When you think of natural disasters striking New York state, you may think of only blizzards, floods, or hurricanes. However, while the West Coast gets all the attention when it comes to powerful earthquakes, they do occur in New York as well. Most here are small and have little damaging effect on any surrounding areas. But every now and then the Earth will surprise us. According to the NESEC, around 551 earthquakes were recorded in New York state from 1737-2016.
The first earthquake to hit the state of New York in 2022 was a 2.3 magnitude tremor in Boonville on January 10. Most earthquakes that happen within the state are either far north towards Quebec, in western New York around Lake Ontario, or closer to the New York City area. The most well known fault line near our area is the Ramapo fault line. The 185 mile system of faults runs through parts of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and has been known to spawn smaller earthquakes.
But could something as strong as a magnitude 7.0 ever occur on this fault?
Some say this fault system is much more complex and extensive than originally thought. A 2008 study proposed that there may be an additional fault zone extending from the Ramapo Fault into southwestern Connecticut. There are also many smaller faults that criss-cross across New York City, and the city could be long overdue for a significant earthquake.
There is also the Western Quebec Seismic Zone, which can produce larger quakes that can be felt up and down the eastern coast of the United States, particularly for their neighbors directly south in the Empire State. This is where the strongest quakes happen near us.
New York state’s all-time most powerful earthquake?
According to the NESEC, the largest earthquake centered in New York state happened on September 5, 1944. The magnitude 5.9 quake, with an epicenter beneath the New York-Canada border, did major damage in the towns of Massena, NY, and Cornwall, Ontario. Heavy damage was recorded in the town of Massena (St. Lawrence County), with a number of chimneys, windows, housing foundations, and a high school gymnasium reported destroyed.
New York City has suffered two damaging quakes of note. The first was December 18, 1737, when a 5.2 struck in the Greater New York City area. However, since it was so long ago, little is known about the epicenter or the extent of the damage. Another 5.2 quake struck on August 10, 1884, in Brooklyn, which cracked houses, tossed objects off shelves and shook towns in New York and New Jersey.
An interesting note
When earthquakes hit states like California, they typically are felt across a smaller area. But when the slightly weaker quakes occasionally strike the eastern U.S. or Canada, they can be felt over a much wider area, extending hundreds of miles. Why is this? According to CBS, the Earth’s crust over this region is much older, colder, and more healed versus out west which is far more seismically active. But when a quake does occur here, the harder, smoother ground is more effective at conducting seismic waves. One Columbia University professor compares it to striking a bell. So, a strong quake in the middle of Quebec, or even New Jersey, can be felt across many portions of New York.
Since the dawn of independence in 1947 both countries have been in a constant state of sabre-rattling leading to major military conflicts in 1965 and 1971 plus numerous border skirmishes including the very explosive Kargil conflict.
The show of hatred and enmity has continued and both states have tried their best to diplomatically outmanoeuvre each other in the UN and other diplomatic forums.
Since the last two decades, both countries have been armed with nuclear weapons and some very lethal delivery systems and this capability has turned the Indian sub-continent into the most probable nuclear flash point in the world.
The India-Pakistan rivalry has even impacted the politics of the super powers and the USA, Russia and China have been deeply involved in the political tussle between the two nuclear armed nations in the sub-continent.
This bitter rivalry between the two Asian countries has the potential to have a very adverse effect on peace in Asia or for that matter the entire world.
Ideology or religion is the root cause and the other causes have been added with the passage of time and the love-hate relationship has sometimes dampened and sometimes accentuated the bitterness between the two countries.
The very basic differences between the two countries lie in the ideology based theory called the two-nation theory that believed in religion as the basis of statehood and that Hindus and Muslims were two different nations living in the same territory.
Differences of ethnicity or language were considered as secondary issues, this was the political stance of the All India Muslim League led By Mohammad Ali Jinnah whereas the All India Congress led by the likes of Nehru and Gandhi believed in a united India as a secular state governed by parliamentary democracy.
