TIME Books

Previously Unknown Letter from Camus to Sartre Discovered

Albert Camus LIDO/SIPA—AP

The missive was written only months before the friends fell out, and was found above a collector's fireplace

A previously unknown letter from Albert Camus to Jean-Paul Sartre has been unearthed after hanging above an autograph collector’s fireplace for decades.

The long missive is believed to have been written in March or April of 1951, shortly before the two famous French author-philosophers fell out, Agence France-Presse reports.

Writing from his apartment in Paris, Camus among other things recommends Spanish actress Aminda Valls for one of Sartre’s plays, calling her a “marvel of humanity.”

An autograph collector acquired the letter in the 1970s and kept it framed in his home until recently, when it was passed to a bookseller and subsequently sold to a French collector.

Camus published The Rebel about six months after writing the letter, and Sartre went on to criticize the book. This led to the demise of their amicable relationship, and Sartre destroying almost all of their correspondence.

[AFP]

TIME Thailand

Thai Children Break World Record for Dressing as Christmas Elves

Students gather to break the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of Christmas elves outside a shopping mall in Bangkok on Nov. 25, 2014 Chaiwat Subprasom—Reuters

Largest gathering ever of Santa's little helpers near Bangkok

Santa’s little helpers are getting busy in Thailand’s capital Bangkok.

On Tuesday, 1,792 children dressed in matching red, green and white hats and T-shirts and pointy plastic ears to break the Guinness World Record for the largest Christmas elves gathering, Reuters reports.

The previous record was set when 1,110 little gnomes got together in Wetherby, England.

“I’m happy to have helped break the world record and steal the title from England,” said 11-year-old Theerathep Noonkao, who attended the event in his wheelchair.

While predominantly Buddhist, Thailand breaks out the holiday sheen every year, as shops and hotels widely decorate for Christmas.

[Reuters]

TIME France

French National Front Secures Funding From Russian Bank

National Front president Marine Le Pen gives a press conference on Nov. 7, 2014 in Nanterre, near Paris.
National Front president Marine Le Pen gives a press conference on Nov. 7, 2014 in Nanterre, near Paris. Eric Feferberg—AFP/Getty Images

Party official claims National Front is almost broke

Is Russian President Vladimir Putin meddling in the internal politics of countries in the European Union? That seemed a strong possibility to some Europeans this week, after French political leader Marine Le Pen confirmed she had secured a €9-million ($11.1 million) loan from a Moscow-based bank, in order to run her right-wing National Front party.

“At this stage, Russia is trying to influence French domestic policy,” says Jean-Yves Camus, a political researcher at France’s Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS). If so, Putin’s strategy resembles the Soviet Union before its collapse in 1991, when Moscow funded trade unions and political groups in western Europe in an attempt to buy influence and destabilize foes. “In this respect Putin is pretty much in line with the former USSR. It is the same policy all over again,” says Camus.

The French investigative news site Mediapart first broke the news that the National Front had taken the loan, with a 6% interest rate, from First Czech Russian Bank, a small Moscow-based institution, the chairman of which is Roman Popov. Mediapart said the deal emerged partly as a result of Le Pen’s visit to Moscow last February, where she met Alexander Babakov, a Russian lawmaker with connections to Putin. Babakov, who owns businesses in Ukraine, was placed under E.U. sanctions in April in retaliation for Putin annexing Crimea from Ukraine.

Well before Le Pen’s political prospects rocketed this year — the National Front won a string of victories in municipal elections in March and polled top among French voters in E.U. elections in May — the Front’s president threw her energies into cultivating allies beyond the borders of France. She traveled to Moscow in June, 2013, and met with the Speaker of the State Duma, Sergei Naryshkin and deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who hailed her as a politician of stature. She made a return trip shortly before the E.U. elections.

The trips appear to have paid dividends. A key Le Pen aide told TIME on Tuesday that the Russian loan was desperately needed since the party was close to broke after investing heavily in its election success.”It has been a real struggle,” says Ludovic de Danne, senior E.U. advisor to Le Pen, speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. He says Front officials have spent months trying to borrow money, tapping their supporters in countries around the world in an attempt to shake loose funds in order to run their operations. “Banks did not want to lend to us,” he says, adding that those who rejected them included “really, really big American institutions.”

