Wickedness before the Bowls of Wrath: Revelation 16

Eve Ottenberg | Published: 00:00, Jan

Abyss of human wickedness

— Counter Punch/Brian Stansberry

AS THE west worked itself into a lather in the last month over Russia moving its troops within its own borders, one Republican senator, Roger Wicker of Mississippi bellowed on December 8 that the United States should attack Russia with nuclear weapons. This horrifying threat to end human life on the planet comes from someone of no little puissance, as others quickly noted. Wicker sits on the armed services committee. So he communes regularly with Pentagon bigwigs, many of whom are said to have little regard for presidential professions of concern for posterity and promises never to explode the nuclear devices that would eliminate that posterity once and for all. One must assume when someone of Wicker’s exalted position speaks, he speaks not only for himself.

Fortunately, the five most impressively nuclear-armed nations moved quickly to throw cold water on those who advocate an atomic apocalypse, and that included drenching senator Wicker. China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States issued a joint statement on January 3 that avoiding nuclear war is a paramount goal. ‘We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,’ agreed the five countries. ‘We each intend to maintain and further strengthen our national measures to prevent unauthorised or unintended use of nuclear weapons.’ The statement also calls for progress on disarmament. It could not be more apposite.

That’s because the western Russophobic propaganda machine — the biggest and most deafening of its kind in world history, cranked up to full volume at all corporate news outlets, drowning the world in cuckoo-bird ravings about treacherous Slavs — now would have us believe that the Russians are planning false flag attacks in Ukraine. False flags are pretty much a US military/media specialty, in fact, Washington owns the patent on them, but most US Americans, blissfully ignorant of this fact, are thus easy marks for such hysteria. So now, this rubbish, regurgitated by credulous newspaper scribes and repeated by government officials, screams at us daily from the headlines. There is practically nothing, zilch, to counter it. The most preposterous prevarications abound, for example, Ukraine’s president, in November, breathlessly announcing that Moscow intended to overthrow him ‘next week’. Among these fabrications lurk tales about Washington’s and NATO’s supposedly benign and even altruistic motives.

Better the world live without NATO than die for its expansion. Because that is what NATO asks us to do. When the US sends E-8 electronic warfare aircraft over Russia’s borders, as it did in December, they’re not there just to say hello. When NATO member Great Britain projects its HMS Defender two miles from the Crimean coast, causing warning shots from Russian coast guard patrol ships, as happened last June 23, this is no innocent, defensive manoeuvre. And when NATO’s supreme commander muses publicly about reinforcing NATO’s eastern flank on Romania and Bulgaria, only an idiot would conclude he’s not preparing for war.

Likewise, only a nitwit would swallow secretary of state Antony Blinken’s bigoted remark January 7 that ‘once the Russians are in your house, it’s sometimes very difficult to get them to leave.’ This from a man whose nation’s military has lodged itself in Germany and Japan for 77 years and counting, occupied Afghanistan for 20 years and is still in Iraq after 19. Blinken has some nerve. But then, he can utter such mendacities in full confidence that he will never, never be corrected in the American press.

It’s no wonder Russia demands written legal guarantees against NATO expansion and western nukes. It’s also no surprise that the US, caught in a lie, now claims that back in the early 1990s it never promised not to expand ‘one inch’ east of Germany, as several officials in president George HW Bush’s administration told Gorbachev and others, in exchange for German reunification.

Meanwhile Biden threatens Russia with ferocious sanctions for moving troops onto its border with Ukraine. Now sanctions are the modern equivalent of the medieval siege, and the US applies them promiscuously. There is no evidence that they succeed at anything other than causing ordinary people to miss meals and diabetics to skip insulin injections. Oh, and sanctions also instil hatred for the US which thus torments the population. Sanctions lead the targeted rulers to consolidate their power. They are counter-productive. Far worse, as happens right now in the 20 countries sanctioned by the US, they kill loads of innocent people, especially vulnerable ones, like children in Afghanistan, for instance. But sanctions make whoever’s leading the latest Washington circus feel like big shots, so their toxic application will probably continue.

The only light on this dismal horizon was the summit between Russia, the United States and NATO that ran from January 10 to January 13. That light flickered out quickly, when it became clear that US officials are incapable of comprehending speech outside the parameters of their exceptionalist ideology. All they offered was hooey about NATO never closing doors. This nonsense is ostentatiously contradicted by the fact that neither Switzerland nor Austria belongs to NATO and are, in fact, constitutionally neutral. Moscow wants some such carve-out for former Soviet territories on its borders. But the Biden team just didn’t get it. When the Russians said including Ukraine in NATO would cause a ‘military technical’ response, that should have elicited a serious counter-offer. It did not.

How do we know the summit teeters on the rim of failure? Because the January 19 Svobodnaya Pressa announced that Moscow has begun deploying the high-precision long-range operational and tactical missile system 9K720 Iskander-M in Crimea. The flight range of these missiles is up to 3,500 kilometres. They can hit any European capital and ‘even American aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea, Arleigh Burke destroyers, Ticonderoga-class missile cruisers.’ Iskanders can be launched simultaneously in a 200-missile barrage. The article is headlined, ‘Moscow’s Patience Snapped: Crimea Deploys Iskanders.’ Blinken jets to Geneva this weekend. Hopefully this news about Russian weaponry will elicit all his diplomatic skills in his confab with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. The situation is dire.

It is telling that the January summit came at the Kremlin’s request. Dismaying is the only word for Washington and NATO’s apparent complaisance about the drift towards war between Russia and NATO, to say nothing of those Russian nuclear submarines that just completed a rotation off the eastern seaboard of the US a week and a half ago. NATO’s threat to absorb Finland and Sweden only proves the point that this military-industrial money pit is bottomless and its expansionist horizon is the planet itself.

Ukraine is a tinder box. If Moscow eventually militarily supports the Russian-speaking, ethnic Russian majority in eastern Ukraine, the Donbass, a population at loggerheads with ethnic Ukrainians of the west, Washington will have only itself to blame. Those culturally Russian Ukrainians have long wanted to join Russia. Anytime since 2014, Moscow could have allowed this. It did not, because clearly the Kremlin is not eager to partition Ukraine. Nor is Moscow eager for a showdown between nuclear powers. It called the summit, specifically to prevent that.

Speaking of which, Russia’s ally, China, races ahead, beefing up its nuclear arsenal. Shenanigans like the attempted coup in Kazakhstan and the west’s relentless provocations in Ukraine — dating back to 2014, when Washington’s regime-change operation toppled the legally elected pro-Kremlin president — coupled with threats and insults aimed at China, first from the Trump team and now from the Biden entourage, doubtless convinced Chinese leaders that nuclear modernisation is at the top of their to-do list. The US military/foreign policy goal of encircling China with bases and warships no doubt speeds the Chinese effort to produce more nukes.

Indeed, the US department of defence’s November annual report claimed that China would likely have 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030. ‘Three times more than at present,’ as Michael Klare wrote on December 3 in CounterPunch, ‘and enough to pose a substantial threat to the United States.’ In five years, that same report predicts, China ‘would be ready to conduct “intelligentized” warfare.’ That means the People’s Liberation Army would achieve ‘superior intelligence, communications and battlefield coordination.’

