TIME Kenya

Somalia’s Al-Shabab Kills 28 Non-Muslims in Kenya

Kenya Attack
Kenyan security forces and others gather around the scene on an attack on a bus about 50 kilometers (31 miles) outside the town of Mandera, near the Somali border in northeastern Kenya, Nov. 22, 2014. AP

(NAIROBI, Kenya) — One gunman shot from the right, one from the left, each killing the non-Muslims lying in a line on the ground, growing closer and closer to Douglas Ochwodho, who was in the middle.

And then the shooting stopped. Apparently each gunman thought the other shot Ochwodho. He lay perfectly still until the 20 Islamic extremists left, and he appears to be the only survivor of those who had been selected for death.

Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, Al-Shabab, attacked a bus in northern Kenya at dawn Saturday, singling out and killing 28 passengers who could not recite an Islamic creed and were assumed to be non-Muslims, Kenyan police said.

Those who could not say the Shahada, a tenet of the Muslim faith, were shot at close range, Ochwodho told The Associated Press.

Nineteen men and nine women were killed in the bus attack, said Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the killings through its radio station in Somalia saying it was in retaliation for raids by Kenyan security forces carried out earlier this week on four mosques at the Kenyan coast.

Kenya’s military said it responded to the killings with airstrikes later Saturday that destroyed the attackers’ camp in Somalia and killed 45 rebels.

The bus traveling to the capital Nairobi with 60 passengers was hijacked about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the town of Mandera near Kenya’s border with Somalia, said two police officers who insisted on anonymity because they were ordered not to speak to the press.

The attackers first tried to wave the bus down but it didn’t stop so the gunmen sprayed it with bullets, said the police. When that didn’t work they shot a rocket propelled grenade at it, the officers said.

The gunmen took control of the vehicle and forced it off the road where they ordered all the passengers out of the vehicle and separated those who appeared to be non-Muslims— mostly non-Somalis— from the rest.

The survivor, Douglas Ochwodho, a non-Muslim head teacher of a private primary school in Mandera, said was travelling home for the Christmas vacation since school had closed.

Ochwodho told AP that the passengers who did not look Somali were separated from the others. The non-Somali passengers were then asked to recite the Shahada, an Islamic creed declaring oneness with God. Those who couldn’t recite the creed were ordered to lie down. Ochwodho was among those who had to lie on the ground.

Two gunmen started shooting those on the ground; one gunman started from the left and other from the right, Ochwodho said. When they reached him they were confused on whether either had shot him, he said.

Ochwodho lay still until the gunmen left, he said. He then ran back to the road and got a lift from a pick-up truck back to Mandera. He spoke from a hospital bed where he was being treated for shock.

Seventeen of the 28 dead were teachers, according to the police commander in Mandera County.

A shortage of personnel and lack of equipment led to a slow response by police when the information was received, said two police officers who insisted on anonymity because they were ordered not to speak to the press. They said the attackers have more sophisticated weaponry than the police who waited for military reinforcements before responding.

Kenya has been hit by a series of gun and bomb attacks blamed on al-Shabab, who are linked to al-Qaida, since it sent troops into Somalia in October 2011. Authorities say there have been at least 135 attacks by al-Shabab since then, including the assault on Nairobi’s upscale Westgate Mall in September 2013 in which 67 people were killed. Al-Shabab said it was responsible for other attacks on Kenya’s coast earlier this year which killed at least 90 people.

Al-Shabab is becoming “more entrenched and a graver threat to Kenya,” warned the International Crisis Group in a September report to mark the first anniversary of the Westgate attack. The report said that the Islamic extremists are taking advantage of longstanding grievances of Kenya’s Muslim community, such as official discrimination and marginalization.

Kenya has been struggling to contain growing extremism in the country. Earlier this week the authorities shut down four mosques at the Kenyan coast after police alleged they found explosives and a gun when they raided the places of worship.

Some Muslims believe the police planted the weapons to justify closing the mosques, Kheled Khalifa, a human rights official said Friday warning that methods being used to tackle extremism by government will increase support for radicals.

