It’s sometimes called the Boston Earthquake and sometimes the Cape Ann Earthquake. Its epicenter is thought to have been in the Atlantic Ocean about 25 miles east of Gloucester. Estimates say that it would have registered between 6.0 and 6.3 on the modern Richter scale. It was an occasion to remember as chronicled by John E. Ebel, director of the Weston observatory of Boston College:
“At about 4:30 in the morning on 18 November, 1755, a strong earthquake rocked the New England area. Observers reported damage to chimneys, brick buildings and stone walls in coastal communities from Portland, Maine to south of Boston … Chimneys were also damaged as far away as Springfield, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut. The earthquake was felt at Halifax, Nova Scotia to the northeast, Lake Champlain to the northwest, and Winyah, South Carolina to the southwest. The crew of a ship in deep water about 70 leagues east of Boston thought it had run aground and only realized it had felt an earthquake after it arrived at Boston later that same day.
“The 1755 earthquake rocked Boston, with the shaking lasting more than a minute. According to contemporary reports, as many as 1,500 chimneys were shattered or thrown down in part, the gable ends of about 15 brick buildings were broken out, and some church steeples ended up tilted due to the shaking. Falling chimney bricks created holes in the roofs of some houses. Some streets, particularly those on manmade ground along the water, were so covered with bricks and debris that passage by horse-drawn carriage was impossible. Many homes lost china and glassware that was thrown from shelves and shattered. A distiller’s cistern filled with liquor broke apart and lost its contents.”
We don’t have many details of the earthquake’s impact here, there being no newspaper in Worcester County at that time. We do know that one man, Christian Angel, working in a “silver” mine in Sterling, was buried alive when the ground shook. He is the only known fatality in these parts. We can assume that, if the quake shook down chimneys in Springfield and New Haven, it did even more damage hereabouts. We can imagine the cries of alarm and the feeling of panic as trees swayed violently, fields and meadows trembled underfoot and pottery fell off shelves and crashed below.
The Boston Earthquake was an aftershock from the gigantic Lisbon Earthquake that had leveled Lisbon, Portugal, a few days before. That cataclysm, estimated as an 8 or 9 on the modern Richter scale, was the most devastating natural catastrophe to hit western Europe since Roman times. The first shock struck on Nov. 1, at about 9 in the morning.
According to one account: ”Suddenly the city began to shudder violently, its tall medieval spires waving like a cornfield in the breeze … In the ancient cathedral, the Basilica de Santa Maria, the nave rocked and the massive chandeliers began swinging crazily. . . . Then came a second, even more powerful shock. And with it, the ornate façade of every great building in the square … broke away and cascaded forward.”
Until that moment, Lisbon had been one of the leading cities in western Europe, right up there with London and Paris. With 250,000 people, it was a center of culture, financial activity and exploration. Within minutes it was reduced to smoky, dusty rubble punctuated by human groans and screams. An estimated 60,000 to 100,000 lost their lives.
Since then, New England has been mildly shaken by quakes from time to time. One series of tremors on March 1, 1925, was felt throughout Worcester County, from Fitchburg to Worcester, and caused a lot of speculation.
What if another quake like that in 1755 hit New England today? What would happen? That question was studied 15 years ago by the Massachusetts Civil Defense Agency. Its report is sobering:
“The occurrence of a Richter magnitude 6.25 earthquake off Cape Ann, Massachusetts … would cause damage in the range of 2 to 10 billion dollars … in the Boston metropolitan area (within Route 128) due to ground shaking, with significant additional losses due to secondary effects such as soil liquefaction failures, fires and economic interruptions. Hundreds of deaths and thousands of major and minor injuries would be expected … Thousands of people could be displaced from their homes … Additional damage may also be experienced outside the 128 area, especially closer to the earthquake epicenter.”
So even if we don’t worry much about volcanoes, we know that hurricanes and tornadoes are always possible. As for earthquakes, they may not happen in this century or even in this millennium, but it is sobering to think that if the tectonic plates under Boston and Gloucester shift again, we could see a repeat of 1755.
In this file handout image released by Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) office on 9 January, 2017 shows a Pakistani nuclear-capable cruise missile after being launched from a submarine during a test firing at an undisclosed location in PakistanAFP
Even the smallest nuclear war would devastate ocean systems, leading to sharp declines in fish stocks, expansion of ice sheets into coastal communities and changes in ocean currents that would take decades or longer to reverse.
A Rutgers researcher and an international team of geoscientists, led by Cheryl S Harrison at Louisiana State University, came up with the disclosure recently.
