Pestilence and plague comes soaring back: Revelation 16

‘The next wave has started.’ Capital Region braces as COVID-19 numbers grow

ALBANY — A second wave of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths is well on its way in the Capital Region. But will it be as bad as the first?

If there’s one thing public health experts and hospital leaders don’t like to do, it’s predict the future — especially when so much of it hangs on the behavior of a weary public and a virus we still don’t know enough about. But they have expressed hope that vigilance on the part of the public, combined with the region’s greatly expanded testing and tracing capabilities, will help shield us from the worst of what could come.

“I feel hopeful, frankly, about the next few months based on how we’ve responded to surges this past month,” said Eli Rosenberg, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health. “I think it’s truly about testing. In March, the virus took off on this scary exponential slope. Suddenly it was this runaway thing and it was so mysterious. Now that it’s less mysterious, now that we have testing and we have tracing, we can react in an intelligent way.”

Signs of a second wave

By nearly every single metric the Capital Region is headed into a second wave.

New daily cases across eight local counties have increased noticeably, coming just 17 cases shy recently of the region’s spring peak of 147 new cases recorded May 1, a Times Union analysis of local county data reveals. The region has topped 100 new daily cases only four times this year — three of which occurred this month.

The five-day rolling average of new daily cases in the region — a more forgiving metric that takes sporadic jumps and anomalies into account — reached its highest point since spring on Monday, with 78 average cases. That average peaked at 117 on May 2, and bottomed out at just 13 on June 17.

The percentage of positive tests performed on residents in the region has also climbed, from 0.5 on Sept. 26 to 1.3 on Oct. 26, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. This metric can be a less reliable indicator, however, depending on testing capacity at any given time, as well as whether repeat testing of essential workers is taking place.

Most concerning to local officials is the recent rise in hospitalizations. Daily hospitalizations in the region have increased more than 400 percent over the past month alone, from 15 on Sept. 27 to 80 on Oct. 27, according to figures published by the state. Leaders from Capital Region hospitals gathered at Albany Medical Center on Wednesday to warn of the increase, and to urge the public to get vaccinated against flu and remain vigilant about mask use, distancing and hand hygiene.

“It seems as though for us, the next wave has started,” said Dr. Fred Venditti, hospital general director for Albany Medical Center.

There is a glimmer of good news. Venditti and other hospital officials say that while cases are rising, their severity is decreasing.

“What’s interesting is we’re seeing a very, very different outcome for patients being hospitalized now than we did in the spring,” Dr. Steven Hanks, chief clinical officer for St. Peter’s Health Partners, told the Times Union. “The mortality rate seems to be much lower. The number of hospitalized patients who go to the ICU is down compared with spring. The number of patients needing to be ventilated is down compared with spring. And the number of patients who are dying with COVID-19 who are hospitalized is down compared with spring.”

The reasons for this remain unclear, though officials have a few ideas. Doctors have learned when and in what combination to administer therapies to patients to produce the best outcomes, Hanks and Venditti said. There’s also a theory circulating that mask use may be shielding people who are exposed to the virus to smaller viral doses than they would have been otherwise.

“That’s all conjecture,” Hanks said. “But these are all things we’re giving consideration to, including possibly just changes in the virus as the virus mutates in the wild. So that’s the good news part of the story. The bad news is the virus continues to spread.”

While mortality appears to be falling, deaths have picked up pace in recent weeks. The region saw a wave of deaths in the first three months of the pandemic, and then sporadically over the summer. Some counties went months without seeing any. In recent weeks, however, those streaks have ended. As of Tuesday, at least 360 residents of the eight-county Capital Region were known to have died from the virus.

‘COVID fatigue is real’

From the beginning, public health experts and epidemiologists worldwide warned that much like the 1918 Spanish Flu, the coronavirus pandemic would occur in waves — hitting hard in the cold months and dying down in the summer. That has generally been true for New York and the Capital Region, though the United States experienced a second wave outside of the Northeast this summer and is now entering its third wave.

Part of the reason is that viruses just have an easier time circulating on dry, cold air. Another reason is that people tend to spend more time indoors when the weather gets cold, and virus from an infected person has fewer places to escape.

Unfortunately, officials fear a confluence of other factors will cause a surge this winter. People are exhausted by the stress and isolation the pandemic has caused, and a sort of “COVID fatigue” has set in that is leading to increased socialization and decreased vigilance, public health officials say.

“COVID fatigue is real,” Rosenberg said. “It’s fatigue at multiple levels — individuals letting their guard down, visiting family more, as the cold season approaches thinking, ‘Oh, I can’t eat outdoors at the restaurants I’ll just try indoors a few times.’ All of that is real.”