One person was killed during the raid on two of the mosques on Monday. Police said they shot dead a young man trying to hurl a grenade at them.

The government had previously said the four mosques were recruitment centers for al-Shabab.

TIME Spain

Thousands Take Part in Spanish Anti-Abortion Rally

Anti-Abortion Rally In Madrid
Protesters carry crosses during a pro-life rally against abortion under the slogan 'Every life matters' on Nov. 22, 2014 in Madrid. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez—Getty Images

(MADRID) — Tens of thousands of people have taken part in a demonstration in Madrid to protest against the conservative government’s decision to scrap plans to restrict the availability of abortion.

The march Saturday took place under the slogan “Every Life Matters.” Some 500 buses brought people from all over the country to take part.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in September ditched a promise by his Popular Party to restrict abortion to only cases of rape or serious health risks, saying there was no consensus for change.

The proposal had stirred much opposition in Spain, where abortion is allowed without restrictions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Demonstrators urged supporters to not vote for the Popular Party in elections next year if the government doesn’t change the current law.

TIME Japan

Strong Quake Strikes Central Japan’s Nagano City

(TOKYO) — A strong earthquake struck central Japan on Saturday night, causing at least one building to collapse and injuring several people, according to Japanese media reports. No tsunami warning was issued.

The magnitude-6.8 earthquake hit parts of Nagano city and surrounding areas the hardest, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake’s magnitude at 6.2.

The earthquake struck at 10:08 p.m. Japan time (1308 GMT) at a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles), but since it occurred inland, there was no possibility of a tsunami. An apparent aftershock with a magnitude of 4.3 followed about 30 minutes later.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency, citing fire officials, said several people reported injuries, and at least one building collapsed. It wasn’t clear whether the injured were at the building.

National broadcaster NHK reported that a landslide blocked a road after the quake struck. NHK also said 200 homes were without power, and that Shinkansen bullet train service in the area was temporarily suspended.

TIME

House Intel Panel Debunks Many Benghazi Theories

A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames
A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames, Sept. 11, 2012. Esam Al-Fetori—Reuters

(WASHINGTON) — A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week. Many of its findings echo those of six previous investigations by various congressional committees and a State Department panel. The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May.

The attacks in Benghazi killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith, and two CIA contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty. A Libyan extremist, Ahmed Abu Khatalla, is facing trial on murder charges after he was captured in Libya and taken to the U.S.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Republicans criticized the Obama administration and its then-secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016. People in and out of government have alleged that a CIA response team was ordered to “stand down” after the State Department compound came under attack, that a military rescue was nixed, that officials intentionally downplayed the role of al-Qaida figures in the attack, and that Stevens and the CIA were involved in a secret operation to spirit weapons out of Libya and into the hands of Syrian rebels. None of that is true, according to the House Intelligence Committee report.

The report did find, however, that the State Department facility where Stevens and Smith were killed was not well-protected, and that State Department security agents knew they could not defend it from a well-armed attack. Previous reports have found that requests for security improvements were not acted upon in Washington.

“We spent thousands of hours asking questions, poring over documents, reviewing intelligence assessments, reading cables and emails, and held a total of 20 committee events and hearings,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the committee’s chairman, and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the ranking Democrat, in a joint statement.

“We conducted detailed interviews with senior intelligence officials from Benghazi and Tripoli as well as eight security personnel on the ground in Benghazi that night. Based on the testimony and the documents we reviewed, we concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes. Their actions saved lives,” they said.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who serves on the intelligence panel and the Benghazi select committee, said, “It’s my hope that this report will put to rest many of the questions that have been asked and answered yet again, and that the Benghazi Select Committee will accept these findings and instead focus its attention on the State Department’s progress in securing our facilities around the world and standing up our fast response capabilities.”

Some of the harshest charges have been leveled at Rice, now Obama’s national security adviser, who represented the Obama administration on Sunday talk shows the weekend after the attack. Rice repeated talking points that wrongly described a protest over a video deemed offensive to Muslims.

