TIME South Africa

Mine Strikers Urged to Hold Their Ground

South Africa Mine Strike
Miners on strike chant slogans as they march in Nkaneng township outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, South Africa on May 14, 2014. Siphiwe Sibeko—Reuters

South African miners dug their heels in as they demanded higher wages at the world's third-largest platinum mine. A leader of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union said to "remain steadfast and be peaceful," even amid a gathering police force

Strike leaders urged thousands of club-wielding South African mine workers to peacefully continue striking in the face of a deadline to return to the underground mines Wednesday.

The platinum mine workers were told by Joseph Mathunjwa, who leads the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, to “remain steadfast and be peaceful,” AFP reports—even as armored police vehicles and a helicopter circled the area. The police warned they would not tolerate intimidation of workers who want to return to the mines.

The strike at the world’s third-biggest platinum mine began in January, when more than 80,000 members of the miners union demanded a salary of 12,500 rand (about $1,200), or more than double their current wages.

A standoff between rival unions in 2012 led to the deaths of 34 strikers after police opened fire on a crowd.

[AFP]

TIME faith

For Pope Francis, It’s About More than Martians

Vatican Pope
Pope Francis blesses faithful as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the end of the weekly general audience, at the Vatican on May 14, 2014. Gregorio Borgia—AP

On Monday morning, Pope Francis preached that he would baptize Martians. He caused, yet again, quite a stir. But to think he was talking just about aliens is to miss his main point. Pope Francis was using Martians to illustrate that the church must be open to whatever, or whoever, may seem socially foreign and unaccepted.

Pope Francis brought up Martians as he was preaching about a specific New Testament story: early Christians were wondering if Jews and Gentiles could associate, and God gave the Apostle Peter a vision that salvation extended beyond the deepest cultural divides. It was a moment of internal crisis for the early church. “That was unthinkable,” Francis explained. And, to show just how unthinkable it was, he added: “If—for example—tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here…Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them…And one says, ‘But I want to be baptized!’ What would happen?”

The church today should learn from the early church, Francis explained, that it cannot close its doors to anyone. That which God has purified, as the Scripture says, no one can call profane. “It was never the ministry of the closed door, never,” Francis explained.

It is a poignant message about not withholding baptism, especially given the Pope’s previous comments that churches should not refuse baptism to children of unmarried parents. Francis is even thought to have called an unwed mother himself and told her that he would baptize her child himself if she could not find a priest to do it.

It is also a pointed reference to the church’s efforts to welcome immigrants. ‘Alien,’ ‘stranger,’ and ‘immigrant’ are often translated interchangeably in Biblical texts. One passage from the book Deuteronomy has become the crux of Catholic teaching on welcoming the immigrant: “Show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” While Francis did not reference immigration as specifically as baptism in his sermon, the connection cannot be not far from his mind. Pope Francis urged compassion for the immigrant in his first papal trip to the island of Lampedusa, where hundreds of people have died trying to immigrate from Africa to Europe. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also often uses the alien language in its push for immigration reform on Capitol Hill and in its refugee programs.

Did Francis have a message about actual beings from other planets? Possibly. The idea of baptizing aliens is actually nothing new for the Vatican. The Vatican’s chief astronomer, Argentine Jesuit father José Funes, explained the possibility of extraterrestrial life in 2008, when he too said that God’s mercy could be offered to aliens if it were needed. He even cited Pope Francis’ namesake to make his point. “This is not in contrast with the faith, because we cannot place limits on the creative freedom of God,” Funes said. “To use St. Francis’ words, if we consider earthly creatures as ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters,’ why can’t we also speak of an ‘extraterrestrial brother?’”

The Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences held its first major conference on astrobiology in 2009. For five days, thirty scientists gave presentations to Catholic bishops on everything from microbes to planetary detection to life beyond Earth. Rome has come a long way from 16th century, when Dominican friar and astronomer Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake during the Inquisition for heresy, including his openness to multiple worlds.

Pope Francis, like any good preacher, knows how to keep his audience interested—nothing like a Martian reference to catch people’s attention. Whether or not they will remember it for the right reasons is another question.

TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Deploys Drones in Search for Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

Kidnapped schoolgirls are seen at an unknown location in this still image taken from an undated video released by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram.
Kidnapped schoolgirls are seen at an unknown location in this still image taken from an undated video released by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram. Reuters

White House officials have confirmed that unmanned and unarmed reconnaissance drones are now patrolling an area of Nigeria the size of West Virginia in search of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in April by the militant group Boko Haram

The United States has deployed drones to Nigeria to help search for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by militant group Boko Haram, officials confirmed Wednesday.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said “unmanned, unarmed” aircraft had joined reconnaissance flights over a swath of Nigeria where Boko Haram is believed to be holding the girls hostage. Carney cautioned during a news conference that the area of greatest suspicion still covering an expanse of land “along the size of West Virginia.”

The announcement comes as some U.S. lawmakers are urging the use of force to rescue the Nigerian girls. Senators in both parties recently floated the idea of using special forces to aid in the search, and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain went further on Tuesday. “I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them,” McCain told to the Daily Beast.

Carney, however, said U.S. counterterrorism experts dispatched to Nigeria would limit their activity to an “advisory capacity,” focused on finding the girls.

Recent international attention and internal protests have ratcheted up pressure on Nigeria’s government to rescue the girls and crack down on Boko Haram. Over the last five years, the extremist group has waged a campaign of bombings, massacres and kidnappings in northern Nigeria that has claimed an estimated 1,000 lives.

TIME astronomy

Russia Threatens To Cut Ties to International Space Station Over U.S. Sanctions

Moscow made the threat amid U.S. sanctions for its actions in Ukraine

Russia is threatening to pull out of the International Space Station (ISS) by 2020.

The threat was made in response to U.S. sanctions placed on Russian officials. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who happens to be one of these officials, taunted the U.S.’s ability to use the ISS without Moscow’s help.

“I propose the United States delivers its astronauts to the ISS with the help of a trampoline,” Rogozin said.

The United States currently pays Russia $60 million for every astronaut who needs to be ferried to and from the station, since America’s shuttle program was recently cut. But NASA officials have not received any official notification about changes in their space cooperation agreements.

 

 

 

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine Gov’t Refuses To Invite Separatists to Peace Talks

Crisis Continues In Eastern Ukraine
Ukranian military soldiers man a highway checkpoint on May 13, 2014 near Slovyansk, Ukraine. At least 6 Ukranian soldiers were killed and more were reportedly injured by pro-Russian separatists in the nearby city of Kramatorsk. John Moore—Getty Images

Peace talks begin without the leaders of the insurgency in eastern Ukraine, one day after the deaths of up to 8 Ukrainian soldiers near Kramatorsk

The Ukrainian government in Kiev started peace talks on Wednesday, but did not invite the pro-Russia separatists who spearheaded a vote to defect from the country on Sunday.

Amid renewed tensions, Kiev had agreed yesterday to start a dialogue over a solution to the crisis that has left dozens dead in the east of the country, the Associated Press reports. But as the talks debuted today, it became clear the government deliberately declined to invite the separatists. This omission leaves many observers wondering what those talks will be able to achieve.

The talks come one day after the deaths of between 6 and 8 Ukrainian soldiers, according to various media reports, in the east of the country on Tuesday. The soldiers were ambushed by about 30 heavily armed rebels near the town of Kramatorsk according to the Ukrainian defense minister. Reports say it is the most serious loss of life for the government since the start of its operation against separatists.

The talks on decentralizing power are part of a peace plan drafted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Ukraine’s interim President Oleksandr Turchynov said the government was ready for a dialogue but that it would not do so with militant separatists who took over government buildings and fought troops loyal to Kiev.

The rebels deemed the talks meaningless. “If the authorities in Kiev want a dialogue, they must come here,” Denis Pushilin, an insurgent leader in Donetsk said. “If we go to Kiev, they will arrest us.” Despite the absence of the separatists, the talks were applauded by many European officials.

