TIME North Korea

Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk Draws Ire Despite Lack of Any Better Ideas

Remember, the status quo sure ain't working

There’s a lot written about North Korea: reports on the country’s nuclear program, speculation about its leadership, and gossip about its dictator’s hair, height and weight. But parse the streams of text the country generates each week and you’ll notice a word conspicuously missing: peace.

Though the 1950–53 Korean War ended without a treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula divided, the question of peace has faded from view. Exasperated by Pyongyang’s intransigence on nuclear issues, tired of its propagandists’ vitriol, the international community has, for the most part, disengaged. Young South Koreans are less and less interested in their hermit neighbor. The U.S. is all about isolation — and sanctions galore.

The deepening standoff is what inspired a group of 30 female activists, including feminist icon Gloria Steinem, to plan a walk for peace at the border. The plan is to set out on May 24 across the demilitarized zone, or DMZ (which, despite its name, is among the most militarized places on earth). They will walk from the north side to the south, they hope, a gesture meant to break the standoff — symbolically at least.

There are still questions as to whether the women will make it through. They say they’ve been granted permission from authorities on both sides to walk across on May 24, although they are not sure which crossing they will use. They told Reuters that they had yet to hear back from U.N. Command, which runs the Panmunjom crossing. (There are two others.)

While in North Korea, the group’s itinerary includes meeting North Korean women and touring a maternity ward and a factory. The point is to be present, listen and engage, Steinem told the Washington Post in a pre-departure interview. “There is no substitute for putting your bodies where your concerns are,” she said.

Not everybody agrees. In a Post editorial headlined “Empty Marching in North Korea,” Abraham Cooper of Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Greg Scarlatoiu of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, blast Steinem and her colleagues for giving North Korea a chance to engage in “human rights theater intended to cover up its death camps and crimes against humanity.”

Responding to an item in TIME about the march, North Korean exile Shin Dong-hyuk (more on him here) also blasted the women for “smiling” at Kim Jong Un’s “evil” face. “How can they so easily find the ability to be comfortable with smiles on their faces to this dictator when so many are suffering at his hands?” we writes on his Facebook page. He wonders, he says, “if these people know the meaning of peace.”

While Cooper, Scarlatoiu and Shin are right to put the spotlight on North Korea’s appalling rights record, it’s quite the leap to say these veteran activists are ignoring it. “We have no illusions that our walk can basically erase the conflict that has endured for seven decades,” Christine Ahn, the Korean-American coordinator, told the press.

The group is pushing for empathy — not for the regime but for those suffering under it. They want to make us care about North Korea by showing us that North Koreans are people, not Hollywood caricatures. Yes, Kim Jong Un could spin this as good press. But surely outside observers will realize that a visit by peace campaigners is not an endorsement of his death camps.

The world needs to stand up to North Korea. Its record on human rights is appalling, its leader cruel. But the current strategy — isolation, condemnation and mockery — is not working. As such, it’s hard to condemn a walk for peace.

TIME Colombia

A Baby Survived the Colombia Landslide That Killed 12 Members of His Family

A soldier shovels mud from a house damaged by a mudslide in Salgar, in Colombia's northwestern state of Antioquia, May 19, 2015.
Luis Benavides—Associated Press A soldier shovels mud from a house damaged by a mudslide in Salgar, in Colombia's northwestern state of Antioquia, May 19, 2015.

He was found alive in the mud more than a mile from his home

An 11-month-old baby has survived a huge mudslide in Colombia that killed at least 78 people.

The child’s mother and at least 11 other relatives perished when a flash flood swept through the town of Salgar in northwest Antioquia province Monday, destroying dozens of homes, reports the Associated Press.

Rescuers found Jhosep Diaz lying facedown in the mud more than a mile from his home. Doctors say the infant was cold and hypothermic but believe he survived because he was sleeping in a padded crib when he was swept away.

“He was unconscious and didn’t open his little eyes but was breathing,” Dr. Jesus Antonio Guisao told AP on Wednesday.

The mudslide was the country’s worst natural disaster since the earthquake of 1999 that killed about 1,000 people.

According to the Red Cross, between 50 and 80 people are believed missing, but authorities say there is no chance of finding any more survivors.

The boy’s grandfather Alvaro Hernandez is expected to gain custody. “My grandson’s survival is a miracle,” he said.

[AP]

TIME Asia

U.S. Is Willing to Take in Rohingya Boat People

Rescued migrants rest as they are given food and drink upon arrival in Simpang Tiga, Aceh province, Indonesia
Binsar Bakkara—AP Rescued migrants rest as they are given food and drink upon arrival in Simpang Tiga, Aceh province, Indonesia, on May 20, 2015.

