TIME Innovation

Your Future Co-Worker Will Be a Robot

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

These are today's best ideas

1. The robots don’t want our jobs. They want to be our co-workers.

By Ben Schiller in Fast Co.Exist

2. Scientists found the secret to better drone cameras: swans.

By Bjorn Carey in Stanford News

3. Colleges are admitting students based on data mined from social media accounts.

By Emmanuel Felton in Hechinger Report

4. Can legalizing bribery — and taxing it — curb corruption?

By Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg View

5. See how Kenya is using empty TV spectrum to get the rural countryside online.

By Jacob Kushner in Ozy

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 Macau

A Wave of Guest Kidnappings Spurs Macau Casinos to Take Out Abductions Insurance

Visitors from mainland China wait outside a casino in Macau
Bobby Yip—Reuters Visitors from mainland China wait outside a casino in Macau on July 20, 2015

The trend is linked to harsher economic times on the Chinese mainland

Macau’s glitzy hotels and casinos are taking out insurance policies to protect themselves against a new threat to the house — the abduction of wealthy guests over unpaid gambling debts.

The risk of kidnapping has increased significantly in recent months as fewer numbers flock to the Chinese Special Administrative Region that also serves as the world’s largest gambling hub, reports the South China Morning Post.

This partly due to China’s slowing economy, meaning falling revenues for moneylenders that rely heavily on tourists from the mainland. As Beijing limits the amount of cash visitors can legally take to Macau, many high-stakes gamblers use local loan sharks for ready cash, which can be perilous if the cards and dice prove unfriendly.

As most kidnappings occur in guests’ rooms, hotels could face lawsuits from victims and their families. The insurance policies mitigate this risk with coverage for legal liability and crisis responders.

The Macau government reports that as many as 170 people were held against their will during the first six months of this year — more than double the figure for the same period of 2014. However, these are only the cases the authorities know about, with experts saying the true total is likely much higher.

According to Ashley Coles, an assistant director of credit, political and security risks at Jardine Lloyd Thompson, this has lent to a climate of fear.

“Word of mouth can lead to a trend of an interest in the policy, security and the protection,” he told the SCMP. “All the major casino and hotel chains will have looked into this.”


TIME Malaysia

Malaysians Gather Peacefully to Demand a New Politics

Manan Vatsyayana—AFP/Getty Images Protesters gather near Merdeka Square during an antigovernment rally in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 29, 2015

The historic rally in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday drew tens of thousands, but saw no violence

Tens of thousands of Malaysians assembled near Kuala Lumpur’s Merdeka Square on Saturday to demand that Prime Minister Najib Razak step down from office.

The rally, one of the largest demonstrations against Malaysia’s government in recent memory, was the culmination of escalating public hostility toward Najib, especially after the Wall Street Journal reported that his private bank accounts held over $700 million in funds purportedly siphoned off a struggling state investment fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad. Officials say the money came from private donors to be spent on the last general elections in 2013.

But, on Saturday, the call of the day — and the name of the anticorruption movement that organized it — was bersih, which means clean in Malay.

“Today, this matter is uniting the voice of the people of Malaysia, regardless of race, religion, age, or even politics,” Lim Kit Siang, head of Malaysia’s opposition coalition, told TIME. He stood next to Mohamad Sabu, who leads the country’s new, moderate Islamic party. “We all want to save Malaysia — to promote good governance, to reaffirm the promise of democracy.

Though the government declared the demonstration unlawful, going so far as to criminalize the antigovernment’s yellow T-shirts, a historically large crowd gathered in the streets of Kuala Lumpur City Centre by early afternoon on Saturday, appearing from afar as a sea of neon.

“We’ve curbed our fear of the state, it seems,” K. Arumugam, a human-rights lawyer in the capital, said about the public’s dismissal of state warnings. “People are aware that they need to stand up.

Unlike past demonstrations against Najib’s leadership, which have typically been the domain of student activists, laborers, and the politicians who support them, Saturday’s rally was in many respects a sociopolitical cross section of Malaysia at large. Families came out in droves. White-collar executives were said to have booked rooms at five-star hotels near Merdeka Square as to be close to the political action, which organizers intended to continue through Sunday night.

The turnout spoke to the endemic national frustration with what is seen as equally endemic political corruption. The recent accusations of malfeasance first levied in the Wall Street Journal last month — which Najib has denied, even sacking his Deputy Prime Minister for encouraging transparency in the matter — are only the latest development in a sociopolitical system marked by ethnic tension and economic languor.

