White House

Watch: Obama Meets ‘Scary’ Humanoid Robot In Japan

The leader of the free world comes face to face with a Japanese automaton


On the second day of his visit to Japan Thursday, President Barack Obama toured the country’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation where he came face to face with the tiny Honda-built humanoid robot ASIMO.

“It’s nice to meet you,” the robot said in a metallic voice, welcoming Obama to the facility. It then proceeded to run around and kick a soccer ball at the commander-in-chief, who deftly stopped it.

But the experience left Obama spooked. He later quipped, “I have to say that the robots were a little scary, they were too lifelike,” he said. “They were amazing.”


Israel Halts Peace Talks After Palestinian Unity Deal

The Israeli response, which acts on earlier threats, may mean the end of U.S.-backed peace talks.

Israel’s security cabinet unanimously decided to halt peace talks with the Palestinians a day after Hamas and its rival faction Fatah agreed to a unity deal, the Associated Press reports.

The decision could bring the end of a nine-month peace effort backed by the U.S.. Those talks were set to end April 29, though negotiators have been trying to extend them.

The rival Palestinian political factions announced their reconciliation deal Wednesday. Their deal came seven years after the two factions violently split, with Hamas retaining control of the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority ruling in the West Bank.



Twitter Reacts to Honorees From Africa on 2014 TIME 100

Religious leaders, philanthropists and activists in Africa were among the individuals honored

A mixture of praise and criticism was voiced on Twitter when news broke of the Africans included in the TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world Thursday.

Most comments surrounding the inclusion of South African human rights lawyer Thuli Madonsela were filled with praise:

Yet some complained that Madonsela was the only one from her country to make the cut:

Others pointed out the irony of the tribute to her being penned by the apparently disgraced Nigerian bank governor Lamido Sanusi:

The South African news agency SA Breaking News and other supporters on Twitter quoted Madonsela’s statement saying she was “humbled” to have been included:

Twitter users also heaped praise on Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was included in the list along with her fellow countryman, the business magnate Aliko Dangote, whose profile was written by U.S. philanthropist Bill Gates

The Kenyan lawyer, blogger and activist Ory Okolloh sent out a brief message of thanks in Swahili to TIME on her Twitter feed for her inclusion in the list:

Others tweeted their thanks to the American author and pastor Jim Wallis for penning tributes to the religious leaders Imam Omar Kobine Layama, Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga and the Rev. Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou. The men were involved in peace-making efforts in the war-torn Central African Republic, and Wallis was applauded for drawing attention to the contributions of the country’s faith leaders:



Putin: The Internet Is a ‘CIA Project’

The Russian President called for Russia to protect its interests on what he said was the CIA-run Internet.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday at a media forum in St. Petersburg that the Internet is a “CIA project” that is “still developing as such,” the Associated Press reports.

Putin called for Russia to “fight for its interests” online amid an ongoing effort by the Kremlin to gain a larger grip on the Internet, according to the AP. A law passed by the Russian parliament earlier this week requires that social media websites keep their servers in Russia and save all information about their users for at least half a year.

Putin’s statements come days after he told former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that Russia does not intercept citizens’ data en masse during a live broadcast. Snowden, living in asylum in Russia, drew criticism for asking Putin a question some regarded as an easy set-up for Putin.



Israel Halts Peace Talks With Palestinians

(JERUSALEM) — The Israeli government says it has decided to halt peace talks with the Palestinians in response to a new unity agreement between rival Palestinian factions.

The decision appears to end a nine-month peace initiative by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The negotiating period is scheduled to end next Tuesday, though the sides had been trying to agree to an extension.

Israel’s Security Cabinet unanimously decided to cut off contacts after a five-hour meeting Thursday. They announced the decision in a statement sent to journalists.

Israel is furious over Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to form a unity government with the rival Hamas movement after a seven-year rift.

Israel and the West consider Hamas a terrorist group.