This would enable China ‘to effectively resist any US military response should it decide to invade the island of Taiwan, which they view as a renegade province.’ Klare’s translation of this news is: ‘As the Pentagon sees things, be prepared for World War III to break out any time after January 1, 2027.’

That, unfortunately, could be a conservative estimate. With genocidal senator Wicker barking for nuclear Armageddon right now and an equally bloodthirsty former Obama official, Evelyn Farkas, hollering for war, both apparently eager for a nuclear ‘shock and awe’, it’s past time for Washington to wake up to reality, namely that Russia and China have genuine, legitimate security concerns on their borders. Attempting to muddy the waters with hogwash about spurious ‘spheres of influence,’ as Blinkin did, won’t work. These are issues of border security. They have nothing to do with spheres of influence, and raising the bogus spectre of such spheres is a cynical distraction from Washington’s and NATO’s aggression on the borders of Russia and China.

If the US is concerned with anything other than being seen as the biggest bully on the block, then it will snap the CIA onto a short leash, stop the dirty regime-change operations, shut up about everybody and their grandmother’s sacred right to join NATO, accede to some demands vis-a-vis Ukraine and Taiwan and finally, and very importantly, get serious about arms control treaties. Trump arrogantly and wantonly busted up a couple of those. If Biden wants anything other than a radioactive legacy, he’ll fix that — for starters.

Iraqi Horn’s battle against ISIS grinds on

A UN report last year estimated that around 10,000 IS fighters remained active across Iraq and Syria

Iraq’s battle against IS cells grinds on in the desert

AFP – TuesdayFollowReactComments|4

Bullet holes riddle the concrete watchtower of a remote Iraqi army outpost north of Baghdad, a sign of the Islamic State group’s night-time attack that killed 11 soldiers.

The small riverside base is ringed by sand berms, a shallow moat and coils of razor wire, and three soldiers in mismatched uniforms are busy strengthening it with cement and cinder blocks.

It has been almost three years since the extremist Sunni group lost its self-proclaimed “caliphate” stretching across much of Iraq and Syria after long and gruelling battles.© AHMAD AL-RUBAYEThis remote military base in Diyala province was attacked by Islamic State group jihadists last week, killing 11 soldiers

But IS fighters remain active in a low-level insurgency and have recently stepped up their hit-and-run attacks against anyone in uniform, or anyone else who dares to stand up to them.

“They hide in holes dug into the ground or in abandoned houses,” said a senior Iraqi army officer during a visit Monday to the dusty outpost in the eastern province of Diyala.© AHMAD AL-RUBAYEA UN report last year estimated that around 10,000 IS fighters remained active across Iraq and Syria

This is also where they hide their explosives and weapons,” he told AFP during the trip, asking not to be identified.

The unenviable task of Iraq’s security forces is to hunt IS cells in a vast territory that stretches from Baghdad to Kirkuk, nearly 250 kilometres (about 150 miles) to the north, straddling three provinces.

At this outpost, one of a string of bases along the banks of the Adhaim river, IS fighters struck in a bitterly cold night, last Friday at 2:30 am, killing the 11 soldiers.

The ambush came as, across the border in Syria, more than 100 IS fighters launched their biggest attack in years, on a prison in the northeastern city of Hasakeh, attempting to free fellow fighters.© AHMAD AL-RUBAYEThe attack on the base was the jihadists’ deadliest operation in the country so far this year

The fierce battle there has raged on, with the death toll topping 160 on Tuesday, as US-backed Kurdish forces surrounded the prison, while IS fighters remained holed up inside with thousands of detainees.© AHMAD AL-RUBAYEThe anti-IS battle has become more perilous since Iraq has lost the direct support of a US-led international anti-jihadist coalition, especially air support

– Bloody cat-and-mouse game –

In Iraq, troops and police have been sweeping the area along the Adhaim river since the attack last week, in the latest chapter of a bloody cat-and-mouse game with the jihadists.© AHMAD AL-RUBAYEIraq’s army is fighting IS militants who remain active in a low-level insurgency and have recently stepped up their hit-and-run attacks

“We have been in this area for four days,” said Captain Azhar al-Juburi of the Federal Police Rapid Response Force as he returned from a patrol.

“We haven’t had any direct confrontation, but we have arrested terrorists.”

The local soldiers were not allowed to speak with visiting press, but the senior army officer explained that the jihadists “took advantage of the bad weather and the early hour to attack”.

It was “the first time that IS has attacked us directly”, he said. “They did not have the means until now. They were limited to planting improvised explosive devices and sniper fire.”

Diyala’s provincial governor Muthanna al-Tamimi had another explanation, blaming “the negligence of the soldiers”.

“The base is fortified,” he said after the attack. “There is a thermal camera, night vision goggles and a concrete watchtower.”

– ‘IS reorganising troops’ –

Whatever the case, said Iraqi analyst Imad Allou, the attack does underscore that IS “is trying to reorganise its troops and activities in Iraq”.

A UN report last year estimated that around 10,000 IS fighters remained active across Iraq and Syria.

The ongoing IS presence in Syria is largely in desert hideouts in the east of the country, where the Kurds maintain a semi-autonomous administration that borders Iraq.

In Iraq, IS is most active in the north but has also claimed bomb attacks on civilian targets elsewhere, including a blast last July on a market in Sadr city, a Shiite suburb of Baghdad, that killed dozens.

The anti-IS battle has become all the more perilous since Iraq has lost the direct support of a US-led international anti-jihadist coalition, especially air support.

Its 3,500 troops, including 2,500 Americans, put an end to their combat mission last year to limit themselves to advising and training their Iraqi counterparts.

Does this worry the Iraqi senior officer?

“We have our own air force, and we rely on it,” he said. “As for the rest, it is not me who decides.”

