Nuclear War? How Kashmir Could Still Cause an Indo-Pakistan War in 2020 (Revelation 8 )

January 24, 2020, 4:09 AM MST

The Kashmir question will make the already-dim prospects for a de-escalation in tensions between India and Pakistan even more remote in 2020, raising the chances of conflict between the two South Asian powers.Tensions spiked in February, when, for the first time in nearly five decades, the longtime rivals hit each other with airstrikes. The exchange began after India blamed a Pakistan-based group for a suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that month. Ratcheting tensions up even further, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government — reelected in May — revoked Jammu and Kashmir state’s autonomy in August, prompting strong condemnation from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government. Together, the developments will make for a fraught year for bilateral relations centered on the dispute over Kashmir, where ongoing militant activity could trigger another military confrontation. Moreover, it will limit Modi’s ambitions for the territory.

A New Legal Status

The deadliest attack in the 30-year insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir occurred Feb. 14 when a suicide attacker drove a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device into a paramilitary convoy in the district of Pulwama, killing 40 personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force. Blaming Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based militant group, Modi’s government launched airstrikes into Pakistan 12 days later against a purported Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, an undisputed territory. Pakistan launched its own counterstrike the next day across the Line of Control, the de facto border dividing Kashmir between both countries. As Indian jets responded, a dogfight ensued in which Pakistan captured an Indian pilot. Khan ordered his release March 1, allowing the two countries to back away from the brink.

Why World War 3 Will Begin

WORLD WAR 3 fears were triggered after the US ordered the death of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani earlier this month – and Iran’s main policy is one of “revenge”, according to an Iranian expert.

In the immediate aftermath Soleimani’s death, Iranian officials called for “severe revenge” upon the “criminals” who approved of the fatal drone strike – a threat aimed at the US President, Donald Trump. A few days later, Iranian forces ordered a missile attack on two Iraq air bases, which host US troops, and representatives both on the street and in Parliament have been seen chanting “death to America”. Yet one body of critics has pointed out that this does not necessarily mean an escalation into World War 3 – Iran’s military is weaker than the US’s, and a win for the Middle East against the West would, therefore, be unlikely.

However, Supreme leader Khamenei indicated Iran was not likely to withdraw after just that attack. He tweeted just after the attacks on the US air bases in Al Assad: “They were slapped last night, but such military actions are not enough #AlAssadBase.”

Even before Iran launched missiles at the US base, an Iranian expert told the BBC that “revenge” is the priority for the country.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Beyond Today’ programme the day before the Iran missile strike, BBC’s Rana Rahimpour said: “More money is going to be on this ‘revenge policy’ that the Iranian have been talking about ever since Qassem Soleimani was killed.”

BBC presenter Matthew Price asked: “So the policy – if this is a government policy – is what?”

Ms Rahimpour, who covers Iran for the Persian Service, said: “Revenge.”

Mr Price asked: “So to carry out attacks?”

Ms Rahimpour replied: “Yes – and internally to crack down on any activists or anyone who criticises the regime will get much worse. Only yesterday, we heard that three people were arrested because they disrespected Qassem Soleimani.”

The Iranian journalist also pointed out how the Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was openly weeping at Solemani’s funeral in an unprecedented display of emotion early in January.

Ms Rahimpour continued: “To me, that was an important image. I’ve never seen him so sad. Qassem Soleimani was one of the closest people to him.

“Khamenei is not a forgiving person, and has explained that there won’t be any negotiations.”

She pointed out how two days before Soleimani’s death, he had said there would not be a war between the two countries – yet declared revenge so soon after the death of the leader of the Quds force.

Ms Rahimpour said she was wondering if Khamenei “had had enough”, and realised “Iran is not going to be quiet”.

However, the journalist suggested not everyone in Iran supported Soleimani.

She said: “I don’t think everybody who joined the funeral is a regime supporter. That’s why I’m personally surprised because we had opposition figures who took part in the funeral yesterday, people who have criticised Iran’s expansionist policies over the years, and they also joined it.

“And the reformists joined it. And many ordinary people joined it.”

She relayed how many members of the public felt united after the US attack. Reportedly they told her: “‘Whatever we say [against the Iranian regime], it’s an internal problem, it’s an internal criticism – this was against a foreign enemy.

“‘How dare the Americans kill our commanders, and this was to show them that we are all together in this.’”

Mr Price asked: “Has it become a moment of patriotism then?”

She replied: “Oh gosh yes. Big time. And not just patriotism – to me, it’s nationalism, it’s extreme nationalism.

“To be able to just turn a blind eye on all the atrocities the Revolutionary Guard have committed, inside the country and outside the country, and to say this was just an internal problem, it has nothing to do with the West.”

However, over the weekend there were mass protests across Iran against the Supreme Leader. Protesters chanted: “They are lying that our enemy is America; our enemy is right here.”

Ms Rahimpour said the regime has decided to give 200 million Euros to the Resistance movement, otherwise many known as Shia militias, in the region.

She explained: “At a time that the country is under sanctions, people are hand to mouth.

“Now more money is going to be spent on this revenge policy that they have been talking about since Qassem Soleimani was killed.”

The BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen also explained how this revenge means this could escalate very quickly.

He said: “Succession of incremental steps, between America and their allies, Iran and their allies, is so great, that is just takes a small miscalculation, because I don’t think trump or any of the Iranians think that would benefit anybody.

“The risk is, because of this heightened atmosphere […] things might suddenly very quickly go over the edge.”

Indeed, only last week, Iran admitted to “unintentionally” shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane heading to Canada, which killed all 176 people on board.

Apparently, the Revolutionary Guard General admitted they had mistaken the aircraft for a “hostile target”.

