TIME National Security

U.S. Not Fully Prepared for Nuclear Terrorist Attack or Large-Scale Catastrophe, Report Says

The report cited a lack of coordination among federal agencies

(WASHINGTON) — The federal government isn’t fully prepared to handle a nuclear terrorist attack or large-scale natural catastrophe, lacking effective coordination, and in some cases is years away from ensuring adequate emergency shelter and medical treatment, congressional investigators have found.

The report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, obtained by The Associated Press before its release, found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency didn’t always keep track of disaster efforts by agencies, hampering the nation’s preparedness even after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. That storm hit a large swath of the eastern U.S., including New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, which received federal disaster money.

“FEMA is not aware of the full range of information,” according to the report. The investigation relied in part on internal documents from the Homeland Security Department, which oversees FEMA, including previously undisclosed details from a 2013 disaster plan that highlights needed improvements in the event of an attack from an improvised nuclear device.

The GAO said it would still take one to five years to develop a strategy to determine whether people were exposed to unsafe levels of radiation and five to 10 years to plan for a full medical response. Guidance also was lacking as to communication among first responders and making shelters and other basic needs available.

Investigators said FEMA, which leads an interagency group in creating a disaster response plan, needs to set clear deadlines and estimated costs to ensure that agencies fulfill the goals.

It is one of several reports that the office plans in the coming months on the level of disaster readiness.

“This report makes clear that there are some areas of our country’s preparedness that need strengthening up,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who co-chairs the Senate Caucus on Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism.

As to natural catastrophes, the report said FEMA should take a bigger responsibility in leading a coordinated response, setting clear minimum standards for agencies and collecting regular status reports. It said the Energy Department did not effectively coordinate with state agencies and the private sector during Superstorm Sandy, which was blamed for at least 182 deaths and $65 billion in damage.

It also cited a lack of coordination among federal agencies in deciding whether to send law enforcement personnel to the affected region.

Jim Crumpacker of Homeland Security said the agency would work to put into place GAO recommendations by June but noted it did not have legal authority to compel other agencies to take action.

“FEMA will continue to coordinate and collaborate with other federal departments and agencies,” Crumpacker wrote in a response included in the GAO report.

According to the report, 39 of 102 corrective actions identified by federal agencies after Superstorm Sandy still need to be done. Among them:

— Improving emergency coordination with states.

— Boosting training in the use of electronic medical records and other care.

— Ensuring adequate transportation of injured victims.

TIME

Iran Nuclear Talks to Be Extended Until July

Officials sit around the negotiations table during their meeting in Vienna
Officials sit around the negotiations table during their meeting in Vienna on Nov. 24, 2014. Joe Klamar—Reuters

The move gives both sides breathing space to work out an agreement but may be badly received by domestic skeptics

(VIENNA) — Facing still significant differences between the U.S. and Iran, negotiators gave up on last-minute efforts to get a nuclear deal by the Monday deadline and extended their talks for another seven months.

The move gives both sides breathing space to work out an agreement but may be badly received by domestic skeptics, since it extends more than a decade of diplomatic efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear prowess.

International negotiators are worried that Iran is using its nuclear development program as a cover for developing nuclear weapons and they have imposed economic sanctions on Tehran. Iran denies the charge, saying it is only interested peaceful nuclear programs like producing power.

After a frenetic six days of diplomacy in Vienna, negotiators agreed Monday to nail down by March 1 what needs to be done by Iran and the six world powers it is negotiating with and by when. A final agreement is meant to follow four months later.

Comments by key players in the talks suggested not much was agreed on in Vienna beyond the decision to keep talking. The next negotiating round was set for early December but the venue is unclear.

The decision appears to benefit Iran. Its nuclear program is left frozen but intact, without any of the cuts sought by the U.S. And while negotiations continue, so will dole-outs of monthly $700 million in frozen funds that began under the temporary nuclear deal agreed on late last year that led to the present talks.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the sides were giving themselves until March to agree on a text “that sets out in layman’s language what we have agreed to do.” Experts then will be given another four months to “translate that into precise definitions of what will happen on the ground,” he told reporters.