While they may have been able to count on people staying away from loved ones in the spring when the virus was new and lockdowns were novel, officials are now worried that the impending holiday season and return of college students from possible hot spots is going to fuel a new surge of cases at the worst possible time.

Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen said people were already associating the reopening of schools and businesses as a green light for pre-pandemic behaviors.

“People were taking that to mean they could be doing other things, like attending parties and socializing in groups and maybe letting their guard down in terms of wearing masks and keeping distance socially and avoiding large gatherings,” she said. “But those latter three strategies are more important than ever and what people need to understand is the ability for us to keep businesses functioning and schools open are entirely contingent on those behaviors.”

Whalen and other health officials who spoke to the Times Union agreed that people should try and avoid holiday gatherings with family and friends outside of their immediate household this year.

“I know it’s difficult,” she said. “But I think this is a different year and I think people need to take that into consideration in their planning. Because the last thing we want is for families to be brought together for a holiday that’s supposed to be about celebrating the things that we’re thankful for and for that to result in a case or sickness of a loved one.

Preparing for round two

While local health officials are hopeful a second wave won’t be as big as the first, they are preparing for possible contingencies in the coming months.

Hospital leaders on Wednesday urged the public to fight the fatigue and stay vigilant about basic precautions such as hand washing and masking while out in public. They also urged people to get vaccinated against influenza — a move that will help divert people from the hospital at a time when COVID-19 is surging. Local hospitals also announced that they will be mandating all staff, including those at private physician practices, to get vaccinated for flu, with exemptions for medical and religious reasons. That should impact roughly 35,000 health care workers in the region, they said.

“We don’t know where that curve is going to go,” said Dr. David Liebers, an infectious disease specialist at Ellis Medicine. “The more we do proactively, the better. It may be a tough winter but we can make it a better winter with sticking to everything we’ve been doing so far.”

Venditti noted that Albany Med spent the summer looking through its emergency response plan and adjusting where appropriate. Surge plans that hospitals developed in the spring remain on file with the state. And hospitals have built up a 90-day supply of PPE as mandated by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. They’ve also begun disinfecting single-use PPE for re-use — a practice used back in the spring to conserve supplies but which nurses have protested, arguing it puts them at risk.

“We’re definitely trying to be cautious with our use of PPE,” Venditti said. “Having said that, we are only doing what’s been sanctioned by the (Centers for Disease Control) or the Department of Health in terms of re-use … we’re trying to be careful anticipating that two months down the road, a month down the road, we could be in a different circumstance with limited supplies.”

As 2020 comes to a close, hospitals have also filed applications with the state to administer any COVID-19 vaccines that are expected to hit the market for essential workers in January 2021 and the rest of the population by spring.

Until then, individuals have an important role to play in keeping their communities safe, Whalen said.

“If people aren’t compliant and if people keep acting like it’s either a hoax or it doesn’t exist or they don’t like to wear masks, you know, yeah, we could be heading for (another shutdown),” she said. “I sincerely hope that doesn’t come to pass.”

Another hurricane of God‘s wrath hits Louisiana: Jeremiah 23

Hurricane Zeta making landfall in Louisiana as a strong Category 2 storm; here’s the latest

Hurricane Zeta strengthened to a strong Category 2 storm and was making landfall near the Lafourche/Terrebonne parish line at about 4 p.m.

The National Weather Service said Zeta was coming ashore near Cocodrie with sustained winds of 110 mph.

Zeta currently has maximum sustained winds of 110 mph. It almost reached Category 3 strength as windspeed closed in on the 111 mph minimum for a major storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

The system is moving north-northeast at 22 mph.

Senior Hurricane Specialist Richard Pasch in a 4 p.m. forecast discussion message that it’s possible that the storm’s interaction with an upper-level trough of low pressure several hundred miles west-northwest of Zeta is partly responsible for its increase in intensity.

“Somewhat surprisingly, Zeta has rapidly intensified this afternoon,” Pasch said. “Although the hurricane has been moving over marginally warm sea surface temperatures and relatively low heat content waters, it has intensified from 80 knots to 95 knots in about 6 hours.”

National Weather Service meteorologist Lauren Nash said Zeta “will have a little bit of everything,” including storm surge on the coast, high winds, up to 4 inches of rain and possible tornadoes.

She said the worst of the hurricane will be wind. Its quick pace means rain won’t stick around long enough to cause widespread flooding.