To model marine responses to nuclear conflict, Robock and his colleagues simulated a large US-Russia war and several smaller India-Pakistan wars. By looking at the nuclear arsenals of the four countries and potential targets, the researchers calculated the amount of soot that would be dispersed into the atmosphere from the resulting firestorms and block out the sun.
The researchers then used the community earth system model (CESM), a climate simulation tool supported by the national center for atmospheric research, to determine the short- and long-term effects of the atmospheric soot on ocean functions.
In turn, Arctic Sea ice expanded by 10 million square kilometers (4 million square miles), covering over 50 per cent more area, including normally ice-free coastal regions that are important for fishing, aquaculture and shipping.
In all scenarios – from the detonation of a hundred warheads to thousands – the ocean does not return to the pre-war state when the smoke clears, according to the study. “Instead, the ocean takes many decades to return to normalcy, and some parts of the ocean would likely stay in the new state for hundreds of years or longer.”
In addition to sea ice expansion and the development of what the researchers call a “Nuclear Little Ice Age,” cooling would alter ocean currents, upend ocean macronutrients and deplete fish stocks by about 20 per cent in the first decade after war.
“A nuclear war would be a significant planetary tipping point. With Russia at war in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin threatening to use nuclear weapons, these findings are a strong warning that the world simply cannot go down that path,” said Robock
Israel has fallen victim to its own hubris. While prolonging the siege will achieve no short or long-term strategic value, lifting the siege, from Israel’s viewpoint, would be tantamount to an admission of defeat – and could empower Palestinians in the West Bank to emulate the Gaza model. This lack of certainty accentuates the political crisis and lack of strategic vision that continued to define all Israeli governments for nearly two decades, writes Ramzy Baroud
The Israeli government had then justified its siege as the only way to protect Israel from Palestinian ‘terrorism and rocket attacks’. This remains the official Israeli line until this day. Not many Israelis — certainly not in government, media or even ordinary people — would argue that Israel today is safer than it was prior to June 2007.
It is widely understood that Israel has imposed the siege as a response to the Hamas takeover of the Strip, following a brief and violent confrontation between the two main Palestinian political rivals, Hamas, which currently rules Gaza, and Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.
However, the isolation of Gaza was planned years before the Hamas-Fatah clash, or even the Hamas’ legislative election victory of January 2006. Late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was determined to redeploy Israeli forces out of Gaza, years prior to these dates.
What finally culminated in the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in August-September 2005 was proposed by Sharon in 2003, approved by his government in 2004 and finally adopted by the Knesset in February 2005.
The ‘disengagement’ was an Israeli tactic that aimed at removing a few thousand illegal Jewish settlers out of Gaza — to other illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank — while redeploying the Israeli army from crowded Gaza population centres to the border areas. This was the actual start of the Gaza siege.
The ultimate motive behind the ‘disengagement’ was not Israel’s security, or even to starve Gazans as a form of collective punishment. The latter was one natural outcome of a much more sinister political plot, as communicated by Sharon’s own senior adviser at the time, Dov Weisglass. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in October 2004, Weisglass put it plainly: ‘The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process.’ How?
‘When you freeze (the peace) process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem,’ according to Weisglass. Not only was this Israel’s ultimate motive behind the disengagement and subsequent siege on Gaza but, according to the seasoned Israeli politician, it was all done ‘with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.’ The president in question here is no other than US president at the time, George W Bush.
All of this had taken place before Palestine’s legislative elections, Hamas’ victory and the Hamas-Fatah clash. The latter merely served as a convenient justification to what had already been discussed, ‘ratified’ and implemented.
For Israel, the siege has been a political ploy, which acquired additional meaning and value as time passed. In response to the accusation that Israel was starving Palestinians in Gaza, Weisglass was very quick to muster an answer: ‘The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.’
What was then understood as a facetious, albeit thoughtless statement, turned out to be actual Israeli policy, as indicated in a 2008 report, which was made available in 2012. Thanks to the Israeli human rights organisation Gisha, the ‘redlines (for) food consumption in the Gaza Strip’ — composed by the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories — was made public. It emerged that Israel was calculating the minimum number of calories necessary to keep Gaza’s population alive, a number that is ‘adjusted to culture and experience’ in the Strip.
The rest is history. Gaza’s suffering is absolute. About 98 per cent of the Strip’s water is undrinkable. Hospitals lack essential supplies and life-saving medications. Movement in and out of the Strip is practically prohibited, with minor exceptions.
