TIME food and drink

World Faces Olive Oil Shortage

Spain olive oil
Getty Images Olive groves seen in Andalusia, Spain.

The price of Spanish olive oil reached its highest point since 2006

Prices for Spanish olive oil are approaching an all-time high as hot weather and disease harm the country’s harvest.

Last week the cost of Spanish extra-virgin olive oil rose 5 percent to $4,272 per metric ton—the highest since April 2006 and “critically low levels,” according to industry analysts Oil World. A bacterial disease xylella fastidiosa and fruit-fly infestations have also contributed to a 50 percent decline in Spanish and Italian olive oil output for the 2014-2015 season, Bloomberg reports. Spain and Italy account for 70% of the world’s olive oil.

“It’s quite a concerning acceleration in the price of olive oil,” Lamine Lahouasnia, the head of packaged-food research at market intelligence firm Euromonitor International, told Bloomberg. “The supply shortages as a result of the drought, and particularly under-production in Spain, have filtered through to the marketplace.”

Olive oil prices around the world have risen an average of around 10 percent in the past year, outpacing the global inflation rate for packaged foods according to Euromonitor.

[Bloomberg]

 

 

TIME Afghanistan

Taliban’s Mullah Omar Has Died, Afghanistan Official Says

Mullah Omar
National Counterterrorism Center/Reuters A photograph believed to show Mullah Muhammad Omar.

The country's National Directorate of Security says he died in April 2013

Two weeks after a message purportedly from the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar appeared on a website linked to the militant group, Afghan officials on Wednesday claimed he had in fact died years ago.

A spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security told the Associated Press that Omar,who carries a $10m U.S. State Department bounty on his head, had died in a Karachi hospital in April 2013. “We confirm officially that he is dead,” Abdul Hassib Seddiqi said.

The BBC had earlier reported, citing anonymous Afghan officials, that Omar had died two or three years ago. Afghanistan’s Khaama Press suggested that Afghan officials had been told of Omar’s death by their counterparts in Pakistan.

Mullah Omar’s death has been reported several times in the past, with the whereabouts of the reclusive one-eyed leader shrouded in mystery ever since he disappeared from public view in the aftermath of the U.S.-led airstrikes on Afghanistan in late 2001. A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani told the BBC that Afghan authorities were examining the new claims, while the Taliban have not yet commented.

Earlier in July, a message in Omar’s name, issued ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, appeared to signal his approval for peace talks in Pakistan between the insurgents and Afghanistan’s government. There was no video or audio with the message, the authenticity of which, like other communications linked to the fugitive Taliban leader in recent years, remained uncertain.

Another message in April—a lengthy biography of Omar running to 5,000 words—claimed he was “in touch with date-to-day happenings of his country, as well as the outside world.”
The reports of Omar’s death come as the Afghan officials prepare to sit down with representatives from the Taliban for a second round of peace talks later this week.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistani Police Kill Feared Sunni Militant Leader

Malik Ishaq
Khalid Tanveer—AP Malik Ishaq, center, a leader of the banned Sunni Muslim group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, in July 15, 2011

Ishaq operated freely for years in Pakistan

(MUZAFFARGARH, Pakistan) — Pakistani police gunned down one of the country’s most-feared Sunni militant leaders and 13 followers in a mysterious pre-dawn shootout Wednesday, killing a man believed to behind the slaughter of hundreds of the nation’s minority Shiites.

Malik Ishaq, who directed the operations of the Taliban- and al-Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group, was so feared in Pakistan that frightened judges hid their faces from him and even offered the unrepentant killer tea and cookies in court.

Yet Ishaq, believed to be either 55 or 56, operated freely for years in Pakistan as the country’s intelligence services helped nurture Sunni militant groups in the 1980s and 1990s to counter a perceived threat from neighboring Shiite power Iran.

Details of Ishaq’s killing remain cloudy in Pakistan, where extrajudicial slayings by police remain common — especially in pre-staged ambushes. Ishaq already had been detained by police, arrested two days earlier on suspicion of being involved in the slaying of two Shiites, police officer Bakhtiar Ahmed said.