gde/fz

The Main Cause of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Indian Point Energy CenterNuclear power plant in Buchanan, New YorkIndian Point Energy Center (IPEC) is a three-unit nuclear power plant station located in Buchanan, New York, just south of Peekskill. It sits on the east bank of the Hudson River, about 36 miles (58 km) north of Midtown Manhattan. The plant generates over 2,000 megawThe Main Cause of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12) atts (MWe) of electrical power. For reference, the record peak energy consumption of New York City and Westchester County (the ConEdison Service Territory) was set during a seven-day heat wave on July 19, 2013, at 13,322 megawatts.[3] Electrical energy consumption varies greatly with time of day and season.[4]Quick Facts: Country, Location …The plant is owned and operated by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation, and includes two operating Westinghouse pressurized water reactors—designated “Indian Point 2” and “Indian Point 3″—which Entergy bought from Consolidated Edison and the New York Power Authority respectively. The facility also contains the permanently shut-down Indian Point Unit 1 reactor. As of 2015, the number of permanent jobs at the Buchanan plant is approximately 1,000.The original 40-year operating licenses for units 2 and 3 expired in September 2013 and December 2015, respectively. Entergy had applied for license extensions and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was moving toward granting a twenty-year extension for each reactor. However, after pressure from local environmental groups and New York governor Andrew Cuomo, it was announced that the plant is scheduled to be shut down by 2021.[5] Local groups had cited increasingly frequent issues with the aging units, ongoing environmental releases, and the proximity of the plant to New York City.[6]ReactorsHistory and designThe reactors are built on land that originally housed the Indian Point Amusement Park, but was acquired by Consolidated Edison (ConEdison) on October 14, 1954.[7] Indian Point 1, built by ConEdison, was a 275-megawatt Babcock & Wilcox supplied [8] pressurized water reactor that was issued an operating license on March 26, 1962 and began operations on September 16, 1962.[9] The first core used a thorium-based fuel with stainless steel cladding, but this fuel did not live up to expectations for core life.[10] The plant was operated with uranium dioxide fuel for the remainder of its life. The reactor was shut down on October 31, 1974, because the emergency core cooling system did not meet regulatory requirements. All spent fuel was removed from the reactor vessel by January 1976, but the reactor still stands.[11] The licensee, Entergy, plans to decommission Unit 1 when Unit 2 is decommissioned.[12]The two additional reactors, Indian Point 2 and 3, are four-loop Westinghouse pressurized water reactors both of similar design. Units 2 and 3 were completed in 1974 and 1976, respectively. Unit 2 has a generating capacity of 1,032 MW, and Unit 3 has a generating capacity of 1,051 MW. Both reactors use uranium dioxide fuel of no more than 4.8% U-235 enrichment. The reactors at Indian Point are protected by containment domes made of steel-reinforced concrete that is 40 inches thick, with a carbon steel liner.[13]Nuclear capacity in New York stateUnits 2 and 3 are two of six operating nuclear energy sources in New York State. New York is one of the five largest states in terms of nuclear capacity and generation, accounting for approximately 5% of the national totals. Indian Point provides 39% of the state’s nuclear capacity. Nuclear power produces 34.2% of the state’s electricity, higher than the U.S. average of 20.6%. In 2017, Indian Point generated approximately 10% of the state’s electricity needs, and 25% of the electricity used in New York City and Westchester County.[14] Its contract with Consolidated Edison is for just 560 megawatts. The New York Power Authority, which built Unit 3, stopped buying electricity from Indian Point in 2012. NYPA supplies the subways, airports, and public schools and housing in NYC and Westchester County. Entergy sells the rest of Indian Point’s output into the NYISO administered electric wholesale markets and elsewhere in New England.[15][16][17][18] In 2013, New York had the fourth highest average electricity prices in the United States. Half of New York’s power demand is in the New York City region; about two-fifths of generation originates there.[19][20]RefuelingThe currently operating Units 2 and 3 are each refueled on a two-year cycle. At the end of each fuel cycle, one unit is brought offline for refueling and maintenance activities. On March 2, 2015, Indian Point 3 was taken offline for 23 days to perform its refueling operations. Entergy invested $50 million in the refueling and other related projects for Unit 3, of which $30 million went to employee salaries. The unit was brought back online on March 25, 2015.[21]EffectsEconomic impactA June 2015 report by a lobby group called Nuclear Energy Institute found that the operation of Indian Point generates $1.3 billion of annual economic output in local counties, $1.6 billion statewide, and $2.5 billion across the United States. In 2014, Entergy paid $30 million in state and local property taxes. The total tax revenue (direct and secondary) was nearly $340 million to local, state, and federal governments.[15] According to the Village of Buchanan budget for 2016–2017, a payment in lieu of taxes in the amount of $2.62 million was received in 2015-2016, and was projected to be $2.62 million in 2016–2017 – the majority of which can be assumed to come from the Indian Point Energy Center.[22]Over the last decade, the station has maintained a capacity factor of greater than 93 percent. This is consistently higher than the nuclear industry average and than other forms of generation. The reliability helps offset the severe price volatility of other energy sources (e.g., natural gas) and the indeterminacy of renewable electricity sources (e.g., solar, wind).[15]Indian Point directly employs about 1,000 full-time workers. This employment creates another 2,800 jobs in the five-county region, and 1,600 in other industries in New York, for a total of 5,400 in-state jobs. Additionally, another 5,300 indirect jobs are created out of state, creating a sum total of 10,700 jobs throughout the United States.[15]Environmental concernsEnvironmentalists have expressed concern about increased carbon emissions with the impending shutdown of Indian Point (generating electricity with nuclear energy creates no carbon emissions). A study undertaken by Environmental Progress found that closure of the plant would cause power emissions to jump 29% in New York, equivalent to the emissions from 1.4 million additional cars on New York roads.[23]Some environmental groups have expressed concerns about the operation of Indian Point, including radiation pollution and endangerment of wildlife, but whether Indian Point has ever posed a significant danger to wildlife or the public remains controversial. Though anti-nuclear group Riverkeeper notes “Radioactive leakage from the plant containing several radioactive isotopes, such as strontium-90, cesium-137, cobalt-60, nickel-63 and tritium, a rarely-occurring isotope of hydrogen, has flowed into groundwater that eventually enters the Hudson River in the past[24], there is no evidence radiation from the plant has ever posed a significant hazard to local residents or wildlife. In the last year[when?], nine tritium leaks have occurred, however, even at their highest levels the leaks have never exceeded one-tenth of one percent of US Nuclear Regulatory Commission limits.In February 2016, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a full investigation by state environment[25] and health officials and is partnering with organizations like Sierra Club, Riverkeepers, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, Scenic Hudson and Physicians for Social Responsibility in seeking the permanent closure of the plant.[citation needed] However, Cuomo’s motivation for closing the plant was called into question after it was revealed two top former aides, under federal prosecution for influence-peddling, had lobbied on behalf of natural gas company Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) to kill Indian Point. In his indictment, US attorney Preet Bharara wrote “the importance of the plant [CPV’s proposed Valley Energy Center, a plant powered by natural gas] to the State depended at least in part, on whether [Indian Point] was going to be shut down.”[26]In April 2016 climate scientist James Hansen took issue with calls to shut the plant down, including those from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “The last few weeks have seen an orchestrated campaign to mislead the people of New York about the essential safety and importance of Indian Point nuclear plant to address climate change,” wrote Hansen, adding “Sanders has offered no evidence that NRC [U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission] has failed to do its job, and he has no expertise in over-riding NRC’s judgement. For the sake of future generations who could be harmed by irreversible climate change, I urge New Yorkers to reject this fear mongering and uphold science against ideology.”[27]Indian Point removes water from the nearby Hudson River. Despite the use of fish screens, the cooling system kills over a billion fish eggs and larvae annually.[28] According to one NRC report from 2010, as few as 38% of alewives survive the screens.[29] On September 14, 2015, a state hearing began in regards to the deaths of fish in the river, and possibly implementing a shutdown period from May to August. An Indian Point spokesman stated that such a period would be unnecessary, as Indian Point “is fully protective of life in the Hudson River and $75 million has been spent over the last 30 years on scientific studies demonstrating that the plant has no harmful impact to adult fish.” The hearings lasted three weeks.[30] Concerns were also raised over the planned building of new cooling towers, which would cut down forest land that is suspected to be used as breeding ground by muskrat and mink. At the time of the report, no minks or muskrats were spotted there.[29]SafetyIndian Point Energy Center has been given an incredible amount of scrutiny from the media and politicians and is regulated more heavily than various other power plants in the state of New York (i.e., by the NRC in addition to FERC, the NYSPSC, the NYISO, the NYSDEC, and the EPA). On a forced outage basis – incidents related to electrical equipment failure that force a plant stoppage – it provides a much more reliable operating history than most other power plants in New York.