TIME Syria

U.S. Aircraft Resupply Kurdish Fighters Battling ISIS in Kobani

TURKEY-SYRIA-CONFLICT-KURDS
Kurdish people watch jet-fighters fly over Kobani from the Turkish border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar on October 19, 2014. Bulent Kilic — AFP/Getty Images

Kurdish troops on the ground in northern Syria appear to be gaining the upper hand against ISIS with the help of American air strikes

U.S. aircraft delivered weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish forces in the besieged Syrian border town of Kobani who’ve been battling the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) for more than a month.

American C-130s made multiple airdrops over the embattled city on Sunday and met no resistance from ISIS forces on the ground, according to officials.

“These airdrops were conducted in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to degrade and defeat the terrorist group [ISIS] and the threat they pose to the region and the wider international community,” read a statement released by U.S. Central Command late Sunday.

During a conference call on Sunday night, a senior administration official confirmed that the White House had given the green light for the operation in order to provide the embattled Kurdish militia forces with the badly needed supplies.

“The President determined to take this action now,” the official told reporters.

To date, coalition aircraft have launched 135 air strikes targeting ISIS forces in Kobani. The aerial onslaught is believed to have helped reverse the battlefield momentum in favor of the Kurdish fighters holed up near the Turkish border.

Hundreds of ISIS fighters have been killed as a result of the air raids, thus allowing Kurdish forces to begin pushing the Sunni extremist group outside the city. However, scattered ISIS fighters are believed to be holding out in pockets of Kobani.

“[ISIS] is going to suffer significant losses for its focus on Kobani,” said the administration official.

The reinforcement of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as they’re known locally, by U.S. aircraft is likely to infuriate officials across the border in Turkey. Ankara has repeatedly refused to allow Kurdish reinforcements to enter Kobani because of the YPG’s ties to separatist rebels inside Turkey.

— With reporting by Zeke Miller / Washington

TIME National Security

More Americans Say Boots Are Needed on the Ground to Fight ISIS

Syrian Kurds Battle IS To Retain Control Of Kobani
Smoke billows following an airstrike by US-led coalition aircraft in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and militants from Islamic State, on October 14, 2014 as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border. Gokhan Sahin—Getty Images

Many believe the air campaign is not enough, a poll finds

More and more Americans say combat ground troops need to be deployed to take the fight to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), according to a recent poll conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

Approximately 41% of Americans surveyed said the military campaign against ISIS should include “air strikes and combat troops,” compared with the 35% who said the offensive should be constrained to aerial bombardments. Of the individuals polled, just 15% said they believed no military action should be taken against the radical Islamist group.

The findings represent a reversal in public opinion since a similar poll was taken in September, when 40% of those surveyed only backed air strikes and 34% were in favor of the use of aerial assaults and combat troops together.

Coalition bombers and fighter jets continued to batter ISIS positions across Iraq and Syria this week. U.S. Central Command confirmed that American aircraft and those from partner nations launched 22 strikes in Syria and at least one aerial assault in Iraq on Tuesday.

Read next: The FBI Wants Your Help IDing American ISIS Fighters

TIME Iraq

180,000 People Flee Western Iraq as ISIS Inches Ever Closer to Baghdad

Mideast Iraq
Iraqi civilians sift through rubble in the ruins of homes that were damaged by fighting after an attack from the Islamic State group, in the town of Heet, in western Anbar province, Iraq on Oct. 6, 2014. AP

The Sunni jihadist group has largely consolidated control over western Iraq as terrified civilians flee its advance

Iraqi security forces evacuated another military base in restive Anbar province on Monday in the face of an offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

The base is the latest in a string of military installations to fall into ISIS hands, according to CNN. Its abandonment comes less than two weeks after ISIS fighters captured nearby Heet on Oct. 2, which lies just 85 miles west of Baghdad.

“Our military leaders argued that instead of leaving those forces exposed to attacks by ISIS, they would be best used to shore up the defense of Asad air base,” a senior Iraqi security official told the Agence France-Presse.

On Monday, the U.N. said that an estimated 180,000 Iraqis have fled Heet since it fell earlier this month to the radical Islamist group, which continues to cleave away large swaths of the country’s Sunni heartland from central government control.

“The town was one of the few parts of the governorate where humanitarian aid has been delivered in recent months,” read a report released by the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “This is the fourth major displacement in less than a year in Iraq.”

ISIS is currently believed to control 80% of Anbar province, which is home to a majority of Iraqi’s Sunni population.

