TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Weighs Military Action Against ISIS in Syria

"If you come after Americans, we’re going to come after you wherever you are"

The U.S. is open to the possibility of military action against Islamist militants in Syria, a top Obama Administration official said Friday, warning that the U.S. will “do what is necessary to protect Americans.”

“We’ve made very clear time and again that if you come after Americans, we’re going to come after you wherever you are,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters. “And that’s what’s going to guide our planning in the days to come.”

President Barack Obama has resisted pressure from both outside and inside his Administration to take a more muscular approach in Syria, where a bloody civil war has claimed 191,000 lives in recent years, according to a new U.N. estimate Friday. But the emergence of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which released a graphic video on Tuesday depicting the beheading of American journalist James Foley, has raised the stakes — and has seemingly made American officials, already engaged in targeted military action in Iraq, more willing to consider doing so on the other side of the border.

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that any strategy against ISIS would have to include action against militants in Syria, and Rhodes didn’t disagree with that assertion Friday.

“Well, we certainly agree that any strategy to deal with the [ISIS] organization has to deal with both sides of the border, Iraq and Syria,” Rhodes said. “The strategy that we are already undertaking does address that in the sense that we are providing training and equipping and assistance to the Iraqi security forces and Kurdish security forces who are fighting them on the ground in Iraq.

“We are also providing support and military assistance to the moderate Syrian opposition,” he added. “What we would like to see is those efforts squeeze the space where [ISIS] operates.”

Rhodes cautioned that no decisions have been made.

“I don’t want to get ahead of decisions the President hasn’t been presented with, specific military options outside of those carrying out the current missions in Iraq,” he said. “But we would certainly look at what is necessary in the long term to make sure we’re protecting Americans.”

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Is Going Back to Iowa

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at an event at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) to launch a community campaign to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their young children in Oakland, Calif., July 23, 2014.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at an event at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) to launch a community campaign to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their young children in Oakland, Calif., July 23, 2014. AP

A visit to a key caucus state as she mulls 2016 White House run

Hillary Clinton will travel to Iowa in September for a high-profile political gathering, according to reports Monday, her first public appearance in the key caucus state in six years, and one that will be widely seen as an attempt to begin courting voters there ahead of a possible 2016 presidential bid.

Both Clinton, the former Secretary of State, and former President Bill Clinton will appear at the Annual Harkin Steak Fry, the Des Moines Register reports, a must-visit for presidential hopefuls that is hosted by longtime Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

Harkin is retiring from the Senate this year, and he promised in a recent note to supporters that this year’s Steak Fry, the 37th one and his last, “just might promise to be the best ever.”

The event will mark Clinton’s first public return to Iowa, which holds the country’s first nominating caucuses, since she suffered a critical loss to then-Sen. Barack Obama in their 2008 fight. Clinton placed third that year behind Obama and John Edwards, after her campaign proved indecisive about how hard to campaign for caucus voters who often reward grassroots organizing over big events and TV ads. As the overwhelming front-runner for the Democratic nomination if she chooses to run again, Clinton could be sending an early signal that she won’t write off Iowa.

“I couldn’t be happier than to share this special day with two such close friends,” Harkin told the Register of the Clintons. “They have contributed so much good, inspiring leadership to this country, and I know they will continue to do so in the years ahead.”

[Des Moines Register]

TIME Television

No, Orange Is the New Black Wasn’t Canceled

Taylor Schilling in a scene from NetflixÕs ÒOrange is the New BlackÓ Season 2. Photo credit: JoJo Whilden for Netflix.
Netflix

Don't worry, it's just a hoax

Don’t worry, Piper is coming back to TV.

Fans of the Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black were briefly taken in by a hoax this week when the satirical website Empire News posted a story blaring that Netflix had pulled the plug on the show about life in a women’s prison.

“We regret to inform Netflix members that Orange Is the New Black has been permanently cancelled,” the quoted Netflix’s CEO as saying in a statement. “Also, starting September 1st, 2014, past episodes will no longer be available for streaming on Netflix.”

Not so fast. Netflix posted a picture Sunday of the characters Crazy Eyes and Taystee on set filming Season 3 and assured fans the show is coming back:

The show’s official Twitter page also chimed in:

The clarification was surely welcomed by fans who had reacted to the initial “story” with shock and outrage.

TIME Economy

Unemployment Rate Dips to Lowest Level Since 2008

June job growth beats expectations

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The U.S. economy added almost 288,000 new jobs in June, according to new government data Thursday, handily beating analysts’ expectations and sending the unemployment rate to its lowest level since September of 2008.

