TIME North Korea

North Korea Said to Ban Foreigners From Marathon

Regime reportedly cites Ebola as a concern

North Korea has banned foreigners from participating in the 2015 Pyongyang Marathon, citing concerns over Ebola, a company that facilitates foreign travel to the isolated country said Monday.

“We are sorry to announce that our North Korean partners contacted us this morning with news that the 2015 Pyongyang Marathon has — as of today — been closed to amateur and professional foreign runners,” Koryo Tours said in a statement on its website.

The marathon, scheduled this year for April 12, typically draws a large foreign contingent. Koryo Tours alone had planned to take 500 people to the country for the event, according to Reuters. The company said it planned for March tours to proceed as previously scheduled.

North Korean authorities also reportedly cancelled the annual Mass Games—a gymnastics festival that typically drew a foreign crowd—without providing an explanation.

The North Korean government offered no apparent explanation for its Ebola concerns. The disease has killed thousands of people around the world, but none of the deaths have been in Asia. The country’s government has claimed through state television that Ebola was created by the U.S. government.

TIME Maldives

Former Maldives President Nasheed Arrested Over Terrorism Charges

Maldivian Democratic Party presidential candidate Nasheed speaks to reporters during media conference in Male
Stringer—REUTERS Maldivian Democratic Party presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, who was ousted as President in 2012, speaks to reporters in Male, Maldives, on Nov. 10, 2013

The 47-year-old's arrest sparked clashes between his supporters and law-enforcement authorities

Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed was arrested Sunday amid suspicions that he would try to flee the island nation to avoid facing terrorism charges.

Nasheed’s detention led to clashes between his supporters and law-enforcement officers who used pepper spray to dispel crowds, Reuters reported.

Nasheed, Maldives’ first democratically elected President, resigned in what he alleged amounted to a coup d’état in 2012 after protests over his order to arrest a prominent judge.

The 47-year-old had been accused of misusing military power to enforce that arrest under Maldives’ antiterrorism laws, charges that were dropped last week. However, new charges pertaining to the same case were cited in an arrest warrant issued on Sunday.

“I call on the public to do all that is necessary to stop the harassment meted out to me and other politicians to save Maldives,” said Nasheed, who had called on the Indian government to intervene in case current President Abdulla Yameen imposed emergency rule.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party called for his immediate release, according to the Associated Press, with party spokesman Hamid Abdul Gaffoor saying in a statement that “Nasheed had never absconded from court, nor has taken the opportunity to flee or go into hiding.”

TIME Israel

Jerusalem’s Mayor and His Bodyguard Prevented a Stabbing Attack

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in Jerusalem, Sept. 3, 2013
Sebastian Scheiner—AP Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in Jerusalem, Sept. 3, 2013

The mayor apprehended a Palestinian teenager who allegedly stabbed an Israeli near City Hall

The Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, and his bodyguard, thwarted a potentially deadly knife attack Sunday evening. The two apprehended an 18-year-old Palestinian who allegedly lunged with a knife at a 27-year-old Israeli next to City Hall.

Barkat, who happened to be passing by when the attack took place, said “My bodyguard and I jumped straight out of the car, he drew his weapon and together we caught the terrorist until police arrived, and we took care of the wounded, who, happily, was only lightly wounded.”

The teenager was subsequently arrested by police. A motive for the stabbing has not yet been established, according to Police Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld.

[ABC News]

TIME India

Swine Flu Claims 38 More Lives in India, Total Death Toll Passes 800

Travellers with masks walk on a railway platform in Pune
Arko Datta—Reuters Travellers with masks walk on a railway platform in Pune August 18, 2009.

More than 13,000 people have contracted the H1N1 virus

Swine flu has claimed 38 more lives in India, taking the total nationwide death toll to 812, according to the latest figures released by the country’s health ministry on Sunday.

The total number of people affected by the H1N1 virus has now crossed 13,000, Indian newspaper The Hindu reported.

The new numbers represent a significant jump from the 774 deaths and 12,963 affected individuals cited by the ministry just a day earlier, but a senior health official said there has been an overall dip in the number of fresh cases.

Earlier, private doctors in the north Indian state of Haryana had accused the government of downplaying the number of swine flu cases there and discouraging laboratory testing for the virus.

However, the president of the Haryana Civil Medical Services Association said that private hospitals are forcing patients to pay large sums of money for swine flu testing.

