Living on the Fault Line
A major earthquake isn’t likely here, but if it comes, watch out.
Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo
This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.
The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.
After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.
Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.
During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.
“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”
Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.
Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.
After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.
But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.
Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.
Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.
The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.
For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.
Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”
The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.
The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.
This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”
Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”
But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.
Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.
All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.
For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.
Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.
To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.
In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.
As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)
In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.
The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hazus.htm).
Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.
Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.
This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.
“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.
For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at nycem.org.)
All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.
Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”
Planning for the Big One
For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.
In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.
Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”
Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.
This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”
A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.
“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”
Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.
Initial results amid record low turnout suggest that the grievances that drove people to the streets in 2019 are unlikely to be addressed.Iraq’s Shia groups have dominated governments and government formation since the US-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Sunni leader Saddam Hussein [File: Karim Kadim/AP]11 Oct 2021
Shia Muslim religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s party is set to be the biggest winner in Iraq’s parliamentary election, increasing the number of seats he holds, according to initial results, officials and a spokesperson for the Sadrist Movement.
Former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki looked set to have the next largest win among Shia parties, the initial results showed on Monday.nul
Iraq’s Shia groups have dominated governments and government formation since the US-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Sunni leader Saddam Hussein and catapulted the Shia majority and the Kurds to power.
Sunday’s election was held several months early, in response to mass protests in 2019 that toppled a government and showed widespread anger against political leaders whom many Iraqis said have enriched themselves at the expense of the country.
But a record low turnout of 41 percent suggested that an election billed as an opportunity to wrest control from the ruling elite would do little to dislodge sectarian religious parties in power since 2003.
A count based on initial results from several Iraqi provinces plus the capital Baghdad, verified by local government officials, suggested al-Sadr had won more than 70 seats, which if confirmed could give him considerable influence in forming a government.
A spokesperson for al-Sadr’s office said the number was 73 seats. Local news outlets published the same figure.
An official at Iraq’s electoral commission said al-Sadr had come first but did not immediately confirm how many seats his party had won.
The initial results also showed that pro-reform candidates who emerged from the 2019 protests had gained several seats in the 329-member parliament.
Iran-backed parties with links to militias accused of killing some of the nearly 600 people who died in the protests took a blow, winning fewer seats than in the last election in 2018, according to the initial results and local officials.null
Al-Sadr has increased his power over Iraq since coming first in the 2018 election where his coalition won 54 seats.
The unpredictable populist religious leader has been a dominant figure and often kingmaker in Iraqi politics since the US invasion.
He has opposed all foreign interference in Iraq, whether by the United States, against which he fought an armed uprising after 2003, or by neighbouring Iran, which he has criticised for its close involvement in Iraqi politics.
Al-Sadr, however, is regularly in Iran, according to officials close to him, and has called for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, where Washington maintains a force of about 2,500 in a continuing fight against ISIL (ISIS).
Speaking from Baghdad, Iraq analyst Ali Anbori said that al-Sadr’s victory was not a surprise.
“Muqtada has been working a great deal to win a lead in the election. They [the Sadrists] have a good election machine, and they use all kinds of means to achieve their goals,” Anbori told Al Jazeera.
“Also, Muqtada isn’t so far away from Iran himself. Eventually, all groups will sit together and form a government under the umbrella of the Iranian regime,” he added.
“Muqtada has been the main political player in Iraq since 2005,” said Anbori, explaining that no Iraqi prime minister has taken that position without the tacit consent of al-Sadr.null
Anbori said however that with “al-Sadr and his group being influential players accused of corruption,” he did not expect al-Sadr to address people’s grievances that took them the streets during the 2019 protest movement.
Elections in Iraq since 2003 have been followed by protracted negotiations that can last months and serve to distribute government posts among the dominant parties.
The result on Monday is not expected to dramatically alter the balance of power in Iraq or in the wider region.
Sunday’s vote was held under a new law billed by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi as a way to loosen the grip of established political parties and pave the way for independent, pro-reform candidates. Voting districts were made smaller, and the practice of awarding seats to lists of candidates sponsored by parties was abandoned.null
But many Iraqis did not believe the system could be changed and chose not to vote.
