Real Risk, Few Precautions (Revelation 6:12)

By WILLIAM K. STEVENSPublished: October 24, 1989
AN EARTHQUAKE as powerful as the one that struck northern California last week could occur almost anywhere along the East Coast, experts say. And if it did, it would probably cause far more destruction than the West Coast quake.
The chances of such an occurrence are much less in the East than on the West Coast. Geologic stresses in the East build up only a hundredth to a thousandth as fast as in California, and this means that big Eastern quakes are far less frequent. Scientists do not really know what the interval between them might be, nor are the deeper-lying geologic faults that cause them as accessible to study. So seismologists are at a loss to predict when or where they will strike.
But they do know that a temblor with a magnitude estimated at 7 on the Richter scale – about the same magnitude as last week’s California quake – devastated Charleston, S.C., in 1886. And after more than a decade of study, they also know that geologic structures similar to those that caused the Charleston quake exist all along the Eastern Seaboard.
For this reason, ”we can’t preclude that a Charleston-sized earthquake might occur anywhere along the East Coast,” said David Russ, the assistant chief geologist of the United States Geological Survey in Reston, Va. ”It could occur in Washington. It could occur in New York.”
If that happens, many experts agree, the impact will probably be much greater than in California.Easterners, unlike Californians, have paid very little attention to making buildings and other structures earthquake-proof or earthquake-resistant. ”We don’t have that mentality here on the East Coast,” said Robert Silman, a New York structural engineer whose firm has worked on 3,800 buildings in the metropolitan area.
Moreover, buildings, highways, bridges, water and sewer systems and communications networks in the East are all older than in the West and consequently more vulnerable to damage. Even under normal conditions, for instance, water mains routinely rupture in New York City.
The result, said Dr. John Ebel, a geophysicist who is the assistant director of Boston College’s Weston Observatory, is that damage in the East would probably be more widespread, more people could be hurt and killed, depending on circumstances like time of day, and ”it would probably take a lot longer to get these cities back to useful operating levels.”
On top of this, scientists say, an earthquake in the East can shake an area 100 times larger than a quake of the same magnitude in California. This is because the earth’s crust is older, colder and more brittle in the East and tends to transmit seismic energy more efficiently. ”If you had a magnitude 7 earthquake and you put it halfway between New York City and Boston,” Dr. Ebel said, ”you would have the potential of doing damage in both places,” not to mention cities like Hartford and Providence.
Few studies have been done of Eastern cities’ vulnerability to earthquakes. But one, published last June in The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, calculated the effects on New York City of a magnitude 6 earthquake. That is one-tenth the magnitude of last week’s California quake, but about the same as the Whittier, Calif., quake two years ago.
The study found that such an earthquake centered 17 miles southeast of City Hall, off Rockaway Beach, would cause $11 billion in damage to buildings and start 130 fires. By comparison, preliminary estimates place the damage in last week’s California disaster at $4 billion to $10 billion. If the quake’s epicenter were 11 miles southeast of City Hall, the study found, there would be about $18 billion in damage; if 5 miles, about $25 billion.
No estimates on injuries or loss of life were made. But a magnitude 6 earthquake ”would probably be a disaster unparalleled in New York history,” wrote the authors of the study, Charles Scawthorn and Stephen K. Harris of EQE Engineering in San Francisco.
The study was financed by the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The research and education center, supported by the National Science Foundation and New York State, was established in 1986 to help reduce damage and loss of life from earthquakes.
The study’s postulated epicenter of 17 miles southeast of City Hall was the location of the strongest quake to strike New York since it has been settled, a magnitude 5 temblor on Aug. 10, 1884. That 1884 quake rattled bottles and crockery in Manhattan and frightened New Yorkers, but caused little damage. Seismologists say a quake of that order is likely to occur within 50 miles of New York City every 300 years. Quakes of magnitude 5 are not rare in the East. The major earthquake zone in the eastern half of the country is the central Mississippi Valley, where a huge underground rift causes frequent geologic dislocations and small temblors. The most powerful quake ever known to strike the United States occurred at New Madrid, Mo., in 1812. It was later estimated at magnitude 8.7 and was one of three quakes to strike that area in 1811-12, all of them stronger than magnitude 8. They were felt as far away as Washington, where they rattled chandeliers, Boston and Quebec.
Because the New Madrid rift is so active, it has been well studied, and scientists have been able to come up with predictions for the central Mississippi valley, which includes St. Louis and Memphis. According to Dr. Russ, there is a 40 to 63 percent chance that a quake of magnitude 6 will strike that area between now and the year 2000, and an 86 to 97 percent chance that it will do so by 2035. The Federal geologists say there is a 1 percent chance or less of a quake greater than magnitude 7 by 2000, and a 4 percent chance or less by 2035.
Elsewhere in the East, scientists are limited in their knowledge of probabilities partly because faults that could cause big earthquakes are buried deeper in the earth’s crust. In contrast to California, where the boundary between two major tectonic plates creates the San Andreas and related faults, the eastern United States lies in the middle of a major tectonic plate. Its faults are far less obvious, their activity far more subtle, and their slippage far slower.