“The private sector has been creating panic in society just to exploit the situation to make more money,” he said. “The public advisory issued has been in the wider interests of people.”

TIME Sri Lanka

This Man Survived a Tumble Off a 4,000 ft. High Cliff in Sri Lanka

Lucky isn't the word

A man miraculously survived a tumble off the 4,000 foot “World’s End” cliff in Sri Lanka on Saturday when his fall was broken by a tree.

Dutch honeymooner Mamitho Lendas, 35, said he fell over the edge when trying to take pictures of his new wife. He landed in vegetation growing out of the cliff face, after falling for about 130 ft.

“I fell down backwards two times, and then I sit in bushes for like three-and-a-half hours. The longest three-and-a-half hours of my life,” he told a group of reporters.

Soldiers used ropes to stabilize Lendas and lift him to safety. They then carried him for three miles before he could be driven to the hospital, where he was found to have no major injuries, AFP reports.

The World’s End cliff is one of Sri Lanka’s top tourist attractions.

In 2011, an Australian tourist named Christopher Pilther died after he fell off of the cliff, also while trying to take photographs.

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine’s Maidan Protests Anniversary Met With Bombs, Fresh Fighting

APTOPIX Ukraine
Sergei Chuzavkov—AP People march in downtown Kiev on Feb. 22, 2015, to commemorate last year's Maidan protest that toppled the country's pro-Kremlin government

A bombing in Kharkiv raises new questions about the fragile cease-fire hammered out earlier this month

Violence erupted in eastern Ukraine’s largest city on Sunday, as thousands across the country commemorated the anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled the pro-Kremlin administration, sparking a separatist revolt that so far has claimed more than 5,000 lives.

In Kharkiv, a northeastern city of some 1.5 million people, a bomb exploded as some 500 pro-Ukraine demonstrators marched through the city. Representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe confirmed that the blast killed two people, while 11 were injured.

Ukrainian officials have taken four suspects into custody in connection with the attack, according to Reuters.

Another explosive device was discovered inside a shopping bag in the Black Sea city of Odessa on Sunday, though it was defused before it could detonate.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described the bombings campaign as a terrorist attack designed “to spread panic and fear.”

“They are trying to make us afraid,” he said in a statement.

Earlier on Sunday, Poroshenko marched with the Presidents of Poland, Lithuania and Georgia, along with tens of thousands of ordinary Ukrainians, through the streets of Kiev to honor the Maidan protests, which culminated with the ousting of his predecessor Viktor Yanukovych one year ago.

In the separatist stronghold of Donetsk, a rebel spokesman said militants had begun pulling back their heavy weaponry from the front in accordance with the truce, according to the New York Times.

Over the weekend, the two adversaries successfully exchanged almost 200 prisoners of war, including 139 Ukrainian soldiers and 52 rebels, reports the BBC.

Nevertheless, the Kharkiv blast and reports that Ukrainian troops had held off a rebel offensive near the village of Shyrokyne continue to cast doubts over the staying power of a cease-fire signed in Belarus earlier this month.

TIME Australia

Australian Leader Outlines Tough New Anti-Terrorism Measures

Prime Minister Tony Abbott Announces Changes In National Security Speech
Stefan Postles—Getty Images Prime Minister Tony Abbott during his speech on National Security at the Australian Federal Police headquarters on February 23, 2015 in Canberra, Australia.

Abbott decried the spread of Islamic extremism in Syria and Iraq as a “new dark age”

Australians who hold dual nationality and flout antiterrorism laws will have their citizenship suspended or revoked, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Monday during an address on national security.

Even those born in Australia could have citizenship privileges taken away if they are involved in terrorism, reports the BBC.

“These [measures] could include restricting the ability to leave or return to Australia, and access to consular services overseas, as well as access to welfare payments,” Abbott said at the federal police headquarters in the capital, Canberra.

The 57-year-old Premier stressed that the new legislation would also target preachers who incite religious or racial hatred.

“By any measure, the threat to Australia is worsening,” he added, calling the spread of Islamic extremism over Syria and Iraq a “new dark age.”

Abbott said that many of his compatriots were becoming radicalized and lured into the “death cult” of terrorist groups. About 90 Australian nationals are believed to have traveled abroad to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

During his speech, Abbott also announced the appointment of a new counterterrorism chief and seven new financial analysts to crack down on terrorist financing.