The official turnout figure of just 41 percent suggested the vote had failed to capture the imagination of the public, especially younger Iraqis who demonstrated in huge crowds two years ago.
“I did not vote. It’s not worth it,” Hussein Sabah, 20, told the Reuters news agency in Iraq’s southern port Basra. “There is nothing that would benefit me or others. I see youth that have degrees with no jobs. Before the elections, [politicians] all came to them. After the elections, who knows?”
Al-Kadhimi’s predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned after security forces and gunmen killed hundreds of protesters in 2019 in a crackdown on demonstrations. The new prime minister called the vote months early to show that the government was responding to demands for more accountability.null
In practice, powerful parties proved best able to mobilise supporters and candidates effectively, even under the new rules.
Iraq has held five parliamentary elections since the fall of Saddam. Rampant sectarian violence unleashed during the US occupation has abated, and ISIL fighters who seized a third of the country in 2014 were defeated in 2017.
But many Iraqis say their lives have yet to improve. Infrastructure lies in disrepair and healthcare, education and electricity are inadequate.
Vladimir Putin Photograph:( WION )Oct 15, 2021, 09.13 AM (IST)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has bragged that his country’s new hypersonic nuclear missiles capable of annihilating US cities are “on alert,” raising concerns of a World War 3 outbreak.
The Russian leader revealed his country has developed a weapon that flies more than five times faster than those being developed in the US. While addressing an energy forum, Putin said nowhere is directly under threat.
According to Vladimir Putin, Russia has intercontinental nuclear missiles that are capable of destroying American cities.
President Putin’s boasting that Russia possesses hypersonic weapons that are also intercontinental has heightened worries of a military clash with the US and a future World War III with the West.
Simultaneously, speaking at an energy conference in Moscow, he dismissively denied that they intend to harm anyone and claimed that similar systems are being developed elsewhere.
Weapons with a speed of Mach 3 or more are being developed in the United States. Our systems fly at a speed of over Mach 20. These are not just hypersonic but intercontinental missiles, and these are far more formidable weapons than those you have just mentioned, ” Putin remarked.Such weapon systems are already on combat alert in Russia and similar systems are being developed in other countries, he added.”There is nothing unusual about that. Hi-tech armies of the world will possess such systems soon, ” Putin said
The lasting impact of the latest round of Israeli escalation builds on already existing trauma from previous conflicts and a grueling ongoing blockade on the Gaza Strip, warned the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
UNRWA said in a feature published on the World Mental Health Day, that sixty-six children were killed in the latest conflict in Gaza and some 113,000 Palestinians were displaced during the 11 devastating days.
The more than two million Palestinians who call Gaza home have lived through four wars in the last thirteen years and this latest round of hostilities added another layer of psychological distress on an already traumatized population.
An alarming number of the population of Gaza, almost 600,000 of whom are children and youth, display symptoms of severe distress and are at risk of developing mental health conditions and display symptoms of severe distress.
UNRWA has implemented mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) programming to mitigate the mental health costs arising from the increased need for mental health support and being born by residents of Gaza. This includes individual and group counselling sessions, hotlines for mental health support, afterschool sessions and the Keeping Kids Cool (KKC) summer camp activities that ran in Gaza throughout July 2021, targeting 150,000 children.
On this World Mental Health Day, UNRWA underscored the importance of a life lived in dignity and free of the violence of war, remembering that the right to health, education and a dignified life are clearly enshrined in international human rights law.
UNRWA also lauded the valiant efforts of mental health care professionals like those who are on the frontlines of service provision in Gaza. Many of them were involved in this year’s Gaza Keeping Kids Cook summer activities, providing vital psychosocial support to tens of thousands of traumatized children.
People in Gaza have already been living on the edge and many families struggle to put food on the table. Their situation has deteriorated even further over the past year due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
According to data by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Gaza is one of the world’s most densely populated areas, with more than 5,000 inhabitants per square kilometer. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the city of Oslo but is home to three times as many people.
