TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Iran’s insidious control of Hezbollah and Russia’s operations inside Ukraine call for a new U.S. strategy to counter unconventional warfare.

By Robert A. Newson in Defense One

2. Criminalizing organ donor compensation endangers lives and fuels an unregulated black market.

By Sigrid Fry-Revere and David Donadio in the New Republic

3. Utility rights-of-way — think power lines and pipelines — can become flourishing wildlife habitats.

By Richard Conniff in Yale Environment 360

4. A unique combination of government support and a strong entrepreneur culture has made D.C. a hub for startups.

By Dena Levitz in 1776 DC

5. For the nations of the South Caucasus, the fate of Ukraine means choosing between Russia and the west comes at a high price.

By Maxim Suchkov in Carnegie Moscow Center Eurasia Outlook

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME legal

Xbox One Counterfeiters Accused of Stealing ‘$100 to $200 Million’ in Data

Two of the four indicted U.S. men have pleaded guilty to computer fraud and copyright infringement, and will be sentenced next January.

Four men in the U.S. have been indicted by the Department of Justice for allegedly stealing unreleased software and other data from a series of gaming companies and the U.S. military.

Austin Alcala (18), Nathan Leroux (20), Sanadodeh Nesheiwat (28) and David Pokora (22) were charged with 18 counts of criminal activity, according to the federal indictment filed earlier in April and unsealed September 30. Charges included wire and mail fraud, theft of trade secrets, unauthorized computer access, copyright infringement and identity theft.

The indictment claims the four used SQL attacks and malware to hack into computer systems operated by Microsoft, Epic Games, Valve, Activision Blizzard, Zombie Studios and the U.S. Army itself. The DOJ alleges the hackers stole data ranging from authentication credentials to information about prerelease products in hopes of selling it for profit. The DOJ’s estimated value for all that data: between $100 million and $200 million.

The DOJ said the hacking ring stole information related to Microsoft’s Xbox One game console and Xbox Live online gaming network, Epic’s Gears of War 3 (a third-person tactical shooter), Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (a first-person shooter), and specialized software the U.S. Army uses to train Apache helicopter pilots. To date, the U.S. has seized $620,000 “in cash and other proceeds related to the charged conduct,” said the DOJ.

Two of the men–Nesheiwat and Pokora–have pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and copyright infringement. They’ll be sentenced on January 15 next year, and could serve up to five years prison time. On a side note, the DOJ said it believes Pokora may be the first foreigner convicted for hacking into U.S. companies to steal trade secret info. He was arrested last March while trying to enter the U.S. at Lewiston, New York.

“Today’s guilty pleas show that we will protect America’s intellectual property from hackers, whether they hack from here or from abroad,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell in a statement.

But a fifth person allegedly involved in the ring–an Australian citizen not named in the indictment who reportedly tried to sell a prototype of Microsoft’s Xbox One games console on eBay in August 2012 (the system wasn’t released until November)–told the Guardian that the DOJ’s valuations are “meaningless,” that the group was simply curious and that, save for an act of theft by a single hacker that relates to the DOJ cash grab, it made nothing.

TIME India

A Border Standoff and Free Tibet Protests Mar Xi Jinping’s Arrival in Delhi

INDIA-CHINA-TIBET-POLITICS-PROTEST
Indian police try to prevent exiled Tibetan youths from advancing as they protest against a visit to India by Chinese President Xi Jinping outside a hotel in New Delhi on Sept. 18, 2014 Chandan Khanna—AFP/Getty Images

"There is an ongoing situation," an Indian army official tells media

Updated at 5.31 a.m. EST

Chinese and Indian troops remain locked in a border confrontation that shows little sign of abating, even as Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off his three-day visit to India on Wednesday.

Indian news channel NDTV reported that a large number of Chinese troops crossed about 5 km into the Chumar sector of India’s Ladakh region. The reported incursion prompted India to send three battalions to bolster its border presence, less than 24 hours after a meeting between the two countries to diffuse the issue.

“There is an ongoing situation,” an army headquarters official told Reuters.

According to local media, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought up the incursion in his meeting with Xi on Thursday morning, but no details have emerged.

Relations between India and China appear to have remained positive despite the long-simmering border conflict, with Xi and Modi signing 12 pacts and China promising investments to the tune of $20 billion over the next five years.