Le Pen has been a staunch supporter of Russia. For months she has lambasted the E.U. for its sanctions against it, and she told Naryshkin in Moscow last year that Europe’s “Cold War on Russia” was “not in line with traditional, friendly relations nor with the economic interests of our country.”

Le Pen — whose party is similar to populist movements like the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) and the Alternative for Germany — aims to pull her country out of the Union and reclaim its sovereignty over border control and fiscal budgets. As Putin fights to keep Ukraine and other countries allied to Russia, anything that weakens the 28-country E.U. could help further that cause.

The far-right parties in Europe share certain ideological opinions with Putin including opposition to gay marriage and open immigration. UKIP leader Nigel Farage earlier this year said Putin was one of the world leaders he most admired.The National Front aims to dismantle the E.U. and replace it with a European coalition of sovereign states that would include Russia, rather than a union that hues to U.S. values and policies, as Le Pen claims. “Russia should be a privileged partner in Europe,” de Danne says. “We don’t see Russia in 2014 as an enemy, we see Russia as a European country. And we want a multipolar world.”

Even so, some believe Putin might be misjudging the potential for right-wing leaders in Europe to take control of their governments. “In practical terms the far-right parties are of little help to him as they hold no power,” says Cas Mudde, associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. Similarly, Camus believes that Putin could be further isolated if Le Pen fails to become French president. “This strategy can backfire,” he says. “Putin is pretty much isolated in the international community. So I think he doesn’t have anything to gain by supporting or helping the extreme right.”

By contrast, Le Pen has already gained something valuable — a loan to support her party finances. Still, her aide de Danne denies that the loan will lead to Russian influence on the group. “It is not the agenda of Marine to get her orders from Moscow, not at all,” he says. “We had no choice. If a European bank says we’ll give you money, we will switch tomorrow.”

TIME Tibet

Tibet’s Lost Films: Watch Never-Before-Seen Footage

The films preserved by the Tibet Film Archive chronicle the region's rich culture, troubled present and unsure future

It’s hard to get to Tibet. But as tough as that is, a more difficult feat is to get something out.

For the 98% of Tibetans still living in Tibet, the best way to preserve their culture from the growing influence of Han Chinese migrants is to send it abroad, preferably in secret. Say, in the bottom of a steamer trunk in the dead of night. That is where the Tenzin Phuntsog found 16 films, some of which hadn’t been seen in nearly 50 years.

Using his own money and learning from friends along the way, Phuntsog restored and digitized the films, creating the Tibet Film Archive. Now, Phuntsog tells TIME, comes the tricky part: Getting the films back into Tibet to show the people who need to see them the most.


German Expedition to Tibet: Geheimnis (1939)

In 1939, Nazi Germany sent an unprecedented expedition to Tibet complete with botanists, anthropologists, photographers and a film camera operator. Despite receiving part of their funding from the infamous Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler—and being forced into becoming S.S. officers themselves—the scientists still collected artifacts, made maps and documented the land for European eyes.

Lowell Thomas: Tibet Lecture (1944)

The traveler who chronicled the story of Lawrence of Arabia also made trips to Tibet. The film shows a young candidate for the position of Panchen Lama, a spiritual leader like the Dalai Lama—or possibly the 10th Panchen Lama as a youth—while documenting the monastic life central to Tibetan culture.

The Religious Investiture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (1970)

Given the newsreel treatment in the 70s, the original footage in this film was shot before the Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in 1959. Depicting the Geshe exam, a scholarly test, taken by the current Dalai Lama, the film serves as proof that the Dalai Lama attained his rank legitimately—and more importantly, in Tibet.

