TIME Aviation

Air France Flight Had a Close Call With a Volcano

Passengers were said to be unaware of the incident

An Air France flight flew a little too close to an African volcano earlier this month.

Flight AF 953 was traveling on May 2 from Malabo in Equatorial Guinea to Douala, Cameroon, and according to Air France the pilots aimed to avoid a storm by taking a route close to Mount Cameroon. The plane’s proximity to the active volcano set off an alarm, and according to CNN, the pilots quickly responded by flying from 9,000 feet to 13,000 feet. The passengers were said to be unaware of the incident.

Air France says its pilots undergo regular training for this type of scenario. The company is conducting an internal investigation, and is supplying its crews with more specifics on how to land near Douala.

“Air France’s priority is to ensure the highest safety standards in all circumstances,” the company said in a statement. “Air France has always chosen the best equipment for flight safety and places great importance on the monitoring of its crews.”

TIME Sports

The Beginning of the End for Sepp Blatter

If FIFA is going to reform itself, its president must go

Yes, Sepp Blatter was not one of soccer officials nabbed by the authorities in Zurich on May 27, as part of the U.S. government’s indictment of 14 people—including top FIFA brass—charged with money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud. Public opinion, however, will cast the FIFA president’s escape as a mere technicality. According to the laws of Nixonian physics, this scandal points right to the top.

Kickback allegations have shadowed Blatter and his organization since he took over as FIFA president in 1998. Blatter plays big-league pork politics, using his substantial war chest—FIFA has more than $1.5 billion in reserves—to dole out funds to officials of tiny soccer federations, who sometimes keep the money. In November, for example, Nepal’s top soccer official temporarily stepped down after he was accused of stealing more than $5 million. These rich grants buy loyalty: in FIFA presidential elections, the votes of Nepal and Montserrat count just as much as those of America and Brazil.

Will Blatter even survive the presidential election on May 29 that UEFA, Europe’s governing soccer body, insists should be delayed? He was supposed to win his fifth term with ease. Now, it’s no longer a coronation. “If he’s not detained, he’ll probably win,” says Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist from Smith College and author of the book Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup. “FIFA’s propaganda machine strong, and is already distancing Blatter from the charges.” In a statement released on FIFA.com, Blatter said: “Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.”

Even if Blatter somehow survives Friday’s election, Zimbalist believes this scandal will be too tough for him to overcome long-term: “FIFA is an international monopoly with control over a very popular product.” In 2014, a World Cup year, FIFA generated $2 billion in revenues. “If the power is in control of the wrong people,” Zimbalist adds, “things get out of hand.” For FIFA to change, and win back the constituents its supposed to serve—players and fans of the beautiful game—Blatter has to go. Because, as Zimablist puts it, “I don’t think there is any hope of reforming Sepp Blatter.”

Read next: U.S. Accuses Soccer Officials of Decades of ‘Rampant, Systemic and Deep-Rooted’ Corruption

TIME Aid

Most Foreign Aid Does Not Go to Neediest Countries, Report Finds

Advocacy group ONE urges donor nations to designate 50% of their aid budgets to "least-developed countries"

Amazing strides have been made in reducing poverty worldwide over the last quarter century — the rate has halved since 1990, from 36% of the world’s population to 18% — but rather than clapping themselves on the back, aid organizations are now calling for rich nations to go even further, and help eradicate “extreme poverty” altogether.

Extreme poverty is defined as living on no more than $1.25 a day, a figure that encapsulates not only an absence of cash, but often of clean water, education, and even a meal. The circumstance still applies to more than 1.2 billion people, a disproportionate number of whom live in Africa, where poverty has actually increased. Yet most foreign aid goes to countries that are better off.

“We all find it quite surprising how little—32%—of U.S. aid goes to the poorest countries,” says Tom Hart, North America director of the advocacy group ONE, which on Tuesday released a 127-page report calling for donor nations to designate 50% of their aid budgets to “least-developed countries.”

