Bird Flu Prompts Quick Quarantines as Chicken Farmers Fight Back

The merest mention of bird flu is enough to send shivers down the spine of a chicken farmer. But as the U.S. deals with its first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza on a farm in a year, the poultry industry hasn’t started to panic.

Learning lessons after the worst-ever U.S. outbreak two years ago, America’s chicken, turkey and egg producers are gearing up with tighter biosecurity measures and quicker quarantines to deter spread of the infection. One thing working in their favor: early spring-like weather in the region that can stop the virus from thriving.

A U.S. outbreak of avian influenza in 2015 wiped out more than 48 million birds through infection and culling. The scourge that year sent egg prices soaring and prompted countries around the globe to ban U.S. shipments of poultry products. Exports have only started to recover, and another epidemic would threaten the livelihood of farmers at time when agriculture incomes are slumping. South Korea and other countries have already placed some restrictions on American shipments. The latest U.S. case also comes at a time when the virus has spread in parts of Asia and Europe.

After a fairly dormant cycle last year, the highly contagious H7 strain of the virus was confirmed Sunday at a southern Tennessee chicken-breeding operation that supplies Tyson Foods Inc. Making matters worse, the state borders several of the nation’s largest chicken-meat producing states, including Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and North Carolina. The virus is believed to spread partly by migratory wild birds, posing the risk it may reach other farms. Still, the industry is confident in its new security procedures.

“It’s hard right now to hit the panic button because we know we’ve had these wild birds circulating all winter — it’s a hold-your-breath situation,” said Brett Stuart, founding partner at Denver-based Global AgriTrends, a market researcher. “The fact we’ve made it this long is very impressive. It speaks to the biosecurity efforts of U.S. producers.”

Under Quarantine

The affected Tennessee operation is now under quarantine and the 73,500 chickens at the farm have been destroyed. The risk of human infection is very low, the state’s agriculture department said in a statement March 5. Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson said all flocks within a six-mile radius of the farm will be tested and won’t be transported unless they test negative for the virus.

That’s likely to be just the beginning of the cautionary measures.

Since the 2015 outbreak, the National Chicken Council has encouraged farmers and companies to take several measures to prevent the spread of the virus, according to Ashley Peterson, the group’s senior vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs. Along with cleaning, disinfecting and limiting access, the council’s recommendations include discouraging hunting of ducks and geese to avoid contact with infected waterfowl, as well as not sharing equipment between farms, she said.

The discovery of infected birds on the Tennessee farm underscores that producers are paying closer attention to threats from the virus, and the case likely means the poultry industry is “going to double down” on those efforts now, Peterson said.

U.S. poultry producers invested millions of dollars to boost biosecurity in bird houses and increase their ability to respond to incidents, said Will Sawyer, an Atlanta-based vice president of animal protein at Rabobank International. Unlike two years ago, companies can now depopulate birds and clean up themselves when the disease is detected, as opposed to waiting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he said. Producers have already been using heightened measures for a few months, because of the seasonal risk. The virus survives better in colder weather.

No Waiting

“One thing that was a very important lesson from 2015 — the longer the active virus is exposed in the air and at a farm, the more houses and production in that region become affected,” Sawyer said. “There’s no waiting around anymore.”

This week’s case hasn’t affected chicken prices yet, said Russ Whitman, vice president at commodity researcher Urner Barry in Toms River, New Jersey. But that could change. South Korea’s agriculture ministry already banned shipments of poultry and eggs from the U.S. unless they’ve been heat treated. Canada and Japan have also placed restrictions on shipments. Some countries may ban poultry on a regional basis, while others may take broader strokes and ban products from the whole country, Whitman said.

To read more about influenza viruses, click here

In Tennessee, the next steps will be continued testing and surveillance around the affected farm, the state’s veterinarian Charles Hatcher said in a video posted online. If any further positive cases are found, the infected flocks will be destroyed, he said.

About 30 nearby poultry farms are under quarantine, according to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. The infected farm is located in Lincoln County, which borders Alabama. That puts the neighboring state within the control zone and officials there have tested about 15 farms, including another Tyson farm, according to Alabama’s agriculture department. Samples from the company’s farm were negative for the flu, the state agency said.

Other major producers are closely monitoring the situation.

