Indian Point Energy CenterNuclear power plant in Buchanan, New YorkIndian Point Energy Center (IPEC) is a three-unit nuclear power plant station located in Buchanan, New York, just south of Peekskill. It sits on the east bank of the Hudson River, about 36 miles (58 km) north of Midtown Manhattan. The plant generates over 2,000 megawThe Main Cause of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12) atts (MWe) of electrical power. For reference, the record peak energy consumption of New York City and Westchester County (the ConEdison Service Territory) was set during a seven-day heat wave on July 19, 2013, at 13,322 megawatts. Electrical energy consumption varies greatly with time of day and season.Quick Facts: Country, Location …The plant is owned and operated by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation, and includes two operating Westinghouse pressurized water reactors—designated “Indian Point 2” and “Indian Point 3″—which Entergy bought from Consolidated Edison and the New York Power Authority respectively. The facility also contains the permanently shut-down Indian Point Unit 1 reactor. As of 2015, the number of permanent jobs at the Buchanan plant is approximately 1,000.The original 40-year operating licenses for units 2 and 3 expired in September 2013 and December 2015, respectively. Entergy had applied for license extensions and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was moving toward granting a twenty-year extension for each reactor. However, after pressure from local environmental groups and New York governor Andrew Cuomo, it was announced that the plant is scheduled to be shut down by 2021. Local groups had cited increasingly frequent issues with the aging units, ongoing environmental releases, and the proximity of the plant to New York City.ReactorsHistory and designThe reactors are built on land that originally housed the Indian Point Amusement Park, but was acquired by Consolidated Edison (ConEdison) on October 14, 1954. Indian Point 1, built by ConEdison, was a 275-megawatt Babcock & Wilcox supplied  pressurized water reactor that was issued an operating license on March 26, 1962 and began operations on September 16, 1962. The first core used a thorium-based fuel with stainless steel cladding, but this fuel did not live up to expectations for core life. The plant was operated with uranium dioxide fuel for the remainder of its life. The reactor was shut down on October 31, 1974, because the emergency core cooling system did not meet regulatory requirements. All spent fuel was removed from the reactor vessel by January 1976, but the reactor still stands. The licensee, Entergy, plans to decommission Unit 1 when Unit 2 is decommissioned.The two additional reactors, Indian Point 2 and 3, are four-loop Westinghouse pressurized water reactors both of similar design. Units 2 and 3 were completed in 1974 and 1976, respectively. Unit 2 has a generating capacity of 1,032 MW, and Unit 3 has a generating capacity of 1,051 MW. Both reactors use uranium dioxide fuel of no more than 4.8% U-235 enrichment. The reactors at Indian Point are protected by containment domes made of steel-reinforced concrete that is 40 inches thick, with a carbon steel liner.Nuclear capacity in New York stateUnits 2 and 3 are two of six operating nuclear energy sources in New York State. New York is one of the five largest states in terms of nuclear capacity and generation, accounting for approximately 5% of the national totals. Indian Point provides 39% of the state’s nuclear capacity. Nuclear power produces 34.2% of the state’s electricity, higher than the U.S. average of 20.6%. In 2017, Indian Point generated approximately 10% of the state’s electricity needs, and 25% of the electricity used in New York City and Westchester County. Its contract with Consolidated Edison is for just 560 megawatts. The New York Power Authority, which built Unit 3, stopped buying electricity from Indian Point in 2012. NYPA supplies the subways, airports, and public schools and housing in NYC and Westchester County. Entergy sells the rest of Indian Point’s output into the NYISO administered electric wholesale markets and elsewhere in New England. In 2013, New York had the fourth highest average electricity prices in the United States. Half of New York’s power demand is in the New York City region; about two-fifths of generation originates there.RefuelingThe currently operating Units 2 and 3 are each refueled on a two-year cycle. At the end of each fuel cycle, one unit is brought offline for refueling and maintenance activities. On March 2, 2015, Indian Point 3 was taken offline for 23 days to perform its refueling operations. Entergy invested $50 million in the refueling and other related projects for Unit 3, of which $30 million went to employee salaries. The unit was brought back online on March 25, 2015.EffectsEconomic impactA June 2015 report by a lobby group called Nuclear Energy Institute found that the operation of Indian Point generates $1.3 billion of annual economic output in local counties, $1.6 billion statewide, and $2.5 billion across the United States. In 2014, Entergy paid $30 million in state and local property taxes. The total tax revenue (direct and secondary) was nearly $340 million to local, state, and federal governments. According to the Village of Buchanan budget for 2016–2017, a payment in lieu of taxes in the amount of $2.62 million was received in 2015-2016, and was projected to be $2.62 million in 2016–2017 – the majority of which can be assumed to come from the Indian Point Energy Center.Over the last decade, the station has maintained a capacity factor of greater than 93 percent. This is consistently higher than the nuclear industry average and than other forms of generation. The reliability helps offset the severe price volatility of other energy sources (e.g., natural gas) and the indeterminacy of renewable electricity sources (e.g., solar, wind).Indian Point directly employs about 1,000 full-time workers. This employment creates another 2,800 jobs in the five-county region, and 1,600 in other industries in New York, for a total of 5,400 in-state jobs. Additionally, another 5,300 indirect jobs are created out of state, creating a sum total of 10,700 jobs throughout the United States.Environmental concernsEnvironmentalists have expressed concern about increased carbon emissions with the impending shutdown of Indian Point (generating electricity with nuclear energy creates no carbon emissions). A study undertaken by Environmental Progress found that closure of the plant would cause power emissions to jump 29% in New York, equivalent to the emissions from 1.4 million additional cars on New York roads.Some environmental groups have expressed concerns about the operation of Indian Point, including radiation pollution and endangerment of wildlife, but whether Indian Point has ever posed a significant danger to wildlife or the public remains controversial. Though anti-nuclear group Riverkeeper notes “Radioactive leakage from the plant containing several radioactive isotopes, such as strontium-90, cesium-137, cobalt-60, nickel-63 and tritium, a rarely-occurring isotope of hydrogen, has flowed into groundwater that eventually enters the Hudson River in the past, there is no evidence radiation from the plant has ever posed a significant hazard to local residents or wildlife. In the last year[when?], nine tritium leaks have occurred, however, even at their highest levels the leaks have never exceeded one-tenth of one percent of US Nuclear Regulatory Commission limits.In February 2016, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a full investigation by state environment and health officials and is partnering with organizations like Sierra Club, Riverkeepers, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, Scenic Hudson and Physicians for Social Responsibility in seeking the permanent closure of the plant. However, Cuomo’s motivation for closing the plant was called into question after it was revealed two top former aides, under federal prosecution for influence-peddling, had lobbied on behalf of natural gas company Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) to kill Indian Point. In his indictment, US attorney Preet Bharara wrote “the importance of the plant [CPV’s proposed Valley Energy Center, a plant powered by natural gas] to the State depended at least in part, on whether [Indian Point] was going to be shut down.”In April 2016 climate scientist James Hansen took issue with calls to shut the plant down, including those from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “The last