MONEY First-Time Dad

These Are the Countries with the Best Maternity Leaves

Luke Tepper
Mrs. Tepper took off four months to take care of this guy—and was paid dearly in smiles and dirty diapers. Ken Christensen

New dad Taylor Tepper argues that America needs to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of providing paid time off to new moms.

Two weeks ago, Mrs. Tepper returned to her full-time job—almost six months after giving birth to our son Luke.

She wasn’t altogether excited about the idea of leaving Luke in the hands of someone else while she relived paler experiences like commuting. Nevertheless, Mrs. Tepper soldiered on, and we ended our four-month experiment of living in an expensive city with a new child and without the income of the chief wage earner.

Right up there with “Is it a boy or a girl?” and “What name are you going with?” is another question every new mother should be prepared to answer: “How much paid time off do get from work?” If your answer is anything longer than a few weeks, you can pretty much guarantee kind words and jealous eyes in response.

We were fortunate. Mrs. Tepper, who works as a teacher, received around two months of paid maternity leave and was allowed to take the rest of the school year off unpaid. I got two weeks paid.

Most Americans are not so lucky. The land of the free and the home of the brave is one of two of the 185 countries or territories in the world surveyed by the United Nation’s International Labor Organization that does not mandate some form of paid maternity leave for its citizens. Many are familiar with the generosity of Scandinavian nations when it comes to parents bringing new children into the world, but who would believe that we trail Iran in our support of new families?

Iran mandates that new mothers receive two-thirds of their previous earnings for 12 weeks from public funds, according to a the ILO report. In America, mothers are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave—but only if they work for a company that has more than 50 employees, per the Family and Medical Leave Act. And, for some context, more than 21 million Americans work for businesses that employ 20 people or fewer, per the U.S. Census Bureau.

The ILO report is full of unflattering comparisons that will leave American workers feeling woozy. Georgia—the country—allows its mothers to receive 18 weeks of paid time off at 100% of what they made before. Mongolia gives its new moms 17 weeks of paid time off at 70% of previous earnings. (Mongolia’s GDP is $11.5 billion, or about a third of Vermont’s.)

Lest you think paid time off for moms is a poor-nation phenomenon, Germany’s mothers receive 14 weeks of fully paid time off, while Canadian mothers can look forward to 15 weeks of 55% of their salary.

There are pockets of help stateside. Five U.S. states provide paid maternity leave: New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, California and Rhode Island. In Rhode Island, for example, mothers receive four weeks of paid leave—ranging from $72 to $752, depending on your earnings.

Meanwhile, however, the ILO’s maternity leave standard states that all mothers across the board should be entitled to two-thirds of their previous salary for at least 14 weeks.

Look, I’m not really saying that American women should defect to Iran or Mongolia or Georgia to push out their progeny. But it defies logic that we are the only developed nation not to have a national system in place that helps new families adjust to their new lives.

The benefits of implementing some compulsory system of continuing to pay women for a defined period of time after they give birth are known. Based on California’s family leave policy, which was instituted in 2004, economists found that employment prospects for a mother nine to twelve months after childbirth improved (meaning: more moms at that stage were employed after the bill than before it). Additionally, other research has found that mothers who return later to work are less likely to be depressed.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro (both Democrats) introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act last year which, among other things, would provide new mothers with 12 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of their previous salary up to a cap. But the Act is not yet a law.

A few years ago, Mrs. Tepper was in graduate school, and I waited tables. We made much much less than we do now and enjoyed no financial security. Often when I’m playing with Luke I find myself thinking, “What would we have done if he was born then?”

Taylor Tepper is a reporter at Money. His column on being a new dad, a millennial, and (pretty) broke appears weekly. More First-Time Dad:

TIME Infectious Disease

Ebola Death Toll in West Africa Passes 1,000

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan sits next to Fukuda, WHO's assistant director general for health security, as he addresses the media in Geneva
World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan sits next to Keiji Fukuda, WHO's assistant director general for health security, during a press conference after an emergency committee meeting on Ebola in Geneva on August 8, 2014 Pierre Albouy—Reuters

The World Health Organization said on Monday that the death toll has climbed to 1,013 in the Ebola outbreak that has swept through Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and possibly Nigeria

(DAKAR, Senegal) — The World Health Organization says the death toll in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has passed 1,000.