Over the weekend, reports circulated that ISIS fighters had also infiltrated the suburb of Abu Ghraib on Baghdad’s outskirts that lies just 8 miles from the capital’s airport.

On Sunday, U.S. Joint Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey made a candid admission that Apache helicopters were deployed earlier this month to prevent ISIS fighters from overrunning Iraqi security forces just 15 miles from the terminal.

“The tool that was immediately available was the Apache. The risk of operating in a hostile environment is there constantly,” Dempsey told ABC’s This Week.

“And had they overrun the Iraqi unit, it was a straight shot to the airport. So, we’re not going to allow that to happen. We need that airport.”

A U.S.-led coalition of nations continued to launch fresh air strikes against ISIS personnel and infrastructure in both Iraq and Syria this week; however, analysts say the aerial assaults have largely failed to reverse the group’s momentum on the ground.

TIME Iran

Iran’s President Says a Nuclear Deal With the West Is ‘Certain’

Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani participates in an interview in Tehran on Oct. 13, 2014 Mohammad Berno—AP

President Hassan Rouhani makes the pledge during a televised national broadcast

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to the nation’s airwaves on Monday night to proclaim that a nuclear deal with the West will be signed ahead of a deadline in late November.

“We will find a solution to the nuclear subject and we believe that the two sides will certainly reach a win-win agreement,” said Rouhani, according to Iranian broadcaster Press TV.

Representatives from the U.S., E.U. and Iran are set to meet up in Vienna later this week to attempt to hammer out the details of the agreement. Diplomats issued the new Nov. 24 deadline after failing to meet an earlier target in July.

On Monday night, Rouhani struck a confident tone as he discussed the agreement, saying only the finer details of the deal need to be ironed out.

“Of course details are important too, but what’s important is that the nuclear issue is irreversible. I think a final settlement can be achieved in these remaining 40 days,” said Rouhani, according to a translation by Reuters.

The potential deal aims to guarantee that Iran’s nuclear program remains strictly for peaceful purposes. Iran has been hit with myriad sanctions by Western nations for moving ahead with a nuclear program that Tehran claims is engineered to meet the country’s scientific and energy needs. However, the U.S. and Israel have long argued that the Islamic Republic’s leadership has been attempting to develop a clandestine nuclear arsenal.

President Rouhani was swept into power 14 months ago after campaigning on a more moderate platform and signaling that he aimed to ease the animosity that’s been brewing between Washington and Tehran for decades. The potential nuclear deal is also seen as pivotal to staving off an all-out future war between Israel and Iran.

TIME Syria

Kerry Says Kobani’s Fate Is Not Key to U.S. Strategy in Fighting ISIS

The Secretary of State calls the situation in Kobani a tragedy, but insists that the enclave does not “define” the American-led coalition’s battle plans

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said keeping Kobani out of ISIS’s hands was not the top priority for the coalition of nations bombarding the Sunni extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

He voiced concern over the potential fall of the besieged Kurdish enclave, also known as Ayn al-Arab, to extremist militants, but was quick to note that the city’s survival did not “define” the U.S.-led coalition’s strategy.

“Kobani is one community, and it’s a tragedy what is happening there,” Kerry told reporters during a press conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. “We have said from Day 1 it is going to take a period of time to bring the coalition thoroughly to the table to rebuild some of the morale and capacity of the Iraqi army and to begin to focus where we ought to be focusing first, which is in Iraq.”

Kerry’s admission comes as coalition forces steadily increase the number of air strikes targeting ISIS forces surrounding the conflict-torn city in northern Syria. If it falls under ISIS control, it will give the terrorist group a large strategic corridor running along the Turkish border.

U.S. Central Command confirmed launching three air strikes in Kobani on Sunday that “destroyed an [ISIS] fighting position and an [ISIS] staging area.” However, it appears the strikes have failed to reverse ISIS’s momentum.

Syrian Kurdish militia fighters, known locally as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have been battling thousands of heavily armed ISIS militants in and around Kobani for weeks. Despite exhibiting incredible tenacity, the YPG has steadily lost ground thanks to a lack of reinforcements and access to sophisticated weaponry.

Analysts have also expressed growing concern that the loss of Kobani to ISIS could reignite civil war in Turkey. Ankara continues to prevent thousands of Kurdish fighters and supplies from crossing the border into Syria — a move that sparked days of rioting across Turkey that claimed at least 33 lives.

Cemil Bayik, who helps lead the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), warned that the fall of Kobani would incite fresh insurrection in Turkey, during an interview with the New York Times published over the weekend.