few weeks have seen an orchestrated campaign to mislead the people of New York about the essential safety and importance of Indian Point nuclear plant to address climate change,” wrote Hansen, adding “Sanders has offered no evidence that NRC [U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission] has failed to do its job, and he has no expertise in over-riding NRC’s judgement. For the sake of future generations who could be harmed by irreversible climate change, I urge New Yorkers to reject this fear mongering and uphold science against ideology.”Indian Point removes water from the nearby Hudson River. Despite the use of fish screens, the cooling system kills over a billion fish eggs and larvae annually. According to one NRC report from 2010, as few as 38% of alewives survive the screens. On September 14, 2015, a state hearing began in regards to the deaths of fish in the river, and possibly implementing a shutdown period from May to August. An Indian Point spokesman stated that such a period would be unnecessary, as Indian Point “is fully protective of life in the Hudson River and $75 million has been spent over the last 30 years on scientific studies demonstrating that the plant has no harmful impact to adult fish.” The hearings lasted three weeks. Concerns were also raised over the planned building of new cooling towers, which would cut down forest land that is suspected to be used as breeding ground by muskrat and mink. At the time of the report, no minks or muskrats were spotted there.SafetyIndian Point Energy Center has been given an incredible amount of scrutiny from the media and politicians and is regulated more heavily than various other power plants in the state of New York (i.e., by the NRC in addition to FERC, the NYSPSC, the NYISO, the NYSDEC, and the EPA). On a forced outage basis – incidents related to electrical equipment failure that force a plant stoppage – it provides a much more reliable operating history than most other power plants in New York. Beginning at the end of 2015, Governor Cuomo began to ramp up political action against the Indian Point facility, opening an investigation with the state public utility commission, the department of health, and the department of environmental conservation. To put the public service commission investigation in perspective: most electric outage investigations conducted by the commission are in response to outages with a known number of affected retail electric customers. By November 17, 2017, the NYISO accepted Indian Point’s retirement notice.In 1997, Indian Point Unit 3 was removed from the NRC’s list of plants that receive increased attention from the regulator. An engineer for the NRC noted that the plant had been experiencing increasingly fewer problems during inspections. On March 10, 2009 the Indian Point Power Plant was awarded the fifth consecutive top safety rating for annual operations by the Federal regulators. According to the Hudson Valley Journal News, the plant had shown substantial improvement in its safety culture in the previous two years. A 2003 report commissioned by then-Governor George Pataki concluded that the “current radiological response system and capabilities are not adequate to…protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation in the event of a release from Indian Point”. More recently, in December 2012 Entergy commissioned a 400-page report on the estimates of evacuation times. This report, performed by emergency planning company KLD Engineering, concluded that the existing traffic management plans provided by Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties are adequate and require no changes. According to one list that ranks U.S. nuclear power plants by their likelihood of having a major natural disaster related incident, Indian Point is the most likely to be hit by a natural disaster, mainly an earthquake. Despite this, the owners of the plant still say that safety is a selling point for the nuclear power plant.Incidents In 1973, five months after Indian Point 2 opened, the plant was shut down when engineers discovered buckling in the steel liner of the concrete dome in which the nuclear reactor is housed. On October 17, 1980, 100,000 gallons of Hudson River water leaked into the Indian Point 2 containment building from the fan cooling unit, undetected by a safety device designed to detect hot water. The flooding, covering the first nine feet of the reactor vessel, was discovered when technicians entered the building. Two pumps that should have removed the water were found to be inoperative. NRC proposed a $2,100,000 fine for the incident. In February 2000, Unit 2 experienced a Steam Generator Tube Rupture (SGTR), which allowed primary water to leak into the secondary system through one of the steam generators. All four steam generators were subsequently replaced. In 2005, Entergy workers while digging discovered a small leak in a spent fuel pool. Water containing tritium and strontium-90 was leaking through a crack in the pool building and then finding its way into the nearby Hudson River. Workers were able to keep the spent fuel rods safely covered despite the leak. On March 22, 2006 The New York Times also reported finding radioactive nickel-63 and strontium in groundwater on site. In 2007, a transformer at Unit 3 caught fire, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission raised its level of inspections, because the plant had experienced many unplanned shutdowns. According to The New York Times, Indian Point “has a history of transformer problems”. On April 23, 2007, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined the owner of the Indian Point nuclear plant $130,000 for failing to meet a deadline for a new emergency siren plan. The 150 sirens at the plant are meant to alert residents within 10 miles to a plant emergency. On January 7, 2010, NRC inspectors reported that an estimated 600,000 gallons of mildly radioactive steam was intentionally vented to the atmosphere after an automatic shutdown of Unit 2. After the vent, one of the vent valves unintentionally remained slightly open for two days. The levels of tritium in the steam were within the allowable safety limits defined in NRC standards. On November 7, 2010, an explosion occurred in a main transformer for Indian Point 2, spilling oil into the Hudson River. Entergy later agreed to pay a $1.2 million penalty for the transformer explosion. July 2013, a former supervisor, who worked at the Indian Point nuclear power plant for twenty-nine years, was arrested for falsifying the amount of particulate in the diesel fuel for the plant’s backup generators. On May 9, 2015, a transformer failed at Indian Point 3, causing the automated shutdown of reactor 3. A fire that resulted from the failure was extinguished, and the reactor was placed in a safe and stable condition. The failed transformer contained about 24,000 gallons of dielectric fluid, which is used as an insulator and coolant when the transformer is energized. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that about 3,000 gallons of dielectric fluid entered the river following the failure. In June 2015, a mylar balloon floated into a switchyard, causing an electrical problem resulting in the shutdown of Reactor 3. In July 2015, Reactor 3 was shut down after a water pump failure. On December 5, 2015, Indian Point 2 was shut down after several control rods lost power. On February 6, 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo informed the public that radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into the groundwater at the Indian Point Nuclear facility.Spent fuelIndian Point stores used fuel rods in two spent fuel pools at the facility. The spent fuel pools at Indian Point are not stored under a containment dome like the reactor, but rather they are contained within an indoor 40-foot-deep pool and submerged under 27 feet of water. Water is a natural and effective barrier to radiation. The spent fuel pools at Indian Point are set in bedrock and are constructed of concrete walls that are four to six feet wide, with a quarter-inch thick stainless steel inner liner. The pools each have multiple redundant backup cooling systems.Indian Point began dry cask storage of spent fuel rods in 2008, which is a safe and environmentally sound option according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Some rods have already been moved to casks from the spent fuel pools. The pools will be kept nearly full of spent fuel, leaving enough space to allow emptying the reactor completely. Dry cask storage systems are designed to resist floods, tornadoes, projectiles, temperature