TIME

Israelis See Spy’s Release as Peace Offering for Iran Deal

Israelis see it as a way to "sweeten" the bitter pill of the Iran nuclear deal

Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. Naval Intelligence officer who was convicted of spying for Israel and sentenced to life in prison in 1985, has been granted parole and will be released in November, according to the decision of the United States Parole Board.

The news of Pollard’s release was greeted with great joy by his various Israeli supporters, who have run a campaign both in Israel and in the US, arguing for his release and pleading his cause with various officials. Pollard will by law be required to stay in the US for five years during his parole, but his lawyers say President Barack Obama could grant him clemency, allowing him to travel abroad, and presumably, to relocate to Israel, where he was granted citizenship in 1995.

The decision to release Pollard after exactly 30 years behind bars comes at a palpable low-point in relations between Jerusalem and Washington over the Iran nuclear deal signed earlier this month. As Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have continually clashed on the merits of the deal, which the Israeli leader has decried as a “historic mistake,” the rumblings of Pollard’s release have been greeted here as one of several ways in which the Obama administration is trying to “sweeten” the bitter pill on Iran.

The week after the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program was signed in Vienna, Defense Secretary Ashton Carton visited Israel to speak about strengthening security cooperation between the two countries. The visit came amid reports that the Obama administration would offer some kind of package to soften the blow of a deal that Israel adamantly opposes, along with Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. But Israeli officials said they weren’t prepared to discuss additional aid or “compensation,” and would instead focus on lobbying Congress not to pass the deal.

Whether coincidental or conceived, the timing of Pollard’s release is being read by many here as a sort of peace offering.

“As far as Israel’s leaders are concerned, the timing of the announcement unavoidably gives the liberation of Pollard the feel of a consolation prize – and a poor one at that,” writes Allison Kaplan Sommer, a columnist for Israel’s Haaretz news site. “The move feels like a power play rather than any kind of grand gesture—an effort to dissuade Israel and its American supporters from applying maximum political pressure on the Iran deal out of gratitude—or even fear that the release could somehow be disrupted.”

US officials denied that the two issues were related. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday there was no connection between Pollard’s release andthe agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Alistair Baskey, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said the timing had to do with the approaching end of a 30-year period during which Pollard was ineligible to be considered for parole.

“Mr. Pollard’s status will be determined by the United States Parole Commission according to standard procedures. There is absolutely zero linkage between Mr. Pollard’s status and foreign policy considerations,” said Baskey.

It would probably be an exaggeration to say that Pollard will receive a hero’s welcome if and when he arrives in Israel, as the spy scandal is viewed by the Israeli public as an embarrassment caused by senior intelligence officers who recruited Pollard to steal top secret American material. But many Israelis believe that Pollard’s sentence was unduly harsh, and they note that no other American was ever given a life sentence for passing classified information to a US ally.

Regardless, Netanyahu will likely be given credit by Israelis for having helped win Pollard’s freedom, a goal that successive Israeli prime ministers have sworn themselves dedicated to achieving but failed. “I have consistently raised the issue of his release in my meetings and conversations with the leadership of successive US administrations,” Netanyahu said late Tuesday. “We are looking forward to his release.”

According to Israel’s state-run radio, Netanyahu was due to meet Wednesday with Effi Lahav, the head of the campaign to free Pollard, and Esther Pollard, who married the spy after his conviction.

“Obviously she’s thrilled, and Jonathan is thrilled for her,” Eliot Lauer, one of Pollard’s lawyers, told TIME. “She has led the campaign for many, many years, to keep up the case in the public eye, and it’s a wonderful thing that they’ll be together.”

Pollard’s parole hearing on July 7 raised the likelihood that he would be paroled, and last week, Department of Justice officials told reporters that they would not object to Pollard’s release. Still, says Lauer, Pollard remained guarded about getting too enthusiastic.

