TIME Military

Investigators: Bird Strikes Led to Fatal USAF Helicopter Crash

An impact with a flock of geese led to the deaths of four U.S. airmen in January, a board has found

A U.S. Air Force helicopter crash which killed four men was caused by “multiple bird strikes” to the aircraft, according to investigators.

Cpt. Christopher Stover, Cpt. Sean Ruane, Tech Sgt. Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt. Afton Ponce were killed in January when their helicopter crashed during a training mission in Norfolk, England. The U.S. Accident Investigation Board found the accident was caused by geese flying through the aircraft’s windshield, knocking the pilot and co-pilot unconscious. They were then unable to react when another bird hit the helicopter’s nose, disabling stabilization systems and eventually putting the aircraft in an uncontrolled and eventually fatal roll.

Only three seconds lapsed between the initial bird strike and the helicopter’s crash, investigators said.

The four men were in an HH-60G Pave Hawk assigned to the UK’s Royal Air Force. They were flying the helicopter as part of a nighttime training mission mimicking the rescue of a downed fighter pilot.

No civilians were injured during the crash, which saw the helicopter destroyed on impact. The estimated cost of the accident to the U.S. government was $40 million.

TIME Malaysia

Malaysia Is Becoming a Global Hub For Internet Scams Preying on the Lovelorn

IAC Will Turn Match Dating Service Into a Separate Business
The Match.com website is displayed on laptop computers arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The ease of obtaining visas, opening bank accounts and arranging money transfers are all part of Malaysia's newfound criminal appeal.

Lax student visa regulations and a high-tech banking system has made Malaysia a global hub for Internet scams, according to U.S. officials, with money being swindled out of unwitting Americans and Europeans by racketeers prowling online dating sites.

The conmen typically hail from Nigeria or Ghana and dupe lonely, middle-aged men and women from the U.S. and Western Europe through matchmaking services like Match.com, reports Reuters. A dozen new cases are reported to the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur every week, with scam complaints forming four-fifths of new work for duty officers.

“This is a serious issue hurting many Americans financially and emotionally,” said a U.S. embassy spokesperson. “We would hope that through publicity more Americans would be made aware of these scams.”

While most Internet users have received — only to swiftly mock and discard — some crude Nigerian scam emails, these tricksters are more sophisticated, and slowly build trust as a budding romance ripens. Then the request for money comes, normally a relatively small amount at first; but once the hooks are in, the victim struggles to turn down subsequent heftier demands without admitting to having been hoodwinked.

“Some victims find it very hard to break away from the relationship, even when they’ve been told it’s not real,” says Professor Monica Whitty, an expert on Internet fraud psychology. “So the criminal admits to scamming the victim but says that they also fell in love with them at the same time, and they get back into the same scam.”

But it is not just lovelorn Americans who are being swindled; other foreign embassies in Kuala Lumpur are dealing with similar complaints, reports Reuters. Whitty says that at least 500,000 U.K. citizens have fallen prey to such “sweetheart scams” since the phenomenon was first reported around 2007.

Slightly more men than women are duped by fraudulent lovers, but men are less likely to seek recompense out of embarrassment.

“Some people mortgage their houses to pay these criminals,” Whitty says, “but often the devastation they feel is more about the loss of the relationship than the money — of realizing they’ve been duped.”

And worryingly, such scams appear to be growing more common; last year, U.S.-based IT security developer SOPHOS ranked Malaysia as sixth globally in terms of cyber crime threat risks, as the total cyber crime bill topped $300 million. The ease of obtaining visas, opening bank accounts and arranging money transfers are all part of the nation’s criminal appeal.

“Scammers are increasingly using targeted social engineering attacks against their victims due to the extremely high success rate,” Ty Miller, an Australian security expert and founder of Threat Intelligence, tells TIME. “This not only affects individuals, but also organizations.”

