TIME Pakistan

Chaos in Peshawar as Taliban Slaughter Dozens in School Attack

Terrorists stormed a military school in Peshawar, Pakistan early Tuesday morning killing over 120 and injuring hundreds more. Many of the dead were children

TIME faith

Vatican Report Finds American Nuns are a Graying Workforce

US-RELIGION-POPE-MASS
Nuns pray during a mass in celebration of Pope Benedict XVI at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, Feb. 28, 2013. Emmanuel Dunand—AFP/Getty Images

Nuns express "great concern" about declining numbers, average age in mid-70s

American nuns have expressed “great concern” about their aging workforce, according to a Vatican survey released Tuesday that finds nuns in the U.S. are advancing in age and declining in number.

Vatican surveyors sent questionnaires and conducted “sister-to-sister” dialogues at 341 Catholic institutions across the United States. They found that nuns had reached an average age of mid-to-late 70’s, opening up an ever-widening age gap with fresh recruits. The report also noted that the total number of apostolic women, at 50,000, had declined by 125,000 since the the mid-1960s.

“Many sisters expressed great concern during the Apostolic Visitation for the continuation of their charism and mission, because of the numerical decline in their membership,” the Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Religious Women in the United States of America said.

The report also upended expectations that it would take a more critical stance of American nuns for a rising “secular mentality” and “a certain ‘feminist’ spirit,” as one Vatican official warned in 2009, Crux reports.

Instead, the report largely praised American nuns for their “dedicated and selfless service.”

 

TIME Pakistan

Malala Condemns the Killing of School Children in Peshawar

The 17-year old was herself shot by the Taliban on a school bus

Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year old schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban in 2011 for advocating the right of girls to an education and awarded the Noble Peace Prize this year, has given her response to Tuesday’s attack on the school in Peshawar in which more than 100 schoolchildren have been killed by the Taliban.

“I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us. Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this. I condemn these atrocious and cowardly acts and stand united with the government and armed forces of Pakistan whose efforts so far to address this horrific event are commendable. I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters – but we will never be defeated.”

Malala has left Pakistan and is now studying in Birmingham, England.

TIME russia

Russia’s Currency Keeps on Crashing

Russia's President Putin chairs a meeting with permanent members of the Security Council at the Kremlin in Moscow
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) chairs a meeting with permanent members of the Security Council at the Kremlin in Moscow, December 12, 2014. Michael Klimentyev—Ria Novosti/Reuters

Ruble falls another 8% early Tuesday despite emergency 6.5% percent rate hike, while contagion starts to spread

The rout in emerging markets continued Tuesday with Russia again to the fore, as an emergency interest rate hike by the central bank failed to stop panic selling of the local currency, stocks and bonds.

Selling across emerging markets has intensified and spread out this week as fears about tighter U.S. monetary policy, slowing global growth and country-specific problems in Russia and Ukraine have combined to create a storm which, if not perfect, is at least pretty adequate.

The Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee meets later this week and is expected by many to drop its commitment to keeping interest rates at their current low level “for an extended period of time,” as the U.S. economy gains strength. That will end a period of nearly six years of nearly free money for global capital markets, raising problems for those who have squandered it in the meantime.

By early afternoon in Moscow, the dollar had surged 8.6% to a new all-time high of 71.26 and the dollar-denominated RTS stock index had fallen 15% to its lowest level since March 2009, as investors ignored the central bank’s decision to raise its key refinancing rate to 17% from 10.5% as of midnight. The pace of selling had eased off by mid-morning, but picked up again as the U.S. woke up.

In a television interview, central bank governor Elvira Nabiullina said the ruble was now clearly undervalued, but stressed that Russian companies would be able to repay their foreign debts, one of the biggest concerns among market participants right now.

The ruble had risen by more than 9% initially in response to the central bank’s move, but quickly gave up all its gains as world oil prices–on which Russia depends for its budget–fell further in response to weak economic data from China. The benchmark price of crude fell to its lowest level since April 2009, trading as low as $54.34 a barrel, before rebounding later on more encouraging news out of the Eurozone.