Any large earthquake would be ”vastly more serious” in the older cities of the East than in California, said Dr. Tsu T. Soong, a professor of civil engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo who is a researcher in earthquake-mitigation technology at the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research. First, he said, many buildings are simply older, and therefore weaker and more vulnerable to collapse. Second, there is no seismic construction code in most of the East as there is in California, where such codes have been in place for decades.
The vulnerability is evident in many ways. ”I’m sitting here looking out my window,” said Mr. Silman, the structural engineer in New York, ”and I see a bunch of water tanks all over the place” on rooftops. ”They are not anchored down at all, and it’s very possible they would fall in an earthquake.”
Many brownstones, he said, constructed as they are of unreinforced masonry walls with wood joists between, ”would just go like a house of cards.” Unreinforced masonry, in fact, is the single most vulnerable structure, engineers say. Such buildings are abundant, even predominant, in many older cities. The Scawthorn-Harris study reviewed inventories of all buildings in Manhattan as of 1972 and found that 28,884, or more than half, were built of unreinforced masonry. Of those, 23,064 were three to five stories high.
Buildings of reinforced masonry, reinforced concrete and steel would hold up much better, engineers say, and wooden structures are considered intrinsically tough in ordinary circumstances. The best performers, they say, would probably be skyscrapers built in the last 20 years. As Mr. Silman explained, they have been built to withstand high winds, and the same structural features that enable them to do so also help them resist an earthquake’s force. But even these new towers have not been provided with the seismic protections required in California and so are more vulnerable than similar structures on the West Coast.
Buildings in New York are not generally constructed with such seismic protections as base-isolated structures, in which the building is allowed to shift with the ground movement; or with flexible frames that absorb and distribute energy through columns and beams so that floors can flex from side to side, or with reinforced frames that help resist distortion.
”If you’re trying to make a building ductile – able to absorb energy – we’re not geared to think that way,” said Mr. Silman.
New York buildings also contain a lot of decorative stonework, which can be dislodged and turned into lethal missiles by an earthquake. In California, building codes strictly regulate such architectural details.
Manhattan does, however, have at least one mitigating factor: ”We are blessed with this bedrock island,” said Mr. Silman. ”That should work to our benefit; we don’t have shifting soils. But there are plenty of places that are problem areas, particularly the shoreline areas,” where landfills make the ground soft and unstable.
As scientists have learned more about geologic faults in the Northeast, the nation’s uniform building code – the basic, minimum code followed throughout the country – has been revised accordingly. Until recently, the code required newly constructed buildings in New York City to withstand at least 19 percent of the side-to-side seismic force that a comparable building in the seismically active areas of California must handle. Now the threshold has been raised to 25 percent.
New York City, for the first time, is moving to adopt seismic standards as part of its own building code. Local and state building codes can and do go beyond the national code. Charles M. Smith Jr., the city Building Commissioner, last spring formed a committee of scientists, engineers, architects and government officials to recommend the changes.
”They all agree that New York City should anticipate an earthquake,” Mr. Smith said. As to how big an earthquake, ”I don’t think anybody would bet on a magnitude greater than 6.5,” he said. ”I don’t know,” he added, ”that our committee will go so far as to acknowledge” the damage levels in the Scawthorn-Harris study, characterizing it as ”not without controversy.”
For the most part, neither New York nor any other Eastern city has done a detailed survey of just how individual buildings and other structures would be affected, and how or whether to modify them.
”The thing I think is needed in the East is a program to investigate all the bridges” to see how they would stand up to various magnitudes of earthquake,” said Bill Geyer, the executive vice president of the New York engineering firm of Steinman, Boynton, Gronquist and Birdsall, which is rehabilitating the cable on the Williamsburg Bridge. ”No one has gone through and done any analysis of the existing bridges.”
In general, he said, the large suspension bridges, by their nature, ”are not susceptible to the magnitude of earthquake you’d expect in the East.” But the approaches and side spans of some of them might be, he said, and only a bridge-by-bridge analysis would tell. Nor, experts say, are some elevated highways in New York designed with the flexibility and ability to accommodate motion that would enable them to withstand a big temblor.
Tunnels Vulnerable
The underground tunnels that carry travelers under the rivers into Manhattan, those that contain the subways and those that carry water, sewers and natural gas would all be vulnerable to rupture, engineers say. The Lincoln, Holland, PATH and Amtrak tunnels, for instance, go from bedrock in Manhattan to soft soil under the Hudson River to bedrock again in New Jersey, said Mark Carter, a partner in Raamot Associates, geotechnical engineers specializing in soils and foundations.
Likewise, he said, subway tunnels between Manhattan and Queens go from hard rock to soft soil to hard rock on Roosevelt Island, to soft soil again and back to rock. The boundaries between soft soil and rock are points of weakness, he said.
”These structures are old,” he said, ”and as far as I know they have not been designed for earthquake loadings.”
Even if it is possible to survey all major buildings and facilities to determine what corrections can be made, cities like New York would then face a major decision: Is it worth spending the money to modify buildings and other structures to cope with a quake that might or might not come in 100, or 200 300 years or more?
”That is a classical problem” in risk-benefit analysis, said Dr. George Lee, the acting director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Center in Buffalo. As more is learned about Eastern earthquakes, he said, it should become ”possible to talk about decision-making.” But for now, he said, ”I think it’s premature for us to consider that question.”

