Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating EarthquakeRoger BilhamQuakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.
China stockpiling ‘flying death sentence’ hypersonic nukes capable of evading US shields in ‘large numbers’
Katie Davis9:42 ET,
CHINA is stockpiling a hypersonic nuke branded “the flying death sentence” that’s capable evading all existing anti-missile shields deployed by America and its allies.
The land-based hypersonic ballistic nuclear missile – known as Dong Feng 17 or DF-17 – can surge to speeds of up to 7,680mph and experts say it is able to “hit every corner of the Earth”.
Wu Qian, of China’s defence ministry, confirmed the country has commissioned DF-17 and DF-26 missiles in “large numbers”.
Beijing unveiled the hypersonic DF-17 nuke in 2019 – offering a glimpse of the “blindingly fast and unstoppable” missile in a four minute clip that July
The weapon contains a hypersonic glide vehicle and can be fitted with a nuclear warhead and is said to be capable of achieving speeds of up to 7,680 mph – or ten times the speed of sound.
Foreign analysts say it’s designed to move at high speed to evade anti-missile defences.
The DF-17 hypersonic missile can theoretically manoeuvre sharply at many times the speed of sound, making it extremely difficult to counter.
It comes as tensions hit boiling between the US and China over Beijing’s increasing occupation of the disputed South China Sea.
ReutersNovember 26, 20218:03 AM MSTLast Updated 4 hours ago
BRUSSELS, Nov 26 (Reuters) – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that Russia has amassed heavy military equipment, tanks and combat-ready troops near Ukraine, warning that any use of force against Ukraine would be costly for Moscow.
Stoltenberg also said he expected the new German federal government to spend more on its armed forces and welcomed its decision to continue hosting Western nuclear weapons in Germany.
“I expect Germany to invest more in its military,” Stoltenberg said.
Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Robin Emmott; Editing by Alison Williams
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Press TV, Gaza
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights along with UNRWA and the Palestinian Ministry of Public Works held a workshop in the Gaza Strip to discuss Israel’s latest destruction of hundreds of buildings during the May war.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), over 100,1000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) sought shelter and protection at UNRWA schools or with hosting families.
Currently there are still about 8,000 Palestinian IDPs, primarily those whose houses were completely destroyed or severely damaged during the wanton Israeli bombardment.
People and businesses in the Gaza Strip are still waiting for the reconstruction to start.
In addition to bombing thousands of buildings and infrastructure, Israeli regime forces also killed hundreds of innocent civilians including women and children.
Over 2,200 Palestinians were also injured during the Israeli air raids, including 685 children and 480 women, some of whom may suffer a long-term disability requiring rehabilitation.
Hundreds of Palestinian families have lost everything during Israel’s May onslaught and their plight has no end in sight.
Many Gazans had their lives shattered because of the recent war, with no proper place to raise their families.
Rights groups accuse donor countries of failing to fulfill their financial pledges to rebuild the tiny coastal territory and end the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade.
Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:
Beijing has asked Washington to stop “close-in reconnaissance, interference, provocation and show of force” in the Asia-Pacific region.
Beijing has asked Washington to stop “close-in reconnaissance, interference, provocation and show of force” in the Asia-Pacific region. Read on
Two days after the United States moved China and 26 other nations to its trade blacklist,Beijing has asked Washington to stop “close-in reconnaissance, interference, provocation and show of force” in the Asia-Pacific region. Commenting on whether the US military must be accountable for the USS Connecticut nuclear submarine collision and dismissing commanding officer, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Senior Colonel Wu Qian remarked that since the crash US has maintained a “secretive attitude” that has inevitably raised doubts in the international community, ANI reported.
Demanding answers related to the collision of the nuclear submarine, Qian added that “the US side should answer three questions clearly. Firstly, what is the intention of the US submarine’s navigation? Secondly, what’s the exact location of the collision? Finally, did it cause nuclear leakage of marine environmental pollution?” ANI reported, citing the Chinese Military media centre.
Warning the US in stern language, the defence spokesperson said that Beijing believes that the root cause of the incident is extensive and “high-intensity close-in reconnaissance interference provocation and show of force.” Apart from this, the US military vessels in the Asia-Pacific as well as in the South China Sea are part of “militarisation and navigation hegemony.”
It is pertinent to mention that Qian was referring to the US Navy nuclear-powered attack submarine – US Connecticut- that collided with an unknown submerged object last Saturday in the Pacific waters. The accident took place amid taught tensions between the US and China over a multitude of issues. As per media reports, Connecticut was operating in the waters around the South China Sea as the US and its allies have been participating in a joint multinational ‘show of force’ in the region as a part of Carrier Strike Group 21.
US includes China to ‘Entity list’
The US has moved to blacklist a dozen of Chinese firms and 26 other nations, including Pakistan and Russia to its Military End-User (MEU) for engaging in activities that pose threat to the national security and foreign policy interest of the US. As per the US Commerce Department, 16 blacklisted entities and individuals from the 27 were operating from China and Pakistan. The entities are banned “based on their contributions to Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear activities or ballistic missile program,” the federal agency informed in a statement. The latest US move comes in the backdrop of Washington already banning dozens of Chinese entities that it said were found associated with activities of PLA, or contributing to the army’s development.
(With inputs from ANI)
October 10, 2021
Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr holds a press conference in Najaf, Iraq on 18 November 2021. [Karar Essa – Anadolu Agency]November 26, 2021 at 2:06 pm
Al-Sadr, whose bloc won a majority of votes in the parliamentary elections held last month, said during a meeting with independent candidates, that he prefers to join the opposition than enter into any coalition government.
