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ISLAMABAD – A day after India slammed Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for his “uncivilised outburst” at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) leader Shazia Marri has threatened India with nuclear war.
In a news conference with Bol News, she said, “India should not forget that Pakistan has an atom bomb. Our nuclear status is not meant to remain silent. We will not back down if the need arises.”
She was holding a press conference in support of Bilawal Bhutto and spewed venom against India. Shazia threatened India and said that if the Modi government will fight, then he will get the answer. The status of a nuclear state given to Pakistan has not been given to remain silent. Pakistan also knows how to answer, she said.
Shazia’s statement comes at a time when Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto is being slammed in India for unleashing a personal attack on PM Modi and also hitting out at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
In a press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations Security Council session in America, Bilawal Bhutto alleged that the government of India was influenced by Hitler instead of Mahatma Gandhi.
In response to media queries on Bilawal’s ‘uncivilised’ remarks, the official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, Arindam Bagchi, said, “These comments are a new low, even for Pakistan. Pakistan’s foreign minister’s frustration would be better directed towards the masterminds of terrorist enterprises in his own country, who have made terrorism a part of their state policy. Pakistan needs to change its own mindset or remain a pariah.”
In reply to a question from a Pakistani journalist, who accused India of spreading terror, Jaishankar replied,” You are asking the wrong minister when you say how long will we do this. It is the ministers of Pakistan who will tell how long Pakistan intends to practise terrorism.”
Incidentally, Pakistan was included in the grey list of FATF several times for incubating terrorism. devdiscourse.com
Arush of Chinese military activity across the region this month has capped off a year of increased aggression, as President Xi Jinping displays China’s increased military might despite economic struggles and the impact of the zero-Covid policy and its sudden end.
This month the People’s Liberation Army – the Chinese Communist party’s military wing – has broadened its aerial incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (Adiz), come to blows with Indian troops in the Himalayas, run military drills near Japan and participated in major joint exercises with Russia.
“Three of the five [PLA] theatre commands are involved in operations centred around their specific mission areas, which is definitely an impressive feat,” said an independent defence analyst, Ben Lewis. “I think this is a clear demonstration of how far along the PLA is in its development process, which is based on its desire to conduct operations in support of its wide variety of objectives simultaneously.”
On Wednesday the PLA sent 39 warplanes and three naval vessels into Taiwan’s Adiz, with many on a path around the south-east corner of the island. Such a trajectory used to be rare but this year they and other escalated acts have become more common.
After the US House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan in August, the PLA surrounded the main island with massive live-fire exercises, repeatedly crossing the median line, an unofficial maritime border between Taiwan and China. Such crossings have continued, significantly raising the bar of what is considered regular activity.
Last week a record number of 16 nuclear-capable H-6 bombers were among the PLA aircraft crossing into the Adiz.
This week Chinese state media reported “unprecedented” Chinese naval exercises in the Philippine Sea, crossing the Osumi and Miyako straits between Taiwan and Japan. The flotilla contained a record number of destroyers, according to the Global Times, including the Liaoning aircraft carrier, which had not been spotted in any public exercises for months, even during the post-Pelosi drills.
It came just days after Japan announced a defence budget increase and new defence strategies in which China was labelled an unprecedented “strategic challenge”. Chinese state media characterised the mission as crossing “beyond the first island chain” to send a message amid “Japan’s recent militaristic moves”.
And on Monday Russia announced joint naval exercises with China, to begin on Wednesday. The Russian defence ministry said the Varyag missile cruiser, the Marshal Shaposhnikov destroyer and two corvettes of Russia’s Pacific fleet would take part in manoeuvres in the East China Sea, and that the Chinese navy planned to deploy several surface warships and a submarine for the exercise.
The drills are a sign of China and Russia’s strengthening military ties. This year, Xi and Vladimir Putin announced a limitless friendship, weeks before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Xi has had to balance that friendship with global condemnation of the invasion, but the Chinese Communist party has largely been supportive of Russia – at times explicitly endorsing the invasion – and the two have grown closer militarily.
In November the two air forces flew joint patrols over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, with Russian bombers landing in China for the first time and Chinese bombers flying to an airbase in Russia. In September, China for the first time sent forces from three branches of the military to participate in joint exercises with Russian troops.
Lewis said the clash, which occurred around the line of actual control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh, shared similarities with the Taiwan Adiz flights in that they appeared to be attempting to raise the bar of normal activity.