Early Wednesday, as officers tried to transfer Ishaq from a prison in the city of Multan, gunmen ambushed the police convoy transporting him in an attempt to free the militant, Ahmed said. The ensuing gunbattle killed Ishaq and at least 13 of his associates, including two of his sons and his deputy, Ghulam Rasool, Ahmed said.

In a later statement, police said “14 or 15 unidentified armed terrorists” attacked police vehicles to free Ishaq when officers were returning from an area in Muzaffargarh after seizing weapons, explosives and detonators on information provided by Ishaq and some of his associates.

It also said Ishaq and his associates were killed by those who ambushed the convoy, without elaborating.

Shuja Khanzada, the provincial home minister in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province, where the alleged ambush took place, said the shooting wounded six police officers who “demonstrated extreme bravery.”

No other witnesses to the shooting could be immediately located, nor could Ishaq’s family members.

“Malik Ishaq was behind many acts of terrorism and he was freed by courts in the past due to lack of evidence,” Khanzada told The Associated Press. “Finally, this symbol of terror met his final fate.”

Fearing violence in Punjab, long the home of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, police mounted a heavy security presence around the province and the morgue in Muzaffargarh that took Ishaq’s body and those of his associates.

Ishaq helped found Laskhar-e-Jangvi, which allies itself with al-Qaida and the Taliban. His group is blamed for scores of attacks on Shiites, regarded as infidels, and on Pakistani and U.S. interests. They’ve also been accused of carrying out attacks in neighboring Afghanistan. The U.S. State Department designated Ishaq as a terrorist in February 2014, ordering any U.S. assets he held frozen.

Ishaq was arrested in 1997 and accused in more than 200 criminal cases, including the killings of 70 Shiites. But the state could never make the charges stick — in large part because witnesses, judges and prosecutors were too scared to convict.

Frightened judges treated him honorably in court and gave him tea and cookies, said Anis Haider Naqvi, a prosecution witness in two cases against Ishaq who spoke to The Associated Press in 2011. One judge attempted to hide his face with his hands, but Ishaq made clear he knew his identity in a chilling way: He read out the names of his children, and the judge abandoned the trial, Naqvi said at the time.

Despite the lack of convictions, Ishaq remained in prison for 14 years as prosecutors slowly moved from one case to the next. Ishaq proved his usefulness to the army in 2009, when he was flown from jail to negotiate with militants who had stormed part of the military headquarters in Rawalpindi and were holding hostages

A behind-the-scenes effort by the government to co-opt the leaders of militant outfits and bring them into mainstream political life, or at least draw them away from attacking the state, helped Ishaq secure his release in 2011. He had been in and out of police custody since.

Pakistan is a majority Sunni Muslim state, with around 15 percent of the population Shiite. Most Sunnis and Shiites live together peacefully in Pakistan, though tensions have existed for decades and extremists on both sides target each other’s leaders.

Pakistan has intensified its campaign against militant groups since December 2014, when a Taliban attack on a military school in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed 150 people, mostly children.

The school attack also prompted the Pakistani government to lift its moratorium on the death penalty. It has executed scores of militants and other men charged in murder cases since then.

___

Ahmed reported from Islamabad.

TIME India

This U.K. Lawmaker Wants a Huge Diamond in the Queen’s Crown Returned to India

Crown Koh-i-noor Diamond
Tim Graham/Getty Images The Crown Of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1937) Made Of Platinum And Containing The Famous Koh-i-noor Diamond Along With Other Gems.

The Koh-i-noor diamond was taken by the East India Company in the 19th century

In the midst of a recently reignited conversation about Great Britain’s colonial debt, particularly to India, one member of the country’s parliament has proposed a preliminary step in repaying the South Asian nation — the return of the famous Koh-i-noor diamond.

U.K. lawmaker Keith Vaz called for the return of the famous jewel on Tuesday and urged Prime Minister David Cameron to promise as much during his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi’s visit this November, the Press Trust of India reports.

Vaz, himself of Indian origin and the longest-serving British MP of Asian descent, also referenced Indian lawmaker Shashi Tharoor’s much-lauded speech at the Oxford Union that recently went viral on social media. Tharoor argued that Britain owes India and its numerous other colonies reparations for centuries of oppression, a position endorsed by Modi.

