TIME Israel

The Immigrant Soldiers Dying for Israel in Gaza

The parents of Sergeant Max Steinberg grieve at his coffin during his funeral on July 23, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel.
The parents of Sergeant Max Steinberg grieve at his coffin during his funeral on July 23, 2014 in Jerusalem. Ilia Yefimovich—Getty Images

Young Jews come from across the U.S. and Europe to serve as 'lone soldiers' for the Israel Defense Forces

Max Steinberg was from Los Angeles. Nissim Sean Carmeli was from South Padre Island, Texas. Jordan Bensemhoun came to Israel on his own from Lyon, France.

Each of the young men left his country of origin to join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and each was killed in action this weekend in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is more than two weeks into Operation Protective Edge, a military campaign against the Palestinian militant group Hamas. That campaign incorporated a ground invasion as of Thursday night that Israeli leaders say is helping to destroy Hamas’ ability to fire rockets – some 2,160 of which have been fired toward Israel since the latest round of hostilities began July 7 – as well as a network of tunnels that burrow deep into Israeli territory, allowing militants to attack. However effective that strategy might be, it exposes Israel’s soldiers to a higher risk of injury and death than bombardment from afar. The campaign has so far left 29 Israeli soldiers dead, as well as some 650 Palestinians.

Sgt. Steinberg, 24, was buried Wednesday in a funeral in Jerusalem that attracted some 30,000 mourners, including his parents, who are taking their first trip to Israel to bury their son. He was what people in the organized American-Jewish community would consider an Israel success story. He came to Israel with his sister in 2012 on Birthright, a program which brings loosely affiliated Jews from around the world – the U.S. and Europe in particular – on a free 10-day trip to Israel. By the end of the program, he was smitten. After a short time back in the U.S., he decided to join the IDF, and lobbied his superiors to be placed in a combat unit. One of the good friends he met along the way was England-born Josh Grant, who like Steinberg, came here as what Israelis refer to as a “hayal boded,” or lone soldier.

“He was a jobnik for a few months,” says Grant, using the slightly derogatory Israeli slang for someone who has a desk job in the army, “but all he wanted to do was combat. They said no way, but he convinced them.” Grant, who moved to Israel on his own from the city of Birmingham in England shortly after high school, went through intensive Hebrew-language classes with Steinberg as well as a basic training program for soldiers who may not be native Israelis but still want to serve.

Steinberg had to have back surgery this year that forced him to take a few months off from his service, and he was behind the curve of many of his cohort when he came back. While others finished their service in June, he had been due to finish in November. Many of his closest army buddies returned to their home countries weeks ago and “felt guilty,” as one of them put it, for not being around for their fallen comrade. Steinberg himself planned to go back to the U.S. after he finished his service (a fact confirmed by Steinberg’s family) and didn’t have a long-term plan to move to Israel permanently.

“Just before the war started, we were out for the night, celebrating another friend who had finished,” Grant, who as an active combat engineer was not authorized to discuss his opinions about the war in Gaza, told TIME. “I can’t quite believe he’s gone. To lose a friend like Max is heartbreaking. But he didn’t have a boring life, he’s done something worthwhile.”

That desire to do something meaningful, it seems, is part of what motivates thousands of young Jewish people to come to Israel every year and volunteer for the army, many in the context of immigrating and trying to integrate into Israeli society. There are currently 5,100 immigrants from other countries who are serving in the IDF, says Oded Forer, the director general of Israel’s Ministry of Absorption. These soldiers get a small additional monthly stipend and other benefits, Forer tells TIME, to show they are valued and to help them survive without family support.

“We escort them towards their recruitment and help them afterwards,” Forer says, noting that his ministry dedicates 17 million shekels – close to $5 million – for that purpose every year. “We are an immigrant state at the end of the day, so naturally there will be situations like this. Everyone who is part of the people of Israel carries the burden of defending the country, and this has been part of the ethos since the founding of the state.”

Some 30 years ago, for example, Mike Meyerheim left New Jersey to come to Israel and serve in the IDF. His war was the one in Lebanon, starting with Israel’s invasion in 1982. Today he is the director of the Lone Soldier Center, which provides support to up to 6,000 soldiers, numbering among them immigrants and native-born Israelis with no family to rely on. In the past few weeks, they’ve been visiting soldiers on the Gaza border and providing them with things as mundane as clean socks, underwear and additional food. The Israeli army operates so close to home that many soldiers come back each weekend with a bag of laundry, expecting Mom to do it.

“We take care of people year round with the hope we don’t go to war, but when we’re in the situation that we’re in today, we do everything we can to make sure they’re safe and in good spirits,” Meyerheim told TIME.