Even the new deadline for a final deal was not immediately clear, with negotiators saying it was July 1, and Hammond fixing it at June 30.

Past talks have often ended on an acrimonious note, with each side blaming the other for lack of a deal. But mindful of hard discussions ahead, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry focused on praise, in an apparent attempt to maintain a relatively cordial atmosphere at the negotiating table.

Kerry, who arrived Thursday and met repeatedly with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif, said Zarif “worked diligently and approached these negotiations in good faith.”

“We have made real and substantial progress and we have seen new ideas surface,” he told reporters. “Today we are closer to a deal that will make the whole world, especially our allies in Israel and the Gulf, safer.”

Hammond and other foreign ministers of the six powers also sought to put a good face on what was achieved. Hammond spoke of “significant progress,” while German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said only differences about “technical details” remained.

But the length of the extension suggested that both sides felt plenty of time was needed to overcome the disputes on how much Iran needed to restrict nuclear activities that could be used to make weapons in exchange for relief from sanctions imposed over its nuclear program.

“All the people involved here feel that there really is a chance to find out a way to each other and we are going to take that chance,” Steinmeier said about the decision to extend.

But obstacles far from the negotiating table could complicate the process.

Members of the new Republican-controlled U.S. Congress that will be sworn in in January have already threatened to impose additional sanctions on Iran and may well have enough votes to overturn an expected veto of such legislation by President Barack Obama.

New sanctions could very well derail the talks, as Iran has signaled they would be a deal breaker, and Kerry appealed to Congress to “support … this extension.”

In Tehran, hardliners fearful that their country could give away more than it gets under any final deal could increase pressure on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to break off talks. The talks extension, however, appears to have the approval of Khamenei, who is the ultimate arbiter in his country.

Among other issues, the two sides are haggling over how many — and what kind — of centrifuges Iran should be allowed to have. The machines can enrich uranium from low, reactor-fuel level, up to grades used to build the core of a nuclear weapon, and their output grows according to how modern they are.

Washington wants deeper and more lasting cuts in the program than Tehran is willing to give.

Suggesting some movement on enrichment differences, Kerry told reporters, “Progress was made on some of the most vexing challenges that we face.”

An extension was widely expected as the deadline approached with neither side having the appetite for new confrontation that would renew the threat of military action against Iran by Israel and potentially the U.S. as well as tighten the sanctions regime on Tehran.

Alluding to that alternative, Kerry declared: “We would be fools to walk away.”

TIME National Security

More Band-Aids for the Nation’s Ailing Nuclear-Weapons Force

A US Air Force missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead in an undated USAF photo at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.
A US Air Force missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead in an undated USAF photo at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. Airman John Parie—U.S. Air Force/Reuters

Pentagon beefs up spending to keep yesterday’s weapons ready for tomorrow

The U.S. military’s nuclear force — both its hardware (the weapons) and its software (the people who operate those weapons) — is in disarray. That can only come as a surprise to those who don’t concede the Cold War is over, and that neither the funding, nor the required mindset, exists to keep it going indefinitely.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that a pair of reviews calls for spending about $7.5 billion over the next five years to shore up the nation’s nuclear weapons, as well as the bombers, land-based missiles and submarines that carry them. “The reviews found evidence of systematic problems that if not addressed could undermine the safety, security and effectiveness of the elements of the force in the future,” he said. “These problems include manning; infrastructure; and skill deficiencies; a culture of micro-management; and over-inspection and inadequate communication, follow-up, and accountability by senior department in nuclear enterprise leadership.”

There was a palpable sense of national mission when you visited nuclear sites during the Cold War. While that remains true at most sites, there’s a feeling gleaned from speaking with current nuclear officers that their mission isn’t as vital as it once was. Congress feels the same way, which is why the nation’s nuclear-weapons organization has been nickled-and-dimed, relatively speaking, for the past 25 years (although it’s slated to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years).

Hagel ordered the reviews in January, after reports of widespread cheating surfaced among the airmen operating the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missiles at Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base. The Navy also discovered that some of its sailors had apparently cheated on tests involving the nuclear reactors that power some of the service’s ships and subs. The panels recommended more than 100 changes, which will be monitored by a newly created Nuclear Deterrent Enterprise Review Group that will report directly to Hagel every three months.