Since Oct. 1, the U.S. has resettled more than 1,000 Rohingya

(WASHINGTON) — The United States is willing to take in Rohingya refugees as part of international efforts to cope with Southeast Asia’s stranded boat people, the State Department said Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the U.S. is prepared to take a leading role in any multicountry effort, organized by the United Nations refugee agency, to resettle the most vulnerable refugees.

In the past three weeks, more than 3,000 people — Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshis trying to escape poverty — have landed in overcrowded boats on the shores of various Southeast Asian countries. Aid groups say thousands more are stranded at sea after human smugglers abandoned their boats because of a crackdown by authorities.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have been reluctant to let the Rohingya in and have turned boats full of hungry, thirsty people away, because they fear a flood of unwanted migrants. But on Wednesday, they relented.

Harf welcomed the governments’ decision “to uphold their responsibilities under international law and provide humanitarian assistance and shelter to 7,000 vulnerable migrants.” The U.S. would consider requests from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and International Organization for Migration for funds to help receive and screen refugees as they come to shore.

Harf said that since Oct. 1, the U.S. has resettled more than 1,000 Rohingya.

“I think the Malaysians and the Indonesians have requested some help resettling people. We’re taking a careful look at the proposal,” Harf told reporters in Washington. “It has to be a multicountry effort. We obviously can’t take this all on ourselves. But we are prepared to play a leading role in this effort.”

Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will visit Myanmar on Thursday and urge it to cooperate with Bangladesh to help migrants who are adrift. Harf said he would call for Myanmar to improve conditions inside the country for Rohingya.

“The only sustainable solution to the problem is changing the conditions that let them put their lives at risk at the first place,” Blinken, the second-ranking U.S. diplomat, told reporters in Indonesia.

At least 120,000 minority Muslim Rohingya have fled sectarian violence and apartheid-like conditions in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar in the past three years. Myanmar officials refer to the group as “Bengalis” and insist they have immigrated illegally from Bangladesh, even though most have lived in the country for generations.

TIME Ireland

What to Know About Ireland’s Historic Referendum on Gay Marriage

Opinion polls suggest Ireland will become the first country to pass a gay-marriage amendment by referendum

Ireland is on the verge of becoming the first country in the world to support gay marriage by a popular vote when it holds a referendum on Friday. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the law now?
Gay couples have been able to be united in a civil ceremony, which is not the same as marriage, since 2011. Homosexuality was only decriminalized in 1993.

What will the people of Ireland vote for on Friday?
Voters will be asked to approve this addition to the Irish constitution: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

A Yes vote will endorse the Marriage Equality Bill 2015, which was passed by Irish lawmakers in March.

What do opinion polls suggest the result will be?
A survey of opinion polls by the Irish broadcaster RTE found that all polls suggested a victory for Yes, with predictions ranging from 53% to 69% in favor of the change. However the polls also suggested that the number of people moving from a Yes to a No position was increasing.

As pollsters appeared to get the recent U.K. election so wrong, no one is sure what the result could be.

But isn’t Ireland a socially conservative Catholic country that is beholden to the Catholic Church?
Attitudes have changed immensely in the past 30 years. The authority of the Catholic Church has been undermined by a litany of scandals from the abuse of children by priests to abusive regimes at church-run institutions such as schools and homes. The church wants to see a No vote, but an institution that protected abusive priests for decades no longer has the moral force it once had.

What does the Irish government think?
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and former Irish President Mary McAleese have called for a Yes vote. The current President Michael Higgins as head of state is not expected to offer an opinion on political matters.

Does this vote affect Northern Ireland as well as the Republic of Ireland?
This vote only affects the Republic of Ireland. Gay marriage is legal in the U.K., except in Northern Ireland.

Who is against the gay-marriage amendment?
The Catholic Church is opposed to the amendment, and letters from bishops were read to congregations all over Ireland on Sunday. The church is supported by some conservative politicians and some polls suggest popular opposition to the amendment could be as high as 30%.

What do Irish celebrities think?
Very few people who are well known outside of Ireland have said they will vote No. The actor Colin Farrell has said he supports a Yes vote, as has actor Chris O’Dowd.

Singers Hozier and Glen Hansard, who wrote and starred in the film and Broadway musical Once, are also in the Yes camp.

But one of the most important supporters of a Yes campaign is Daniel O’Donnell, Ireland’s leading country and western singer, who is very popular in rural areas and among church-going women.

