TIME Egypt

Egypt’s King Tutankhamun’s Beard Knocked Off by Cleaners

King Tutankhamun
The mask of King Tutankhamun at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo seen in 1996. Mohamed El-Dakhakhny—AP

The pharoah's beard was then glued back on with epoxy

CAIRO — The blue and gold braided beard on the burial mask of famed pharaoh Tutankhamun was hastily glued back on with epoxy, damaging the relic after it was knocked during cleaning, conservators at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo said Wednesday.

The museum is one of the city’s main tourist sites, but in some areas, ancient wooden sarcophagi lay unprotected from the public, while pharaonic burial shrouds, mounted on walls, crumble from behind open panels of glass. Tutankhamun’s mask, over 3,300 years old, and other contents of his tomb are its top exhibits.

MORE The Tomb of a Previously Unknown Queen Has Been Unearthed in Egypt

Three of the museum’s conservators reached by telephone gave differing accounts of when the incident occurred last year, and whether the beard was knocked off by accident while the mask’s case was being cleaned, or was removed because it was loose.

They agree however that orders came from above to fix it quickly and that an inappropriate adhesive was used. All spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of professional reprisals.

“Unfortunately he used a very irreversible material — epoxy has a very high property for attaching and is used on metal or stone but I think it wasn’t suitable for an outstanding object like Tutankhamun’s golden mask,” one conservator said.

“The mask should have been taken to the conservation lab but they were in a rush to get it displayed quickly again and used this quick drying, irreversible material,” the conservator added.

The conservator said that the mask now shows a gap between the face and the beard, whereas before it was directly attached: “Now you can see a layer of transparent yellow.”

Another museum conservator, who was present at the time of the repair, said that epoxy had dried on the face of the boy king’s mask and that a colleague used a spatula to remove it, leaving scratches. The first conservator, who inspects the artifact regularly, confirmed the scratches and said it was clear that they had been made by a tool used to scrape off the epoxy.

MORE Chilean Students Discover 7,000-Year-Old Mummy

Egypt’s tourist industry, once a pillar of the economy, has yet to recover from three years of tumult following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Museums and the opening of new tombs are part of plans to revive the industry. But authorities have made no significant improvements to the Egyptian Museum since its construction in 1902, and plans to move the Tutankhamun exhibit to its new home in the Grand Egyptian Museum scheduled to open in 2018 have yet to be divulged.

Neither the Antiquities Ministry nor the museum administration could be reached for comment Wednesday evening. One of the conservators said an investigation was underway and that a meeting had been held on the subject earlier in the day.

The burial mask, discovered by British archeologists Howard Carter and George Herbert in 1922, sparked worldwide interest in archaeology and ancient Egypt when it was unearthed along with Tutankhamun’s nearly intact tomb.

“From the photos circulating among restorers I can see that the mask has been repaired, but you can’t tell with what,” Egyptologist Tom Hardwick said. “Everything of that age needs a bit more attention, so such a repair will be highly scrutinized.”

Read next: Exploring the Mawlids of Egypt

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TIME

China’s Bad Crowd

Bremmer is a foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large at TIME.

Beijing has fostered trade ties, but lacks reliable allies

As China continues its rise, Beijing will need strong allies. That’s a problem, because it doesn’t have any. True, China has become the lead trade partner for more than 100 countries around the world. But when it comes to the heavy lifting of great-power foreign policy, there’s a big difference between friends and business partners.

Which governments hold any sort of ideological affinity with China? Rogues like North Korea, Venezuela, Sudan and Zimbabwe top the list. Not exactly an all-star team of international influence. Nor can much good come to China from getting too deeply involved with those troubled countries.

What about Russia? Moscow can offer Beijing long-term energy supplies and help China contain the U.S. in Asia. But Europe, America and Japan will remain China’s largest trade partners for the foreseeable future. Russia doesn’t come close, and that limits China’s willingness to join Vladimir Putin in his efforts to antagonize the West. China and Russia also regularly jostle for influence in the Central Asian states that lie between them.

And there’s more for Beijing to worry about.

1 Venezuela is a basket case

In early January, China agreed to invest $20 billion to support the Venezuelan government. But Beijing may just be throwing good money after bad. President Nicolás Maduro’s approval rating has cliff-dived to 22%. The economy is in shambles, and the inflation rate is among the highest in the world. If oil stays cheap, Venezuela is probably headed for default.

2 Sri Lanka shifts direction

China’s heavy bet on its friendship with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa included more than $4 billion in Chinese-backed investments. In 2014, for the first time ever, Chinese submarines docked in Sri Lanka–at a Chinese-owned and operated port–irritating China’s rival India. But in a recent election, former Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena campaigned hard against Rajapaksa’s pro-Beijing policies and won, robbing China of a reliable ally.