One of the Lone Soldier Center’s volunteers, Nissim Slama, came to Israel 10 years ago from France, and found himself serving in what is referred to here as the Second Lebanon War, when Israel and Hizbollah went to war with each other in 2006. “The lone soldiers are paying a high price in Gaza for their motivation and dedication,” said Slama, who was on his way Tuesday to the funeral of Jordan Bensemhoun, the dual French-Israeli citizen, in the city of Ashkelon. “They come from abroad and want to defend Israel and ensure the state’s survival…but it’s always a harder life for them, being here without the usual level of family support.”

Bensemhoun came to Israel as a high school student and stayed on, leaving behind his family in southeastern France. He was recruited two years ago, and in February, posted a picture of his uniformed self on Facebook showing his wings and arm-patch of the elite Golani Brigades he had been inducted into, with the optimistic message: “I’ll be back in a few months!”

TIME China

Think Your Flight Delays Are Bad? Try China, Where the Military Hogs Most of the Skies

Airplanes At The Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Air China aircraft stand parked at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, China, on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Even in this era of jam-packed commercial air travel, the armed forces still control most of China’s airspace

Last week, I flew in and out of Shanghai over two days. Both flights idled on the tarmac for more than one hour. I felt rather lucky.

Airport delays are such a constant in China that a mere one-hour wait is practically a gift from the aviation gods. International flight monitors put Chinese cities at the bottom of a list of on-time takeoffs at major airports worldwide. On July 21, nearly 200 flights leaving from Shanghai’s two airports, Pudong and Hongqiao, were cancelled. Around 120 more planes were delayed from takeoff by two or more hours.

The same day, a notice attributed by state media to the Civil Aviation Administration of China warned that a dozen airports in eastern Chinese metropolises would suffer even more serious delays through August 15. The reason? An unnamed “other user” would be hogging the skies. That aerial monopolist is thought to be the Chinese military, which even in this era of jam-packed commercial air travel still controls most of China’s airspace. On July 23, the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, tweeted a picture of dejected looking passengers camped out on the floor of the airport in Dalian, a port city in northeastern China. The cause, according to the paper, was mass cancellations stemming from “planned military activity.”

On Monday, Jiao Xuening, a resident from the southern city of Shenzhen, described on his Chinese social-media account how he had been stranded at a Shanghai airport for almost six hours. “At first I was disgruntled,” he wrote. But then he listened to a stream of flight cancellations over the loudspeaker. “I was told my flight was merely four hours delayed and was not cancelled, so I became happy again.”

On July 22, the Shanghai Daily, the state-controlled newspaper in China’s most populous city noted that Pudong airport’s outbound on-time rate had nosedived to 26% the day before. “Shanghai’s air traffic control authority has refused to explain” the Shanghai Daily complained of the delays. “With the authority remaining tight-lipped about the reasons behind this, speculation has been rife on the Internet.”

Such conjecture, though, can be dangerous. Earlier this month, some people had speculated online that a dragnet around a “high-ranking official” had perhaps prompted the grounding of planes in Shanghai. The Chinese authorities didn’t take kindly to such gossip; nearly 40 “rumor-mongers” were detained or “held” for wondering online about the flight cancellations, according to the Shanghai Daily.

The chronic flight delays are a huge hassle. But the opacity surrounding their circumstances also speaks to the inefficiencies of doing business in China. In the first half of 2014, non-financial foreign direct investment in China dipped, compared to the same period the year before. Government paranoia about social instability is such that Facebook, Google and Twitter are inaccessible within mainland China. Major foreign news websites are also blocked by censors. Basic things overseas businessmen expect to do can’t be done.

Then there’s the suffocating air pollution, which has dissuaded some expatriates from traveling to China, much less living here. Now, with the routine airport delays, it’s no longer practical to, say, fly from Hong Kong to Shanghai in the morning, attend a few meetings and then return to Hong Kong by the evening. A Beijing-Shanghai-Beijing run makes more sense by the punctual high-speed train service. But that still means committing around 10 hours to traveling the rails.

In the meantime, customer-service representatives for Chinese airlines are trying to cope as best they can. Political sensitivities are such that the carriers cannot complain about the Chinese air force’s monopoly of the skies. Employees for Air China and China Southern said they were only informed about the continuing air congestion the day after the latest round of delays began on July 21. Air China says it will send text messages to passengers’ cellphones to update them on the latest scheduling. “Most of our customers understand the situation,” said an Air China customer-service staffer in a somewhat beleaguered tone. To cope with the long waits in airports notorious for meager services, the statement attributed to the Civil Aviation Administration of China dispensed further advice: “Flight passengers please bring with you food and water.”

with reporting by Gu Yongqiang/Beijing

TIME Israel

Kerry Lands in Israel in Attempt to Broker Ceasefire

Mideast Israel Palestinians
Relatives mourn Palestinian Mohammad al-Hamaydeh during his funeral in Gaza Strip on July 22, 2014 Eyad Baba—AP

As latest death toll from the offensive rose to 650 Palestinian dead, and 30 Israeli

Updated 7:12am

Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Tel Aviv Wednesday to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as the Israeli offensive into the Palestinian coastal strip entered its third week.