“Negotiations cannot go on in an environment where they want to create a massacre in Kobani,” Bayik told the Times. “We cannot bargain for settlement on the blood of Kobani.”

The PKK, which backs the YPG, has kept a shaky cease-fire with Ankara since 2013, after three decades of bitter civil war.

Bayik went on to promise to “mobilize the guerrillas” if Turkish forces allowed a massacre to ensue after preventing Kurdish forces from entering the fight for the city. Human-rights groups and the U.N. have voiced similar concerns over an imminent humanitarian catastrophe.

If Kobani fell, up to “12,000 people, apart from the fighters, will be most likely massacred,” warned U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura on Friday.

On Sunday, ISIS boasted, in an article published by its official propaganda outlet, of taking Yezidi women as slaves during the group’s conquest of northern Iraq in August.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirmed the admission by ISIS. “The group has systematically separated young women and teenage girls from their families and has forced some of them to marry its fighters,” said HRW in a statement published on Sunday.

TIME Crime

Sinister Clowns Frighten Residents in Central California Towns

Police have arrested one suspect for chasing children

Residents of Bakersfield, Calif., are on edge following reports that creepy clowns brandishing weapons are taking to the street late at night.

Reports of menacing clowns have also been on the rise in the nearby city of Wasco over the past week, where unknown individuals have been donning colorful garb and masks or face paint in order to scare locals.

Rumors have also spread that some of the bozos have been armed with guns and machetes. On Saturday night, police responded to a call that one clown was allegedly carrying a firearm; however, authorities were unable to track down the individual, reports Reuters.

“We’ve had multiple of these clown sightings all over town,” said Bakersfield police lieutenant Jason Matson, according to a report in the local press. “He was gone by the time we arrived.”

On Thursday evening, police arrested a 14-year-old male for harassing children; he was later booked at the Kern County Juvenile Hall and charged with annoying a minor. At least one child “was clearly scared as a result of being chased by the clown,” said local officials.

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Leader Is Being Hit With Financial Scandal Amid Mass Street Protests

Hong Kong Democracy Protest
A defaced picture of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is seen outside government headquarter in Hong Kong on Oct. 5, 2014. Vincent Yu—AP

The controversy over an undeclared $6 million from an Australian company could not have come at a politically worse time

Hong Kong’s beleaguered Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is facing swelling allegations of financial impropriety, after it emerged that he had received undeclared payments from an Australian company during his time in office — that’s according to an investigation published by Fairfax Media in Australia this week.

The article, appearing in the Age and other Fairfax newspapers, said the serving chief executive had pocketed “millions in secret fees from a listed Australian company in return for supporting its Asian business ambitions.”

Leung reportedly received more than $6 million in relation to an agreement struck between property-services firm DTZ, where he served as Asia-Pacific director before becoming chief executive, and Australian engineering company UGL.

Days before leaving DTZ, described as an “insolvent 200-year-old British property service,” Leung signed a contract promising him millions if he refrained from directly competing with UGL or DTZ and from poaching their staff. He was also required to act as a “referee and adviser” to UGL “from time to time.”

Leung resigned from DTZ on Nov. 24, 2011, three days before announcing his official candidacy for the office of chief executive. He left the company’s ranks on Dec. 4, one day after UGL acquired DTZ.

The report says Leung received the payment in two installments in 2012 and 2013, while he was serving as chief executive.

Concern and outrage has been expressed in Hong Kong that Leung allowed himself to be contracted to act as “referee and adviser” to a private company while serving as Hong Kong’s head of government.

Leung’s office was quick to defend his dealings as legal following the publication of the story on Wednesday and said he had done no work for UGL since assuming office.

“It is standard business practice to pay for such [noncompeting and nonpoaching] undertakings, as you are requiring the individual to take on obligations and to forgo future opportunities,” read a statement released by the chief executive’s office, which pointed out that there was no legal requirement for Leung to declare the payments, since they related to the period before his election.

Nevertheless, the revelations couldn’t have come at a worse time for Hong Kong’s widely reviled political chief. The financial hub has been rocked by unprecedented street demonstrations for nearly two weeks, with student-led protesters calling for greater democracy. There are also widespread calls for Leung’s ouster because he is seen as being more loyal to Hong Kong’s sovereign power China than he is to Hong Kong.

“Any person facing such a situation, if he has a sense of decency, should have resigned unless he can give a very convincing and satisfactory defense to all the charges now against him,” said Albert Ho, the former chairman of the Democratic Party, during a press conference in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building on Thursday.

Lam Cheuk-ting, head of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, said Leung bore a responsibility to declare the payments since “the contract period also covers part of Leung’s tenure.”

