TIME Mideast Peace

Who is Jonathan Pollard? And Why is He in Jail?

Should the only American convicted of espionage and sentenced to life in prison be released?

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He currently resides in a federal prison in Butner, N.C. Jonathan Pollard, 59, is a Jewish-American who passed American secrets to the Israelis while serving as a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst.

In 1985, he was sentenced to life in prison—a sentence that many Israelis and some American Jews consider excessive, cruel and potentially tainted by anti-Semitism. Now the Obama administration is reportedly considering releasing Pollard from prison as an incentive to keep the Israelis in peace talks with the Palestinians.

And so a convicted spy who many Americans have never heard of is back in the headlines because the Mideast peace process is, again, on a precipice.

TIME Bangladesh

Otters Have Helped Bangladesh Fishermen Catch Fish For Centuries

The rare, long standing technique is in decline as natural fish populations have reduced drastically in recent years

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Swimming in circles alongside a fishing boat, two otters wait to catch fish in a river in southern Bangladesh. As the animals squeak in the water, fishermen lower a net into the river, in the heart of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. Then, one by one, the short-haired otters dive under the water with a splash, chasing a school of fish close to the banks of the river.

Otter fishing is a centuries-old tradition in Bangladesh, where fishermen have been using trained otters to lure fish into their nets – a rare technique passed on from father to son that relies on coordination between man and otter.

“We use them because they catch more fish that we can alone,” Shashudhar Biswas, a fisherman in his 50s whose family has trained otters for generations, told the AFP. Biswas explains that the otters do not catch the fish themselves, but they chase them towards fishing nets.

“The otters manage to spot fish among the plants, then the fish swim away and we stay close with our nets. If we did it without them, we wouldn’t be able to catch as many fish,” says Shashudhar’s son, Vipul. Vipul added that it’s much easier to make ends meet thanks to this technique.

Fishing is usually done at night, and the otters can help fishermen catch as many as 26 pounds of fish, crabs and shrimp.

But the partnership between man and otter is on the verge of extinction. It’s already died out in other parts of Asia as fish populations decline, wildlife experts say. Short-haired otters are an endangered species in Bangladesh and experts say that otter fishing may play a key role in their conservation.

TIME

South Korean ‘Diva’ Makes $9000 a Month Eating on Camera

The success of one of South Korea's most popular food bloggers, who makes a living broadcasting herself eat, is a mark of a society coming to terms with its increasing urban alienation

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Park Seo-yeon eats for a living. And, boy, does she eat.

On a Sunday evening last month, I watched her gobble up $300 worth of prime beef, alongside an armful of grilled zucchini, mushroom, pepper, eggplant and pumpkin. Her second course: six fresh, blue crabs piled on a mound of greens and bathed in a clear broth. For dessert: pudding.

Also watching the 32-year-old consume copious quantities of food that night: several thousand fans. Park, who goes by the nickname ‘The Diva,’ is one of South Korea’s top culinary bloggers. Nearly every day, she prepares and eats her outsized evening meal in her home studio, live-broadcasting for up to four hours at a time. “I try to look pretty, eat pretty, and eat a lot of delicious food,” she says.

The Diva’s show is part cooking program, part virtual community. Fans tune in to see what she cooks (it varies, but it is always a lot) and how she eats it (with relish). They also send recipes, and ask her questions. (‘How do you eat so much?’) As a sign of appreciation, they send “balloons,” a digital currency that can be converted to cash. She says she now makes about $9000 per month.

Park is at the leading edge of South Korea’s burgeoning meok-bang, or ‘broadcast eating’ fad. There are thousands of hosts, although she is currently the most popular in the category. Two things are driving the trend, she says: an obsession with food, eating and dieting, and the loneliness of urban life.

The Diva’s show is a sensory feast. You can hear the meat sizzle and the mustard squirt. After cutting a particularly juicy piece of steak, Park spears it with her fork and holds it before the camera, turning it just slightly until it glistens in the light. She takes a bite. “Juicy,” she says, between chews. “It just melts away in my mouth.”

The Diva’s meals are mostly multi-course, multi-hour affairs featuring abnormally large portions. That’s part of the appeal. A lot of her fans are young people, particularly young women, who face tremendous pressure to stay thin. “A lot of my fans are on a diet,” she says. “Watching me eat gives them a vicarious thrill.”

The tone is sensual, but not overtly sexual. Park is the first to admit that her looks are part of the appeal. Although she insists she does not purge or diet, she says she spends about 1.5 hours a day doing her makeup and hair, and strives to both “eat pretty” and look good. The day TIME met her, camera in-tow, she went to the butcher’s shop in spike heels.