Antichrist’s supporters gather in Baghdad for anti-US ‘million man march’

Thousands of supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr rallied in Baghdad on Friday for the populist leader’s “million man march” against the US presence in Iraq.

Yet the numbers fell well short of Mr Al Sadr’s targeted million, and crowds had largely dispersed by early afternoon, with a some heading to the capital’s Tahrir Square, the site of months-long anti-government protests, and others taking buses home.

In a speech read out to the crowd, Mr Al Sadr called for the abolition of all security agreements with the United States, adding that he would not accept anything short of a full US troop withdrawal from Iraq and the closing of American bases throughout the country.

Supporters of the cleric, whose militia waged an insurgency against US and British troops following the US-led invasion in 2003, began arriving in Baghdad’s Jadariyah neighbourhood from across the country on Thursday.

Buses, plastered with the slogan “No, No to America” were organised to bring in supporters of the cleric from as far afield as the southern cities of Basra and Nasiriyah. Demonstrators were also fed and given Iraqi flags. Mr Al Sadr had warned those turning out not to fly flags of any militias or foreign states.

It underlined a top down dimension to the rally, contrasting the more organic protest movements which have rocked the country in recent weeks.

Fearing a repeat of the storming of the US Embassy by members and supporters of Iraqi militias in late December, concrete blast walls were placed outside the diplomatic mission’s perimeter, and US officials announced the embassy would be on a heightened state of caution.

Mr Al Sadr’s Shiite rivals rallied behind the cause after he announced the demonstration last week. Yet the run-up to the march was fraught with behind the scenes bickering that led to it being cancelled after initially being scheduled for last Friday.

The more pro-Iranian elements had called for the demonstration to be held at or pass through the Tahrir Square, where thousands of anti-government protesters have been based since October.

Yet those in Tahrir Square made it very clear that they did not identify with the Mr Al Sadr as a leader of their movement, even going as far as unfurling a giant banner accusing him of attempting to hijack their protests.

The demonstration also represents Mr Al Sadr’s most high-profile activity since he travelled to Iran in the wake of the US assassination of Iran’s Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, who oversaw Iraq’s militias, on January 3. His visit to Qom along with major figures of the Hashed Al Shaabi, the umbrella organisation of largely pro-Iranian and Shiite Iraqi militias, saw intense discussions over the future of the paramilitary forces and resistance to US forces in Iraq.

As crowds gathered for Mr Al Sadr’s march, the number of demonstrators also grew in Tahrir Square and on the nearby overpass of the Mohammed Al Qassem expressway where vicious clashes between security forces and protesters took place in recent days.

The protest comes almost three weeks since Iraq’s parliament voted along sectarian lines on a non-binding motion to expel US forces. The motion was passed with the backing of Shiite representatives, while Iraq’s Kurdish and Sunni politicians overwhelmingly boycotted the vote.

Updated: January 24, 2020 05:16 PM

The French Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Key point: Paris wanted its own deterrent, both to protect itself and to keep France “great.” Nuclear missile submarines also allowed France to leave NATO for a good number of years while remaining secure.

France was the fourth country to join the so-called “Nuclear Club,” and at the height of the Cold War maintained its own nuclear triad of land-based missiles, nuclear-armed bombers and ballistic missile submarines. Today, France’s sea-based nuclear deterrent is the home of most of its nuclear arsenal, with four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, of French design and construction, providing constant assurance against surprise nuclear attack.

France’s nuclear weapons arsenal began in earnest on February 13th, 1960, with the country’s first nuclear weapons test. The test, code-named “Gerboise Bleue” (Blue Desert Rat) confirmed that France had the know-how to build its own weapons. It also confirmed that France had the nuclear know-how to part ways with the United States and NATO and chart its own course versus the Soviet Union.

France began working on its own naval nuclear propulsion program in 1955, under what was known as Project Coelacanth. The first effort to build a nuclear-powered submarine, Q.244, was to be the first of five nuclear ballistic missile submarines. The effort to develop Q.244 was a failure, due to the inability of nuclear engineers to sufficiently miniaturize the reactor, and the submarine was cancelled in 1959. A subsequent project to develop a land-based reactor, PAT 1, was a success and led to development of Q.252, which became the submarine Le Redoutable.

At the same time, France’s defense industry was working diligently to produce a submarine-launched ballistic missile. The result was the M1 MSBS, or Mer-Sol Balistique Stratégique (Sea-Ground Strategic Ballistic Missile). The M1 was a two stage rocket with a 500 kiloton warhead and a range of 1,553 miles. This was sufficient range for a French ballistic missile submarine in the Bay of Biscay to strike Moscow.

France’s first generation missile submarines, the five submarines of the Le Redoutable class and the single L’Inflexible submarine, were all built at the Cherbourg shipyards and completed between 1971 and 1980. The cancellation of Q.244 may have been fortuitous, as it allowed the United States to make pioneer engineering decision in nuclear ballistic submarine design, something also seen in the Soviet Union’s first generation Yankee-class ballistic missile submarine. The overall layout of the Redoutable class was very similar to the U.S. Navy’s second generation Lafayette-class ballistic missile submarines, with fin-mounted hydroplanes and sixteen missile silos in two rows of eight directly behind the fin.

The first two submarines, Le Redoutable and Le Terrible, carried the M-1 missile, while the third, Le Foudroyant, carried the improved M-2 missile with a longer 1,841 mile range. The next two submarines, L’Indomptable and Le Tonnant had a mix of M-2 missiles and the new M-20, which had the same range but a gigantic 1 megaton thermonuclear warhead. The last submarine, L’Inflexible, carried missiles of a completely new design. Designated M4, the missiles had a 2,474 mile range, allowing them to strike as far east as Kazan.

