TIME Cuba

Airbnb Heads to Cuba in Major U.S. Business Expansion

A home in Havana, Cuba, April 1, 2015
Desmond Boylan—AP A home in Havana, Cuba, on April 1, 2015

Airbnb will allow American travelers to book lodging in Cuba starting Thursday

(HAVANA) — The popular online home-rental service Airbnb will allow American travelers to book lodging in Cuba starting Thursday in the most significant U.S. business expansion on the island since the declaration of detente between the two countries late last year.

For a half-century, the U.S. trade embargo has blocked such businesses from entering the Cuban market. In January, however, the Obama administration loosened a series of restrictions on U.S. business in an attempt to encourage the growth of the island’s small private sector.

Airbnb searches for “Cuba” will now turn up more than 1,000 properties across the island, with 40 percent in Havana and the rest in tourist destinations such as Cienfuegos a few hours away on the southern coast. The company has been sending teams of representatives to Cuba for three months to sign up home owners, and plans to expand steadily in coming months.

“We believe that Cuba could become one of Airbnb’s biggest markets in Latin America,” said Kay Kuehne, regional director for Airbnb, the website and mobile app that allows users to book rooms in more than 1 million private homes around the world. “We are actually plugging into an existing culture of micro-enterprise in Cuba. The hosts in Cuba have been doing for decades what we just started doing seven years ago.”

One of the most developed and important elements of Cuba’s entrepreneurial sector is a network of thousands of privately owned rooms and houses for tourists. Starting in the post-Soviet economic crisis of the 1990s as homey, bed and breakfast-style alternatives to Cuba’s generally grim state-run hotels, “casas particulares,” or private homes, have expanded into an industry with options ranging from small apartments in central Havana to multi-room beach houses with top-notch food and maid service.

The Airbnb announcement is the latest in a series of U.S. business moves into Cuba. In February, New Jersey-based IDT Corp. and Cuban state telecoms firm ETECSA agreed to connect phone calls from the United States directly to Cuba. Previously, they were routed through third countries such as Italy and Spain.

Netflix and MasterCard have also unblocked their services in Cuba, but only a handful of islanders have connections fast enough to stream Netflix, and most credit-card issuers still prohibit transactions from Cuba, making MasterCard’s move largely symbolic so far.

The Airbnb move could be the most significant development in terms of putting money in the pockets of entrepreneurs across the island and bolstering them in a stagnant state-run economy — leading goals for the Obama administration in warming relations with Cuba.

“I think this is going to help our business prosper, to definitely improve, not just private business, but everything here,” said Israel Rivero, who owns an immaculately renovated, pre-war apartment in central Havana. He charges $25 a night per room, but the price will go to $30 on Airbnb to cover fees and currency exchange costs.

Kuehne said Airbnb’s plans had been welcomed by Cuban and U.S. authorities. Cuba has been wrestling with how to accommodate a surge of travelers since the announcement of detente. Trips to the island have been up nearly 20 percent in recent months, mostly by non-U.S. travelers, and many hotels are fully booked, particularly the few able to offer service close to international standards.

For the time being, non-U.S. travelers will not be able to use Airbnb.

Because of continuing restrictions under the U.S. embargo, the company’s Cuba listing will only be available to U.S. travelers visiting under one of 12 U.S.-government approved categories of legal travel, ranging from professional research to religious activities.

While virtually all U.S. travel to Cuba previously required individual licenses from the U.S. Treasury Department, the January changes essentially shift it to an honor system by allowing travelers to fill out a form asserting they are going for one of the approved purposes.

A major drawback for the Cuban private lodging business has been the difficulty of renting from overseas on an island with one of the world’s lower rates of Internet penetration and a constantly malfunctioning phone system. While dozens of websites such as TripAdvisor have listings for lodgings, most only provide phone numbers or email addresses for owners instead of the quick online booking and guaranteed reservations that Airbnb will offer, as it does in more than 190 countries.

“Our plan is to make it substantially easier,” Kuehne said.