3 North Korea is needy

No other country is more economically dependent on China, which provides nearly 90% of North Korea’s energy imports and most of its food supplies. In 2013, China accounted for nearly 80% of North Korea’s $8.6 billion in total trade. What does China get in return? Relative peace and quiet. For now.

4 Bad bets in Sudan

China put high stakes on Sudan in recent decades, spending billions on oil pipelines to bring crude from southern fields to northern ports that can ship it on to China. Then a civil war threatened China’s investment, and in 2011 Sudan split in two. Now Beijing must manage conflicts in oil-rich but landlocked South Sudan, where a surge in violence has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than 1 million. A vanguard of Chinese peacekeepers arrived in early January, and some 700 Chinese infantry are due to arrive by April.

5 Cuba and Burma are making new friends Some of the most isolated regimes in the world are opening up–and trying to shed their dependence on Beijing. China is Cuba’s largest trade partner and its biggest creditor, but normalized relations with the U.S. could open the door to game-changing moves between Havana and Washington. China is still Burma’s largest trade partner and its biggest supplier of weapons. But since the country launched democratic reforms in 2011, players like Japan and Singapore have gained an investment foothold.

Foreign-affairs columnist Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy. His next book, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World, will be published in May

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Egypt

Egyptian Families Plead for Help for the Forgotten ISIS Hostages

Coptic Christian men whose relatives were abducted in Libya hold their photos in front of the foreign ministry in Cairo, Jan. 19, 2015.
Coptic Christian men whose relatives were abducted in Libya, hold their photos in front of the foreign ministry in Cairo, Jan. 19, 2015. Hassan Ammar—AP

At least 21 Egyptian Christians are being held by ISIS in Libya

The seven Egyptian men headed east by car from the Libyan city of Sirte on Dec. 29, starting the long drive back to Egypt. On the outskirts of the city, located on the Mediterranean coast, armed men stopped the vehicle. Several of the men called their families back home. “We’re kidnapped,” one told his uncle.

“The call lasted just 10 seconds,” said Bebawi Elham Welson, whose brother Samail Elham Welson was among those abducted. Samail had spent 18 months working as a plumber in Libya. For three months he had hoped to return to Egypt, but he feared the journey. “He told us, ‘the road is dangerous. When I know the road is in good condition I’ll come back,’” his brother said in an interview in Cairo.

Welson believes Samail is among a group of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians whose abduction was claimed by the Libya branch of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which controls much of eastern Syria and overran much of northwestern Iraq last year. ISIS’ Libya branch released the hostages’ photos, along with a claim of responsibility for their abduction, earlier this month. The family, which lives 150 miles south of Cairo in Minya, says it has not been contacted by the kidnappers.

Unlike ISIS’ foreign hostages in Iraq and Syria, the captured Egyptians have not been paraded on television in orange jumpsuits. Their ordeal has received only a small fraction of the media attention given to the two Japanese captives who ISIS is currently threatening with death. Their abduction underscores Libya’s unpredictable conflict that threatens to draw in nearby states.

The kidnapping of Egyptians in two separate incidents in December and January adds to an escalating crisis in Egypt’s relationship with its fragile neighbor, which last year descended into an internal conflict between two rival governments and their allied militias. For Egypt, the abductions represent another dilemma resulting from the disintegration of the Libyan state three and a half years after an armed uprising toppled the regime of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The recent kidnappings took place in two separate incidents. After the seven men were abducted on the road on Dec. 29, another 13 Egyptians were grabbed by armed, masked men from their house in Sirte. An Egyptian man who survived the raid, Aziz Hanna, said the attackers examined the Egyptians’ identification papers, then seized the Christians, while the Muslims went free. Hanna told journalists at a news conference in Cairoon Monday that while one of his nephews was kidnapped, he avoided abduction by hiding in his room during the attack and later fleeing Libya with the help of local acquaintances.

Egyptian citizens and interests have been targeted repeatedly in the chaotic fighting between factions in Libya. In January 2014, five Egyptian embassy staffers were snatched in the capital Tripoli following Egypt’s arrest of a Libyan militia leader. They were later released, the militia leader freed. Last November, a car bomb exploded at the Egyptian embassy in the city. Egyptian Coptic Christians have especially suffered. In December, gunmen killed two Coptic doctors and their teenage daughter in Sirte. In 2012, a Coptic church in the city of Benghazi was set on fire.

Libya’s internationally-recognized government, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, is locked in conflict with a rival government in Tripoli. Militias allied to the Tripoli government accuse Egypt of supporting the Tobruk side. The Egyptian government denies military involvement, but Western officials and experts have confirmed Egypt has allowed its air bases to be used for air strikes over the border.