The forecast for lighter rain is welcome news for New Orleans residents, where one of the city’s four turbines that power its drainage system’s pumps is out of commission.

In addition to its speed and intensity, Zeta has had a stable path, with no real changes since Tuesday morning.

“It really hasn’t shifted its track, and it looks like the eye will still pass just east of metro New Orleans,” Nash said.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other metro-area leaders warned residents to be indoors by 2 p.m. and resist the urge head out to see and feel the increasing winds.

“It’s coming fast, and it’s coming strong,” Cantrell said. “This is not a drill.

Emergency preparedness officials and forecasters warned of power outages, pockets of heavy rain and downed trees and powerlines.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said the speed of the storm, which was moving 17 mph as it approached land and was expected to move even faster over land, will work in Louisiana’s favor.

“It will get in and out of the area relatively quickly,” he said.

Edwards said about 1,500 members of the Louisiana National Guard are activated and ready to offer assistance.

Staff reporter Tristan Baurick contributed to this report

The US-Israeli Plot against Iran WILL FAIL

US-Israeli Plot against Iran Doomed to Failure: Official

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei denounced the American-Israeli plot to counter Iran through normalization of ties between the Zionist regime and some Arab governments as a nonstarter.

Tasnim News Agency

Addressing an international conference on the decline of the US, held in the former American embassy in Tehran on Tuesday, Rezaei enumerated the signs of waning US power in various arenas, saying, “The recent plot initiated by the US and Israel to unite the Arabs and Israel against Iran will also end in failure.”

The decline of the US government is a significant issue, because the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran presented the region and the world with new ideas in defiance of the Western and American civilization and culture, he added.

The US economy, which shapes the pillar of American power, is lagging behind other emerging economies, Rezaei noted, saying Washington cannot afford to support the oppressing forces outside the US anymore.

Highlighting a steep decline in the US military power under the rule of both Republicans and Democrats, the Iranian official said the American defeats in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have sapped Washington’s defense power.

“The US has lost its leadership in many parts of the world, while alternative models such as the Saudi-led proxy wars on Yemen have also gone nowhere,” he underlined.

Rezaei also said that Iran should seize the opportunity provided by the decline of the US to make progress and take advantage of new sciences.

In comments in November 2018, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei highlighted the diminishing influence of the US government in all areas of power, saying Washington has even discredited “liberal democracy” which is known as the basis of Western civilization.

There is a consensus among major international experts that the US power is dwindling in all areas, the Leader underscored, adding that, conversely, the Iranian nation is moving forward and has a bright future.

Ayatollah Khamenei also branded the US government as the loser of confrontation with the Islamic Republic over the past 40 years, saying the fact in confrontation between the US and Iran is that “the victorious side in this challenge has been the Islamic Republic of Iran and the loser has been the US.”

More terror in the Pakistani nuclear horn

8 students killed, 136 wounded after bombing at Islamic seminary in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A powerful bomb blast ripped through an Islamic seminary on the outskirts of the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday morning, killing at least eight students and wounding 136 others, police and a hospital spokesman said.

The bombing happened as a prominent religious scholar during a special class was delivering a lecture about the teachings of Islam at the main hall of the Jamia Zubairia madrassa, said police officer Waqar Azim. He said initial investigations suggest the bomb went off minutes after someone left a bag at the madrassa.

TV footage showed the damaged main hall of the seminary, where the bombing took place. The hall was littered with broken glass and its carpet was stained with blood. Police said at least 11 pounds of explosives were used in the attack.

Several of the wounded students were in critical condition, and hospital authorities feared the death toll could climb further. Authorities said some seminary teachers and employees were also wounded in the bombing.

Initially police said the bombing killed and wounded children studying at the seminary but later revised their account to say that the students were in their mid-20s.

Shortly after the attack, residents rushed to the seminary to check up on their sons or relatives who were studying there. Many relatives were gathering at the city’s main Lady Reading Hospital, where the dead and wounded students were brought by police in ambulances and other vehicles.

Some Afghan students studying at the seminary were also among the wounded, officials said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the bombing and asked authorities to ensure the provision of best possible medical aid to the victims.

“I want to assure my nation we will ensure the terrorists responsible for this cowardly barbaric attack are brought to justice,” Khan said.

The bombing drew condemnation from the country’s opposition party, which has been holding rallies meant to force Khan’s government to quit.

From his hospital bed, a wounded student, Mohammad Saqib, 24, said religious scholar Rahimullah Haqqani was explaining verses from the Quran when suddenly they heard a deafening sound and then cries and saw blood-stained students crying for help.