“The PLA has diverted significant resources to develop military infrastructure and forces near the LAC,” he said. “They used this attack to change the status quo in the area while pretending that their high number of forces pulling back from the LAC was a de-escalation.”
At the same time as the heightened military activity, China is experience a surge in Covid cases, and likely deaths, after abruptly lifting restrictions. The health system is straining, the economy is facing new struggles with widespread reports of absenteeism due to sick employees, and there is fear and confusion among the population.
“I think it’s worth considering in the light of ending zero-Covid that operations are still clearly a priority and that the PLA is managing Covid sufficiently to keep their operational tempo at this level,” said Blake Herzinger, a nonresident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute thinktank.
“But to some extent it’s also just what we should expect from the military that Xi wants to build.”
Analysts also said all the activity potentially served a propaganda purpose while Covid surges through China and causes political problems for Xi, as well as serious social and health problems for the population.
“For China watchers/western media, military exercises do better in the news cycle than Covid because they are relatively novel,” Lewis said. “For state-run media, it keeps up the strong China message that Beijing is hoping to push.”
M Taylor Fravel, a professor of political science and director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s security studies programme, noted that state media reporting of PLA exercises was traditionally selective and never gave a full picture of the “operational tempo”.
“Now, all the state media attention to these various exercises may have another purpose,” he said. “Namely, to show that despite the outbreak China remains a strong and capable military power, lest anyone might think China would soften its position in various international disputes.”
Why it matters: It’s the strongest confirmation so far that the Biden administration believes there’s no path forward for the Iran deal, which leaves key questions about the future of Tehran’s nuclear program.
Driving the news: Biden made the remark in a short conversation with a woman who attended an election rally in Oceanside, California.
The woman asked Biden to announce that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the Iran deal is formally known, is dead.
Biden responded that he would not “for a lot of reasons.”
But then he added: “It is dead, but we are not gonna announce it. Long story.”
The woman replied that the Iranian regime doesn’t represent the people. “I know they don’t represent you. But they will have a nuclear weapon that they’ll represent,” he said.
What they’re saying: “The JCPOA is not our focus right now. It’s not on the agenda,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson told Axios.
“We don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon,” the spokesperson said, pointing to Iran’s crackdown on protesters and support for Russia in the war in Ukraine. “Our focus is on practical ways to confront them in these areas.”
At times he has called for a national rebellion against foreign troops and sent out his Mehdi Army militiamen to confront the “invaders” and Iraqi security forces.
At others he has appeared more compromising, seeking for himself a political role within the new Iraq and helping form the national unity government in December 2010.
He returned to Iraq on 5 January 2011. Weeks before the withdrawal of US troops from the country, as negotiations were ongoing between Baghdad and Washington over a possible extension of their mission, he threatened to reactivate the Mehdi Army in case an extension is agreed. Prayer leader The youngest son of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq Sadr – who was assassinated in 1999, reportedly by Iraqi agents – Moqtada Sadr was virtually unknown outside Iraq before the March 2003 invasion.
But the collapse of Baathist rule revealed his power base – a network of Shia charitable institutions founded by his father.
Moqtada Sadr was virtually unknown outside Iraq before the invasion, but quickly gained a following In the first weeks following the US-led invasion, Moqtada Sadr’s followers patrolled the streets of Baghdad’s Shia suburbs, distributing food, providing healthcare and taking on many of the functions of local government.
They also changed the name of the Saddam City area to Sadr City. Moqtada Sadr also continued his father’s practice of holding Friday prayers to project his voice to a wider audience.
The practice undermined the traditional system of seniority in Iraqi Shia politics and contributed to the development of rivalries with two of Iraq’s Grand Ayatollahs, Kazim al-Hairi and Ali Sistani.
Moqtada Sadr also used his Friday sermons to express vocal opposition to the US-led occupation and the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC).
In June 2003, he established a militia group, the Mehdi Army, pledging to protect the Shia religious authorities in the holy city of Najaf.
He also set up a weekly newspaper, al-Hawzah, which the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) banned in March 2004 for inciting anti-US violence. The move caused fighting to break out between the Mehdi Army and US-led coalition forces in Najaf, Sadr City and Basra.
The following month, the US said an Iraqi judge had issued an arrest warrant for Moqtada Sadr in connection with the murder of the moderate Shia leader, Abdul Majid al-Khoei, in April 2003. Moqtada Sadr strongly denied any role.