Awareness and technology are key to tackling this scourge, says Miller, who is running a fraud-prevention course in Kuala Lumpur in October. “Techniques can be deployed that allow malicious individuals to be tracked,” he says, “which as time goes on will build intelligence to unveil the identity of the perpetrators.”

Amirudin Abdul Wahab, CEO of CyberSecurity Malaysia, an agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, says all involved nations must share information and jointly investigate cases according to agreed procedures and technical processes.

“Various authorities from the various countries involved should work together rather than blaming each other,” he said by email. “These countries need to synergize their efforts, in order to effectively address this scam problem.”

TIME Syria

The Vast Majority of Syrians Are Opposed to an Islamic Caliphate

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Syria waves an ISIS flag in Raqqa, Syria on June 29, 2014. Reuters

The data affirms the sentiments of some prominent Muslim leaders and academics in the region

The Islamist insurgents who have seized towns and cities across Iraq and Syria in recent weeks have not received the warmest of welcomes from their new charges. A survey conducted by a British polling group reveals that only 4% of Syrians support the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) group’s crusade for a pan-Arab Islamic caliphate — with one in three Syrians still backing the government of President Bashar Assad.

“This [research] is a unique insight into public opinion in Syria,” Johnny Heald, managing director of the polling firm, told Reuters. “They don’t believe the extremist groups best represent their views.”

The poll, conducted by local interviewing teams, spanned 12 of Syria’s 14 provinces.

The data affirms the sentiments of some prominent Muslim leaders and academics in the region, many of whom have recently spoken out against the struggle for an Islamist state spanning the Middle East as socially reckless and scripturally ill-informed.

“The Baghdadi caliphate is rejected by most mainstream Islamists because they feel it damages their cause to establish an Islamic system through peaceful means,” Farid Senzai, a professor of Middle East politics at Santa Clara University, told al-Jazeera on Monday.

[Reuters]

TIME South Korea

South Korean Ferry Was Operating Illicitly, State Report Says

Relatives of a missing passenger onboard the capsized Sewol ferry, looks at the sea while a Buddhist monk prays for the victims at a port in the rain in Jindo
Relatives of a missing passenger onboard the capsized Sewol ferry look at the sea while a Buddhist monk prays for the victims at a port in the rain, where family members wait for news from the search and rescue team on April 27, 2014. Kim Kyung Hoon—Reuters

The Sewol had earned an operating license by means of fraudulent documents, and carried twice the legal limit of cargo

The MV Sewol was operating under a license earned by fraudulent safety documents when it capsized off the South Korean coast in April, an incident that left 300 people — mostly high school students on a class trip — dead.

An interim report on the tragedy filed by South Korean state investigators failed to specify exactly how the Sewol deceived licensing officials, CNN reported, but the Audit and Inspection Board plans to penalize those agencies that failed to perform proper safety inspections aboard the ferry.

On its final voyage, the ferry’s cargo exceeded twice the legal limit and had not been properly secured onboard, contributing to the boat’s capsizing en route from the city of Incheon, near Seoul, to the island of Jeju.

The findings of this latest report do not bode well for the Sewol’s crew and owners, who face legal charges for negligent actions that prosecutors say both facilitated the sinking of the ferry and failed to prevent the death of most of those onboard.

Lee Joon-seok, the captain of the Sewol with four decades of maritime experience, has been charged with murder for fleeing the sinking vessel. The seafaring tradition of “going down with one’s ship” is, many legal experts have argued, in fact enshrined in South Korean and international law.

TIME Malaysia

A Malaysian Legislator Tweets Praise to Hitler After Germany’s Soccer Triumph

This photo taken on May 19, 2010 shows M
Malaysian lawmaker Bung Mokhtar Radin and his second wife Zizie Ezette arriving at a Shari‘a court in Kuala Lumpur on May 19, 2010 AFP/Getty Images

The politician has refused to apologize for the tweet, claiming that the German squad "fought" like Hitler in its 7-1 World Cup semifinal victory over Brazil

A Malaysian member of Parliament, Bung Mokhtar Radin, has refused to apologize for a tweet that paid tribute to Adolf Hitler following Germany’s 7-1 win over Brazil in the World Cup semifinal.

