TIME sweden

Sweden’s Military Scours for Possible Russian Submarine in Its Waters

Swedish corvette HMS Visby patrols the Stockholm Archipelago October 19 2014, searching for what the military says is a foreign threat in the waters. Marko Savala—TT News Agency/Reuters

A man-made object has been spotted deep inside the Stockholm archipelago, and encrypted communication with Kaliningrad intercepted

A large military operation is under way in waters off Stockholm to sweep for a “foreign underwater activity” widely speculated to be a damaged Russian submarine, in what could be the gravest violation of Sweden’s maritime sovereignty since the Cold War.

The intelligence operation, involving helicopters, minesweepers, corvettes, fast-attack crafts, a submarine and 200 service personnel, started on Friday, after a “man-made device” was sighted deep inside the Stockholm archipelago and encrypted radio communication was intercepted between that position and Kaliningrad — the base of Russia’s Baltic Sea fleet.

Sweden’s military said Sunday it had made a total of three credible sightings within two days and released an image taken by a passerby showing a partially submerged object, but has yet to comment on whether it is a Russian submarine. A suspicious black-clad man was also photographed wading in the waters outside the island of Sandön. On Oct. 2, a navy ship collided with an object in the vicinity, which some believe could have been a submersible that has since fallen into distress.

Intelligence expert Joakim von Braun told the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter that the spotted object could be an advanced mini submarine of the model Triton-NN, and that the stranded crew could have hidden themselves on one of the many nearby islands while waiting to be picked up.

“It could very well be the case that a Swedish sleeper agent is activated since the embassy personnel is too monitored to carry out such a mission,” he said.

Russia has recently been increasingly bullish against its Baltic and Nordic neighbors, prompting some to speculate that they are trying to discourage these countries from deeper cooperation with NATO. In September, Russian fighter jets reportedly violated Swedish airspace, and Finland claims that the Russian navy harassed one of its environmental research ships in international waters last week.

However, maritime incursions have not been apparent since the 1980s, when Sweden’s military was frequently scrambled to investigate, and sometimes hunt, suspected Russian submarines in its waters. International law allows warships to cross maritime borders, while submarines may only do so while surfaced unless previous notification has been given.

Tomas Ries, a researcher at the Swedish National Defense College, says it would be a serious violation if a Russian submarine were located this far into Swedish waters.

“When the Russians violate airspace it’s a political signal, when they practice strategic bomb attacks it’s a political signal,” he told the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

“But if they are going on like this in Swedish waters it suggests that they are preparing something,” he adds, suggesting perhaps mines or reconnaissance equipment. Alternatively, says Ries, they may have “left something there during the Cold War that they want to update,” describing all explanations as “severe.”

An unnamed Kremlin military source apparently denied that the mystery craft was Russian when speaking to state-backed news agency RT. “No extraordinary, let alone emergency situations have happened to Russian military vessels,” said the source.

TIME Hong Kong

Fresh Clashes in Hong Kong As Thousands Take to the Streets

Protesters recapture Mong Kok occupation site

Thousands of people in Hong Kong recaptured a protest site Friday night that was cleared by police just a few hours before, in a show of force by the almost three-week-old movement demanding greater democratic rights.

Hundreds of police officers attempted to keep the boiling crowds in the Mong Kok area at bay, many times with the use of batons and pepper spray, but to no avail. Around midnight, a canopy of umbrellas—an icon for the protest movement—triumphantly started moving down the thoroughfare of Nathan Road, trailing scores of retreating police officers.

“This sends the message that we can’t be suppressed or bullied, we will fight back,” said 17-year-old high school student Joel Christian Banerjee Dilan on the front line. “We’re not scared anymore.”

Since Sept. 28, protesters have occupied three areas of Hong Kong with the help of roadblocks and camping sites. They’re demanding the right for citizens to nominate their political leaders, but have so far received no concessions from the government. As their numbers started dwindling over the past week, authorities grew emboldened and became more aggressive trying to clear the protesters. But scenes of police violence have incensed the population, and boosted support for the protesters’ cause.

