TIME World

Here’s How a Germanwings Pilot Reassured Scared Passengers the Day After the Crash

A Germanwings Airbus A320 is seen at the Berlin airport, March 29, 2014. An Airbus plane of the same model crashed in southern France en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, on March 24, 2015 police and aviation officials said.
Jan Seba—Reuters A Germanwings Airbus A320 is seen at the Berlin airport, March 29, 2014. An Airbus plane of the same model crashed in southern France en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, on March 24, 2015 police and aviation officials said.

A woman on board explains a pilot's heartfelt message

The morning after Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps—before any real details were known about the state of the plane or co-pilot Andreas Lubitz’ mental state—Britta Englisch hesitantly stepped onto a Germanwings flight from Hamburg to Cologne.

As soon as she walked onto the plane, she and the other passengers were personally welcomed by the pilot, who assured them that he’d get them to their destination safely. Englisch praised the dedicated pilot and crew on Germanwings’ Facebook page Wednesday night, and her heartfelt post has since gone viral—accumulating some 300,000 likes in less than two days.

“This flight was the morning after the crash—at this time no details were known and everything was mere speculation,” Englisch, who lives in Hamburg, tells TIME via email. “Logically it was pretty clear to me, that Germanwings might have been the safest airline at that morning—they doublechecked every plane and pilots and crew were free to choose if they were feeling able to fly or not. Nevertheless I had this feeling in my stomach. Feelings are not logical, are they?”

But her worry subsided after the pilot personally welcomed people as they boarded the plane. “If someone made an uneasy impression, he talked to them,” says Englisch, a PR manager at Stage Entertainment.

After boarding was complete, rather than going into the cockpit, the pilot took a microphone and began to address his passengers.

“He introduced himself and his crew, talked about how he felt—that some of the crew knew someone on the plane, that he also had a slight uneasy feeling not knowing what happened,” Englisch recollects. “[The pilot continued that] he and the crew are there voluntarily, that the company didn’t force anyone to be on duty that day, that he double-checked the plane this morning. [He said that] he has family, kids and a wife who he loves, that the crew has loved ones and [that] he’ll do everything to return safely to them every evening.”

For a moment everyone was silent.

“No one was checking his phone for the last time or reading the papers,” Englisch says, noting that that is unusual for a commuter flight full of businesspeople. “And then everyone applauded.”

Englisch didn’t intend for her post, supporting the grieving airline, to gain so much attention.

“It was just one post amongst thousand others and it was meant to say thank you to the pilot for not hiding in the cockpit but letting us be part of his feelings.”

Here is her post:

Read next: Here’s What We Know About the Germanwings Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME World

See a Bus in Brazil Get Sucked Into a Massive Sinkhole and Float Away 

All passengers managed to evacuate just in time

Following intense flooding in northern Brazil, a passenger bus collapsed into a crater Monday and then floated away with the floodwaters running below. All passengers managed to scramble off the bus just before the bus collapsed into the sinkhole, CNN reports. No injuries were reported.

The above video captures the entire incident, from the last few passengers exiting the vehicle to the moment when the bus falls through the hole and then gets spit back out into the river.

Read next: Watch Two Unsuspecting Pedestrians Get Swallowed by a Sinkhole

TIME animals

This Guy Caught a Fish That Had Already Been Caught by a Saltwater Crocodile

A saltwater crocodile is seen chomping on a fish attached to Ben Stack's line in Cape York, Australia.
Ben Stack A saltwater crocodile is seen chomping on a fish attached to Ben Stack's line in Cape York, Australia.

"Fright kicked in, I released the leader and flew backwards into the boat”

Getting a fishing lure stuck on a log can be frustrating, but it is nothing compared to what happened to Australian fisherman Ben Stack, who during a “few seconds that felt like a lifetime,” found himself “staring eye-to-eye with a solid saltwater crocodile.”

