Why We Are In Trouble At The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Why NRC Nuclear Safety Inspections are Necessary: Indian PointDave LochbaumThis is the second in a series of commentaries about the vital role nuclear safety inspections conducted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) play in protecting the public. The initial commentary described how NRC inspectors discovered that limits on the maximum allowable control room air temperature at the Columbia Generating Station in Washington had been improperly relaxed by the plant’s owner. This commentary describes a more recent finding by NRC inspectors about animproper safety assessment of a leaking cooling water system pipe on Entergy’s Unit 3 reactor at Indian Point outside New York City.Indian Point Unit 3: Leak Before BreakOn February 3, 2017, the NRC issued Indian Point a Green finding for a violation of Appendix B to 10 CFR Part 50. Specifically, the owner failed to perform an adequate operability review per its procedures after workers discovered water leaking from a service water system pipe.On April 27, 2016, workers found water leaking from the pipe downstream of the strainer for service water (SW) pump 31. As shown in Figure 1, SW pump 31 is one of six service water pumps located within the intake structure alongside the Hudson River. The six SW pumps are arranged in two sets of three pumps. Figure 1 shows SW pumps 31, 32, and 33 aligned to provide water drawn from the Hudson River to essential (i.e, safety and emergency) components within Unit 3. SW pumps 34, 35, and 36 are aligned to provide cooling water to non-essential equipment within Unit 3.

Fig. 1 (Source: Nuclear Regulatory Commission Plant Information Book) (click to enlarge)Each SW pump is designed to deliver 6,000 gallons of flow. During normal operation, one SW pump can handle the essential loads while two SW pumps are needed for the non-essential loads. Under accident conditions, two SW pumps are needed to cool the essential equipment. The onsite emergency diesel generators can power either of the sets of three pumps, but not both simultaneously. If the set of SW pumps aligned to the essential equipment aren’t getting the job done, workers can open/close valves and electrical breakers to reconfigure the second set of three SW pumps to the essential equipment loops.Because river water can have stuff in it that could clog some of the coolers for essential equipment, each SW pump has a strainer that attempts to remove as much debris as possible from the water. The leak discovered on April 27, 2016, was in the piping between the discharge check valve for SW pump 31 and its strainer. An arrow points to this piping section in Figure 1. The strainers were installed in openings called pits in the thick concrete floor of the intake structure. Water from the leaking pipe flowed into the pit housing the strainer for SW pump 31.The initial leak rate was modest—estimated to be about one-eighth of a gallon per minute. The leak was similar to other pinhole leaks that had occurred in the concrete-lined, carbon steel SW pipes. The owner began daily checks on the leakage and prepared an operability determination. Basically, “operability determinations” are used within the nuclear industry when safety equipment is found to be impaired or degraded. The operability determination for the service water pipe leak concluded that the impairment did not prevent the SW pumps from fulfilling their required safety function. The operability determination relied on a sump pump located at the bottom of the strainer pit transferring the leaking water out of the pit before the water flooded and submerged safety components.The daily checks instituted by the owner included workers recording the leak rate and assessing whether it had significantly increased. But the checks were against the previous day’s leak rate rather than the initial leak rate. By September 18, 2016, the leakage had steadily increased by a factor of 64 to 8 gallons per minute. But the daily incremental increases were small enough that they kept workers from finding the overall increase to be significant.The daily check on October 15, 2016, found the pump room flooded to a depth of several inches. The leak rate was now estimated to be 20 gallons per minute. And the floor drain in the strainer pit was clogged (ironic, huh?) impairing the ability of its sump pump to remove the water. Workers placed temporary sump pumps in the room to remove the flood water and cope with the insignificantly higher leak rate. On October 17, workers installed a clamp on the pipe that reduced the leakage to less than one gallon per minute.The operability determination was revised in response to concerns expressed by the NRC inspectors. The NRC inspectors were not satisfied by the revised operability determination. It continued to rely on the strainer pit sump pump removing the leaking water. But that sump pump was not powered from the emergency diesel generator and thus would not remove water should offsite power become unavailable. Step 5.6.4 of procedure EN-OP-14, “Operability Determination Process,” stated “If the Operability is based on the use or availability of other equipment, it must be verified that the equipment is capable of performing the function utilized in the evaluation.”The operability determination explicitly stated that no compensatory measures or operator manual actions were needed to handle the leak, but the situation clearly required both compensatory measures and operator manual actions.The NRC inspectors found additional deficiencies in the revised operability determination. The NRC inspectors calculated that a 20 gallon per minute leak rate coupled with an unavailable strainer pit sump pump would flood the room to a depth of three feet in three hours. There are no flood alarms in the room and the daily checks might not detect flooding until the level rose to three feet. At that level, water would submerge and potentially disable the vacuum breakers for the SW pumps. Proper vacuum breaker operation could be needed to successfully restart the SW pumps.The NRC inspectors calculated that the 20 gallon per minute leak rate without remediation would flood the room to the level of the control cabinets for the strainers in 10 hours. The submerged control cabinets could disable the strainers, leading to blocked cooling water flow to essential equipment.The NRC inspects calculated that the 20 gallon per minute leak rate without remediation would completely fill the room in about 29 hours, or only slightly longer than the daily check interval.Flooding to depths of 3 feet, 10 feet, and the room’s ceiling affected all six SW pumps. Thus, the flooding represented a common mode threat that could disable the entire service water system. In turn, all safety equipment shown in Figure 2 no longer cooled by the disabled service water system could also be disabled. The NRC estimated that the flooding risk was about 5×10-6 per reactor year, solidly in the Green finding band.

