Seismic Studies Warn Of The Sixth Seal

East Coast Earthquake Map, east coast earthquake, new york earthquake, nyc seismology, fordham seismic station, columbia university seismology, east coast 5.8 earthquake
The Eastern United States, let alone New York City, may not be prone to earthquakes, but that doesn’t mean we completely forgo seismology on the East Coast. Two of New York’s best universities — Fordham and Columbia — have been abuzz with activity as seismologists labor to chart the data and study the effects of Tuesday’s 5.8 earthquake that shook the city. Fordham actually houses New York State’s oldest seismic station, with instruments dating back to the early 1900s. Housed in an underground structure made from Gothic stone, the station, shown above, is a bit of a relic in itself.
Fordham physics professor Benjamin C. Crooker supervises the university’s William Spain Seismic Observatory, which was built in 1923. In an interview with the New York Times, Crooker could barely contain his excitement about the recent earthquake. “This was more motion than I’ve seen in the 16 years I’ve been doing this,” he said.
The station’s cylindrical steel seismometer confirmed that the Big Apple had experienced a 5.8 quake about nine seconds after 1:52 p.m. on August 23. The device is so sensitive that it can detect an earthquake of a 5.8 magnitude anywhere it occurs, but if that same strength quake were to hit New York City directly, the seismometer would likely be destroyed. According to legend, the observatory’s older devices are so sensitive that the university used to use horses to cut the grass above the station rather than machinery.
Dr. Meredith Nettles, a seismologist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said that while we rarely feel earthquakes in NYC, small quakes are often recorded by the seismic centers. In fact, earlier on Tuesday, a 2.2 earthquake was recorded just 15 miles outside of Albany. Any tremor recorded, especially a larger one like the 5.8, gives scientists important insight into the geology and underground layout beneath our city.
“While the quake took 1.2 seconds to travel the 6.2 miles between Central Park and Fordham, an additional 1.29 seconds passed during the 5.6-mile journey from Fordham to Palisades,” write the New York Times. “Even subtle differences in travel time, Dr. Nettles said, can speak to the nature of rock or sediment beneath the surface.”
While Tuesday’s quake will definitely be remembered by New Yorkers, it was largely just a fleeting interruption to our daily lives. But it was most definitely a necessary reminder that just because we’re not on the San Andreas Fault, doesn’t mean we’re immune to earthquakes. Perhaps that little shake was just what we needed to make the need for stronger buildings and safer nuclear plants become more real.

The BS Behind Obama’s Nuclear Deal

Published on Tuesday, 27 December 2016 20:20
In an article for The National Review by by Ray Takeyh, the Hasib Sabbagh Senior Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations and a co-author of The Pragmatic Superpower: Winning the Cold War in the Middle East, he writes that the incoming Trump administration will confront a Middle East in turmoil.
Taketh believes that the Obama presidency failed in its legacy on foreign affairs in its Iran policy. Today, Iran’s leaders possess a nuclear infrastructure that he says is expanding and “is blessed by the international community”.
Tehran is in a commanding position from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. Iran’s leaders continue to castigate the United States from their platforms while their Revolutionary Guards taunt the American armada patrolling international waters. The incoming Trump administration should not just tinker with this legacy but cast it aside altogether. President Barack Obama was the architect of his own Iran strategy, and brought to it his own peculiar concerns. For Obama, the success of the policy was measured not by the traditional benchmark of whether it arrested Iran’s ambitions, but by the extent to which it propitiated a nation he thought had been abused for too long by the United States. His historical illiteracy was nowhere more on display than in Iran, as he reduced complex events to bumper-sticker slogans: America had overthrown a legitimately elected government of Iran in 1953 and then buttressed a cruel despot for nearly three decades. The clerical leaders are not hardened anti-Western ideologues but mere nationalists whose legitimate prerogatives have been trampled upon by arrogant Americans. And the Islamic Republic’s imperial surge is a legitimate expression of a regional stakeholder. If a little history is a dangerous thing, in the hands of Obama it was absolutely toxic. The sum total of his achievements was the worst nuclear agreement in the history of U.S. arms-control diplomacy and an emboldened Iran rampaging across the Middle East,” writes Takeyh.
A sensible Iran policy would revisit key aspects of the Iran deal, which is formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Takeyh writes, “The agreement’s rapidly expiring sunset clauses ensure that Iran will soon embark on developing advanced centrifuges that operate efficiently at high velocity. Its research-and-development concessions are already allowing Iran to modernize its nuclear infrastructure. And its economic concessions have damaged the once-formidable sanctions architecture that effectively hemmed in the mullahs’ ambitions. All these core aspects of the accord must be reconsidered.”