TIME China

China Proposes Ban on Smoking in Public Places

Beer Enthusiasts Gather For China's Largest Beer Festival
Chinese men take a smoke break during the 24th Annual Qingdao International Beer Festival on August 20, 2014 in Qingdao, China. Kevin Frayer—Getty Images

Ban would affect the country's 300 million smokers

Soon it could be illegal to smoke in public places in China, as the government considers tightening restrictions on the addictive habit.

The new rules, which are being presented to the public for the first time this week, would also ban smoking at certain outdoor areas like sports venues, restrict selling of tobacco to minors and force tobacco companies to include warnings about the dangers of smoking prominently on their package labels, the New York Times reports.

Smoking is incredibly popular in China: 300 million people partake regularly. It’s also cheap because, unlike in the U.S., the Chinese government doesn’t levy heavy taxes on tobacco products. Pro-smoking advertisements are even a common sight at schools. The World Health Organization had been pushing China to do more to curb smoking in the country for several years.

The reaction to the proposed rules has been largely positive so far, according to the Times. A local Beijing publication claims that 90% of the city’s residents support banning smoking at indoor public places.

[New York Times]

TIME United Nations

ISIS Got Up to $45 Million in Ransoms in Past Year, U.N. Says

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
A member loyal to ISIS waves an ISIS flag in Raqqa, Syria on June 29, 2014. Reuters

(UNITED NATIONS) — The Islamic State group which controls a large swath of Syria and Iraq has received between $35 million and $45 million in ransom payments in the past year, a U.N. expert monitoring sanctions against al-Qaida said Monday.

Yotsna Lalji told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee that an estimated $120 million in ransom was paid to terrorist groups between 2004 and 2012.

Kidnapping for ransom “continues to grow,” she said, as demonstrated by the money the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State has collected, up to $45 million in just the past year.

She said in recent years that al-Qaida and its affiliates have made kidnapping “the core al-Qaida tactic for generating revenue.” She pointed to an October 2012 recording in which al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri incites militants worldwide to kidnap Westerners.

Lalji said al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates from Yemen, received $20 million in ransom between 2011 and 2013, and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in North Africa, received $75 million over the past four years.

She said the al-Qaida-linked extremist groups Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Shabab in Somalia also “have collected millions of dollars over the past years,” and the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the Philippines has received about $1.5 million in ransom.

According to the al-Qaida sanctions committee, although the media focuses on international hostages who have generated the largest ransom payments, the vast majority of victims are nationals kidnapped within their own country.

Lalji said terrorist groups either carry out kidnappings themselves or in the case of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula they work with tribesmen in Yemen who deliver hostages for a fee.

Last week, President Barack Obama ordered a review of how the United States responds when its citizens are taken hostage overseas in light of the beheadings of Americans by Islamic State militants, but it will not include changing the longstanding U.S. policy of refusing to pay ransom. Many governments do pay ransom and some family members of those killed have complained that the U.S. did not take enough action in an attempt to save their loved ones.

TIME europe

Pope Urges ‘Aged and Weary’ Europe to Accept Migrants and Reject Hunger

Pope Francis delivers his speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Nov. 25, 2014.
Pope Francis delivers his speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on Nov. 25, 2014. Remy De La Mauviniere—AFP/Getty Images

The Pontiff uses address to the European Parliament to argue that migrants need "acceptance and assistance"

At many times in Europe’s turbulent history religious leaders have turned a blind eye to violence and discrimination. At other times faith itself has set the battleground. This awareness heightened both the strangeness and the poignancy of the Nov. 25 speech by Pope Francis to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The Pontiff wasn’t the most obvious person to deliver hard truths to elected politicians about the rising threats to the democracies they serve, or, as head of the Catholic Church, to convey a blast against global corporations that undermine the democratic process by co-opting institutions, as he resonantly expressed it, to “the service of unseen empires.” Yet standing at the lectern at the center of the plenary chamber, peering through wire-rimmed reading glasses at his script, he did these things and more. The leader of a religion that has created its share of fractures made an eloquent plea for the European Union to rediscover its founding principles of “bridging divisions and fostering peace and fellowship.”

