Preparing for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Scenario Earthquakes for Urban Areas Along the Atlantic Seaboard of the United States

The Sixth Seal: NY City DestroyedIf today a magnitude 6 earthquake were to occur centered on New York City, what would its effects be? Will the loss be 10 or 100 billion dollars? Will there be 10 or 10,000 fatalities? Will there be 1,000 or 100,000 homeless needing shelter? Can government function, provide assistance, and maintain order?

At this time, no satisfactory answers to these questions are available. A few years ago, rudimentary scenario studies were made for Boston and New York with limited scope and uncertain results. For most eastern cities, including Washington D.C., we know even less about the economic, societal and political impacts from significant earthquakes, whatever their rate of occurrence.

Why do we know so little about such vital public issues? Because the public has been lulled into believing that seriously damaging quakes are so unlikely in the east that in essence we do not need to consider them. We shall examine the validity of this widely held opinion.

Is the public’s earthquake awareness (or lack thereof) controlled by perceived low SeismicitySeismicHazard, or SeismicRisk? How do these three seismic features differ from, and relate to each other? In many portions of California, earthquake awareness is refreshed in a major way about once every decade (and in some places even more often) by virtually every person experiencing a damaging event. The occurrence of earthquakes of given magnitudes in time and space, not withstanding their effects, are the manifestations of seismicity. Ground shaking, faulting, landslides or soil liquefaction are the manifestations of seismic hazard. Damage to structures, and loss of life, limb, material assets, business and services are the manifestations of seismic risk. By sheer experience, California’s public understands fairly well these three interconnected manifestations of the earthquake phenomenon. This awareness is reflected in public policy, enforcement of seismic regulations, and preparedness in both the public and private sector. In the eastern U.S., the public and its decision makers generally do not understand them because of inexperience. Judging seismic risk by rates of seismicity alone (which are low in the east but high in the west) has undoubtedly contributed to the public’s tendency to belittle the seismic loss potential for eastern urban regions.

Let us compare two hypothetical locations, one in California and one in New York City. Assume the location in California does experience, on average, one M = 6 every 10 years, compared to New York once every 1,000 years. This implies a ratio of rates of seismicity of 100:1. Does that mean the ratio of expected losses (when annualized per year) is also 100:1? Most likely not. That ratio may be closer to 10:1, which seems to imply that taking our clues from seismicity alone may lead to an underestimation of the potential seismic risks in the east. Why should this be so?

To check the assertion, let us make a back-of-the-envelope estimate. The expected seismic risk for a given area is defined as the area-integrated product of: seismic hazard (expected shaking level), assets ($ and people), and the assets’ vulnerabilities (that is, their expected fractional loss given a certain hazard – say, shaking level). Thus, if we have a 100 times lower seismicity rate in New York compared to California, which at any given point from a given quake may yield a 2 times higher shaking level in New York compared to California because ground motions in the east are known to differ from those in the west; and if we have a 2 times higher asset density (a modest assumption for Manhattan!), and a 2 times higher vulnerability (again a modest assumption when considering the large stock of unreinforced masonry buildings and aged infrastructure in New York), then our California/New York ratio for annualized loss potential may be on the order of (100/(2x2x2)):1. That implies about a 12:1 risk ratio between the California and New York location, compared to a 100:1 ratio in seismicity rates.

From this example it appears that seismic awareness in the east may be more controlled by the rate of seismicity than by the less well understood risk potential. This misunderstanding is one of the reasons why earthquake awareness and preparedness in the densely populated east is so disproportionally low relative to its seismic loss potential. Rare but potentially catastrophic losses in the east compete in attention with more frequent moderate losses in the west. New York City is the paramount example of a low-probability, high-impact seismic risk, the sort of risk that is hard to insure against, or mobilize public action to reduce the risks.

There are basically two ways to respond. One is to do little and wait until one or more disastrous events occur. Then react to these – albeit disastrous – “windows of opportunity.” That is, pay after the unmitigated facts, rather than attempt to control their outcome. This is a high-stakes approach, considering the evolved state of the economy. The other approach is to invest in mitigation ahead of time, and use scientific knowledge and inference, education, technology transfer, and combine it with a mixture of regulatory and/or economic incentives to implement earthquake preparedness. The National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP) has attempted the latter while much of the public tends to cling to the former of the two options. Realistic and reliable quantitative loss estimation techniques are essential to evaluate the relative merits of the two approaches.