He continues, “Although the proponents of the agreement insist that its international support makes it inviolable, it is important to note that the JCPOA was rejected by the House of Representatives and that 58 senators went on the record opposing it. An agreement rejected by a majority of legislators has no credibility. The sovereignty of the U.S. Congress outweighs any international body’s embrace of an agreement damaging to American national interests. Should the Trump team wish to revisit or even abrogate the JCPOA, they have sufficient domestic political authority to justify their moves.”  He adds, “The question then becomes: To what type of civilian nuclear program is Iran entitled? At the moment, Iran is on the path of not just enriching uranium domestically but industrializing that capacity once the JCPOA’s restrictions expire. The United States should set aside the agreement’s sunset clauses and insist that Iran is entitled only to a modest and largely symbolic program. Whatever uranium Iran enriches must be permanently shipped abroad for processing into fuel rods that are difficult to convert for military purposes. And Iran may never have advanced centrifuges but must limit itself to small cascades of primitive machines. An oil-rich Iran does not require an elaborate nuclear network operating thousands of advanced centrifuges while accumulating tons of enriched uranium.”
“In attempting to persuade the Europeans to join the United States in strengthening the JCPOA, the new administration has some important cards to play. President Donald Trump will have a period of honeymoon in the alliance: The European leaders will initially be eager to get along with him. All these states have higher priorities than a flawed arms-control agreement with an unsavory theocracy. If setting a new Iran policy is one of the most important issues to the new president, they will be inclined to help. Given Trump’s nascent relationship with Vladimir Putin, Russia might be more forthcoming on this issue than it has been. And should the Russians and the Europeans prove receptive, China will not wish to remain the sole and lonely obstacle to sensible revisions. Still, the manner in which the case is presented will be crucial.” Takeyh writes.
“In challenging some of the most problematic aspects of the agreement, the U.S. will merely be asking its partners in the so-called 5+1 (the U.S. plus Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China) to return to the principles that they accepted up to 2013. It was the official 5+1 position until then that Iran would be entitled only to a small cascade of primitive centrifuge machines and that it could expand its program only after it satisfied the international community that the program was strictly for peaceful purposes. The reelected Obama administration, eager for an agreement and a legacy, cajoled other members of the coalition to abandon these positions for the sake of a deal; the new Trump administration would be asking the alliance to return to positions that it very recently considered prudent. Supporters of opposition candidate Mirhossein Mousavi march in Tehran, July 2009. (Reuters) He continues, “But revising the JCPOA should not be the sole objective of a revamped Iran policy. During both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, the United States did not have an actual Iran policy, but rather only a series of arms-control formulations. The most sensible contribution the Trump administration can make to regional stability is to conceive a strategy that stands up to Iran in the region and puts its domestic regime under stress. The ‘supreme leader,’ Ali Khamenei, is presiding over a state with immense vulnerabilities, and the task of U.S. policy is to exploit all of them.”
“As it begins its transition to power, the Trump team should be wary of the accumulated wisdom it is bound to receive from the diplomatic corps and the intelligence community. In their briefings, the professional bureaucracy will insist that the mullahs are firmly in control of their state and that the regime’s hold on power is absolute and immutable. The professionals will likely warn that any attempts to forcefully confront Iran will only empower the so-called hard-liners. Such anachronistic postulations must be set aside if America is to have a successful Iran policy,” Takeyh writes.
The presidential election that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power In the summer of 2009,  presented the state with the crisis of its lifetime. The Green Movement exploded on the scene with a coalition of disenchanted clerics, restive youth, disenfranchised women, and impoverished elements of the middle class. Control was regained via brute violence against citizens, and continued repression. However, the link between the state and the citizenry was severed during that summer’s riots.