“Oil prices clearly continue to hang like an enormous black cloud,” ADM ISI analyst Marc Ostwald wrote in a note to clients Tuesday, pointing to signs of contagion to other emerging markets.

Russia is only one of a number of oil-dependent emerging markets that have been hit hard by the drop in crude. Elsewhere, Venezuela’s bonds due 2027 fell over 8% Monday to less than 38 cents on the dollar, their lowest level since 1998. President Nicolas Maduro, who has largely continued the unorthodox economic policies of his predecessor Hugo Chavez, had said over the weekend he saw no need to cut subsidies on gasoline prices that many economists see as ruinous. He was also less than reassuring on the possibility of default, according toBloomberg News, saying that: “There is no possibility of default, unless we would decide to not pay anymore as part of an economic strategy for development.”

Dubai’s stock market also remained in freefall Tuesday, the DFM index falling another 7.3%. It’s now down nearly 20% in less than a week.

But the shock waves going through markets have affected more than just oil producers. Countries with high foreign debt, low reserves or weak current accounts are all being placed under a harsh spotlight–especially if their domestic politics is also generating bad news.

That’s certainly the case for Turkey, whose currency hit a new all-time low of 2.38 to the dollar Tuesday after falling 3% on Monday after police arrested dozens of opposition journalists in a crackdown on independent media at the weekend. Those arrested had been instrumental in exposing widespread government corruption over the last year.

“The Turkish authorities have a track record of using the broadly phrased anti-terrorism legislation, under which these arrests were made, to target political opponents and there is good reason to believe that is what is happening here,” Amnesty International said in a blog post.

In Asia, the Indonesian rupiah and Indian rupee continued to fall, along with their respective stock markets, despite the fact that both countries, as net importers of oil, should face less pressure on their current accounts.

ADM ISI’s Ostwald said recent moves had been exacerbated by the fact that financial regulation since the crisis had dried out liquidity in many markets, making them inherently more volatile. Many Wall Street and European banks have largely withdrawn from more exotic financial markets owing to higher capital requirements, while the increasing share of “passively” managed investment funds that use automated programs to update their portfolios has reinforced a tendency to herd behavior.

This article was originally published in Fortune.com

TIME Pakistan

At Least 141 Killed in Taliban Attack on School

Pakistani aircraft have launched retaliation attacks on the Taliban

At least 141 people have been killed, mostly school children, in a Taliban attack on a Pakistani school on Tuesday, according to a Pakistani military spokesman.

The attack began in the morning hours, with about half a dozen gunmen entering the school in Peshawar northwestern Pakistan and shooting at random, police officer Javed Khan told the Associated Press (AP). Army commandos quickly arrived at the scene and started exchanging fire with the gunmen, he said. Students wearing their green school uniforms could be seen on Pakistani television, fleeing the area.

The Pakistan army said they had secured the school after several hours of fighting and killed seven terrorists.

According to a statement from the office of the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province almost all of the dead are children under the age of 16. The Taliban has frequently targeted schools and the assault in Peshawar is the deadliest such attack in the country’s history.

For more than five hours special Pakistani troops fought the attackers and cleared parts of the school, say officials, as some students were still being held hostage. More than 100 others were taken to nearby hospitals to receive treatment for their injuries. Grief-stricken parents congregated at the school to see if their children survived the attack.

“My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now,” one parent, Tahir Ali told AP, as he came to the hospital to collect the body of his 14-year-old son Abdullah. “My son was my dream. My dream has been killed.”

One of the wounded students, Abdullah Jamal, told AP that he was with a group of eighth, ninth and 10th graders who were having a first-aid class when the violence began.

When the shooting started, Abdullah, who was shot in the leg, said nobody knew what was going on. “Then I saw children falling down who were crying and screaming. I also fell down. I learned later that I have got a bullet,” he said, speaking from his hospital bed.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Peshawar on Tuesday as his government declared three days of national mourning. On arrival, Sharif told reporters: “These are my children and it is my loss. We will continue our struggle to completely eradicate militancy.”