Gaza is described by many Palestinians and humanitarian actors as the world’s largest open-air prison, where nearly 2 million Palestinians live behind a blockade and are refused access to the other occupied Palestinian areas and the rest of the world.
NRC said 7 out of 10 Palestinians in Gaza are registered as refugees, and many of these come from families who were forced to leave their villages in 1948. Many have also been forced to leave their homes due to war, violence, and economic hardship.
Andrew BrownOctober 14 2021 – 2:23PM
All of the Palestinian group Hamas should be listed as a terrorist organisation by the federal government, a parliamentary committee has recommended.
The report by the joint intelligence and security committee found the entirety of Hamas, along with four other groups, should be formally listed as a terrorist organisation.
Previously, only Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was formally listed.
The committee’s chair Liberal senator James Paterson said the listing of all of Hamas would be in line with measures taken by the US and EU.
“The expert evidence provided to the committee overwhelmingly rejected the idea that Hamas’ Izz-al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operates independently from the rest of the organisation,” Senator Paterson said.
“Leaders of Hamas have repeatedly made statements which meet the advocacy test for terrorist listing, including direct incitement of acts of violence against Jewish people.”
The committee agreed that Hamas operated as one entity and had overlapping members with the military wing.
However, the report warned the listing of all of Hamas may come with problems for government departments.
“Should the Australian government accept this recommendation, the committee acknowledges there will be some practical challenges for various agencies in implementing and adjusting to this decision,” the report said.
The entirety of Hamas has been previously listed as a terrorist organisation in 2014, but was removed shortly after.
Back in August in the Washington Examiner, American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Michael Rubin (and a 1945 Contributing Editor) contended that Taiwan must go nuclear in the wake of the disastrous American withdrawal from Afghanistan. It can no longer count on a mercurial United States to keep its security commitments to the island. To survive it should obey the most primal, bareknuckles law of world politics: self-help.
Set aside Rubin’s claim that the Afghan denouement wrought irreparable harm to America’s standing vis-à-vis allies. He could be right, but I personally doubt it. The United States gave Afghanistan—a secondary cause by any standard—twenty years, substantial resources, and many military lives. That’s a commitment of serious heft, and one that gave Afghans a chance to come together as a society. That they failed reflects more on them than the United States. I suspect Taiwan would be grateful for a commitment of that magnitude and duration.
Yet Rubin’s larger point stands. One nation depends on another for salvation at its peril. Wise statesmen welcome allies . . . without betting everything on them. Taiwan should found its diplomacy and military strategy on deterring Chinese aggression if possible—alone if need be—and on stymieing a cross-strait assault if forced to it. This is bleak advice to be sure, but who will stand by Taiwan if the United States fails to? Japan or Australia might intercede alongside America, but not without it. Nor can Taipei look for succor to the UN Security Council or any other international body where Beijing wields serious clout. These are feeble bulwarks against aggression.
Deterrence, then, is elemental. But does a deterrent strategy demand atomicdeterrence? Not necessarily. It’s far from clear that nuclear weapons deter much apart from nuclear bombardment—the type of aggression least likely to befall Taiwan. After all, the mainland longs to possess the island, with all the strategic value it commands. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has little use for a radioactive wasteland.
CCP overseers are vastly more likely to resort to military measures short of nuclear arms. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could launch a naval blockade or a conventional air campaign against Taiwan in a bid to starve out the populace or bludgeon them into submission. And even a direct cross-strait amphibious offensive—the PLA’s surest way to seize prime real estate on a tight timetable—would preserve most of Taiwan’s value to China.
So, it seems, a nonnuclear onslaught is what Taipei mainly needs to deter. History has shown that nuclear weapons stand little chance of deterring nonnuclear aggression. A threat to visit a Hiroshima or Nagasaki on, say, Shanghai in retaliation for low-level aggression would be implausible. Breaching the nuclear threshold would do little good strategically while painting the islanders as amoral—and hurting their prospects of winning international support in a cross-strait war.
