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.

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.

US, Russia & France Are ‘Pushing’ Germany Towards Becoming a Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

US, Russia & France Are ‘Pushing’ Germany Towards Nukes; Berlin Drafting Its 1st Ever National Security Strategy

ByEurAsian Times Desk

November 21, 2022

Among its other fallouts, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has energized the Atlantic Alliance (Europe on one side of the Ocean and the US on the other) like never before in the post–Cold War era. Some pundits say that the alliance under the United States’ leadership may have reached its peak.

But at the same time, the two foremost powers of Europe – France and Germany – seem very particular about the importance of “strategic autonomy” and lessening Europe’s dependence on the US for its security by building the prowess of their militaries.

And here, the significant trend is the growing recognition of the need to develop and strengthen “European Nuclear Weapons.”

The capture of the US House of Representatives by the Republicans and the announcement of former President Donald Trump for the Presidency in 2024 have further strengthened this trend of ‘autonomy’ in both Germany and France.

They are mindful of the Trump Presidency’s repeated admonishment to European countries for not sharing enough for their security at the cost of American taxpayers.

As Jeremy Shapiro, research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations, apprehends, the Republicans will again ask why Americans should pay more than Ukraine’s neighbors.

All told, while the US has already spent billions of dollars and is committed to more than $40 billion in military aid for Ukraine, Europe has pledged only half that.

French President Macron’s Stance For The Nation’s Future

Against this backdrop, one may see the timing of French President Emmanuel Macron’s unveiling on November 9 of France’s “national strategic review,” meant to define how the country’s defense will look in 2030.

Macron said France wants to be an “independent, respected, agile power at the heart of European strategic autonomy” with strong links to the Atlantic alliance.

He added that France wanted to focus on boosting the European Union’s defense capacity building, lessening the dependence of the bloc of 27 nations’ security dependence on the US and NATO.

Of course, Macron has consistently argued the above theme of Europe building its strength. After interviewing him, the Economist magazine wrote, “Europe has become dependent on others for too much—from its ability to innovate to military heft and even food.

In a world led by unreliable folk like Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin, that set his nerves jangling. Europe, in Mr. Macron’s jargon, needs strategic autonomy. That pitch for greater sovereignty encompasses everything from more defense spending to Europe coming up with its tech giants and much else besides.”

Importantly, in his “national strategic review,” the French President has insisted that a “credible, modern” nuclear deterrence is the key. After BREXIT, France became the only EU country with nuclear weapons. “Our nuclear forces contribute through their existence to the security of France and Europe,” he said.

But, and it is exceptionally significant, Macron also made it clear that “a potential nuclear ballistic attack from Russia in the region would not bring any nuclear response from Paris.” He said that France’s doctrine “is based on what we call the fundamental interests of the nation. They would not at all be at stake” in such a situation.

In other words, Macron says that the French nuclear weapons are for France only. And this, in turn, seems to have revived a debate in Germany about developing a nuclear deterrent of its own.

This is an issue that few in Germany wanted to discuss until recently, given its history and aversion to all things nuclear. All the more so after the 2021 general elections that ended a 16-year-long streak of conservative governments under Angela Merkel.

The country today has a government of a broad coalition of three parties from the left and the right – the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP), and the Greens. Both the SPD and the Left Greens, particularly the latter, are big-time votaries of nuclear disarmament and the closure of even civilian nuclear plants.

The last time it was in the government (1988), the Greens party had argued strongly to replace NATO with a European peace order. Even during election campaigns last year, the Greens had proposed a Germany free of nuclear weapons.

But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed all that. The German government, led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), has not only pledged to spend at least two percent of a country’s gross domestic product for defense purposes but also supported the sharing of NATO’s nuclear weaponry on German soil.

Germany Leans Toward Nuclear Weapons

Reportedly, the German government is now drafting a first-ever national security strategy, which is expected to be made public early next year, and will talk of retaining a credible nuclear deterrence through Germany’s NATO membership.

