TIME The Philippines

See the Philippine City of Tacloban One Year After Supertyphoon Haiyan

Photographer Chris McGrath captures the slow resurrection of Tacloban

Supertyphoon Haiyan became the strongest storm on record to make landfall when it crashed into the eastern Philippines on Nov. 8 last year, with wind speeds exceeding 300 kph and a 7-meter storm surge. The city of Tacloban, provincial capital of the Eastern Visayas, bore the brunt of its devastating power and was practically destroyed.

Photographer Chris McGrath documented the death and destruction immediately following the typhoon. One year later, he returned to capture the same scenes, painting a picture of a city that, at least on the surface, has returned to some semblance of normality.

TIME White House

U.S. Seeks New Channels of Communication With Iran

A U.S. military official says the channels have become “necessary”

U.S. President Barack Obama is attempting to open fresh channels of communication with Iran concerning the war with ISIS.

A Pentagon official says the channels have become “necessary” as Tehran and Washington are now operating in the same areas, CNN reports.

Although the specifics of these discussions have not been revealed, an unnamed source told CNN that airspace management needed to be addressed so U.S. and Iranian operations wouldn’t conflict. The Iraqi military is apparently acting as a conduit.

This revelation comes after reports Obama sent a secret letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatullah Khamenei last month.

Read more at CNN

TIME Burma

Top Legal Academics Want Burmese Generals Indicted for War Crimes

Guards of honour salute during an event marking the anniversary of Martyrs' Day at the Martyrs Mausoleum in Yangon
Soe Zeya Tun—Reuters Burmese soldiers salute during an event marking the anniversary of Martyrs' Day at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Rangoon on July 19, 2014

The abuses are described as "too grave to be ignored"

Leading generals in Burma’s powerful military should be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to researchers who claim to have accumulated enough evidence to mount a successful prosecution under international law.

A four-year investigation by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School focused on an offensive in the eastern part of Burma, also known as Myanmar, in 2005 and 2006. The study documented soldiers firing mortars at villages, slaughtering fleeing villagers, destroying homes and food, laying land mines indiscriminately and forcing civilians to work without pay.

On Friday, a legal memorandum, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in Eastern Myanmar, was released that implicates three commanders in international crimes as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

“These are serious allegations that demand a determined, good faith response by the Myanmar government and military,” said Tyler Giannini, co-director of the clinic. “The abuses perpetrated by the military have been too widespread, too persistent, and too grave to be ignored.”

Burma has been transitioning from military dictatorship to civilian government since 2011; however, many former junta figures remain key players in the new quasi-democratic administration headed by President Thein Sein.

Asked about the war-crimes report, a government spokesman told the New York Times, “Both the Tatmadaw [Burmese military] and ethnic armed groups might have violated human rights.”

Read next: Aung San Suu Kyi’s Silence on Burma’s Human-Rights Abuses Is Appalling.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistani Policeman Hacks Man to Death for Blasphemy

Members of the Pakistani Christian community hold placards and wooden crosses during a demonstration to condemn the death of a Christian couple in a village in Punjab province on Tuesday, in Islamabad
Faisal Mahmood—Reuters Members of the Pakistani Christian community hold placards and crosses in Islamabad Nov. 5, 2014, during a demonstration to condemn the death of a Christian couple in a village in Punjab province

The man was allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad's companions

A Pakistani police officer killed a man with an ax on Thursday for allegedly insulting the companions of the Prophet Muhammad.

Tufail Haider was beaten up by a crowd of people in the city of Gujrat, Punjab province, and then dragged to a local police station after they overheard him apparently make the disparaging remarks, Reuters reports.

Officer Faraz Naveed then took Haider into custody, but fellow officer Khurram Shehzad said he continued to speak out against the sahaba, as the Prophet’s companions are known.

“At around 5 a.m., Naveed could not control his emotions. He went into his cell, brought an ax, entered the lock-up and hit Haider’s throat several times,” said Shehzad. The attack killed the 55-year-old on the spot.

Blasphemy is a serious offense in Pakistan, and Haider’s death comes just two days after a Christian couple were lynched and beaten to death for allegedly desecrating the Quran.

[Reuters]

TIME Libya

Libya Plunges Deeper into Chaos After Parliament Declared Unconstitutional

LIBYA-POLITICS-COURT-UNREST
Mahmud Turkia — AFP/Getty Images Libyans wave the national flag as they gather at Martyrs' Square to celebrate the decision of Libya's supreme court, in Tripoli on November 6, 2014.

The country has largely been in tatters since the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime three years ago

Libya’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the nation’s internationally recognized parliament, elected in June, was invalid — dealing another crippling blow to the remnants of the country’s fledgling government, according to the BBC.

The parliament in turn dismissed the court’s ruling — claiming that its verdict was handed down “under the threat of arms,” according to Middle East news outlet al-Arabiya.

The North African nation has been rocked by unceasing bouts of instability since the armed overthrow and murder of former strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Libya’s government is now located in Tobruk, near the Egyptian border, after authorities fled the capital Tripoli earlier this summer to escape an Islamist-led militia.

