TIME brazil

Brazilian Man Confesses to 39 Murders

BRAZIL-CRIME-SERIAL KILLER-ARREST
Evaristo Sa—AFP/Getty Images Alleged serial killer Tiago Gomes da Rocha, center, suspected of killing 39 people, is escorted by police officers at the Department of Security, a day after his arrest, in Goiania, state of Goias, Brazil, on Oct. 16, 2014.

“We have been shocked by his coldness,” said a police official

A 26-year-old Brazilian man who allegedly killed at least 39 people in the span of three years has been taken into custody by local authorities.

Security guard Thiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha confessed to the murders after being arrested in the central city of Goiania, the BBC reports.

“We have been shocked by his coldness,” a police official who witnessed his interrogation told Brazilian television, saying that Gomes da Rocha referred to his victims by numbers one to 39.

He reportedly targeted women, homeless people and homosexuals, going up to his victims on a motorcycle with his face covered. He would then shoot them and leave without taking any of their possessions, although police said he would often demand valuables.

Other than the killings, he is also suspected of carrying out over 90 robberies.

[BBC]

Read next: Brazil Announces First Suspected Ebola Case

TIME Nigeria

Why the Girls Kidnapped by Boko Haram Still Aren’t Home

Experts say the plight of the girls are "symbolic" of the larger problems in Nigeria's fight against the militant group

A lot has happened since April 14th. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in Ukraine; the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) seized vast swathes of Iraq; and Ebola has killed thousands in Africa, and spread to at least two other continents. In our hyper-speedy news cycle, six months passes in a blink of an eye. But for the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants when they struck the northeastern Nigerian village of Chibok in April, it probably feels like a lifetime. The militants abducted 276 girls; six months on, more than 200 remain in captivity.

Why haven’t they been rescued yet? Largely, observers say, because of Nigeria’s failure to effectively counter Boko Haram, which has claimed thousands of lives over the years in its violent campaign to carve out a hardline religious state in the north of the country. “The problem is that the girls are symbolic,” says Adotei Akwei, managing director for advocacy for Amnesty International USA. “They’re part of a larger human rights catastrophe, a bad situation in Nigeria.”

“Nigeria’s military strategy isn’t working well,” he continues. “We clearly have not been able to get the girls back, or to change the mindset or approach of the Nigerian government in terms of how it responds to Boko Haram or how it protects its citizens”

Carl LeVan, a professor at American University in Washington D.C. who writes about Nigeria, adds that many civilians consider the Nigerian military almost as bad as Boko Haram when it comes to human rights violations, even as the rebels continue their reign of terror in the north.

Akwei says the problems with the Nigerian military also hinder international efforts to lend a hand. “The Nigerian military has got such a bad reputation that even the US military is concerned about how much they can cooperate because of the kind of abuses we’ve documented,” he explains. “There’s no transparency, no accountability whatsoever.”

The military has an embarrassing track record when it comes to fighting the militant group. Earlier this year, they claimed to have rescued the girls the day after the abduction, but then had to retract that claim. In late May, they released a statement saying they knew where the girls were being held, but wouldn’t use force to rescue them. And in a tragic incident early last month, several Nigerian troops were killed by their own airstrikes aimed at Boko Haram.

U.S. planes spotted large groups of girls in early August that might have been the kidnapped students. Time, however, continues to drag on without a rescue—and, says Jennifer Cook, the director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the longer they stay in captivity, the harder it becomes to bring back the missing girls.

“With hostage situations with this many people, to bring one set back without endangering another set is very difficult,” says Cooke. “In some cases, there’s a pretty good idea of where they are, but extricating them from a group of armed criminals who have so little respect for life is a difficult negotiation process. And the longer they’re there, the greater likelihood they become dispersed, and the more difficult they are to track down.”

According to Cooke, the big-picture strategy for fighting the insurgency would involve capturing key Boko Haram leaders and cutting off funding sources to weaken the militant group. But it’s also important for the government to win the support of communities in that part of the country, where many feel both abandoned by the administration and terrorized by Boko Haram.