The 50% goal is at the heart of a new global strategy against poverty, aimed at picking up with the conclusion of the 15-year international campaign known as where the Millennium Development Goals. The new effort, dubbed Sustainable Development Goals, will be articulated at a conference in Ethiopia in July, and adopted in the months beyond by assorted convocations of the international bodies ranging from the G-20 to the Committee on World Food Security.

But the brow-beating has already begun, as advocates struggle both to correct misperceptions about foreign aid among the U.S. public, and lobby Washington and other major donors to direct the roughly $140-billion they give each year to where it is most needed.

The fact is that only about 1% of the U.S. federal budget goes to foreign aid. The average American thinks it’s more like 28%, according to a Kaiser poll from earlier this year. And though that American is likely to shelve reflexive objections to the spending when informed of the reality, polls show that the misperception persists year after year.

Advocates for aid believe it can be more effective with the advent of technology that allows aid dollars to be tracked at every stage, including the stages where some of those dollars have in the past disappeared into the pockets of corrupt foreign officials.

The new global strategy expects more of receiving governments — calling for each to provide a basic package of health and education services, with help from donors as needed. For example, Liberia, which was an epicenter of the Ebola outbreak last year, spends $6 per person on basic services each year; it needs to spend $300, and requires $317 million to make up the difference.

The new strategy also calls for specifically directing aid to women and girls. “Poverty is sexist,” the ONE report states, noting that by almost every measure life is harder for women and girls in the poorest countries than it is for men. But at the same time, helping females serves to lift the whole of the societies in which they are so central.

“When we invest in girls and woman, that has more catalytic results that pulls everybody out of poverty,” says Eloise Todd, global policy director for the ONE campaign. Over time, that investment should be made as directly as possible, not necessarily through governments, adds Gargee Ghosh, director of policy and finance for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “We need to focus more on poor people,” Ghosh says.

But the first message to rich countries is that they need to focus on the poorest. Of 29 donors, only Iceland directed more than 50 percent of its aid to the least developed countries. “Something’s going really wrong in the way a lot of donors are allocating their aid,” says Todd. “Finding the end of extreme poverty is going to be a lot harder than the previous 15 years.”

TIME russia

Russia Sees U.S. Conspiracy Against World Cup Plans in FIFA Scandal

Sweeping corruption probes in the U.S. and Switzerland have cast a shadow over Vladimir Putin's plans to host the international soccer championships in 2018

Russian officials were quick to claim Wednesday that a U.S. conspiracy is behind the corruption scandal that shook the world of international soccer. Early that morning, police in Switzerland complied with a U.S. request to arrest nine senior officials at FIFA, the sport’s governing body, as part of a far-reaching probe into decades of alleged bribe-taking and backroom deals.

But why, the Russians asked, would a nation as indifferent to soccer as the U.S. pursue a corruption probe at the heart of the game? Even more suspect to many in Moscow was the timing of the dragnet in Zurich: The next FIFA World Cup tournament is due to be held in Russia in 2018, and President Vladimir Putin has been overseeing the preparations personally.

“So there are clearly forces in America that are trying to turn anything positive that we have into a new channel of confrontation,” Kirill Kabanov, who monitors corruption in Russia as a member of the Kremlin’s council on civil society, told TIME on Wednesday. “And even if there was bribery going on [at FIFA], why would the Americans only bring it up now, just after FIFA refused the demands of [U.S.] Senators to revoke Russia’s right to host the champions?”

His question referred to an appeal that 13 U.S. Senators sent last month to the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, asking him to move the 2018 World Cup to another country. After Putin decided last spring to invade and annex Ukraine’s Crimea region, “allowing Russia to host the FIFA World Cup inappropriately bolsters the prestige of the Putin regime at a time when it should be condemned,” the Senators wrote in the letter, which was dated April 1.

Less than three weeks later, Blatter met with Putin in the Russian resort city of Sochi and issued an apparent rebuttal to the appeals from Capitol Hill. “If politicians are not too happy that we are taking the World Cup to Russia, I always say to them, ‘Well, you can stay home, and in Russia we will hold the biggest world cup ever,'” the FIFA chief told Putin on April 20, according to a transcript on the Kremlin website.

