TIME Middle East

ISIS Launches Offensive in Northern Syria

AP ISIS militants seen near Hassakeh city, Syria, in a photo released on a militant website in May 2015.

After a series of reverses, ISIS has struck back at the cities of Kobani and Hassakeh

BEIRUT — Islamic State militants in Syria stormed government-held neighborhoods in the predominantly Kurdish northeastern city of Hassakeh on Thursday morning, capturing several areas of the city, officials and state media said.

The attack came after the Islamic State group suffered several setbacks in northern Syria against Kurdish forces over the past weeks. The city of Hassakeh is divided between Bashar Assad’s forces and Kurdish fighters.

Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, said IS militants attacked government-held neighborhoods on the southern edge of Hassakeh, and captured some areas.

Syrian state TV reported intense clashes inside Hassakeh’s southern neighborhood of Nashawi. According to the report, IS fighters killed several people they captured in the city, including the head of a military housing institution. It said the militants sustained many casualties, including the commander of the group who is a foreign fighter.

IS tried to storm the city earlier this month and reached its southern outskirts before facing strong resistance from Syrian government troops who pushed them away.

Also Thursday, IS staged a new attack on the Kurdish town of Kobani, which famously resisted a months-long assault by the Islamic militants. The attack involved a suicide car bombing that wounded scores.

“A group of fighters deployed in some areas of Kobani. We are defending a position now,” Ghalia Nehme, a commander with the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units, told The Associated Press by telephone from inside the border town.

After months of bloody street fighting, the Kurdish forces in Kobani, which lies along the Syria-Turkey border, succeeded in pushing out IS militants earlier this year. That was a landmark victory against the IS, enabled in part by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

Two Turkish officials said Thursday’s attack involved a suicide bomber who detonated his car near the border gate that separates Kobani from the Turkish town of Mursitpinar.

The first official, from the local governor’s office, said that 41 wounded were taken across the border to a hospital in Turkey. Surveillance footage showed a fiery explosion rocking Kobani in the dim light of dawn, he said, adding that video came from one of the 24 cameras monitoring the border crossing.

The second official, who is with the district government, put the number of wounded at 43 and said that sporadic gunfire could still be heard from the other side of the border later in the morning as well. He said one person, a child, had been killed.

There was no immediate way to resolve the discrepancy between their reports. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Syrian state TV said the extremists crossed from the Turkish side of the border into Kobani, adding that are casualties. It gave no further details.

Read next: The Kurds are building a country with every victory over ISIS


TIME India

What TIME Said 40 Years Ago When Indira Gandhi Declared a State of Emergency in India

Bossy Gandhi
Fox Photos/Getty Images Indira Gandhi (1917–1984), Prime Minister of India

"Indira Gandhi's Dictatorship Digs In," read the headline

“Not since India gained its independence from Britain in 1947 had it faced a constitutional crisis of such magnitude,” an article in TIME’s issue dated June 23, 1975, began, describing then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi being disqualified from her seat in the Indian Parliament after being found guilty of “campaign irregularities” in her 1971 re-election.

Two days later, exactly 40 years ago, Gandhi would declare a state of emergency in the South Asian nation, setting off nearly two years of widespread arrests, censorship of the press and severe curtailment of civil liberties to India’s millions of citizens. The 21-month period, known in India simply as the Emergency, represents one of the darkest periods of India’s political past.

As TIME wrote in a piece in its July 14, 1975 issue, three weeks into the Emergency:

There was no question that India and its imperious Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, were struggling through a political crisis that would profoundly affect the country’s future. The state of emergency, proclaimed on June 26 at Mrs. Gandhi‘s behest, had suspended political freedoms and given her near dictatorial powers.

Read the full story here.

TIME Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi Barred by Parliament From Being Burma’s President

Aung San Suu Kyi
Khin Maung Win—AP Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a meeting of her National League at Royal Rose restaurant in Yangon, Myanmar, on June 20, 2015

The constitution bars Suu Kyi from seeking the presidency

(YANGON, Burma) — Burma’s parliament has voted against proposed constitutional amendments, ensuring that the military’s veto power remains intact and that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi cannot become president in an election this year.

The legislature ended a 3-day debate Thursday on proposed changes to the 2008 constitution.

The constitution bars Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, from seeking the presidency and gives the military an effective veto over constitutional amendments. Changes to both those clauses were rejected Thursday.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is expected to see heavy gains against the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party in the polls. The NLD swept the last free general election in 1990 but the then-ruling military junta ignored the results and kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for years.