“Over the 15 years that I’ve represented Jonathan, there have been many expected victories and until this one, we’ve had one disappointment after the other,” he says. “There was guarded waiting. His reaction was one of elation. It’s an incredibly emotional thing for him. It’s emotional for me, and I’m a lawyer.”

Lauer said it was yet unclear whether Pollard’s main goal would be to come to Israel once released.

“He’s American, he’s a patriotic American. He violated American law, and he served 30 years for doing so. And obviously he’s very attached to Israel as well,” Lauer added. “I think the parole commission will work out what kind of travel terms are permitted.”

With reporting by Karl Vick in New York

 

TIME Libya

Libya Sentences Gadhafi’s Son to Death for 2011 Killings

Seif al-Islam
Ammar El-Darwish—AP Seif al-Islam is seen after his capture in the custody of revolutionary fighters in Zintan.

But Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is unlikely to face the firing squad anytime soon

(TRIPOLI, Libya) — Moammar Gadhafi’s son and onetime heir apparent was convicted and sentenced to death on Tuesday by a court in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on charges of murder and inciting genocide during the country’s 2011 uprising.

But Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is unlikely to face the firing squad anytime soon. The sentence was handed down in absentia because he remains in the hands of a militia in western Libya that has refused to hand him over for the past four years — yet another sign of the country’s bitter fragmentation since his father’s fall from power.

The uncertainty surrounding Seif al-Islam’s fate underlines both the weakness of the courts and the general chaos this North African nation has descended into, split between rival militias and governments while being threatened by an affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group, which has benefited from the turmoil and captured some areas in Libya.

The same Tripoli court on Tuesday also sentenced to death eight other former regime officials, including former Libyan spy chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, who is in custody in the Libyan capital, as well as foreign intelligence chief Abuzed Omar-Dorda and Gadhafi’s former prime minister, Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.

The rulings can be appealed, and a defense lawyer in the case, Ali Aldaa, said he would challenge it before the Libyan Supreme Court. Another lawyer, Hussien Al-Sherif, described the verdicts as “very harsh.”

“We did not expect the sentences to be like this for the defendants, and there will be an appeal to the Supreme Court,” he said.

In London, al-Senoussi’s wife, Fatma Farkash, asserted that the Tripoli court didn’t have the authority to hand down the death sentence.

“It was a big shock for me and my children. We were not expecting this. It was an ugly verdict,” she said. “Libyadoesn’t have a functioning state, and it was a closed hearing.”

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said the trial was “undermined by serious due process violations,” and called on the Libyan Supreme Court to independently review the verdict.

“This trial has been plagued by persistent, credible allegations of fair trial breaches that warrant independent and impartial judicial review,” said Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director.

“The victims of the serious crimes committed during the 2011 uprising deserve justice, but that can only be delivered through fair and transparent proceedings,” Stork said.

Other international organizations, including the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Council of Europe, also condemned the verdict. The Council of Europe said the case should have been turned over to the International Criminal Court, which tried to extradite Seif al-Islam for trial at The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity, in part because of concerns that he could not receive a fair trial in Libya.

Libya has slid into chaos since the overthrow and killing of Gadhafi, who ruled the country for four decades. It is now bitterly divided between an elected parliament and government in the far eastern city of Tobruk, which has little power on the ground, and an Islamist militia-backed government in the west that has seized Tripoli.

Since the end of the civil war, Seif al-Islam has been held by a militia in Zintan, which is allied with the Tobruk-based government against the Tripoli one.

The court that convicted him is affiliated with the Tripoli-based government, as is the Supreme Court, which has in the past ruled that the internationally recognized government in Tobruk is illegitimate, raising questions over whether it is under pressure from the militias that dominate the capital.

A total of 38 Gadhafi-era figures were on trial but only 29 were present in court Tuesday. Four were acquitted, one was remanded to a psychiatric hospital, while the remaining defendants were handed sentences ranging from five years to life imprisonment.

The British-educated second-eldest of Gadhafi’s seven sons, Seif al-Islam was the most prominent figure of his father’s regime. He returned to Gadhafi’s side and vigorously attempted to rally loyalists during the uprising. He was seized while trying to flee to neighboring Niger after rebel forces took Tripoli.