At the height of France’s nuclear weapons arsenal, 87 percent of France’s nuclear arsenal was in submarines. France’s nuclear submarine fleet, the Force Océanique Stratégique (FOST), was based at Ile Longue in Brest, and FOST submarines were sent on two month patrols off the coast of France and Portugal. Three submarines were to be at sea at any one time, with a fourth also ready to go to sea.

Starting in the mid 1980s, all submarines except for Le Terrible were outfitted with improved M-4A and then M-4B missiles with ranges of up to 3,720 miles and multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, allowing each missile to carry six 150 kiloton warheads. The MIRVing of the M4 increased the firepower of each submarine sixfold.

In addition to their nuclear firepower, the Redoutable class submarines had four 533-millimeter torpedo tubes for self-defense, capable of launching the L5 Mod. 3 anti-submarine torpedo and the F 17 dual-purpose torpedo. They could also launch the SM 39 Exocet anti-ship cruise missile, but the primary mission of ballistic missile submarines is always to avoid detection until their nuclear missiles are needed.

France’s second generation missile submarines, the Triomphant class, were built between 1986 and 2010, a remarkably long timeline for just four submarines but par for the course for post–Cold War shipbuilding. The first in class, Triomphant, began construction in 1986 and was finally commissioned in 1997 while the second, Téméraire, entered the fleet in 1999. The third boat, Vigilant, was commissioned in 2004 while the fourth and final boat, Terrible, was commissioned in 2010.

The Triomphant class is larger than the earlier generation submarines, and indeed shares the same nuclear reactor, the K-15, with the nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. The first four ships in class were originally armed with the M45 intermediate-range missile, a solid-fuel design with a range of 3,728 miles. The M45 had an identical loadout to the M4B, carrying six 150-kiloton MIRV warheads, but included penetration aids to overcome ballistic missile defenses.

The last submarine, Terrible, was the first equipped with the current missile, M51. M51 has the same number of six 150 kiloton warheads but goes a step further in defeating ballistic missile defenses as each warhead is capable of independent maneuvers during the terminal descent phase. M51 has a range of nearly 5,000 miles. The new missile is being gradually retrofitted to the entire French ballistic missile submarine fleet.

The resurgence of Russian military power—and the will to use it—will likely keep Paris a nuclear power for the foreseeable future. As small as it is, France’s nuclear arsenal is not designed to win a nuclear war, just not lose one. France’s four nuclear missile submarines will ensure that.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami. This first appeared several years ago and is being republished due to reader interest.

Doomsday Clock Closer Than Ever (Revelation 16)

‘Doomsday Clock’ creeps closer to midnight than it ever has in history

By Angie Leventis Lourgos Chicago Tribune (TNS) 5 hrs ago

CHICAGO — Calling world affairs “profoundly unstable,” scientists on Thursday moved the fateful minute hand of the Doomsday Clock another 20 seconds closer to midnight, signifying that humanity is more perilously near global catastrophe than any other time in recent history.

The metaphorical clock is now set to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it has come to hitting the final hour — a symbol of world annihilation — since its inception by the University of Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947.

At a news conference in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, scientists cited U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, as well as deadlock in disarmament talks, as some of their reasons for the dire forecast. The recent rise in tensions between the United States and Iran helped confirm their decision, they said.

“We are now expressing how close the world is to catastrophe in seconds — not hours, or even minutes,” said Rachel Bronson of the University of Chicago, who serves as president and CEO of the Bulletin. “It is the closest to doomsday we have ever been in the history of the Doomsday Clock.We now face a true emergency — an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin for error or further delay.”

The foreboding timepiece was designed by Bulletin scientists as a harbinger of the state of international affairs, with the minute hand shifting toward or away from “doomsday” based on man-made threats to safety and security.

For the first few decades, the time was based solely on nuclear threats, but in recent years climate change and technological threats weighed heavily in the decision. The latest reset of 20 seconds was the smallest incremental time change in the clock’s history; other time changes have been in increments of 30 seconds or more.

Even at the height of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, the minute hand was set at two minutes to midnight; the clock has never come this close to approaching the end.

The Bulletin was established in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who were part of the Manhattan Project, which produced the atomic bombs the United States used against Japan, weaponry that would later ignite the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

“It’s very much a Chicago story,” Robert Rosner, University of Chicago professor and chair of the science and security board of the Bulletin, said in a telephone interview. “It’s one of the earliest examples of when scientists have come to terms with what they created. I would say the Bulletin was the very first organized attempt to come to terms with the consequences of scientific invention.”

While the visual image of a clock might be simple, Rosner said the experts determining each shift of the minute hand take the decision very seriously, critically evaluating the state of international events, climate threats and how technology impacts safety and security. The Bulletin’s science and security board — which includes scientists and other experts on climate change, military affairs and technology — meets twice a year to discuss international events, and resets the minute hand accordingly.

The iconic clock is kept at the Bulletin’s headquarters at the University of Chicago.

“Most people don’t have the time to think through the consequences of actions taken by governments,” Rosner said. “This is a synthesis, a look at the big picture: Are we safe? Are we safer than before? Or not?”

He added that these experts are nonpartisan and the choice to move the hand of the clock is never politically motivated.

The minute hand has been reset about two dozen times since the clock’s inception, marking moments of calamity as well as indicators of peace and prosperity: In 1991 following the Cold War’s end, the minute hand was rewound to 17 minutes, the furthest it’s ever been from the fatal hour.

The last time change was in 2018, when the minute hand crept 30 seconds toward midnight, resting just two minutes shy of the end of the world.

Tick tock.

———

SOME KEY MOMENTS IN DOOMSDAY CLOCK HISTORY

1947: Seven minutes to midnight — The Doomsday Clock is created. Chicago-area artist Martyl Langsdorf, who married a nuclear physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, designed the original image for the first cover of the Bulletin.