The U.N. health agency said in a news release Monday that 1,013 people have died in the outbreak, which has hit Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and possibly Nigeria.

Authorities have recorded 1,848 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of the disease, which causes a high fever, vomiting and bleeding. The outbreak was first identified in March in Guinea, but it likely started months earlier.

The updated WHO tally includes figures from Aug. 7- 9 when 52 more people died and 69 more were infected.

Ebola is highly lethal and there is no licensed vaccine or treatment for the disease, but so far three people infected have received an experimental drug.

TIME North Korea

The North Koreans Are Unhappy With the U.N.’s Report on Human Rights

A Portrait of North Korea
The Mass Games being performed in Pyongyang. Jonas Gratzer—LightRocket via Getty Images

So they're penning their own

North Korea plans to publish a report on the state of human rights in the country, nearly six months after a U.N. commission released a scathing document on conditions in the reclusive state.

“A report on human rights is to be published in the DPRK (North Korea) by the country’s Association for Human Rights Studies in the near future,” said the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

The aim is to debunk the U.N.’s report, which the North previously said was orchestrated by the U.S. to overthrow the Pyongyang regime.

The new report, the KCNA says, “will show the true picture of the people of the DPRK dynamically advancing toward a brighter and rosy future while enjoying a free and happy life under the socialist system centered on the popular masses.”

The findings documented in the U.N.’s 372-page probe are anything but “rosy,” however. The regime is accused of crimes against humanity and the chair of the commission said they were “strikingly similar” to crimes committed by Nazi Germany in World War II.

“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” the U.N. study said.

The release date of North Korea’s report has not been disclosed.

TIME Iraq

Everything You Need to Know About the Yazidis

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar west of Mosul, take refuge at Dohuk province, Aug. 7, 2014.
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar west of Mosul, take refuge at Dohuk province, Aug. 7, 2014. Ari Jalal—Reuters

Meet Iraq's secretive, persecuted sect under siege by militants from ISIS

On the peaks of the Sinjar mountains, 50,000 members of the Yazidi people are facing a slow death from dehydration and exposure. Below them waits the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a militant extremist group who will kill any that descend.

The news Thursday night that President Barack Obama has authorized air strikes against ISIS—strikes that started Friday—may offer little relief. Already several dozen Yazidis have died from lack of water and searing temperatures that reach 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Among the dead are 56 children, a UNICEF spokesperson told TIME.

“The Yazidis are one of the longest surviving ancient religions or sects in the world,” said Farwaz Gerges, a professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics.

Despite this, precious little is known about them. And that’s how the Yazidis prefer it.

“They are a secretive community who pass on oral traditions—much of which is unknown to outsiders,” said Hayder al-Khoei, an associate fellow at Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Program. Intermarriage with non-Yazidis is forbidden, and it is impossible to convert to their religion. “To be a Yazidi one must be born into a Yazidi family.”

Though a Kurdish sect and religion, the Yazidi faith has borrowed from multiple traditions. It was founded in the 11th century by a sheik from the major Islamic dynasty, the Umayyad.

“They have borrowed from the Persian tradition, Zoroastrianism (a pre-Islamic religion), Christianity—they believe that Jesus was one of the most important prophets—and Islam,” Gerges said. “It is one of the most complex religions in the world.” The Yazidis believe in reincarnation, perform baptisms, circumcisions and animal sacrifices.

The name “Izidis” literally translates to “worshippers of God.”

The sect is tiny. There are just 700,000 Yazidis worldwide, according to Gerges. Of this number, 600,000 are concentrated in northern Iraq, with their heartland in the town of Sinjar. On Sunday, hundreds of thousands people, Yazidis among them, were forced to flee the Sinjar region as ISIS routed Kurdish forces there.

The Yazidis can’t hope for mercy from ISIS. “Unlike Christians, they’re not even given the option of paying a tax to live under [ISIS'] protection,” al-Khoei said. “[ISIS] believes they are ‘devil worshippers’ who must either be slaughtered or convert to Islam.”