TIME animals

Japan’s Cutest (Feline) Stationmaster Has Died at 16

School girls admire "Tama", a nine-year-
Toru Yamanaka—AFP/Getty Images Schoolgirls admire Tama as the feline sits on a ticket gate at Kishi Station in the city of Kinokawa, in Wakayama prefecture, Japan, on May 22, 2008

Tama is credited with stimulating the local economy and saving both her station and its train line

Like many of our most famous and beloved celebrities, she had only one name: Tama, a tortoiseshell renowned for her jaunty hat and cool smirk, was Japan’s most famous (and only) feline train stationmaster. She died Monday at an animal hospital in Wakayama prefecture aged 16, having worked at her post in a converted ticket booth in Kishi Station for almost eight years.

Tama first rose to fame when she was appointed stationmaster at Kishi, a secluded hamlet of at the end of a rail line that had changed hands after closing from disuse, CNN reports. She was whisked away from a simple life at the village grocery store and given a new perch at the station entrance, soon to find herself on posters, T-shirts, stickers and even the center of a themed café.

It didn’t take long for stardom to come knocking. The number of passengers on the train line jumped from 1.92 million in 2005 to 2.27 million in 2014, according to the Japan Times. In fact, the new stationmaster had so many visitors that an Osaka University study estimates that Tama’s popularity added $10 million into the local economy. Many credit her for single-handedly saving both the station and its train line.

Wakayama Governor Yoshinobu Nisaka paid tribute to Tama in a statement to the Japan Times, saying the late stationmaster “contributed greatly to promoting tourism in our prefecture. I am filled with deep sorrow and appreciation.”

Tama is survived by her apprentice, Nitama, who takes her workload of eating, sleeping and upholding the local economy as seriously as her illustrious predecessor. Tama’s funeral will be held at Kishi Station on June 28.


TIME Canada

Vancouver Votes to Regulate Marijuana Stores, but Canada’s Government Isn’t Happy About It

Visitors walk past a flag similiar to th
MARK RALSTON—AFP/Getty Images Visitors walk past a flag similiar to the Canadian one but showing a cannabis plant instead of a maple leaf at a store in Eastside Vancouver during the Vancouver Winter Olympics on February 22, 2010

City's move fuels debate surrounding marijuana legalization in the lead-up to October's federal election

Vancouver’s city council has voted to regulate the city’s many marijuana shops, becoming the first Canadian city to take the step, the Guardian reports.

Marijuana is illegal in Canada, but access to medical marijuana is not for those with a prescription. That allows Vancouver’s many pot shops — some say they outnumber Starbucks outlets in the city — to offer weed in a pseudo-medical manner, often with naturopaths on the premises available for consultation.

Municipal authorities in Vancouver will now impose zoning controls and license fees in a bid to get a handle on the trade. The city’s police force is also tolerant, claiming that cracking down on the stores has not been a priority.

Canada’s conservative government has voiced its displeasure, however. Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose has ordered the council to vote down the policy and the police to enforce the law.

Geoff Plant, the former attorney general of British Columbia, told the Guardian that the federal government was “increasingly out of touch.” He said, “They are stuck in a ‘reefer madness’, non-evidence-based position.”

There is heated debate surrounding marijuana legalization in Canada in the lead-up to October’s federal election. According to the CBC, British Columbia has the highest support for legalization in the country, at around 46%.


TIME Colombia

This Mother and Baby Survived a Plane Crash and Five Days Lost in the Colombian Jungle

“It’s a miracle”

A mother and her baby have miraculously been found alive five days after their plane crashed in thick jungle in northwestern Colombia.

Nelly Murillo, 18, and her 1-year-old son were discovered Wednesday not far from where the twin-engine Cessna plane had crashed near Quibdo in Choco province, reports the BBC. The cause of the crash is not yet known.

“It’s a miracle,” Colonel Héctor Carrascal of the Colombian air force told Agence France-Presse. “It is a very wild area and it was a catastrophic accident.”

According to the Colombian air force, Murillo suffered only minor injuries and burns and the baby was unharmed. The two were airlifted to a hospital in Quibdo.

“His mother’s spirit must have given him strength to survive,” said Carrascal of the infant.

Rescuers discovered the plane Monday with the body of the pilot, Captain Carlos Mario Ceballos, inside the cockpit.


TIME Yemen

Yemen Crisis: 21 Million People Now in Urgent Need of Food, Humanitarian Aid

A Saudi-led blockade on maritime traffic has limited commercial goods from entering Yemen, forcing prices of food and fuel to skyrocket

The U.N. envoy to Yemen said Wednesday that the conflict-torn nation was “one step away from famine,” with nearly 80% of its population — 21 million people — in need of humanitarian aid.

