TIME South Sudan

Aid Groups Want More Than $1B for South Sudan

Three children walk through a spontaneous camp for internally displaced persons at the United Nations Mission to South Sudan base in Juba, on Jan. 9, 2014.
Three children walk through a spontaneous camp for internally displaced persons at the United Nations Mission to South Sudan base in Juba, on Jan. 9, 2014. Phil Moore / AFP / Getty Images

1 million could be displaced by June

The United Nations and aid agencies in South Sudan jointly appealed on Monday for $1.27 billion in aid to get them through June as the seven-week crisis threatens to worsen.

A response plan made public on Monday detailed the quickly declining humanitarian situation around the country, which won independence in July 2011. At least 1,000 people have been killed since violence broke out on Dec. 15 and another 865,000 have been uprooted. The report says that figure could hit one million by June.

“The Crisis Response Plan for #SouthSudan aims to: save lives, alleviate suffering, and pre-position relief before heavy rains hinder access,” tweeted Toby Lanzer, the U.N. assistant secretary-general who is currently in Juba, the capital, as a development and humanitarian coordinator.

Aid workers have reached 300,000 people affected by the fighting, but up to seven million are now estimated to be at some risk of food insecurity. Some of the humanitarian groups participating in the call for donations include the U.N. refugee agency, International Organization for Migration and World Food Programme, among others.

Representatives for President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar agreed to a ceasefire in Ethiopia on Jan. 23 but both sides have accused the other of breaking it.

TIME Middle East

Obama Will Travel to Saudi Arabia in March

The president's visit will come after a swing through Europe

The White House confirmed on Monday that President Obama will make his first visit to Saudi Arabia in March to meet with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said Obama and King Abdullah are expected to discuss the two countries’ bilateral relations and a number of key security issues in the Gulf like regional extremism, spillover from Syria’s civil war and Saudi concerns about the U.S.-led efforts to broker nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Kingdom’s regional adversary.

The trip was first reported last week by the Wall Street Journal, which cited Arab officials claiming relations between the two countries were “deteriorating,” despite the White House’s no-comment. It will be tacked onto the end of Obama’s visits to the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, where he will meet Pope Francis.

TIME Iran

Iran Minister: Final Nuclear Deal Possible Within Six Months

Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says final deal within reach if 'good will' exists

Iran’s foreign minister said on Monday that a nuclear deal can be finalized within six months if there is “good will” and that he’s not worried about the possibility that the U.S. may impose new sanctions.

The new remarks from Mohammad Javad Zarif came in a speech to the German Council on Foreign Relations. “With good will we can reach an agreement within six months,” he said. “I don’t fear a decision in the U.S. Congress … The U.S. president has promised to veto it.”

In his State of the Union address last week, President Barack Obama said he would veto any legislation passed by Congress that threatened the negotiations with Iran. Some U.S. senators have co-sponsored a bill that would set new economic sanctions on Iran if the current talks fail. The bill is currently stalled, but Iran has said it would pull back from the negotiating table it the bill becomes law.

On Sunday, Zarif met with Secretary of State John Kerry and representatives other world powers working with Iran to secure a deal. He said the Islamic Republic was committed to moving forward with negotiations in order to reach a “balanced” long-term agreement: “I think the opportunity is there, and I think we need to seize it.”

A preliminary deal for Iran to scale back its nuclear program in return for an easing of crippling economic sanctions was reached in November under the stipulation that a more final resolution would be negotiated within the six months that followed.

[Reuters]

TIME E.U.

Report: Corruption Costs E.U. Over $162 Billion A Year

The Headquarters of EU in Brussels, Belgium.
The headquarters of the European Union in Brussels. Getty Images

Three out of four Europeans think corruption is widespread, finds report

A first-of-its-kind report issued by the European Union on Monday found that corruption across 28 member states costs the EU economy $162.19 billion a year.

The EU Anti-Corruption Report found that 76% of Europeans think corruption is widespread and 56% say the level of corruption in their own country has risen over the past three years. The report notes that many member nations have taken steps in recent years to battle petty or institutional corruption, but that results aren’t even across the states.

“Corruption undermines citizens’ confidence in democratic institutions and the result of law, it hurts the European economy and deprives states of much-needed tax revenue,” said European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in a statement on Monday. “Member states have done a lot in recent years to fight corruption, but today’s report shows that it is far from enough.”

Despite its finding that graft is endemic throughout the E.U., the report found that Denmark, Finland, Germany and Sweden are among the most transparent and least corrupt. Countries that need improvement include Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Portugal, Romania and Spain, said the report.

TIME South Africa

Mandela Left $4.1 Million In Will

APTOPIX South Africa Mandela Mourning
A military honor guard lines the route for former South African president Nelson Madela's funeral procession as it makes its way to his final resting place in his home village of Qunu on Dec. 15, 2013. Elmond Jiyane / AP

Estate to be distributed to family, staff, former schools and the African National Congress

Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who became South Africa’s first black president, left behind a will worth at least $4.1 million with instructions to distribute it among family, staff, former schools and the African National Congress.

The executive director of the 40-page will, Dikgang Moseneke, told reporters Monday that the document was read to Mandela’s relatives earlier in the day. Moseneke said the “provisional inventory” was worth $4.1 million but that it could change when it’s looked at more carefully. He didn’t yet know of any contestation to the will’s provisions.

Reuters reports that Mandela’s estate includes an upscale home in Johannesburg, a more modest house in the Eastern Cape province and proceeds from book sales.

