TIME

The Muslims of the Central African Republic Face a Deadly Purge

Chadian civilians climb on a military chadian truck to go back to Chad on Jan. 15, 2014 in the PK12 district of Bangui.
Chadian civilians climb on a military chadian truck to go back to Chad on Jan. 15, 2014, in the PK12 district of Bangui. Eric Feferberg—AFP/Getty Images

This fragile African nation is witnessing unprecedented sectarian strife. Here's why.

The anti-balaka have outgrown their name. These militias in the Central African Republic, once united under a moniker meaning “anti-machete” in the local Sango language, are exacting their own vicious revenge upon the mainly Muslim rebels who overthrew the government last March and waged months of terror against the Christian population. They are now accused of atrocities far worse than what first prompted them to take up arms.

An Amnesty International report on Feb. 12 said attacks on Muslims in January by anti-balaka militias, made up of Christians and animists, had amounted to “ethnic cleansing.” Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, has already opened a preliminary investigation into crimes against humanity, saying some “victims appeared to have been deliberately targeted on religious grounds.” A top U.N. official issued similar warnings during a recent visit to the ravaged capital, Bangui, telling reporters: “There is an ethnic-religious cleansing taking place. It must be stopped.”

The campaign of looting and murder in recent weeks has led to an alarming demographic crisis in the Central African Republic. About 1 million of its 4.6 million people have been displaced and at least 2,000 have been killed. Muslims account for 15 percent of the population, or about 690,000 people; Médecins Sans Frontières said in a conference call with reporters on Feb. 18 that at least 80,000 had already left.

Entire neighborhoods in Bangui and towns in the northwest have emptied as a mass exodus pours into neighboring countries Cameroon and Chad. Aid groups fear the fleeing of Muslim traders and cattle herders, who are crucial to the country’s food production and distribution, may spark a famine.

The scene today vastly differs from last year. “If you drove across the country in November, you would have been impressed by the power of the Séléka,” says Joanne Mariner, a senior crisis adviser with Amnesty in Bangui, referring to the impact of the rebels’ offensive that began in late 2012. “Now if you drive across the country, you find anti-balaka everywhere. They are the people who are in control of the roads and the majority of the towns.”

William Lacy Swing, director-general of the International Organization for Migration and a young U.S. envoy to Bangui in the mid-1970s, was “shocked” by the scenes there during a trip in early February. “The Central African Republic that I knew at the time, this element now of inter-religious conflict was absent,” he told TIME, “and now it is at the heart of some of the problems.”

How political payback turned into a sectarian purge isn’t entirely understood. Experts gesture to spillover from conflicts throughout the region as well as the legacy of decades of poor governance in the former French colony.

But the country has no such precedent of religious strife. Louisa Lombard, a post-doctoral fellow and Central Africa expert at the University of California-Berkeley, said a main cause was the systemic marginalization of Muslims that ramped up after former President François Bozizé won power in 2003. Muslims, many of whom live in the isolated and underdeveloped northeast, were largely neglected and treated like “foreigners.”

This dispossession eventually led to Séléka’s formation. The rebels, supported by Chadian and Sudanese fighters, overran the state’s decayed army in late 2012 and quickly gained control of much of the country. Bozizé appointed a prime minister from the opposition and signed several peace deals with Séléka in Libreville, Gabon, the following January. But when he failed to honor the agreements, Séléka toppled his government and installed Michel Djotodia as the country’s first Muslim president.

The rebels favored Muslim civilians and bands of fighters terrorized Christian communities; mistrust grew as Muslims were viewed as complicit in Séléka’s rampages. Djotodia dissolved Séléka in September but the rebels continued their attacks, prompting the formation of the anti-balaka squads and an uptick in tit-for-tat violence. In early December, two days of carnage left hundreds dead.

Amadou Sy, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative, said the immediate arrival of French and African Union peacekeepers was a turning point. Anti-balaka saw the wind changing and went underground. By early January, with Séléka in retreat and Djotodia forced out by regional powers, anti-balaka had reemerged with uncontrollable fury. After weeks of killing, Lombard said, “whatever social fabric that was once there has been torn to shreds.”

The turnaround led interim President Catherine Samba-Panza to declare war on anti-balaka and France to commit more troops. Even after the security situation is resolved, easing the humanitarian crisis and maintaining global attention on this ignored nation will be difficult. As thousands more Muslims look to flee their own country, it may already be too late.