Still, Israel has failed miserably in achieving any of its objectives. Tel Aviv hoped that the ‘disengagement’ would compel the international community to redefine the legal status of the Israeli occupation of Gaza. Despite Washington’s pressure, that never happened. Gaza remains part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories as defined in international law.
Even the September 2007 Israeli designation of Gaza as an ‘enemy entity’ and a ‘hostile territory’ changed little, except that it allowed the Israeli government to declare several devastating wars on the Strip, starting in 2008.
None of these wars have successfully served a long-term Israeli strategy. Instead, Gaza continues to fight back on a much larger scale than ever before, frustrating the calculation of Israeli leaders, as it became clear in their befuddled, disturbing language. During one of the deadliest Israeli wars on Gaza in July 2014, Israeli right-wing Knesset member, Ayelet Shaked, wrote on Facebook that the war was ‘not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority.’ Instead, according to Shaked, who a year later became Israel’s minister of justice, ‘is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people.’
In the final analysis, the governments of Sharon, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert, Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett failed to isolate Gaza from the greater Palestinian body, break the will of the Strip or ensure Israeli security at the expense of Palestinians.
Moreover, Israel has fallen victim to its own hubris. While prolonging the siege will achieve no short or long-term strategic value, lifting the siege, from Israel’s viewpoint, would be tantamount to an admission of defeat — and could empower Palestinians in the West Bank to emulate the Gaza model. This lack of certainty further accentuates the political crisis and lack of strategic vision that continued to define all Israeli governments for nearly two decades.
Inevitably, Israel’s political experiment in Gaza has backfired, and the only way out is for the Gaza siege to be completely lifted and, this time, for good.
Middle East Monitor, July 5. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. Dr Baroud is a non-resident senior research fellow at the Centre for Islam and Global Affairs, Istanbul Zaim University
“We hope that this new study will encourage more nations to ratify the ban treaty,” one of the paper’s co-authors said, referring to the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
July 8, 2022
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine revives the terrifying specter of thermonuclear annihilation, a scientific study published Thursday revealed that a nuclear exchange involving as few as hundreds of warheads would likely cause a “little ice age” lasting centuries or even millennia.
“It doesn’t matter who is bombing whom… Once the smoke is released into the upper atmosphere, it spreads globally and affects everyone.”
Scientists have long known that even a “limited” thermonuclear war could result in a so-called nuclear winter, or prolonged global cooling resulting from atmospheric soot blocking life-sustaining sunlight. However, the new studyexamines the effects of such warfare on the Earth’s oceans and marine ecosystems.
In all of the researchers’ simulations, nuclear firestorms spewed soot and smoke into the upper atmosphere, blocking out the sun and resulting in global crop failure. In the first month after the war, average global temperatures plunged by about 13°F, a larger temperature change than during the last ice age.
“It doesn’t matter who is bombing whom. It can be India and Pakistan or NATO and Russia. Once the smoke is released into the upper atmosphere, it spreads globally and affects everyone,” Louisiana State University professor Cheryl Harrison, the study’s lead author, explained.
The researchers found that ocean temperatures would quickly and irreversibly plummet, with spreading sea ice causing catastrophic coastal blockages that would render shipping impossible in much of the world.
In an even more ominous development, “the sudden drop in light and ocean temperatures, especially from the Arctic to the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans, would kill the marine algae, which is the foundation of the marine food web, essentially creating a famine in the ocean,” a summary of the report published in Science Daily stated. “This would halt most fishing and aquaculture.”
Study co-author Alan Robock, a professor of environmental sciences at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said that “nuclear warfare results in dire consequences for everyone.”
“World leaders have used our studies previously as an impetus to end the nuclear arms race in the 1980s, and five years ago to pass a treaty in the United Nations to ban nuclear weapons,” he added. “We hope that this new study will encourage more nations to ratify the ban treaty.”
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has been ratified by 65 nations—but none of the world’s nine nuclear powers. Commenting after last month’s first meeting of state parties to the TPNW in Vienna, disarmament campaigner Alice Slater toldInDepthNews that “the dark clouds of war and strife continue to plague the world.”
“We are enduring continued violence in Ukraine, new nuclear threats issued by Russia including a possibility of sharing nuclear weapons with Belarus, in the context of tens of billions of dollars in armaments being poured into Ukraine by the U.S., and a brutal and careless rush to expand the boundaries of NATO to include Finland and Sweden,” she added.
That is part of the reason why Nato issued a new “strategic concept” document last week at its summit in Madrid, declaring for the first time that China poses a “systemic challenge” to the alliance, alongside a primary “threat” from Russia.
