TIME Malaysia

Malaysia Declares MH370 Crash An Accident to Clear Way for Compensation Claims

The wife of a missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 passenger shows a press statement to reporters at a media conference room in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Jan. 29, 2015.
The wife of a missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 passenger shows a press statement to reporters at a media conference room in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Jan. 29, 2015. Azhar Rahim—EPA

Malaysia's civil aviation chief said the searchers pursued every credible lead and reviewed all available data to find MH370

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority on Thursday officially declared the crash of Flight 370 an accident, fulfilling a legal obligation that will allow efforts to proceed with compensation claims.

Malaysia civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said that the search for the Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared on March 8, 2014, on the way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, “remains a priority.”

“It is therefore with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that we officially declare Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident,” he said in a pre-recorded message broadcast on Malaysian television, adding that all 239 passengers and crew on board are presumed to have lost their lives.

Azharuddin said that Malaysia, China and Australia had spared no expense and resources in their search for the plane, presumed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean off the coast of western Australia. The hunt resumed in October after a four-month hiatus with more sophisticated sonar equipment.

Azharuddin said the searchers pursued every credible lead and reviewed all available data that tracked the plane to a remote corner of the southern Indian Ocean, but were still unable to locate it.

He said that Chapter 1 of Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, commonly referred to as the “Chicago Convention,” states that the definition of the term “accident” includes “the aircraft is missing”.

“It also states that ‘an aircraft is considered to be missing when the official search has been terminated and the wreckage has not been located.'”

Azharuddin said the investigation by the safety team and Malaysian police were ongoing, but both were limited by the lack of physical evidence at this time, particularly the flight recorders.

“At this juncture, there is no evidence to substantiate any speculations as to the cause of the accident,” he said, adding that an interim report detailing the progress of the safety investigation will be released soon.

TIME Israel

Israel-Lebanon Border Calm Day After Escalation

Mideast Lebanon Israel
Spanish U.N. peacekeepers in an armored vehicle, patrol the Lebanese-Israeli border, in the southern village of Abbasiyeh, Lebanon, on Jan. 28, 2015 Mohammed Zaatari—AP

Israel remains on alert

(SHEAR YASHUV, Israel) — The Israeli-Lebanese border is calm but Israel remains on alert a day after the deadliest escalation since the two sides’ 2006 war.

The Lebanese National News Agency says Israeli warplanes were flying low over border villages on Thursday.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon says the military is “ready for any development” and warned against further attacks.

Wednesday’s flare-up started when the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group fired a salvo of anti-tank missiles at an Israeli military convoy in a disputed border area, killing two soldiers and wounding seven. The attack was in retaliation for a deadly Israeli airstrike on Hezbollah fighters inside neighboring Syria earlier this month.

Israel responded to the missiles with shelling. A Spanish peacekeeper with the U.N. force in southern Lebanon was also killed.

TIME tennis

Williams, Sharapova to Meet in Australian Open Final

Australian Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates after defeating her compatriot Ekaterina Makarova in their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne on Jan. 29, 2015 Vincent Thian—AP

Sharapova has lost her last 15 head-to-head matches to Williams

(MELBOURNE, Australia) — Serena Williams weathered a barrage of big serves and heavy groundstrokes early and needed nine match points before beating Madison Keys 7-6 (5), 6-2 to set up an Australian Open final against second-seeded Maria Sharapova.

Top-ranked Williams, bothered by a cold in recent days, dominated the second set of the all-American semifinal, breaking Keys’ serve twice.

The 19-year-old Keys, playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal, saved seven match points on serve in a penultimate game that lasted more than 11 minutes. Williams kept her cool, wasting one match point on her serve before closing with an ace to reach her 23rd major final.

“She pushed me really hard the first set … and I had to really dig deep mentally to get through that,” Williams said, pausing to cough. “It was a little frustrating, I had like nine or 10 match points and couldn’t close it out. That doesn’t happen so much. She played like she didn’t have anything to lose.”

Sharapova, who beat No. 10-seeded Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2 in an all-Russian semifinal earlier Thursday to reach her fourth Australian Open final, has lost her last 15 head-to-head matches to Williams. Her only two wins in their 18 career meetings were at Wimbledon and the tour-ending championship in 2004.