The public debate at present in Germany also shows that as the international security environment deteriorates, military options and new nuclear armaments are becoming more attractive among political leaders.

Even otherwise, in a June 2022 poll, most interviewees supported hosting US nuclear weapons in Germany. This starkly contrasted with previous years when many Germans in polls favored removing these weapons from the country.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz

Of course, under the previous German government of Angela Merkel of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), there were calls for a “Euro-deterrent” (independent of US nuclear weapons through NATO).

The leading defense expert of the Christian Democrats in the Bundestag, Roderich Kiesewetter, made this case. And Roderich Kiesewetter, a lawmaker and foreign policy spokesman with then Germany’s ruling party, had elaborated this line of thinking.

This “Euro deterrent” by its advocates did not necessarily mean that Germany would make nuclear weapons in violation of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT). It meant supporting and financing those European countries that already had nuclear weapons – France and the United Kingdom.

“My idea is to build on the existing weapons in Great Britain and France,” Kiesewetter argued while acknowledging that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union could preclude its participation.

Kiesewetter’s thesis had four ingredients: “a French pledge to commit its weapons to a common European defense, German financing to demonstrate the program’s collective nature, a joint command, and a plan to place French warheads in other European countries.”

This thesis of a “Euro-deterrent,” provided by the French strategic forces, is being reasserted today by Friedrich Merz, the leader of the CDU. His party colleague and head of the conservative European People’s Party in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, has even proposed that Germany fund the French “force de frappe.”

However, the problem with the German idea of a “Euro-deterrent” has met a significant setback, and that is the irony, with the latest French national strategic review and President Macron’s announcement that the French deterrent is there to protect and defend French territory, and does not extend to its European partners.

And this, in turn, may lead to the revival of the public demand that the country should have its nuclear weapons. Germany had a discussion in the late 1960s about whether it should have a nuclear force, something that then Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss had strongly advocated.

As Stephen F Szabo, Adjunct Professor at the BMW Center for German and European Studies, Georgetown University, and author of “Germany, Russia and the Rise of Geo-economics,” writes, “A nuclear North Korea, a nuclear-curious Iran, and the prospect of Japan and South Korea becoming nuclear powers begs the question: Why should Germany stay behind given its power and centrality to European security?”

A pertinent question, indeed!

  • Author and veteran journalist Prakash Nanda has been commenting on politics, foreign policy on strategic affairs for nearly three decades. A former National Fellow of the Indian Council for Historical Research and recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize Scholarship, he is also a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

Iraq Pushes Back the Iranian Horn: Daniel 8

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi walks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani during a welcoming ceremony in Tehran, Iran Nov. 29, 2022. (Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi walks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani during a welcoming ceremony in Tehran, Iran Nov. 29, 2022. (Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout)

New Iraqi Prime Minister Tells Iran’s Supreme Leader that Baghdad Will Stop Attacks Against It

November 30, 2022 10:14 PM


Iraq’s new prime minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, met Iran’s top leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, during his first important trip abroad since being named to head the government by the Iraqi parliament.

Sudani told journalists in Tehran after meeting Khamenei, that Iraq would not allow any attacks on its neighbor from inside its territory and that its security forces are being deployed along the two countries’ common border.

He said that his government is committed to enforcing the Iraqi constitution and preventing any groups or parties from damaging Iran’s security and that Iraq’s national security advisor will meet with his Iranian counterpart to coordinate operations on the ground.

Sudani added that Iraq considers dialogue and mutual comprehension to be the best policy to solve problems on the ground.

SEE ALSO:

Iran Bolsters Border Security to Prevent ‘Infiltration’

Hussein Allawi, a top adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, told Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV that Sudani’s top priorities in his meetings with Iran’s leaders are to have detailed and sincere talks that will not drag out for a long period of time that cover the issues of Iran cutting off the flow of water to Iraq and Iran’s recent bombardment of Iraqi territory.

The prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan visited Baghdad recently to meet with Sudani and coordinate the deployment of Iraqi security forces, including Kurdish Peshmerga forces, along Iran’s border to prevent any infiltration or attacks on Iran and any further Iranian military response to such attacks.

Iraqi media reported that Sudani also discussed Iran’s supplying of gas and electricity to Iraq, in addition to trade issues and joint oil and gas exploration along the two country’s border.

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, told VOA that relations between Iraq and Iran are in total disequilibrium and that Prime Minister Sudani is a political ally of Iran who is going to Tehran to give an account of his government’s actions.

He said that Iran worked to have Sudani named prime minister even though allies of the Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr won parliamentary elections. He said they allegedly threatened Sadr and his family, which lives in Iran, to desist from choosing a prime minister, so that Iran could have influence over the government in Baghdad. Sudani, he argued, is visiting Iran like a favorite son returning home.

Abou Diab stressed that Iraq has absolutely no leverage in its dealings with Iran and will have to accept whatever Iran decides, due to the totally unbalanced relations between the two countries, both economically and politically.

Iranian media reported that Vice President Mohammad Mokhber told Sudani that countries in the region must solve their security problems among themselves, rather than resorting to outside parties. Iranian officials have made similar statements in the past.

China’s expanding nuclear arsenal to preempt the Australian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

China’s expanding nuclear arsenal to preempt ‘hostile activities’ in region: Analyst
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 Nov 29. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

China’s expanding nuclear arsenal to preempt ‘hostile activities’ in region: Analyst

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 by the Pentagon. 

Calvin Yang

30 Nov 2022 07:20PM(Updated: 30 Nov 2022 08:36PM)

SINGAPORE: Concerned with various alliances forming in its backyard, China may take on a more offensive nuclear posture, said a defence analyst on Wednesday (Nov 30).

Beijing “has to adopt a more offensive stance with regards to the use of its nuclear weapons”, as the geostrategic environment around China continues to change dramatically, said Mr Ridzwan Rahmat, principal defence analyst at defence intelligence company Janes.

According to a report out of the United States, China will likely have a stockpile of 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035 if it continues with its current nuclear buildup pace. 

The figures released by the Pentagon on Tuesday underscore mounting concerns over China’s intentions for its expanding nuclear arsenal, with a US official stating that the Asian superpower has a rapid buildup too substantial to keep under wraps. 

China is worried about the type of alliances that are currently forming in its backyard, Mr Ridzwan told CNA’s Asia Now.

This includes the AUKUS trilateral security pact between Australia, Britain and the US, which facilitates cooperation on security issues in the Indo-Pacific.

It will equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, which China views as a hostile move and has repeatedly criticised as an act of nuclear proliferation. 

“I think the Chinese nuclear programme has evolved, from a point where it was purely a defensive weapon to a point where it’s now being postured as a weapon to preempt any hostile activities surrounding that particular region,” said Mr Ridzwan. 

When its nuclear programme started more than 50 years ago, the preoccupation in China’s strategic calculations was the reunification with Taiwan and to ensure that its territorial sovereignty was not violated, he said. 

“The nuclear weapon was viewed, at that point of time, as something that might guarantee its survival.”

However, the dynamics have since shifted, with observers calling China’s rapid military buildup as a strategic breakout from its minimum deterrence nuclear posture. 

The Pentagon’s latest annual report on China’s military said the country currently has a nuclear stockpile of more than 400 warheads.

The estimate for 2035 was based on an unchanged pace of military buildup, a US official said after the report was released. 

CHINA TO BOOST ITS STRATEGIC DETERRENT

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

During the Communist Party Congress in October, Chinese President Xi Jinping noted that China would boost its strategic deterrent, a term typically used to describe nuclear weapons.

The Pentagon’s report reiterated concerns about mounting pressure by Beijing on Taiwan, but Washington does not see an invasion of the island as imminent.