The rest of Seif al-Islam’s family members who survived, including his mother, sister, two brothers and others, were granted asylum in Oman in 2012 and moved there from Algeria, where they found refuge during the civil war.

During the trial, Seif al-Islam was accused of recruiting mercenaries who were given Libyan nationality, planning and carrying out attacks on civilian targets from the air, forming armed groups and shooting into crowds of demonstrators. Among the charges he was convicted of were incitement to murder and rape.

Hundreds of militias in Libya are battling for power and turf in a lawless environment that has allowed human traffickers and kidnappers to flourish. Meanwhile, extremists returning from fighting in the Syrian civil war have created a local affiliate of the Islamic State group, taking territory and beheading captives.

The U.N. envoy for Libya, Bernardino Leon, has urged the Islamist-led government in Tripoli to sign a peace deal that would establish a unity government. Members of the Tobruk government and regional leaders signed the unity accord in Morocco earlier this month.

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Rohan reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Martin Benedyk in London contributed to this report.

TIME conflict

Fighting Between Turkey and Kurds Escalates Amid NATO Tension

A missile-loaded Turkish Air Force warplane takes off from the Incirlik Air Base, in the outskirts Adana, south-eastern Turkey on July 28, 2015.
Emrah Gurel—AP A missile-loaded Turkish Air Force warplane takes off from the Incirlik Air Base, in the outskirts Adana, south-eastern Turkey on July 28, 2015.

NATO members have shown support for Turkey, but urged the country to refrain from using excessive force

(ISTANBUL) — Fighting between the Turkish military and Kurdish rebels escalated Tuesday amid signs of unease from NATO allies attending an emergency meeting about Turkey’s conflicts with the Islamic State group and the Kurds.

On a violent day, Turkish fighter jets pounded rebels from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK after soldiers were fired on with heavy weaponry in Sirnak province, according to a military statement. Turkish soldiers also came under attack in two other incidents.

Meanwhile, NATO allies met in a rare emergency meeting at Turkey’s request and proclaimed “strong solidarity” with the country’s fight against the Islamic State group.

“The security of the alliance is indivisible,” ambassadors from all 28 NATO nations declared in a joint statement after the meeting.

But a NATO official said members also used the closed-door meeting to call on Turkey not to use excessive force in reaction to terror attacks, while urging it to continue peace efforts with representatives of the Kurdish minority. The official was not authorized to speak on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The special session of the alliance’s main political decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, was held at Turkey’s request under a clause of NATO’s founding treaty that empowers member countries to seek consultations if they believe their security, territorial integrity or political independence is at risk.

It was called after Turkish warplanes last week started striking militant targets in Syria in response to an Islamic State group suicide bombing in southern Turkey that left 32 people dead, and another IS attack on Turkish forces, which killed a soldier.

But in a series of cross-border strikes, Turkey has also targeted Kurdish fighters affiliated with forces battling IS in Syria and Iraq.

The Syrian Kurds have been among the most effective ground forces in the fight against IS and have been backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, but Turkey fears a revival of the Kurdish insurgency in pursuit of an independent state.

The spike in violence in recent days has prompted concerns that a promising peace process between Turkey and Kurdish rebels is falling beyond repair.

German diplomats said Tuesday it would be a mistake for Turkey to break off the peace process with the PKK now.

“We believe that it’s right to continue the process of rapprochement and to build on the positive steps of the past years,” a diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

As the ambassadors were gathering at NATO headquarters, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara that it was impossible to advance a peace process with the Kurds as long as attacks on Turkey continue.

The Kurds are an ethnic group with their own language living in a region spanning present-day Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has fought Turkey for autonomy for Kurds in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.

In the past few days, the PKK has launched a number of attacks on Turkish security forces and Turkish jets have targeted both the PKK’s mountainous headquarters in Iraq and Kurdish fighters in a Syrian village, a Kurdish militia and an activist group said.