On Friday morning, police expeditiously tore down the barricades and tents of the Mong Kok protest site, leading to a call on social media to recapture the lost ground in the evening. As thousands of people bore down on the neighborhood, some cited anger with the police force as one of the main reasons they had shown up.

“They’re puppets, scum, they don’t know what they’re doing,” said Peter Ho, a 50-year-old trader.

Joel Christian Banerjee Dilan said not all officers were aggressive, but that the actions of a few were affecting the corps as a group. Ling Cheng, a 26-year-old wedding consultant, said she had never been afraid of the police, even though she always brings her protective goggles to the protests. “But I’m scared of the police now, they’re so rude,” she said.

Others said they were there because of the tactical use of the Mong Kok site.

“If we lose Mong Kok, then all the police can go to [the central site in] Admiralty,” said 26-year-old environmental engineer student Kwong Leong. “Then everything might be lost.”

The evening was fought on several fronts, as both sides tried to gain new ground as well as hold what they had already grabbed. With throngs of increasingly frustrated people spilling into alleyways adjoining the central boulevards, it was often a losing battle for the police. At the front line on Nathan Road, they whacked indiscriminately at the wall of umbrellas poking in their direction, dousing it with pepper spray—but had no alternative other than to fall back when protesters poured in from their sides.

Scuffles and heckling continued well into the first hours of Saturday on the fringes of the protest, with incidents involving police officers in riot gear drawing scattered roars from around the neighborhood. Some were busying themselves with erecting new barricades. Inside, on the newly occupied swathe of asphalt, several sleeping mats had already been carried in, aiding protesters to a moment of rest after several hours of tense altercations.

Police officers also took turns sitting down and having something to eat, the two groups curiously at ease in each others vicinity once not pitted eye-to-eye on a front line. It’s a few moments of well-deserved comfort, seeing that clashes erupt with increasing regularity.

Calvin Chung, 25, was busy raising a tent, even though he professed to not knowing how. “I’m a little bit afraid of violence during the night, but I get my courage from the people. You see,” he gestured around him.“I’m not alone.”

Video by Helen Regan

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Braced for More Clashes as Protesters Threaten to Recapture Site

A pro-democracy protester cries in front of a line of policemen on a blocked road, after police removed barricades at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong October 17, 2014. Tyrone Siu—Reuters

Battle lines are hardening in an increasingly divided city

Online calls have been issued for barriers to be rebuilt at one of Hong Kong’s main democracy protest sites.

Hundreds of Hong Kong police officers in riot gear raided the site at Mong Kok early Friday morning, clearing barricades and tents, but failing to shift protesters, many of whom refuse to leave the area they have inhabited for the past 18 days.

They continue to block southbound traffic on Nathan Road—the densely populated Kowloon peninsula’s main artery.

Users of a massively popular local Internet forum, the Hong Kong Golden forum, defiantly called for barriers to be rebuilt in Mong Kok on Friday night.

Known as “golden jai” (golden boys), the forum users comprise the more radical arm of the city’s democracy movement, and were believed to be responsible for an attempt to reoccupy a major thoroughfare in the government and financial district on Hong Kong Island on Tuesday.

The ensuing melee on Lung Wo Road became one of the most vicious set pieces of the three-week long protests, with 45 people arrested, and a prominent political activist savagely assaulted by police officers unaware that a television news crew was filming every blow.

Allegations of police brutality and images of wounded protesters have in recent days reignited public support for the movement, which is demanding that the powerful head of the city’s government, known as the Chief Executive, be directly elected from a list of candidates freely put forward by the city’s 3.5 million voters.

The central government in Beijing is insisting that Hong Kong’s leader must be chosen from a small field of candidates screened by a pro-establishment electoral committee.

In a bid to break the deadlock, embattled Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Thursday he was willing to push ahead with “dialog” with the protesters alongside the restoration of “order in Hong Kong, according to the laws of Hong Kong, as quickly as we can.”

The government scrapped talks with student leaders just a week ago, claiming that dialog was “impossible.”

Its reluctant resumption of negotiations with the same cocksure youths—clad in jeans and t-shirts scrawled with political slogans—is a reflection of the growing impact of the three-week-long protest, which is now the most significant political movement in China since the 1989 Tiananmen occupation in Beijing.