extremes, and other unusual scenarios. The NRC requires the spent fuel to be cooled and stored in the spent fuel pool for at least five years before being transferred to dry casks.Earthquake riskIn 2008, researchers from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory located a previously unknown active seismic zone running from Stamford, Connecticut, to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, New York—the intersection of the Stamford-Peekskill line with the well-known Ramapo Fault—which passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast, but scientists dispute how active this roughly 200-million-year-old fault really is. Many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. Visible at ground level, the fault line likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.In July 2013, Entergy engineers reassessed the risk of seismic damage to Unit 3 and submitted their findings in a report to the NRC. It was found that risk leading to reactor core damage is 1 in 106,000 reactor years using U.S. Geological Survey data; and 1 in 141,000 reactor years using Electric Power Research Institute data. Unit 3’s previous owner, the New York Power Authority, had conducted a more limited analysis in the 1990s than Unit 2’s previous owner, Con Edison, leading to the impression that Unit 3 had fewer seismic protections than Unit 2. Neither submission of data from the previous owners was incorrect.According to a company spokesman, Indian Point was built to withstand an earthquake of 6.1 on the Richter scale. Entergy executives have also noted “that Indian Point had been designed to withstand an earthquake much stronger than any on record in the region, though not one as powerful as the quake that rocked Japan.”The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Indian Point was Reactor 2: 1 in 30,303; Reactor 3: 1 in 10,000, according to an NRC study published in August 2010. Msnbc.com reported based on the NRC data that “Indian Point nuclear reactor No. 3 has the highest risk of earthquake damage in the country, according to new NRC risk estimates provided to msnbc.com.” According to the report, the reason is that plants in known earthquake zones like California were designed to be more quake-resistant than those in less affected areas like New York. The NRC did not dispute the numbers but responded in a release that “The NRC results to date should not be interpreted as definitive estimates of seismic risk,” because the NRC does not rank plants by seismic risk.IPEC Units 2 and 3 both operated at 100% full power before, during, and after the Virginia earthquake on August 23, 2011. A thorough inspection of both units by plant personnel immediately following this event verified no significant damage occurred at either unit.Emergency planningThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.According to an analysis of U.S. Census data for MSNBC, the 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Indian Point was 272,539, an increase of 17.6 percent during the previous ten years. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 17,220,895, an increase of 5.1 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles include New York (41 miles to city center); Bridgeport, Conn. (40 miles); Newark, N.J. (39 miles); and Stamford, Conn. (24 miles).In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima incident in Japan, the State Department recommended that any Americans in Japan stay beyond fifty miles from the area. Columnist Peter Applebome, writing in The New York Times, noted that such an area around Indian Point would include “almost all of New York City except for Staten Island; almost all of Nassau County and much of Suffolk County; all of Bergen County, N.J.; all of Fairfield, Conn.” He quotes Purdue University professor Daniel Aldrich as saying “Many scholars have already argued that any evacuation plans shouldn’t be called plans, but rather “fantasy documents””.The current 10-mile plume-exposure pathway Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) is one of two EPZs intended to facilitate a strategy for protective action during an emergency and comply with NRC regulations. “The exact size and shape of each EPZ is a result of detailed planning which includes consideration of the specific conditions at each site, unique geographical features of the area, and demographic information. This preplanned strategy for an EPZ provides a substantial basis to support activity beyond the planning zone in the extremely unlikely event it would be needed.”In an interview, Entergy executives said they doubt that the evacuation zone would be expanded to reach as far as New York City.Indian Point is protected by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including a National Guard base within a mile of the facility, as well as by private off-site security forces.During the September 11 attacks, American Airlines Flight 11 flew near the Indian Point Energy Center en route to the World Trade Center. Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers/plotters, had considered nuclear facilities for targeting in a terrorist attack. Entergy says it is prepared for a terrorist attack, and asserts that a large airliner crash into the containment building would not cause reactor damage. Following 9/11 the NRC required operators of nuclear facilities in the U.S. to examine the effects of terrorist events and provide planned responses. In September 2006, the Indian Point Security Department successfully completed mock assault exercises required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, according to environmental group Riverkeeper, these NRC exercises are inadequate because they do not envision a sufficiently large group of attackers.According to The New York Times, fuel stored in dry casks is less vulnerable to terrorist attack than fuel in the storage pools.RecertificationUnits 2 and 3 were both originally licensed by the NRC for 40 years of operation. The NRC limits commercial power reactor licenses to an initial 40 years, but also permits such licenses to be renewed. This original 40-year term for reactor licenses was based on economic and antitrust considerations, not on limitations of nuclear technology. Due to this selected period, however, some structures and components may have been engineered on the basis of an expected 40-year service life. The original federal license for Unit Two expired on September 28, 2013, and the license for Unit Three was due to expire in December 2015. On April 30, 2007, Entergy submitted an application for a 20-year renewal of the licenses for both units. On May 2, 2007, the NRC announced that this application is available for public review. Because the owner submitted license renewal applications at least five years prior to the original expiration date, the units are allowed to continue operation past this date while the NRC considers the renewal application.On September 23, 2007, the antinuclear group Friends United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE) filed legal papers with the NRC opposing the relicensing of the Indian Point 2 reactor. The group contended that the NRC improperly held Indian Point to less stringent design requirements. The NRC responded that the newer requirements were put in place after the plant was complete.On December 1, 2007, Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer called a press conference with the participation of environmental advocacy groups Clearwater and Riverkeeper to announce their united opposition to the re-licensing of the Indian Point nuclear power plants. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of the Attorney General requested a hearing as part of the process put forth by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In September 2007 The New York Times reported on the rigorous legal opposition Entergy faces in its request for a 20-year licensing extension for Indian Point Nuclear Reactor 2.A water quality certificate is a prerequisite for a twenty-year renewal by the NRC. On April 3, 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that Indian Point violates the federal Clean Water Act, because “the power plant’s water-intake system kills nearly a billion aquatic organisms a year, including the shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species.” The state is demanding that Entergy constructs new closed-cycle cooling towers at a cost of over $1 billion, a decision that will effectively close the plant for nearly a year. Regulators denied Entergy’s request to install fish screens that they said would improve fish mortality more than new cooling towers. Anti-nuclear groups and environmentalists have in the past tried to close the plant, which is in a more densely populated area than any of the 66 other nuclear plant sites in the US. Opposition to the plant[from whom?] increased after the September 2001 terror attacks, when one of the hijacked jets flew close to the plant on its way to the World Trade Center. Public worries also increased after the 2011 Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and after a report highlighting the Indian Point plant’s proximity to the Ramapo Fault.Advocates of recertifying Indian Point include former New York City mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph W. Giuliani. Bloomberg says that “Indian Point is critical to the city’s economic viability”. The New York Independent System Operator maintains that in the absence of Indian Point, grid voltages would degrade, which would limit the ability to transfer power from upstate New York resources through the Hudson Valley to New York City.As the current governor, Andrew Cuomo continues to call for closure of Indian Point. In late June 2011, a Cuomo advisor in a meeting with Entergy executives informed them for the first time directly of the Governor’s intention to close the plant, while the legislature approved a bill to streamline the process of siting replacement plants.Nuclear energy industry figures and analysts responded to Cuomo’s initiative by questioning whether replacement electrical plants could be certified and built rapidly enough to replace Indian Point, given New York state’s “cumbersome regulation process”, and also noted that replacement power from out of state sources will be hard to obtain because New York has weak ties to generation capacity in other states. They said that possible consequences of closure will be a sharp increase in the cost of electricity for downstate users and even “rotating black-outs”.Several members of the House of Representatives representing districts near the plant have also opposed recertification, including Democrats Nita Lowey, Maurice Hinchey, and Eliot Engel and then Republican member Sue Kelly.In November 2016 the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the application to renew the NRC operating licences must be reviewed against the state’s coastal management program, which The New York State Department of State had already decided was inconsistent with coastal management requirements. Entergy has filed a lawsuit regarding the validity of Department of State’s decision.ClosureBeginning at the end of 2015, Governor Cuomo began to ramp up political action against the Indian Point facility, opening investigations with the state public utility commission, the department of health and the department of environmental conservation. To put the public service commission investigation in perspective, most electric outage investigations conducted by the commission are in response to outages with a known number of affected retail electric customers. By November 17, 2017, the NYISO accepted Indian Point’s retirement notice.In January 2017, the governor’s office announced closure by 2020-21. The closure, along with pollution control, challenges New York’s ability to be supplied. Among the solution proposals are storage, renewables (solar and wind), a new transmission cables from Canada  and a 650MW natural gas plant located in Wawayanda, New York. There was also a 1,000 MW merchant HVDC transmission line proposed in 2013 to the public service commission that would have interconnected at Athens, New York and Buchanan, New York, however this project was indefinitely stalled when its proposed southern converter station site was bought by the Town of Cortlandt in a land auction administered by Con Edison. As of October 1, 2018, the 650 MW plant built in Wawayanda, New York, by CPV Valley, is operating commercially. The CPV Valley plant has been associated with Governor Cuomo’s close aid, Joe Percoco, and the associated corruption trial. Another plant being built, Cricket Valley Energy Center, rated at 1,100 MW, is on schedule to provide energy by 2020 in Dover, New York. An Indian Point contingency plan, initiated in 2012 by the NYSPSC under the administration of Cuomo, solicited energy solutions from which a Transmission Owner Transmission Solutions (TOTS) plan was selected. The TOTS projects provide 450 MW of additional transfer capability across a NYISO defined electric transmission corridor in the form of three projects: series compensation at a station in Marcy, New York, reconductoring a transmission line, adding an additional transmission line, and “unbottling” Staten Island capacity. These projects, with the exception of part of the Staten Island “unbottling” were in service by mid-2016. The cost of the TOTS projects are distributed among various utilities in their rate cases before the public service commission and the cost allocation amongst themselves was approved by FERC. NYPA and LIPA are also receiving a portion. The cost of the TOTS projects has been estimated in the range of $27 million to $228 million. An energy highway initiative was also prompted by this order (generally speaking, additional lines on the Edic-Pleasant Valley and the Oakdale-Fraser transmission corridors) which is still going through the regulatory process in both the NYISO and NYSPSC.Under the current plan, one reactor is scheduled to be shut down in April 2020 and the second by April 2021. A report by the New York Building Congress, a construction industry association, has said that NYC will need additional natural gas pipelines to accommodate the city’s increasing demand for energy. Environmentalists have argued that the power provided by Indian point can be replaced by renewable energy, combined with conservation measures and improvements to the efficiency of the electrical grid.
Thousands of members of Iraq’s mostly Shiite militias known as Popular Mobilization Forces have marched in a parade in the largest show of strength since the founding of the controversial paramilitary group
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA and SAMYA KULLAB Associated Press
June 26, 2021, 8:14 AM
• 3 min read
BAGHDAD — Thousands of members of Iraq’s umbrella of mostly Shiite militias known as Popular Mobilization Forces marched in a parade Saturday, the largest show of strength since the founding of the controversial paramilitary group.
Russian-made tanks, boats, rocket launchers and ammunition were on display in the parade in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, held to mark the seventh anniversary of the formation of the PMF, established after a 2014 call to arms by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to defeat militants from the Islamic State group.
At the time, IS held a third Iraq’s territory and the Iran-backed militias were critical to boosting the Iraqi government forces, which aided by the U.S.-led coalition eventually defeated the Islamic State group.
However, a rift has recently emerged between the paramilitary force and the government, following the arrest of PMF commander Qassim Musleh last month on terrorism charges. Musleh was later released, a move that embarrassed Iraq’s leadership and laid bare the limits of the government’s ability to bring militia leaders to account.
Also on Saturday, a bomb-laden drone struck a building in an empty village just 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the new location of the U.S. Consulate in Irbil, in Kurdish-run northern Iraq. The building was still under construction and there were no casualties, according to a senior Kurdish official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
Rockets and drones have continued to target the U.S.-led coalition across Iraq, with Western officials blaming Iran-backed Shiite militias. Iran-backed groups have become the most powerful and influential within the PMF.
The parade, held in Camp Ashraf, saw Russian-made tanks, boats and locally made rocket launchers come down a broad thoroughfare. The event was broadcast on Iraqi state TV.
Also taking part in the parade were PMF units with Yazidi militiamen, who marched wearing their ceremonial white, as well as Christian and Sunni groups.
The marchers also held large posters of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a top militia leader killed in a U.S.-led airstrike last year outside the Baghdad airport. The strike also killed top Iranian commander, Gen. Qassim Soleimani of the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, whose slaying came close to pushing Iran and the U.S. into full-blown conflict.
