TIME

Delta Cancels All Israel Flights Over Missile Fear

Delta Air Lines is canceling all flights to Israel until further notice, citing reports that a rocket landed near Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.

A Delta Boeing 747 from New York was flying over the Mediterranean headed for Tel Aviv on Tuesday when it turned around and flew to Paris instead. Flight 468 had 273 passengers and 17 crew on board.

Airlines and passengers are growing more anxious about safety since last week, when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

TIME Security

Facebook and Twitter Users: Don’t Fall for MH17 ‘Actual Footage’ Scams

Be very careful which MH17 news stories you click on, especially on Facebook and Twitter, where scammers are exploiting the tragedy to spam you.

If you run across Facebook pages touting pictures of Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash victims, or tweets linking to reports on the disaster, warning: they may be fakes, harbor malware or redirect you to pornographic websites.

The BBC reports that fraudsters are exploiting the tragic destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, ostensibly shot down by a ground to air missile on July 17, by bait-and-switching users with promises of shocking video footage or tribute pages to victims that instead link viewers to spam or other offensive content.

In one instance, a Facebook page was created the day the plane crashed that purported to have video footage of the crash itself, says the Daily Mail. Clicking the link promising the video redirected viewers to a spam site, which of course contained no such video. The Facebook page has since been removed, but security expert TrendMicro, which blogged about some of this cybercriminal activity on July 18, expects MH17 exploitation to continue.

In other instances, as noted by TrendMicro, people may be using the tragedy to boost web traffic, posting suspicious tweets with links to malicious sites harboring malware, but also seemingly legitimate ones in hopes of “gaining hits/page views on their sites or ads.”

So beware and think before you click, especially if you see claims like “Video Camera Caught the moment plane MH17 Crash over Ukraine” (as noted by the BBC). There is no such video, and the chances are all but certain you’re being gamed based on someone’s perverse attempt to mine an unspeakable calamity. What you can do, on the other hand, is report such suspicious activity to Twitter or Facebook.

TIME russia

Dutch Minister Says E.U. Is Imposing New Sanctions on Officials Over Russia’s Actions in Ukraine

(BRUSSELS) — Dutch minister says EU is imposing new sanctions on officials over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

TIME

11 Parents of Nigeria’s Abducted Girls Die

(LAGOS, Nigeria) — Nearly a dozen parents of the more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls will never see their daughters again.

Since the mass abduction of the schoolgirls by Islamic extremists three months ago, at least 11 of their parents have died and their hometown, Chibok, is under siege from the militants, residents report.

Seven fathers of kidnapped girls were among 51 bodies brought to Chibok hospital after an attack on the nearby village of Kautakari this month, said a health worker who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals by the extremists.

At least four more parents have died of heart failure, high blood pressure and other illnesses that the community blames on trauma due to the mass abduction 100 days ago, said community leader Pogu Bitrus, who provided their names.

“One father of two of the girls kidnapped just went into a kind of coma and kept repeating the names of his daughters, until life left him,” said Bitrus.

President Goodluck Jonathan met Tuesday with many parents of the 219 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls and some classmates who managed to escape from Islamic extremists. For months the parents have been asking to see the president and he finally agreed last week to a request from Pakistani girls-education activist Malala Yousafzai.

Chibok, the town where the girls were kidnapped, is cut off because of frequent attacks on the roads that are studded with burned out vehicles. Commercial flights no longer go into the troubled area and the government has halted charter flights.

Through numerous phone calls to Chibok and the surrounding area, The Associated Press has gathered information about the situation in the town where the students were kidnapped from their school.

More danger is on the horizon.

Boko Haram is closing in on Chibok, attacking villages ever closer to the town. Villagers who survive the assaults are swarming into the town, swelling its population and straining resources. A food crisis looms, along with shortages of money and fuel, said community leader Bitrus.

On the bright side, some of the young women who escaped are recovering, said a health worker, who insisted on anonymity because he feared reprisals from Boko Haram. Girls who had first refused to discuss their experience, now are talking about it and taking part in therapeutic singing and drawing — a few drew homes, some painted flowers and one young woman drew a picture of a soldier with a gun last week.