“Someone helped me and put me in an ambulance and I was brought to hospital,” he said. Saqib had bandages on both arms but he was listed in a stable condition.

Another witness, Saeed Ullah, 24, said up to 500 students were present at the seminary’s main hall at the time of the explosion. He said teachers were also among those who were wounded in the bombing.

A video filmed by a student at the scene showed the Islamic scholar Haqqani delivering a lecture when the bomb exploded. It was unclear whether the teacher was among the wounded.

Mohammad Asim, a spokesman at the Lady Reading Hospital, said eight students died and they received dozens of wounded people, mostly seminary students.

The attack comes days after Pakistani intelligence alerted that militants could target public places and important buildings, including seminaries and mosques across Pakistan, including Peshawar.

India Pakistan conflict:Nuclear war between India and Pakistan could kill up to 125 million and launch a global climate catastrophe

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Peshawar which is the provincial capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan. The province has been the scene of such militant attacks in recent years, but sectarian violence has also killed or wounded people at mosques or seminaries across Pakistan.

The latest attack comes two days after a bombing in the southwestern city of Quetta killed three people. The Pakistani Taliban have been targeting public places, schools, mosques and the military across the country since 2001, when this Islamic nation joined the U.S.-led war on terror following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, condemned Tuesday’s bombing. In a statement, he described the attack as a cowardly act, claiming that the country’s institutions were behind it.

Since then, the insurgents have declared war on the government of Pakistan and have carried out numerous attacks, including a brutal assault on an army-run school in the city of Peshawar in 2014 that killed 140 children and several teachers.

The History of Earth­quakes In New York Before the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

The History of Earth­quakes In New YorkBy Meteorologist Michael Gouldrick New York State PUBLISHED 6:30 AM ET Sep. 09, 2020 PUBLISHED 6:30 AM EDT Sep. 09, 2020New York State has a long history of earthquakes. Since the early to mid 1700s there have been over 550 recorded earthquakes that have been centered within the state’s boundary. New York has also been shaken by strong earthquakes that occurred in southeast Canada and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Courtesy of Northeast States Emergency ConsortiumThe largest earthquake that occurred within New York’s borders happened on September 5th, 1944. It was a magnitude 5.9 and did major damage in the town of Massena.A school gymnasium suffered major damage, some 90% of chimneys toppled over and house foundations were cracked. Windows broke and plumbing was damaged. This earthquake was felt from Maine to Michigan to Maryland.Another strong quake occurred near Attica on August 12th, 1929. Chimneys took the biggest hit, foundations were also cracked and store shelves toppled their goods.In more recent memory some of the strongest quakes occurred On April 20th, 2002 when a 5.0 rattled the state and was centered on Au Sable Forks area near Plattsburg, NY.Strong earthquakes outside of New York’s boundary have also shaken the state. On February 5th, 1663 near Charlevoix, Quebec, an estimated magnitude of 7.5 occurred. A 6.2 tremor was reported in Western Quebec on November 1st in 1935. A 6.2 earthquake occurred in the same area on March 1st 1925. Many in the state also reported shaking on August 23rd, 2011 from a 5.9 earthquake near Mineral, Virginia.

Earthquakes in the northeast U.S. and southeast Canada are not as intense as those found in other parts of the world but can be felt over a much larger area. The reason for this is the makeup of the ground. In our part of the world, the ground is like a jigsaw puzzle that has been put together. If one piece shakes, the whole puzzle shakes.In the Western U.S., the ground is more like a puzzle that hasn’t been fully put together yet. One piece can shake violently, but only the the pieces next to it are affected while the rest of the puzzle doesn’t move.In Rochester, New York, the most recent earthquake was reported on March 29th, 2020. It was a 2.6 magnitude shake centered under Lake Ontario. While most did not feel it, there were 54 reports of the ground shaking.So next time you are wondering why the dishes rattled, or you thought you felt the ground move, it certainly could have been an earthquake in New York.Here is a website from the USGS (United Sates Geologic Society) of current earthquakes greater than 2.5 during the past day around the world. As you can see, the Earth is a geologically active planet!Another great website of earthquakes that have occurred locally can be found here.To learn more about the science behind earthquakes, check out this website from the USGS.