TIME tribute

Remembrance: Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain

The famed folk artist died on Feb. 12.

Folk artist Leonard Knight, creator of Salvation Mountain, died on Monday afternoon in San Diego. He was 82.

It took Knight about three decades to paint and personalize the famed art installation in the desert of Niland, Calif., near the Salton Sea. Knight used adobe, straw and thousands of gallons of paint to personalize it with religious murals and technicolor Bible verses.

The site, which draws thousands of spectators every year, was Knight’s life project. Volunteers have been working to protect and maintain it since he was placed in a long-term care facility in late 2011.

Seattle-based photographer Aaron Huey met Knight seven years ago and returned to Salvation Mountain several times since then. He remembers the artist:

Leonard’s single mission in life was to spread the message that “God is Love” and though it references the Abrahamic “God,” his mountain truly transcended any individual faiths. He brought countless people together to marvel at both the mountain and his message. Living at the mountain full-time in the back of an old painted firetruck with no belongings beyond his clothes and a few coolers, he could be found surrounded by visitors every day of the week spreading his message of “Universal Love.” Though Leonard shrugged off the title of “artist,” his work—his single masterpiece—will surely be counted among the greatest pieces of folk art ever created.

I met Leonard seven years ago and his impact on my life has been immense. Leonard made me want to throw away all of my things. My computers, my phone, my career, my ego—and to help him build his mountain of mud and paint. Instead, I helped him carry a dozen hay bales up the mountain and promised to come back again. I returned a dozen times over six years to help him build, to photograph his work, and to try to better understand his humble genius. I had never met a man of such singular, unflinching vision and to this day I can say he is one of the most incredible people I have ever met in all the world.

Your message lives on, Leonard. Travel well my friend.

—Aaron Huey

TIME olympics

RECAP: Sochi’s Opening Ceremony

2014 Winter Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony
Performers with balloons representing St. Basil's cathedral. Clive Mason / Getty Images

Three-hour opening ceremony ended with the lighting of the cauldron

The Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics concluded in Sochi, Russia with a vivid display of fireworks and two legendary Russian ex-Olympians lighting the cauldron. The spectacle may not remove the problems that clouded the build-up to the tournament: political controversies, terrorism fears and concerns over the venue’s preparedness remain. The Russians so far have responded with glum defiance; others still question the morality of holding the Games at this Black Sea resort. But that all now takes a backseat as the Games begin. Below is TIME’s live coverage of the glittering event.


1:55 p.m. | The cauldron at Sochi has been lit.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Darron Cummings / AP

The Olympic Cauldron is lit during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7.


1:54 p.m. | The other ex-Olympian who lit the flame was Vladislav Tretiak, the legendary goaltender for the Soviet Union who is considered perhaps the best ever to play his position. He never played in the NHL, but did have an unfortunate turn in the famous “Miracle on Ice” hockey game.


1:52 p.m.


1:51 p.m.


1:42 p.m.

Actors perform "Swan Lake" during the opening ceremony.

David J. Phillip / AP

Actors perform “Swan Lake” during the opening ceremony.


1:37 p.m.


1:29 p.m. | Russian President Vladimir Putin: briefly opens the Winter Olympics: “I pronounce these Games open.”


1:26 p.m. | Yep, that’s Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s Prime Minister, sleeping during the Opening Ceremony:


1:17 p.m.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7, 2014.


1:14 p.m.

TIME’s correspondent in Sochi sums up the historical gloss we just watched at the Opening Ceremony:


1:12 p.m.

Opening Ceremony

HOW HWEE YOUNG / EPA

Lubov, the so-called ‘Hero Girl,’ is lifted up on strings at the start of the Opening Ceremony.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Mark Humphrey / AP

Artists perform during the opening ceremony.


1:08 p.m.


1:06 p.m.


1:02 p.m.


12:59 p.m.


12:58 p.m.

Performers are seen during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

Jim Young / Reuters

Performers are seen during the opening ceremony.


12:57 p.m.


12:51 p.m.


12:50 p.m. | Reports have surfaced that a flight from Ukraine bound for Istanbul was grounded and searched by Turkish security forces after a passenger claimed a bomb was aboard the aircraft. The alleged bomber reportedly tried to divert the flight to Sochi.


12:47 p.m.


