TIME Israel

American Donors Give to the Israeli Right

Naftali Bennett, chairman of the right-wing party Jewish Home party, has raised more money from American donors than Israel's Prime Minister

As nuclear talks with Iran continue in Switzerland and with the fallout over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress still in the air, American politicians and government officials are watching this week’s election in Israel even more closely than usual.

And they’re not the only ones. American citizens donated over a million dollars to candidates involved in primary races in the run-up to the general election, according to records published by the State Comptroller of Israel. The donations were for primaries only because candidates in Israel are not legally permitted to use foreign campaign donations in the general election. Figures are officially reported in Israeli shekels and have been converted to their U.S. dollar amounts for this article.

While Jewish voters regularly prefer Democratic politicians at home by at least 30 percentage points, the candidate who raised the most money from American donors was Naftali Bennett, chairman of the right-wing party the Jewish Home. Members of Netanyahu’s party, Likud, received the more U.S. money as a whole than any other party. The Labor party, which stands a strong chance of ousting Netanyahu, received far less than either Likud or Jewish Home.

TIME Military

GOP Tries to Have Its Pentagon Cake and Eat It, Too

Operation against Daesh militants in Iraq's Tikrit
Ali Mohammed—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images The continuing war against the Islamic State is one reason the Pentagon needs more money, Republican lawmakers argue.

Budget move would keep cap on domestic programs while easing it on Pentagon

The 2011 budget deal that imposed caps on federal spending has begun to bite. That’s easy to see with the proposed House Republican budget for 2016 that keeps the lid on domestic spending while popping it open for the military—to the tune of more than a third of a trillion dollars over the coming decade.

It’s a complicated storyline, but worth following if you’re a taxpayer.

For starters, the GOP-controlled House Budget Committee plan pledges to keep the sequestration caps on both domestic and defense spending. But because the nation was waging two wars when Congress wrote the Budget Control Act, it exempted what has come to be called the “overseas contingency operations” account from such limits.

Normal folks used to call what became the OCO account “the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” President George W. Bush’s White House called it the “Global War on Terror.” Some in his Pentagon, echoing then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, called it the “long war.”

But shortly after President Obama took office, the Pentagon issued an edict changing the name once again. “This administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror,” it said. “Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.”

But one thing didn’t change: the OCO account can ignore the 2011 budget caps that apply to nearly all other federal discretionary spending. That’s why the GOP plan boosts Obama’s $58 billion for overseas contingencies by $36 billion, for a total of $94 billion. That increase brings the total GOP defense-budget proposal to $613 billion, beyond what Obama wants to spend.

“The proposed House resolution would constitute the most cynical and fraudulent use yet made of the OCO budgetary gimmick,” says Gordon Adams, who oversaw Pentagon spending in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton Administration. “In effect, the House Budget committee is proposing to have their fiscal discipline and eat their defense increase at the same time.”

For four years, the Pentagon and its allies in Congress have fought the defense budget caps. Their inaction has kept the Defense Department from learning to live within them, and the retooling and reforms such an acknowledgement would require. Their fight continues, which is why the service chiefs trekked to Capitol Hill when Obama unveiled his budget and said the caps were hurting national defense. “The number one thing that keeps me up at night is that if we’re asked to respond to an unknown contingency, I will send soldiers to that contingency not properly trained and ready,” Army General Ray Odierno said.

The military and its congressional allies argue that the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, continuing troubles in Afghanistan, and Russia’s threat to Ukraine require increased levels of defense spending. The House proposal would add $387 billion to Pentagon spending between 2016 and 2025.

Yet even without OCO funding, Obama’s proposed 2016 budget of $534 billion would be the largest base budget in Pentagon history and eclipse Cold War spending levels. Any OCO addition would be icing on the cake. “There is no justification, whatever, for this increase,” Adams argues. “It is utterly unrelated to the reality of any combat operations the U.S. is undertaking.”

Even some Republicans didn’t care for the budgetary legerdemain. “I don’t like it,” said Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Sommittee. “OCO is a gimmick.”

Still, the GOP budget plan, like the President’s, is merely a proposal. Next year’s actual budget will have to be hammered out by congressional committees over the coming months.

Read next: Republicans to Renew Call for Obamacare Repeal in 2016 Budget

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TIME Israel

Scenes from Election Day in Israel

Millions of Israelis voted in parliamentary elections March 17, in a contest widely seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is hoping to be granted a fourth term in office

TIME Spain

Spain Finds Don Quixote Writer’s Tomb

Search of human remains of Cervantes continues
Madrid Region/EPA Forensic and anthropology experts labor to find Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes' human remains at Trinitarias Convent's crypt in Madrid, Spain.

Miguel de Cervantes' remains have been missing for almost 400 years

Spanish scientists have discovered what they believe to be the remains of Miguel de Cervantes in Madrid, almost 400 years after the Don Quixote author’s death.

