TIME weather

Boston’s Public Transit Won’t See Full Service for 30 Days

Pedestrians walk along snow covered, MBTA subway rails on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston
Brian Snyder—Reuters Pedestrians walk along snow covered, MBTA subway rails on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts following a winter storm on Feb. 15, 2015.

“This last round really crippled our infrastructure and our vehicle fleet"

Record-setting snowfall has so disrupted Boston’s main public transportation system that it may need a month to return to full service, the MBTA said Monday.

“As long as we don’t get hit with another storm like the last one, it will be back in 30 days,” Beverly Scott, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said at a news conference, according to the Boston Globe. Scott cautioned it may take even longer if another major storm hits.

“This last round really crippled our infrastructure and our vehicle fleet,” she added. “It created operational challenges and created severe damage which will take time to recover from.”

A series of winter storms have made February the snowiest month in Boston’s recorded history and workers have been struggling to clear snow and ice from the rail system, known as the “T.” Scott said areas that have been hit particularly hard in the storms, and lines that are most used by commuters, are being initially targeted for cleanup.

[Boston Globe]

TIME Transportation

False Alarm Sends Panicked Passengers Onto LAX Tarmac

It's not clear how the rumor ended up on the public address system

About 20 people fled onto the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday after an announcement mistakenly warned of a gunman on the loose.

The false alarm appeared to be linked to an incident outside Terminal 2, where police responding to a possible suicide attempt detained an unarmed man, according to the Associated Press. LAX Police Sgt. Belinda Joseph said he was apprehended and taken to a hospital, but “someone said that there was a man with a gun, which was not true.”

Passengers waiting to board exited the terminal onto the tarmac through emergency doors, but police say they remained “under observation” while near the planes. The incident was over in about 15 minutes.

[AP]

TIME Egypt

The Real Reason Egypt Is Buying Fighter Jets From France

Dubai Air Show
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A Rafale fighter jet aircraft, manufactured by Dassault Aviation SA, is seen performing an aerial display during the 13th Dubai Airshow at Dubai World Central (DWC) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013.

It has nothing to do with France, and everything to do with the United States

Correction appended Feb. 15, 2015

After twenty years of searching, France has finally found a buyer for its Rafale fighter jet. President Francois Hollande announced on Thursday that Egypt will buy 24 aircraft as part of a deal reportedly valued at 5.2 billion euros ($5.9 billion), and his Defense Minister is heading to Cairo on Monday to sign the agreement.

France has been flying its domestically built Rafale jet since 2006, putting it to the test over countries like Afghanistan, Libya, Mali and most recently in the U.S.-led airstrikes on ISIS. But manufacturer Dassault Aviation has struggled to sell it abroad. Deals with Brazil, Libya, Morocco and Switzerland have all fallen through, and negotiations with India and Qatar are ongoing.

Then came Egypt. Hollande said in a statement that Egypt was seeking “aircraft quickly, due to the threats that it faces.” He added, “I believe that, given the current context, it’s very important that Egypt is able to act to uphold stability and to be in security.”

Still, budget-strapped Egypt may appear to be a surprising buyer for the French fighter jet. It already has the largest air force in Africa, and the Rafale, one of the most sophisticated fighter jets on the market, is unlikely to significantly boost its capabilities to combat insurgencies on the ground.

Egypt’s purchase may instead be aimed at diversifying its supply, experts say. The military has traditionally been one of America’s most dependable arms customers thanks to roughly $1 billion in U.S. annual aid that Egypt is largely required to spend on American gear. But Washington suspended aid after the military ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

While U.S. aid has been restored, relations have soured. Earlier this week, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who led the military takeover, hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin in Cairo and agreed on a joint plan to build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant. By opting for French military hardware, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is again demonstrating that his government doesn’t rely exclusively on the U.S. “Egypt has been so dependent on the U.S. that it is beginning to try to find some kind of contingency arrangement so that it can’t be levered by Congressional pressure to change their policies on dealing with dissidents,” says Anthony Cordesman, Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “You’re sending a message.”

To be sure, Egypt faces security threats on multiple fronts. In the restive Sinai peninsula, Islamist insurgents who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria have launched repeated deadly attacks on the military and oil facilities. On its Western border, a power vacuum in Libya since the 2011 ouster of Muammar Gaddafi (thanks in part to French Rafale airstrikes) has given Islamist groups a foothold. Highlighting why Sisi sees them as a threat, a Libyan group with ties to the ISIS kidnapped 21 Coptic Egyptian last month.