“Our nuclear triad deters nuclear attack on the United States and our allies and our partners,” Hagel told reporters. “It prevents potential adversaries from trying to escalate their way out of failed conventional aggression, and it provides the means for effective response should deterrence fail.”

Arms-control advocates disagree. “Apart from deterring a nuclear attack, nuclear weapons play an increasingly limited role in U.S. national security policy, but our arsenal is still configured and sized for a Cold War world that no longer exists,” says Kingston Reif of the non-profit Arms Control Association. “There are simply no plausible military missions for these weapons given their destructive power, the current security environment and the prowess of U.S. conventional forces.”

The Air Force has already made improvements. Last month, missile launch officers became eligible to receive up to $300 monthly because of the importance of their mission. New uniform and cold-weather gear also have been provided the ICBM crews, who work in North Dakota and Wyoming as well as Montana. It has added 1,100 more troops to its nuclear force (the Navy’s hiring 2,500 more). Last week, the Air Force awarded 25 airmen the new Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service medals to honor their work.

The roots of the problem runs deep. Over the past two decades, the Air Force has shifted responsibility for its ICBMs around like an unwanted child. The missiles bounced from Curtis Lemay’s Strategic Air Command, where they had been since becoming operational in 1959, to Air Combat Command in 1992. They moved to Space Command in 1993, and finally to Global Strike Command in 2009, created as a mini-SAC following a pair of nuclear snafus of 2007-08 that led to the cashiering of the Air Force’s top two officials. “We mattered under Strategic Air Command,” Dana Struckman, a retired colonel who manned missiles from 1989 to 1993, said earlier this year. “The Cold War was still on, and we had a sense of purpose that I don’t think they have today.”

Some official Air Force reports acknowledge the problem. “Many current senior Air Force leaders interviewed were cynical about the nuclear mission, its future, and its true (versus publicly stated) priority to the Air Force,” a 2012 Air Force paper said. Commanders routinely told nuclear airmen that they were in a “sunset business” and “were not contributing to the fight that mattered,” it added. A second Pentagon study noted that most airmen manning ICBMs “were not volunteers for missile duty.”

Hagel conceded the problems aren’t new. “Previous reviews of our nuclear enterprise lacked clear follow-up mechanisms,” he said. “Recommendations were implemented without the necessary follow-through to assess that they were implemented effectively. There was a lack of accountability.” To fix that, he said he has assigned Pentagon cost experts to monitor the new changes being made so that the Defense Department knows “what’s working and what’s not.”

The defense secretary pledged to “hold our leaders accountable up and down the chain of command.” That’s because the problems aren’t confined to the lower ranks. The Air Force fired Maj. Gen. Michael Carey — in charge of all the nation’s ICBMs — last year after an official trip to Moscow, where he drank excessively and cavorted with “suspect” women. During a layover at a Swiss airport, witnesses told Pentagon investigators that Carey “appeared drunk and, in the public area, talked loudly about the importance of his position as commander of the only operational nuclear force in the world and that he saves the world from war every day.”

Those still in charge don’t see their assignment as a Cold War mission. “I don’t think we’re any more a Cold War force than an aircraft carrier, or Special Ops, or the UH-1 helicopter,” Lieut. Gen. James Kowalksi, chief of Global Strike Command, said of his nuclear arsenal last year. A Russian first strike, in fact, has become such a “remote” possibility that it’s “hardly worth discussing,” he said. “The greatest risk to my force is an accident. The greatest risk to my force is doing something stupid.”

Kowalski became the No. 2 officer in U.S. Strategic Command in October 2013, overseeing the nation’s entire nuclear arsenal, after President Obama fired Vice Adm. Tim Giardina from the post for allegedly gambling in an Iowa casino with counterfeit chips. The charge — a felony — happened at Horseshoe Council Bluffs Casino, a 15-minute drive across the Missouri River from the nation’s nuclear headquarters.