How America Let The Sixth Seal Happen (Revelation 6:12)

Letter: Indian Point PipelineEvery step of the fossil-fuel process, from extraction, transportation to its end use, burning it, and releasing carbon is destroying our planet and putting our health and lives at risk.A report released by the Office of the Inspector General of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Feb. 26 showed how agency staff misled the public and others about the safety of building a massive, 42-inch, high-pressure gas pipeline under the property of Indian Point to carry fracked gas to Canada for export. It’s yet another gross example in a long list of fossil-fuel companies putting their profit before our lives — 20 million lives to be precise — and our government failing to protect us.In the words of NRC Commissioner Jeff Baran, the inspector general “found multiple significant problems with how the NRC staff analyzed the safety of siting a new natural gas pipeline underground near the Indian Point nuclear power plant. That’s totally unacceptable. The staff needs to explain how they are going to make this right.”While Gov. Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey each opposed construction of the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Pipeline expansion in 2015, none took decisive action to stop it. Now, what elected officials, safety experts and grassroots environmental organizations have been saying for years has been proven true.Enbridge Energy Partners, the company that operated the pipeline, cannot be allowed to put our safety in jeopardy for its profits. The pipeline must be shut down immediately until public safety can be ensured. Enough is enough.Gov. Cuomo should direct the relevant agencies to exert their powers to protect the people of New York state by seeking an injunction to halt the flow of gas under Indian Point.Krystal Ford, GarrisonIn a statement, Sandy Galef, whose state Assembly district includes Philipstown, called for the pipeline to be shut down and the NRC to hold public hearings. “Such reckless behavior demands accountability,” she said.

Zeta Bears down on Louisiana and Florida: Jeremiah 23

Zeta Triggers Hurricane Warning For New Orleans As Gulf Coast Awaits Storm

Bill ChappellOctober 27, 20203:30 PM ET

Zeta will likely hit coastal areas of Louisiana and Mississippi as a Category 1 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center says.

NOAA/Esri/HERE/Garmin/Earthstar Geographics

Updated at 6:17 p.m. ET

Zeta will strengthen on its way across the Gulf of Mexico, likely hitting the U.S. coast as a Category 1 hurricane on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said. Parts of Louisiana and Mississippi are now under hurricane warnings, including metro New Orleans.

“This is a life-threatening situation,” the hurricane center said Tuesday, urging people to take precautions against the risk of flooding and other hazards.

The system is currently a tropical storm, weakened by its landfall overnight on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Zeta has sustained winds up to 65 mph, the hurricane center said in its 5 p.m. ET update. The storm is traveling northwest at 14 mph.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards asked President Trump for a federal emergency declaration to help respond to Zeta when it makes landfall. “I anticipate the need for emergency protective measures, evacuations, and sheltering for high-risk areas,” Edwards wrote, also asking for search and rescue teams near the impact area. Edwards declared a state of emergency on Monday.

Zeta will make landfall on the northern Gulf Coast late Wednesday afternoon or Wednesday night before moving across the Southeast early Thursday, the hurricane center said. The forecast path sees the center of the storm passing near Biloxi, Miss.

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If Zeta hits the U.S. coast as a hurricane, it would be latest hurricane landfall on the continental U.S. since Kate in 1985, according to meteorologist Philip Klotzbach. It’s following a path that’s similar to other recent storms such as Hurricane Delta, which passed over Mexico’s state of Quintana Roo before spinning its way to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Zeta’s large size and angular approach to the shore mean a broad area is under alert. Tropical storm warnings extend inland to an area just south of Montgomery, Ala.

Alabama’s governor declared a state of emergency Tuesday, as Zeta is projected to cross over the state on Thursday. The Alabama National Guard is prepared for storm response, and agencies were gearing up to move emergency equipment and supplies to areas that may need them.

“While this storm is not expected to have an impact as large as storms we’ve seen move through the Gulf earlier this year, we want to be in the best place possible to respond to anticipated rain, storm surge and mass power outage,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement.

A hurricane warning was issued early Tuesday morning from Morgan City, La., eastward to the Mississippi-Alabama border — an area that includes New Orleans. Such warnings are normally issued 36 hours before the anticipated first arrival of tropical storm-force winds.

Zeta could bring a storm surge of 5 to 8 feet of water in worst-hit areas, the hurricane center said. A storm surge warning is in effect from Intracoastal City, La., to Navarre, Fla., including several bodies of water that are near the shore, such as Mobile Bay, Lake Pontchartrain and Pensacola Bay.

“It’s real important,” National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said Tuesday in an online briefing. “If the local officials tell you to get out of these low areas, you’ve got to listen to them, because the storm surge is historically the most deadly part of these tropical systems.”

The storm is expected to speed up a bit as it nears the coast, a shift that could lessen the impact of its heavy rains. A wide area of the shore will be affected: Zeta is extending tropical storm-force winds outward for up to 140 miles, the hurricane center said.