But Egypt does not need the Rafale to confront those threats, experts say. The air force already has as many as 230 F-16 fighter jets, Robert Springborg, a professor at France’s Science Po and expert on the Egyptian military, told Le Monde newspaper. The problem is not the lack of planes but the lack of sufficiently trained pilots, he says. And in the Sinai, in particular, American-provided Apache helicopters will be more effective than jets against the insurgency. “One thing is very clear,” says Cordesman. “On the basis of national priorities there is no military urgency to buy more combat aircraft.”

The Egyptian economy, meanwhile, has still not recovered from the tumult that followed the Arab Spring protests that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Sisi’s government has been bolstered largely by some $12 billion in aid from the oil-rich Gulf nations. Thirteen percent of the country is still unemployed, including more than half of the population under 25. The IMF projects that growth will reach 3.8 percent this fiscal year, a step in the right direction, but still well below its average five percent clip ahead of the 2011 protests.

But France has been “desperate” to sell the Rafale after twenty years, Cordesman says. While Egyptian media has reported that Gulf states have funded recent Egyptian military deals, French banks will put up financing for more than half of the purchase price. And though it’s unclear what Egypt is paying per plane, Cordesman says it’s likely that France is already providing a steep discount to Egypt to notch the first sale as it negotiates a much larger order of 126 planes with India. “My guess is that they’re not paying list, or anything like it,” he says.

The original version of this story misidentified the speaker of quotations about Egypt purchasing the Rafale jet from France. It was Anthony Cordesman.

TIME Pakistan

Witness the Aftermath of the Terror Attack on a Shi’ite Peshawar Mosque

At least 19 people were killed in the latest sectarian attack in Pakistan

The terror-worn city of Peshawar was struck by a new terror attack targeting a Shi’ite mosque on Friday that left at least 19 people dead.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Reuters, saying it was in revenge for the government’s crackdown on Islamist militants in the wake of the Dec. 16 assault on a Peshawar school that killed more than 150 people, mostly students. The Taliban, who have also claimed responsibility for the assault on the school, threatened more “revenge attacks” in a video sent to reporters, according to Reuters.

On Friday, five or six gunmen wearing military uniforms broke into the mosque as Friday prayers finished and opened fire, a witness told Reuters. Three explosions were heard during the attack.

The Pakistani government pledged to combat Islamist groups in the wake of the school attacks, but minority groups throughout the country say they still feel insecure. An attack last month on a Shi’ite mosque in Shikarpur killed more than 60 people.

TIME Yemen

U.N. Chief Warns Yemen ‘Collapsing’ as al-Qaeda Group Makes Gains

APTOPIX Mideast Yemen
Anees Mahyoub—AP Protesters in Taiz, Yemen, on Feb. 11, 2015, shout slogans against Houthi Shi‘ite who have seized power in the country's capital, Sana‘a

Secretary general Ban Ki-moon issued the warning after rebel faction effectively ousted the Yemeni government

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that Yemen was “collapsing before our eyes,” as a powerful al-Qaeda affiliate took advantage of the power vacuum in the country’s capital to seize a Yemeni army facility.

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation, has been rocked by sectarian and political violence that came to a head last week, when the Houthi rebels that recently toppled the country’s President dissolved parliament.

On Wednesday, thousands of people in Sana‘a, the capital, protested the effective coup by the predominantly Shi‘ite group, and the U.S., Britain and France all closed their embassies amid security concerns.

As if to highlight the potential for turmoil, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the powerful al-Qaeda branch that controls large swaths of territory in the southeast, said Thursday that they had seized the headquarters of a Yemeni army brigade, the New York Times reports. While the Houthis are strongly opposed to the Sunni extremist group, the rudderless government in Sana‘a has risked empowering AQAP.

“Let me be clear,” Ban said. “Yemen is collapsing before our eyes. We cannot stand by and watch.”

The Houthi movement, which overran Sana‘a in September, had been overseeing talks among various factions to form a new government since the group’s aggression prompted President Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi to resign last month. But the group disbanded the government on Feb. 6.

Ban called for Security Council members to de-escalate tensions and return the factions to the negotiating table. “We must do everything possible to help Yemen step back from the brink and get the political process back on track,” he said.

TIME isis

ISIS Magazine Claims to Interview Paris Gunman’s Wife

Suspect's Wanted In Connection With Paris Terrorist Attacks
Getty Images Hayat Boumeddiene pictured in this handout provided by the Direction Centrale de la Police Judiciaire on January 9.