But the show is, quite literally, family friendly. After several years of broadcasting solo, Park made her parents regular guests. They drive to her home several nights a week to help her grocery shop, prepare food, and interact with the audience. “We tell the fans they should eat with their parents,” says her dad, Park Il-lyun, 64. “Now I have my own fans too.”

For some viewers the broadcast is a nightly ritual, a virtual re-enactment of a family meal. The number of one-person households in South Korea expected to jump from 25.3% in 2012 to 32.7% in 2030, the fastest rate among rich-world countries, according Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. “Many people are eating alone,” Park says. “My show makes them feel like they are eating with a friend.”

The Diva’s fans, like real-life friends and family, are full of questions and advice. “Do you have a boyfriend?” they ask. “How do you manage to stay so slim?,” “Where do you buy your makeup?,” “What brand of oil do you use?” After watching her prepare and eat an outrageous amount of beef, one fan wrote-in with some health advice: “Eating too much meat is bad for your kidneys.”

Certainly, the lifestyle takes its toll. Park’s success in the virtual world has changed her real life. She makes more money than she did at her office job, sure, but she spends most of her time alone, prepping, shopping and broadcasting. It is tough to make dinner plans, or meet a life partner (which she says she would like to do), when you have a standing date with three or four thousand online voyeurs.

But she works hard to downplay the difficulty, to make it all look easy. Park is the woman who eats as much as she pleases, but doesn’t gain a pound, the dinner companion who never tires of your company. She is selling the same thing that television shows have been peddling for years: fantasy. And audiences eat it up.

—with reporting by Stephen Kim / Incheon, South Korea

TIME Obamacare

Obamacare’s Last Week of Signups: What You Need To Know

March 31 is the date to circle on your health insurance calendar

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We’re a few days away from the biggest Obamacare deadline yet.

President Barack Obama has been making a final push for health insurance enrollment because Monday, March 31 is the last day to buy individual health care plans under the Affordable Care Act. Most Americans must be enrolled in health coverage by next Monday or pay a penalty under the new law.

More than 5 million people have enrolled in private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act since open enrollment began on October 1, the Obama administration said last week. Millions of uninsured Americans were expected to receive coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act through private marketplaces and an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor. However, as the deadline to sign up for HealthCare.gov looms, many will remain uninsured, the Associated Press reports.

Watch the video above for details.

TIME

See the 10 Most Iconic Movie Props Ever Sold

How much did the most memorable props of all time fetch at auction?

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Monday’s Premiere Props Hollywood Auction Extravaganza XIII has some impressive items: a sword from Kill Bill, a gorilla mask from Planet of the Apes, the Riddler’s hat from Batman Forever. These films would have been different without these pieces; some films are so connected to their props, they become symbols for the movie.

And so cinephiles clamor to get their hands on these objects that embody their favorite movies and are willing to pay a fortune to get them. $200,000 for a small metal tube, $78,000 for a suit of clothes: if it graced the silver screen, it’s worth more than gold.

TIME College Basketball

Watch the Game That Saved March Madness

Princeton’s near-upset of Georgetown in a 1989 first-round game made sure Cinderella would always get invited to the dance

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On St. Patrick’s Day night, 1989, the top-seeded Georgetown Hoyas—the most dominant and polarizing college basketball team in America—faced the 16th-seeded Princeton Tigers in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Hoyas had just rolled through the powerful Big East. The Tigers barely won the lightly-regarded Ivy League. While watching that year’s selection show, many Princeton players had just one wish: please, don’t make us play Georgetown. First game on the board: Georgetown vs. Princeton, in Providence.

For the Princeton players, jitters soon turned into joy. For college basketball fans, March Madness would soon change, forever, for the better. A David vs. Goliath classic attracted what was then ESPN’s largest-ever audience for a college hoops game. The first two days of the opening round, which tip off today, have become a shared national ritual. And it might never have happened were it not for that one night, a quarter century ago, in Providence. Here’s the story of the game that saved March Madness.

TIME weather

Springtime Is Finally Here as Vernal Equinox Arrives

Put away the jackets and gloves and break out the pastel colors because spring is finally here

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Chilly weather may still be lingering in some areas of the U.S., but there’s light at the end of the tunnel — Thursday brings the Vernal Equinox, or the official beginning of spring.