Taliban spokesman Mohammed Khurasani claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to media, saying that six suicide bombers had carried out the attack in revenge for the killings of Taliban members at the hands of Pakistani authorities.

The militants have long targeted schools in their campaigns of violence, most notably in the Swat Valley, where Malala Yousafzai, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for being an advocate for the education of girls.

Malala said she was heartbroken by news of the deaths of so many school children. “I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters, but we will never be defeated,” she said in a statement.

The school in Peshawar was run by the Pakistani army. At the time of the attack over 1,500 children – from grades 1 to 10 – were present. It has been a favored tactic of the militants to strike at a range of targets associated with the military, from mosques to factories and colleges.

The attack was motivated by revenge for the army’s ongoing military operation in North Waziristan against Taliban strongholds. An unnamed Taliban spokesman told Reuters: “We targeted the school because the army targets our families. We want them to feel our pain.”

North Waziristan is also home to several hundred foreign fighters from al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups. As the fighting was continuing at the school in Peshawar, there were reports on Pakistani TV that eyewitnesses to the attack heard some of the assailants speak in Arabic and central Asian languages, rather than local languages such as Pashto or Urdu.

Pakistani army officers said that bombers had struck more than 10 Taliban targets in the hours after the retaking of the school in retaliation for the attack.

Read next: Here’s What It Looked Like at the Scene of the Peshawar School Attack

TIME South Korea

Former Korean Air Exec Reported to Prosecutors Over ‘Nut Rage’

In this Friday, Dec. 12, 2014 photo, Cho Hyun-ah, who was head of cabin service at Korean Air and the oldest child of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, speaks to the media upon her arrival for questioning at the Aviation and Railway Accident Investigation Board office of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in Seoul, South Korea. Lee Jin-Man—AP

Heather Cho may have violated aviation safety law when she berated cabin crew and forced the delay of her flight

South Korea’s transport ministry will report to prosecutors the former Korean Air Lines executive who was so outraged by the way she was served nuts on a plane that she caused the flight to be delayed.

“As it has been confirmed that [Heather] Cho raised her voice and used abusive language as testified by some flight crew members and passengers, we will report her to the prosecution for potential violation of aviation safety law,” the ministry said in a statement Tuesday, Reuters reports.

The incident took place on Dec. 5 when Cho, the daughter of the airline’s chairman and previously head of its in-flight services, complained about being served macadamia nuts in a bag and not on a dish as the Korean Air plane was taxing away from the gate at John F. Kennedy airport in New York.

The jet was brought back to the gate to expel the cabin crew chief. He later said that Cho had jabbed his hand with a document folder, swore and pointed her finger at him while he kneeled to apologize.

Koreans have been angered after the airline issued an apology seemingly rationalizing Cho’s conduct by terming the cabin crew chief’s performance inadequate.

[Reuters]

TIME portfolio

TIME’s Best Portraits of 2014

TIME looks back on a year in portraiture

We know them as head of states, movie stars or athletes. They are forward-thinking, rebellious or controversial. They lead us or challenge us. Yet, behind their extraordinary auras and personalities, they are human beings like the rest of us.

This year, as TIME reinforced its legacy of strong visual storytelling, these newsmakers reveled in the flashes of the magazine’s photographers. From Marco Grob’s playful portrait of Seth Meyer to Yuri Kozyrev’s powerful – and exclusive – shoot with Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of the Pussy Riots, TIME’s commissioned photographers crisscrossed the world to meet with the world’s most influential personalities; culminating in an unprecedented four-country, 12-city photo shoot by Jackie Nickerson and Bryan Schutmaat with TIME’s Person of the Year – the Ebola Fighters.