Iran Continues to Nuke Up: Daniel 8

Iran ‘Rejects’ Ending 20 Percent Uranium Enrichment Before U.S. Lifts Sanctions


Tehran won’t agree to stop its 20 percent uranium-enrichment work before the United States lifts all sanctions, state television quoted an unnamed official as saying, after a U.S. media report said Washington would offer a new proposal for talks to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

“A senior Iranian official tells Press TV that Tehran will stop its 20 percent uranium enrichment only if the U.S. lifts ALL its sanctions on Iran first,” the state-run TV channel reported on its website on March 30.

The report quoted the official as saying that Tehran will further reduce its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers if the United States does not lift the sanctions.

“Washington is rapidly running out of time” as Iran holds a presidential election in June, with campaign season kicking off in May, it added.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has been seeking to engage Iran in talks about both sides resuming compliance with the international nuclear agreement.

The accord provided relief for Iran from international sanctions in exchange for limitations on its nuclear program, which Iran says is strictly for civilian energy purposes.

But Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew the United States from the pact in 2018 and reimposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran.

Tehran responded by violating some of the accord’s nuclear restrictions, including a 3.67 percent limit on the purity to which it can enrich uranium.

Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran was enriching uranium up to 20 percent purity, and that its enriched-uranium stockpile had reached 14 times the limit established by the 2015 nuclear deal.

The media outlet Politico on March 29 quoted “two people familiar with the situation” as saying that U.S. administration officials “plan to put forth a new proposal to jump-start the talks as soon as this week.”

The proposal would ask Iran to halt some of its nuclear activities such as work on advanced centrifuges and the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity, in exchange for some relief from U.S. sanctions, according to one of the people, who said the details were “still being worked out.”

Iran’s mission at the United Nations tweeted that “no proposal is needed for the U.S. to rejoin” the nuclear agreement.

“It only requires a political decision by the U.S. to fully and immediately implement all of its obligations under the accord,” it added.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on March 21 reiterated Iran’s “definite policy” that the United States must lift all sanctions if Washington wants to see Iran return to its commitments under the 2015 agreement.

With reporting by Reuters and RFE/RL’s Radio Farda

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.

The China nuclear horn continues to grow: Daniel 7

China nuclear reprocessing to create stockpiles of weapons-level materials: experts

Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China’s push to develop fuel for a new generation of nuclear power reactors will produce large amounts of materials that could be diverted to making nuclear weapons, non-proliferation experts said on Thursday.

China is developing advanced fast reactors and reprocessing facilities as it seeks to reduce dependency on coal, which emits emissions harmful to human health and that worsen climate change. But reprocessing also produces plutonium that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

There is no evidence that China intents to divert its potential plutonium stockpile to weapons use, but concern has grown as Beijing is expected to boost its number of nuclear warheads over the next decade from the low 200s now.

To reduce international concerns about the potential plutonium diversion issues, China needs to keep its plutonium recycling programs more transparent including timely reporting of its stockpile of civilian plutonium like they did before 2016,” Hui Zhang, a senior research associate at Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom, said in an email.

Zhang, a contributor to a Nonproliferation Policy Education Center report here called “China’s Civil Nuclear Sector: Plowshares to Swords?”, said China should also offer to have its plutonium recycling facilities monitored by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency.

He said that China has started constructihere of a second plant to reprocess fuel from traditional nuclear reactors that could be commissioned before 2030.

China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reprocessing of nuclear waste has not been practiced for decades in the United States after former President Jimmy Carter halted it on proliferation concerns.

The report recommended that Washington urge China to join the United States, South Korea and Japan, in sharing information on current plutonium and enriched uranium holdings and production capacities.

It also recommended that Washington explore with those countries, the possibility of taking a plutonium production timeout. Japan, South Korea, and the United States should offer to delay their plutonium production and fast reactor programs, if China does likewise, it said.

Leaders from those countries should work to “forestall industrial scale reprocessing, which would only make the entire region, and the world, less secure,” Christopher Ford, a nonproliferation official under Donald Trump, and Thomas Countryman, who served the same role under Barack Obama, said in the report’s preface.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Department of Energy which is developing a sodium-cooled fast reactor, said the plant is not designed as a breeder reactor, which produces more fissile material than it consumes. Its broader fast reactor research and development program supports designs that “incorporate nonproliferation considerations,” a DOE spokesperson said.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Alistair Bell and Alexandra Hudson)

The new cold war in Europe: Revelation 16

The Shadow of a New Cold War Hangs over Europe

Temperatures are rising again in eastern Ukraine with informed commentators suggesting that intensive military action might start when the “mud season” passes. Quite understandably, Americans could suffer from Ukraine fatigue after observing the often bizarre conspiracies that have arisen connecting Kiev and Washington political machinations over the last five years. 

Even as Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin traded insults, the Russian president celebrated Russia’s control of the Crimean Peninsula. Unfortunately for Europe, Ukraine remains as the simmering crisis that still threatens to overturn the continent’s “long peace.” Indeed, even as Ukraine-Russia tensions are at the root of almost all of the most acute problems in European security, this tortured bilateral relationship also points the way toward common-sense solutions too.

Some noteworthy American national security commentators claim that the “New Cold War” has little in common with the experience 1945–90, because the new centers of competition are in the cyber and high-tech realms, rather than concerning military competition and nuclear weapons.  Yet, such assessments seem oblivious to the steady ramp-up of exercises by large military formations across Eastern Europe in the last five years.  Escalating tensions along the front between Russian and U.S. forces are visible along a huge geographic front from the Arctic all the way to the Caucasus and even reaching deep into the Middle East. 

U.S. bombers that have been flying regularly along Russia’s flanks have now been permitted to “nest” for the first time in Norway, a neighbor of Russia in the “High North.” Likewise, America’s most advanced submarines have visited the region recently in the wake of NATO’s largest exercises since the end of the Cold War. U.S. forces, including tanks and attack helicopters, have deployed into the Baltic states with new regularity and are now a permanent fixture in Poland. Meanwhile, American drones now patrol along Russia’s sensitive southern flank, including within Ukraine and all along the perimeter of the Crimean Peninsula. Is it any wonder that Russia has at least five major modernizations underway simultaneously for its nuclear strike forces, including new ICBMs, bombers, submarines, drones, and tactical nuclear weapons too?

Too many Washington defense analysts prefer to talk about cyber weaponry while peddling projects for new patches with upgraded cyber defenses. Yet, the broader public remains quite in the dark regarding hundreds of billions going to feed the intensifying nuclear arms race, not to mention the new forces now deploying to Europe—admittedly a friendly locale for the troops. Yet, are these escalatory steps warranted?