“It’s supposed to be that the government works for us, not that we work for the government,” Jasmine Sim, a 30-year-old interior designer, tells TIME. “People are feeling the pinch of living in Malaysia. Our standard of living is worse and more expensive. Our society is built on old racial lines.

Though the historical underpinnings of the current situation are complex, many Malaysians equate contemporary struggles with the leadership of Najib, who took office in 2009 and was returned in 2013 despite losing the popular vote in that election. (Malaysia’s Parliament operates under a “first past the post” voting system.)

“He promised transparency, he said he’d take away draconian laws … and people bought into that, until 2010, 2011, when people realized what he was saying and what he was doing were completely different,” Wong Chen, a Member of Parliament representing the opposition coalition, tells TIME as he travels to the demonstration.

The amplification of popular dissent in recent months had led some to anticipate violence at this weekend’s demonstration. But unlike past rallies, which have ended when the police used tear gas and water cannons, the atmosphere near Merdeka Square on Saturday was urgent but largely festive. Protesters tooted loudly on air horns. A group of students sang Dylanesque protest songs in Malay, interspersed with a few chords of Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ ’Bout a Revolution.”

One protester, standing near a stage where opposition leaders led the crowd in anti-Najib chants, raised a sign that said “Najib: Today Is My Birthday. Please Resign as a Gift to Me.”

Read next: Police Arrest Foreigner in Bangkok Shrine Bombing

TIME Malaysia

Large Crowds Are Gathering to Demand the Ouster of Malaysia’s Prime Minister

Hostility towards the beleaguered Najib Razak is heightening as a massive financial corruption scandal comes to light

Thousands of protesters are expected to take to the streets of Kuala Lumpur and other Malaysian cities on Saturday to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Popular discontent with Najib’s leadership has rapidly escalated since early last month, when an exposé in The Wall Street Journal revealed that his private bank accounts held over $700 million in funds purportedly siphoned off a struggling state investment fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Najib has firmly denied malfeasance and penalized those who have alleged it. He has threatened to sue the Journal for libel; more controversially, he sacked his deputy prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, in a cabinet reshuffle in late July after Muhyiddin called for transparency in the matter.

Today’s planned rally, which the authorities have deemed unlawful, is the latest exercise in political discontent within this once-promising Southeast Asian state. The engine of this discontent is an unofficial pro-democracy, anti-corruption coalition called Bersih, which in Malay simply means “clean.” Though the recent allegations of corruption have galvanized the demands for Najib’s removal from power, many Malaysians see the scandal simply as one visceral incident within an endemically broken system.

“He’s dropped the economy,” a taxi driver in Kuala Lumpur tells TIME. “Everyone is very scared.”

“It’s very simple: the Malaysian people are suffering right now,” Ravin Kabhi, a Malaysian man who recently moved to Australia, said. “Look at our currency at the moment — it’s 4.2 to the dollar. I’m a recent graduate, and there are no jobs, because multinational corporations don’t want to spend money in periods of instability.”

Malaysia has long sought to fashion its global image as a crucible of progressive politics and economic stability in Southeast Asia, and for many years, the portrait was compelling. Regular elections offered a facsimile of democracy. The construction of the Petronas Towers in 1998 — the tallest skyscrapers in the world until Taipei 101 opened in Taiwan six years later — provided an internationally recognizable emblem of the country’s capitalist triumph during the last two decades of the twentieth century.

The controversies that have surrounded Najib’s leadership since his narrow election in 2009 have exposed the weaknesses in this narrative. Najib leads the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the right-wing Malay nationalist party that heads the incumbent National Front coalition and derives most of its support from ethnic Malays who benefit from its policies. In September 2013, Najib’s government fortified longstanding laws that reserve education benefits, government jobs, and entrepreneurship opportunities for the ethnic Malay population.

“I support their right to do this, to protest,” ethnic Malay student Ziela Rahim said, gesturing to the yellow-shirted protesters who loitered beneath the metro tracks above Jalan Tun Perak. “But [Najib] is my prime minister, and so I think he has the right to do what he feels is right for us.”

But those same pro-Malay policies, political and economic experts contend, have encouraged hostility and also weakened the economy, because they have encouraged Malaysia’s marginalized Chinese and Indian populations to seek better opportunities elsewhere.