1949: Three minutes to midnight — The Soviet Union successfully tests its atomic bomb.

1953: Two minutes to midnight — the United States and the Soviet Union test their first thermonuclear weapons. “The hands of the clock of doom move again,” wrote Bulletin editor Eugene Rabinowitch, a University of Illinois professor. “Only a few more swings of the pendulum, and, from Moscow to Chicago, atomic explosions will strike midnight for Western Civilization.”

1998: Nine minutes to midnight — India and Pakistan stage nuclear weapons tests three weeks apart. The United States and Russia “maintain 7,000 warheads ready to fire at each other within 15 minutes.”

2007: Five minutes to midnight — For the first time, climate change is taken into account; previous decisions were based solely on nuclear threats.

2015: Three minutes to midnight — The scientists urge actions to cap greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear disarmament, as well as safe and secure nuclear waste storage.

2018: Two minutes to midnight — U.S. and Russia continue military exercises along NATO borders, tensions rise over the South China Sea and nuclear weapons arsenals stockpile in Pakistan and India. Misuse of information technology and “vulnerability of democracies to disinformation” are also taken into account.

Source: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

———

©2020 Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at http://www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The Sixth Seal Will be in New York (Revelation 6:12)

By Simon Worrall

PUBLISHED AUGUST 26, 2017

Half a million earthquakes occur worldwide each year, according to an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most are too small to rattle your teacup. But some, like the 2011 quake off the coast of Japan or last year’s disaster in Italy, can level high-rise buildings, knock out power, water and communications, and leave a lifelong legacy of trauma for those unlucky enough to be caught in them.

In the U.S., the focus is on California’s San Andreas fault, which geologists suggest has a nearly one-in-five chance of causing a major earthquake in the next three decades. But it’s not just the faults we know about that should concern us, says Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake. As she explained when National Geographic caught up with her at her home in Portland, Maine, there’s a much larger number of faults we don’t know about—and fracking is only adding to the risks.

When it comes to earthquakes, there is really only one question everyone wants to know: When will the big one hit California?

That’s the question seismologists wish they could answer, too! One of the most shocking and surprising things for me is just how little is actually known about this natural phenomenon. The geophysicists, seismologists, and emergency managers that I spoke with are the first to say, “We just don’t know!”

What we can say is that it is relatively certain that a major earthquake will happen in California in our lifetime. We don’t know where or when. An earthquake happening east of San Diego out in the desert is going to have hugely different effects than that same earthquake happening in, say, Los Angeles. They’re both possible, both likely, but we just don’t know.

One of the things that’s important to understand about San Andreas is that it’s a fault zone. As laypeople we tend to think about it as this single crack that runs through California and if it cracks enough it’s going to dump the state into the ocean. But that’s not what’s happening here. San Andreas is a huge fault zone, which goes through very different types of geological features. As a result, very different types of earthquakes can happen in different places.

As Charles Richter, inventor of the Richter Scale, famously said, “Only fools, liars and charlatans predict earthquakes.” Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? After all, we have sent rockets into space and plumbed the depths of the ocean.

You’re right: We know far more about distant galaxies than we do about the inner workings of our planet. The problem is that seismologists can’t study an earthquake because they don’t know when or where it’s going to happen. It could happen six miles underground or six miles under the ocean, in which case they can’t even witness it. They can go back and do forensic, post-mortem work. But we still don’t know where most faults lie. We only know where a fault is after an earthquake has occurred. If you look at the last 100 years of major earthquakes in the U.S., they’ve all happened on faults we didn’t even know existed.

Earthquakes 101

Earthquakes are unpredictable and can strike with enough force to bring buildings down. Find out what causes earthquakes, why they’re so deadly, and what’s being done to help buildings sustain their hits.

Fracking is a relatively new industry. Many people believe that it can cause what are known as induced earthquakes. What’s the scientific consensus?

The scientific consensus is that a practice known as wastewater injection undeniably causes earthquakes when the geological features are conducive. In the fracking process, water and lubricants are injected into the earth to split open the rock, so oil and natural gas can be retrieved. As this happens, wastewater is also retrieved and brought back to the surface.

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Different states deal with this in different ways. Some states, like Pennsylvania, favor letting the wastewater settle in aboveground pools, which can cause run-off contamination of drinking supplies. Other states, like Oklahoma, have chosen to re-inject the water into the ground. And what we’re seeing in Oklahoma is that this injection is enough to shift the pressure inside the earth’s core, so that daily earthquakes are happening in communities like Stillwater. As our technology improves, and both our ability and need to extract more resources from the earth increases, our risk of causing earthquakes will also rise exponentially.

After Fukushima, the idea of storing nuclear waste underground cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Yet President Trump has recently green-lighted new funds for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Is that wise?

The issue with Fukushima was not about underground nuclear storage but it is relevant. The Tohoku earthquake, off the coast of Japan, was a massive, 9.0 earthquake—so big that it shifted the axis of the earth and moved the entire island of Japan some eight centimeters! It also created a series of tsunamis, which swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant to a degree the designers did not believe was possible.

Here in the U.S., we have nuclear plants that are also potentially vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, above all on the East Coast, like Pilgrim Nuclear, south of Boston, or Indian Point, north of New York City. Both of these have been deemed by the USGS to have an unacceptable level of seismic risk. [Both are scheduled to close in the next few years.]

Yucca Mountain is meant to address our need to store the huge amounts of nuclear waste that have been accumulating for more than 40 years. Problem number one is getting it out of these plants. We are going to have to somehow truck or train these spent fuel rods from, say, Boston, to a place like Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. On the way it will have to go through multiple earthquake zones, including New Madrid, which is widely considered to be one of the country’s most dangerous earthquake zones.

