TIME National Security

LIVE: John Kerry Discusses Counter-ISIS Coalition Meeting

Watch the Secretary of State's press conference live here at 10 a.m. ET

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is holding a news conference following the first ministerial-level meeting of the Counter-ISIS Coalition which brought together more than sixty partners to discuss political mechanisms to degrade and defeat the Islamic State.

TIME

Pentagon: Iran Appears to Be Launching Airstrikes Against ISIS in Iraq

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham would not directly address airstrikes on Wednesday

(LONDON) — Iran appears to be launching airstrikes against ISIS targets in eastern Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham would not directly address airstrikes on Wednesday, but said “there is no change in Iranian policy about helping the Iraqi government against ISIS or consulting and advising the Iraqi government against terrorists.”

But Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said he has seen “nothing that would dispute” reports that Iran has carried out airstrikes in eastern Iraq, adding that the U.S. was “not taking a position” on the matter. “We have no indication that the reports are not true,” Kirby told reporters when pressed at a briefing on Tuesday. […]

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Crime

The Problem With Prosecuting Women for False Rape Allegations

The UK is aggressively prosecuting women who make false rape allegations, but victim advocates argue it's unjust

Between headlines about the UVA frats, the Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, it seems like sexual assault allegations dominate the news. But in Britain there has been a recent spate of headline-grabbing cases where the people ultimately charged aren’t the alleged rapists, but the women who filed the claims in the first place.

Take the case of Eleanor de Freitas, a 23-year-old Londoner with bipolar disorder. De Freitas reported an alleged assault to the police, who were unable to build a sufficient case against her alleged rapist. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) then pursued de Freitas for perverting the course of justice — a crime which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Shortly before her trial was to begin in April, de Freitas killed herself. The UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions is currently investigating the case.

But de Freitas is not alone. Over the past five years, the CPS has prosecuted 109 women for making false rape allegations to authorities, according to the group Women Against Rape (WAR). The majority of those who were prosecuted — a full 98 — were charged with perverting the course of justice like de Freitas. But WAR, a London non-profit, held a public meeting at the House of Commons on Tuesday night, protesting what they believe is the unfair and aggressive prosecution of women.

For their part, the CPS noted in an email to TIME that such prosecutions are “serious but rare” and are “any decision to charge is extremely carefully considered and not taken lightly.”

Yet WAR disagrees. “I have not found any country that aggressively pursues women for falsely reporting a rape the way the UK does,” Lisa Avalos, an assistant professor of law at the University of Arkansas who has been working with WAR, tells TIME. Meanwhile, Lisa Longstaff, a spokeswoman for WAR, says, police are not putting in the necessary work into catching and convicting rapists. “They’re not dealing with rapists properly.”

Avalos agrees: “We do a bad job prosecuting rape across the Western world. A big part of what fuels that bad job is that police do not believe victims. Time after time after time we have victims saying they went to the police and the police didn’t believe them.”

A lot of what WAR says resonates with the statistics. Earlier this month an official inquiry into police practices in England and Wales found that police had failed to record more than 25 percent of the rapes and sexual offenses reported to them by the public as actual crimes. In some regions the figures were even worse, with police not recording one out of every three reports of rape or sexual assault.

Similarly, an explosive report released earlier this year found that police in Rotherham, England, disregarded numerous reports, over a course of years, of rape, sexual assault and forced prostitution made by young girls who were being abused by a group of men. Longstaff also points out that many of the girls in the Rotherham case who came forward to the police wound up being charged with offenses such as underage drinking, while their rapists went free.

According to a report published by the Home Office in January, looking at a three-year average, as many as 517,000 sexual assaults take place in the UK per year and 95,000 rapes are committed. Yet there are only 5,620 sexual assault convictions a year and only 1,070 rape convictions. And while it’s long been a problem that the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported to the police — which does factor in to the dismal percentage of convictions — Avalos says that “those [false claim] prosecutions have a chilling effect on other women coming forward.”