Girls who said they would never go back to school now are thinking about how to continue their education, he said.

Counseling is being offered to families of those abducted and to some of the 57 students who managed to escape in the first few days, said the health worker. He is among 36 newly trained in grief and rape counseling, under a program funded by USAID.

All the escapees remain deeply concerned about their schoolmates who did not get away.

A presidential committee investigating the kidnappings said 219 girls still are missing. But the community says there are more because some parents refused to give the committee their daughters’ names, fearing the stigma involved.

Boko Haram filmed a video in which they threatened to sell the students into slavery and as child brides. It also showed a couple of the girls describing their “conversion” from Christianity to Islam.

At least two have died of snake bites, a mediator who was liaising with Boko Haram told AP two months ago. At that time he said at least 20 of the girls were ill — not surprising given that they are probably being held in an area infested with malarial mosquitoes, poisonous snakes and spiders, and relying on unclean water from rivers.

Most of the schoolgirls are still believed to be held in the Sambisa Forest — a wildlife reserve that includes almost impenetrably thick jungle as well as more open savannah. The forest borders on sand dunes marking the edge of the Sahara Desert. Sightings of the girls and their captors have been reported in neighboring Cameroon and Chad.

In Chibok, the town’s population is under stress.

“There are families that are putting up four and five other families,” local leader Bitrus said, adding that food stocks are depleted. Livestock has been looted by Boko Haram so villagers are arriving empty handed. Worst of all, no one is planting though it is the rainy season, he said.

“There is a famine looming,” he warned.

Chibok and nearby villages are targets because they are enclaves of staunch Christians in predominantly Muslim north Nigeria.

The number of soldiers guarding Chibok has increased from 15 to about 200 since the kidnapping but they have done little to increase security in Chibok, said Bitrus. The soldiers often refuse to deploy to villages under attack though there is advance warning 90 percent of the time, he said.

Last month the extremists took control and raised their black flags over two villages within 30 kilometers (18 miles) of Chibok. Last week they ordered residents of another village just 16 kilometers (10 miles) away to clear out, Bitrus said. Every village in the neighboring Damboa area has been attacked and sacked, and all the villages bordering Cameroon have been burned and are deserted, Bitrus said, quoting residents who fled.

The attacks continue despite the fact the military placed the area under a state of emergency in May 2013.

Residents feel so abandoned that they appealed this month for the United Nations to send troops to protect them. The U.N. has repeatedly urged Nigeria’s government to live up to its international responsibility to protect citizens.

President Goodluck Jonathan insists his government and military are doing everything possible to ensure the girls’ release. The Defense Ministry says it knows where they are but fears any military campaign could lead to their deaths.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a new video released this week repeated his demands that Jonathan release detained extremists in exchange for the girls — an offer Jonathan has so far refused.

After three months, few Chibok residents believe all the schoolgirls will ever return home.

___

Associated Press writers Haruna Umar in Maiduguri, Nigeria and Lekan Oyekanmi in Abuja, Nigeria, contributed to this report.

TIME

700 Million Women Were Child Brides, UNICEF Says

UNICEF's 2014 Report
UNICEF's 2014 Report Hannibal Hanschke—picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

New data reveals shocking rates of child marriage and female genital mutilation

UNICEF released staggering new data Tuesday outlining the prevalence of child marriage and genital mutilation that continues to impact hundreds of millions of girls and women around the world.

More than one in three women in 2014 (some 250 million) were married before they were 15, the data says. Some 700 million women alive today were married before they were 18.

And while girls are one third less likely to experience female genital mutilation (FGM) today than they were 30 years ago, more than 130 million girls and adult women have experienced FGM in the Middle East and Africa, according to information released as part of UNICEF’s first-ever Girl Summit with the UK Government.

UNICEF is calling for accelerated action because even if the numbers decline at a steady rate, 63 million more girls will be mutilated by 2050. “The numbers tell us we must accelerate our efforts. And let’s not forget that these numbers represent real lives,” UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said in a release.