While that sentiment holds for travelers, owners still have to grapple with the lack of access to the Internet across the island. Most will have to turn to pricey state-run Internet centers or hotel lobbies to check on reservations. And with much of the international banking system off-limits to Cubans due to U.S. sanctions, owners will depend on friends or business associates to receive payments from Airbnb in non-U.S. bank accounts.

Collin Laverty, owner of Cuba Educational Travel, one of the largest firms organizing group tours to Cuba, said home owners have already been investing in amenities such as central air conditioning and improved water pressure in order to be able to charge far more than $25 a night for basic service.

“You’re starting to see places that can compete with three- and four-star hotels,” Laverty said.

TIME Mexico

Flames Engulf Mexico Oil Platform in Gulf, Killing 4 Workers

"There was nothing you could do but run"

(MEXICO CITY) — A huge ball of flames engulfed an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, killing four people and sending terrified workers leaping into the sea.

State-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said it had averted any significant oil spill following the blast, which also injured 16 workers, two seriously, and forced the evacuation of 300.

Pemex later said a total of 45 workers had received some form of treatment or health evaluation.

Firefighters were still working to put out the fire, which was consuming the oil that was on the platform, Pemex Director General Emilio Lozoya said late Wednesday afternoon, adding that efforts were “on the right track.” Ten firefighting and emergency boats were being used.

Speaking at a news conference in the nearby city of Ciudad del Carmen, Lozoya said the cause of the fire was still being investigated, but it appeared to be something mechanical.

Helicopters ferried workers with bandaged hands and faces and burn marks on their overalls to Ciudad del Carmen, where crowds of relatives of oil workers thronged outside hospitals.

A survivor of the blaze on the shallow-water Abkatun-A Permanente platform in the Campeche Sound said workers “jumped into the sea out of desperation and panic.”

“There was nothing you could do but run,” said Roger Arias Sanchez, an employee of Pemex contractor Cotemar who escaped the burning platform in an evacuation boat.

Many of the injured appeared to be Cotemar employees.

In a statement later Wednesday, Pemex said the accident “did not cause an oil spill into the sea, given that there was only a seepage, which is being taken care of by specialized vessels.”

The company said it had been able to cut off pipelines to avoid a spill, and suggested that the oil remaining in the pipelines was burning off.

Lozoya said the accident “would have a minimal impact on production, because this was a processing platform,” not a producing well. Production from nearby wells it normally serves could be rerouted to other processing platforms.

President Enrique Pena Nieto promised an investigation to “find whoever is responsible” and avoid such accidents in the future.

The Abkatun A platform largely serves to separate gas, oil and other petroleum products, and pump them to refineries onshore.

Previous spills from Mexican facilities have usually occurred at active offshore wells, not processing stations.

The Abkatun platform lies off the coast of the states of Campeche and Tabasco. It is farther out to sea than the platform involved in the last severe fire in the area, a 2007 blaze at the Kab 121 offshore rig.

That accident was caused by high waves that hit the rig, sending a boom crashing into a valve assembly. The blaze killed at least 21 workers and the rig spilled crude and natural gas for almost two months.

Mexico’s worst major spill in the Gulf was in June 1979, when an offshore drilling rig in Mexican waters, the Ixtoc I, blew up, releasing 140 million gallons of oil. It took Pemex and a series of U.S. contractors nearly nine months to cap the well, and a great deal of the oil contaminated Mexican and U.S. waters.

Pemex has had serious security problems in the past, mainly in its onshore pipeline network, where thieves drilled around 2,500 illegal taps in the first nine months of 2104 and stole more than $1 billion in fuel.

That problem got so bad that in February, the company announced it would no longer ship finished, usable gasoline or diesel through pipelines.

That apparently hasn’t stopped the thieves, though. On Wednesday, federal police announced they had seized three tanker trucks and 148,000 liters (39,100 gallons) of stolen fuel at several different sites throughout the country as well as locating two illegal pipeline taps.