Conventional coverage of the Ukraine issue asserts that the country was invaded by Russia after an allegedly corrupt pro-Russian leader was ejected from office by angry protests—the so-called Euro-Maidan events of early 2014. After Crimea was seized by “little green men,” Moscow was unsatisfied and decided to lop off a few more slices of Ukraine in the Donbass region too. While the storyline is not completely false, it fails to recognize some important nuances. For example, the leader of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, may indeed have been corrupt, but he was also elected in a legitimate, democratic election. An angry mob is hardly the ideal way to remove a democratically elected president, it must be admitted. Moreover, the “invasion thesis” does not quite comport with facts on the ground. For example, there occurred in early May 2014 a major flare-up of pro-Russian sentiment in Odessa that included grave atrocities.  Such events fit better into the civil war explanation than the invasion narrative that is so popular in Washington today.

Memories in Washington do not seem to go back any further than the disputed 2016 election or the Euromaidan of 2014. The pervasive lack of historical knowledge in the American capital is, unfortunately, feeding escalating tensions in Eastern Europe. Indeed, American strategists should consider how it was that Americans were highly sympathetic to Tsarist Russia during the Crimean War when Russia faced off against perceived French and British imperialism.  Likewise, they should reflect on the fact that if Soviet forces had not paid so dear a price defending the fortress at Sevastopol until mid-1942, they likely could not have prevailed at Stalingrad subsequently.  In other words, the Kremlin’s stubborn hold on Crimea in the face of Nazi aggression proved exceedingly important to the Allied victory in 1945. Finally, there is no understanding in the American foreign policy establishment that Soviet internal borders were of little importance, so their impact on post-Soviet politics is also limited. No wonder a giant Russian naval base existed in Crimea after 1991 through 2014 to the present. In other words, the Crimea situation and that of Ukraine generally is much grayer, and less black and white than most Americans appreciate.

So, what is to be done ultimately, besides dusting off some history books? First, the United States should take overt and obvious steps to uproot the militarized rivalries now in full bloom from the Arctic to the Caucasus to see if such steps aimed at de-escalation might be reciprocated by the Kremlin. Second, Washington should seek to re-energize the so-called “Normandy process” that brings Russia and Ukraine into a negotiating format with the leaders of Germany and France to stabilize the situation in eastern Ukraine. 

Finally, American diplomats should consider a “grand bargain” that accords full NATO membership to Ukraine in exchange for complete diplomatic recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea. While neutralization of Ukraine would be preferable for U.S. national security, such a step is probably necessary in order to get Kiev (not to mention Washington’s myriad hawks) to sign on to any larger compromise that could lead to a relaxation of tensions. For Moscow, the extensive economic benefits would almost certainly outweigh the security concerns. This agreement to “meet halfway” may be the only way Europe can escape the ever-tightening grip of the new Cold War.

Lyle J. Goldstein, Ph.D., is research professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He was the founder of the China Maritime Studies Institute there and is also an affiliate of the college’s Russia Maritime Studies Institute. The opinions in the article are entirely his own and do not reflect any official assessment of the U.S. Navy.

Image: Reuters

Antichrist’s commander killed in clash with ISIS

PMF commander killed in clash with ISIS

A+ A-

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A commander of the state-sponsored Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic) was killed in a clash with Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Iraq’s Salahaddin province, the PMF said on Monday.

Hassan Muhammad al-Asadi, commander of a regiment in Brigade 314, and a fighter from Brigade 315 were killed on Monday during clashes with ISIS militants southwest of Samarra, the PMF said in a statement shared on its official Telegram channels.

Brigades 314 and 315 belong to Saraya al-Salam, a militia linked to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

ISIS has attacked PMF forces several times this year – particularly in territories disputed by Erbil and Baghdad, where ISIS sleeper cells thrive.

On February 28, six members of Iraq’s state-sponsored Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic) were killed and two others wounded in a car explosion in Anbar province, western Iraq.

On February 2, five members of the PMF were killed in a clash with ISIS militants in Diyala, according to state media and the PMF. At least 11 fighters from the PMF were killed in an ambush by ISIS in Salahaddin on January 24.

ISIS claimed in its weekly propaganda newspaper al-Naba, last published on Thursday, that it had conducted 17 operations in Iraq from March 17 to 23, killing and injuring 31 people, including PMF fighters.

The PMF took part of the territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq in late 2017, but it’s role in Iraq has increasingly been called into question.

PMF units close to Iran are widely accused of abducting and killing opponents, and are believed to be responsible for some of the deadly rocket attacks targeting US and coalition personnel stationed at bases across Iraq.

The Potent Russian nuclear triad: Daniel 7

Watch 3 Russian Nuclear Submarines Smash Through Arctic Ice at Once

It’s a show of force with a loud message: the subs can fire their missiles from places U.S. forces can’t reach.

By Kyle Mizokami MAR 30, 2021

Three Russian missile submarines carrying up to 200 nuclear weapons surfaced in the Arctic Ocean last week, demonstrating their ability to conduct their nuclear mission in emergencies.

The submarines, part of Moscow’s nuclear deterrent force, forced their way through ice that’s several feet thick. In wartime, the subs would hide under the ice from NATO anti-submarine forces.

The exercise took place near Franz Josef Land, an island archipelago off the coast of Russia in the Arctic Ocean. The islands are just 625 miles south of the North Pole. In March, the temperatures hover between an average of 8 and 18 degrees Fahrenheit and the sea is covered with a thick layer of ice.