“While these are problems of a global scale, the solutions must be local, driven by communities, families and girls themselves to change mindsets and break the cycles that perpetuate FGM/C and child marriage. We can’t let the staggering numbers numb us – they must compel us to act.”

TIME indonesia

Jakarta Governor Widodo Wins Indonesian Election

(JAKARTA, Indonesia) — Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, who won the hearts of Indonesians with his common man image, won Indonesia’s presidential election with 53 percent of the vote, final results from the Election Commission showed Tuesday.

The numbers were released shortly after his opponent, former general Prabowo Subianto, declared he was withdrawing from the contest, saying there was massive fraud during the election and that it was unfair and undemocratic.

Widodo, a former furniture maker known widely as “Jokowi,” had maintained a slim lead of about 4 percentage points in unofficial “quick counts” by polling agencies released after the July 9 election.

But Subianto, who has declared assets of $140 million and was on his third bid for the presidency, repeatedly claimed that polling firms with links to his campaign showed he was ahead.

“We reject the 2014 presidential election which is unlawful and therefore we withdraw from the ongoing process,” he said.

There were no immediate reports of violence. About 100 Subianto supporters held a peaceful protest about 300 meters (300 yards) from the Election Commission building in downtown Jakarta, chanting “Prabowo is the real president” and holding banners saying that the commission should stop cheating.

The building was surrounded by thousands of policemen to maintain security after a particularly nasty presidential campaign. It was the first election that pitted two candidates directly against each other since the Muslim majority country of 240 million emerged from the long and brutal Suharto dictatorship 16 years ago.

Supporters of both men used social media for personal attacks, and Subianto’s supporters led a smear campaign against Widodo, spreading rumors he is not a Muslim.

The commission was to formally declare the winner later Tuesday evening.

Final results showed that Widodo won 70,997,859 votes, or 53.15 percent of the nearly 133 million valid ballots cast, while Subianto won 62,576,444 votes, or 46.85 percent.

Voter turnout was 70.7 percent.

TIME China

China Food Scandal Hits Starbucks

McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut have already taken action over claims that a food supplier used expired meat

Starbucks is the latest global chain to be pulled into a recent food scandal in China, involving Shanghai Husi Food Co.

The food-processing company came under fire after a TV report showed factory staff using expired meat, as well as meat that fell on the floor, in food products that had been supplied to chains including, McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut.

In a statement on Weibo — the Chinese version of Twitter — Starbucks said that while it had no direct business ties with Husi, the chicken used for its chicken apple-sauce panini came from a supplier that purchased its poultry from Shanghai Husi. The sandwich had been on sale in 13 different provinces and major cities, but the coffee chain added that it has since been pulled from cafés.

The TV report on Shanghai Husi showed a factory-quality manager telling investigators, “Our company policy allows us to add expired raw materials to produce beef patties.” The report also found that processed chicken parts had been expired for nearly half a month.

McDonald’s and Yum! Brands Inc., the parent company of KFC and Pizza Hut, both issued apologies on Monday to Chinese customers.

The parent company of Husi, U.S.-based OSI Group, also apologized for the scandal and said it was cooperating with authorities. Shanghai food regulators shut down the Husi factory on Sunday, pending an investigation into the allegations.

Food safety is a hot-button issue in China, where scandals over toxicity and hygiene are commonplace.

TIME Palestine

Israel Hits More Than 70 Targets in Gaza, as Ban and Kerry Call for Truce

The U.N. Secretary General and the U.S. Secretary of State lament renewed carnage and call for a cease-fire

+ READ ARTICLE

Israeli warplanes struck more than 70 targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Tuesday morning, including a stadium, five mosques and the home of a late Hamas military chief, reports the Associated Press.

The attacks came as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accelerated diplomatic efforts for an immediate cease-fire.

The Israel Defense Forces through its Twitter account on Tuesday said that it had killed 183 “terrorists” and struck at more than 1,300 “terror sites” in Gaza during the two-week-old Operation Protective Edge. However, according to Human Rights Watch, many of the attacks have been made on civilian structures, including a refugee camp and hundreds of homes, leading to thousands of displacements.

Some 584 Palestinians and 29 Israelis have been killed during the conflict. The U.N. estimates that 75% of Palestinian deaths are of civilians, with scores of women and children among them.