An implausible threat stands little chance of deterring. Think about Henry Kissinger’s classic formula for deterrence, namely that it’s a product of multiplying three variables: capability, resolve, and belief. Capability and resolve are the components of strength. Capability means physical power, chiefly usable military might. Resolve means the willpower to use the capabilities on hand to carry out a deterrent threat. A deterrent threat generally involves denying a hostile contender what it wants or meting out punishment afterward should the contender defy the threat.
Statesmen essaying deterrence are in charge of capability and resolution. They can amass formidable martial power and steel themselves to use it. That doesn’t mean their efforts at deterrence will automatically succeed, though. Belief is Kissinger’s other crucial determinant. It’s up to the antagonist whether it believes in their combined capability and willpower.
Taiwan could field a nuclear arsenal, that is, and its leadership could summon the determination to use the arsenal under specific circumstances such as a nuclear or conventional attack on the island. In other words, it could accumulate the capacity to thwart acts the leadership deems unacceptable or punish them should they occur. But would Chinese Communist magnates find the island’s atomic arsenal and displays of willpower convincing?
Against a nuclear attack, maybe. If Taipei maintained an armory that could inflict damage on China that CCP leaders found unbearable, then Beijing ought to desist from a nuclear attack under the familiar Cold War logic of mutual assured destruction. The two opponents would reach a nuclear impasse.
Kissinger appends a coda to his formula for deterrence, namely that deterrence is a product of multiplication, not a sum. If any one variable is zero, so is deterrence. What that means is that Taiwan could muster all the military might and fortitude in the world and fail anyway if China disbelieved in its capability, resolve, or both. And it might: Chinese Communist leaders have a history of making statements breezily disparaging the impact of the ultimate weapon if used against China. Founding CCP chairman Mao Zedong once derided nukes as a “paper tiger.” A quarter-century ago a PLA general (apparently) joked that Washington would never trade Los Angeles for Taipei.
The gist of such statements: nuclear threats cannot dissuade China from undertaking actions that serve the vital interest as the CCP leadership construes it.
Again, though, nuclear deterrence ought to be a peripheral concern for Taipei. Beijing is unlikely to order doomsday strikes against real estate it prizes, regardless of whether the occupants of that real estate brandish nuclear arms or not. Far better for the island’s leadership to refuse to pay the opportunity costs of going nuclear and instead concentrate finite militarily relevant resources to girding for more probable contingencies.
Contingencies such as repulsing a conventional cross-strait assault.
Wiser investment will go to armaments that make the island a prickly “porcupine” bristling with “quills” in the form of shore-based anti-ship and anti-air missiles along with sea-based systems such as minefields, surface patrol craft armed to the teeth with missiles, and, once Taiwan’s shipbuilding industry gears up, silent diesel-electric submarines prowling the island’s environs. These are armaments that could make Taiwan indigestible for the PLA. And Beijing could harbor little doubt Taipei would use them.
Capability, resolve, belief. Deterrence through denial.
So Michael Rubin is correct to urge Taiwan not to entrust its national survival to outsiders. But it can take a pass on nuclear weapons—and husband defenses better suited to the strategic surroundings.
Dr. James Holmes, a 1945 Contributing Editor, is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and a Nonresident Fellow at the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs. The views voiced here are his alone
Issue date: Thursday, 14 October 2021
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has recommended the government consider listing Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist organisation.
The PJCIS today tabled its report on the Review of the relisting of five organisations as terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code. This review considered the relisting of al-Shabaab, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
While the Committee supported the relisting of all these organisations under the Criminal Code it has gone a step further, recommending the government expand the listing of Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades to include the whole organisation of Hamas. The Committee made a similar recommendation in June 2021 in its Report on the review of the relisting of Hizballah’s External Security Organisation as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code that the listing of Hizballah’s External Security Organisation be expanded to the whole organisation of Hizballah.