Zeta is the 27th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. The most in a single season was 28, a mark that was set in 2005, the hurricane center said.

The next three storms on the official list, drawn from the Greek alphabet because the roster of full names is exhausted, would be called Eta, Theta and Iota.

The Iranian horn continues to expand: Daniel 8

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the IAEA, talked to the AP news agency in Berlin [Markus Schreiber/AP]

Iran starts building underground nuclear facility: IAEA | Middle East | Al Jazeera

UN’s atomic watchdog confirms Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant.

Inspectors from the United Nations’ atomic watchdog have confirmed Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after its previous one exploded in what Tehran called a sabotage attack, according to the agency’s head.

Iran also continues to stockpile greater amounts of low-enriched uranium, but does not appear to possess enough to produce a weapon, Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told The Associated Press on Tuesday in an interview in Berlin.

Following the July explosion at the Natanz nuclear site, Tehran said it would build a new, more secure, structure in the mountains around the area.

Satellite images of Natanz analysed by experts have yet to show any obvious signs of construction at the site in Iran’s central Isfahan province.

“They have started, but it’s not completed,” Grossi said. “It’s a long process.”

He would not give further details saying it’s “confidential information”. Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Flashpoint for Western fears

Natanz hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility. In its long underground halls, centrifuges rapidly spin uranium hexafluoride gas to enrich uranium.

Natanz became a flashpoint for Western fears about Iran’s nuclear programme in 2002, when satellite photos showed Iran building an underground facility at the site, about 200km (125 miles) south of the capital, Tehran.

In 2003, the IAEA visited Natanz, which Iran said would house centrifuges for its nuclear programme, buried under about 7.6 metres (25 feet) of concrete. That offers protection from a potential air attack on the site, which also is guarded by anti-aircraft positions.

Natanz had been targeted by the Stuxnet computer virus previously, which is believed to be a creation of the United States and Israel.

Iran has yet to say who it suspects of carrying out the sabotage in the July incident. Suspicion has fallen on Israel, despite a claim of responsibility by a previously unheard-of group at the time.

Under provisions of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Iran is allowed to produce a certain amount of enriched uranium for non-military purposes but receives strict inspections to ensure it is not developing weapons.

In return, Iran was offered economic incentives by the countries involved and significant sanctions relief.

Since President Donald Trump pulled the US unilaterally out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, the other signatories – Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China – have struggled to keep the deal alive.

Meanwhile, Iran has been steadily exceeding the deal’s limits on how much uranium it can stockpile, the purity to which it can enrich uranium, and other restrictions to pressure those countries to come up with a plan to offset US sanctions.

Still though, Iran has continued to allow IAEA inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities, including Natanz, Grossi said.

In the latest IAEA quarterly report, the agency reported as of August 25 Iran had stockpiled 2,105.4kg (4,641.6 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, well above the 202.8kg (447.1 pounds) allowed under the nuclear deal.

It was also enriching uranium to a purity of 4.5 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the accord.

In the next report, due in coming weeks, Grossi said: “We continue to see the same trend that we have seen so far.”

‘Significant quantity’

According to a widely cited analysis by the Washington-based Arms Control Association, Iran would need about 1,050kg (1.16 tonnes) of low-enriched uranium – under 5 percent purity – in gas form and would then need to enrich it further to weapons-grade, or more than 90 percent purity, to make a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA’s current assessment is, however, that Iran does not at the moment possess a “significant quantity” of uranium – defined by the agency as enough to produce a bomb – according to Grossi.

“At the moment, I’m not in contact with my inspectors but by memory, I wouldn’t say so,” he said.

“All of these are projections and the IAEA is not into speculation,” he added. “What may happen? What could happen? We are inspectors, we say the amounts that we see.”

Iran insists it has no interest in producing a bomb and Grossi noted before the nuclear agreement, Tehran enriched its uranium up to 20 percent purity, which is just a short technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90 percent. And in 2013, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was already more than 7,000kg (7.72 tonnes) with higher enrichment, but it did not pursue a bomb.

“The idea of a ‘significant quantity’ is a technical parameter … that applies in the context of the safeguards agreement to indicate amounts which could be theoretically used for the development of a nuclear weapon,” he said.

“The fact that there could be such an amount would not indicate automatically that a nuclear weapon is being fabricated, so I think we have to be very careful when we use these terms.”

Grossi personally visited Tehran in late August for meetings with top officials and managed to break a months-long impasse over two locations thought to be from the early 2000s where Iran was suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material and possibly conducted nuclear-related activities.