Mr Ridzwan believes any reunification attempts with Taiwan will “probably be carried out by conventional forces rather than nuclear forces”. 

“While the Taiwan Strait crisis itself is the catalyst for China’s nuclear programme, I don’t think it will be the tool that China will deploy in the event that it needs to reunify with Taiwan by force,” he added. 

Meanwhile, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said earlier this week that China has what it takes to dissuade North Korea from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. 

However, Mr Ridzwan does not believe there is any interest for Beijing to curtail Pyongyang’s nuclear programme. 

He added that North Korea’s preparations for resuming the testing of nuclear weapons is going to complicate deterrence calculations for the US. 

“And from China’s point of view, any complications to the Americans will be in Beijing’s favour, given how Beijing is very concerned about the security roadblocks that have formed around its territorial areas,” he added

Predicting the Sixth Seal in New York: Revelation 6

A geologist taking measurements by a boulder.

A geologist heads to the hills to study precariously perched boulders, which could provide clues to the frequency of the rare major quakes that shake the region.

By Ben McGrath

November 28, 2022

Illustration by João Fazenda

    Every now and then, the ground trembles, in some places more often and more dramatically than in others. New York is no California. Still, Brooklyn chimneys toppled and windows shattered in the summer of 1884, when a quake struck near Coney Island: magnitude 5, or thereabouts. (Seismometers were not then in wide circulation.) Anything larger, amid today’s infrastructure, would cause quite a bit of damage. But we have scant records about how frequently such a quake occurs. “Every thousand years, every ten thousand years, every million years?,” William Menke, a seismologist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty observatory, wondered recently, with the potential destruction of the metropolitan region in mind. “It makes a difference!” Many major earthquakes have occurred on the East Coast, he explained. We just don’t know when.

    Menke was hiking up a mountain in Harriman State Park, beside the Ramapo Fault, to try to fill in the gaps. He was in search of rocks whose shape and placement gave him a sense of existential comfort instead of dread. “That was the one that started me thinking about this,” he said, arriving at a bobsled-size boulder perched near the edge of a shallow cliff. “That must say something important about the amount of shaking that occurred since it was put up there. If there was a lot of shaking, it would have fallen.” A hiking companion couldn’t resist a futile push. The boulder was deposited there, of course, by a glacier. “Everything here reeks of the Ice Age,” Menke said. The last of the glaciers melted in these parts around fifteen thousand years ago. Auspicious.

    The two continued climbing, in search of ever more precariously perched boulders. Some were too small to rule out human intervention. “You can see somebody moved those hefty rocks into a bench configuration,” Menke noted of one arrangement, near the remains of a campfire. Another boulder, intriguingly top-heavy, sat in a crack, making it harder to dislodge, and therefore unworthy of scrutiny. Menke crouched beside others to sketch their contours in a notebook and measure the slopes of the underlying bedrock, using a carpenter’s level and an inclinometer, for which he’d paid eight dollars at Lowe’s. “Most of the stuff I do is pretty low tech,” he said. “I have occasionally lost things in the field and then found them six months later, a little rusty.”

    Caveman showing off puffer jacket.

    Menke’s gray hair was untrimmed and, like some of the stones he examined, in seeming defiance of gravity. His fixation on the geology was such that he failed to notice a buck galloping past, though he called attention to a small discoloration in the bedrock at one point. “See the surface here? Something was protecting this from erosion. Was there a boulder there that rolled off? Where is it?” Using some back-of-the-envelope physics, he estimated the amount of gravitational acceleration required to send various candidates in his notebook sliding downhill. “The last one we did was on a more gentle slope, and it was about point three of gravity,” he said. “So that would be about a seven-and-a-half magnitude.” By contrast, a giant sea-turtle-shaped rock on a steeper slope seemed likely to ski with a magnitude 7. “So that, actually, is an interesting number,” Menke said. “If you can rule out that there have been any earthquakes of magnitude 7 since the end of the Ice Age, that actually is pretty important in terms of New York’s seismic risk.

