TIME Australia

Another Australian Surfer Fends Off Shark Attack

Great white shark
Getty Images

The 52-year-old sustained bites to his leg and arm

Despite Shark Week having ended weeks ago, the sea-bound predators seem reluctant to give up the spotlight. On July 19, a great white was caught on live television going after Australian surfing champ Mick Fanning. The 34-year-old was able fend of the shark without injury, but the incident seems to have done little to diminish the enthusiasm of its fellow great whites.

Craig Ison was attacked by a shark off the New South Wales coast early Friday. The 52-year-old Australian surfer (and former boxer, according to media reports) was able to rebuff the shark with a few blows, but didn’t prove quite as fortunate as Fanning, sustaining bites his leg and left arm.

The shark, believed to be a great white, left a 16-inch bite-mark on Ison’s leg and board. He was taken to a nearby hospital for surgery.

[CNN]

TIME weather

This Is the World’s Hottest City Today

Displaced Iraqis carry donated food at al-Takia refugee camp in Baghdad on July 30, 2015.
Khalid Mohammed—AP Displaced Iraqis carry donated food at al-Takia refugee camp in Baghdad on July 30, 2015.

The mercury hit 120 degrees Fahrenheit in Baghdad, and it feels even hotter

Tens of millions of Americans have been suffering under a blistering heatwave this week, with temperatures reaching into the high 90s. But they won’t get any sympathy from the people of Baghdad.

The Iraqi capital was the hottest city on the planet Friday — with the mercury hitting an unbearable 120 degrees Fahrenheit, according to The Weather Channel. And it has felt as hot as 159 degrees.

While many in the U.S. would not tolerate the summer season without air conditioning, people in the Iraqi capital say they have to put up with as little as six hours of electricity per day…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME United Kingdom

U.K. Government Grants Ai Weiwei 6-Month Visa

GERMANY- CHINA-RIGHTS-ART-AI
Christof Stache–AFP/Getty Images Chinese artist Ai Weiwei leaves the Franz-Josef-Strauss airport in Munich, southern Germany, after his arrival from China on July 30, 2015.

The British government reportedly apologized to Ai in writing "for the inconvenience caused"

(LONDON) — Britain says it is granting dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei a six-month visa, apologizing for rejecting his application over an alleged criminal conviction.

On Thursday Ai disclosed that the British embassy in Beijing had turned down his request for a business visa, saying he had failed to disclose a criminal conviction. It gave him a visit for 20 days instead.

Ai was jailed for almost three months in 2011 amid a crackdown on dissent. His company was later accused of tax evasion and ordered to pay $2.4 million. Ai’s lawyer said that was not a criminal case.

Britain’s Home Office said Friday that Home Secretary Theresa May had told officials to grant the six-month visa. It said it had written to Ai “apologizing for the inconvenience caused.”

TIME Turkey

These 5 Stats Explain Turkey’s War on ISIS—and the Kurds

Turkey enters the battle against ISIS, but it's real target seems to be the Kurds

On the heels of a major suicide bombing in the border town of Suruç a couple weeks ago, Turkey has officially joined the war against ISIS—though it’s not clear what it actually aims to achieve. Turkey and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan were riding high just a few years ago, with a strong economy and a growing international profile. Now the country’s economy is tumbling, and its politics are fragmenting. These 5 facts explain Turkey’s various motivations for going to war. Be warned—they’re complicated.

1. A Faltering Economy

Until recently, Turkey was an emerging market darling. In 2010, its economy was growing at a robust 9.2 percent. But by 2013, GDP growth had fallen to 4.1 percent. The slowdown has continued, and growth for 2015 is now forecast at 3.1 percent, which may actually be a generous estimate. Unemployment in the country has reached 11 percent, the highest rate in 5 years.

It’s not clear that joining the fight against ISIS will directly help Turkey’s economy. In fact, it probably won’t—fighting wars, especially open-ended ones, cost money. But it will distract a populace that’s growing increasingly unsettled by the economy’s slowdown.