The Yazidis are no strangers to persecution. They have been harassed for centuries based on the misconception they worship the devil. Their faith, al-Khoei said, is dualist not satanic. They believe “that good and evil, God and Satan are part of the same divine creation.”

The Yazidis are monotheistic to an extent, believing that one supreme being known as Yasdan created the earth helped by seven angels. The most important of these is Malak Tawous, the peacock angel or king to whom the Yazidis pray to five times a day. His other name Shaytan means “devil” in Arabic. This, above all else, is what earned them the moniker of devil worshippers.

Though Sunnis and Shi’ites alike call them Satanists, they don’t attack them. But ISIS, which al-Khoei said is on “a genocidal rampage,” won’t tolerate them in its self-declared Islamic caliphate.

This is bleak news for the Yazidis who are already suffering from depleted ranks. “Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, we estimate that 15% of the community left for areas like Europe,” Gerges said.

The Yazidis were targeted by al-Qaeda in Iraq and similar groups following Saddam Hussein’s ousting. In 2007, 800 were killed in a series of bomb blasts, hastening the exodus. “The community is terrified that the migration of young Yazidis… will have major problems for the future survival of the people,” Gerges said.

Right now, the future survival of the Yazidis on the Sinjar mountains is in doubt. Scant supplies are reaching the them via U.S. and Iraqi airdrops or from neighboring areas. An eyewitness told the BBC that the Yazidis are currently subsisting on one meal a day. Unless ISIS pulls back or is forced to flee, the mountains, the supposed final resting place of Noah’s Ark, could perform the same role for many more Yazidis.

“We haven’t been able to access them,” said Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for UNICEF. “Getting to [the mountains] by car is very unsafe, it is blockaded by [ISIS] militants.”

TIME Middle East

No Easy Answers to Charges of War Crimes in Gaza

A Palestinian man enters his destroyed home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 5, 2014.
A Palestinian man enters his destroyed home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 5, 2014. Oliver Weiken—EPA

Experts on both sides say there were, but proving it will be hard and prosecuting even harder

A three-day cease-fire began in Gaza Tuesday, while Israeli and Palestinian delegations traveled to Cairo to negotiate peace.

But looming over negotiations to end the conflict is the ugly specter of war crimes, which both Israel and Hamas have been accused of committing. On July 23, Navi Pillay, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, suggested that attacks on civilians by both Israel and Hamas may have violated international law “in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”

That’s no idle charge — war crimes are breaches of international humanitarian law defined by the Geneva Conventions as:

“Wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including… wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, …taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”

Investigating and proving this is a lengthy and complex process that could take many months. Nevertheless, experts on both sides of the conflict have already drawn their own conclusions.

“It is fairly clear that Hamas has committed war crimes as a matter of systematic [authorized] policy,” says Abraham Bell, Professor of Law at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. “Hamas has used child soldiers, human shields, indiscriminate firing and weaponry incapable of discriminate firing during the conflict. It has also committed perfidy – using protective objects in an attempt to shield combatants – such as storing rockets in schools,” he adds.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-GAZA-CONFLICT
A picture taken from the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows the trail of a missile launched by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system as it intercepts and destroys a rocket launched from Gaza into Israel on August 4, 2014. Jack Guez—AFP/Getty Images

Though aware Israel has been similarly accused of war crimes, Bell is unconvinced. “It’s hard to argue that there are significant war crimes going on from the Israeli point of view,” he comments. “The IDF has lawyers who accompany and advise commanders on missions.”

Israel’s detractors might argue that these legal experts could be more effective: The U.N. places the most recent death toll in Gaza at over 1,200, most of them civilians. Bell says civilian deaths are not necessarily war crimes. “You could end up with a lot of civilian casualties and have acted in accordance with the law,” he says. “It’s expected that there are going to be a lot of civilian deaths in urban warfare.”

Not on this scale, says Simon Natas, partner at ITN solicitors, who has worked with the UK-based organization Palestine Solidarity Campaign.”There are two enormously powerful inferences to draw from the extraordinarily high number of civilian casualties caused by Israel. Either it’s targeting civilians or its attempts to distinguish them from combatants is wholly inadequate,” Natas says. “Both constitute war crimes.”

“We know that Israel has directly targeted non-combatants… I don’t think there is any doubt that they deliberately attacked civilian targets such as mosques, hospitals and the Islamic University in Gaza,” he says.

