TIME North Korea

Dennis Rodman Doesn’t Believe North Korea Hacked Sony

CHINA-US-NKOREA-DIPLOMACY-BASKET
Wang Zhao—AFP/Getty Images Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman waits to check in for his flight to North Korea after his arrival at Beijing's international airport on Jan. 6, 2014.

"North Korea is going to hack a comedy, a movie that is really nothing? I can’t see that happening"

Dennis Rodman doesn’t believe that North Korea hacked Sony Pictures, the basketball star and self-declared friend of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un said in an interview published Saturday.

“How many movies have there been attacking North Korea? And they never hacked those. North Korea is going to hack a comedy, a movie that is really nothing? I can’t see that happening,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

Rodman, whose remarks came as he promotes his new documentary on his travels to North Korea, has traveled to the isolated country on multiple occasions and has received a warm welcome from Kim, whom he describes as a friend. The basketball star has been criticized for being too cozy with a country often considered among the most repressive in the world.

Read More: The Interview May Be Funny; North Korea and Kim Jong Un Are Not

The claim challenges the United States government’s allegation that North Korea hacked Sony Pictures in retaliation for depicting the assassination of the country’s dictator in the movie The Interview.

Sony ultimately cancelled the theatrical release of the film in response to terrorist threats against some theaters that planned to show the movie.

[THR]

TIME Egypt

Egyptian Activist Shot and Killed During Peaceful Protest in Cairo

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was marching to commemorate the hundreds of demonstrators killed during the Arab Spring uprising of 2011

A protester was shot and killed by police in Cairo on Saturday when officers opened fire on a socialist rally near the capital’s Tahrir Square, according to local media reports.

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a leading member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, suffered shotgun pellet injuries, apparently at close range, while standing outside the Air France-KLM office close to Tahrir Square. She was rushed to hospital but died en route.

In a statement, her party said that their only intention was to place flowers at the iconic public space on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the Jan. 25 revolution. Other demonstrators were also reportedly injured in the melee.

Government officials initially denied that the police had fired any shots, further angering the protesters.

TIME Ukraine

See the Incredible Devastation of the Iconic Donetsk Airport

A potent symbol of the conflict in east Ukraine

New photographs show the extent of destruction to eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk. The site has become a point on contention between Russia-backed separatists and pro-Kiev forces. On Jan. 21, Ukrainian troops said they had lost control of the airport and had sustained casualties in the latest round of fighting. These images show what is left of the once-thriving structure.

TIME Cuba-US relations

Cubans Appear More Relaxed in Smooth U.S. Talks

US Restores Diplomatic Relations With Cuba
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Roberta Jacobson, U.S Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, arrives to speak to the media before taking questions during diplomatic talks with Cuba at the Palacio de las Convenciones de La Habana on Jan. 22, 2015 in Havana, Cuba.

The visit of the most senior U.S. official to Cuba in 38 years was a delicate—but well-rehearsed—maneuver

HAVANA — The visit of the most senior U.S. official to Cuba in 38 years gave every appearance of doing what it aimed to, drawing the nominal enemies into a distinctly Caribbean embrace, complete with broad smiles, warm body language and actual language commodious enough that everyone could fit together for a group photo.

It was a simple dance, but required coordinated footwork, which both parties appeared to have practiced in private. The good feeling on display appeared to be partly genuine and partly a concerted effort to maintain the momentum that surged up suddenly on Dec. 19, the day President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro simultaneously announced their intention to end a half century of what one U.S. diplomat termed “diplomatic estrangement” and, finally, re-establish formal ties. As formal talks proceed toward making the changes that the Cubans and Obama are free to make on their own—such as re-opening embassies in one another’s capitals, a primary topic in Havana on Thursday—officials of both governments privately acknowledge a secondary, over-arching intention. That would be to aim to sustain if not further swell the wave of public enthusiasm, leaving the U.S. Congress scant alternative but to repeal the 1960 Cuba Embargo Act that barred almost all exports to the emerging communist state.

Which made for some peculiar sights at the colorless Havana convention center where the delegations spent most of Wednesday and Thursday. Scores if not hundreds of journalists had gathered in the Hotel Palco waiting for something that has never happened in any previous U.S.-Cuba talks: a press briefing. Longtime Cuba watchers were gobsmacked by the spectacle of a room crowded with video cameras and reporters’ laptops. On the sidelines, senior Cuban officials smiled sheepishly. This was after all the land of the Central Committee communiqué, not to say diktats. “Usually,” said one senior official, “we don’t have a culture of informing the press.”