No one is arguing that women who make malicious false allegations of rape should be free from consequences. But Avalos says these instances should be looked at on a “case-by-case” basis and that pursuing harsh criminal cases isn’t the answer. (She notes that anyone who finds themselves falsely charged with rape can always pursue civil action against their accusers.) Part of the larger problem with prosecuting women for making false allegations is, according to Longstaff, that past examples prove “we can’t trust the authorities to make a rational decision about which is a false and which is not a false allegation. We’ve gone down the road so many times of seeing women who report rape or domestic violence or even child abuse and then [unjustly] end up on the wrong end of the prosecution.”

She points to the stateside case of Sara Reedy, who received a $1.5 million settlement from a Pennsylvania police department after she was raped at gunpoint at the age of 19 and then charged with inventing the story. Authorities were so convinced she was lying, she was even briefly jailed. It wasn’t until her attacker was arrested for another assault and then confessed to raping Reedy, that charges were fully dropped.

When asked about their decision to prosecute women over suspected false rape allegations, the CPS’s statement also noted that:

Such cases can only be brought where the prosecution can prove that the original rape allegation was false – if there is any question as to whether the original allegation might in fact have been true then a case of perverting the course of justice should not be brought. The relatively few cases that are brought are based on strong evidence and should not dissuade any potential victim from coming forward to report an assault.

But according to Longstaff, that’s exactly what the prosecutions — which might be rare, but can be highly publicized — do. She says many of the women WAR works with feel that “once you report, the police can easily turn on you and pin some other, often minor, crime on you [rather] than deal with the serious rape that you’ve reported.”

Correction: The original version of the story incorrectly described the response to de Freitas’s allegations. The Crown Prosecution Service began a case against de Freitas for perverting the course of justice prior to her death in April.

TIME Ukraine

Ukrainian Prime Minister Announces Accident at Nuclear Power Plant

Energy minister will reveal more at press conference

The Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk announced Wednesday that an accident had taken place at the Zaporizhye nuclear power plant (NPP) in South-East Ukraine.

“I know that an accident has occurred at the Zaporizhye NPP,” Yatseniuk said, asking new energy minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn to make clear when the problem would be resolved and what steps would be taken to restore normal power supply across Ukraine.

As a result of the accident, homes in South-East Ukraine and Crimea were experiencing power cuts.

[Reuters]

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Protest Leaders Attempt to Surrender to Police

Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Chan Kin-man, Chu Yiu-ming
Kin Cheung—AP Three protest leaders, from right, Chan Kin-man, Benny Tai and the Rev. Chu Yiu-ming walk toward the police station in Hong Kong on Dec. 3, 2014, to surrender to police

However, Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and the Rev. Chu Yiu-ming are released after an hour

Police turned away the founders of a leading pro-democracy group in Hong Kong who attempted to surrender on Wednesday for their role in organizing the ongoing street sit-ins for free elections here.

Hong Kong University law professor Benny Tai, Chinese University social-studies professor Chan Kin-man and Baptist cleric the Rev. Chu Yiu-ming sought to turn themselves in for violating Hong Kong laws on unlawful assembly. But they left Central Police Station less than an hour later, still free men.

They were joined in seeking arrest by several other high-profile supporters of the movement, including the Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen, who also walked in, and then out, of the police station.

“We are not being arrested,” said Tai, speaking to press outside the station. He added, though, that he believed police might still arrest him and others at a later stage and charge them with more serious crimes.

The three had called for demonstrators to occupy Hong Kong’s Central district, the city’s financial heart, to protest Beijing’s insistence on vetting candidates standing for chief executive, Hong Kong’s top political post.

Chan originally told TIME that they planned to end the protests on Oct. 1, but weeks later the occupation of downtown areas continues, fueled by student groups who disagree with Occupy Central on both timing and tactics.

The group also quickly found that it was not able to control the location of the protests, after students occupied the Admiralty district (location of the Central Government Offices), the shopping hub of Causeway Bay and the blue-collar Mong Kok quarter of Kowloon, instead of the Central location originally stipulated.

Though the group supported the sit-ins, and continued to lend the name Occupy Central to the protests, its leaders were an increasingly infrequent presence in the occupied areas, as they ceded control over the direction of the movement to two student groups, the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism.

In recent weeks, the trio has joined some other initial supporters of the sit-ins in deciding that it is time for the occupations to end, especially after the police began to use greater force.