Following a briefing of the bloc’s Security Council in New York, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said a cease-fire was a priority and called on all parties involved to broker a truce before the end of the Islamic holiday of Ramadan on July 17, reports Agence France-Presse. Peace talks between Yemen’s political parties, mediated by Ahmed, collapsed last week in the Swiss city of Geneva.

“While we pursue a sustainable long-term cessation of violence, I called on all the relevant parties to agree without delay to a humanitarian truce,” said Ahmed.

Yemen descended further into chaos in March when a Saudi-led coalition began bombing sorties to stop an advance by local Shi‘ite Houthi rebels. They want to restore the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to power, having driven incumbent President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi into exile.

Over the past three months alone, thousands of people have been killed or injured by air strikes and ground fighting, and 1 million more have been displaced, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Due to a coalition blockade of maritime traffic, commercial goods including food and medical supplies are only trickling into the country. Fuel and food prices have therefore skyrocketed, escalating the humanitarian disaster for Yemen’s citizens.

According to a joint survey by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme, 6 million people in the country are slipping toward severe hunger and desperately need emergency food and lifesaving assistance. A further 6.5 million people are facing a food security “crisis.”

Yemen officials in the southern port city of Aden have called on international aid organizations to deliver more medical supplies as more than 4,000 people have contracted the mosquito-borne and sometimes fatal disease dengue fever, reports al-Jazeera.

TIME Nepal

Go Inside the Effort to Rebuild Nepal

As delegates from around the world gather in Kathmandu for an international conference on rebuilding Nepal, here's how the country's farmers are recovering from an earthquake that, two months ago, claimed thousands of lives

Two months ago, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, centered in a mountainous region northwest of Kathmandu, devastated Nepal, shaking apart ancient temples, splitting roads, leveling homes and bridges, and setting off angry landslides and avalanches across the Himalayan nation.

The temblor, which struck shortly before noon local time on April 25, was felt in neighboring China and India, and even as far away as Pakistan. A series of panic-inducing aftershocks followed, and then, on May 12, the country was rattled by a magnitude 7.3 quake centered northeast of Kathmandu, near the country’s border with China.

In Nepal, the death toll from the two earthquakes stands at nearly 9,000, with over 22,000 people injured. (Deaths were also recorded in neighboring countries.) Hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged. The country’s health infrastructure suffered a body blow. According to a recent government report, nearly 450 public heath facilities, including five hospitals, were completely destroyed. In what was already one of the region’s poorest countries, the earthquakes—the result of an ancient geological fault deep below Nepal—are estimated to have pushed an additional three percent of the population into poverty. That, according to the World Bank, means “as many as a million more poor people.”

As Nepal slowly rebuilds, among the most pressing challenges is supporting agriculture in a country were two-thirds of the population depends on farming. Rice is a staple food in Nepal—and for many rice-farming communities, the earthquakes “struck at the worst possible time,” according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). June is when the annual monsoon rains arrive in Nepal. And the weeks leading up to them are critical for farmers who must ensure that their rice saplings are in the ground before the rains hit. But as many half of all farming households in the country’s worst affected districts are estimated to have lost nearly all their stores of rice and other crops in the earthquakes.

The rice farmers of Samantar Village in Nepal’s Dhading district, whose struggle to plant their rice crop ahead of the monsoon is chronicled in this TIME video by Nehemiah Stark and Nick Wilson, were among those who lost their supplies in the April 25 quake. “The rice seeds in people’s houses were ruined,” Bakhat Bahadur Rai, local agricultural leader, says.“The houses fell down and the seeds became a part of the rubble.”

What followed was a race against time to secure new seeds for planting before the rains for a healthy harvest. Samantar was lucky. With the help of an Israeli NGO called Tevel b’Tzedek, the rice farmers of Samantar managed to get new supplies in early June, before the rains. Elsewhere in Nepal’s hardest hit areas, the FAO has distributed 40,000 five kilogram bags of rice seeds to farmers for the current planting season.

But much still remains to be done across Nepal, where the government puts the total cost of recovery and reconstruction at some $6.6 billion over five years. It is an enormous challenge, and one that Nepal can’t meet on its own—the estimated cost equates to roughly a third of the size of the country’s economy. To help with the effort, the government is hosting an international donors conference with delegates from the around the world, including the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers.