    Proper science would require his following up with sophisticated camera technology, for photogrammetry and 3-D computer modelling. “I’ll tell you a funny story about a Greek dude,” Menke said, referring to the astronomer Aristarchus, who attempted to estimate the distance from the earth to the sun. “He did a pretty good job, but there was a critical piece of info he needed to know, and that was the angular diameter of the sun. It’s half a degree, and he guessed that it was two degrees. Had he been careful to measure things, he would have gotten the right number.” For now, though, Menke took comfort in what the naked eye was telling him. Then again, a magnitude 7 earthquake is a thousand times more powerful than a magnitude 5. Think of Haiti in 2010, instead of Coney Island in 1884.

    Pausing for a water break before beginning his descent, Menke ran his hand over another boulder and broke off a piece of crusty rock tripe, or lichen. “Very low nutritional value,” he said. “But if faced with a choice between eating rock tripe and dying, you eat rock tripe.” ♦Published in the print edition of the December 5, 2022, issue, with the headline “Shake It Off.”

    A geologist taking measurements by a boulder.

    Predicting the Earthquake That Could Wreck New York

    A geologist heads to the hills to study precariously perched boulders, which could provide clues to the frequency of the rare major quakes that shake the region.

    By Ben McGrath

    November 28, 2022

    Illustration by João Fazenda

    Every now and then, the ground trembles, in some places more often and more dramatically than in others. New York is no California. Still, Brooklyn chimneys toppled and windows shattered in the summer of 1884, when a quake struck near Coney Island: magnitude 5, or thereabouts. (Seismometers were not then in wide circulation.) Anything larger, amid today’s infrastructure, would cause quite a bit of damage. But we have scant records about how frequently such a quake occurs. “Every thousand years, every ten thousand years, every million years?,” William Menke, a seismologist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty observatory, wondered recently, with the potential destruction of the metropolitan region in mind. “It makes a difference!” Many major earthquakes have occurred on the East Coast, he explained. We just don’t know when.

    Menke was hiking up a mountain in Harriman State Park, beside the Ramapo Fault, to try to fill in the gaps. He was in search of rocks whose shape and placement gave him a sense of existential comfort instead of dread. “That was the one that started me thinking about this,” he said, arriving at a bobsled-size boulder perched near the edge of a shallow cliff. “That must say something important about the amount of shaking that occurred since it was put up there. If there was a lot of shaking, it would have fallen.” A hiking companion couldn’t resist a futile push. The boulder was deposited there, of course, by a glacier. “Everything here reeks of the Ice Age,” Menke said. The last of the glaciers melted in these parts around fifteen thousand years ago. Auspicious.

    The two continued climbing, in search of ever more precariously perched boulders. Some were too small to rule out human intervention. “You can see somebody moved those hefty rocks into a bench configuration,” Menke noted of one arrangement, near the remains of a campfire. Another boulder, intriguingly top-heavy, sat in a crack, making it harder to dislodge, and therefore unworthy of scrutiny. Menke crouched beside others to sketch their contours in a notebook and measure the slopes of the underlying bedrock, using a carpenter’s level and an inclinometer, for which he’d paid eight dollars at Lowe’s. “Most of the stuff I do is pretty low tech,” he said. “I have occasionally lost things in the field and then found them six months later, a little rusty.

    Caveman showing off puffer jacket.

    Menke’s gray hair was untrimmed and, like some of the stones he examined, in seeming defiance of gravity. His fixation on the geology was such that he failed to notice a buck galloping past, though he called attention to a small discoloration in the bedrock at one point. “See the surface here? Something was protecting this from erosion. Was there a boulder there that rolled off? Where is it?” Using some back-of-the-envelope physics, he estimated the amount of gravitational acceleration required to send various candidates in his notebook sliding downhill. “The last one we did was on a more gentle slope, and it was about point three of gravity,” he said. “So that would be about a seven-and-a-half magnitude.” By contrast, a giant sea-turtle-shaped rock on a steeper slope seemed likely to ski with a magnitude 7. “So that, actually, is an interesting number,” Menke said. “If you can rule out that there have been any earthquakes of magnitude 7 since the end of the Ice Age, that actually is pretty important in terms of New York’s seismic risk.”

