TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 14

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

1. Fix the system, don’t fight individual diseases: Why Ebola may change how aid dollars are spent on healthcare in Africa.

By Lesley Wroughton at Reuters

2. Plan for a global body to regulate the great promise of genetics — balancing unfettered innovation with sensible rules to prevent abuse.

By Jamie F. Metzl in Foreign Affairs

3. Because it increases disease and exacerbates resource scarcity, the Pentagon sees climate change as a threat multiplier.

By Laura Barron-Lopez in the Hill

4. The U.S. should call out Egypt’s rising authoritarian leadership and the plight of repressed people there.

By the Editorial Board of the Washington Post

5. Successful community collaborations build civic confidence for increasingly audacious projects that can improve lives.

By Monique Miles in the Collective Impact Forum blog

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 Syria

Kerry Says Kobani’s Fate Is Not Key to U.S. Strategy in Fighting ISIS

The Secretary of State calls the situation in Kobani a tragedy, but insists that the enclave does not “define” the American-led coalition’s battle plans

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said keeping Kobani out of ISIS’s hands was not the top priority for the coalition of nations bombarding the Sunni extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

He voiced concern over the potential fall of the besieged Kurdish enclave, also known as Ayn al-Arab, to extremist militants, but was quick to note that the city’s survival did not “define” the U.S.-led coalition’s strategy.

“Kobani is one community, and it’s a tragedy what is happening there,” Kerry told reporters during a press conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. “We have said from Day 1 it is going to take a period of time to bring the coalition thoroughly to the table to rebuild some of the morale and capacity of the Iraqi army and to begin to focus where we ought to be focusing first, which is in Iraq.”

Kerry’s admission comes as coalition forces steadily increase the number of air strikes targeting ISIS forces surrounding the conflict-torn city in northern Syria. If it falls under ISIS control, it will give the terrorist group a large strategic corridor running along the Turkish border.

U.S. Central Command confirmed launching three air strikes in Kobani on Sunday that “destroyed an [ISIS] fighting position and an [ISIS] staging area.” However, it appears the strikes have failed to reverse ISIS’s momentum.

Syrian Kurdish militia fighters, known locally as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have been battling thousands of heavily armed ISIS militants in and around Kobani for weeks. Despite exhibiting incredible tenacity, the YPG has steadily lost ground thanks to a lack of reinforcements and access to sophisticated weaponry.

Analysts have also expressed growing concern that the loss of Kobani to ISIS could reignite civil war in Turkey. Ankara continues to prevent thousands of Kurdish fighters and supplies from crossing the border into Syria — a move that sparked days of rioting across Turkey that claimed at least 33 lives.

Cemil Bayik, who helps lead the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), warned that the fall of Kobani would incite fresh insurrection in Turkey, during an interview with the New York Times published over the weekend.

“Negotiations cannot go on in an environment where they want to create a massacre in Kobani,” Bayik told the Times. “We cannot bargain for settlement on the blood of Kobani.”

The PKK, which backs the YPG, has kept a shaky cease-fire with Ankara since 2013, after three decades of bitter civil war.

Bayik went on to promise to “mobilize the guerrillas” if Turkish forces allowed a massacre to ensue after preventing Kurdish forces from entering the fight for the city. Human-rights groups and the U.N. have voiced similar concerns over an imminent humanitarian catastrophe.

If Kobani fell, up to “12,000 people, apart from the fighters, will be most likely massacred,” warned U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura on Friday.

On Sunday, ISIS boasted, in an article published by its official propaganda outlet, of taking Yezidi women as slaves during the group’s conquest of northern Iraq in August.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirmed the admission by ISIS. “The group has systematically separated young women and teenage girls from their families and has forced some of them to marry its fighters,” said HRW in a statement published on Sunday.

TIME Foreign Policy

Kerry Pledges $212M in U.S. Aid to Gaza

A Palestinian man stands atop the rubble of his house as he looks at the ruins of his neighborhood that was badly damaged during the 50-day war between the Hamas militant movement and Israel, in the east of Gaza City on Oct. 12, 2014.
A Palestinian man stands atop the rubble of his house as he looks at the ruins of his neighborhood that was badly damaged during the 50-day war between the Hamas militant movement and Israel, in the east of Gaza City on Oct. 12, 2014. Mohammed Salem—Reuters

The funds will help the region rebuild following a destructive 50-day war this summer

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged $212 million in new aid to help rebuild Gaza after the region accumulated heavy damage during this summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Hamas.

