamas to develop an electronic jamming system against the Iron Dome.
He said Israel did not suspect AP employees “were aware a covert Hamas unit was using the building in this way”.
Mr Erdan said Israel “upholds the importance of press freedom,” adding: “Israel is willing to assist AP in rebuilding its offices and operations in Gaza.”
EPAIsrael has said it will help AP rebuild its operations in Gaza
The IDF statement said Hamas was using the building to carry out Sigint (signals intelligence), Elint (electronic signals intelligence), and EW (electronic warfare) operations.
More than 4,300 rockets were fired towards Israel from Gaza during the conflict, 680 of which fell short and landed in Gaza, according to the IDF. It says the Iron Dome intercepted about 90% of the rockets that crossed into Israeli territory and were headed for populated areas.
Associated Press told Haaretz it welcomed the meeting with Mr Erdan and the rebuilding offer, but added: “Israeli authorities maintain that the building housing our bureau was destroyed because of a Hamas presence that posed an urgent threat. We have yet to receive evidence to support these claims.
“AP continues to call for the full release of any evidence the Israelis have so that the facts are public.”
Shortly after the air strike, Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor, said it had had offices in the building for 15 years and had never had any indication that Hamas might be there.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera strongly condemned the attack and said it would do all it could to “hold the Israeli government responsible for its actions”.
It condemned what it called a “clear act to stop journalists from conducting their sacred duty to inform the world and report events on the ground”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was among those calling for an explanation.
Israel gave an hour’s prior warning of the air strike on the 12-storey block, allowing evacuation.
The ceasefire in the region has since held, and the UN Human Rights Council has voted to investigate the violence, a move welcomed by the Palestinians.
But Israel said the move showed an “anti-Israel obsession” and the US said it would endanger progress in bringing calm to the region.
In a letter to the president, exclusively obtained by Fox News, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mike Rogers, House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul, , and House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes, outlined the threat.
“We write to you today concerning the growing threat posed by the rapid Chinese nuclear build-up, as well as the unwillingness of the Chinese Communist Party to engage with the United States in good faith arms control negotiations,” Rogers, McCaul and Nunes wrote.
The members pointed to recent testimony from Admiral Charles Richard, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, who said China has “moved a portion of its nuclear force to a Launch on Warning posture and has a nuclear weapons stockpile that is expected to at least double, if not triple, or quadruple, over the next decade.”
“Based on most opensource estimates, to include those produced by the Department of Defense, this could bring the size of the deployed Chinese nuclear deterrent to approximately 1,000 warheads by 2030,” they wrote.
The members went on to point to the Annual Threat Assessment presented to Congress by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines earlier this year, which stated that China is “fielding a full Cold War-style triad of nuclear assets—intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-armed bombers and submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles.”
“China’s ballistic missile arsenal is ‘more survivable, more diverse, and on higher alert than in the past, including nuclear missile systems designed to manage regional escalation and ensure an intercontinental second-strike capability,’” they wrote, adding that, “combined, these statements by Admiral Richard and Director Haines mean that China is likely to reach a degree of nuclear parity with the United States by the end of the decade.”
But Republicans said that China, since the Trump administration, “refused to participate in good faith arms control negotiations, either bilaterally or trilaterally.”
“As you are aware, Article VI of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), requires nuclear weapons states to participate in ‘good faith’ negotiations on arms reductions,” they wrote. “Despite China being a party to the NPT, it has not only consistently refused to negotiate in ‘good faith’ but has refused to negotiate at all.”
Republicans added: “We are left to reach no other conclusion that China is in violation of Article VI of the NPT.”
Rogers, McCaul and Nunes went on to request that the president provide “a comprehensive interagency strategy” for getting China to enter “meaningful arms control negotiations, either bilaterally or trilaterally,” while arguing that the strategy should include “the full use of our diplomatic, military, intelligence, and sanctions toolbox to bring them to the table.”
Republicans also urged Biden to provide a “determination as to whether or not China is acting inconsistent” with the NPT, and provide any “underlying intelligence indicative of China’s willingness to enter into good faith arms control negotiations as required by the treaty.”
They also called for an “updated comprehensive unclassified IC assessment of Russian and Chinese nuclear modernization trends,” also including updates to any Russian and Chinese “chemical and biological weapons programs.”