Despite the controversy and ongoing protests, Leung has repeated on several occasions that he has no desire to resign.

In a letter to the New York Times published on Thursday, the embattled chief executive attempted to bat away suggestions that Hong Kong’s core values were in peril and hit back at allegations that Beijing had reneged on its commitments to Hong Kong’s democratic future.

“Any suggestion that the Chinese government is ‘interfering’ in the current electoral reform debate is unfounded,” wrote Leung. “Hong Kong’s future electoral, economic and social development is a natural and legitimate concern of our sovereign, and is in keeping with the principle of the high degree of autonomy that Hong Kong enjoys.”

— With reporting by Rishi Iyengar / Hong Kong

TIME South Korea

South Korean Ferry Captain Says He Was ‘Confused’ During Sewol‘s Fatal Sinking

Lee Joon-seok
Lee Joon-seok, the captain of the sunken South Korean ferry Sewol, arrives at Gwangju District Court in Gwangju, South Korea, on June 10, 2014 Hyung Min-woo—AP

Captain Lee Joon-seok is on trial for negligent homicide

The captain of the ill-fated South Korean ferry that capsized in April killing more than 300 people told a courtroom this week he was “confused and not in his normal state of mind” when the accident occurred.

Lee Joon-seok made the claim repeatedly during his trial in the South Korean city of Gwangju, where he is on trial and charged with negligent homicide, reports the BBC.

Lee says he ordered the vessel to be abandoned but his command was not followed by crew members; however, prosecutors claim this contradicts an earlier statement the captain made to police, the BBC says.

Most of the passengers killed when Sewol capsized, en route to the resort island of Jeju in April 16, were high school students participating in a field trip. The public and politicians alike have lambasted the captain for abandoning his ship while hundreds remained aboard.

Days after the ferry capsized, South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye said the captain and his crew’s actions were “unforgivable” and “murderous.”

[BBC]

TIME Syria

U.S. Says Syria Still Has Several Chemical-Weapons Facilities

Syria: Anniversary of Chemical Massacre in Aleppo
Protesters stand in the first anniversary of the chemical massacre in East Ghota, where hundreds of civilians were killed, in Aleppo, Syria on August 21, 2014. Karam Almasri—Pacific Press/AP

The claim comes just months after the ending of a U.N. joint mission to destroy the country's illicit stockpile

The U.S. envoy to the U.N. Samantha Power took to Twitter on Tuesday, claiming Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government has at least four chemical-weapons sites.

Power said that Sigrid Kaag, the special coordinator of a joint mission to eliminate Syria’s declared chemical-weapons program, confirmed that the embattled Syrian regime failed to declare the four facilities.

Kaag told fellow diplomats of the suspect facilities during a briefing at the U.N. on Tuesday.

The U.N.’s joint mission to destroy the Assad government’s illicit chemical arsenal concluded earlier this summer — more than a year after the regime’s forces used sarin nerve gas against rebel fighters and civilians in the suburbs of Damascus, killing hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

The Assad regime later brokered a deal with Moscow, allowing international authorities to destroy the country’s chemical weapons in order to prevent U.S. forces from launching air strikes against forces loyal to the Syrian government.

The existence of chemical-weapons facilities within Syria continues to vex foreign governments and analysts alike, who fear that any number of the myriad opposition forces, including ISIS, could one day get their hands on the illicit stockpile.

The news follows confirmation from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in September that chlorine-based weapons have been deployed against rebel forces fighting the government in Syria.

“The report cites witness accounts indicating helicopters were used in the attacks — a capability the opposition lacks. This strongly points to Syrian regime culpability,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s office in a statement late last month.

TIME Research

How Your Sense of Smell Is Linked to Your Lifespan

Womans jaw, low angle
Getty Images

Older adults who suffer an impaired olfactory sense are more likely to die within five years, say researchers

The loss or erosion of an individual’s sense of smell may signal impending death, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Chicago found 39% of subjects who failed olfactory sense tests died within a five-year period, compared with 19% of subjects with moderate smell loss and just 10% who retained a healthy sense of smell.

This mean the loss or degradation of the olfactory sense may serve effectively as an “early warning” signal that something has gone very wrong inside the body, says the study published in the journal PLOS One on Wednesday.

“We think loss of the sense of smell is like the canary in the coal mine,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Jayant Pinto. “Our findings could provide a useful clinical test, a quick and inexpensive way to identify patients most at risk.”

The research was conducted in two waves over the course of more than five years and surveyed approximately 3,000 adults.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser