TIME animals

French Police Tase Rogue Monkey for Stealing Candy from Kids

Now being cared for by vets

A monkey who was terrorizing citizens in the French city of Marseille has finally been tackled by police, who used a taser gun to subdue the animal.

Authorities believe the monkey came from Algeria, Gibraltar or Morocco, was raised illegally and then abandoned in the city, according to reports in La Provence. It appears to have been maltreated and malnourished, subsisting largely on Kinder chocolate bars.

That may have led to a craving for sugar that turned nasty. Last week, it sparked panic in an elementary school, biting and scratching some of the children on repeated occasions as it hunted for sugary snacks.

The police finally managed to capture the animal, which was over 2 and a half feet tall, by tasering him into submission. During the intervention, the monkey bit one police officer’s hand, but is now being looked after by vets.

[La Provence]

TIME Iraq

Kurdish Fighters Regain Territory from ISIS in Most Successful Offensive Yet

The two-day offensive was the largest to date in the war against ISIS in Iraq

Backed by a recent surge in U.S. airstrikes, Kurdish forces recaptured a large area of territory from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militants on Thursday, the New York Times reports.

It was described as “the single biggest military offensive against ISIS, and the most successful” in a statement on Thursday night from the office of Masrour Barzani, Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council. The offensive involved 8,000 local troops and was backed by 53 airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition.

The offensive has allowed for the opening of a path from the autonomous Kurdish region to Mount Sinjar in the west, near the Syrian border. Mount Sinjar came under siege in August, when thousands of Yazidis were persecuted by ISIS, prompting the start of U.S. airstrikes.

Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, overall commander of the campaign against ISIS, told Pentagon reporters: “We will relentless pursue Daesh in order to degrade and destroy its capabilities and defeat their efforts,” using an Arabic word for ISIS.

[NYT]

Read more: The fight against ISIS on the border between Turkey and Syria

TIME European Union

European Court Rules That Obesity Could Be a Disability

The case was brought by a Danish man who weighs more than 350 pounds (160kg)

In a ruling delivered Thursday morning, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said “obesity can constitute a disability” for the purposes of equality at work legislation, the BBC reports.

The ECJ, Europe’s highest court, was asked earlier this year to consider the case of Karsten Kaltoft, a Danish childminder, who claimed he was fired by his local authority for being too overweight.

Judges said that if obesity could hinder “full and effective participation” at work then it could count as a disability. This means that if a person has a long-term impairment because of their obesity then they would be protected by disability legislation.

The ruling is binding across the E.U. but it is left up to the national courts to decide if someone’s obesity is severe enough to be classed as a disability. This is something the Danish court will now have to assess in Kaltoft’s case.

Important to the ruling is the European Court’s judgement that the origin of the disability did not matter, meaning that it is irrelevant if the person is obese because of overeating.

The judgement may mean that employers will have to start providing larger seats, special parking spaces and other facilities for obese workers.

[BBC]

TIME Books

Winnie-the-Pooh Could Be Leaving New York for Britain

School children view the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals at the New York Public Library in 2009.
School children view the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals at the New York Public Library in 2009. Marc Bryan-Brown—WireImage/Getty Images

British fans are keen for the bear to leave his home at the New York Public Library

The teddy bear on which the much-loved fictional Winnie-the-Pooh was based may be returning to Britain for a home-coming visit for the first time since 1976.

Angela Montefinise, director of media relations at the New York Public Library where the visiting public can currently view the bear, said the curators were “absolutely open” to letting Pooh travel provided he was taken good care of while on loan.

Speaking to The Times of London, she said: “These dolls are very fragile. It is our responsibility to ensure their preservation and protection so they can continue to be viewed by the public.”

Christopher Robin Milne, the son of English author A.A. Milne and a character in the children’s stories, apparently intended for the bear and his other childhood toys to stay in New York.