“India and China must carry forward friendship and deepen respect,” Xi said Thursday in New Delhi, where his arrival was marred by vehement protests against the Chinese government’s rule in Tibet.

Tibet has been another historic bone of contention between the two countries, with China unhappy about India’s 1959 decision to grant the Dalai Lama asylum.

In a joint press conference after their 90-minute meeting, both leaders spoke of the need and desire to resolve the border issue quickly while carrying forward their rapidly expanding economic partnership.

“There should be peace in our relations and on the borders. If this happens we can realize the true potential of our relations,” said Modi in Hindi, stressing the need to clarify the Line of Actual Control that both countries perceive differently.

Xi, who spoke after Modi, attributed the border issues to long-standing historical disagreements, but said the two nations have made “steady progress” in resolving them and will continue to do so. He said China is determined to work with India to settle the border issue as soon as possible.

New deals signed between the two leaders include major Chinese investment in Indian railways, industrial parks in Gujarat and Maharashtra and potential civil nuclear cooperation. “China and India will act as twin engines in spearheading economic growth in the region,” Xi said.

The Chinese president also outlined plans for cultural exchanges between the two countries, covering areas like education, culture, tourism and film.

TIME India

Kashmir Floods Hampered Emergency Services, Says Chief Minister

Jammu And Kashmir Flood
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah arrives at the airport to inspect the rescue and relief operations following flooding on September 9, 2014 in Srinagar, India. Nitin Kanotra —Hindustan Times / Getty Images

State leader cites lack of communication lines and submerging of infrastructure as reasons why government couldn't respond

Responding to widespread public anger at his government’s handling of the recent Kashmir floods, chief minister Omar Abdullah said floodwaters paralyzed emergency services.

“My government couldn’t respond in the first 24 hours as we didn’t have a government,” Abdullah said in an interview with Indian news channel NDTV. “My secretariat, the police headquarters, the control room, fire services, hospitals, all the infrastructure was underwater,” he said, adding that he was only now able to get in touch with his ministers.

The New York Times had earlier reported widespread anger against the government as the floodwaters receded, with multiple instances of attacks on rescue services being reported.

More than 200 people have been killed over the past week in the worst floods the Kashmir region has seen in five decades, with an equal number perishing in neighboring parts of Pakistan. The Indian army and disaster response forces have collectively transported nearly 100,000 people to safety, but thousands more remain stranded on rooftops waiting for help.

In the state capital, Srinagar, meanwhile, people began taking advantage of receding water levels by looting abandoned homes, according to the Times of India.

More than 700,000 villagers in India and Pakistan have been forced to flee their homes as record flooding sweeps through their neighborhoods.

TIME India

Hundreds Now Dead in India, Pakistan Floods as Rescue Efforts Slammed

India's Central Water Commission in charge of issuing flood advisories has come under fire for not warning the state

Updated: 3:06 a.m. EST

The devastating floods resulting from Kashmir’s worst rains in half a century claimed more lives on Tuesday, with the total death toll now breaching 400 and local people decrying officials for failing to adequately deal with the catastrophe.

Several thousand people are still trapped on rooftops in the restive Himalayan region waiting to be rescued, reports Reuters, and local residents have criticized both the Indian and Pakistani authorities for a lackluster response to the crisis. Indian news channel NDTV reported that some rescue workers were even attacked by furious locals.

Although India’s metrological department had forecast heavy rains in Kashmir last week, the Central Water Commission in charge of issuing flood advisories apparently did not warn the local authorities.

“We were all caught off guard because there was not a single warning issued by the weather office. The flash floods took us by surprise,” an official from India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) told Reuters in New Delhi on the condition of anonymity.

Mohammad Irfan Dar, a New Delhi-based independent filmmaker who originally hails from Srinagar, tells TIME that efforts to organize private relief donations have been thwarted by the authorities.

“In Delhi, most of us are focused on raising awareness, organizing relief and gathering supplies,” he said. “The biggest challenge we are facing is the lack of communication from the state.”

Dar’s says he knows of between 300 and 500 relief volunteers across the Indian capital, some of whom have been dispatched to Kashmir to coordinate efforts there. Air India has offered to take essential supplies for free but only has limited capacity. “Drinking water, especially, is a huge problem right now,” he adds.

India’s armed forces and the NDRF have commissioned 61 aircraft and helicopters along with 170 boats, 40 of which were flown to the affected area on Tuesday. Across the border, the Pakistani army and navy have 12 helicopters and more than 250 boats performing rescue and relief operations, according to local newspaper Dawn.