Yucca Mountain itself has had seismic activity. Ultimately, there’s no great place to put nuclear waste—and there’s no guarantee that where we do put it is going to be safe.

The psychological and emotional effects of an earthquake are especially harrowing. Why is that?

This is a fascinating and newly emerging subfield within psychology, which looks at the effects of natural disasters on both our individual and collective psyches. Whenever you experience significant trauma, you’re going to see a huge increase in PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide, and even violent behaviors.

What seems to make earthquakes particularly pernicious is the surprise factor. A tornado will usually give people a few minutes, if not longer, to prepare; same thing with hurricanes. But that doesn’t happen with an earthquake. There is nothing but profound surprise. And the idea that the bedrock we walk and sleep upon can somehow become liquid and mobile seems to be really difficult for us to get our heads around.

Psychologists think that there are two things happening. One is a PTSD-type loop where our brain replays the trauma again and again, manifesting itself in dreams or panic attacks during the day. But there also appears to be a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. If your readers have ever been at sea for some time and then get off the ship and try to walk on dry land, they know they will look like drunkards. [Laughs] The reason for this is that the inner ear has habituated itself to the motion of the ship. We think the inner ear does something similar in the case of earthquakes, in an attempt to make sense of this strange, jarring movement.

After the Abruzzo quake in Italy, seven seismologists were actually tried and sentenced to six years in jail for failing to predict the disaster. Wouldn’t a similar threat help improve the prediction skills of American seismologists?

[Laughs] The scientific community was uniform in denouncing that action by the Italian government because, right now, earthquakes are impossible to predict. But the question of culpability is an important one. To what degree do we want to hold anyone responsible? Do we want to hold the local meteorologist responsible if he gets the weather forecast wrong? [Laughs]

What scientists say—and I don’t think this is a dodge on their parts—is, “Predicting earthquakes is the Holy Grail; it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. It may never happen.” What we can do is work on early warning systems, where we can at least give people 30 or 90 seconds to make a few quick decisive moves that could well save your life. We have failed to do that. But Mexico has had one in place for years!

There is some evidence that animals can predict earthquakes. Is there any truth to these theories?

All we know right now is anecdotal information because this is so hard to test for. We don’t know where the next earthquake is going to be so we can’t necessarily set up cameras and observe the animals there. So we have to rely on these anecdotal reports, say, of reptiles coming out of the ground prior to a quake. The one thing that was recorded here in the U.S. recently was that in the seconds before an earthquake in Oklahoma huge flocks of birds took flight. Was that coincidence? Related? We can’t draw that correlation yet.

One of the fascinating new approaches to prediction is the MyQuake app. Tell us how it works—and why it could be an especially good solution for Third World countries.

The USGS desperately wants to have it funded. The reluctance appears to be from Congress. A consortium of universities, in conjunction with the USGS, has been working on some fascinating tools. One is a dense network of seismographs that feed into a mainframe computer, which can take all the information and within nanoseconds understand that an earthquake is starting.

MyQuake is an app where you can get up to date information on what’s happening around the world. What’s fascinating is that our phones can also serve as seismographs. The same technology that knows which way your phone is facing, and whether it should show us an image in portrait or landscape, registers other kinds of movement. Scientists at UC Berkeley are looking to see if they can crowd source that information so that in places where we don’t have a lot of seismographs or measuring instruments, like New York City or Chicago or developing countries like Nepal, we can use smart phones both to record quakes and to send out early warning notices to people.

You traveled all over the U.S. for your research. Did you return home feeling safer?

I do not feel safer in the sense that I had no idea just how much risk regions of this country face on a daily basis when it comes to seismic hazards. We tend to think of this as a West Coast problem but it’s not! It’s a New York, Memphis, Seattle, or Phoenix problem. Nearly every major urban center in this country is at risk of a measurable earthquake.

What I do feel safer about is knowing what I can do as an individual. I hope that is a major take-home message for people who read the book. There are so many things we should be doing as individuals, family members, or communities to minimize this risk: simple things from having a go-bag and an emergency plan amongst the family to larger things like building codes.

We know that a major earthquake is going to happen. It’s probably going to knock out our communications lines. Phones aren’t going to work, Wi-Fi is going to go down, first responders are not going to be able to get to people for quite some time. So it is beholden on all of us to make sure we can survive until help can get to us.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Pakistan conducts another successful nuclear test (Daniel 8 )

Pakistan conducts successful training launch of nuclear-capable ballistic missile

Jan 23, 2020, 04.34 PM IST

BCCL

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday conducted a successful training launch of nuclear-capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile ‘Ghaznavi’, which can strike targets up to 290 kilometers.

“The training launch was part of Field Training Exercise of Army Strategic Forces Command aimed at rehearsing operational readiness procedures during day and night,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the army, said in a statement.

The ‘Ghaznavi’ missile is capable of delivering multiple types of warheads upto a range of 290 kilometers, the statement said.

The launch was witnessed by Lt Gen Nadeem Zaki Manj, Director General Strategic Plans Division, Commander Army Strategic Forces Command, senior officers from Strategic Plans Division, Army Strategic Forces Command, Scientists and Engineers of the strategic organisations, according to the state-run Radio Pakistan.

“Director General Strategic Plans Division appreciated the operational preparedness of Army Strategic Forces Command for displaying a very high standard of proficiency in handling and operating the weapon system,” the statement said.

He also “expressed full confidence in the robust Strategic Command and Control System and the capability of Strategic Forces”, it added.

Pakistan test-fired ‘Ghaznavi’ on August 29, 2019 also, days after India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5.

India and Pakistan have been at odds after New Delhi abrogated the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated it into two union territories.

Pakistan reacted strongly to India’s decision and downgraded bilateral ties and expelled the Indian envoy.