On Tuesday, a Turkish soldier died after he was shot in the head by a Kurdish militant near the border with Iraq, Turkey said. In a second incident in Sirnak province, suspected PKK rebels hurled a bomb at a military vehicle, wounding one soldier, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The developments follow a decision last week by Turkey’s leaders to allow the U.S. to launch its own strikes against the Islamic State group from its strategically located Incirlik Air Base.

Erdogan told reporters in Ankara that Turkish and U.S. officials were also discussing creation of a safe zone near Turkey’s border with Syria, which would be cleared of IS presence and turned into a secure area for Syrian refugees to return.

Asked for his opinion, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said “NATO is not part of these efforts. This is something that is discussed on a bilateral basis between Turkey and the United States.”

Stoltenberg said the Turks did not use the meeting Tuesday to request military assistance from other NATO members.

“What we all know is that Turkey is a staunch ally, Turkey has very capable armed forces — the second largest army within the alliance,” the NATO chief told reporters after the session, which was the fifth such meeting in the alliance’s 66-year history and lasted a little over an hour.

The alliance official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Turkey’s allies unanimously spoke at the meeting in favor of its “right to defend itself.” One outside analyst said eliciting such support may have been why Turkey sought the unusual forum in the first place.

“I think the main purpose is to give them some reassurance in terms of their bombing campaign in Syria and northern Iraq so that they won’t be accused of violating international law,” said Amanda Paul, a senior policy analyst and specialist on Turkey at the European Policy Center, a Brussels think tank. “They wanted to cover their backs basically by having NATO say, ‘OK it’s fine.'”

For some NATO members and independent observers, it’s unclear whether Turkey’s No. 1 target in the recent attacks is the Islamic State group or the Kurds, said Ian Kearns, director of the European Leadership Network, a London-based think tank.

“There is no difference between PKK and Daesh,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday, using an Arabic acronym to refer to IS.

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Dahlburg reported from Brussels. Mark D. Carlson in Brussels, Suzan Fraser in Ankara and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed.

 

TIME Pakistan

Why Pakistan Is Replacing English With Urdu

Pakistan is dropping English as its official language and switching to Urdu, a popular language in the Indian subcontinent.

The long-rumored change was confirmed by Pakistani Minister of Planning, National Reforms, and Development Ahsan Iqbal in an exclusive interview with TIME.

Iqbal said the change was being made because of a court directive. The Pakistani constitution, which was passed in 1973, included a clause specifying that the government must make Urdu the national language within 15 years, but it had not been enforced.

Still, Iqbal said the country is not entirely abandoning English, which will still be taught alongside Urdu in schools.

“It means Urdu will be a second medium of language and all official business will be bilingual,” he said.

Some Pakistanis fear that the move is part of an official backlash against the younger generation, which has been more open to Western culture.

But Iqbal argued that the move would help make Pakistan more democratic, since it will “help provide greater participation to people who don’t know English, hence making the government more inclusive.”

Urdu is just one of a number of languages spoken in Pakistan, but it retains a cultural cachet as the language of movies and music as well as the Islamic religion, while English has been more popular among elites and government ministries.

According to the CIA Factbook, nearly half of Pakistanis speak Punjabi, the language of the Punjab region, while only 8% speak Urdu. Several other languages are spoken by a fraction of the population.

The decision to break away from English creates a stark contrast with Pakistan’s neighbor and longtime rival India. English was the official language of the area that now comprises both countries under British rule, which ended in 1947.

Despite a similar language clause in its constitution, India continues to use both English and Hindi as its official languages.

TIME animals

Minnesota Dentist Named as Killer of Beloved Lion

Cecil the lion
Zimbabwe National Parks/AFP/Getty Images Much-loved Zimbabwean lion called "Cecil" in Zimbabwe on Oct. 21, 2012.

Walter James Palmer allegedly paid $50,000 to kill Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe

A conservation group in Zimbabwe has named a dentist from Minnesota in the illegal killing of a beloved male lion.