The current efforts in the eastern U.S., including New York City, to start the enforcement of seismic building codes for new constructions are important first steps in the right direction. Similarly, the emerging efforts to include seismic rehabilitation strategies in the generally needed overhaul of the cities’ aged infrastructures such as bridges, water, sewer, power and transportation is commendable and needs to be pursued with diligence and persistence. But at the current pace of new construction replacing older buildings and lifelines, it will take many decades or a century before a major fraction of the stock of built assets will become seismically more resilient than the current inventory is. For some time, this leaves society exposed to very high seismic risks. The only consolation is that seismicity on average is low, and, hence with some luck, the earthquakes will not outpace any ongoing efforts to make eastern cities more earthquake resilient gradually. Nevertheless, M = 5 to M = 6 earthquakes at distances of tens of km must be considered a credible risk at almost any time for cities like Boston, New York or Philadelphia. M = 7 events, while possible, are much less likely; and in many respects, even if building codes will have affected the resilience of a future improved building stock, M = 7 events would cause virtually unmanageable situations. Given these bleak prospects, it will be necessary to focus on crucial elements such as maintaining access to cities by strengthening critical bridges, improving the structural and nonstructural performance of hospitals, and having a nationally supported plan how to assist a devastated region in case of a truly severe earthquake. No realistic and coordinated planning of this sort exists at this time for most eastern cities.

The current efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) via the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) to provide a standard methodology (RMS, 1994) and planning tools for making systematic, computerized loss estimates for annualized probabilistic calculations as well as for individual scenario events, is commendable. But these new tools provide only a shell with little regional data content. What is needed are the detailed data bases on inventory of buildings and lifelines with their locally specific seismic fragility properties.Similar data are needed for hospitals, shelters, firehouses, police stations and other emergency service providers. Moreover, the soil and rock conditions which control the shaking and soil liquefaction properties for any given event, need to be systematically compiled into Geographical Information System (GIS) data bases so they can be combined with the inventory of built assets for quantitative loss and impact estimates. Even under the best of conceivable funding conditions, it will take years before such data bases can be established so they will be sufficiently reliable and detailed to perform realistic and credible loss scenarios. Without such planning tools, society will remain in the dark as to what it may encounter from a future major eastern earthquake. Given these uncertainties, and despite them, both the public and private sector must develop at least some basic concepts for contingency plans. For instance, the New York City financial service industry, from banks to the stock and bond markets and beyond, ought to consider operational contingency planning, first in terms of strengthening their operational facilities, but also for temporary backup operations until operations in the designated facilities can return to some measure of normalcy. The Federal Reserve in its oversight function for this industry needs to take a hard look at this situation.

A society, whose economy depends increasingly so crucially on rapid exchange of vast quantities of information must become concerned with strengthening its communication facilities together with the facilities into which the information is channeled. In principle, the availability of satellite communication (especially if self-powered) with direct up and down links, provides here an opportunity that is potentially a great advantage over distributed buried networks. Distributed networks for transportation, power, gas, water, sewer and cabled communication will be expensive to harden (or restore after an event).

In all future instances of major capital spending on buildings and urban infrastructures, the incorporation of seismically resilient design principles at all stages of realization will be the most effective way to reduce society’s exposure to high seismic risks. To achieve this, all levels of government need to utilize legislative and regulatory options; insurance industries need to build economic incentives for seismic safety features into their insurance policy offerings; and the private sector, through trade and professional organizations’ planning efforts, needs to develop a healthy self-protective stand. Also, the insurance industry needs to invest more aggressively into broadly based research activities with the objective to quantify the seismic hazards, the exposed assets and their seismic fragilities much more accurately than currently possible. Only together these combined measures may first help to quantify and then reduce our currently untenably large seismic risk exposures in the virtually unprepared eastern cities. Given the low-probability/high-impact situation in this part of the country, seismic safety planning needs to be woven into both the regular capital spending and daily operational procedures. Without it we must be prepared to see little progress. Unless we succeed to build seismic safety considerations into everyday decision making as a normal procedure of doing business, society will lose the race against the unstoppable forces of nature. While we never can entirely win this race, we can succeed in converting unmitigated catastrophes into manageable disasters, or better, tolerable natural events.