The move comes in the wake of the Sydney siege, during which a lone gunman, Man Haron Monis, held 18 people hostage at a café in the city center. Three people including Monis, who had pledged fealty to ISIS, died at the scene.

TIME Bangladesh

Death Toll Rises to at Least 68 in Bangladesh Ferry Disaster

Bangladeshi rescue workers carry the body of one of the victims in Manikganj district, about 25 miles northwest of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Feb. 22, 2015
A.M. Ahad—AP Bangladeshi rescue workers carry the body of one of the victims in Manikganj district, northwest of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Feb. 22, 2015

It's not clear how many passengers are missing

(DHAKA, Bangladesh) — The death toll from a weekend ferry disaster in central Bangladesh rose to 68 as divers searched for bodies Monday in the latest mishap in the South Asian nation.

Up to 140 passengers were thought to be on the river ferry when it capsized Sunday afternoon after being hit by a cargo vessel.

The accident happened on the Padma River about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Dhaka, the capital. Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, which is crisscrossed by more than 130 rivers.

The ferry, the M.L. Mosta, was 6 meters (20 feet) under water, said Inspector Zihad Mia, who is overseeing the rescue operation.

On Monday, a salvage ship was engaged to recover the ferry, Mia said.

Rescuers recovered 48 bodies on Sunday, and by Monday morning another 20 bodies had been found, according to a police control room at the scene.

Mia said officials had yet to determine how many passengers were missing. Ferries in Bangladesh usually do not maintain formal passenger lists.

“We don’t have a clear picture about how many were exactly on the ferry when it sank,” Mia said. “But I think many have survived.”

Jewel Mia, an official from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, told reporters at the scene that up to 140 people were on board when the ferry sank.

By Monday morning, police had handed over 50 bodies to their families, said local police chief Mohammaed Rakibuzzman. At least eight were children, he said.

A passenger who survived said many people were trapped inside the ferry when it sank. “The passengers who were on the deck survived, but many who were inside were trapped,” Hafizur Rahman Sheikh was quoted as saying by the Prothom Alo newspaper.

Sheikh said the cargo vessel hit the middle of the ferry.

A Ministry of Shipping statement said an investigation had been ordered.

The Padma is one of the largest rivers in Bangladesh, where overcrowding and poor safety standards are often blamed for ferry disasters.

Last August, a ferry with a capacity of 85 passengers was found to be carrying more than 200 when it capsized on the Padma near Dhaka, leaving more than 100 people dead or missing. The ferry’s owner was arrested after weeks in hiding on charges of culpable homicide, unauthorized operation and overloading.

At least five people die earlier this month when a ferry sank in southern Bangladesh.

TIME Military

The Pentagon Spills the Beans: Stupidity, or Strategy?

Dozens of ISIL militants killed in Iraq's Mosul
Emrah Yorulmaz / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images ISIS members set fire to tires Sunday to mask their escape after clashing with Kurdish peshmerga forces outside Mosul.

Lawmakers pounce on disclosures, which have been known for months

Back on Dec. 10, lawmakers wanted to know how many Iraqi troops would be needed to drive the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. Brett McGurk, the State Department’s special presidential envoy for defeating the militant group, said a force of 20,000 to 25,000 would be a “reasonable” estimate of its size.

Spring was the goal for the timing of the counteroffensive, assuming the Iraqi army and their Kurdish peshmerga allies had enough troops and training by then. That timetable was a target freely, if privately, expressed by Pentagon officials since late last year, and surfaced in numerous press reports.

So why did a pair of influential Republican senators explode when they heard that an anonymous Pentagon official had relayed those same two key facts to reporters during a background briefing last Thursday?

“Never in our memory can we recall an instance in which our military has knowingly briefed our own war plans to our enemies,” John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, also a member of the panel, wrote President Barack Obama on Friday. “These disclosures not only risk the success of our mission, but could also cost the lives of U.S., Iraqi, and coalition forces.”

Graham has served as an Air Force lawyer, so perhaps he can be forgiven for hyperbole. McCain, a onetime Navy pilot shot down over Vietnam and held as a prisoner for more than five years, surely knows better. There is only one way to take an enemy-held city: surround it with overwhelming force, and then attack it until the foe buckles, or choke it until he starves.