U.S. citizen Walter James Palmer allegedly paid $50,000 to kill Cecil, a 13-year-old male lion, on a game hunting trip, according to a report from the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. Zimbabwe authorities also told the Associated Press that Palmer was the individual accused of slaughtering the beast.

Palmer said in a statement that he had hired guides to secure permits and that his hunting expedition was legal and properly handled and conducted.” He has not been contacted by authorities, Palmer said.

“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” he said via email. “I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”

The hunter’s two accomplices have been apprehended by police and await a court hearing, the country’s government said. “Ongoing investigations to date suggest that the killing of the lion was illegal since the land owner was not allocated a lion on his hunting quota for 2015,” the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said in a statement. “Therefore, all persons implicated in this case are due to appear in court facing poaching charges.”

Palmer and a guide, Theo Bronkhorst, allegedly entered a national park where lions are protected on July 6 and lured Cecil from the park by tying a dead animal to the back of their car. They shot him first with a bow and then a gun when he didn’t die immediately, according to the conservationist group’s report. Though the hunters had left the protected park, they still lacked proper permits, the conservation group said.

Cecil was a draw for tourists visiting the country’s Hwange National Park and the subject of research conducted by the Oxford Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. Oxford University Professor David Macdonald, who runs the center, condemned the killing as “reprehensible and unacceptable.” In turn, Cecil’s shooting will likely result in the death of many other lions that depended on Cecil, he said.

Palmer is an avid big game hunter whose hunting successes landed him attention in a 2009 New York Times story on the sport. He was previously convicted of bear poaching in Wisconsin, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune.

 

TIME National Security

Convicted Spy Jonathan Pollard Will Be Released in November

Pollard was sentenced to 30 years in prison for spying for Israel

(WASHINGTON) — Jonathan Pollard, a former Naval intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel and passing along a trove of classified documents, has been granted parole and will be released from prison in November after nearly 30 years, his lawyers said Tuesday.

The decision to free Pollard caps an extraordinary espionage case that stoked public passions. Critics condemned the American as a traitor who betrayed his country for money. Supporters argued that he was punished excessively given that he spied for a U.S. ally.

The politically charged matter also surfaced last year during Middle East negotiations and has spurred decades of legal wrangling and periodic efforts to win his release.

Pollard, 60, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987, two years after he was caught trying to gain asylum in the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Under federal sentencing rules in place at the time, he became eligible for parole in November, the 30th anniversary of his arrest. A three-member panel of the U.S. Parole Commission unanimously voted to grant him parole, effective Nov. 21, according to a statement from his attorneys, and the Justice Department did not raise objections to his release.

“We are grateful and delighted that our client will be released soon,” said a statement from the lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman.

They said the decision to grant him parole, which followed a July 7 hearing, was “not connected to recent developments in the Middle East” — an apparent reference to a recent nuclear deal that the U.S. struck with Iran and that Israel had bitterly opposed.

White House and other officials have denied that Pollard’s planned release is in any way tied to the Iran nuclear deal. And Israeli officials have said while they would welcome Pollard’s release, it would not ease their opposition to the Iran agreement.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who testified before Congress on the deal on Tuesday, told reporters Pollard’sparole was “not at all” related to the nuclear deal.

The U.S. had previously dangled his release, including during Israel-Palestinian talks last year, when the Obama administration considered the possibility of releasing Pollard early as part of a package of incentives to keep Israel at the negotiating table. As it turned out, the peace effort collapsed despite the Pollard release offer and nothing came of the proposal.

Pollard, 60, has battled health problems in recent years and is being held in the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.

Had he been denied parole, his lawyers said, Pollard would have been required to serve an additional 15 years in prison. But the Justice Department earlier this month signaled that it would not oppose Pollard’s parole bid.

The attorneys said Pollard was “looking forward to being reunited with his beloved wife Esther.”

The U.S. says Pollard provided reams of sensitive and classified information to Israel, including about radar-jamming techniques and the electronic capabilities of nations hostile to Israel, including Saudi Arabia.