Inspectors have now taken samples from both of those sites, and Grossi said they are still undergoing lab analysis.

“It was a constructive solution to a problem what we were having,” he said. “And I would say since then we have kept the good level of cooperation in the sense that our inspectors are regularly present and visiting the sites.”

Source : AP

The danger of the Russian and China nuclear horns: Daniel 7

Russia and China’s Nuclear Weapons are Becoming More Dangerous

What does that mean for U.S. nuclear doctrine and strategy? One top U.S. official has some ideas. 

The U.S. must massively “revise” its nuclear weapons-oriented 21st-Century Strategic Deterrence Theory to reinvigorate its arsenal of current and future weapons of mass destruction as a way to stay in front of fast-modernizing rivals, the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command said. 

Adm. Charles Richard told a prominent think tank that the U.S. must quickly and efficiently prepare to face two major nuclear-armed rivals in the coming years, citing Chinese and Russian nuclear-weapons modernization as well as fast-emerging threats posed by North Korea and Iran. 

Having not faced a major nuclear rival in decades, the U.S. needs to fortify and strengthen its deterrence posture through the construction of new nuclear-weapons and maintenance of current systems, Richard said, according to a Pentagon report. 

“Given Russia and China’s expanding capabilities in increasingly aggressive behavior, and those posed by nuclear North Korea and possibly Iran, we must reinvigorate the national conversation on the importance of strategic deterrence,” Richard told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The fundamental concept of deterrence theory is of course grounded upon the premise that the massive amount of destructive power contained in nuclear weapons help, if even somewhat paradoxically, keep peace and prevent war. The current climate, however, is one in which major rivals such as Russia have built new low-yield nuclear weapons and, as Richard put it, blurred the line between conventional and nuclear weapons. This blurring, some suggest, could lower the threshold to nuclear war of some kind. 

Russia’s addition of new low-yield tactical nuclear weapons is likely one reason why the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review has inspired the U.S. to create new, low-yield sea-launched nuclear-armed cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.

 “Our post-Cold War experiences of operating in uncontested domains are over. Our adversaries took advantage of this period, emboldened … their aggressive behavior, expanded their capabilities and reconsidered their tactics and strategies.” 

What would it mean to revise deterrence theory?

Perhaps an even larger nuclear arsenal than that which is currently planned? Richard could be referring to a number of possibilities, including the continued acceleration of the Pentagon’s new ICBM program, Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent. DoD plans to build as many as 400 new, more resilient, reliable and accurate ICBMs to replace the 1960s-era Minuteman IIIs. As part of this strategy, Richard also stressed the importance of upgrading and maintaining the Minuteman IIIs for the purpose of preventing a lapse in weaponry as GBSD comes online. 

It may also be possible that Richard intends to advocate for the Pentagon to acquire larger numbers of its now-in-development SLBM, Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile. This nuclear-armed SLBM has already been engineered as a new, lower-yield variant of the well known Trident II D5 weapon. 

Kris Osborn is Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Creative Commons. 

How Israel is Striking the Shi’a Horn

Covert strikes against Iran recount Israeli campaign against Iraq

Ted SniderOctober 27, 2020

A handout image supplied by the IIPA (Iran International Photo Agency) shows a view of the reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant as the first fuel is loaded, on August 21, 2010 in Bushehr, southern Iran. (Photo: IIPA/Getty Images)

The country had become an existential threat. It was ruled by a megalomaniac who wanted Israel eliminated. And now he wanted a nuclear bomb. 

The leader claimed his nuclear program was purely a civilian program, but Israel knew that was not true. So, it set the program back. Israel undertook covert assassinations of nuclear scientists. And, when that did not work, it blew up a nuclear facility.

But the country wasn’t Iran. This was Iraq under Saddam Hussein who came to power in 1979 and ruled for 24 years. To challenge the nuclear program, Israel used assassinations, sabotage and targeted strikes in Iraq, a signature that is today found in Iran. 

Over the summer, an explosion obliterated the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in central Iran. Early sources placed responsibility for the July 3, 2020 strike on Israel, although responsibility is unconfirmed. Subsequent reporting, including by The New York Times, continued to lay the blame on Israel. Making the case stronger, former Israeli defense minister Avigdor Liberman, on July 6, named the Middle Eastern intelligence source who leaked Israel’s role as Mossad chief Yossi Cohen.

Yet Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz denied the allegation, saying “Not every incident that transpires in Iran necessarily has something to do with us. … All those systems are complex, they have very high safety constraints and I’m not sure they always know how to maintain them.” Leaving aside Gantz’ humor, the explosion was not the result of an accident.