Alex Chow Yong-kang, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, welcomed the government’s announcement of renewed talks, but told the South China Morning Post that “if [Leung] is offering to talk but at the same time ordering police to clear the scene violently, the people will know how sincere he is.”

The Chief Executive has drawn scorn for his insistence that open nomination of candidates for the 2017 election is not on the table.

“This shows that the Chief Executive doesn’t actually want to discuss anything,” said Kee Ma, a 60-year-old retired pharmacist camping out at the main protest site in Admiralty.

Other protesters are still upset about the heavy-handed police action in the last few days.

“The Chief Executive needs to apologize for police brutality,” said Mars Leung, 20, who, like many at the Admiralty camp, quit his job in order to participate in the protests full-time. “These statements just make people more angry.”

TIME central america

Powerful Earthquake Rocks Central America

One fatality but no major damage reported

A shallow 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of El Salvador and Nicaragua late Monday, killing one and sending tremors across Central America.

No major damage has been reported and an initial tsunami alert was retracted, Reuters reports. One man was killed by a falling electricity post, according to the mayor of the El Salvadorean city of San Miguel.

The quake happened at a 40-km depth, with the epicenter located 67 km west-southwest of Jiquilillo in Nicaragua and 174 km southeast of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, the U.S. Geological Survey says.

[Reuters]

TIME Mexico

Mexico Protesters Torch Local Government Headquarters

MEXICO-CRIME-STUDENTS-MISSING-PROTEST
A man stares at the blazing government headquarters in Chilpancingo, in Mexico's Guerrero state, on Oct. 13, 2014, after protesters set it on fire during demonstrations demanding the return of the 43 students still missing since an attack by rogue officers earlier this month Yuri Cortez—AFP/Getty Images

Enraged teachers and students demand the return of 43 students who disappeared after a gang-connected police attack on Sept. 26

Protesters looted and burned part of the government headquarters in Mexico’s Guerrero state during demonstrations demanding the return of 43 students who have been missing since a gang-connected police attack a few weeks ago.

No injuries were reported as the invading group of teachers and students allowed workers to leave before torching the complex, but five teachers and two police officers have been wounded in previous clashes between protesters and police, Agence France-Presse reports.

The 43 students have been missing since municipal police fired at their buses on Sept. 26. Authorities say they are waiting for DNA results from several mass graves that have since been discovered. The city’s mayor, his wife and the police chief have evaded questioning in a case that has enraged the Mexican public and brought tens of thousands on the streets.

“Starting tomorrow [Tuesday], we will increase our actions and radicalize our movement if the governor does not give information about the students’ whereabouts by midnight [Monday],” Ramos Reyes, leader of the CETEG teachers’ union, told AFP.

[AFP]

TIME Hong Kong

Businesses Beginning to Feel the Pinch of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

The Democracy Protest Continues As Student Leaders Set Deadline
Upturned umbrellas sit on metal barriers in front of a Cartier store in the business district of Central in Hong Kong on Sept. 30, 2014 Bloomberg/Getty Images

Demonstrations mar one of the year's peak sales periods

With Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests entering their fifth day, retailers are starting to feel the squeeze on their businesses.

“We’ve lost 20% to 30% of our sales so far this week,” says William Yan, manager at La Suisse Watch Co. in the Causeway Bay shopping district. The area is home to some of the most highly costed shop space in the world — and to several hundred protesters blocking a key intersection. “I hope the protests finish soon,” he says.

Unlike other Occupy protesters around the world, Hong Kong’s demonstrators do not have an antibusiness agenda. Shop windows full of expensive jewelry and cars are left unscathed, and many leave the protest sites during the day to work in their white-collar jobs. Signs everywhere apologize to passersby “for Any Inconvenience” caused by the protests.

At the same time, continued disruption to business runs the risk of alienating large sections of Hong Kong society.

The protests have kicked off during one of the city’s most important shopping periods — the week around China’s Oct. 1 national day, when hundreds of thousands of vacationing mainland Chinese pour over the border.

Travelers from China make up 75% of all visitors to the city, and are known for spending vast amounts on luxury products. The ongoing demonstrations have scared away scores of tourists, and Chinese authorities announced Thursday that group tours to the city had been suspended.

“Many mainland Chinese stay away, and the ones that come are afraid of riots,” says Gary Wan, assistant supervisor at a jewelry store in Causeway Bay.

Other shops, including one selling exclusive Breitling watches, say that they have stayed shuttered for much of the week. A taxi driver says that many of his colleagues have taken days off because they are not able to access the places people want to go to.

In the Tsim Sha Tsui district, Kenny Kiang, a garment-factory owner from Guangdong, is perplexedly beholding a protest site.

“I’m very shocked and disturbed. We didn’t hear anything about this in China” he says, adding that he and his friends may cut their trip short because of the commotion.

Victoria Hui, associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, says that a hit on the industries dependent on tourism doesn’t have to be detrimental for the protest movement.

“Many people are already incensed by the effect of mass tourism from the mainland,” she says. “Rents have shot up and many mom-and-pop stores are torn down for the benefit of malls catering to tourists.”

Ruby Chow, a 28-year-old graphic designer who has been a part of the protests since they started last weekend, says that businesses should also take an interest in supporting the protests.

“It’s important to have a media presence and to be seen as friends of the people,” she says.

Some companies have taken the opportunity to show their support. Advertising agencies McCann and Ogilvy have told employees they are allowed to miss work in order to participate in the protests. Local stores have contributed to the massive piles of food, water and necessities piled on the sidewalks on the occupied streets.

Emily Ho, owner of a garment store in Wan Chai, has decorated her mannequins with the yellow ribbons of the democracy movement. She says that she has noted a drop in sales, but feels that the struggle is worth it.

“Democracy is the most important thing right now,” she says. “Hopefully a more open society can lead to better economy in the end too. For now, I support the movement wholeheartedly. If it continues next week, I’ll have to make a new decision then.”

Others appear to have already made up their minds.

Cheung Chi-cheung, a fruit wholesaler, told the South China Morning Post that protesters asked him “to bear with them for the sake of the future.” But, he added, “I am not sure if I can survive this now.”

TIME New Zealand

New Zealand Set to Vote in General Elections Marred by Cybercontroversies

Journalist and author Glenn Greenwald, left, and Kim Dotcom attend a political forum at Town Hall in Auckland, New Zealand Monday, Sept. 15, 2014.
Journalist and author Glenn Greenwald, left, and Kim Dotcom attend a political forum at in Auckland on Sept. 15, 2014 Brett Phibbs—New Zealand Herald/AP

Is the Kiwi nation becoming a bastion of Internet-generation politics?

The climate enveloping New Zealand’s parliamentary elections on Saturday could be branded anything but politics as usual.

The vote marks an end to a campaign season marred by covert Internet bullying, revelations by hackers, and that could see Kim Dotcom, a cyberoutlaw wanted by the FBI, voted into the House of Representatives.

Not even two months ago, incumbent Prime Minister John Key looked set for a comfortable third victory, but then a book release upset the remote island nation’s political equilibrium. In Dirty Politics, investigative journalist Nicky Hager revealed how top members of Key’s cabinet had spread personal information about their opponents to a vitriolic right-wing blogger. Whale Oil, as the blogger is known, then went on to fuel online hatred directed at certain public servants, some of whom ended up receiving death threats from Internet commenters.

Hager claims that the material exposes “the covert attack machine run by the National Party and its allies,” the Guardian reports, and his oeuvre has completely taken over New Zealand’s political discussion ever since. Even though Key was not directly implicated, he’s been widely berated for his feeble response, having deferred sacking those central to the scandal and denouncing Hager as a “screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist.”

Key also lashed out at the fact that Hager’s information was based on personal electronic communications allegedly retrieved by illicit means. “I think there’s a real risk that a hacker, and people with a left-wing agenda, are trying to take an election off New Zealanders,” he said.

That may not necessarily be the case, since Key and his National Party are still looking robust in the polls. Still, there’s a certain sense of the Kiwi elections are taking the shape of a cyberelectoral soap opera.