But what does Bono think?
Speaking in Vancouver, before the start of U2’s tour, he said he supported a Yes vote although he will not be voting:

“You can’t own it. Marriage is now an idea that transcends religion. It is owned by the people. They can decide. It is not a religious institution. As far as I know, Jesus wasn’t a married man and neither are most priests talking about it. It is not a religious idea.”

Correction: This article was amended on May 21 to show that Mary McAleese is the former Irish President and that gay marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland.

TIME Pakistan

8 Surprising Titles Found on Osama Bin Laden’s Bookshelf

Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky

From Popular Science to a popular guide to Islam

It’s hard to imagine the mastermind of 9/11 cozying up to an issue of Popular Science magazine, but apparently the American monthly magazine was one of many publications on Osama bin Laden’s reading list. On Wednesday, the federal government revealed a list of books and magazines found in bid Laden’s home in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Here are eight of the most surprising:

1. Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky
America’s consummate liberal thinker takes on propaganda in democracies.

2. Oxford History of Modern War by Charles Townsend
Everything you wanted to know about war since the 14th century.

3. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy
A comprehensive study of the ups and downs of global power since 1500.

4. Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward
An inside look at President Obama’s wartime decision making.

5. A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam by I. A. Ibrahim
Published in 1999, the book is meant for non-Muslims.

6. New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin
A favorite of conspiracy theorists, New Pearl Harbor argues that the Bush administration allowed the 9/11 attacks to further its interests. It’s interesting to imagine what bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind, thought about conspiracy theorists who argue the U.S. government, and not al-Qaeda was to blame for the attacks.

7. Popular Science magazine
Bid Laden owned an issue on innovations.

8. Delta Force: Xtreme 2 video game guide
The government release notes that this book probably wasn’t used by bin Laden himself. Still, someone in the compound was apparently a gamer.

Also found alongside the books was a document that appears to be an application to join al-Qaeda, asking questions including whether the applicant would be willing to do a suicide mission and whom al-Qaeda should contact if the applicant became a martyr.

TIME senegal

A Fighting Chance: Wrestling Out of Poverty in Senegal

The stakes are high, as the winnings can lift many fighters out of poverty

In Senegal, with record high 48% unemployment in 2014, winning a wrestling fight can be a ticket out of poverty for some.

Traditional West African lutte, or lamb wrestling, has become an integral part of the Senegalese culture in the last couple of decades. Lutte dates back to the 14th century and is a no-holds-barred wrestling match, where two fighters compete to knock each other out of the ring, or onto the ground. The matches can last anywhere between 30 seconds and 30 minutes and are rooted in historic folklore and mystic practices.

Competitors can earn hundreds to thousands of dollars in endorsements. The sport’s popularity has grown significantly, and has entered the realm of corporate sponsorship.

“These days, lutte creates a lot of employment in our country,” lutte fighter Maodo Dione, known as Gris 2 by his fans, said. “For us, it’s our ticket out of poverty.”

Fighters represent different neighborhoods of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and the pressure to deliver victory to their fans is tremendous, said Dione.

TIME Pakistan

Here’s What Osama Bin Laden Was Reading Before His Death

Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars
Simon & Schuster Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars

Bin Laden had a large collection of U.S.-focused books, from Bob Woodward's Obama’s Wars to Oxford's History of Modern War

Isolated in a secret compound in Pakistan for years, Osama bin Laden was largely disconnected from the realities of the world around him. A list of materials found in his compound released Wednesday by the U.S. government suggests that he learned about the outside world, at least in part, through a trove of English-language documents.

From Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars to Oxford’s History of Modern War, bin Laden seemed intent on keeping up with the West’s understanding of war, diplomacy and foreign policy. Other titles include Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky, Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower by William Blum.

Bin Laden also collected an array of articles from American news outlets. Some, like a story about al-Qaeda in the Los Angeles Times and copies of Foreign Policy, make sense. But it’s a little less clear why he kept others, like a TIME article about AOL stock.

Letters between members of the bin Laden family and al-Qaeda affiliates were also included in the release.

The office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the list of documents, said it would review hundreds more papers for possible release in the near future. “All documents whose publication will not hurt ongoing operations against al-Qa‘ida or their affiliates will be released,” said office spokesperson Jeffrey Anchukaitis in a statement.

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Anti-Littering Campaign Uses DNA From Trash to Shame People

Hong Kong produces more than 6.5 million tons of trash each year

A Hong Kong environmental group has turned to public shaming to end the city’s litter problem. The Hong Kong Cleanup Initiative used DNA collected from discarded cigarette butts, gum and condoms to create renderings of the faces of people who left their trash, the South China Morning Post reported.