“I think my confidence should be pretty high going into a final of a Grand Slam no matter who I’m facing and whether I’ve had a terrible record, to say the least, against someone,” Sharapova said. “It doesn’t matter. I got there for a reason. I belong in that spot. I will do everything I can to get the title.”

Williams, an 18-time major winner, is back in the final here for the first time since winning her fifth Australian title in 2010.

And her semifinal win ensured she will retain the top ranking, regardless of the outcome of the final.

The 33-year-old American said she was nervous at the start, and it showed. Keys broke her serve to open and dictated many of the longer rallies with her heavy ground strokes, forcing Williams to defend more than usual.

Keys, who beat Venus Williams in the quarterfinals to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time, had control until she was broken in the sixth game.

She held in the 12th game, closing with an ace to force a tiebreaker, but quickly fell behind 4-1 with Serena firing two aces. She saved two set points with aces but had no chance of extending the tiebreaker when Williams hit another unreturnable serve, and started jumping for joy behind the baseline.

Williams broke early in the second set and raced to a 5-1 lead before Keys held, denying victory for one more game the woman who inspired her to take up tennis.

Sharapova needed 10 minutes to hold in her opening service game, fending off two break points, in the earlier semifinals. She responded to the only service break against her in the first set by winning six straight games and seizing control of the match from the 10th-seeded Makarova, who had only taken one set off her in five previous matches.

Sharapova won the Australia Open title in 2008 but was comprehensively beaten in the championship matches in 2007, by then unseeded Williams, and in 2012 by Victoria Azarenka.

The five-time major winner opened the 2015 season in confident style by winning the Brisbane International title but had a close call in the second round here, having to save match points against No. 150-ranked Russian qualifier Alexandra Panova. Since then, she hasn’t faced a set point.

“It’s been a strange road for me to get to the finals, but I’m happy,” said Sharapova, who is now into her 10th Grand Slam final. “Came from behind in a few, really behind in one — saving match points. I felt like I was given a second chance. I just wanted to take my chances.”

TIME North Korea

North Korea May Be Restarting Nuke Plant, Says U.S. Institute

North Korea Reactor
An annotated satellite photo indicating signs of new activity at the 5 MWe Plutonium Production Reactor at North Korea'’s Nyongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center Airbus Defense and Space, Spot Image, Pleiades - CNES via 38 North—AP

Satellite images reveal that the isolated state may be resuming the nuclear project

(SEOUL) — North Korea may be attempting to restart its main nuclear bomb fuel reactor after a five-month shutdown, a U.S. research institute said Thursday.

If true, the finding, which is based on recent commercial satellite imagery, will be an added worry for the United States and the North’s neighbors at a time of increasing animosity over recent U.S. sanctions against the North and Pyongyang’s fury about a U.N. push to punish its alleged human rights abuses.

Activity at the 5-megawatt Nyongbyon reactor is closely watched because North Korea is thought to have a handful of crude nuclear bombs, part of its efforts to build an arsenal of nuclear tipped missiles that could one day hit America’s mainland. Nyongbyon, which has produced plutonium used for past nuclear test explosions, restarted in 2013 after being shuttered under a 2007 disarmament agreement. It has been offline since August.

Possible signs in satellite imagery from Dec. 24 through Jan. 11 that the reactor is in the early stages of being restarted include hot water drainage from a pipe at a turbine building that indicates steam from the reactor and growing snow-melt on the roofs of the reactor and turbine buildings.

The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, however, said that since the recent observation period was only about two weeks, it’s too soon to reach a definitive conclusion about what’s happening and more monitoring is needed. The institute’s website, 38 North, published the findings.

Nyongybon can likely produce about one bomb’s worth of plutonium per year. A uranium enrichment facility there could also give it a second method to produce fissile material for bombs. It is not clear if North Korea has yet mastered the technology needed to make warheads small enough to be mounted on missiles, but each nuclear test presumably moves its scientists closer toward that goal.

North Korea has said it is willing to rejoin international nuclear disarmament talks last held in 2008, but Washington demands that it first take concrete steps to show it remains committed to past nuclear pledges.