“A lot of civilians are feeling pinched between the terror of Boko Haram and the misbehaviors of the Nigerian military,” says LeVan, whose book on Nigeria, Dictators and Democracy in African Development, is set to be released later this month. “They said ‘we’re trapped, we’re fleeing Boko Haram but we also don’t have anywhere to go because our military is suspicious of us.'”

Winning the hearts of northern Nigerians is crucial to stopping the violence and finding the girls, but some communities are reluctant to support the government for fear of violent reprisals from Boko Haram, and because they don’t trust the government to protect them. Cooke says that “fundamental distrust” in the north is one of the government’s biggest impediments to finding the girls, because it makes it much more difficult to get accurate information. In the meantime, the girls are no better off. “These girls are being held under absolutely horrific circumstances, subjected to sexual violence and rape, forced into servitude,” she said. “There are reports that some have become pregnant.”

If those reports are true—and there’s a good chance they are, based on Boko Haram’s history of impregnating abducted women—the pregnant girls could face even greater challenges down the road. Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe runs the Saint Monica Girls’ Tailoring Center in Uganda, where she helps girls who have been victims of sexual violence rebuild their lives with their children, who are often outcasts in their communities. “Because the situation they are taken in, I would not be surprised if a good number of them are pregnant,” she says. “Raising the child of a person who has been maltreating you is always [hard.] That is why there is violence and anger returned on these children. Because they give [the mother] that reminder of the pain they have gone through.”

Sister Rosemary says that if the girls are ever released, they may have trouble re-joining their families and communities. That’s why continuing their education will be crucial for helping them move forward.

“If we leave these kids and say, they cannot catch up, I think we just are going to destroy them more.”

But before anybody can worry about education and rehabilitation, the girls have to come home. “Our world must not forget these adolescent girls,” says Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women and a United Nations Under-Secretary-General. “The world must come together and make every possible effort to rescue these girls and bring their captors to justice. We cannot and must not move on with this humanitarian tragedy still unresolved.”

TIME Syria

ISIS Retreats From Besieged Syrian City

Fire is seen after an US airstrike on ISIS positions in Kobani, Syria, on Oct. 15, 2014.
Ahmet Ozturk—Xinhua/SIPA Fire is seen after an US airstrike on ISIS positions in Kobani, Syria, on Oct. 15, 2014.

But Anwar Muslim, the head of Kobani's local government, tells TIME more than a thousand civilians are still trapped in the city center

The Syrian city of Kobani, just across the border from Turkey, breathed easier Thursday as U.S. coalition airstrikes helped dislodge jihadist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) from several neighborhoods.

Speaking by phone from Kobani on Thursday, Anwar Muslim, the head of the local government, told TIME that the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish forces defending the enclave, were now in control of “65 to 70 percent” of the besieged city. In neighborhoods in the south and east, he said, ISIS fighters were in partial retreat. In the west, they remained about three miles away.

But he cautioned against premature optimism. ISIS had lost “many men,” he said, “but they keep sending car bombs, mortar shells, and yet more fighters into the area.”

He claimed there were “more than a thousand civilians” still trapped in the city center. With ISIS snipers and mortars targeting neighborhoods close to the border crossing with Turkey, “it’s too dangerous for the people to leave,” he said. “We are asking the U.S. and the U.N. to set up and operate a humanitarian corridor to Kobani.”

Turkish officials, however, insisted that only Kurdish and ISIS forces remained inside the city. “There are no civilians left in Kobani,” Bulent Arinc, the country’s deputy prime minister, told reporters on Wednesday. “All of them are in Turkey.”

The Kurdish forces were bolstered by heavy air assaults from U.S. jets. In a statement posted on its website, the U.S. Central Command said that American fighter jets had conducted 14 airstrikes around the city since Wednesday. The U.S. forces said they struck 19 ISIS buildings, two ISIS command posts, three ISIS fighting positions, three ISIS sniper positions, one ISIS staging location, and one ISIS heavy machine gun.

“We know we’ve killed several hundred of them,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday, referring to the ISIS fighters massed near Kobani. He noted, however, that the city “may very well still fall.”