On March 20, the three ballistic missile submarines—two Delta IV subs and one Borei-class sub, per The Barents Observersurfaced off the coast of the archipelago, using their sails to break through the thick ice crust. The submarines surfaced within a radius of 300 meters, demonstrating their ability to navigate with precision even under polar ice. 

The ice appears to differ in thickness. Some of the ice appears approximately 1 foot thick, while one Delta-class submarine, with its sail-mounted diving planes pivoted upward, looks like it surfaced in 3 feet of ice.

The Delta IV submarines, built during the Cold War, are 548 feet long and are each equipped with 16 Sineva submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The newer Borei-class sub, meanwhile, is 525 feet long and carries 16 Bulava ballistic missiles. 

russia submarine
The sail of one Delta IV submarine, with hydroplanes rotated upward to assist breaking through the ice.


Each of the 32 Sineva missiles carries four 100-kiloton warheads, for a total of 128 warheads and up to 12.8 megatons of nuclear firepower. The 16 Bulava missiles aboard the Borei pack a theoretical total of 160 warheads, for up to 16 megatons of firepower. That’s a possible total of 28.8 megatons, or 28,800 kilotons. (By comparison, the Hiroshima explosion was about 16 kilotons.)

The real number of warheads aboard the three subs is unknown, but it’s likely about 10 percent less, with the balance made up of reentry vehicle decoys or penetration aids like jammers or radar-obscuring chaff to confuse enemy missile defenses.

The three submarines are part of Russia’s sea-based nuclear deterrent, complementing its cruise missile-armed bomber force and land-based missiles. Unlike American submarines, Russia’s missile subs are meant to operate close to the homeland. The sub fleets operate in “bastions” in the Barents Sea and Sea of Okhotsk, where they can be protected by land-based anti-submarine warfare aircraft and helicopters, and warships at sea.

uss connecticut submariners
The Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Connecticut, Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, May 2018.


The ultimate bastion for Russian submarines is in the far north, under the pack ice. There, the ice forms a protective layer against NATO ships and aircraft hunting the submarines. But Russian subs operating under the ice, while relatively safe, still face one formidable opponent: the U.S. Navy’s three Seawolf-class nuclear powered attack submarines. 

The three subs—Seawolf, Connecticut, and Jimmy Carter—were all explicitly designed to operate under the ice and hunt missile firing submarines.

The Russian Navy exercise is similar to the Anglo-American ICEX 2018 exercise, when the U.S. submarines USS Hamptonand USS Hartford and Royal Navy submarine HMS Trenchant surfaced together in the Arctic. 

Pestilence Continues to Plague Us: Revelation 6

CDC director warns of “impending doom” as COVID cases increase – Axios

Marisa Fernandez

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky went off script at a briefing Monday and made an emotional plea to Americans not to let up on public health measures amid fears of a fourth wave.

What they’re saying: “I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” Walensky said, appearing to hold back tears. “We do not have the luxury of inaction. For the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge.”

Driving the news: The White House coronavirus response team is seeking to confront the current dichotomy in the U.S., in which immense optimism from the speed of the vaccine rollout must be balanced with continued restraint in moving forward with normalcy.

• “The thing that’s different this time is we actually have it in our power to be done with this scale of vaccination and that will be so much slower if we have another surge to deal with as well,” Walensky said.

• “I’m speaking today not necessarily as your CDC director, but as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter to ask you to just please hold on a little while longer. I so badly want to be done. I know you all so badly want to be done. We are just almost there, but not quite yet.”

The big picture: Coronavirus cases are rapidly rising in places including Michigan, New York, New Jersey and other Northeastern states, partially a result of variants of the virus becoming more widespread, experts say. An uptick in travel and states loosening restrictions are also factors.

• The 7-day daily average of new cases increased 10.6% from the previous week to 59,773, while the 7-day daily average of deaths increased 2.6% to 968.

• Even though a remarkable 72% of Americans 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, millions of Americans — particularly younger Americans with underlying conditions — remain vulnerable.

What to watch: Walensky said she is speaking with governors tomorrow to address the rise in cases.

• “We’re essentially pleading with people even though we have an urge particularly with the warm weather to just cut loose,” NIAID director Anthony Fauci said.

• “We’ve just got to hang in there a bit longer,” he said. “I think the reason we’re seeing this plateauing and the increase that I hope doesn’t turn into a surge is because we are really doing things prematurely right now with regard to opening up.”