(IMF World Economic Outlook, Bloomberg, Global Peace Index)

2. Stumbling AKP

The slowing economy has also upended the country’s politics. Turkey was a secular Muslim country for nearly a century until 2002, when Erdogan’s Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) rose to power. It went on to win four consecutive elections, peaking at 49.9 percent in 2011, while presiding over a booming economy. Since then Erdogan has seen his personal popularity plunge from 71 percent to 37.5 percent today. Support for the AKP dropped nearly 10 percent in elections this past June, and the party lost an absolute legislative majority it had enjoyed for 13 years. Who capitalized on the AKP’s poor election performance? The pro-Kurdish HDP, which entered parliament for the first time by capturing 13 percent of the vote. (Political parties must win at least 10 percent of the vote in Turkey in order to enter the legislature.)

Now the AKP must choose between inviting an opposition party to join a coalition government or calling early elections to try to regain its majority. Joining the ISIS war effort serves two political aims: it tarnishes the HDP by associating the party with Kurdish separatist groups accused of terrorism, and it drums up enough nationalist sentiment to peel off votes from the far-right Nationalist Movement Pary. Erdogan will watch the polls. If the AKP’s numbers rise toward 50 percent, he’s likely to push for another vote.

(Brookings, Guardian, Al-Jazeera, Reuters)

3. Syrian Refugees in Turkey

Turkey is currently providing shelter for nearly 2 million Syrian refugees, and that figure is projected to rise another 500,000 by the end of 2015. Put another way, more than half of the 4 million Syrians who have fled their country during the civil war now reside in Turkey. Ankara has established 25 refugee camps, and reports say they are relatively well-run. The problem is the cost—Ankara estimates that it has spent nearly $5.6 billion on refugees since the beginning of the crisis. Combined with its flagging economy, it is not clear how much longer Turkey can continue shouldering the burden. The sooner the fighting in Syria ends, the sooner these refugees can return home.

(European Commission, UNHCR, Al-Jazeera)

4. Violent History with the PKK

Now things start to get murky. On July 20, an ISIS suicide bomb ripped through the Turkish town of Suruç, killing 32 people. The victims were supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Kurdish separatist party based in Turkey and affiliated with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish group currently battling ISIS in Syria. After the Suruç attack, some Turks blamed the AKP government for not protecting the country against terrorism, while Turkish Kurds have accused the government of being complicit in the attacks. They claim that Erdogan’s government has tolerated ISIS attacks on Kurds because ISIS militants threaten Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Turkey’s enemy, and also prevent Kurds from gaining ground in Syria that might help them to eventually create a larger Kurdish homeland in the region.

Erdogan may have declared war on ISIS to blunt criticism that he is soft on terrorism, but this bombing really speaks to the long strained relationship between Turks and Kurds. The Kurds are a sizeable ethnic minority in the region that have been agitating for independence for decades. The last 40 years have been marred by Turkish-Kurdish violence, claiming the lives of 40,000 people. A ceasefire was reached in March 2013, but it didn’t last long. According to Turkish security authorities, the PKK has carried out over 2,000 acts of violence in 2015 alone.

(Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Middle East Monitor)

5. A War Against…Whom?

It’s obvious that Ankara is alarmed by the progress Kurdish fighters in Syria are making against ISIS and Assad, which they fear will only stoke the independence dreams of Turkish Kurds. In response to the Suruç bombing, Turkish police launched security raids across the country, rounding up more than 1,300 suspects in a matter of days. But the number of PKK militants detained outnumber ISIS affiliates more than 6 to 1. Between July 23 and July 26, 75 Turkish jets flew 155 sorties against 400 or so PKK targets. Number of ISIS targets hit? Three.

Officially joining the war against ISIS will give Turkey the cover it needs to bomb the Kurdish separatists carving out territories along the Turkish border. And it seems Washington is willing to ignore attacks on Kurds in exchange for US access to the Incirlik airbase, useful for bombing ISIS inside Iraq. Only time will tell if Turkey and America’s political and military strategies will pay off.