In the opposite corner stands the 6-ft. 7-in. figure of Kim Dotcom, who made a fortune from his file-sharing website Megaupload, but also drew the ire of the collective Hollywood community and FBI, who wanted him held accountable for infringing on copyright laws. After leading a lavish playboy lifestyle and being the subject of a dramatic 2012 police raid on his estate, German-born Dotcom has turned to politics. The 40-year-old has proclaimed that his Internet Party is the beginning of a global youth movement fighting for expanded freedom and privacy on the web. He is contesting the elections together with the Maori left-wing Mana party, and they look likely to win seats in parliament. Dotcom has also managed to attract international attention to his cause.

On Monday, Dotcom shared an Auckland stage with three other prime U.S. security targets — Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden (the latter two via video link) — for a political forum named “Moment of Truth,” where the trio outlined how Key’s government had worked to implement a mass-surveillance program on its citizens.

Some have tried to downplay both the book release and the forum as spruiking, seeing as both took place so close to the vote. Whale Oil, whose real name is Cameron Slater, is even claiming that Hager’s source is none other than Dotcom himself. However, Hager says he would have “run a mile” if Dotcom had approached him with the leaked material.

“When a source is anonymous, like this person is, it’s possible to imagine all sorts of creepy things about them,” Hager told the Guardian. “But it is an intelligent, thoughtful person, I’m pleased to say — a nonpartisan person who I’m very comfortable working with.”

To date, Dirty Politics is Hager’s best-selling book. It remains to be seen what impact it will have on the elections, and to what extent New Zealand is turning into a bastion of politics for the Internet generation.

More than 3 million registered voters will elect 120 members to New Zealand’s House of Representatives on Saturday, with lawmakers chosen from 71 single-member constituencies and the remainder from party lists.

TIME Ukraine

Moscow Welcomes More Autonomy for Pro-Russian Separatists in Ukraine

Petro Poroshenko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, talks with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kiev, Ukraine, on Sept. 10, 2014. Poroshenko promised on that day to introduce to parliament as early as next week a bill that would offer greater autonomy to rebellious regions in the pro-Russia eastern regions, where separatists have been battling government troops for almost five months Andrew Kravchenko—AP

But some Kiev politicians criticize the new legislation as unpatriotic

Russia has welcomed a new Ukrainian law granting autonomy to separatist-held eastern regions as “a step in the right direction,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“We hope that all provisions of the law will be implemented responsibly,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said, according to the Journal. Moscow then warned that attempts “to cancel it or change its essence will renew the confrontation in the southeast.”

Ukraine’s parliament passed the legislation on Tuesday, together with a law granting amnesty to many of the pro-Russian rebels involved in the five-month insurgency in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has defended the law, which gives the two regions three years of virtual self-governance, guarantees their right to use the Russian language and grants them increased control over their economies.

However, many politicians in Kiev are unhappy, saying that the move is unpatriotic. Poroshenko’s leading political opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Prime Minister, said she would challenge the new legislation in court.

“It is still not too late to go back to a pro-Ukrainian, patriotic position and veto these two laws,” she said, according to the Journal.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian President is expected to request military and economic assistance from the U.S., as he addresses the Congress and meets with President Barack Obama. The Europe and Central Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Hugh Williamson, has urged the U.S. Administration to press Poroshenko’s government to “meet its obligations to protect all civilians” in return.

“Russia’s role in the conflict is no reason for silence on violations by Ukrainian government forces,” Williamson said in a statement Thursday. “Ukraine’s closest friends have the most effective voices to speak with the Ukrainian leadership about human rights concerns, and the Obama administration shouldn’t miss this opportunity.”

HRW has documented serious violations of international humanitarian and human-rights law during the conflict, in which over 2,000 people were killed and over 3,000 injured.