The pace of job creation well outpaced projects that the economy would add 215,000 jobs. The unemployment rate dipped from 6.3% to 6.1%, its lowest level since the month Lehman Brothers collapsed and the U.S. economy went into a tailspin.

Stock markets jumped on the news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average surpassing 17,000 points for the first time ever.

The data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics signaled that the economy was healthily bouncing back from a biting cold winter that hampered growth, and relieved economy watchers who had been alarmed by an economic contraction in the first quarter. The numbers will also sure come as a relief to Democrats who have been fearful that a still-sluggish economy will hurt them against Republicans in the midterm elections. June marked the fifth consecutive month of job gains exceeding 200,000, the best clip since the tech boom of the late 1990s, the Associated Press reports.

Job growth figures for May were also revised upward. BLS described the job gains as “widespread,” powered by growth in “business services, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and health care.”

Signs that the economic recovery remains tepid still persist. While the longterm unemployed, defined as those jobless for 27 weeks or more, dropped by 293,000, 3.1 million Americans remains in that category.

But with exports hitting a record high and imports falling, the trade deficit fell 5.6%, to $44.4 billion.

TIME Fast Food

KFC Suggests Story of Scarred Girl Booted From Store Was a Hoax

But KFC will still donate $30,000 towards the girl's medical bills

Kentucky Fried Chicken suggested Tuesday that a family claiming their little girl was asked to leave a restaurant because the scars on her face from a pit bull attack were disturbing other customers actually made the story up.

The bizarre story concerns three-year-old Victoria Wilcher, who was reportedly mauled by pitbulls belonging to her family, leaving heavy scarring on her face. Her family said last month that she was asked to leave a Jackson, Miss., KFC restaurant because her appearance disturbed other customers. That claim, initially floated on a “Victoria’s Victories” Facebook page that appeared to have been taken offline Tuesday, ignited outrage on social media, prompting an apology from KFC on June 15 and a promise to spend $30,000 on Wilcher’s medical bills.

But KFC said Tuesday that it no longer believes the incident actually took place.

“Like the rest of America, the KFC family has been moved by the story of Victoria’s injuries and recovery,” KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said. “After the alleged incident was reported to us, two investigations took place, including one by an independent investigator. Neither revealed any evidence that the incident occurred and we consider the investigation closed. We are honoring our commitment to make a $30,000 donation to assist with Victoria’s medical bills. We hope everyone keeps Victoria in their thoughts and prayers. She will certainly be in ours.”

A lawyer for Victoria’s grandmother, who made the initial claim, said Tuesday that the family stands by its story. “Victoria’s family did not anticipate that the response to ‘Victoria’s Victories’ would be so widespread and generous,” lawyer Bill Kellum said in a statement. “A family member simply posted a comment on Victoria’s page regarding her experience at KFC that subsequently went viral. Victoria’s family certainly did not expect the publicity resulting from the post. However, Victoria and her family are very appreciative of the outpouring of sympathy, prayers, donations and love from individuals and entities all over the world.”

“I promise it’s not a hoax, I never thought any of this would blow up the way it has,” multiple news reports cited Victoria’s aunt as writing on the GoFundMe page where her family was raising money. Those comments preceded KFC’s statement and the page was also offline late Tuesday.

When reports that Victoria was asked to leave the restaurant ignited a firestorm of criticism on social media, KFC moved quickly to tamp the outrage.

“As soon as we were notified of this report on Friday, we immediately began an investigation, as this kind of hurtful and disrespectful action would not be tolerated by KFC,” the company said at the time. “Regardless of the outcome of our investigation, we have apologized to Victoria’s family and are committed to assisting them. The company is making a $30,000 donation to assist with her medical bills. The entire KFC family is behind Victoria.”

The Mississippi-based Laurel Leader-Call newspaper, citing unnamed sources familiar with the investigation, first reported the possibility of a hoax on Tuesday. The family has raised more than $135,000 in the wake of the initial claim, according to numerous reports.

“Please do not believe untrue media,” Victoria’s aunt Rials Bates wrote on the GoFundMe page that was no longer online Tuesday, ABC reports. “I have personally watched this family go without to provide for Victoria. They have not and would not do anything to hurt Victoria in any way.”

-Additional reporting by Joan E Greve

TIME diplomacy

U.S. May Engage Iran in Talks Over Iraq Crisis

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of ISIS capturing dozens of Iraqi security forces members prior to transporting them to an unknown location in the Salaheddin province ahead of executing them.
An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of ISIS capturing dozens of Iraqi security forces members prior to transporting them to an unknown location in the Salaheddin province ahead of executing them. Welayat Salahuddin—AFP/Getty Images

As militants advance and American embassy hunkers down

The Obama Administration is “open” to direct talks with Iran over the exploding crisis in Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview published Monday, as militants who say they massacred hundreds of Iraqi soldiers continued their march toward Baghdad and the U.S. embassy there evacuated some personnel.