“They are bombing the right targets,” Muslim said of the U.S. coalition. “At the beginning, ISIS had plenty of tanks and trucks, but that is no longer the case.” He declined to confirm, however, whether YPG forces were providing the U.S. and coalition partners with coordinates of jihadist positions around the city. “We are cooperating, and our actions have been complementary,” said Mr. Muslim. “There is contact.”

The YPG is widely believed to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the U.S., the European Union, and Turkey all consider a terrorist group, making it difficult for the militia to open official channels with Washington.

With both sides exhausted by more than a month of clashes, desperation appears to be creeping in. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, Kurdish security forces have rounded up hundreds of people of fighting age in Kurdish strongholds east of Kobani over the past week, forcing them to join YPG ranks. The month-long siege has taken its toll on ISIS, too. The jihadists, said Muslim, have begun resorting to suicide attacks inside Kobani.

The role of U.S. and coalition forces in the battle for Kobani may now be more crucial than ever. Zuhal Ekmez, the co-mayor of Suruc, a Turkish town just a few miles from the Syrian border, said that it was only this week that the airstrikes had begun tilting the balance in the YPG’s favor. “Before, they weren’t effective,” she said. “They are now, but we need them to go on.”

On Thursday afternoon, following a morning of relative quiet broken only occasionally by the chatter of gunfire and the wail of a fighter jet, a series of loud explosions shook the air above Kobani. As columns of smoke grew from the ground, a small group of Syrian refugees began to gather in a field on the Turkish side of the border. Passing around a single pair of binoculars to better follow the fighting inside their hometown, they pointed to a hill to the east of Kobani, where ISIS fighters had earlier planted their black flag. The flag, they noted, was gone.

Read next: ISIS Retreating from Kobani, Says Kurdish Official

TIME energy

Low Oil Prices Raise the Risk of Recession in Russia

Russia oil
Photo by Dmitry Korotayev/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images Russia will look to tap Arctic resources of oil and gas

Oil prices dipped to around $92 per barrel in early October

This post originally appeared on OilPrice.com.

Falling oil prices are inflicting deeper economic pain on Russia’s economy, which is already reeling from EU and U.S. sanctions.

Russia is currently considering its budget for 2015-2017, and based on the numbers, the Kremlin is planning for leaner times. With oil revenue accounting for around half of the country’s budget, any dip in prices has a ripple effect.

And in recent years, Russia’s economy has become more dependent on oil to meet its budget commitments. Excluding oil revenue, Russia has run a budget deficit that hit 10.3 percent in 2013, the highest level in three years.

In other words, the government needs oil revenues to plug budget holes, and that need is growing.

Related: Will Ukraine Commit Economic Suicide?

Russia occupies a strong economic position when oil prices are high, but for every $1 decline in the price per barrel of oil, Russia loses $2.1 billion in revenue on an annualized basis. Slumping oil prices in recent months could see revenues to the state decline by $30 to $40 billion.

The Russian economy may only expand 0.4 percent this year, and just 1 percent in 2015. But even that meager growth rate is not a certainty. Russia is increasingly facing the possibility of recession, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Oil prices dipped to around $92 per barrel in early October. While that won’t plunge Russia into an immediate economic crisis, the government needs oil prices to stay around $105 in order to balance the budget. Thus, if oil prices don’t rebound soon, problems will only grow worse for the Kremlin.

The upcoming budget plans for the possibility of persistent inflation, a weakening ruble, and the potential need for the state to dip into cash reserves in order to finance its budget. What is worse, even this negative outlook is based on highly optimistic assumptions – it assumes oil prices of around $100 per barrel.

“It is quite optimistic given where oil prices are at now and given how much the Russian budget depends on oil revenues,” Liza Ermolenko, an analyst at Capital Economics, told The Moscow Times. “For the next year, it’s more likely that the oil prices will be lower than what they are penciling in.”

Running a deficit will be tricky because western sanctions have restricted access to financial markets. Major Russian companies targeted by the U.S. and Europe are unable to take out long-term loans. As a result, they are turning to the Russian state for funds. That has worked so far, but a Bloomberg report outlines an emerging fight within the Russian elite over a dwindling pile of money.