Beijing views this new designation as a decisive step by Nato on the path to pronouncing it a “threat” too – echoing the alliance’s escalatory approach towards Moscow over the past decade. In its previous mission statement, issued in 2010, Nato advocated “a true strategic partnership” with Russia.
How are Americans or Europeans suddenly under threat of military conquest from China?
Nato was founded in the wake of the Second World War expressly as a bulwark against Soviet expansion into Western Europe. The ensuing Cold War was primarily a territorial and ideological battle for the future of Europe, with the ever-present mutual threat of nuclear annihilation.
So how, Beijing might justifiably wonder, does China – on the other side of the globe – fit into Nato’s historic “defensive” mission? How are Chinese troops or missiles now threatening Europe or the US in ways they weren’t before? How are Americans or Europeans suddenly under threat of military conquest from China?
The current Nato logic reads something like this: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February is proof that the Kremlin has ambitions to recreate its former Soviet empire in Europe. China is growing its military power and has similar imperial designs towards the rival, breakaway state of Taiwan, as well as western Pacific islands. And because Beijing and Moscow are strengthening their strategic ties in the face of western opposition, Nato has to presume that their shared goal is to bring western civilisation crashing down.
Or as last week’s Nato mission statement proclaimed: “The deepening strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests.”
But if anyone is subverting the “rules-based international order”, a standard the West regularly invokes but never defines, it looks to be Nato itself – or the US, as the hand that wields the Nato hammer.
That is certainly the way it looks to Beijing. In its response, China argued: “Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, [Nato] has not yet abandoned its thinking and practice of creating ‘enemies’ … It is Nato that is creating problems around the world.”
China has a point. A problem with bureaucracies – and Nato is the world’s largest military bureaucracy – is that they quickly develop an overriding institutional commitment to ensuring their permanent existence, if not expansion. Bureaucracies naturally become powerful lobbies for their own self-preservation, even when they have outlived their usefulness.
If there is no threat to “defend” against, then a threat must be manufactured. That can mean one of two things: either inventing an imaginary threat, or provoking the very threat the bureaucracy was designed to avert or thwart. Signs are that Nato – now embracing 30 countries – is doing both.
Remember that Nato should have dissolved itself after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. But three decades later, it is bigger and more resource-hungry than ever.
Against all advice, and in violation of its promises, Nato has refused to maintain a neutral “security buffer” between itself and Russia. Instead, it has been expanding right up to Russia’s borders, including creeping furtively into Ukraine, the gateway through which armies have historically invaded Russia.
Undoubtedly, Russia has proved itself a genuine threat to the territorial integrity of its neighbour Ukraine by conquering its eastern region – home to a large ethnic Russian community the Kremlin claims to be protecting. But even if we reject Russian President Vladimir Putin’s repeated assertion that Moscow has no larger ambitions, the Russian army’s substantial losses suggest it has scant hope of extending its military reach much further.
Even if Moscow were hoping to turn its attention next to Poland or the Baltic states, or Nato’s latest recruits of Sweden and Finland, such a move would clearly risk nuclear confrontation. This is perhaps why western audiences hear so much from their politicians and media about Putin being some kind of deranged megalomaniac.
Has the Ukraine war become a runaway train for both Russia and Nato?
The impression that this might have been Nato’s blueprint for handling Moscow is only underscored by the way it is now treating China, with even less justification. China has not recently invaded any sovereign territories, unlike the US and its allies, while the only territory it might threaten – Taiwan – is some 12,000 kilometres from the US mainland, and a similarly long distance from most of Europe.
The argument that the Russian army may defeat Ukraine and then turn its attention towards Poland and Finland at least accords with some kind of geographical possibility, however remote. But the idea that China may invade Taiwan and then direct its military might towards California and Italy is in the realms of preposterous delusion.
Nato’s new posture towards Beijing brings into question its whole characterisation as a “defensive” alliance. It looks very much to be on the offensive.
The creation of a Nato-allied “Asia-Pacific Four” is doubtless intended to suggest to Beijing parallels with Nato’s gradual recruitment of eastern European states starting in the late 1990s, culminating in its more recent flirting with Ukraine and Georgia, longstanding red lines for Russia.
Ultimately, Nato’s courting of Russia’s neighbours led to attacks by Moscow first on Georgia and then on Ukraine, conveniently bolstering the “Russian threat” narrative. Might the intention behind similar advances to the “Asia-Pacific Four” be to provoke Beijing into a more aggressive military stance in its own region, in order to justify Nato expanding far beyond the North Atlantic, claiming the entire globe as its backyard?