Putin responded with a promise that day: “We will at the very least achieve one objective and will organize this big event in Russia,” he said. But the President had no comment on the unfolding firestorm in Switzerland on Wednesday. “This is not our issue,” the Kremlin said through a spokesman. And indeed, no Russian citizens were among the 14 people indicted by the Eastern District of New York, including two FIFA vice-presidents.

The acting U.S. Attorney in the case, however, made clear that the probe was far from over: “This indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation,” Kelly Currie told reporters in New York.

Swiss authorities then gave another sign that Russia could yet become a target.

As part of a separate investigation, the Attorney General of Switzerland said investigators had also raided FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich on Wednesday, seizing a trove of documents related to FIFA’s decision in December 2010 to award Russia and Qatar the rights to host the next two World Cup tournaments. These files would be used as evidences in “criminal proceedings against persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 Football World Cups,” the Swiss Attorney General said in a statement.

Asked at a crowded news conference on Wednesday whether these tournaments could be under threat, FIFA’s spokesman insisted that both would carry on as planned. “Russia and Qatar will be played,” said the spokesman, Walter de Gregorio. “This is what is fact today. I don’t go into speculation about what will happen tomorrow.”

In the coming days, the Russian official most likely to face scrutiny over this scandal would seem to be Vitaly Mutko, Putin’s Minister of Sport. In 2009, FIFA elected him to its main decision-making body, the Executive Committee, and the following year, Mutko became the driving force behind Russia’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

The legality of that bid’s success is now a key focus of the Swiss investigation. But as Mutko told reporters on Wednesday, “We have nothing to hide.” Despite media reports to the contrary, he said, Swiss investigators had not asked to question him in relation to their case: “This is not related to the [Russian] campaign to host the world championships.”

But some of Mutko’s peers in Moscow were not so ready to profess Russia’s innocence, at least not in any investigation where the U.S. plays a role. “The Americans can investigate whatever and however they want,” says Viacheslav Fetisov, the Russian hockey legend who served as Russia’s top sporting official under Putin from 2004 until 2008. “So we’ll just have to see what they come up with,” he tells TIME in a phone interview.

Even more measured was the response from Vasily Shestakov, who was Putin’s friend and sparring partner in the 1960s, when they were both teenagers studying judo at the same gym in Leningrad. Now a member of the Russian parliament’s committee on sport, Shestakov admits that in the world of international soccer, “There is very big money swirling around. Temptation is unavoidable.” And in the upper echelons of FIFA, “there may have been an element of corruption,” he told Russia’s state news agency on Wednesday.

What bothers him, though, is the fact that the U.S. is pursuing this case against corruption now, of all times, just as Russia prepares to host the premier tournament of global sports. What if the roles had been reversed, he wondered. What if the U.S. had been chosen to host one of the upcoming World Cup championships? To Shestakov the answer seemed clear: “There would never have been any of these arrests.”

TIME Switzerland

Switzerland Plans to Close Loopholes that Let International Sporting Organizations Be Above the Law

FIFA and other bodies are subject to the same laws as tiny village associations, which are protected by Swiss law

Switzerland is not a stranger to scandals – its banks have long been embroiled in money laundering and tax evasion. Now, the international football organization headquartered in this Alpine nation is in turmoil as well.

The arrest on Wednesday of seven FIFA officials on charges of corruption involving more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks has plunged the soccer’s controversial governing body into crisis.

Swiss police confiscated documents and electronic data after raiding FIFA’s Zurich headquarters on Wednesday as part of an on-going investigation into money laundering and fraud that came to light after the organization awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

As the detained officials are holed up in a luxury Zurich hotel awaiting extradition to the U.S to face criminal corruption charges, some politicians here claim that the abuses went unnoticed because the organization had not been sufficiently scrutinized. “FIFA likes being based in Switzerland because it enjoys very loose governmental and financial oversight,” right-wing parliamentarian, Roland Buechel, writes on his website.