Sanderson Farms

While Sanderson Farms Inc. doesn’t have operations in Tennessee, it is banning company vehicles from traveling near the quarantined area, according to Chief Financial Officer Mike Cockrell. If an outbreak occurs near one of their farms, there will be more drastic measures, such as limiting travel of those coming into contact with live birds and disinfecting all vehicles coming onto the farm, Cockrell said.

Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. has activated response plans with “heightened on-farm biosecurity programs” at all of its facilities, even though none of the company’s operations are located in the area under quarantine, spokesman Cameron Bruett said Monday in an email.

Last year, there was just one commercial instance of bird flu in the U.S., at an Indiana turkey farm. The case was rapidly contained, giving the industry reasons to believe any government response will be “aggressive and thorough,” Knox Jones, an analyst at Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, Nebraska, said by phone. The unusual warm weather this winter also decreases the chances of the disease spreading, as the virus thrives in cold, wet environments, he said.

“The temperature really matters,” Jones said.

Even with all the vigilance, nothing is bulletproof, said Tom Elam, Carmel, Indiana-based president of consulting firm FarmEcon LLC. After all, it’s March, and the wild birds are migrating. Bird flu has been breaking out around the world, from Europe to China.

Companies “are as ready as they’re going to get, but all it takes is one mouse to get into that broiler house and track in a virus, and the stuff is pretty virulent,” Elam said. “It’s not a surprise it’s back.”

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Children suffer severe throat burns after drinking apple juice at restaurant

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/03/06/children-suffer-severe-throat-burns-after-drinking-apple-juice/21874680/

 

Richard Zaragoza, Jr. and his half-sister, Ginaya Mendoza, were hospitalized after they drank tainted apple juice and suffered burns to their throats at an all-you-can-eat buffet on Friday, according to WPMT.

According to Richard’s father, Richard Zaragoza, Sr., both children were out to dinner with their mom, Virginia Davis, at the Star Buffet and Grill in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to celebrate Richard Jr.’s 10th birthday at the time of the incident.

“It was my son’s birthday so I decided to let him go with his mom, you know celebrate for a little while,” said Zaragoza. “So they decided to go to Star Buffet. That’s where he wanted. His restaurant of choice. His favorite place to go.”

Both Ginaya, 4, and the birthday boy ordered apple juice and the server brought it to them in cups — a move that the family said was uncharacteristic of the restaurant, which they’d been going to for years.

“Any other time that they brought the apple juice to us they would bring a styrofoam cup with ice and a separate drink so you can open and pour it if you want to,” said Zargoza. “You know this time they brought it already made.”

According to their parents, both children fell critically ill almost immediately after drinking the tainted beverage.

“As soon as they took a sip of it, they were throwing up and there was blood you know, and all that stuff,” Zaragoza told WPMT.

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The kids were rushed to Hershey Medical Center and spent Saturday night in intensive care with severe burns of the mouth and throat, according to Lancaster Online.

Zaragoza said that although both children are in stable condition, he is still very concerned for them — especially for his son, who is still sedated with an intubation device.

“He has cystic fibrosis and diabetes, so the concerns are a lot worse,” he said.

WPMT learned from the owner of the restaurant that they had purchased the apple juice from a local supermarket.

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Although the source of the contaminants still remains to be determined, Zargoza told Lancaster Online that a test from the Hershey Medical Center revealed that methanol was at least one of the substances present in the tainted beverage.

Perhaps the most outrageous factor of all, however, is that according to Zaragoza, no one from the restaurant has bothered to contact him.

“Still open for business, which is mind-baffling to me,” the irate father said. “You know I haven’t, usually when something like that happens you would think the health inspectors would go and there’d be a full blown investigation.”

Sex might make you happier at work, study says

Today in “duh”: People who get laid might be happier at work, according to a recent study.

Married men and women who made sex during off-hours a priority were more satisfied and engaged at their jobs the next day, Oregon State University researchers found in a two-week survey study.

“This is a reminder that sex has social, emotional and physiological benefits, and it’s important to make it a priority,” co-author Keith Leavitt said in a statement. “Just make time for it.”

The report, published in this month’s Journal of Management, asked 159 married workers to answer twice-daily surveys over two weeks. Those who got busy at home reported being in better moods the subsequent morning — a buzz that endured throughout the workday.

Are you getting enough sex? Find out here!