Committee Chair Senator James Paterson, said that it was clear from evidence received during this review that the whole organisation of Hamas met the definition of a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code.
‘Currently, the US, Canada and the EU list the whole organisation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation under their respective proscription regimes.
‘The expert evidence provided to the committee overwhelmingly rejected the idea that Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operates independently from the rest of the organisation. There was agreement that Hamas operates as a singular entity with overlapping personnel, finances and structure. In addition, leaders of Hamas have repeatedly made statements which meet the advocacy test for terrorist listing, including direct incitement of acts of violence against Jewish people,’ Senator Paterson said.
Further information on the inquiry as well as a copy of the report can be obtained from the Committee’s website.
For more information about this Committee, you can visit its website. On the site, you can make a submission to an inquiry, read other submissions, and get details for upcoming public hearings. You can also track the Committee and receive email updates by clicking on the blue ‘Track Committee’ button in the bottom right hand corner of the page.
Earth Matters: Indian Point’s Final Days – Nyack News and Viewsby Barbara PuffIndian Point has been the crown jewel of the nuclear industrialist complex and closing it is a big step to a sustainable energy future. — Susan Shapiro, environmental lawyer.When scientists began exploring nuclear power in the 1950s, pollsters didn’t ask the public their opinion as support was almost unanimous. By the ’60s, there had been a few protests and opposition increased to 25%. So when Indian Point opened on September 16, 1962, it was greeted with enthusiasm, fanfare, and, in hindsight, naivete.Within a few years, increased pollution, loss of wildlife, and accidents at the plant elicited concern. In response, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and Riverkeeper were formed in 1966. After incidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, public opinion began to turn against the use of nuclear power.In 1984, her first year as a legislator, Harriet Cornell formed the Citizens Commission to Close Indian Plant. A glance at her press releases over the years shows her convictions regarding closing the plant. In a recent speech she noted: “Were it not for the superhuman efforts of concerned individuals and dedicated scientific and environmental organizations focusing attention on the dangers posed by Indian Point, who knows what might have happened during the last 40+ years.”Simultaneously Riverkeeper began documenting incidents, including:1 An antiquated water-cooling system killed over a billion fish and fish larvae annually.2 Pools holding spent nuclear fuel leaked toxic, radioactive water into the ground, soil, and Hudson River.3 Recurring emergency shut-downs.4 27% of the baffle bolts in Unit 2 and 31% in Unit 3, holding the reactor core together, were damaged.5 The plant was vulnerable to terrorist attack.6 Evacuation plans were implausible.7 No solution for spent nuclear fuel, posing the risk of radioactive release and contamination of land.8 The plant was near two seismic zones, suggesting an earthquake over 6.2 could devastate the area.9 Asbestos exposure.These and other issues led the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to rate Indian Point in 2000 as the most trouble-plagued plant in the country. Lamont-Doherty Observatory agreed, calling it the most dangerous plant in the nation.As individuals realized the seriousness of the situation, urgency for a solution grew and Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition was formed in 2001. Comprised of public interest, health advocates, environmental and citizen groups, their goals were to educate the public, pass legislation, and form a grassroots campaign with hundreds of local, state, and federal officials.Clearwater also began monitoring the plant around that time. Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Action Director, recalls, “We were concerned when one of the planes that struck the WTC flew over the plant, including several buildings that hold huge fuel pools, filled with spent fuel rods and radioactive waste.” Had anything happened, the nuclear power industry had provided protection for themselves while neglecting surrounding communities. Powerful lobbyists, backed by considerable financing, induced Congress to pass the Price-Anderson Act in 1957. This legislation protected nuclear power plant companies from full liability in the event of an accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack.With such warnings, it’s hard to believe as late as 2010, The New York Times stated, “No one should be hoping for a too hasty shutdown.” Over time, the cost of litigation by New York State proved more fatal to the continuance of plant operations than protests, though they were a crucial factor and led to initial