Najib has also become increasingly strident in his dismissal of the growing opposition, even as ethnic Malays — the bulwark to his political legitimacy — join its ranks. On Saturday morning, the state held a full dress rehearsal for the country’s independence day celebration on August 31. The practice, held in the same public square where the anti-Najib protesters are to gather later in the day, was one of pomp and circumstance: military marching bands played the national anthem, which was amplified over loudspeakers; organized civilians in red t-shirts marched in lockstep, holding small Malaysian flags; military jets roared overhead.

Outside of Merdeka Square, some members of the opposition, dressed in Bersih’s yellow shirts, had started to gather in anticipation.

“Whether or not [today] has an effect on the political process isn’t important. It’s my duty — our duty — to align with the cause,” Lui Tuck, a 45-year-old factory manager from Kuala Lumpur, said. “The current government is disgusting. You want to tell lies, tell proper lies. If you want to take our money, take our money, but at least tell convincing lies that let us sleep at night.”

TIME Soccer

‘I’m Clean,’ Says Outgoing FIFA Boss Sepp Blatter

Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia
Dennis Grombkowski—Getty Images FIFA president Sepp Blatter speaks during the preliminary draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg on July 25, 2015

His organization faces a massive graft probe

FIFA’s soon-to-be-ex-president Sepp Blatter, embroiled in a massive investigation into corruption within the governing body of global soccer, said this week that he is “clean.”

“I have my conscience and I know I am an honest man,” he said in an interview with the BBC. “I am not a worried man.”

Blatter has been under investigation since early June in a scandal that has seen 14 FIFA officials indicted for financial irregularities totaling more than $150 million over two and a half decades. He resigned from his post despite having been re-elected for a fifth consecutive presidential term, but will continue to serve as president until a successor is elected early next year.

“I [resigned] because I wanted to protect FIFA,” the 79-year-old told the BBC. “I can protect myself. I am strong enough.”

Read next: These Are the 5 Facts That Explain the FIFA Scandal

The Swiss-led corruption probe is also looking into how hosts for the soccer World Cup were chosen, with the awarding of the quadrennial tournament’s next two editions — in 2018 and 2022 to Russia and Qatar respectively — under particular scrutiny after former FIFA official Chuck Blazer admitted to accepting bribes for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Blatter said he is not “morally responsible” for Blazer and other corrupt officials and told the BBC that the 2010 World Cup “the cleanest World Cup that has ever been done.”

He also defended FIFA, saying the global soccer federation will emerge unscathed from the “tsunami” of allegations.

“The institution is not corrupt,” Blatter said to the BBC. “There is no corruption in football, there is corruption with individuals, it is the people.”


Read next: A South Korean Billionaire Wants to Be FIFA’s Next President

TIME China

These 5 Facts Explain Why China Is Still on the Rise

Chinese President Xi Jinping waits to welcome French Prime Minister Manuel Valls at the Great Hall of the People on Jan. 30, 2015 in Beijing
red Dufour—Getty Images Chinese President Xi Jinping waits to welcome French Prime Minister Manuel Valls at the Great Hall of the People on Jan. 30, 2015 in Beijing

China has had a terrible past few weeks, but that won't stop it's growing dominance

Stock market plunges, currency devaluations and warehouse fireballs out of China have dominated headlines this summer. But make no mistake—this is the opening of the “China Decade,” the moment when the emerging giant’s international influence crosses a crucial threshold. These five facts explain why China’s rise is inevitable, even in the face of bad news—and why it won’t last forever.

1. Rough Summer

Economic indicators have been pointing to a Chinese slowdown for some time—exports had already dropped 8 percent last month compared to the same time last year—but matters have come to a head these last couple of months. Between June 12 and July 8, the Shanghai stock market plummeted 32 percent. On July 27, the stock market fell 8.5 percent, its greatest single-day drop. To put that in perspective, “Black Tuesday,” which kicked off the Great Depression in 1929, saw the Dow plunge 12 percent. Markets under the thumb of autocratic regimes were thought to be immune to such wild swings; turns out they’re not.

On August 11th, the Chinese government devalued the renminbi to kick-start their slowing economy. By the end of the week, the currency’s value had fallen by 4.4 percent, its biggest drop in 20 years.

(The New York Times (a), CNN Money, The New York Times (b), TIME)

2. China’s Rise

Yes, growth is slowing, but to levels enviable in any developed country. In the mean time, China’s march to no. 1 continues. In 2014, China’s total GDP overtook the US’s when measured by purchasing power parity. Using this metric, China accounted for 16.32 percent of world GDP in 2014, eclipsing the US’s 16.14 percent.