The Queensland native thought the Blue Threadfin he had nabbed off the Cape York Peninsula had “run under a log.” After reeling in the fish, though, he leaned over the boat and suddenly realized this “log” was in fact a crocodile.

“We were face-to-face and no more than 20 inches apart. Fright kicked in, I released the leader and flew backwards into the boat,” he said in a first-person narrative posted Tuesday on Facebook.

Incredibly, he had the presence of mind to snap some very impressive pictures.

A Threadline fish is seen attached to 's line in Cape York Pennisula, Queensland, Australia
Ben StackA Threadlfin fish is seen attached to Ben Stack’s line in Cape York Pennisula, Queensland, Australia

Stack told TIME that the event, which happened “a little while ago now,” hasn’t stopped him from fishing.

“I continue to fish. Things like this do happen in croc waters and I am simply spreading the awareness to be croc savvy,” he said.

And the fish? The crocodile won that battle.

“I wasn’t disappointed to lose the fish but I don’t like the idea of that croc knowing he can come to a boat for a free meal.”

 

TIME Innovation

Microsoft Is Getting Close to Perfecting a Universal Communicator

Some 40,000 people are using software program Skype Translator in hopes of achieving real-time translation

Gurdeep Pall was confident Skype’s automatic translation program would work. But as Microsoft’s corporate vice president in charge of Skype prepared to hold the first public demonstration of the program last May, Pall found himself worrying about the room itself. “Any sound that goes into the microphone, you basically have logic running trying to figure out what the sound said,” he says. “You can have feedback or you can have somebody coughing faraway that the mic picked up, somebody shifting far away, the squeak from their foot.”

Pall’s anxiety was for naught. An audience of several hundred reporters and industry insiders watched on as Pall and a native German speaker held a nearly flawless conversation through the company’s prototype of Skype Translator. Roughly a second after Pall Spoke, subtitles in German and English appeared at the bottom of the screen, and a synthetic Siri-like voice read the words aloud to the German caller. The audience murmured in astonishment, but the program didn’t falter as it shot back a translation from German to English. Pall, on the other hand, was flustered as his jitters about the room metastasized to two presenters who were whispering to one another nearby throughout the demonstration. “I’m thinking, ‘Get out of here!’” Pall recalls, laughing.

Researchers working on automatic translation technology like this are familiar with this blend of hope and anxiety. The concept of a universal translator has long been a fixture of science fiction, not to mention a dream of inventors and linguists since long before computers existed. The granodiorite slab announcing the kingly reign of Ptolemy V in Egypt circa 196 BC, better known as the Rosetta Stone, might be considered an early stab at the idea. In the 1930s, two inventors filed patents for “mechanical dictionaries” promising to translate words in real time. And in more recent decades, firms ranging from NEC to Jibbigo have periodically tried to crack the problem. But as practical reality, the idea has been perennially delayed.

Now, advances in so-called machine learning—computer programs that can essentially self-teach with enough exposure to spoken language—hope for a universal translator is increasingly replacing anxiety. What has changed from previous generations is that the underlying technology thrives through use, trial and error, recorded and reviewed, ad nasueam. The current crop of translation software gets smarter, researchers and programmers say, the more it absorbs. “The more data you have, the better you’re going to do,” explains Lane Schwartz, a linguistics professor at the University of Illinois.

Which is why Microsoft released a preview version of Skype Translator to a limited number of users last December. (The Redmond, Washington-based tech giant bought Skype for $8.5 billion in 2011.) The program is expected to reach a major milestone near the end of March. Late last year, Google announced its translation app for text would include a “conversation mode” for the spoken word. Baidu, the so-called Google of China, has had a similar feature available in its home market for several years. And the forthcoming release of the Apple Watch, a powerful computer with echoes of Dick Tracey’s famous wrist wear, has some speculating that near-instant translation might be the nascent wearables market’s killer app.