However, though PMF often brandishes Soleimani’s image together with that of al-Muhandis at the paramilitary banners that line the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, images of the Iranian general were absent from the parade — likely an attempt to project cross-sectarian unity of the militias.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, officially the country’s commander-in-chief, presided over the parade.
“We affirm our work is being done under the flag of Iraq, and the protection of its land and its people is our duty,” he tweeted during the parade.
Also conspicuously absent from the parade were militias affiliated with firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and al-Sistani, a sign of deepening divisions within the PMF and dissatisfaction with the growing influence of Iran-backed groups.
News Desk26 June 2021
Safa Mariyam discusses the intricacies of biowarfare and how states use genetic engineering to create diseases that can be used against enemies. It is possible that the world may soon witness a biological war.
A tectonic shift in the world’s disposition is observed in a matter of a few weeks causing the human race to fall flat on its face. An unswerving germ has crippled the 21st century’s roaring socioeconomic infrastructure, creating rather a doomsday scenario. Covid-19 has roused the world to sense a ‘palpable threat’ posed by a purported act of bioterrorism, an ugly face of plutocracy, and selective mutism of the world towards humanitarian crisis.
From hegemonic power politics between US-China rivalry to bickering over the production and distribution of the vaccine has just divided the allies, shelved UN, and discarded WHO instantly. It is not eccentric if one would think of the ‘novel’ coronavirus as a bioweapon, keeping in mind the nefarious economic and political vying for unipolar status between the United States and China.
Leaving guns to the primitive men, world order, on a geo-political podium has experienced a drastic transformation from uni-polarity to multi-polarity due to unprecedented developments triggered simply by a ‘biological agent’.
Since the Human Genome Project has deciphered the script of life whereby providing the human genetic blueprint, enormous entries in genomic databases have made it sinecure for a bioweaponeer to design highly infectious cryptic viruses. Such viruses could clandestinely infect a population and later become activated.
As the realm of genetic engineering has advanced, tailored development of lethal and contagious pathogens is feasible, rendering biodefense a challenging phenomenon. The dark side of biotechnology or ‘black biology’ has made it attainable to create ‘designer genes’ that can be exploited as lethal bioweapons.
The current imbroglio ensued by ‘novel’ coronavirus has shifted the world’s attention towards biological warfare like never before. Coronavirus pandemic went through the globe like a hot knife through butter, nevertheless, such infectious diseases were renowned as a potential tool in warfare as early as 600 BC. Petrifying events like Black Death (plague), anthrax, and smallpox all show a grief-stricken picture of melancholy humanity has endured.
Bio-warfare refers to the deliberate spread of disease to plants, livestock, and humans by using a biologically hazardous agent or a bioweapon. A bioweapon may sound like another kind of giant bazooka, but it is merely a few micrometers in size, not even visible to the human eye.
According to WHO, bioweapon is a harmful micro-organism like bacteria, toxin, or virus, used as agents to spread infectious disease. Bio-weapons are extremely cheap when compared to the cost of a nuclear weapon program. As an example, a neuro-toxin ‘botulinum’ infamously known as ‘miracle bio-poison’, secreted by bacteria Clostridium botulinum, is known for its extreme lethality and potency.
According to research, 1 gram of crystalline toxin, if evenly circulated and inhaled, can kill more than one million people (Dhaked & Singh, 2010). A purified form of botulinum toxin from bacteria Clostridium botulinum is nearly 3 million times more intoxicating than sarin, a chemical nerve agent.
Dr. Piers Millett, an expert on science policy and international security whose work centers on biotechnology and biowarfare articulates, ‘‘Imagine aerosolizing a lovely genome editor that knocks out a specifically nasty gene in your population. It’s a passive thing. You breathe it in and it retroactively alters the population’s DNA.’’
Countries waging wars through bioweapons
The stratagem of nations to equip bio-weaponry in battles is as old as the war itself. Over 2,000 years ago, the earliest example of bio-warfare occurred when Assyrians had infected enemy wells with a rye ergot fungus. In 1763, during the Siege of Fort Pitt, the British army distributed smallpox-infested blankets to Native Americans. In 1495, the Spanish had mixed wine with the blood of leprosy patients to sell to their French foes in Naples, Italy.
Germany had been accused of spreading cholera in Italy and plague in St. Petersburg, Russia during World War II. In 1984, the Rajneeshee cult had intentionally contaminated salad bars in Oregon restaurants with Salmonella typhimurium causing 751 cases of poisoning.
Large-scale production and weaponization of many organisms such as those causing brucellosis, tularemia, and anthrax subsequently took place in many countries including the USSR, the USA, and the UK during the 1950s and 1960s.In 2001, Bacillus anthracis spores were sent anonymously in the US postal system that caused 22 cases of anthrax and 5 deaths. In the ‘Anthrax anxiety’ over 50,000 people took broad-spectrum antibiotics and deluged the medical care centers.
Despite signing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) in 1972, the Former Soviet Union carried a clandestine bioweapon program ‘Biopreparat’ until the 1990s. The massive military program to weaponize biological agents expended hundreds of US dollars on the research and sought out the most deadly and transmissible bacteria (plague) and virus (smallpox) to humans.
A Japanese biowarfare program employed more than 3000 scientists and 150 buildings in Pingfan for its research and development. The center known as “Unit 731” worked on the pathogenic microorganisms and diseases of interest such as B.anthracis, Neisseria meningitis, Vibrio cholera, Shigella spp. and Yersinia pestis. An estimate of more than 10,000 war prisoners had died due to infection spread during experimentation of the Japanese program between 1932 and 1945.
Advanced gene editing technologies
Due to new-fangled DNA editing techniques in the genetic engineering domain, constructive or destructive modifications in a biological cell are now a duck soup for scientists. Such genome editing tools or ‘cut and paste tools’ are rather cheap, displaying immense potential for good use in the medical field when used to fix genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis or deadly types of cancer. However, its horrendous use could be made by designing killer mosquitoes, anti-biotic resistant superbugs, and contagious viruses.
Advanced gene editing technologies include CRISPR (Cas9), TALENs, zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs), and homing endonucleases or meganucleases. These scientific breakthroughs have the capacity to kick out a selective gene and insert the desired gene instead, or even design a gene from a scratch.
This technological revolution has accelerated myriad discoveries in the field of human gene therapy, drug modification, precision genetic medicine, disease modeling, and medical pathology studies. Furthermore, advances in synthetic biology have empowered us to control pathogen’s innate programming language and install genetic logic gates to generate microbes with desirable functions.