Many factors gave urgency to his words. Europe is grappling with soaring unemployment in the midst of global economic instability and the relentless problems of the euro zone. There is a war within its own borders while brutal conflicts on other continents affect the security of European nations and citizens. The interlocking challenges are compounded by voters’ dwindling trust in the political classes. In speaking to members of these classes, the Pope aimed, he said, “as a pastor to deliver a message of hope” to “a Europe that gives the impression of feeling aged and weary.” A glance around the chamber — built as a hemicycle to encourage members of the Parliament from different political groupings to see each other not as opponents but colleagues — reinforced just how timely that papal message was and the extent to which politicians have become, like the Catholic Church in its darker periods, part of the problem as well as its solution.

Pope Francis emphasized the centrality of human dignity and the equal value of every life. He did so to an assembly of 751 MEPs and other European officials that severely under-represents the diversity of European populations — only 36.75% of lawmakers are women and only about 5% are from ethnic minorities — while substantially representing views that the Pope singled out for criticism. “One of the most common diseases in Europe, if you ask me, today is the loneliness of those who have no connection to others,” he said. This phenomenon could be observed among the isolated old and the alienated young, the poor and “in the lost gaze of the migrants who have come here in search of a better future.”

“Unity doesn’t mean uniformity,” the guest speaker told an audience overwhelmingly composed of middle-aged white men in suits. “In point of fact all real unity draws from the diversities that make it up.” To that audience he set out a list of priorities. It was, he ventured, “intolerable that people are dying each day of hunger while tons of food are thrown away each day from our tables.” He won a round of applause with a call “to promote policies that create employment but above all it is time to restore dignity to work by restoring proper working conditions.” He also highlighted Europe’s failure to achieve “a united response to the question of migration. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast graveyard. The boats landing daily on Europe’s shores are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance.”

Listening to him were members of mainstream parties who have contributed to that failure and representatives of fringe parties — now achieving such electoral success that they may not for much longer remain on the fringes — who are arguing for the dissolution of the European Union and the turning away of migrants. It seems unlikely that members of the United Kingdom Independence Party, (UKIP), or France’s hard-right National Front party will have been swayed by his words any more than Ian Paisley, at the time the apparently implacable voice of Northern Irish Protestant loyalism, could be persuaded to give a fair hearing to Pope John Paul II’s 1988 speech to the European Parliament, the last such address by a Pontiff to the body until Francis took the floor.

Eventually, however, Paisley did learn to stop bellowing and to prize peace above division, at least to some extent. European history is full of such encouraging examples alongside its gloomier lessons. Pope Francis reminded Europe of its capacity for good. In so doing, he continues to reassert the capacity of his office to do the same.

TIME Hong Kong

Fresh Clashes in Hong Kong Between Police and Pro-Democracy Protesters

A pro-democracy protester chants at an occupied area before the barricade is removed in Mong Kok district of Hong Kong on Nov. 25, 2014.
A pro-democracy protester chants at an occupied area before the barricade is removed in Mong Kok district of Hong Kong on Nov. 25, 2014. Kin Cheung—AP

Dozens were arrested including a prominent lawmaker

Hong Kong police charged, and used pepper-spray cannons, on peaceful pro-democracy protesters Tuesday night local time in a bid to clear streets in the Mong Kok district, location of one of city’s three protest areas.

Dozens of people, including firebrand lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, were arrested in clashes that took place in the vicinity of the luxurious Langham Place Hotel, popular with international visitors.

Colorful umbrellas, symbol of what has been termed the Umbrella Revolution, were hurriedly unfurled as mostly young protesters sought to protect themselves from pepper spray.

The atmosphere at the Mong Kok site, in the heart of the teeming Kowloon peninsula, had been tense for several hours after bailiffs dismantled barricades at a key intersection earlier in the day. The bailiffs were enforcing a civil injunction brought by transport companies objecting to the two-month occupation of the area by protesters, who are demanding free elections for this city of 7.2 million.

Scuffles broke out and arrests were made after police accused protesters of obstructing the court order and instructed the crowd — among them high school students still in school uniform — to disperse.