But Rice’s comments were based on faulty intelligence from multiple agencies, according to the report. Analysts received 21 reports that a protest occurred in Benghazi, the report said —14 from the Open Source Center, which reviews news reports; one from the CIA; two from the Defense Department; and four from the National Security Agency.

In the years since, some participants in the attack have said they were motivated by the video. The attackers were a mix of extremists and hangers on, the investigation found.

“To this day,” the report said, “significant intelligence gaps regarding the identities, affiliations and motivations of the attackers remain.”

TIME Crime

Report Identifies Missed Chances to Treat Newtown Shooter

This undated file photo circulated by law enforcement and provided by NBC News, shows Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter.
This undated file photo circulated by law enforcement and provided by NBC News, shows Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter. NBC News/AP

Connecticut's Office of the Child Advocate has released a report on Adam Lanza, who carried out the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012

The school system unwittingly enabled Adam Lanza’s mother in her preference to “accommodate and appease” him as he became more withdrawn socially, according to a state report issued Friday on the man who carried out the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Office of the Child Advocate identified missed opportunities to provide more appropriate treatment for Lanza, whose social isolation and obsession with mass killings have been detailed by police reports that found the motive for the shootings may never be known.

The advocate’s office investigates all child deaths in the state for lessons on prevention. The authors of the Newtown report said it aims to reinforce the importance of effective mental health treatment and communication among professionals charged with the care for children.

The report, which refers to Lanza only as “AL,” noted that recommendations by specialists for extensive special education support and expert consultations largely went unheeded.

“Records indicate that the school system cared about AL’s success but also unwittingly enabled Mrs. Lanza’s preference to accommodate and appease AL through the educational plan’s lack of attention to social-emotional support, failure to provide related services, and agreement to AL’s plan of independent study and early graduation at age 17,” the authors wrote.

The authors of the 114-page report said they could not say whether more effective treatment could have prevented the tragedy.

“This report raises, but cannot definitively answer, the question as to whether better access to effective mental health and educational services would have prevented the tragic events at Sandy Hook,” they wrote.

Lanza killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, then shot his way into the Newtown school on Dec. 14, 2012, and gunned down 20 children and six educators before committing suicide.

The police investigation into the massacre concluded more than a year ago with prosecutors saying in a summary report that a motive might never be known. It said Lanza was afflicted with mental health problems, but despite his dark interests, he did not display aggressive or threatening tendencies.

Documents released by police in December 2013 included descriptions of sporadic treatment for his mental health troubles. At one point, experts at the Yale Child Studies Center prescribed antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication, but his mother, Nancy Lanza, discontinued the treatment after her son was unable to raise his arm after taking the medicine and never scheduled follow-up visits, police reports said.

A Connecticut judge last year ordered Newtown school officials to give Lanza’s records the Office of Child Advocate for its investigation. The governor’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has been waiting for the office’s report before releasing its recommendations on what the state can do to prevent and respond to future mass killings.

Child Advocate Sarah H. Eagan already has met with the families of the victims and Newtown school officials to discuss the findings.

TIME

House GOP Sues Administration Over Health Care Law

(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans have sued the Obama administration over steps President Barack Obama took to put his health law into place.

The lawmakers say the president overstepped his legal authority.

The lawsuit was filed Friday against the departments of Health and Human Services and the Treasury.

Republicans voted earlier this year to sue Obama over his actions to unilaterally waive provisions of the law.

Democrats have said any suit would be a political sideshow and waste of money.

The suit comes hours after Obama said he was acting on his own on immigration — further infuriating Republicans.

TIME politics

Biden Will Push Turkey to Step Up Role in Fight Against ISIS

Smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following airstrikes by the US led coalition, seen from a hilltop outside Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, Nov. 17, 2014.
Smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following airstrikes by the US led coalition, seen from a hilltop outside Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, Nov. 17, 2014. Vadim Ghirda—AP

Biden is the latest U.S. official to meet with Erdogan as divide between the coalition and Turkey grows

ISTANBUL — Vice President Joe Biden on Friday will become the latest in a parade of U.S. officials trying to push Turkey to step up its role in the international coalition’s fight against Islamic State extremists.