The mid-September arrest of Vladimir Evtushenkov, the head of oil company OAO Bashneft, was a sign that the situation is starting to deteriorate. He is the richest Russian arrested since Mikhail Khodorkovsky was thrown in jail in 2005 and whose oil company, Yukos, was taken over by the state. Evtushenkov, an ally of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, is thought to have been arrested because of a growing rift in Russia’s elite that is at least partially due to the troubled economy.

Related: Europe Seeks To Undermine Russian Energy Influence

“This is creating a dire financial situation, particularly for state companies friendly to Putin, which are now vying for shrinking state resources,” Yevgeny Yasin, a former Russian economy minister, told Bloomberg. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies are hunting for more assets as the economy worsens, according to the same article.

Oil prices could remain low for a while. Reuters reports that the Russian central bank is beginning to plan for a disaster scenario in which oil prices drop to $60 per barrel. Such a scenario would precipitate a dramatic weakening of the ruble, forcing the central bank into action.

But there is no easy way out. The Russian economy is far too dependent on the global price of oil, a volatile benchmark largely out of the Kremlin’s control.

More Top reads From Oilprice.com:

TIME Crime

U.S. Marine Charged in Murder of Transgender Woman in Philippines

Philippine government now wants to take custody of the Marine, who has been identified as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton

A U.S. Marine has been charged with murder in the killing of a Filipino transgender woman found strangled in a local hotel room last weekend.

A senior Philippine official said Wednesday that the Philippine government wants to take custody of the Marine, who has been identified as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, and warned that the case could damage the military relationship between the two allies, according to MSN news.

Under a defense agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines, the Philippines can demand custody of a service member who has been involved in a crime. The joint defense pact has stoked tension between the two countries in the past, and the question of the U.S. Marine’s custody in this case may renew those tensions.

Pemberton is currently being held on the USS Peleliu warship in Subic Bay. The marines had been in the Philippines for an annual joint military exercise. All military personnel “still actively involved with the investigation” remain on board the ship, according to a press statement from the U.S. Marine Corps.

Three other marines who are considered possible witnesses are also being held, according to previous news reports. The other four ships previously held at port in Subic Bay during the investigation have been cleared to depart, the Marine Corps announced on Wednesday.

The killing has also ignited emotions in the transgender community in the Philippines, who are calling the death of Jennifer Laude, who was found dead with her head in a toilet bowl, a hate crime. An autopsy report in the case has shown the cause of death as “asphyxia by drowning.”

“We will not accept anything less than justice,” the victim’s sister Marilou Laude said to CNN.

[MSN]

TIME faith

Vatican Changes Draft Report Translation About Welcoming Gays

Pope Francis arrives at a morning session of a two-week synod on family issues, at the Vatican, Oct. 16, 2014.
Alessandra Tarantino—AP Pope Francis arrives at a morning session of a two-week synod on family issues, at the Vatican, Oct. 16, 2014.

"Welcoming homosexual persons” is now “Providing for homosexual persons"

The Vatican adjusted the English translation of a controversial phrase in its mid-Synod-of-the-Bishops report on Thursday, adapting “Welcoming homosexual persons” to “Providing for homosexual persons.”

The original Italian verb in question, accogliere, remains unchanged. Italian is the official language of the bishops’ meeting, and because the official language of the document is Italian, a Vatican spokesman explained at a press briefing, the report has technically stayed the same.

Parts of the paragraph that followed that phrase have also been updated in English. According to the Associated Press:

The first version asked if the church was capable of “welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities.” The new version asks if the church is “capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing … them … a place of fellowship in our communities.” The first version said homosexual unions can often constitute a “precious support in the life of the partners.” The new one says gay unions often constitute “valuable support in the life of these persons.”

Initial reaction suggests that the original English translations more closely follow the Italian. The change comes after press reports of a Vatican shift on teachings of marriage as between one man and one woman flooded the Western media earlier this week. In Thursday’s press briefing, a Vatican spokesperson urged media to not give too much importance to the new translation change.