Bung wrote, “Well Done..Bravo…Long Live Hitler…” after Germany’s soccer triumph, prompting outrage from the Malaysian Twitterverse.

The German ambassador to Malaysia, Holger Michael, also weighed in. “We strongly reject the distasteful and unacceptable allusion to the fascist regime of Adolf Hitler,” he tells TIME.

But Bung showed no remorse during a Wednesday interview with the Star. “I don’t know what’s wrong with people sometimes. Hitler is part of history and the German team fought like how he did,” he said.

Bung added that the tweet was just for fun and suggested that everyone needed to get a better sense of humor.

“I think people nowadays should transform their mentality. Whatever I tweet people hit me. They are not hitting me because of Hitler, but because I am Bung Mokhtar,” he claimed.

TIME Thailand

Thailand’s Junta Arrests an Editor Over a Facebook Comment

Thailand's Military Coup Continues As General Prayuth Receives Royal Endorsement
A man shows his mobile phone while riding the Bangkok sky train on May 28, 2014. A widespread Facebook outage occurred in Thailand one afternoon while the ruling military junta who staged a coup denied causing it. Paula Bronstein—Getty Images

The military continues to silence critics of the May 22 coup

Thailand’s ruling junta set another disturbing precedent over the weekend after arresting a magazine editor in retaliation for comments he published on his Facebook page on July 4.

In his message, Thanapol Eawsakul, the editor of Fah Diew Khan magazine, said that military authorities had instructed him to refrain from making critical remarks about the junta. He was taken into custody the following day by soldiers clothed in civilian attire.

This is the second time Thanapol has been taken into custody since the army seized power from the country’s caretaker government in late May. He is expected to be held in “administrative detention” for at least seven days.

“Arresting an editor for a Facebook criticism of military rule shows just how far the junta will go to silence critics,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “The military can neither arrest all critics nor wish them out of existence.”

Fah Diew Khan is largely associated with the country’s Red Shirt movement, which supports the popularly elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra that was removed from power during the coup.

In a barely disguised display of media favoritism, the junta appointed the chairman of Post Publishing, which owns several periodicals that reportedly have strong ties to Thailand’s ruling class, to the 10-member advisory board it set up days after the coup.

Since seizing the reins of power, the military has relied on the interment of protest leaders, politicians, analysts and journalists critical of their policies to smother dissent.

On May 28, the junta briefly suspended access to Facebook before quickly reinstating the connection. While the military later denied blocking Facebook, a spokesperson from Norwegian telecommunications firm Telenor, which operates the second largest network in Thailand, admitted that the firm did so for one hour after being instructed by Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

TIME Nepal

Nepal’s Impoverished Kidney Village, Where Organs Come Cheap

Man Bahadur Tamang, 51, who sold his kidney for 64,000 Nepalese rupees ($727) due to poverty, shows the incision scar from the operation, at his home in Kavre
Man Bahadur Tamang, 51, who sold his kidney for 64,000 Nepalese rupees ($727) due to poverty, shows the incision scar from the operation at his home in Kavre on Sept. 4, 2012. © Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters—REUTERS

In the mud-brick village of Hokshe, desperate Nepalese have been persuaded, or tricked, into selling a precious kidney for a pittance

In 2002, Kenam Tamang was duped into parting with a kidney by his own son-in-law. The ruse was a simple one, sweetened by the lure of work and a steady income – something he had been bereft of for too long. The two would leave their village of Hokshe in the Himalayan foothills east of Kathmandu, cut a line south and cross the border into India. Several days later, they would arrive in the southern coastal city of Chennai, ending a migratory passage that hundreds of thousands of Nepalese laborers had plied before them.

