TIME

Vatican Discovers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars That Were ‘Tucked Away’

Cardinals listen to Pope Francis at the Vatican Oct. 20, 2014.
Max Rossi—Reuters Cardinals listen to Pope Francis at the Vatican Oct. 20, 2014.

Pope Francis is pushing for more financial transparency in the Vatican

The Vatican’s economy minister says that the Vatican has discovered hundreds of millions of dollars that were previously “tucked away” in various departments.

In an article to be published Friday in Britain’s Catholic Herald, Cardinal George Pell writes that Vatican reformers had uncovered the funds in a push for transparency among some 200 separate Vatican entities, though he did not suggest wrongdoing. The findings, he wrote, have helped boost Vatican finances.

“In fact, we have discovered that the situation is much healthier than it seemed, because some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet,” Bell writes.

Pope Francis has made reforming the Vatican’s finances a priority since he was elected in 2013. Earlier this year, he named Pell, an Australian Cardinal, head of the new Secretariat for the Economy.

TIME Korean War

The Forsaken: Portraits of Mixed-Race Orphans in Postwar Korea

Pictures made in the '60s by a young photographer, Joo Myung Duck, depict the mixed-race children of foreign servicemen and Korean women

On July 27, 1953, a ceasefire ended open hostilities in the Korean War, and the United Nations, the People’s Republic of China, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) established a border and a demilitarized zone at the 38th parallel. After three years of fighting, the border between north and south was, in effect, exactly where it had been prior to the beginning of the war. The Republic of Korea (South Korea) refused to join the armistice; and, as a formal peace treaty was never signed, South and North Korea today remain technically at war, 60 years after the guns fell silent.

Nearly three million people died or went missing in the war, in which North Korean and Chinese troops fought an international force comprised largely of Americans. Of those three million, more than half were civilians, and most were Korean. Since the mid-1950s, meanwhile, the American military has maintained a heavy presence in South Korea; this footprint is the uneasy foundation that underlies relations between the two countries.

The photos in this gallery were made in the early 1960s by Joo Myung Duck, then a young photojournalist. They depict mixed-race orphans, the children of foreign servicemen and Korean women, at the Holt orphanage in Seoul. Most of these children were born after the war, and they were abandoned by nearly everyone: by their fathers, who rarely remained in Korea; by their mothers, who endured ostracism and social stigma; and by the Korean government, which endorsed a politics of racial purity and sought to expel mixed-race children from the country.

In exploring these realities, Joo’s photographs are at-once inquisitive, undaunted, and gentle, attending carefully to variations in racial appearance while suggesting the centrality of Christian faith at Holt. His highly formal compositions revel in visual detail. And, in large part, he avoids sentimentality.

At their best, Joo’s images enact what sometimes feel like radical transformations. In one photograph (slide 8 in the gallery), a young girl faces the camera, her body outside the picture’s frame. Far above her head on the wall appears a stencil of shepherds approaching the manger in Bethlehem. In an instant, the wall assumes the air of a vast starlit desert; a viewer can empathize with the shepherds’ loneliness, doubt, and fear. An orphan might feel like that.

In another image (slide 11), seven children lie on a linoleum floor. Sleep has rendered their faces blank. Their bodies are arrayed in similar poses – stomach down, head turned to the side – and that very uniformity imparts a particular stillness. One searches for identifying traits: a scar, a cowlick, freckles. With the slightest change of perception, one might be gazing at bodies in a grave.

Despite everything, traces of beauty persist here. In the fourth picture, two children race around the photographer, as Joo whirls to follow them with his camera. The boy being chased appears to smile, perhaps even to laugh. Behind him, shadows of tree branches paint the ground. The sun was shining that day.

David Kim is a student at Yale Law School, where he curates an art and human rights initiative. He also collaborates with Council, a Paris-based arts organization. Contact him here.

TIME Yemen

Al Qaeda Threatens to Execute U.S. Hostage in Yemen

A video grab taken from a propaganda video released by al-Malahem Media on Dec. 4, 2014 purportedly shows hostage Luke Somers, 33, kidnapped more than a year ago in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, calling for help and saying that his life is in danger.
AFP/Getty Images A video grab taken from a propaganda video released by al-Malahem Media on Dec. 4, 2014 purportedly shows hostage Luke Somers, 33, kidnapped more than a year ago in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, calling for help and saying that his life is in danger.