TIME Terrorism

U.N. Report: More Than 25,000 Foreigners Fight With Terrorists

The flow is "higher than it has ever been historically"

(UNITED NATIONS) — The number of fighters leaving home to join al-Qaida and the Islamic State group in Iraq, Syria and other countries has spiked to more than 25,000 from over 100 nations, according to a new U.N. report.

The panel of experts monitoring U.N. sanctions against al-Qaida said in the report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press that its analysis indicates the number of foreign terrorist fighters worldwide increased by 71 percent between mid-2014 and March 2015.

It said the scale of the problem has increased over the past three years and the flow of foreign fighters “is higher than it has ever been historically.”

The overall number of foreign terrorist fighters has “risen sharply from a few thousand … a decade ago to more than 25,000 today,” the panel said in the report to the U.N. Security Council.

The report said just two countries have accounted for over 20,000 foreign fighters: Syria and Iraq. They went to fight primarily for the Islamic State group but also the Al-Nusra Front.

Looking ahead, the panel said the thousands of foreign fighters who traveled to Syria and Iraq are living and working in “a veritable ‘international finishing school’ for extremists,” as was the case in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

A military defeat of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq could have the unintended consequence of scattering violent foreign terrorist fighters across the world, the panel said. And while governments are focusing on countering the threat from fighters returning home, the panel said it’s possible that some may be traumatized by what they saw and need psychological help, and that others may be recruited by criminal networks.

In addition to Syria and Iraq, the report said Afghan security forces estimated in March that about 6,500 foreign fighters were active in the country. And it said hundreds of foreigners are fighting in Yemen, Libya and Pakistan, around 100 in Somalia, and others in the Sahel countries in northern Africa, and in the Philippines.

The number of countries the fighters come from has also risen dramatically from a small group in the 1990s to over 100 today — more than half the countries in the world — including some that have never had previous links with al-Qaida associated groups, the panel said.

It cited the “high number” of foreign fighters from Tunisia, Morocco, France and Russia, the increase in fighters from the Maldives, Finland and Trinidad and Tobago, and the first fighters from some countries in sub-Saharan Africa which it didn’t name.

The panel said the fighters and their networks “pose an immediate and long-term threat” and “an urgent global security problem” that needs to be tackled on many fronts and has no easy solution.

With globalized travel, it said, the chance of a person from any country becoming a victim of a foreign terrorist attack “is growing, particularly with attacks targeting hotels, public spaces and venues.”

But the panel noted that a longstanding terrorist goal is “generating public panic” and stressed that the response needs to “be measured, effective and proportionate.”

It said the most effective policy is to prevent the radicalization, recruitment and travel of would-be fighters.

The panel noted that less than 10 percent of basic information to identify foreign fighters has been put in global systems and called for greater intelligence sharing. As a positive example, it noted that the “watch list” in Turkey — a key transit point to Syria and Iraq — now includes 12,500 individuals.

TIME Courts

Durst Lawyers Say FBI Illegally Searched His Hotel Room

Robert Durst
Gerald Herbert—AP Robert Durst is escorted into Orleans Parish Prison after his arraignment in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court in New Orleans, March 17, 2015.

Attorneys claim arrest of millionaire accused of murder was invalid

(NEW ORLEANS) — Attorneys for millionaire Robert Durst, who faces a California murder charge, say Durst’s arrest in New Orleans on weapons charges was invalid, in part because the FBI searched his hotel room illegally.

Durst, who waived extradition to California on the murder charge, was arrested last month at the J.W. Marriott hotel in New Orleans. He is set for a Thursday hearing on Louisiana charges of possession of a firearm by a felon and illegally possessing a firearm along with an illegal drug.

Items recovered from his hotel room included a .38-caliber revolver and about 5 ounces of marijuana, according to court records.

A sworn statement supporting the warrant “contains a material misrepresentation designed to cover up the FBI’s unlawful, warrantless search of Mr. Durst’s hotel room,” according to a copy of a motion filed by Durst’s attorneys.