Palestinians Right to Fight Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

UN envoy to Hamas: ‘You have the right to fight Israel

Stories appearing in our World pages originate from aggregated news feeds obtained from various subscription news sources.

Italian lawyer Francesca Albanese, the United Nations’ special rapporteur for the Palestinians, spoke at a Hamas-organized conference in Gaza on Monday.

She plans to continue on to Israel, which is considering refusing her entry.

Senior members of the U.S.- and E.U.-designated terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) were among those in attendance, including Hamas’s Basem Naim, Ghazi Hamad, Isam al-Da’alis and Abdul Latif al-Qanu, and PIJ’s Ahmad al-Mudallal and Khadr Habib.

In her speech, translated in real-time to Arabic, Albanese told the crowd: “You have a right to resist this occupation.”

The UN official recently said, “If they [Israel] don’t let me in….I’ll be able to claim that I’ve been denied access.”

Albanese has a history of supporting violence against Israelis. In June, she said, “Israel says ‘resistance equals terrorism,’ but an occupation requires violence and generates violence.”

The post UN envoy to Hamas: ‘You have the right to fight Israel’ appeared first on

Prepare for Nuclear War: Revelation 16

By Stephen Wertheim

Mr. Wertheim is a scholar and writer on U.S. foreign policy.

  • Dec. 2, 2022

In March, as President Biden was facing pressure to intensify U.S. involvement in Ukraine, he responded by invoking the specter of World War III four times in one day.

“Direct conflict between NATO and Russia is World War III,” he said, “something we must strive to prevent.” He underscored the point hours later: “The idea that we’re going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews — just understand, and don’t kid yourself, no matter what you all say, that’s called World War III, OK?”

More than any other presidential statement since Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Biden’s warning signaled the start of a new era in American foreign policy. Throughout my adult life and that of most Americans today, the United States bestrode the world, essentially unchallenged and unchecked. A few years ago, it was still possible to expect a benign geopolitical future. Although “great power competition” became the watchword of Pentagonese, the phrase could as easily imply sporting rivalry as explosive conflict. Washington, Moscow and Beijing would stiffly compete but could surely coexist.

How quaint. The United States now faces the real and regular prospect of fighting adversaries strong enough to do Americans immense harm. The post-Sept. 11 forever wars have been costly, but a true great power war — the kind that used to afflict Europe — would be something else, pitting the United States against Russia or even China, whose economic strength rivals America’s and whose military could soon as well.

This grim reality has arrived with startling rapidity. Since February, the war in Ukraine has created an acute risk of U.S.-Russia conflict. It has also vaulted a Chinese invasion of Taiwan to the forefront of American fears and increased Washington’s willingness to respond with military force. “That’s called World War III,” indeed.

Yet how many Americans can truly envision what a third world war would mean? Just as great power conflict looms again, those who witnessed the last one are disappearing. Around 1 percent of U.S. veterans of World War II remain alive to tell their stories. It is estimated that by the end of this decade, fewer than 10,000 will be left. The vast majority of Americans today are unused to enduring hardship for foreign policy choices, let alone the loss of life and wealth that direct conflict with China or Russia would bring.

Preparing the country shouldn’t begin with tanks, planes and ships. It will require a national effort of historical recovery and imagination — first and foremost to enable the American people to consider whether they wish to enter a major war if the moment of decision arrives.

Navigating great power conflict is hardly a novel challenge for the United States. By 1945, Americans had lived through two world wars. The country emerged triumphant yet sobered by its wounds. Even as the wars propelled the United States to world leadership, American leaders and citizens feared that a third world war might be as probable as it today appears unthinkable. Perhaps that is one reason a catastrophe was avoided.

For four decades, America’s postwar presidents appreciated that the next hot war would likely be worse than the last. In the nuclear age, “we will be a battlefront,” Truman said. “We can look forward to destruction here, just as the other countries in the Second World War.” This insight didn’t keep him or his successors from meddling in third world countries, from Guatemala to Indonesia, where the Cold War was brutal. But U.S. leaders, regardless of party, recognized that if the United States and the Soviet Union squared off directly, nuclear weapons would lay waste to the American mainland.

