TIME Israel

Israel Recalls Ambassador to Sweden

(JERUSALEM) — Israel has recalled its ambassador to Sweden to protest Stockholm’s recognition of a Palestinian state.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson said Thursday the ambassador was being recalled for consultations, but declined to say how long he would remain in Israel.

Hirschson said the move was made “because of the recognition of the Palestinian state.”

Earlier Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had called it “a miserable decision that strengthens the extremist elements and Palestinian rejectionism.”

TIME russia

Chechen Dissident: ‘I Survived Abduction by Vladimir Putin’s Agents’

The story of one man who says he was tortured for challenging Russia's president

On a warm morning in early August, a 68-year-old Chechen man named Said-Emin Ibragimov packed up his fishing gear and walked to his favorite spot on the west bank of the river that runs through Strasbourg, the city of his exile in eastern France. Ibragimov, who was a minister in the breakaway Chechen government in the 1990s, needed to calm his nerves, and his favorite way to relax was to watch the Ill River, a tributary of the Rhine, flow by as he waited for a fish to bite.

Ibragimov had reason to be nervous. The previous month he had accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of war crimes in a criminal complaint he had sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to the Kremlin. Ibragimov had taken five years to compile evidence of what he considered crimes committed during Russia’s two wars against separatists in the Russian republic of Chechnya. During the second Chechen war, which Putin oversaw in 1999-2000, Russia bombarded the Chechen capital of Grozny and killed thousands of civilians. The U.N. later called Grozny “the most destroyed city on earth.”

Read the full story here.

TIME France

France Says Conditions Not Right to Deliver Warships to Russia

A Mistral-class amphibious assault ship is docked in the shipyard of Saint-Nazaire, Aug. 20, 2014, Saint-Nazaire, France.
A Mistral-class amphibious assault ship is docked in the shipyard of Saint-Nazaire, Aug. 20, 2014, Saint-Nazaire, France. Mehdi Chebil—Polaris

Minister says decision surrounds Russia's involvement in Ukraine's civil war

France said Thursday that it would not deliver either of the warships Russia has ordered because its conditions had not yet been met.

Russia ordered two Mistral class amphibious warfare ships in 2010. The first was due to be delivered this year, but President Francois Hollande said it would not happen because of Russia’s involvement in the civil war in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

“The conditions today are not met to deliver the Mistral,” French Finance Minister Michel Sapin told RTL radio. “What are these conditions? It is that in Ukraine we are in a situation that is becoming more normal, that allows for things to cool down.”

On Wednesday, Russian news agency RIA quoted Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as saying that Russia had been invited to take delivery of the first ship on Nov. 14. He also said the second ship would be floated on the same day.

[Reuters]

Read next: Russians Re-write History to Slur Ukraine Over War

TIME Burkina Faso

Protesters Break Into Burkina Faso Parliament

Protesters surged passed police lines Thursday and broke into Burkina Faso's parliament ahead of a vote to allow the president to seek another term next year

(OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso) — Protesters surged passed police lines Thursday and broke into Burkina Faso’s parliament ahead of a vote to allow the president to seek another term next year.

Smoke could be seen coming from the building. Earlier, police had pushed the crowds back with tear gas, but they regrouped in larger numbers and broke into the building.

Earlier thousands of protesters swarmed the streets of the capital of this West African country. Burkina Faso is typically known for relative stability and economic growth in a volatile region, but tensions have been rising ahead of a vote on a bill that would amend the constitution and allow President Blaise Compaore to run for election again next year.

The protesters say that 27 years in power is enough for Compaore. The measure had looked likely to pass, but the protesters vowed not to let lawmakers into the building on Thursday.

They initially failed, and many lawmakers appeared to be able to reach the chamber.

But the protesters mounted another push and eventually made it into the building. They are now saying they will march on other government buildings in the capital, Ouagadougou.

TIME China

11 Arrested in China for Digging Up and Selling Women’s Corpses as Brides

The bodies are sold to families of dead bachelors for as much as $3,000, as part of an age-old custom called a ghost marriage

The words “till death do us part” don’t really apply in this case. Quite the opposite, actually.