And yet, they proved pretty good at it—better than the Americans, on this day at least. Havana put forward youthful Josefina Vidal, head of the U.S. Division in the Foreign Ministry, and though she was never less than correct, she was also warm and apparently at ease. She spoke first in Spanish, then in English. The English was more direct: “It was a first meeting,” she said at one point, cutting what could have been four paragraphs into one. “This is a process. So we just made a list of things we have to do, when.”

By contrast, the top U.S. diplomat stood stock-still before the cameras, answered questions in detail, but betrayed not the merest hint she was happy to be here. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs Roberta Jacobson appeared to recognize her most dangerous audience was the anti-Castro Lobby that for five decades had blocked the kind of rapprochement of which she has been made the face. It was as if she had the sense that the merest smile line would create traction for naysayers watching from Capitol Hill, calling it evidence democracy had been undermined.

The Cubans acknowledged the peculiarity of their side appearing more transparent than the Americans, but also signaled they understood why. The official offered an explanation on the relative powers of the U.S. system of government so often lost on Americans: “The power in the U.S. is not with the president,” the senior official observed. “It’s with a class. Don’t be fooled.”

And so, let the momentum go forward, from Havana to Miami and up the seaboard to Washington. After the Dec. 17 joint stunner, both governments moved with unusual dispatch—exchanging prisoners, papers, and statements of good will. President Obama took only a few days to re-write regulations that now allow Americans to fly to Havana without Washington’s permission—no great rush evident quite yet, but demand is clearly there—and opened previously closed gateways to electronics and other goods. “That’s what he’s allowed to do,” the senior Cuban official observed. Another executive action, Cuba’s place on the State Department’s list of states sponsoring terrorism, is already under review.

At the same time, in a sop to the Miami lobby, the American delegation conspicuously made good on Obama’s vow to continue to harp on Havana’s human rights record. On Friday morning, Jacobson had seven Cuban dissidents to breakfast at the splendid tropic compound that will once again be the ambassador’s residence if Washington and Havana re-establish formal diplomatic ties—the move perhaps most easily accomplished, despite the nations’ complex history. Prominent in the sculpted garden of the dining room was a broad wooden American Eagle said to be salvaged from the USS Maine, the destruction of which became the casus belli for the Spanish-American War.

The attention to human rights clearly irks the Cubans, who blame their government’s paranoia on a long and colorful history of U.S. intelligence operations aimed at bringing it down. But like both sides, they appear prepared to file the dispute under “profound disagreements” that can be addressed from embassies at least as well as Interests Sections, the cumbersome arrangement through which Cuban and American diplomats operate now in each other’s capitals, beneath the protection of the Swiss. No timetables were offered, but the next round, perhaps in DC, may address technical matters.

For the moment, the focus remains on keeping things clicking along toward a kind of “normality.” At a news conference at the residence on Friday, after the breakfast with dissidents, Jacobson thawed a good deal answering a question on the Embargo Act, projecting sympathy if not empathy for anyone trying to square Obama’s executive changes with persistent existence of that legislation.

But the Cubans have patience. “”It’s a good sign,” said one other senior official, smiling wryly. “We have nothing to lose.”

TIME Davos

Bill Gates: HIV Vaccine a Reality by 2030

Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gestures next to his wife Melinda French Gates during the session 'Sustainable Development: A Vision for the Future' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos
Ruben Sprich—Reuters Bill and Melinda Gates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 23, 2015.

New drugs would significantly impact the global struggle against the virus which has claimed the lives on millions over the past 30 years

Philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates believes an HIV vaccine, as well as new intensive drugs to combat the disease, will be available by 2030. That would significantly impact the global struggle against the virus which has claimed the lives of millions over the past 30 years.

Speaking the World Economic Forum in Davos, the billionaire founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said the two “miracles” were within reach. “We’re pretty optimistic in this 15-year period we will get those two new tools,” he said. The Gates Foundation, founded fifteen years ago, spends tens of millions of dollars on medical research.

A vaccine is seen as pivotal in preventing new infections, while drug treatments would do away with the need for life-long treatment, he added.

[The Guardian]

TIME India

5 Things You Need to Know About Obama’s Visit to India

U.S. President Barack Obama hosts a meeting with India's PM Narendra Modi at the White House in Washington
Larry Downing—Reuters U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he hosts a meeting with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington September 30, 2014.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to touch down in New Delhi on Sunday morning, kicking off a highly anticipated three-day visit that will see him attend India’s Republic Day parade on Jan. 26.

Here are the five things you need to know as the President arrives in the Indian capital.