“I welcome Dr. Tharoor’s speech and the endorsement of its message by Prime Minister Modi. I share their views,” Vaz said. “These are genuine grievances which must be addressed.”

While he recognized that calculating the monetary reparations is anything but straightforward, the British MP said giving back the iconic diamond — which currently adorns the Queen of England’s crown — is one tangible step.

“Pursuing monetary reparations is complex, time consuming and potentially fruitless, but there is no excuse for not returning precious items such as the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a campaign I have backed for many years,” he added.

Once considered the largest diamond in the world, the Koh-i-Noor is said to have been 793 carats uncut when originally mined in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh during medieval times, following which it passed through the hands of various invaders — most notably Persian ruler Nadir Shah who gave the precious stone its current name — before being seized by the British East India Company in the mid-19th century.

“What a wonderful moment it would be, if and when Prime Minister Modi finishes his visit, which is much overdue, he returns to India with the promise of the diamond’s return,” Vaz said.

TIME Turkey

Kurdish Rebels Attack Government Lodgings in Turkey

Turkey Syria Islamic State
Lefteris Pitarakis—AP A flag of the Kurdish People's Protection Units flies over the city of Tal Abyad, Syria, on June 16, 2015

No one was hurt

(ANKARA, Turkey) — Turkey’s state-run news agency says Kurdish rebels have attacked police and judicial officials’ lodgings with rockets in a further escalation of violence between the government and the insurgents.

Turkey’s parliament is set on Wednesday to hold an extraordinary session — possibly behind closed doors — to discuss the attacks by rebels and the Islamic State group, and Turkey’s response.

The Anadolu Agency says militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, fired at buildings in Hakkari province, near Turkey’s border with Iraq, late on Tuesday. No one was hurt.

Turkish jets have been pounding rebel positions in northern Iraq and in southeast Turkey after the rebels claimed responsibility of killing two policemen last week. Turkish jets have also attacked Islamic State group extremists in Syria.

TIME India

Dr. Suniti Solomon, Pioneering Indian HIV/AIDS Researcher, Dies at 76

EVANGELISTA AND GAITONDE
Rajesh Nirgude—AP Canadian supermodel Linda Evangelista, left, and Director of Y.R. Gaitonde Center for AIDS Research and Education Suniti Solomon at a charity function in Mumbai, India on Oct. 21, 2005

The Chennai native documented the country's first case of HIV infection in 1986

India’s foremost HIV/AIDS researcher Dr. Suniti Solomon, who documented the nation’s first HIV case before setting up the first voluntary testing and counseling center for the disease, died Tuesday at her home in the southern city of Chennai.

Solomon, who was 76, began tracking the infection at a time when many in the country were reluctant to delve into what was a little known field. In 1986, her discovery of the infection in six blood samples collected from female sex workers in southern India generated headlines internationally. Speaking to TIME in September 1986, after the first Indian cases had been documented, a former senior medical official said: “We in India have been shaken and face a moment of truth.”

Trained in the U.K., the U.S. and Australia, Solomon won a string of awards for her HIV/AIDS work. Her pioneering research was prompted by reports on HIV in international journals. “Those were the days when I was reading a lot of foreign journals on the HIV and its effect in the U.S. In a quest to determine whether the virus was spreading here, my postgraduate student Nirmala and I identified a few female sex-workers lodged at the government home on Kutchery Road in Mylapore [in Chennai],” she told the Hindu newspaper last year.

Among the first six cases uncovered by Solomon was of a 13-year-old girl who had been forced into the sex trade after being kidnapped. “She was the first girl we tested that I spoke to, and she changed me,” Solomon recalled in a 2009 interview with India’s Mint newspaper.

The samples collected by Solomon, who was being treated for cancer when she died, and her team were eventually sent to Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. for further testing and confirmation.

“It was frightening really,” she told Mint. “My husband was a little worried and didn’t want me to work with HIV-positive patients, most of whom at that time were homosexuals, those who self-injected drugs and sex workers. And I said, look, you have to listen to their stories and you wouldn’t say the same thing.”

TIME On Our Radar

See the Lives of China’s Mentally Ill

Ian Parry scholarship winner Yuyang Liu documents the dire reality of mental disease in China.