Turkey Reaction To Gul on TIME 100 Notes Absence of Erdogan

Turkey's controversial Prime Minister is more used to the spotlight than his ally and rival, President Abdullah Gul

First reactions in Turkey to the inclusion of President Abdullah Gul on the 2014 TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people took note of the absence of Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s most powerful political figure, from the list. “TIME 100: Gul is there, Erdogan Isn’t,” read the headline on the Hurriyet news site. Said the daily Vatan: “Flash! Gul is on the list, Erdogan doesn’t exist!”

Twitter – the social media site that Erdogan ordered shut down in Turkey after it posted links to apparently incriminating corruption wiretaps — echoed with skepticism of the choice: “JOKE OF THE DAY: Turkish President Gul in Time’s “The most influential people in the world” list..:) :)@TIME > Influential for what??” wrote @GayeAkarca

“Is he even influential in Turkey? Discuss,” quipped Bloomberg’s Turkey bureau chief, Benjamin Harvey @benjaminharvey.

In a mainstream media largely intimidated by Erdogan’s heavyhanded attentions, most early reports cited what novelist Elif Shafak had written on Gul without further comment. Gul has tacked his own course through the controversies that have erupted around Erdogan over the past year. The two men were among the founders of the moderately Islamist Justice and Development Party that has dominated Turkish politics for almost a dozen years, but Erdogan has strongly signaled his interest in running for the president’s office that Gul now holds.

For his part, Gul has largely refrained from being drawn on the subject, except to signal his reluctance to leave the office in order to take Erdogan’s place as prime minister.


Clashes in Eastern Ukraine Kill Up to 5 Separatists

The clashes, the first since the Ukrainian president ordered the resumption of operations against the rebels, raise concerns of a Russian intervention.

Up to five pro-Russian separatists were killed in an operation against rebels in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine’s Internior Ministry said Thursday.

A Ministry statement said that “up to five terrorists were eliminated” as Ukrainian forces removed three rebel checkpoints in the separatist-held city of Slavyansk, Reuters reports. The statement said one member of the government’s forces was wounded in the fighting.

However, a rebel spokesperson said earlier that only two fighters were killed in the clashes.

The deaths are the first since interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov ordered Tuesday the resumption of operations against separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened unspecified consequences as the result of those renewed operations. Russian soldiers amassed on the Ukrainian border conducted military exercises Thursday.

International parties agreed last week to a joint roadmap to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine. However, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have so far defied the agreement’s stipulation that they disarm. U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday Russia was failing to live up to “the spirit or the letter” of the agreement.


VIDEO: Obama Met a Robot on His Tokyo Trip

The revolution has begun


It’s finally happened: The President has gone head-to-head with a robot.

President Barack Obama played soccer against a ASIMO, a very lifelike robot created by Honda, at the Natural Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo on Thursday.

Despite sharing some friendly conversation and bowing to one other out of respect, Obama later confessed to the Associated Press that “the robots were a little scary. They were too life-like.”

MORE: Smooth Moves: The History and Evolution of Honda’s ASIMO Robot



Killing of 3 Americans Raises New Questions About Afghanistan and Iraq

An Afghan policeman outside Kabul's Cure hospital, where another Afghan policeman killed three U.S. doctors Thursday. SHAH MARAI / AFP / Getty Images

The deaths of three U.S. doctors at the hands of an Afghan policeman raises questions about a continued American presence there

The killing of three U.S. medical personnel Thursday, allegedly by an Afghan policeman guarding their hospital, raises anew questions about the wisdom of a continued U.S. presence there, in uniform, scrubs or any other kind of garb. While U.S. troops may have increased protection after a spate of so-called blue-on-green attacks in recent years, the lifesavers working at Kabul’s Cure International Hospital apparently were slain by a policeman dedicated to their protection.

The murders come as two veteran reporters file on what life is like in Iraq, where the last U.S. troops left in 2011; and Afghanistan, where the U.S. troop presence has shrunk to 33,000, on the way to removing all U.S. combat troops by year’s end.