“For the sake of the occupiers’ safety, for the sake of the original intention of love and peace … we three urge the students to retreat,” read a statement from the group after violent clashes Sunday. It added: “We respect the students’ and citizens’ determination to fight for democracy, and we are furious at the government’s heartless indifference.”

Calling the movement for free elections in Hong Kong “a long-term struggle,” the trio encouraged students to “recuperate and build up strength.” The movement, they said, could continue through other means, including efforts to “extend [its] spirit” by reaching out to local communities.

Speaking outside the police station, Tai told TIME that his next move depended on “what happens with the occupation.” For now, he said he was going home. “I have some things I need to finish writing,” he said.

Though the Occupy Central founders said they hoped to “bear the legal consequences” on the students’ behalf, an unnamed police source told the South China Morning Post that the trio are among some 200 people identified for investigation over the pro-democracy movement.

Scores of protesters have already been arrested for their roles in more than 10 weeks of protests. Police said that 40 people were arrested during the Sunday night confrontations in Admiralty district, while 12 others were arrested that night in parallel demonstrations across Victoria Harbor in Mong Kok.

Joshua Wong, a student protest leader who features in TIME’s Person of the Year poll, was charged last week with obstructing public officials clearing the restive Mong Kok site. He is out on bail and, along with two other young protesters, began a hunger strike on Monday to press the government for the right to free elections in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has replied that he wishes the students good health, but that “any resistance is futile.”

TIME Italy

Disgraced Concordia Captain Was ‘Trying to Impress Passengers’

ITALY-SHIPPING-TOURISM-DISASTER-TRIAL
Giuseppe Cacace —AFP/Getty Images Costa Concordia's captain Francesco Schettino attends the resumption of his trial on December 2, 2014 in Grosseto, Italy.

Francesco Schettino claims he wanted to give passengers a better view of a nearby island when the ship ran aground

The captain of the ill-fated Costa Concordia that crashed off the coast of Italy in January 2012 said his disastrous decision to sail into shallow waters was fueled by a desire to impress the ship’s passengers, according to the BBC.

While taking the stand for the first time during his trial for manslaughter in Grosseto, Italy on Tuesday, Francesco Schettino said he was aiming to give passengers a better view of the holiday island of Giglio, while also saluting a former captain who lived there and doing a favor to the vessel’s head waiter, who was from the island.

“I wanted to kill three birds with one stone,” explained Schettino.

He denied the rumor that he made the risky maneuver to impress a female friend.

Thirty-two people died after the ship crashed into rocks near the shore and the boat listed on its side. The resumption of Schettino’s trial comes a month after authorities successfully recovered the last body from the cruise ship’s wreckage.

The captain was vilified in the media and dubbed “Italy’s most hated man” after an audio recording revealed that he defied orders from the Italian Coast Guard and fled the ship after ordering an evacuation, while hundreds of passengers remained on board.

[BBC]

TIME The Philippines

Nearing ‘Super’ Status, Typhoon Hagupit Heads Toward Philippines

A little more than a year since Super Typhoon Haiyan killed thousands and devastated large parts of the Philippines, another storm, Typhoon Hagupit, was bearing down on the Pacific island nation Wednesday morning with sustained winds of 80 mph, the national weather bureau said.

Hagupit — which Ari Sarsalari, a forecaster for The Weather Channel, said could reach “super typhoon” strength before the end of the week — was still about 1,000 miles east of the country and wasn’t expected to begin affecting the weather there until midday Thursday …

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME China

China Tumbles in Annual Corruption Index

Chinese one-hundred yuan banknotes
Jerome Favre—Bloomberg/Getty Images

See where countries rank from most corrupt to least

China fell 20 spots in this year’s corruption rankings, despite President Xi Jinping’s massive campaign to weed out graft that has disciplined more than 60,000 government officials.

Transparency International’s annual study, released late Tuesday, scored 175 countries and territories based on how corrupt experts perceive them to be. The lowest rankings indicate the highest amounts of corruption. China, the world’s second largest economy, placed 100 on the Index, down from 80 in 2013.