Nuclear terror became part of American life, thanks to a purposeful effort by the government to prepare the country for the worst. The Federal Civil Defense Administration advised citizens to build bomb shelters in their backyards and keep clean homes so there would be less clutter to ignite in a nuclear blast. The film “Duck and Cover,” released in 1951, encouraged schoolchildren to act like animated turtles and hide under a makeshift shell — “a table or desk or anything else close by” — if nukes hit. By the 1960s, yellow-and-black signs for fallout shelters dotted American cities.

The specter of full-scale war kept the Cold War superpowers in check. In 1950, Truman sent U.S. troops to defend South Korea against invasion by the Communist North, but his resolve had limits. After Gen. Douglas MacArthur implored Truman to blast China and North Korea with 34 nuclear bombs, the president fired the general. Evoking the “disaster of World War II,” he told the nation: “We will not take any action which might place upon us the responsibility of initiating a general war — a third world war.”

The extreme violence of the world wars and the anticipation of a sequel also shaped President John F. Kennedy’s decisions during the Cuban missile crisis, when the Soviet Union moved to place nuclear weapons 90 miles from Florida. Kennedy, who had served in the Pacific and rescued a fellow sailor after their ship went down, grew frustrated with his military advisers for recommending preventative strikes on Soviet missile sites. Instead of opening fire, he imposed a naval blockade around Cuba and demanded that the Soviets withdraw their missiles. A one-week superpower standoff ensued. Approximately 10 million Americans fled their homes. Crowds descended on civil defense offices to find out how to survive a nuclear blast. The Soviets backed down after Kennedy secretly promised to remove U.S. Jupiter missiles from Turkey. The world had come so close to nuclear Armageddon that Kennedy, citing the danger of a third and total war, took the first steps toward détente before his death in 1963.

But memory is never static. After the Soviet Union collapsed and generations turned over, World War II was recast as a moral triumph and no longer a cautionary tale.

In the 1990s, an outpouring of film, history and literature celebrated the “greatest generation,” as journalist Tom Brokaw anointed those who won the war for America. Under their watch, the United States had saved the world and stopped the Holocaust — which retrospectively vaulted to the center of the war’s purpose, even though stopping the mass murder of European Jews was not why the United States had entered. A new generation, personally untouched by great power war, reshaped the past, revering their elders but simplifying the often varied and painful experiences of veterans.

In this context, the double lesson of the world wars — calling America to lead the world but cautioning it not to overreach — narrowed to a single-minded exhortation to sustain and even expand American power. Presidents began to invoke World War II to glorify the struggle and justify American global dominance. On the anniversary of Pearl Harbor in 1991, George H.W. Bush told the country that “isolationism flew escort for the very bombers that attacked our men 50 years ago.” Commemorating the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994, Bill Clinton recalled how the Allied troops gathered “like the stars of a majestic galaxy” and “unleashed their democratic fury,” fighting a battle that continued.

In 2004 the imposing World War II Memorial, one decade and $197 million in the making, went up between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. George W. Bush, a year into invading Iraq, gave the dedication: “The scenes of the concentration camps, the heaps of bodies and ghostly survivors, confirmed forever America’s calling to oppose the ideologies of death.” Preventing a repeat of World War II no longer involved exercising caution; it meant toppling tyrants.

Besides, why dwell on the horrors of global conflict at a time when no such thing even seemed possible? With post-Soviet Russia reeling and China poor, there were no more great powers for the United States to fight. Scholars discussed the obsolescence of major war.

It wasn’t just major war that seemed passé. So did the need to pay any significant costs for foreign policy choices. Since the Vietnam War roiled American society, leaders moved to insulate the American public from the harms of any conflict, large or small: The creation of an all-volunteer force did away with the draft; air power bombed targets from safe heights; the advent of drones allowed killing by remote control.

The deaths of more than 7,000 service members in the post-Sept. 11 wars — and approximately four times as many by suicide — devastated families and communities but were not enough to produce a Vietnam-style backlash. Likewise, although the wars have cost a whopping $8 trillion and counting, the payments have been spread over decades and passed to the future.

Not having to worry about the effects of wars — unless you enlist to fight in them — has nearly become a birthright of being American.

That birthright has come to an end. The United States is entering an era of intense great power rivalry that could escalate to large-scale conventional or nuclear war. It’s time to think through the consequences.

The “acute threat,” as the new National Security Strategy states, comes from Moscow. President Vladimir Putin controls thousands of nuclear weapons, enough to destroy civilization many times over. Since invading Ukraine, he has threatened to use them.