The motion asking Magistrate Harry Cantrell to throw out the warrant will likely be argued Thursday. Durst’s attorneys also have asked the judge to subpoena Fox News Channel’s Jeanine Pirro, a former New York prosecutor who investigated Durst in connection with the disappearance of his first wife in 1982, and all video surveillance for March 14 and 15 from the Marriott and Los Angeles Police Department.

The FBI and Los Angeles police, who have a warrant accusing Durst of killing his friend and spokeswoman Susan Berman in 2000 to keep her from talking to Pirro’s investigators, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Pirro has said she planned to talk to Berman. Durst’s attorneys want to confirm that she had never contacted Berman before she was killed, according to the motion.

Louisiana State Police referred requests for comment to the Orleans Parish district attorney’s office. That office does not comment on open cases or investigations, spokesman Chris Bowman said.

Orleans Parish district attorney’s investigator Jim O’Hern testified at Durst’s bail hearing that he helped Los Angeles detectives get the warrant on which Durst was arrested early March 15, a Sunday. An FBI agent had inventoried Durst’s belongings in his hotel room the afternoon of March 14 and a judge signed the warrant about 2 a.m. the next day, he said.

The affidavit used to get the warrant states that Los Angeles police and New Orleans prosecutors got a warrant, then searched the room and found the gun and drugs, according to a motion filed Tuesday and provided to The Associated Press on Wednesday by Durst’s attorneys.

“However, those items were actually discovered by the FBI in a warrantless search of Mr. Durst’s hotel room, preceded by a warrantless detention and arrest, long before the search warrant was issued,” the motion said.

Agents C. Bender and C. Williams had identified and frisked Durst, “a frail, 71-year-old man in poor health,” in the hotel lobby and should have taken him immediately to jail if they were arresting him on a California warrant, the attorneys wrote.

O’Hern testified that the search was an inventory to ensure safekeeping of Durst’s belongings. Neither FBI policy nor court rulings support such a search, “and the state cannot expect the Court to take this justification seriously,” the motion said.

Quoting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that “an inventory search must not be a ruse of a general rummaging in order to discover incriminating evidence,” they said, “the FBI agents rummaged through all of Mr. Durst’s luggage and clothing, opened every bag and pocket, and inspected, removed and photographed every item in his possession, down to his pens, glasses and medication.”

If the agents had just wanted to safeguard Durst’s property, they should have just removed and secured it, the attorneys wrote.

They also argued that Durst’s federal convictions — interstate transportation of a firearm while under indictment and possessing a firearm or ammunition while a fugitive from justice — aren’t among felonies that make possessing a firearm illegal in Louisiana.

TIME police

Coroner Classifies Man’s Death in Katrina Aftermath as a Homicide

An officer convicted for burning Henry Glover's body is serving a 17-year federal sentence

(NEW ORLEANS) — New Orleans’ coroner has classified the death of a man shot by a police officer in the chaos following Hurricane Katrina as a homicide.

Coroner Jeffrey Rouse made the announcement Wednesday in the case of Henry Glover, whose body was burned by one police officer after another officer shot him on Sept. 2, 2005.

The immediate legal implications are unclear. Officer David Warren was acquitted by a federal jury after saying he believed Glover was armed when he shot him.

Glover’s family has called for state charges in the case. The New Orleans district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An officer convicted in a separate trial for burning Glover’s body is serving a 17-year federal sentence.

TIME

Iran Nuke Talks Extended Once Again After Faltering

Iran, world powers inch towards nuclear agreement
Laurent Gillieron—EPA US Secretary of State John Kerry looks at the view of Lake Geneva from his hotel room as the Iran nuclear talks continue, in Lausanne, Switzerland, April 1, 2015.

(LAUSANNE, Switzerland) — Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program headed for double overtime on Wednesday, beset by competing claims and recriminations after differences forced diplomats to abandon their March 31 deadline for the outline of a deal.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry postponed his departure from the talks in the Swiss town of Lausanne for a second time and will remain until at least Thursday morning to continue negotiations, the State Department said. On Thursday, the latest round of talks will hit the weeklong mark with diplomats from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany scrambling to reach a framework accord with Iran.