Kerry hopes to broker a deal for what the U.N. described as an “immediate cessation of hostilities” in the escalating war in Gaza. The bloodshed showed little sign of abating throughout Tuesday evening. The Israel Defense Forces reported 30 “terrorists” had been killed in the past 24 hours, while Hamas fired barrages of rockets back into Israel.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 650 Palestinian fatalities, of which 77% were civilians, according to the latest figures from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). At least 30 Israelis have been killed during the conflict, the majority of which are soldiers. Two Israeli soldiers were killed during Tuesday evening’s operations. An additional 135,000 Palestinians are currently displaced across the Gaza Strip.

The U.N.’s humanitarian chief came close to accusing Israel of perpetrating war crimes by taking insufficient care to avoid killing civilians. “There seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” said Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Analysts say the IDF’s continued onslaught targeting Hamas is unlikely to alter Gazans’ feelings toward the Islamist organization.

“Every time Israel engages in an over-the-top reaction to assaults by Hamas, the more the people in Gaza rally around Hamas and become more sympathetic to it,” Lina Khatib, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, tells TIME. “When civilians are attacked by Israel, the sense of resentment amongst the population in Gaza grows and Hamas can capitalize on the sense of grievance.”

Despite the acceleration of diplomatic initiatives across the region, the conflict showed little sign of ebbing as of Wednesday.

Israel continues to support a cease-fire proposal tabled by Cairo earlier this month, but Hamas has refused to accept a truce until the crippling, seven-year blockade on the Strip is lifted.

In Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s position to Ban Ki-moon and chided Hamas’ refusal to sign an agreement. “In the face of such wanton terrorism, no country could sit idly by,” said Netanyahu. “We did not seek this escalation, Mr. Secretary.”

Ban, who has been traveling across the Middle East for three days attempting to rally support for an armistice, remained unequivocal in his stance.

“My message to Palestinians and Israelis is the same: stop fighting, start talking and take on the root causes of the conflict so we are not back to the same situation in another six months or a year,” he said. “I urge you to demonstrate fortitude by exercising maximum restraint. Recovery and reconstruction are more needed than ever.”

TIME Australia

Whale Collisions Spark Calls for Ship Speed Limits in Australia

A humpback whale breaches the surface by propelling most of its body from the sea in Hervey  Bay
A humpback whale breaches the surface off the East Coast of Australia on Aug. 7, 2006 Russell Boyce—Reuters

Instances of gruesome whale collisions have prompted a conversation about whether to impose speed limits for ships along Australia's coast

Right now, some 20,000 humpback whales are enjoying the warm waters of Australia’s East Coast, where they migrate every year during Antarctica’s winter to feed, breed and calve. They are the product of a wildly successful conservation program launched in 1979 that brought the humpback from the brink of extinction following decades of industrial slaughter.

The species’ recovery has also given birth to a thriving whale-watching industry that generates some $300 million and attracts 1.6 million people per year. From the beaches of Sydney, where surfers rub shoulders with the 30-ton mammals, to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, where a rare albino humpback called Migaloo was last seen, the whales are a symbol of Australia’s love for the ocean and how far it has come from the cruel, unsustainable ways of its past.

But the humpback’s stellar comeback has also led to increasingly frequent “whale strikes” — collisions with ships that cause gruesome propeller lacerations and even sever spines. It is part of a global phenomenon seen from such places as Sri Lanka, the Mediterranean and the U.S. Atlantic coast, where overlap between busy shipping lanes and whale habitats has left trails of mutilation.

In early May, a Norwegian cruise liner unknowingly dragged a dead sei whale, which had become caught on its bulbous bow, into the Hudson River. Three days later, another sei was found attached to a container ship docking near Philadelphia. In June, a humpback known as Max that had been visiting Alaska’s Glacier Bay for 39 years was found floating dead in the ocean with its jawbone nearly cut off. The discovery became the subject of a investigation by Alaskan wildlife officials to identify the ship that killed Max — a near impossible task given that most whale strikes by large ships go unreported or unnoticed. Cambridge-based International Whaling Commission, the world authority on the subject, has struggled to quantify the problem. It can’t provide any kind of accurate numbers but nevertheless holds that for some whale species and populations, strikes “may make the difference between extinction and survival.”