His bones were found with his wife’s and others in a crypt in the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians, the BBC reports. Forensic scientists have yet to conduct DNA tests, and they say separating what is believed to be Cervantes from the others will be difficult. But based on extensive historical evidence, researchers say they can conclusively identify the tomb as his.

The prolific novelist and poet died in 1616 after completing the famous epic Don Quixote, considered by many scholars to be the first European novel. His remains went missing in 1673 after the convent where he was buried underwent construction. After it was rebuilt, he was moved back into the new building’s crypt along with the other individuals forensic scientists found, and his exact resting place was lost for centuries.

The team of 30 researchers are part of a project launched in 2011 to locate his burial place. They used infrared cameras, radar and 3D scanners to determine his location in the crypt.

Investigator Luis Avial said in a news conference that Cervantes would be reburied “with full honors” once a new tomb is built.

TIME India

India’s Modi Says His Fashion Sense Is a Gift from God

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi with the US President
Prabhat Kumar Verma—Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with President Barack Obama at Hyderabad House on Jan. 25, 2015 in New Delhi, India.

He's a fashion icon, according to one author

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said his well-documented fashion sense was a gift given to him by God, according to a new biography of the premier.

“God has gifted me the sense of mixing and matching colours,” Modi said, according to biographer Lance Price. “Since I’m God gifted I fit well in everything. I have no fashion designer but I’m happy to hear that I dress well.”

Price, a onetime adviser to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, takes an entire chapter to report on the ways Modi has built up his brand, and calls the newly elected Prime Minister a “fashion icon.”

The Indian leader regularly sports designer watches and glasses, and he has a pinstripe suit with his name woven into the design of the stripes. He changes his hand-made shirts multiple times a day to match the background of locations where he’s speaking publicly. And his preference for short-sleeve kurtas has been viewed as a symbol for his efforts to modernize the country.

[WSJ]

 

TIME Holidays

How St. Patrick’s Day Became the Most Global National Holiday

US President George W. Bush receives a bowl of sha
Stephen Jaffe—AFP/Getty Images WASHINGTON, : US President George W. Bush receives a bowl of shamrocks from Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern (L) on March 13, 2002.

How the wearing of the green has spread worldwide

Even though St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, parades and revelry in his name will ensue worldwide on Tuesday. The holiday’s popularity is global, spreading far past the Emerald Isle to cities with very few ethnic Irish people. There’s no obvious explanation for why Ireland’s national day is celebrated so broadly instead of, say, Bastille Day, the Fourth of July or Cinco de Mayo.

As historian and Dublin-based Boston College professor Michael Cronin explains, the modern version of the holiday is largely an American export, celebrations gaining popularity as Irish immigrants asserted their cultural and political presence in American society. Parades in the U.S. started cropping up in the 1800s, but in Dublin, Cronin says, you wouldn’t have seen that kind of celebration until around the 1990s.

Now, decades later, the wearing of the green is an international tradition — but each location’s history uniquely informs the rest of the celebration.

“St. Patrick’s Day as we know it is a new world phenomenon,” Patrick Griffin, a history professor at Notre Dame, says. “There’s nothing really Irish about it now; it’s nostalgic and schmaltzy.”

But beneath all the paper shamrocks and Guinness merchandise, every city still has its own history and its own holiday flair, sometimes involving Irish immigrants, and funnily enough, sometimes not. Here’s a look at how St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world:

New Orleans

The Louisiana port city loves a good party, and since New Orleans was also a major hub for Irish immigration to the U.S., it’s no surprise they’ve been hosting festivities since 1809. What is a bit bizarre, however, is one of the day’s most cherished traditions: a vegetable food fight. According to Cronin, the practice has a benign origin.

“For the feast of St. Patrick, which is of course a Catholic holiday, it was common for the rich people up on floats in the parade to throw food down for the poor,” he says.

Eventually, the noble intentions deteriorated into a free-for-all of cabbage, carrots, potatoes and onions, which parade floats still stock in ample supply. Revelers will toss them into the crowd along with another New Orleans St. Patrick’s Day mainstay, the Moonpie.

Montserrat

For most countries, even the U.S., St. Patrick’s Day is an unofficial holiday. It is only officially recognized in Ireland and Northern Ireland, Newfoundland, and a small Caribbean island called Montserrat. Also known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, the island, still a British territory, was a refuge for persecuted Irish Catholics as far back as the 17th century. Most of Montserrat’s 5,000 residents claim some Irish heritage or affiliation.

The celebration, a unique fusion of Irish, African and Caribbean tradition, also commemorates a failed slave revolt on St. Patrick’s Day 1768. The island hosts a “freedom run” to mark the anniversary, while also taking part in some more familiar practices, like serving green beer.