Fig. 2 (Source: Nuclear Regulatory Commission Plant Information Book) (click to enlarge)UCS Perspective“Leak before break” is a longstanding nuclear safety philosophy. Books have been written about it (well, at least one report has been written and may even have been read.)  The NRC’s approval of a leak before break analysis can allow the owner of an existing nuclear power reactor to remove pipe whip restraints and jet impingement barriers. Such hardware guarded against the sudden rupture of a pipe filled with high pressure fluid from damaging safety equipment in the area. The leak before break analyses can provide the NRC with sufficient confidence that piping degradation will be detected by observed leakage with remedial actions taken before the pipe fails catastrophically. More than a decade ago, the NRC issued a Knowledge Management document on the leak before break philosophy and acceptable methods of analyzing, monitoring, and responding to piping degradation.This incident at Indian Point illustrated an equally longstanding nuclear safety practice of “leak before break.” In this case, the leak was indeed followed by a break. But the break was not the failure of the piping but failure of the owner to comply with federal safety regulations. Pipe breaks are bad. Regulation breaks are bad. Deciding which is worse is like trying to decide which eye one wants to be poked in. None is far better than either.As with the prior Columbia Generating Station case study, this Indian Point case study illustrates the vital role that NRC’s enforcement efforts plays in nuclear safety. Even after NRC inspectors voiced clear concerns about the improperly evaluated service water system pipe leak, Entergy failed to properly evaluate the situation, thus violating federal safety regulations. To be fair to Entergy, the company was probably doing its best, but in recent years, Entergy’s best has been far below nuclear industry average performance levels.The NRC’s ROP is the public’s best protection against hazards caused by aging nuclear power reactors, shrinking maintenance budgets, emerging sabotage threats, and Entergy.Replacing the NRC’s engineering inspections with self-assessments by Entergy would lessen the effectiveness of that protective shield.The NRC must continue to protect the public to the best of its ability. Delegating safety checks to owners like Entergy is inconsistent with that important mission.Support from UCS members make work like this possible. Will you join us? Help UCS advance independent science for a healthy environment and a safer world.

Babylon the Great Prepares to Nuke up

If START with Russia is not extended, U.S. alerts nuclear weapons, – mass media – 112.international

21:17, 30 September 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump

AP

The Administration of U.S. President Donald Trump asked the Strategic Command in Nebraska to estimate how quickly it can remove the nuclear weapon from the storages and load the bombers and submarines with it if the arms control treaty with Russia expires in February as Politico reported.

According to the sources, the request to the Strategic Command is a part of the strategy of pressure on Moscow to reconsider the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) before the presidential elections.

Trump’s administration would like to underline that it seriously treats the stop of the treaty’s action, if Russia does not fulfill the demands of the U.S. The negotiation team suspects that Moscow delays the talks hoping for victory of democrat Joe Biden in the elections. He promised to extend the new treaty on terms which Moscow considered to be more advantageous than those offered by the current White House.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the U.S. and Russia started to act in February 2011. It was concluded for 10 years – until February 2021. Then, the sides should decide whether or not to extend the current agreements or conclude new.