Many eminent Muslims like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and others also supported the Congress Party and they were called the nationalist Muslims.
The Pakistan demand was finally accepted by the British Government and what followed was the bloodiest period in the history of the sub-continent.
During the partition millions of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs moved across the borders of the two independent states in 1947.
This act of the Maharaja of Kashmir led to the first India-Pakistan conflict but the fighting was confined to the Kashmir region and the international boundary was not crossed by any of the combatants in Kashmir.
Today the India-Pakistan conflict is classified as enduring rivalry which can be defined as a conflict lasting more than two decades.
Religious ideology and territorial conflict are the two major causes of the rivalry and conflict between the two countries, and other causes can be the geo-political situations immediately after gaining independence from the British.
India on the other hand decided to remain non-aligned in the Cold War and Nehru with Nasser and Marshal Tito laid the foundations of the Non-Aligned Movement or NAM.
Hostility and aggression reached a boiling point in 1971over the East Pakistan crisis and the subsequent war and emergence of Bangladesh.
In this conflict the USA and China both showed a definite tilt towards Pakistan and in reply India concluded a treaty of defence and friendship with the Soviet Union.
The Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s drove Pakistan further into the American camp and deepened the US reliance on Pakistan in its bid to defeat Soviet designs in Afghanistan.
Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, issued a pastoral letter last month on the need for a new commitment to nuclear disarmament. The letter warned about a new nuclear arms race, one that is arguably more dangerous than the past Cold War. Weeks later, tensions are high on the international scene, and fears of conflict, even war, have begun to swirl around the Russian-Ukraine border.
But are fears of nuclear conflict overblown? And what would a new conversation about nuclear disarmament look like in the Church?
Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
To talk this through, Charlie Camosy sat down this week with Michael J. Baxter, director of the Catholic Studies Program at Regis University in Denver.
From 2001 to 2012, Baxter was the director of the Catholic Peace Fellowship, an organization dedicated to supporting conscientious objectors to war through education, counseling, and advocacy. He was also editor of the CPF’s journal, The Sign of Peace, and is currently working on a book entitled “Blowing the Dynamite of the Church: Radicalism Against Americanism in Catholic Social Ethics” (Cascade Press).
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
And then there is the fact that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is home to two major nuclear research facilities, the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, and the largest repository of nuclear weapons in the country, with some 2,500 warheads deployed at Kirkland Air Force Base near Albuquerque.
As Archbishop Wester observes, “if New Mexico were a separate country, it would be the third largest nuclear weapons power in the world.” That’s a chilling reality that would be a pastoral concern for any good shepherd.
Concerns about Russia play a major role in this letter—and it was written before the most recent drama with Ukraine unfolded—not least because Russia very clearly has offensive-minded nuclear capabilities.
The Russian threat to Ukraine certainly adds a level of volatility to politics in the international arena. But Wester points to a conspiracy regarding nuclear weapons that is truly multinational.
The United States leads the pack, of course, with 3,750 warheads in its active stockpile and a plan to improve delivery systems from the land, sea, and air. Russia has announced new nuclear weapons that cannot be defended against. China is building hundreds of hard silos for ICBMs, which will push U.S. policy in a more hawkish direction.
Pakistan is expanding its arsenal, as is the United Kingdom, which recently pledged to share its nuclear submarine technology with Australia. North Korea has about 45 nuclear weapons and conducted seven missile tests last month. And then there is Iran’s clandestine efforts to develop nuclear weapons, which Israel vows to prevent, even though it has a secret arsenal of its own.
In short, Russia is only one nation of many nuclear powers, albeit a very reckless one at the moment.
Wester’s overall point is that a multinational nuclear system, made up of more than 13,000 warheads, 2,000 of which remain on high alert, makes for a dangerous situation indeed. Any serious friction on the international scene could set off a calamitous chain of events, as could an accident. He suggests that the present nuclear arms race may well be more dangerous than the one during the Cold War—a startling thought, but one that analysts have been voicing for years.
Speaking of messages: What is the main thrust of the letter? Does it, in your view, have anything new or fresh to say?