India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter. It has also advised Pakistan to accept the reality and stop all anti-India propaganda.

Antichrist, Shi’ite Militia Leaders Ramp Up Calls For Anti-U.S. March

Muqtada Al-Sadr, Shi’ite Militia Leaders Ramp Up Calls For Anti-U.S. March

On January 23, 2020, Shi’ite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr issued a new statement aimed at mobilizing more people to participate in Friday’s planned one-million-man march to end the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. Under the title “A Thought,” Al-Sadr’s message asked Iraqi men, women and children to answer “the call of the homeland… the time to reform Iraq’s system and to evict invaders is now… Hasten to support the beloved [homeland], as it is calling to you, and do not renege on your vow.”

Al-Sadr’s tweeted message

The previous day, January 22, Al-Sadr’s spokesman Salah Al-Obaidi told the state-run Al-Iraqyia TV[1] that “the instructions given by Al-Sadr last week regarding his proposed march underline that the participation of militias, including those who targeted the U.S. Embassy, is not wanted.”[2]

On January 23, Saleh Mohammad Al-Iraqi, an affiliate of Al-Sadr, tweeted a poster titled “It has to be a million,” in reference to the number of participants the organizers aim to mobilize.

The tweeted poster.

The previous day, the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), whose leaders had met with Al-Sadr in Qom earlier this month,[3] issued statements and messages to ramp up calls for a unified position against the U.S. presence in Iraq.

On January 22, Qais Al-Khazali, the secretary-general of the PMU group Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, appeared in a video message in which he called on Iraqis from all religions and sects to join the anti-U.S. demonstration. Referring to the Iraqi parliament’s decision to expel the U.S. forces, he said: “In Iraq, the fighters of the Popular Mobilization Units are the ones who defeated the American terrorist takfiri scheme of ISIS. These same fighters are the now the heroes of the resistance [movement]. They are at the highest levels of readiness should the U.S. continue to reject the political and public decision.”

Al-Khazali in his video message (Source: Youtube.com/watch?v=jipoqYbXS4MYouTube, January 22, 2020)

He further explained that this decision “will be evidenced by the millions who will come out Friday to show the world that the Iraqi youth and resistance are capable of forcing all occupation forces to withdraw.”

The video message signals Al-Khazali’s first media appearance since the funerals of IRGC Qods Force commander Khazali and PMU deputy commander Abu Mahdi Al- Muhandis.

Earlier, on January 22, the Hizbullah Brigades in Iraq issued a statement calling on Sunnis and Shi’ites to join the demonstration.[4] The statement described Friday’s march as “the second 1920 revolution,” referring to a revolt by Iraqi tribes against the British occupation.

The Hizbullah Brigades statement (Source: Kataibhezbollah.com)

“For those whose grandparents did not have the honor of fighting the British occupation in the first revolution of 1920, you have the chance to write your name in letters of gold on this page of the struggle, to be a source of pride for your children and grandchildren and a beacon for future generations,” the statement said.

A statement by the Al-Nujaba Movement in Iraq called on Iraqis to join the march to “reject the powers of the global arrogance” – a term for the U.S. used by the Iranian regime.

The Al-Nujaba statement (Source: Alsumaria.tv)

The statement went on to remind Iraqis: “The Great Satan [the U.S.], with its supporters, want to intimidate you, yet they are weak… The world is awaiting an historic stance from Iraq – a stance that will reject humiliation and honor Iraq and determine its future.”

[1] Nasnews.com, January 22, 2020.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8496, After Meeting In Iran, Shi’ite Militia Leaders And Cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr Call For One Million Man March To End U.S. Military Presence, January 14, 2020.

[3] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8491, Commanders Of Shi’ite Militias In Iraq Continue To Threaten U.S. Forces While Seeking To Mend Internal Rifts, January 13, 2020.

[4] Kataibhezbollah.com/news/3063?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=4c5db14f2d7eb2546a0fd655e0e5de4a334e4165-1579790459-0-AZ3ne2rLXiglxXgVJB2sf895VTyrubetUwakfMGan9bmzAn_bLzitkZ9Jj72jssklxZ_4s3rJpGxznEjsnl4k8YWwcrL4VtRd9snZrVj

136gu_8rLxC_SZ14u5InwCGD5LfCRi_0Ak6Pj-hFDqo6Cgdexc2DU8GtNkBFVuo3gOoUzg8sk2NtPmA4kQ-I6tjLwZzbSP-D2Mog0Ys1XuD3QSzLSzOthJJX20MIN3r4KeVN2ltOwEorh4uka2ZCj_g18Yra1Q0THKyRAyrY7pvmvH8,January 22, 2020.

Europe is Sleep-Walking Into A Nuclear Disaster With Iran

Flags of Iran and European Union. Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency

Is Europe Sleep-Walking Into A Diplomatic Disaster With Iran? – Analysis

Dan SteinbockJanuary 22, 2020

Iran charges Brussels for serving US interests in the Middle East. The accusations are the net effect of Europe’s failure to protect the nuclear deal, amid Trump’s auto tariff threat. US credibility in the region has plunged. Brussels should avoid following in the footprints.

During remarks at a GOP fundraising event on the weekend, President Trump bragged he assassinated “two for the price of one.” The reference was to the January 3 drone assassination of Iran’s top commander, Major General Qasem Soleiman, and the Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

In turn, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Europeans “sold out” the nuclear deal under Trump’s auto tariff threat. Unfortunately, Zarif has a point.

Decades of foreign interventions

Iran’s struggle for existential survival intensified in the early 1950s, when the country’s democratically-elected liberal prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was overthrown in a coup by US and British secret services. Mossadegh wanted to use Iran’s oil for country’s economic development, whereas Washington and London wanted to control oil and geopolitics in the region.