He hung around in Chennai for a month before being introduced to a group of Indian men — friends of his son-in-law who would arrange the work, he was told. “But one night, I heard them talking about kidney, but could not understand the whole conversation properly, which was in Hindi. And the next day, I was escorted to the hospital, where I was told that they are taking out my kidney.” Kenam, 48 at the time, turned to his son-in-law. “He said I will get a good amount for the kidney and there will not be any health complications. He even said that it would grow back.”

Hokshe is a cluster of mud-brick homes, flanked by fields of corn, sitting high up in the hills that circle Kathmandu. The arterial roads heading west from the village serve as tributaries that feed the capital with an ever fluid labor force made up of young and old, men and women, who see little point in staying at home to farm small patches of land for less than $2 a day. But the village carries a dark secret: of the 75 households in one ward alone, almost all have at least one member who has sold a kidney. Some, like Kenam, are duped into doing so; others are only too willing. From the days of the early ’90s, when the first villager was approached by brokers with the attractive offer of more than a year’s wages in return for an organ, the trade has taken on almost fad-like proportions.

Kumari Sapkota, 42, stands outside her home in Ward 3 of Hokshe. Her hands and clothes are caked in a chalky mud from working the field of corn below the house. If the money was right, she would willingly sell her kidney. Her only hesitancy is that all too often, the fee offered by brokers rarely gets delivered; either that, or sellers find that by the time they resume their lives in Hokshe, much of it has been spent on travel and medicine. That was the fate of Kenam. After being reassured by his son-in-law, he agreed to undergo the operation for $700. The cash was handed over in full, but three months later, as the bus wound its way back up the hill to Hokshe, only $100 was left. The two of them had spent the intervening time in Kathmandu, where the fee was whittled away. “Some money was used for dieting and medicine to be used soon after the operation, while my son-in-law spent money on alcohol,” he laments.

The story of Ganesh Bahadur Damai, 40, from nearby Jyamdi village, echoes Kenam’s search for better-paid work in India — that is, until he found himself drunk in a room in Bangalore with a group of strangers. “I was given an injection which made me unconscious for 24 hours. When I awoke, I was in a hospital bed. They had taken my kidney.” Three months later he arrived back in Kathmandu, where he was handed a mere $150, with which he bought a small plot of land. People living with one kidney should have its function assessed annually. But, he says, “I have no money to go for a health checkup.”

Stories like this don’t deter Kumari, nor the seemingly dozens of other villagers here who see opportunities in the organ trade. Her husband is a kidney down, as is the friend who works the field of corn with her. One man, Krishna, says his brother-in-law and two other relatives have sold theirs. He tried four times, but all were unsuccessful — on one occasion, the recipient of his kidney died just before he arrived for a pre-op checkup in Kathmandu. Frustrated, he won’t try again. But others are only too keen.

One 19-year-old mother is actively looking for a buyer, but recent crackdowns by Nepalese police have taken out many of the middlemen. “If you know someone [a broker], tell him to come here!” she says, laughing. Her reason is blunt, and a sharp reminder that the money they’ll receive isn’t for indulgence, but for far more pressing concerns. “I can get one lakh [$1,000] for a kidney. My son’s future will be secure.” As the conversation winds on, and more women come up from the field, it becomes clear that the international kidney trade that feeds clinics across the subcontinent and beyond has a bountiful source in Hokshe.

“Hokshe is an example of how people can [be exploited],” says Dr. Rishi Raj Kafle, executive director of the National Kidney Center in Kathmandu. “These villagers see people who haven’t died and think, Why not?”

Back in the village, the sharp whiff of locally brewed moonshine that comes off the breath of many locals — even those who, with one kidney, really shouldn’t be drinking very much at all — points also to a lack of understanding about the health implications. That isn’t surprising. Every villager TIME spoke to was illiterate and would struggle to learn about or comprehend the side effects of a nephrectomy, which can include high blood pressure and reduced function in, or even failure of, the remaining kidney.