Kerry told Yahoo News that drone strikes in the country “may well” be an option. Asked if the military cooperation with Iran might be on the table, Kerry said he wouldn’t “rule out anything that would be constructive.” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki later walked back the latter comment, saying on Twitter that the Administration is open to “political conversation with Iran” but “not military cooperation.”

U.S. diplomats may discuss the situation in Iraq with their Iranian counterparts as early as Monday while in Geneva for the so-called “P5+1″ talks about Iran’s nuclear program, a senior Administration official said. “It may be that on the margins of P5+1, but completely unconnected to it, there may be some conversation,” the official said.

Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Jake Sullivan, a national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, were in Geneva on Monday. With the U.S. embassy in Baghdad relocating some employees, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Monday ordered another American warship to the Persian Gulf to protect “American citizens and interests in Iraq,” a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement.

“Its presence in the Gulf adds to that of other U.S. naval ships already there—including the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush—and provides the commander-in-chief additional options to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq, should he choose to use them,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

The potential outreach to Iran comes as the Islamic Republic has already offered to help Iraq battle Sunni insurgents destabilizing the country and fomenting sectarian unrest. The Guardian, citing an unnamed senior Iraqi official, reports Iran has already sent 2,000 troops across the border. Iran’s Shi’ite government is wary of the gains by Sunni militants in Iraq, while the U.S. is watching a country where it invested years, thousands of lives and more than a trillion dollars descend into chaos. That could make common cause for frequent foes already engaged in unprecedented diplomacy over the country’s nuclear program. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the possible talks Sunday.

Congressional Republicans have criticized the Obama Administration over the situation in Iraq, and Sen. John McCain said Monday that it would be the “height of folly” to work with Iran to stabilize the country.

“This is the same Iranian regime that has trained and armed the most dangerous Shia militant groups, that has consistently urged [Iraqi] Prime Minister Maliki to pursue a narrow sectarian agenda at the expense of national reconciliation, that supplies the rockets that have been fired at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, that has sponsored acts of terrorism throughout the Middle East and the world, and that continues to use Iraq’s territory and airspace to send weapons and fighters to prop up Bashar al-Assad in Syria,” McCain said in a statement. “The reality is, U.S. and Iranian interests and goals do not align in Iraq, and greater Iranian intervention would only make the situation dramatically worse.”

President Hasan Rouhani of Iran said Saturday that he was open to working with the U.S. in Iran, the Journal reports.

“When the U.S. takes action, then one can think about cooperation,” Rouhani said in Tehran. “Until today, no specific request for help has been demanded. But we are ready to help within international law.”

Secretary of State John Kerry signaled Saturday that any talks would be unconnected to the nuclear negotiations.

“Whatever dialogue may or may not be taking place [with Iran] would take place on the sideline or outside the mainstream of the nuclear talks,” Kerry said. “We don’t want that linked and mixed.”

Militants who have captured Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, as well as Tikrit, took over the northern town of Tal Afar on Monday, the Associated Press reports, which sits along the key highway to Syria.

-Additional reporting by Zeke J Miller

TIME Foreign Policy

Kerry: Taliban Freed For Bergdahl Could Get Killed If They Rejoin Fight

"I don't think anybody should doubt the capacity of the United States of America to protect Americans," Kerry said

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Secretary of State John Kerry issued a warning for the five Taliban leaders who were recently freed in exchange for a long-held American soldier: Rejoin the battlefield at your own risk.

“I’m not telling you that they don’t have some ability at some point to go back and get involved [in the fight],” Kerry told CNN in an interview that aired Sunday. “But they also have an ability to get killed doing that.

“I don’t think anybody should doubt the capacity of the United States of America to protect Americans,” Kerry said. “These guys pick a fight with us in the future or now or at any time at enormous risk.”

Kerry didn’t elaborate, but given the United States’ use of unmanned drones in the fight against terrorist leaders, it was easy to interpret his remarks as a not-so-veiled threat. They were some of Kerry’s first public remarks since Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed May 31 after five years of Taliban captivity, in a prisoner exchange for the five Guantanamo Bay detainees—a deal that has sparked sharp criticism from congressional Republicans. The detainees were released into the custody of Qatar, and Kerry said the U.S. would be watching to make sure conditions of the release are honored.