1. This is a highly symbolic visit with many firsts
Obama will be the first U.S. President to attend the Jan. 26 parade, a Soviet-style jamboree to mark the day in 1950 India’s constitution came into force. Past invitees to the annual celebration include Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Nicholas Sarkozy. But that’s not all: when he lands in New Delhi, Obama will also become the first sitting U.S. leader to visit India twice, following an earlier trip in 2010.

2. This is not the first (nor even second) meeting between Obama and the new Indian leader
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to power following Indian national elections in 2014, traveled to the U.S. in September, visiting New York City and calling in at the White House in Washington D.C. “It is rare for leaders, especially American presidents, to have successive summits so quickly,” Tanvi Madan, director of The India Project at the Brookings Institution, told TIME. Modi and Obama also met at the G20 Summit in Australia and the East Asia Summit in Burma last year.

3. Relations between the two countries haven’t always been smooth
Another reason this visit is significant is that it symbolizes a rapid improvement in U.S.-India ties, which were nearly undone at the end of 2013 over a row involving Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York. Accused of visa fraud and underpaying her house-keeper, she was arrested and strip-searched by U.S. law enforcement, sparking angry protests and diplomatic retaliations from India.

4. The symbolism may be backed up by some substance
Modi and Obama will discuss a whole host of issues when they sit down for talks. Among those topping the agenda will be bilateral trade, climate change, increased defense cooperation and investment in India’s civilian nuclear sector, where a deal is being sought to break a long-standing impasse over a local law that is blamed for keeping foreign nuclear companies from getting involved in the Indian market. (It’s not yet clear if the two sides will come to an agreement in time for the President’s arrival.) Obama and Modi are also expected to discuss the regional geopolitical situation.

5. And finally, there’s a bilateral radio show
Obama will join Modi on a special edition of the Indian leader’s regular radio program that will air on state broadcaster All India Radio on Jan. 27. The Indian Prime Minister broke the news of the show himself using his Twitter feed:

And the state broadcaster prepared a special poster:

TIME Global Security

Doomsday Clock Puts Us 3 Minutes Away from Apocalypse

Climate scientist Richard Somerville, a member, Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, unveils the new Doomsday Clock in Washington on Jan. 22, 2015.
Cliff Owen—AP Climate scientist Richard Somerville, a member, Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, unveils the new Doomsday Clock in Washington on Jan. 22, 2015.

Climate change and nuclear proliferation make global catastrophe highly probable, scientists say

The Doomsday Clock is now two minutes closer to midnight, thanks to the specter of climate change and unchecked nuclear proliferation.

The hands of the symbolic clock, managed by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board, were moved forward to 11.57 earlier this week, which means the board thinks “the probability of global catastrophe is very high.” 12.00 signifies the apocalypse.

Originally constructed in 1945 as a predictor of nuclear catastrophe, the clock’s keepers now consider factors like climate change and other scientific or technological threats to humanity as well. The Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board is managed by a board of sponsors that includes 17 Nobel Laureates.

“Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity,” Kennette Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said.

Founded by University of Chicago scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, The Doomsday Clock has been long considered a metaphor for the vulnerability of the human race.

But the hands of the clock can move forward and backward in time. It was previously set at 3 minutes to midnight in 1984, during a particularly scary moment during the Cold War where communication between the U.S. and the Soviet Union had gone dark. And in 1949, the clock was set at 3 minutes to midnight when the Soviet Union tested their first nuclear device.

The safest point in history seems to have been in 1991, when the clock was at 17 minutes to midnight after the U.S. and Soviet Union agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals. The closest the Doomsday Clock has ever been to midnight was in 1953, when it reached 2 minutes to midnight after the U.S. tested a H-Bomb for the first time.

To read the entire statement about why the Doomsday Clock stewards believe the world is as close to total catastrophe today as it was at the worst point in the Cold War, click here.

Read next: 5 Things You Need to Know About Obama’s Visit to India

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME ebola

Two Ebola Vaccines Are Heading to Trials in Liberia

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee hearing on the U.S. public health response to the Ebola outbreak in Washington, D.C., Oct. 2014.
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee hearing on the U.S. public health response to the Ebola outbreak in Washington, D.C., Oct. 2014.

Two vaccines will start trials in February

The long-awaited vaccine for Ebola is heading to clinical trials in Liberia.

Two vaccines, with the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) support, will start efficacy testing in Liberia in the beginning of February.

The NIH is launching the trial in collaboration with the Liberian Ministry of Health. The trial will test two vaccines against a placebo. People in Liberia who agree to participate in the trial will be split evenly into three groups. Two groups will test separate vaccines and the third group will be given a placebo. The trial will take place in Montserrado County, which includes the capital Monrovia, one of the country’s hardest-hit regions.