Mr. Putin could plausibly act on that threat under several scenarios: if U.S. or NATO forces directly enter the conflict, if he believes his rule is threatened or if Ukrainian forces verge on retaking Crimea. No one knows precisely what might prompt the Kremlin to employ a nuclear weapon, but Mr. Biden recently said that the risk of Armageddon was the highest it has been since the Cuban missile crisis.

Mr. Biden has ruled out using force to defend Ukraine. His administration is pursuing a finely tailored objective: It seeks to strengthen Ukraine’s position on the battlefield in order to strengthen its hand in peace negotiations. That goal does not commit the United States to ensuring a complete Ukrainian victory. Yet the Ukrainian Army’s recent successes have prompted American commentators to redouble their backing for Kyiv and further marginalize talk of diplomacy (not that Mr. Putin has shown any readiness to stop the killing).

If the possibility of war with Russia was not enough, U.S. relations with China are in free fall, setting up the world’s two leading powers to square off for decades to come.

Despite Mr. Biden’s caution toward Russia, he is contributing to the rising chances of conflict with China. In a series of interviews, he asserted that the United States has a commitment to defend Taiwan (in fact, it is obligated only to help arm the island) and vowed to send U.S. troops in the event of a Chinese invasion. These repeated gaffes are likely intended to deter Beijing in light of its many recent military maneuvers around the island. But especially in tandem with high-level congressional visits to Taipei, they risk implying that the United States wishes to keep Taiwan permanently separated from the mainland — a position it is hard to imagine Beijing will ever accept.

Equally important, Mr. Biden seems to be saying that defending Taiwan would be worth the price of war with China. But what would such a war entail?

A series of recent war games held by think tanks help us to imagine what it would look like: First, a war will likely last a long time and take many lives. Early on, China would have incentives to mount a massive attack with its now highly developed long-range strike capability to disable U.S. forces stationed in the Pacific. Air Force Gen. Mark D. Kelly said that China’s forces are “designed to inflict more casualties in the first 30 hours of combat than we’ve endured over the last 30 years in the Middle East.”

In most rounds of a war game recently conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the United States swiftly lost two aircraft carriers, each carrying at least 5,000 people, on top of hundreds of aircraft, according to reports. One participant noted that although each simulation varied, “what almost never changes is it’s a bloody mess and both sides take some terrible losses.” At some stage, those Selective Service registrations required of young American men might need to be expanded and converted into a draft.

Second, each side would be tempted to escalate. This summer, the Center for a New American Security held a war game that ended with China detonating a nuclear weapon near Hawaii. “Before they knew it,” both Washington and Beijing “had crossed key red lines, but neither was willing to back down,” the conveners concluded. Especially in a prolonged war, China could mount cyberattacks to disrupt critical American infrastructure. It might shut off the power in a major city, obstruct emergency services or bring down communications systems. A new current of fear and suspicion would course through American society, joining up with the nativism that has reverberated through national politics since Sept. 11.

The economic consequences would be equally severe. A Chinese invasion of Taiwan, which produces most of the world’s advanced semiconductors, would profoundly damage the U.S. and global economy regardless of Washington’s response. (To this end, the United States has been trying to move more semiconductor manufacturing home.) But a U.S.-China war would risk catastrophic losses. Researchers at RAND estimate that a yearlong conflict would slash America’s gross domestic product by 5 to 10 percent. By contrast, the U.S. economy contracted 2.6 percent in 2009, the worst year of the Great Recession. The gas price surge early in the Ukraine war provides only the slightest preview of what a U.S.-China war would generate. For the roughly three-fifths of Americans who currently live paycheck to paycheck, the war would come home in millions of lost jobs, wrecked retirements, high prices and shortages.

In short, a war with Russia or China would likely injure the United States on a scale without precedent in the living memory of most citizens. That, in turn, introduces profound uncertainty about how the American political system would perform. Getting in would be the easy part. More elusive is whether the public and its representatives would maintain the will to fight over far-flung territories in the face of sustained physical attack and economic calamity. When millions are thrown out of work, will they find Taiwan’s cause worth their sacrifice? Could national leaders compellingly explain why the United States was paying the grievous price of World War III?

These questions will be asked during a conflict, so they ought to be asked in advance. Even those who think the United States should fight for Ukraine or Taiwan have an interest in educating the public about the stakes of great power conflict in the nuclear and cyber age.