BBC reporter Jiyar Gol said he received an email from an unknown group called the Homeland Cheetahs that claimed responsibility for an attack on the Natanz nuclear site two hours earlier. It was only several hours later that Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization announced that there had been an explosion at the Natanz nuclear plant. The group is likely not real, but the email shows that someone knew about the act of sabotage long before it happened.

An unnamed Middle Eastern security official told the Washington Post, “There was an opportunity, and someone in Israel calculated the risk and took the opportunity.”

Looking back to Israel’s intervention in Iraq offers insights into the more current spat of bombings. By 1973, Iraq’s nuclear program began under then Prime Minister Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, although by 1973 Saddam was fully in charge and al-Bakr was a figurehead only. Israel responded by establishing a team called New Era whose job was to frustrate Iraq’s plan to acquire nuclear weapons. One of the first strategies they tried was assassinating nuclear scientists who were key to the program.

Israeli historian Ronen Bergman reported in “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations,” on April 6, 1979 operatives from Mossad’s especially clandestine Bayonet unit blew up a hangar in France. It housed machines that formed a part of the nuclear reactor France was selling to Iraq. The explosion set back the Iraqi nuclear program.

According to Bergman the switch to target assassinations began with Yehia al-Mashad, an Egyptian nuclear physicist who was hired as a senior scientist in Iraq’s nuclear program. Allegedly, the Mossad began to follow him in early 1980, tracking him for about four months. Then they allegedly killed him in a French hotel by cracking his head with a large, heavy ashtray.

Six months later, the Mossad allegedly checked off the second name on its list: Abd al-Rahman Rasoul. Rasoul was a civil engineer in charge of the construction of buildings for the nuclear project. He was shot to death but a postmortem found a strange virus in his system. He reported feeling like he had food poisoning. In a way, he did. The next to die was Salman Rashid al-Lami. Al-Lami was an engineer who was training to enrich uranium in Geneva. But Switzerland was no safer than France for an Iraqi nuclear scientist. He was killed by a mysterious virus.

Three down.

The assassination program did not stop Saddam. Slain scientists were replaced by new scientists, and the program went on. After a year of extra-judicial killings, the Mossad knew their plan wasn’t working. Assassinations yielded to bombs.

On June 7, 1981, 14 Israeli aircraft took off and headed into Iraqi airspace in an illegal act of war. They dropped bomb after bomb on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, utterly obliterating it. 

Three decades later, the pattern would repeat itself. 

Almost exactly 30 years after Yehia al-Mashad, the Mossad allegedly detonated a remote controlled bomb planted on a motorcycle next to the car of Massoud Ali Mohammadi. The bomb killed the Iranian physicist. Ten Iranians who were accused of working for the Mossad were arrested. One of them, Jamali Fashi, said in a confession that aired on Iranian state TV and cannot be independently verified, he was given a computer by the Mossad in general and instructions to assassinate Ali Mohammadi. Fashi was convicted and hung in 2012.

In November 2010, a motorcycle was again used to kill Majid Shahriyari. Motorcycle riders attached a magnetized bomb to his car. The future head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Association, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, escaped being killed in the same way on the same day when he jumped out of his car.

In the fourth assassination attempt with a motorcycle, the Iranian physicist and nuclear scientist Darioush Rezainejad was killed when two gunmen on motorcycles shot him. Rezainejad played a key role in Iran’s nuclear program. A source in Israel’s intelligence community told Germany’s Der Spiegal that Mossad was behind the assassination of Rezainejad.

Again employing a motorcycle and a magnetized bomb, this time placed on the roof of the car, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a scientist involved in purchasing equipment for Iran’s nuclear program, was assassinated on January 11, 2012. Thirteen were arrested two weeks later on suspicion of working for Israel.

In November 2011, Major General Hassan Moqqadam, a pioneer in Iranian missile development, was killed in a massive explosion at a military arms depot that houses Iran’s long-range Shahab missiles. That was the second time there had been an explosion at a Shahab missile base. Time magazine revealed that a western intelligence source said that he assumes Mossad was behind the explosion.

Two senior officials in the Obama administration told NBC news that the assassinations were carried out by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group that spent many years on America’s terrorist list. They also alleged that the MEK was “financed, trained, and armed” by Israeli intelligence. 

In Iran, as in Iraq before it, assassinations proved insufficient to kill the nuclear program. But history has shown us, the pattern of extra-judicial killings and covert strikes will endure.