U.S. officials are considering imposing fresh sanctions on the country’s myriad militias, many of which are backed by competing regional powers, in order to halt the ongoing proxy war in the country, reports Reuters.

[BBC]

TIME

Pictures of the Week: Oct. 31 – Nov. 7

From Republican wins in the midterm elections and the 1-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, to U.S. troops returning home from Afghanistan and a giant “fallstreak” hole in the sky over Australia, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

 

TIME Immigration

Over 11 Million Played the U.S. Green Card Lottery This Year

Program may be nixed if Senate overhauls federal immigration policy

More than 11 million people applied for the annual U.S. visa lottery this year, up 11 percent from a year earlier even as the program appears to be on the verge of ending.

Less than than .5 percent of applicants will receive the opportunity to become permanent residents through the popular program, which has provided green cards to lottery winners since 1990.

But the lottery, which accounts for roughly 5 percent of legal immigration according to the Wall Street Journal, may be eliminated if the Senate passes an overhaul of immigration policy this year, with critics arguing that the lottery can be a security risk, provides residency to low-skilled immigrants, and is unfair to foreigners with family connections to the U.S.

Its backers say the system is particularly beneficial for communities with fewer connections to the United States.

“We must continue our tradition of welcoming people from around the world to the United States,” Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, a Democrat from Brooklyn, told the Journal. “I will work to expand the program, which has been critical for many people from Africa, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe who would not otherwise have the opportunity to come here.”

TIME U.K.

Far-Right U.K. Group Gets Millions of Hits and Expands Into the U.S.

Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, speaks during a march in Rochester, England, Nov. 1, 2014.
Guy Corbishley—Demotix/Corbis Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, speaks during a march in Rochester, England, Nov. 1, 2014.

It's a tiny, accident-prone extremist group. So why is Britain First reaching millions of social media users in the US and UK

Britain First should be too small and too slapstick to matter, and perhaps it is. The organization has fewer than 1,000 paid-up members according to the U.K. antifascist group Hope Not Hate. Its views lie so close to the outer-right edge of the political spectrum that Britain First’s co-founder and self-styled leader, Paul Golding, describes the U.K.’s governing Conservative party as “left wing.” Nevertheless he rejects a “far right” label. “We deal in right and wrong,” Golding says, and he and his deputy Jayda Fransen go on to prove the second half of that sentence during a lengthy conversation with TIME at a hotel in Dartford, southeast of London.

Yet the doll’s-sized political organization with an extra-large capacity for unintentional comedy has a surprisingly pervasive online presence. If you frequent Facebook, you may well have browsed material posted by Britain First. Perhaps you “liked” or shared Britain First’s posts. That would put you in broad and — if you do not subscribe to Britain First’s politics — befuddled company. Some 22.5 million Facebook users in the U.K. and 43.7 million in the U.S. interacted with Britain First last month. “Even my mother has posted stuff from Britain First on her Facebook page,” says Hope Not Hate’s Matthew Collins, who has written a research paper on the group.

Some of my friends have made the same mistake, liberals and feminists who would in other circumstances recoil from Britain First’s patented brew of Bible-quoting, fear-mongering, foam-flecked foreigner bating and probably wouldn’t be any happier to learn that the online savvy that snared them was honed in the service of U.S. anti-abortion campaigns. Several such friends were among the 273,979 Facebook users to repost a Britain First item earlier this year that purported to show “Muslim girls being lead [sic] off in chains to meet their new husbands”. It would have required only a minute or two on Google to establish that the image had been taken from a passion play staged to mark the Shi’ite festival of Ashura. Still, it’s hardly surprising that the social media platforms that Islamist jihadists are becoming increasingly expert at using to recruit and propagandize should also become the vehicle of an Islamophobic backlash. In both cases, the toxic messages are spread not only by their originators but by innocent dupes.

To understand how this works and to get a clear-eyed view of the nature and aims of Britain First, I asked Golding and Fransen for an interview. This took place on Oct. 31 and at first glance it would have been easy to mistake the pair for trick-or-treaters. They and their burly, shaven-headed bodyguard sport matching clothing from Britain First’s own range of leisure wear-cum-battle fatigues emblazoned with a lion, a union flag and the slogan “taking our country back.” Confusingly, it turns out that Britain First aims to take back more than one country. Golding is in the process of launching America First, a movement aiming to reclaim the U.S., undeterred by the fact he has never visited the U.S. or by the inconvenient fact that the U.S. already boasts a political party called America First, established in 2002 “to put America and all Americans first.” “We have no connection with Britain First and no one from that group has contacted me,” emails Jon Hill, national chairman of the American America First.

Britain First’s America First Facebook page went live on Nov. 3 and this is where any comedy starts to curdle. As of Nov. 6 the new page already had more than 6,000 likes. Its content is similar to the original Britain First site, an inchoate mix of patriotism, Christian imagery and repurposed content from other pages, much of it inviting clicks and shares: “Share if you’re a warrior for Christ”; “Like if you agree: We cannot forget our veterans”; “Clint Eastwood says ‘Obama is a fraud’. Do you agree?”