The message is straightforward: amid the dark prospect of nuclear war, we are called to live in the light of Christ’s peace. It notes that Pope Francis is leading the Church in “a dramatic shift away from supporting nuclear weapons and deterrence to denouncing them and calling for their complete abolition.”
After citing preceding popes and documents, Wester elaborates on Pope Francis’ account of nonviolence as “a style of politics for peace,” rooted in the teaching and example of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount and the way of the cross.
The archbishop ponders the passage where Jesus rebukes the disciples for wanting to call down hellfire from heaven on a group of Samaritans (Luke 9:54-55), then offers a poignant application: “Two thousand years later, here in New Mexico, we not only want to call down hellfire from heaven, but we have also actually built the most destructive weapons in history to do it, and then we used them .. . and [we] have built tens of thousands of more nuclear weapons that can destroy the entire human race.”
Wester challenges us “to face the violence that is being prepared in our name here in New Mexico, and to start the process of nuclear disarmament so that no one ever again calls down hellfire from the sky.” In the manner of the pope, he calls for dialogue about these matters throughout the Archdiocese of Santa Fe—which, he notes, “is named for the ‘Sacred Faith’ of Saint Francis, the patron saint of the environment and tireless advocate of peace and for the poor.”
It is haunting how the nuclear production process has ravaged “the Land of Enchantment.” Of course, it does bring jobs to the state, but at what cost? Besides the effects of contamination, New Mexico ranked 49th both in per capita income in 2019 and in overall child well-being.
The wealth pouring into Los Alamos County, which boasts more millionaires per capita of any county in the nation, is not reaching the Hispanic and Native populations. Why not? These are questions that Archbishop Wester wants people in his diocese to take up in conversation and action. The letter shows that “peace” is no mere abstract ideal but a concrete concern here and now.
As a long time scholar and activist in this area, what’s your critical evaluation of the letter?
One weakness of the letter is its reliance on [historian and political economist] Gar Alperovitz’s claim that the motive in dropping the atomic bombs was to forestall a Soviet takeover of Japan. This is a contested claim among reliable historians. And it is not needed to denounce dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Whatever the motives, the intention intrinsic to the actions that constituted dropping the bombs is clear: it was to murder the innocent.
Soon after, Grisez, along with John Finnis and Joseph Boyle, in “Nuclear Deterrence, Morality, and Realism” (1987), made a thorough and compelling case that deterrence strategy entails the evil intention of murdering the innocent and must be condemned. Archbishop Wester could have strengthened his (and the pope’s) condemnation of the possession of nuclear deterrence by grounding it in both the Gospel andthe natural law. It is my hope that this two-fold theological and philosophical perspective emerges in the dialogues and debates that arise in the wake of his letter.
Where does the Catholic Church go from here? Many of us, I suspect, consider this to be an issue that has already played itself out years ago.
How do we get it back on our cultural and moral radar?
The philosopher Michael Walzer once wrote, cribbing from Trotsky, “you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” This is certainly true of nuclear war. It’s coming to a theater near you; in fact, it’s been in your neighborhood for decades: California (Livermore Labs), Tennessee (Oak Ridge), at Air Force bases, research corporations, and universities around the country. We are ensnared in a spider’s web of carefully crafted lethal destruction, a “culture of death” to use Pope John Paul II’s sobering phrase.
In response, dioceses should follow Santa Fe’s lead: determine when and where nuclear weapons research and development is conducted, identify the financial and human costs, engage in dialogue and action.
Here in Colorado, we have the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) built into Cheyenne mountain near Colorado Springs, missile silos scattered about the eastern plains with military personnel pledged to turn the launch key on command. The personal, pastoral questions must be asked: What is your job? What do you think and feel about it? Are you cooperating with evil? What would you do if . . . ?
The concern one hears from Catholics these days about “Eucharistic coherence” applies to nuclear weapons as well as to abortion. If we follow through on the implications of our moral teaching, we would be setting out a difficult path, in pursuit of what Aquinas called “the arduous good,” but we would walk that path enlivened by the fruits of the passion, our steps illumined, in Archbishop Wester’s words, by the light of Christ’s peace.
