A 3.6-magnitude earthquake shook Bliss Corner, Massachusetts, on Sunday morning, officials said — startling residents across the Northeast who expressed shock about the rare tremors.
The quake struck the area about five miles southwest of the community in Buzzards Bay just after 9 a.m. — marking the strongest one in the area since a magnitude 3.5 temblor in March 1976, the US Geological Survey said.
With a depth of 9.3 miles, the impact was felt across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and into Connecticut and Long Island, New York.
“This is the strongest earthquake that we’ve recorded in that area — Southern New England,” USGS geophysicist Paul Caruso told The Providence Journal.
But the quake was still considered “light” on the magnitude scale, meaning that it was felt but didn’t cause significant damage.
The quake, however, was unusual for the region — which has only experienced 26 larger than a magnitude 2.5 since 1973, Caruso said.
Around 14,000 people went onto the USGS site to report the shaking — with some logging tremors as far as Easthampton, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut, both about 100 miles away.
“It’s common for them to be felt very far away because the rock here is old and continuous and transmits the energy a long way,” Caruso said.
Journalist Katie Couric was among those on Long Island to be roused by the Sunday-morning rumblings.
“Did anyone on the east coast experience an earthquake of sorts?” Couric wrote on Twitter.
“We are on Long Island and the attic and walls rattled.”
Closer to the epicenter, residents estimated they felt the impact for 10 to 15 seconds.
“In that moment, it feels like it’s going on forever,” said Ali Kenner Brodsky, who lives in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
The US military said Friday it was repositioning a squadron of F-16 war planes from Germany to Romania, “to reinforce regional security” in the midst of flaring tensions with Russia over Ukraine.
Without specifying how many F-16s were being moved, the command of the US Air Forces in Europe said the planes would arrive Friday at the Romanian air base of Fetesti, less than 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the Black Sea, where they will join Italian combat aircraft that are already deployed there.
The aircraft and crews will “work closely with allies in the Black Sea region to reinforce regional security during the current tensions caused by Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine,” the US command, which is based in Germany, said in a statement.
They will be responsible in particular for protecting NATO airspace in the region close to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
US President Joe Biden is in a tough spot as the Iran nuclear talks resume in Vienna, gambling on a successful outcome but facing growing bipartisan concern that even if a deal is reached it may be insufficient to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
The subject has been somewhat on mute in Washington after 10 months of indirect talks failed to achieve the breakthrough Biden hoped for and a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal repudiated by Donald Trump.
But the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, designed to prevent Iran from building an atomic bomb, has taken on renewed urgency as Tehran improves its capabilities and the end of the talks approach.
“I think we’re at a critical moment, a serious moment and we’ll see which way it turns,” Menendez told AFP after the briefing. “But I certainly walked away with a sense of the difficulties of the moment we are in.”
Gaza City – Palestinian factions in Gaza have held a mourning march for three Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, with protesters condemning the killings as a “crime” and criticising the Palestinian Authority (PA) for cooperating with Israel on security.
“It is time to review this policy, which only serves the Israeli occupation.”
The PA has condemned the killings as a “heinous crime” and called for an international investigation.
Some at the march criticised a meeting this week of the Palestinian Central Council, the second-highest decision-making body in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – the internationally recognised representative of Palestinians, which is led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
The two-day meeting that began on Monday was boycotted by several Palestinian factions as they accused the council of seeking to exclude other groups and filling top PA leadership positions with Abbas loyalists.
“The Israeli enemy killed the three martyrs before even writing the final statement of the PLO’s Central Council meeting,” Khaled al-Batsh, a senior member in the Islamic Jihad movement, told Al Jazeera.
“The only way to deter the Israeli enemy is resistance, not negotiations, and what happened yesterday proves that.”
Maher al-Afifi, one of the protesters, condemned the international community for failing to criticise Israel’s “cowardly assassination crime” and the wider occupation.
“On a daily basis, there are Israeli attacks by soldiers and settlers against our people in the West Bank,” he said.
“The home demolitions, settlement activity continue without restraint and amid suspicious silence of the international community.”
Iyad Fanouna, a former prisoner of Israel who was freed in a 2010 swap deal, told Al Jazeera Israel would not be able to undermine Palestinian solidarity and unity.
Russia’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: A Head Scratcher for the West – Can Russia win a war with tactical nuclear weapons?
Moscow certainly has a numbers advantage against the United States and NATO. The Russians have around 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons while the Americans have only 200with 100 deployed in Europe and the remaining stored at home. That’s a ten to one advantage. While the Russians are not likely to conduct a first strike with strategic nuclear weapons launched by an intercontinental missile or delivered by bombers, they could resort to using a non-strategic weapon in battle.
Russia’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons, Explained
Strategic nuclear weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles or sea-launched nuclear missiles have a range of more than 10,000 miles and yields of at least 150 kilotons. Tactical nuclear weapons are short-range when launched by missiles with a range of fewer than 650 miles and a low yield of .1 to 20 kilotons.