“Two years after the last American soldiers departed, it’s hard to find any evidence that they were ever there,” Dexter Filkins writes of Iraq in the latest New Yorker. Bombings are a deadly, and everyday, occurrence. Filkins notes that the U.S. started pushing for the election of Nouri al-Maliki as Iraq’s prime minister in 2006, after a Central Intelligence Agency officer recommended him to U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. “Among many Iraqis, the concern is that their country is falling again into civil war,” he writes, “and that it is Maliki who has driven it to the edge.”

A total of 4,486 U.S. troops died in Iraq.

Meanwhile, 1,800 miles away in Afghanistan, a unit from the 82nd Airborne Division recently returned and came “looking for a fight.” But it hasn’t happened. “Although they’re still preparing for the worse, the soldiers are discovering that the Afghanistan they left in 2012 isn’t the same country they returned to,” Drew Brooks of the Fayetteville Observer wrote Tuesday. “The job of fighting off insurgents now falls to Afghan national security forces.”

It was a member of those forces who killed the three Americans earlier today.

A total of 2,317 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan.

Two countries, one lesson: there is more than one way to win, or lose, a war.

TIME 100

The 2014 TIME 100: Asia On the Rise

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi
Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), gestures as he addresses an election campaign rally in Mumbai April 21, 2014. Danish Siddiqui—Reuters

Esteemed scribes and new tech, venerated politicians and young crusaders — the 2014 TIME 100 once again demonstrates Asia’s ascendency and pulsating diversity

Asia boasts half the planet’s landmass and two-thirds of its population, a peerless mishmash of boundless energy and manifold cultures. For better or worse, here is our pick of the most influential figures from across the world’s largest continent.

As the world’s most populous nation, China was always likely to feature strongly in TIME 100, and this year’s list features a true pair of tech titans.

Pony Ma founded Tencent Inc., one of China’s largest Internet companies, and is lauded by Arianna Huffington for tapping “into something timeless and universal: a longing for connection.”

Jack Ma (no relation) displays a similar flair for radical thinking. The former English teacher helped launched Alibaba, the world’s largest Internet marketplace, from an apartment in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou. The company is now worth anywhere from $80 to $150 billion. His is the new China Dream.

In the middle of the Indian general elections — which, with over 840 million voters, is the largest democratic exercise on the planet — the world’s gaze falls on the country’s politicians as never before, and Arvind Kejriwal stands out more than most. A former civil servant, “his role as the driving force behind a grassroots anticorruption movement in 2011 … catapulted him onto the national stage,” writes Indian journalist and news presenter Rajdeep Sardesai. Kejriwal is also the winner of the Time 100 Readers’ Poll.

Up against Kejriwal in the polls is prime ministerial frontrunner Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat state. Despite his popularity, he remains a deeply divisive figure, with a “reputation for autocratic rule and a dark Hindu-nationalist streak,” writes CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

But India has more to boast than ballot chasing, and Arundhati Roy, the acclaimed author of The God of Small Things, is included for her “nonfictional engagement with the conflicts and traumas of a heedlessly globalized world,” says award-winning novelist Pankaj Mishra. She is joined by Arunachalam Muruganantham, an inventor from rural Tamil Nadu, who pioneered an inexpensive solution to menstrual problems that were afflicting thousands of women.

Malala Yousafzai once again makes the list for her fearless championing women’s right to education in her native Pakistan and beyond, and this year is joined by Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, the 23-year-old Indonesian maid so badly beaten by her employer in Hong Kong that her plight shook the world and made her into an icon of the struggle of migrant workers everywhere for better conditions. “Erwiana could not be broken, nor could she be silenced,” writes human trafficking activist Somaly Mam.

From the often powerless to the always powerful: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Xinping take their rightful places in this year’s list, along with basketball-loving despot Kim Jong Un. His “disregard for a desperately poor citizenry raises the eternal North Korean question: How much suffering can human beings tolerate?” asks Pulitzer Prize–winning author Adam Johnson.

And then there is the soft power. Yao Chen is an award-winning Chinese actress, but her true clout is drawn from the 66 million followers she boasts on Chinese Twitter-like microblog service Weibo, where she opines on everything from the environment to social justice — issues that strike at the very heart of all that is Asia.

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