Columbia University Warns Of Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Earthquakes May Endanger New York More Than Thought, Says StudyA study by a group of prominent seismologists suggests that a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed. Among other things, they say that the controversial Indian Point nuclear power plants, 24 miles north of the city, sit astride the previously unidentified intersection of two active seismic zones. The paper appears in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.Many faults and a few mostly modest quakes have long been known around New York City, but the research casts them in a new light. The scientists say the insight comes from sophisticated analysis of past quakes, plus 34 years of new data on tremors, most of them perceptible only by modern seismic instruments. The evidence charts unseen but potentially powerful structures whose layout and dynamics are only now coming clearer, say the scientists. All are based at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which runs the network of seismometers that monitors most of the northeastern United States.Lead author Lynn R. Sykes said the data show that large quakes are infrequent around New York compared to more active areas like California and Japan, but that the risk is high, because of the overwhelming concentration of people and infrastructure. “The research raises the perception both of how common these events are, and, specifically, where they may occur,” he said. “It’s an extremely populated area with very large assets.” Sykes, who has studied the region for four decades, is known for his early role in establishing the global theory of plate tectonics.The authors compiled a catalog of all 383 known earthquakes from 1677 to 2007 in a 15,000-square-mile area around New York City. Coauthor John Armbruster estimated sizes and locations of dozens of events before 1930 by combing newspaper accounts and other records. The researchers say magnitude 5 quakes—strong enough to cause damage–occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. There was little settlement around to be hurt by the first two quakes, whose locations are vague due to a lack of good accounts; but the last, thought to be centered under the seabed somewhere between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook, toppled chimneys across the city and New Jersey, and panicked bathers at Coney Island. Based on this, the researchers say such quakes should be routinely expected, on average, about every 100 years. “Today, with so many more buildings and people, a magnitude 5 centered below the city would be extremely attention-getting,” said Armbruster. “We’d see billions in damage, with some brick buildings falling. People would probably be killed.”Starting in the early 1970s Lamont began collecting data on quakes from dozens of newly deployed seismometers; these have revealed further potential, including distinct zones where earthquakes concentrate, and where larger ones could come. The Lamont network, now led by coauthor Won-Young Kim, has located hundreds of small events, including a magnitude 3 every few years, which can be felt by people at the surface, but is unlikely to cause damage. These small quakes tend to cluster along a series of small, old faults in harder rocks across the region. Many of the faults were discovered decades ago when subways, water tunnels and other excavations intersected them, but conventional wisdom said they were inactive remnants of continental collisions and rifting hundreds of millions of years ago. The results clearly show that they are active, and quite capable of generating damaging quakes, said Sykes.One major previously known feature, the Ramapo Seismic Zone, runs from eastern Pennsylvania to the mid-Hudson Valley, passing within a mile or two northwest of Indian Point. The researchers found that this system is not so much a single fracture as a braid of smaller ones, where quakes emanate from a set of still ill-defined faults. East and south of the Ramapo zone—and possibly more significant in terms of hazard–is a set of nearly parallel northwest-southeast faults. These include Manhattan’s 125th Street fault, which seems to have generated two small 1981 quakes, and could have been the source of the big 1737 quake; the Dyckman Street fault, which carried a magnitude 2 in 1989; the Mosholu Parkway fault; and the Dobbs Ferry fault in suburban Westchester, which generated the largest recent shock, a surprising magnitude 4.1, in 1985. Fortunately, it did no damage. Given the pattern, Sykes says the big 1884 quake may have hit on a yet-undetected member of this parallel family further south.The researchers say that frequent small quakes occur in predictable ratios to larger ones, and so can be used to project a rough time scale for damaging events. Based on the lengths of the faults, the detected tremors, and calculations of how stresses build in the crust, the researchers say that magnitude 6 quakes, or even 7—respectively 10 and 100 times bigger than magnitude 5–are quite possible on the active faults they describe. They calculate that magnitude 6 quakes take place in the area about every 670 years, and sevens, every 3,400 years. The corresponding probabilities of occurrence in any 50-year period would be 7% and 1.5%. After less specific hints of these possibilities appeared in previous research, a 2003 analysis by The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation put the cost of quakes this size in the metro New York area at $39 billion to $197 billion. A separate 2001 analysis for northern New Jersey’s Bergen County estimates that a magnitude 7 would destroy 14,000 buildings and damage 180,000 in that area alone. The researchers point out that no one knows when the last such events occurred, and say no one can predict when they next might come.“We need to step backward from the simple old model, where you worry about one large, obvious fault, like they do in California,” said coauthor Leonardo Seeber. “The problem here comes from many subtle faults. We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought. We need to take a very close look.” Seeber says that because the faults are mostly invisible at the surface and move infrequently, a big quake could easily hit one not yet identified. “The probability is not zero, and the damage could be great,” he said. “It could be like something out of a Greek myth.”The researchers found concrete evidence for one significant previously unknown structure: an active seismic zone running at least 25 miles from Stamford, Conn., to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, N.Y., where it passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Stamford-Peekskill line stands out sharply on the researchers’ earthquake map, with small events clustered along its length, and to its immediate southwest. Just to the north, there are no quakes, indicating that it represents some kind of underground boundary. It is parallel to the other faults beginning at 125th Street, so the researchers believe it is a fault in the same family. Like the others, they say it is probably capable of producing at least a magnitude 6 quake. Furthermore, a mile or so on, it intersects the Ramapo seismic zone.Sykes said the existence of the Stamford-Peekskill line had been suggested before, because the Hudson takes a sudden unexplained bend just ot the north of Indian Point, and definite traces of an old fault can be along the north side of the bend. The seismic evidence confirms it, he said. “Indian Point is situated at the intersection of the two most striking linear features marking the seismicity and also in the midst of a large population that is at risk in case of an accident,” says the paper. “This is clearly one of the least favorable sites in our study area from an earthquake hazard and risk perspective.”The findings comes at a time when Entergy, the owner of Indian Point, is trying to relicense the two operating plants for an additional 20 years—a move being fought by surrounding communities and the New York State Attorney General. Last fall the attorney general, alerted to the then-unpublished Lamont data, told a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel in a filing: “New data developed in the last 20 years disclose a substantially higher likelihood of significant earthquake activity in the vicinity of [Indian Point] that could exceed the earthquake design for the facility.” The state alleges that Entergy has not presented new data on earthquakes past 1979. However, in a little-noticed decision this July 31, the panel rejected the argument on procedural grounds. A source at the attorney general’s office said the state is considering its options.The characteristics of New York’s geology and human footprint may increase the problem. Unlike in California, many New York quakes occur near the surface—in the upper mile or so—and they occur not in the broken-up, more malleable formations common where quakes are frequent, but rather in the extremely hard, rigid rocks underlying Manhattan and much of the lower Hudson Valley. Such rocks can build large stresses, then suddenly and efficiently transmit energy over long distances. “It’s like putting a hard rock in a vise,” said Seeber. “Nothing happens for a while. Then it goes with a bang.” Earthquake-resistant building codes were not introduced to New York City until 1995, and are not in effect at all in many other communities. Sinuous skyscrapers and bridges might get by with minimal damage, said Sykes, but many older, unreinforced three- to six-story brick buildings could crumble.Art Lerner-Lam, associate director of Lamont for seismology, geology and tectonophysics, pointed out that the region’s major highways including the New York State Thruway, commuter and long-distance rail lines, and the main gas, oil and power transmission lines all cross the parallel active faults, making them particularly vulnerable to being cut. Lerner-Lam, who was not involved in the research, said that the identification of the seismic line near Indian Point “is a major substantiation of a feature that bears on the long-term earthquake risk of the northeastern United States.” He called for policymakers to develop more information on the region’s vulnerability, to take a closer look at land use and development, and to make investments to strengthen critical infrastructure.“This is a landmark study in many ways,” said Lerner-Lam. “It gives us the best possible evidence that we have an earthquake hazard here that should be a factor in any planning decision. It crystallizes the argument that this hazard is not random. There is a structure to the location and timing of the earthquakes. This enables us to contemplate risk in an entirely different way. And since we are able to do that, we should be required to do that.”New York Earthquake Briefs and Quotes:Existing U.S. Geological Survey seismic hazard maps show New York City as facing more hazard than many other eastern U.S. areas. Three areas are somewhat more active—northernmost New York State, New Hampshire and South Carolina—but they have much lower populations and fewer structures. The wider forces at work include pressure exerted from continuing expansion of the mid-Atlantic Ridge thousands of miles to the east; slow westward migration of the North American continent; and the area’s intricate labyrinth of old faults, sutures and zones of weakness caused by past collisions and rifting.Due to New York’s past history, population density and fragile, interdependent infrastructure, a 2001 analysis by the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranks it the 11th most at-risk U.S. city for earthquake damage. Among those ahead: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. Behind: Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Anchorage.New York’s first seismic station was set up at Fordham University in the 1920s. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in Palisades, N.Y., has operated stations since 1949, and now coordinates a network of about 40.Dozens of small quakes have been felt in the New York area. A Jan. 17, 2001 magnitude 2.4, centered in the Upper East Side—the first ever detected in Manhattan itself–may have originated on the 125th Street fault. Some people thought it was an explosion, but no one was harmed.The most recent felt quake, a magnitude 2.1 on July 28, 2008, was centered near Milford, N.J. Houses shook and a woman at St. Edward’s Church said she felt the building rise up under her feet—but no damage was done.Questions about the seismic safety of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which lies amid a metropolitan area of more than 20 million people, were raised in previous scientific papers in 1978 and 1985.Because the hard rocks under much of New York can build up a lot strain before breaking, researchers believe that modest faults as short as 1 to 10 kilometers can cause magnitude 5 or 6 quakes.In general, magnitude 3 quakes occur about 10 times more often than magnitude fours; 100 times more than magnitude fives; and so on. This principle is called the Gutenberg-Richter relationship.