“We must find a way to stop the violence,” said Ban at a joint press conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, with Kerry. “So many people have died. As [Secretary Kerry] just said, it’s mostly [the] civilian population, women and children. It’s very sad, it’s tragic.”

Kerry called on Hamas to accept a cease-fire framework tabled by Egyptian authorities earlier this month.

“Israel has accepted that cease-fire proposal,” said Kerry, who landed in Egypt on Monday after being dispatched to the region by President Barack Obama on Sunday night. “So only Hamas now needs to make the decision to spare innocent civilians from this violence.”

Despite the heavy loss of Palestinian lives in the fighting, Kerry described Israel’s military operation in Gaza as “appropriate” and a “legitimate effort to defend itself.”

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities acknowledged to local media on Monday that they could not account for the whereabouts of one of their soldiers but that he may have been killed after an attack on an armored vehicle over the weekend.

The admission comes a day after Israel’s envoy to the U.N. dismissed claims made by Hamas on television Sunday that they had kidnapped an Israeli soldier.

TIME South Korea

A Body Found in South Korea Is That of the Fugitive Sewol Ferry Owner

Passersby watch TV news showing Yoo Byung-eun, the fugitive owner of the sunken ferry Sewol, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul on July 22, 2014.
Passersby watch TV news showing Yoo Byung-eun, the fugitive owner of the sunken ferry Sewol, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul on July 22, 2014. Ahn Young-joon—AP

The hunt is over

South Korean police said on Tuesday that a body found on June 12 is that of Yoo Byung-eun, the fugitive businessman with ties to Chonghaejin, the company that operated the Sewol ferry.

The heavily decomposed body was found in the southern part of the country. Tests indicated that it matched the DNA of Yoo’s elder brother — and police believe this indicates it is the body of the billionaire. The cause of death is not yet known.

“We do not know yet whether it was a homicide or a suicide,” Woo Hyung-Ho, a local police chief, said to reporters.

The 73-year-old patriarch of the family that controlled Chonghaejin had been on the run since just after the ferry tragedy occurred on April 16 this year. A reward of 500 million won ($487,000) was offered for information leading to Yoo’s arrest.

The Sewol ferry went down killing most of the 476 on board, of whom 325 were high school students. So far, 294 bodies have been recovered while another 10 are missing.

The ferry’s captain and 14 surviving crew members are currently on trial. Four are charged with homicide and face the death penalty if convicted. Others are accused of abandoning ship and safety offenses.

[AFP]

TIME Foreign Policy

Russian Television Under Spotlight After Malaysia Airlines Crash in Ukraine

Russia Putin
Employees of RT prepare for a visit from Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on June 11, 2013. Yuri Kochetkov—AP

The crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 exposes the truth about RT, the Russian English-language propaganda outlet

In late 2009, the British journalist Sara Firth became a Russian propaganda mouthpiece.

The decision seemed to make sense at the time. Firth had just earned a postgraduate diploma in investigative journalism when she was offered a role as on-air-correspondent for RT, a Russian television network that is broadcast for foreign audiences in English, Spanish and Arabic. The gig came with an attractive salary, vibrant colleagues and the chance to report big stories in global hotspots. Firth had ambition, a sense of adventure, and a fascination with Russia. She took the job.

Founded in 2005, RT is billed as a counterweight to the bias of Western media outlets. In reality, the broadcast outlet is an unofficial house organ for President Vladimir Putin’s government. Under the guise of journalistic inquiry, it produces agitprop funded by the Russian state, and beams it around the world to nearly 650 million people in more than 100 countries. RT is Russia’s “propaganda bullhorn,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said recently, “deployed to promote President Putin’s fantasy about what is playing out on the ground.”

Firth was no dupe. She knew the politics of her paymasters. “We are lying every single day at RT,” she explained Monday afternoon in a phone interview from England. “There are a million different ways to lie, and I really learned that at RT.”