That leaves a handful of search giants—Microsoft, Google and Baidu—racing to fine-tune the technology. Andrew Ng, Baidu’s chief scientist likens what’s coming next to the space race. “It doesn’t work if you have a giant engine and only a little fuel,” he says. “It doesn’t work if you have a lot of fuel and a small engine.” The few companies that can combine the two, however, may blast ahead.

So Many Fails

There’s no shortage of false summits in the history of translation. Cold War footage from 1954 captured one of the earliest machine translators in action. One of the lead researchers predicted that legions of these machines might be used to monitor the entirety of Soviet communications “within perhaps 5 years.” The demonstration helped generate a surge of government funding, totalling $3 million in 1958, or $24 million in present-day dollars.

But by the 1960s, the bubble had burst. The government convened a panel of scientific experts to survey the quality of machine translations. They returned with an unsparing critique. Early translations were “deceptively encouraging,” the Automatic Language Processing Advisory Committee wrote in a 1966 report. Automatic translation, the panel concluded, “serves no useful purpose without postediting, and that with postediting the overall process is slow and probably uneconomical.”

Funding for machine translation was drastically curtailed in the wake of the report. It would be the first of several boom and bust cycles to buffet the research community. To this day, researchers are loath to predict how far they can advance the field. “There is no magic,” says Chris Wendt, who has been working on machine translation at Microsoft Research for nearly a decade. But he admits that the latest improvements resulting from artificial intelligence can, at times, be mystifying. “There are things that you don’t have an explanation for why it works,” he says.

Wendt works out of Building 99, Microsoft’s research hub on the western edge of its Redmond campus. The building’s central atrium is wrapped by four floors of glass-walled conference rooms, where Microsoft engineers and researchers can be seen working on pretty much any project they please. The open-ended aspect of their work is a point of pride enshrined in the lab’s mission statement. “It states, first and foremost, that our goal as an institution is to move the state of the art forward,” said Rick Rashid in 2011, twenty years after he launched the lab, according to a Microsoft blog post celebrating the milestone. “It doesn’t matter what part of the state of the art we’re moving forward, and it doesn’t say anything in that first part of the mission statement about Microsoft.”

In other words, if Microsoft’s researchers want to tinker with strange and unproven technologies, say motion-sensing cameras or holographic projectors, nobody is likely to stop them. In the mid-2000’s, there were few technologies quite as strange and unproven as “deep neural networks,” algorithms that can parse through millions of spoken words and spot the underlying sound patterns. Say, “pig,” for instance, and the algorithm will identify the unique sound curve of the letter “p.” Expose it to more “p” words and the shape of that curve becomes more refined. Before long, the algorithm can detect a “p” sound across multiple languages, and exposure to those languages further attunes its senses. “P” words in German (prozent) improves its detection of “p” words in English (percent).

Those same lessons, it turns out, apply to volume, pitch or accents. A lilt at the end of the sentence may indicate that the speaker has asked a question. It may also indicate that the speaker talks like a Valley girl. Expose the deep learning algorithm to a range of voices, however, and it may begin to notice the difference. This profusion of voices, which used to overwhelm supercomputers, now improves their performance. “Add training data that is not perfect, like people speaking in a French accent, and it does not degrade overall quality for people speaking without a French accent,” says Wendt.

The results of deep neural network research in language applications stunned Microsoft’s research team in 2011. Error rates in transcription, for instance, plummeted by 50%—from one out of every four words to one out of eight. Until then, the misunderstood word was one of the most persistent and insurmountable obstacles to machine translation. “The system cannot recover from that because it takes that word at face value and translates it,” explains Wendt. “Employing deep learning on the speech recognition part brought the error rate low enough to attempt translation.”

Speaking into Skype Translator, the commercial face of all of Microsoft’s linguistic research, shows how far things have come. The sound of your voice zips into Microsoft’s cloud of servers, where it is parsed by a panoply of software developed by the company. The team that developed those green squiggly lines under grammatical errors in Word documents laid the groundwork for automatic punctuation, for example. The team that created Microsoft’s translation app, which is currently used to translate posts on Facebook and Yelp, provided the engine for text translation. The team that developed the voice for Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-activated personal assistant similar to Apple’s Siri, helped develop the voice for Skype.