MORE: TIME Person of the Year: Ebola Fighters

The vaccines have already undergone early safety trials at various sites in the U.S., Europe, and in parts of Africa. “There were no significant safety concerns and [the vaccine] induced the type of response that was quite comparable to the animal response of the monkeys,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Prior trials in monkeys had shown the vaccine made the animals immune to the virus.

Initially the target date for the vaccine trial in West Africa had been end of January, but some logistics still need to be worked out. Fauci told TIME that he can say with almost certainty that the trials will indeed launch in early February. “There are a couple of minor issues that we are just ironing out with regard to the protocol with the FDA,” says Fauci. “Nothing that’s a show stopper.”

One of the two vaccines being tested is a vaccine developed and tested by the NIH and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and the other vaccine is coming from biotech company NewLink Genetics and the pharmaceutical company Merck.

When the trial starts, the vaccines will initially be given to 600 people to collect additional data on the vaccine’s safety. If all goes well, the second part of the trial will launch with 27,000 people.

TIME Davos

Kerry and Hollande Call for Intensified Fight Against Terrorism

Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech about violent extremism to the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 23, 2015.
Demotix/Corbis Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech about violent extremism to the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 23, 2015.

"This fight will not be decided on the battlefield, but in the classrooms," Kerry says

Talk at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos turned to the fight against terrorism Friday, with French President François Hollande and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry encouraging the influential world figures gathered here to step up efforts to fight Islamist extremists.

Kerry told the audience that the fight against terrorism would include a military component but also needed to address the economic and educational conditions that can provide fertile ground for extremists. “This fight will not be decided on the battlefield, but in the classrooms, workplaces, places of worship of the world,” he said. Kerry said he would be traveling shortly to Nigeria, whose government is waging a war against the increasingly emboldened Islamist group Boko Haram.

Hollande, who led more than one million people in a unity rally in Paris following terrorist attacks in the city this month that left 17 people dead, called on business leaders and governments to cooperate against extremists. “France has reacted and taken measures, but there also needs to be a global, international response,” he said. “It needs to be international and shared, shared between the states who have to bear responsibility on the front line, but also by businesses, particularly the largest ones, who can also take action.”

Hollande also signaled that France’s military involvement in Africa could grow. “In Africa, France is on the ground and it will continue to be so more than ever before,” he said. “It will be present to bring help to those countries who are having to deal with the scourge of terrorism. I’m thinking of the Sahel, in particular, but also the situation in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad, who are under attack from Boko Haram. Now France cannot do everything, France cannot act alone. But whenever it can, it will, to lead by example.”

Speaking after Hollande and before Kerry on the main stage of the Davos conference center, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi asked for more help in his country’s fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“The cost of action will be high but the cost of inaction will be much, much higher,” said al-Abadi, who has been Prime Minister since September.

Al-Abadi said that in recent weeks there had been improved coordination between the U.S.-led air campaign against ISIS and Iraqi ground troops who he said are currently fighting to control territory that would create a route for Iraqi government forces to try to take back the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul. But he said Iraq was struggling under the burden of fighting a war while providing regular government services. “We need help,” he said.

In a sign of how longstanding enemies are finding themselves fighting on the same side in parts of an increasingly complex Middle East, the Iraqi Prime leader acknowledged to interviewer Charlie Rose that Iran is also providing Iraq with military aid. “They’ve helped us in the first stage,” he said. “They have been very prompt in sending arms, in sending munitions.”

TIME faith

Pope Francis to Families: Get Off Your Screens and Actually Talk to Each Other

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE
Andreas Solaro—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis waves to faithful as he arrives for the private Audience to the Accountants and Accounting Experts in Aula Paolo VI at the Vatican, on November 14, 2014.

The Pontiff says technology should be used to enable conversation, not hinder it

Pope Francis wants families to know that technology isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

“By growing daily in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others, we will employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it,” the Pontiff said Friday in his annual message for World Communications Day.

In other words, cut down on your screen time, kids.

Not that mothers and fathers aren’t beyond reproach: “Parents are the primary educators,” he said, “but they cannot be left to their own devices.”

“The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that ‘silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist,'” Pope Francis said.

This isn’t the first time the Pope has implied those family-centric Apple ads might be misleading. “Maybe many young people waste too many hours on futile things,” like “chatting on the Internet or with smartphones,” he said last year.

Even in 1967, long before the dawn of the selfie, Pope Paul VI remarked upon the rapidly expanding world of communications, noting how television and other media leave “their deep mark upon the mentality and the conscience of man who is being pressed and almost overpowered by a multiplicity of contradictory appeals.”

It’s like they say in Proverbs 18:2: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion [on Twitter].”

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