To live with mental illness in China is to live in an invisible world.

Of the more than 100 million victims living with some form of mental illness in China, 16 percent are classified as severe, according to a 2009 report by China’s National Center for Mental Health. Yet, inadequate psychiatric care and social stigmas have pushed many out of the public sphere, denying family members the much-needed support they need.

This year’s Ian Parry scholarship recipient, 23-year-old Chinese photographer Yuyang Liu, has set about illuminating this invisible world. He recently documented families crippled by mental disease across the southern province of Guangdong, one of China’s wealthiest regions. “It is often the case that one family is impoverished because of a family member’s illness,” Liu tells TIME.

The project, At Home With Mental Illness, which aims to highlight the inefficient government efforts, won him his scholarship.

Liu first became aware of the issue when he received a newsletter from a Chronicle Disease Prevention Center in a small town, which mentioned its effort in helping those struggling with mental health issues and their families. “I was blown away,” Liu says. “[I realized] that although the patients are largely invisible in the society, they and their families do live a real life.”

With leads provided by local NGOs and online forums, Liu gained access to six houses, photographing the interactions among the mentally ill, their families and the larger society. “I don’t want to photograph how miserable they are even though some of the pictures will inevitably convey that, but I want to focus more on the support between them and their families, and capture the viewers’ attention that way,” Liu says.

Among them, the Xiao family’s situation is especially grim. With a mother suffering from severe mental illness at home, Xiao, a father of two, has to work every morning. Before leaving, he used to tie his five-year-old daughter with a rope attached to a wooden stake so she wouldn’t be able to wander off. When social workers discovered the girl, she did not wear any pants. The father had thought that since no one could untie her to use a bathroom, it would prevent her from wetting her clothes.

Liu immediately partnered with Chinese Internet and technology giant, Tencent, after photographing the Xiao family’s situation, and raised 4,000 RMB ($645) for the child. But he hoped that the fundraising would benefit more than one family and that he would be able to raise awareness for the socially disadvantaged group as a whole, he says. Now with the scholarship’s support of £3,500 ($5,450), Liu plans to expand his coverage to other regions in China.

The scholarship, named after photojournalist Ian Parry, who died while covering the Romanian revolution in 1989, is given every year to an aspiring photographer under 24, the age Parry died. “[The prize] is a great encouragement for me personally,” Liu says. “There’re so many amazing photographers as my predecessors, and I’m really happy to be included in the family.”

Early this year, Liu had contemplated going into commercial photography for a better income, but soon dismissed the idea, and winning the award serves as a major encouragement for him to push through a short period of hesitancy.

“The judges felt this was an outstanding and brave body of simple, honest images,” said the jury in a statement. Along with Liu, Hosam Katan of Syria was highly commended this year. Hashem Shakeri of Iran, Isadora Kosofsky, who was published on TIME LightBox last year, and Salahuddin Ahmed of Bangladesh were also commended. Each of them will receive a cash award of £500 ($780). “Every single portfolio selected for this year’s scholarship has human interest at its heart, and that’s why this award is so special,” said Don McCullin, combat photographer and a trustee on the scholarship’s board.

See Isadora Kosofsky’s winning story below.

Ye Ming is a contributing writer to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter @yemingphoto and Instagram.

TIME Bangladesh

Bangladeshi Opposition Leader’s Death Sentence Upheld

Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a senior opposition leader waves to the media after he arrives to the war crime tribunal in Dhaka.
Khurshed Rinku —REUTERS Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a senior opposition leader, waves to the media after he arrives to the war crime tribunal in Dhaka October 1, 2013

Critics believe the case was politically motivated

Bangladeshi opposition leader Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury has had his appeal against his death sentence rejected by a Supreme Court judge.

Chowdhury, 66, a standing committee member for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) whose father was formerly an acting President of Pakistan, was sentenced to death two years ago by a controversial domestic war crimes tribunal. He was convicted of nine different crimes, including rape, torture and genocide, allegedly carried out during the South Asian nation’s 1971 independence struggle, the AFP reports.

During that conflict, East Pakistan, as Bangladesh was then known, seceded from Islamabad’s control. Chowdhury’s subsequent conviction was the first time an opposition politician had been tried for related crimes and critics maintain the case was politically motivated.