 

TIME Australia

Stop Linking the Sydney Siege to Islam

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Visitors look at a makeshift memorial near the scene of the fatal siege in the heart of Sydney's financial district on Dec. 16, 2014. Sydneysiders including tearful office workers and Muslim women in hijabs laid flowers at the scene in an outpouring of grief and shock Peter Parks—AFP/Getty Images

The perpetrator was not a jihadist but a criminal described by his own lawyer as "damaged goods"

If the location of the Sydney siege — images of which flashed around the world for 16 hours before two hostages and a gunman were killed — appeared familiar, it’s because Martin Place is a popular international film set. Superman Returns and the Matrix trilogy were filmed in the pedestrianized, central Sydney precinct, lined with colonial-era buildings that are the headquarters of Australia’s largest financial institutions, law firms and broadcasters as well as high-end retailers like Brooks Brothers and the Lindt Chocolat Café, where the tragedy took place.

What is absolutely alien, on the other hand, is that nature of a man like the 50-year-old Iranian-born perpetrator, Man Haron Monis. There is no point in trying to place him, as some have attempted, in an overarching discourse of Islamist terrorism and history, because he was plainly not a terrorist but a mentally disturbed individual and serial sex offender. Neither is it helpful to describe this tragedy — as media mogul Rupert Murdoch did — as a “wake-up call” for the nation, because, from the Port Arthur massacre to the Bali bombings, Australia has had plenty of those already.

To be sure, Monis lost a final appeal in the High Court to overturn a conviction he had received for sending hate mail to the widows of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan. So much, so jihadist. But he was also a pervert (facing 40 charges of sexual assault) and accused of being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. That makes him more criminal than terrorist. As everyone now knows, he couldn’t even get his props right: the black flag he forced his hostages to hold in the window of the café was not the emblem of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) but a plain and simple shahada — a common Muslim inscription that says “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” Unable to furnish his own, Monis had to demand an ISIS flag from the authorities in exchange for a hostage. He never got it.

It’s true that Australia has been expecting a terrorist attack. Security assets have been high alert since September when ISIS called for members to seek retribution against Australia and other members of the coalition it is fighting in the Middle East. Clive Williams, professor at Macquarie University’s Department of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, also concedes that Monis’ deranged last stand “had some of the characteristics of a terror attack — it was religiously motivated, designed to terrorize and directed towards noncombatants.” But, he stresses, “the thing that was lacking was strategy. It was an irrational act of violence and it is not clear what he hoped to achieve.”

He adds: “It seems more of a reaction to the problems he was experiencing in the criminal justice system. The one thing that will probably come out of this that we need to look at how we manage people with mental-health issues.”

Williams sentiments were echoed by Keysar Trad, the founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia and voice for Sydney’s Lebanese Muslim community: “I am hoping that all Australians will see this for what it is: the actions of a madman.”

Australia’s long-suffering asylum seekers, thousands of whom remain cruelly holed up in indefinite detention in offshore detention centers in third-world backwaters, may be fearing some backlash. Monis arrived in Australian in 1996 as a political exile. Abdul Numan Haider, a teenage terrorist suspect who was shot dead in Melbourne in September after attacking two police officers with a knife, arrived in Australia as a refugee with his parents a decade ago.

The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), however, has refused to entertain suggestions that the Australian government will clamp down even harder on refugees. “I don’t think there is any point speculating,” an RCOA spokesperson tells TIME. “It’s not something we are talking about.”

Greg Barton of the Global Terrorism Research Centre also talks the idea down. “I don’t think it makes sense to relate this event to Australia’s migration policy, except to say that people coming from troubled backgrounds are vulnerable to further trouble themselves. We need to reach out to them more and engage with them rather than simply seizing their passports,” he says of the dozens of Australian Muslims who’ve had their travel documents seized over fears they intend to join the 150-odd Australian jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Monis may have sympathized with those fighters and he may have been inspired by them to a degree. But trying to make sense of a lunatic killer described by his own lawyer as “damaged goods” is an exercise in futility. He could just as easily have cloaked himself in the guise of any number of radical causes to help generate media coverage.