Hagel implied Friday that operating the nation’s most deadly weapons in the 21st century is kind of like using enough wax and elbow grease to shine up an old jalopy: “We must restore the prestige that attracted the brightest minds of the Cold War era, so our most talented young men and women see the nuclear pathway as promising in value.” Only one problem: the most talented young men and women know the Cold War ended before they were born. Given that, they also know there’s no way to restore the resolve and purpose those manning the weapons against the Soviet Union once felt.

TIME Nuclear

U.S. Looks to Improve Management of Nuclear Weapons Cache

“Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in securing U.S. national security”

The United States’ arsenal of nuclear weapons is badly in need of a makeover, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday.

“The good news is that there’s nothing here we can’t fix,” Hagel told reporters. “But if we don’t pay attention to this, if we don’t fix this eventually, it will get to a point where there are some questions about our security.”

Hagel said a full review of the country’s nuclear arsenal revealed “evidence of systematic problems,” including issues with manpower, infrastructure, skill deficiencies, a culture of micromanagement and over-inspection.

The overhaul of nuclear arms across the entire Department of Defense will include reforms that address each of these areas. In order to make the nuclear field a more attractive career path for young soldiers, for instance, Hagel elevated the Global Strike Command to so-called a four-star billet, meaning high-ranking soldiers in the nuclear fleet can be equal in rank to their counterparts in non-nuclear fields. Hagel also announced the creation of a new medal to recognize service in the nuclear field.

“Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in securing U.S. national security,” Hagel said. “No other capability remains more important.”

Read next: Why ISIS Can Survive Without Baghdadi

TIME Science

The Nuclear-Safety Activist Whose Mysterious Death Inspired a Movie

Karen Silkwood
Karen Silkwood in an undated photo AP Images

Nov. 13, 1974: A plutonium plant worker and activist dies in a mysterious car crash on her way to expose the plant’s lax safety record

Karen Silkwood was either a martyr among whistleblowers and nuclear safety activists, or, if you believe her employer’s account, a lunatic who smeared plutonium on the bologna in her fridge.

As a lab technician at the Kerr-McGee plutonium plant in Crescent, Okla., during the early 1970s, Silkwood became concerned by what she saw as quality-control failures and lax safety procedures that put employees at risk of radioactive contamination. She was elected to the bargaining committee for the plant’s union and testified before the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission about the facility’s unsafe working conditions.

On this night, Nov. 13, in 1974, the 28-year-old Silkwood was headed to a meeting with a New York Times reporter, carrying a folder full of documents and photos she said would demonstrate the extent of the safety problems. But she never made it to the meeting: her car hit a concrete culvert wall en route, killing her, after she apparently swerved off the road. The folder full of evidence was never found.

A private investigator working for the union found dents on the back of her car that suggested she could have been pushed off the road. An autopsy, however, revealed traces of alcohol and prescription sedatives in her blood. Police concluded that she had fallen asleep at the wheel, and her death was ruled an accident. The circumstances surrounding the crash were nonetheless so bizarre that they made national news. For one thing, Silkwood had been exposed to so much radiation poisoning that cancer was essentially guaranteed, according to a doctor who testified in the case.

But how the plutonium got into her system — including her lungs and her digestive tract — was as mysterious as the cause of the crash. Not only had she recently set off plant monitors that tested for radioactivity — and been scrubbed clean — but plutonium contamination had been found in her apartment as well: in her kitchen, her bathroom and in a bologna-and-cheese sandwich in her refrigerator, according to a 1979 TIME report.

Lawyers for Kerr-McGee hypothesized that Silkwood had intentionally taken plutonium home to contaminate herself. As TIME reported:

Defense Attorney William Paul argued last week that she was emotionally unstable and possibly had been affected by the use of tranquilizers. Paul said she had become deeply involved in a bitter fight between her union and the company, and charged that she had set out to prove that the plant was dangerous by making herself seriously ill. She was, he suggested, kinky.

Still, she became a posthumous celebrity, inspiring a 1983 movie, Silkwood, in which she was played by Meryl Streep. While some critics took issue with her glorification — a New York Times review of “Silkwood” concludes that “the evidence in the case suggests that Miss Silkwood was not a nuclear Joan of Arc but an activist (who) … became a victim of her own infatuation with drugs” — her death galvanized the anti-nuclear community and led to new scrutiny of nuclear facilities.

