TIME Nigeria

Nigeria Refuses to Swap Militant Prisoners for Kidnapped Girls

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls
This photo taken from a video by Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorist network on May 12, 2014, purportedly shows some of the kidnapped girls Associated Press

Interior Minister Abba Moro says his government will not trade imprisoned Boko Haram extremists for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls, kidnapped by the militant group from a school last month, as demanded by the group's leader in a new video

The Nigerian government will not trade imprisoned Boko Haram extremists for schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist group, the country’s Interior Minister said Monday.

“As far as this government is concerned, the option of [the] swap of innocent citizens with people who have taken [up] arms against the country … is not on the table,” Abba Moro told the BBC.

In a video released Monday, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said the group will free the girls if the Abuja government releases imprisoned Islamic militants.

“We will never release them until after you release our brethren in your prison,” he said.

The video purports to show some of the 200-odd girls who were kidnapped from their school one month ago while doing their final exams. Boko Haram wants to rid Nigeria of Western education and form an Islamist state.

Several nations, including the U.S., France, Britain and Israel, have sent experts or offered help to the Nigerian authorities.

[BBC]

TIME Italy

At Least 14 Dead as Boat Bearing Migrants Sinks South of Italy

Migrants are seen in a boat during a rescue operation by Italian navy ship San Marco off the coast to the south of the Italian island of Sicily
Migrants are seen in a boat after being rescued by an Italian navy ship on Feb. 5, 2014. Two boats carrying migrants capsized south of Italy in recent days Reuters

Two hundred migrants were rescued and at least 14 died in the second deadly shipwreck over two days in waters south of Italy, the Italian coast guard says. According to some media accounts, the boat was carrying up to 400 people when it sank between Libya and Italy

A boat carrying migrants headed for Italy sank off the coast of Libya on Monday, leaving at least 14 dead and many more missing.

Coast-guard and naval vessels have rescued about 200 people and found bodies in the water, news agency ANSA reports. According to some media accounts, the boat was carrying up to 400 people when it sank in the sea between Libya and Italy.

Military and merchant ships are still searching for more survivors and bodies in the waters surrounding the incident, the second deadly shipwreck in the area in two days. On Sunday, a migrant boat sank off the Libyan coast, claiming more than 40 lives.

More than 36,000 migrants have arrived at Italy’s southern coast during the first 4½ months of 2014, the New York Times reports.

Both Italy and Libya have called on European countries to help them cope with the increasing number of migrants from the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa arriving in southern Italy with boats from Libya.

“Europe isn’t helping us,” Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on Monday in Bologna, before calling on Europe to help accommodate the thousands of migrants arriving in Italy, ANSA reports.

On Saturday, Libya’s Interior Minister warned Europe that Libya will “flood Europe” with migrants if countries don’t help deal with the migrant crisis.

“I warn the world, especially the European Union, unless they assume their responsibility … we warn that Libya could facilitate the passage of this flood (of illegal migrants) and fast,” Salah Mazeq said, according to CNN.

[ANSA]

TIME animals

Birds Are Getting Lost Because of Our Gadgets, Claims Study

A Robin stands in the snow in Bramall Park in Manchester
Phil Noble—Reuters

A new study shows that man-made radiation stemming from electronic devices disrupts migratory birds' internal compasses

European migratory birds are having trouble finding their way around because of man-made magnetic radiation, a new report shows.

Researchers believe electromagnetic waves from major cities, stemming from electronic devices, disrupt the internal compasses of the birds, hampering their natural orientation skills.

Henrik Mouritsen, co-author of the report published in the science journal Nature, says robins were better able to navigate when their huts were covered with aluminum plating to obscure the magnetic interference.

Otherwise, the electromagnetic waves disrupted the birds’ internal magnetic compasses, he says.

The study was completed through seven years of double-blind experiments.

TIME Congress

House Votes to Establish Select Committee on Benghazi

Rep. Trey Gowdy
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chair of the newly formed select committee to investigate the State Department's handling of the 2012 attack in Benghazi, speaks on his phone as he walks to the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

House GOP approval means Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy will lead a committee to investigate the 2012 consulate attack in Libya that killed four Americans

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to establish a select committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attack.

The Republican-led House voted 232-186 in favor, nearly along party lines.