(Reuters, The Independent, Al-Monitor, New York Times)

TIME Middle East

Why Syrian ‘Safe Zones’ Could Be Dangerous for Civilians and U.S. Policy

Syrian refugee Turkey
Umit Bektas—Reuters A refugee from the northern Syrian town of Tel Abyad and her children in Akcakale, in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, on June 18, 2015.

It's not clear how returning refugees will be protected from ISIS and other armed groups

It seems like a nice idea — a stretch of land just inside Syria along the Turkish border where civilians could return safely and moderate opposition rebels could defend the territory, while being trained and equipped to take on the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

In theory it could solve several pressing problems of the Syrian conflict, creating a refuge for rebels and civilians, pushing ISIS away from Turkey’s border and even giving the Syrian opposition the opportunity to govern territory.

Turkey has been pushing for a no-fly zone in northern Syria for two years. For Turkey that means an area protected from the warplanes and barrel bombs of President Bashar al-Assad’s air force. What the U.S. seems to have agreed to is a watered-down version of the Turkish dream, an area free of the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria (ISIS), not fighter jets. Three senior administration officials told Bloomberg on Tuesday that they saw the operation being limited to clearing ISIS forces from a 68-mile stretch of the Turkey-Syria border.

The zone being proposed would reach into Syria toward the province of Aleppo. In the eyes of Turkey, the zone would be established quickly and would provide area where rebels could train and where as many as 1 million Syrian civilians could return, protected by NATO jets and sympathetic Syrian rebels.

“This was launched as an ISIS-free zone because the two sides were unable to bridge their difference concerning the importance of regime change in Syria,” says Sinan Ülgen, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “So there is ambiguity about the role of this zone.”

The contradicting ideas are an indication of the differences in the objectives of the U.S. and Turkey in Syria. For the U.S. the main goal is now to eliminate ISIS, but for Turkey the removal of President Assad and his regime is the priority.

The U.S. has previously resisted the idea of helping to establish any kind of zone inside Syria, but Ülgen says American involvement in such a project is likely a trade-off for Turkey finally allowing U.S. surveillance craft and warplanes to use two key airbases in southern Turkey near the Syrian border.

Some observers worry that in haste to secure these important airbases, the U.S. may have agreed to something with the Turkey without working out the details. “This is potentially a very big commitment, trying to carve-out a buffer zone,” says Kenneth M. Pollack, a specialist in Middle East political-military affairs and a former CIA analyst. “Trying to carve-out a safe haven in the middle of a civil war is incredibly difficult.”

One of the biggest challenges in taking and controlling any zone in Syria will be finding the ground troops to do it. So far both the U.S. and Turkey have said they won’t be sending their troops in to do that. That leaves the, slightly mythical, moderate Syrian rebels to do the job. The U.S. has said it will train and equip 5,400 such rebels to fight ISIS in Syria but Defence Secretary Ash Carter admitted earlier this month they had actually only managed to train 60 Syrian fighters. Just this week, at least one of the American-trained rebels, possibly a unit, was captured by Nusra Front, a large Al-Qaeda linked group fighting in Syria, calling in to question the effectiveness of the program.

Syrian rebel groups have long been asking for such a safe zone, or no-fly zone, says Louay al-Mokdad, a former spokesman for the Free Syrian Army. “How are they going to make it? This is the question,” says al-Mokdad.

The U.S. has had a difficult time finding rebels that meet its criteria. They need to be moderate, Western-friendly and focused on fighting ISIS, not President Assad and his government forces. “They went to Syria looking for unicorns,” says Pollack of the U.S. mission to find Syrian fighters that meet these standards.

Turkey has a different, much wider, idea of which forces are appropriate, as the government has an Islamist leaning, and the target for Turkey is still primarily Assad not just ISIS. But while it’s not clear who will control this area, it is unlikely Turkey would be happy with Kurdish forces playing that role. In recent months, Kurdish forces, particular the YPG, have been the boots on the ground for the coalition’s fight against ISIS, taking swathes of territory from the militants. But for the Turks, the Kurds are their traditional enemy, and they won’t support them or allow them to control more territory on their border. In this, the U.S. may be losing its best foot soldiers in the war against ISIS and this could hurt the mission, says Jonathan Friedman, a Middle Eastern affairs expert at the consultancy Stroz Friedberg and co-author of a recent Chatham House paper on the risks of the safe zone.