A court statement from then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said Pollard did “irrevocable” damage to the U.S. and had provided the Israelis with more than 800 U.S. classified publications and more than 1,000 classified messages and cables. Portions of the Weinberger document that have been declassified state in part that Pollardadmitted passing to his Israeli contacts “an incredibly large quantity of classified documents” and that U.S. troops could be endangered because of the theft.

“He took an oath to support the constitution of the United States, and he failed it,” said M.E. “Spike” Bowman, the director of Naval Intelligence at the time of Pollard’s arrest. “The fact that he gave it to an ally, that makes absolutely no difference to me. I’m glad that it was an ally rather than the Russians, but what he did makes absolutely no difference.”

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Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

TIME India

When India’s Late President Kalam Trained as a Rocket Scientist With NASA

Before he became India’s head of state, Dr. Kalam, who died on Monday aged 83, was one of the country’s most distinguished scientists. Here, a former colleague and friend recalls his time training with a young Kalam in the U.S. in the early 1960s

Back in the 1960s, we were both rookie engineers working for government organizations in India with just a few years of experience behind us—I worked in electronics and he specialized in aeronautics. Both of us had passed out from the Madras Institute of Technology in southern India, although he was older than me and graduated a few years ahead.

But the first time I met A.P.J. Abdul Kalam—or Kalam, as I always knew him—was in a foreign country: the U.S. I’d gone there in December, 1962, and he followed in March, 1963. We were part of a seven-member team dispatched by Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India’s space program, to train with NASA and learn the art of assembling and launching small rockets for collecting scientific data.

I’d already spent a few months training at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, when Kalam arrived from India. Soon, we were working side by side at NASA’s launch facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. Our lodgings were called the B.O.Q., or the Bachelor Officer’s Quarters, and we’d lunch together at the cafeteria where, because we were both vegetarians, we survived mainly on mashed potatoes, boiled beans, peas, bread and milk. Weekends in Wallops Island were lonely affairs, as the nearest town of Pocomoke City was an hour’s drive away. Thankfully for us, NASA put on a free flight to Washington D.C. for its recruits, so we would head up the to American capital on Friday nights and return to Wallops on the Monday morning shuttle.

It was a memorable experience. I remember one training session where Kalam had to fire a dummy rocket when the countdown hit zero. It was only after half a dozen attempts when he kept firing the rocket either a few seconds too early or too late that the man who went on to become one of India’s best known rocket scientists managed to get it right.

Our American sojourn ended in December, 1963, when we returned to India to help set up a domestic rocket launching facility on the outskirts of Trivandrum, the capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala. It was very different world from NASA. India’s space program was still in its early years and we had to swap our weekend shuttles to Washington for bicycles, our sole mode of transportation in those days.

Quite apart from the change, this presented a practical problem for Kalam: he didn’t know how to ride a bike! He was forced to depend on me or one of the other engineers to ferry him to and from work. When it came to food, if we’d lacked options at the canteen in Wallops Island, in Kerala we had to fend entirely for ourselves: there was no canteen at the nascent launch facility, and we had purchase our lunch at the Trivandrum railway station on the way to work.

Over the next decade and a half, Kalam and I worked closely on building India’s space program. Kalam eventually became the director of the project to develop the country’s first satellite launch vehicle, a task he pursued with single-minded devotion. He made his team work hard and set the benchmark for them by working twice as hard himself. He had a knack for getting things done and did not let initial failures deter his team. He pushed and pushed until eventually, in 1980, he succeeded with the launch of SLV3, India’s first experimental satellite vehicle which took off from Sriharikota on the country’s southeastern coast.

The same year, Kalam moved to India’s Defense Research and Development Organization and took on the task of building the country’s missiles. He injected a new sense of urgency and energy in the organization, and in 1998, led the team behind the country’s nuclear tests at Pokhran in northwestern India.

