TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Abducted 8 More Girls in Nigeria, Police Say

New kidnapping comes as outrage grows in Nigeria and abroad over government's inability to rescue 276 schoolgirls abducted in April

Suspected Boko Haram gunmen reportedly kidnapped 8 more young girls when they attacked a village in northern Nigeria Monday night, amid deepening international outrage over the abduction of girls by the Islamic militia.

Villagers said the men arrived in trucks and started shooting. “Many people tried to run behind the mountain but when they heard gunshots, they came back,” one villager told Reuters. “The Boko Haram men were entering houses, ordering people out of their houses.” A police source told the news agency that a truck had taken the girls away. The abducted girls were aged 12-15.

The attack comes as world outrage mounts over Boko Haram’s abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls April 14. The terrorist group, whose name roughly translates to “western education is forbidden,” kidnapped the girls on a night they had gathered at school to take an exam. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau took responsibility for the abduction Monday, when he released a video saying “I abducted your girls” and “I will sell them in the market, by Allah.”

(MORE: How We Failed the Lost Girls Kidnapped by Boko Haram)

The government’s inability to stop Boko Haram and find the girls has led to major unrest in Abuja, where protestors are demanding more government action to stop the terrorist group. The protests are embarrassing for President Goodluck Jonathan, especially as world leaders arrive in Abuja to attend the World Economic Forum this week.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the abductions an “unconscionable crime” on Tuesday, and pledged to aid the Nigerian government in its hunt for the kidnappers. “We will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and hold the perpetrators to justice,” he said.

[Reuters]

 

TIME Infectious Disease

Saudi Arabia Reports More MERS Deaths

Saudi Arabia reports three more deaths as cases continue to rise

Saudi Arabia’s death toll from MERS has hit 115.

The Associated Press reports that on Monday, a 45-year-old man and two women in their 50s died from MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) after contracting it in the western Saudia Arabia city Jiddah.

Three additional people now have the disease, health officials report, bringing the Saudi Arabian total to 414 confirmed cases — and just last week, the CDC reported the first case in the U.S. The U.S. victim was isolated right away, and doctors say he will likely be heading home soon. He is currently at Community Hospital in Munster, Ind. The patient lives in Saudi Arabia and works in a hospital. He was visiting family in the U.S. on a planned trip.

MERS is in the same virus family as SARS. It has no vaccine or treatment, and researchers believe the disease may have come from camels. So far, human-to-human transmission has only occurred among people with close contact with infected people.

There’s worry over how much the disease could spread in July when millions of people are expected to visit on Saudi Arabia for Ramadan. In October, millions of Muslims will also gather in the city of Mecca for the Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage. Health officials are worried about transmission.

[AP]

 

TIME russia

Putin Signs Law Banning Curse Words in Arts and Media

Russia's president Vladimir Putin at a meeting with representatives of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia in Moscow on May 1, 2014.
Russia's president Vladimir Putin at a meeting with representatives of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia in Moscow on May 1, 2014. Nikolsky Alexei—ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis

A new law in Russia will levy steep fines, as high as $1,400 for organizations and $70 for individual offenders, against potty-mouthed reporters, writers and artists. Repeat offenders could face steeper fines and a 3-month suspension of business

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Monday that will ban swearing in films, music and public performances.

Explicit books and CDs will have to be sold in sealed packages with a warning that reads “contains obscene language,” CNN reports.

The law will levy fines as high as $1,400 against organizations and $70 against individual offenders. Repeat offenders could face steeper fines and a 3-month suspension of business.

A panel of obscenity experts will define the finer points of the law, deciding which words could damage the Kremlin’s stated goal of “protecting and developing language culture.”

[CNN]

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine Death Toll Rises as Gunfights Rage in Restive East

UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CRISIS
Ukrainian soldiers man a checkpoint near the eastern Ukranian city of Slavyansk on May 6, 2014. VASILY MAXIMOV—AFP/Getty Images

The deaths of soldiers apparently prompted the government in Kiev to block flights to the eastern region of the country, even as it claimed to have killed a growing number of pro-Russia militants

Four Ukrainian soldiers were killed on the outskirts of the eastern city of Slovyansk on Monday, prompting the government to reportedly block flights Tuesday to a region of the country where its forces are struggling to quell pro-Russian fighters.

The blocking of flights, the New York Times reports, came amid a mounting death toll from increasingly pitched battles with pro-Russian militias in the east. Ukraine said militants bearing Russian arms ambushed and killed four of its soldiers on Monday. Moscow denies arming or aiding the militants, while warning Ukraine’s fledgling government that it may forcefully intervene if the security situation continues to deteriorate.

Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said that as many as 30 pro-Russian militants may have been killed in chaotic battles outside of Slovyansk. He alleged in a Facebook post that Russian separatists were deliberately positioning themselves behind civilians. “The enemy hides behind people and fires from there,” Avakov wrote.

Ukrainian forces have surrounded the city as part of an “anti-terror” operation to oust pro-Russian militants from their strongholds. Rebels have seized control of government buildings in as many as a dozen cities in the east, BBC reports.

The fissure between the eastern region and the government in Kiev widened Tuesday, as Ukrainian authorities appeared to halt all international flights to the restive cities. As many as 20 flights from Kharkiv and Donetsk were cancelled, the Times reports. Meanwhile, the government said it had surrounded Kiev with checkpoints, in anticipation of a public holiday on Friday which officials feared could descend into violence.

[NYT]

TIME North Korea

North Korea Says Life in U.S. Is ‘Living Hell’

Undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on April 26, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting a shelling drill of an artillery sub-unit under Korean People's Army Unit 681 at undisclosed place in North Korea.
Undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on April 26, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting a shelling drill of an artillery sub-unit under Korean People's Army Unit 681 at undisclosed place in North Korea. KNS/AFP/Getty Images

Investigators in North Korea have released a report detailing the lives of "wretched" American citizens and calling the U.S. the "worst human rights abuser" just two months after a U.N. council slammed the Hermit Kingdom for "crimes against humanity"

Two months after the U.N. Human Rights Council excoriated North Korea for “crimes against humanity”, the reclusive kingdom has released its own analysis of the “serious human rights situation in the U.S.”

According to the report, the U.S. is the world’s “worst human rights abuser,” with its citizens trapped in a “living hell.” The report paints a dystopian nightmare of soaring crime rates, enabled by lax gun control laws and rising unemployment, abetted by a rapacious ruling class, and racism spreading under a mysterious law identified as the “citizenship act.”

And as his administration heaps abuses on its people, President Obama, the report finds, “indulges himself in luxury almost every day, squandering hundred millions of dollars on his foreign trip in disregard of his people’s wretched life.”

The “analysis” was published on a North Korean newswire last week. The U.N.’s Human Rights Council has yet to weigh in.

 

TIME Israel

Israeli Archeologist Claims to Have Found King David’s Citadel

Eli Shukron
Eli Shukron, an archeologist formerly with Israel's Antiquities Authority, walks in the City of David archaeological site near Jerusalem's Old City. AP

The supposed discovery of the biblical site has been met with religious and political criticism

An Israeli archeologist claims to have made a discovery of biblical proportions: the citadel King David captured in his conquest of Jerusalem over three thousand years ago.

Eli Shukron, who has excavated the City of David in Jerusalem for almost 20 years, told the Associated Press that “the whole site we can compare to the bible perfectly.” According to the second Book of Samuel, King David was said to have captured the walled city via an entrance in a water shaft. Shukron says this citadel houses a similar, narrow shaft. He also found two pottery shards dating back to the appropriate conquest date 3,800 years ago.

The discovery, however, has been met with the usual rounds of criticism both for religious reasons, as some historians claim there is little physical evidence of King David’s existence in Jerusalem, and also for political reasons. The $10 million excavation in an Arab neighborhood was funded by an organization that has been active in Jerusalem’s controversial settlements.

Ronny Reich, Shukron’s collaborator until 2008, said that “the connection between archaeology and the bible has become very, very problematic in recent years.”

The excavation site has been open to the public for a month.

[AP]

TIME India

While Indian Politicians Argue, People in Assam Stuck in Violent Cycle

An Indian resident salvages valuables in the remains of his house in the village of Khagrabari, some 200 km west of Guwahati on May 3, 2014, after it was attacked by tribal separatists in India's remote northeastern state of Assam Biju Boro—AFP/Getty Images

More than 30 Muslims were killed in two districts of western Assam late last week, as long-simmering sectarian tensions become seized upon by Indian election rivals

Hanif Ali picks through the remains of what used to be his home, looking for his wife’s gold jewelry. Three nights before, on the evening of May 2, eyewitnesses say men in khaki clothing stormed this isolated village of Khagrabari in western Assam, attacking its Muslim residents and burning down their homes. Ali, his wife and his daughter survived the raid, but many of their neighbors did not. Twenty villagers, including many women and children, died that evening in the latest fit of bloodshed in the restive northeastern state. “Everything is gone,” says Ali. “What good will peace do me now?”