“There’s the risk that you’re substituting a group of fighters, the Kurds, who are very much focused on ISIS, are unified and won’t pose any threat to America, for supporting a group of Islamists whose intentions are unclear. Every indication is they’re not positively disposed toward the west,” says Friedman.

The bigger concern is that this could be a way of getting the U.S. more involved in Syria than it intended through what Friedman calls “mission creep.” Once the U.S. has made a commitment to this zone it could be pulled into the fight against Assad in Syria. While so far regime aircraft have avoided U.S. warplanes in the skies of Syria, if Assad’s air force were to approach this zone, it would put the U.S. in difficult position.

“Turkey has been trying to make Syria America’s problem from day one,” says Pollack, adding that they may have succeeded in bringing the U.S. closer to their position.

Many Syrians would welcome returning to their country as life as refugee is difficult. But with all this uncertainty about who will secure this zone and how, rights observers say the idea of returning refugees to this area from Turkey is dangerous. “There is no indication these so-called safe zones will actually be safe for civilians,” says Joe Stork, Deputy Director Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division, “and we are concerned by the suggestion that they might be considered appropriate places for Syrian refugees.”

TIME chinese stock market

China’s Stock Market Just Had Its Worst Monthly Drop In 6 Years

FUYANG, CHINA - JUNE 26:(CHINA OUT) An investor observes stock market at a stock exchange hall on June 26, 2015 in Fuyang, Anhui province of China. Chinese stocks dropped sharply on Friday. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost 334.91 points, or 7.40 percent, to close at 4192.87 points. The Shenzhen Component Index shed 1293.66 points, or 8.24 percent, to 14398.78 points. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress)***_***
ChinaFotoPress

The country's economic woes continue

China’s stock market fell again on Friday, with The Shanghai Composite Index slipping 1.1% to close at 3,663.73, according to a report in Bloomberg News.

The loss brings to an end the worst month for stocks in China since August of 2009, when China was still reeling from a global financial panic and recession that caused massive losses in financial markets around the world.

For the month of July, the Shanghai Composite Index fell a total of 15%, despite unprecedented state intervention aimed at calming markets. According to Bloomberg, the losses on Friday started “after Reuters reported that Chinese regulators had asked financial institutions in Singapore and Hong Kong for stock-trading records as part of efforts to track down investors betting against shares in China.”

Chinese regulators also halted trading in 505 companies on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges on Friday, equivalent to 18% of all listings.

TIME China

This Map Shows China’s Cyber Invasion Of The U.S. Is Well Underway

140239317
Grant Faint—Getty Images

There have reportedly been more than 600 successful attacks in the past five years

The Chinese government’s ongoing cyber assault on American companies and government entities is a bit of an open secret, but the extent of the alleged campaign has been little understood because victims are reluctant to admit their computer systems have been compromised.

On Thursday, NBC News published a map, obtained by the National Security Administration, that should help further the public’s understanding of the scope of the Chinese cyber invasion of U.S. public and private entities.

The map, which was prepared by the NSA in February 2014, reportedly shows more than 600 successful attempts “to steal corporate and military secrets and data about America’s critical infrastructure, particularly the electrical power and telecommunications and internet backbone.” Each dot represents and individual attack.

According to NBC News:

The prizes that China pilfered during its “intrusions” included everything from specifications for hybrid cars to formulas for pharmaceutical products to details about U.S. military and civilian air traffic control systems, according to intelligence sources.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 8.59.01 AM

 

 

 

 

TIME Military

U.S. Intelligence: ISIS is No Weaker Than a Year Ago

ISIS Airstrike Kobani
Halil Fidan—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Smoke rises from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against ISIS targets on Jan. 16, 2015.