Men and women saw in equal measure the positive effects, which seemed to hang around at least 24 hours, according to the researchers. They held steady even after accounting for sleep quality and marital satisfaction.

It’s also possible, of course, that work satisfaction is but one positive outcome of regular intercourse. The authors note that sex triggers release of the hormone oxytocin and neurotransmitter dopamine — making horizontal refreshment “a natural and relatively automatic mood elevator.”

“We make jokes about people having a ‘spring in their step,’ but it turns out this is actually a real thing and we should pay attention to it,” Leavitt said.

“Maintaining a healthy relationship that includes a healthy sex life will help employees stay happy and engaged in their work, which benefits the employees and the organizations they work for.”

People Are Already Trying to Fix the Nintendo Switch’s Dumb Design Issues

Image: Thingiverse

The Switch, Nintendo’s new phablet console, was a big bet, but perhaps not a smart one. Despite being marketed as a step into the future, it launched with more hardware issues and irritating design flaws than playable titles. As such, fans who just plunked down $300 are already rolling up their sleeves to build solutions to make their shiny new investment work the way it ought to.

One of the biggest complaints about the Switch has been its flimsy, poorly-angled kickstand. The consensus is that it sucks. And because the charging port is located on the bottom of the console, it can’t receive power while propped in an upright configuration. Over on Thingiverse—a site for people to upload plans for 3D prints—there are three different stands that allow for charging, ranging from a pair of lightweight clips to a full-sized dock. (There’s an officially licensed stand from Nintendo, but that’s going to run an extra $30.)

The shallow joysticks and lack of a d-pad have also been frustrating for some Switch owners. Make these joystick extenders or this d-pad cover if that’s your gripe. (And these are legitimate gripes, especially for a hyped console where basically everything will cost extra.)

Detached from the main body of the Switch, many players found Nintendo’s pint-sized Joy-Con too small to hold comfortably. MyMiniFactory, another place to find 3D-printable designs, has plans for a more ergonomic add-on for people with adult hands who want to play Zelda without getting carpal tunnel. Of course, you could also ruin your Switch’s resale value by sawing the grips off the included controller holster thing and duct taping them to the console itself.

Image: imgur via Brain_mf

There’s been concern, too, that one of the major gimmicks of the 2-in-1 console—the Switch’s dock, which lets it seamlessly blend into a home entertainment setup—could end up scratching the screen. Luckily, the DIY fix for that doesn’t require owning a 3D printer, although it’s a bit silly to drop any amount of money on a product that damages itself, only to prevent it from being used as intended by adding pantyhose or a hand-made cozy.

Image: Reddit via tcran420

As YouTuber JerryRigEverything shows, the Switch’s screen isn’t made of glass or sapphire like most cell phones—it’s plastic. Let me repeat that: this $300 console, which is intended to be fully portable and withstand the damage of being constantly lugged around, has a plastic-covered screen. Nintendo’s consoles don’t lend themselves to home repairs, and having such a shoddy screen feels like a huge oversight.

Our own reviewer had so much trouble even tracking down a Switch that it should not be surprising how many “replica” Switch 3d printing plans are floating around. At least a non-articulating hunk of plastic does exactly what it’s intended to do and costs a fraction of Nintendo’s asking price. Even if Switches are flying off the shelves, it’s a bad sign when less than a week after launch, fans are already having to unfuck your bad design decisions.

WWII airman gets Star of David on his headstone 75 years after being shot down

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. (Getty Images)

(JTA) — The headstone of an American soldier killed in World War II was replaced with one bearing a Star of David.

A headstone replacement ceremony was held on Feb. 28 at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, according to a report on Friday on the United States Air Force news website, 15th Wing.

Staff Sgt. Jack Weiner, a navigator for the 345th Bombardment Group, was killed during an air raid on Aug. 10, 1945, days before the surrender of Japan. He was the only son of a Jewish immigrant mother from Russia, who had enlisted in the military despite being excused from the draft.

Originally buried at Yokohama Cemetery in Japan, Weiner’s remains were moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Mach 1949. During the transition, a mistake was made and Weiner ended up with a cross on his headstone, instead of the Star of David, according to 15th Wing.

First Lt. Rabbi Levy Pekar, who serves from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, told 15th Wing that he first heard about Weiner and the mix-up from one of the navigator’s cousins.  He said it took “some digging,” but he was able to find the quarter master general’s form that “confirmed Sgt. Weiner’s wishes to have the Star of David on his headstone.”