His unexpected election in 2002 as India’s President took him to a different plane, transforming him into a statesman and, rightly, a national legend. But he never forgot his early friendships. In 2007, when he was about step down from the presidency, he invited my wife Gita and me to stay with him at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the grand presidential residence in New Delhi.

He never allowed his high office to come in the way of his natural informality, a quality that so endeared to so many across India and the world. One evening during our stay, he invited me and my wife to attend a national awards ceremony that he was hosting in his capacity as President. The ceremony was followed by a reception for the guests, among whom were many dignitaries. Suddenly, Gita and I found that our host had disappeared. I was looking around trying to find him when an aide came up to me and whispered a message from India’s head of state: the President wanted us to leave the other guests behind and join him in the building’s magnificent gardens. It turned out that the great man needed a break from the formality of the awards function and wanted to get some fresh air. For more than an hour, we walked up and down the beautiful gardens, reminiscing about the old days in Trivandrum and the badminton games we used to play at the Rocket Recreation Club.

He returned to his Presidential duties quite recharged.

Aravamudan is a former Director of the Indian Space Research Organization’s Satellite Centre in Bengaluru, India

TIME African Union

Africa Can’t Let Old Traditions Stand in the Way of Progress, Warns Obama

President Obama was welcomed by the African Union's chairwoman as "one of their own"

United States President Barack Obama wrapped up his four-day visit to Africa on Tuesday July 28 with a rousing address to the African Union, at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Calling for the empowerment of African youth and women, for an end to the “cancer of corruption” and greater economic ties between Africa and America, Obama told the 54-nation body that “It is long past time to put aside old stereotypes of an Africa forever mired in poverty and conflict.”

The African Union was established in 2001 to achieve greater unity between African countries and a better life for African people. Over the past decade it has gained strength and respect in the international arena as it wields its political and military tools to solve thorny African problems, from civil conflict to terrorism and obstacles to trade. By becoming the first U.S. leader to address the A.U., Obama ensured that his praise, his exhortations to do better and his promise of partnership reached every corner of the continent, on what is likely to be his last visit to the region as President.

Welcomed by the African Union’s first chairwoman, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who introduced him as the President of the United States of America, the first to address the A.U., and “one of our own,” Obama took the podium to sustained applause, cheers and whistles. In a wide-ranging speech that touched on his African roots, Obama celebrated the continent’s gains, noting that Africa has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with a middle class projected to grow to more than one billion consumers. “With hundreds of millions of mobile phones and surging access to the internet, Africans have the potential to leapfrog old technologies into new prosperity,” he said. But to continue on that trajectory, Obama warned, Africa “can’t let old traditions stand in the way.”

He called on African governments to maintain economic gains by improving democracy, protecting human rights and ensuring freedom of the press, singling out his host, the Ethiopian government, in particular for its crackdown on journalists and opposition leaders. “Democracy is not just formal elections,” Obama said to resounding applause. “When journalists are put behind bars for doing their jobs, or activists are threatened as governments crack down on civil society, then you may have democracy in name, but not in substance.”

He also encouraged African leaders to respect term limits, to act more like Nelson Mandela, who stood down after his second term as President of South Africa, and not like Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, who was just elected to a constitutionally illegal third term as President amidst widespread violence. “I have to be honest with you,” Obama said in comments that appeared to go off script. “I just don’t understand this. I actually think I am a pretty good president. I think if I ran again, I could win. But I can’t. The law is the law and no one is above it, not even presidents.” Even as representatives of the dozen African countries who have some of the longest-serving leaders in the world shifted uncomfortably in their seats, the audience erupted into the wildest cheers and loudest applause of the speech.

Obama had come to Africa to meet with Kenyan and Ethiopian leaders on issues ranging from security, economic development and human rights. His speech at the A.U reflected similar themes as he attempts to cement his African legacy. He has hinted, however, that he might consider returning to Africa at the conclusion of his presidency, telling the audience, “I’m looking forward to life after being President. It means I can go take a walk, I can spend time with my family, I can find other ways to serve. I can visit Africa more often.”