But British fans of the children’s stories have been clamoring for the bear’s return for several years. Politician Gwyneth Dunwood asked former Prime Minister Tony Blair to raise the issue with Bill Clinton during a 1988 visit, saying “Just like the Greeks want their Elgin marbles back so we want our Winnie the Pooh back.”

More recently, residents of Hartfield, the village from where Pooh hails, and notable English writers have joined the appeal. Gyles Brandreth, broadcaster and writer, said “for some of us our childhood is never over, so we’d love to have him back – if only for a holiday.”

[The Times]

TIME Religion

Dalai Lama Says He Would Rather Be the Last Than See Someone Stupid Take His Place

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama prays during Ganden Ngachoe, the death anniversary of 14th Century Tibetan Saint-Scholar Lama Tsongkhapa, in New Delhi, India, Dec. 16, 2014.
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama prays during Ganden Ngachoe, the death anniversary of 14th Century Tibetan Saint-Scholar Lama Tsongkhapa, in New Delhi, India, Dec. 16, 2014. Tsering Topgyal—AP

Buddhists believe that the next Dalai Lama is born when the current one dies

The Dalai Lama has conceded that the title may die with him and that it is “up to the Tibetan people” to decide whether someone follows him. In a BBC interview on Tuesday night, the 79-year-old leader said: “The Dalai Lama institution will cease one day. These man-made institutions will cease.”

“There is no guarantee that some stupid Dalai Lama won’t come next, who will disgrace himself or herself. That would be very sad. So, much better that a centuries-old tradition should cease at the time of a quite popular Dalai Lama,” he said.

The 14th Dalai Lama, whose real name is Tenzin Gyatso, is the longest serving leader and has held the title since he was 15 years old. Each Dalai Lama is thought to be reincarnated in the body of a male child identified by Buddhist priests in Tibet.

A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the current Dalai Lama has been in exile in India ever since an attempted uprising in Tibet in 1959. He now supports a “middle way” with China, hoping for autonomy but not independence for Tibet.

[BBC]

Read next: TIME’s Exclusive With the Dalai Lama on Pot, Facebook and the Pope

TIME russia

Apple Stops Online Sales in Russia As Ruble Plunges

People wait to exchange their currency as signs advertise the exchange rates at a currency exchange office in Moscow, Dec. 16, 2014.
People wait to exchange their currency as signs advertise the exchange rates at a currency exchange office in Moscow, Dec. 16, 2014. Alexander Zemlianichenko—AP

The tech giant fears the currency is too volatile

Apple halted online sales of its iPhones, iPads and other products in Russia after this week’s “extreme” ruble fluctuations. The Russian currency lost over 20% this week and bonds and stocks also tumbled.

“Our online store in Russia is currently unavailable while we review pricing,” wrote Alan Hely, an Apple spokesman, in an email to Bloomberg.

Apple had earlier tried to deal with the fluctuations by increasing its prices in Russia by about 25%. Apple doesn’t have any of its own stores in the country, so the online store is its main outlet for Russian consumers. But now with the ruble’s value at an all-time low, Apple believes the currency is too volatile to set prices.

[Bloomberg]

Read more: Putin watches Russian economy collapse along with his empire

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan’s War With the Taliban May Be About to Get Worse

Taliban Attack School Peshawar Pakistan
School children rescued by Pakistani security forces leave following an attack at the Army run school, in Peshawar on Dec. 16, 2014. Bilawal Arbab—EPA

It's not clear if the massacre of at least 132 school children means the Taliban has weakened or remains strong

The Taliban’s attack on a Peshawar school that left at least 132 school children and nine members of staff dead on Tuesday was described by Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as “the biggest human tragedy Pakistan may have ever seen”.

The massacre follows a relative lull in violence in Pakistan since the attack on the country’s biggest airport on June 9, in which 36 people were killed, including ten gunmen. The Pakistani government responded by launching a military offensive against Taliban strongholds in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan which borders Afghanistan.