When Microsoft’s researchers debuted a prototype of Skype Translator at the company’s version of an annual science fair, they enclosed it in a cardboard telephone booth, modeled after the time-traveling machine from the Dr. Who television series. Co-founder Bill Gates stepped inside and phoned a Spanish speaker in Argentina. The speaker had been warned that when the caller said, “Hi, it’s Bill Gates,” it wasn’t a joke. It really would be Bill Gates. What did Gates say? Pretty much what everyone says at first, according to the team: “Hi. How are you? Where are you?”

My Turn

I posed the same questions to Karin, a professional translator hired for a hands-on demonstration at Microsoft’s Building 99. She answered in Spanish, and paused as Skype’s digital interpreter read a translated reply: “Hello, nice to meet you. Now I’m in Slovakia.”

The program has the basic niceties of conversation down cold, and for a moment, the Star Trek fantasy of a “universal translator” seemed tantalizingly within reach. But then a few hiccups emerged as the conversation progressed. Her reason for visiting New York was intelligible, but awkwardly phrased: “I want to meet all of New York City and I want to attach it with a concert of a group I like,” from which I gathered that she wanted to see a concert during her visit. I asked her if the program often faltered in her experience. “In the beginning,” came the translated reply, “but each time it gets better. It’s like one child first. There were things not translated, but now he’s a teenager and knows a lot of words.”

With some 40,000 people signed up to use Skype Translator, it has been getting a crash course in the art of conversation, and those words could work wonders on its error rates. An odd quirk of machine translation systems is that they tend to excel at translating European Union parliamentary proceedings. For a long time the EU produced some of the best training data out there: a raft of speeches professionally translated into dozens of languages.

But Microsoft is rapidly accumulating its own record of casual conversations. Users of the preview version are informed that their utterances may be recorded and stored in an anonymous, shuffled pile that makes it impossible to trace the words back to their source, Microsoft stresses. The team expects the error rate to drop continuously as Skype Translator absorbs slang, proper names and idioms into its system. Few companies can tap such a massive corpus of spoken words. “Microsoft is in a good position,” says Wendt. “Google is also in a good position. Then there’s a big gap between us and everyone else.”

For now, the Skype team is focused on adding users and driving down error rates, with the long-run goal of releasing instant translation as a standard feature for Skype’s 300 milllion users. “Translation is something we believe ought to be available to everybody for free,” says Pall.

That raises an awkward question for professional translators like Karin. “Do you feel threatened by Skype Translator,” I asked her through the program. “Not yet,” was her translated reply, read aloud by her fast-developing, free digital rival.

Read next: Here’s Why Microsoft Is Giving Pirates the Next Windows for Free

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME World

Watch People Surf on a River Thanks to Europe’s ‘Supertide’

It happens once every 18 years

A rare “supertide” in Europe this weekend led to surges of water so high a French town briefly turned into an island. It also caused a “tidal bore” on Britain’s River Severn which created six-foot waves ripe for surfing.

Many Brits took advantage of this unique opportunity to surf down the River Severn, which is the longest in the United Kingdom. Those not equipped to go surfing simply gathered on the banks to observe the rare occurrence.

TIME Britain

Harry Potter Owls Mistreated, Animal Cruelty Group Says

PETA has accused 'The Making of Harry Potter' tour of mis-treating owls

The successful Warner Bros studio tour of ‘The Making of Harry Potter’ has come under fire for its treatment of animals.

The Harry Potter attraction at Warner Bros Studio Tour London opened in 2012 and allows fans to tour the sets, sample Butterbeer and meet animals from the franchise, including Harry’s owl.