More impressive than the size of China’s economy is the speed with which it’s grown. Back in 2000, Chinese imports and exports accounted for 3 percent of all global goods traded. By 2014, that figure had jumped to more than 10 percent. In 2006, the U.S. was a larger trade partner than China for 127 countries. China was the larger partner for just 70. Today, those numbers have reversed: 124 countries trade more with China than with the United States.

(International Monetary Fund, Financial Times, Russia Today)

3. China’s Resilience

And despite recent turmoil, China’s economy has staying power. That’s in part because China’s leadership has spent decades building its foreign exchange reserves, which today are valued at $3.7 trillion. That’s by far the world’s biggest rainy day fund.

More important than its money buffer is China’s consolidated political leadership under Xi Jinping. China’s president has presided over an extensive anti-corruption campaign that has already seen 414,000 officials disciplined and another 200,000 indicted. In the process, Xi has probably rebuilt some of the party’s lost credibility with China’s people. He has definitely sidelined current and potential opponents of his reform program—and of his rule. And the lack of backlash illustrates just how strong his political control really is.

(Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic)

4. Spreading Wealth (and Influence)

Consolidated leadership also enables Beijing to pursue its comprehensive global strategy. China has spent the last two decades tactically investing around the world. Chinese investments in Africa jumped from $7 billion in 2008 to $26 billion in 2013, helping the continent build desperately-needed roads, rails and ports. In Latin America, China has already pledged to invest $250 billion over the coming decade, giving Beijing a solid foothold in the West. This extends China’s influence well beyond East Asia, helps China secure long-term supplies of the commodities it needs to continue to power its economy, creates jobs for Chinese workers, and helps China open new markets for its excess supplies of industrial products.

China also wants to use its money to reshape the world’s financial architecture. To that end, Beijing just launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to rival the Washington-based IMF and World Bank. Given that 57 countries have signed up as founding members, some of them US allies who chose to ignore US objections, it’s well on its way. With initiatives like the AIIB, China will continue funding infrastructure projects—and building goodwill—for years to come.

(Bloomberg, BBC, Wall Street Journal)

5. Problems Ahead

All that said, China’s longer-term challenges are becoming impossible to ignore. By 2050, it’s estimated that China’s work force will have shrunk by 17 percent. Blame demographics—back in 1980, the median age in China was 22.1 years; in 2013, 35.4, and by 2050 it will rise to 46.3. An aging labor force is like an aging sports star: both want more money, and both are nowhere near as productive as they once were.

Pollution continues to take its toll—less than 1 percent of China’s 500 cities meet WHO air quality standards. China’s environment ministry concedes that nearly 2/3 of underground water and 1/3 of surface water is “unfit for human contact.” A new study estimated that 4,000 Chinese die prematurely each day thanks to air pollution. As China’s masses join a growing middle class, the leadership will have to deal with stronger public demand for clean air and water. Beijing better deliver if it wants to keep the peace, and its regime, intact. And the public will have the means to make its demands known: There are already 650 million Chinese people online, and censorship, however sophisticated, can never fully control the flow of ideas and information in a social media market of that scale—witness the information leaking out on the Tianjin blast. China’s leaders know they must care about public opinion.

(Bloomberg, UN Economic and Social Affairs, Council on Foreign Relations, Russia Today, CNN)

China’s growing strength threatens the established world order, but its domestic vulnerabilities will have global repercussions, as well. It’s still too early to tell which of the two will be more destabilizing. Either way, the world will be shaped by Beijing’s successes and its failures. Welcome to the China Decade.

TIME China

China Scrambles to Reassure Wary Tianjin Residents Over Possible Chemical Exposure

Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army anti-chemical warfare corps work next to a damaged firefighting vehicle at the site of Wednesday night's explosions at Binhai new district
China Daily/Reuters Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army antichemical-warfare corps work next to a damaged firefighting vehicle at the site of the Aug. 12 explosions at Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, on Aug. 16, 2015.

Beijing's censorship apparatus has whirred into action following the deadly blasts

A harmless-looking white powder, sodium cyanide is lethal if ingested or inhaled. But the hazardous compound is useful in extracting gold from mines, among other things. China is now the world’s largest consumer of sodium cyanide, and domestic production has skyrocketed. On Monday, He Shushan, the deputy mayor of Tianjin, announced that the Aug. 12 warehouse blasts in the northeastern Chinese port city — which have killed at least 114 people and left 70 others, many firefighters, missing — damaged some 1,800 containers loaded with toxic chemicals. Hundreds of tons of sodium cyanide were stored in the Tianjin warehouse complex, less than 1 km from upscale residential areas.

