TIME Kenya

Kenyan Red Cross: Nairobi Blasts Injure At Least 10

The explosions occurred near a popular market in the country's capital as British vacationers were being evacuated due to high terror threat from Al Shabaab extremist group

Explosions in Nairobi injured as many as 10 people on Friday, the Kenya Red Cross said, as European tourists were being evacuated from Kenya due to a high terror threat. At least four people were killed in the twin blasts, the Associated Press reports.

The Kenyan National Disaster Operations Center tweeted that the explosions occurred near a popular Nairobi market.

No group has yet taken responsibility for the bombings, although Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a vague statement about “terrorism” after the blasts.

“Many countries are faced with this particular problem (terrorism). All of us must be united to ensure that we fight it,” reads the statement, posted by the International Business Times. “We will do what we can as a government. We in Kenya, are committed to this fight and we urge Kenyans to work with us.”

Friday’s attack happened as British tourists in the country were being urged to leave due to a high terror threat from Somali extremist group al-Shabab, particularly along the Kenya-Somali border and in areas in Nairobi.

TIME Ukraine

U.N.: ‘Alarming Deterioration’ of Human Rights in Ukraine

TOPSHOTS-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-POLITICS-UNREST-CRISIS
May 13, 2014. Relatives of Hyudych Vadim Yurievichq, including his mother, center, mourn his death, at the Krasnoarmeysk cemetery, eastern Ukraine, May 13, 2014. Fabio Bucciarelli—AFP/Getty Images

A new U.N. report found that actions by armed groups in the restive east have led to an 'alarming deterioration' of the human rights of local populations

The United Nations sounded alarm bells on Friday over human rights violations in eastern Ukraine as well as the harassment and persecution of ethnic Tatars in Crimea.

In a report released simultaneously in Kiev and Geneva, the U.N. denounced the actions and impunity enjoyed by those armed groups—including the kidnapping, beating, detention and killing of locals, politicians and journalists—and stated the problems “remain the major factor in causing a worsening situation for the protection of human rights.”

The information was compiled by 34 human rights monitors in Kiev and four other cities, the New York Times reports.

Russia immediately condemned the report. Moscow said it ignores abuses committed by Ukraine’s government, despite the monitors having credible reports that Ukraine’s state security service detained pro-Russia activists and moved them to Kiev. Russia said those transfers amount to forced abductions.

Tension grew again on Thursday, when thousands of steelworkers and miners took control of the eastern city of Mariupol, prompting the pro-Russia insurgents to retreat. The workers are employed by Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, who urged his employees to take over the city on the grounds their jobs would be put at risk by autonomy.

[New York Times]

TIME russia

Russia Bans Parade for Eurovision Winner Conchita Wurst

Conchita Wurst of Austria performs on stage after winning the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 on May 10, 2014 in Copenhagen.
Conchita Wurst of Austria performs on stage after winning the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 on May 10, 2014 in Copenhagen. Ragnar Singsaas—WireImage/Getty Images

A parade honoring the bearded drag who won this year's Eurovision Song Contest has been banned by Moscow's security department, which cited potential clashes between "gays and their opponents"

Russian officials have barred fans of Conchita Wurst from holding a parade in the singing drag queen’s honor. The Guardian reports that Moscow’s security department has denied an application for the Conchita Wurst March of Bearded Women and Men, which was slated to take place on May 27.

Ever since the bearded Austrian drag queen — real name: Thomas Neuwirth — won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest on May 10, she’s come to be seen as both an icon and a menace across Europe. Though she won by a large margin and has become an LGBT hero across much of Europe, in some regions, particularly in Russia, Wurst has inspired backlash. Several Russian organizations called for a boycott of Eurovision and a Russian politician, Vitaly Milonov, even publicly denounced Wurst as a “pervert.” Though homosexuality is legal in Russia, the country has drawn international condemnation for its “anti-gay laws,” which ban the dissemination of so-called “gay propaganda” to children.

While disappointing for many, it’s also perhaps unsurprising that the parade, which was originally planned for May 27 to mark the 21st anniversary of homosexuality becoming legal in Russia, was deemed a security risk by the head of Moscow’s security department, Alexei Mayorov. Mayorov told the Russian news agency Interfax that celebrating the Austrian drag queen could lead to clashes between gay activists and their opponents, and that there was a pressing need to “respect morality in the education of the younger generation.”