Translation issues have prompted confusion at several points during the Synod so far. Summaries of Synod conversations have been relayed to the press at daily briefings in Italian, English and Spanish, and different points have been emphasized depending on the language of the person giving the briefing. Questions at the daily press briefings are also asked in a variety of languages, and usually replied to in Italian, English, Spanish or French. That means a question asked in English has been responded to in Italian, or a question in Italian could get a response in French.

A final Synod “message,” not report, is expected to be approved Saturday, according to the Vatican’s press office. The message will be composed by a group of church leaders. Pope Francis also added South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier to that group on Thursday. Napier has been critical of the initial mid-Synod report this week. “The message has gone out and it’s not a true message,” he told the press after the report was released on Monday. “Whatever we say hereafter is going to be as if we’re doing some damage control.”

TIME legal

Why U.S. Sanctions Mean Some Countries Don’t Get Any iPhones

Apple iPhone Technology Embargo Sanctions
Bloomberg via Getty Images An attendee displays the new Apple Inc. iPhone 6, left, and iPhone 6 Plus for a photograph after a product announcement at Flint Center in Cupertino, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014.

A sanction a day keeps Apple away

Some 36 additional countries will receive shipments of Apple’s iPhone 6 this month, with over 115 countries on track to get the big-screen smartphones by the end of the year. But a handful of countries won’t be receiving any Apple products at all.

Among the Apple-less countries are Syria, North Korea, Sudan and Cuba, which face trade sanctions from the United States. That means the “exportation, reexportation, sale or supply” of any Apple goods from the U.S. or an American anywhere is prohibited in those countries, according to Apple’s global trade compliance. Add to those Apple-less countries several African and Middle Eastern nations, among other countries, which Apple’s sales locator indicates have neither Apple Stores nor authorized Apple product resellers.

Apple did not respond for comment on whether authorized distribution channels exist in countries that aren’t sanctioned by the U.S. but still present a difficult business climate, like Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Yemen. Technology and trade experts were reluctant to speculate why Apple may not penetrate these markets, but some pointed to a lack of demand or infrastructure.

In the map below, Apple-less countries appear unshaded:

The world recently bore witness to what happened when China, not subject to U.S. sanctions, was deprived of the iPhone 6’s initial release: a gray market exploded while rumors swirled that the “Chinese mafia” was storming Apple Stores around the world to collect iPhones for resell to high-income buyers.

That same grey market boom is happening in countries that do face U.S. sanctions, though for different reasons. While Chinese buyers were simply unwilling to wait for the iPhone 6’s official release in their home country, high-income buyers in sanctioned states are creating demand for a product that will likely never be sold in their country. That demand is being met by unofficial providers like the “Apple Syria Store” and “Tehran Apple Store,” two unofficial Apple distribution channels in the Middle East, for example.

A lack of iPhones in some countries, however, is only a problem for those countries’ wealthiest residents. Indeed, the iPhone craze overshadows a higher-stake battle: Access to less-hyped but important American technology in countries where such technology continues to be restricted.

The U.S. has put in place sanctions against Syria, North Korea, Sudan, Cuba and Iran to discourage those countries from abusing human rights, sponsoring terrorism or launching nuclear programs. While the sanctions were largely intended as economic embargoes, they also disrupted the free flow of information by severely limiting residents’ access to communication technology, advocates say. That technology includes not only electronics like Apple’s iPhone, but also American software and websites like Apple’s App Store, Adobe Flash, Yahoo e-mail and educational platforms like Khan Academy and Coursera. In many sanctioned countries, attempts to access those sites result in a “blocked” page. In certain countries it’s also prohibited to update whatever American software is available, leaving in place security vulnerabilities in countries where surveillance and censorship are commonplace.

