Monday, November 05, 2007


« The next “big one” to hit California sends a warning with the most recent 5.6 quake in the San Francisco Bay area.
(Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

Earthquake Shakes Northern California

November 5, 2007 | From
The Golden State, staggering out of rampant wildfires, faces yet another environmental disaster.

With much of Southern California still recovering from wildfires, the northern part of the state has received a stark reminder of a different kind of environmental threat—earthquakes.

The largest earthquake to hit the San Francisco Bay area in nearly two decades struck last Tuesday with a magnitude of 5.6. This tremor, centered near San Jose, lasted half a minute and was felt as far away as Oregon.

No one was reported killed or hurt from the quake, but geological experts warn that it is a sign of much worse to come.

Tuesday’s quake “significantly increased the probability” of a detrimental earthquake coming from one or both of two nearby fault lines according to the California Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council, a board that advises the state’s Office of Emergency Services on quake forecasts. Those faults are capable of producing a 7.0 magnitude earthquake or even higher, reports the Salinas Californian.

California lies on the Pacific Rim “Ring of Fire,” a seismically active area lined by volcanoes and fault lines, which circles around the Pacific Ocean all the way to China.

The Asian side of the Pacific Rim has experienced some worrying geological activity. In mid-October, the Indonesian government warned of impending volcanic eruptions from Mount Kelud and ordered 30,000 people living on its slopes to evacuate.

The Philippines, the Marianas Islands, and Sumatra, Indonesia, have all experienced powerful earthquakes recently.

Nations all around the Pacific Rim constantly monitor for earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis, but these governments can neither prevent nor reduce the magnitude of any earthquake that strikes. The best governments and residents can do is prepare, though in California, where scientists say the “Big One” is long overdue, even that is being put off. Only 12 percent of homeowners hold expensive earthquake insurance, and most are ill-prepared for such an environmental disaster.

To learn more about why natural disasters occur and whether they can, in fact, be prevented, read “Did the Tsunami Shake Your Faith?


« Russian President Vladimir Putin defies international arms regulations.
(Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Putin to Continue Funneling Weapons Into Middle East

November 5, 2007 | From
In defiance of the U.S., Russia says nobody will limit its arms exports.

Moscow will continue supplying weaponry to states hostile to the United States, the Russian president announced last week. In response to recent U.S. criticism of Russian arms exports, President Vladimir Putin said the flow of arms to the Middle East would continue.

When the Commission for Military and Technical Cooperation met in Moscow October 31 to discuss this year’s arms exports, which are expected to reach $8 billion, up from $6.5 billion last year, President Putin opened the meeting by making a statement pointedly directed at the U.S.

While asserting that Russia would comply with international regulations controlling arms exports, Putin stated: “[W]e cannot and will not take into consideration any attempts to impose any restrictions on us based on unilateral or politicized judgments.”

Putin’s statements at the meeting were a direct rebuff of U.S. requests for Russia to curb its arms sales. In the past couple weeks, the U.S. has criticized Russia for attempting to destabilize U.S. policy in the Middle East by delivering weapons to Iran and Syria.

In late October, U.S. Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns urged Russia to stop arms deliveries to Iran. Since concluding a contract in late 2005, Russia has supplied Iran with 29 Tor-M1s, a high-precision anti-aircraft missile system. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Russia’s arms sales to Syria. The U.S. is also critical of Russia’s arms deals with the anti-American regime in Venezuela.

“Arms sales,” writes RFE/RL Newsline, “are one of several tools that Putin uses to demonstrate Russia’s claim to world-power status …” (November 1).

Izvestia, a daily owned by the Russian state-controlled Gazprom, stated that increased arms sales are a means by which “Russia puts pressure on the Americans” (November 1).

Arms sales are just one of Russia’s tools to thwart U.S. foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. Moscow is currently effectively using its relationship with Tehran to gain geopolitical leverage and handicap American power. Read “Putin: Handicapping U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East” for more on this subject.

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