Kerry made the announcement on Sunday as diplomats from more than 40 countries gathered in Cairo to pledge humanitarian aid, the New York Times reports. The U.S. previously provided $118 million in aid to Gaza earlier in 2014.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that approximately one-third of Gaza’s population was displaced by the violence and that the parts of the region are still plagued by blackouts and lack of access to water.

Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas has said that Gaza will need $4 billion to rebuild, and Qatar has already promised $1 billion toward that goal. U.S. officials suggest concerns for the region’s stability may hinder aid commitments among donors.

“There is the third time in less than six years that we have seen war break out and Gaza left in rubble,” Kerry said. “As long as there is a possibility that Hamas can fire rockets on Israeli civilians at any time, the people of Gaza will remain at risk of future conflict.”

[NYT]

TIME world affairs

A Serial Israel-Basher Shouldn’t Be Judging the Jewish State

Netherlands World Court Croatia Serbia
Members of the Serbian delegation, from left: Sasa Orbadovic, William Schabas, Andreas Zimmermann, Christian Tams and Wayne Jordash await the start of public hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, March 3, 2014. Jiri Buller—AP

Rabbi Marvin Hier is Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The appointment of William Schabas to head the inquiry mocks the U.S.'s judicial standards

The iconic Lady Justice holding evenly balanced scales reflects a truth that national traditions, the law, and, yes, common decency demand that judges should be above reproach. Mocking this baseline ethical standard, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) selected a notorious anti-Israel zealot—Canadian lawyer William Schabas—to head its latest “verdict first, trial later” inquisition against the Jewish state.

According to the U.S. Code governing judicial conduct, a judge should recuse himself or be disqualified if “his impartiality might be reasonably questioned” for “a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.” That should have led the U.S. to immediately denounce a charade that violates American law and tradition and leaves open the possibility that this flawed international commission’s findings could set legal precedents that not only further demonize our Israeli ally, but could negatively impact Americans defending our nation against terrorists in the future.

Schabas is already on record that when it comes to Israel/Palestine; his primary motivation is “to talk about crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression that have been committed, all of which can be shown to have been perpetrated at various times during the history of the state of Israel.” His fondest hope would be to see Netanyahu “in the dock of an international court.” He’s even called for the prosecution for “war crimes” of Nobel Peace Prize winner, former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

It’s not too late for the U.S. to pull the plug on this travesty. This is why the Simon Wiesenthal Center has urged U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as well as Attorney General Eric Holder to declare the UNHRC’s new kangaroo court against Israel without legal standing in the U.S., before it perpetrates another “legal” lynching that brazenly mocks our basic judicial standards.

Various U.S. administrations have had their hands full with previous UN-based “inquiries.” The UNHRC, renamed from the Human Rights Commission to the Human Rights Council in 2006, is an organization with a sordid history of invoking the cause of “human rights” while suppressing action against the world’s worst human rights abusers. It casts a blind eye to the inhuman rights records of Saddam’s Iraq, the Assads’ Syria, Bashir’s Sudan, the mullahs’ Iran, the Saudis’ male-only theocracy, China’s Tiananmen tank crew, sadists’ targeting of Tibetan society, the geriatric Castro brothers and late Hugo Chavez’s Latin prison farms.

Why didn’t these outrages find the their way to the UNHRC’s podium? For the simple reason that many of the heads these Orwellian regimes served on the UNHRC, sometimes even chairing it.

The UNHRC has served as a virtual good old boys club controlled by the world’s worst human rights abusers—including Iran, Sudan, China, and Cuba. Their main goals: to protect themselves and their allies from the glare of global spotlight on their human rights abuses; and to assure each other of a whitewashed clean bill of health while piling nonstop one-sided resolutions on Israel condemning the Jewish state—not Hamas terrorists—for “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” That first effort culminated in the 2009 Goldstone Report, which sought to degrade Israel’s ability to defend its civilians from non-state terrorists onslaughts. This report also set the stage for more international legal challenges to other democracies struggling against the transitional menace of terrorism. Its contents were so odious that Judge Goldstone ultimately repudiated it, implying he had been duped.