Animal rights group PETA has accused the tour of mistreating the owls that appear on the tour. After secretly filming the tour, PETA has accused the tour operators of keeping the “distressed birds… tethered in tiny cages for hours and forced to perform tricks.”

“Confining frightened owls to tiny cages where they can only chew at their tethers in frustration goes against every message of respect and kindness that J.K. Rowling’s wonderful books taught us,” PETA director Mimi Bekhechi told the BBC.

Warner Bros Studio Tour London told the BBC, “It is essential the welfare of the birds… is of the highest standard.” They also said that they had asked the company that owns the birds, Birds and Animals, to “review this matter.”

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Birds and Animals told the BBC, “The owls are always given regular breaks and closely monitored by a vet. Now that we have had the opportunity to see the footage, we have instigated a review of the issues raised.” They added: “We will take appropriate action to ensure that the birds and animals always receive the very best care.”

[BBC]

TIME Globalization

These Are the 7 Challenges of Globalization

What happens as the world becomes even more interconnected…and even more leaderless?

Some argue that globalization is grinding to a screeching halt. In a world of increased conflict and turmoil, where major powers jockey for influence, financial sanctions have become a go-to weapon and even the Internet threatens to splinter, then surely the cross-border flow of money, ideas, information, goods and services will begin to slow—or even reverse.

Others argue that globalization is really just Americanization by other means. After all, the United States still dominates the international financial system. Information hurtling through cyberspace promotes the democratization of information, because it creates demand for still more information and forces autocrats to care more about public opinion. As developing countries develop, aren’t they becoming more like America?

Not anymore. If globalization has promoted the American dream over the past quarter century, it’s only because the United States has been a dominant power. There is nothing inherently American or Western about globalization itself. And times are changing.

Globalization isn’t going away—in fact, it will continue apace. But the U.S.-led world order is deteriorating. An inconsistent, war-weary United States is no longer willing and able to provide global leadership—and no other country is stepping up to take its place: the rest of the West is distracted with problems at home, and allies are looking to hedge their bets.

Meanwhile, developing countries have become powerful enough to start dismantling the U.S.-led international system; China, Russia, Turkey, and a host of other emerging markets have more ability to ‘veto’ global initiatives that they disagree with. But they are not yet synchronized or influential enough—and their values and interests are too divergent—to offer adequate alternatives of their own. The result is a regionalized world where Americanization and globalization are no longer one and the same.

This unprecedented combination will generate a lot of new risks and opportunities. I recently helped the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Geoeconomics with a report that outlines the seven major challenges to globalization in an interconnected, de-Americanized world.

My piece in the report focuses on one particular challenge: weaker underdogs. With a widening leadership vacuum at the very top, we are seeing regional heavyweights with more room to operate. Think: Russia’s intrusions in its backyard, Germany’s firm control over Eurozone policy, or China’s rapid rise in the Asia-Pacific. These major countries are consolidating power, often at the expense of the smaller countries around them. This ‘hollowing of the peripherals’ will accelerate in a world that is becoming rudderless at the global level.

This is just one of the seven trends we’ve highlighted. Read the full “Seven Challenges to Globalization” report here: http://www.weforum.org/reports/geo-economics-seven-challenges-globalization

 

TIME World

This Road in China Got Covered in Almost 15,000 Lb. of Live Catfish

Thousands Of Kilograms Of Catfish Scatter In Kaili
ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images Thousands of kilograms of catfish scatter across the road in the Kaili Development Zone in Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture on March 17, 2015, in Kaili, Guizhou province of China

Bringing a whole new meaning to the term street food

When the door of a delivery truck in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou swung open, 15,000 lb. (6,800 kg) of catfish came spilling out, covering the road in a flopping, scaly mess.

Remarkably, with the help of community members and the local fire department, a two-hour rescue effort was undertaken and the shipment was not wasted, according to the Shanghaiist. Their task was arduous but simple — workers basically sprayed the fish with water to keep them alive while others picked them up and returned them to the truck.

