TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 17

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

1. Bill Gates has some notes for Thomas Piketty: Tackle income inequality by taxing consumption, not capital.

By Bill Gates in Gates Notes

2. Thousands have died as Central African Republic slides toward civil war, but media coverage is scant. Is there an empathy gap?

By Jared Malsin in the Columbia Journalism Review

3. Europe’s apprentice model isn’t a perfect fit for U.S. manufacturing, but it could change the way we train a new generation of blue-collar workers.

By Tamar Jacoby in the New America Foundation Weekly Wonk

4. Ebola may be gruesome but it’s not the biggest threat to Africa.

By Fraser Nelson in the Guardian

5. In dry California, regulators are using an innovative pricing scheme to push conservation.

By Sarah Gardner at Marketplace

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 foreign affairs

How to Change Course in Central African Republic

CENTRAFRICA-FRANCE-UNREST
A wounded man waits for assistance during a disarmament operation by French soldiers in Bangui, on December 9, 2013. AFP—AFP/Getty Images

Protection on the ground must be enhanced sooner than the United Nations has mandated, and donors need to own up to their outstanding pledges

Recent outrages in Bangui, the war-torn capital of the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), lay bare that the world is dangerously close to failing the country once again.

On March 25, three Muslim boys went to play an interfaith football match in the city. Before they could reach the stadium, they were caught by fighters from the anti-balaka, the predominantly Christian militia. The boys were murdered and mutilated on the street, their chests cut open, their hearts ripped out and their penises cut off.

Just three days later, armed Muslim youths retaliated by attacking a church sheltering thousands of displaced persons. They used grenades and sprayed gunfire into helpless crowds, killing at least 15 and wounding 30. In response to the attack, youth pillaged and vandalized one of Bangui’s last mosques. The fear that the anti-balaka and mobs of civilians will unleash their fury on the remaining Muslims of C.A.R., of which 80 percent have been forced to flee or have been killed, is palpable.

These gruesome attacks are part of a long-simmering socio-political crisis that has mobilized religious and ethnic communities against one another since December 2012. A cycle of tit-for-tat violence between the Séléka, the predominantly Muslim rebel alliance that overthrew the government of former President François Bozizé in March 2013, and the anti-balaka, which surfaced in force in response to Séléka exactions against non-Muslims in C.A.R., has been devastating for civilians. Thousands of other lives have been lost, and there may be countless untold atrocities.

Warnings of the inadequacy of the response have been ringing for months. The 2,000 French troops and 5,800 African Union (A.U.) peacekeepers on the ground have been unable to quell rising violence and stem atrocities in C.A.R. They are overstretched and under-resourced. The response to the church attack is telling: A.U. troops were called, but arrived too late. While a 600- to 800-strong European Union force is currently deploying to patrol the airport and surrounding districts in Bangui, this is simply not enough.

With violence increasing in Bangui and the interior of C.A.R., drastic action must be taken. First, protection on the ground must be enhanced. Sites sheltering displaced persons, particularly churches and the few remaining mosques, must be permanently protected. A.U. and French forces have a mandate to use “all necessary means” to protect civilians; they should not hesitate to do so and disarm and neutralize armed groups threatening civilians.

The U.N. Security Council has mandated the deployment of a 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping operation to respond to the situation. But troops and police will only start deploying on Sept. 15, 2014, and only through April 2015. C.A.R. civilians can’t wait that long. The Security Council should consider amending the mandate of the mission to get U.N. forces on the ground before September. The Security Council favored a flexible mandate for the mission that adapted to the realities on the ground; it’s time to demonstrate that flexibility in the name of protecting civilians.

The U.N. Secretary-General’s call for an additional 3,500 troops to bolster the A.U. and French troops must also be answered. Sizeable troop and police contributions from a few Western governments would have an immense impact on the ground. Additional African countries should also join the A.U. force, and the U.S. and E.U. countries should continue to assist them.