[AP]

 

 

TIME Infectious Disease

MERS Not Yet a Public Emergency, WHO Says

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus keeps on spreading, but the World Health Organization says there's no cause for serious concern

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, which has spread to over 500 people worldwide including two in the U.S., has not yet become a public health emergency.

An emergency WHO committee urged the organization’s member states to take measures to combat the disease’s spread, including implementing virus-fighting measures in health-care facilities around the world and enhancing public awareness about the disease.

The WHO said that while its concern about the situation has significantly increased due to a sharp rise rise in recent cases, there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the MERS virus.

Two cases of the virus have been reported in the U.S. in people who lived in Saudi Arabia and work in health care settings, and more than 145 people have died worldwide (though neither of the U.S. cases have been fatal). The disease first appeared in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and is thought to have been transmitted by camels. More than 500 cases of the disease have been confirmed there. The first case of the disease was reported in the Netherlands Tuesday.

TIME India

Why India’s Elections Took So Long

The polls opened on April 7 and shut on May 12, over five weeks later. So what took India so long to elect a new parliament?

As India awaits the final results of its marathon elections, officials are getting ready to breathe a collective sigh of relief that the world’s largest democratic exercise is nearly over. Polling, which started on April 7, took place on nine separate days over five weeks, and ended on May 12. Voter turnout hit a record high of over 66%, compared to 58% in the last national polls in 2009, with final results expected on May 16. “Despite the heat of the Indian summer, we have had a historic all-time high voter turnout, which was a great achievement,” says Akshay Rout, director general of India’s Election Commission.

This was not India’s longest election cycle — 2009 was a few days longer, says Rout — but it wasn’t exactly speedy. So why does it take so long for India to vote? The short of it is this: India’s big. According to the government, there were some 814 million eligible voters in this election — more than the combined populations of the entire European Union or North America. Those voters speak dozens of languages and live in some of the world’s most chaotic urban spaces and some of its most isolated villages. “This is not only the biggest election in the world, it’s the largest human management project in the world,” says S.Y. Quraishi, former chief election commissioner and author of An Undocumented Wonder — The Making of the Great Indian Election. “It’s a very plural society, and we have to make sure nobody is left out.”

To do that, the government deployed some 11 million employees, including security forces and government workers, to help carry out the polls at over 900,000 stations smattered around the country. Nearly two million electronic voting machines were dispatched to help the government keep its pledge that no one should have to travel more than a mile or so to vote. A polling station was set up in Gujarat for a single man who lives in a forest there, complete with staff and its own voting machine. The availability of central and state police to keep voters and workers safe dictates the length of the vote, as does moving them and the necessary equipment around the nation. The days on which voting takes place also have to take into consideration local festivals and school and farming schedules.

Such a prolonged process is not without disadvantages. This cycle, voters and observers were critical about the tenor of the political debate, with top politicians taking increasingly low pot shots at each other as campaigning intensified over the five-week period. More worrying, perhaps, is the likelihood of voters at the end of the cycle being influenced by media reports of the vote’s progress. Opinion polls and exit polls during the voting period are not permitted, but India’s robust domestic 24-7 news cycle would have been hard for millions to avoid. One could certainly argue, for instance, that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may have benefited from a sense of growing popularity of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi conveyed by the media during the five-week vote, potentially giving the party an advantage that a one-day poll would not have offered.

But paramount in the process is security, says Quraishi, both to protect voters and election workers in insecure and remote areas, and to ensure that polling booths aren’t commandeered and rigged in favor of a certain politician. Despite precautions, there have been several incidents of election-related violence this year, including a landmine blast that killed seven police officers in a Maoist area of Maharashtra one day before the final May 12 vote. There were also incidents of deadly election-related violence in Kashmir, Jharkhand and Assam. Still, Indian elections used to be a much bloodier affair, Quraishi says. Voting may be long but it is, by and large, peaceful. “Anything that upsets a free and fair election is upsetting to us,” he says. “But what’s the alternative? Loss of life isn’t worth it.”