On Sunday, residents within a 3 km radius of the blast site were evacuated, as authorities confirmed that sodium cyanide had been found nearby. Chemical-warfare troops have been dispatched. The fear is that rain — thunderstorms are expected later on Monday — could spread lethal materials stored in the warehouses, including sodium cyanide and calcium carbide, into a city of 14 million.

Inclement weather and volatile chemicals notwithstanding, the official line in China is one of control and confidence from the top levels of officialdom. On Sunday, China’s Premier Li Keqiang, along with a team of identically dressed officials in white button-down shirts and black trousers, visited the blast site and honored the firefighters who had died on duty. The central government has dispatched investigators to determine if dereliction of duty could have led to the apocalyptic explosions. Tianjin Deputy Mayor He said that any sodium-cyanide residue in the perimeter of the blast site would “mostly be cleaned up” by Monday evening.

But such assurances are hardly of comfort to relatives of the missing, who wonder why the government has done little to update them on their loved ones. Even families of firefighters have taken to social media to complain that local officials have neglected to keep in contact with them. Residents of high-end Tianjin apartment buildings, now shattered and shaken, have protested that, unbeknownst to them, they were living dangerously near warehouses storing toxic chemicals. Chinese law forbids the storage of such poisonous materials less than 1 km from residential neighborhoods. Why were bags of sodium cyanide allowed to be stacked so close by?

The People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, reported over the weekend that Rui Hai International Logistics, the firm that owns the warehouses where the blasts took place, may have been smuggling chemicals. An employee of Hebei Chengxin Co., one of China’s largest producers of sodium cyanide, confirmed to TIME on Monday that the firm stored the compound at Rui Hai’s warehouses before sending batches overseas to foreign buyers. The last shipment of sodium cyanide from Hebei Chengxin arrived at Rui Hai’s warehouses about a week before the blasts, said the employee, who refused to give his name. “Chengxin is a legitimate company and did not violate any laws, including the environmental-protection law,” he told TIME. The employee said that Hebei Chengxin’s boss, along with around 140 other staff, had descended on Tianjin to help with the cleanup efforts.

Hebei Chengxin is based in Hebei province’s Yuanshi county, an area where cornfields and chemical factories collide. (Hebei province abuts Tianjin.) In recent years, residents of cities both big and small in China have protested against the construction of polluting or potentially dangerous factories near them. So-called NIMBY (not in my backyard) protests have been among China’s most successful civil actions — and most contentious, with local governments often cracking down on residents for daring to oppose potential drivers of local economies.

On Monday, Caijing, a Chinese business publication known for its occasional scoops, reported that one of Rui Hai’s stakeholders was Dong Mengmeng, the son of an ex-police chief of the Tianjin port. Although Rui Hai’s official share structure does not include his name, an unnamed source told Caijing that Dong was involved in the company. While the former public-security boss’s son could well be a legitimate private businessman, the nexus of power and money in China is such that the Caijing allegation, if true, raises the specter of corruption in the development of one of northern China’s fastest-growing zones.

The explosions, which registered a 2.9-magnitude on domestic earthquake scales, took place in the Tianjin Binhai New Area, a vast economic zone that has been heralded as a showcase of China’s hybrid capitalist-communist economy. There are only a handful of such special zones in China, including Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, and Pudong in Shanghai. Binhai’s rapid development is associated with Zhang Gaoli, Tianjin’s political boss for five years beginning in 2007, who now serves on China’s seven-man leadership committee. Chinese state media noted that while China’s economy slowed during that period, Tianjin recorded 16.5% GDP growth for five consecutive years.

On Monday, the Communist Party–linked Global Times published an editorial headlined “Tianjin Officials Fumble to Communicate,” alleging that “officials at grass-roots levels are not willing or not good at facing the public voice.” But when that public speaks or speculates, the results can be risky. China’s Internet regulator has disciplined 50 websites for “creating panic by publishing unverified information or letting users spread groundless rumors” about the explosions, according to state media. Censors warned domestic publications to only use reporting about the Tianjin blasts from official newswire Xinhua, according to China Digital Times, which monitors such propaganda directives from California.