[31][32] Beginning at the end of 2015, Governor Cuomo began to ramp up political action against the Indian Point facility, opening an investigation with the state public utility commission, the department of health, and the department of environmental conservation.[33][34][35][30][36][37] To put the public service commission investigation in perspective: most electric outage investigations conducted by the commission are in response to outages with a known number of affected retail electric customers.[38] By November 17, 2017, the NYISO accepted Indian Point’s retirement notice.[39]In 1997, Indian Point Unit 3 was removed from the NRC’s list of plants that receive increased attention from the regulator. An engineer for the NRC noted that the plant had been experiencing increasingly fewer problems during inspections.[40] On March 10, 2009 the Indian Point Power Plant was awarded the fifth consecutive top safety rating for annual operations by the Federal regulators. According to the Hudson Valley Journal News, the plant had shown substantial improvement in its safety culture in the previous two years.[41] A 2003 report commissioned by then-Governor George Pataki concluded that the “current radiological response system and capabilities are not adequate to…protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation in the event of a release from Indian Point”.[42] More recently, in December 2012 Entergy commissioned a 400-page report on the estimates of evacuation times. This report, performed by emergency planning company KLD Engineering, concluded that the existing traffic management plans provided by Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties are adequate and require no changes.[43] According to one list that ranks U.S. nuclear power plants by their likelihood of having a major natural disaster related incident, Indian Point is the most likely to be hit by a natural disaster, mainly an earthquake.[44][45][46][47] Despite this, the owners of the plant still say that safety is a selling point for the nuclear power plant.[48]Incidents▪ In 1973, five months after Indian Point 2 opened, the plant was shut down when engineers discovered buckling in the steel liner of the concrete dome in which the nuclear reactor is housed.[49]▪ On October 17, 1980,[50] 100,000 gallons of Hudson River water leaked into the Indian Point 2 containment building from the fan cooling unit, undetected by a safety device designed to detect hot water. The flooding, covering the first nine feet of the reactor vessel, was discovered when technicians entered the building. Two pumps that should have removed the water were found to be inoperative. NRC proposed a $2,100,000 fine for the incident.▪ In February 2000, Unit 2 experienced a Steam Generator Tube Rupture (SGTR), which allowed primary water to leak into the secondary system through one of the steam generators.[51] All four steam generators were subsequently replaced.[citation needed]▪ In 2005, Entergy workers while digging discovered a small leak in a spent fuel pool. Water containing tritium and strontium-90 was leaking through a crack in the pool building and then finding its way into the nearby Hudson River. Workers were able to keep the spent fuel rods safely covered despite the leak.[52] On March 22, 2006 The New York Times also reported finding radioactive nickel-63 and strontium in groundwater on site.[53]▪ In 2007, a transformer at Unit 3 caught fire, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission raised its level of inspections, because the plant had experienced many unplanned shutdowns. According to The New York Times, Indian Point “has a history of transformer problems”.[54]▪ On April 23, 2007, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined the owner of the Indian Point nuclear plant $130,000 for failing to meet a deadline for a new emergency siren plan. The 150 sirens at the plant are meant to alert residents within 10 miles to a plant emergency.[55]▪ On January 7, 2010, NRC inspectors reported that an estimated 600,000 gallons of mildly radioactive steam was intentionally vented to the atmosphere after an automatic shutdown of Unit 2. After the vent, one of the vent valves unintentionally remained slightly open for two days. The levels of tritium in the steam were within the allowable safety limits defined in NRC standards.[56]▪ On November 7, 2010, an explosion occurred in a main transformer for Indian Point 2, spilling oil into the Hudson River.[57] Entergy later agreed to pay a $1.2 million penalty for the transformer explosion.[54]▪ July 2013, a former supervisor, who worked at the Indian Point nuclear power plant for twenty-nine years, was arrested for falsifying the amount of particulate in the diesel fuel for the plant’s backup generators.[58]▪ On May 9, 2015, a transformer failed at Indian Point 3, causing the automated shutdown of reactor 3. A fire that resulted from the failure was extinguished, and the reactor was placed in a safe and stable condition.[59] The failed transformer contained about 24,000 gallons of dielectric fluid, which is used as an insulator and coolant when the transformer is energized. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that about 3,000 gallons of dielectric fluid entered the river following the failure.[60]▪ In June 2015, a mylar balloon floated into a switchyard, causing an electrical problem resulting in the shutdown of Reactor 3.[61]▪ In July 2015, Reactor 3 was shut down after a water pump failure.[citation needed]▪ On December 5, 2015, Indian Point 2 was shut down after several control rods lost power.[62]▪ On February 6, 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo informed the public that radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into the groundwater at the Indian Point Nuclear facility.[25]Spent fuelIndian Point stores used fuel rods in two spent fuel pools at the facility.[52] The spent fuel pools at Indian Point are not stored under a containment dome like the reactor, but rather they are contained within an indoor 40-foot-deep pool and submerged under 27 feet of water. Water is a natural and effective barrier to radiation. The spent fuel pools at Indian Point are set in bedrock and are constructed of concrete walls that are four to six feet wide, with a quarter-inch thick stainless steel inner liner. The pools each have multiple redundant backup cooling systems.[52][63]Indian Point began dry cask storage of spent fuel rods in 2008, which is a safe and environmentally sound option according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.[64] Some rods have already been moved to casks from the spent fuel pools. The pools will be kept nearly full of spent fuel, leaving enough space to allow emptying the reactor completely.[65] Dry cask storage systems are designed to resist floods, tornadoes, projectiles, temperature extremes, and other unusual scenarios. The NRC requires the spent fuel to be cooled and stored in the spent fuel pool for at least five years before being transferred to dry casks.[66]Earthquake riskIn 2008, researchers from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory located a previously unknown active seismic zone running from Stamford, Connecticut, to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, New York—the intersection of the Stamford-Peekskill line with the well-known Ramapo Fault—which passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant.[67] The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast, but 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. Visible at ground level, the fault line likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.[68]In July 2013, Entergy engineers reassessed the risk of seismic damage to Unit 3 and submitted their findings in a report to the NRC. It was found that risk leading to reactor core damage is 1 in 106,000 reactor years using U.S. Geological Survey data; and 1 in 141,000 reactor years using Electric Power Research Institute data. Unit 3’s previous owner, the New York Power Authority, had conducted a more limited analysis in the 1990s than Unit 2’s previous owner, Con Edison, leading to the impression that Unit 3 had fewer seismic protections than Unit 2. Neither submission of data from the previous owners was incorrect.[69]According to a company spokesman, Indian Point was built to withstand an earthquake of 6.1 on the Richter scale.[70] Entergy executives have also noted “that Indian Point had been designed to withstand an earthquake much stronger than any on record in the region, though not one as powerful as the quake that rocked Japan.”[71]The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Indian Point was Reactor 2: 1 in 30,303; Reactor 3: 1 in 10,000, according to an NRC study published in August 2010. Msnbc.com reported based on the NRC data that “Indian Point nuclear reactor No. 3 has the highest risk of earthquake damage in the country, according to new NRC risk estimates provided to msnbc.com.” According to the report, the reason is that plants in known earthquake zones like California were designed to be more quake-resistant than those in less affected areas like New York.[72][73] The NRC did not dispute the numbers but responded in a release that “The NRC results to date should not be interpreted as definitive estimates of seismic risk,” because the NRC does not rank plants by seismic risk.[74]IPEC Units 2 and 3 both operated at 100% full power before, during, and after the Virginia earthquake on August 23, 2011. A thorough inspection of both units by plant personnel immediately following this event verified no significant damage occurred at either unit.Emergency planningThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.[75]According to an analysis of U.S. Census data for MSNBC, the 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Indian Point was 272,539, an increase of 17.6 percent during the previous ten years. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 17,220,895, an increase of 5.1 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles include New York (41 miles to city center); Bridgeport, Conn. (40 miles); Newark, N.J. (39 miles); and Stamford, Conn. (24 miles).[76]In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima incident in Japan, the State Department recommended that any Americans in Japan stay beyond fifty miles from the area.[citation needed] Columnist Peter Applebome, writing in The New York Times, noted that such an area around Indian Point would include “almost all of New York City except for Staten Island; almost all of Nassau County and much of Suffolk County; all of Bergen County, N.J.; all of Fairfield, Conn.” He quotes Purdue University professor Daniel Aldrich as saying “Many scholars have already argued that any evacuation plans shouldn’t be called plans, but rather “fantasy documents””.