Police in riot gear then spent hours attempting to contain running groups of protesters, who attempted to erect fresh barricades in the densely populated narrow streets leading off Nathan Road, Kowloon’s main north-south thoroughfare. Pepper-spray cannon, mounted on mobile towers, were deployed and used liberally on the crowd.

After a tense standoff on Shantung Street, officers then charged, scattering demonstrators and arresting some who were unable to escape.

Just one block away, hundreds of tents where protesters have been sleeping for weeks remained untouched. A clearance action is expected Wednesday and is almost certain to lead to further clashes. For now, however, the mood on the streets is defiant.

“Police can’t take this all back,” 31-year-old protester Ryan Cheung told TIME. “They don’t have the right and they know they don’t have the right. They say it’s the law but that’s just an excuse.” Cheung said he would remain on the streets “as long as it goes on.”

Besides the Mong Kok site, protesters also occupy a significant portion of the downtown Admiralty district — the city’s largest protest area — with their tents pitched beneath the looming headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army and Central Government Offices. A small site in the Causeway Bay shopping district, popular with tourists, is also occupied.

With reporting by Elizabeth Barber / Hong Kong

TIME Italy

Shakespeare’s City of Love Plans to Build High-Rise Cemetery

The futuristic tower would be Verona's tallest building

An Italian company is planning to build the country’s first high-rise cemetery — a 33 storey tower with space for 24,000 graves — in Verona, the city where Shakespeare set Romeo and Juliet.

Council officials have given initial approval to plans submitted by Cielo Infinito (Infinite Sky), the company which offered €11.5 million ($14.3 million) for a plot of land on the eastern outskirts of the city.

Verona’s main cemetery has been completely encircled by buildings and can no longer expand, a city spokesman told The Times, explaining why the plan won support.

As cities around the world expand and space to bury bodies decreases, other countries have turned to high-rise cemeteries as a solution: the tallest currently stands at 32 storeys in Santos, Brazil, while Israel and India are also planning their own vertical graveyards.

[The Times]

TIME ebola

The U.N. Says It Cannot Meet Its Dec. 1 Target Date for Containing Ebola

TOPSHOTS-SLEONE-HEALTH-EBOLA-WAFRICA
A cemetery at the Kenama Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone run by the Red Cross Society on Nov. 15, 2014 Francisco Leong—AFP/Getty Images

"Intense" transmission of the virus in West Africa, especially in Sierra Leone, continues to bedevil efforts

The U.N. mission responsible for responding to the Ebola outbreak will miss its Dec. 1 target for containing the disease because of rising transmission rates in the West African countries of Sierra Leone and Mali.

Anthony Banbury, the head of the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), told Reuters that though progress has been made in some areas — including in Liberia, one of the countries hardest hit by the current outbreak — setbacks elsewhere have put the mission off its target.

UNMEER said in September that it hoped to have 70% of Ebola patients in treatment, and 70% of Ebola victims safely buried, by the start of next month. But just 13% of Ebola patients have been isolated in Sierra Leone, according to a UNMEER statement.

“Progress is slow and we are falling short, and we need to accelerate our efforts,” said Amadu Kamara, the U.N.’s Ebola crisis manager for Sierra Leone, in a statement.

The Ebola virus has killed some 5,459 people worldwide, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The most recent World Health Organization situation report, released on Friday, describes transmission rates in all three countries as “intense.”

Mali, which was believed to be Ebola-free after a toddler’s death from the virus there in October, said on Monday that an eighth person in the nation had tested positive for the disease.

Still, UNMEER said that it is hopeful that efforts to stop the virus in Mali will benefit from lessons learned in the three nations still reeling from Ebola.

Banbury also told Reuters that Liberia was a bright point in the mission’s efforts to contain the virus.

Liberia’s President expressed optimism at a ceremony on Monday that her country, whose economy has been gutted by the outbreak, could still reach its goal of no new Ebola cases by Christmas.

“We’ve set a pretty tough target,” said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Associated Press reports. “But when you set a target, it means that you stay focused on that target and on that goal.”

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