Takeyh writes that, “Islamic Republic was never a typical totalitarian state, as its electoral procedures and elected institutions provided the public with at least impressions of democratic representation. That republican element of the regime provided it with a veneer of legitimacy — and in 2009, that legitimacy vanished. The clerical regime lingers on, but a state that relies on a terror apparatus cannot forever stifle the forces of change,” and adds,  “Trump’s task is similar to the one Ronald Reagan faced with the Soviet Union: not just renegotiating a better arms-control agreement but devising a comprehensive policy that undermines the already wobbly foundation of the regime. In this regard, there is nothing as powerful as the presidential bully pulpit. Reagan’s denunciations of Communist rule did much to galvanize the opposition and undermine the Soviet empire. Dissidents in jail and others laboring under the Soviet system took heart from an American president who championed their cause. Trump should study Reagan’s old speeches and emulate his powerful rhetoric. Trump’s task is similar to the one Ronald Reagan faced with the Soviet Union.  As it did with Solidarity in Poland, the United States should find a way of establishing ties with forces of opposition within Iran. Given the Islamic Republic’s cruelty and corruption, the opposition spans the entire social spectrum. The Iranians have given up not just on the Islamic Republic, but even on religious observance, as mosques go empty during most Shiite commemorations. Three decades of theocratic rule has transformed Iran into one of the most secular nations in the world. The middle class and the working poor are equally hard pressed by the regime’s incompetence and corruption. Even the senior ayatollahs are beginning to realize the toll that has been taken on Shia Islam by its entanglement with politics. America has ready allies in Iran and must make an effort to empower those who share its values.”
As we know, economic sanctions are a successful way of pressuring the Islamic Republic. The past few years show that the United States has the means to shrink Iran’s economy and bring it to the edge of collapse. “It was this leverage that the Obama administration forfeited for the sake of a deficient arms-control accord. And it is this leverage that must be reestablished and redeployed. Instead of imploring Europeans to invest in Iran, as John Kerry is doing, we must return to the days of warning off commerce and segregating Iran from global financial institutions. Designating the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization and reimposing financial sanctions could go a long way toward crippling Iran’s economy. Once deprived of money, the mullahs will find it difficult to fund the patronage networks that are essential to their rule and their imperial ventures. One of the best ways of threatening the theocracy is through the power of the purse. Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops march in Tehran, 2011.”
“Pushing back on Iran in the Middle East is the order of the day in Washington, and shrinking the Islamic Republic’s imperial frontiers should be an important priority of the incoming Trump administration. An essential insight of any such policy is to dispense with the false notion that Iran and America have a common enemy in the Islamic State. Such pretenses ignore the fact that Sunni radicalism is the necessary by-product of Iran’s Shiite chauvinism. Destroying the Islamic State requires diminishing the tides of Sunni militancy, which in turn necessitates tempering Iran’s regional ambitions.”  Takeyh adds,  “The best arena in which to achieve this objective is Iran’s periphery in the Persian Gulf region. The Gulf sheikdoms, led by Saudi Arabia, are already locked into a region-wide rivalry with Iran. The Sunni states have taken it upon themselves to contest Iran’s gains in the Gulf and the Levant. Washington should not only buttress these efforts but press all Arab states to embark on a serious attempt to lessen their commercial and diplomatic ties to Tehran. The price of American guardianship is for Sunni Arab states to do their part in resisting the rising Shiite power of Iran. For both humanitarian and strategic reasons, the Trump administration should embrace this task. Even in a disorderly Middle East, there are opportunities to forge new constructive alliances. The enmity that Saudi Arabia and Israel share toward Iran should be the basis for bringing these two countries closer together. Instead of lecturing the Saudis to share the Middle East with Iran and hectoring Israelis about settlements, as the Obama White House has done, the Trump administration should focus on imaginative ways of institutionalizing the nascent cooperation that is already taking place between Riyadh and Jerusalem. The U.S. should press both countries to move beyond intelligence sharing and perhaps forge complementary trade ties, with Saudi oil being exchanged for Israel’s technological products. History rarely offers opportunities to realign the politics of the Middle East; a truculent Iran has presented this chance.”
“Although today Iraq may seem like a protectorate of Iran, this is a predicament that most Iraqi leaders want to escape. Iraq was once the seat of Arab civilization and the center of the region’s politics. The Shiite leaders in Iraq take Iranian advice and money for the simple reason that they are locked out of Sunni Arab councils and abandoned by the American superpower. Iraqis understand that Iran has exercised a pernicious influence in their country, further accentuating its sectarian divides as a means of ensuring Iranian influence. Iraq cannot be whole and free so long as Iran interferes in its affairs. A commitment by the United States to once more rehabilitate the Iraqi army and bureaucracy can go a long way toward diminishing their ties to Tehran. No Iraqi Arab wants to be subordinate to imperious Shiite Persians. Once Iraq frees itself of Iranian dominance, it may yet find a path back to the Arab world and once more serve as a barrier to Iranian power,” writes Takeyh.
The tragedy of Syria is that Iran and Russia possibly succeeded in saving the Assad dynasty. The Syrian army, assisted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah terrorists, and Russian airpower, is now poised to control population centers. This doesn’t end the civil war, but the attempt to unseat what Takeyh calls “Iran’s client in Damascus” will take considerable effort and commitment by the United States and its Sunni allies. The Trump administration should embrace this task for both humanitarian and strategic reasons.