At least 217 Indians have been killed and more than 47,000 evacuated, say officials, while the Pakistani authorities report at least 231 fatalities.

Srinagar, the capital of both Kashmir and the north Indian state of Jammu, remains mostly submerged along with over 2,000 surrounding villages, although the Times of India has reported a few breakthroughs, such as the restoration of landline communications near the city’s airport and the clearing of the first road link since the floods began.

Several people are rescued from the high floodwaters in Srinagar, northern India.

TIME Military

Bowe Bergdahl Questioning on Disappearance Set to Begin

Bergdahl Being Treated At U.S. Military Hospital In Germany
UNDATED - In this undated image provided by the U.S. Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl poses in front of an American flag. U.S. officials say Bergdahl, the only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan, was exchanged for five Taliban commanders being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to published reports. Bergdahl is in stable condition at a Berlin hospital, according to the reports. (Photo by U.S. Army via Getty Images) U.S. Army—Getty Images

Army investigators are expected to probe allegations of desertion from Wednesday

Army investigators will begin questioning Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on Wednesday about the circumstances leading up to his disappearance from an Afghanistan observation post and eventual capture by Taliban militants in 2009.

Bergdahl’s attorney, Eugene Fidell, told NBC News that Bergdahl will report to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Tex., where he will face questioning about his motivations to leave his encampment, which led to five years of captivity at the hands of Taliban militants.

The Obama administration negotiated Bergdahl’s release in May in exchange for five senior Taliban prisoners. Some soldiers that served with Bergdahl in Afghanistan, including his former squad leader, have accused Bergdahl of deliberately abandoning his post. Investigators will determine whether the allegations are substantial enough to file charges of desertion.

Fidell, in a previous interview with TIME, cast doubt on the assertion that Bergdahl left his post with the intention of staying away, and even then, would not necessarily face charges of desertion. “It’s utterly discretionary as a matter of clemency, a matter of judgment, and indeed even as a matter of politics,” he said.

[NBC News]

TIME Military

The U.S. Army Is Laying Off Black Majors at a Disproportionate Rate

Almost 10% of black majors are being retrenched

The U.S. Army’s retrenchment of 550 majors is hitting black officers considerably harder than those from other ethnic groups.

Almost a tenth of the army’s black majors are being let go, while the same proportion for white majors is only 5.6% and 8% for Hispanics, reports USA Today.

The Army intends to cut its force from 513,000 to 490,000 soldiers by the end of 2015 and has already culled about 1,000 captains from its ranks. Bad performance evaluations have weighed heavily in retrenchment decisions

Combat veterans have been hit especially hard with nearly 9 out of 10 of the dismissed having at least two years combat experience.

[USA Today]

TIME Military

Lawyer: Bergdahl ‘Deeply Grateful’ to Obama

Bergdahl Being Treated At U.S. Military Hospital In Germany
Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for nearly five years before being released in May. U.S. Army / Getty Images

Army sergeant held by Taliban believes President’s decision “saved his life,” his attorney Eugene Fidell tells TIME

No one’s heard anything yet from Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner-of-war freed in a May 31 swap for five Taliban leaders after nearly five years as a Taliban prisoner. He hasn’t spoken to the press—by all accounts, he hasn’t even spoken to his parents. But, in typical American fashion, he has retained—and spoken to—an attorney.

“Sergeant Bergdahl is deeply grateful to President Obama for having saved his life,” Eugene Fidell, retained a week ago by the soldier, told TIME on Wednesday.

Fidell has traveled to Texas—where Bergdahl has returned to active duty at a desk job in San Antonio following his “re-integration” back into the service—to discuss with his client the investigation into the circumstances leading up to Bergdahl’s abduction in 2009. The attorney declined to offer any insights into Bergdahl’s mood, legal defense, or relationship with his family. Bergdahl also has an Army lawyer.

Eugene Fidell Yale

But Fidell did suggest the case—now being investigated by a two-star Army major general—is more complicated than he originally thought. That’s saying something: Fidell is a prominent military-law expert who lectures at Yale Law School on the topic, and former president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

“Before I was in the case, I was skeptical that the investigation called for a major general,” Fidell says. “I thought that a talented lieutenant colonel would be more than enough horsepower—I thought it was overkill.” Army officials say Major General Kenneth Dahl has yet to interview Bergdahl.