Whale strikes don’t currently pose a tangible risk to humpback populations in Australia. But a controversial government decision to expand a series of coal ports along the coast of the Great Barrier Reef — the humpback’s most important East Coast calving ground — is projected to massively increase sea traffic over the reef. And that will spell carnage for humpbacks, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which is calling for the introduction of 10-knot speed limits for large ships in two key humpback habitats near two of the largest ports.

“From our organization’s point of view, the killing of even one whale is an issue,” says IFAW campaign manager Sharon Livermore.“But from the evidence we do have of whales that have been found dead or stranded, we know the number of reported strikes represents a small number of the actual number being injured or killed.”

“Calls for speed limits are very much warranted,” adds Joshua Smith of the Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit. “We know humpbacks are already in conflict with shipping, and if you do the maths with these new megaports, you can see the problem is going to get much worse. A national whale-strike strategy is a sound precautionary principle.”

IFAW points to a similar initiative off the coast of the Georgia-Florida border, where 10-knot speed limits on large ships were introduced in 2008 to prevent collisions with critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. Thirteen rights were killed as a result of strikes in the 18-month period before the speed limit went into effect, compared to zero fatalities reported in the six years that have passed since. And in New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf, the Port of Auckland has introduced voluntary speed restrictions to protect critically endangered Bryde’s whales after scientists estimated a 10-knot speed limit would reduce strike fatalities by 75%.

But Sheila Peake, a lecturer in ecotourism and environmental science at the University of the Sunshine Coast, says not enough is known about the humpback’s migratory routes in Australia to make speed restrictions effective.

“You can’t just say if we introduce speed limits for ships in one or two areas we will reduce whale strikes,” Peake says. “Not enough is known about the areas whales pass through to get there from Antarctica. And if you lay speed limits across the whole East Coast, it will have quite an impact on other industries and recreational fishing.”

Simon Meyjes, CEO of Australian Reef Pilot, a company that’s been guiding large ships through the Great Barrier Reef for more than a century, says 10-knot speed limits in front of coal ports will have next to no impact on reducing whale strikes because coal carriers steam at maximum speeds of 10 to 12 knots.

“I would say these slow ships account for two-thirds of the traffic on the Great Barrier Reef. The other third are faster container ships, livestock carriers and passenger ships that steam at 17 to 19 knots. They can’t be operated for long periods of time at 10 knots as the speed falls within those ship’s critical vibration range. It would risk major damage to their equipment and make it difficult to keep our supermarket shelves stocked.”

Meyjes also questions IFAW estimates that the number of ships passing through the Great Barrier Reef will almost double by 2020. “Shipping increases only as fast as the overall economy grows, so all these stories about huge increases are simply misguided,” he says. “In the last 10 years, traffic on the reef has increased an average of 3.5% a year.”

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority tells TIME it is liaising with IFAW and the shipping industry on the viability of speed limits, but that “given shipping is an internationally regulated industry … measures need to be linked to the strategic direction of the International Maritime Organization and supported by strong documentation.” In other words: Australia is unlikely to introduce speed limits until the movement to prevent whale strikes gains global traction.

In the sun-kissed Whitsunday archipelago 1,000 km north of Brisbane, Bill Hutchinson weaves and bobs his high-speed catamaran through waters literally heaving with humpbacks, carefully abiding to a local law that requires him to remain at least 300 m away from whales. In 44 years on the job, he’s never hit one.

“How do you avoid them? You can’t,” he says. “When the mothers are feeding their calves on the surface, they’re really docile. So we keep as far away as possible. But if it gets cloudy or the water gets choppy, visibility suffers. You can’t be watching out for whales all the time.”

TIME

The Factory in the China Food Scandal Is Foreign-Owned. That Could Have Made It a Target

A 24 hour McDonalds restaurant in a shopping mall. KFC,
A 24-hour McDonalds restaurant in a shopping mall. KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and other Western brands are suffering food safety crises in the Chinese market. Zhang Peng—LightRocket via Getty Images

No company should be allowed to get away with unsafe products, but the harsh spotlight shone on multinational enterprises in China could be part of an effort to undermine them in favor of local businesses

Another day in China, another food scandal. This time the accused is a meat supplier to KFC and McDonald’s in China. An undercover investigation by a Chinese TV station, which aired on Sunday, claimed that a factory in Shanghai owned by Illinois-based OSI Group was shipping the fast-food giants expired meat. Later, coffee-shop chain Starbucks in China and McDonald’s outlets in Japan got dragged into the mess, as they, too, had meat from the suspect factory in their products.