The Face of Litter campaign, which launched on Earth Day, has created 27 facial composites of litterers and splashed them across billboards around the city. The samples came from a six-week challenge in which teams collected more than 4,000 tons of litter from streets. Advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather came up with the idea to shame litterers and enlisted a laboratory to analyze samples. The company says that the DNA samples provide enough information to accurately predict ethnicity as well as eye, hair and skin color.

Hong Kong produces more than 6.5 million tons of trash each year, much of which ends up on the streets and coastlines, according to the initiative.

[Morning Post]

TIME Bermuda

Experts Inspect Cruise Ship That Got Stuck on Reef Near Bermuda

The cruise liner 'Norwegian Dawn' was stranded off the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda after it lost power and ran aground on May 19, 2015.
NCL/EPA The cruise liner 'Norwegian Dawn' was stranded off the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda after it lost power and ran aground on May 19, 2015.

"There was a sudden stop," one passenger said

(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico)—Nearly 3,500 passengers and crew were allowed to disembark Wednesday in Bermuda after their cruise ship became grounded on a reef close to the British island as it tried to depart for Boston.

Norwegian Cruise Line said a team of experts was inspecting the ship that was stuck for nearly 6½ hours late Tuesday before a rising tide helped push it into deeper water.

“The ship is fully operational and guests are enjoying all onboard amenities and services,” a company statement said.

The ship ran aground as it departed Bermuda after a temporary malfunction in the steering system forced it slightly off course, the company said. The ship has 2,443 passengers and 1,059 crew members.

Passenger Rachel Hansen, from Londonderry, New Hampshire, said the ship was about three miles from Bermuda when it ran aground.

“We definitely felt it,” she told The Associated Press by telephone. “We were in the middle of eating dinner … There was a shudder for maybe 30 seconds to a minute and then there was a sudden stop.”

Hansen said she and her family gathered essential belongings and joined other people who went to the top of the ship to see what had happened. As the hours went by, she said passengers settled into their evening routine and the ship still held entertainment shows as planned.

The Norwegian Dawn was on a seven-day, round-trip cruise to Bermuda, where it spent three days in port.

The situation raised concern among those scheduled to travel from Boston to Bermuda aboard the Norwegian Dawn on Friday, including Nicole Boucher of Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

She said she had plans to travel with her mother and young daughter to celebrate their birthdays, but Norwegian cruise officials told her they didn’t know yet if the ship will available.

“It was a girls’ trip,” she said. “My mom actually let me know through Facebook and said, ‘Oh, this is our luck.'”

TIME finance

Top Banks Fined $2.5 Billion Over Currency Manipulation

(WASHINGTON) — Four big banks will pay $2.5 billion in fines and plead guilty to criminally manipulating global currency market going back to 2007.

JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Barclays and The Royal Bank of Scotland conspired with one another to fix rates on U.S. dollars and euros traded in the huge global market for currencies, according to a settlement announced Wednesday between the banks and U.S. Justice Department. Currency traders allegedly shared customer orders through chat rooms and used that information to profit ahead of their clients.

The criminal behavior took place between December 2007 and January 2013, according to the agreement.

A separate bank, UBS, has agreed to plead guilty to manipulating key interest rates and will pay a separate $203 million criminal penalty.

The broader settlement was long expected. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission had fined those banks a combined $1.4 billion for their involvement in the scheme last year.

Big banks have been fined billions of dollars for their role in the housing bubble and subsequent financial crisis. But even so, the latest penalties are big. Including a separate agreement with the Federal Reserve announced Wednesday, the banks will have paid nearly $9 billion in fines and penalties for their manipulation of the $5.3 trillion foreign exchange market.

Unlike the stock and bond markets, currencies trade nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The market pauses two times a day, a moment known as “the fix.” Traders allegedly shared client orders with rivals ahead of the “fix”, pumping up currency rates to make profits.

Global companies, who do business in multiple currencies, rely on their banks to give them the closest thing to an official exchange rate each day. Banks are supposed to be looking out for their clients instead of using their clients’ needs to profit ahead of them.

It is rare to see a bank plead guilty to any wrongdoing. Even in the aftermath of the financial crisis, most reached what were known as “non-prosecution agreements” or “deferred prosecution agreements” with regulators, agreeing to pay billions in fines but not admit any guilt. If any guilt was found, it was usually one of the bank’s subsidiaries or divisions — not the bank holding company itself.

One of the most notable banks to plead guilty to any criminal wrongdoing was investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert, which plead guilty to fraud in the 1980s following the implosion of the junk bond bubble.

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