TIME Environment

Obama Mulls Circumventing Congress for International Climate Change Agreement

Climate Change Global Warming Asbestos Mines
Asbestos mines in Amiandos, Troodos Mountains, Cyprus, June 15, 2014. G. Nimatallah—De Agostini/Getty Images

Possible end-run around Senate ratification

The Obama Administration is working on an international agreement for countries to cut their fossil fuel emissions, a move that could set up a showdown with Congress by avoiding the need for formal treaty ratification.

The accord, meant to be signed at a United Nations summit next year, will likely bypass the usual ratification procedure, the New York Times reports. Ratification would require a two-thirds vote from the Senate, but any action on climate change faces stiff resistance from Republicans and from some moderate Democrats, and President Barack Obama has increasingly looked for ways to work around congressional opposition as his time in office winds down. The Administration is considering framing an agreement as “politically binding” instead of legally binding as a way to circumvent the need for ratification, the Times reports. Obama’s climate negotiators told the Times that the framework would help “name and shame” negligent countries.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it’s premature to say the Administration is planning to circumvent the Senate.

“Not a word of the new climate agreement currently under discussion has been written, so it is entirely premature to say whether it will or won’t require Senate approval,” Psaki said in a statement. “Our goal is to negotiate a successful and effective global climate agreement that can help address this pressing challenge. Anything that is eventually negotiated and that should go to the Senate will go to the Senate. We will continue to consult with Congress on this important issue.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced opposition to the possible maneuver, saying it’s indicative of what he called the Obama Administration’s tendency to “ignore the elected representatives of the people when they don’t agree.”

-Additional reporting by Zeke J Miller

TIME Foreign Policy

Mother of American Held by ISIS Pleads for His Release

Shirley Sotloff Michael Sotloff ISIS
Shirley Sotloff, mother of American journalist Steven Sotloff who is being held by ISIS, pleads with her son's captors to release him in this undated video released on Aug. 27, 2014 Al Arabiya

"I ask you to please release my child"

The mother of an American journalist held hostage by Islamist militants issued an emotional plea for her son’s release Wednesday.

In a video broadcast on al-Arabiya TV network, Shirley Sotloff directly addresses Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). She asks him to free her son Steven Sotloff after a year in captivity.

“Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants,” Shirley Sotloff says, adding that her son has no influence over U.S. government policy and should not be held accountable for its actions. “He is an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak.

“I ask you to please release my child,” she says, citing Muslim teachings on mercy.

Steven Sotloff is a freelance journalist who has written in the past for TIME and other outlets, and has been missing since August 2013. His family initially kept word of his disappearance secret, but Sotloff was pictured in a video showing the execution of American journalist James Foley released by ISIS last week.

President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the U.S. would not rest until justice had been carried out against Foley’s killers. “Our message to anyone who harms our people is simple,” Obama told a veterans group in Charlotte, N.C. “America does not forget. Our reach is long. We are patient. Justice will be done.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that “the thoughts and prayers of everyone here in the White House and the Obama Administration are with the Sotloff family.” Earnest said he wasn’t sure if Obama has seen Shirley Sotloff’s video, but that “members of this Administration have been in contact with the Sotloff family on a regular basis.”

TIME Travel

10 Things To Do Wherever You Are

Businesswoman with suitcase in airport
Getty Images

Traveling this holiday weekend? Whether you’re headed to New York or San Francisco, Singapore or Tokyo, we’ve put together a list of your destination’s must-see attractions and activities. So if you want to hit the tourist hotspots, or if you prefer to see how the locals live, these ideas will make your Labor Day planning a bit less laborious:

TIME Retail

Zara Yanks Baby Shirt Likened to Concentration Camp Uniform

Now that's a fashion faux pas

Clothing retailer Zara hastily removed a baby shirt from its online stores Wednesday after social media users noted its resemblance to a concentration camp uniform.

The shirt has thin black and white stripes and a yellow star sewn on the front. The company described the design as “sheriff” themed, but the word “sheriff” was barely legible within the star, and to many outraged critics on social media the shirt was far more evocative of one of the darkest chapters of World War II history.

Zara removed the shirt from its site on Wednesday, according to the Israeli blogger for 972 Magazine who first broke the story, and its Israeli office issued an apology to any customers who might have been offended.

TIME

Third Doctor Dies From Ebola in Sierra Leone

(FREETOWN, Sierra Leone) —” A senior adviser to Sierra Leone’s president says a third doctor has died from Ebola, marking a setback in the country’s fight against the virulent disease.

Presidential adviser Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said Wednesday that Dr. Sahr Rogers had been working in a clinic in the eastern town of Kenema when he contracted the virus.

News of his death came as a Senegalese epidemiologist working in Sierra Leone was evacuated to Germany for medical treatment. He had been doing surveillance work for the World Health Organization.