The United States also rejected a recent North Korean offer to impose a temporary moratorium on its nuclear tests if Washington scraps its annual military drills with Seoul; Pyongyang claims those drills are invasion preparation. The U.S. called the linking of the military drills, which it says are defensive and routine, with a possible nuclear test “an implicit threat.”

Always rocky ties between Pyongyang and Washington dipped lower because of a recent Hollywood movie depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The U.S. blames the North for crippling hacking attacks on the movie’s producer, Sony, and subsequently imposed new sanctions on the country, inviting an angry response from Pyongyang, which has denied responsibility for the cyberattacks.

TIME Terrorism

ISIS Releases New Audio Message by Japanese Hostage

Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, Sajida al-Rishawi
An undated photograph of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh, left, and a still image from video, right, of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman sentenced to death in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 terrorist attack on a hotel that killed 60 people AP

The deadline has been extended

(BEIRUT) — ISIS released a message late Wednesday purportedly by Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, extending the deadline for Jordan’s release of an Iraqi would-be hotel bomber linked to al-Qaida.

The audio was released as Jordan had offered a precedent-setting prisoner swap to ISIS in a desperate attempt to save a Jordanian air force pilot the militants purportedly threatened to kill, along with Goto.

The audio recording, in English, says the Jordanians must present Sajida al-Rishawi at the Turkish border by sunset Thursday, or Jordanian pilot Mu’as al-Kasaseabeh will be killed.

The Associated Press could not independently verify the contents of the recording which was distributed on Twitter by IS-affiliated accounts.

On Wednesday, the pilot’s father met with Jordan’s king who he said assured him that “everything will be fine.”

King Abdullah II faces growing domestic pressure to bring the pilot home. However, meeting ISIS’s demand for the release of a would-be hotel bomber linked to al-Qaida would run counter to the kingdom’s hardline approach to the extremists.

Efforts to release al-Kaseasbeh and Goto gained urgency with the release late Tuesday of a purported online ultimatum claiming ISIS would kill both hostages within 24 hours if the al-Qaida-linked prisoner was not freed.

The scope of a possible swap and of ISIS’s demands also remained unclear.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said Jordan is ready to trade the prisoner, an Iraqi woman convicted of involvement in deadly Amman hotel bombings in 2005, for the pilot. Al-Momani made no mention of Goto.

Any exchange would set a precedent for negotiating with ISIS militants, who in the past have not publicly demanded prisoner releases. Jordan’s main ally, the United States, opposes negotiations with extremists.

The release of al-Rishawi, the al-Qaida-linked prisoner, would also be a propaganda coup for the militants who have already overrun large parts of neighboring Syria and Iraq. Jordan is part of a U.S.-led military alliance that has carried out airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq in recent months.

Participation in the alliance is unpopular in Jordan, and the capture of the pilot has only exacerbated such sentiments, analysts said.

“Public opinion in Jordan is putting huge pressure on the government to negotiate with the Islamic State group,” said Marwan Shehadeh, a scholar with ties to ultra-conservative Islamic groups in Jordan. “If the government doesn’t make a serious effort to release him, the morale of the entire military will deteriorate and the public will lose trust in the political regime.”

The pilot’s family, meanwhile, is increasingly vocal in its criticism of the government.

Several dozen protesters gathered Wednesday outside King Abdullah’s palace in Amman, urging the government to do more to win the release of the pilot.

“Listen, Abdullah, the son of Jordan (the pilot) must be returned home,” the protesters chanted.

The pilot’s father, Safi al-Kasaesbeh, was part of the group and was allowed into the palace, along with his wife, to meet Abdullah.

“The king told me that Muath is like my son and God willing everything will be fine,” al-Kasaesbeh said afterward.

Earlier, he criticized the government’s handling of the crisis.

“I contacted the Turkish authorities after I found that the Jordanian government is not serious in the negotiations,” he told The Associated Press. “The government needs to work seriously, the way one would do to free a son, like the Japanese government does.”

Jordan reportedly is holding indirect talks with the militants through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq to secure the release of the hostages.

In his brief statement, al-Momani only said Jordan is willing to swap al-Rishawi for the pilot, but not if such an exchange is being arranged. Al-Rishawi was sentenced to death for her involvement in the al-Qaida attack on hotels in Amman that killed 60 people.