Everyone paying attention, on both sides of the fight against ISIS, has known for months that the battle for Mosul is going to be the climactic clash. “Certainly, ISIS knows that Mosul is the center piece of any counteroffensive,” Jack Keane, a retired four-star Army general, told Fox News on Sunday. “They know that. We’ve been knocking off lines of communications and isolating Mosul now for weeks, with air power, too. They know we would like to do that probably before Ramadan or do it after. So, timing is something that they can figure out themselves.”

Both sides also know that it’s better to launch a counteroffensive sooner rather than later, thereby limiting the defenses ISIS can dig and build, which narrows the timeframe down to the spring.

The U.S. military knows that it cannot support its Iraqi allies in that fight without being confident they will prevail. Their training and outfitting will take at least several more weeks. The arrival of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan (June 17) and summer (June 21), pretty much shuts the window on the operation about that time, Pentagon officials say, citing religious sensitivities and heat. By default, that leaves the April-May timeframe cited by the Pentagon briefer Thursday as the soonest the counteroffensive to retake Mosul could be launched if it is to be attempted before fall.

The official from the U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in Iraq, heavily caveated the timing of the Mosul operation in his telephone Q&A with Pentagon reporters from Centcom headquarters in Tampa. “The mark on the wall that we are still shooting for is the April-May timeframe,” he said, implying the timing wasn’t new and wasn’t secret. Beyond that, he said more than once, the U.S. and its allies would delay the assault if the Iraqi forces are “not ready, if the conditions are not set, if all the equipment that they need is not physically there.”

The fact is, the U.S. has routinely telegraphed offensive operations before launching them. There was a flurry of stories detailing the “shock and awe” bombardment that would open the 2003 invasion of Iraq before it began. “If asked to go into conflict in Iraq, what you’d like to do is have it be a short conflict,” Air Force General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in response to a question from TIME at a breakfast two weeks before it started. “The best way to do that would be to have such a shock on the system that the Iraqi regime would have to assume early on the end was inevitable.”

The U.S. military also offered previews of coming destruction before the battle for Fallujah in Iraq in 2004, and in advance of the offensive against the Taliban in Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010.

Leaking word of such attacks in advance, Pentagon officials say, can convince enemy fighters to abandon the fight. But they concede it can also stiffen the backbone of others. Such a tactic can also encourage the non-ISIS population in Mosul to rebel against the occupiers.

So just how many Iraqi troops will retaking Mosul require? “We think it’s going to take in the range between 20,000 and 25,000,” the Central Command official said Thursday. He wasn’t risking the success of the eventual mission. He was simply echoing what McGurk told Congress more than two months ago.

TIME Ukraine

McCain ‘Ashamed’ of How U.S. Has Handled Ukraine Conflict

John McCain
Win McNamee—Getty Images Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on the conflict in Ukraine, Feb. 5, 2015 in Washington, DC.

"It is really, really heartbreaking"

Senator John McCain said in an interview Sunday that the United States and its allies haven’t done enough to stop the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, where government forces and Russia-backed separatists locked in battle claim a cease-fire agreement has been violated and remains fragile.

“I’m ashamed of my country, I’m ashamed of my President and I’m ashamed of myself that I haven’t done more to help these people,” he told CBS’ Face the Nation. “It is really, really heartbreaking.” The United Nations conservatively estimates more than 5,300 people have been killed in the war since April.

PHOTOS: Scenes From Eastern Ukraine Show Cease-Fire in Shreds

McCain is in the camp that thinks the U.S. should send lethal weapons to Ukraine’s military, but President Barack Obama hasn’t made a decision yet. “The Ukrainians aren’t asking for American boots on the ground; that’s not the question here,” he said. “They’re asking for weapons to defend themselves, and they are being slaughtered and their military is being shattered.” Ukrainian forces fought their way out of the strategic rail hub of Debaltseve last week, suffering a brutal and bloody defeat.

The Arizona senator also made a quick dig against German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande, who recently helped broker the cease-fire deal in Minsk. The two have “legitimized for the first time in 70 years the dismemberment of a country in Europe,” he said. McCain later added that Russian President Vladimir Putin “wants Ukraine not to be a part of Europe and he is succeeding at doing so.”

[CBS]

Read next: Ukraine’s Maidan Protests Anniversary Met With Bombs, Fresh Fighting

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