The Mehdi Army was involved in fierce fighting with US forces in August 2004 in Najaf. Hostilities between the Mehdi Army and US forces resumed in August 2004 in Najaf and did not stop until Ayatollah Sistani brokered a ceasefire. The fighting left hundreds dead and wounded.
During the negotiations for a truce, the Americans also reportedly agreed to lay aside the warrant for Moqtada Sadr.
The fierce clashes continued in Sadr City, however, and only ended in October after the Mehdi Army had sustained heavy losses. Political power
Though costly, the violence cemented Moqtada Sadr’s standing as a force to be reckoned with in Iraq. Supporters of Moqtada Sadr have performed strongly in all elections since the 2003 invasion
He became a symbol of resistance to foreign occupation – a counterpoint to established Shia groups such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) and the Daawa Party.
Despite this, Moqtada Sadr chose to join his rivals’ coalition for the December 2005 elections – the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).
The alliance had easily won Iraq’s first post-invasion election the previous January, and with the Sadr Bloc on board again came out on top.
In the months of government negotiations that followed, Moqtada Sadr used his influence to push for the appointment of Nouri Maliki, then Daawa’s deputy leader, as prime minister. In return, his supporters got powerful positions in the cabinet.
At the same time, extremist Sunni Islamist militant groups – increasingly supported by Iraq’s marginalised Sunni Arab minority – had begun to target the Shia community, not just foreign troops.
Insurgents attacked Shia Islam’s most important shrines and killed many Shia politicians, clerics, soldiers, police and civilians. In 2006 and 2007, thousands of people were killed as the sectarian conflict raged in Iraq.
As the sectarian violence worsened, the Mehdi Army was increasingly accused of carrying out reprisal attacks against Sunni Arabs.
In 2006 and 2007, thousands of people were killed as the sectarian conflict raged. The Iraqi security forces seemed unable to stop the violence, though many blamed this on the infiltration of the interior and defence ministries by the Mehdi Army and other Shia militias.
One Pentagon report described the Mehdi Army as the greatest threat to Iraq’s security – even more so than al-Qaeda in Iraq. Iran was accused of arming it with sophisticated bombs used in attacks on coalition forces.
Then in early 2007, after US President George W Bush ordered a troop “surge” in Iraq, it was reported that Moqtada Sadr had left for Iran and told his supporters
In August 2007, heavy fighting broke out between the Mehdi Army and Sciri’s Badr Brigade in Karbala, leaving many dead. In March 2008, the Iraqi government ordered a major offensive against the Mehdi Army in Basra
The internecine fighting was condemned by many Shia, and Moqtada Sadr was forced to declare a ceasefire.
In March 2008, Mr Maliki ordered a major offensive against the militia in the southern city.
At first, the Mehdi Army seemed to have fended off the government’s attempts to gain control of Basra. But within weeks, it had accepted a truce negotiated by Iran, and the Iraqi army consolidated its hold.
US and Iraqi forces also moved into Sadr City, sparking fierce clashes but also eventually emerging victorious.
In August 2008, Moqtada Sadr ordered a halt to armed operations. He declared that the Mehdi Army would be transformed into a cultural and social organisation, although it would retain a special unit of fighters who would continue armed resistance against occupying forces.
He meanwhile devoted his time to theological studies in the Iranian holy city of Qom, in the hope of eventually becoming an ayatollah.
Analysts say the title would grant him religious legitimacy and allow him to mount a more serious challenge to the conservative clerical establishment in Iraq.
At the same time, he built on the gains of the Sadr Bloc in the 2005 elections to increase his political influence. His supporters performed strongly in the 2009 local elections and made gains in the March 2010 parliamentary polls as the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), ending up with 40 seats.
The result made Moqtada Sadr the kingmaker in the new parliament. He toyed initially with backing Mr Maliki’s rival for the premiership, but in June agreed to a merger between the INA and the prime minister’s State of Law coalition.
Then in October, he was finally persuaded by Iran to drop his objection to Mr Maliki’s reappointment in return for eight posts in the cabinet.
Secure in his standing, Moqtada Sadr returned from Iran in January to scenes of jubilation.
Half a million earthquakes occur worldwide each year, according to an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most are too small to rattle your teacup. But some, like the 2011 quake off the coast of Japan or last year’s disaster in Italy, can level high-rise buildings, knock out power, water and communications, and leave a lifelong legacy of trauma for those unlucky enough to be caught in them.