However, it may soon become more difficult for sports organizations to engage in illegal activities. Last December, the parliament passed a law spearheaded by Buechel that would increase the government oversight of FIFA and other sporting bodies based in Switzerland, which have had little scrutiny.

Currently, FIFA, along with about 60 other Switzerland-based sporting bodies – including the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – operates under an “association” status, which means it is exempt from Swiss anti-corruption laws that govern all businesses. Or, as Buechel notes, “FIFA is organized like a small yodeling association in a mountain village. They should be structured like a proper company.”

Perhaps because of the lack of stricter oversight, other Switzerland-based sporting bodies had also been at times embroiled in controversy – in 1998, for instance, several IOC members were charged with taking bribes worth millions of dollars from the Salt Lake City Bid Committee. In 2009, FIFA’s sister organization, The Union of European Football Associations, was involved in a betting scandal, when it tried to influence the outcome of soccer games. And a couple of years ago, the International Cycling Federation faced heavy criticism in the wake of doping scandals like that of the former professional racing cyclist, Lance Armstrong.

The proposed law would designate top executives of sports organizations like FIFA’s Sepp Blatter or IOC’s head Thomas Bach as “politically exposed persons,” which means that their bank accounts would be carefully monitored for suspicious activities.

This legislation is scheduled to be debated in parliament next week, but, due to the notoriously slow nature of the country’s legislative process, may not be enacted until 2017.

In the meantime, Buechel and other lawmakers who are working on the new legislation are hoping that, from now on, the only kickbacks in the sports industry will happen on the soccer field.

TIME Middle East

Palestinians Hope FIFA Corruption Scandal Won’t Affect Motion to Expel Israel

Israel rejects Palestinian charges of preventing freedom of movement for Palestinian players and not cracking down on racism

Palestinians hope that the United States and Switzerland’s investigations into corruption in FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, won’t obscure the Palestinian Football Association’s call to expel Israel from the body.

Xavier Abu Eid, an advisor to Jibril Rajoub, the delegate of the Palestinian Football Association, insisted the discussion of Israel’s violation of FIFA’s laws would not be derailed by the corruption investigation which saw seven senior officials arrested for extradition to the U.S. during a dawn raid on Wednesday at a Zurich hotel.

“The issue of Israeli violation against Palestinian football is part of the agenda. It will be discussed and decisions must be made,” said Abu Eid on Wednesday.

Rajoub has proposed a controversial motion to have Israel suspended, one that is scheduled to be debated on either Thursday or Friday when FIFA’s congress meets in Zurich. In order to pass, the motion would require the support of three-quarters of its 209 member federations. Rajoub’s main contention is that Israel violates FIFA bylaws by preventing freedom of movement for Palestinian soccer players, maintains five FIFA-registered teams in settlements located in the occupied West Bank, and has done nothing to crack down on anti-Arab racist epithets sometimes chanted by extremist fans at games in Israel. The Israel Football Association rejects the charges.

This is the third time that Rajoub had made a motion to eject Israel from FIFA; the other two times he was persuaded to back down by FIFA president Sepp Blatter. But despite Blatter’s visit here last week to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, this time Rajoub is not backing down, despite many “direct and indirect threats” he says he has received and what he describes as increasingly inappropriate treatment he receives from Israel.

“I have been treated in a humiliating way during the past four years. Come with me to the bridge and see how I am humiliated when I travel,” he says in an interview with TIME, speaking about his return from Jordan over the Allenby Bridge, a common land route for Palestinians traveling abroad. The border crossing is controlled by Israel, whom Rajoub also accuses of preventing his players from traveling freely in the Palestinian territories or going abroad, as well as barring players, coaches and training materials from being brought in from overseas.

Nasser Shiyoukhi—APHead of Palestinian football Association Jibril Rajoub speaks during a press conference in Ramallah in the West Bank on May 25, 2015.