In that sense, Monis has not changed Australia forever but the opposite: he has brought out what was always there. Take a look at the #IllRideWithYou social-media hashtag, used to express solidarity with Australians Muslims fearing the scapegoating and bigotry that invariably follows events like this. In that gesture of support is the spontaneous generosity and the tolerance and the ready compassion that is forever Australian.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Minister: 84 Dead in Taliban Attack

Taliban Attack School Peshawar Pakistan
A Pakistani girl, who was injured in a Taliban attack in a school, is rushed to a hospital in Peshawar, on Dec. 16, 2014 Mohammad Sajjad—AP

Taliban stormed a military school and started shooting at random

(PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN) — A top Pakistani official says that 84 students have been killed in a Taliban attack on a military-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Pervez Khattak, the chief minister of the province where the attack is underway, says that roughly the same number of students have been wounded.

According to Khattak, the 84 killed in the Tuesday attack were all “children” but hospital officials earlier said at least one of the fatalities was a teacher and one security official were also among the dead.

Khattak says the fighting is still unfolding at the school.

The attack began in the morning hours, with the gunmen entering the school — which has students in grades 1-10 — and shooting at random, said police officer Javed Khan. Army commandos quickly arrived at the scene and exchanged fire with the gunmen, he said.

Outside the school, shooting was initially heard along with one loud bang of unknown origin. Details were sketchy in the unfolding situation and it was unclear what was going on inside and if there were any hostages among the students.

Pakistani television showed soldiers surrounding the area and pushing people back.

Jamil Shah, a spokesman for Lady Reading Hospital, said tt was not clear whether the soldier was already on the scene when the violence began or was part of the troops who arrived later. The spokesman said that 36 people were also wounded, including two teachers. The rest of the wounded were students, he said.

The Pakistani military said in a statement that a rescue operation was underway and that most of the students and the staff had been evacuated. The school is located on the edge of a military cantonment in Peshawar, but the bulk of the students are civilian.

Later, one of the wounded students, Abdullah Jamal, said that he was with a group of 8th, 9th and 10th graders who were getting first-aid instructions and training with a team of Pakistani army medics when the violence began for real.

When the shooting started, Jamal, who was shot in the leg, said nobody knew what was going on in the first few seconds.

“Then I saw children falling down who were crying and screaming. I also fell down. I learned later that I have got a bullet,” he said, speaking from his hospital bed.

“All the children had bullet wounds. All the children were bleeding,” Jamal added.

Taliban spokesman Mohammed Khurasani claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to media, saying that six suicide bombers had carried out the attack in revenge for the killings of Taliban members at the hands of Pakistani authorities.

Peshawar has been the target of frequent militant attacks in the past but has seen a relative lull recently.

TIME Germany

10,000 People Protest Against Islam in the German City of Dresden

Participants hold a banner during a demonstration called by anti-immigration group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida) in Dresden, Germany, on Dec. 15, 2014 Hannibal Hanschke—Reuters

Protesters demand immigration-policy overhaul, ruling politicians label them "Nazis in pinstripes"

A march against the “Islamization of the West” in the German city of Dresden attracted about 10,000 people on Monday.

Participants gathered under banners reading “Protect our homeland” and “No Shari‘a law in Europe,” but also the famous slogan “We are the people,” used during the demonstrations that led up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, reports the BBC.

“There’s freedom of assembly in Germany, but there’s no place for incitement and lies about people who come to us from other countries,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

“Everyone [who attends] needs to be careful that they are not taken advantage of by the people who organize such events.”

It is the ninth week in a row that a movement called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida) is organizing protests in the German state of Saxony, but Monday’s march is the biggest by far.

Frauke Petry, Dresden leader of the Pegida-sympathetic party Alternativ für Deutschland, said the march was “protesting against inadequate legislation on asylum rights.”

Germany accepts more asylum seekers than any other country, and immigration rates have surged because of the wars in Syria and Iraq. However, a mere 2% of Saxony’s population is foreign, and only a fraction of them Muslim, the New York Times points out.

Considering the country’s troubled past with extreme right-wing politics, the protests have shocked many Germans. Justice Minister Heiko Maas has called them “a disgrace” and the Social Democrats, part of the ruling coalition, have branded them “Nazis in pinstripes.”

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