“We continue to make progress but have not reached a political understanding,” spokeswoman Marie Harf said in announcing Kerry’s decision.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said negotiators were still facing a “tough struggle,” indicating the talks were not likely to end anytime soon. “Tonight there will be new proposals, new recommendations. I can’t predict whether that will sufficient to enable an agreement to be reached,” he said.

At the same time, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif accused his country’s negotiating partners, particularly the U.S., of having “defective” political will in the talks.

“I’ve always said that an agreement and pressure do not go together, they are mutually exclusive,” he told reporters. “So our friends need to decide whether they want to be with Iran based on respect or whether they want to continue based on pressure.”

The negotiators’ intention is to produce a joint statement outlining general political commitments to resolving concerns about the Iranians’ nuclear program in exchange for relief of economic sanctions against Iran. In addition, they are trying to fashion other documents that would lay out in more detail the steps they must take by June 30 to meet those goals.

But Iran has pushed back not only on the substance of the commitments the sides must make but to the form in which they will make them, demanding that it be a general statement with few specifics. That is politically unpalatable for the Obama administration which must convince a hostile Congress that it has made progress in the talks so lawmakers do not enact new sanctions that could destroy the negotiations.

Zarif said the result of this round of talks “will not be more than a statement.”

A senior Western official pushed back on that, saying that nothing about a statement had been decided and that Iran’s negotiating partners would not accept a document that contained no details. The official was not authorized to speak to the negotiations by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi named differences on sanctions relief as one dispute — but also suggested some softening of Tehran’s long-term insistence that all sanctions on his country be lifted immediately once a final deal takes effect.

He told Iranian TV that economic, financial, oil and bank sanctions imposed by the U.S., the European Union and others should be done away with as “the first step of the deal.” Alluding to separate U.N. sanctions he said a separate “framework” was needed for them.

Araghchi has spoken of a similar arrangement before. But both Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have since demanded full and total sanctions lifting, and the floating of the approach now suggested an Iranian shift.

Araghchi also rejected U.S. demands of strict controls on Iran’s uranium enrichment-related research and development, saying such activities “should continue.”

The U.S. and its negotiating partners want to crimp Iranian efforts to improve the performance of centrifuges that enrich uranium because advancing the technology could let Iran produce material that could be used to arm a nuclear weapon much more quickly than at present.

The additional documents the U.S. wants would allow the sides to make the case that the next round of talks will not simply be a continuation of negotiations that have already been twice extended since an interim agreement between Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany was concluded in 2013. President Barack Obama and other leaders, including Iran’s, have said they are not interested in a third extension.

But if the parties agree only to a broad framework that leaves key details unresolved, Obama can expect stiff opposition at home from members of Congress who want to move forward with new, stiffer Iran sanctions. Lawmakers had agreed to hold off on such a measure through March while the parties negotiated. The White House says new sanctions would scuttle further diplomatic efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear work and possibly lead Israel to act on threats to use military force to accomplish that goal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has campaigned tirelessly for months against the emerging agreement, said it would “ensure a bad deal that would endanger Israel, the Middle East and the peace of the world.”

“A better deal would significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. A better deal would link the eventual lifting of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to a change in Iran’s behavior,” he said.

TIME

11 Former Atlanta Educators Convicted in Cheating Scandal

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, second from right, listens as Senior ADA Clint Rucker gives the state's final arguments in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial, in Atlanta on March 18, 2015,
Kent D. Johnson—AP Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, second from right, listens as Senior ADA Clint Rucker gives the state's final arguments in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial, in Atlanta on March 18, 2015,

(ATLANTA) — In one of the biggest cheating scandals of its kind in the U.S., 11 former Atlanta public school educators were convicted Wednesday of racketeering for their role in a scheme to inflate students’ scores on standardized exams.

The defendants, including teachers, a principal and other administrators, were accused of falsifying test results to collect bonuses or keep their jobs in the 50,000-student Atlanta school system. A 12th defendant, a teacher, was acquitted of all charges by the jury.

The racketeering charges carry up to 20 years in prison. Most of the defendants will be sentenced April 8.