And thanks to their efforts, these fish out of water finally made it to the dinner table.

Thousands Of Kilograms Of Catfish Scatter In Kaili
ChinaFotoPress—Getty ImagesWith the help of fire crews of Development Zone Squadron in Qiandongnan Fire Detachment and local people, the catfish were loaded on the truck again.
ChinaFotoPress—Getty ImagesThousands of kilograms of catfish scatter across the road in the Kaili Development Zone in Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture on March 17, 2015 in Kaili, Guizhou province of China

[Shanghaiist]

TIME Tunisia

Tunisia Reels From a Terror Attack Possibly Linked to ISIS

ISIS claims responsibility for a terror attack in Tunis that killed over 20 people

With Tunisians reeling from the terror attack that killed 18 foreign tourists on Wednesday in the heart of their capital, the government scrambled to try avert any further attacks, while accounting for how gunmen were able to mount the deadliest operation in decades, in broad daylight and with seemingly little difficulty.

Late Wednesday, security forces arrested nine people, five of whom were believed to be directly connected to the attack on the National Bardo Museum, according to Tunisia’s presidential office, which said the suspects were part of a terror “cell.” In the worst attack on foreigners in 13 years—and with the highest death toll perhaps ever—two gunmen cornered the tourists in the museum parking lot early Wednesday afternoon, massacring several of them, before holding several others under siege inside. Security forces stormed the building about four hours later, killing the attackers and freeing the hostages. Among those killed were tourists from Spain, Italy, Poland and Germany, most of whom were passengers on a Mediterranean cruise-liner that had stopped for a day of sight seeing in Tunis.

As the shock sank in on Wednesday night, 88-year-old Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, who took office only in January after the country’s first presidential elections, vowed an all-out fight against jihadists. Tunisia, he said in a televised address, was “in a war with terror, and these savage minority groups will not frighten us. The fight against them will continue until they are exterminated.” Parliament on Thursday pledged more funds to beef up security and intelligence.

Yet despite the aggressive talk, Tunisians wondered whether their country’s security has been too lax, and how the growing threats within this small country of 11 million people had gone unnoticed. On Thursday, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid admitted that one of the two gunman had been under surveillance, although it appeared that Tunisia’s security forces did not have information linking him to a specific militant organization. “He was known to the security services, he was flagged and monitored,” said Essid, speaking to the French network RTL. “We are in the process of further investigation. We cannot say which organization they belong to.”

Despite that, early suspicions of who was behind Wednesday’s attack point to the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria (ISIS). Tunisian analysts speculated on Wednesday that the attack on the museum might have been timed in retaliation for the death earlier this week of Ahmed al-Rouissi, one of Tunisia’s most wanted militants, who was killed fighting with ISIS in the Libyan city of Sirt.

On Thursday, the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist organizations, provided an English translation of an ISIS audio statement to the New York Times, in which the organization claimed responsibility for the tourist massacre, and warned of more violence to come. “We tell the apostates who sit on the chest of Muslim Tunisia: Wait for the glad tidings of what will harm you, impure ones, for what you have seen today is the first drop of the rain, God willing,” the paper quoted the statement saying. “You will not enjoy security, nor be pleased with peace, while the Islamic State has men like these.”

There might also have been a warning shortly before the attack. A few hours before the gunmen opened fire at the museum, an ISIS supporter tweeted, “Coming good news to Tunisia’s Muslims,” according to Britain’s Daily Mail. The tweeter, whose handle is @riff0BA, promised “a shock to the disbelievers and the hypocrites, especially those who claim to be cultured.'” According to the Associated Press, two of the gunman involved in the attack left Tunisia in December and received weapons training in Libya.