Here is an example of the kind of “guidance” from biased NGOs that the UNHRC relies on in drawing up its indictments against Israel. The International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) characterized Israel as “the largest open-air prison in the world” and accused it of “loose hordes of marauding gangs of Israeli illegal settlers” so as to launch pogroms against Palestinians. In addition, EAFORD charged “the human organs” of “dead, kidnapped and killed Palestinians…can be a source of immense wealth through illegal trafficking in the world market. Israeli physicians, medical centers, rabbis and the Israeli army may to be involved.”

The Bush Administration belatedly disengaged from the UNHRC, but the Obama Administration has eagerly reengaged with it. To paraphrase what has been said of unsuccessful second marriages, the results of Obama’s “smart diplomacy” in the case of the UNHRC has been a triumph of misplaced hope over experienced evildoers.

The threats of another dose of legal demonization of an embattled Jewish state from UN “justice” are clear. We wrote not only to the U.S. Secretary of State but also to the Attorney General of the United States because the UNHRC’s perverted norms of justice threaten to enter the bloodstream of American society and mores. The resulting damage to our legal and societal norms could corrode the foundations upon which the American experiment was founded: freedom and fairness.

Rabbi Marvin Hier is Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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 Bizarre

The 35 Most Surprising Photos of the Month

From eating ice cream in the senate to kissing Tony Bennett, each photograph will give you an intriguing experience, as TIME shares the most outrageous images from September 2014

TIME Iraq

Iraq’s New Premier Says He’s ‘Happy’ With the Anti-ISIS Coalition

Al-Abadi says ISIS controls at least a quarter of Iraq and is very close to the capital, Baghdad

Iraq’s newly appointed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told CNN Tuesday he was “happy” that the U.S. and Arab coalition has joined the fight against ISIS.

But he warned that they must “do it right.”

“We have warned in the last two years: this is a danger,” he said, in one of his first international interviews. “It’s going to end in a bloodbath if nobody stops it and nobody was listening.

“They thought they were immune from this danger and only Iraq and Syria were on the spot of this danger but now I think we’re happy.”

Five Arab nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar — have joined the U.S. to fight the militant extremists who control vast swaths of Iraq and Syria.

Al-Abadi’s comments came after the coalition launched a series of strikes Tuesday against ISIS and Khorasan targets in Syria.

“I personally am happy that everybody is seeing this danger so that they are going to do something about it and I hope they do something about it and they do it right,” he said. “They don’t do it the wrong way.”

Sharing al-Abadi’s optimism, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday that no country could just stand by and do nothing when faced with the ISIS threat.

“I’ve been very encouraged, as I think all of us engaged in this are, by everybody else’s cooperation, by the overwhelming unity and support for Iraq’s new government,” he said. “No civilized country can shirk its responsibility to stop this cancer from spreading.”

Al-Abadi had been instrumental in pushing the international community to expand its campaign against the militants into Syria. But he criticized Washington for not working closely with Iraqi ground troops fighting ISIS, CNN reports.

“Our forces are moving forward and, when they are moving forward, they need air cover, they need air support,” he said, adding that ISIS controls at least 25% of Iraq and remain very close to the capital, Baghdad.

Al-Abadi must also attempt to mend the deep rifts in his own country between the Shi‘ite majority and the Sunni minority. “This is our country. And if we don’t work together, we don’t deserve a country,” he told CNN.

TIME Environment

U.S. Gives $15 Million to Help Cut Methane Emissions

"It is about time that world leaders come to the United Nations to recognize this threat in the way that it requires and demands"

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday pledged $15 million to help get the World Bank’s new initiative to cut methane emissions underway.

The Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Mitigation will use auctions to allocate public funds and private investment into projects around the globe that reduce methane emissions, including those that cut waste from landfills and treatment plants.

Addressing business leaders and government representatives at the opening of Climate Week NYC, Kerry said it was “about time” that world leaders recognized the “threat” of global warming.

“It gives me hope that this global summit may actually produce the leadership that is necessary to try to come together and move the needle to take advantage of the small window of time that we have left in order to be able to prevent the worst impacts of climate change for already happening,” he said.

Kerry urged leaders attending the U.N. Climate Change Summit in New York, which kicks off Tuesday, to “move and act now” on global warming, reports Responding to Climate Change.

The summit aims to engage governments and businesses into making real efforts to reduce climate change in preparation for an international agreement in 2015 to limit global warming to less than 2°C.