12:43 p.m. | So far in Sochi’s grand-narration of Russian history, we’ve seen flying horses, ancient Greeks and Vikings. But no mention yet of the Circassians— the people indigenous to Sochi forced into exile in the 19th century. — Ishaan Tharoor

Long before the punk-rock group Pussy Riot or global gay-rights activists sought a boycott of the Olympics, a forgotten community clamored loudly against the events in Sochi. The Circassians, whose history of dispossession and exile Umarov opportunistically invoked, are a scattered, largely Muslim people native to the Caucasus, now found mostly outside of Russia in Turkey and parts of the Middle East. Their original homeland stretches from the eastern rim of the Black Sea — where Sochi sits — to the rugged western highlands of the Caucasus, but few of its indigenous inhabitants remain there.


12:40 p.m.


12:38 p.m.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

David J. Phillip / AP

The Olympic mascots are seen during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7, 2014.


12:34 p.m. | A video montage charting Russia’s origins and epic history just ended. It’s followed by imagery of the symbolic Russian troika, a three horse-drawn chariot:


12:29 p.m.


12:25 p.m.


12:24 p.m. | Russian pop duo t.A.T.u. just played Team Russia into the procession, which may seem like an odd choice: the two found success in the early 2000s with the single ‘All the Things She Said,’ the video of which showed the girls wearing school uniforms and kissing in the rain.


12:23 p.m.


12:22 p.m. | Not so ‘Cool Runnings': The Jamaican bobsled team just marched. They had to raise money on the Internet to make it to Sochi.


12:19 p.m. | An overhead shot of Team America marching in the procession:

Athletes from the United States wave to spectators as they arrive.

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Athletes from the United States wave to spectators as they arrive.


12:16 p.m. Team Ukraine is marching in Fischt Stadium. The two countries have seen closer ties since Ukraine’s President snubbed a trade and association deal with the European Union in November to instead pivot toward Russia. Since then, violent clashes have rocked the capital Kiev.


12:14 p.m. | The Boston Bruins’ giant defenseman Zdeno Chara led out Team Slovakia:


12:09 p.m. | The American Olympians have arrived and are marching:

[https://twitter.com/Sochi2014/status/431837563108986880]


12:08 p.m.


12:06 p.m. | Here’s the reason why India’s three contestants marched under the Olympic flag and not that of their nation:

The IOC gave India until February 7 to vote in new, untainted leadership, but India’s Olympic Association scheduled a vote on February 9, two days after the opening ceremony. As a result, India’s athletes will have to parade as “independents” under a generic Olympic flag.


12:02 p.m.


11:59 a.m. | Interesting seating arrangement!


11:56 a.m. | If you’re tracking the politics of the ceremony so far, TIME counts a very robust Sochi cheer for Venezuela, whose government enjoys thumbing its nose at the U.S. Deathly silence when the Georgian team marched. Next door to Sochi, Georgia fought a war with Russia half a decade ago and riles the leadership in Moscow. — Ishaan Tharoor


11:55 a.m.


11:52 a.m.


11:49 a.m. | A member of Austria’s Olympic team fell during the procession

OLY-2014-OPENING-CEREMONY-DELEGATION

ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP / Getty Images

A member of Austria’s delegation lies on the ground after falling during the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 7, 2014 in Sochi.


11:42 a.m.


11:41 a.m.


11:40 a.m.

The athletes of each nation are marching out now in procession. TIME’s Simon Shuster describes the scene: “The athletes start marching out onto the stage as a large ring of people in what look to be marshmallow suits clap and do a little two-step dance, swaying back and forth. Not quite the Beijing opening ceremony, but at least they are more or less synchronized. Which is cool.”


11:25 a.m. | Wardrobe malfunction?


11:23 a.m. | We’re being taken on a tour of Russia’s time zones. Does it really need nine of them? We looked at the issue last month:

In 2010, Moscow trimmed the number of zones down to nine (some experts think just four would suffice), but considerable quirks remain: for example, though Russia’s Asiatic port of Vladivostok sits clearly to the west of Japan, the time there is two hours ahead of Tokyo.


11:20 a.m. | Turkish Olympians pose with an official Sochi mascot


11:05 a.m.


11:00 a.m. | The Opening Ceremony has begun.

OLY-2014-OPENING-CEREMONY

Damien Meyer / AFP / Getty Images

A military choir performs during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7.


