TIME Ukraine

Ukrainian Parliament Votes to Keep P.M. Yatsenyuk

(KIEV, Ukraine) — Ukraine’s parliament has voted not to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Yatsenyuk had said last week he was resigning after two parties left the coalition supporting him and parliament balked at passing laws he said were essential to fund the country’s war against pro-Russian separatists.

But the parliament had to accept the resignation, and decided not to Thursday. President Petro Poroshenko had urged legislators and the government to find a compromise and keep the parliament working.

TIME United Kingdom

Garbage Truck Named After Author David Sedaris

"C.O.G." Premiere - 2013 Sundance Film Festival
David Sedaris attends a premiere at Library Center Theater during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 20, 2013 Sonia Recchia—Getty Images

Author and "local hero" often spends nine hours a day picking up litter near his U.K. home

The Horsham District Council in West Sussex, England, recently named a garbage truck “Pig Pen Sedaris,” after Grammy Award–nominated author and comedian David Sedaris, who reportedly walks several miles every day to collect litter in the community.

Diana van der Klugt, a district councillor, told The West Sussex County Times that Sedaris was a “welcome sight” to residents of Horsham District “as he tirelessly and painstakingly goes about gathering up the litter so thoughtlessly discarded.”

Susan Pyper, lord lieutenant of West Sussex, added that Sedaris’ efforts to reduce community blight made him a “real local hero,” that inspired others, the County Times reported.

Sedaris told the County Times that when he first moved to the area several years ago, he was surprised by the amount of trash on the streets. “I’m angry at the people who throw these things out their car windows, but I’m just as angry at the people who walk by it every day. I say, pick it up yourself. Do it enough and you might one day get a garbage truck named after you,” Sedaris said.

Although Sedaris’ recent book Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls reached No. 1 on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list, the author might be better known in his U.K. home for his obsession with walking and picking up litter, Gawker reports. The County Times wrote an addendum to their article about Sedaris’ celebrated trash-collecting habit to explain his international fame.

Sedaris wrote in The New Yorker in June that his use of Fitbit, a wearable pedometer, encouraged him to walk farther every day with “ a heavy bag of garbage” in tow. “On foot, nothing escapes my attention: a potato-chip bag stuffed into the hollow of a tree, an elderly mitten caught in the embrace of a blackberry bush, a mud-coated matchbook at the bottom of a ditch,” Sedaris wrote.

The author now spends nine hours a day walking 60,000 steps, which is about 25 miles, picking up trash along the way.

TIME China

China Charges Uighur Scholar Ilham Tohti With ‘Separatism’

Ilham Tohti
Ilham Tohti, an outspoken scholar of China's Uighur ethnic minority, speaks during an interview at his home in Beijing on Feb. 4, 2013 Andy Wong—AP

The Beijing-based professor of economics is a moderate but determined critic of China's treatment of ethnic minorities

Prominent Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti was charged by Chinese authorities with “separatism” on Wednesday. The long-expected announcement came amid a period of violent unrest in China’s far-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

The Beijing-based professor of economics is a moderate but determined critic of China’s treatment of ethnic minority groups. He has been held since January, but was not allowed to see his lawyer until June. His lawyer, Li Fangping, only heard about the charges when the local government posted the news online, the Guardian reports.

Charges against Tohti come at a particularly sensitive time. This week alone, dozens were killed or injured in violence outside the ancient city of Kashgar. Beijing blamed the unrest on Uighur extremists, but human-rights groups claim Chinese authorities exaggerate terrorist ties in order to justify their own use of force. On Wednesday, an imam in the city of Kashgar, who was frequently quoted by state media as praising the Communist Party and denouncing terrorism, was reportedly stabbed to death.

Chinese authorities allege that Tohti used a website to, among other things, “spread separatist thinking,” and accuse him of urging his students to engage in violent struggle — charges at odds with his extensive, body of writing and work. Rights groups say the charges amount to a political witch hunt, and show Beijing’s unwillingness to tolerate even the most moderate and measured criticism.