What followed was quarter of a century of Shah’s “modernization,” which benefited the royal family, its brutal security apparatus Savak, a circle of oligarchs, and a small urban middle class, but not the overwhelming majority of Iranian people.

The economic polarization and brutal terror led to the Shah’s escape and the Islamic Revolution in 1979. In an effort to weaken Iran and replace its leadership, the West supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the subsequent Iran-Iraq War that cost Iran an estimated $627 billion and Iraq more than $560 billion, respectively. Some 500,000 Iraqi and Iranian soldiers lost their lives, in addition to tens of thousands of civilians.

That paved way to the Persian Gulf War in the early ‘90s, and the misdirected Iraq War in the early 2000s. Meanwhile, several rounds of economic sanctions, which devastated Iran’s economy, were enacted by Washington and its allies against Tehran between 1979 and 2015.

After years of diplomacy, a comprehensive nuclear accord (JCPOA, July 2015) was achieved between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -China, France, Russia, UK, and the US – plus Germany and the European Union (EU). Under the deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium. In return, it finally got relief from US, UN and multilateral sanctions.

After stabilization, Iran’s oil exports returned to pre-sanctions levels, boosting 7% growth in 2016. Broadening to the non-oil sector, real GDP growth was projected to rise toward 4.5% over the medium-term.

But then came the Trump U-turn. In May 2018, the White House had the US withdraw from the JCPOA deal setting an illicit precedent. Brussels was shocked, but the White House’s actions did not come out of the blue.

How JCPOA and EU firms in Iran were undermined

Before the US exit from the JCPOA, EU leaders still stressed the importance of the full implementation of the nuclear deal. As the Trump administration began its exit, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that “the nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake.” Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas argued that the JCPOA “makes the world safer.” UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson pledged the “UK remains strongly committed to the JCPOA.” And the top EU diplomat Federica Mogherini promised the EU will remain committed to the deal.

But as the Trump administration proved unlikely to change its stance, a subtle shift ensued. Now Macron said that “we will work collectively on a broader framework, covering nuclear activity, the post-2025 period, ballistic activity, and stability in the Middle East, notably Syria, Yemen and Iraq.” The idea became to “redefine” the EU approach by leaving the JCPOA intact, but coupling the deal with new and broader conditions, which would undermine the deal, however.

Brussels hoped to reason with the Democratic Congress but that proved naive. After the 2016 US election, it was the Congress with its Democratic majority – not Trump – that paved the way for a U-turn. Following the House of Representatives, the Senate unanimously extended the Iran Sanctions Act for a decade. President Obama’s legacy deal was shot down fast as most Democrats reversed their Iran stances.

To neutralize European opposition, the Trump administration targeted European businesses that had done business in and with Iran since the Iran deal. It also pledged to extend sanctions over to companies that represented other JCPOA parties – China, France, Russia, UK, Germany and the EU – thus raising risks to their US access. As Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin put it at the time, European-Iran business agreements will be voided as “the existing licenses will be revoked.”

Along with Renault, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Sanofi, French companies had huge stakes in the Iran deal, thanks to the Airbus contract to provide Iran Air 100 airplanes for $21 billion and the oil giant Total’s $2 billion deal to develop the South Pars oil field. Some 120 German companies, including Volkswagen and Siemens, operated in Iran and another 10,000 did business with Iran. Royal Dutch Shell discovered it, too, would be adversely affected. In particular, economic pressure threatened Iran’s largest oil importers, such as China, South Korea, Turkey, Japan, Italy and India.

US pressure outweighed efforts to sustain European credibility.  

JCPOA under the Trump attack

Russia and China were expected to stay behind the Iran nuclear deal. The real question was whether the EU Big Three – Germany, France, the UK – would defend it. In January 2019, after lingering talks, the three did create INSTEX, a special mechanism to salvage the JCPOA by helping EU companies do business with Iran and facilitate non-dollar transactions to bypass and avoid breaking US sanctions.

In late 2019, six European countries -both neutral states, such as Finland and Sweden, and NATO countries like Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, and Norway -joined the INSTEX attaching “the utmost importance to the preservation and full implementation of the JCPOA by all parties involved.” In Brussels, the chatter was that other European countries had expressed interest in joining the mechanism.

However, Brussels urged Iran to return to full compliance with the terms of the JCPOA. It also expressed readiness to consider the JCPOA’s dispute resolution clause, which allows previous UN sanctions to be re-imposed on Iran without a vote in the UN Security Council (to neutralize opposition by Russia and China).

Iran and its supporters argued the trigger mechanism was illegal as long as Europe failed to fulfill its obligations under the nuclear deal. Yet, while European powers pledged to continue to trade with and in Iran, large corporations began to exit the country. More recently, from January to the end of October 2019, the volume of trade between the EU and Iran has plunged 75% year-on year. In the period, European exports to Iran fell by 53% compared with the same period in 2018, while Iranian exports to Europe slumped by 94%.

Worse, there have been reportedly “no transactions” through the INSTEX so far. And as Washington is effectively threatening to sanction anyone using the mechanism, Brussels is not seen to defend the JCPOA. That’s why Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has expressed mistrust of European powers charging them for acting as if they are “lowly and US servants.”

Khameini is pushing Iran to rely more on its domestic capacities and to look to the East to defend its economy.

Toward diplomatic disaster

Iran has proved right about Trump’s trade threat to Europe over Iran policy. In mid-January, German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was asked about an article in the Washington Post that claimed Trump had secretly warned France, Germany and the UK the US would impose a “25% tariffs on European cars” if the EU Big Three did not activate the JCPOA’s dispute mechanism.

The net effect is a huge double standard that now threatens to erode Europe’s credibility as a presumably independent international actor. Compliance with the Trump tariffs will only encourage more misguided trade policies.