In Tokyo, Goto’s mother, Junko Ishido, appealed publicly to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “Please save Kenji’s life,” Ishido said, begging Abe to work with the Jordanian government until the very end to try to save Goto.

“Kenji has only a little time left,” she said in a plea read to reporters. Ishido said both Abe and Japan’s main government spokesman had declined to meet with her.

Abe on Thursday did not make any direct reference to the latest video but reiterated his condemnation of the ISIS hostage-taking.

“The heinous terrorist act is totally unforgivable,” he said in Parliament in response to a ruling party lawmaker’s question.

Later, a few dozen people gathered outside the prime minister’s official residence, holding banners expressing hopes for Goto’s release. “I have been trying to keep my hopes up and believe that Mr. Goto will return. I have this faith within me,” said Seigo Maeda, 46, a friend of Goto.

The militants reportedly have killed a Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, and the crisis has stunned Japan.

Muath al-Kaseasbeh, 26, was seized after his Jordanian F-16 crashed in December near ISIS’s de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria. He is the first foreign military pilot the militants have captured since the coalition began its airstrikes in August.

This is the first time the group has publicly demanded the release of prisoners in exchange for hostages. Previous captives may have been freed in exchange for ransom, although the governments involved have refused to confirm any payments were made.

Goto, a freelance journalist, was captured in October in Syria, apparently while trying to rescue Yukawa, 42, who was taken hostage last summer.

ISIS broke with al-Qaida’s central leadership in 2013 and has clashed with its Syrian branch, but it reveres the global terror network’s former Iraqi affiliate, which battled U.S. forces and claimed the 2005 Amman attack.

TIME College football

Penn State President: Freeh Acted Like Prosecutor in Review

Penn State President Eric Barron
Penn State President Eric Barron Nabil K. Mark—MCT/ Getty Images

Penn State president not a fan of the report of how administrators handled child-molestation complaints regarding former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky

(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) — Penn State’s president on Wednesday dismissed the university-commissioned review of how top administrators handled child molestation complaints about former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky as “not useful to make decisions.”

Eric Barron told The Associated Press that the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh took a prosecutorial approach and created an “absurd” and “unwarranted” picture of students, faculty and others associated with the university.

“I have to say, I’m not a fan of the report,” Barron said during a half-hour interview in his office in Old Main, the school’s administrative headquarters. “There’s no doubt in my mind, Freeh steered everything as if he were a prosecutor trying to convince a court to take the case.”

The Freeh report concluded that former administrators Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, and former football coach Joe Paterno intentionally concealed key facts about Sandusky’s child sex abuse to avoid bad publicity after receiving complaints in 1998 and 2001. It also recommended more than 100 changes to school policies and procedures and said Penn State was permeated by a culture of reverence for the football program.

The Freeh team’s report, he said, “very clearly paints a picture about every student, every faculty member, every staff member and every alum. And it’s absurd. It’s unwarranted. So from my viewpoint, the Freeh report is not useful to make decisions.”

Weeks after the Freeh report was issued in 2012, Penn State and the NCAA entered into a consent decree that imposed a four-year ban on postseason play, temporarily cut scholarships, required a $60 million fine and invalidated 112 football team wins from Paterno’s later years. Although the legality of that deal has been questioned, Barron said he has no doubt that his predecessor, Rodney Erickson, had the authority to do it.

The NCAA last year restored the bowl rights and scholarships, and agreed two weeks ago to restore the wins.

“I think it adds more clarity and it reflects circumstances better,” Barron said. The recent decision amounted to “removal of penalties that, in my mind, don’t quite match NCAA obligations, and so I think the consent decree dissolution is a very positive thing for the university.”

Despite Barron’s criticisms of the NCAA’s process, his office stressed that the school was still committed to procedural changes and its commitment to funding child abuse prevention efforts.

He said the NCAA’s main role should be making sure teams don’t get an unwarranted advantage on the playing field, and he argued any Sandusky cover-up did not result in the type of advantage teams get from illegal recruiting. The matter should have gone through the NCAA’s infractions committee, he said.

“I think it’s increasingly clear that none of the things that transpired had any impact on the field,” Barron said. “And therefore I think almost universally, people say, well, those teams win those games. I think it’s equally clear that in almost every instance we pay a penalty if we don’t follow a process. And the NCAA stepped out of their process.”