PEN American Center, which awarded Tohti the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award earlier this year, condemned the indictment in a statement, saying that he “has worked within the country’s laws to promote equal rights for all of China’s citizens, and to encourage exchange and understanding between different ethnic groups.”

The charge against Tohti will almost certainly lead to conviction and, potentially, the death penalty.

TIME Argentina

Argentina Slides Into Default as Debt Talks Fail

Argentina Debt
Axel Kicillof, Argentina's Economy Minister, addresses the media after a negotiation session in New York on July 30, 2014 Craig Ruttle—Associated Press

Argentina slipped into its second debt default in 13 years after Argentine Economy Minister Axel Kicillof and U.S. creditors failed to come to an agreement by the deadline on Wednesday at midnight

(NEW YORK) — The collapse of talks with U.S. creditors sent Argentina into its second debt default in 13 years and raised questions about what comes next for financial markets and the South American nation’s staggering economy.

A midnight Wednesday deadline to reach a deal with holdout bondholders came and went with Argentine Economy Minister Axel Kicillof holding firm to his government’s position that it could not accept a deal with U.S. hedge fund creditors it dismisses as “vultures.” Kicillof said the funds refused a compromise offer in talks that ended several hours earlier, although he gave no details of that proposal.

“We’re not going to sign an agreement that jeopardizes the future of all Argentines,” Kicillof said after he emerged from the meeting with creditors and a mediator in New York City. “Argentines can remain calm because tomorrow will just be another day and the world will keep on spinning.”

But court-appointed mediator Daniel Pollack said a default could hurt bondholders who were not part of the dispute as well as the Argentine economy, which is suffering through a recession, a shortage of dollars and one of the world’s highest inflation rates.

“The full consequences of default are not predictable, but they are certainly not positive,” Pollack said.

An earlier U.S. court ruling had blocked Argentina from making $539 million in interest payments due by midnight Wednesday to other bondholders who separately agreed to restructuring plans with the country in 2005 and 2010.

There was no immediate comment from the hedge funds, which refused to participate in the debt restructurings and won a U.S. court judgment that they be paid the full value of their bonds plus interest — now estimated at roughly $1.5 billion.

Kicillof dismissed a decision by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s to downgrade Argentina’s foreign currency credit rating to “selective default” because of the missed interest payments.

“Who believes in the ratings agencies? Who thinks they are impartial referees of the financial system?” he said.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez had long refused to negotiate with the hedge fund creditors, often calling them “vultures” for picking on the carcass of the country’s record $100 billion default in 2001.

The holdouts, led by New York billionaire Paul Singer’s NML Capital Ltd., spent more than a decade litigating for payment in full rather than agreeing to provide Argentina with debt relief. They also sent lawyers around the globe trying to force Argentina to pay its defaulted debts and were able to get a court in Ghana to temporarily seize an Argentine naval training ship. The threat of seizures forced Fernandez to stop using her presidential plane and instead fly on private jets.

Restoring Argentina’s sense of pride and sovereignty after the 2001-2002 economic collapse has been a central goal of Fernandez and her predecessor and late husband, Nestor Kirchner.

Argentina has made efforts to return to global credit markets that have shunned it since the default. The government paid its debt to the International Monetary Fund and agreed in May with the Paris Club of creditor nations on a plan to begin repaying $9.7 billion in debts unpaid since 2001. It also agreed to a $5 billion settlement with Grupo Repsol after seizing the Spanish company’s controlling stake in Argentina’s YPF oil company.

Analysts say a new default undermines all of these efforts.

“This is unexpected; an agreement seemed imminent,” said Ramiro Castineira of Buenos Aires-based consultancy Econometrica.

“Argentina would have benefited more from complying with the court order in order to get financing for Vaca Muerta,” he added, referring to an Argentine region that has one of the world’s largest deposits of shale oil and gas.

Only a few international companies have made commitments to help develop the fields as many fear the government’s interventionist energy policies. The government has also struggled to get investors because it can’t borrow on the global credit market.

Prices for Argentine bonds had surged to their highest level in more than three years on the possibility that Argentina would reach a deal with the holdout creditors. Argentina’s Merval stock index also climbed more than 6.5 percent in midday trade on a likely deal.