Forcing biology to behave like electronics, microbes equipped with reliable genetic logic gates can have an entire genome ‘boot up’. Re-programming and genetic mixing of different living cells have paved a smooth road for the development of binary biological weapons and highly infectious micro-organism.
In a study, a strain of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis was re-programmed to combat malignant cells (Anderson, et. al, 2006). In an engineered bacterial cell, OR logic gates were synthesized which stimulated the production of the drug in the presence of some disease marker (Brophy & Voigt, 2014). Thus, it is not difficult for a non-state actor to develop bio or binary weaponry and achieve his bellicose missions against other states.
Categorizing bioterrorism agents
Whilst breakthrough advances in the realm of microbial biotechnology and comparative genomics, it is imperative to envisage proliferation and the use of new biological weapons for war contingencies and terrorist events. Pugnacious nationalist leaders and imperialistic warheads may persevere in seeking them for hegemonic motives.
For such a risk, the Centers for Disease Control has grouped over 30 potential bioterrorism agents (micro-organisms and toxins ) into three threat categories on the basis of lethality and transmissibility.
First priority group includes agents likeBacillus anthracis, Ebola, Lassa, Clostridium botulinum toxin. The second list includes pathogens with less morbidity rate i-e Staphylococcal enterotoxin B, Brucella species, Epsilon toxin of Clostridium perfringens, E.coli O157:H7, Salmonella species.
Whereas, list C focuses on the emerging pathogens which could be engineered for mass dissemination due to their availability, easy production, and high mortality rates. It includes the Nipah virus and hantavirus.
A group of elite scientists in the United States, JASON group, had categorized futuristic techniques that could design lethal genetically modified organisms. These included; binary biological weapons; designer genes; gene therapy as a weapon; stealth viruses; host-swapping diseases and designer diseases.
Next-generation bioweapons developed by integrating genetic engineering and computational biology is the weaponry par excellence. Dr. Kanatjan Alibekov, an infectious disease physician and the highest-ranking detector of the Biopreparat program (Russia), published Biohazard, a detailed account of his experience.
He disclosed that along with Soviet biologists, he had prepared Biopreparat’s first vaccine-resistant tularemia bomblet as a bioweapon. His team had also boosted the potency of the anthrax strain 836 and called it the ‘battle strain’. Dr. Alibek confided that Russian scientists had improved many of these deadly strains to evade the immune system and existing treatments.
In May 1998, Alibek testified before the U.S. Congress that in Soviet’s opinion, the best biological agents were those which had no antidote. And those agents for which vaccines or treatment existed, antibiotic-resistant or immunosuppressive resistant variants were designed.
In the early 1990s, chimeras of VEE (Venezuelan equine encephalitis), Ebola, and Marburg genes inserted into the smallpox virus were developed by Russian biologists. Chimeras are man-made viruses, engineered by injecting genes from one virus to another, to make even a virulent viral strain.
In 1997, Russian scientists had published research in a British journal Vaccine, in which they had transferred the genome of the bacteria Bacillus cereus into Bacillus anthracis cultures, rendering the anthrax bacteria strain resistant to the Russian anthrax vaccine.
Arming against biological weapons
Exponential discoveries in the biotechnology domain have rendered biological weapons exceptional in their invisibility, transmissibility as well as potency. Engineering of these agents targets at creating encumbrance to military responses, crippling the socio-economic stability and pulverize the government on the global podium, leaving the healthcare system naked and dilapidated.
Also, Geneva Protocol signed in 1925 has proved itself to be a ‘toothless’ treaty as it does not ensure any verification or compliance even after banning the bacteriological methods of warfare. However, the amalgamation of microbial biotechnology with immuno-informatics can put forward significant countermeasures against these infectious war agents.
These include elucidating on the human genome, boosting the human immune system, understanding viral and bacterial genomes, and how the human body responds to an infection. Rapid detection of the bio-agent by highly sensitive and advanced diagnostics can be done by the latest technologies such as CRISPR SHERLOCK and DETECTR which may take even less than an hour.
Researchers are also focusing on the commercialization of nano-theranostics and micro-chips for the fast and accurate detection of infectious agents. Also, there is a huge demand of the time for the development of new vaccines, antibiotics, and antiviral drugs which is now a lot easier after the advent of techniques like reverse vaccinology and subtractive genomics.
Moreover, in view of the great misfortune we face today in the form of pandemics, it is evident that economic expansion has outperformed ethical scientific development. Incessant US-China squabbling over the origin of the virus at the extreme time of crisis has made covid-19 become rather a political football.
All of the ‘politicking’ on, when multitudes of infected humans are out of ventilators, pummeled by poverty, and grieved by the sickness. Seams that were loosening long before the sudden eruption of the virus are now ripping apart even quicker. The ‘Chi-merica’ imbroglio has not only stymied the trade agreements in times of severe crisis but has also augmented a deeper world divide in terms of sanctions and vaccine monopoly.
What is more worrisome about living in this ‘Biological Century’ is the intensity of threat one feels by the clandestine acts of bioterrorism. Keeping in mind the heightened capabilities of the scientists to manipulate DNA segment, it raises the question of the creation of such vaccine-resistant strains which could mutate resulting in a species for which no antidote could be developed in the future, putting forth dreadful consequences.
This leaves us with some serious queries. Is the covid-19 pandemic just a start towards a new world order? Have humans really equipped themselves to fight bio-warfare? Will black biotechnology consider the bio-security challenges before the next global humanitarian crisis?
Winston Churchill had once lamented, “Blight to destroy crops, Anthrax to slay horses and cattle, plague to poison, not armies but whole districts- such line along which science is remorselessly advancing’’. There are those who say ‘The First World War was chemical; the Second War was nuclear, and that the Third World War-God forbid-will be biological.
Safa Mariyam is an MPhil scholar and a researcher in Industrial Biotechnology, NUST, Islamabad, Pakistan. She is also a member of the American Society for Microbiology, ASM, and is the author of ‘Nanotheranostics’, an international book publication for Springer Nature, Germany. She can be reached at Safahmariyam31@gmail.com.The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global village Space.
Updated Jun 09, 2021; Posted Jun 09, 2021
A 2.4 magnitude earthquake shook the ground in southern Ocean County just inland from the Jersey Shore on Wednesday morning, officials said.
The minor quake occurred less than 2 miles south of Tuckerton, about 3 miles beneath the surface at 7:52 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Light shaking was felt with no damage reported, the USGC said.
While the vast majority of people who reported feeling the earthquake were from the Jersey Shore region, the USGS has a report of the temblor being felt as far away as Syracuse, New York — 254 miles away from the epicenter — and two reports of the quake being felt in Downington, Pennsylvania, about 80 miles away from the epicenter.