The Coming No-Win War: Revelation 8

Ironies of a no-win war

Maleeha Lodhi

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, UK & UN.

SEVERAL books have been written on Pakistan-US relations. But few have explored the connection between domestic political developments and American foreign policy and the way Pakistan’s internal politics was at times influenced by geopolitical shifts in the region. Zahid Hussain’s latest book does just that. Titled No-WinWar it examines the ups and downs of Pakistan-US ties in the context of their often divergent post-9/11 views and strategies in Afghanistan. This completes the author’s trilogy — his first book Frontline Pakistan and second, The Scorpion’s Tail, offered well-researched accounts of Pakistan’s policy dilemmas in the wake of 9/11 and the country’s battle against militant groups.

His new book shines a light on the many paradoxes that characterised Pakistan-US ties in the shadow of the Afghan war that followed the US invasion in 2001. Zahid focuses on the contradictions of post-9/11 relations. But this relationship has always been mercurial through many phases. From the alliance forged during the Cold War to the phase after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and then the frontline role Pakistan was thrust into after 9/11, closer relations usually evolved in response to global or regional geopolitical storms. They were thus principally a function of factors extraneous to bilateral ones. Once the storms subsided the relationship was downgraded as US strategic priorities shifted.

The roller coaster nature of the relationship has long been evident. Ties have swung in a cyclical pattern between close engagement and deep estrangement, interspersed by periods of benign disengagement. Dubbed during the Cold War as the ‘most allied ally of the US’, Pakistan became America’s most sanctioned ‘friend’ in the 1990’s after the Russian occupation of Afghanistan was rolled back as a result of Pak-US cooperation.

Even at times of close collaboration there was often an elephant in the room. It was India during many phases. For Pakistan ties with the US were part of its external balancing strategy to address its security dilemma given its power asymmetry with a hostile India. This involved the pursuit of extraregional support to mitigate the imbalance but usually left Pakistan disappointed with Washington in the triangular Pakistan-US-India relationship.

Pakistan-US relations have been mercurial and alternated between close engagement and deep estrangement.

Pakistan’s nuclear programme was the issue that divided the two countries in the nineties even though it remained dormant in the preceding decade as the joint struggle against Russian occupation had higher priority for Washington. The divergence was to surface once the Soviets were defeated and US goals changed. Wide-ranging sanctions were imposed on Pakistan in the coercive chapter that followed. Even when re-engagement took place years later, it was defined by its mostly transactional character. Nevertheless, for Pakistan it has been a critical bilateral relationship. Islamabad sought — as it does now — to predicate relations with Washington on Pakistan’s intrinsic importance rather than as a function of a third country or be viewed through a single prism.