[42]The current 10-mile plume-exposure pathway Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) is one of two EPZs intended to facilitate a strategy for protective action during an emergency and comply with NRC regulations. “The exact size and shape of each EPZ is a result of detailed planning which includes consideration of the specific conditions at each site, unique geographical features of the area, and demographic information. This preplanned strategy for an EPZ provides a substantial basis to support activity beyond the planning zone in the extremely unlikely event it would be needed.”[77]In an interview, Entergy executives said they doubt that the evacuation zone would be expanded to reach as far as New York City.[71]Indian Point is protected by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including a National Guard base within a mile of the facility, as well as by private off-site security forces.[78]During the September 11 attacks, American Airlines Flight 11 flew near the Indian Point Energy Center en route to the World Trade Center. Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers/plotters, had considered nuclear facilities for targeting in a terrorist attack.[79] Entergy says it is prepared for a terrorist attack, and asserts that a large airliner crash into the containment building would not cause reactor damage.[80] Following 9/11 the NRC required operators of nuclear facilities in the U.S. to examine the effects of terrorist events and provide planned responses.[81] In September 2006, the Indian Point Security Department successfully completed mock assault exercises required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.[citation needed] However, according to environmental group Riverkeeper, these NRC exercises are inadequate because they do not envision a sufficiently large group of attackers.[citation needed]According to The New York Times, fuel stored in dry casks is less vulnerable to terrorist attack than fuel in the storage pools.[65]RecertificationUnits 2 and 3 were both originally licensed by the NRC for 40 years of operation. The NRC limits commercial power reactor licenses to an initial 40 years, but also permits such licenses to be renewed. This original 40-year term for reactor licenses was based on economic and antitrust considerations, not on limitations of nuclear technology. Due to this selected period, however, some structures and components may have been engineered on the basis of an expected 40-year service life.[82] The original federal license for Unit Two expired on September 28, 2013,[83][84] and the license for Unit Three was due to expire in December 2015.[85] On April 30, 2007, Entergy submitted an application for a 20-year renewal of the licenses for both units. On May 2, 2007, the NRC announced that this application is available for public review.[86] Because the owner submitted license renewal applications at least five years prior to the original expiration date, the units are allowed to continue operation past this date while the NRC considers the renewal application.On September 23, 2007, the antinuclear group Friends United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE) filed legal papers with the NRC opposing the relicensing of the Indian Point 2 reactor. The group contended that the NRC improperly held Indian Point to less stringent design requirements. The NRC responded that the newer requirements were put in place after the plant was complete.[87]On December 1, 2007, Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer called a press conference with the participation of environmental advocacy groups Clearwater and Riverkeeper to announce their united opposition to the re-licensing of the Indian Point nuclear power plants. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of the Attorney General requested a hearing as part of the process put forth by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.[citation needed] In September 2007 The New York Times reported on the rigorous legal opposition Entergy faces in its request for a 20-year licensing extension for Indian Point Nuclear Reactor 2.[87]A water quality certificate is a prerequisite for a twenty-year renewal by the NRC.[citation needed] On April 3, 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that Indian Point violates the federal Clean Water Act,[88] because “the power plant’s water-intake system kills nearly a billion aquatic organisms a year, including the shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species.”[citation needed] The state is demanding that Entergy constructs new closed-cycle cooling towers at a cost of over $1 billion, a decision that will effectively close the plant for nearly a year. Regulators denied Entergy’s request to install fish screens that they said would improve fish mortality more than new cooling towers. Anti-nuclear groups and environmentalists have in the past tried to close the plant,[citation needed] which is in a more densely populated area than any of the 66 other nuclear plant sites in the US.[citation needed] Opposition to the plant[from whom?] increased after the September 2001 terror attacks,[citation needed] when one of the hijacked jets flew close to the plant on its way to the World Trade Center.[citation needed] Public worries also increased after the 2011 Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and after a report highlighting the Indian Point plant’s proximity to the Ramapo Fault.[citation needed]Advocates of recertifying Indian Point include former New York City mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph W. Giuliani. Bloomberg says that “Indian Point is critical to the city’s economic viability”.[89] The New York Independent System Operator maintains that in the absence of Indian Point, grid voltages would degrade, which would limit the ability to transfer power from upstate New York resources through the Hudson Valley to New York City.[90]As the current governor, Andrew Cuomo continues to call for closure of Indian Point.[91] In late June 2011, a Cuomo advisor in a meeting with Entergy executives informed them for the first time directly of the Governor’s intention to close the plant, while the legislature approved a bill to streamline the process of siting replacement plants.[92]Nuclear energy industry figures and analysts responded to Cuomo’s initiative by questioning whether replacement electrical plants could be certified and built rapidly enough to replace Indian Point, given New York state’s “cumbersome regulation process”, and also noted that replacement power from out of state sources will be hard to obtain because New York has weak ties to generation capacity in other states.[citation needed] They said that possible consequences of closure will be a sharp increase in the cost of electricity for downstate users and even “rotating black-outs”.[93]Several members of the House of Representatives representing districts near the plant have also opposed recertification, including Democrats Nita Lowey, Maurice Hinchey, and Eliot Engel and then Republican member Sue Kelly.[94]In November 2016 the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the application to renew the NRC operating licences must be reviewed against the state’s coastal management program, which The New York State Department of State had already decided was inconsistent with coastal management requirements. Entergy has filed a lawsuit regarding the validity of Department of State’s decision.[95]ClosureBeginning at the end of 2015, Governor Cuomo began to ramp up political action against the Indian Point facility, opening investigations with the state public utility commission, the department of health and the department of environmental conservation.[33][34][35][30][36][37] To put the public service commission investigation in perspective, most electric outage investigations conducted by the commission are in response to outages with a known number of affected retail electric customers.[38] By November 17, 2017, the NYISO accepted Indian Point’s retirement notice.[39]In January 2017, the governor’s office announced closure by 2020-21.[96] The closure, along with pollution control, challenges New York’s ability to be supplied.[citation needed] Among the solution proposals are storage, renewables (solar and wind), a new transmission cables from Canada [97][98] and a 650MW natural gas plant located in Wawayanda, New York.[99] There was also a 1,000 MW merchant HVDC transmission line proposed in 2013 to the public service commission that would have interconnected at Athens, New York and Buchanan, New York, however this project was indefinitely stalled when its proposed southern converter station site was bought by the Town of Cortlandt in a land auction administered by Con Edison.[100][101][102] As of October 1, 2018, the 650 MW plant built in Wawayanda, New York, by CPV Valley, is operating commercially.[103] The CPV Valley plant has been associated with Governor Cuomo’s close aid, Joe Percoco, and the associated corruption trial.[104] Another plant being built, Cricket Valley Energy Center, rated at 1,100 MW, is on schedule to provide energy by 2020 in Dover, New York.[105] An Indian Point contingency plan, initiated in 2012 by the NYSPSC under the administration of Cuomo, solicited energy solutions from which a Transmission Owner Transmission Solutions (TOTS) plan was selected. The TOTS projects provide 450 MW[106] of additional transfer capability across a NYISO defined electric transmission corridor in the form of three projects: series compensation at a station in Marcy, New York, reconductoring a transmission line, adding an additional transmission line, and “unbottling” Staten Island capacity. These projects, with the exception of part of the Staten Island “unbottling” were in service by mid-2016. The cost of the TOTS projects are distributed among various utilities in their rate cases before the public service commission and the cost allocation amongst themselves was approved by FERC. NYPA and LIPA are also receiving a portion. The cost of the TOTS projects has been estimated in the range of $27 million to $228 million.[107][108][109][110][111] An energy highway initiative was also prompted by this order (generally speaking, additional lines on the Edic-Pleasant Valley and the Oakdale-Fraser transmission corridors) which is still going through the regulatory process in both the NYISO and NYSPSC.Under the current plan, one reactor is scheduled to be shut down in April 2020 and the second by April 2021.[112] A report by the New York Building Congress, a construction industry association, has said that NYC will need additional natural gas pipelines to accommodate the city’s increasing demand for energy. Environmentalists have argued that the power provided by Indian point can be replaced by renewable energy, combined with conservation measures and improvements to the efficiency of the electrical grid.[113]