In video gunmen threaten the life of Luke Somers

Militants in Yemen have released a video threatening to execute a British-born American hostage in three days if its demands to the U.S. government are not met, according to a company that monitors terrorist groups.

The video from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which was purportedly released Thursday, does not specify what those demands are, SITE Intelligence Group said. But in a translation provided by the company, AQAP accuses the U.S. of bombing its fighters. In the video, a man the group claims is U.S. citizen Luke Somers is threatened with execution.

TIME Thailand

The Two Men Charged With the Thai Backpacker Murders Face a Dubious Trial

Parents of Myanmar workers suspected of killing British tourist in Thailand, show their passports as at a monastery outside Yangon
Soe Zeya Tun—Reuters Parents of Burmese workers suspected of killing British tourists in Thailand show their passports as at a monastery outside Rangoon on Oct. 16, 2014

Observers have been left aghast at a litany of procedural irregularities

The two Burmese migrant workers accused of killing a pair of British backpackers on an idyllic Thai beach appeared in court to be formality indicted Thursday. But there are growing fears that any trial will be a sham.

The two men say they were tortured into a confession and various domestic and international human rights groups have raised concerns about their interrogation.

There are serious doubts about the evidence linking Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21, with the brutal slaying of David Miller, 24, and rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the Thai Gulf island of Koh Tao.

The victims’ bodies were discovered bludgeoned to death near rocks on Sairee Beach on Sept. 15. A fumbling investigation initially assumed Burmese migrants were to blame, then local hoodlums, then a jilted suitor of Witheridge. Eventually, police picked up Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, who were both working on the island illegally at the time.

“[The police] can see a wider investigation is needed but they are not interested,” Nakhon Chompoochart, the lead lawyer on the defense team, tells TIME. “They are only focused on the accused.”

Thai Metropolitan Police Bureau deputy commissioner Pol Maj Gen Suwat Jaengyodsuk denied the suspects had been coerced when speaking to the Thai National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday. He had been summoned by the commission on four previous occasions but failed to appear.

Allegations of torture aside, observers have been appalled by procedural irregularities. Tourists were allowed to wander through the crime scene, the suspects were forced into a reconstruction that may prejudice their chances of a fair hearing, and there was a lack of a forensic experts to collect evidence. Foreign nationals were also immediately blamed for the crime because, a police spokesman claimed, “Thais wouldn’t do this.”

“The prosecution has said that this is an important case and must be dealt with quickly,” says Andy Hall, a Thailand-based migrant labor expert aiding the defense. “There’s a real fear that justice will not be served.”

Under Thai law, the 900-page police report, upon which the prosecutors will base their case, will not be disclosed to the defense team until the trial commences. Instead, the defense lawyers will be given a summary containing a list of names and addresses of witnesses as well as a cursory inventory of evidence.

According to Felicity Gerry QC, a prominent British defense lawyer specializing in high-profile sexual-assault cases, “Not to have any access until the day of trial can’t possibly be fair.”

In many other jurisdictions, including the U.S. and U.K., as soon as charges are brought the defense has access to all evidence, including witness statements, physical exhibits and expert testimony. This allows lawyers to take instructions from their clients and call their own experts to refute any testimony relied upon by the prosecution.

“Sometimes the analysis takes time,” says Gerry, citing the checking of telephone records or the disputing of forensic conclusions. “My concern would be it’s all far too rushed and unfair to the defense.”

The arrival of British police observers has not helped. A team from the U.K., including a senior homicide detective and crime scene analyst, was dispatched to Thailand early last month in order to assist in the investigation. However, they spent only two hours on Koh Tao after arriving by helicopter and did not meet with either the accused or their legal team. Their findings have still not been released.

“You’d expect the Thai police to welcome the additional assistance,” says Gerry. “My suspicion is that [the British police have] been limited regarding what they’ve been allowed to do.”

Meanwhile, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, who face a death sentence if convicted, stay cut off from their families. “They are in good spirits but really miss their parents,” says Hall, who has met with the suspects three times each week since they were arrested.