[Guardian]

TIME Bangladesh

Death Toll Climbs in Bangladesh Ferry Disaster

A relative mourns as he waits for the news of his brother, who was a passenger of the M.V. Miraj-4 ferry which capsized, by the Meghna river at Rasulpur in Munshiganj district
A relative mourns as he waits for the news of his brother, who was a passenger of the M.V. Miraj-4 ferry which capsized, by the Meghna river at Rasulpur in Munshiganj district May 16, 2014. Reuters

It’s unclear how many people were on board when the ship capsized on a stormy river Thursday

At least 29 people were killed and more than 100 remain missing after a ferry capsized Thursday during a storm on the Meghna River near Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka.

It was unclear exactly how many people were aboard the ship, since the ferry did not maintain a list of passengers. An investigation is underway to determine if the vessel was overcrowded, the Associated Press reports.

Officials told the AP they were trying to locate the ferry crew, who they believe may have left the area after the accident.

Ferry accidents due to overcrowding and defective ships are common in Bangladesh. In 2012, at least 150 people died when a ferry carrying roughly 200 people capsized near the site of the latest accident.

[AP]

 

 

 

 

 

TIME Nigeria

Nigerian President Cancels Trip to Town Where Girls Abducted

Nigeria Centenary
Nigeria's President, Goodluck Jonathan, arrives for a summit to address a seminar on security during an event marking the centenary of the unification of Nigeria's north and south in Abuja, Nigeria, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Sunday Alamba—ASSOCIATED PRESS

It would have been the president’s first visit to the traumatized town

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan canceled a planned visit Friday to the town where more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted last month by Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Jonathan cited security concerns after news of the trip leaked to the media.

The route from the capital of Abuja to the town of Chibok would have taken Jonathan’s convoy through disputed and dangerous territory, the Associated Press reports.

Reports of disgruntled under-fed and outgunned Nigerian troops have stoked fears of mutiny. The AP reports that soldiers have told the news service some in their ranks fight alongside Boko Haram.

This year alone, 1,500 civilians have been killed amid fighting between government soldiers and insurgents from the country’s Muslim north. The trip would have been a first for Jonathan, a southern Christian who has been accused of not doing enough for the country’s violence-wracked and predominantly Muslim north.

[AP]

 

 

TIME Vietnam

Vietnamese PM: Fight On for the Fatherland, Just Do It Legally

A security guard stands near a damaged Chinese owned shoe factory in Vietnam's southern Binh Duong province
A security guard stands near a damaged Chinese owned shoe factory in Vietnam's southern Binh Duong province May 14, 2014. Reuters

Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party appears to be in damage control after an orgy of violence led to the destruction of hundreds of foreign-owned factories across the country, with Chinese businesses particularly in the crosshairs

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung encouraged his fellow Vietnamese on Thursday to defend the country’s territorial integrity but with the appropriate behavior, after unchecked nationalist rage escalated into horrific riots.

In an unusual move, the Premier reached out via text message to almost the entire nation, urging citizens to continue protecting the “fatherland,” albeit in more a lawful manner.

“The Prime Minister requests and calls on every Vietnamese to boost their patriotism to defend the fatherland’s sacred sovereignty with actions in line with the law,” read the message, according to the Associated Press.

“Bad elements should not be allowed to instigate extremist actions that harm the interests and image of the country.”

The nationwide appeal comes after a spate of anti-Chinese riots exploded across Vietnam this week in response to Beijing’s placement of a state-owned oil rig in highly contested waters off the country’s coast.

Hundreds of factories were reportedly razed in the suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City, while a steel project in central Ha Tinh province was rocked by mob violence targeting Chinese laborers. Varying reports surfaced Thursday that Chinese nationals may have been killed during the upheaval.

“If [the Vietnamese leadership] has any chance of gaining the international support it needs to resolve this dispute, it absolutely must do a better job of communicating to its own people and to the world what exactly is going on,” Jonathan D. London, a professor and Vietnamese scholar at Hong Kong’s City University, tells TIME.

On Friday, officials claimed to have arrested more than 600 people in and around Ho Chi Minh City and another 78 in Ha Tinh province in response to the rioting.