As the visiting delegates consider the challenges ahead, over in Samantar, attention is focused on this year’s rice crop. “I have a feeling that I will survive,” Phoolmaya Rai, a local rice farmer says, “if there’s not another earthquake.”

TIME Pakistan

Criticism of Pakistani Government Intensifies as Heat-Wave Death Toll Tops 1,000

Pakistan Heatstroke
Shakil Adil—AP A man with his daughter who suffers from dehydration due to extreme weather waits for a medical help outside a ward at a child hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 24, 2015.

Most of the deaths have occurred among the elderly and poor people without access to air-conditioning

The Pakistan government continued to face the nation’s ire Wednesday over what critics call its inadequate preparation for and response to a devastating heat wave sweeping the southern Sindh province.

Opposition lawmakers slammed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s ruling party in Parliament over the repeated power cuts and water shortages that have considerably worsened the crisis, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported. Many accused the government of “inaction” in the face of hundreds of deaths in the provincial capital, Karachi — the country’s largest city — and its surrounding areas.

“There is a problem of very poor governance, and in normal circumstances it is not so exposed,” Khalid Rahman, director general of the Institute of Policy Studies in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, says in an interview with TIME. “In this very extraordinary heat wave, it has exposed so many things.”

Over 1,000 people have now died from heatstroke or related medical problems, a majority of them poor and elderly people without access to air-conditioning. The escalating problems from the heat wave prompted the government to declare a public holiday on Wednesday so people could stay indoors, according to the New York Times, and though the resumption of sea breezes from the country’s southern coast contributed to a lowering of the overall temperature and a reduction in the number of fatalities, there are still thousands more undergoing treatment at various hospitals across the region.

The Pakistani army and a paramilitary force, the Rangers, have also stepped in, setting up relief camps for heatstroke patients, while various nongovernment and volunteer organizations have been distributing water and medicine outside hospitals.

“Today was a lot better,” Anwar Kazmi, a spokesman for the Edhi Foundation that runs Karachi’s largest morgue, told the Times on Wednesday. “We’ve had 58 deaths today, compared to yesterday when the death toll rose to 300.”

Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Pakistan’s Water and Power Minister, attempted to deflect the blame from his government and delink the power shortages, which Pakistan has long grappled with, from the heat wave.

“The federal government is not responsible if there is a water shortage in Karachi,” he said in Parliament. “We are ready for accountability, but it’s not appropriate to blame us for each and every thing.”

Rahman, however, says there is a lot the government could have and should have done differently.

“In these days of technology-driven information available well in advance, the government should have come up with an emergency plan as well as some kind of awareness campaign for the public and some emergency centers,” he says. “Unfortunately, despite so many deaths the governments, both provincial as well as federal, did not accept the responsibility. Instead they started blaming each other.”

TIME New Zealand

New Zealand Shows Just How Hard It Is to Get Rid of an Old Flag

Marty Melville—AFP/Getty Images The New Zealand flag flutters outside Parliament buildings in Wellington in Wellington on October 29, 2014

New Zealand's four-decade debate over replacing its national flag looks likely to be resolved in a 2016 referendum

The power of a flag has been thrown on the world stage in the wake of the apparently race-related murder of nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17. And as the debate over whether to finally banish the Confederate flag — an innocent symbol of Southern pride to some, an abhorrent remnant of slavery and racial subjugation to others — to the history books continues to rage, a lesser-known but no less heated discussion in New Zealand demonstrates the tribulations associated with attempting to replace such long-standing symbols of collective identity.

The New Zealand flag, which currently features a Union Flag (commonly known as the Union Jack) and the four stars of the southern cross, has long drawn criticism for including what some consider a symbol of colonial repression. Tens of thousands of indigenous Maoris died following the arrival of white settlers in the 18th century. The idea of an alternate flag, meant to more fully represent contemporary New Zealand, was first proposed in the early 1970s, and a two-part flag referendum to decide the issue has been introduced for 2015–16.

An open call for submissions, which runs until July 16, has resulted in designs ranging from simple and classic to crass and quirky. Many include the silver fern, which has long been an unofficial national symbol; others highlight traditional Maori designs or incorporate the Union Jack, a nod to the country’s legacy of European immigration. One submission shows a whale with a sheep and kiwi on its back. Another, suggested by a Twitter user in jest, simply says “Not Australia.”

A panel of New Zealanders from all walks of life, including intellectuals, athletes, politicians and business executives, will help choose four finalist designs for part one of the referendum in late 2015. The winner will go head to head with the original flag in the final vote, to take place in March 2016.

Click here to see more new flag designs

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