Over the past few years, as industrial accidents and other safety scandals have exploded across China, officials have vowed transparency. Yet each time, censorship and official obfuscation have prevailed. On Sunday, China’s Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun demanded that authorities “release information concerning the Tianjin blasts and rescue operation in a timely and transparent manner, to respond to public concerns,” according to Xinhua.

Yet independent domestic reporting on the Tianjin blasts is now much reduced, even as fires and new explosions were reported at the blast site on Monday morning. Chinese citizens must surely wonder what is going on, even if they have been warned not to speculate on social media. On the afternoon of Aug. 17, the People’s Daily tweeted a breaking story in English: soldiers of an antichemical-warfare regiment patrolling the Tianjin blast site had rescued a fluffy puppy.

With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

TIME Mexico

The Mexican Activist Who Led the Search for Missing Students Has Been Killed

Miguel Angel Jimenez, leader of the community police of Guerrero State (UPOEG), speaks with a federal police on a boat as they seek for the 43 Ayotzinapa students' missing, in Acatlan, in the southwestern state of Guerrero
Henry Romero—Reuters Miguel Angel Jimenez (in red), leader of the community police of Guerrero State (UPOEG), speaks with a federal police on a boat as they seek for the 43 Ayotzinapa students' missing, in Acatlan, Guerrero, on October 30, 2014.

It remains unclear who is responsible

A Mexican activist who led the search for the 43 students presumably kidnapped and murdered last September was found dead in his taxicab near his home on Saturday night.

Police officers discovered the body of Miguel Angel Jimenez Blanco, 45, riddled with bullet holes in the cab’s driver’s seat, just outside his hometown of Xaltianguis in the southern state of Guerrero. Authorities are treating the case as a homicide, El Universal, a Mexico City–based newspaper, reports. It remains unclear who is responsible.

Xaltianguis is a two-and-a-half-hour drive south of the larger city of Iguala, where 11 months ago 43 students disappeared while in town to stage a political protest. The disappearance stoked national outrage against what many Mexicans see as endemic corruption.

Jimenez, a vocal critic of Mexican politics, organized a search-party group last autumn. As he and his team scoured the hills near Iguala for the missing students, they stumbled upon a number of mass graves, confirming what many residents of southern Mexico had suspected — that if the students were murdered, then they were simply the tip of the iceberg.

“We have been saying from the start that this area is a cemetery,” Jimenez told the BBC in an interview before his death.

TIME Malaysia

Malaysia’s Anti-Graft Agency Says the Millions in Prime Minister Najib’s Accounts Are ‘Donations’

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak attends a presentation for government interns at the Prime Minster's office in Putrajaya, Malaysia
Olivia Harris—Reuters Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak attends a presentation for government interns at the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on July 8, 2015

However, it did not say who donated the funds or what their purpose was

Malaysia’s embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak has been effectively absolved of misconduct in an ongoing corruption scandal, after the country’s anticorruption agency ruled that the almost $700 million found in his personal bank accounts were legitimate “donations.”

However, the agency did not reveal who donated the funds or their purpose.

A Wall Street Journal report early last month alleged that Najib received the funds from 1Malaysia Development Bhd, or 1MBD, a state investment fund set up by his government in 2009 that is currently wallowing in $11 billion of debt.

Najib, who acted as chairman of 1MBD’s board of advisers, and is also Finance Minister, strongly denies any malfeasance and has threatened legal action against the newspaper. The Journal stands by its story.

Some analysts believe that the scandal could bring down the Southeast Asian nation’s government. Najib has been in office since 2009 but some of his strongest erstwhile backers, including longtime former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, have recently withdrawn their support.

Last week, Najib sacked his deputy and Malaysia’s attorney general in an apparent attempt to shore up his beleaguered administration.

TIME Innovation

Making Teachers the Real Superstars

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

These are the best ideas of the day

1. What if we obsessed over teachers — and paid them — like we do athletes?

By Ryan Stewart (and Key & Peele) in Sojourners

2. Can we really find future terrorists by spying on schoolkids? Should we?

By Diane Taylor in the Guardian

3. By all means, fight corruption. But don’t expect it to end poverty.

By Ricardo Hausmann in Project Syndicate

4. The FBI’s revolutionary tool for catching violent criminals might work — if anyone used it.

By T. Christian Miller in ProPublica

5. Scientists are developing an X-ray pill you can swallow.

By Mike Murphy in Quartz

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.

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