Despite the bombings, the group has expanded to other countries

WASHINGTON — After billions of dollars spent and more than 10,000 extremist fighters killed, the Islamic State group is fundamentally no weaker than it was when the U.S.-led bombing campaign began a year ago, American intelligence agencies have concluded.

The military campaign has prevented Iraq’s collapse and put the Islamic State under increasing pressure in northern Syria, particularly squeezing its self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa. But intelligence analysts see the overall situation as a strategic stalemate: The Islamic State remains a well-funded extremist army able to replenish its ranks with foreign jihadis as quickly as the U.S. can eliminate them. Meanwhile, the group has expanded to other countries, including Libya, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Afghanistan.

The assessments by the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and others appear to contradict the optimistic line taken by the Obama administration’s special envoy, retired Gen. John Allen, who told a forum in Aspen, Colorado, last week that “ISIS is losing” in Iraq and Syria. The intelligence was described by officials who would not be named because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

“We’ve seen no meaningful degradation in their numbers,” a defense official said, citing intelligence estimates that put the group’s total strength at between 20,000 and 30,000, the same estimate as last August when the airstrikes began.

The Islamic State’s staying power also raises questions about the administration’s approach to the threat that the group poses to the U.S. and its allies. Although officials do not believe it is planning complex attacks on the West from its territory, the group’s call to Western Muslims to kill at home has become a serious problem, FBI Director James Comey and other officials say.

Yet under the Obama administration’s campaign of bombing and training, which prohibits American troops from accompanying fighters into combat or directing air strikes from the ground, it could take a decade to drive the Islamic State from its safe havens, analysts say. The administration is adamant that it will commit no U.S. ground troops to the fight despite calls from some in Congress to do so.

The U.S.-led coalition and its Syrian and Kurdish allies on the ground have made some inroads. The Islamic State has lost 9.4 percent of its territory in the first six months of 2015, according to an analysis by the conflict monitoring group IHS. And the military campaign has arrested the sense of momentum and inevitability created by the group’s stunning advances last year, leaving the combination of Sunni religious extremists and former Saddam Hussein loyalists unable to grow its forces or continue its surge.

“In Raqqa, they are being slowly strangled,” said an activist who fled Raqqa earlier this year and spoke on condition of anonymity to protect relatives and friends who remain there. “There is no longer a feeling that Raqqa is a safe haven for the group.”

A Delta Force raid in Syria that killed Islamic State financier Abu Sayyaf in May also has resulted in a well of intelligence about the group’s structure and finances, U.S. officials say. His wife, held in Iraq, has been cooperating with interrogators.

Syrian Kurdish fighters and their allies have wrested most of the northern Syria border from the Islamic State group. In June, the U.S.-backed alliance captured the border town of Tal Abyad, which for more than a year had been the militants’ most vital direct supply route from Turkey. The Kurds also took the town of Ein Issa, a hub for IS movements and supply lines only 35 miles north of Raqqa.

As a result, the militants have had to take a more circuitous smuggling path through a stretch of about 60 miles they still control along the Turkish border. A plan announced this week for a U.S.-Turkish “safe zone” envisages driving the Islamic State group out of those areas as well, using Syrian rebels backed by airstrikes.

In Raqqa, U.S. coalition bombs pound the group’s positions and target its leaders with increasing regularity. The militants’ movements have been hampered by strikes against bridges, and some fighters are sending their families away to safer ground.

In early July, a wave of strikes in 24 hours destroyed 18 overpasses and a number of roads used by the group in and around Raqqa.

Reflecting IS unease, the group has taken exceptional measures against residents of Raqqa the past two weeks, activists say. It has moved to shut down private Internet access for residents, arrested suspected spies and set up security cameras in the streets. Patrols by its “morals police” have decreased because fighters are needed on the front lines, the activists say.

But American intelligence officials and other experts say that in the big picture, the Islamic State is hanging tough.

“The pressure on Raqqa is significant, and it’s an important thing to watch, but looking at the overall picture, ISIS is mostly in the same place,” said Harleen Gambhir, a counterterrorism analyst at Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank. “Overall ISIS still retains the ability to plan and execute phased conventional military campaigns and terrorist attacks.”