“This is a huge story and absolutely the biggest development in American education law since forever,” said University of Georgia law professor Ron Carlson. “It has to send a message to educators here and broadly across the nation. Playing with student test scores is very, very dangerous business.”

A state investigation found that as far back as 2005, educators fed answers to students or erased and changed answers on tests after they were turned in. Evidence of cheating was found in 44 schools with nearly 180 educators involved, and teachers who tried to report it were threatened with retaliation.

Similar cheating scandals have erupted in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Nevada and other public school systems around the country in recent years, as officials link scores to school funding and staff bonuses and vow to close schools that perform poorly.

Thirty-five Atlanta educators in all were indicted in 2013 on charges including racketeering, making false statements and theft. Many pleaded guilty, and some testified at the trial.

Former Atlanta School Superintendent Beverly Hall was among those charged but never went to trial, arguing she was too sick. She died a month ago of breast cancer.

Hall insisted she was innocent. But educators said she was among higher-ups pressuring them to inflate students’ scores to show gains in achievement and meet federal benchmarks that would unlock extra funding.

Over objections from the defendants’ attorneys, Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter ordered all but one of those convicted immediately jailed while they await sentencing. They were led out of court in handcuffs.

“They are convicted felons as far as I’m concerned,” Baxter said, later adding, “They have made their bed and they’re going to have to lie in it.”

The only one allowed to remain free on bail was teacher Shani Robinson, because she is expected to give birth soon.

Bob Rubin, the attorney for former elementary school principal Dana Evans, said he was shocked by the judge’s decision and called it “unnecessary and vindictive.”

Prosecutors said the 12 on trial were looking out for themselves rather than the children’s education. Defense attorneys accused prosecutors of overreaching in charging the educators under racketeering laws usually employed against organized crime.

The attorneys for some of the defendants said they will appeal.

Hall served as superintendent for more than a decade, which is rare for a big-city schools chief. She was named Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators in 2009 and credited with raising student test scores and graduation rates, particularly among the district’s poor and minority students.

But the award quickly lost its luster as her district became mired in the scandal, which began to unfold when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that some scores were statistically improbable.

In a video message to the staff before she retired, Hall said: “I am confident that aggressive, swift action will be taken against anyone who believed so little in our students and in our system of support that they turned to dishonesty as the only option.”

The monthslong trial began in August with more than six weeks of jury selection, and testimony concluded in late February.

District Attorney Paul Howard said it was the biggest and most complex case his office had ever handled. It lasted more than two years and involved hundreds of interviews with school administrators, staff, parents and students.

“Our entire effort in this case was simply to get our community to stop and take a look at the education system,” Howard said.

Dessa Curb, a former elementary school teacher, was the one educator acquitted of all charges.

“I’ve prayed and I believed that this would be my outcome,” said a dazed-looking Curb, tears in her eyes.

TIME Iran

Iran Nuke Talks Stumble a Day After Missing Deadline

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif talks to members of the media while walking through a courtyard at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel during an extended round of talks in Lausanne on April 1, 2015.
Brendan Smialowski—REUTERS Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif talks to members of the media while walking through a courtyard at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel during an extended round of talks in Lausanne on April 1, 2015.

For nearly a week, Iran and six powers have been locked in negotiations

(LAUSANNE, Switzerland) — German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says negotiators at the Iran nuclear talks are still facing a “tough struggle,” indicating the talks are not likely to end soon.

At the same time, he’s holding out hope that the sides will be able to negotiate a preliminary accord that will let them embark on a new phase of talks aiming for a final deal by June.

For nearly a week, Iran and six powers have been locked in haggling over what that initial understanding should look like. The talks were extended past the Tuesday deadline in an effort to bridge differences.

Steinmeier said Wednesday that he hopes when the talks end “we won’t just be reporting about closing gaps … but also over agreement about important points.”

TIME Crime

Duke University Investigating Noose Found Hanging on Campus

An aerial view of the Duke University campus including the Duke Chapel in Durham, NOrth Carolina on April 21, 2013.
Lance King—Getty Images An aerial view of the Duke University campus including the Duke Chapel in Durham, NOrth Carolina on April 21, 2013.