His visit comes after weeks of public bickering between the two NATO allies. The Turkish president insists that if the U.S. wants his help, it must focus less on fighting IS and more on toppling Syrian President Bashar Assad. Erdogan wants the U.S.-led coalition to set up a security zone in northern Syria to give moderate fighters a place to recoup and launch attacks.

The U.S. has no appetite to go to war against Assad and has said a no-fly zone against Syria’s air force is a no-go.

Turkey has pledged to train and equip moderate Syrian forces on its soil, but no details have been announced by either side. U.S. and Turkish officials have discussed the coalition’s desire to use Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base for U.S.-led operations against IS militants, but Turkey has made no public decision about Incirlik.

“From the no-fly zone to the safety zone and training and equipping — all these steps have to be taken now,” Erdogan said on Wednesday. Then he echoed the same line he’s been saying all along: “The coalition forces have not taken those steps we asked them for. … Turkey’s position will be the same as it is now.”

That’s after a U.S. military delegation spent two days in Ankara last week trying to hammer out details to implement Turkey’s pledge to train and equip moderate fighters. That’s after top U.S. military officials visited Incirlik in the past few weeks. And it follows two visits in two months by retired Marine Gen. John Allen, the U.S. envoy for the international coalition.

Allen told the Turkish daily Milliyet on Wednesday in Ankara that fighting extremists in Iraq was the “main effort” right now, but that’s not the only effort and “we’ll be doing that in Syria as well.”

“Eventually, of course, our policy intent for the U.S. is that there be a political outcome in Syria that does not include Bashar Assad,” said Allen, who left Turkey for NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Now it’s Biden’s turn.

He plans a dinner meeting Friday with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. On Saturday, Biden is to have an extended meeting with Erdogan, and plans to fly back to Washington on Sunday.

The obvious compromise would be if Washington shifted its policy on Syria to do more to force out Assad, and Turkey agreed to do more against IS, said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Iraq who is now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Jeffrey is not holding his breath.

“Erdogan is a tough customer to reason with, but Turkey is already a major source of stability and support in region and could be better if we play cards right,” Jeffrey said. “But Erdogan is, at this point, troublingly unpredictable.”

Turkish officials say Turkey is an active partner in the coalition.

Besides pledging to train moderate Syrian forces, Turkey gave Kurdish fighters from Iraq permission to traverse its soil on their way to help Kurdish fighters in the besieged Syrian town of Kobani near Turkey’s border. That was an unprecedented step for Erdogan, but Turkey’s military has been inactive regarding the IS advance on the town.

Turkey has good relations with the Kurds in Iraq, but it views the Kurds in Syria as an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party. The party has waged a 30-year insurgency against the Turkish government and is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. and NATO. Asked if more Kurdish fighters from Iraq would be moving through Turkey, a Turkish official said: “Yes, we might see them again.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about Turkey’s policy on Syria.

Turkey also is hosting 1.6 million Syrian refugees. Washington acknowledges that Ankara has worked to stem the flow of foreign fighters into Syria, although it’s still easy in some places to move across for a price. U.S. officials also say Turkey has cracked down on oil smugglers. Analysts estimate that IS earns up to $3 million a day in revenue from oil fields captured in Iraq and Syria.

Still, the U.S. and Turkey are not in sync about Syria, and Biden’s visit follows weeks of misunderstandings and harsh rhetoric emanating from both capitals.

Locals in Istanbul have dubbed one flap the “apology-no apology,” which began over something Biden said in a speech at Harvard University.

Biden said that early in the Syrian conflict, Turkey assisted extremists because they were seeking to depose Assad. Erdogan demanded an apology; the White House said Biden called Erdogan to apologize, but Biden said he didn’t.

There was more disagreement over whether Turkey had decided to let the U.S. use Incirlik base for operations against extremists in Syria and Iraq.

Aggravating the tension was an incident last week in Istanbul where three American sailors from the USS Ross were roughed up by anti-American demonstrators.