“Over the last decade the threat environment has worsened and become more complicated,” they wrote. “As I’m sure you agree, the time to arrest China’s build-up is now, not after they deploy new delivery systems and materially expand the size of their stockpile.”
They added: “Additionally, the need to continue to modernize the U.S. deterrent is vital to our efforts to deter both Russia and China.”
The letter to the president comes after Haines’ unclassified annual report of worldwide threats noted that China is expected to continue building on its military, and “potentially destabilizing international norms and relationships,” while also continuing “the most rapid expansion and platform diversification of its nuclear arsenal in its history.”
The report says China intends to “at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile during the next decade and to field a nuclear triad.”
Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has warned that China “has rapidly become more assertive” and “is the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.”
In new national security guidance released by the White House in March, the administration discussed the “existential threat” posed by nuclear weapons, saying the U.S. goal is to “reestablish our credibility as a leader in arms control.” The national security guidance said that the U.S. is prepared to engage in “meaningful dialogue with Russia and China on a range of emerging military technological developments that implicate strategic stability.”
With regard to the military threat China – and Russia – poses, the guidance says the Biden administration will ensure that the U.S. armed forces “remain the best trained and equipped force in the world.”
The guidance said the Biden administration would assess the structure, capabilities and sizing of the forces and work with Congress to free up resources for investments in technologies and capabilities that “will determine our military and national security advantage in the future.”
“Taken together, this agenda will strengthen our enduring advantages, and allow us to prevail in strategic competition with China or any other nation,” the guidance said, adding that the “most effective way” for the U.S. to “out-compete” China is “to invest in our people our economy, and our democracy.”
In a fresh report, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) detailed how the world’s nine nuclear-armed states continued to swell their spending on such weapons.
“While hospital beds filled up with patients, doctors and nurses worked over hours and basic medical supplies ran scarce, nine countries found they had more than $72 billion on hand for their weapons of mass destruction,” the report said.
The United States spent more than half of the total amount, at $37.4 billion, accounting for roughly five percent of its total military spending last year, according to the report.
China was believed to have spent some $10 billion, and Russia $8.0 billion, according to ICAN’s estimates.
$137,000 every minute
When taken jointly, the nuclear-armed states, which also include Britain, France, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea, spent more than $137,000 every minute in 2020, it found.
The increase in spending came not only while the world was grappling with its worst pandemic in a century, but also as many other countries were banding together to ban nuclear weapons.
Last October, a treaty championed by ICAN to abolish the weapons received its 50th ratification, triggering its entry into force in January this year.
“While these nine countries continued to waste billions on weapons of mass destruction, the rest of the world was busy making them illegal,” ICAN said.
The report, entitled “Complicit: 2020 Global Nuclear Spending”, highlighted how governments were increasingly channeling tax money to defense contractors, who in turn spend increasing amounts on lobbyists encouraging increased spending.
More than 20 companies producing nuclear weapons profited from the business last year through existing or new contracts, with 11 Western companies alone raking in $27.7 billion in new or modified nuclear-weapons contracts, it found.
The top companies profiting from such contracts were Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies and Draper.
Listen to Today’s Program JD: David there’s supposedly a ceasefire in place between Israel and basically Hamas. However Hamas on Friday called for a day of rage and not only in the Gaza Strip but in the West Bank. That doesn’t sound like they want to continue that ceasefire does it?DD: No Jimmy and they also put out a statement very strongly condemning Naftali Bennett and saying if he’s Prime Minister we consider Netanyahu sitting in that chair. I think they want to see a new uprising continue and will work for that. There’s a lot of speculation in the Israeli Press that the coalition coming into power with an Arab party and a right wing Prime Minister etc will bring more unity in Israel, will maybe stop the internal fighting that’s been going on between Arab’s and Jews in Israeli cities. These are all Israeli citizens but that certainly not going to be the case in terms of Hamas and I’m sure there will be many Israeli-Arabs that will respond to that as well.JD: And David Hamas said this week they promise more Jihad stabbings. They say this 11 day event that took place, Israel fighting Hamas was simply a dress rehearsal for things to come. That doesn’t sound good does it?DD: No it doesn’t but we have a pretty strong Defense Minister in Benny Gantz. Yes, Hamas is going to continue its Holy War Jimmy. They don’t care what Israeli government is in power, the fact that Israel exists, the fact that Israel controls the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Haifa and all these other areas. That’s the bottomline issue for them. The Jewish they cannot exist, Jews cannot rule over Muslims as the Quran states. So they’re being accurate in that sentiment. They’re going to continue their Jihad war for sure. JD: David Dolan explaining why Hamas will continue their Holy War against the Jewish state of Israel.We report this information because it is setting the stage for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled.Hamas cannot allow for a Jewish state on what they call Moslem real estate. Hamas cannot allow for Jews to rule over Moslems. That’s what is driving Hamas. They are an Islamic terror organization. This scenario unfolding in Israel today is a page out of Bible prophecy. The ancient Jewish prophet Amos wrote about punishment on Gaza and thus on Hamas, that’s Amos 1:6. Gaza is mentioned some 18 times in Scripture and will face God’s judgment in the end times along with Hamas.