“Fast-growing economies whose governments refuse to be transparent and tolerate corruption, create a culture of impunity in which corruption thrives,” José Ugaz, the chair of Transparency International, said in a statement released with the report. Brazil, Russia and India, the other members of the so-called BRIC developing nations, all placed in the lower two-thirds of the rankings.

Denmark held onto first place as the country seen as least corrupt, while recent and current conflict zones represented some of the poorest-faring countries, including Syria (159), Libya (166) and Somalia, which tied North Korea for last place.

Iraq, where the government said on Monday that an internal review had found some 50,000 soldiers were on the payroll but not showing up for duty, placed 170.

Read next: Hong Kong Protest Leaders Attempt to Surrender to Police

TIME Middle East

How Israel’s Coalition Government Collapsed

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at his office in Jerusalem
Gali Tibbon—Reuters Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at his office in Jerusalem on December 2, 2014.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses cabinet members of a "putsch"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired two of his most prominent ministers on Tuesday evening and called for new elections, underscoring his interest in establishing a right-wing government more loyal to his agenda.

The three-term premier announced at a press conference Tuesday that he was ousting Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, accusing them of openly rebelling against him and preventing him from governing the country. Livni joined Netanyahu’s government on the condition that he allow her to renew peace talks with the Palestinians, and Lapid had promised to take on socioeconomic reforms and Israel’s housing crisis.

“You can call it a putsch, and like this you can’t govern and can’t run a country,” Netanyahu said in a prime-time press conference. “I will not agree to a situation in which ministers attack the government from within.” Speaking as if he was simultaneously launching a new campaign, he urged voters to give him a “bigger ruling party” – the right-wing Likud – adding, “if you want a government of the center-right and right, then I ask to give you your vote to us.”

Over the past week, Israeli media had begun to predict that the bad blood inside Netanyahu’s coalition government had reached toxic new levels, and that it has pushed the hawkish leader to opt for new elections. The most recent bone of contention was a plan on the part of Lapid and his Yesh Atid party to cancel a tax on apartment purchases for first-time home buyers as a way to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis that Lapid had pledged to solve.

But Netanyahu decided to block that with little explanation, as well as a health-care reform plan, which in turn led Lapid to threaten to bolt the coalition. In his speech, Netanyahu condemned Livni for daring to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas when she had been told not to, highlighting their differences over the failure of the peace talks in April.

The most severe division, however, was over the question of Israel’s status – or not—as a Jewish nation. Together, Lapid and Livni were among the foremost opponents to the passage by Netanyahu’s cabinet of an initial draft of a controversial bill declaring Israel a nation state. Netanyahu says he is dedicated to passing some version of this legislation so as to cement Israel’s status as a Jewish state by law, which he argues is necessary for the country’s survival. Critics say this would create an undemocratic two-tier system which makes Israeli Arabs and other non-Jewish minorities inferior citizens.

“You could say that it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Gadi Wolfsfeld, a political scientist at the IDC Herzliya, a university near Tel Aviv, tells TIME. “I take him at his word. He can’t really govern, he can’t really get legislation passed. He is not a leader right now, in that he can’t run the country as he would like to. Netanyahu didn’t want this government in the first place, and he prefers what he calls, his ‘natural allies.’”

Those allies are the ultra-Orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas. These are parties which have been willing to join coalitions in left and right-leaning governments, because their main goals are to protect their religious way of life and to secure funding for schools and other ultra-Orthodox institutions. But with secular-religious tensions on the rise, Lapid promised to push back against the control of the ultra-Orthodox over issues like marriage rights, and to pass a new draft law requiring men from religious communities to serve in the army, overturning an exemption in existence since the founding of the state.

Netanyahu appears to be banking on Likud continuing to garner the most votes – polls have found that would be the case if elections were held today – and that he can then team up with these ultra-Orthodox parties, as well as the nationalist parties led by right-wingers Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi, or the Jewish House) and Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beytenu, or Israel is Our Home).

Israel’s political shake-up takes places against a backdrop of complete stagnation in the Israeli-Palestinian political process and a wave of violence that has been labeled by some as the stirrings of a new intifada, or Palestinian uprising. But the months ahead of yet-to-be-determined Israeli elections – several Israeli media outlets suggested the date would be in March – mean that Netanyahu now has a period in which he can tell various foreign leaders that peace will have to wait.