“Sgt. Weiner’s story resonated with me on so many different levels,” Pekar said. “With both of us being Jewish and airmen, I felt like his story could have easily been mine. His story affected me on a spiritual level and as my duty as chaplain I knew we had to correct this mistake.”

Over 30 members of the Honolulu Jewish community, both military and civilian, attended the headstone replacement ceremony and recited the Kaddish prayer for Weiner.

A Jewish artist draws inspiration, and customers, from Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Juan Tajes at his studio in Amsterdam in 2016. (Courtesy of Juan Tajes)

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — For someone who produces and sells masks for a living, it makes sense to set up shop in the center of this city’s famed Red Light District.

After all, there are countless masks and costumes on sale in the many adult toy shops that dot this part of the Dutch capital, which gets its name from the glow of lamps that frame the windows where prostitutes pose for potential customers

The sex stores offer a dazzling variety of naughty costumes, including Dick Tracey suits and Catwoman getups that leave little to the imagination.

Yet those sex accessories are quite different from the masks being made here by Juan Tajes — a Uruguay-born Jewish artist who says he draws inspiration and customers from the unending stream of tourists and gawkers passing through this part of the city at all hours of the day and night. Tajes calls this his neighborhood’s “never-ending masquerade.”

Some of Tajes’ masks reference body parts that refer to the district’s main trade – especially one flesh-colored mask with a projecting proboscis. But most of them are more classical, referencing old European theatrical styles, including the 16th-century commedia dell’arte that inspired Moliere. Others echo even more ancient forms, with blank-eyed likenesses of the sort used in Greek tragedies.

But they all are traceable, says Tajes, to his own Jewish and Catholic roots in Uruguay and the inspiration he draws from living and working in his Red Light District studio.

“I get a lot of inspiration from them, from being constantly surrounded by people from so many places,” Tajes, 70, told JTA last week in an interview ahead of Purim and Carnival — respectively, the Jewish and Christian springtime holidays in which revelers wear identity-altering costumes and disguises.

Around the display window of Taje’s atelier, which is also where he lives, tourists huddle for a closer look at his masks. “There’s a lot of interaction,” he says of the window shoppers. “I think I now know the word for mask in at least 25 languages.”

In an area of town where men – some of them too embarrassed to make eye contact with other pedestrians – window shop for sex just outside the city’s oldest church, Tajes, who settled in the Netherlands 35 years ago, recalled the role that masks played in religions in many parts of the world.

“Some say the origin of the mask in some cultures is to be found in God,” Tajes said. “Masks were used for people who sought to become a god, or at least portray one. But in others, it was a way to hide away from God.”

For one of Tajes’ neighbors, a prostitute from a small town in Macedonia who gave her name as Annie, his masks offer a chance to reflect about her own reality.

“I like looking at these different masks on my way to the room,” said Annie, who on some days of the week works abut 300 yards from Tajes, whom she has never met. “I guess I like these masks because I wear a mask to work every day. I wear my makeup but I also wear a personality that is not really me.”

Though he still enjoys living and working in the Red Light District, Tajes says that increasingly, he is seeing his city becoming increasingly less authentic.

It’s a common observation in a city that used to be a hippie’s mecca but has since gentrified so thoroughly that many locals find it unaffordable – and unbearable because of the ever-growing numbers of tourists flooding it.

“This is not the place where I settled 35 years ago, and I think it has changed for the worse,” said Tajes. As the municipality slashed subsidies that made it possible for less-than-affluent artists to live here, “not much is left now of the community that used to exist here. It has mostly been replaced by tourists.”

Fascinated by the medieval architecture of Northern Europe, Tajes was himself a tourist when he first came to the Netherlands in 1973. That year, a military dictatorship rose to power in Uruguay in a coup d’etat that marked the beginning of a 12-year reign marked by censorship, oppression and torture.

Already abroad and reluctant to subject himself to such a regime, Tajes stayed in the Netherlands, where he ended up having two daughters. Uruguay lost approximately 10 percent of its population during those years.

The son of a Catholic father and Sephardic Jewish mother, Tajes was raised a Catholic. He had an early connection to masks in Montevideo, where he grew up. Carnival is as popular in Uruguay as it is in its northern neighbor, Brazil, and as a boy Tajes used to enjoy the colorful processions and the flamboyant costumes and masks.