Optimism had been buoyed by reports Wednesday that representatives of Argentina’s private banks association, ADEBA, were set to offer to buy out the debt owed to the hedge funds. In return, the reports said, the U.S. court would let Argentina make the interest payments due before midnight Wednesday and avoid default.

The deal failed to materialize.

“It is an unfortunate situation which is pushing the country into another default. As defaults go, we all know when we get into one but it is very unclear when and how to get out of it,” said Alberto Ramos, Latin America analyst at Goldman Sachs.

“We just added another layer of risk and uncertainty to a macro economy that was already struggling,” Ramos said.

___

Associated Press writers Almudena Calatrava, Ben Fox and Debora Rey in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Luis Andres Henao in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.

TIME Gaza

A U.N. School Is No Refuge as the War Worsens in Gaza

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinian civilians wounded during Israeli shelling of a U.N. school wait at the Kamal Odwan Hospital in northern Gaza Strip on July 30, 2014 Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

A strike on a U.N. school being used as a refuge in Gaza leaves 15 people dead, and puts more international pressure on Israel

Seventeen times, officials from the U.N. called their contacts in the Israeli army to give them the exact GPS coordinates of a U.N. school in the Jabalya Refugee Camp. “There was fighting very close by and the staff there was very alarmed,” Christopher Gunness, the spokesman of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which works with Palestinian refugees, tells TIME. “We told them what the precise coordinates were.”

Despite the worried calls, the Jabalya Elementary Girls School was hit just after the early morning call to prayer Wednesday, when most of the 3,000 people taking shelter there were asleep. A few minutes later, the school was hit by a second explosion, in which a shell or a rocket crashed through the roof of the building. Fifteen people were killed and more than 100 injured.

However it happened, the devastating attack of the U.N. school seems such an egregious example of killing innocent civilians that it could be a turning point in the three-week-old war between Israel and Hamas that senior U.S., European and Middle Eastern officials have so far failed to halt. Strong condemnations have come in from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called the strike “unjustifiable,” as well as from the White House. It is the second time over the past several days that a U.N. school has been hit, and the sixth such incident since the war began.

The refugees at Jabalya “are people who were told to leave their homes by the IDF,” Gunness says. As a result, there are 200,000 Gazans around the Strip living in 85 shelters, leaving UNRWA and other aid agencies struggling to provide for their most basic needs. That includes water, which is trucked in because most of the tap water in Gaza is undrinkable even during peacetime. “We can’t offer safe sanctuary. We ask people to respect the inviolability of our offices.” Earlier in the day, Gunness tweeted: “UNRWA condemns in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces.”

Israeli forces, however, have not taken responsibility for the attack on the school. As it did after fiery destruction of a power plant a day earlier, which seemed to indicate Israel was not just striking military targets but also the kind of basic civilian infrastructure that could permanently affect the more than 1.8 million residents of the Gaza Strip, the IDF said it was checking the incident and could not confirm who had hit the school.

“We don’t target U.N. facilities in any way, shape or form,” Lieut. Colonel Peter Lerner tells TIME. He describes the IDF’s version of events: “In the early hours of the morning, there was mortar fire launched from the vicinity of the school and there was an exchange of fire there. In the aftermath of that, there was a report of deaths in the school. We are reviewing this incident.”

Lerner says that in the past few days, there have been “several attempts by Hamas to pin on Israel launches from the Gaza Strip” that didn’t go as planned, landing on civilians instead of in Israel. “There are two cases in which we are aware of — the Beach Camp [Shati] and the attack on Shifa Hospital — which were the result of rockets that were definitely launched in Gaza.” As for UNRWA’s 17 distressed calls to the Israeli army, Lerner said that the location of the U.N. schools was not the issue. “We know where their schools are, as well as shelters and warehouses, and we have an ongoing relationship with their offices in Gaza to facilitate their humanitarian work on the ground. In fact, the humanitarian cease-fire today was to enable their ongoing activities.”