Natas further claims that the extensive shelling — which, he says, “has characterized this conflict” — is the real “indiscriminate firing” Bell accuses Hamas of carrying out. “There are vast areas where all houses have been flattened,” Natas says. “It’s simply not possible to repeatedly fire these types of shells and not risk disproportionate civilian casualties.”

Though Israel says it warns civilians of attacks by dropping leaflets, leaving pre-recorded messages, and firing warning missiles, Natas is unimpressed. “A civilian is entitled to say ‘I want to remain in my home’ and it doesn’t mean they can be killed for exercising that right.”

Natas concedes that Hamas, too, fires indiscriminately at Israeli civilian areas but adds: “They don’t have the sophisticated technology to only hit military targets… they use extremely primitive weapons.” That lack of discrimination is not deliberate, he says, but due to a technical lack of control when retaliating against a more powerful, national military. That militant organizations can be accused of war crimes when they’re forced to resort to crude weaponry for self-defense, he says, is “an issue that international law needs to get to grips with.”

Accusations of war crimes are easy to come by, but prosecutions of them are not. While the UN Human Rights Council conducted a war crimes inquiry into a three-week conflict in Gaza in 2008-9 that concluded there had been serious violations on both sides, it had no powers of enforcement. For prosecution to actually go ahead, the domestic country must first have investigated its own conduct.

Natas says that Israel’s analysis of its own actions during war has never been carried out with sufficient rigor or impartiality, and believes it will be much the same after Operation Protective Edge. So, he says, “two NGOs in Gaza – al-Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – will be impartially collecting evidence of war crimes along with the U.N.”

Though Natas says the Gazan NGOs will also report on any crimes committed by Hamas, Bell says the militant group won’t carry out an internal investigation into its own conduct either. “A terrorist organization is not going to investigate its own war crimes,” he says.

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinians remove pieces of rubble from a house hit by an Israeli airstrike in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, on August 4, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

Once the internal process has been completed, the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) can intervene if it thinks the process has been unsatisfactory. However, the court doesn’t have jurisdiction in Israel or in Palestine, meaning that it can’t prosecute them without U.N. Security Council referral.

Israel refused to ratify the I.C.C.’s treaty, the Rome Statute, in 1998, and though Palestine is keen to join the treaty after being declared a non-member state by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, Natas says it’s under pressure from Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. to stay away lest it tries to prosecute Israeli officials. The U.S. also voted against making Palestine a non-member state.

Two other options remain. The U.N.’s Security Council can request an I.C.C. investigation or an independent country that has universal jurisdiction can prosecute individuals for war crimes. Universal jurisdiction is possessed by 166 states, who, according to Amnesty International, “have defined one or more of four crimes under international law (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture) as crimes in their national law.”

Both Natas and Bell agree that the former looks unlikely. Bell thinks the U.N. Security Council won’t target a Palestinian military group whilst Natas says that the U.S., Israel’s strongest ally and a permanent member of the council, would veto any attempt to take Israeli officials to the I.C.C.

However, prosecution of Israel or Hamas could still happen in one of those 166 states. “It remains a distinct possibility that the prosecutions could happen in another country,” says Natas. “It’s just a question of them having the will and the political power.”

Any attempt to prosecute either party would cause huge international ramifications, but it likely wouldn’t come any time soon. Any war crimes inquiry would need to come after the conflict has drawn to a lasting halt, and a domestic investigation has been carried out — and right now, less than a day into a shaky cease-fire, what everyone is hoping for is peace.

TIME Middle East

15 Killed in Gaza Market Airstrike As Temporary Cease-Fire Passes

As at least 15 were killed in the shelling of a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza

Updated 1:22 pm ET

An Israeli airstrike on a busy market in Gaza has killed at least 15 and wounded 150 others, the Associated Press reports.

The strike occurred during a four-hour humanitarian cease-fire,which occurred between 3pm and 7pm local time, in the Gaza Strip. The market is situated within Shejaiya, an area which Israel said wasn’t protected by the parameters of its cease-fire.

A Gaza healthy ministry official, Ashraf al-Kidra, told the AP the Gazans shopping in the market believed they were protected.