The Chinese nuclear horn Balks at Babylon the Great

China balks at U.S. efforts for nuclear arms talks

Ramesh Thakur

Sep 30, 2020

Beijing perceives U.S. policy as being increasingly aggressive and aimed at containing China. Nuclear forces are seen as the ultimate guarantor of national security. | REUTERS

During the Cold War, the nuclear landscape was dominated by the globe-spanning U.S.–Soviet bipolar rivalry. Russia and the United States still account for over 90 percent of the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. The emerging strategic rivalry, however, is between the U.S. as the weakening hegemon and China as the rising comprehensive national power. This is why Washington decided it could no longer ignore the nuclear challenge to its interests in the vast Indo–Pacific maritime space posed by China’s absence from the missile prohibitions of the INF treaty. About 95 percent of China’s missiles are in the INF range, enabling it to target forward-deployed U.S. forces and allied territory, including Japan, Guam and Australia, with relatively inexpensive precision-strike conventional capability.

Without INF restrictions, the U.S. can develop and station ground-launched intermediate-range cruise missiles in Guam, Japan, South Korea, and northern Australia that could reach deep into China’s interior. However, the search for Pacific allies prepared to host intermediate range conventional U.S. missiles aimed at China will be challenging, with the downsides in bilateral relations with China and domestic political opposition likely to outweigh potential military advantages.

Speaking after the INF’s demise in August last year, U.S. President Donald Trump said he wanted Beijing to be party to any new nuclear pact with Moscow. China has rejected requests to save the INF by trilateralizing it. Its stockpile of 320 nuclear warheads is not comparable to 6,375 Russian and 5,800 U.S. warheads. On Aug. 6, 2019, Disarmament Ambassador Li Song expressed China’s deep regret and opposition to the “irresponsible unilateral” U.S. withdrawal from the INF. On the same day Fu Cong, director of arms control in China’s Foreign Ministry, cautioned Asia-Pacific countries against permitting INF-ranged missiles to be deployed on their territory.

In an agenda-resetting speech in October 2018, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence outlined a thick catalog of predatory practices and aggressive behavior across a broad front by China. American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo updated the administration’s strategic approach to China in a speech on July 23, depicting China as an existential threat and calling for “a new alliance of democracies.” Where then-President Ronald Reagan had based his arms control dealings with the Soviet Union on the bon mot “trust but verify,” Pompeo said with China’s communist regime, “we must distrust and verify.”

At a news conference on Jan. 22, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang bluntly rejected U.S. calls for trilateral arms control talks: “The U.S. constantly makes an issue of China on this to dodge and shift its responsibilities for nuclear disarmament.” Beijing has concluded that Trump doesn’t believe in arms control is scapegoating China to pursue his real goal of dissolving the existing U.S.–Russia nuclear arms control regime in order for his country to compete more effectively with China. Nuclear analyst Tong Zhao explains: “China views the U.S. push for trilateral arms control as purely insincere, hypocritical, and hostile against China.” Beijing is also suspicious of arms control as a tool for the strong to undermine the security of the weak.

Washington has remained persistent. In May the new presidential senior envoy on arms control, Marshall Billingslea, expressed interest in a new far-reaching accord to limit all Chinese, Russian, and U.S. nuclear warheads, including those on short-range delivery systems and those kept in storage. This would replace New START but would also require very intrusive verification measures to cover stockpiles. It will be challenging either to persuade China to accept significantly lower numbers of warheads than Russia and the U.S., or alternatively to persuade Moscow and Washington to permit China to reach parity. A third way doesn’t exist. Fu Cong said, “if the U.S. says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level, China will be happy to participate the next day.” However, “we know that’s not going to happen.”

Especially when Beijing perceives U.S. policy as being increasingly aggressive and aimed at containing China, nuclear forces are seen as the ultimate guarantor of national security. To the Chinese, U.S. refusal to acknowledge mutual vulnerability and efforts to enhance damage-limitation and long-range precision strike capabilities signal a higher nuclear risk threshold. This is an updated version of the classic security dilemma where one side’s defense-cum-deterrence preparedness to bolster national security is perceived by the other side as strengthened offensive capability and hence a threat to its security. This is why China has warned against the development and deployment of missile defense systems that could trigger a “high-tech arms race” which aggravates “the international strategic imbalance.”