The last nuclear-related sign I saw, a few weeks ago, proudly declared a small liberal suburb of Washington, D.C., to be a “nuclear-free zone.” “Duck and Cover” deserves a 21st-century remake — something a bit more memorable than the Department of Homeland Security’s “Nuclear Explosion” fact sheet, which nonetheless contains sound advice. (For example, after the shock wave passes, you have 10 minutes or more to find shelter before the radioactive fallout arrives.) For every moral condemnation of adversaries’ actions, Americans should hear candid assessments of the costs of trying to stop them. A war game broadcast on “Meet the Press” in May offered one model. Even better to follow it with a peace game, showing how to avoid devastation in the first place. Without raising public awareness, political leaders risk bringing about the worst-case outcome — of waging World War III and losing it when the country recoils.

As international relations have deteriorated in recent years, critics of U.S. global primacy have frequently warned that a new cold war was brewing. I have been among them. Yet pointing to a cold war in some ways understates the danger. Relations with Russia and China are not assured to stay cold. During the original Cold War, American leaders and citizens knew that survival was not inevitable. World-rending violence remained an all-too-possible destination of the superpower contest, right up to its astonishing end in 1989.

Today the United States is again assuming the primary burden of countering the ambitions of governments in Moscow and Beijing. When it did so the first time, it lived in the shadow of world war and acted out of a frank and healthy fear of another. This time, lessons will have to be learned without that experience.

Stephen Wertheim is a senior fellow in the American Statecraft Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School and Catholic University.

The Antichrist launches anti-LGBTQ campaign

Supporters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr sign a pledge to stand against homosexuality or LGBTQ, outside a mosque in Kufa, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Al-Sadr who announced his withdrawal from politics four months ago has broken a period of relative silence to launch an anti-LGBTQ campaign. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)

Influential Iraqi cleric launches anti-LGBTQ campaign

Supporters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr sign a pledge to stand against homosexuality or LGBTQ, outside a mosque in Kufa, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Al-Sadr who announced his withdrawal from politics four months ago has broken a period of relative silence to launch an anti-LGBTQ campaign. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)
Supporters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr pray during Friday prayers at a mosque in Kufa, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Al-Sadr who announced his withdrawal from politics four months ago has broken a period of relative silence to launch an anti-LGBTQ campaign. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)
Supporters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr pray during Friday prayers at a mosque in Kufa, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Al-Sadr who announced his withdrawal from politics four months ago has broken a period of relative silence to launch an anti-LGBTQ campaign. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)
A supporter of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr signs a pledge to stand against homosexuality or LGBTQ, outside a mosque in Kufa, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Al-Sadr who announced his withdrawal from politics four months ago has broken a period of relative silence to launch an anti-LGBTQ campaign. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)
Supporters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr pray during Friday prayers at a mosque in Kufa, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Al-Sadr who announced his withdrawal from politics four months ago has broken a period of relative silence to launch an anti-LGBTQ campaign. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)
People hold up pictures of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr during Friday prayers at a mosque in Kufa, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Al-Sadr who announced his withdrawal from politics four months ago has broken a period of relative silence to launch an anti-LGBTQ campaign. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Supporters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr sign a pledge to stand against homosexuality or LGBTQ, outside a mosque in Kufa, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Al-Sadr who announced his withdrawal from politics four months ago has broken a period of relative silence to launch an anti-LGBTQ campaign. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)

An influential Iraqi cleric who announced his withdrawal from politics four months ago has broken a period of relative silence to launch an anti-LGBTQ campaign.

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr posted a statement on Twitter Wednesday calling for “believing men and women (to) unite all over the world to combat (the LGBTQ community).”

He added that this should be done “not with violence, killing or threats, but with education and awareness, with logic and ethical methods.”

The religious leader’s call has stoked fears in the LGBTQ community, particularly given that al-Sadr’s followers have a history of violence. After the cleric announced his resignation from politics in August amid an impasse over government formation, hundreds of his angry loyalists stormed government buildings in the capital and set off clashes that left at least 30 dead.

On Friday, following the afternoon prayer session, thousands of al-Sadr’s followers lined up outside of mosques around the country to sign a pledge to “stand against (homosexuality) or (LGBTQ) by ethical, peaceful and religious means” and to demand “abolition of the homosexuality law.”