The report sent the U.S. companies into full crisis management. Yum! Brands, which operates KFC, garners more than 40% of its total operating profit from China, while McDonald’s considers the country one of its most important growth markets, so neither can afford tainting their brands with tainted food. KFC and McDonald’s issued apologies to their customers, while suspending shipments from the Shanghai factory. Starbucks said it removed all products with meat from the supplier from its stores. OSI, meanwhile, is undertaking an investigation into the practices at the factory. On Wednesday, Chinese police detained five people in connection with the scandal.

The allegations, if proved true, reveal just how rotten China’s food supply really is. If such shenanigans are taking place at OSI, a supplier with a long history and good reputation, one can only shudder to imagine what’s happening elsewhere in the industry. Yet that raises another question almost as uncomfortable. In a country where companies routinely flout the law and officials — by the government’s own admission — are grossly corrupt, we’re forced to ask why some corporations and people find themselves in Chinese newspaper headlines or investigated by regulators, and not others. In other words, why was OSI the target of a time-consuming TV exposé and not another company?

TIME attempted repeatedly to pose that question to Dragon TV, which aired the investigation, but did not receive a return phone call. The focus on a foreign-owned factory, however, is part of a trend. Foreign companies do seem to figure prominently in state-media critiques and government investigations. The revelations about KFC and McDonald’s are just the latest in a series of attacks on popular foreign brands and established foreign companies in the country.

Since June, Chinese state media have claimed U.S. technology companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo can be used by Washington to spy on China. Earlier this month, Chinese state TV claimed that the Apple iPhone was a threat to national security. Alleged bribery by drugmaker GSK in China has been paraded in national headlines for months. American restaurant brands have been targeted before. Last year, Chinese media accused Starbucks of overcharging Chinese customers, while in 2012, state TV conducted another undercover investigation into McDonald’s, which it claimed exposed unsavory practices at a Beijing outlet.

Obviously, if foreign companies are engaged in illegal or improper practices in China, they must be held accountable. Yet the spotlight shone on the activities of foreign firms is so bright that it can be seen as part of another, more disturbing trend: an effort by the government to undermine foreign brands and business in China.

We can speculate why that might be happening. The government could be trying to reel in a few “big fish” to try to scare smaller fry into better behavior. Officials might be attempting to win points with the public by appearing to address issues of great public concern like food safety without roiling any Chinese interests. And in the process, the Chinese government might believe it can aid Chinese companies in their competition with foreign firms by undercutting the reputation of international brands. The latest exposé on KFC and McDonald’s could have serious repercussions for the American fast-food chains. In 2012, KFC’s business in China suffered badly when news broke that some of its chicken suppliers were pumping excessive antibiotics into their birds.

The Chinese government has a long history of attempting to tilt the local playing field in favor of its own firms. Foreign carmakers, though very successful in China, are still forced to manufacture in the country only through joint ventures with Chinese firms — a restriction most other emerging economies don’t impose. Reports from chambers of commerce accuse Chinese bureaucrats of routinely hampering the expansion of foreign business by taking a “go-slow” approach when issuing mandatory permits and licenses. There is a feeling among foreign businessmen in China that the government regularly discriminates against them. The latest survey conducted by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China revealed that 55% of the respondents believed that they are treated unfavorably compared with Chinese companies.

The process of opening the China market wider to foreign business has also stalled. More than half of the respondents in the E.U. survey said there had been no opening of the market in their industries over the past one or two years, while 9% believed that the market had become more closed. Such restricted access and other regulatory hurdles cost European companies nearly $29 billion in lost business in 2013, according to the survey. Generally, foreign businessmen feel that China has become a more hostile environment. A similar survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China found that 41% of its respondents felt less welcome in the country than they had been before.

Such an attitude by China’s government runs counter to the oft-repeated pledges by the most senior Chinese officials that they remain committed to their long-standing policy of opening up to the world. But it is also representative of a more assertive Chinese attitude toward the West in many aspects. Beijing is standing up for what it sees as its rights in various territorial disputes with its neighbors, as it tries to re-establish its traditional political and military dominance in East Asia. After decades of reliance on foreign investment to drive growth and introduce technology, China, now the world’s second largest economy, wants to rely more on its own companies and innovation.

That’s only natural. But at the same time, China, as a developing nation still in need of jobs and technology, can’t afford to chase off foreign investment, either. The fact is that China is becoming a less desirable place to invest, for reasons ranging from the slowing economy to rising costs to ambiguous government regulation. Only one-fifth of the companies queried in the E.U. Chamber survey said China was their top investment destination in 2013, down from one-third just two years ago. Meanwhile, the percentage of respondents who said they intend to expand their current operations in China, dropped sharply to 57% from 86% just last year. Beijing may see benefits in targeting foreign firms, but it should also be aware of the costs.