Ebola is spread by direct contact with the bodily fluids of people sick with the virus. Health workers have been the most vulnerable because of their proximity to patients. The WHO says more than 120 health workers have died in the four affected countries.

TIME Banking

IMF Chief Lagarde Under Investigation in France

IMF Director Lagarde Speaks On Aid Package For Ukraine
Christine Lagarde at IMF headquarters in Washington D.C., in April 2014. Allison Shelley—Getty Images

PARIS (AP) — Christine Lagarde, the chief of the International Monetary Fund, was placed under official investigation for negligence in a French corruption probe that dates back to her days as France’s finance minister.

In a statement Wednesday after a fourth round of questioning before magistrates, Lagarde said she would return to her work in Washington later in the day and said the decision was “without basis.” She is the third IMF managing director in a decade to face legal troubles.

She and her former chief of staff face questions about their role in a 400 million-euro ($531 million) payment to a businessman.

“After three years of proceedings, dozens of hours of questioning, the court found from the evidence that I committed no offense, and the only allegation is that I was not sufficiently vigilant,” she said in her statement.

Under French law, the official investigation is equivalent to preliminary charges, meaning there is reason to suspect an infraction. Investigating judges can later drop a case or issue formal charges and send it to trial.

The payment in question was made to Bernard Tapie in arbitration over a dispute with state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais over the botched sale of sportswear company Adidas. Critics have said the deal was too generous, and was symptomatic of the cozy relationship between money and political power in France.

The court investigating the Tapie payment has been set up specifically for allegations of wrongdoing committed in office. Lagarde’s former chief of staff — now head of the French telecom giant Orange — and Tapie both are under formal investigation for fraud.

Lagarde became French finance minister in 2007, the first woman to hold the post in a G-7 country.

Her predecessor at the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, quit after he was charged with attempted rape in the United States. The New York charges were later dropped. Strauss-Kahn is charged with aggravated pimping in a separate case in France.

A previous IMF chief, Rodrigo Rato, faced allegations of fraud in Spain after the bank he led as chairman collapsed. The collapse of Bankia came well after Rato’s tenure in the Washington-based IMF ended in 2007.

TIME Infectious Disease

Ebola Forces the WHO to Shut Down Its Lab in Sierra Leone

Relatives of an Ebola victim mourn in Lango village, Kenema, Sierra Leone on Aug. 25, 2014.
Relatives of an Ebola victim mourn in Lango village, Kenema, Sierra Leone on Aug. 25, 2014. Mohammed Elshamy—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Medical workers are in retreat as the deadly virus continues to ravage West Africa

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Tuesday that it had shut down an Ebola-testing laboratory in Sierra Leone and pulled its staff, after a health worker contracted the lethal virus, Reuters reports.

“It’s a temporary measure to take care of the welfare of our remaining workers,” WHO spokesperson Christy Feig told the news agency. She did not specify how long the closure would last, but said staff would return “after our assessment.”

The lab is located in Kailahun, an area near the Guinean border that is severely affected by the outbreak, but it is unclear precisely how the infected worker, an epidemiologist from Senegal, contracted the virus. The WHO said he would be evacuated out of the country for treatment.

“The field team has been through a traumatic time through this incident,” said Dr. Daniel Kertesz, the WHO representative in Sierra Leone, in a statement. “They are exhausted from many weeks of heroic work, helping patients infected with Ebola. When you add a stressor like this, the risk of accidents increases.”

The shuttered lab is one of only two in the country, Reuters says, and its closure is likely to impede efforts to contain the deadliest ever outbreak of the virus, which has infected at least 2,615 people and killed at least 1,427.

Reuters also reports that Canada has pulled its three-person mobile laboratory team from Kailahun. Sean Upton, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said on Tuesday that the workers were brought home because three people staying at their hotel had contracted Ebola. He added that the Canadian medics did not have contact with the infected individuals and did not display any symptoms of the virus.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Doctors Without Borders told the New York Times that it would continue to operate an 80-bed treatment center in Kailahun.

Health workers have paid a heavy price in their efforts to contain the outbreak, which has killed at least 120 medical workers and infected more than 240 as of Monday.

TIME India

India Just Asked PepsiCo to Help Improve the Diet of the Nation’s Children

Indra Nooyi Meets Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, right, meets Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal in New Delhi on Aug. 26, 2014 Saumya Khandelwal—Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Wait, aren't they the people who make Doritos and Mountain Dew?

India’s government is soliciting the help of an improbable partner in improving the nutrition of millions of its hungriest children, reports Bloomberg. That partner is the world’s largest snack producer, PepsiCo.

Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal met PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of developing nutritious processed foods for use in school lunches across the country, Bloomberg says. The move is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of upgrading the diet of the South Asian nation’s 1.2 billion people — especially that of its 440 million children.

“I suggested [that PepsiCo develop] products which will be healthy and will also contain proteins,” Badal told reporters following her meeting. “As people are becoming busy, the children will be immensely benefited if such products are launched.”

India has a poor reputation when it comes to food safety. A nadir was reached last year when 23 children in the country’s northern state of Bihar died after eating a free school meal that turned out to be laced with pesticide. In addition, some 47% of Indian children under 3 are underweight, according to the U.N.

Critics wonder if processed foods, from a company better known for its sugary soft drinks and potato chips, are really the best way to address such chronic malnutrition.

“No respectable dietitian or nutritionist will recommend processed foods over freshly cooked meals,” Vandana Prasad, national convener of the Public Health Resource Network, told Bloomberg.

PepsiCo India did not reply to Bloomberg’s emailed questions about the meeting.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Syria

Journalist Held Captive in Syria Arrives in the U.S.

Peter Theo Curtis
Peter Theo Curtis, who was released from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria, talks to reporters near his mother's home in Cambridge, Mass. on Aug. 27, 2014. Brian Snyder—Reuters

Journalist Peter Theo Curtis returned home to the U.S. on Tuesday, two days after being freed by a Syrian extremist group that held him hostage for 22 months, his family said

(BOSTON) — Journalist Peter Theo Curtis returned home to the United States on Tuesday, two days after being freed by a Syrian extremist group that held him hostage for 22 months, his family said.

Curtis family spokeswoman Betsy Sullivan said in a statement that Curtis arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport Tuesday afternoon after leaving Tel Aviv. By evening he had been reunited with his mother Nancy Curtis at Boston Logan International Airport.

“I have been so touched and moved, beyond all words, by the people who have come up to me today — strangers on the airplane, the flight attendants, and most of all my family — to say welcome home,” Curtis said in the statement.

He also said he was “deeply indebted” to the U.S. officials who worked to get him released.

Curtis, 45, of Boston, was released by al-Nusra Front, a Sunni extremist group.

Last week, journalist James Foley, who also was kidnapped in 2012 while covering the Syrian uprising, was killed. The Islamic State group posted a Web video showing his beheading.

The extremists said they killed the Rochester, New Hampshire, resident in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes targeting Islamic State positions in northern Iraq.

Curtis’ mother said she was “overwhelmed with relief” that her son had been returned to her. “But this is a sober occasion because of the events of the past week,” she said. “My heart goes out to the other families who are suffering.”

U.S. freelance journalist, Austin Tice of Houston, disappeared in Syria in August 2012. He is believed to be held by the Syrian government.

TIME Basketball

Get Ready for NBA 3.0

Is India the next international basketball hot spot?

India is renowned as a country of cricket fanatics. But that hasn’t stopped the top brass of the NBA from hoping that basketball will sink deep roots into the South Asian nation of 1.2 billion people.

The Sacramento Kings’ interest in rookie Sim Bhullar, whose parents emigrated from India to Canada, may very well prove to be the game changer the NBA is looking for. Although the 7-ft. 4-in. center is not currently on the team’s 15-player roster, owner Vivek Ranadive — the first Indian-born majority owner of an NBA team — says he’s placing big hopes on the 21-year-old.

Officials and owners are hoping that Bhullar will boost the sport’s popularity with Indians, just as the entrance of Yao Ming into the NBA in 2002 led to the meteoric rise of basketball’s popularity in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

“What Yao Ming did for China, we hope players like Sim will do for India,” said Ranadive during an interview at an NBA summer league game in July. “I have this vision — I call it NBA 3.0 — where I want to make basketball the premier sport of the 21st century.”

According to the Kings’ website, Ranadive is planning to take NBA commissioner Adam Silver on a trip to India in the near future.

However, local sports journalists say several things must fall into place before basketball reaches the level of popularity envisaged by Ranadive. At present, the majority of the nation’s domestic basketball players are semiprofessionals.

“As of now, we can’t think of basketball as a profession,” Roshan Thyagarajan, a columnist for cricket bible Wisden India but also an avid basketball fan, tells TIME. “The boards, the associations are not well-oiled. Everything is out of place. So that needs to be addressed immediately.”

Nevertheless, there’s a ton of potential, with India already proving to be a formidable opponent. China might be considered the power to be reckoned with in Asia, but the Indian national team beat the PRC squad 65-58 during a historic win at FIBA 2014 in July.

Photographer Cathy Scholl has been working in India and taking an intimate look at the growing excitement around basketball and the hoop dreams of the men and women who play it. Her images, above, capture a sport making tentative steps in a nation forecast to become the world’s most populous in less than 15 years.

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