Rajoub says that he has asked his Israeli counterpart to back him up on his requests, but to no avail. Israel Football Association President Ofer Eini has said that any restrictions faced by Palestinian footballers is a security matter that is beyond his power. Not good enough, says Rajoub.

“The Israeli team has chosen to be a tool for apartheid rather than for peace. Their football association is following the agenda of the extremist right-wing government now ruling in Israel,” Rajoub said at a press conference here Monday as he was preparing to leave for Switzerland. “We believe the Israeli association has to pay a price for systematically violating FIFA statutes. We would have expected the Israeli association to take our concerns seriously, and so they must be solved by the FIFA congress instead. If you don’t see a dramatic move,” he added, “you should see a suspension of the Israeli team by Thursday.”

Israeli officials say politics ought to be kept off the pitch. “The conflict is something that the United Nations and other bodies will deal with, it is not something FIFA should deal with,” says Shlomi Barzel, the spokesman for the Israel Football Association.

“If you want to take each one of Jibril Rajoub’s accusations, I don’t want to say he’s lying but to be polite, he’s twisting to the truth. For one, we’re not the only country in the world dealing with racism. In fact, our national team is a beautiful combination of Arab and Jewish players. This is part of a political agenda by the Palestinians, and football is just one part of it. I can’t say if there is going to be a solution, but we think a big majority of the members will support Israel staying in the association.”

It remains very unclear, however, as to whether Rajoub’s motion has a chance of passing. But he has succeeded in bringing some of the core complaints surrounding Israeli domination over Palestinian lives into the international arena as part of his campaign. Blatter says he opposed the motion because, as he put it, FIFA is the wrong address for political grievances. But he also noted in his visit here last week that he does not have the power to take the motion off the table or otherwise prevent the congress from passing it. In a statement, the organization indicated Tuesday it was looking at the question of whether Israel could actually be considered accountable for violating FIFA statutes.

“The FIFA president will report to the congress on this dossier later this week with the aim of providing a framework for strengthening the development of football in the region,” said the statement. “The executive underlined that a FIFA member association should not be suspended if it has not violated the FIFA statutes.”

TIME United Kingdom

The Queen’s Speech Throughout the Years

Every year and after every election, the Queen outlines the government’s new legislative agenda in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech also known as the Queen's Speech. The speech is part of the opening of a new session of parliament and the Queen addresses both houses of parliament in the House of Lords. Queen Elizabeth II first made the speech in 1952 and this year's marks her 62nd address in the House of Lords. In 1974, the Queen made two speeches as there were two elections and she has missed it on two occasion due to pregnancy in 1959 and 1963.

TIME Iraq

ISIS Suicide Attacks Against Iraqi Army Kill 17

isis-attack-sandstorm-ramadi-iraq
AP In this May 14, 2015 file photo, security forces defend their headquarters against attacks by Islamic State extremists during a sandstorm in the eastern part of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, Iraq.

The attacks came after the Iraqi government announced an operation against ISIS

(BAGHDAD)—Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) extremists unleashed a wave of suicide attacks targeting the Iraqi army in western Anbar province, killing at least 17 troops in a major blow to government efforts to dislodge the militants from the sprawling Sunni heartland, an Iraqi military spokesman said Wednesday.

The attacks came just hours after the Iraqi government on Tuesday announced the start of a wide-scale operation to recapture areas under the control of the ISIS group in Anbar.

Brig. Gen Saad Maan Ibrahim, the spokesman for the Joint Military Command, told The Associated Press the attacks took place outside the Islamic State-held city of Fallujah late Tuesday night.

The militants struck near a water control station and a lock system on a canal between Lake Tharthar and the Euphrates River where army forces have been deployed for the Anbar offensive, he said.

Ibrahim added that the Islamic State extremists used a sandstorm that engulfed most of Iraq on Tuesday night to launch the deadly wave of bombings. He said it was not clear how many suicide attackers were involved in the bombings but they hit the military from multiple directions.

Last month, the water station near Fallujah fell into the hands of Islamic State militants — following attacks that also included multiple suicide bombings and that killed a general commanding the 1st Division and a dozen other officers and soldiers, he said.