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the militantly nationalistic Global Times, argues that “China needs to expand the number of its nuclear warheads to 1,000 in a relatively short time and procure at least 100 DF-41 strategic missiles.” But Zhao responded: “If China were to significantly build up its nuclear arsenal, it would seriously damage its international image and potentially threaten the efficacy and stability of the international nonproliferation regime.” This would undermine China’s “own interest in maintaining regional and international stability.” He notes that China successfully safeguarded its national security against far superior numbers of U.S. and Soviet nuclear warheads during the Cold War. Its current nuclear technological prowess is comparable to Russia and the U.S., and it has hugely better survivability and counter-attack capabilities compared to its assets during the Cold War. Zhao’s warning that “a major expansion of nuclear weapons may bring more fear than respect” deserves to be taken to heart by all nuclear-armed states.

China’s stockpile has remained stable over decades, despite fluctuations in Russian and U.S. numbers, because Beijing doesn’t believe nuclear weapons can be used militarily to fight a war. Rather, they are political weapons to deter nuclear attack and prevent nuclear blackmail. This permits China to adopt asymmetric deterrence postures vis‑a‑vis the U.S. with significantly lower stockpiles. Instead of engaging in a sprint to parity that would fuel the nuclear arms race, China relies on buttressing the survivability and penetrability of its nuclear forces. For example greater maneuverability of the DF-21D missiles makes it difficult for enemy weapons to intercept them, while enhancing the precision of their munitions makes it easier to target moving enemy vessels with them. Multilateral nuclear arms control agreements will have to accommodate the asymmetries in numbers and types of warheads and missiles, doctrines and force postures as they affect the relative military balance of the countries concerned.

Ramesh Thakur is an emeritus professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

The Caribbean prepares for the wind of God‘s wrath: Jeremiah 23

Tropical Storm Gamma could form from Caribbean system with 60% chance of development

By JOE MARIO PEDERSEN

ORLANDO SENTINEL

SEP 30, 2020 AT 7:56 AM

A tropical wave emerged into the Caribbean Sea on Wednesday morning and is expected to produce a broad area of pressure with increased odds of becoming Tropical Storm Gamma, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A tropical wave is expected to move west-northwest through the rest of the week and is predicted to interact with a frontal system producing a broad area of low pressure over the western Caribbean by Thursday or Friday.

The NHC forecast the emergence of the pressurized area earlier in the week and originally predicted it to have a 10% chance of developing over five days. Now with emergence of a tropical wave odds of development raised to 10% in the next 48 hours and to 60% over the next five days, the NHC 8 a.m. update.

Conditions for development are favorable for the system to become the next tropical depression or tropical storm.

If it does become a tropical storm it will be the 24th storm of the year named Gamma.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted in its mid season forecast a total of 19 to 25 named storms before the end of hurricane season, Nov. 30.

Joe Mario Pedersen

Joe Mario Pedersen is a member of the Sentinel’s Breaking News team. He’s a native of Florida, the home of the Florida Man. Originally from Fort Lauderdale, Joe is a University of Central Florida graduate with a major in Radio & Television. He worked for four years at The Villages Daily Sun, including on the newsroom’s multimedia story projects.

Fear and loathing outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Fear and loathing in Gaza: Tales of a life under siege

Stuck in an endless conflict, young Palestinian authors reflect their own lives through some of their darkest work

I woke to the sounds of heavy bombardment. I heard my parents calling “Amal! Amal!” I got up and ran towards them. I tried to hold my mother’s hand but it slipped away. […] They said ‘Amal’s dead’. I screamed at the top of my voice: ‘I didn’t die! I’m here!’ I shook them but no one seemed to notice me. I saw them looking at my bed. I turned to find my burning corpse.

This excerpt from 21-year-old Palestinian writer Shurooq Doghmosh’s debut book of short stories is just one example of writing emerging from the Gaza Strip, which feature overriding themes of death and darkness.