The emergence of a legal donor system, in which relatives of patients who require a new kidney can trade theirs for $2,000 of government money, has reduced the numbers of Nepalese traveling to India for operations. Police have also clamped down on the rackets that prey on villages like Hokshe, and in May they arrested 15 traders in a sting operation. But Dr. Kafle fears there could be many more Hokshes across Nepal, even though the only people who seem to be making money are the traders. “I’ve not found a single person who sold their kidney who is rich,” he says.

TIME China

Weirdly, Chinese Journalists Can No Longer Publish ‘Unpublicized Information’

General Scenes as The Boao Forum Opens
Reporters work at computers in the Xinhua press room at the Boao Forum for Asia conference in Boao, China, on April 8, 2014 Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Wait, isn't reporting the unreported what journalism is supposed to be about?

Chinese journalists discovered on July 8 that they had been scooped. More than a week before, the press authority had tightened the screws on the nation’s beleaguered press corps by issuing a set of ambiguous rules that give authorities significant latitude to silence reporters.

But it wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that the government, through the state-run Xinhua News Agency, bothered to alert journalists to the new regulations, which ban media from disseminating “various information, materials and news products that journalists may deal with during their work, including state secrets, commercial secrets and unpublicized information.” Got that?

In addition to that frustratingly broad swath of now off-limits material, Xinhua added that the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television had specifically banned the “illegal copying, recording or storage of state secrets.”

What exactly constitutes a “state secret,” or a “news product,” or “unpublicized information,” isn’t clear. But in the past, Chinese journalists have been locked up for divulging information in cases that international human-rights groups have deemed spurious.

In April, a 70-year-old reporter named Gao Yu was detained on suspicion of leaking “a secret central-party document” to a foreign website. (In a neat catch-22, the content of a purported state secret often cannot be released to the public because, well, it’s a state secret.) Gao had spent more than five years in jail in the 1990s on another state-secrets conviction. In May, she was paraded on TV apparently admitting to wrongdoing — part of a recent spate of televised confessions in which dissidents and others seem to profess guilt even before their cases have made their way through the courts.

“Gao is the latest victim of China’s vaguely worded and arbitrary state-secret laws, which the authorities repeatedly use as a smoke screen to target activists,” said Anu Kultalahti, China researcher at Amnesty International.

Chinese journalists reacted to the latest government directive with both confusion and outrage. One magazine journalist said she hadn’t heard of the new rules until she was contacted by TIME on Tuesday afternoon. She was left with many questions. “Is there any official list clarifying what is a state secret and what is not?” she asked. “If we want to cover an official’s corruption scandal, is this scandal a state secret? Who knows?”

Another reporter who specializes in investigative journalism saw the June 30 rules as “another shackle imposed on journalists.” He continued, “I have discussed this with other journalists, and the general consensus is that self-censorship within the media will probably intensify. More and more topics will become untouchable.”

President Xi Jinping has unleashed a corruption crackdown that has netted hundreds of errant officials in all levels of government. But covering these graft scandals is a tricky business for reporters, who receive daily government directives on what they can and cannot write about. The June 30 directive further limits journalists, ordering them to sign nondisclosure agreements with their news organizations. They are also forbidden from disclosing certain information to other domestic and foreign-media or websites. Nor can that material be published on social-media forums.

While local journalists clearly face much greater danger, the foreign press has also been squeezed in recent months. The Chinese government has refused to issue new accreditations for journalists from Bloomberg and the New York Times, after both media organizations ran stories detailing the wealth accumulated by the families of top party leaders.