A magazine run by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) says the widow of the gunman who attacked a Jewish kosher grocery in Paris last month is now living in territory under its control.

The magazine put out by ISIS in both French and English includes a purported interview with Hayat Boumeddiene, the widow of Amedy Coulibaly, who was killed in the attack that left four others dead.

The interview marks the first time the group has officially said that Boumeddiene is in its territory, though neither the claim or the veracity of the interview has been independently confirmed.

After the Jan. 9 attack, France launched a search for Boumeddiene and described her as armed and dangerous, before Turkish officials said she had entered Turkey days earlier and crossed into Syria on Jan. 8.

In the interview, which identifies the interviewee as Coulibaly’s wife without giving her name, she praises life under ISIS, saying, “It is good to live in the land that is governed by the laws of God.”

She also gives advice for Muslim women and says that Coulibaly was intent on joining ISIS when it proclaimed a Caliphate.

The magazine, Dar al-Islam, says it is the second edition and began circulating online on Wednesday. Its cover features an image of the Eiffel Tower and the words, “May Allah Curse France.”

TIME North Korea

Here Are 7 of the Weirdest North Korean State Slogans

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) appl
ED JONES—AFP/Getty Images North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) applauds during a military parade in honour of the 100th birthday of the late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012.

"Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms!"

The North Korean leadership published a list of more than 300 slogans in state media on Thursday ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the country’s Workers’ Party this year.

The lengthy list, comprising some 6,000 words in English translation, provides an often comical sense of some of the priorities of the government. Some of the statements are typical of the bellicose rhetoric North Korean directs toward South Korea and the United States, while others are more general declarations for improving different aspects of life, ranging from food production to the style of school uniforms.

An English translation was posted by the KCNA Watch, a website that monitors the North Korean official news agency. Here’s seven of the more bizarre slogans on the list:

  • “Let us build a fairyland for the people by dint of science!”
  • “More stylish school uniforms and quality school things for our dear children!”
  • “Should the enemy dare to invade our country, annihilate them to the last man so that none of them will survive to sign the instrument of surrender!”
  • “Let the wives of officers become dependable assistants to their husbands!”
  • “Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms by making mushroom cultivation scientific, intensive and industrialized!”
  • “Launch more cutting-edge sci-tech satellites and applications satellites of our style!”
  • “Make fruits cascade down and their sweet aroma fill the air on the sea of apple trees at the foot of Chol Pass!”

See the full list here

 

TIME Wildlife

Hunter Kills First Wolf in Grand Canyon in 70 Years

The wolf was named Echo by school children

The first gray wolf seen near the Grand Canyon in 70 years was killed by a hunter in Utah in December, wildlife officials confirmed on Wednesday.

Echo the wolf — so-named last month in a nationwide student contest — is believed to have traveled at least 750 miles in search of a mate, including through the Grand Canyon region in northern Arizona where the last of its kind were killed off in the 1940s, the Denver Post reports.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said DNA tests confirmed the dead wolf’s identity after it was killed in Utah by a hunter who says he mistook it for a coyote. Gray wolves are considered endangered in southern Utah, and a spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service said the investigation into Echo’s death is ongoing, according to the Post.

[Denver Post]

TIME apps

See the SOS Button That Uber Rolled Out in India

The feature enables users to make an emergency call to local police in two taps.

Uber rolled out its new SOS button in India on Wednesday as it looks to boost security measures following the alleged rape of a customer by one of its drivers.

After introducing tougher background checks for its drivers in India, the company said earlier this week that it would add a panic button to its app. The feature, which enables users to make an emergency call to local police in two taps, became available in India on Wednesday, and the company says it would eventually be available worldwide.

Uber

The San Francisco-based company also released the “Send Status” feature in India, which allows users to share details about their driver and route with up to five contacts in a move intended to increase accountability.

Uber

Uber has faced safety concerns around the world, and a woman who says she was raped by an Uber driver in New Delhi in December is suing the company in a U.S. federal court.

 

TIME

Pierce Brosnan’s Malibu Home Damaged By Fire

"The Love Punch" Portraits - 2013 Toronto International Film Festival
George Pimentel—WireImage Actor Pierce Brosnan of "The Love Punch" poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2013 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)

Fifty firefighters responded to the blaze

A fire broke out on Wednesday at the home of James Bond star Pierce Brosnan’s home in Malibu, Calif. on Wednesday night.

About 50 firefighters responded to the blaze that broke out in the garage of the residence, according to local ABC affiliate KABC.

No one was injured and the fire was confined to the garage, KABC reports.

[KABC]

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