Barron said he has not finished a formal review of the Freeh report that he is conducting for university trustees.

Sandusky, a retired assistant coach, was accused of sexually abusing boys, some of them on campus. He is serving 30 to 60 years in prison after being convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse, though he has consistently maintained his innocence.

The case of Spanier, Schultz and Curley for an alleged criminal cover-up is pending before a county judge in Harrisburg, 90 miles from the Penn State campus. Barron said that proceeding may bring to light new facts.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of shoes that have to drop. You could argue that public opinion has found us guilty before the criminal trials,” Barron said. “There’s no doubt in my mind what was completely and totally wrong was the notion that this entire alumni base, our students, our faculty, our staff, got the blame for what occurred.”

Student applications to Penn State have continued to rise, external funding of research is strong and donations have poured in, but the impact of the Sandusky scandal remains acute, Barron said.

“The price that’s being paid is the fact that it’s really torn our alumni base apart,” he said. “They’re constantly reading about it, they’re constantly talking about who is standing up for the university, how they’re standing up for the university, who did something wrong.”

Barron said conflict among the trustees that pits those elected by alumni against the others comes down to different ideas about “a path forward.”

“Of course I’m concerned about antagonism,” he said. “And I’m concerned particularly because if you go to the foundations of all those individuals, they all love Penn State, they’re all giving an enormous amount of time to Penn State, and for no other reason than they believe in the institution.”

Penn State is developing a proposal to the Big Ten Conference to revise an athletics integrity agreement that currently applies to the university. Barron said a discussion about returning Penn State’s share of the conference’s bowl revenues from recent years “will be a face-to-face discussion.”

TIME brazil

TV Star’s Plastic-Surgery Disaster Tests Brazil

Andressa Urach
Andressa Urach competes in the Miss Bumbum Brazil contest in São Paulo on Nov. 30, 2012 Nelson Antoine—AP

Brazil's most outspoken plastic-surgery advocate was put on life support after a botched operation. She now regrets "that I put that poison in my body, mostly because of having too much vanity."

(SAO PAULO) — Andressa Urach went from being a single teenage mom nicknamed “Beanpole” to a reality TV bombshell in Brazil thanks to silicone implants, anabolic steroids, a nose job, and gel and botox injections, a fact she wasn’t ashamed to share with fans.

“There are plenty of ugly women,” she said last year. “If you have the money, you can be beautiful. This pretty face you see here, my dear, it costs some.”

More, it turns out, than she bargained for.

The 27-year-old Urach, arguably Brazil’s most outspoken advocate of advancement through cosmetic surgery, recently went into septic shock and was placed on life support after a botched operation to augment her thighs, sparking a debate about the risks Brazilian women will take for beauty at a moment when the nation has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s plastic surgery capital.

It led the runner-up in Brazil’s “Miss Bum Bum” contest to express regret “that I put that poison in my body, mostly because of having too much vanity.”

Urach appeared on television this week for the first time since falling ill two months ago, her wounds still so fresh that blood could be seen soaking through her skirt.

Urach told Rede TV that she blamed “society, which unfortunately holds a standard of beauty in which you have to be perfect.”

“I hope that these wounds at least serve as a warning to other women,” Urach added.

Since Urach’s ordeal, several celebrities have come forward to disclose that similar procedures had sent them to the hospital. In October, a 39-year-old woman died from a pulmonary embolism hours after hydrogel was injected in her buttocks in the city of Goiana.

Experts and activists worry that Brazil’s culture of beauty has numbed women to the dangers and encouraged them to experiment with riskier, untested materials and methods and even unlicensed practitioners.

“They are selling us these plastic surgeries, these synthetic injections like it was any other product,” said Sara Winter, a women’s rights activist who protested on Copacabana beach in December with a large needle made of cardboard and signs sending good wishes for Urach’s recovery.

While Brazil has around 5,500 certified plastic surgeons, another 12,000 doctors without specialized training are performing cosmetic procedures, according to the country’s Federal Council of Medicine, which is in charge of medical licenses. And some women turn to paramedics, or even people with no medical training at all.