In May, Xin Jian, a Chinese news assistant working for the Japanese financial newspaper, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, was detained in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing. The reason for Xin’s detention? She was suspected of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” That’s a charge that could be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

— Beech reported from Beijing

TIME World Cup

Germany Crushes Catastrophic Brazil 7-1

APTOPIX Brazil Soccer WCup Brazil Germany
A Brazil soccer fan cries as Germany scores against her team at a semifinal World Cup match as she watches the game on a live telecast in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, July 8, 2014. Bruno Magalhaes—AP

The host country's fans went from stunned to comatose, like they were stuck in a bad dream

Brazil’s World Cup dream didn’t just end in the semifinal; it was shattered spectacularly into tiny yellow pieces. A fast and tactical German team shredded Brazil’s largely absent defense five times in 18 amazing first-half minutes to walk into the finals.

Brazil entered the game without its leading scorer, Neymar, and its defensive captain Thiago Silva but with the backing of its passionate crowd. But the Seleção went out of the game with its reputation as soccer’s most creative force in tatters. A team that hadn’t lost at home since 1975 suffered a defeat that was almost unthinkable.

The hammering began 11 minutes into the game when Brazil failed to mark Thomas Mueller on a corner kick—a criminal lapse against any German team— and Mueller took his time to sweep the ball past goalie Julio Cesar. The goal silenced the roaring home crowd but it was hardly a disaster. Croatia had scored first against Brazil in the opening game. Until that time, Brazil had held its own, even starting by brightly bringing its attack into Germany’s end.

But the Seleção was also ceding massive amounts of space on the field, as it had done against Colombia. But Germany is certainly not Colombia and soon began running into gaps in the Brazilian lines with menace. That menace turned to 2-0 when Miroslav Klose collected Mueller’s pass deep in the Brazil box and after Cesar blocked his initial shot he had an easy time pushing the rebound past the hapless keeper. The goal made Klose the all time leading World Cup scorer with 16.

The crowd went from stunned to comatose but they were soon to be shaken out of this bad dream by something even worse. Hardly a minute later, Dante, in for Silva, fed a hospital ball to Fernandinho 40 yards in front of his own goal. Fernandinho was dispossessed and Germany was down Brazil’s throat again. Kroos easily slotted home a couple of passes later. Barely two minutes after that, Brazil failed to clear a rolling ball delivered across its own 18 yard box and Toni Kroos smacked a left footer past Cesar. By the time that Sami Khedira collected Germany’s fifth goal in the 29th minute after exchanging passes with Mesut Oezil, Brazil’s defense had been reduced to numb spectators who looked as if they had just watched a horrific car crash.

The Brazilians were whistled off the pitch by the crowd that loved them at the start of the game. “It looks as if it’s 11 against 9,” noted television commentator Steve McManaman. It looked worse than that.

At the half, Brazil benched the execrable Hulk and replaced him with Ramires and took Fernandinho out for Paulinho. The changes, if way too late, injected some life into Brazil, and within the first 10 minutes of the second half produced three great goal scoring chances. But Manuel Nueur’s twin, point-blank saves against Paulinho signaled that there would be no miracle comeback. Instead, with Brazil taking increasing risks, Germany piled on more goals. Substitute Andre

Schuerrle added two well-taken goals before Oscar managed a hardly-a-consolation goal in the 90th minute. The Brazilians walked off the field in tears; history will not be kind to them.

TIME Education

Malala Day Video Tells the #StrongerThan Story Through Children’s Voices

“Once there was a girl who wanted to go to school….”

Correction appended, July 9

In preparation for worldwide Malala Day on July 14, 2014, the Malala Fund released this video of children telling the inspiring story of the Pakistani girl who dared to learn.

“This is a story of strength,” begins the clip. One child after another then picks up the narrative, telling the story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who narrowly survived a Taliban assassination attempt while still a young teenager, after gaining attention as an advocate for girls’ education. Since then, Malala has become an international envoy for education and women’s rights.

“Malala Day is not my day,” she said in a statement. “It is the day of every girl and every boy. It is a day when we come together to raise our voices, so that those without a voice can be heard.”

The Malala Fund calls on people to use the #StrongerThan hashtag on social medial to tell their own story of overcoming oppression.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated Malala Yousafzai’s nationality.

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