In the U.S., the focus is on California’s San Andreas fault, which geologists suggest has a nearly one-in-five chance of causing a major earthquake in the next three decades. But it’s not just the faults we know about that should concern us, says Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake. As she explained when National Geographic caught up with her at her home in Portland, Maine, there’s a much larger number of faults we don’t know about—and fracking is only adding to the risks.
When it comes to earthquakes, there is really only one question everyone wants to know: When will the big one hit California?
That’s the question seismologists wish they could answer, too! One of the most shocking and surprising things for me is just how little is actually known about this natural phenomenon. The geophysicists, seismologists, and emergency managers that I spoke with are the first to say, “We just don’t know!”
What we can say is that it is relatively certain that a major earthquake will happen in California in our lifetime. We don’t know where or when. An earthquake happening east of San Diego out in the desert is going to have hugely different effects than that same earthquake happening in, say, Los Angeles. They’re both possible, both likely, but we just don’t know.
One of the things that’s important to understand about San Andreas is that it’s a fault zone. As laypeople we tend to think about it as this single crack that runs through California and if it cracks enough it’s going to dump the state into the ocean. But that’s not what’s happening here. San Andreas is a huge fault zone, which goes through very different types of geological features. As a result, very different types of earthquakes can happen in different places.
As Charles Richter, inventor of the Richter Scale, famously said, “Only fools, liars and charlatans predict earthquakes.” Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? After all, we have sent rockets into space and plumbed the depths of the ocean.
You’re right: We know far more about distant galaxies than we do about the inner workings of our planet. The problem is that seismologists can’t study an earthquake because they don’t know when or where it’s going to happen. It could happen six miles underground or six miles under the ocean, in which case they can’t even witness it. They can go back and do forensic, post-mortem work. But we still don’t know where most faults lie. We only know where a fault is after an earthquake has occurred. If you look at the last 100 years of major earthquakes in the U.S., they’ve all happened on faults we didn’t even know existed.
Earthquakes are unpredictable and can strike with enough force to bring buildings down. Find out what causes earthquakes, why they’re so deadly, and what’s being done to help buildings sustain their hits.
Fracking is a relatively new industry. Many people believe that it can cause what are known as induced earthquakes. What’s the scientific consensus?
The scientific consensus is that a practice known as wastewater injection undeniably causes earthquakes when the geological features are conducive. In the fracking process, water and lubricants are injected into the earth to split open the rock, so oil and natural gas can be retrieved. As this happens, wastewater is also retrieved and brought back to the surface.
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Different states deal with this in different ways. Some states, like Pennsylvania, favor letting the wastewater settle in aboveground pools, which can cause run-off contamination of drinking supplies. Other states, like Oklahoma, have chosen to re-inject the water into the ground. And what we’re seeing in Oklahoma is that this injection is enough to shift the pressure inside the earth’s core, so that daily earthquakes are happening in communities like Stillwater. As our technology improves, and both our ability and need to extract more resources from the earth increases, our risk of causing earthquakes will also rise exponentially.
After Fukushima, the idea of storing nuclear waste underground cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Yet President Trump has recently green-lighted new funds for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Is that wise?
The issue with Fukushima was not about underground nuclear storage but it is relevant. The Tohoku earthquake, off the coast of Japan, was a massive, 9.0 earthquake—so big that it shifted the axis of the earth and moved the entire island of Japan some eight centimeters! It also created a series of tsunamis, which swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant to a degree the designers did not believe was possible.
Here in the U.S., we have nuclear plants that are also potentially vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, above all on the East Coast, like Pilgrim Nuclear, south of Boston, or Indian Point, north of New York City. Both of these have been deemed by the USGS to have an unacceptable level of seismic risk. [Both are scheduled to close in the next few years.]
Yucca Mountain is meant to address our need to store the huge amounts of nuclear waste that have been accumulating for more than 40 years. Problem number one is getting it out of these plants. We are going to have to somehow truck or train these spent fuel rods from, say, Boston, to a place like Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. On the way it will have to go through multiple earthquake zones, including New Madrid, which is widely considered to be one of the country’s most dangerous earthquake zones.
Yucca Mountain itself has had seismic activity. Ultimately, there’s no great place to put nuclear waste—and there’s no guarantee that where we do put it is going to be safe.
The psychological and emotional effects of an earthquake are especially harrowing. Why is that?
This is a fascinating and newly emerging subfield within psychology, which looks at the effects of natural disasters on both our individual and collective psyches. Whenever you experience significant trauma, you’re going to see a huge increase in PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide, and even violent behaviors.