The Kerr-McGee plant closed the year after Silkwood’s death, partly vindicating her claims. According to TIME, “Westinghouse, which had been buying its fuel rods, complained of their poor quality and refused to renew its contract.”

Read the 1979 story about what happened to Karen Silkwood, here in TIME’s archives: Poisoned by Plutonium

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Early intervention for young people could halt schizophrenia before it starts.

By Amy Standen at National Public Radio

2. Next generation air traffic control management can reduce delays and frustration at the airport.

By Aaron Dubrow at the National Science Foundation

3. Alabama prisons are at 190% capacity. Sentencing reforms are slowing prison population growth, but much work remains.

By Kala Kachmar in the Montgomery Advertiser

4. In the five weeks remaining under the deadline, the U.S. and Iran can reach a historic accord on nuclear arms.

By Joe Cirincione in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

5. For the peaceful coexistence of bicycles and everyone else in a city, we can learn a lot from Copenhagen.

By Mikael Colville-Andersen in the Guardian

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME India

India Successfully Tests Its First Nuclear-Capable Cruise Missile

The weapon is called Nirbhay, which means fearless

India’s first indigenously developed nuclear-capable cruise missile was successfully test-fired on Friday at the Integrated Missile Test Range in Chandipur, Odisha.

The Nirbhay, which means fearless in Hindi, has been dubbed “India’s answer to America’s Tomahawk” and can strike targets more than 400 miles away, according to NDTV.

Although India already had tactical and ballistic missiles in its military arsenal, including the 180-mile BrahMos cruise missile that it developed jointly with Russia, the new weapon is a significant step forward in terms of range and capability.

Nirbhay’s ability to fly at tree level makes it difficult to detect by radar, and it can also hover near targets and strike from any direction.

An unnamed official said that the missile was fired just after 10 a.m. local time from a mobile launcher, according to the Times of India.

“Flight details will be available after data retrieved from radars and telemetry points, monitoring the trajectories, are analysed,” the official said.

This was Nirbhay’s second planned test, after an initial one slated for March 2013 had to be aborted when the projectile deviated from its intended course.

TIME India

Military Action, Diplomatic Threats Between India and Pakistan in Kashmir

Villagers sit on the debris of their house after it was damaged during the recent exchange of fire between Pakistan and India at the Pakistani border town of Dhamala Hakimwala
Villagers sit on the debris of their house after it was damaged during the recent exchange of fire between Pakistan and India at the Pakistani border town of Dhamala Hakimwala on Oct. 8, 2014 Faisal Mahmood—Reuters

Border skirmishes are common between the South Asian neighbors, but the weeklong confrontation is the most serious such escalation in nearly a decade

India and Pakistan exchanged multiple warnings and even subtle hints of a nuclear retaliation on Thursday, as military action from both sides continued on the Kashmir border in what is the worst standoff between the two countries in nearly a decade.

Heavy shelling on the border over the past week has resulted in the deaths of at least eight Indian and nine Pakistani civilians, and thousands of villagers have been forced to flee their homes, according to Reuters.

Tensions between India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars since the former was liberated and the latter created in 1947, have long convulsed South Asia. Border skirmishes between the nuclear-armed neighbors are relatively common in spite of a 2003 cease-fire agreement, but a sudden escalation of violence, stronger-than-usual posturing from both governments, and a departure from the usual methods of resolution are what sets the current conflict apart.

“This conflict is different first of all in that it’s prolonged and escalating, and secondly in that civilians are getting killed,” says Radha Kumar, director general of the Delhi Policy Group. “It’s never gone on for this long in the past 10 years.”

In August this year, there were cease-fire violations along the Indian-Pakistan border in Jammu, Indian-administered Kashmir’s winter capital. Some civilians were killed and around 2,000 villagers fled their homes to ramshackle camps. Toward the end of the month, a flag meeting was held between the two forces and peace had prevailed, only to be shattered early this week.

Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif, in response to his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley’s warning that Indian forces would render any “adventurism” by Pakistan “unaffordable,” said Islamabad has the ability to counter Indian aggression, followed by what could be perceived as a veiled threat. “We do not want the situation on the borders of two nuclear neighbors to escalate into confrontation,” Asif said on Thursday.

