TIME Syria

U.N. Says Syria Refugees Top 3 Million Mark

Syrian refugees flee from Lebanon
Syrian refugees wait in the border town of Arsal, Lebanon, on Aug. 8, 2014. Bilal Jawich—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

One of every eight Syrians has fled across the border, and 6.5 million others have been displaced within Syria since the conflict began in March 2011

(GENEVA) — The civil war in Syria has forced a record 3 million people out of the country as more than a million people fled in the past year, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

The tragic milestone means that about one of every eight Syrians has fled across the border, and 6.5 million others have been displaced within Syria since the conflict began in March 2011, the Geneva-based agency said. More than half of all those uprooted are children, it said.

“The Syria crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

Syria had a prewar population of 23 million.

The recent surge in fighting appears to be worsening the already desperate situation for Syrian refugees, the agency said, as the extremist Islamic State group expands its control of broad areas straddling the Syria-Iraq border and terrorizes rivals and civilians in both countries.

According to the agency, many of the new arrivals in Jordan come from the northern province of Aleppo and the northeastern region of Raqqa, a stronghold of the group. An independent U.N. commission says the group is systematically carrying out widespread bombings, beheadings and mass killings that amount to crimes against humanity in both areas.

The commission investigating potential war crimes in Syria said on Wednesday that the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad likely used chlorine gas to attack civilians, who are bearing the brunt of a civil war that has killed more than 190,000 people and destabilized the region.

The massive numbers of Syrians fleeing the civil war has stretched the resources of neighboring countries and raised fears of violence spreading in the region.

The U.N. estimates there are nearly 35,000 people awaiting registration as refugees, and hundreds of thousands who are not registered.

International Rescue Committee President David Miliband said the Syrian refugee crisis represents “3 million indictments of government brutality, opposition violence and international failure.”

“This appalling milestone needs to generate action as well as anger,” he said, calling for more aid to Syria’s overburdened neighbors and for civilians still in the country.

The refugee agency and other aid groups say an increasing number of families are arriving in other countries in shockingly poor condition, exhausted and scared and with almost no financial savings left after having been on the run for a year or more. In eastern Jordan, for example, the agency says refugees crossing the desert are forced to pay smugglers $100 per person or more to be taken to safety.

Lebanon hosts 1.14 million Syrian refugees, the single highest concentration. Turkey has 815,000 and Jordan has 608,000.

TIME Immigration

Obama Sets No Timeline for Action on Immigration

Obama Immigration
Demonstrators are lined up as they are being arrested, during a protest on immigration reform, outside the White House on Aug. 28, 2014 Evan Vucci—AP

145 protesters were arrested midday on Thursday in front of the White House in an act of civil disobedience

(WASHINGTON) — With a self-imposed deadline looming, President Barack Obama said Thursday he still intends to act on his own to change immigration policies but stopped short of reiterating his past vows to act by end of summer.

Obama raised the slim hope that Congress could take action on a broad immigration overhaul after the midterm elections in November. He said that if lawmakers did not pass an overhaul, “I’m going to do what I can to make sure the system works better.”

But for the first time since pledging to act by summer’s end, he signaled that such a target date could slip. He said that the administration had been working to reduce the flow of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border and noted that the number of apprehensions at the border had fallen in August.

“Some of these things do affect time lines and we’re just going to be working through as systematically as possible in order to get this done,” he said in a news conference where he also addressed Russian aggression in Ukraine and action against Islamic State militants.

Two months ago, Obama angrily conceded that the House did not intend to take up immigrationlegislation this year and ordered Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to come up with actions the president could take on his own.

“I expect their recommendations before the end of summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay,” he said at the time.

Since then, the administration was forced to deal with the sharp rise of young migrants from Central America who were crossing the southwest border. Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with the flow, a request that Republican lawmakers rejected.

At the same time, some Democrats worried that if Obama took action on his own to reduce deportations it would mobilize Republican voters in hotly contested Senate races.

Frank Sharry of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice said there were no indications the White House planned to delay the announcement, and lots of evidence Obama is preparing for an announcement in September.

“If for whatever reasons they decide to delay, it’s going to be a huge problem for an immigration reform movement that has worked tirelessly for years and been promised action for years,” Sharry said. “I don’t think people are going to take a delay without a big response.”