He stressed that his movement “does not receive orders from behind the borders”, in reference to regional countries that influence Iraq’s internal politics including Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“Some parties seek to win over the independents, either by tempting or intimidating them, because they do not have a militia or an armed wing,” Al-Sadr said.
He added that “there are those who assault” independent candidates in order to get them out of the elections and replace them. While some will kill to achieve their aim of getting into power, Al-Sadr said.
Last week, aA-Sadr called on the armed Iraqi Shia factions loyal to Iran to dissolve themselves if they want to join his government, and to hand over their weapons to the government’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), through the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
Opinion Editor25 November 2021
This article was issued by Toda Peace Instituteand is being republished with their permission.
In recent months, we have often heard that the return of the Cold War is imminent, this time with China. How great is this danger? Some developments point at a dangerous confrontation; others are completely different from the times of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and its allies.
BONN (IDN) — Looking at the geopolitical actions in the Indo-Pacific region, it’s realistic to fear a new Cold War or even existential military conflicts. China’s air force violates Taiwan’s airspace with provocative flights and proclaims its intention to integrate the island into the People’s Republic.
In the South China Sea, the Chinese Navy occupies territorially disputed islands and expands them into military bases. Military spending is rising rapidly, and all the major powers are modernising their weapons, including their nuclear arsenals. Australia is being sanctioned by China because the Australian government dared to criticise China’s non-transparent policy of clarifying the Corona virus origin. The US opposes this and is increasing its military presence in the region. Britain, France and even Germany send warships to fly the flag in the Indo-Pacific. The US, UK and Australia form a military alliance with AUKUS that is clearly directed against China. The US is campaigning in Japan, South Korea and India for a common anti-China policy. Many signs signal the emergence of an imminent escalation and a military antagonism similar to that of the East-West conflict.
It is particularly problematic that no functioning arms control forum exists in which the hostile governments could at least regularly communicate. This had been the case during the Cold War from the late 1960s with nuclear weapons and from 1973 with conventional armaments. However, at that time these negotiations were extremely slow, with tricks that trivialized each government’s own armament efforts and exaggerated those of the enemy. There were, at least, various forums and the so-called Red Telephone or hot line to bring the arms race under control or to prevent wars starting by mistake. In fact, in the 1990s, nuclear weapons, missiles and conventional armaments were successfully and significantly reduced. Such forums are now also needed to stop the unbridled arms race on sea, in air and space.
The East-West conflict and today’s competition and confrontation with China differ in two central areas: in the ideological conflict and in the economic interdependencies.
The Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union and their respective allies has always been rightly described as a systemic conflict: communism, socialism and a planned economy versus a liberal, democratic, capitalist system. This dispute, which was decided as a result of the imploding Soviet Union, was for decades not only a competition for client states in the then so-called Third World – it was also an ideological fight. Socialism resonated in Western countries and seemed attractive as an alternative to capitalism. Even today, governments and intellectuals emphasise the need to defend Western values such as democracy, freedom and human rights against China’s Communist Party authoritarian system.
But this Chinese system, which is applied very consistently in China, only attracts the interest of dictators. Demonstrations and applause for this Chinese social system, unlike the teachings of Mao Tse-tung, do not take place in Western countries today. Today’s Chinese system has, at best, a certain appeal because of its economic effectiveness. Some people who are desperate about the planning periods of major projects in the West long for Chinese efficiency. But in the end, when the collateral damage is taken into account, such as the brutal relocation of entire districts to build a high-speed railway line, the Chinese economic efficiency gets considerable scratches.
The economic relations between China and the USA, the EU and other democratic countries differ significantly from the relations between East and West during the Cold War. China is on its way to becoming the dominant economic power on the globe. That was never the case with the Soviet Union. Trade relations between China and the rest of the world are very intense today. The Soviet Union was always only an energy supplier, albeit an important one. For the question of a possible new Cold War, this is both good and bad news. As early as 1977, the American political scientists, Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, emphasised the importance of interdependence for power relations in their work Power and Interdependence. Put simply, their argument meant that countries that are closely intertwined economically tend to cooperate with each other rather than settling conflicts militarily. The close economic ties with China, however, are a double-edged sword. At best, interdependence is an insurance against military adventures, because both sides are likely to suffer. But close economic interdependence can also mean dependency and vulnerability, as we have just experienced painfully due to the pandemic.
The US out-raced the Soviet Union in this dangerous arms race. Due to the economically desolate situation, the Eastern Alliance was not in a position to further accelerate the arms race. Such a collapse is not to be expected with China. On the contrary, China continues to expand its economic power and can easily afford to increase its military spending for the foreseeable future.
So how to deal with China? There is disagreement in the West about this. In the US, President Donald Trump initiated a sharp confrontation with China, not only rhetorically, but also economically, by imposing sanctions on China and through increased military efforts. President Joe Biden may be more conciliatory in style, but he, too, is taking a confrontational line on China. He no longer sees China solely as an uncomfortable competitor, but as an enemy, and he rallies for a unified Western strategy. The European Union is pursuing a more flexible, as the EU Commission says, “pragmatic” course. China is simultaneously referred to as a cooperation partner (for example, on climate change), as a competitor with whom economic conditions must be negotiated (for example, in technology development), but also as a systemic rival that propagates a different model of society (for example, in respect of human rights), against which it is important to show a clear edge.
Herbert Wulf is a Professor of International Relations and former Director of the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC). He is presently a Senior Fellow at BICC, an Adjunct Senior Researcher at the Institute for Development and Peace, University of Duisburg/Essen, Germany, and a Research Affiliate at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago, New Zealand. He serves on the Scientific Councils of SIPRI and the Centre for Conflict Studies of the University of Marburg, Germany. [IDN-InDepthNews – 25 November 2021]
Credit: Toda Peace Institute
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