Chowdhury’s BNP clashes regularly with the country’s ruling Bangladesh Awami League. The BNP has been significantly weakened in recent months after carrying out a three-month nationwide traffic blockade in an attempt to overthrow current Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Similar verdicts against Islamist politicians have previously sparked violence throughout the country. Security has now been increased in both the capital Dhaka and in Chowdhury’s hometown of Chittagong, police officials told the AFP.

[AFP]

TIME Cambodia

This Country Just Made It Legal for Cops to Keep 70% of All the Traffic Fines They Collect

A Cambodian traffic police drives a car
Tang Chhin Sothy—AFP/Getty Images A Cambodian traffic police officer drives a car during a ceremony in Phnom Penh on Feb. 14, 2012

Officials do not foresee a rash of spurious fines being handed out as a consequence

Drivers in Cambodia have a lot to contend with: cavernous potholes, weaving motorcycles kicking up clouds of choking dust and noodle hawkers trundling down the “fast” lane. Now motorists may find their pockets as ravaged as their nerves, after officials announced a fivefold bump in traffic fines and gave permission for issuing officers to keep 70% of all cash collected.

The new rules, coming into force in January, are an attempt to curb corruption, reports the Phnom Penh Post. Currently, traffic cops keep half of much smaller penalties, meaning that many supplement their meager salaries by soliciting bribes.

The current $1.25 official penalty for not wearing a car seat belt, for example, will rise to $6.25, with the officer allowed to keep $4.38. Of the remaining 30%, some 25% will go to the station where the officer is based, with the final 5% sent to the Ministry of Finance.

“We plan to issue an edict in the future to encourage and promote this measure,” Ti Long, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s Public Order Department, said at a press conference on Monday.

Local road-safety analyst Chariya Ear, for one, applauded the move. “It will be a good idea to give more incentives to the officers who are doing their jobs,” he told the Post.

However, not all drivers agree, fearing that, in a nation ranked 156 out of 175 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, officers will hand out spurious punishments to feather their nests.

Phnom Penh resident Gary Morrison, 49, says he already pays traffic fines on a regular basis, ostensibly for “being a foreigner,” even though he has all the correct documentation for his vehicle. “So,” he says sardonically, “it’s nice to know they are encouraging the police to fine me even more.”

TIME Nepal

Half a Million Animals Saved as Nepal Nixes the World’s Largest Slaughter Festival

Gadhimai
Roberto Schmidt—AFP/Getty Images Butchers raise their blades at a temple before the first animal sacrifices by priests are conducted for the Gadhimai festival in the village of Bariyapur, Nepal, on Nov. 28, 2014

Experts say around 500,000 goats, chickens and buffalos were decapitated at Gadhimai in 2009

Nepal’s Gadhimai Temple Trust, which oversees the world’s biggest animal sacrifice every five years, announced Tuesday that no slaughter would take place at this year’s festival.

The announcement comes on the heels of an international movement against the event, which led the Indian Supreme Court to prohibit animals from being shipped or shepherded across the border to be killed as offerings.

“With your help, we can ensure the festival in 2019 is free from bloodshed,” chairman of the temple trust Ram Chandra Shah said in a statement announcing the ban. “Moreover, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life.”

Gauri Maulekhi, consultant for Humane Society International/India (HSI) and trustee for People for Animals Uttarakhand, who was among the petitioners in the Supreme Court case, called the move a “tremendous victory for compassion” but acknowledged that the hardest task is still to come. Maulekhi said the HSI would spend the three and a half years until the next festival in 2019 educating would-be celebrants in the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal about the temple’s decision.

HSI estimates that more than 500,000 goats, chickens and buffalos, along with other animals, were decapitated at Gadhimai in 2009. The festival, which dates back about 265 years and which some say has even more ancient roots, is based on a dream founder Bhagwan Chowdhary had featuring Gadhimai, the Hindu goddess of power. In the dream, Gadhimai demanded a sacrifice after freeing Chowdhary from prison, promising power and prosperity in return. Chowdhary prepared an animal offering, establishing a legacy of tradition and blood that would last nearly three centuries.

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