Amid the chaos, a militia in Libya’s eastern city of Derna proclaimed allegiance to ISIS last year. The declaration prompted international concern about the collapse of the country’s central authority, but unlike ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the group does not control significant chunks of territory.

Complicating the issue for Egyptian authorities is the number of their citizens living in Libya: as many as 1.5 million, according to recent figures reported by the International Organization for Migration. Many of those have sought to escape the violence. In one period of two weeks in March 2011, the agency reported that 135,000 Egyptians left Libya.

The families of the abducted men say they have received little information from both the kidnappers and authorities. “It came suddenly. The evidence was that the area was safe and there was no danger,” said Mina Ramsis Najib, 27, whose two nephews were among the group of seven taken from the vehicle leaving Sirte. Laga, 27, and Samir, 23, had been working as painters and planned to return to Libya after spending time in Egypt. “There have been no new developments,” he said.

Relatives of the abducted are unhappy with what they say is an inadequate response from the Egyptian government. At a news conference in Cairo, loved ones said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had confirmed that the men were alive and pledged to help the victims, but offered few specifics. One family said it had been told not to speak to the media.

“We have a lack of information from our side, from the government,” said Mina Thabet a researcher at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, a local rights group, who interviewed several of the families and survivors of past kidnappings. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs just makes statements. They say ‘We’re trying to do our best. We’re communicating with the Libyan authorities.’ They never give us solutions.”

A ministry spokesman, Badr Abdelatty, did not return calls and messages seeking comment on the abductions. Abdelatty previously confirmed to journalists that 20 Egyptians had been kidnapped in Libya in two separate incidents.

Though the ordeal of the hostages’ ordeal is ongoing, and their families are to urging the authorities to pay more attention to their plight. Welson said, “I want the officials to realize they’re wrong. They’re wrong. One minute they’re with us. The next minute they turn their backs on us.”

TIME indonesia

Indonesian Divers Recover 6 More Bodies From AirAsia Crash

Indonesia Plane
Members of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency unload the body of a victim aboard AirAsia Flight 8501 from a helicopter upon arrival at the airport in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, on Jan. 9, 2015. Achmad Ibrahim—AP

So far, 59 bodies have been recovered from AirAsia Flight 8501

(PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia) — Indonesian divers retrieved Thursday six more bodies from waters around the sunken fuselage of the AirAsia jetliner that crashed last month.

Divers were struggling against strong current and poor visibility to lift the fuselage and what appears to be the plane’s cockpit from the seabed at a depth of 30 meters (100 feet).

So far, 59 bodies have been recovered from AirAsia Flight 8501, which plunged into the Java Sea with 162 people while en route from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, to Singapore. Officials believed the rest are still inside the main fuselage.

National Transportation Safety Committee head Tatang Kurniadi on Wednesday ruled out sabotage, as investigators downloaded and began analyzing data from the aircraft’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders with advisers from Airbus, the plane’s manufacturer.

Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan told Parliament earlier this week that radar data showed that the plane was climbing at an abnormally high rate — about 6,000 feet a minute — then dropped rapidly and disappeared. He did not say what caused the plane to climb so rapidly, but the pilots asked to climb from 32,000 feet to 38,000 feet to avoid threatening clouds and were denied permission because of heavy air traffic. No distress signal was received.

An excessively rapid ascent is likely to cause an airplane to go into an aerodynamic stall. In 2009, an Air France Airbus A330 disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean in bad weather while flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Investigators determined from the jet’s black boxes that it began a steep climb and then went into a stall from which the pilots were unable to recover.

Airbus spokesman Justin Dubon said that it was too early to comment on possible similarities between the two crashes.

A preliminary report on the AirAsia accident is expected to be submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organization next week, in line with a requirement that it be filed within 30 days of a crash, Kurniadi said, adding that a full analysis of what went wrong with the plane could take up to a year.

TIME China

Watch This Haunting Seven-Minute Film About China’s Insane Air Pollution

It's haunting and eerily beautiful

Greenpeace East Asia today released a seven-minute film by director Jia Zhangke about China’s toxic air. The impressionistic piece, Smog Journeys, follows two families — one rural, one urban — as they live, play, and work in the country’s polluted northeast.

“When it comes to smog, no matter what jobs we do, it is still a problem we all face,” says Jia in an interview released online.

Jia is one of China’s most renowned filmmakers. His work is famously gritty, filled with tales of alienation and strife, and shot in shades of brown and gray. His last feature, A Touch of Sin (2013), was a critical hit abroad, but was considered too politically sensitive to be shown on the Chinese mainland.