That cease-fire — though a four-hour lull or pause would be a more precise description — was declared by Israel in part because of U.N. requests, ostensibly to allow emergency workers to go out into the field and to remove bodies from the ruins. Hamas, for its part, has refused to participate in any cease-fires unilaterally declared by Israel, and continued launching several rockets even during the cease-fire, adding to the more than 2,670 that have been fired since July 7. During this so-called lull, Israeli warplanes struck a crowded market in Shujaiyeh, killing 15 people. Shujaiyeh, an area in the eastern part of Gaza City, has witnessed the heaviest bombardment by the IDF since it began its ground operation, with many of the buildings reduced to ruins.

At the Kamal Odwan Hospital in northern Gaza Strip, Said Sulaiman sits over the bed of his son Rezeq, who was seriously wounded by shrapnel at the U.N. School in Jabalya. As instructed by the Israeli army, two weeks ago they decided to flee their house in Atattra, near Beit Lahia — an agricultural area that in the past has been used by Hamas and other militants for launching rockets — and came to seek shelter at the U.N. school.

“I came to the school in search of a safe place. My family is still in the school while I am here, and I hope no strikes will happen while I am away,” says Sulaiman, 55. “We are waiting here in the room until the operation room is ready to take him into surgery. I hope they won’t have to amputate his leg. I just want to return to my house with my family safe after the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, and for the aggression to stop.”

A more lasting cease-fire still seems elusive, however. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet agreed Wednesday night to intensify attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza and to keep destroying tunnels. The night before, Mohammed Deif, the head of al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said that only Israel lifting its blockade of Gaza would be enough for the militant group to agree to a cease-fire.

A Hamas-made video released on the same night, showing militants infiltrating Israel via a tunnel, successfully ambushing and killing five Israeli soldiers near Nahal Oz, has only confirmed for the government that the tunnels still pose a danger, encouraging the government to continue the fight. A poll released Tuesday found that 90% of Israeli Jews think the IDF operation in Gaza is justified. The survey, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, indicated that most expected the war to continue.

The Palestinian Ministry of Healthy put the death toll Wednesday at 1,361; Israel has lost 58 soldiers and three civilians. Israeli officials blame Hamas for many of the civilian deaths, repeatedly accusing the militant group of shooting from within populated areas, including residential buildings and hospital. Netanyahu himself has charged Hamas with regularly using human shields, purposefully putting people in harm’s way. That means Israel’s soldiers and pilots have to either have to retreat from their targets or shoot anyway, knowing that civilians will be killed in the process.

Gunness counters that on three occasions, including one this week, rocket caches have been discovered in U.N. schools, but noted that these were empty, out-of-use structures undergoing maintenance — not buildings housing refugees.

“On these separate occasions, [rockets] were found in schools that have been closed for the summer and which were being inspected by UNRWA,” Gunness says. “We condemned the groups that put them there as a flagrant violation of the sanctity and neutrality of the U.N., we immediately notified all relevant parties, and we have never handed them over to Hamas.” The dispute over who hit the U.N. school continues, but the day’s grim images make one fact indisputable: there are no safe havens in Gaza.

— With reporting by Hazem Balousha / Gaza City

TIME West Africa

Peace Corps Pulls Volunteers Out of West Africa Amid Ebola Scare

GUINEA-HEALTH-EBOLA
Gloves and boots used by medical staff, drying in the sun, at a center for victims of the Ebola virus in Guéckédou, on April 1, 2014 Seyllou—AFP/Getty Images

Because of the spread of the Ebola virus, the organization announced Wednesday

The Peace Corps announced Wednesday that it’s pulling volunteers out of parts of West Africa amid an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus. Volunteers in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are being recalled until further notice.

“The Peace Corps has enjoyed long partnerships with the government and people of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea and is committed to continuing volunteers’ work there,” the group’s statement reads. “A determination on when volunteers can return will be made at a later date.”

The organization currently has 102 volunteers in Guinea, 108 in Liberia and 130 in Sierra Leone, it says. On Wednesday, CBS News reported two Peace Corps volunteers in Liberia had been quarantined after possibly being exposed to the deadly virus, though neither currently exhibits symptoms.