“It’s still a fairly new issue, because it wasn’t really until the Arab Spring that people started to realize communication technology as a tools of free expression,” said Danielle Kehl, a tech policy analyst at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

Observers first began to note the impact of U.S. sanctions on communication technology during Iran’s Green Movement in 2009, when protesters demanding the president’s removal used the Internet as an activist tool, according to independent tech policy researcher Collin Anderson. Within years, activists won over U.S. officials, who exempted certain technologies from American sanctions on Iran to empower protestors. That hasn’t yet been replicated in other sanctioned countries.

Anderson also said that pressure from the Iranian diaspora contributed to a decision by U.S. officials to issue a sanction exemption that allowed the export or re-export of “certain services, software, and hardware incident to personal communications” to Iranians. Apple then “quietly updated its compliance policy” to match the change, Anderson said.

“Apple is in an under-appreciated way one of the most responsive adopters of U.S. policies [that lift sanctions on technology],” said Anderson.

Apple had some market incentive to comply quickly with the change. Most of these sanctioned countries have significant amounts of mobile phone subscribers buying devices purchased from non-U.S. countries or companies, according to Anderson and data from the International Telecommunications Union.

Despite all those potential customers for Apple and other tech firms, tech policy analysts agreed the onus is on U.S. officials to invoke change. But that Apple and several other companies chose to engage with complex, high-risk sanctions in Iran shows that when the policies change, companies tend follow suit.

Still, Kehl said the other, risk-averse option for companies is to “over-comply” with Iranian sanctions, or to treat the laws as if they were complete embargoes in order to reduce their liability. That’s what happened in 2009 when LinkedIn blocked Syrian accounts and when Google blocked its code.google.com developer’s tool in Sudan.

Even Apple appeared to over-comply in 2012 when a Apple Store employee in Alpharetta, Georgia refused to sell an iPad to Iranian-American woman after he heard the woman speaking Persian, according to Jamal Abdi, policy director at the National Iranian American Council. “If [Apple] had reason to believe you were going to take an Apple product to Iran, or if you were going to resell it, [Apple] had to take action to stop people,” explained Abdi, who slammed the practice as discriminatory in a New York Times op-ed. The woman later received an apology from an Apple customer service employee, as NPR noted at the time.

The greatest pressure for change, however, is coming from within the sanctioned countries. Iranian bloggers have discussed banned technologies at risking of criminal charges, Sudanese computer science students have demanded more educational tools, and Syrians have called for U.S. imports of basic technological needs. Several non-profits have reported that sanctioning U.S. technology is highly detrimental to affected countries’ growth, while Abdi added that sanctions have prevented the electronic delivery of humanitarian aid or day-to-day monetary transactions because many banks are affected.

Still, tech companies have in recent years shown more willingness to engage government officials on matter of policy, particularly after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s surveillance leaks. Twitter sued the U.S. Justice Department earlier this month to disclose government requests for user data, while popular websites like Netflix, Mozilla and Reddit joined an online protest against the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rules they said could divide the Internet into “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.” In the most visible tech-backed activism to date, Wikipedia and Reddit “blacked out” their webpages and Google censored its logo to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was later shelved by its author.

Analysts are not expecting Apple to be at the forefront of the battle to lift U.S. sanctions. But as several organizations and advocates pressed for changes to American trade policy towards Iran, it would be hard to believe they would turn away Apple’s support.

“[Apple] is very quiet about these things—like either Apple is the best, or maybe the worst. But it seems like it’s the best,” Anderson said. “[Apple’s] recognition of [the policy changes regarding Iran] was the first moral victory for everyone who had worked so hard on this.”

TIME South Africa

Oscar Pistorius Must ‘Pay for What He Has Done,’ Steenkamp Family Says

Athlete expected to be sentenced as early as Friday for culpable homicide of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius “needs to pay for what he has done,” Reeva Steenkamp’s cousin said Thursday at a court hearing to decide the athlete’s sentence for killing the model. “My family are not people who are seeking revenge, we just feel … taking somebody’s life, to shoot somebody behind the door that is unarmed, that is harmless needs sufficient punishment,” Kim Martin told the court. “I’m very fearful of the accused, I have tried very hard to put him out of my mind…because I didn’t want to spend any energy thinking about him,” she said.

After giving her testimony, Martin thanked…

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

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