Last week, more than 30 Muslims were killed in two districts of western Assam, a place better known outside India for its verdant tea gardens than its simmering insurgency. For residents, it was an unwelcome return to the violence that periodically stalks this remote part when tensions boil up between members of the local Bodo community and Muslim residents. In 2012, clashes between Bodos and Muslims, some of whom are migrants from neighboring Bangladesh, left dozens dead and displaced many thousands more. Local police are blaming last week’s killings in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts on a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), a militant group fighting for an independent Bodo homeland. Since the killings, Indian security forces have ramped up operations against the group, though it has denied any involvement in the bloodshed.

Outside Assam, as national elections enter their final weeks, the violence has prompted a fresh war of words between national parties about the treatment of minority groups in India. Leaders of the incumbent Congress Party, which projects a secular platform, and its allies have seized on the incident as an example of the divisive influence of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is forecast to win the largest number of seats in Parliament. Both the BJP and its prime-ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, have spoken out against illegal immigration of Muslims from Bangladesh in the past, which critics say fans tensions in a state where the issue is already a polarizing factor.

“In Assam, 30 Muslims were murdered. Why? Because BJP prime-ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, made a speech there and tried to incite people against Muslims,” Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said at a rally in his state on Saturday, according to Indian press. “This truth cannot be denied.” The same day, union minister and Congress Party senior leader Kapil Sibal also lashed out at Modi, saying his name stands for “a model of dividing India.”

Taking a stand against illegal immigration is not new for the BJP. After the 2012 Assam riots, senior party leader L.K. Advani blamed the bloodshed on unchecked illegal immigration from Bangladesh creating competition for resources between communities and general insecurity among Bodos. This week, the BJP quickly shot back at Congress for its comments, and, instead of backing down from the issue, at a rally in West Bengal, Modi reiterated his position against illegal immigrants days after the killings. “Those who come here for vote-bank politics and take away jobs of our youth will have to go back,” said Modi.

It’s impossible to measure, of course, what if any role political rhetoric actually played in last week’s violence. A handful of militant groups have been operating in the area for years. Though some have officially agreed to a cease-fire, the ongoing availability of arms in the region seems a more fundamental culprit in feeding the cycle of violence that afflicts both Bodos and Muslims alike. After widespread displacement in the state less than two years ago, hundreds of people are now back in relief camps, terrified to return home, lest more armed men come to their homes in the night again. Pramad Bodo, president of the All Bodo Students Union, says he does not think last week’s killings were religiously motivated. But, he says, everyone is weary of the seemingly fruitless fight between militants and security forces. “Bodo or Muslim — people are angry,” he says. “If the extremists are involved [this time], what has the government been doing?”

With reporting by Arijit Sen in Assam

TIME

Brunei’s Shari‘a Law Irks Hollywood Stars, Triggers Boycotts

Jay Leno watches as his wife Mavis speaks to supporters of women's rights and LGBT groups at a protest across from the Beverly Hills Hotel, owned by the Sultan of Brunei, on May 5, 2014 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Jay Leno watches as his wife Mavis speaks to supporters of women's rights and LGBT groups at a protest across from the Beverly Hills Hotel, owned by the Sultan of Brunei, on May 5, 2014 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Frederic J. Brown—AFP/Getty Images

Hollywood businesses and celebrities have vowed to boycott the Dorchester Collection, a luxury hotel chain owned by the state-run Brunei Investment Agency, after the country implemented a strict Shari'a code last week

Jay Leno, Richard Branson and the Motion Picture & Television Fund have slammed Brunei’s decision to implement an ultraorthodox form of Shari‘a law last week and have called for boycotts against hotels owned by the oil-rich state.

The new criminal code will allow courts to amputate the limbs of thieves, stone convicted adulterers and levy harsh punishments for abortions and homosexuality.

“The decision to implement the [Shari‘a penal code] is not for fun but is to obey Allah’s command as written in the Quran,” said the country’s billionaire leader Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah last week, according to the Associated Press.

The new criminal codes can also be applied to the Southeast Asian nation’s non-Muslim residents, who make up approximately one-third of the tiny country’s population.

On Monday former late-night talk-show host Jay Leno led a protest in front of the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, which is part of the Dorchester Collection owned by the state-run Brunei Investment Agency.

“What is this, Berlin 1933? This doesn’t seem far off what happened in the Holocaust,” said Leno, according to AFP. “Come on, people, it’s 2014. Evil flourishes when good people do nothing.”

The Feminist Majority Foundation, which is co-chaired by Leno and his wife Mavis, announced this week that its annual Global Women’s Rights Awards scheduled to take place at the Beverly Hills Hotel would be moved to another venue.