“The masks signify a new start to me,” he said.

Both Purim and Carnival tend to highlight the change of seasons, from grim winter to hopeful spring.

“It’s not surprising that Purim and Carnival used to mark beginnings,” Tajes said. “There’s something about putting on a mask that speaks of new possibilities, new beginnings.”

ISRAEL APARTHEID WEEK BEGINS TODAY IN FRANCE

 

PARIS – Israel’s ambassador to France is asking the country’s mayors to reject events in their cities as the French branch of the anti-Israel BDS movement launches “Israeli Apartheid week” on Tuesday under the slogan “100 years of occupation/ 100 years of popular resistance for justice,” referring to the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

“The 2017 edition of this annual meeting reveals the true face of the BDS movement: that of antisemitism, anti-Zionism and anti-Israel,” Aliza Bin-Noun wrote in an open letter to French mayors published on Friday. “By presenting the entire country as a ‘colony,’ the BDS tries to delegitimize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, contrary to other governments, like the French and the British, who recognized and approved Israel as such.”

Bin-Noun told The Jerusalem Post the embassy is working against BDS on two levels; first by curbing its activities, and second by promoting the Israeli narrative.

“Concerning the first category of actions, we constantly approach decision makers, heads of universities, mayors and others to not open any windows to BDS events,” she said. “We do it all year long, not just ahead of this Apartheid Week. On the other hand, we work diligently to advance academia cooperation programs between Israel and France, French-student delegations to Israel and more.”

Bin-Noun said the embassy puts a lot of effort into maintaining French law, according to which boycotting is illegal.

“The French law [on boycott] constitutes a very strong basis against BDS campaigns,” she said. “BDS activists are acutely aware of that. They know that they must be very careful about what they do and how they operate. Our friends in the Senate managed to break down attempts last July to amend the law. We are also operating among mayors who are friends of Israel, for them to state, at least on the declarative level, that they object to any attempts to boycott Israel.”

The embassy is not alone in its efforts to put a damper on the BDS activities.

Representatives of the CRIF – the French Jewry umbrella organization – told the Post it has launched calls on social networks to engage its members against BDS meetings in the various cities.

Aside from featuring the ambassador’s letter on its Facebook page, the CRIF also disseminated its messages on its Twitter account against Apartheid Week in both France and the UK.

Sacha Gozlan, president of UEJF, the French Jewish students organization, told the Post he and his friends are petitioning the universities to not hold BDS events and also are working to reestablish the link between French students and Israel.

“We are organizing a delegation of 10 Israeli students who should arrive here on March 12 to meet with students at the same universities where the BDS is trying to get a hold, especially the Paris 8 Saint Denis University,” he said. “This way, we are hoping to uproot BDS from French campuses.”

Running from March 6 to March 18, Apartheid Week events will take place at universities in large French cities, such as Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Montpellier, Lille, Toulouse, Grenoble and Rennes, as well as smaller locales such as Saint-Nazarine. They will kick off with a seminar at the Paris 8 Saint Denis University with the participation of two BDS activists from abroad.

Groups in the US, Europe and Africa (mostly South Africa) are holding similar events in March and April. According to the BDS website, 225 cities held Apartheid Week events in 2016. The first Israel Apartheid Week was held in 2005.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY ON WIRETAPPING CLAIMS: NO QUESTION SOMETHING HAPPENED

 

White House Press Secretary Spicer deflected questions about Trump’s confidence in Comey and claimed that “no question something happened” regarding the president’s wiretapping claims.

In the meantime, FBI Director James Comey is reported to have been “incredulous” when confronted with US President Donald Trump’s allegations that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped his phones during the former’s race for presidency, CNN reported on Tuesday, citing an unnamed source reportedly familiar with all parties involved.

 

According to the CNN, the same source claimed that Comey was concerned that Trump’s accusations would reflect badly on the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and for that reason has decided to reach out to the US Justice Department and request that they act to refute the allegation over the weekend. The source went on to say that the FBI director “institutionally [felt] he has to push back on this,” firmly believing that the president’s claims were unfounded.

When asked if Comey was not concerned that his actions would lead to an attempt to dismiss him from his role, the source said: “Does he know of a possibility there might be a confrontation and that he’d be fired by the president? Sure. Does he worry about it? No.”