Chinese authorities have arrested 11 people in the eastern province of Shandong for digging up bodies of dead women to be sold as “ghost brides,” the South China Morning Post reports. The custom of ghost marriage, still practiced in many parts of rural China, involves burying a woman next to an unmarried man who has recently died so he may have a companion in the afterlife.

The arrested men in this case reportedly excavated a Shandong woman’s body from her grave in March, selling it to a middleman for the equivalent of nearly $3,000. The main suspect, surnamed Wang, said in an interview that the value of the bodies went up if they were exhumed and sold closer to death, using the example of a woman disinterred three months after her passing.

“Years-old carcasses are not worth a damn, while the ones that have just died, like this one, are valuable,” Wang said.

Stealing corpses is a criminal offense in China, which can result in up to three years in prison if convicted.

[SCMP]

TIME europe

NATO Accuses Russian Military Aircraft of Flagrantly Violating European Airspace

Military aircrafts are seen on the tarmac during a visit of new NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg of Norway at Lask air base
Military aircraft are seen on the tarmac during a visit by the new NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of Norway at Lask Air Base, in Poland, on Oct. 6, 2014 Kacper Pempel—Reuters

The alliance claims the incursions pose a risk to civilian air traffic

NATO officials have announced that an increasingly large number of Russian military aircraft have been tracked flying unannounced into European airspace this month — behavior that threatens to escalate the already taut relations between Moscow and the West.

On Wednesday, NATO claimed to have monitored at least four groups of Russian military aircraft as they conducted “significant military maneuvers in European airspace” over the Baltic and Black Seas as well as the Atlantic Ocean this week.

According to the alliance, multiple sets of Russian strategic bombers and tanker aircraft failed to file flight plans or engage in radio contact with civilian air-traffic-control officials during their forays into European skies. The crafts also refrained from using their onboard transponders during the exercises.

“This poses a potential risk to civil aviation as civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft or ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic,” read a statement released by NATO this week. “These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace.”

In response, NATO allies scrambled their own jets to intercept and identify the Russian planes. Washington, D.C.–based think tank the Atlantic Council says the alliance has conducted more than 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft this year — a threefold increase in incursions since 2013.

Russia’s disregard for civilian procedures comes as relations with the West have hit new lows. In July, Washington accused Moscow of “creating the conditions” in eastern Ukraine that allowed separatist fighters to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with an alleged Kremlin-supplied weapons system.

Moscow has repeatedly denied having a direct hand in the felling of the flight and in turn blamed Kiev for igniting civil war in the country’s east.

TIME China

Chinese and South Korean SAT Students Face Nervous Wait After Scores Delayed

Though disappointed, students and teachers expressed confidence that the incident wouldn't hurt chances at schools

College hopefuls in China and South Korea are frustrated but bearing up after the company that runs the SAT announced it would withhold scores for all students in the two countries who took a recent test, amid an alleged cheating scandal. The delay could hold up scores until after the Nov. 1 deadline to apply for “early decision” at U.S. colleges and universities.

“A rat spoiled a pot of soup, Chinese’s reputation is ruined by these scum,” wrote one user of China’s Twitter-like microblog Weibo.

Others expressed incredulity with the need to cheat: “For most Chinese students the SAT is a piece of cake. Even you fail this time, you can try later. There are multiple opportunities in a year, there is no need to cheat.”

According to Grace Wong, executive director at the Princeton Review’s Hong Kong and Shanghai division, which runs SAT prep courses for students in both cities, her students are not too concerned at the moment.

“I think they only have to worry if they are actually implicated in the cheating scandal,” says Wong, who has fielded calls from students wondering if the delay will affect their admission chances. “Then there will be a problem.”

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the SAT, has said that it is not releasing exam results for all students living in China and South Korea who took the test on Oct. 11 until it concludes an investigation into “specific, reliable information” alleging cheating. The delay comes just days before the Nov. 1 deadline for “early decision” at U.S. schools.