As of July 23, 672 people have died from Ebola during the current outbreak, which has spread between Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other parts of West Africa. Earlier this week, a hospital in Nigeria shuttered its doors after admitting a man who had contracted and later died from the virus.

World leaders are on high alert in light of the outbreak, which is the largest in history. Symptoms of Ebola include fever, diarrhea, vomiting and intense weakness; the fatality rate of this epidemic is about 60%.

TIME Gaza

U.N. Official Breaks Down in Tears Talking About Gaza School Shelling

On Wednesday, a UN-run school was struck by tank shells killing 15 and wounding 90

+ READ ARTICLE

A United Nations official broke down in tears during an interview Wednesday while talking about a deadly shelling on a school in Gaza.

A UN-run school sheltering hundreds of Palestinians was hit by Israeli shells on Tuesday, according to Palestinian officials and a UN agency. The incident left 15 people dead and approximately 90 wounded, according to Palestinian health officials. The shelling was the sixth time a UN-run school has been hit by munitions from either side of the conflict in recent weeks.

In an interview on Al Jazeera, also reported by the Washington Post, United Nations Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness couldn’t hold back tears over the school strikes.

Director of Operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross Pierre Krähenbühl condemned the shelling, saying in part that “We have moved beyond the realm of humanitarian action alone. We are in the realm of accountability. I call on the international community to take deliberate international political action to put an immediate end to the continuing carnage.”

According to the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs, 1,118 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing conflict as of July 29, including 827 civilians, of whom 243 were children and 131 were women. About 56 Israelis have been killed, including 53 soldiers, two civilians and one foreign national.

[Washington Post]

TIME feminism

Turkish Women Can’t Stop Laughing at Minister’s Advice to Stop Laughing

TURKEY-POLITICS
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc speaks during an interview in Ankara on July 24, 2014, ahead of the presidential election Adem Alta—AFP/Getty Images

A speech on public morals has morphed into a comedy of errors

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc did not intend his Monday speech on “moral corruption” to get big laughs, but when he advised women to suppress their laughter in public, it landed on the public like a well-crafted punch line.

Women in Turkey have since tweeted pictures of their reactions, ranging from grins …

… to guffaws.

Over the past three days, hundreds of thousands of people have tweeted under the hashtag #kahkaha, the Turkish word for laughter. Sadly, the Deputy Prime Minister wasn’t joking.

TIME Ghana

How 2 Gay Men Live in a Country Where Homosexuality Is Illegal

Two young men bravely share their experience as homosexuals in Ghana

+ READ ARTICLE

Some 37 African countries criminalize homosexual relationships, with penalties ranging from misdemeanors to death sentences, according to a Human Rights Campaign Foundation report released Tuesday. The report, which analyzed LGBT rights in 54 African countries in total, paints a picture of a continent in crisis.

In Ghana, a country often regarded as among the most progressively democratic nations in Africa, homosexuality remains illegal, punishable by up to three years imprisonment. A recent Pew survey of various countries, not all African, reveals that 98 percent of Ghanaians feel that homosexuality is “morally unacceptable,” the highest percentage of any country surveyed.

“In Ghana, everybody is culturally and religiously blinded,” says Fred K., an openly gay man living in the Ghanaian capital of Accra who didn’t want to share his last name for fear of criminal and social repercussions. “They think that it’s demonic … so I just pray that a time comes that they decide to change and be like the Western countries.”

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s report is out just a week before U.S. President Barack Obama is slated to hold the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.. Advocates from the U.S. and Africa are jumping on that opportunity to bring the the continent’s controversial LGBT rights record to the world’s attention.

“My fellow gays don’t want anything to be legalized,” Nana Yaw, a human rights activist and openly gay man, says. “All they want is for their rights to be respected and protected.”

TIME Infectious Disease

Infographic: Ebola By the Numbers

West African countries are trying to contain the deadly disease

The number of Ebola cases have continued to climb this week in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and now a recent victim in Nigeria. Here’s everything you want to know about the disease.

Sources: WHO, CDC, Mayo Clinic

You can also read more here.

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