Officials say the rope tied into a noose was found about 2 a.m.

(DURHAM, N.C.) — Duke officials are trying to find out who hung a noose outside a building that houses several offices, including those focused on diversity.

Officials say the rope tied into a noose was found about 2 a.m. Wednesday in the Bryan Center plaza. The center is home to offices including the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity and the Center for Multicultural Affairs.

Duke’s vice president for student affairs says anyone found responsible for “committing this act of intimidation” will be held accountable. Vice President Larry Moneta said in an email to students that he felt anger and disgust when he learned about the noose.

University and student leaders have scheduled a forum for Wednesday evening on the steps of Duke Chapel. Speakers will include President Richard Brodhead.

TIME Nigeria

Nigeria’s New President Says Time for Country to ‘Heal Wounds’

NIGERIA-VOTE-BUHARI
AFP/Getty Images Nigeria's new president-elect Muhammadu Buhari hailed polls that lead to the first democratic change of power in Africa's most populous nation as "historic" hours after he secured a decisive victory, photo taken April 1, 2015.

"We have voted for a president and a government that will serve and govern but never rule over you"

(ABUJA, Nigeria) — Former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari said Wednesday it was time “to heal wounds,” a day after Nigeria’s president conceded defeat in a bitterly fought election.

Calling for conciliation across the political divide, Buhari said Nigerians have put a one-party state behind them and embraced democracy.

“We have voted for a president and a government that will serve and govern but never rule over you,” he said. “Change has come. A new day and a new Nigeria are open to us . The victory is yours.”

Buhari, 72, said Nigerians showed they can bring about peaceful change through the ballot box. When Buhari is sworn in on May 29 it will be the first time in Nigeria’s history that an opposition party has democratically taken control of the country from the ruling party — considered a sign of the West African nation’s maturing young democracy. President Goodluck Jonathan’s party has governed since decades of military dictatorship ended in 1999.

Jonathan conceded with grace late Tuesday, saying “I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word.” He urged aggrieved colleagues in his People’s Democratic Party to turn to the courts. “Today, the PDP should be celebrating rather than mourning. We have established a legacy of democratic freedom, transparency, economic growth and free and fair elections.”

Buhari was the sole candidate of a coalition of the major political parties that formed two years ago and transformed Nigeria’s political landscape by offering the first real challenge to the governing party that has been in power since 1999 in Africa’s richest and most populous

Results from Saturday’s election show Buhari winning votes across religious, tribal lines and geopolitical lines.

Because of decades of military rule — Buhari himself was made military ruler of Nigeria after a Dec. 31, 1983 coup — this is only the eighth election in Nigeria’s history and the fifth since democracy was restored in 1999.

“You voted for change and now change has come,” said Buhari, who describes himself as a convert to democracy. “Your vote affirms that you believe Nigeria’s future can be better than what it is today.” He was addressing supporters at his party secretariat in Abuja, the capital, around 6 a.m.

Buhari’s victory was fueled by popular anger over an Islamic insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.

Outside Buhari’s party headquarters in Abuja overnight, women chanted songs and used grass brooms to elaborately sweep the way ahead of arriving dignitaries in flamboyant robes. The traditional broom is the sign of Buhari’s campaign pledge to sweep out the corruption endemic in Nigeria.

“This election is not about Buhari or Jonathan, it’s about Nigeria, it’s about freedom, it’s about change, it’s about unity,” Aisha Birma said, adding that Jonathan lost because he failed to provide security for Nigerians.

“What we have gone through, the Boko Haram insurgency for the past six years in Borno. … You, Jonathan, were responsible for our lives and property. When you don’t protect our lives and property, you can’t talk about infrastructure, education … Security is paramount,” she said.

Jonathan’s concession has defused tensions and fears of post-election violence. Some 1,000 people died and 65,000 were made homeless in riots in the Muslim north after Buhari lost to Jonathan in 2011.

 

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