Students writing on College Confidential, a message board for college hopefuls, on Tuesday night at first expressed confusion that their scores were marked as “available” yet no score was listed. The mood turned to alarm when one student posted an email from the College Board, which oversees the ETS, warning of “additional quality control steps before scores are released” that may take up to four weeks.

Wong says most students who are applying early decision to U.S. schools already have SAT scores from past tests, though they might have been hoping to get higher marks on the Oct. 11 test.

Indeed, for one student writing on the message board, three weeks was too long to wait — the application was due that night, and the student had been hoping to send in better scores than those on previous tests.

“My school in Korea is requiring me to send in my common app by tonight (midnight) but I am 100% sure that my score improved from my 2 previous tests and I want my best scores to be on my common app,” the student wrote. “But my counselor says waiting another day will be risky — what should I do???”

ETS spokesman Thomas Ewing told TIME on Wednesday that “universities generally do their best to accommodate late scores from students when there are extenuating circumstances.” He added that ETS “will make universities aware of the circumstances and can supply students with a letter to share with the schools to which they are applying.”

Jeremiah Quinlan, the dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, also told TIME that “the administrative delay will not hurt the chance of admission for an individual applicant.”

Hamilton Gregg, a counselor at Harrow International School in Beijing, said he was working with students to evaluate their prospects at early admission to their favorite school with their current SAT score. He said many students would apply as normal on Nov. 1 but some might now apply regular decision, given unalleviated concerns that colleges might not accept the late scores, even if higher than older scores.

“It’s really up to the school if they’ll wait the three or four weeks,” says Gregg, who also runs a private college-admissions-counseling business in Beijing. “Some schools could just say, No, too bad, sorry for you. But I’m trying to be an optimist and say, O.K., this is such a big issue, the schools will understand and wait.”

Meanwhile, though Gregg’s students are upset, “they understand why someone would have cheated,” he says, adding that while he is confident none of his own students were involved, they know all too well why someone would have done so: the pressure to succeed can be unbearable.

“Students here feel like, If I don’t get into an Ivy League school, I’m basically useless,” he says. “American students and their parents of course go through the same thing, but it’s magnified in China. There are a billion and a half people here. SAT scores keep going up and up.”

This isn’t first time that South Korea and China have been blistered with an ETS cheating scandal. In May 2013, the company canceled an SAT exam for about 1,500 students in South Korea over allegations of skulduggery. In 2001, the ETS also won a lawsuit in China against test-prep juggernaut New Oriental over its publications of full copies of old tests.

Nevertheless, Gregg is incensed by the latest scandal. “Someone is so selfish that they put tens of thousands of students’ futures in jeopardy,” he says.

Some students on College Confidential held the College Board responsible. “Most of us are innocent,” wrote a “Chinese test taker” who “took the test in Nepal” on Oct. 11. “How could test materials be reached? Isn’t it because of [the College Board's] own leak in security?”

— With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

TIME sweden

Sweden Becomes the First E.U. Member to Recognize a Palestinian State

The decision, which has drawn the ire of Israel, comes unexpectedly early

The Swedish government became the first E.U. member to officially recognize a Palestinian state on Thursday.

Newly elected Prime Minister Stefan Lofven first announced the move at his swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 3, but he was not expected to follow through so soon, Haaretz reports.

“Some will claim that today’s decision comes too early. I’m rather afraid it’s too late,” writes Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. “The past year, we’ve seen how the peace negotiations once again have halted, how decisions on new settlements on occupied Palestinian land have obstructed a two-state solution and how violence has returned to Gaza.”

Wallstrom writes that the recognition aims to support moderate forces among the Palestinians, make future negotiations more equal and give young Palestinians hope of a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Israel has publicly protested the move, which some believe is feeding unrealistic Palestinian expectations of working out a resolution with the international community but without involving Israel, writes the Jerusalem Post.

A total of 134 other countries recognized Palestine before Sweden. Hungary, Poland and Slovakia all did so before joining the E.U.

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