Iraqi government forces recaptured the station a few days later. Fallujah lies to the east of the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi, which was captured by the Islamic State militants nearly two weeks ago in what was a major, humiliating defeat for Iraqi troops at the hands of the extremists.

The Iraqi operation to retake Anbar, which is said to be backed by Shiite militias and Sunni pro-government fighters, is deemed critical in regaining momentum in the fight against the Islamic State.

The extremists captured Ramadi in Iraq and the Syrian ancient town of Palmyra earlier this month, showing that it is able to advance in both countries despite months of U.S.-led airstrikes. Capt. Andrew Caulk, a U.S. Air Force spokesman in Qatar, told the AP it will continue to provide air support “to government-controlled Iraqi forces” throughout the country, including near Ramadi, where it has been carrying out airstrikes for several months.

Syria’s foreign minister said Wednesday that his government is not pinning any hopes on the U.S.-led coalition striking at Islamic State group militants in his country.

At a news conference in Damascus, Walid al-Moallem said the coalition was active in preventing the Kurdish town of Kobani from falling to the extremists last year but that this support seems to have “evaporated” after that.

The United States did nothing to prevent the ancient town of Palmyra in Syria or the province of Anbar in Iraq from falling into their hands, he said.

“We’re not pinning any hopes on that alliance and anyone who does is living an illusion,” al-Moallem added.

Al-Moallem also said Iraq and Syria were fighting the same battle but added that security coordination between their two armies “has not reached the desired levels.”

Also Wednesday, Syrian activists said the Islamic State group released two elderly Christian women who had been held along with dozens of others since February in northeastern Syria.

At the time, they kidnapped more than 220 Assyrian Christians after overrunning several farming communities on the southern bank of the Khabur River in Hassakeh province.

The two women, who are 70 and 75 years old, were released on Tuesday and have now reached the northwestern city of Hassakeh, said Osama Edwards, director of the Assyrian Network for Human Rights.

Another activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the two were likely released because of their poor health. Some of the captives had been released previously.

Edwards said the Islamic State group is still holding 210 Assyrian Christians and is demanding $100,000 for each hostage.

___

Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

TIME Autos

The Surprising Reason Why China’s SUV Sales Are Up Almost 50%

china car suv rise
Weng lei—AP Masses of cars travel on a road in Shanghai, China, April 2, 2015. Concern for personal safety amid rising road rage is among the reasons China's SUV registrations surged 48 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to a research note Sanford C. Bernstein released May 27, 2015.

Chinese drivers want that tank feeling too

The SUV, perhaps the most American of vehicles, is making a big splash in China, according to a new report.

China’s total SUV registrations rose 48% in the first quarter, according to investment research firm Sanford C. Bernstein. SUV registrations represented 27% of all vehicles registered in China during the first quarter of this year, nearly doubling the rate from just three years ago.

The interest in bigger trucks comes at least partially because Chinese drivers are suffering from some serious road rage, Bloomberg reports. With many drivers fearing for their safety while on the roads in China, they are opting for the bigger, more secure feeling of SUVs. The rise in road violence has grown along with a huge burst in vehicle ownership overall in the country, and the incidents have gotten so bad that the government has released a video urging drivers to calm down.

TIME Soccer

See John Oliver Take Down FIFA

John Oliver slammed the soccer governing body long before the corruption scandal broke

If you’re confused about what led to the the arrest of International Football Association (FIFA) officials on Wednesday, a piece on comedian John Oliver’s show from nearly a year ago may shed light on the situation.

Oliver covers it all from sexist remarks by the organization’s top official to poor treatment of migrant workers constructing World Cup stadiums. FIFA is much like established religion, Oliver argues.

“Just think about it. Its leader is infallible. It compels South American countries to spend money they don’t have building opulent cathedrals, and it may ultimately be responsible for thousands of deaths in the Middle East,” Oliver said.

Watch below:

Read Next: What to Know About the U.S. Investigation Into Soccer’s Governing Body

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