Iraq held snap elections on October 10. The parliament presidency was elected last month following a deal between Kurdistan Region’s ruling KDP, Sadrist bloc and most Sunnis. The legislature is scheduled to meet on February 7 to elect a new president for the country. The KDP has fielded Hoshyar Zebari, who has previously held several positions in Baghdad, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has nominated the incumbent Iraqi President Barham Salih for the position.
“If the candidate of our ally, the [Kurdistan] Democratic Party, for the President of the Republic does not meet all the conditions … I call on the representatives [MPs] of reform to not vote for him,” the prominent Shiite cleric said, referring to his Sadrist bloc.
Later in the night, Zebari told Iraqi state media that his party’s alliance with Sadr is “strong and coherent.”
According to a long-standing customary agreement, the three main leadership positions in the Iraqi government are divided among Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis. Kurds get the presidency, Shiites get the premiership, and Sunnis get the parliamentary speaker. Among Kurds, the PUK has held on to the presidency position since 2005.
Zebari’s candidacy has been approved by the parliament, meaning he has met all the conditions to become the president of the country. It is not clear what conditions Sadr is talking about. However, some Iraqi and Kurdish politicians have claimed that Zebari was involved in corruption cases when he was Iraqi finance minister between October 2014 to September 2016 when he lost a no-confidence motion over allegations of corruption.
KDP and PUK have increased their efforts in Baghdad to gain support for their candidates.
Major General Salami made the remarks Thursday night in a ceremony to commemorate martyrs in Golpayegan city, Isfahan province, noting that all world nations see the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proud people as an honorable nation.
If the Iranians had succumbed to foreign pressures and they had not sacrificed themselves and their parents and wives had not shown patience, the country would have undergone the same fate like other states, he said while appreciating people’s steadfastness during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988).
The frontline was once in Iranian southern regions of Karoun and Karkheh, but the enemies can listen to the Persian, Pakistani, Iraqi, Afghan and Yemeni resistance fighters in other fronts even in eastern Mediterranean, he said, adding that the Israelis are well aware of the power of the resistance movement.
Economic sanctions were a kind of a powerful international mechanism, and it is obvious that no country even the United States could resist the all-out embargo, but tact and decrees by Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei helped nullify the global conspiracy, he noted.
Defeating the policies of the US, which has succeeded in causing collapse of numerous political systems, is not an easy job that has been done by the Islamic Revolution, the commander mentioned.
Iran has got rid of dangerous phases of the sanction policy and decreased its impacts, he said, adding that despite the fact that there are still some problems, but the Americans themselves acknowledged that so-called maximum pressure is doomed to failure.
Why did the Pentagon fall so far behind China and Russia in developing hypersonic missiles, when the United States had an early lead in this technology? The answer helps explain why it’s so hard to modernize the magnificent monstrosity that is the U.S. military.
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten tried to explain this paradox to a group of defense writers back in October, when he was preparing to retire as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A fundamental problem, he said, was the military’s aversion to failure. Early tests of cruise missiles that could fly at speeds of Mach 20 — 20 times the speed of sound — weren’t successful. As a result, the technology became toxic.
Hypersonics are “the threat of the future,” Hyten said. That’s not just because they can fly so fast but also because their trajectory is so unpredictable. When tracking a ballistic missile, U.S. surveillance systems can predict soon after launch where it will land. But a low-flying, hypersonic cruise missile can zig and zag, avoiding detection and targeting and posing an eerie, perhaps unstoppable danger.
The Pentagon began studying hypersonic technology way back in the early 1960s. In 2003, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began a program to design a hypersonic weapons platform, and it conducted two tests of its prototype Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 a few years later. But in both tests, the missiles lost communication with their controllers soon after launch.
Here’s how Hyten explained it: “We were developing hypersonics ahead of everybody in the world, and the first test failed. The first test of everything fails. So … we have two years of investigation … then we launch again and it fails. … We canceled the program, and we stopped. Then others start building hypersonics … and they start moving fast, so we start the programs again.”
Hyten reckoned that in the past five years, the United States has conducted nine hypersonic tests. In that same time, he said, the Chinese have done hundreds. The bottom line: “Single digits vs. hundreds is not a good place.”
The Pentagon has “a lot of catching up to do,” Gen. David D. Thompson, vice chief of space operations, said at the Halifax International Security Forum in November. He cautioned that the U.S. military is “not as advanced as the Chinese or the Russians in terms of hypersonic programs.”
Inevitably, when you rush to play catch-up, you make more mistakes. The Air Force tested an air-launched hypersonic missile last year, in April, July and December. All three tests failed; in two of the experiments, the missiles never left the wings of the B-52H bombers that were carrying them, according to an article in the War Zone. Another test, of a rocket-launched hypersonic missile, also failed in October when the booster didn’t work.
Michael White, the Pentagon’s principal director for hypersonics, says the military needs to keep pushing, despite these frustrating reversals. “We were a world leader in hypersonics,” he told me in a recent interview. “What we’ve not been able to do is put all the resources we need on the table.” After initial failures, he said, researchers would be scolded by risk-averse senior officials and told to “go back to your laboratories.” As a result, he said, “we keep being late.”
“The department has a lot of inertia,” agreed Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall in an interview last month. A lesson of the early DARPA experiments was that “when you try to do hard things, you’ve got to stick with them.”
Kendall argues that hypersonics don’t change the baseline of nuclear deterrence, which remains mutually assured destruction. But because of their speed and unpredictability, they do complicate decision-making. Their real importance, he says, may be in delivering conventional weapons. Still, he warned: “It isn’t obvious that the right response to someone else doing hypersonics is that we should be doing hypersonics.” The missiles are very expensive, and they may not deliver enough bang for the buck.
Kendall and White refer to the gap between development of prototypes and actual production as the “valley of death.” That’s where the early hypersonics experiments collapsed, and it has been a kill zone for many other innovative ideas. Kendall argues that the Pentagon must decide what technologies could be crucial, and then roll the dice, failure be damned — being “willing to gamble that things that we’re not comfortable with yet operationally will get to where they’re going to be very valuable operationally.”
For a Pentagon that prizes success, learning to live with failure isn’t easy. But to modernize a military that’s overstuffed with legacy weapons such as fighter jets and aircraft carriers, it’s essential.
Israel is building a new laser wall that can protect the country against missiles, UAVs, and rockets, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said. He also acknowledged that the country’s famed Iron Dome defense system was too pricey.
Bennett, while talking at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv Tuesday, said the new missile interception technology will be ready within a year, reported The Jerusalem Post. The system will start operating first experimentally in the South of the country.
“This will allow us, in the medium-to-long term, to surround Israel with a laser wall that will defend us from missiles, rockets, UAVs, and other threats that will essentially take away the strongest card our enemies have against us,” Bennett added.
The system is expected to be deployed on land, in the air, and at sea. The powerful airborne laser system, when it was installed on light aircraft last year, had intercepted drones and downed several UAVs at a range of one kilometer with a 100% success rate.
“This equation doesn’t make sense. It allows [the terrorists] to launch more and more Kassams and for us to shed many millions on a ‘lightning strike’ and billions during a campaign. We decided to break the equation, and it will be broken in only a few years,” Bennett added.
Considered one of the most advanced defense systems in the world, the Iron Dome was unveiled a decade ago. According to the Israeli military, about 90% of the rockets sent by Hamas and other militant groups in Palestine were intercepted by the Iron Dome.
“If you can intercept a missile or rocket with an electric pulse that costs a few dollars, we are weakening the ring of fire that Iran has built on our borders,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister said Israel is willing to offer the laser technology to its regional allies that are also facing threats from Iran and its proxies. This comes as reports say Israel is planning to advance the sale of Iron Dome to the United Arab Emirates.