Russia’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Escalate to De-Escalate
When pondering the use of tactical nuclear weapons, the Russians have an “escalate to de-escalate” deterrence doctrine on the battlefield. This is sometimes called “escalate to win.” What does this mean? Let’s take a look at an example. Say Russia does execute an invasion into the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. The incursion goes well for the Russians at first, then Ukraine fights back hard and stages a counter-attack. The Russian offensive bogs down and a stalemate ensues.
Hold Ground, Keep Attacking, or Use Tactical Nukes
Russia then has a choice. It could continue the conventional fight or stop the offensive, hold ground, and consolidate its forces around the seized territory. This is where tactical nuclear weapons come in. Russia could choose to “escalate” and detonate one of these battlefield devices (using an Iskander-Mshort-range missile) or threaten to use a low-yield weapon as a warning to the West.
Then they “de-escalate” the situation, so it is frozen in place. Under this scenario, the Ukrainians would give up the fight and allow Russia to keep their forces inside Ukraine allowing Vladimir Putin to declare victory. The Russian’s willingness to get in a nuclear confrontation using tactical devices is a risky, but potentially effective way to prosecute warfare.
The Russians Make Nuclear Threats
The Russians have already declared they could use a low-yield weapon or deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles if pushed too far. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has emerged as “Dr. Doom” as he often delivers threats against the United States and NATO in the media.
Ryabkov has responded to what the Russians believe is a major red line – further NATO expansion in Eastern Europe. Ryabkov told state-run media in December that “A lack of progress towards a political-diplomatic solution would mean that our response will be military and military-technical.”
Military-Technical Could Mean Nuclear Employments
“Military-technical” is a difficult to define concept of Russian rhetoric. It has many meanings. But one military-technical tacticwould be for the Russians to send nuclear weapons to Kaliningrad or Belarus.
James Ragland and Adam Lowther, writing in 1945, pointed out the Russians have held military exercises such as GROM-2019 and ZAPAD 2021 in which they have simulated using tactical nuclear weapons. Putin has made comments in the past about the potential use of battlefield nuclear devices.
Ragland and Lowther also declared that Russia has a low-yield nuclear edge, “…The reality is that Vladimir Putin and the Russian leadership believe they have created an asymmetric advantage with their large arsenal of low-yield battlefield nuclear weapons. Denying and mischaracterizing the threat will not make it go away.”
Would Russia Really Use a Tactical Nuclear Weapon?
I still don’t think a battlefield nuclear detonation by the Russians is likely, although it does conjure up fears that can lead to nuclear deterrence against NATO. Threats from spokespeople like “Dr. Doom” Ryabkov should still be taken seriously. These statements must be parsed for clues on Russian tactical nuclear activities and help analyze how the Kremlin uses nuclear escalation messages to enhance Russia’s power and prestige.
Pakistan suffered immensely from the partition both in terms of men and materials while India enjoyed the illegal occupation of land, money and numerous other sources supposed to be equally divided. Kashmir however has been on fire ever since.
On August 5, 2019, India under the Hindutva fascist regime revoked the autonomous status of Kashmir by abrogating Articles 370 and Article 35A from the Indian constitution. This meant the end of the Kashmiris autonomous rights followed by demographic changes which further undermines the resolutions. The decision has created unrest in what is now being called Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). India has increased its military troops in the region which now total 900,000. There has been increased instances of torture, violence and killings as the Indian Army blatantly continues to commit human rights violation while the international community looks on. Religious hatred, discrimination and border skirmishes between India and Pakistan are also on the rise as the situation has led to a number of crises.
Presumably, there are a couple of key reasons as to why India shows such hubris and why the international community, more importantly the US and its allies, are silent on such a longstanding issue. One, both India and Pakistan have stopped talking seriously to each other. Most forms of confidence building measures (CBMs) aimed at a composite dialogue to help resolve all outstanding issues including the core issue of Kashmir are at a standstill. Two, although the US always played a balancing role in South Asia, it is now tilting more towards India than ever before, especially after its withdrawal from Afghanistan, while refocusing to contain China as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy. Three, India has been attempting to integrate many Gulf states economically. It is interesting to note how India is managing its geo-economic and geo-political relations with Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia despite the rivalry between them.
It is imperative to note that if the Kashmir issue is not resolved, it will continue to have implications for the world, particularly the South Asia region — like, it could create more mistrust between India and Pakistan and spark an arms race in the South Asian region; it could lead to more serious crises which could, in turn, trigger bigger military conflicts leading up to a nuclear war; the UNSC resolutions would further be undermined with faded credibility; India would continue to show despotic hegemony and attempt to escalate its dominance in South Asia; Kashmir would suffer from increased bloodshed and human rights violations, producing, in turn, more freedom fighters and forcing the Kashmiris to continue their untiring struggle for the right of self-determination.
In sum, the following can be some of the plausible ways forward: 1) regular and sustainable talks between India and Pakistan while taking into the confidence the people of Kashmir; 2) taking steps to bring the Kashmir issue in global spotlight; 3) asserting the US to play a mediating role in the longstanding dispute; and 5) urging the key UN players, including the Secretary General, to play their parts for resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2022.