The border standoff marks a downturn in India-Pakistan relations under new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose invitation to Pakistan’s embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his inauguration ceremony in May sparked hopes of closer ties between the historic adversaries. The recent flash floods in Kashmir, which claimed hundreds of lives on both sides of the border, also saw exchanges of support and goodwill between the two leaders.

Shuja Nawaz, director of the Washington, D.C.–based Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, says the current conflict is fairly typical in terms of the force used by either side and that civilians have been caught in the cross fire. However, “what makes it different is that you have two new governments and they are not following the standard operating procedures of resolving this at the military level,” he tells TIME.

The Indian Express reported that India’s Border Security Force has refused to engage in another flag meeting with Pakistani officials, instead asking the Ministries of Home and External Affairs to use diplomatic channels to resolve the conflict.

“All our efforts to secure peace and tranquility on the Line of Control and the Work Boundary have elicited no cooperation from the Indian side,” said a statement from Sartaj Aziz, National Security Adviser to Prime Minister Sharif. On Friday, the Pakistani leader called on New Delhi to honor the pre-existing cease-fire agreement.

Certainly, the steadily escalating conflict could not come at a more inopportune time for Sharif, as he faces widespread protests over allegations of corruption that have rocked his government for over two months amid rumors of a potential military coup. “He is trying to show that he and the military are on the same page,” says Nawaz.

However, analysts are split on the long-term consequences of the current escalation. According to a high-ranking Indian army official in Kashmir, who spoke to TIME in August on condition of anonymity, border confrontations with India will only increase as political instability deepens in Pakistan.

“The fact of the matter is that Nawaz Sharif is not in charge, he’s not even in charge of the capital,” agrees former Indian diplomat G. Parthasarathy, who served as the high Commissioner to Pakistan between 1998 and 2000. “The [Pakistani] army is primed to see how the Modi government will react to this infiltration.”

But Hamayoun Khan, a lecturer in the Strategic Studies Department at Islamabad’s National Defence University, says that Indian politics have just as much of a role to play in the conflict, pointing to upcoming state-assembly elections in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Khan says the border situation works to the advantage of nationalist parties like Modi’s BJP, which is not shy about courting anti-Pakistan views to get votes. “Once they are over, once the rhetoric from the other side stops, this conflict will abate,” he says. “They [India] will mellow down and so will we.”

Khan also disagrees with claims that the Pakistani Prime Minister has no control of his government. “The political situation that has been going on for over 60 days has put Nawaz Sharif under a lot of pressure, but he’s bearing the burden of that pretty well and is pretty much in control,” he says.

The question of the possibility of rapprochement, meanwhile, is yet to be answered. “My fear is that the escalation ladder is very steep, particularly in Kashmir. You can go quickly from exchanging words to exchange fire,” says Nawaz. “It’s not in the best interests of either government to let this issue fester.”

— With reporting from Nilanjana Bhowmick / New Delhi

TIME Israel

Netanyahu Tells World Leaders ‘Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas’

Prime Minister also refutes Palestinian leader's accusations of "genocide" in Gaza Strip

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back Monday against Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ claims that Israel was waging a “genocide” against Palestinians, and called on world leaders to treat Palestinian militant group Hamas as indistinct from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu refuted claims by Abbas and others that his military had committed war crimes during the 50-day war in the Gaza Strip this summer, citing the lengths to which the Israeli Defense Force went to warn civilians to evacuate targeted areas.

“Israel dropped fliers, made phone calls, sent text messages, broadcast warnings in Arabic, all to allow civilians to evacuate targeted areas,” Netanyahu said, arguing that Israel took all available precautions to protect civilian lives, while Hamas deliberately fired rockets from areas where children live and play. “Israel was using its missiles to protect its children, Hamas was using children to protect its missiles,” he added.

He said that the fact that Hamas’s deliberate placement of rockets in civilian communities were the “real war crimes.”

The Israeli Prime Minister also spoke about the growing “cancer” of militant Islam, comparing the situation in Israel with that in Iraq and Syria. “ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree,” he said. “When it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas. And what they share in common, all militant Islamists share in common.”