It was not clear what law the pledge was referring to. Iraq does not have a law that explicitly criminalizes homosexuality, although it has one that outlaws “immodest acts,” which Human Rights Watch has described as a “a vague provision that could be used to target sexual and gender minorities.”

Al-Sadr’s proclamation comes amid a World Cup in Qatar that has drawn international scrutiny to LGBTQ rights there and in the region more generally. Qatar, where gay sex is illegal, faced intense international scrutiny and criticism around the games, including questions over whether LGBTQ visitors would feel safe and welcome. Some fans were barred from bringing items with rainbow colors, a symbol of LGBTQ rights, into stadiums.

The Gulf nation has said all are welcome, including LGBTQ fans, but that visitors should respect the nation’s culture.

Some of those who heeded al-Sadr’s call on Friday alluded to the World Cup culture wars.

In Kufa — a town in al-Sadr’s home province of Najaf province — hundreds lined up to sign the pledge on Friday. Kazem al-Husseini, imam of a local mosque, denied that the campaign was prompted by the World Cup, noting that al-Sadr had made similar statements previously. But he added that “at the World Cup there were attempts to promote this issue by Westerners who came to the (games).”

“There is a fear that the West is putting pressure on the Arab and Islamic regimes to legitimize same-sex marriage in the constitutions and laws so that they try to normalize this perversion,” he said.

In Baghdad’s Sadr City, Ibrahim al-Jabri, who also signed the pledge, said he is standing against the “corruptions that came to us from Europe and elsewhere, what they call freedoms. We also have the freedom to reject falsehood, to reject corruption.”

Despite the campaign’s nominal commitment to non-violence, LGBTQ people in Iraq fear that it will lead to more harassment and abuse in a country where their identity already puts them in danger.

A Human Rights Watch report released earlier this year accused armed groups in Iraq of abducting, raping, torturing, and killing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people with impunity. The Iraqi government, it says, has failed to hold perpetrators accountable.

The report released by the New York-based organization in collaboration with Iraqi rights group IraQueer also accused Iraqi police and security forces of being often complicit in compounding anti-LGBTQ violence and of arresting individuals “due to non-conforming appearance.”

“Attacks against LGBT people in Iraq have long been a political tactic,” said Rasha Younes, an LGBTQ rights researcher with the group said in an emailed statement. Public speeches like al-Sadr’s “have served to undermine LGBT rights and fuel violence against LGBT Iraqis, who already face killings, abductions, torture, and sexual violence by armed groups with impunity,” she added.

A university student in Najaf who identifies as queer and who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear for their safety, said that despite not being openly LGBTQ, they have been frequently harassed in the street for wearing clothes in colors and styles that do not fit local conservative norms.

Al-Sadr’s recent “hate speech” makes them more fearful, given the past acts of violence by his followers, the student said.

“I was thinking that I would wait until I graduated from the university and then go to Europe with a study visa, but now … I am thinking of taking precautions in case of any emergency event so I flee to the nearest safe place,” they said.

China Increases Her Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

China likely to have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035: Pentagon

China likely to have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035: Pentagon 

By Reuters  •  Updated: 30/11/2022 – 13:40

China likely to have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035: Pentagon   –   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON – China will likely have a stockpile of 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035 if it continues with its current nuclear buildup pace, according to a report released by the Pentagon on Tuesday.

The figure underscores mounting U.S. concerns about China’s intentions for its expanding nuclear arsenal, even though the projections do not suggest China is accelerating the pace of its already-brisk warhead development.

“They’ve got a rapid buildup that is kind of too substantial to keep under wraps,” a senior U.S. defense official said during a news briefing on the Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military.

“It does raise questions about whether they’re kind of shifting away from a strategy that was premised on what they referred to as a lean and effective deterrent.”

The report, which primarily covers activities in 2021, said China currently has a nuclear stockpile of more than 400 warheads.

The Pentagon’s projection for China’s nuclear arsenal of 1,000 warheads by 2030 remained unchanged, the official said, adding the projection for 2035 was based on an unchanged pace of expansion.

China says its arsenal is dwarfed by those of the United States and Russia, and that it is ready for dialogue, but only if Washington reduces its nuclear stockpile to China’s level.