TIME South Korea

Son of Sunken Ferry’s Owning Family Placed on Wanted List

A flag depicting the company logo of Chonghaejin Marine Co flutters on its ferry Ohamana at Incheon Port Passenger Terminal in Incheon April 22, 2014. Kim Hong-ji—Reuters

Yoo Dae-kyun is being urgently sought after by South Korean authorities amid fears that he may escape overseas

Yoo Dae-kyun, the scion of the South Korean family suspected of being the de facto owner of the sunken Sewol ferry, was placed on a most wanted list on Wednesday, as it was feared that he could flee the country, possibly by sea.

Prosecutors believe that answers to the sinking of the Sewol could lie within the family running Chonghaejin Marine, the company that operated the ferry, Yonhap News Agency reports.

The April 16 disaster left more than 300 people dead or missing,

Investigators are also looking into people who allegedly have helped Yoo — first son of millionaire businessman, ex-convict and religious figure Yoo Byeong-eun — to evade a prosecution summons until now.

[Yonhap]

TIME National Security

Climate Change Poses Growing National-Security Threat, Report Says

A new report published by the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board this week finds that climate change is a "catalyst for conflict" and a "threat multiplier," proving to be a growing threat not only to the environment but also U.S. national security

Climate change does not only threaten the environment but also U.S. national security, according to a new study.

Global warming presents the U.S. with several security threats and has led to conflicts over food and water because of droughts and extreme weather, says the report, which was written by a dozen retired American generals and published by the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board on Tuesday.

“Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world, and it presents significant national security challenges for the United States,” says the report, adding that problems will be felt “even in stable regions.”

The U.S. military should plan to help manage catastrophes and conflicts both domestically and internationally, it says, raising concerns regarding a wave of refugees fleeing rising sea levels.

“These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad, such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence,” the report states.

The authors of National Security and the Threat of Climate Change urge U.S. policymakers to act quickly. “The increasing risks from climate change should be addressed now because they will almost certainly get worse if we delay,” they say.

TIME Iran

Thousands of Iranian Women Defy Hijab Law on Social Media

Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women

A Facebook page called "Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women," which was created by a London-based Iranian journalist and encourages Iranian women to upload images of themselves without a hijab, has garnered hundreds of images and more than 165,000 Likes

Thousands of Iranian women are uploading images of themselves without a hijab to the Internet, sparking a debate on the country’s 35-year-old law that requires them to wear the head covering.

They are sending their pictures to a Facebook page called Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women. The page was created by London-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad on May 3, and had notched up over 170,000 Likes by May 14.

“Every single minute I receive emails and Facebook messages, bombarding me with images,” Alinejad tells TIME.

The anonymous photos vary in their degree of defiance, some of them depicting uncovered women next to their husbands or mothers, others standing next to the Grand Ayatullah’s office or in the middle of a packed subway car.

However, Alinejad, whose mother wears a hijab, says she has no intention of encouraging defiance.

“I’m not asking people to take off their scarves,” she says. “But you never see these ordinary, smiling women, full of color in the Iranian papers. I’m not fighting the hijab, I’m fighting censorship.”

The debate over the hijab tends to erupt every summer, when temperatures reaching 40°C cause women to challenge the limits on how far back on the head they are allowed to wear their hijabs. Normally, Iran’s morality police keep the streets clear of what is considered indecent behavior, but what’s on the Internet is proving harder to purge.

The semiofficial Fars News Agency has denounced the page and accused Alinejad of working with Iran’s enemies, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Alinejad is meanwhile worried about Facebook pages with similar names to hers that have cropped up over the past few days.

“I verify every single image, and post them anonymously,” she says. “I don’t know who runs these other pages, maybe it’s the government, maybe it’s someone who wants to abuse the pictures. It could be dangerous for the women. I worry that they may be sending their images in the wrong direction.”

The Fars News Agency continues to claim that Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women promotes promiscuity, but the multitude of images of women enjoying the simple comfort of being bareheaded, and the messages that accompany the pictures, say otherwise.

“It is painful that I shall not be free so that you will not sin,” writes one woman. “That I have to be covered so that your weak faith does not break!”

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