Twice a year, the earth’s axis is angled such that the world gets an equal amount of daylight and night. As the axis tilts further, the northern hemisphere receives more direct sunlight, leading to spring and summer’s warmer temperatures. The Equinox helps mark important celebrations around the world like Nowruz, the Persian New Year, Easter, and Passover.

Put away the jackets and gloves and break out the pastel colors, because spring is finally here.

TIME

March Sanity: How to Build a Better NCAA Bracket

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Big teams fall in the NCAA tournament almost every year and underdogs sometimes rise to the top. And many of us end up puzzling over a March Madness bracket, the one that some guy from IT is emailing everyone about. Faced with all those blank spaces where your projected winners should go, it can be enticing to take a chance and choose an upset the 15 seed over the 2 seed —especially if you’re guessing anyway. There’s got to be a chance right?

Tuns out, long-shot is an understatement. Picking a 15 seed or a 16 seed to win is so close to statistically impossible it’s practically out of bounds.

Pro tip: If you let math be your guide, you can significantly improve your bracketology odds. Here’s a method derived from averaging the number of teams from each seed that have advanced over the last 29 years, round by round.

Round of 64: Choose four #1 seeds, four#2 seeds, four#3 seeds, three #4 seeds, two #5 seeds, two #6 seeds, two #7 seeds, two #8 seeds, two #9 seeds, one #10 seed, one #11 seed, one #12 seed, and one #13 seed to advance. There are three picks left over for you to use at your discretion.

Round of 32: Choose four #1 seeds, three #2 seeds, two #3 seeds, two #4 seeds, one #5 seed, one #6 seed to advance. There are again three picks left over for you to use at your discretion.

Sweet 16: Choose three #1 seeds, two #2 seeds, one #3 seed to advance. There are two picks left over for you to use at your discretion.

Elite 8: Choose two #1 seeds, one #2 seed to advance. There is one pick left over to use at your discretion.

Final 4: Pick one #1 seed. There is one pick left over to use at your discretion.

Championship: There is one pick left over to use at your discretion. (Note: 62% of the ultimate winners have been #1 seeds).

Numbers from cbssports.com and bleacherreport.com

[Special thanks to Jim Sannes and Mark Moog for the assist.]

TIME Companies

Jack Daniel’s Fights Change to Definition of Tennessee Whiskey

Distilleries in Tennessee want to change a year-old law that states "Tennessee Whiskey" must be made a certain way—nearly identical to how Jack Daniel's does it, including special charred oak barrels—to earn the title

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If it’s not made like Jack Daniel’s it’s not Tennessee Whiskey.

That’s according to a year-old law on the books in Tennessee, which says whiskey must be fermented in the state from mash of 51 percent corn, aged in brand-new charred oak barrels, filtered through maple charcoal and bottled at over 80 proof in order to earn the title “Tennessee Whiskey,” the Associated Press reports. And that’s exactly how Jack Daniel’s makes its whiskey.

Now lawmakers are considering changing the rule, which they say makes it difficult for craft distilleries to sell their whiskey as “Tennessee Whiskey” and puts them at a significant disadvantage. But Jack Daniel’s opposes the change, saying that any adjustment would dilute the appeal of Tennessee Whiskey.

“It’s really more to weaken a title on a label that we’ve worked very hard for,” Jeff Arnett, a master distiller for Jack Daniel’s, told the AP. “As a state, I don’t think Tennessee should be bashful about being protective of Tennessee whiskey over say bourbon or scotch or any of the other products that we compete with.”

The big change would be to allow whiskey makers to re-use their barrels, which would significantly cut costs since the required brand-new specialty barrels can cost up to $600.

“There are a lot of ways to make high-quality whiskey, even if it’s not necessarily the way Jack Daniel’s does it,” said Republican state Rep. Bill Sanderson. “What gives them the right to call theirs Tennessee whiskey, and not others?”

 

TIME

Beware the Ides of March

The 15th of March isn't filled with doom. It's just another day.

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The 15th is the Ides of March, and you know what that means. You don’t? Oh. It wasn’t good for Julius Caesar — he got stabbed 23 times by his trusted friends on this day in 44 B.C. Fast forward a few thousand years and Ryan Gosling gets fired from George Clooney’s presidential campaign in the political drama The Ides of March. Even Homer Simpson is warned of his downfall on the Ides of March after being the Chosen One of the Stonecutters club. The Ides of March have a doom-filled reputation, but every month has its Ides. Let TIME be your soothsayer and explain exactly why you should, or shouldn’t, beware.

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