Since a Malaysian jetliner crashed in a wheat field in eastern Ukraine last week, RT’s pro-Putin packaging has been exposed in grim detail. In the aftermath of the tragedy, which killed all 298 souls on board, the outlet—like the rest of Russian state media—has seemed as if it were reporting on an entirely different crime. As the international media published reports indicating the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists, RT has suggested Ukraine was responsible, cast Moscow as a scapegoat and bemoaned the insensitivity of outlets focusing on the geopolitical consequences of the crime.

For Firth, the coverage was the last straw. She announced her resignation on July 18, as her employer broadcast a flurry of reports that read more like Kremlin press releases. She described a five-year fight to uphold the principles of journalistic integrity in a place where every reporting assignment comes with a “brief” outlining the story’s conclusion. “It’s mass information manipulation,” she says. “They have a very clear idea in their mind of what they’re trying to prove.”

RT is neither the first nor the only outlet that exists to serve the state rather than its citizens. Nearly every major country has a thriving state-sponsored media. (The U.S. funds media organizations like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia that target foreign populations through the Broadcasting Board of Governors.) In Russia, the domestic media have long been lapdogs, and reporters who bite their masters sometimes turn up dead. “The media in Russia are expected to be mouthpieces for power,” says Sarah Oates, a professor of journalism at the University of Maryland who studies the Russian media. “RT follows this model. They’ll mix a little bit of reality with a little bit of smearing, and they’ll steer the viewer into questioning things.”

RT’s motto is “Question More,” which sounds like a worthy credo. In practice, it arranges those questions to light the way to specific answers. The formula is well-honed. RT hires young, telegenic correspondents who speak fluent English and believe, as Firth does, that a flawed media ecosystem benefits when broadcasters challenge the dominant narrative. And it pays them lavishly to report from far-flung battlefields or its gleaming studios. “They want you to be on air looking young, looking sexy, looking fresh. Being a bit quirky,” says Firth. “They’re after impact. They don’t mind too much about the fact checking.”

In the aftermath of the crash last week, the RT machine kicked into overdrive, churning out a steady stream of strange reports. In an effort to implicitly assign blame on the Ukrainians, it noted the proximity of Putin’s own plane. It quoted a Russian defense ministry source asking why a Ukrainian air force jet was detected nearby. And it quoted another anonymous Russian official, who volunteered the juicy claim that a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile was operational in the vicinity at the time of the incident. This is how RT works, explains Firth: by arranging facts to fit a fantasy.

“What they do is a very smart, slick way of manipulating reality,” she says. “In Ukraine, you’re taking a very small part of a much wider story, totally omitted the context of the story, and so what you wind up with on air is outright misinformation.”

Sometimes the end result is anything but slick. In March, a group of alumni and students from the Mohyla School of Journalism in Kiev, along with associated journalists, launched a fact-checking site to chronicle false reporting about the Ukrainian crisis. The site, Stopfake.org, features a long menu of whoppers from Russian media. Among the most egregious, the group’s founder told TIME, is the case of a blond actress who has cropped up in different roles over the course of conflict. The actress, Maria Tsypko, has been interviewed on state TV and identified as separatist camp organizer in Odessa, a political refugee in Sevastopol and an election monitor in Crimea, according to the site. The only thing that never changes is her affection for Mother Russia.

These outlandish flubs are a problem for the Russian propaganda effort, which forks out millions to cloak spin as truth-telling. It’s hard to maintain the illusion when the audience can see the strings and wires behind the scenes. “It’s been a particularly effective means of propaganda, and a very effective voice for the Russian state,” says Oates. “But if you’re going to engage in propaganda, you have to do it well. They have completely embarrassed themselves.”

RT did not respond to an interview request from TIME. According to Firth, you can reliably glean management’s perspective from the opinions they allow their employees to parrot. Many, Firth says, are like herself: committed journalists who thought they could persevere and take advantage of the opportunity to report important stories, the goals of their bosses notwithstanding.

“For five years, you’re kind of fighting against this—and with your colleagues you’re rolling your eyes and making jokes,” she says. “The worst-kept secret is that RT is blatant propaganda. I’m one in a very long line of people who have left for the same reason. Everyone has their breaking point. I wish I had done it sooner. But I didn’t.”

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