TIME Cambodia

Cambodian Guards Drank Wine With Human Gallbladders, Says Genocide Survivor

Skulls are stacked on top of each other at a "Killing Fields" memorial in Batey district in Kampong Cham province
Skulls are stacked on top of each other at a Killing Fields memorial in Batey district in Kampong Cham province, 125 km (78 miles) east of Phnom Penh on March 28, 2009 Chor Sokunthea—Reuters

Horrific testimony made at atrocity trial

In the 1970s, Khmer Rouge guards would drink wine infused with human gallbladders, according to a survivor of Cambodia’s infamous Killing Fields.

Former detainee Meas Sokha told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia Khmer Rouge (ECCC) — a special tribunal created to investigate the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime — that guards at a prison in Takeo province would dry out the gallbladders of inmates and steep them in wine, reports the Cambodia Daily.

“Whenever there were killings, the guards would drink wine with a gallbladder. I could see gallbladders drying in the sun and I knew these were from human beings,” said Meas Sokha, who was imprisoned for three years in 1976. “There were so many [gallbladders] dried by the fence, it was put in wine for drinking and to make people brave.”

Sokha also told the U.N.-backed ECCC that he witnessed between 20 and 100 killings in a single day.

In some East Asian medical traditions, the use of animal bile in drinks — usually snake or bear bile — is thought to promote virility.

From 1975 until 1979, Cambodia experienced one of the most savage genocides of the 20th century, during which around 1.7 million people — a quarter of the national population — perished as the Khmer Rouge, the nation’s communist party led by the French-educated Pol Pot, pursued its agrarian utopia.

The court is currently investigating genocide charges against Khieu Samphan, 83, the regime’s head of state, and Nuon Chea, 88. Both were sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity in August.

TIME North Korea

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un May Visit Moscow, Russia Says

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a New Year's address
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a New Year's address in this January 1, 2015 photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. KCNA—Reuters

Kim hasn't made an official foreign visit before

Kim Jong Un could visit Moscow this May in his first foreign visit as North Korea’s leader, according to statements from Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

Lavrov said on Wednesday that an invitation to attend the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany received a “positive” response from North Korea, the Wall Street Journal reports.

He would not elaborate further, however, and the North Korean government has not yet commented on the proposed trip.

Kim, who had sent an envoy to Russian President Vladimir Putin in November, has not made an official foreign trip since assuming power in 2011.

[WSJ]

TIME Ukraine

John Kerry Slams Rebels as Fighting in Ukraine Spirals Further Out of Control

US-EU-KERRY-MOGHERINI
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press after a working lunch with E.U. High Representative Federica Mogherini at the U.S. Department of State in Washington on Jan. 21, 2015 Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

Clashes between the Ukrainian military and pro-Moscow rebels have rapidly escalated this week

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned pro-Russian rebels battling the Ukrainian military for participating in a “landgrab” after occupying new territory in clear violation of a September peace accord.

After a brief lull in hostilities, fighting between forces loyal to Kiev and pro-Kremlin rebels spiked drastically this week along several fronts. Insurgents appear to be seizing larger swaths of land thanks to heavy weaponry and the alleged presence of Russian regular forces.

“This is a very blatant landgrab, and it is in direct contravention to the Minsk agreements which they signed up to,” Kerry told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.

The Minsk Protocol, which was signed by representatives from rebel militias along with Ukrainian and Russian officials, called for the orderly withdrawal of foreign fighters and heavy weaponry from the battlefields in southeastern Ukraine. However, the plan continues to be consistently ignored, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of combatants amid renewed fighting.

Earlier on Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated claims that Russia continues to supply men and military hardware to insurgent militias battling the Ukrainian military.

“For several months, we have seen the presence of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. We are also seeing a substantial increase in the number of Russian heavy equipment in eastern Ukraine,” said Stoltenberg during a meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg this week. “This does not contribute to a peaceful solution of the conflict.

Following a meeting at the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power lambasted the Kremlin via Twitter for their alleged role in backing the separatists and denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin for overseeing an “occupation plan” rather than backing the peace accords.

During a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Moscow of sending an estimated 9,000 troops across the border into his nation’s conflict-riven Donbas region.

“The country is facing the aggression not only regarding Crimea, but also regarding the significant part of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. About 9,000 Russian [troops] are in the territory of Ukraine,” Poroshenko told the assembled heads of state and economists.

However, Russia continues to deny that it is providing direct support to separatist fighters and balked at Washington’s efforts to contain the country through myriad sanctions.

“Only the people of Ukraine without any foreign interference must determine their future,” Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a press conference in Moscow on Wednesday. “For its part, Russia will continue to assist the creation of favorable conditions to settle Ukraine’s formidable problems in this spirit.”

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