Tokyo

Japan’s capital city has hosted St. Patrick’s festivities since 1992. In the years following, celebrations have spread all over the nation. Tokyo’s parade is unique because it was primarily organized by people who aren’t Irish. Some Japanese people, Cronin says, were so enamored with the holiday and with Irish customs that they adopted the holiday.

The annual festivities are now organized by a non-profit called Irish Network Japan, a group comprised of both Irish and non-Irish Japanese people that seeks to foster cultural exchange and unity.

Montreal

One of the longest-running parades on the North American continent is hosted in Montreal, where the Quebecois have staged an annual parade since 1824. And they have been celebrating in some fashion since the mid-1700s, when Irish soldiers in the British army observed St. Patrick’s Day there during the conquest.

Cronin says that in this case, the enthusiasm is less about Irish identity and more about a shared Roman Catholic faith. Montreal was originally colonized by Catholic missionaries and maintains a strong Catholic identity today.

Dripsey, County Cork, Ireland

A village in southern Ireland holds the Guinness World Record for shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade. Beginning in 1997, residents would march for only 77 ft.—the distance between the village’s two pubs. Unfortunately, the parade has been defunct since 2007, after the closure of one of the pubs, the Lee Valley Inn.

“For people in Ireland it’s different than America,” Griffin tells TIME. “They’re poking a little fun at themselves.”

Washington, D.C.

Every year, the White House hosts the Irish Prime Minister for a “Shamrock Ceremony,” where the visitors present the president with a crystal bowl full of shamrocks. This year, president Barack Obama will meet with Irish prime minister Enda Kenny. The ceremony is followed by dinner, where the Irish politicians are treated to a “traditional” Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage.

But most Irish people, Cornin says, aren’t really familiar with the pink, salty dish. It likely developed in Irish American communities because corned beef is a cheap cut of meat. In Ireland, he says, a more typical St. Patrick’s Day feast might feature a spring lamb.

The International Space Station

Love for the holiday is so widespread it even extends outside the atmosphere onto the International Space Station. In 2013, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield wore a green sweater and bow tie aboard ISS, took a photo of Ireland from orbit and even posted a recording of himself singing “Danny Boy.” Two years earlier, American astronaut and flautist Catherine Coleman performed an Irish flute song in space for the holiday.

“It’s amazing to me,” says Cronin. “There’s no other nation in the world that can convince all the other countries to celebrate their national day. Why is an American kid worried about the patron saint of Ireland?”

Whatever the reason, on Tuesday when you dig for that shamrock tie you only wear once a year, know that you are most definitely not alone.

Read next: 10 Supposedly Irish Things That Aren’t Remotely Irish

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TIME russia

Putin Puts Russia’s Northern Fleet on ‘Full Alert’ in Response to NATO Drills

Putin has finally re-emerged into the public eye after ten days

Russian President Vladimir Putin put the nation’s northern fleet on full alert in the Arctic Ocean this week, as animosity between the Kremlin and NATO continues to simmer.

The order, which was handed down early Monday, allows for the mobilization of 38,000 military personnel, 3,360 pieces of equipment, 41 ships, 15 submarines and 110 airplanes, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

“New challenges and threats of military security demand the further heightening of military capabilities of the armed forces and special attention will be paid to the state of the newly formed strategic merging [of forces] in the North,” said Shoigu, according to state media outlet Sputnik.

The mobilization of the Russian fleet appears to have been triggered by ongoing NATO-led military drills across northern and eastern European, including maritime exercises in the Black Sea.

On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov accused NATO of conducting operations that were effectively undermining one of the world’s most stable regions.

“Such NATO actions lead to destabilization of the situation and increasing tensions in northeastern Europe,” Meshkov added, according to the Russia’s TASS news agency.

However, NATO has argued that Russia has continually stoked hostilities throughout the region by annexing the Crimea Peninsula in Ukraine and repeatedly violating European airspace.

NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu tells TIME that Russian snap exercises were a “serious concern” and completely out of proportion with the bloc’s drills.

By comparison, NATO only had 1,200 sailors onboard six ships in the Black Sea, she says, while ally Norway is conduting parallel national drills involving 5,000 troops.

“Russia has conducted about a dozen snap exercises over the past two years,” adds Lungescu. “Russia’s takeover of Crimea was done under the guise of a snap exercise. Russia’s snap exercises run counter to the spirit of the Vienna Document on confidence and security-building measures.”

Earlier this week, Putin admitted during a documentary broadcasted on Sunday that he considered putting the nation’s nuclear capabilities on alert to prevent outside agents from interfering with the Kremlin’s forced annexation of the Crimea peninsula last March.

Read next: Vladimir Putin Admits to Weighing Nuclear Option During Crimea Conflict

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TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Hangs 12 Men in Largest Single-Day Execution in Nearly a Decade

PAKISTAN-CRIME-EXECUTION-PROTEST
AAMIR QURESHI—AFP/Getty Images Pakistani NGO activists carry placards during a demonstration to mark the International Day Against the Death Penalty in Islamabad on October 10, 2014.