The book cover of Shurooq Doghmosh’s debut short story collection, I Was Killed At Around This Time (Tareeq Publications)

The above excerpt from her story, I Found My Corpse, features a protagonist Dogmosh deliberately names Amal, which means “hope” in Arabic, because she would ultimately be killed off, along with any other semblance of optimism. Dogmosh’s collection, morbidly titled I Was Killed At Around This Time, is packed with stories that culminate in someone dying.

This murder, Doghmosh says, reflects her own vision of life in Gaza, which she experiences as filled with pain and loss. She herself is still mourning the loss of her uncle in the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza.

‘Can you tell me about one day, just a single day, when you woke up in Gaza and didn’t feel powerless’

– Shurooq Doghmosh, Palestinian author

For these talented young writers, who grew up in a land under siege, it can be difficult to disengage from the harsh realities that inevitably seep into their writing.

“Life under siege destroys the soul. Sometimes I see this book as a way of mourning my soul that the siege destroyed, and robbed me of,” Doghmosh says.

The Israeli-imposed blockade of 2007 has restricted movement of people and goods, leading to shortages – including electricity and power, economic insecurity and high levels of unemployment.

The constant threat of war and ongoing flare ups add to the climate of unrest for the nearly two million people living in the Strip.

The impact of growing up feeling so helpless is overwhelming, she says: “Can you tell me about one day, just a single day, when you woke up in Gaza and didn’t feel powerless, and as though everything around you has the potential to break you?”

‘Should I lie to my readers?’

“There is nothing in Gaza but pain and suffering,” Doghmosh tells MEE. “Yes, we smile sometimes and act like we’re OK, but we’re only pretending. The real, deep feelings we really have are darkness and fear. So how can I give people hope through my writing when I have lost it myself?

“Should I lie to the readers? If I don’t feel happy, I can’t fake it in my writing.”

Shurooq Doghmosh signing copies of her debut novel, I Was Killed At Around This time (Facebook)

That loss can come in many forms. 28-year-old poet Anees Ghanima’s debut collection, A Clown’s Funeral, won Al-Qattan Institution’s Young Writer Award in 2017. Ghanima was invited to the ceremony at the Palestinian Book Fair but after several failed attempts at sourcing a permit to leave Gaza, he couldn’t make it.

We all live under the same conditions… the writer is able to express it, other just suffer in silence’

– Anees Ghanima, Palestinian poet

“Ramallah is another city in my country but I couldn’t get a permit to celebrate this success because between Gaza and Ramallah is an Israel checkpoint that doesn’t care about anything but breaking Palestinians and stripping them of hope,” Ghanima says.

Even when he writes about love, the words will gradually manoeuvre back to fear, and war. So much so that the judges described his book as presenting “a poetic force within a text derived from sadness and cruelty”.

In one poem, he writes: “I belong to all those wounded who lost their hearts in the war.”

“We were raised in a state of war,” Ghanima says. “Ever since we were born and until now, Palestinians are fighting occupation, and now also a siege. We never rest, and that’s the environment we grew up in.

“Whether we are writers or not, we all live under the same conditions. Whereas the writer is able to express it, others just suffer in silence.”

Anees Ghanima at an event honouring his award-winning poetry collection (Anees Ghanima)

A little optimism does find its way into his writing, however, such as in the poem A Balcony That Doesn’t Overlook War, where Ghanima expresses his dreams for an end to war:

Tomorrow I’ll take a rest on a balcony
that doesn’t look out at war
I’ll smoke the cigarette I’ve always dreamed of
and from the palm of my hand,
sorrowful music will forever flow

But like hope, optimism is also fleeting.

“A person stuck in the darkness can’t talk about the light,” he says. “They have to see the light first so they can write about it and siege blocks this light.”

Art imitating life

The Palestinian struggle has, for nearly a century, been expressed through its literature, writes Palestinian Culture Minister Atef Abu Saif, in his introduction to the short story anthology, The Book of Gaza: “It has been the faithful scribe of their history, events, and tragedies, of the details of their displacement and refugeedom.”

The late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish spent most of his life in exile (AFP)

“From the poems of Mahmoud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim and Muin Bseiso to the stories of Ghassan Kanafani, Emile Habibi and Samira Azzam, Palestinians have also made great contributions to Arabic literature more broadly,” Abu Seif writes.