The USGS received 59 reports from people in Little Egg Harbor Township, and one each from Hammonton, Toms River and Vineland. Another report came in from Basking Ridge in Somerset County, which is 77 miles away from the epicenter.
The earthquake is the first one reported in New Jersey in more than six months.
The 10-year anniversary of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in central Virginia that shook buildings in New Jersey and other parts of the East Coast in approaching. The Aug. 23, 2011 earthquake is one of the largest recorded in the eastern United States.
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.
NJ Advance Media staff writer Len Melisurgo contributed to this report.
Jun 27, 2021 12:09 IST
Washington [US], June 27 (ANI): The Biden administration is considering lifting sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as part of negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.
As per NBC News, the information was disclosed by a former US official and two people familiar with the matter. The US and Iranian negotiators have discussed the possible move in indirect talks in Vienna, as part of a wider set of compromises that would see the United States return to the 2015 pact and Iran once again abide by restrictions on its nuclear program, the sources said, reported The Frontier Post.
“I think that’s definitely an Iranian demand,” said Vali Nasr, professor of International Affairs and Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies who worked as a diplomat in the Obama administration. “And I think the US is open to it.”
Asked about the option of lifting sanctions on the supreme leader, a State Department spokesperson told NBC News that “the precise nature and sequence of the sanctions-related steps that the United States would need to take to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA objectives is a subject of the talks.”
The spokesperson added: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
Meanwhile, Iranian President Rouhani’s chief of staff Mahmoud Vaezi was quoted in Iranian media saying the US had already agreed to lift sanctions on some of Iran’s senior leadership, but US officials denied that account, reported The Frontier Post.
Asked about lifting sanctions on the supreme leader in a briefing with reporters, a senior State Department official on Thursday left the door open to the move but said nothing had been agreed so far.
“We are still working through all these issues, and that includes the issues of sanctions that you mentioned,” the official said.
In June 2019, after a US drone was shot down by Iranian forces, former President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and officials appointed by him, banning the ayatollah from travel to the United States or any financial transactions with US companies, reported The Frontier Post.
Removing the sanctions on the supreme leader might help the Biden administration as it tries to persuade Tehran to accept several difficult compromises in the negotiations, according to Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group think tank.
“At the end of the day, what is a more significant priority — curbing Iran’s nuclear program or imposing sanctions that in practice have almost no impact?” Vaez said.
The 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), introduced limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment and other nuclear work in return for easing economic sanctions.
Former President Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018, arguing it was skewed in Iran’s favour and imposed an array of sanctions that have severely damaged Iran’s economy.
The Biden administration says the United States is ready to return to the deal if Iran once again complies with the nuclear restrictions. After six negotiating rounds in Vienna, the two sides say they have made progress but there are still key issues left to resolve, reported The Frontier Post.
“We still have serious differences with Iran with regard to returning to mutual compliance with the JCPOA. Our teams are going back for a seventh-round of indirect negotiations in the coming days,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday. “We’ll see if we can bridge the differences, but they’re real, and we have to be able to bridge them.”
The contours of a possible deal have emerged, and it’s increasingly clear both sides will have to sacrifice some of their original demands and goals, according to former US officials and Western diplomats, reported The Frontier Post.
Despite Iranian appeals, US officials have indicated that some sanctions imposed by the previous administration will remain in place if they are not inconsistent with the JCPOA.
Iran has also asked for a guarantee that the deal will not be abandoned by a future US President, but the Americans have indicated no such guarantee is possible under the US political system.
For its part, the Biden administration has demanded a commitment to engage in follow-on talks to bolster and expand on the existing JCPOA, but Iran has virtually ruled that out, saying they are only interested in renewing the 2015 accord, reported The Frontier Post.
Further, with a new hardline President, Ebrahim Raisi, preparing to take office in Iran after elections this month, his allies in the regime will be pushing for a deal now or not at all, so that the outgoing President, Hassan Rouhani, is tied to any concessions made to the Americans, Vaez said.
“I have a strong sense that the Iranian system knows by now what it takes to get this deal done, and knows that it requires painful concessions,” Vaez said. (ANI)
Ashwini SakharkarJune 26, 2021
Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open-air prison’ because residents’ movements are heavily restricted and controlled in that area. And now, to move forward, Israel’s military is sending tank-like robots, called Jaguars, armed with machine guns to guard the Israel-Gaza border.
Developed by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a revolutionary semi-autonomous robotic system can substitute combat soldiers on Israel’s borders and make the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) a more efficient and technologically advanced military.
Jaguar is based on a six-wheeled chassis and is equipped with a 7.62 mm MAG machine gun which operates both while stationary and on the move. The military combat robot utilizes high-resolution cameras, transmitters, powerful headlights, and a remote-controlled PA system. Additionally, it has the ability to self-destruct if it falls into enemy hands.
The military robot also possesses the ability to self-drive to a set destination, knows how to spot and bypass obstacles and bumps using sensors and an advanced driving system, all while IDF observers and commanders have full operational control.
Jaguar has already been photographed at the border close to the fencing, where it’s expected to handle crowd dispersal and perhaps even shoot down armed combatants trying to enter or fire projectiles into Israel. Under most circumstances, a human operator will actually tell the robot to fire its machine gun.
The human operator needs to actually pull the trigger on the Jaguar’s Pitbull remote weapon system by using a so-called “point-and-shoot” interface. The Jaguar’s AI then automatically adjusts its aim to better target whatever it thinks the soldier was telling it to fire at. The pre-programmed scenarios enable the UGV to fire autonomously.
The deployment of the Jaguar may accomplish its stated goals of keeping more Israeli soldiers out of harm’s way. However, it’s hard to imagine the deployment of killer robots will do anything except make matters worse.
Simon OstrovskyJun 26, 2021 4:30 PM EDT
Last month as the latest war between Israel and Hamas escalated, a wave of anger directed at Jews swept across the U.S., with watchdog groups reporting a sharp increase in antisemitic attacks. Special correspondent Simon Ostrovsky speaks with Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of the human rights organization T’ruah, as part of our ongoing series: “Exploring Hate, antisemitism, racism and extremism.”
- Hari Sreenivasan:Last month, as the latest war between Israel and Hamas escalated, a wave of anger directed at Jews swept across the United States, with watchdog groups reporting a sharp increase in antisemitic attacks. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Simon Ostrovsky sits down with Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of the human rights organization T’ruah, as part of our ongoing series: “Exploring Hate, Antisemitism, Racism and Extremism.”
- Simon Ostrovsky:Over the course of the last outbreak of violence that we saw in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, we also saw an outbreak of antisemitic attacks here in the United States and actually across the world. What do you think caused that?