Obama said Thursday that addressing the inflow of unaccompanied minors has not stopped the process of looking into “how do we get a smart immigration system in place while we’re waiting for Congress to act.

“And it continues to be my belief that, if I can’t see the congressional action, that I need to do at least what I can in order to make the system work better.”

The most sweeping, controversial step under consideration involves halting deportation for millions, a major expansion of a 2012 Obama program that deferred prosecutions for those brought here illegally as children.

Roughly half a million people have benefited from that program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

In a sign of how heated the demands on Obama to act have become, 145 protesters were arrested midday Thursday in front of the White House in an act of civil disobedience. Demanding a halt to deportations, protesters draped themselves in American flags and held signs saying “I am a witness for justice” as onlookers cheered them on. The U.S. Park Police said the protesters were charged with blocking the sidewalk.

Republicans are already hinting they’ll consider legal action to thwart what they’ve denounced as a violation of the separation of powers. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a conference call this month with GOP House members, accused Obama of “threatening to rewrite our immigration laws unilaterally.”

“If the president fails to faithfully execute the laws of our country, we will hold him accountable,” Boehner said, according to an individual who participated in the call.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., predicted Thursday that Congress would not tackle an immigration overhaul before the fall elections.

“There are too many members of the House that are scared of the tea party, and they are afraid to death that they won’t get the extremist support in the election,” Nelson told reporters in Orlando, Florida. “There is nothing being done on immigration until after the election, and probably not until we get a better sense of where we’re going into next year.”

The House has passed legislation to block Obama from expanding DACA and, through its power of the purse, could attempt to cut off the funds that would be needed to implement the expansion. House Republicans could also consider widening or amending their existing lawsuit against Obama over his health care law, a case both parties have suggested could be a prelude to impeachment proceedings.

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman in Washington and Michael Schneider in Orlando, Florida, contributed to this report

TIME Environment

Potentially Deadly Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water

The water system is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River, which provides drinking water for many communities near it

(BATON ROUGE, La.) — A potentially deadly brain-eating amoeba was discovered in a water system that serves more than 12,500 people, and state officials started flushing the system Thursday.

No illnesses or deaths have been attributed to the amoeba.

The flushing process will take two months, but the water is safe to drink for people in St. John the Baptist Parish, which is in southeast Louisiana, the state Department of Health and Hospitals said. Swimming or diving in freshwater lakes and rivers is the most common way to contract the amoeba, which can cause injury or death if it gets to the brain, usually through nasal passages.

The amoeba is rare. In 2011, a child died after apparently contracting the organism in St. Bernard Parish, a New Orleans suburb.

The water system is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River, which provides drinking water for many communities near it. The system was sampled as part of a state surveillance program launched earlier this month.

Water purification processes usually kill the organism before it gets into drinking water, but health officials say it can seep through pipe cracks underground after the purification process.

Normal purge treatment involves raising chlorine levels in drinking water, which produces a strong odor when water flows out taps in homes and businesses.

St. John the Baptist Parish is an industrial and farming community roughly midway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Officials said the Naegleria fowleri (nuh-GLEER’-ee-uh FOW’-lur-ee) amoeba was found in the watersystem serving for people in the Reserve, Garyville and Mount Airy communities.

TIME Civil Rights

Buffett Heir Buys Rosa Parks Archive

Rosa Parks On Bus
Rosa Parks seated toward the front of the bus, Montgomery, Alabama, 1956. Underwood Archives/Getty Images

(DETROIT) — Hundreds of items that belonged to civil rights icon Rosa Parks that have been sitting unseen for years in a New York warehouse have been sold to a foundation run by the son of billionaire investment guru Warren Buffett, the younger Buffett said Thursday.

Howard G. Buffett told The Associated Press that his foundation plans to give the items, which include Parks’ Presidential Medal of Freedom, to an institute he hasn’t yet selected. Buffett said the items belong to the American people.

“I’m only trying to do one thing: preserve what’s there for the public’s benefit,” he said. “I thought about doing what Rosa Parks would want. I doubt that she would want to have her stuff sitting in a box with people fighting over them.”

A yearslong legal fight between Parks’ heirs and her friends led to the memorabilia being removed from her Detroit home and offered up to the highest bidder.