Mandela died on Dec. 5 aged 95. He was buried 10 days later in his home village of Qunu.

[AP]

TIME Libya

U.S. and Libya Destroy Last of Gaddafi’s Chemical Weapons

America-backed effort aimed at keeping weapons from falling into extremists' hands

The U.S. and Libya have secretly destroyed the last tons of chemical arms in the arsenal of Muammar Gaddafi, the former leader who was overthrown and killed in late 2011, reports The New York Times.

Since November, Libyan contractors who were trained in Sweden and Germany used a transportable oven to ruin hundreds of bombs and artillery rounds, filled with the fatal mustard agent, at a guarded desert site 400 miles southeast of Tripoli. The international effort, which ended last week, aimed to keep regional extremists linked to al-Qaeda from obtaining the weapons.

Libya has been wracked by instability since Gaddafi’s reign ended and the transitional government has been troubled by militants jockeying for power, despite working closely with the West on security issues like this. The Pentagon and its Defense Threat Reduction Agency used $45 million from the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, based in Pasadena, Calif., to collaborate with Libyans in rebuilding and guarding the disposal site.

The news comes as international weapons experts struggle to remove and dispose of weapons in Syria, as part of a deal with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. White House chief of staff Denis McDonough told CBS News this weekend that the deal was “not falling apart, but we would like to see it proceed much more quickly than it is.”

[NYT]

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Blesses Porn Star’s Parrot

Pope Francis holds a parrot shown by a pilgrim as he arrives for his general audience at St Peter's square on January 29, 2014 at the Vatican.
Pope Francis holds a parrot shown by a pilgrim as he arrives for his general audience at St Peter's square on January 29, 2014 at the Vatican. Osservatore Romano—AFP—Getty Images

Green parrot was named Amore, or Italian for "Love"

Among the newest recipients of Pope Francis’ good will is the parrot of a male stripper-turned-erotic film actor, the ANSA news agency reported this week.

The pet of Francesco Lombardi, named Amore, or “Love,” was passed to the Pope as he rode around St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday. The crowd watched as he leaned from the pope-mobile to hold the bird on his finger and bless it. Later, Lombardi told ANSA that Amore said “Papa” during the encounter, mocking the people’s chant.

“It was fun,” said Lombardi. “A sort of mixing of the holy and the profane.”

He added that he was at the Square with his wife and two daughters specifically to attend the Pope’s general audience: “Pope Francis, who I am in love with, called it ‘a beautiful gift from God.’”

[ANSA]

TIME U.K.

Queen Elizabeth’s Courtiers Urged To Tighten Royal Belt

A baker poses with a marzipan mosaic of Britain's Queen Elizabeth in the City of London
A baker poses with a marzipan mosaic of Queen Elizabeth II at Konditor and Cook in London on May 3, 2012. Olivia Harris / Reuters

Staff told to ease spending as Queen Elizabeth's reserve fund sinks to 'historic low' of $1.6 million

Correction appended 1.10pm Jan.28

Advisers to Queen Elizabeth II have widely overspent and failed at controlling her finances, according to a parliamentary committee report issued this week. The queen’s reserve fund sank from more than $58 million in 2001 to a “historic low” of $1.6 million at the end of last year.

The Queen’s household overspent her annual budget of $51 million by about $3.8 million last year. The imprudent courtiers were advised to take money-saving tips from the Treasury, the government’s finance ministry.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee noted that the royal palaces were “crumbling,” the Daily Telegraph reports, and said the Treasury needed to “get a grip” to help the royal household protect them from “further damage and deterioration.”

Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace are reported to be below “acceptable condition,” said Margaret Hodge, the committee’s chairman, and more cash is needed to address serious maintenance issues with at least 39 royal buildings overall.

“We believe that the Treasury has a duty to be actively involved in reviewing the household’s financial planning and management—and it has failed to do so,” she added.

[Daily Telegraph]

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the amount left in the Queen’s reserve fund.

TIME South Sudan

Report: U.S. Mulling Targeted Sanctions Against South Sudan

Any sanctions, if approved, aren't likely to intentionally harm its economy

U.S. officials may impose targeted sanctions against South Sudan in response to its leadership’s failure to end a political crisis that has left thousands dead and ramped up fears of an all-out ethnic war.

Reuters, citing unnamed sources, reports that the sanctions would likely focus on individuals or groups seen as having committed atrocities or impeding international efforts to broker peace, rather than targeting the country’s economy. “It’s a tool that has been discussed,” two sources confirmed to the news agency, but said that no decision had yet been made.

(PHOTOS: Crisis in South Sudan: The World’s Youngest Nation Struggles to Survive)

Fighting broke out in the world’s youngest country on Dec. 15 after President Salva Kiir said there had been an attempted coup by his ex-deputy Riek Machar. On Thursday, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the assistant secretary of state for Africa, told a Senate committee “we’ve not seen any evidence that this was a coup attempt, but it certainly was the result of a huge political rift.” As pre-condition for a ceasefire, Machar has mandated the 11 senior politicians being held as suspected plotters must be released. Kiir says they must be tried for conspiracy to overthrow the government.

Aid groups have warned that the estimated death toll of the worsening crisis may be severely understated. At least 1,000 were confirmed dead after the initial battles in December, but the International Crisis Group claimed this week that up to 10,000 may have been killed. More than 200,000 people have been displaced by the conflict and health experts fear of epidemics if the security situation doesn’t improve.

[Reuters]

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