“One of the great things about elections is that it gets the world off his back,” Wolfsfeld quips. “No one will be able to say, what about the peace process, because he can say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m busy having elections now.’” If violence and unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank continues, it will likely push more voters into Netanyahu’s camp, because he has positioned himself as the Israeli leader who is tough on terrorism. “The more there’s violence,” says Wolfsfeld, “the more his party’s strength will go up.”

TIME Middle East

Wife of ISIS Leader Could Be ‘Best Source of Information’ About ISIS

A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Mosul, Iraq, in 2014.
Reuters A man purported to be the reclusive ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Saja al-Dulaimi is being held by the Lebanese military with her child

In what could be one of the biggest breaks yet in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Lebanese officials said on Tuesday they had arrested a wife and child of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the two tried to cross over the Syrian border late last month using false identity documents. The Lebanese military has detained the pair and is in coordination with foreign intelligence agencies,” according to Lebanon’s as-Safir newspaper.

If that is correct, intelligence agents from the U.S. to Iraq might have stumbled on a goldmine.

The woman, whom Iraqi and Lebanese officials identified as Saja al-Dulaimi, is not the first wife of a fugitive leader to flee her husband’s territory; the wives of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi fled across the borders of their countries before the capture of their husbands, fearing they would be arrested or killed in the attacks on the regimes of their husbands.

But that is where the similarities end, say some experts. Saddam’s family, who now live in Amman, Jordan, and Gaddafi’s wife, who found refuge in Algiers and finally Oman, live in freedom and keep a low profile.

MORE: Feds Say ISIS May Target U.S. Military at Home

But Dulaimi, an Iraqi and one of Baghdadi’s three wives, could provide crucial details in custody about her husband, as the U.S. and allies wage a fierce bombing campaign to crush ISIS. With so few known facts about Baghdadi, “she is the best source of information about him and about the dynamics of ISIS that anyone has had up until now,” says Sajjan Gohel, International Security Director at the Asia Pacific Foundation in London. He added that the fact that Lebanon waited 10 days before announcing her arrest suggests that they were squeezing Dulaimi for information before letting ISIS know they had her in custody, perhaps to give the U.S. and its allies time to plan surprise operations against Baghdadi. “Until now the flow of information has been always directed by ISIS,” says Gohel.

Among the details the U.S. and Iraq might find interesting — and which Dulaimi could be well-placed to know — is where Baghdadi is now, what routes he uses to travel around ISIS-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq, and whether he was injured in an airstrike last month, as reports suggested. It was unclear on Tuesday whether the child arrested with Dulaimi was a boy or a girl. But the very fact that Dulaimi has fled Syria might suggest that ISIS is under such severe pressure, that Baghdadi has sent his loved ones to safety elsewhere, or that his wife decided herself to flee the war. Dulaimi was among 150 women prisoners the Syrian government freed last March in exchange for 13 nuns captured by Islamic militant insurgents of the al-Nusra Front.

Little is known about Dulaimi’s own role in ISIS; CNN on Tuesday quoted a Lebanese security force describing her as “a powerful figure heavily involved in ISIS.” Now, she could also find herself a valuable bargaining chip in the turmoil rocking the region, as governments and insurgent forces trade firepower and prisoners. Reuters on Tuesday quoted a Lebanese security official saying Dulaimi was “a powerful card to apply pressure” on militants, who are not directly connected to ISIS, to free 27 members of Lebanon’s security forces.

As long as Dulaimi remains in custody, however, she joins a growing number of close relatives of terrorist leaders who have paid the price for their loved ones’ actions.

Immediately after the September 11 attacks in 2001, several relatives of Osama Bin Laden fled Afghanistan, some across the border to Iran. “They stayed there for many years,” Gohel says. “The assumption is that whatever intelligence they provided was never shared with the international community.” And after U.S. Navy SEALs assassinated Bin Laden in May, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that country arrested the al-Qaeda leader’s wives and children who lived with him there, keeping them under house arrest for a year before deporting them to Saudi Arabia.

Read next: Wife of ISIS Leader Detained in Lebanon

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com