Speaker John Boehner said that the committee will be led by South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy. The six other Republican members will be announced soon.

The Democrats, who hold five seats, are still deciding whether to boycott the committee over concerns that it is partisan, a fear that John Boehner dismmissed.

“This doesn’t need to be, shouldn’t be, and will not be a partisan process,” he said in a statement.

The select committee will investigate the attacks on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya, on September 12, 2012. Around 60 individuals stormed the embassy and killed four persons, including the ambassador Christopher Stevens.

At first there were reports that the assault on the embassy was spontaneous, sparked by protests over an anti-Muslim film produced in the U.S. Later reports showed that the assault was an organized terrorist attack.

The Republicans are accusing the Obama administration of giving U.N. ambassador Susan E. Rice politicized talking points with which to explain the event, in a bid to protect the President’s national security record ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

TIME Syria

U.N. Official: Syria’s Last Chemical Weapons Are ‘Inaccessible’

Kaag, special coordinator of the OPCW-UN joint mission on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons programme, speaks during a news conference in Damascus
Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons–U.N. joint mission on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons, speaks at a news conference in Damascus on April 27, 2014 Khaled Al Hariri—Reuters

Fighting between rebel groups and government forces is blocking the removal of Syria's last chemical weapons, says mission chief Sigrid Kaag, who is calling for a truce

The last chemical weapons slated to be removed from Syria are “inaccessible” because of fighting between rebels and the government, a U.N. official said Thursday.

The 16 containers of dangerous chemical agents are located close to the capital, Damascus, in an area being fought over by both sides, the Associated Press reports.

The head of the U.N. mission in charge of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, Sigrid Kaag, called on countries with clout over the rebel groups to help arrange the cease-fire needed to allow for the safe removal of the chemical weapons.

“Obviously the issue is that the materials leave the country as soon as possible,” she told reporters.

Danish and Norwegian ships are waiting to transport the containers from a nearby port to a U.S. vessel for destruction.

Last month it was revealed that almost all of Syria’s declared chemical weapons had been removed ahead of the June 30 deadline. However, at a U.N. Security Council meeting, several countries, including the U.S., France and Britain, expressed concern over whether President Bashar Assad’s regime was holding on to undeclared chemical weapons, Reuters reports.

[Associated Press]

TIME human behavior

The Study of Injured Squid Explains Human Irritability and Pain

A Bigfin reef squid swims in a display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Michael Fiala—Reuters

A study has found that squid that have one of their tentacles cut off react more strongly to visual stimuli. Researchers say that pain makes our peripheral sensory system become hyperactive, guarding us against further threats

When we are in pain, many of us become grumpy and irritable, and a study involving injured squid may explain why.

In the study, researchers found that squid that have one of their tentacles cut off — an injury that does not affect their ability to maneuver and would not be as serious an injury as losing a limb would be for a human — react more strongly to visual stimuli. The injury also increases the squid’s responsiveness to threats.

“The injured squid were really touchy,” Robyn Crook, an evolutionary neurobiologist at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, which led the study, told the Los Angeles Times. “An encounter a normal squid might just want to keep an eye on caused the injured squid to start up their defense mechanisms.”

The squid’s behavior helps explain the grumpiness and irritability many of us experience when we are in pain, Edgar T. Walters, who studies pain and at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, told the paper.

“One of the effects of pain is the peripheral sensory system becomes hyperactive,” he said.

“People in pain are very easily irritated and we found that this fits in with a primitive pattern designed for an animal to be extra-vigilant.”

TIME Crime

Reports: No Arrests Over Target Data Breach

Sign outside a Target store is seen in Arvada
The sign outside a Target store is seen in Arvada, Colo., on Feb. 14, 2014 Rick Wilking—Reuters

The arrest of Guo Xing Chen, 40, is not related to the theft of credit-card information at retail store Target, an official says. Media originally reported that police had detained a suspect for the $70 million data breach

A 40-year-old man arrested in Texas has been cleared of involvement in the massive data breach at U.S. retail giant Target, according to reports.

Local and national news initially reported that Guo Xing Chen was arrested over a much publicized theft of credit-card information believed to be worth some $70 million. However, a law-enforcement source close to the investigation has since told Reuters that his arrest was unrelated.