Can Babylon the Great stop Putin’s aggression? Daniel 7

Can the US and allies stop Putin’s aggression?

Russia has already violated the Budapest Memorandum, which stated it refrains from the threat or use of force against UkraineBy LEE FEINSTEIN And MARIANA BUDJERYNJANUARY 25, 2022Print

Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 was the first change of internationally recognized borders in Europe through military force since World War II.

Russia proceeded to instigate and fuel a war in eastern Ukraine that has claimed some 14,000 lives so far. Last year, Russia began massing a force of more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s eastern and northern border and in the occupied Crimea, and taking other provocative actions.

US President Joe Biden said on January 19, 2022, about Putin: “Do I think he’ll test the West, test the United States and NATO, as significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will.”

Ukraine as an independent state was born from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Its independence came with a complicated Cold War inheritance: the world’s third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Ukraine was one of the three non-Russian former Soviet states, including Belarus and Kazakhstan, that emerged from the Soviet collapse with nuclear weapons on its territory.

The US, in a burst of diplomatic energy and at a time of unmatched global influence, worked to prevent the unprecedented collapse of a nuclear superpower from leading to history’s largest proliferation of nuclear weapons.

This diplomatic activity manifested in security assurances for Ukraine embedded in what has become known as the Budapest Memorandum

With the entrance of Ukraine into the international order as a non-nuclear state, Russia, the US and the UK pledged to “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”

The memo reaffirmed their obligation to “refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.” The signatories also reaffirmed their commitment to “seek immediate” UN Security Council action “to provide assistance to Ukraine … if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression.”

These assurances upheld obligations contained in the UN charter and the 1975 Helsinki Final Act.

Ukraine, in turn, gave up the nuclear weapons within its borders, sending them to Russia for dismantling.

In light of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its current threat to Ukrainian sovereignty, it’s fair to ask: What is the significance now of the Budapest Memorandum?

Ukrainian regrets

The memorandum, signed in 1994, is not legally binding.

Nonetheless, it embeds and reaffirms the solemn assurances that are the hallmark of the international system. These include respect for state sovereignty, the inviolability of international borders and abstention from the threat or use of force.

Ukraine’s decision to give up nuclear weapons signaled its desire to be seen as a member in good standing of the international community, rather than an outlier.

The decision was not just symbolic. While Ukraine did not inherit a fully-fledged nuclear capacity – Russia still held important parts of the nuclear infrastructure – Ukraine had the necessary technological and industrial ability to close the gaps.

Many in Ukraine feel that the country’s 1994 decision to give up its nuclear arms was a mistake.

Popular support for nuclear rearmament rose to a historic high of nearly 50% in the wake of Russia’s invasion in 2014. Since then, that view has been supported by some Ukrainian public figures.

‘No changing of borders by use of force’

Russia has blatantly violated the Budapest Memorandum. And the initial response to the annexation of Crimea by the other signatories, the US and UK, was hesitant and restrained.

The US has committed more than US$2.5 billion in military assistance since 2014 to Ukraine, including lethal defensive arms. Legislation pending in Congress would increase military aid.

The Biden administration has also threatened severe economic sanctions in the event of Russian aggression, backed by sustained efforts to build support among allies. The administration’s resolute approach is consistent with the security assurances of the Budapest Memorandum.

We are both foreign policy scholarsone of us is a former US ambassador to Poland. The strong defense of the fundamental principle of the international system – no changing of borders by use of force – has consequences for all of Europe, for US-Russia relations and for other potential flashpoints, including China and Taiwan.

Whether the strong actions – such as the promise of military support for Ukraine and the threat of sanctions on Russia, backed by diplomacy by the United States and its allies – will be enough to deter Russia is uncertain and, many say, unlikely.

The size and scope of the Russian military buildup are deeply troubling: Shifting 100,000 troops across Russia’s vast territory is a costly operation. The Kremlin is unlikely to pull back that kind of force without any diplomatic or military wins, such as closing the door to Ukraine’s future membership in NATO, which the United States has ruled out.

International law matters, but it does not determine what states do. Strong deterrence, diplomacy and international solidarity can influence Russian decision-making. The US is also actively working with Ukraine, an essential element to a successful diplomatic and deterrence strategy.

Ultimately, however, the de-escalation decision is Russia’s to make. The role of the US, its NATO allies and Ukraine is to make sure the consequences of Russia’s decisions are clear to the Kremlin and that they can be carried out with strong and united Western backing in the event Russia chooses the path of war.