In Iraq, the Islamic State’s seizure of the strategically important provincial capital of Ramadi has so far stood. Although U.S. officials have said it is crucial that the government in Baghdad win back disaffected Sunnis, there is little sign of that happening. American-led efforts to train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State have produced a grand total of 60 vetted fighters.

The group has adjusted its tactics to thwart a U.S. bombing campaign that tries to avoid civilian casualties, officials say. Fighters no longer move around in easily targeted armored columns; they embed themselves among women and children, and they communicate through couriers to thwart eavesdropping and geolocation, the defense official said.

Oil continues to be a major revenue source. By one estimate, the Islamic State is clearing $500 million per year from oil sales, said Daniel Glaser, assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the Treasury Department. That’s on top of as much as $1 billion in cash the group seized from banks in its territory.

Although the U.S. has been bombing oil infrastructure, the militants have been adept at rebuilding oil refining, drilling and trading capacity, the defense official said.

“ISIL has plenty of money,” Glaser said last week, more than enough to meet a payroll he estimated at a high of $360 million a year.

Glaser said the U.S. was gradually squeezing the group’s finances through sanctions, military strikes and other means, but he acknowledged it would take time.

Ahmad al-Ahmad, a Syrian journalist in Hama province who heads an opposition media outfit called Syrian Press Center, said he did not expect recent setbacks to seriously alter the group’s fortunes.

“IS moves with a very intelligent strategy which its fighters call the lizard strategy,” he said. “They emerge in one place, then they disappear and pop up in another place.”

TIME ebola

Experimental Ebola Vaccine Could Stop Virus in West Africa

It has been called "a game-changer"

LONDON (AP) — An experimental Ebola vaccine tested on thousands of people in Guinea seems to work and might help shut down the waning epidemic in West Africa, according to interim results from a study published Friday.

There is currently no licensed treatment or vaccine for Ebola, which has so far killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa since the world’s biggest outbreak began in the forest region of Guinea last year. Cases have dropped dramatically in recent months in the other two hard-hit countries, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“If proven effective, this is going to be a game-changer,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, which sponsored the study. “It will change the management of the current outbreak and future outbreaks.”

Scientists have struggled for years to develop Ebola treatments and vaccines but have faced numerous hurdles, including the sporadic nature of outbreaks and funding shortages. Many past attempts have failed, including a recently abandoned drug being tested in West Africa by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals.

For the study, researchers gave one dose of the new vaccine to more than 4,000 health care workers and other people within 10 days of their close contact with a sick Ebola patient. Another group of 3,500 people got the shot more than 10 days after their exposure to the infectious virus. In the group that received the vaccine immediately, there were no Ebola cases versus 16 cases in people who got delayed vaccination.

The vaccine, developed by the Canadian government, has since been licensed to Merck & Co. but has not yet been approved by regulators. The study results were published online Friday in the journal Lancet.

At the moment, officials think the vaccine would only be used once an outbreak starts, to protect those at high-risk; there are no plans to introduce mass vaccination campaigns like those for measles or polio or to create huge stockpiles of the shots.

Merck, based in Kenilworth, New Jersey, noted its vaccine is in what is normally the final round of human testing in Sierra Leone, and in mid-stage testing in Liberia.

Merck will manufacture the vaccine if it’s approved for use outside patient studies. In late-morning trading in the U.S., Merck shares were up 62 cents, or 1.1 percent, at $59.13.

Last December, Gavi, the vaccine alliance, said it would spend up to $300 million buying approved Ebola vaccines. The private-public partnership, which often buys immunizations for poor countries, said Friday that it “stands ready to support the implementation of a WHO-recommended Ebola vaccine.”

An expert group monitoring the study’s data and safety recommended the trial be stopped on July 26 so that everyone exposed to Ebola in Guinea could be immunized.

The vaccine uses an Ebola protein to prompt the body’s immune system to attack the virus.