The United States has a stockpile of about 3,700 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 1,740 were deployed, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) think-tank.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping signaled during a Communist Party Congress in October that China would strengthen its strategic deterrent, a term often used to describe nuclear weapons.

The report reiterated concern about increasing pressure by Beijing on self-ruled Taiwan, an island China sees as a breakaway province.

The U.S. official said Washington did not see an invasion of Taiwan as imminent.

IRGC Commander Praises Khamenei For Nuking Up: Daniel 8

IRGC commander Hossein Salami speaking on December 1, 2022

IRGC commander Hossein Salami speaking on December 1, 2022

IRGC Commander Praises Khamenei For Not Needing A Nuclear Deal

8 hours ago3 minutes

Author: Iran International Newsroom

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says the Supreme Leader wants to reach a point where having a nuclear deal with the West will make no difference for Iran.

Speaking to a large crowd on Thursday, General Hossein Salami also tried to present the IRGC and its paramilitary Basij as “servants of the people,” amid a popular uprising in which security forces have so far killed around 450 civilians since mid-September.

Salami repeated regime slogans about “independence” and “self-sufficiency” and said, Khamenei “has turned a few issues into a matter of pride that America cannot swallow. One of these is his strong stand on the issue of JCPOA, and it has reached a stage when the acceptance or rejection of the JCPOA has no importance for Iran.”

After 18 months of indirect negotiations by the Biden Administration to revive the 2015 nuclear accord known as the JCPOA, talks broke down in early September, when the US rejected excessive demands by Iran.

Salami also praised the 83-year-old authoritarian ruler for spreading the influence of the Islamic Republic to other countries, adding that “enemies” cannot accept “this development.”

The Islamic regime uses the term “enemies” to refer to the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and lately Western Europe, as many countries have criticized its use of deadly violence against protesters.

Many countries raise the issue of Tehran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East, by financially and militarily building a network of militant groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.

People celebrating in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj after the Islamic Republic’s soccer team lost against the US and exit the World Cup on November 29, 2022

People celebrating in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj after the Islamic Republic’s soccer team lost against the US and exit the World Cup on November 29, 2022

The IRGC commander then went on repeating accusations made by Khamenei and other officials in the past two months against “enemies” for plotting to destroy Iran. At the same time, he claimed that Iran has become a “powerful force” and “the enemy is fleeing from the Islamic world.”

For this reason, he claimed, the United States is fomenting unrest in Iran, but the Iranian people “are standing up to America.”

In fact, thousands of Iranians across the country celebrated the defeat of Iran’s team by the US side in the World Cup on Tuesday, seeing the loss as a defeat for the regime that tries to use sports to strengthen its image.

The United States has repeatedly dismissed accusations that it has anything to do with the anti-regime protests. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that one of the “profound mistakes” that the “regime makes is in accusing the United States or any other country” of somehow being “responsible for, instigating what’s happening. That’s not at all the case. And to misunderstand their own people is at the heart of the problem that they’re facing.”

But the Biden Administration has also voiced support for Iranians to have the right to peacefully protest and officials have met with Iranian activists to underline that policy.

Blinken in a separate interview with NBC also reiterated the administration’s policy, saying “the most important thing that we can do is first to speak out very clearly ourselves in support of the people’s right to protest peacefully, to make their views known, and as I said, to take what steps we can take to go after those who are actually oppressing those rights, including through sanctions.”

Iranians mainly blame Khamenei, the Revolutionary Guard and its Basij paramilitaries for deadly use of violence against protesters. Many have reached the point that they will accept nothing short of a complete regime change and the establishment of a secular, democratic political system.

Russia Will Build Up Her Nuclear Horn: Revelation 16

Russia to bolster its nuclear weapons ‘infrastucture’

Wed, November 30, 2022 at 5:42 AM

STORY: Shoigu said in televised comments that the Russia would also work to improve the combat capabilities of its missile forces and that facilities were being built to accommodate new missile systems.

President Vladimir Putin has placed territory seized by Russia in Ukraine under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella, warning that he is ready to defend Russia’s “territorial integrity” by all available means. The United States says it has warned Russia over the consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.

Russia and the United States were due to hold talks in Cairo this week on their existing New START treaty, which limits the number of warheads each can deploy.

But Moscow pulled out on the eve of the meeting, accusing the United States of toxic anti-Russian behavior and trying to manipulate the treaty to its advantage.