But troops alone will not be enough. The interim government is struggling immensely and needs urgent support from donors to revive it. Targeted investment in building the judicial capacities of the state and supporting local justice mechanisms is needed to help break the cycle of impunity. International experts should also be swiftly dispatched to C.A.R. to assist the government in its mediation and reconciliation efforts. Finally, only 31% of the U.N.’s appeal for humanitarian aid has been funded—donors must own up to their outstanding pledges as the impending rainy season adds further misery to C.A.R.’s displaced.

The world has a track record of failure in C.A.R. Unless we quickly change course, 20 years from now we’ll be lamenting the insufficient response to yet another preventable tragedy in the heart of Africa. Conscience demands we write a new script in C.A.R.

Evan Cinq-Mars works with the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

TIME central african republic

‘A Question of Humanity': Witness to the Turning Point In Central African Republic

Almost six months after thousands of foreign peacekeepers waded into Central African Republic in a bid to control the fallout from street fighting that left hundreds dead in the capital of Bangui, they remain unable to stem the killing and population shift that has begun to redefine its makeup.

Their arrival under a United Nations mandate forced a retreat by the disbanded militants of Séléka, the mainly Muslim rebel coalition that seized control earlier that year and began a campaign of looting and killing largely against non-Muslims. But that power void, exacerbated by a lax justice system, was quickly filled by anti-balaka. The groups of armed vigilantes, initially organized to combat local crime and whose ranks of Christians and animists includes ex-soldiers, have fought back against the militants and furiously targeted the Muslim minority, which they view as complicit in Séléka’s unpunished abuses.

Anti-balaka now stand accused of crimes worse than what prompted their retaliation as the burning of whole villages and gruesome mutilations, among other threats and attacks, have killed an untold number of people and pushed hundreds of thousands of others from their homes. Amid tales of ethnic cleansing in the west and as reports of crude attacks surface in the east, where Séléka remains in control and is regrouping, the country continues to slide into perhaps the bloodiest and most unstable crossroads of its independence.

Italian photojournalist Ugo Lucio Borga, of the Echo Photo Agency, witnessed this turning point first-hand when he arrived in January. He took advantage of a connection with an army sergeant-turned-commander of a Bangui-based anti-balaka militia, who he met years ago in the remote southeast while covering the hunt for Joseph Kony, the elusive leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. With prime access to their day-to-day happenings, he could document the conflict as anti-balaka became more brazen and learn more about the fighters beyond the amulets they wear as “protection.”

“They are really young people without education, without culture, but they needed to do something to stop the violence from the Séléka,” he told TIME. With most schools out of operation and seemingly few families who hadn’t seen bloodshed, he could see why they so easily took up arms. “Now the problem is that they know what war really means and they have become another people. They are now fighters.”

Throughout his trip, during which he also shadowed French troops and peacekeepers from Rwanda and Burundi, Borga saw the effect on children—“after one year of violence, continued violence, they consider the situation normal”—and became more aware of the roots of the conflict. The fighting, after decades of corruption and meddling by external influencers, appeared to take on a more religious undertone and sparked concerns of a partition in a country where Christians and Muslims have historically lived in peace, despite instances of marginalization. But Borga found that not all anti-balaka wanted to outright rid the country of its Muslims. This specific militia told him they targeted foreigners because, among other reasons, Séléka included militants from Chad and Sudan.

Borga left in February having captured a series of raw, intense scenes that stand out for their intimacy. He plans to return ahead of the elections, scheduled for February 2015, but knows that making a big influence is a tall order when the conflict is so neglected on the international stage. Still, it’s the ability to inform that drives him, as well as an innate curiosity as to how it will end: “I think it’s a question of humanity, if it exists somewhere.”