What’s the deal with President Joe Biden and Iran? This part-time president is a full-time appeaser of Tehran — and he is determined to give the terrorist regime the keys to a nuclear-armed empire.
No other regime has connived at the deaths of so many American service members, as Iran did when it trained Iraqi militias and supplied them with improvised explosive devices — and as Iran still does, by supplying the increasingly accurate drones and missiles that have struck US bases in Iraq in the last six months. But Team Biden sees no evil.
No other regime is as committed to destabilizing American allies and interests across the Middle East and Africa, and no other regime is dedicated to the destruction of a close US ally, Israel, the world’s sole Jewish state. But Team Biden speaks no evil about the Iranian regime.
The three wise monkeys behind this strategic lunacy are Antony Blinken, Robert Malley and Jake Sullivan. They are Obama-ians: the reckless ideologues who contrived the Iranian nuclear deal in 2015. Washington and Tehran had been at odds for more than 40 years. What better way of breaking the standoff than setting a terrorist regime on the glide-path to a nuclear weapon — and delivering pallets of cash to its coffers?
American elites invariably fail up, and the media are predictably framing the Dem diplomats who floated to power in January as heroes. Biden’s envoys want to revive the Iran deal at all costs, American blood be forgotten and regional prestige be damned. And Biden agrees, just as he nods along to every other prompt from his radical advisers.
Strengthening Tehran will be a disaster for the Middle East. A nuclear weapon will render the Iranian regime impregnable and will trigger the nuclearization of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It may well lead to an all-out war between Iran and Israel, in which Iran and its proxies will attack American bases and assets.
But that’s just collateral damage. The real prize in Biden’s diplomacy isn’t peace with Iran. It’s erasing the memory of former President Donald Trump. The Obamacrats will never forgive Trump for withdrawing from the Iran deal, sanctioning the regime and exposing the pretensions of the Beltway experts as dangerous nonsense. There are careers at stake here.
While Tehran sows death and destruction, Biden’s envoys flatter and cajole Iranian negotiators in the nuclear negotiations. The fifth round of talks on reviving the Iran deal is set for June 10. Enrique Mora, the European Union envoy who has coordinated this dismal dance of accommodation on behalf of the Biden administration and Britain, France and Germany, says he is “sure that the next round will be the one in which we will finally get a deal.”
We will get much more than that. When the Obama administration threw the Iranian regime a lifeline with the Iran deal, the mullahs used American cash and credibility to sow terrorism in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, and step up their rocket program, too.
Iran has cheated the international nuclear inspectors by hiding undeclared nuclear material at secret sites. It has produced uranium metal, despite the Iran deal’s ban on Tehran “producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metal or their alloys,” and reneged on its commitments under the global chemical- and biological-weapons conventions. The Defense Intelligence Agency suspects that Iran is “pursuing central-nervous-system-acting chemicals for offensive purposes.”
The DIA also reports that since late 2019, Iraqi Shiite militias have launched more than 300 attacks on American interests in Iraq, killing four Americans and 25 Iraqis. Tehran, the DIA finds, influences the “frequency and intensity” of the attacks.
In October 2020, with the US presidential elections imminent, Tehran ordered its Shiite proxies to pause “after a period of increased rocket attacks and IEDs against US-contracted convoys.” The attacks resumed as soon as the election was over and intensified as the Biden administration settled in.
This is how the Iranian regime negotiates. And this is what the Neville Chamberlain school of foreign policy is about to reward.
Dominic Green is deputy editor of The Spectator’s world edition.