The offensive, which the Pakistani military says has killed over 1,500 Taliban fighters, may have suppressed many attacks outside the border regions but appears to have been the cause of Tuesday’s attack.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban said they had attacked the army-run school “because the government is targeting our families and females,” although the Taliban has attacked hundreds of Pakistani schools in the past.

But analysts are divided on whether the attack suggests the Pakistani army has been successful in its offensive and the Taliban attacked the school as a desperate act of weakness or if the army has failed in its objectives and the attack can be seen as the Taliban re-asserting itself.

Gareth Price, senior research fellow at London-based think-tank Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, says that Pakistan’s offensive combined with similar activity by the government of Afghanistan has put the Taliban on both sides of the border under unprecedented pressure. “In the past couple of weeks, the Americans and the Afghans have been taking action and targeting the Pakistan Taliban in Afghanistan,” he says.

Since the launch of the June offensive, the United States’ relationship with Pakistan, marked by strains and tensions over the past decade, has appeared to improve, says Price, with the U.S. inviting Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif to Washington earlier this month.

Price suggests the Taliban is desperately seeking high-profile targets to convey the impression that it’s stronger than ever. “The Taliban in Pakistan are a fringe, if a substantial fringe,” he says. “This [attack] should be seen as coming from a position of weakness rather than a position of strength.”

Michael Kugelman, an expert in South Asian affairs at the Washington D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, disagrees, suggesting that the Pakistan Taliban may be ready to strike in a more coordinated fashion once again.

“To me, this attack seems very well-coordinated and would have required a lot of advance planning. What’s scary about this is that it looks like the Taliban is ready to return to the fight,” he says. “The military offensive was able to eliminate and kill a number of Taliban fighters and operatives, but it certainly did not destroy them. The Pakistan Taliban just needed time to get reoriented because its leaders had been dispersed to other areas and it needed to reestablish communications with allies.”

Kugelman believes this latest event will renew a cycle of violence that will involve retaliatory terrorist attacks on civilians and an increase in military operations. This violence could have immense humanitarian consequences and recruit more to the radical cause, he says. “Today really marks a new phase in the Pakistan Taliban’s incredibly violent insurgency against the Pakistani state.”

The question of whether the attack is a desperate comeback from a militant group under pressure or the first step in a new phase of the Taliban’s war against Pakistan remains to be seen. Gen. Sharif said that the Pakistan airforce launched massive air strikes against the Taliban shortly after the school was secured on Tuesday and Prime Minister Sharif vowed to continue the military operation: “The fight will continue. No one should have any doubt about it.”

TIME Australia

Here’s Why Australia Has Become the Latest Target for Extremists

Australia's airforce attacks ISIS in Iraq

When a man took a group of Australians hostage in a downtown Sydney cafe on Monday, he hung a black flag with Arabic writing in the window of the café in a clear attempt to identify with extreme Islamist groups.

Police later stormed the cafe and two hostages and the gunman, Iranian-born Man Haron Monis, were killed.

Earlier, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that the gunman was “claiming political motivation.”

Australia is more than 8,000 miles away Iraq and Syria yet it has found itself a target of extremist Islamist sympathisers. The reasons range from its strong ties to the United States, its involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the alienation of a small minority of Muslims brought up in Australia.

Around 70 Australians are currently fighting for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

The Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) has said that Australia is a significant source of foreign fighters given the relatively small size of its population, identifying around 70 Australians who are currently fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria out of an estimated 3,000 Western fighters.

Speaking to a Senate inquiry last Thursday, ASIO’s Deputy Director-General Kerri Hartland said 20 Australian citizens had already died in the conflict and added “very few of the Australians who traveled to previous conflicts were involved in violence on the scale seen in Syria and Iraq.” ASIO investigated only 30 people who traveled to Afghanistan or Pakistan to train in extremist camps between 1990 and 2010.