Lee Feinstein is founding dean and professor of international studies at the Hamilton Lugar School of Indiana UniversityMariana Budjeryn is research associate at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

S Korea Needs to Nuke Up: Daniel 7

S. Korean officials say North Korea tested cruise missiles

People watch a TV showing file images of North Korea’s missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. North Korea on Tuesday test-fired two suspected cruise missiles in its fifth round of weapons launches this month, South Korean military officials said, as it displays its military might amid pandemic-related difficulties and a prolonged freeze in nuclear negotiations with the United States. The Korean letters read: “North Korea fired two cruise missiles.” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)Share BY ASSOCIATED PRESS

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Tuesday test-fired two suspected cruise missiles in its fifth round of weapons launches this month, South Korean military officials said, as it displays its military might amid pandemic-related difficulties and a prolonged freeze in nuclear negotiations with the United States.

One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department rules, said South Korean and U.S. intelligence officials were analyzing the launches, but didn’t provide further details. Another military official, who requested anonymity over similar reasons, said the tests were conducted from an inland area, but didn’t specify where.

North Korea has been increasing its testing activity recently in an apparent effort to pressure the Biden administration over the stalled diplomacy after the pandemic unleashed further shock on an economy broken by crippling U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons program and decades of mismanagement by its own government.

North Korea last Thursday issued a veiled threat to resume the testing of nuclear explosives and long-range missiles targeting the American homeland, which leader Kim Jong Un suspended in 2018 while initiating diplomacy with the United States.

Some experts say North Korea could dramatically escalate weapons demonstrations after the Winter Olympics, which begin Feb. 4 in China, the North’s main ally and economic lifeline.

They say Pyongyang’s leadership likely feels it could use a dramatic provocation to move the needle with the Biden administration, which has offered open-ended talks but showed no willingness to ease sanctions unless Kim takes real steps to abandon the nuclear weapons and missiles he sees as his strongest guarantee of survival.

Tuesday’s launches could have been followup tests of a weapon North Korea has described as a long-range cruise missile and first tested in September, said Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies.

State media in reports at the time said the missiles were fired from launcher trucks and could strike targets 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away. It described those missiles as a “strategic weapon of great significance” — wording that implies they were developed to carry nuclear weapons.

While halting the tests of nuclear devices and intercontinental range ballistic missiles, Kim Jong Un since 2019 has been ramping up tests of various shorter-range weapons apparently designed to overwhelm missile defenses in the region. Experts say the North’s expanding missile arsenal reflects an aim to apply more pressure on its rivals to accept it as a nuclear power in hopes of winning relief from economic sanctions and convert the diplomacy with Washington into mutual arms-reduction negotiations.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Barzani, Antichrist emphasize coordination between political parties in a phone call

From left: Muqtada al-Sadr and Masoud Barzani. File photo/handout

Barzani, Sadr emphasise coordination between political parties in a phone call

Karwan Faidhi Dri@KarwanFaidhiDri

From left: Muqtada al-Sadr and Masoud Barzani. File photo/handout

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Masoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), spoke on the phone with Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrist bloc, on Tuesday, discussing the latest developments in Iraq, with both emphasising coordination between political entities, according to a statement from Barzani’s office. 

Barzani and Sadr “discussed the political situation and the latest developments” as well as “emphasising the need for coordination and approaching of entities in order to serve the interests of Iraq,” read the statement without providing more information.

Iraq held snap parliamentary elections on October 10. Sadr is the main winner of the vote after his bloc gained 73, and the KDP won 31 seats, becoming the largest Kurdish bloc in Baghdad. 

The new members of the parliament were sworn in and they elected a new leadership for the legislature on January 9 but the Federal Court suspended the work of both deputy speakers and the speaker following a lawsuit against the election process. 

However, the court decided on Tuesday that the election process was lawful and rejected the lawsuit.

Sadr, Barzani and Mohammed al-Halbousi – former and current speaker of the parliament – have formed an alliance for the formation of a new government.

The country has to elect a new president by February 8. The position has been held by Kurds for nearly two decades. The KDP and its rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have fielded different candidates for the position, harming their relations. 

The new president will task a candidate from the largest alliance to form a new cabinet. 

Antichrist rejects mediation for consensus government

January 25, 2022 at 11:19 am | Published in: IraqMiddle EastNewsIraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr holds a press conference in Najaf, Iraq on November 18, 2021. [Karar Essa - Anadolu Agency]Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr holds a press conference in Najaf, Iraq on November 18, 2021. [Karar Essa – Anadolu Agency]January 25, 2022 at 11:19 am

Iraq: Al-Sadr rejects mediation for consensus government

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The eponymous leader of Iraq’s Sadrist movement, Muqtada Al-Sadr, has rejected a mediation offer by the Commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Esmail Qaani, and Mohammad Hussein Kawtharani, the representative of Hezbollah in Baghdad, in the efforts to form a consensus government.

“Kawtharani has left Najaf without meeting Al-Sadr,” said an official in the Sadrist movement who asked not to be named. “However, there were meetings with representatives of the movement.”

Efforts made by some “friends” to bring views closer are commendable, the official added. “They should not be at the expense of the national project, though, which is a national majority government.”

The official said that it is “unreasonable to repeat the same mistake for the fifth time in a row,” a reference to Al-Sadr’s refusal to form a consensus government that brings together all the winning political groups in parliament.

Qaani’s mediation “did not solve the most prominent knot in the dispute, which is the Sadrist movement’s right to form the government in the way it sees, as the first winner in the election and the holder of the largest number of seats among the Shia political forces.”

Muqtada Al-Sadr insists on forming a national majority government. He has stressed that pressure will not deter him from this.

Series of small quakes shake before the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6

Series of small quakes shake near South Carolina capital

The Associated PressDec 28, 2021 / 06:10 AM ESTSouth Carolina NewsPosted: / Updated: Dec 28, 2021 / 06:10 AM EST

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A series of mild earthquakes have shaken homes and residents in central South Carolina. 

The U.S. Geological Survey says three quakes Monday in Kershaw County near Elgin registered magnitudes of 3.3, 2.5 and 2.1. 

The first earth-shaker rattled window panes and disrupted wildlife but apparently did not cause injuries or major damage. As the earthquake rumbled, with a sound similar to a heavy construction vehicle, it shook homes, caused glass doors and windows to clatter in their frames and prompted dogs to bark. 

People reported feeling tremors throughout the Columbia area and as far away as Lexington, about 40 miles southwest of the epicenter.

Babylon the Great Looks for Russian Nukes: Daniel

A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman checks his weapon as he stands in a trench

US Spy Planes Scouting for Russian Tactical Nukes on Ukraine Border as Tensions Rise

A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman checks his weapon near Zolote village, in the eastern Lugansk region, on Jan. 21, 2022. (ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images)

By Charles Kim    |   Tuesday, 25 January 2022 05:57 AM

United States spy planes are scouting the build up of Russian forces at its Ukrainian border to see if Russian President Vladimir Putin is deploying tactical nuclear weapons to the theater, The New York Times reported Sunday.

According to the report, Russian officials have signaled that the use of such weapons may be an option as it prepares for an invasion of Ukraine.

As tensions in the region grow, the United States plans to deploy thousands of troops to the area, including in Poland.https://a5b60c59312a2ed54f7b745f543fd332.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“We’re going to actually increase troop presence in Poland, in Romania, et cetera, if in fact he moves,” President Joe Biden said during a press conference last week. “They are part of NATO.”