“And if they’re violated, then we have the ability to be able to do things,” Kerry said.

Reports emerged Sunday that Bergdahl has told the people treating him he was tortured and kept in a cage while held by the Taliban.

Senior Taliban leders told TIME this week that the trade would embolden them to kidnap more American soldiers, but Kerry dismissed the notion that Americans are more at risk because of it as “baloney.”

TIME Foreign Policy

Fear for Soldier’s Life Led Obama to Hide Prisoner Exchange From Congress, Officials Say

The White House had reason to fear Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl would be killed if word of a prisoner exchange became public

The Obama Administration told lawmakers it didn’t notify them of the impending deal to secure the release of an American solider captured by the Taliban because it had reason to fear he would be killed if word of the deal became public, an official confirmed Thursday.

Officials told Senators at a Wednesday briefing that the U.S. “obtained credible information that, if anything about the swap became public, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl would be killed,” a Senate aide familiar with the briefing said.

Bergdahl was released Saturday after five years of captivity in exchange for five Guantánamo Bay detainees. The exchange has prompted fierce criticism from congressional Republicans who say they weren’t told about the deal and who say the Administration bucked a legal requirement to notify Congress before transferring Guantánamo detainees.

President Barack Obama again defended the deal on Thursday.

“I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents and that the American people understand that this is somebody’s child and that we don’t condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get them back,” Obama said during a news conference in Brussels. “This is not a political football.”

A senior Administration official wouldn’t comment further on the congressional briefing.

“Our judgment was that every day Sergeant Bergdahl was a prisoner his life was at risk, and in the video we received in January, he did not look well,” the official said, referring to a so-called proof-of-life video officials had received. “This led to an even greater sense of urgency in pursuing his recovery. We can’t disclose classified comments from a closed congressional briefing. However, we are able to say that the Senators were told, separate and apart from Sergeant Bergdahl’s apparent deterioration in health, that we had both specific and general indications that Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery — and potentially his life — could be jeopardized if the detainee-exchange proceedings were disclosed or derailed.”

A Taliban commander close to the Bergdahl negotiations told TIME Thursday that the deal would embolden the group to try to kidnap more high-value American targets.

— With reporting from Zeke J Miller and Jay Newton-Small

TIME Research

Researchers Identify Drugs To Slow Incurable Lung Disease

New study found that pirfenidone and nintedanib can aid sufferers of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that until now had no treatment at all

Researchers said Sunday that they have identified two drugs which could aid breathing and prolong life for patients suffering from an incurable lung disease.

The drugs, pirfenidone and nintedanib, slow the decline of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the researchers said during a meeting of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego. Their findings were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Although the drugs do not cure the disease, which scars and thickens the lungs making it hard to breathe, researchers called the findings a “major breakthrough” for an ailment that until now has had no treatment at all.

“I suspect that many of my patients have picked up on more than a hint of frustration in my voice when I tell them that the cause of their shortness of breath is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis,” Dr. Gary M. Hunninghake, a lung specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study. “This frustration stems from the fact that beyond providing information about prognosis or referral for lung transplantation or palliation, there has been little to offer in the way of treatment. …The game has now changed.”

The drugs’ manufacturers helped pay for the study, the New York Times reports. At least 80,000 Americans suffer from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which causes scarring of the lungs and is fatal within three to five years for most patients.

TIME celebrities

Pamela Anderson Says She Was Raped as a Child

The former model and Baywatch actress opened up about traumatic childhood experiences during an event in France, saying a female babysitter had molested her between the ages of 6 and 10, and that the 25-year-old brother of a friend later raped her when she was 12

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Pamela Anderson revealed recently that she suffered from childhood rape and sexual abuse, saying that at the time she “just wanted off this earth.”

The former Playboy model and Baywatch actress recalled the childhood trauma on Friday at the launch of her animal rights foundation, The Pamela Anderson Foundation, during the Cannes Film Festival in France. A transcript of her comments was posted on her blog but initially didn’t get much notice.

Anderson said a female babysitter molested her between the ages of 6 and 10, and that the 25-year-old brother of a friend later raped her when she was 12. The man, Anderson said, “decided he would teach me backgammon, which led into a back massage, which led into rape.”

“Needless to say, I had a hard time trusting humans,” Anderson said. “I just wanted off this earth.”

Anderson said she had “loving parents” who “tried to keep me safe,” but that her mother was often distraught juggling two waitressing jobs and that the “world was not a safe place.” Anderson said she never told her mother.

“I couldn’t [bear] to give her any more disruptive information,” she said. “I couldn’t break her heart any more than it was breaking.”

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