When the two countries cooperated on a common goal it worked to their mutual benefit, as illustrated by Al Qaeda’s decimation in the region, which Zahid writes about in much detail. This did not however obscure the sharp disagreements between them over the war in Afghanistan. Conflicting views on why America’s war effort faltered generated a clash of narratives that underlined how fraught this ostensibly cooperative period became. In an insightful chapter titled ‘What’s your Plan for Afghanistan’, Zahid highlights differences over strategy by detailing the conversations between Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and General David Petraeus. “You must go for reconciliation” (with the Taliban) Kayani is cited as advising the US general when Washington rolled out its new counterinsurgency strategy. But “for the Pentagon talking to the Taliban was a form of capitulation”. Kayani’s extensive parleys with various US officials saw him boldly articulate Pakistan’s position that the war needed a negotiated end. But there were then few takers of this view in Washington.

Kayani is cast in a positive light in Zahid’s book not only for being a “thinking soldier” who “had a strategic mind”. He writes approvingly of his consistent efforts to convince the US that the war was unwinnable and needed a diplomatic strategy — a view Washington came around to several years later. His role at home also gets a positive mention: “General Kayani led his forces in one of the most successful counterinsurgency campaigns in a treacherous terrain.” And “despite constant conflicts with the civilian leadership, he didn’t let the democratic process get derailed. Kayani oversaw two democratic political transitions (2008 and 2013) during his six years in office.”

Zahid’s skilful weaving of Pakistan’s internal politics, the changing fortunes of president Pervez Musharraf and US interests is one of the most compelling parts of his book. He describes how the US and UK sought to forge an alliance between pro-West moderate forces — Musharraf and the PPP — to avert a “right-wing backlash” and lend legitimacy to the military ruler. He explains why the plan went awry, with Musharraf compelled to give up the army chief’s office and then Benazir Bhutto’s tragic assassination. Thereafter Asif Zardari “became the accidental beneficiary of the reconciliation deal between Musharraf and Benazir” — in which the US ambassador Anne Patterson played a key role. He also recalls the ‘reciprocity’ Washington elicited from PPP leaders. Both Zardari and prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani assured US officials they had no problem with American drone strikes, which were immensely unpopular in the country and an infringement of Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Writing about tensions between Zardari and the army he claims that “both the civil and the military leadership would confide sensitive information to the US envoy and use her to carry messages to the other side, underlining the growing civil-military divide”. The author’s purpose is not to indict the Pakistani leadership but to demonstrate how the dynamics of the no-win war permeated though the Pakistani power structure and shaped the politics of that period.

For me what is most important about the book is that it is written by a Pakistani who is not defensive about his country’s interests and who by his deep understanding of the country’s policies is able to offer Pakistan’s perspective on a pivotal period in a dispassionate and persuasive manner.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, UK & UN.

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2021

The Iranian and Chinese Nuclear Horns Align

Ex-IDF intel head: Iran-China megadeal includes ‘worrying’ military info-sharing

Amos Yadlin says China believes it can be more aggressive with Biden; full details of agreement not public, but draft reported last year calls for Beijing, Tehran to exchange intel

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, pose for photos at the start of their meeting in Tehran, Iran, March 27, 2021. Iran and China on Saturday signed a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement addressing economic issues amid crippling US sanctions on Iran, state TV reported. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Amos Yadlin, the former IDF chief of Military Intelligence, expressed concern on Monday about a reported clause in the 25-year strategic cooperation mega-deal signed by Iran and China that includes a commitment to military cooperation, with joint training, research and intelligence sharing.

“One of the most worrying clauses in the agreement between Iran and China is the intelligence sharing,” the head of the Institute for National Security Studies told the Ynet news site.

The full details of the final agreement have not been released, but Yadlin said that with that clause, reported to be in a draft last year, “China is putting itself in a place that, until today, it had not been before.”

“On a fundamental level, China opposes an Iranian nuclear bomb, but on the other hand, it is not helping to stop Iran,” said Yadlin. “Iran, too, needs the political support which China has to stop the United States from pressuring it.”

“The Chinese understand that the Biden administration is not the Trump administration, and they can be much more aggressive,” he added.

Institute for National Security Studies Chairman Amos Yadlin attends the Annual International Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv January 23, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/ FLASH90)

The clause is detailed in a former draft of the deal, obtained by the New York Times last year,and calls for joint training and exercises, as well as cooperation on research and weapons development, as well as the sharing of intelligence.

Yadlin’s comments came after China and Iran signed the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership on Saturday, a 25-year long strategic agreement between the two countries to address economic issues in Iran amid crippling US sanctions.

China is Iran’s leading trade partner and was one of the biggest buyers of Iranian oil before then-US president Donald Trump reimposed sweeping unilateral sanctions in 2018 after abandoning a multilateral nuclear agreement with Tehran.

The New York Times reported that China will invest some $400 billion in Iran in exchange for oil as part of the deal.

Alongside military cooperation, the deal covers a variety of economic activities from oil and mining to promoting industrial activity in Iran, as well as transportation and agricultural collaborations, according to the report.

US President Joe Biden at Emory University in Atlanta, March 19, 2021. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The agreement could undermine US leverage over Iran ahead of expected negotiations and lessen American influence in the Middle East.

The Times report said Iran was prepared to host direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, further suggesting that US influence in the region could be waning.

The deal also supports tourism and cultural exchanges and comes on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Iran. The two countries have had warm relations and both took part in a joint naval exercise in 2019 with Russia in the northern Indian Ocean.

Reportedly, Iran and China have done some $20 billion in trade annually in recent years. That is down from nearly $52 billion in 2014, however, because of a decline in oil prices and US sanctions imposed in 2018, after Trump pulled the US unilaterally out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Additionally, ongoing US sanctions against Iran could hamper its trade with China despite Saturday’s agreement.