    Proper science would require his following up with sophisticated camera technology, for photogrammetry and 3-D computer modelling. “I’ll tell you a funny story about a Greek dude,” Menke said, referring to the astronomer Aristarchus, who attempted to estimate the distance from the earth to the sun. “He did a pretty good job, but there was a critical piece of info he needed to know, and that was the angular diameter of the sun. It’s half a degree, and he guessed that it was two degrees. Had he been careful to measure things, he would have gotten the right number.” For now, though, Menke took comfort in what the naked eye was telling him. Then again, a magnitude 7 earthquake is a thousand times more powerful than a magnitude 5. Think of Haiti in 2010, instead of Coney Island in 1884.

    Pausing for a water break before beginning his descent, Menke ran his hand over another boulder and broke off a piece of crusty rock tripe, or lichen. “Very low nutritional value,” he said. “But if faced with a choice between eating rock tripe and dying, you eat rock tripe.” ♦Published in the print edition of the December 5, 2022, issue, with the headline “Shake It Off.”

    The Cost of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)


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

    NYCEM

    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.

    The China Horn Continues to Grow: Daniel 7

    Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles roll past the Great Hall of the People during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing, October 1, 2019.

    China could have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035: Pentagon report

    By Oren Liebermann, CNN

    Published 12:00 PM EST, Tue November 29, 2022

    Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles roll past the Great Hall of the People during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing, October 1, 2019.Mark Schiefelbein/APCNN — 

    China’s stockpile of nuclear warheads has surpassed 400 in a fraction of the time previously estimated by the United States, a major Pentagon report revealed, with Beijing focusing on accelerating its nuclear expansion as it seeks to challenge the US as the world’s top super power.

    In 2020, the US estimated that China had nuclear warheads numbering in the low-200s and expected the stockpile to double within a decade. Just two years later, China has reached that mark and could have some 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035 if they continue to expand their stockpile at the current pace, according to the 2022 China Military Power report released Tuesday.

    “What we’ve seen really in the past couple of years is this accelerated expansion,” said a senior defense official.

    The world’s most populous country is using its burgeoning military as one of its tools to create an international system that favors its world view, posing the “most consequential and systemic challenge to US national security,” according to the report, and the larger nuclear capability is a far cry from what China used to call a “lean and efficient” nuclear deterrent. Beijing’s investment in its nuclear triad – sea, land and air-based nuclear launch options – is cause for concern in Washington.

    “We see, I think, a set of capabilities taking shape and new numbers in terms of what they’re looking to pursue that raise some questions about what their intent will be in the longer term,” the senior defense official said in a briefing to reporters about the latest report.

    China also conducted 135 ballistic missile tests in 2021, the report said, which is more than the rest of the world combined. (The tally excludes ballistic missiles used in the war in Ukraine, the report noted.)

    The official also offered new details about the Chinese test of a hypersonic missile in July 2021 that flew around the world before hitting its target, an accomplishment that drew attention to the lagging pace of US hypersonic weapons development. The official said the Chinese system flew 40,000 kilometers and demonstrated the longest flight of any Chinese land attack weapon to date.

    The Chinese military, formally known as the People’s Liberation Army, is also developing space and counterspace weapons, the report said, viewing the advanced technology as a way to deter outside intervention in a regional military conflict.

    China has a standing army of nearly 1 million soldiers, the largest navy in the world by number of ships, and the third largest air force in the world, according to the report.

    The 2022 National Defense Strategy, released last month, identifies China as the pacing challenge for the United States, a point often reiterated by the Pentagon’s top leaders.