- Rabbi Jill Jacobs:Well, the outbreak of antisemitism was really, really troubling. We saw, for example, Jews who were just eating sushi in L.A. who are attacked on the street or attacks in the Diamond District in New York and lots of vandalism on synagogues across the United States.For some people, Israel represents the Jewish people. And it’s important to say, first of all, about antisemitism, that antisemitism is a 2,000-plus-year-old hatred of Jews. It’s a hatred that says that it’s basically a giant conspiracy theory that suggests the Jews are some kind of nefarious force within society that are trying to undermine society from the inside.
- Simon Ostrovsky:According to the Anti-Defamation League, they tallied a 75 percent increase in antisemitic attacks in the United States during the latest Israel-Gaza conflict. Do you think that those attacks against Jews in the United States and other parts of the world are similar to the sort of Islamophobic attacks that we’ve seen against innocent Muslims in the aftermath of September 11th or the San Bernardino shooting or other events that people associate with Muslims and Islam?
- Rabbi Jill Jacobs:People definitely have all sorts of stereotypes that grow out of world events, so absolutely after September 11th, as you mentioned, and after other events involving Muslims, we saw, unfortunately, Islamophobic attacks against Muslims.And we’ve also seen it in the United States over COVID. We’ve seen attacks on Asian Americans in the street because of people’s anger about the Chinese government. And so that is very common that unfortunately, some people see a news event happening in some country and decide to attack people who either rightly or wrongly, they associate with that country.
- Simon Ostrovsky:And, you know, given that this is a pattern that we’ve seen develop over time and of course, we can’t blame the attacks on Jews in the United States and elsewhere on anybody but the attackers. But at the same time, Israel is a country that puts itself out there in order to protect Jews. Should they be taking into consideration the diaspora and what the effects of their government’s actions are on Jews living outside of Israel?
- Rabbi Jill Jacobs:So Israel is supposed to be a refuge for Jews. It’s supposed to be a place that keeps Jews safe. It is a place where almost half of the world’s Jewish population lives. And in that regard, Israel does have a responsibility both to Jews and others who live either who are either citizens of Israel, who are or who are under its jurisdiction, as well as to Jews around the world.So before we even talk about how Israel’s image affects Jews around the world, the most important thing is the human rights of those 14 million or so people who are living there. And Israel is every day violating its human rights obligations toward the people who are citizens and who are living under occupation. First and foremost, the people living under occupation who don’t have basic human rights, like the right to citizenship in a state, the right to freedom of movement, self-determination. Those are rights that Jews want for ourselves. And so we have to want them for other people.And beyond that, there is a lot of anxiety from the Israeli government about the relationship with Jews living outside of Israel. There is an anxiety that Jews living outside of Israel are going to abandon Israel, and there’s lots of attempts to try to push back on that.The Netanyahu government didn’t understand its impact on Jews living outside of Israel. The American Jewish community, we know, largely feels connected to the state of Israel, considers itself generally supportive of the long-term security and the longevity of the state of Israel and by and large, is against the occupation, against settlements and for a two-state solution. So a secure state of Israel living side by side with a secure state of Palestine. So that’s where the American Jewish community is. And some of the Israeli government’s attempts to change Israel’s public perception, missed the mark because they don’t understand that actually what’s damaging Israel’s public perception is the occupation that has gone on for more than five decades. And if we could come to an end of the occupation with a negotiated solution that guaranteed the safety of Jews and Palestinians, then for the most part, a lot of the anger at Israel would go away.
- Simon Ostrovsky:Do you think that this government, potentially this new Naftali Bennett government, might do things differently than the previous Netanyahu administration?
- Rabbi Jill Jacobs:Well, this new government is very new, so we don’t know what it’s going to do. We don’t have any illusions that this is a government that’s going to end the occupation or this is a government that is going to transform Israel into the beacon of human rights that we’d all like to see. But it is a necessary step to move away from the Netanyahu government into the next era of Israeli politics.So even if you’re not ending the occupation, you can stop the expansion of settlements, you can stop the evictions of families from Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, also in East Jerusalem. So there are steps you can take to at least make things not get worse. So I would hope that this government would do that. And hopefully that it would show that it’s actually committed to ultimately a negotiated solution that will protect everybody’s human rights.
- Simon Ostrovsky:Rabbi Jill Jacobs, thank you so much for joining us.
- Rabbi Jill Jacobs:Thank you so much.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military, under the direction of President Joe Biden, has conducted airstrikes against what it said were “facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups” near the border between Iraq and Syria.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the militias were using the facilities to launch unmanned aerial vehicle attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq.
Kirby said the U.S. military targeted three operational and weapons storage facilities Sunday — two in Syria and one in Iraq.
He described the airstrikes as “defensive,” saying they were launched in response to the attacks by militias.
“The United States took necessary, appropriate, and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation — but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message,” Kirby said.
The Pentagon said the facilities were used by Iran-backed militia factions, including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada.
Two Iraqi militia officials told The Associated Press in Baghdad that four militiamen were killed in the airstrikes near the border with Syria. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give official statements.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that closely monitors the Syrian conflict through activists on the ground, reported that at least five Iraqi militiamen were killed in the airstrikes.
U.S. military officials have grown increasingly alarmed over drone strikes targeting U.S. military bases in Iraq, which became more common since a U.S.-directed drone strike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport last year. Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the attack. The strike drew the ire of mostly Shiite Iraqi lawmakers and prompted parliament to pass a nonbinding resolution to pressure the Iraqi government to oust foreign troops from the country.
Sunday’s strikes mark the second time the Biden administration has taken military action in the region. In February, the U.S. launched airstrikes against facilities in Syria, near the Iraqi border, that it said were used by Iranian-backed militia groups.
The Pentagon said those strikes were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq in February that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops.
At that time, Biden said Iran should view his decision to authorize U.S. airstrikes in Syria as a warning that it can expect consequences for its support of militia groups that threaten U.S. interests or personnel.
“You can’t act with impunity. Be careful,” Biden said when a reporter asked what message he had intended to send.
On Sunday, Kirby said Biden “has been clear that he will act to protect U.S. personnel. Given the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting U.S. interests in Iraq, the President directed further military action to disrupt and deter such attacks.”
The Pentagon spokesman added: “As a matter of international law, the United States acted pursuant to its right of self-defense. The strikes were both necessary to address the threat and appropriately limited in scope.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Sunday that the U.S. airstrikes “appear to be a targeted and proportional response to a serious and specific threat,” adding, “Protecting the military heroes who defend our freedoms is a sacred priority.”
Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.