One hour before the Opening Ceremony began, TIME’s Simon Shuster recounted the lead-up. Follow him on Twitter @shustry for more:

19:15 One hour to go till the opening ceremony. The announcer calls in the hosts into the stadium, Ivan Urgant and Yana Churikova, who ride out, somewhat anticlimactically, in a golf cart. No disco lights or anything.

Churikova goes all in: “Welcome to the center of the universe!” I guess Russia was never really known for modesty.

19:17: They hop back into their golf cart and ride back off stage. A Russian pop song comes on.

19:20 The golf cart’s back, running laps around the stage with a news camera in toe. Apropos of nothing, a recording starts to play of the words “Welcome to Sochi” in about a dozen different languages. (Or so I assume from the languages I understand.)

Just a few minutes in, and Urgant attempts his first joke. “The people of Sochi are really unique,” he says. “They speak all the languages of the world. But only two phrases. “Welcome,” and, “Sorry, I don’t have any change.” Falls a bit flat. In the English translation, not clear if he’s talking about panhandlers or check-out clerks at the liquor store.

19:24. So then. Nothing to kill an awkward moment like a Queen song, especially one song with a Russian accent. “We are the Champions!”

19:27 Urgant: “Now we’re going to reveal a secret of the opening ceremony. The hero is a little girl, and her name is Love.”

Wait, it gets cheesier.

“I’m overflowing with love right now,” Urgant blubbers. “Can I hug you?” Yana accepts. “Cameraman, can I hug you?” The cameraman accepts.

Then it gets weird.

You know the kissing game they do at the ballpark with the jumbotron? Right. Usually they only zoom in on couples in the stands. Not in Russia.

“Hugs!” Urgant shouts. “Hug everyone!” The camera pans around to the press box. Confusion descends. “Everyone hug your neighbor! You, lonely cameraman, yes, you! Hug the person next to you!” The poor guy concedes.

19:30 Rough transition back to song. Churikova: “There is a Russian tradition that when you hear this song you have to hug someone.” I grew up in Russia and I’m pretty sure there is no such tradition. Anyway, the song was nice.

19:36. Cue the golf cart. Urgant: “Now let me tell you how everyone can become a part of these Games.” Well, at least everyone in the stadium. Urgant pulls a trick from Opera Winfrey’s hat. Everyone is told to reach under their seat and get a light-emitting medal to put around their necks. They all start flickering the Russian tricolor, which looks pretty awesome. For some reason, Churikova feels the need to add, “Don’t worry [the medals] are absolutely harmless for your health.”

TIME Apple

Apple Makes Huge Move Nobody Saw Coming

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks to the audience during an Apple event in San Jose, Calif., on Oct. 23, 2012.
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks to the audience during an Apple event in San Jose, Calif., on Oct. 23, 2012. Robert Galbraith—Reuters

CEO Tim Cook says Apple is still a "growth company"

Apple has repurchased $14 billion worth of its stock after reporting disappointing fourth-quarter earnings two weeks ago, CEO Tim Cook said in a new interview.

Cook told the Wall Street Journal that Apple was “surprised” by the eight-percent drop in its share price late last month, after a weak revenue outlook and lower-than-expected iPhone sales during the holidays led to its sluggish earnings. Since then, Apple bought $12 billion worth of shares through an “accelerated” repurchase program and another $2 billion in shares from the open market, Cook said.

Shares were up about one percent in early trading on Friday.

Apple has bought back more than $40 billion of its shares in the past year, Cook told the Journal, calling it a record for any company over any similar time period. “It means that we are betting on Apple,” he said. “It means that we are really confident on what we are doing and what we plan to do. We are not just saying that. We are showing that with our actions.”

As speculation swirls around Apple’s next big move, perhaps wearable devices, Cook said he still considers Apple a “growth company” with big plans beyond the iPhone. He alluded that may include acquisitions: “We have no problem spending 10 figures for the right company, for the right fit that’s in the best interest of Apple in the long-term. None. Zero.”

[WSJ]

TIME Prison System

Record Number of U.S. Prisoners Exonerated in 2013

Between 1989 and 2013, 1,281 people spent almost 12,500 years in jail for crimes of which they were wrongly convicted

The number of U.S. inmates exonerated after being falsely convicted of a crime hit a record high last year, according to a new study.

Eighty-seven were found in 2013 to have been wrongly convicted, according to a report out Tuesday by the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law.