Palestinian writing has evolved with the conflict, he explains. The short story, for example, gained popularity in the 60s onwards, even after Israel’s occupation of Gaza in 1967 when many of the writers took refuge outside the Strip.

Young writers ‘grew more attached to their inner worlds as a way of speaking about the world at large’

– Atef Abu Seif, Palestinian Culture Minister

Writers in Gaza had to find ways to “overcome printing and publishing restrictions imposed by Israeli occupation forces,” and the “brevity and symbolism” of the short story were useful for this.

The content too of short stories coming out of Gaza grew from one focusing on “national issues and values” and “embodiments of grand ideas” to stories that “spoke more passionately about human failings” and the writers’ own pains and dreams. Young writers “grew more attached to their inner worlds as a way of speaking about the world at large”.

One such writer is 23-year-old Kareem Abu Al-Roos. Published in 2018, his debut novel, A Drowning Man Doesn’t Try to Survive, tells the frustrating tale of his protagonist’s lost love.

When the 22-year-old Jameel meets Linda in an art gallery one day they fall in love and dream of starting a family together. But the pair don’t have jobs, like many of Gaza’s youth, and little by little the challenges against their idyllic imagined future mount up.

The cover of Kareem Abu al-Roos’s novel, A Drowning Man Doesn’t Try to Survive (Khota Publications)

Linda eventually decides to leave Gaza to find better opportunities elsewhere, leaving a broken Jameel behind.

With the unemployment rate in Gaza having reached 46 percent this year, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), and with around 70 per cent of the population under 30, Palestinian youth especially feel the brunt of the siege.

Gaza’s annual average income is less than $2,000, suggesting that an average wage is hardly enough to start a family, let alone sustain a literary career.

“The restrictive siege, which doesn’t help people find dignified jobs, means artists and writers in Gaza fail to secure a job, or a livelihood,” says Abdullah Tayeh of the Palestinian Writer’s Union.

Getting published itself is a feat since, as Tayeh points out, “writers have to pay the costs of printing their own work out of their own pocket.”

Through Jameel’s story, Abu al-Roos recounts his own feelings:

I forgot everything and remembered that I am still a prisoner, a prisoner in a roofless prison, that forces you to feel the darkness, and at the same time powerless.

Yet it’s in the act of writing that Abu al-Roos finds some solace: “We liberate ourselves from the siege by writing about it and express our pain to the world to let them know what our life in Gaza is like.”

Palestinian writer Kareem Abu al-Roos (R), 23, at the 2018 Gaza book fair (Facebook)

But this is not a solution, says Tayeh: “Even though the current situation does not help artists and writers to find the space to be optimistic, writers shouldn’t let their work become depressing and pessimistic.

“If they sink into depression and pessimism, then it is like someone who kills themselves, and their cause, with their own hands.”

Healing through hope

But not all the works coming out of the Strip reflect a morbid outlook on life.

Born in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, writer Nayrouz Qarmout returned to Gaza aged 11 following the 1994 Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement, where she has lived ever since.

While it’s true that Palestinians have grown up in uniquely debilitating circumstances ever since the Nakba of 1948, Qarmout, 36, says it is possible to express cruelty and sadness, without falling into those feelings yourself.

“I tend to prefer writing that is more balanced, that is capable of depicting how a person is when they are sad and when they are happy,” says Qarmout, an author, journalist and women’s rights campaigner.

“Life can’t be free of sadness, and this can be reflected through art. And life can’t be free from happiness… How can you know if you are sad if you have never been happy?”

The 11 stories in her debut collection, The Sea Cloak, draw on her experiences growing up in a refugee camp and reveal the daily struggles of Palestinians in Gaza. She writes about characters young and old, women, refugees, and orphans dealing with the aftermath of bombardment.

In the first story, The Sea Cloak, a young woman wades into the water dressed in her long black cloak and headscarf, yearning for the sea and an escape from the “noise of the past”:

She sunk her toes into the wet sand, her footprints as light as a butterfly’s dissolving instantly away. She moved forward, fearful of what was to come. Her foot had plunged into an abyss too deep to escape. But she continued, happy to have fallen.

In 2018, the book, which was translated into English by Perween Richards, was nominated for Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award.