Fidell said he has changed his mind as he has dived into the case. “Based on what I now know about the complexity of the issues, which are in a number of spheres that I’m not going to get into, I understand why the Army thought that a general officer should be involved,” Fidell adds. “I now understand why management thought that it was a good idea to have a two-star officer doing this investigation.”

The lawyer, who has taken the case pro bono—without pay—declined to discuss the specifics that led him to change his mind. But Bergdahl’s case is complex: according to the soldiers with whom he served, Bergdahl simply walked away from his combat outpost in June 2009 before being captured by the Taliban along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Some of those troops have called Bergdahl a deserter, and alleged that fellow soldiers died hunting for him.

Questions also surround the Army’s decision to allow Bergdahl to enlist, two years after he washed out of Coast Guard boot camp after only 26 days. And lawmakers on Capitol Hill have criticized Obama for giving up five senior Taliban leaders for Bergdahl, now 28.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., told TIME on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe the swap was in the nation’s interest. “We were duty bound to bring him back, but I think we’re duty bound to bring him back in the right way,” said the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness subcommittee. “What other opportunities were there for us to secure Sergeant Bergdahl’s release besides releasing these five high-ranking Taliban officials?…we did increase the risk to Americans and American interests by releasing these five.”

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said that Bergdahl is now free to come and go like any other soldier. “He’s free to leave base…he’s not under any particular restrictions,” Kirby said. “And I would remind you, he’s not been charged with anything.”

TIME Military

Navy Nurse Refuses Gitmo Force Feed Order

Guantanamo Hunger Strike
In this photo Nov. 20, 2013 file photo reviewed by the U.S. military, a U.S. Navy nurse stands next to a chair with restraints, used for force-feeding, and a tray displaying nutritional shakes, a tube for feeding through the nose, and lubricants, including a jar of olive oil, during a tour of the detainee hospital at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Charles Dharapak—AP

A detainee described the act as a conscientious objection

A Navy medical officer at the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba has refused an order to continue force-feeding hunger-striking prisoners in what one detainee lawyer described as an act of conscientious objection.

“There was a recent instance of a medical provider not willing to carry-out the enteral feeding of a detainee. The matter is in the hands of the individual’s leadership,” a Pentagon spokesperson said in an email. “The service member has been temporarily assigned to alternate duties with no impact to medical support operations.”

It is the first known instance of a U.S. service member rebelling against the Pentagon’s force-feeding policy. An unknown number of the 149 detainees at Guantánamo’s Camp Delta have been on hunger strike for the past year and a half to protest their indefinite detention.

News of the refusal comes to the public by way of an attorney for one of the detainees, who, according to The Miami Herald, says his client described how some time before the Fourth of July a Navy medical nurse suddenly shifted course and refused to continue force-feeding prisoners. The nurse, he said, was abruptly removed from duty at the detention center. The attorney said his client described the nurse’s action as a conscientious objection.

The Herald reports that the prisoner who provided news of the incident described the nurse as a roughly 40-year-old Latino man most likely with the rank of lieutenant in the Navy.

Last year, civilian doctors writing for the New England Journal of Medicine declared that medical professionals taking part in force-feeding was unethical and called the Guantánamo medical staff to refuse to participate.

TIME Military

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl Is Venturing Off Base as Part of Reintegration

Bowe Bergdahl
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl AP

Held captive by the Taliban for five years, he's now being reintegrated with society

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the prisoner of war in Afghanistan who recently returned to the U.S. after five years of captivity, is regularly going off post to dine, shop and do other chores, according to Lieut. Colonel Carol McClelland.

“He’s been doing it for at least a week,” the Army spokeswoman tells TIME, adding that it was a normal component of his reintegration into society. On visits to San Antonio, he has been accompanied by members of his reintegration team, including a psychologist, according to the Associated Press.

Bergdahl, 28, was shifted last week to outpatient care at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. He was freed by the Taliban on May 31 in a prisoner exchange for five senior Taliban officials held at Guantánamo Bay, and arrived in the U.S. on June 13. He was initially being treated in the U.S. at Brooke Army Medical Center.

As part of the reintegration process, the Army is increasing his exposure to people and social settings incrementally. It’s still unknown if his parents, who has asked for privacy since Bergdahl’s return, has visited their son.

The Army is still investigating circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s departure from his outpost in June 2009 before his capture.

With reporting by Mark Thompson

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