When gunfire exploded on Wednesday afternoon, residents in Tunis could scarcely believe that their breezy seaside city was under a terrorist attack. Sayida Ounissi, 28, a member of parliament for the Islamist political party Ennahda, told TIME on Thursday that many of her colleagues in parliament at first brushed off the security alert, not believing that they might be in danger; the lawmakers were in session, discussing new anti-terrorism measures, when the gunmen attacked the nearby National Bardo Museum. “Despite all of the threats and assassinations, most of us living in the city think of terrorism as something happening outside, in Iraq and Libya,” Ounissi said, by phone from Tunis. “I was one of the rare people who took the alert seriously.” She quickly began to leave the parliament, followed by her colleagues.

That illusion of safety has been severely shaken. Indeed, Tunisian analysts believe that jihadist organizations see the country and its democratically elected government as a particularly juicy target. That is because Tunisia’s 2011 Jasmine Revolution sparked a wave of uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, emerging as the sole democracy from the Arab Spring.

Wedged between Algeria, where al-Qaeda affiliates are active, and unstable Libya, where ISIS is waging increasing attacks, tiny Tunisia seems highly vulnerable. Tunisian officials estimate that more than 3,000 citizens have fought with jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria over the past four years—making it one of the biggest sources of foreign fighters in the world. About 500 of them have since returned. Battle-trained, some could be planning to wage attacks at home. “We know very well that the Tunisia model is not to everyone’s satisfaction,” says Ounissi. “You have a Muslim democracy in a region with extremist organizations, who do not want freedom and democracy.”

Still, Wednesday’s attacks appeared to have inspired intense determination among Tunisians to protect their democratic revolution. After dark on Wednesday thousands of people poured into Tunis’s main boulevard, Avenue Habib Bouguiba, signing the national anthem and holding handwritten signs proclaiming that terrorism would not prevail. Others gathered in a candlelight vigil outside the Bardo Museum, shaken by the gruesome bloodshed on the city’s streets. “You can see the sense of shock on everyone’s faces,” says Jerry Sorkin, an American tour operator who has lived in Tunis for many years, and runs a cultural-tour company called TunisUSA. “People are not going to tolerate the violence,” he says, speaking by phone from the capital on Thursday. “They have gone so far in forming a democracy.”

Nonetheless, Wednesday’s attacks are likely to have a drastic effect on Tunisia, especially on the vital tourist industry, which has suffered since the Arab Spring. The travel industry makes up about seven percent of the country’s economy, and employs nearly 500,000 people. A two-hour flight from Paris, Tunisia’s sun-baked coastline drew millions of tourists before the revolution. Tunisia was hoping that this year’s summer would mark an upturn in tourists, many of whom have stayed away since 2011. But Sorkin says he had received several calls and emails since Wednesday from nervous clients who have booked tours to Tunisia. ” All we can tell them is, we really think this is an isolated situation,” he says.

Tunisians are hoping that is the case. On Thursday, Tunisia’s former Minister of Information Oussama Romdani, who served under Ben Ali, sent TIME an email titled simply, “how to help after the attack.” Inside was a photograph of a sunny Mediterranean beach, with the words: “Keep calm and visit Tunisia.”

TIME Iran

Deal Would Force Iran to Cut Nuclear Hardware

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) holds a negotiation meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) over Iran's nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland on March 18, 2015.
Brian Snyder—Reuters U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) holds a negotiation meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) over Iran's nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland on March 18, 2015.

The sides are zeroing in on a cap of nuclear 6,000 centrifuges

(LAUSANNE, Switzerland) — A draft nuclear accord now being negotiated between the United States and Iran would force Iran to cut hardware it could use to make an atomic bomb by about 40 percent for at least a decade, while offering the Iranians immediate relief from sanctions that have crippled their economy, officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.

As an added enticement, elements of a U.N. arms embargo against Iran could be rolled back.

The very existence of a draft in circulation provided perhaps the clearest indication the sides were nearing a written agreement as they raced to meet a March 31 deadline for a framework pact. The deadline for a full agreement is the end of June.