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She too faced travel hurdles, initially when her permit applications at the Erez crossing were stalled and then when her visa was repeatedly rejected by the UK Home Office, and a hashtag #sorrynayrouz was launched to spotlight her troubles.

But, unlike Ghanima, Qarmout was able to eventually make it to Scotland to celebrate her nomination, with festival organisers arranging to host her in a special event since she had missed the one she’d been scheduled for.

“When I went to the UK I saw just how developed it was and how we are so isolated in Gaza from the rest of the world, without any capability for development,” she says. “Imagine that in 2020, Palestinians in Gaza have never seen the kinds of trains I saw there.”

Qarmout says that Palestinians have been living a much older siege than the one imposed by Israel in 2007: “Ever since the Nakba, have we lived in a normal way? No. We were living under a military curfew in the 2000 Intifada and were not able to move. That was as brutal as the current siege is.”

At one point the protagonist from her sea cloak story finds herself dragged down by the water, and her heavy cloak. She is close to drowning, before she is finally rescued by a young man who pulls her out to the safety of the shore.

But for a moment, even as the sea is becoming a threat, the young woman murmurs to herself: “I want to keep swimming”, cherishing this feeling of “boundless joy”:

The sea’s symphony, familiar and divine, caressed her ears. Her heart slowed and reached out to the desolate expanse of water. She opened her eyes and was dazzled by golden ripples stretching out as far as she could see. Her body sunk into their warm embrace.

“I don’t allow the siege to enter my imagination,” Qarmout says. “And this is the difficult challenge that the writer lives in light of this life under siege which leaves its mark on everyone.

“An artist knows that no matter how dark the road, at the end there is a glimmer of hope, no matter how depressing the circumstances are now.”

Shurooq Doghmosh’s novel, I Was Killed at a Time Like This, is published by Tareeq Publications; Anees Ghanima’s poetry collection, A Clown’s Funeral, is published by Al Ahlia Press; Kareem Abu Al-Roos’s novel A Drowning Man Doesn’t Try to Survive, is published by Khota Publications, and Nayrouz Qarmout’s collection of short stories, The Sea Cloak, is available from Comma Press, translated by Perween Richards.

Civil war in Iraq if attacks don’t stop: Antichrist

Civil war in Iraq if attacks don’t stop: Sadr

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warned late Monday that Iraq may shift into  “civil war” or witness an internal Shiite conflict if “suspicious parties” continue attacks in the country.

“There are suspicious parties fueling the situation and endangering peaceful security in Iraq,” Sadr tweeted.

Sadr called on all sides to act “wisely” and show love for Iraq “before undertaking any step that would drag the country into civil war or a Shiite vs Shiite clash.”

Sadr has led the Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades) militia, part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic), since 2014 and has pushed for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.

His tweet comes after a Katyusha rocket hit a home near Baghdad International Airport on Monday night, killing three children and two women, as injuring two others, according to a statement by Iraqi joint operation command.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has ordered investigations into security forces responsible for security in the area, according to state media.

The US has told Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi that it will close its Baghdad embassy and withdraw all troops if attacks on foreign actors continue, the Washington Post reported.

Convoys driven by Iraqis and contracted by the US-led coalition have come under almost daily attacks in recent months at the hands of pro-Iranian Shiite militias. Baghdad airport is also frequently targeted, as it hosts a coalition base.

The US Embassy and Iraqi military bases hosting coalition troops have been repeatedly targeted since the US assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad in January.

It is believed that the Iran-backed Islamic Front for Resistance inside Iraq (al-Muqawama) is responsible for the attacks. Its aim is to force US troops to withdraw from the country and units of the group have claimed responsibility for similar attacks.

Diplomatic missions have also come under attack. A British diplomatic vehicle hit an IED in Baghdad earlier this month and a blast at an English-language institute in Najaf’s city centre on September 18 caused substantial material damage.

The attack on the British embassy vehicle was condemned by Sadr and the commander of Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah, Abu Ali al-Askari.

Diplomatic targets are more often hit by missiles within Baghdad’s Green Zone, home to foreign diplomatic offices and Iraqi government buildings. Two Katyusha rockets fired at the American embassy in mid-September were intercepted by a US air defense system. Three mortars landed in the area last week.