Over the weekend, Virgin Group’s founder Richard Branson took to Twitter to rail against the Sultan’s open disregard for human rights.

However, the Dorchester Collection’s chief executive Christopher Cowdray rejected the boycotts and dismissed the protests against the company as misguided.

“American companies across the board are funded by foreign investment, including sovereign wealth funds,” he said in a statement.

TIME South Africa

Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial: Neighbor Says Steenkamp Shot by Accident

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria May 5, 2014.
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria May 5, 2014. Ihsaan Haffejee—Reuters

Neighbors of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, called as defense witnesses in his murder trial, described finding the distraught Paralympian minutes after he fatally shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, and pleading with her to survive

Witnesses called by the defense team of Oscar Pistorius attempted to buttress the Paralympian’s assertion that he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder.

On Monday, Johan Stander and his daughter Carice Viljoen, who live close to the 27-year-old athlete, testified that they arrived at his Pretoria home soon after the fatal shooting and saw Pistorius urging Steenkamp to keep breathing.

“Stay with me, my love, stay with me,” Viljoen told the court that Pistorius said to the dying Steenkamp, 29.

“I just saw blood everywhere,” she added. “He kept on egging Reeva to just stay with him.”

She added that she feared Pistorius might kill himself after emergency-response personnel asked him to fetch his deceased girlfriend’s identification. “I was scared that he might shoot himself,” Viljoen testified.

The Blade Runner — so called because of his trademark prosthetic limbs — admits to shooting four times through the toilet door of his villa home with a 9-mm pistol on Feb. 14, 2013, but claims he thought an intruder lurked within. Steenkamp was wounded in the hip, arm and head and died shortly afterward.

Stander, the manager of Pistorius’ plush housing complex, testified that Pistorius phoned him about two minutes after the shooting at around 3:19 a.m.

“I saw the truth there that morning. I saw it and I feel it,” Stander testified, adding that his famous neighbor was “really crying. He was in pain.”

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel has forcefully argued that Pistorius had rowed with Steenkamp on the night in question and killed her deliberately in a fit of rage. He asked Stander if he was attempting to “assist” the defense of his friend.

“I’m here to give the truth,” Stander replied. “And I think I’ve given the truth, what I saw that morning.”

Pistorius faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder, but also faces lesser charges of culpable homicide, discharging firearms in public and illegal possession of ammunition. He denies any wrongdoing.

TIME Asia

Not Again: Knife Attack at Train Station in Southern China

Armed policemen stand guard next to passengers after a knife attack at a railway station in Guangzhou, Guangdong province May 6, 2014.
Armed policemen stand guard next to passengers after a knife attack at a railway station in Guangzhou, Guangdong province May 6, 2014. Reuters

Another brutal stabbing incident in Guangzhou reported by state media, leaving at least six people injured by four knife-wielding assailants, comes less than a week after a coordinated bomb and knife attack killed dozens at a railway station in Urumqi

Updated: May 6, 2014, 7:10 a.m. E.T.

For the third time in months, and the second time this week, there has been a knifing at a Chinese railway station. At approximately 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, local time, one or more men stabbed at passersby outside a train station in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. Six people were injured, one critically, according to state-media reports. (Local press initially said there were four attackers, but Chinese police now say the suspect acted alone; eyewitness accounts vary.)

Photographs from the scene show what is becoming alarmingly common: blood on the pavement and bodies on the ground. Last Wednesday, a bomb and knife attack at a railway station in the city of Urumqi, in China’s far northwest, left three dead and dozens injured. On March 1, a coordinated assault on a railway station in Kunming, in southwestern China, left 33 dead and more than 100 injured.

It is not yet clear if the incident in Guangzhou is related to what happened in Urumqi or Kunming. Chinese authorities blamed both those attacks on separatists from the country’s predominantly Muslim Uighur minority. President Xi Jinping, who wrapped up a high-profile Xinjiang tour just before the Urumqi attack, last week announced plans to arm Chinese police officers with guns. In the wake of the recent spate of violence, he ordered the army to help local government deliver a “crushing blow” to terrorists.

Details from Guangzhou are still scarce, but early eyewitness accounts suggest the attacker or attackers wore white and brandished long knives. A woman named Liu Yuying told China News Service, a Chinese news agency, that she was exiting the station when she saw two men with “watermelon knives.” The Guangzhou Journal reported that they carried blades a half-meter (or about 20 in.) long.

Though the motive has yet to be determined, Chinese netizens were quick to connect the violence in Guangzhou to earlier incidents and condemn authorities for not doing enough to prevent mass attacks. “The counterterrorist effort is not enough,” one person wrote. “The innocent people are paying the price.”

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