Now, Nato is casting itself as the guardian of the Asia-Pacific region too
Similarly, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called last week for Nato countries to ship advanced weapons to Taiwan, in the same way Nato has been arming Ukraine, to ensure the island has “the defence capability it needs”.
This echoes Nato’s narrative about its goals in Ukraine: that it is pumping weapons into Ukraine to “defend” the rest of Europe. Now, Nato is casting itself as the guardian of the Asia-Pacific region too.
But in truth, this is not just about competing military threats. There is an additional layer of western self-interest, concealed behind claims of a “defensive” alliance.
China is being aggressive, but so far only in exercising soft power. In the coming decades, it plans to invest in the infrastructure of dozens of developing states. More than 140 countries have so far signed up to the initiative.
China’s aim is to make itself the hub of a global network of new infrastructure projects – from highways and ports to advanced telecommunications – to strengthen its economic trade connections to Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Europe.
If it succeeds, China will stamp its economic dominance on the globe – and that is what really worries the West, particularly the US and its Nato military bureaucracy. They are labelling this“economic coercion”.
Back in the Cold War era, Washington was not just, or even primarily, worried about a Soviet military invasion. The nuclear doctrine of mutually assured destruction meant neither had an interest in direct confrontation.
Instead, each treated developing nations as pawns in an economic war over resources to be plundered and markets to be controlled. Each side tried to expand its so-called “sphere of influence” over other states and secure a larger slice of the planet’s wealth, in order to fuel its domestic economy and expand its military industries.
The West’s rhetoric about the Cold War emphasised an ideological battle between western freedoms and Soviet authoritarianism. But whatever significance one attributes to that rhetorical fight, the more important battle for each side was proving to other states the superiority of the economic model that grew out of its ideology.
In the early Cold War years, it should be recalled, communist parties were frontrunners to win elections in several European states – something that was starkly evident to the drafters of the Nato treaty.
The US invested so heavily in weapons – today, its military budget exceeds the combined spending of the next nine countries – precisely to strong-arm poorer nations into its camp, and punish those that refused. That task was made easier after the fall of the Soviet Union. In a unipolar world, Washington got to define who would be treated as a friend, and on what terms, and who a foe.
Nato chiefly served as an alibi for US aggression, adding a veneer of multilateral legitimacy to its largely unilateral militarism.
In reality, the “rules-based international order” comprises a set of US-controlled economic institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that dictate oppressive terms to increasingly resentful poor countries – often the West’s former colonies – in desperate need of investment. Most have ended up in permanent debt slavery.
Washington’s greatest fear is that, as its economic muscle atrophies, Europe’s vital trading links with China and Russia will see its economic interests – and eventually its ideological loyalties – shift eastwards, rather than stay firmly in the western camp.
The question is: how far is the US willing to go to stop that? So far, it looks only too ready to drag Nato into a military sequel to the Cold War – and risk pushing the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
So instead, to the surprise of many hawk-eyed political analysts, the maverick cleric ordered a mass resignation among his supporters – throwing Iraqi politics further into disarray.
On this week’s episode of The New Arab Voice looks at why the Sadrists resigned and what this means for the fate of Iraq. The episode examines the current players in Iraqi political life as well as the system itself, to try and understand what happened recently in Iraq and the longer structural forces that produced the situation today.
“There were no injuries in the explosion and the debris was contained to the immediate vicinity of the launch pad,” the base said.
Officials will investigate the cause of the mishap.
The Minotaur II+ combines parts of decommissioned Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles and an upper segment of the current Minuteman III nuke to create a missile used for suborbital test launches.
Vandenberg routinely holds live tests of unarmed missile bodies — without a nuclear warhead inside — to check how the aging ICBMs are faring and to vet new technology.
In this case, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center said the practice missile was carrying a Mark 21A reentry vehicle, or the part of a nuclear weapon that would hold a real warhead.
Military officials are gathering “detailed, reliable” data that will help shape the prototype system into the final product, according to the service.
The Air Force has contracted with Lockheed Martin to redesign the Mk21A to carry 300-kiloton W87-1 nuclear warheads — 15 times the explosive power of the “Fat Man” bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945 — on the LGM-35 Sentinel missile now in development at Northrop Grumman.
The updated reentry vehicle, which carries the warhead to the edge of space in an arc before gliding down to its target, is also expected to accommodate future warhead designs on the new ICBMs in the coming decades.
Sentinel ICBMs will replace the 400 nuclear missiles in underground silos across Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota in the late 2020s.
Rachel Cohen joined Air Force Times as senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), the Washington Post, and others.