— With reporting by Chengcheng Jiang / Beijing

TIME Israel

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Flies to Israel, Dismissing Safety Fears

Israeli rescue and military personnel at the wreckage of a home in the town of Yehud, outside Tel Aviv, and near the Ben Gurion Airport, that was hit by a missile fired by Palestinian militants from inside the Gaza Strip, July 22, 2014.
Israeli rescue and military personnel at the wreckage of a home in the town of Yehud, outside Tel Aviv, and near the Ben Gurion Airport, that was hit by a missile fired by Palestinian militants from inside the Gaza Strip, July 22, 2014. Gideon Markowicz—EPA

Hamas rockets may be falling from the skies, but Israel, Bloomberg says, is "safe" and "a great place to visit”

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has flown to the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, CBS reports, thumbing his nose at the safety concerns that grounded most Israel-bound flights from the U.S. earlier in the day.

Bloomberg said he was not trying “to prove anything,” but wanted to show that Israel was “safe, and a great place to visit.” The trip is also a gesture of support for the Jewish state during its current offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Speaking before boarding a flight at New York City’s JFK airport, Bloomberg said, “Israel has a right to defend its people, and they’re doing exactly what they should be doing.”

Earlier Tuesday, a Palestinian rocket landed just a mile from Ben Gurion Airport, situated 20 km (12 miles) from Tel Aviv’s city center, prompting the Federal Aviation Administration to place a 24-hour moratorium on flights by U.S. carriers to and from Israel. By that point, however, it was a mere formality: Delta Airlines United Airlines, and U.S. Airways, which collectively operate four flights from JFK and Newark Liberty International Airport each day, had already suspended their trips for the foreseeable future. Shortly before it was to touch down in Tel Aviv, a Delta flight from JFK carrying nearly 400 Israel-bound immigrants diverted to Paris, where it landed Tuesday evening.

The avowedly pro-Israel Bloomberg will fly El Al, the country’s flagship carrier, which also operates four routes to and from the U.S. and has no plans to cancel these trips. The carrier has not commented on either the supposed safety risks or the U.S. response to them, but considering its close relationship with the Israeli government — it was state-owned until 2003, and owes much of its success to some subtle protectionism — one assumes it would echo the sentiments emphatically stressed on Tuesday by the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: flying to Israel is safe; not flying to Israel is to concede victory to the enemy.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Netanyahu on Tuesday evening regarding the intensifying turmoil in Gaza; Netanyahu, the U.S. State Department said, raised the issue of the flight ban, which the FAA will re-evaluate on Wednesday afternoon.

“The FAA’s notice was issued to protect American citizens and American carriers,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said. “The only consideration in issuing the notice was the safety and security of our citizens.”

In a statement released by his office earlier in the day, Bloomberg called upon the FAA to lift its ban, describing Ben Gurion Airport as “the best protected … in the world” — a sentiment he’s not the first to share. Still, for many, the proven efficacy of Israel’s intricate missile protection system may not be enough to mitigate the still-raw memories of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, whose nearly 300 passengers and crew members died after a surface-to-air rocket, likely fired by pro-Moscow separatists in the Ukraine, struck the aircraft last week.

TIME indonesia

With the Election of Joko Widodo, Indonesia Writes a New Chapter

INDONESIA-ELECTION
Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo gestures after delivering his victory address in Jakarta's port district of Sunda Kelapa on July 22, 2014 Romeo Gacad—AFP/Getty Images

For the first time, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation, and third biggest democracy, has an Everyman for President

Indonesians woke up Wednesday morning to something completely new: a President who did not hail from the political or military elite.

The previous evening, the country’s electoral commission, the KPU, declared the governor of Jakarta, Joko Widodo — popularly known as Jokowi — President-elect of the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation and third biggest democracy. After a highly polarized campaign, Jokowi and his running mate, Jusuf Kalla, won more than 53% of the vote, or some 8 million more votes than their rivals, former general Prabowo Subianto and his No. 2, Hatta Rajasa.

Unlike many established figures who dominate the political arena, the 53-year-old Jokowi came from a humble provincial background: he grew up in a riverside slum in Solo, Central Java, and does not have ties to an influential family. After a career as a furniture entrepreneur, he started in politics as mayor of his hometown less than a decade ago — and this rapid rise, along with the level of electoral enthusiasm and volunteerism his candidacy generated, has invited comparisons to U.S. President Barack Obama (the two were even born in the same year). Many see Jokowi’s win as an augury for a more mature era in Indonesian politics.