Two British families have already been devastated by the Koh Tao killings. The Thai authorities must now ensure two Burmese families don’t needlessly experience similar anguish.

TIME China

Obama Issues a Warning Over Xi Jinping’s Growing Power

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a press conference at the Great Hall of People on Nov. 12, 2014 in Beijing.
Feng Li—Getty Images President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a press conference at the Great Hall of People on Nov. 12, 2014 in Beijing.

The Chinese President worries his neighbors with his fierce nationalism, Obama says

U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday gave a stern assessment of what he called Chinese President Xi Jinping’s quick consolidation of power, expressing worries about China’s dubious human rights record and insistent nationalism.

Obama told members of the Business Roundtable in Washington that the Chinese President “has consolidated power faster and more comprehensively than probably anybody since Deng Xiaoping,” referring to the Chinese leader who succeeded Mao Zedong in 1978, Reuters reports.

“Everybody’s been impressed by [Xi’s] clout inside of China after only a year and a half or two years,” he said. A recent TIME cover described the leader of the world’s most populous nation as an “emperor” and opined that he would be China’s most consequential leader since Deng.

Yet that clout, Obama said, has been put to regressive uses, including the enactment of policies that suppress dissent and harm human rights, as well as encourage a fierce “nationalism that worries his [Xi’s] neighbors.” Despite a highly publicized anti-corruption drive, China has also backslid 20 places to #100 on the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, a Berlin-based watchdog’s well-respected ranking of countries by transparency.

Still, Obama added that Xi appears to be sincere in his wish for “good relations” with the United States. Obama traveled to Beijing last month to meet the Chinese president and attend the APEC summit, where the two leaders announced a blockbuster deal on addressing climate change. Obama told the roundtable that American businesses in China should speak up if they feel “strong-armed” by Chinese authorities on various issues, even if doing so jeopardizes their success in the Chinese market.

The Obama administration always walks a fine line between courting a cooperative relationship with China and critiquing the nation’s attitude toward human rights. It has found doing so all the harder in recent months, as the central government in Beijing and protesters in Hong Kong remain deeply opposed over the future of China’s most open city.

Xi’s government in Beijing says it has the right to vet candidates for Hong Kong’s top leadership role, an election plan that Hong Kong protesters say flouts democratic principles. China’s official mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, has accused the U.S. of being involved in Hong Kong’s so-called Umbrella Revolution, which erupted in protest over Beijing’s restrictions on candidacy.

The U.S. has said that it supports a “meaningful” choice of candidates for Hong Kong voters, but denies any involvement in the protests that have been going on for 68 days.

Obama told the Chinese president at APEC that the U.S. will “consistently speak out on the right of people to express themselves” and support elections in Hong Kong that are “transparent and fair and reflective of the opinions of people there.” Xi has stressed that the conflict is a domestic affair on which the U.S. should not have an opinion.

TIME Italy

Disgraced Costa Concordia Captain Insists He Saved Lives

Costa Concordia Trial
Laura Lezza—Getty Images Captain of Costa Concordia Francesco Schettino stands during the hearing in the court for his trial, where he gave evidence for the first time, on December 3, 2014 in Grosseto, Italy.

He tells the court that the evacuation was delayed in order to reach shallower waters

Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino claims that his decision to delay evacuation of the cruise ship saved lives.

“Had I sounded the nautical signal for abandon ship — seven long whistles and one short one — people would have thrown themselves into the water,” he said Wednesday in court, reports Sky News.

Schettino is being tried for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship after the Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Italy in January 2012, killing 32 of its 4,299 passengers.

After hitting rocks near the island of Giglio, Schettino says he believed the ship would drift into shallower waters, which would facilitate an evacuation. He claimed to be in full control of the situation, stating that: “I was number one on the ship after God,” but also seemed to spread the blame: “It’s not like the captain is alone on a ship, it’s not like I’m a truck driver.”

Earlier in the day, a video emerged showing Schettino prepared to abandon ship, apparently contradicting his claims that he “tripped and stumbled into a lifeboat.”