TIME

Pictures of the Week: May 16 – May 23

From the public opening of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum to unprecedented flooding in Bosnia and Serbia, from student protests in Kenya and a traveling panda, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

TIME

Pictures of the Week: April 25 – May 2

From tornadoes and floods across the US to the canonization of two popes, to preparations for the Kentucky Derby and witches on a train, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

TIME

Pictures of the Week April 18 – April 25

From mourning the victims of the South Korean ferry disaster to the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, to Obama in Japan and the running of the Boston Marathon, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

TIME Religion

What Americans Don’t Know About The Central African Republic

Most Americans know nothing about the Central African Republic. They guess that it must be in the middle of Africa, but that’s about it. When told where it is and the societal chaos and slaughter in CAR, they always ask why it’s not more in the news.

Although I’ve traveled to much of the world including Africa, I had never been there until this month. The U.S. State Department invited a trio of American religious leaders to travel to the capital city of Bangui to see for ourselves and to talk peace. The three included Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Muslim Imam Mohamed Magid (President of the Islamic Society of North America) and me. Why us? According to TIME Magazine, the religious composition of CAR is 52 percent evangelicals, 29 percent Catholics and 15 percent Muslims.

We met with our counterparts in CAR, Catherine Samba-Panza (the transitional president of CAR), members of her administration, and representatives of the conflicting military groups. Our meetings were at a closed mosque, the Cathedral, the president’s residence and the home of the U.S. ambassador (although there is no current ambassador since our embassy has been suspended).

It’s not easy to explain what’s been happening. And, not everyone agrees to any explanation. The best chronology begins with a corrupt and failed central government that has been accused of injustice and incompetence. A rebel group called Seleka swept across the country with brutality and established a new government with a new president. The new president didn’t last long. An anti-balaka militia organized for protection and retaliation against the Seleka and have been accused of further brutality. A transitional government has been established, but it is poor, weak and often overwhelmed.

We heard stories that break your heart. Thousands killed, often with machetes. Widespread rape. Destruction of homes, shops and villages. There were 36 mosques in Bangui; now there are seven. One man told us that 13 of his brothers were burned to death the same day. Another told about a hand grenade thrown into a group of people while they prayed.

The National Highway was closed by all the unrest, so trucks and supplies can’t access the country. Villagers have fled into the bush out of fear; their villages are empty, and no crops are being planted. One million people have fled the country or are internally displaced. There is a refugee camp at the little airport that swelled to 100,000.

Seeds for planting are not available; some will be imported from Cameroon, but they are also in short supply and giving priority to their own farmers saying that any surplus will be sold to CAR. There is threat of wide-scale famine. Before all this CAR was one of the poorest nations in the world with people living on less that $2 per day. Current shortages are inflating food prices. In Bangui, the capital of CAR, chickens are selling for $12 each. (To make a comparison: If you earn $50,000 a year in the United States, it would cost you over $800 to buy one chicken for your family.)

We were in Africa on the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the genocide in Rwanda. There were repeated testimonies of foreign nations apologizing for not going to Rwanda and stopping the horrors before they turned into genocide. We need to take our own apologies and advice to do more in the Central African Republic.

Some say that this is a religious battle between Christians and Muslims. It is a common assertion in our western press. I can see why they say this, since there are similar lines politically, demographically and religiously. However, the leaders we talked to in CAR insist this is not a religious war. To the contrary, the religious leaders are the loudest most courageous voices against the violence and the strongest promoters of peace.

The word needs to get out. The whole world knows about the missing Malaysian airplane with 239 passengers and crew. Forty four million dollars have already been spent on the search. But, there are thousands missing in CAR, and it barely makes the news. International troops under United Nations leadership need to establish order and rebuild infrastructure. And relief and development assistance should be immediately deployed.

As we sat in the ambassador’s residence, one of the militia representatives said that the people of CAR have not made God the priority. He said that most important in the Central African Republic is for the people of the nation to turn their hearts and actions to God. His prayer was that human tragedy would turn into spiritual renewal.