“His candidacy would have been improbable just a few years ago,” says Aaron Connelly, East Asia research fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, who focuses on Indonesian politics. “This has not historically been a country in which parents told their children that they could grow up to become President.”

The bitterly contested presidential election also marks the first time that social media and the Internet played a major role in overseeing the electoral process. Taking advantage of the raw data that the KPU released on its site, concerned citizens set up websites to monitor the counting. One such site is Kawal Pemilu, or Guard the Election. Hurriedly built by Singapore-based IT consultant Ainun Najib and a couple of Indonesian programmers working in Silicon Valley, it was an instant hit, showing the official vote recapitulation, updated every 10 minutes by volunteers, of which there were around 700. “We wanted to fulfill the calls to guard the election by showing the data openly,” Ainun tells TIME.

With this level of openness and scrutiny, the election is being hailed as Indonesia’s most transparent and democratic. But that hasn’t stopped the loser from complaining that the poll has been “defective.” Prabowo, a former general with a tainted human-rights record, has refused to concede defeat. He initially called for the public to wait for the official count, but as it became clear the victory wasn’t his, he began attacking the KPU, accusing it of not properly investigating what he alleged was massive vote fraud — an accusation the commission has rebutted. On Tuesday afternoon, hours before the KPU’s announcement, he declared that he would not accept the official tally. His decision was widely derided by citizens and legal experts alike. (“The Indonesian people are grateful because we have escaped from the catastrophe of having a heavily stressed-out presidential candidate [as leader],” one Twitter user said.)

On Wednesday, Prabowo’s team says they would challenge the result in the Constitutional Court. Already, however, there are signs that his coalition is falling apart. During the past two press conferences on Sunday and Tuesday, in which Prabowo lambasted the KPU, running mate Hatta was conspicuously absent.

The victor, meanwhile, has been basking in congratulations. In his midnight victory speech on Tuesday, delivered at Sunda Kelapa, Jakarta’s old port, Jokowi said, “This presidential election has given rise to new optimism for us, for this nation … It is time for us to move together.” Stirring stuff, but winning the election, it must be said, was the easiest task on Jokowi’s list. Now comes the hard part — of governing a sprawling archipelago of 18,300 islands that has emerged, blinking, into democratic daylight.

TIME U.K.

Racehorse Owned by Britain’s Queen Fails Dope Test

Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Anne
Queen Elizabeth II, with Princess Anne, greet her horse Estimate on June 20, 2013 Alastair Grant—AP

Buckingham Palace said early indications suggest that Estimate consumed morphine as a result of contaminated feed

(LONDON) — A racehorse owned by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II that won the prestigious Gold Cup at Royal Ascot last year has tested positive for the banned painkiller, morphine.

The British Horseracing Authority announced last week that tests on five horses under the care of various trainers showed the presence of morphine in their ‘A’ samples.

On Tuesday, the queen’s bloodstock and racing adviser, John Warren, said that the monarch’s five-year-old filly Estimate was one of the five.

Buckingham Palace said that early indications suggest that Estimate consumed the substance as a result of contaminated feed.

Warren said in a statement that Estimate’s trainer Michael Stoute “is working closely with the feed company involved to discover how the product may have become contaminated prior to delivery to his stables.”

Estimate finished second in this year’s Gold Cup behind Leading Light.

Warren added: “Her Majesty has been informed of the situation.”

Previously, Britain’s most publicized case of a horse testing positive for morphine was Be My Royal after he had won the 2002 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. The horse was subsequently disqualified.

TIME China

Bubonic-Plague Death Triggers Quarantine of Chinese City

The 38-year-old victim may have come into contact with a dead marmot carrying infected fleas

Parts of a city in northwestern China are under quarantine after a local man died of bubonic plague, according to a state media report Tuesday.

A quarantine has been put in place for Yumen, a city of about 100,000 in Gansu province. No one but the original victim has shown signs of infection, Reuters reports.

The victim, 38, died July 16, apparently after coming into contact with a dead marmot, a rodent. Plague is a bacterial disease typically carried by fleas hosted by rodents. The disease is extremely deadly if not treated immediately.

Plague is very rare but still exists, primarily in rural areas. The Yumen quarantine comes after three new cases of bubonic plague were confirmed in the U.S. state of Colorado on Friday.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

President of Honduras Expects Mass Deportations of Minors From U.S.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, July 17, 2014. Ross McDonnell for TIME

The problem of violence driving Central American migration has its roots in U.S. drug consumption, President Juan Orlando Hernández says in an exclusive interview with TIME

(TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras) — Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has been warned by U.S. officials to expect a enormous wave of deportations from the United States, he told TIME in an interview at the presidential palace in the Honduran capital on July 17. “They have said they want to send them on a massive scale,” he said.

Before another planned visit to the United States beginning Thursday, Hernández said his country is preparing to receive the returnees but the United States needs to support him in building security in this Central American nation. He took power in January to confront what may be the biggest migration crisis in his country’s history, with tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children captured on the border in the United States.

Honduras has suffered with the world’s worst murder rate in any country outside a war zone, as street gangs known as maras have become increasingly linked to drug traffickers moving cocaine from the Andes region to the Unites States. Hernández said his government has worked hard to reduce this murder rate in his first months in office, but said violence is still a major problem driving the youth migration.

To combat the criminals, Hernández calls for a security plan with U.S. support, akin to Plan Colombia in which U.S. aid helped the South American nation battle drug traffickers and cocaine-funded guerrillas. The United States has a responsibility to help Honduras, Hernández says, because U.S. drug consumption is driving the violence.

The following exchange has been edited for brevity.

The wave of migration has generated a strong debate in the United States. How do explain this rapid rise in child migrants?

I believe there is a combination of factors. One is the lack of opportunities in Central America and we have to build opportunities here more quickly. Two is the issue of violence, because if you look, you will see that in the case of Honduras, the highest level of migration is in the places with the most conflict, particularly in the neighborhoods where the street gangs have become the armed wing of drug traffickers and kill each other for territorial control. . . . But the other factor, that we shouldn’t forget, is the lack of clarity of U.S. immigration policy. When the immigration debate goes on, disgracefully, the coyotes [the human smugglers] come and say, “Now is when you can bring your child from Central America.” . . . So my call to the United States is that it defines these rules with clarity.

The violence in Honduras is complex. What drives it more, drug cartels or street gangs?

What is happening in Honduras is that drug traffickers partnered with the street gangs so that the gangs did the violent work of extortion and kidnapping. What happened? When the huge packages of drugs arrived at the coast or landed in a plane, the drug traffickers said to Hondurans, “Move these drugs to Guatemala or Mexico, but I am going to pay you with drugs and you finance the operation.” So the street gangs carried out extortion and sold the drugs, contaminating society.

For this reason, I call for the principle of shared responsibility between those who produce [drugs] and those who consume them in the North. In the United States, many officials see the drug problem as basically one of health, as how much it costs to treat an addict and stop them getting involved. But for us it is life and death. That is the difference. . . .

I want to remind the North American people what happened before Mayor Giuliani in New York, how drugs, among other factors, combined to make a very difficult security situation. This happened in Los Angeles when the street gangs also moved drugs; it happened in Miami. But the fight against it was successful. [Americans] have suffered violence in their territory from drug trafficking. Well, now it is happening to us, but in much higher rates. Never in Central America, particularly in the northern triangle and in Honduras has there been so much loss of life as in this decade. Never. Never in history. And look, disgracefully, this is a not an issue that originates in Honduras.

If in the United States, there is a move to change the law to deport a minor without a court hearing would you oppose it?

I would like to ask congressmen and senators and those who make political decisions in the United States that they think first in the interest of the child, because the child as well being a human being, is more vulnerable than the adult. But also they [children] go with the very human, very natural desire to be with their parents. . . .

On the other side, if there is a child without a family member in the United States, and the law says they have to return, we are working with this. Like never before in Honduras, we are investing resources to warmly receive our countrymen, with psychologists, doctors, giving them different options that we have for job opportunities, or farming financing. We are also guiding them spiritually, because they are families that are destroyed inside. They sold everything before leaving, and they arrive frustrated. We have to reintegrate them. We are making this effort.

What has the U.S. government said to you about the issue of migration? Have they told you they are going to deport many more people?

Yes, they have said they want to send them on a massive scale. We told them that number one, we have to respect the principle of giving priority to the child. Two, in the case that a family has children that don’t have relatives in the United States, that they don’t deport them along with adults that have committed crimes there. We don’t want them to be mixed. They [U.S. officials] have understood that part, and we, knowing there are large quantities, more than usual, have had to prepare ourselves to receive our countrymen.

Are you optimistic this is the start of something better, or will it be a long, dark difficult time ahead?

It is a difficult situation. It is a humanitarian crisis that the world needs to see. How long will it last? Will it get more complicated? This depends on support from countries such as the United States and Mexico. In Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras we are working hard.

If they help us, because this is a problem they generate, I repeat, because of the connection between the drugs they consume in enormous quantities in the United States that are produced in the south and pass through Central America, generating violence, generating this migratory flow—if they help us I am sure we will be on the route to resolves this in a short time.

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