During his first day on the stand on Tuesday, the former captain admitted that he had tried to impress passengers by navigating the ship closer to the coast than usual.

TIME ebola

Top U.S. Commander in Africa Is Optimistic on Liberia’s Battle With Ebola

David M. Rodriguez
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images United States Army General David M. Rodriguez serving as the Commander for United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) meets with Ali Laarayedh (Not seen), the Tunisian PM, on Nov. 21 in Tunisia.

“The trend lines are all moving in the right direction,” says Gen. David M. Rodriguez

The top American military commander for Africa on Wednesday gave a vote of confidence to the international effort to halt Ebola, saying that the U.S. mission against the virus might be able to scale back its operations in Liberia by next month.

Gen. David M. Rodriguez told reporters at the Pentagon that U.S. troops deployed in Liberia might be shifted to other hard-hit countries in the region, or even sent back home, if progress reports continue to encourage optimism. The latest status report from the World Health Organization (WHO), released on Wednesday, said that cases in Liberia are “stable or declining,” but was cautious in its assessments for Sierra Leone and Guinea.

“The majority of the big engineering and logistic things in Liberia will probably start to tail off at the end of the year or January,” Rodriguez said. “The trend lines are all moving in the right direction.”

Some 2,900 U.S. troops have been deployed to West Africa to help contain the Ebola virus, which has killed 6,070 people and infected 17,145. The WHO says that while its goals for the region – treating 70 percent of all infected people and safely burying 70 percent of all people killed by the virus – have been met in “most districts” of the three worst-hit countries, “serious shortfalls” persist in other parts of the region.

In its most recent update, the WHO said that transmission of the virus is “slightly increasing in Guinea” and “remains persistent and intense” in Sierra Leone, where 202 new cases have been reported in the capital, Freetown, since Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, Liberia reported just 43 new cases nationwide over a five-day period, down from 78 cases the previous week, the WHO says. The country still overall has the highest number of Ebola-related deaths out of the three countries, with more than 3,000 killed by the virus.

The U.S. mission began in September and is expected to include up to 4,000 U.S. troops and last at least a year.

TIME India

Indian State Bans Mass Sterilization After Surgeon Uses Bicycle Pump in Operations

Surgeon claims he never faced “a mishap or complication” during the dangerous procedure

A state in India issued a ban on mass sterilizations on Tuesday, a few days after it was revealed that a surgeon had used a bicycle pump in 56 operations last week.

Women undergoing tubectomies for sterilization are required to have their abdomens inflated, but this is generally done through the introduction of carbon dioxide rather than outside air.

Officials from the East Indian state of Odisha said using a pump for the procedure can be extremely risky, the BBC reports.

Dr. Mahesh Chandra Rout, the surgeon accused of breaking protocol, told the BBC that pumps are routinely used in Odisha during such procedures and that he had never faced “a mishap or complication.”

Tuesday’s ban is another addition to the controversy surrounding India’s mass sterilization drives, which are conducted widely and frequently to curb the country’s rapidly growing population.

Over a dozen women died during a sterilization drive in the state of Chattisgarh last month, a tragedy that was later blamed on substandard drugs.

TIME sweden

Sweden Is Holding Snap Elections for the First Time Since 1958

Sweden Government Defeat
Pontus Lundahl—AP Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven talks at a press conference at Stockholm, Sweden, Tuesday Dec. 2, 2014.

Extraordinary measure comes after anti-immigrant party derails the Prime Minister's budget proposal

Sweden’s new Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has called for snap elections, the country’s first in nearly 60 years, after a populist anti-immigration party trashed his attempt to build support for his first budget proposal.

The decision was announced Wednesday, a day after the Sweden Democrat party chose to back the opposition’s alternative budget, a move almost unheard of in a country long known to seek broad, political consensus, Wall Street Journal reports.

Lofven’s minority government, formed between his Swedish Social Democratic Party and the Green Party after the election on Sept. 14, was weak from the start. He has since reached out to center-right parties to find support for his budget, but the Sweden Democrats, who placed third in the election, were systematically shut out of the discussions.

This week, the Sweden Democrats said they planned to derail future budget proposals that continue current spending on immigration.

The snap election will be held on March 22.

[WSJ]

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