Leith Anderson is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals

TIME Africa

U.N. Authorizes Peacekeeping Mission to Central African Republic

African peacekeeping mission troops known as MISCA,  listen to U.S Ambassador to the U.N Samantha Power in Bangui, Central African Republic.
African peacekeeping-mission troops listen to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power in Bangui, Central African Republic, April 9, 2014. Jerome Delay—AP

The Security Council has unanimously authorized a proposal to send nearly 12,000 peacekeepers and police officers to the dangerously destabilized country in mid-September, an effort to aid foreign forces already working to cap daily violence and restore order

The U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to send thousands of peacekeepers and police into the Central African Republic, where a year of unprecedented violence has destabilized the chronically poor country to perhaps the worst point in its modern history.

The 15-member council unanimously authorized an almost 12,000-member force that will include 1,800 police officers, fold in about 5,200 African Union peacekeepers and support the 2,000 French troops already on the ground. Aid groups and human-rights organizations have warned for months that the increasingly grim situation would not improve without more security personnel.

Thousands of people have been killed since March 2013, when the predominantly Muslim rebel coalition Séléka toppled the government, installed its commander as President and began a campaign of looting, torture and killing that largely targeted Christians. Bands of self-defense vigilantes called anti-balaka, comprising mostly Christians and animists as well as former soldiers loyal to the ousted President, gradually rose up and have grown more violent in response.

In early December, attacks between the two sides in the capital, Bangui, left hundreds dead and resulted in rapid troop deployments by France and the African Union. But in the months afterward, following Séléka’s retreat and the President’s step-down, anti-balaka have retaliated so fiercely that a significant portion of the country’s Muslim population has fled or been killed.

Those who remain are located in the eastern region, where Séléka still holds clout, or are unable to leave several towns in the north or west without harm. The U.N. is now looking into how to safeguard them and may take part in the evacuation or relocation of some 19,000 people who it says desire a way out.

Thursday’s vote comes just days after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Bangui for the first time since the December flare-up. While he used the opportunity to acknowledge that foreign forces there are “under-resourced and overwhelmed,” he urged the Security Council to approve his proposal for more troops and detailed a laundry list of abuses committed over the past few months.

“Muslims and Christians have been placed in mortal danger simply because of who they are or what they believe. The security of the state has been replaced by a state of anarchy,” Ban said. “People have been lynched and decapitated. Sexual violence is on the rise. Gruesome acts have been committed while others cheered on the perpetrators. There has been total impunity — zero accountability. This must change.”

Ban’s trip coincided with the two-decade anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and preceded the few-hours stopover by Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., on Wednesday. Power’s visit, her second since December, occurred as Chad had already begun to pull its 850 troops out of the African Union’s peacekeeping force over accusations they were responsible for the recent civilian deaths, leaving a security gap that French and Cameroonian forces were aiming to fill.

Power took to Twitter after the resolution passed on Thursday, calling the authorization a “critical step to help end horrific atrocities.”

TIME faith

Don’t Blame The Central African Republic Conflict On Religion

We in the United States need to act to help our brothers and sisters in the Central African Republic

Recently, I was invited to attend a dinner for a delegation of religious leaders from Central African Republic (CAR). Seated at the table were Catholic, evangelical, and Muslim leaders, as well as those leading the relief and advocacy efforts in CAR. The purpose of the dinner was to make connections with American counterparts and to help shed light on the crisis.

Media portrayals of CAR have focused on a Christian vs Muslim narrative which distracts from the political and economic instability that led to the overthrow of the government in March 2013 and resulted in protracted violence . The conflict did not start as a religious war and as these three faith leaders demonstrate, it is not rooted in theological differences.