The country's death penalty was reinstated in December and broadened to non-terrorism crimes a week ago

Pakistan hanged 12 men on Tuesday, the largest number of people put to death on the same day since a moratorium on executions was lifted in December, according to an Interior Ministry spokesman.

“They were not only terrorists, they included the other crimes,” the spokesman said, according to Reuters. “Some of them were murderers and some did other heinous crimes.”

The informal suspension of capital punishment, enacted when the current democratic government took over from military rule in 2008, was removed on Dec. 17 following a Taliban attack on a school that killed over 140 people, mostly children.

Although Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium under pressure to expedite justice for terrorists and militants, the death penalty for non-terrorism crimes was also reinstated last week.

A total of 27 Pakistanis have been executed since the ban was lifted, and more than 8,000 remain on death row in what human-rights groups say is a severely deficient criminal-justice system.

Read next: Pakistan Court Sanctions Release of Alleged Mumbai Attacks Mastermind

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TIME Burma

Burma Jails New Zealander for ‘Insulting Buddhism’ in Facebook Post

Phil Blackwood, a bar manager from New Zealand, comes out of court after being sentenced to two and half years in prison, at Bahan township court in Yangon on March 17, 2015.
Soe Zeya Tun—Reuters Phil Blackwood, a bar manager from New Zealand, comes out of court after being sentenced to two and half years in prison, at Bahan township court in Yangon on March 17, 2015.

Two Burmese were also jailed in what critics deem the latest instance of spiraling religious intolerance in the Southeast Asian nation

A Burmese court sentenced a New Zealand citizen and two Burmese nationals to 2½ years in prison with hard labor for posting a promotional advert on social media that depicted the Buddha wearing headphones.

State prosecutors claimed the image posted last year on the Facebook page of V Gastro bar, where Phil Blackwood worked as the general manager, was an insult to the Buddhist religion.

The establishment later issued an apology for causing offense, but Blackwood, along with the bar’s Burmese owner Tun Thurein and manager Htut Ko Ko Lwin, were arrested on Dec. 10 and have been held in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison ever since.

Ahead of Tuesday’s decision, the visibly disheveled Blackwood still appeared optimistic.

“Well, hopefully a bit of justice is going to happen,” Blackwood told the BBC as he was frog-marched into court by police.

Hours later, activists panned the decision that they say further erodes freedom of expression and promotes growing religious intolerance in the former military state.

“That these three men acted in a culturally insensitive way by posting the Buddha with headphones image on Facebook is obvious, but that is nothing they should have been hauled into court for, much less sent to prison,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

Burma has been rocked by myriad bouts of ethnosectarian violence pitting Buddhist extremist against the nation’s tiny Muslim minority since the country’s ruling military junta unveiled political reforms in late 2011.

The nationalist movement, known locally as 969, has helped bolster a growing wave of Buddhist chauvinism throughout the country. Nevertheless, over 90% of respondents to a poll conducted by local media outlet DVB said the V Gastro trio did not deserve to be jailed.

Analysts say Tuesday’s court decision may also be used to shore up political capital for potential candidates ahead of Burma’s national elections later this year.

“This is an election year and religion is already being used for political purposes,” Matthew Smith, executive director of the Fortify Rights advocacy group, tells TIME. “It’s become a race to the bottom to determine who is a stronger defender of conservative Buddhism, and that’s dangerous territory to be entering.”

TIME Ireland

Irish PM Slams Tony Abbott for Offensive St. Patrick’s Day Video

Tony Abbott drew widespread scorn for comments such as "this is the one day of the year when it’s good to be green”

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny admits to being irked by a St. Patrick’s Day video posted by his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott, saying it perpetuates a “stage Irish perception.”

In an extremely cringeworthy clip, the Australian Prime Minister highlights his green tie, makes quips about “being green” and says how he wants to celebrate the day by drinking lots of Guinness.

“This is the one day of the year when it’s good to be green,” he says, in reference to his regressive environmental policies. “I’m sorry I can’t be there to share a Guinness or two, or maybe even three, but like you, I do rejoice in St Patrick’s Day.”

After attending a meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Kenny told reporters that he didn’t agree with Abbott’s remarks.

“There has been a long-term view of a stage Irish perception. I reject that,” he said, reports the Irish Times.

He went on to say that people should enjoy St. Patrick’s Day celebrations responsibly.

“I think it’s really important that we understand that we have a national day that can be celebrated worldwide, St Patrick’s Day.”

Abbott drew widespread scorn for the video address, with members of the Irish community describing his comments as “patronizing.”

“It’s been said of us that the English made the laws, the Scots made the money and the Irish made the songs,” he said in the video.

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