Well known figures often appear on Britain First’s Facebook page—Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, the Queen. It’s safe to assume Her Majesty’s endorsement hasn’t been sought. A post featuring the British comic actor Rowan Atkinson—best known as the bumbling “Mr Bean”—carries a quotation from a speech he made to the House of Lords in 2005, in opposition to a badly drawn piece of proposed legislation that risked criminalizing mockery of religions. “What is wrong with encouraging intense dislike of a religion? Why shouldn’t you do that, if the beliefs of that religion or the activities perpetrated in its name deserve to be intensely disliked?” Atkinson asked. Of the nearly 5,000 people who “liked” the post, at least some will have assumed Atkinson’s words to be directed against Islam.

Britain First posts frequently on Facebook and its own website, often with a spin on breaking news and a good sense of what may go viral. Hope Not Hate’s Collins ascribes slickness of the operation to Britain First co-founder Jim Dowson, a Briton with marketing skills polished during time spent promoting U.S. anti-abortion groups and also helping to build up the British National Party, a predecessor to Britain First that at its 2009 peak attracted almost a million votes in the European elections. Dowson quit Britain First in July but Golding and his group continue to carry out the online model he established.

There’s little apart from bad punctuation to indicate the gulf between that online presence and the real-world reality: that Britain First are the accident-prone Mr. and Mrs. Beans of the U.K.’s radical political fringes. When the broadcaster Channel 4 shadowed the group, the Britain First Land Rover, theatrically decked in military camouflage, took too speedy a turn into a car park, snapping off the barrier.

Guy Corbishley—Demotix/CorbisPaul Golding, leader of Britain First seen during a march in Rochester, England, Nov. 1, 2014.

Democratic politics both sides of the Atlantic is “a big, giant, meaningless circus” in Golding’s phrase, yet Fransen is standing as Britain First’s candidate in a U.K. Nov. 20 parliamentary by-election caused by the defection of a sitting MP—the appropriately named Mark Reckless—from the Conservative party to the euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party, UKIP. Fransen’s message to voters is not what you might expect. “Vote for UKIP,” she says, “because we fully support them.”

If UKIP is queasy about that support—characterizing a photograph of one of its campaigners posing chummily with Fransen as an “ambush”—that’s not surprising. Britain First translates the anti-immigrant rhetoric of UKIP into direct and unpleasant action, participating in so-called “Christian patrols” through areas with significant Muslim populations and staging “mosque invasions.” In May, Golding and four companions barged into the East London Mosque, trampling across prayer mats in their street shoes and demanding to see the imam. “They left in a hurry because there was a traffic warden,” says Salman Farsi, who witnessed the incursion. “He’d pulled up outside to their car and was about to issue a ticket.”

That may seem pretty funny but, says Farsi, “the community is fearful of individuals like this.” Collins suggests the greater risk comes not from Britain First but the responses the group may provoke: “I think they are very very dangerous. Not in the way they would probably like me to say but they are capable of causing a reaction from the people they’re harassing, which would totally outstrip what Britain First is doing.” In May, Britain First surrounded the home of a controversial preacher Anjem Choudary, the former British head of the now banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun. The British authorities evacuated Choudary and his family. Collins worries that Britain First, far from containing radical Islam, “is acting as a catalyst and recruiting agent for these people.”

The brutal murder in 2013 of off-duty soldier Lee Rigby in London by two assailants, one with links to al-Muhajiroun, certainly helped to kindle the sorts of fears and prejudices towards Muslims that Britain First seeks to exploit. Rigby’s family complained after Britain First co-opted Rigby’s name during the May 2014 European elections, registering the slogan “Remember Lee Rigby.” The U.K. Electoral Commission apologized.

Towards the end of TIME’s conversation with Golding and Fransen, a man who has come to the hotel to use the gym facilities recognizes the Britain First leadership. “What do you stand for?” he asks. “We’re pro-British, we don’t like political correctness, we want our own people put first in our own country, we don’t want mass immigration,” summarizes Golding.

“Does that mean immigrants have to leave then? My wife’s Jamaican,” says the man, kicking off a discussion that becomes increasingly heated. Golding calls his interlocutor “you donut” at one point; the Britain First bodyguard moves to stand menacingly behind the newcomer. The real flashpoint comes when Fransen asserts that immigrants have been given housing that should have gone to ex-servicemen. “I’m an ex-serviceman, don’t talk to me about ex-servicemen. Please do not talk to me about ex servicemen,” says the man who later identifies himself as Geoff (he declines to give his surname), a former paratrooper.

“We’ll talk to you about whatever we want sir, frankly. We’ll talk to you about anything we damn want,” replies Golding, but he’s obviously rattled.

Face-to-face Britain First has no arguments that stand up to Geoff or to other voices of reason. In the online space, the voices of reason are easily drowned out in a flurry of ill-judged “likes” and shares. Always think before you click.

Read next: Russell Brand Joins Thousands in ‘Anonymous’ Protests in London

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