Australia has committed military forces and aircraft to the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS

Australia has been a long-time ally of the U.S., fighting alongside American forces in the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Abbott deployed aircraft quickly, sending fighter jets and about 600 military personnel to commence operations against ISIS in early October.

Australian air strikes have since killed “multiple” ISIS targets in Iraq according to Vice Admiral David Johnston of the Australian military. He said he was being “cautious” about giving more detail on the strikes out of fear it could be used against Australia as part of ISIS propaganda.

The Australian government anticipated future terrorist attacks

Australia raised its terror threat level in September from “medium” to “high”, with Abbott saying that the government had “a body of evidence that points to the increased likelihood of a terrorist attack in Australia.”

Australia launched its largest ever counterterrorism raids on Sept. 18 when around 800 officers searched more than dozen properties in Sydney. The raids were carried out because of a suspected plot to kill non-Muslims in Sydney. One man, a 22-year-old called Omarjan Azari, was charged with conspiring to commit a terrorist act with a senior Australian militant in ISIS.

The senior Australian militant suspected of being behind the plot was Mohammad Ali Baryalei, a 33-year-old responsible for recruiting many fellow Australians. He is believed to have died in October fighting with ISIS.

Australian citizens have also given financial donations to terrorist groups

Azari and another unnamed Australian man were charged on Monday with financing the travel of ISIS recruits from Australia to the Middle East and making $15,000 available to the militant group in August.

A recent ASIO report to Parliament said that many others in Australia have “provided support and encouragement to overseas extremists and recruited new supporters to the jihadist cause.”

Australian ISIS fighters have gained notoriety on social media

Khaled Sharrouf became notorious when he posted a photo on Twitter in July of his seven-year-old son holding a decapitated head. Sharrouf, a boxer from Sydney, was jailed in 2005 for his role in planning Australia’s most serious terrorist plot. But while on parole in January, Sharrouf managed to flee using his brother’s passport, eventually making his way to Syria.

Abdullah Elmir, 17, from Sydney addressed Abbott in an ISIS video posted to YouTube, telling him the jihadists will not stop until their black flag is flying high in every single land. Elmir, who went missing from his home in June, is seen holding a rifle and surrounded by dozens of other young militants. “To Tony Abbott, I say this. These weapons that we have, these soldiers, we will not stop fighting,” he said.

The government has canceled the passports of around 100 Australians wishing to join jihadists

“The government is gravely concerned by the fact that Australian citizens are heading to Iraq and Syria not only to fight but to take leadership roles in radicalizing others,” Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told parliament in July.

Abbott has expressed concern that extremists will return home as trained terrorists and pose a threat to national security.

TIME Belgium

Suspects Arrested in Belgium Following Apartment Siege

Authorities said the incident was not linked to terrorism

Three people were arrested in Belgium on Monday after men burst into an apartment building and took a hostage in the western city of Ghent, authorities said.

The siege began early Monday and several hours later armed police entered the apartment, BBC reports. Federal police established a careful security cordon to keep bystanders away and three suspects gave themselves up without violence. The hostage was reportedly released unharmed.

“This isn’t the same sort of incident as the events in Sydney,” said federal police spokeswoman Annemie Serlippens.

It was unclear whether the police were still searching for more suspects.

[BBC]

TIME Australia

Uber Charged 4 Times Its Usual Rate During Sydney Hostage Siege

The company has now backtracked after customer outcry

Uber faced a new controversy Monday when it began charging customers four times the usual rate after a gunman took several hostages in downtown Sydney, Australia. Uber apps told customers they must pay a minimum of A$100 ($82) per ride.

Uber made the following statement on Twitter:

Following an outcry on social media, Uber Sydney changed tack and is currently offering free rides for passengers trying to leave the city “to help Sydneysiders get home safely.” The company said in a statement that it will refund fares charged for earlier journeys.

[Financial Times]

MORE: Central Sydney is in lockdown amid a developing hostage crisis

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