Parks, who died in 2005 at age 92, was one of the most beloved women in U.S. history. She became an enduring symbol of the civil rights movement when she refused to cede her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white man. That triggered a yearlong bus boycott that helped to dismantle officially sanctioned segregation and helped lift the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. King to national prominence.

Because of the fight over Parks’ will, historians, students of the movement and the general public have had no access to items such as her photographs with presidents, her Congressional Gold Medal, a pillbox hat that she may have worn on the Montgomery bus, a signed postcard from King, decades of documents from civil rights meetings and her ruminations about life in the South as a black woman.

TIME Crime

Boston Suspect’s Sister Charged in NYC Bomb Threat

Ailina Tsarnaeva
Ailiana Tsarnaeva, sister of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, departs district court in Boston's South Boston neighborhood on Oct. 13, 2013. Steven Senne—AP

(NEW YORK) — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s sister was arrested Wednesday on suspicion she threatened to bomb a woman who previously had a romantic relationship with her boyfriend.

Ailina Tsarnaeva, who lives in North Bergen, New Jersey, made the threat against an upper Manhattan woman via telephone on Monday, police said. She turned herself in at a Manhattan police precinct, and police charged her with aggravated harassment.

Several media outlets reported Tsarnaeva told the Harlem woman she had “people who can go over there and put a bomb on you.”

Officers gave Tsarnaeva an appearance ticket and released her pending a Sept. 30 court date.

A telephone number linked to Tsarnaeva was disconnected. Her lawyer, George Gormley, said he had left his office and would speak Thursday.

Tsarnaeva has been required to check in with Massachusetts probation officers since prosecutors said she failed to cooperate with a 2010 counterfeiting investigation.

Prosecutors said Tsarnaeva picked up someone who passed a counterfeit bill at a restaurant at a Boston mall and “lied about certain salient facts during the investigation.”

At a hearing last October, Gormley said Tsarnaeva was pregnant with her second child and was unlikely to flee.

Tsarnaeva once lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at an apartment linked to her brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who were the subjects of an intense manhunt in the Boston area in the days after the deadly April 2013 marathon bombing.

Records show Tsarnaeva now lives with a sister, Bella Tsarnaeva.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged with building and planting the two pressure cooker bombs that exploded near the marathon’s finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. He has pleaded not guilty.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gunbattle with police.

TIME Auto Racing

Stewart to Return to Competition Sunday

Tony Stewart will return to Sprint Cup competition Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, ending a three-race hiatus after his car struck and killed a fellow driver during a dirt-track race.

The three-time NASCAR champion has not raced since Aug. 9, when he hit Kevin Ward Jr. at a sprint car event in upstate New York.

Stewart hastily pulled out of the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen the next morning, then skipped races at Michigan and Bristol Motor Speedway.

Stewart has been in seclusion since Ward’s death. He returns to his No. 14 Chevrolet at Atlanta ranked 26th in the Sprint Cup standings.

TIME

Russian Columns Enter Ukraine; Leader Urges Calm

(NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine) — Two columns of tanks and military vehicles rolled into southeastern Ukraine from Russia on Thursday after Grad missiles were fired at a border post and Ukraine’s overmatched border guards fled, a top Ukrainian official said.

Echoing the comments by Ukrainian Col. Andriy Lysenko, a senior NATO official said at least 1,000 Russian troops have poured into Ukraine with sophisticated equipment, leaving no doubt that the Russian military had invaded southeastern Ukraine.

“The hand from behind is becoming more and more overt now,” Brig. Gen. Nico Tak said at NATO’s military headquarters, adding that Russia’s ultimate aim was to stave off defeat for the separatists and turn eastern Ukraine into a “frozen conflict” that would destabilize the country indefinitely.

“An invasion is an invasion is an invasion,” tweeted the Lithuanian ambassador to the U.N., Raimonda Murmokaite.

The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Thursday afternoon.

“Russian forces have entered Ukraine,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said, canceling a foreign trip and calling an emergency meeting of the country’s security council. “Today the president’s place is in Kiev.”

Poroshenko urged his citizens to resist giving into panic.

“Destabilization of the situation and panic, this is as much of a weapon of the enemy as tanks,” Poroshenko told the security council.

As Poroshenko spoke, the strategic southeastern town of Novoazovsk appeared firmly under the control of separatists and their Russian backers, a new, third front in the war in eastern Ukraine between the separatists and Poroshenko’s government in Kiev.

Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told the BBC that “NATO has never produced a single piece of evidence” of Russian troops operating in Ukraine. He said the only Russian soldiers in Ukraine were the 10 captured this week, who Moscow insists had mistakenly wandered across the border.

The Russian Defense Ministry didn’t directly deny its troops were in Ukraine, but said the list of Russian military units said to be operating in Ukraine had no relation to reality.

Lysenko said the missiles from Russia were fired at Ukrainian positions in the southeast about 11 a.m. and an hour and a half later, two columns, including tanks and other fighting vehicles, began an attack. They entered Ukraine from Veselo-Voznesenka and Maximovo in the Rostov region of Russia.

Russian stock markets dived as Switzerland joined the European Union in imposing restrictions on Russian state banks and fears grew that the U.S. and EU could impose further sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals in response to the military escalation. Russia’s MICEX index dropped nearly 2 percent on Thursday, and major Russian state banks VTB and Sberbank dropped more than 4 percent.

“Over the past two weeks we have noted a significant escalation in both the level and sophistication of Russia’s military interference in Ukraine,” Tak said in Casteau, Belgium. “Russia is reinforcing and resupplying separatist forces in a blatant attempt to change the momentum of the fighting, which is currently favoring the Ukrainian military.”

He said the 1,000 Russian troops was a conservative estimate and said another 20,000 Russian troops were right over the border.

NATO also produced satellite images to provide what it called additional evidence that Russian combat soldiers, equipped with sophisticated heavy weaponry, are operating inside Ukraine’s sovereign territory.

“This is highly sophisticated weaponry that requires well-trained crews, well-trained command and control elements, and it is extremely unlikely that this sort of equipment is used by volunteers,” Tak said.

Moscow has described the Russian citizens fighting with the separatists as volunteers.

Tak said the satellite images were only “the tip of the iceberg” in terms of the overall scope of Russian troop and weapons movements.

NATO also has detected large quantities of advanced weapons, including air defense systems, artillery, tanks and armored personnel carriers being transferred to separatist forces in eastern Ukraine,” he said. “The presence of these weapons along with substantial numbers of Russian combat troops inside Ukraine make the situation increasingly grave.”

The leader of the insurgency, Alexander Zakharchenko, said in an interview on Russian state television Thursday up to 4,000 Russians have fought on the separatist side since the armed conflict began in April.

The U.S. government also has accused Russia of orchestrating the rebel campaign and sending in tanks, rocket launchers and armored vehicles.

“These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in Donetsk and Luhansk,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. She voiced concern about overnight deliveries of materiel in southeast Ukraine near Novoazovsk and said Russia was being dishonest about its actions, even to its own people.

Russian forces, she said, are being sent 30 miles (about 50 kilometers) inside Ukraine, without them or their families knowing where they are going. She cited reports of burials in Russia for those who have died in Ukraine and wounded Russian soldiers being treated in a St. Petersburg hospital.

On Thursday morning, an Associated Press journalist saw rebel checkpoints on Novoazovsk’s outskirts and was told he couldn’t enter. One of the rebels said there was no fighting in the town.

Novoazovsk, which lies along the road connecting Russia to the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula, had come under shelling for three days, with the rebels entering it on Wednesday. This area had previously escaped the fighting that has engulfed areas to the north, and the only way rebels could have reached the southeast was by coming through Russia.

The new southeastern front raised fears that the separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea. If successful, it could give them or Russia control over the entire Sea of Azov and the gas and mineral riches that energy experts believe it contains. Ukraine already lost roughly half its coastline, several major ports and significant Black Sea mineral rights in March when Russia annexed Crimea.

In Mariupol, a city of 450,000 about 30 kilometers (20 miles) to the west of Novoazovsk, a brigade of Ukrainian forces arrived at the airport on Wednesday, while deep trenches were dug a day earlier on the city’s edge.

National Guard spokesman Ruslan Muzychuk told the AP in Mariupol that the government has evidence that large amounts of weapons have been brought into Novoazovsk from across the Russian border.

He added that National Guard reinforcements were taking up positions in Mariupol.

“The positions are being strengthened,” the spokesman said. “The road from Novoazovsk to Mariupol is under the control of Ukrainian troops.”