What seems to make earthquakes particularly pernicious is the surprise factor. A tornado will usually give people a few minutes, if not longer, to prepare; same thing with hurricanes. But that doesn’t happen with an earthquake. There is nothing but profound surprise. And the idea that the bedrock we walk and sleep upon can somehow become liquid and mobile seems to be really difficult for us to get our heads around.
Psychologists think that there are two things happening. One is a PTSD-type loop where our brain replays the trauma again and again, manifesting itself in dreams or panic attacks during the day. But there also appears to be a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. If your readers have ever been at sea for some time and then get off the ship and try to walk on dry land, they know they will look like drunkards. [Laughs] The reason for this is that the inner ear has habituated itself to the motion of the ship. We think the inner ear does something similar in the case of earthquakes, in an attempt to make sense of this strange, jarring movement.
After the Abruzzo quake in Italy, seven seismologists were actually tried and sentenced to six years in jail for failing to predict the disaster. Wouldn’t a similar threat help improve the prediction skills of American seismologists?
[Laughs] The scientific community was uniform in denouncing that action by the Italian government because, right now, earthquakes are impossible to predict. But the question of culpability is an important one. To what degree do we want to hold anyone responsible? Do we want to hold the local meteorologist responsible if he gets the weather forecast wrong? [Laughs]
What scientists say—and I don’t think this is a dodge on their parts—is, “Predicting earthquakes is the Holy Grail; it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. It may never happen.” What we can do is work on early warning systems, where we can at least give people 30 or 90 seconds to make a few quick decisive moves that could well save your life. We have failed to do that. But Mexico has had one in place for years!
There is some evidence that animals can predict earthquakes. Is there any truth to these theories?
All we know right now is anecdotal information because this is so hard to test for. We don’t know where the next earthquake is going to be so we can’t necessarily set up cameras and observe the animals there. So we have to rely on these anecdotal reports, say, of reptiles coming out of the ground prior to a quake. The one thing that was recorded here in the U.S. recently was that in the seconds before an earthquake in Oklahoma huge flocks of birds took flight. Was that coincidence? Related? We can’t draw that correlation yet.
One of the fascinating new approaches to prediction is the MyQuake app. Tell us how it works—and why it could be an especially good solution for Third World countries.
The USGS desperately wants to have it funded. The reluctance appears to be from Congress. A consortium of universities, in conjunction with the USGS, has been working on some fascinating tools. One is a dense network of seismographs that feed into a mainframe computer, which can take all the information and within nanoseconds understand that an earthquake is starting.
MyQuake is an app where you can get up to date information on what’s happening around the world. What’s fascinating is that our phones can also serve as seismographs. The same technology that knows which way your phone is facing, and whether it should show us an image in portrait or landscape, registers other kinds of movement. Scientists at UC Berkeley are looking to see if they can crowd source that information so that in places where we don’t have a lot of seismographs or measuring instruments, like New York City or Chicago or developing countries like Nepal, we can use smart phones both to record quakes and to send out early warning notices to people.
You traveled all over the U.S. for your research. Did you return home feeling safer?
I do not feel safer in the sense that I had no idea just how much risk regions of this country face on a daily basis when it comes to seismic hazards. We tend to think of this as a West Coast problem but it’s not! It’s a New York, Memphis, Seattle, or Phoenix problem. Nearly every major urban center in this country is at risk of a measurable earthquake.
What I do feel safer about is knowing what I can do as an individual. I hope that is a major take-home message for people who read the book. There are so many things we should be doing as individuals, family members, or communities to minimize this risk: simple things from having a go-bag and an emergency plan amongst the family to larger things like building codes.
We know that a major earthquake is going to happen. It’s probably going to knock out our communications lines. Phones aren’t going to work, Wi-Fi is going to go down, first responders are not going to be able to get to people for quite some time. So it is beholden on all of us to make sure we can survive until help can get to us.
Israel’s Border Guard Police, Shin Bet intelligence agents and IDF soldiers arrested a suspect Wednesday who is wanted in connection with a drive by shooting attack that took place last Friday near the Gilad Farm in Samaria.
The suspect, 25-year-old Mujahid al-Talfiti, is a member of Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization.
Talfiti and two other suspects are accused of opening fire at an Israeli driver near Gilad Farm. The gunfire, at least four shots, miraculously missed the driver’s head, hitting the headrest of his seat instead, also shattering the windows of his car.
The driver was not physically injured in the attack.