TIME National Security

NSA Says Chinese Cyber Attacks Could Shut Down U.S. Infrastructure

Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, testifies during a hearing before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee Nov. 20, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, testifies during a hearing before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee Nov. 20, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong—Getty Images

Director says China can damage U.S. power grid

(WASHINGTON) — China and “one or two” other countries are capable of mounting cyberattacks that would shut down the electric grid and other critical systems in parts of the United States, according to Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command.

The possibility of such cyberattacks by U.S. adversaries has been widely known, but never confirmed publicly by the nation’s top cyber official.

At a hearing of the House intelligence committee, Rogers said U.S. adversaries are performing electronic “reconnaissance” on a regular basis so that they can be in a position to disrupt the industrial control systems that run everything from chemical facilities to water treatment plants.

“All of that leads me to believe it is only a matter of when, not if, we are going to see something dramatic,” he said.

Outside experts say the U.S. Cyber Command also has the capability to hack into and damage critical infrastructure, which in theory should amount to mutual deterrence. But Rogers, who did not address his offensive cyber tools, said the nuclear deterrence model did not necessarily apply to cyberattacks.

Only a handful of countries had nuclear capability during the Cold War, he said, and nuclear attacks could be detected and attributed in time to retaliate.

By contrast, the source of a cyberattack can easily be disguised, and the capability do significant damage is possessed not only by nation states but by criminal groups and individuals, Rogers noted.

In cyberspace, “You can literally do almost anything you want, and there is not a price to pay for it,” the NSA director said.

Roger’s remarks about critical infrastructure attacks came in response to questioning from Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan, who chairs the intelligence committee. He asked the NSA director about a private report detailing China-based intrusions into the power grid and other critical systems that appeared to be precursors to attack. What other countries, the chairman wanted to know, have the capability?

“One or two others,” the NSA director said, but he declined to name them, saying the information is classified. “We’re watching multiple nation states invest in this capability.”

Rogers said the Obama administration is seeking to establish a set of international principles governing military cyber operations, such as banning attacks on hospitals.

“We need to define what would be offensive, what’s an act of war,” he said.

The NSA’s Rogers also talked about the national security damage from the ongoing theft of intellectual property through cyberattacks.

Michigan’s Rogers opened the hearing by saying that “China’s economic cyber espionage … has grown exponentially in terms of volume and damage done to our nation’s economic future. The Chinese intelligence services that conduct these attacks have little to fear because we have no practical deterrents to that theft. This problem is not going away until that changes.”

China formally denies stealing Western intellectual property through government sponsored hacking.

U.S. networks would be better protected, the NSA’s Rogers said, if Congress would pass a long-pending bill to allow companies to share malware signatures and other threat information with one another and with the government and be protected from liability by doing so. But the disclosures of NSA spying by former agency contractor Edward Snowden have made passage of such a bill extremely difficult, lawmakers say.

TIME Mexico

Angry Mexicans Protest Over 43 Missing Students

Mexico Missing Students
A couple hold candles during a massive protest in Mexico City's main sqaure "El Zocalo," during a march in the capital city to demand authorities find 43 missing college students, in Mexico City on Nov. 20, 2014 Eduardo Verdugo—AP

"We are mad with this Mexican government and its entire structure, because it has not done anything but deceive the families"

(MEXICO CITY) — A largely peaceful march by tens of thousands demanding the return of 43 missing students ended in violence, as a small group of masked protesters battled police in Mexico City’s main square.

The march late Thursday sought the return of the students from a rural teachers’ college. Nov. 20 is usually a day reserved for the celebration of Mexico’s 1910-17 Revolution, but Mexicans were in no mood for celebrations.

Many of the marchers carried “mourning” flags with Mexico’s red and green national colors substituted by black stripes.

“The entire country is outraged,” said housewife Nora Jaime. “It is not just them,” she added, referring to the 43 young men who haven’t been seen since being attacked by police in a southern city Sept. 26. “There are thousands of disappeared, thousands of clandestine graves, thousands of mothers who don’t know where their children are.”