Brazil’s Plastic Surgery Society said Urach was given a dose of silicone gel 200 times what the government allows and used a hydrogel that isn’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s not clear where or even who carried out the procedure on Urach; she hasn’t disclosed the information.

Despite the debate there is no sign of flagging demand to fight sagging flesh.

Brazil recently surpassed the United States in plastic surgeries, with 1.5 million procedures in 2013, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

One of Urach’s closest friends, Jessica Lopes, a reality TV star she met in the Miss BumBum contest, told the celebrity news site EGO that the two used to schedule visits to the plastic surgeon together as if it were “a trip to the mall.”

Many young women visit doctors asking to look like models such as Urach, or at least to improve their self-esteem.

Brazil’s Dr. Ivo Pitanguy, one of the world’s top plastic surgeons, has urged doctors to think of themselves as “a psychologist with a scalpel in his hand.”

“Women’s lives changed,” said Dr. Fernando de Almeida, president of the Sao Paulo chapter of the Society of Plastic Surgery. “Plastic surgery helps women who thought their life was over just because their breasts sagged and their belly got ugly.”

“Plastic surgery is so tied to this dream of becoming somebody,” said Alvaro Jarrin, a College of the Holy Cross professor who has researched the expansion of plastic surgery among low-income patients in Brazil. “For the growing middle class with more purchasing power, plastic surgery is a means for upward mobility.”

Urach once said that she had her nose job “to have the face of a rich girl,” and after placing runner-up in the a 2012 beauty pageant that crowned Brazil’s best bottom, Urach was invited to a reality show where she stripped naked and became a TV host known for incidents like pouring water on her breasts while interviewing politicians about a drought hitting southeast Brazil.

For Vania Prisco, a 31-year-old Rio de Janeiro lawyer, Urach’s problems were a reminder of her own botched operation.

Prisco is still recovering from a 2013 surgery carried out by a woman she later discovered didn’t have a medical degree. The procedure was to put a type of acrylic glass filler in her bottom to add more shape, but it resulted in an infection that spread throughout her body and left her hospitalized for six months. Prisco filed a police report, but authorities have yet to locate the woman who carried out the procedure.

“I was misled. I only heard the good things. No one tells you about all the problems it will cause you,” said Prisco. “I did something stupid. I didn’t even need this because I looked good. In the end I forgot that the most important thing is to be healthy and happy.”

TIME Accidents

Electrical Fire Ignited Christmas Tree in Fatal Mansion Blaze

16,000 square-foot home near Maryland's capital reduced to ruins on Jan. 19

(MILLERSVILLE, Md.) — An electrical fire that spread to a 15-foot Christmas tree prompted a blaze that reduced a 16,000 square-foot riverfront mansion near Maryland’s capital to ruins, killing a couple and four of their young grandchildren, investigators said Wednesday.

The fire ignited combustible material and tore through the massive, castlelike structure in the early morning hours of Jan. 19.

Anne Arundel County Fire Chief Allan Graves said in a statement Wednesday that the tree had been cut more than 60 days before the blaze and was in a “great room” of the house with 19-foot ceilings.

“The involvement of the Christmas tree explains the heavy fire conditions found by the first arriving fire crews,” Graves said.

Investigators on Wednesday identified the victims as Don and Sandra Pyle and their grandchildren: Charlotte Boone, 8; Wes Boone, 6; Lexi Boone, 8, and Katie Boone, 7. Don Pyle, 56, was chief operating officer of ScienceLogic in Reston, Virginia.

The fire was reported about 3:30 a.m. Jan. 19 by an alarm-monitoring company, reporting smoke had been detected inside, and a neighbor who spotted flames. Officials said it is unclear whether an alarm sounded inside the 16,000-square-foot home, which could have alerted anyone inside. Some 85 firefighters from several jurisdictions fought the four-alarm fire, which burned for three hours before it could be contained. Because there was no hydrant in the area, firefighters shuttled tankers to the site and stationed a fire boat at a pier nearby.

Investigators brought in dogs to search for bodies and evidence, such as accelerants, and conducted more than 50 interviews.

A spokeswoman for the children’s parents said that the day before the fire, the doting grandparents bought the children costumes before taking them to dinner at a medieval-themed restaurant.