Hopefully, as the opposition strengthens, Iran will face the dilemma of sinking more resources and men into the mess, or cutting its losses, as the Soviet Union was forced to do in Afghanistan. “Since the inception of the Islamic Republic, Westerners enchanted by the clerics and their mysterious ways have insisted that their regime is essentially a pragmatic one. If only America set aside its animosity, it could forge a new relationship with the much misunderstood theocracy. But in reality it is a revolutionary regime that sees a resumed relationship with America as an existential threat. The clerical oligarchs need an American enemy to justify their repression and their costly and corrupt rule. They know that between our two nations there can never be permanent peace. And this is the most important lesson for the incoming president to learn,” Takeyh concludes.

The New Cold War (Revelation 18)

by Jonathan Golob – Dec 27, 2016 2:40pm MST
Nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll in the 1940s. That’s a scene some of us would rather not revisit in the near future.
Last Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump issued a few statements (guess where) about America’s military, with this statement as a kicker: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its sense regarding nukes.” Though much remains to be seen about how Trump’s tweets will actually translate into policy, it seems likely that nuclear war will be back on the table. Are we going to roll back decades of policy and technology to return to the Atomic Age?
Despite Trump’s assertion, the world has come to its senses about nukes (and not just in Hollywood). Political consensus over issues like denuclearization has been fairly stable since the 1980s, thanks in part to scientific researchers showing what would happen to a world ravaged by nuclear bombs. One such study was The Medical Implications of Nuclear War, published by Fred Solomon and Robert Q. Marston in 1986. This rigorous and grim estimate of nuclear war’s effects on our planet is written in a bleak manner for good reason: to scare us straight.
“Our national security for the past 40 years has been based on the perception that nuclear war would be unhealthy,” the study begins. “Understanding what the health consequences of a nuclear war would be, as best we can know them, is very important for informed opinions and actions by citizens and by government.”
It seems we’re due for a reminder.
Bright, hot, then cold
Nuclear war offers a multitude of bad ways to die. The bulk of the initial deaths from a nuclear bomb come from the intense heat from the detonation itself, followed by the firestorms triggered by the blast. Extrapolating from the incendiary bomb attacks in World War II (Tokyo and Dresden being among the more infamous), the authors note, “the projected number of injured requiring medical treatment would be drastically reduced relative to that projected by blast scaling, as many injured that would otherwise require treatment would be consumed in the fires.” If not vaporized at the center of a blast, many of those who survive the initial moments would then promptly be burned alive by a raging super-fire extending for many kilometers from the hypocenter of the blast.
Almost all of the energy of a nuclear bomb (fission or fusion) is released as very short wavelength light, in the X-ray range. These soft X-rays are rapidly absorbed by the surrounding air, heating it to immense temperatures. The result is the characteristic rapidly expanding fireball you’ve seen in stock film of nuclear explosions. For a one megaton airburst fusion bomb, the initial fireball is about 1.6 km (one mile) in diameter.
Shockwaves follow, demolishing structures and tearing apart human beings for miles. For a one-megaton airburst bomb, the EM radiation released is sufficiently intense to spark fires for about a 12km diameter circle around the detonation site, resulting in an enormous firestorm. The rapidly rising column of superheated air over the firestorm generates its own wind, drawing in more material, stoking the fire, and leading to a further expansion of the conflagration.
Noxious gases from burning things that make up cities will increase the death toll by suffocating and poisoning a significant percentage of those not burnt alive from the initial blast and firestorm.
The net result is that as horrible as the human consequences of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were, modern nuclear weapons are much more likely to generate gigantic firestorms (easily a hundred square miles around an American city). With the rosier projections, there would be no survivors within a 4km radius from an air-burst one-megaton bomb over a city; all within that radius would be expected to die within minutes of the detonation. People would be severely injured for at least 18km from the center of the blast—in vast and overwhelming numbers. If one considers the effects of the resultant firestorms, it’s reasonable to expect no survivors within 10km of such a blast. (For quick reference, all of Manhattan is roughly 60 square km.)
Emerge from bunkers, battle superfires
For those who don’t perish in minutes or hours following the blast itself, the environmental consequences of a nuclear exchange become the next nightmare. The nuclear blast and resultant superfires will create massive amounts of black soot (the charred remains of the people, buildings, plants, and other material that made up the city), about 50 percent of which will be injected into the upper troposphere or stratosphere levels of the atmosphere—well above the heights where soot can be rapidly cleared. The remainder will fall as intensely radioactive black rain upon the straggling survivors below. The dark smoke high in the atmosphere will block out the Sun.