The conflict, which ended in August, left 2,100 Palestinians dead and 73 Israelis dead, according to the BBC. The UN said that most of the Palestinian dead were civilians. “This last war against Gaza was a series of absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world, moment by moment,” Abbas said last week.

Netanyahu said criticism in Europe of Israel’s treatment of Palestinian civilians often amounts to thinly-veiled anti-Semitism. “We hear mobs today in Europe call for the gassing of Jews, we hear some national leaders compare Israel to the Nazis,” he said. “This is not a function of Israel’s policy, this is a function of diseased minds. That disease has a name, it’s called anti-Semitism, and it’s spreading in polite society.”

The president also warned that Iran was undergoing a “manipulative charm offensive” in order to lift sanctions and continue with plans to build a nuclear weapon. “It’s one thing to confront militant Islamists on pickup trucks… its another thing to confront militant Islamists armed with weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “Would you let ISIS enrich uranium? Then you shouldn’t let the Islamic state of Iran do them either.”

A UN Council tasked with negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program has not made much progress in recent weeks, according to the LA Times. They hope to reach an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program to non-military uses in exchange for lifting oil sanctions.

Netanyahu urged the world’s leaders not to trust what he called the “world’s most dangerous regime.” “To say Iran doesn’t practice terrorism is like saying Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees,” he said.

TIME politics

Watch History’s Most Infamous Political Ads

Daisy Ad
The Daisy ad, described in the Sept. 25, 1964, issue of TIME From the Sept. 25, 1964, issue of TIME

President Johnson's "Daisy" TV spot in history aired 50 years ago

The advertisement described by TIME in the paragraph above aired only once, 50 years ago, on Sept. 7, 1964.

It’s a minute long and appeared during Monday Night at the Movies on NBC. This is what happens next, as TIME described it: The countdown ends, and the screen erupts in atomic explosion, followed by the voice of Lyndon Baines Johnson, who says somberly: “These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or go into the dark. We must either love each other or we must die.”

The commercial, an election-season spot for incumbent president LBJ, was never meant to run repeatedly, but it was followed later in the month by a similar commercial featuring another little girl, this time with an ice cream cone, accompanied by an ominous voiceover about radioactive chemicals introduced to the environment by nuclear tests. Still, the spots provoked immediate controversy — and contributed to TIME’s decision to dub the Sept. 25, 1964, issue “The Nuclear Issue.” (The daisy girl appears on the cover.) Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, TIME said then, was dogged by an “itchy-finger image.” After speaking in favor of making it easier for the nation’s armed forces to use nuclear weapons if needed, Goldwater became synonymous with the threat of full-on nuclear destruction. As one registered Republican from Vermont told a reporter, “I don’t think too much of President Johnson, but I guess I’m really afraid of Senator Goldwater.”

Nuclear weapons became the central issue of that year’s campaigns, but — as TIME reported — neither side had 100% of the facts straight. On the one hand, Johnson’s strenuous insistence that he would never delegate the authority to launch nuclear weapons ran contrary to the procedures already established by the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. NATO’s supreme commander in Europe already had the right in certain situations to cross the line from convention to nuclear weaponry. (Today, as TIME explained as part of the Answers Issue that arrived on news stands earlier this month, a minimum of two people are needed to launch a nuclear weapon in the U.S.) On the other hand, Goldwater’s claim that soldiers on the ground could operate small hand-held nuclear weapons ignored the fact that no such weapons existed. As explained by the diagram below, the smallest nuclear weapon the U.S. had, the Davy Crockett, weighed over 100 pounds and had a range of up to 2.5 miles, with enough power to destroy a bridge or up to 50 tanks. And after that the weapons quickly get much more powerful.

Sept. 25 1964 nuclear weapons chart
From the Sept. 25, 1964, issue of TIME

Johnson’s misstatements, however, didn’t matter in the long run. He won the 1964 presidential election in a landslide victory — and the fear-provoking TV ads that ran only once went down in history as some of the most infamous, and most effective, political spots ever.

Watch both of them below:

Read TIME’s full 1964 report on Johnson’s advertisements here, in TIME’s archives: The Fear & The Facts

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