In a statement released before the cease-fire, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that the humanitarian window would “not apply to the areas in which IDF soldiers are currently operating” — among which is Shejaiya.

The IDF told residents not to return to areas which they were asked to evacuate, and warned “the IDF will respond to any attempt to exploit this window to harm Israeli citizens and Israeli soldiers.” During the cease-fire, the AP reports, Palestinian militants did fire rockets into Israel.

The IDF scheduled the cease-fire earlier Wednesday, after another night of heavy fighting between it and Hamas saw 15 people killed in the Israeli shelling of a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency said that Tuesday’s attack was the sixth time the IDF had struck a U.N. school during the current conflict. In a statement on their website they called the incident “an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.”

A spokesperson for the IDF told TIME: “The initial IDF investigation suggests that [Palestinian] militants fired mortar shells from the vicinity of the school,” to which the IDF responded. The spokesperson added that the investigation is ongoing.

The White House condemned the UN school shelling Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press reports, but did blame any party for it.

The shelling of the school happened during the 23rd day of operations in the Gaza strip which has so far seen over 1,258 Palestinians killed, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Israel has lost 56 in the fighting.

[AP]

TIME Middle East

Israel: 3 Mortars Fired From Gaza During Cease-Fire

Israeli soldiers patrol along the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip following Israeli air strikes in the Palestinian coastal enclave before a five-hour truce went into effect, on July 17, 2014.
Israeli soldiers patrol along the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip following Israeli air strikes in the Palestinian coastal enclave before a five-hour truce went into effect, on July 17, 2014. Jack Guez—AFP/Getty Images

Israel has refused to say whether it will retaliate, though the military said previously it would respond if the cease-fire was broken

Palestinian militants fired three mortars from Gaza into southern Israel during a cease-fire, an Israeli military spokesperson tells TIME.

Israel and Hamas had agreed to a five-hour humanitarian cease-fire Thursday to allow the U.N. to deliver aid and supplies to the people of Gaza.

“Three mortars hit the Eshkol Regional Council area in southern Israel,” says the Israeli spokesperson. “The mortars landed in open area and there have been no fatalities or injuries.”

The incident is said to have happened around 12 p.m. local time, two hours after the cease-fire came into effect. Hamas has not yet issued a statement.

The Israeli spokesperson added that the military had previously said they would “respond immediately” if Palestinian militants breached the cease-fire agreement. However, she refused to comment on whether the Israel Defense Forces had any plans to retaliate.

The ongoing conflict, which began July 8, has seen 220 Palestinians and one Israeli killed, according to Palestinian and Israeli officials. The Palestinian health ministry say 1,450 Palestinians have been wounded as a result of Israeli strikes.

Israeli leaders have said the country began the military operation in a bid to stop Palestinian rocket attacks.

Thursday’s brief cease-fire comes two days after a cease-fire brokered by Egypt brokered failed. Though Israel agreed to Egypt’s terms, Hamas rejected them and launched more rockets into Israel.

TIME Iraq

Iraqi ‘Terrorist Groups’ Have Seized Nuclear Materials

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014. Stringer/Reuters

Approximately 88 pounds of uranium compounds stored at an Iraq university have been taken, though they are likely unenriched and so difficult to make weapons from

Iraq has told the U.N. that Islamist insurgents have seized nuclear materials used for scientific research from Mosul University in northern Iraq, according to Reuters.

Approximately 88 pounds (40 kilograms) of uranium compounds were stored at the university, wrote Iraq’s U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 8.

The letter, obtained by Reuters, calls for international assistance to “stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad” and warns that the materials could be smuggled out of Iraq.

“Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state,” wrote Alhakim. He added that they “can be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.”

“These nuclear materials, despite the limited amounts mentioned, can enable terrorist groups, with the availability of the required expertise, to use it separate or in combination with other materials in its terrorist acts,” said Alhakim.

A U.S. government source familiar to the situation told Reuters that the materials seized do not appear to be enriched uranium and therefore would be difficult to produce weapons from.

A Sunni militant group called the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has stirred violent unrest and occupied large areas of Syria and Iraq in recent months.

“The Republic of Iraq is notifying the international community of these dangerous developments and asking for help,” said Alhakim.

[Reuters]

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