Reportedly, the Trump assassination of Soleimani had nothing to do with the alleged “imminent attacks.” Rather, according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Soleimani was on a peace mission. Abdul-Mahdi was to meet the Iranian commander to discuss a diplomatic rapprochement Iraq was brokering between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Such de-escalation would have been very much in line with European hopes in the region, whereas the US reportedly has its own long-term interests in Iran and Iraq. The two countries hold some of the world’s largest deposits of proved oil and natural gas reserves. Combined, those reserves are bigger than those of Venezuela, which has the world’s largest proved reserves.

Iranians feel strongly that oil and geopolitics are the real reasons for decades of foreign interventions. As the conflict in Libya shows, such efforts tend to result in regime change, institutional fragmentation and proxy wars in which “Europe stands to lose the most,” as Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio recently put it.

As a result of US offensives and EU’s reluctant compliance, the Middle East is coping with the most dangerous escalation in decades. The international implications could prove even worse. If the status quo is permitted to still deteriorate, a global contraction could ensue in the coming months.

The original commentary was published by The European Financial Review on Jan 21, 2020; the print version will follow soon

Babylon the Great Prepares for War

ENC military ‘ready to deploy’ if called upon – News – The Daily News – Jacksonville, NC

Tensions between the United States and several middle eastern countries have teetered since President Trump ordered a missile strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassam Soleimani on Jan. 3.

With some military assignments being rerouted and so much of the future unknown, military members in Eastern North Carolina stand ready to deploy — they are trained on the importance of being ready to deploy on a moment’s notice.

Marines and sailors are constantly engaged in combat and job-specific training, and units make sure their military members and their families are always prepared for deployments, said Lt. Col. Rob Shuford of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune.

The unit maintains a high level of readiness at all levels to ensure that we are ready to deploy if called upon,” Shuford said.

Recently, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Trump have taken verbal shots at one another. Khamenei called the U.S. government “villainous” and said if the United States is standing with the Iranian people, “it is only to stab them in the heart with their venomous daggers,” USA Today reported.

Iraq has also requested the removal of American troops from their soil, stating the missile strike was an unacceptable breach of Iraqi sovereignty and violation of security agreements, the Associated Press reported. However, on Friday the U.S. State Department rejected the request and instead asked for Iraq and the United States to talk about how to recommit to their partnership.

In January, Fort Bragg deployed approximately 3,500 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division to the Middle East, the Fayetteville Observer reported, and Camp Lejeune and New River redirected 2,500 Marines to the Mediterranean Sea, according to previous reports by The Daily News.

Shuford said units are constantly training at facilities aboard Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Stations Cherry Point, New River and Beaufort, but training is not limited to these locations only.

Climate training plays a tremendous role in a military member’s readiness to be deployed and the Marine Corps also sends units to various locations around the United States and overseas in order to acclimate themselves, according to Shuford.

Shuford also stressed the importance of sending supplies, like fuel, replacement parts for vehicles and aircraft, along with food and ammunition required for the units to operate.

In addition to supplies that are ready to deploy from Camp Lejeune, Shuford said the U.S. Department of Defense maintains prepositioned equipment and supplies all over the world that can be used when needed.

However, taking care of the homefront is something Shuford explained is a critical part of the military’s overall readiness.

Ultimately, service members and unit leaders are responsible for items such as power of attorney, financial matters, housing for families, etc.; however many units have established liaisons between the families and the commands.

“Aside from unit leadership, many units have assigned Deployment Readiness Coordinators to help address any challenges that families may have preparing for a deployment, or to help during a deployment,” said Shuford.

More Headlines

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper recently shared a long list of state government support resources for military members and their families in light of the recent deployments.

The list includes tax assistance with deadline extensions and combat zone pay provided at NCDOR.gov; rental and leasing resources like the Servicememebers Relief Act and the N.C. Servicesmembers Civil Relief Act, which provides protection for service men and women and their families, including determining eligibility for lease termination or eviction protection at NCDOJ.gov; and behavioral health services provided through the Department of Health and Human Services. To view the full list of available services visit Governor.NC.gov.

“Our brave servicemembers work tirelessly to keep us safe, and they should be able to carry out their service without worrying about loved ones back home,” Cooper is quoted as saying in the recent release. “It is important that we provide resources to servicemen and women and their families to ensure that a sudden deployment does not put them at financial or other risk.”

ENC and its residents are no strangers to the challenges they would face if the military deployed a large number of military members.

“A major deployment would mean a ghost town for the residents living here in Jacksonville,” said retired Naval Petty Officer 2nd Class Erica Nightingale, who served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years.

The area would see the effect not only in the number of military men and women being sent elsewhere, but also with their families. Nightingale said some spouses and families members choose to go home to their own families to seek help while their loved one is deployed.

However, some families choose to stay, or must stay due to the lives they’ve built in ENC.

Victoria Johnson, whose husband is stationed at MCAS Cherry Point and has been through three major deployments, said she wouldn’t move back home.

“Normally, it’s a younger couple going through their first deployment that chooses to go back home because they haven’t built that support system, however the ones that have several deployments under their belts are the ones that stay put,” she said.

Factors such as buying a house, older children, pets, and friends are some of the reasons why Johnson continues her life in ENC during deployment.

Johnson added that in some cases, like her own, she didn’t have that support system back home and it is easier not to drop everything and leave, along with not wanting to constantly move her family during every deployment.

In terms of setting up their affairs, Johnson took advantage of the Readiness Coordinators to ensure her family was set up before deployment with a general power of attorney, along with making sure her family IDs were up to date and house maintenance was taken care of.

Johnson stressed that the biggest assurance was that her family had the address of where her husband was deploying in order to send mail and care packages.