TIME Congress

Kerry Seeks to Assure Lawmakers About ISIS Strategy

US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies about US policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State Group (IS) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 17, 2014.
US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies about US policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State Group (IS) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 17, 2014. Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

The Secretary of State returns from an overseas trip to drum up support in Congress for the fight against ISIS

Secretary of State John Kerry tried to assure lawmakers Wednesday that the U.S. would not be alone in the fight against Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, as Congress looks to pass legislation this week to equip and train the “moderate” Syrian rebels.

“This cannot be simply a campaign by the West against the East,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee before which Kerry testified. Kerry responded that Menendez was “absolutely correct.”

“When we say ‘a global coalition’ we mean it,” said Kerry, who recently returned from a trip to the Middle East to rally about 40 countries for the fight against the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). While there’s currently “no discussion” about countries sending in ground troops, Kerry said some have committed to air strikes. U.S. Central Command announced Wednesday that it has conducted a total of 174 airstrikes across Iraq.

Kerry said military action would end “when we have ended the capability of [ISIS] to engage in broad-based terrorist activity.” The ultimate goals of the fight include a “political settlement” in both Syria and Iraq to end terrorist safe havens there, he added. Kerry said that the U.S. strategy will be a “multiyear effort.”

The top two leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez and ranking Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee, cautioned the Obama Administration against engaging in such a long military conflict in Syria without new, explicit congressional authority.

“As I have said many times, temporary and targeted air strikes in Iraq and Syria fall under the President’s powers as commander in chief, but if the military campaign lasts for an extended period of time, Congress will need to approve an [ISIS]-specific Authorization for the Use of Military Force,” Menendez said.

Kerry reiterated the Administration’s position that it would act under the 2001 AUMF against al-Qaeda and associated forces, enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He said that when ISIS separated from al-Qaeda a year ago in a “publicity stunt,” the organization did not change its targets and thus was still under the force of the previous congressional authority. Kerry added that he would welcome congressional action, but that President Barack Obama would act if the legislative branch did not.

Corker ripped Kerry’s response.

“To say that you’re going to do this, regardless of what we say—you’re not going to ask for a buy-in from the United States Senate or the House of Representatives on behalf of the American people—in a conflict that you say is going to be multiyear… taking us into another country with a different enemy, it’s exercising the worse judgment possible,” Corker said.

TIME Foreign Policy

Kerry Enlists Saudi King in War of Ideas Against ISIS

Saudi King Abdullah listens to U.S. Secretary of State Kerry before a meeting at the Royal Palace in Jeddah
Saudi King Abdullah listens to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry before a meeting at the royal palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Sept. 11, 2014 Brendan Smialowski—Reuters

Persuading would-be jihadists that ISIS distorts Islam “probably far more important than the military,” the U.S. Secretary of State says

On the night of Sept. 11, John Kerry arrived at the royal palace here for a meeting with the King of Saudi Arabia. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz makes his home in this coastal city during the summer months, and the palace is a testament to his country’s vast oil wealth. Kerry entered through a vast atrium beneath a towering powder dome perhaps a hundred feet high. To greet the King, he ascended a carpeted staircase beneath a huge chandelier, and into a grand sitting room where his majesty awaited. The elderly monarch, clad in brown robes and white headscarf, remained seated as Kerry leaned down to kiss his cheeks.

To say the least, Sept. 11 is an awkward date for an American official to be visiting Saudi Arabia. Many consider Abdullah’s government at least indirectly culpable for the terrorist attacks on that day in 2001, thanks to the Saudi kingdom’s generous financial support for Sunni fundamentalists whose harsh, Salafist version of Islam helped to spawn al-Qaeda. “Saudi Arabia created the monster that is Salafi terrorism,” writes Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations. Some suggest even more direct responsibility: former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham believes “there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia.”

But there was no sign of discomfort and certainly no mention of the date as the U.S. Secretary of State and the Saudi King bantered genially, via a translator, through a short photo opportunity before getting down to business. The U.S.-Saudi diplomatic relationship has long since moved on from Sept. 11. Today, Washington considers King Abdullah a crucial ally in the fight against Islamic terrorism in general — and against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in particular. During his whirlwind diplomatic tour to assemble America’s coalition against ISIS over the past week, Kerry repeatedly stressed the King’s role in a growing effort to undermine ISIS’ religious legitimacy in the Muslim world. “We are fighting an ideology, not a regime,” Kerry told reporters traveling with him on Monday.