“This appears to be strictly a street level arrest that is not tied to the larger breach investigation,” said the unnamed official.

Over the Christmas holidays around 40 million payment records, as well as other customer information such as addresses and contact information, were stolen from the chain of stores. The Secret Service has been helping in subsequent investigations.

[Reuters]

TIME States

‘American Idol’ Star Clay Aiken May Have Won a North Carolina Primary

Clay Aiken speaks to supporters during an election night watch party in Holly Springs, N.C., May 6, 2014.
Clay Aiken speaks to supporters during an election night watch party in Holly Springs, N.C., May 6, 2014. Gerry Broome—AP

Former American Idol Clay Aiken holds a slim lead in the Democratic primary in North Carolina's 2nd district as the final ballots are counted

Former American Idol star Clay Aiken appears to have won the Democratic primary in North Carolina, but the election is so close that it’s still too early to call a winner.

Clay Aiken, who’s running for House of Representatives in the state’s 2nd district, is ahead of his competitor Keith Crisco with 369 votes, the tally from the Board of Elections shows.

While that lands the former singing star just above the threshold of the 40% that candidates must clear to avoid a runoff, it is not enough for him to declare victory, as provisional, absentee and military absentee ballots are still being tallied. The last votes will be counted Monday.

Keith Crisco issued a statement Wednesday saying that he isn’t ready to concede yet.

“This election is still very tight,” he wrote in the statement according to Washington Post.

“I want the elections officials to have an opportunity to tally the votes and provide a report … to allow all the campaigns a chance to see the final numbers.”

Whatever candidate wins the election will face an uphill battle in the general election this fall, as the right-leaning district has a history of sending Republican candidates to Congress.

TIME cities

A California City Plans to Make Bullying a Crime

The Carson city council voted in favor of a measure to make it a misdemeanor to physically, verbally or virtually bully anyone between kindergarten and age 25, in some cases holding suspected bullies' parents responsible, ahead of a second vote on May 20

A city in Southern California is moving to criminalize bullying.

In the first round of voting on Tuesday, the Carson city council voted 5-0 in favor of the measure, which would make it a misdemeanor to pick on anyone from kindergarten up to 25 years of age. The council will vote for the second time on May 20.

The ordinance would cover physical, verbal and online bullying, and offenders charged with bullying could be required to seek therapy and counseling and pay a fine. Parents of suspected bullies could also be held responsible.

“We’re not talking about putting a 5-year-old in jail, we’re talking about intervening in both the bully’s life, who is a person who is hurting too, and the victim’s life,” Jim Dear, mayor of the Los Angeles suburb, told Reuters.

If the ordinance passes the second round of voting, it will take effect after 30 calendar days and make Carson one of the first jurisdictions in the U.S. to make bullying a crime. In Florida, there is a campaign to adopt the so-called Rebecca’s Law, which would make bullying punishable with up to a year in jail. The state of Maryland outlawed cyberbullying on May 2.

[Reuters]

TIME Immigration

Commerce Secretary Wants to Help Highly Skilled Immigrants

Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, listens to a question during an interview with Reuters in Mexico City
Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, listens to a question during an interview with Reuters in Mexico City on Feb. 4, 2014 Tomas Bravo—Reuters

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker told reporters that two regulations proposed by the Obama administration show the U.S. wants to make it easier for highly skilled families to find work and become a more attractive location to attract and retain talent

The Obama Administration wants to make it easier and more attractive for highly skilled families to work in the U.S., officials said on Tuesday.

The Administration is proposing two regulations, Reuters reports.

The first regulation would allow the spouse of an H-1B visa holder — typically working in science, engineering or technology — to work while their partner’s green-card application is being processed.

The second regulation would make it easier for employers to demonstrate that highly skilled immigrants are among the best in their fields.

The purpose of the proposed regulations is to keep and attract highly skilled immigrants in the U.S., officials said.

“These individuals are American families in waiting,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said on a conference call with reporters. “Many tire of waiting for green cards and leave the country to work for our competition. The fact is we have to do more to retain and attract world-class talent to the United States, and these regulations put us on a path to do that.”

The new rules, which could come into effect in around two months, would benefit close to 100,000 persons this year and around 30,000 annually in the coming years.

[Reuters]

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