filings. Attorney General Schneiderman was very active in filing contentions, legal reasons the plant shouldn’t be relicensed, and won several important court cases on high-level radioactive storage.In 2016, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied Entergy a discharge permit for hot water into the Hudson River, part of their once-through cooling system. This permit was necessary for continued operation of the plant and a requirement for relicensing. The New York State Department of State, Bureau of Coastal Management, denied Entergy a water quality certificate the same year, which it also needed to relicense. After more than four decades of danger to the environment and residents, Governor Cuomo announced in January 2017 the plant would finally be closing. Unit 2 would cease production on April 30, 2020 and Unit 3 would end productivity on April 30, 2021.Later that year, in March 2017, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board allowed Entergy to renew the plant’s licenses until 2021, dismissing final points of contention between the company, New York State, and Riverkeeper. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino attempted to sue the state and reopen the plant in April 2017 but failed.Ellen Jaffee, NYS Assemblywoman, stated, “After 46 years of operation, I am glad to finally see the closure of Indian Point. Since joining the Assembly, I have long fought for its closure. I would not have been able to pursue these efforts if not for the environmental advocates, like the Riverkeeper, who fought long and hard beside myself to close the plant. The plant’s closure must be conducted in a safe manner, where all radioactive materials will be properly disposed of, without inflicting further harm on our environment. The closure of Indian Point shows that we can reduce our impact on the environment.”Harriet Cornell said, “We have waited years for this to happen and frankly, it can’t happen soon enough. The facts have long shown there is no future for this dangerous plant.”“The closure of Indian Point marks the shutdown of dirty polluting energy,” noted Susan Shapiro.Holtec, the company chosen to oversee decommissioning of the plant, has a horrific track record. New York State Attorney General Tish James released a statement in January expressing multiple grave concerns about them. According to Riverkeeper, they have a scandalous corporate past, little experience in decommissioning, dubious skills in spent fuel management, workplace safety infractions, and health violations. Another fear is the cost will exceed a decommissioning fund set aside by Entergy, Holtec will declare bankruptcy, and the public will absorb the difference.“Entergy made huge profits from Indian Point,” said Manna Jo Greene. “They’ve hired Holtec, a company with a poor record of decommissioning, to complete the work. Entergy plans to declare bankruptcy, thereby having taxpayers foot the bill. We are not out of danger. It is a different danger.”Richard Webster, Legal Program Director at Riverkeeper, adds, “Decommissioning must be done promptly, safely and reliably. Selling to Holtec is the worst possible option, because it has a dubious history of bribes, lies, and risk taking, very limited experience in decommissioning, is proposing to raid the decommissioning fund for its own benefit, and is proposing leaving contaminated groundwater to run into the Hudson River.”State Senator David Carlucci warned, “The NRC Inspector General Report shows there is much to be done by the NRC to gain the confidence of myself and the public, as the commission is charged with overseeing the decommissioning of Indian Point and ensuring the health and safety of Hudson Valley Communities. We demand answers from NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki. The Chairman needs to come to the Hudson Valley immediately and outline the steps being taken to address our safety and explain how the commission will properly inspect and guard the pipeline near Indian Point moving forward.”One of the gravest dangers in decommissioning is the storage of spent fuel rods. A fuel rod is a long, zirconium tube containing pellets of uranium, a fissionable material which provides fuel for nuclear reactors. Fuel rods are assembled into bundles called fuel assemblies, which are loaded individually into a reactor core. Fuel rods last about six years. When they’re spent and removed they are placed in wet storage, or pools of water, which is circulated to reduce temperature and provide shielding from radiation. They remain in these pools for 10 years, as they are too hot to be placed in dry storage, or canisters. Even in dry storage, though, they remain extremely radioactive, with high levels of plutonium, which is toxic, and continue to generate heat for decades and remain radioactive for 10,000 years.“Elected officials and government groups became involved once they understood the fatal environmental dangers nuclear energy creates for millenium,” said Susan Shapiro. “It is the only energy that produces waste so dangerous that governments must own and dispose of it.”Robert Kennedy, Jr., of Waterkeeper, explained “If those spent fuel rods caught on fire, if the water dropped, the zirconium coatings of the spent fuel rods would combust. You would release 37 times the amount of radiation that was released at Chernobyl. Around Chernobyl there are 100 miles that are permanently uninhabitable. I would include the workplaces, homes of 20 million Americans, including the Financial District. There’s no evacuation plan. And it’s sitting on two of the biggest earthquake faults in the northeast.”On April 24, 2020, Beyond Indian Point Campaign was launched to advocate for a safe transition during decommissioning. Sponsored by AGREE, Frack Action, Riverkeeper, NIRS and Food and Water Watch, they’re demanding Cuomo hire another company, opposing a license transfer before the State Public Service Commission and NRC and pushing state legislation to establish a board to supervise the decommissioning fund. When decommissioning is finished Beyond Indian Point hopes to further assist the community in the transition to renewable energy. These include wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydrothermal power. Sign an online petition on their website to support their work, future generations and earth at BeyondIndianPoint.com, Facebook, or Twitter.“Bravo to everyone involved in making this historic day come to pass,” said Susan Shapiro.Raised in the Midwest, Barbara Puff is a writer who lives in Nyack, NY.
The once-strong alliance between South Korea and the U.S. is weakening.
October 7, 2021 at 1:45 p.m. EDT
In fact, the alliance is in trouble — pulled apart by powerful geopolitical forces. The only way to save it might be for South Korea to move in a direction that much of Washington considers unthinkable: to develop an independent nuclear arsenal.
The Trump years certainly damaged the relationship; President Donald Trump made clear that he thought South Korea was taking advantage of the United States. But the true root of the problem lies in two long-term trends. First, the rise of China is creating a rift between American and South Korean foreign policy priorities. Managing the growth of China’s power has become America’s primary national security goal. As the costs and dangers of countering China rise, Washington increasingly expects its allies to join in this effort.
But the South Koreans never signed up for that deal. Their alliance with the United States has always been about North Korea. A counterbalancing effort against China would poison South Korea’s relations with its No. 1 trading partner — which is also the most powerful country in the region. Fear of offending China partly explains South Korea’s reluctance to join “the Quad,” a U.S.-led alignment that includes India, Australia and Japan. The United States is an important player in East Asia right now; China, Koreans know, will be their neighbor forever.
The situation is made worse by a second trend: the growing sophistication of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. Pyongyang has made major strides toward developing high-yield thermonuclear weapons and missiles that can carry them to the continental United States. This development fundamentally changes the alliance’s risk-reward calculus. For decades, American leaders accepted that defending South Korea could be very costly, possibly claiming the lives of thousands of U.♠S. soldiers. But now the costs of a conflict in Korea could be truly catastrophic for the United States.
In the event of war, leaders in Pyongyang would have powerful incentives to use nuclear weapons to stalemate South Korea’s conventional military superiority. Should the United States retaliate, the American homeland would become a target. War on the Korean Peninsula could thus lead to the destruction of multiple American cities — and the political, economic and social chaos that would follow. The American people never signed up for that deal.
As a result the alliance faces credibility problems. South Korea can’t be sure it can depend on its U.S. ally for protection. At the very moment that the two countries’ strategic priorities are diverging, the risks that the United States must bear to defend South Korea are growing a thousand-fold. North Korea, too, may question whether Washington would rush to Seoul’s aid during a war when doing so would threaten the survival of the United States.
Washington and its allies faced a similar credibility problem during the Cold War. In the early 1950s, NATO members wondered whether the emerging Soviet nuclear threat to the U.S. homeland meant they could no longer rely on the United States. Would the Americans really sacrifice Boston to protect Bonn? The allies addressed this credibility problem with three partial solutions. Britain and France acquired their own nuclear arsenals. For others, NATO implemented nuclear sharing: storing some U.S. weapons on allied bases in Europe, to be transferred to the allies if war erupted. And the U.S. military stationed large ground and air forces on the continent, deploying troops with their families, to intertwine the United States in any major war from the outset.
The United States has shown no interest in creating a Korean nuclear sharing agreement — for good reason. An agreement premised on plans to give nuclear weapons in a time of war to nonnuclear allies is legally questionable, given that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) prohibits their transfer. (Indeed, NATO’s nuclear sharing exists in a legal gray area.)
Additionally, with modern locks, such weapons would still be firmly in the control of American leaders, and hence no more credible than other elements of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Nor does the United States seem likely to increase the size of its conventional deployments on the Korean Peninsula or intertwine them with the Korean forces on the border. In fact, the number of American troops there has declined, with the forces positioned farther from the demilitarized zone.
That leaves the first option, however distasteful it may seem: South Korea may choose to acquire its own nuclear arsenal. Such a move would protect South Korea against the North Korean threat — more securely than today’s arrangement — and help the country manage its other long-term security problem: how to retain political independence in a region where China wields ever-greater power and influence.
Some analysts see nuclearization as a nonstarter, fearing it would make South Korea — an NPT member — a pariah like the North. But North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons was illegal, violating multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions. South Korea’s would be legal and justified. The NPT’s Article X was written for precisely the circumstances that South Korea faces today. It offers a withdrawal option if a member faces “extraordinary events” that “have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country.” North Korea’s illegal development of nuclear weapons and its threats against the South certainly qualify as extraordinary circumstances. South Korea’s development of nuclear weapons would be a proportional response to North Korea’s actions.
Seoul may already be heading in this direction. Former foreign minister Song Min-soon has said that South Korea “taking its own measures to create a nuclear balance on the peninsula” is an idea “widely touted” by leaders and analysts. Seventy percent of the South Korean public endorses the move. And Seoul’s new fleet of ballistic missile submarines is an unusual acquisition: a vastly expensive way to deliver a handful of conventional missiles. Those subs, however, would make an ideal platform for a future nuclear deterrent.
A South Korean nuclear arsenal is not what Washington prefers — indeed, it goes against a core U.S. policy of preventing nuclear spread. But it might be the best course given the weakened foundation of the alliance. If Seoul decides to take this step, the United States should focus blame where it belongs — on Pyongyang’s illegal nuclear program — and render political support to a valued ally.
Report: Hamas increasing activity in Lebanon
New report states that Gaza-based terrorist group behind series of rocket attacks since May from Lebanon
Hamas is gaining a foothold in southern Lebanon, establishing a military infrastructure in the past year-and-a-half, according to a new report from the ALMA Research Center, an Israeli think tank that specializes in security threats on the northern border.
The report states that Hamas was likely behind a series of five rocket attacks aimed at northern Israel in May, July and August.
The Gaza-based terrorist group has an active “Construction Bureau,” headed by Majed Qader Mahmoud Qader, who recently moved to Lebanon from Istanbul. Two units of the Construction Bureau contain hundreds of operatives — Al-Shimali and Khaled Ali.
The Al-Shimali unit is headed by William Abu Shanab and the Khaled Ali unit is commanded by Muhammed Hamed Jabara.
The two units are responsible for recruitment and training and also operating drones and rockets.
According to the report, many if not all of the rockets fired since May were launched without the knowledge of Hezbollah, which could indicate a rift between the two terrorist organizations.
The Construction Bureau is covertly based out of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. The activities are kept hidden from the Lebanese authorities and Hezbollah, which the report states “has the potential of creating a severely difficult challenge for Hezbollah.”
However, the Iranian Quds force ultimately manages the activities of the two groups as the Islamic Republic’s proxies on Israel’s borders, security analysts suggest.
The recent rocket attacks on northern Israel launched by Palestinian militants in Lebanon include three rockets fired toward the town of Nahariya on May 13; two rockets fired toward Central Galilee on May 17; four rockets fired toward Acre and Haifa on May 19; two rockets fired toward Western Galilee on July 19; and most recently three rockets fired toward Kiryat Shmona on August 4.