But the religious narrative that should be shared is the story of these three men—Dieudonné Nzapalainga, theCatholic Archbishop of Bangui; Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, President of the Central African Islamic Community; and Reverend Nicolas Guérékoyame, President of the Evangelical Alliance of the Central African Republic. They have a strong, unified desire to see peace and stability restored to their country, to protect the Muslim citizens who are fleeing the violence, and to bring reconciliation to their war-torn neighbors. They are already living out their faith in powerful ways—since December, the Archbishop has housed Imam Oumar Kobine Layama and his family because their home was destroyed. Rev. Guérékoyame asked the group to pray that the Imam and his family would be able to have a new home in order to live securely and to meet with the remaining Muslims in the country. And in fact, the Reverend himself shared that he’s often on the phone with his family because his neighborhood is being overtaken by violence.

As the night continued, the three faith leaders shared some hard truths about the conflict in their country. CAR is 180 out of 187 on the UN’s Human Development Index. Much of the violence has arisen due to political instability which has led to economic instability. There are only 20 registered businesses in the country. There is very little normal schooling. Many of the young men were recruited to join the Seleka—a loose alliance of bandits, fighters, and rebels, often from Muslim countries outside CAR—because they were promised jobs in the army. The jobs never materialized. And many of the young men involved in the anti-balaka, the largely Christian groups that formed in retaliation, are motivated because they don’t have work. Commenting on the massive unemployment that has crippled his country and contributed to the violence, Rev. Guérékoyame, pointed out, “When a young person has a way to get his daily bread, he won’t be manipulated.”

And the faith leaders are rightfully concerned about the suffering young people in their country. Archbishop Nzapalainga spoke at length about the efforts the leaders are taking to re-educate the youth in their country toward peace. “We knock on the door of their mind, which is created in the image of God and say ‘thou shalt not kill.’”

Sharing a meal with these men was a reminder of what we believe as Christians —that through the cross we’ve become part of a family and identity that transcends nationality, race, class, and political and theological distinctions.

It is a fact that it’s easy for many Christians, particularly in America, to forget. As the Rev. Guérékoyame said to the group, “We are your brothers and sisters. We’ve been wondering when you are going to help us.”

I asked the question at dinner and I ask it now here: How can we help?

The primary concern is the political instability in their country. The United States should reopen our embassy in CAR. If the ambassador had remained in the country, the decision to get troops earlier to secure the country may have been expedited. We must also request that our ambassadors to the UN fulfil the humanitarian pledges we’ve made.

It has not escaped the notice of many of us who care about this issue that 20 years ago this past Monday, the Rwandan genocide began. Approximately one million Rwandans were killed during the crisis—which was largely ignored by many in the west who failed to act sooner. Starting today, aid groups and individuals plan to call attention to CAR on Twitter using the hashtag #CARcrisis. The best way to honor the dead is to prevent other lives from being lost due to inaction.

Because our brothers and sisters in CAR are wondering, “when are you going to help us?”

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

TIME faith

Central African Republic: Christians and Muslims Counter Ethnic Cleansing

The central mosque of Bangui once held about 2,000 internally displaced people but now the number has dwindled as Muslims seek to leave the area where they have been persecuted in recent months by "anti-balaka" militias, Bangui, Central African Republic, March 13, 2014.
The central mosque of Bangui once held about 2,000 internally displaced people but now the number has dwindled as Muslims seek to leave the area where they have been persecuted in recent months by "anti-balaka" militias, Bangui, Central African Republic, March 13, 2014. Rick Loomis—Los Angeles Times/Polaris

An interreligious delegation comprised of top Christian and Muslim leaders from Central African Republic travelled to the United States this March, determined to tell their country’s tale of conflict and compromise.

Reverend Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou, president of the Evangelical Alliance of the Central African Republic, represents the Protestant community (52% of the population); Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, president of the Central African Republic Islamic Community, represents the Muslim community (15% of the population); and the Most Reverend Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, represents the Catholic Church (29% of the population).

This week, these three leaders are hosting U.S. religious and political leaders for a mirror visit to CAR. The group includes representatives from the National Association of Evangelicals, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services, and the Islamic Society of North America, along with Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Donald Koran and Stephen Rapp, Ambassador-at-large, Global Criminal Justice.