The march in Mexico City was largely peaceful, in contrast to recent protests that have ended with the burning of government buildings in Guerrero state, where the students disappeared. Whenever masked protesters tried to join Thursday’s march, demonstrators shouted them down with chants of “No violence!” and “Off with the masks!”

The protesters converged on the city’s main square, where families of the missing students stood on a platform in front of the National Palace holding posters of their relatives’ faces. Amid chants for President Enrique Pena Nieto to step down, family members repeated that they do not believe the government’s account that the youths were killed by a drug gang,

“We’re not tired,” said one man speaking from the platform. “On the contrary, we are mad with this Mexican government and its entire structure, because it has not done anything but deceive the families.”

After most of the protesters left the square, a small group of masked youths began battling police with rocks and sticks. Police responded with fire extinguishers to put out fires set by the youths and to force them off of the square.

Police charged across the square to drive the protesters out. At least two news photographers, including one from The Associated Press, were injured by police, who took two cameras and some lenses from the A.P. photographer.

Earlier in the day, about 200 youthful protesters, some with their faces covered by masks or bandannas, clashed with police as they tried to block a main expressway to the international airport. Protesters hurled rocks, fireworks and gasoline bombs at the police, at least one of whom was hit by the projectiles. Some passengers had to walk to the terminal, but flights were not interrupted and expressways were reopened.

Many average people, outraged by the disappearances of the students, turned out for the march despite cool weather and some light rain.

Maria Antonieta Lugo was part of a group of housewives who joined the march “because we have children of the same age” as the missing students, who ranged from their teens to their 20s. “This could happen to our children as well,” she said.

Maria Teresa Perez held up a poster with a picture of her son, Jesus Horta Perez, 45, who was kidnapped by armed men from a storefront in a Mexico City suburb in 2009 and has never been heard from again.

“They are shouting about 43, but they should be counting in the thousands, because apart from these 43, there are 33,000 disappeared,” Perez said.

Mexico officially lists 22,322 people as having gone missing since the start of the country’s drug war in 2006. And the search for the missing students has turned up other, unrelated mass graves.

The 43 students, who attended a radical rural teachers college known as Ayotzinapa, disappeared after they went to the Guerrero city of Iguala to hijack buses. Iguala police intercepted them on the mayor’s orders and turned them over to the criminal group Guerreros Unidos, a gang with ties to the mayor, prosecutors have said. Prosecutors say there is evidence the gang members killed the students and incinerated their remains.

It is that link between a local government and drug gang that disgusts many Mexicans.

“I think the reason people are here today is not just Ayotzinapa,” said one protester, Alejandro Gonzalez, who studied industrial design in Pachuca. “I think that today, more than ever … people are realizing the political structures are rotten, useless.”

TIME Japan

Japan’s Lower House Dissolved for Snap Election

Shinzo Abe
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo on Nov. 18, 2014 Shizuo Kambayashi—AP

The snap poll has puzzled many voters, as Shinzo Abe has been Prime Minister for only about two years

(TOKYO) — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the lower house of Japan’s parliament Friday, paving the way for a general election next month.

The move is widely seen as an attempt by Abe to shore up support for his government after a series of finance-related scandals hit his newly named Cabinet this fall.

His ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has been in power for most of the post-World War II era, may lose some seats but is likely to retain a solid majority with its coalition partner in the 480-seat lower house.

The election, expected to be set for Dec. 14, follows Abe’s decision this week to postpone a planned increase in the consumption tax after the economy slipped into recession. He is portraying the election as a referendum on his economic revitalization policies, known as Abenomics, and the postponing of the tax increase.

The snap poll has puzzled many voters, as Abe has been prime minister for only about two years.

Analysts say it is perhaps the best timing for Abe to get a fresh mandate to try to ward off any possibility of the mounting scandals sending his government into a downward spiral.

The opposition parties are in disarray, the public’s focus is on the economy and few voters would oppose delaying a tax increase. In the first half of next year, Abe plans to tackle contentious issues that could erode support for his government, namely legislation to expand Japan’s military role and restart nuclear power plants.

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