    “China is the one country out there that geopolitically has the power potential to be a significant challenge to the United States,” said Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley at a news conference earlier this month. “Based on their population, their technology, their economy and nano and a bunch of other things, China is the greatest geopolitical challenge to the United States.”

    Tensions between Beijing and Washington frequently revolve around Taiwan, a democratic, self-governing island. China sees the island as a fundamental part of its sovereign territory, including the South China Sea, and defense officials have previously said it intends to have the capability to use military force to take Taiwan by 2027.

    In the latest report – officially called the Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China – the US does not anticipate an imminent invasion of Taiwan. Instead, the report said, the US has seen Beijing ramp up diplomatic, economic, political and military pressure on Taiwan.

    US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic visit to the island in August marked a new stage in China’s efforts, as Beijing used the visit to attempt to establish a new normal around Taiwan.

    Since the visit, China has crossed the center line of the Taiwan Strait more frequently, the defense official said, a move they would only use infrequently in the past. In addition, there is more naval activity around Taiwan and a large number of Chinese aircraft flying into Taiwan’s self-declared air defense identification zone.

    “Even though we don’t see an imminent invasion, that’s sort of an elevated level of intimidating and coercive activity around Taiwan,” the official said.

    Two weeks ago, President Joe Biden met Chinese President Xi Jinping in-person for the first time during his presidency at the G20 summit in Indonesia. Biden described the 3-hour meeting as “open and candid,” and he laid out the US approach to one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world as one of competition and not conflict.

    Biden also focused on the need for maintaining open lines of communication between Beijing and Washington. China cut off several contacts and meetings with the US following Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who met his Chinese counterpart in Cambodia last week, also emphasized the need for communication, according to a readout of the meeting.

    The report also looked at the relationship between Russia and China. The two countries issued a joint statement on February 4, signaling a desire for ongoing partnership and cooperation. Beijing and Moscow have “complementary interests” in terms of their national security and a shared approach to international relations. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine just weeks later has complicated the relationship in ways that may not be fully clear yet.

    “Of course it’s going to be an area of keen interest for us and other observers in Europe and elsewhere,” the official said. “We’ve seen the PRC kind of continue to support Russia diplomatically and to amplify a lot of their propaganda and disinformation. And so those are areas of particular concern.”

    Iraq’s Political Crisis, the Antichrist and a Divided Shia House

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      Iraq’s Political Crisis, Moqtada al-Sadr and a Divided Shia House

      This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group’s Iraq expert Lahib Higel about the crisis in Iraq, with parties unable to form a government almost a year after elections and the deadliest clashes the Iraqi capital has seen in years erupting in late August.

      Almost a year since Iraq’s parliamentary elections in October 2021, the country’s political parties have struggled to form a new government. Despite doing well in the vote, the Sadrist Movement, led by powerful Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, has been thwarted in its attempts to build a governing coalition, thanks to a decision by Iraq’s Supreme Court. The court required a two-thirds quorum to convene parliament to select a president, who in turn would nominate the prime minister. In protest, al-Sadr threatened to quit politics and withdrew his deputies from parliament. Days later, his supporters, who had occupied parliament and entered the presidential palace, clashed with paramilitary groups loyal to al-Sadr’s Shia rivals. The fighting was the worst the capital Baghdad had seen in years. Violence has abated for now, but it is far from clear whether Sadr and his rivals can reach agreement on a way forward.

      In our first episode of Season 3 of Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined by Crisis Group’s Senior Iraq Analyst Lahib Higel to make sense of the political turmoil engulfing the country. They talk about how the crisis came about and why Sadr’s attempts to form a government have failed. They discuss the opposition he faces from his main political rivals, the coalition of Shia parties known as the “Coordination Framework”, which is backed by Iran, and look at Tehran’s hand in the crisis and Washington’s influence on Iraqi politics more broadly. They talk about the prospects for rapprochement between al-Sadr and his Shia rivals, as negotiations on a new government look set to resume amid calls for early elections. They also assess risks of another bout of fighting.