We came to the United States of America almost a year since our country was set on fire, and still the flames of violence and vengeance are threatening to burn down a history of peace and coexistence in the Central African Republic. Today, security remains the rarest of commodities in our country as men, women and children fear the neighbours they grew up with.

Yet, despite the horrific violence, hope endures. Hope that fires can be put out, wounds healed and a country rebuilt. As religious leaders whose congregations represent almost the entire country, we are clear as to both our moral responsibility and the steps needed to take us out of the darkness. Our voice is strong, our message is simple. We support newly elected President Catherine Samba-Panza and her urgent call for a UN peacekeeping operation as soon as possible to take over from the African and French troops currently on the ground. This UN Operation must be robust not only to help restore security, law and order in our country, but it must bring resources to help rebuild our country’s administration. Without strong institutions, we risk the repeat of cycles of violence.

In meetings with US policymakers this past month we were asked repeatedly if ethnic cleansing is on the horizon. The answer is yes – if nothing more is done the violence will spiral into just that. We however reject the idea that this is a religious conflict. We, Muslims and Christians, grew up in peace. As children, we played together with the toys received at Christmas; we shared feasts of lamb at every Eid celebration. We went to the same schools, we learned and played together. Muslim, Christian, animist – we didn’t know the difference. As we celebrated each others’ customs, we embraced diversity. This richness was the foundation of our society. It was in the past and it could be again in the future.

Yet in the present, our social fabric has eroded as the state failed and militias began to violently organise against each other, breeding a vicious cycle of revenge and reprisals. People have used religion as a pretext, a cover for their ambitions of power, but never has an Imam, a Bishop or a Pastor led the fighting or justified the killing. CAR has become the dustbin of Africa, home to rubbish expelled from elsewhere. Foreign mercenaries from neighbouring countries crossed our borders and looted, undeterred. Questions over Muslims supporting the gunmen aroused suspicions, and entire neighbourhoods, many of them Christian families, became resentful of the abuses. A simple case of flawed perceptions and misunderstandings, fed by anger over loss of relatives, the destruction of homes and lack of a better alternative due to chronic poverty and corruption, spun into violent rampage.

We recognize the tremendous role that the US have done to provide life-saving assistance and the support of the US military to transport troops from other African countries to help restore stability. We are currently asking for partnership to help resolve the current crisis that has killed thousands of our countrymen, and to help us to eradicate the roots of this hatred and violence. We recognize that it will be long, hard work, but we need to help ensure that this does not happen again.

While the root causes of the current conflict no doubt need to be addressed, the most immediate, pressing task is to have UN blue helmets on the ground to quell the violence and lead efforts to disarm the gangs that roam the land. It is a daunting task, and whilst the African and French troops currently on the ground have done a valiant job, security can only be made a reality if there are more and better equipped forces on the ground. Let us have no doubt that the remarkable work of African and French forces has saved the lives of thousands. However their efforts must be buttressed. If the UN is mandated to send peacekeepers, a larger number of troops can cover our vast country – which is almost the size of Texas – more effectively. Undoubtedly, this will require a higher financial contribution by the international community but these peacekeepers will be better equipped, meaning they can act more quickly to save lives. Recently, we witnessed African troop commanders being called on their cell phones to receive instructions to intervene. By the time soldiers arrive on the scene to disarm and protect civilians – often on foot because of too few vehicles – it is usually too late. A robust UN peacekeeping force will also allow neutral troops who are not party to the conflict to disarm and neutralise all armed groups, regardless of whether they are anti-Balaka, Seleka or members of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Since last March, thousands have died, over one million have fled their homes and over half the population has become dependent on aid. The best way to honour the fallen is find a sustainable peace and rebuild the country. Whilst we, as leaders of faith, work to heal the hearts of our nation, we look to the international community to support our fragile democracy. We need our American friends to help us rebuild our country so that our vision of a country where Central Africans live again in peace and harmony can be fulfilled.

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