“It looks to be about as safe as a flu vaccine,” said Ben Neuman, a virologist at the University of Reading who was not part of the trial. Researchers are still assessing possible side effects; the most serious seemed to be fever and the stress experienced by patients who believe such symptoms were due to Ebola.

“This (vaccine) could be the key that we’ve been missing to end the outbreak,” Neuman said. “I don’t see any reason on humanitarian grounds why it should not be used immediately.” He said further tests would be necessary to see if the vaccine might also protect pregnant women, children and adolescents; those trials are already under way. It’s also uncertain how long protection might last.

WHO vaccines expert Marie-Paule Kieny said having an effective vaccine might avert future disasters but added it would still take months to get the shot approved by regulators.

“Using a tool like this vaccine, we would be able to stop the epidemic from going really wild and spreading further,” she told reporters, noting that stamping out future outbreaks still depends on early detection. WHO first identified Ebola in Guinea last March but did not declare the epidemic to be a global emergency until August, when the virus had killed nearly 1,000 people.

Other Ebola vaccines are being studied elsewhere but the declining caseload is complicating efforts to finish the trials.

___

AP Business Writer Linda A. Johnson in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.

TIME russia

Russia Is Investigating if Gay Emojis Break Its Laws

The communications watchdog is prepared to “take reactive measures” against the emojis if they constitute a threat to Russian children

Russia’s state media watchdog is investigating whether gay-themed emojis on Facebook are in violation of Russian laws against promoting homosexuality.

The probe initiated this week comes as the result of a complaint from Mikhail Marchenko, a senator in Russia’s upper house of parliament, who was the first official to note the potential danger in the cartoon smiley faces of boys kissing boys and girls kissing girls.

In his written appeal to The Federal Service For Supervision of Communication, Information Technology and Mass Media, which is known in Russia as Roskomnadzor, the senator from the region of Bryansk called for an investigation into whether the emojis violate Russia’s controversial 2013 law against “homosexual propaganda” among minors.

“These emojis of non-traditional sexual orientation are seen by all users of the social network, a large portion of whom are minors,” said Senator Marchenko. “But propaganda of homosexuality is banned under the laws and under the pillars of tradition that exist here in our country.”

In response to the senator’s complaint, the federal agency asked the main youth group of President Vladimir Putin’s political party, the Young Guard, to form an “expert opinion” on this matter of “high social significance,” according to the Izvestia daily, which obtained a copy of the agency’s response to the senator on Wednesday.

In the response, which was written by the deputy head of Roskomnadzor, Maxim Ksenzov, the agency says it is prepared to “take reactive measures” against the emojis if they are found to constitute a threat to Russian children. Under Russian law, the agency is able to block Russians from accessing websites that are found promoting homosexuality among minors. It can also impose fines against those websites for failing to comply with the legislation.

Denis Davydov, the chairman of the coordinating council of Young Guard, which is the youth wing of Putin’s United Russia party, said that his organization would ask professional psychologists to determine “whether there is propaganda or no propaganda” in these emojis.

In June, the Young Guard’s expert opinion on such matters aided a legal case against a Russian website called Children-404, an online resource in Russia that helps council local teenagers through the process of coming out. The head of that project, Elena Klimova, has faced numerous court appearances and fines for her work, with the most recent fine of 50,000 rubles (about $900) upheld by a Russian court this week.

Facebook’s series of emojis celebrating gay pride first appeared on the network in 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to the cause of marriage equality by overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. The social network has since updated its so-called “Pride” series of emojis, including after last month’s historic Supreme Court decision obliging all U.S. states to allow gay marriage.

Though the Russian probe into emojis will focus specifically on Facebook, users of Twitter and Apple’s new operating system for the iPhone are also able to include rainbow flags and other gay-themed icons in their posts and messages.

Davydov, the Young Guard chairman, said that these services could also become the target of investigations if Russian citizens begin to complain about them. “This is not our first day working with Roskomnadzor,” Davydov noted in an interview with a Moscow radio station. “We have on numerous occasions appealed at various levels against the spread of extremism online, the spread of child pornography and so on,” he said.

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