Nearly half of those exonerated prisoners had been convicted of murder. About one-third of the exonerations involved cases in which no crime had occurred, the Registry found, and fewer convicts were exonerated through DNA evidence than in the past. That slow trend has been occurring for much of the last decade. The report also noted that 17 percent of those exonerated had originally pleaded guilty to crimes they hadn’t committed, specifically because those types of plea bargains can lead to reduced sentences.

Rob Warden, the co-founder of the Registry and executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, said the numbers reflect a noteable improvement in the criminal justice system. “First, the courts and prosecutorial apparatus are more willing to take these cases seriously than they once were,” he told TIME. “There was a time when you wouldn’t have gotten a court to look at a case where there was a confession. Now we know that false confessions happen quite regularly.”

Texas had the most exonerations with 13, followed by Illinois (9), New York (8), Washington (7) and California (6). Rounding out the top 10 were Michigan and Missouri with five a piece, and four each for Connecticut, Georgia and Virginia.

The Registry has 1,304 exonerations on its list dating back to 1989. Over the 1,281 documented between January 1989 and December 2013, 92 percent were men and 47 percent were black. Within that range, New York has had the most with 152, followed by California (136) and Texas (133). All together, the 1,281 defendants spent nearly 12,500 years in prison for crimes of which they were wrongly convicted.

TIME U.K.

British City Texts Residents To Urge Weight Loss

Residents of Stoke-on-Trent will be told to 'Use the stairs more' and 'Eat fruit and veg'

A city in England will begin sending “motivational” text messages to people who are obese as encouragement to lose weight, the city council said this week.

The text alerts sent out by the city council of Stoke-on-Trent, which lies about halfway between Birmingham and Manchester, range from “Use the stairs more” to “Eat fruit and veg” and “Keep a check on snacks and drinks.” The messages will be part of a roughly $16,000, 10-week program for 500 people who sign up. The council says that the weight loss scheme is a money-saving endeavor — health care costs for about 70,000 obese adults in the city come to more than $80 million a year.

“On average it costs the same amount to perform just one intervention operation to help people manage their weight,” Adrian Knapper, the Cabinet member for health, told the BBC. “Our programme means people who already want to lose weight and have signed up with us to get support will receive a cheap and effective nudge to help keep them motivated.”

But support for the new program wasn’t unanimous.

“If the money went to community groups it could be used to support people losing weight but also for other projects,” said Abi Brown, a conservative councillor, who appreciated the thought behind the program. “The money could just be used more fruitfully.”

[BBC News]

TIME advertisements

Esurance Won the Super Bowl on Twitter Without Even Airing an Ad During the Game

Auto insurance company is giving $1.5 million to someone who tweeted with #EsuranceSave30

+ READ ARTICLE

More than 111 million people watched the Seattle Seahawks stomp down the Denver Broncos for an easy Super Bowl win on Sunday night, but the real game was on Twitter.

And the winner, according to Nielsen’s post-game report, was undoubtedly Esurance. The auto insurance company didn’t air an ad during the telecast, during which a 30-second spot cost as much as $4 million, but it did right afterward. And it saved—big.

(MORE: Esurance’s $1.5 Million Giveaway Is Making Twitter Go Crazy)

In fact, Esurance said it saved so much it would give $1.5 million—the difference between airing it during or after the game—to a single Twitter user who used the hashtag #EsuranceSave30 before 4 a.m. EST on Monday. The ad featured John Krasinski from The Office.

More than 1.85 million tweets that included the hashtag were sent by more than 1.2 million people, Nielsen found, more than four times it’s nearest competitor. But Budweiser used two hashtags—#SaluteAHero and #BestBuds—and only 290,500 people tweeted with them about 393,700 times.

The contest winner will be announced on Wednesday during Jimmy Kimmel Live.

TIME weather

Midweek Snow Storm Will Affect 100 Million People

With people still digging out of the last one

A winter storm bringing snow and ice is expected to hit more than two dozen states and at least 100 million people from Colorado to Maine this week.

Starting on Tuesday and into Wednesday, the storm may drop six inches of snow or more on parts of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, according to AccuWeather. A stretch of rain will move in underneath the snow belt, affecting parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland and Rhode Island, among others.

The storm is moving in just as people are still digging out of two recent snowfalls in the Midwest and northeast.

[AccuWeather]

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