Officials said the tentative deal imposes new limits on the number of centrifuges Iran can operate to enrich uranium, a process that can lead to nuclear weapons-grade material. The sides are zeroing in on a cap of 6,000 centrifuges, officials said, down from the 6,500 they spoke of in recent weeks.

That’s also less than the 10,000 such machines Tehran now runs, yet substantially more than the 500 to 1,500 that Washington originally wanted as a ceiling. Only a year ago, U.S. officials floated 4,000 as a possible compromise.

But U.S. officials insist the focus on centrifuge numbers alone misses the point. Combined with other restrictions on enrichment levels and the types of centrifuges Iran can use, Washington believes it can extend the time Tehran would need to produce a nuclear weapon to at least a year for the 10 years it is under the moratorium. Right now, Iran would require only two to three months to amass enough material if it covertly seeks to “break out” toward the bomb.

The one-year breakout time has become a point the Obama administration is reluctant to cross in the set of highly technical talks, and that bare minimum would be maintained for 10 years as part of the draft deal. After that, the restrictions would be slowly eased. The total length of the deal would be at least 15 years, possibly even 20.

Among U.S. allies, France is the most adamant about stretching out the duration of the deal. A European official familiar with the French position said it wants a 25-year time-span.

As part of the agreement, punitive U.S. economic sanctions would be phased out over time. President Barack Obama has the authority to eliminate some measures immediately, and others would be suspended as Iran confirms its compliance over time. Some sanctions would be held to the later years of the deal, while a last set would require a highly skeptical U.S. Congress to change laws.

Although time periods and sanctions schedules have previously been discussed, it is only in recent days that officials confirmed these understandings have been put down in a formal draft. The officials demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the confidential talks.

Iran insists its program is solely for peaceful energy, medical and research purposes, though many governments believe it has nuclear weapons ambitions.

It’s unclear how complete the draft agreement is. Iran’s deeply buried underground enrichment plant remains a problem, officials said, with Washington demanding the facility be repurposed and Tehran insisting it be able to run hundreds of centrifuges there. Iran says it wants to use the machines for scientific research; the Americans fear they could be quickly retooled for enrichment.

A planned heavy water reactor will be re-engineered to produce much less plutonium than originally envisioned, relieving concerns that it could be an alternative pathway to a bomb.

Iran’s atomic energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, told reporters this week almost all the technical work was done, but other officials said several obstacles still stood in the way of the framework.

Any March framework agreement is unlikely to constrain Iran’s missile program, which the United States believes may ultimately be aimed at creating delivery systems for nuclear warheads. Diplomats say that as the talks move to deadline, the Iranians continue to insist that missile curbs are not up for discussion.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met for the fourth straight day Thursday. Much of the nitty-gritty negotiating was being handled by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Salehi, both nuclear physicists.

The talks formally remain between the Iran and six powers, but Kerry and Zarif have done most of the heavy lifting in recent months. If they make enough progress over the next days, foreign ministers representing the other nations at the negotiating table will be invited to put the finishing touches on the agreement. That may not happen until next week.

If a deal is reached, officials say various layers of U.N. sanctions on Iran will be eased. That will include parts of the U.N. arms embargo, with Russia and China, in particular, more forward-leaning on that front and talking about acting within weeks of a full accord. Some restrictions will stay in place, however, such as on the transfer of missile technology.

Any agreement faces fierce opposition from the U.S. Congress as well as close American allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, which believe the Obama administration has conceded too much.

Senate Republicans and even some Democrats are threatening to upend the diplomacy, demanding congressional approval and threatening further sanctions against Iran. If they can’t stop an accord, their interference can make it harder for Obama to live up to his side of the bargain.

After the deal expires, Iran could theoretically ramp up enrichment to whatever level or volume it wants.

Iran already can produce the equivalent of one weapon’s worth of enriched uranium with the centrifuges it now runs. However, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spoke of eventually operating enough centrifuges to produce what 190,000 of its current models churn out.

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