Associated Press journalists on the border have seen the rebels with a wide range of unmarked military equipment — including tanks, Buk missile launchers and armored personnel carriers — and have encountered many Russians among the rebel fighters.

In Donetsk, the largest rebel-held city, 11 people were killed by shelling overnight, the city said Thursday.

___

Raf Casert reported from Casteau, Brussels. Jim Heintz in Kiev, Peter Leonard in Mariupol, Laura Mills in Moscow, and Alexandra Olson at the United Nations contributed reporting.

TIME celebrities

Officials: Joan Rivers Rushed to Hospital

(NEW YORK) — Joan Rivers is in a New York City hospital Thursday after she was rushed from a doctor’s office when she went into cardiac arrest, police and hospital officials said.

The 81-year-old comedian’s condition wasn’t immediately known.

“This morning, Joan Rivers was taken to The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, where she is being attended to. Her family wants to thank everybody for their outpouring of love and support,” said Sid Dinsay, a spokesman for Mount Sinai Hospital. “We will provide an update on her condition as it becomes available.”

New York City police officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly name Rivers, said she was taken to the hospital just after 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

Rivers’ representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The entertainer has logged a half-century in show business. She hosts “Fashion Police” on E! network and co-stars with her daughter, Melissa, on the WEtv reality show, “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” She also presides over an online talk show, “In Bed With Joan.”

Her latest book, “Diary of a Mad Diva,” was released this summer.

In 2009, Rivers emerged as the winner of NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice.” A documentary, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” premiered in theaters in 2010.

Rivers coined the phrase “Can we talk?” in her standup routines and, interviewing fashionistas on the red carpet, introduced the question, “Who are you wearing?”

A native of New York, Rivers originally entered show business with the dream of a theatrical career, but comedy became a way to pay the bills while she auditioned for acting roles.

“Somebody said, ‘You can make six dollars standing up in a club,'” she told The Associated Press in 2013, “and I said, ‘Here I go!’ It was better than typing all day.”

After proving herself in comedy clubs as a rarity — a woman comedian — Rivers was a smash on her first booking on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1965. “God, you’re funny,” Carson told her.

TIME Utah

Final Ruling Issued Against Part of Polygamy Ban

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal judge in Utah has issued a final ruling that strikes down parts of the state’s anti-polygamy law in a lawsuit filed by the family that appears on the TV show “Sister Wives.”

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups ruled in favor of the stars of the TLC reality show in December, but he held back on a final ruling as he weighed whether Kody Brown and his four wives could collect attorneys’ fees.

Waddoups ruled in their favor on that issue Wednesday, capping a landmark decision for the family that sued Utah in 2011 after a county prosecutor threatened to charge them following the premiere of the TV show. It wasn’t immediately clear how much the Browns could collect in attorneys’ fees.

Waddoups had ruled that a provision of Utah’s law forbidding cohabitation violated the Browns’ freedom of religion.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in February he intended to appeal the ruling once it was made final. On Wednesday, his office said in a written statement that it was reviewing the ruling and “will make final determination of whether or not to appeal one or more of the issues in the decision within the coming weeks.”

The Brown family was overwhelmed and thankful for the ruling, said their attorney, Jonathan Turley.

“This was a historic ruling that I believe will stand the test of time,” Turley said. He said the family would continue the legal battle to an appeals court or even the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

The Browns said they were forced to leave Utah for Las Vegas in 2011 in fear of prosecution. Turley said Wednesday he didn’t know if the Brown family would return in the wake of the ruling.

“The important thing is that they now can move back to Utah,” Turley said, adding that the family has missed the state. “They now have the choice.”

Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. The mainstream Mormon church strictly prohibits the practice.

TIME

Jolie, Pitt Wed in Chateau Miraval, France

NEW YORK (AP) — Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married Saturday in Chateau Miraval, France, says a spokesman for the couple.

Jolie and Pitt wed Saturday in a small chapel in a private ceremony attended by family and friends. In advance of the nondenominational civil ceremony, Pitt and Jolie also obtained a marriage license from a local California judge. The judge also conducted the ceremony in France.

The couple’s children took part in the wedding. Jolie walked the aisle with her eldest sons Maddox and Pax. Zahara and Vivienne threw petals. Shiloh and Knox served as ring bearers, the spokesman says.

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