[WSJ]

TIME United Kingdom

Scottish Athletes Are Going to Have to Make a Very Tough Choice

Olympic Games  -  London 2012
Gold medalist Andy Murray of Great Britain poses after the medal ceremony for the men's singles tennis match at the Olympic Games on Aug. 5, 2012, in London Professional Sport—Popperfoto/Getty Images

They'll lose British funding, coaching and facilities if they compete for an independent Scotland

As Thursday’s referendum nears, Britons are pondering what an independent Scotland will mean not just in terms of national identity or the economy, but also in an area dear to the hearts of many on either side of the polling divide: sport.

National allegiances in British sports are not straightforward in the first place. The union fields four national football squads — England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales — but they all unite for the Olympics. Golf players compete for their separate countries, but tennis players don’t. Scottish tennis star Andy Murray serves as the clearest example of the complications of this kind of dual identity: enthusiastically embraced as a Briton when he’s on good form (such as in 2013, when he became the first player from the isles to win Wimbledon in 77 years), but referred to distantly as a Scot when he loses.

Now he and other Scottish sports stars may face a difficult choice. Should Scotland opt out of the union, and they go with it, they risk losing out on the benefits of British funding, coaching and facilities. Even if they stay with Team Great Britain, they’ll have a harder time earning the love of English and Welsh fans. A survey by the Mail on Sunday last week found that 11.9% of U.K. responders outside Scotland would already be less likely to cheer for Murray.

The current world No. 12 has long dodged the question of whether he favors Scottish independence, but recently acknowledged that he might swap the Union Jack for the Saltire if Scotland seceded.

“If Scotland became independent, then I imagine I would be playing for Scotland,” the Guardian reports he told reporters on Aug. 28. “It would be pretty much the first time in my life that I would have ever [had the chance to play for Scotland].”

Murray triumphed in the London Olympics 2012, as did Scottish cyclist Chris Hoy, Great Britain’s most successful Olympian of all time. The Associated Press’ John Leicester notes that English coach Dave Brailsford played an instrumental role in each of Hoy’s six Olympic gold campaigns. Hoy has now retired, but other Scottish athletes may have to weigh the possible shortfalls of Scotland’s inexperience in the Olympics.

Scottish athletes currently make up 10.7% of U.K. Sport’s World Class Programme and will continue to receive funding unless they switch sides. Star sailor Luke Patience, for instance, benefits handsomely from the $40 million allotted to sailing at the 2016 Olympics.

However, pro-independence politician Shona Robison, who serves the Scottish government’s minister for sport, argues that Team Scotland would be equally able to accommodate Olympic hopefuls.

“We will make sure that our athletes absolutely receive the support that they require to enable them to compete at the highest level,” she told AP. “We believe very strongly that the prize of being an athlete competing for the first time for Team Scotland in the Olympics and Paralympics will be something that is hard to resist for the vast majority of athletes.”

But if Scotland votes Yes for independence on Thursday, there may still be a lag before its top athletes jump ship. The country’s own IOC vice president, Craig Reedie, has already said the timetable for Scotland to enter the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 may be too tight, the Telegraph reports. That will give plenty of anxious athletes more time to make up their minds.

TIME South Korea

A U.S. Citizen Who Tried to Swim Into North Korea Has Been Arrested

He reportedly wanted to "meet with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un"

South Korean soldiers have arrested a U.S. citizen attempting to swim across the Han River into North Korea.

A Defense Ministry spokesperson told Agence France-Presse the man, in his 30s, was detained Tuesday night and handed over to the relevant authorities.

“I was trying to go to North Korea in order to meet with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un,” the American told investigators, according to an unnamed government source cited by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

Crossing the heavily militarized border between the two countries, which are officially still at war, is tremendously dangerous. In September, South Korean troops shot dead a compatriot trying to swim to the North. In 1996, a naked and apparently drunk American crossed a river into North Korea from neighboring China on a dare. He was detained for three months on espionage charges before then New Mexico Congressman Bill Richardson secured his release during a visit to Pyongyang.

Three U.S. citizens — Kenneth Bae, Matthew Miller and Jeffrey Fowle — are currently in North Korean detention. Miller was sentenced to six years’ hard labor on Sunday for “hostile” acts against the regime after allegedly tearing up his tourist visa at immigration in May.

TIME could not immediately reach the U.S. embassy in Seoul for comment.

[AFP]

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