Kerry is so animated by this war of ideas that he calls it even more important than the military campaign against the group. Sitting in a gilded room at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris, Kerry sounded irritated at the media’s focus on air strikes and ground forces. “The military piece is one piece,” Kerry said. “It’s a critical component — but it’s only one component.”

“Probably far more important than the military in the end,” Kerry continued, is the effort “to start drying up this pool of jihadis.” The goal is to mobilize Arab leaders, preachers, and media outlets behind a message that ISIS does not represent a “pure” vision of Islam, but a grotesque distortion of it. That, they hope, can blunt ISIS’ ability to recruit new fighters among impressionable young Muslim men. Stopping a fighter from signing up, Kerry said, is “a far better mechanism than having to go chase him down in the battlefield.”

U.S. officials say no one is more important to that effort than King Abdullah. And the King is happy to oblige. While Saudi money has long helped nurture a fundamentalist Sunni doctrine that inspires groups from al-Qaeda to Boko Haram, Islamic radicalism has come to threaten the King as well. This helps to explain why the royal palace in Jeddah is guarded by three gated checkpoints, several armored vehicles and a truck-mounted machine gun at its front entrance. Such groups see Abdullah as an American lackey who defames the holy land by cooperating with infidels. After a spate of al-Qaeda attacks within the kingdom in the mid-2000s, the Saudis have worked extremely closely with the U.S. on counterterrorism.

ISIS seems to have raised the King’s anxiety another notch, however. He has banned Saudis from traveling to join the fight in Syria, lest they return to threaten his regime. Last month Saudi authorities arrested dozens of suspects linked to ISIS — including members of an alleged cell plotting attacks within the country.

But Abdullah wields a potent weapon in his defense: his influence over Saudi Arabia’s religious leaders. The King has a symbiotic relationship with his kingdom’s hard-line clerics, whose words hold sway far across the Muslim world. The clerics recognize Abdullah’s legitimacy in return for funding, official positions and Abdullah’s tolerance of their strict form of Islam — which forbids women from driving and imposes beheadings for offenses like adultery, drug possession and sorcery.

Abdullah can also summon his clerics to action. In a speech last month that a U.S. State Department official calls “unprecedented” in its vehemence, Abdullah denounced radical Islamists for using Islam to justify their actions — and castigated Saudi clerics for not making the point more forcefully. Days later, the kingdom’s top religious authority declared that ISIS and al-Qaeda “are enemy No. 1 of Islam.” Another senior cleric soon declared it “a major sin” to join ISIS. He added that the group’s fighters might avoid damnation if they murder their commanders.

The U.S. strategy doesn’t stop with the Saudis. During a visit to Cairo on Saturday, Kerry also urged Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to pressure his country’s religious leaders. Cairo is home to two of the most important institutions of Islamic learning, al-Azhar University and Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah, making it “essentially the intellectual heart of the Arab world,” as a senior State Department official puts it. “So one of the issues is to have [Egypt's] religious institutions speak out against [ISIS] … to have the imams talk about it in Friday sermons, and to otherwise sort of increase the volume on this message.”

The effort also extends beyond the mosque. The U.S. is pressing major Arab media outlets, including Dubai-based al-Arabiya and Qatar’s al-Jazeera, to broadcast more antiradical programming. (State Department officials say Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel — a former managing editor of TIME — will soon return to the region to pursue that topic.)

But the King is the most important player of all, experts say. “Saudi Arabia is the only authority in the region with the power and legitimacy to bring ISIS down,” wrote Nawaf Obaid, of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Saud al-Sarhan, of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, in a Sept. 9 New York Times op-ed. “[T]he Saudi leadership has a unique form of religious credibility and legitimacy, which will make it far more effective than other governments at delegitimizing ISIS’ monstrous terrorist ideology.”

Much like the date of Kerry’s visit to the royal palace in Jeddah, it is a deep irony that Saudi Arabia has become so critical to extinguishing the flames of Sunni radicalism it helped to spread. But it’s not an irony that Kerry cares to dwell upon. Asked by TIME on Monday about Saudi Arabia’s past responsibility for radical extremism, the Secretary of State bridled.

“There is no constructive purpose whatsoever served by going backwards,” Kerry said. “There are lots of question marks that people can dig into for history about mistakes that were made,” he added. “Nothing is served right now by chewing that over.”

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