Charlotte and Wes Boone were sister and brother. Lexi and Katie were sisters; they had a newborn brother who was home with his parents, Randy and Stacey Boone, the night of the fire. The cousins’ fathers, Randy and Clint Boone, were the sons of Sandra Pyle, 63. The four children were students at the Severn School in Severna Park.

The Boone family said in a statement Tuesday, following the discovery Monday of the sixth body at the house that they were “relieved that our loved ones have all been recovered.”

“Though we are grieving deeply, this has brought us some small sense of closure,” the statement read. “We take comfort in that they are now together, and we can begin to mend our hearts.”

The Pyles built the home in 2005, four years before the county began requiring sprinkler systems in new homes.

The $6 million property once boasted turrets, spiral staircases, lion statues, a sprawling lawn and forested land. All that remains resembles a colonial ruin: a brick wall with windows missing and a mountain of burned debris.

As investigators from the fire department; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the state fire marshal’s office probed the scene, members of the community brought notes and teddy bears for a small memorial just outside the property. On brick columns that flanked an iron gate, Christmas decorations were still displayed.

TIME Syria

U.N. Can’t Deliver Aid to Residents of ISIS’s De Facto Capital

Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province in Syria, June 30, 2014.
Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province in Syria, June 30, 2014. Reuters

About 600,000 people in Raqqa and Deir ez Zor

(UNITED NATIONS) — The United Nations says it cannot deliver aid to 600,000 people in two Syrian cities controlled by the Islamic State group.

Deputy humanitarian chief Kyung-wha Kang told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that residents of the Islamic State group’s de facto capital of Raqqa and the city of Deir ez Zor received no food deliveries in December because the U.N. had no agreement with armed groups there.

The U.N.’s monthly reports on efforts to get food and other aid to millions trapped in Syria’s four-year civil war have been unrelentingly grim. Kang said 12 million people inside Syria need humanitarian aid, and 3.8 million people have fled to neighboring countries. Another 7.6 million are displaced inside the country.

Kang urged the Security Council to find a way to end the war.

“We must not allow the world to forget Syria and the atrocities being committed against its people,” she said.

The council later issued a statement expressing alarm at the humanitarian situation and “great concern” at the continuing violations of human rights in Syria.

The U.N. has repeatedly accused the Syrian government of attacks against its own people, including the shelling and airstrikes on populated areas. It also accuses armed opposition groups and terrorist groups of using explosives in populated areas.

More than 200,000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against President Bashar Assad in March 2011 turned into a grinding civil war.

The U.N. has struggled to get aid to those in need, and it continues to pressure the Syrian government to allow easier access for U.N. agencies and humanitarian groups. Kang said there had been no progress in addressing those constraints.

Syria’s representative told the Security Council on Wednesday that U.N. aid is “reaching terrorist organizations” and that without Syrian government protection the U.N. wouldn’t be able to deliver aid to anyone.

The U.N. last year began shipping aid into Syria from Turkey and Jordan without waiting for Syrian government approval and is under pressure to send more. But funding is a challenge. Kang said humanitarian work in Syria requires $2.9 billion this year alone, and that the international community funded less than half — 48 percent — of last year’s appeal.

TIME Jordan

Jordan Says It Will Release Suicide Bomber to ISIS in Return For Its Captive Pilot

Mother of ISIS captive Jordanian pilot Lt. Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh holds his picture during a demonstration demanding that the Jordanian government negotiate for the release of her son, in front of the prime minister's building in Amman, Jan. 27, 2015.
Mother of ISIS captive Jordanian pilot Lt. Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh holds his picture during a demonstration demanding that the Jordanian government negotiate for the release of her son, in front of the prime minister's building in Amman, Jan. 27, 2015. Muhammad Hamed—Reuters

ISIS asked for the release of bomber in return for Japanese hostage

Jordan’s information minister says his government is ready to swap an Iraqi woman held in Jordan for a Jordanian pilot captured in December by extremists from the Islamic State group.

Mohammed al-Momani made no mention in his statement Wednesday of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who is also being held by the Islamic State group.

Al-Momani’s comments were carried by Jordan’s state Petra news agency.

The minister says that “Jordan is ready to release the Iraqi prisoner” if the Jordanian pilot, Lt. Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh, is released unharmed.

A purported message Tuesday threatened to kill both Goto and the pilot within 24 hours.

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