Regions below the cloud could see about a 20- to 40-degree Celsius local reduction in temperature within about a week (more during summer months, somewhat less in winter), with the most severe temperature drops persisting for weeks to months. The dramatic change in temperature would then drive winds that would further spread the cloud and the effect. The result is nuclear winter. Slowly, over years, the radioactive dust will drift down to the surface, eventually letting sunlight back through as temperatures gradually return to normal.
Radiation, curiously, contributes relatively little to the overall immediate misery after a nuclear war. The area surrounding a blast site remains intensely radioactive for days to weeks—with weather playing a big effect on the exact spread and locations of the more intense radioactivity. But radioactivity decays exponentially; the long-term effects are subtler, insidious, and include increased rates of cancer.
Exotic chemical changes to the atmosphere are possible, particularly in a larger war over multiple cities, with complex petrochemicals brewing in the upper atmosphere and comprehensive destruction of the ozone layer allowing much more ultraviolet radiation to reach the surface when sunlight returns. This results in a damaging “UV spring” following the nuclear winter. The projections here become less certain, as we lack the data to develop the right models.
Bunkers and shelters can attenuate some of the effects (mostly from the radiation, provided one is far enough away to avoid the blast and firestorm). A survivor of a nuclear war in which many nuclear devices are detonated would then contend with crumbling societies, failing crops, and chaotic, disturbed weather. For a large war, the end of modern life as we know it is probable; the extinction of humans as a species is possible.
“Everything needed for thinking clearly”
The aftermath of even a single nuclear detonation over an urban center is surreal in the sheer scope and nature of the horror induced. A larger nuclear exchange of hundreds or thousands of devices is and should be mortally terrifying to consider. Nuclear war is often described as unthinkable, but “unthinkable” is the wrong word.
In the study’s forward, Dr. Lewis Thomas emphasizes the importance of researching the aftermath of such catastrophe: “Unthinkable is the word for whatever is in front of our eyes but too big to figure out, too frightening. Pay attention, in this book, to the doctors and the scientists here assembled. Everything needed for thinking clearly, wincing all the way but thinking anyway, is written down in these chapters. Anyone, any age, can read what’s here and understand what we could be in for if we stay on this road. What to do is another matter, but at least the facts of the matter are laid out here. You’d better bet your life it’s thinkable.”
In an era where our leaders look past the worst possibilities with blind optimism, it’s important once again to wince, read, think, and describe the “unthinkable.”
Jonathan Golob is an MD-PhD physician scientist and science writer based in Seattle, Washington. His takes on modern science and medicine can be found at The Stranger and at his own personal site. His primary research interest is human microbiome research.

Trump Planning For A Nuclear Showdown With Russia

Journalist Bob Woodward says President-elect Donald Trump recognizes the U.S. must keep pace with Russia’s growing nuclear arsenal.
“You talk to the military and the intelligence people and they say, ‘This is a giant buildup,’” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday. “I think what’s happened here is Trump is responding to this.”
“This is years of work to build up the nuclear deterrence that this country has,” added Woodward, whose reporting helped expose the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. “I think if you asked Trump he’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s job one. We’ve got to do that.’”
Our weapons are very old. They go back to the Kennedy and Reagan buildup. If you look at plans for say, new ballistic submarines, they’re 10 years away. [It’s going to be] very expensive, very controversial, so keep your seatbelts on, once again.”
Woodward said he recently spoke with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s incoming national security adviser, about the president-elect’s strategy for handling Russia’s nuclear weapons expansion.
“What Flynn said is that Trump is convinced that we have to modernize, spend vast amounts of money on this, and bring ourselves in a position of strength,” he said of his talk with Flynn Monday.
“It’s kind of a page from the Reagan playbook — talk tough, act tough, build up and then, I guess, presumably, negotiate,” Woodward added, referencing former President Ronald Reagan.
Trump last week tweeted about expanding America’s nuclear weapons stockpile, without making clear what inspired his remark.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capacity until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” he said Dec. 22.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the same day his nation must “strengthen [its] strategic nuclear forces” to handle any potential global threat.
MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski claimed last Friday Trump privately told her he is comfortable with a nuclear arms race as the U.S. can “outlast” any other nation.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller, however, clarified that the president-elect’s remarks were “referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it.”