Speaking to a CNN reporter on Tuesday, US Press Secretary Sean Spicer refused to directly comment on the new developments in the case but did say that to his knowledge, the US President and the FBI director have yet to speak since Trump made the controversial allegations concerning his predecessor. Spicer deflected repeated questions about Trump’s possible weakened confidence in the FBI director, saying instead that the president was otherwise occupied with “this effort to keep the country safe.”

Spicer went on to express faith in Trump’s allegations, telling reporters on Tuesday that “there’s no question something happened. The question is, is it surveillance, is it a wiretap, or whatever.” Spicer added off-camera that “There’s enough out there now that makes one wonder how some of this happened without the existence of surveillance.”

Seeing as President Trump came under public scrutiny and elevated criticism recently after members of his senior staff were revealed to have hidden different contacts with Russian diplomats (US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been accused of hiding ongoing contact with the Russian ambassador, while former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn recently stepped down from his role after it was revealed that he misled VP Pence and other officials about contacts with the Russian ambassador), some are now claiming that Trump has made the allegations in a calculated attempt to divert attention from his administration’s seeming unreliability, turning the heat instead onto the former White House administration.

Trump’s exact allegations, expressed over the weekend on social media, were that Barack Obama had wire-tapped his phones in October, during the late stages of the presidential election campaign. However, Trump neglected to provide further evidence to support his claims.

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Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!
5:52 AM – 4 Mar 2017
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In a series of posts on Twitter, the US President said: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp (sic) my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

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Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
6:02 AM – 4 Mar 2017
52,137 52,137 Retweets 158,738 158,738 likes

Spicer’s support of the president’s claims is aligned with his earlier official statement which also alluded to Trump’s dismay over what he termed as ‘the Russian activity’: “President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”

Swastika carved on door frame of Ohio synagogue

http://www.timesofisrael.com/swastika-carved-on-door-frame-of-ohio-synagogue/

 

A swastika was carved onto the door frame of a synagogue in northeastern Ohio.

The swastika was carved at the Agudath B’nai Israel Synagogue in Lorain, Ohio, a suburb located on the west side of Cleveland.

In addition to the swastika, the words “We will rise and gas you,” followed by an expletive, also were found on the synagogue.

The vandalism at the more than 100-year-old synagogue took place on March 1, though it was first reported on Saturday.

“The act of ignorance, vandalism, and anti-Semitism does not reflect our neighbors in the City of Lorain. We are committed to continue to be symbol of tolerance in this community now and in the future. ABI provides education about Judaism, the Holocaust, and tolerance to schools and other organizations,” the synagogue said in a statement.

There are no suspects in the case. A synagogue surveillance camera did not record the door where the swastika was carved.

Jewish politicians dispute NYPD finding cemetery damage not vandalism

Jewish leaders in New York are disputing the New York Police Department’s finding that 42 headstones in a Brooklyn cemetery toppled due to neglect and not vandalism.

The headstones at the largely Jewish Washington Cemetery originally were thought to have been toppled by vandals, following similar incidents at three other cemeteries — in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Rochester — in the last two weeks.

But police determined after an investigation on Sunday that the headstones had fallen off of their bases due to neglect and bad weather conditions.

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind told the New York Post late on Sunday that the people who reported the damage to him had never noticed it before despite walking by the cemetery every week to go to synagogue services.

“The people who first reported this to us were individuals who walk by … on the way to synagogue on Shabbos, and they were the ones who saw something that looked wrong to them,” Hikind told the newspaper. “If they had seen the [toppled stones] before,” they would have reported it, he said.

He added: “We’re not talking about stones that are down, that they want to repair. We’re talking about tombstones where if you look at it, you say, ‘Someone vandalized it.’”

Hikind, as well as New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield, also told the newspaper that police had discovered a three-foot hole cut into a razor-wire fence near the section of the cemetery containing the damaged headstones, which Hikind called an “obvious” breach.

Cemetery general manager Marisa Tarantino told the Post that when headstones in the older sections fall over, they move them over the grave so that the spot remains memorialized. Cemetery workers concluded that many of the downed headstones noticed by the passersby had fallen down over time.

In 2010, some 200 headstones were toppled in the same Brooklyn cemetery.