According to reports, this could mean between 1,000 to 5,000 troops.

In a televised CBS interview on “Face the Nation” Sunday, Secretary Anthony Blinken said the U.S. and NATO are looking to beef up defense capabilities should Putin make a move into Ukraine.

“Even as we’re engaged in diplomacy, we are very much focused on building up defense, building up deterrence,” Blinken said in the interview. “NATO itself will continue to be reinforced in a significant way if Russia commits renewed acts of aggression. All of that is on the table.”

The military maneuvers, along with the State Department ordering U.S. diplomats and their families to leave Ukraine in the event of Russian military aggression, show a change in the stance from the Biden administration from restraint and threatening severe economic sanctions to a more proactive military posture with NATO.

“This is clearly in response to the sudden stationing of Russian forces in Belarus, on the border, essentially, with NATO,” Evelyn Farkas, the top Pentagon official for Russia and Ukraine during the Obama administration told The Times. “There is no way that NATO could not reply to such a sudden military move in this political context.

“The Kremlin needs to understand that they are only escalating the situation with all of these deployments and increasing the danger to all parties, including themselves.”https://a5b60c59312a2ed54f7b745f543fd332.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

While there are currently about 4,000 U.S. troops and an additional 1,000 NATO troops stationed in the region, U.S. spy planes have been regularly flying over Ukraine during the last month, listening to the communications of Russian commanders on the ground there, the Times reported.

Air Force E-8 Stars are also flying over the area to log the buildup of service members and any other weapons moving into the theater, including tactical nuclear weapons, according to the report.

Babylon the Great Now in South China Sea: Daniel 7

U.S. Aircraft Carriers Now in South China Sea as Chinese Air Force Flies 39 Aircraft Near Taiwan

By: Dzirhan Mahadzir
January 24, 2022 12:59 PM

Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), left, and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) transit the Philippine Sea on Jan. 22, 2022. US Navy Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Two U.S. Navy carrier strike groups are currently drilling in the South China Sea amid the latest show of force of Chinese aircraft into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone on Sunday.

The Carl Vinson CSG and Abraham Lincoln CSG began dual-carrier operations in the South China on Sunday, the same day Taiwan said the People’s Liberation Army Air Force flew 39 planes in Taiwan’s ADIZ.

The CSGs “will engage in joint operations to include enhanced maritime communication operations, anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations, replenishments-at-sea, cross-deck flight operations and maritime interdiction operations to strengthen maritime integrated-at-sea operations and combat readiness,” the U.S. Navy said in a news release, adding that training will take place in accordance with international law in international waters.

Throughout the last year there have been multiple incursions of Chinese aircraft in Taiwan’s ADIZ, heightening tensions between the both the U.S. and China and Taiwan and China.

“Our ability to rapidly aggregate and work collectively alongside CSG 3, highlights the U.S. Navy’s ability to deliver overwhelming maritime force, when called upon, to support a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Rear Adm. Dan Martin, the commander of CSG 1, said in the Navy news release. “We are committed to ensuring the lawful use of the sea and free flow of commerce while deterring those who challenge the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific now and into the long-term future.”

The two American CSGs conducted an exercise in the Philippine Sea last week with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, the America Expeditionary Strike Group and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer helicopter carrier JS Hyuga ( DDH-181) and destroyer JS Myoko (DDG-175).

In a news release issued today, the JMSDF said the exercise took place in the vicinity of Oki Daito Island, an uninhabited island 315 kilometers, or about 196 miles, southeast of Okinawa. In December, the People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) conducted flight operations in the same area.

CSG 1, which is the Carl Vinson CSG, currently includes aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG-106) and USS Chafee (DDG-90), replenishment ship USNS Yukon (T-AO-202) and dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11). The Abraham Lincoln CSG, CSG 3, includes USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9; cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53); and destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), USS Gridley (DDG 101), USS Sampson (DDG-102) and USS Spruance (DDG-111). Sampson has since been detached and is now heading to Tonga to assist in relief efforts following the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano earlier this month.

JMSDF landing ship tank JS Osumi (LST-4001), Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock HMAS Adelaide (L01), United Kingdom Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Spey (P234) and Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) multi-role support vessel HMNZS Canterbury (L421) are also heading to Tonga to join the relief effort. RNZN offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington (P55) and replenishment ship HMNZS Aotearoa (A11) are already on the scene conducting relief operations. Osumi departed today from Kure, while the others are already in transit to Tonga. The French Navy is sending Patrol Vessel FNS Arago (P675) Offshore Patrol Vessel FNS La Glorieuse (P686).

“The Self-Defense Fleet has been making efforts to deepen friendly relations and strengthen cooperation with the Pacific island nations by conducting goodwill visits and training exercises at ordinary times, with the aim of realizing a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific.’ In this mission, we will do our best to support the reconstruction of our friend, the Kingdom of Tonga, hoping for its early recovery and sustainable development,” Vice Adm. Hideki Yuasa, the commander of the Joint Task Force for International Disaster Relief Operations in Tonga, said in a JMSDF news release about the departure.

Tonga’s Fua’amotu International Airport has now been cleared of volcanic ash, allowing Royal Australian Air Force C-17s, Japan Air Self-Defense Force C-2s and C-130s, and RNZAF C-130s to fly in relief supplies and equipment.

In other developments, German Navy Chief Vice Adm. Kay-Achim Schönbach resigned on Saturday following a furor over his comments in India on Friday, when he downplayed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions over Ukraine.

“Is Russia really interested in … a small, tiny strip of Ukraine’s soil? No, this is nonsense,” Schönbach said during a session at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, which was uploaded to Youtube. The admiral added that “what he really wants is respect. And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost … so if I was asked, it is easy to even give him the respect he really demands, and probably also deserves.”

He went on to say that “Russia is an old country. Russia is an important country. Even we, India, Germany, we need Russia, because we need Russia against China.”

The German Navy Chief also remarked that “the Crimea peninsula is gone. It will never come back, this is a fact,” a statement that contradicts Western nations’ position that the annexation was unacceptable and that the territory should be returned.

His remarks came amid criticism of the German government for its unwillingness to supply Ukraine with weapons, while other NATO countries were doing so in an effort to deter Russia, which has massed troops along its border with Ukraine.

Schönbach announced his resignation on Saturday in a release stating: “I have just asked the Federal Minister of Defense to release me from my duties and duties as Inspector of the Navy with immediate effect. The thoughtless comments I made in India on security and military policy are increasingly weighing on my office. In order to prevent further damage from the German Navy, the Bundeswehr, but above all from the Federal Republic of Germany, I consider this step to be necessary. The Federal Minister accepted my request. The Commander of the Fleet and Deputy Inspector of the Navy, Rear Admiral Kaack, will lead the German Navy until a successor decision is made.”

Schönbach only recently took over as German Navy Chief in March of 2021.

Schönbach was in India in conjunction with the visit of German Navy Frigate FGS Bayern (F217), which arrived on Friday in Mumbai during the final leg of its seven-month deployment to the Indo-Pacific. Bayern departed today from Mumbai and conducted a passage exercise with Indian Navy destroyer INS Visakhapatnam (D66) as it left.