The biggest challenges, however, remain unresolved and out of his reach, the damper on an otherwise successful visit. Large swaths of Africa remain in turmoil, with terror groups al-Shabaab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria continuing to take lives and disrupt progress. The ongoing civil war in South Sudan, which has seen tens of thousands killed, raped or tortured and has displaced millions, defies any attempts at resolution. “In South Sudan the joy of independence has descended into the despair of violence,” Obama lamented. On Monday he met with regional leaders in an attempt to force rival South Sudanese leaders Salva Kiir and Riek Machar to accept a peace agreement. If they do not, Obama warned, “I believe the international community must raise the costs of their intransigence,” a threat that most likely means an international arms embargo and increased sanctions.

Even on issues of human rights, Obama was met with some resistance from leaders in both Ethiopia and Kenya. When Obama publically called for an end to anti-gay discrimination in Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta noted that while the two countries share many values, gay rights were not among them. And in Ethiopia, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn demurred on Obama’s calls for greater press freedoms by accusing journalists of acting unethically and consorting with terrorists.

Critics have complained that while Obama’s visit was full of pomp and lectures, he has delivered little in the way of the expected monetary largesse. That may be the most successful part of his visit yet. “So many Africans have told me — we don’t just want aid, we want trade that fuels our progress,” he said in his speech. They say, “’We don’t want patrons, we want partners who help us build our own capacity to grow.’” Throughout the past four days, Obama has been relentless in his calls for greater democracy, accountable governance, and rule of law, the foundations of economic growth that will do far more to deliver on Africa’s promise than any amount of aid.

 

TIME

Sweden Investigates Mysterious Submarine Found Off Coast

SWEDEN-MILITARY-SUBMARINE-RUSSIA-SEARCH
Fredrik Sandberg—AFP/Getty Images The Swedish corvette HMS Visby under way on the Mysingen Bay on October 21, 2014 on their fifth day of searching for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago.

Defense experts debate whether the submarine ran aground recently or as far back as WWI

Swedish officials say they are investigating a mysterious submarine that apparently ran aground in territorial waters two miles off of Sweden’s coastline.

Sea explorers with Ocean X spotted the roughly 65-foot submersible at an undisclosed location last week, prompting speculation about its origins. Ocean X explorer Dennis Åsberg told Swedish newspaper Expressen that the submarine appeared to have Russian cyrillic characters on its hull and no signs of physical damage.

The absence of a distress signal led one defense expert to speculate that the submarine may have run aground recently while on a confidential mission, while other experts suspect that the craft dates back to WWI.

The Ocean X team said it had partnered with Swedish officials to conduct further analysis into the submarine’s origins.

The investigation comes one year after Swedish intelligence agents detected a foreign submarine, transmitting Russian distress signals, east of Stockholm.

TIME Denmark

Denmark Bans Kosher and Halal Animal Slaughter

This picture taken on August 21, 2009 in
Sebastien Bozon—AFP/Getty Images This picture taken on August 21, 2009 in Illzach, eastern France, shows a customer passing by Halal butchery shelves in a supermarket, on the eve of the beginning of the Ramadan.

“Animal rights come before religion”

Denmark enacted a sweeping ban on the religious slaughter of animals Monday, prompting a furious backlash from Jewish and Muslim community representatives.

The ban, which requires slaughterhouse workers to stun animals before killing them, will now extend to religious communities that were previously afforded an exemption. “Animal rights come before religion,” Danish minister for agriculture and food Dan Jørgensen told Denmark’s TV2.

Activists with Danish Halal called the restriction a “clear interference in religious freedom,” the Independent reports, while Israeli chief rabbi David Lau slammed the law as “a serious and severe blow to the Jewish faith and to the Jews of Denmark,” according to Times of Israel.

Both observant Jews, under kashrut laws and Muslims, under halal laws, will not eat meat unless the animal has been killed with a single slice to the neck, with the intention to minimize its pain.

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