During a press conference in Beijing on Thursday, Chinese officials appeared unconvinced by the official response and pinned blame for the carnage firmly on the Vietnamese authorities.

“It is worth pointing out that the Vietnamese side has an inescapable responsibility for the beating, smashing, looting and burning targeted at China and other countries,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.

Chinese netizens expressed similar sentiments online.

“The Vietnamese government is now deliberately indulging bad people to make trouble,” Haoyun2013 wrote on popular social-media outlet Sina Weibo.

On Friday, Vietnamese state media attempted to return the spotlight to the unresolved crisis festering in the South China Sea.

Vietnam’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh told his Chinese counterpart during a phone call that Beijing must recall the drilling platform and the 100 vessels escorting it from “Vietnamese seas.”

“He stressed that China’s act seriously damaged the mutual trust between the two countries as well as Vietnamese people’s sentiment [and] runs counter to the agreements reached by their high-ranking leaders,” read a statement by Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

But despite this verbal sparring, the two countries appear to have made nascent moves toward behind-the-scenes reconciliation. China vowed Thursday to deploy a diplomatic envoy to Vietnam, while Hanoi reportedly sent Deputy Foreign Minister Ho Xuan Son to China for a three-day visit earlier this week.

Chinese state media remain as bellicose as ever, though. Communist Party mouthpiece the Global Times dismissed Vietnam’s continued calls to remove the platform in its latest vitriolic article about the crisis.

“China will never give in to her [Vietnam], and she doesn’t have the strength to force China to back off,” read an editorial on Thursday.

TIME Turkey

Anger Builds as Victims of Turkey’s Worst Mining Disaster Are Buried

People carry the coffin of a miner who died in a fire at a coal mine, draped with a Turkish flag, during his funeral at a cemetery in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa
People carry the coffin of a miner who died in a fire at a coal mine, draped with a Turkish flag, during his funeral at a cemetery in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa May 15, 2014. Osman Orsal—Reuters

Turks are demanding answers as the death toll from Tuesday’s explosion in a coal mine in the country’s west reaches 284

The first burials of those who perished in Turkey’s worst ever mining disaster began Thursday, as public anger grew over the administration’s reaction to the disaster that saw 284 lives lost with 140 people still missing.

“It’s not an accident, it’s murder,” read a banner waved by trade unionists marching through the capital, Istanbul, according to the Associated Press.

As weary men dug makeshift graves amid the mournful sound of wailing relatives, rescue workers continued to battle methane gas and flames in their efforts to save those still trapped underground.

Turks have been infuriated by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s apparent shrugging off of the tragedy. Mining accidents “are in the nature of the business,” he said Thursday, citing comparable disasters from British, American and Chinese history.

Compounding the sense of national revulsion, a photograph of one of Erdogan’s aides viciously kicking a restrained protester circulated on international and domestic media Thursday. Tear gas was fired as crowds demanded justice for the victims.

As more people took to the streets, Erdogan warned “extremists” against taking advantage of the tragedy for their own ends. “Everyone should be assured that this accident will be investigated to the smallest detail,” he added. “We won’t allow any negligence to be ignored.”

According to Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency, the Labor Ministry insists that the mine had been inspected twice just two months before Tuesday’s explosion and no safety concerns had been flagged.

There have been more than 3,000 deaths and 100,000 mining injuries in Turkey since 1941, according to the national statistics agency.

TIME Football

Sepp Blatter: Awarding the World Cup to Qatar Was a ‘Mistake’

FIFA president Sepp Blatter attends a press conference at the conclusion of the meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee at the Home of FIFA in Zurich on Friday, March 21, 2014. Walter Bieri—Keystone/AP

Sepp Blatter laments in an interview with Swiss TV the decision to pick the excruciatingly hot Gulf state as the 2022 host of the games, even hinting that political pressure from Germany and France was behind the selection

FIFA president Sepp Blatter says it was a “mistake” to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar because of the country’s excruciatingly hot summer weather.

World soccer’s most powerful man admitted, “Of course it was an error, but you know, everyone makes a lot of mistakes in life,” during an interview with Swiss television channel RTS.

Qatar’s 2010 designation as World Cup host has been controversial not only because of its extreme temperatures but also because of its allegedly reckless exploitation of migrant workers to construct the necessary facilities. Qatar denies any wrongdoing.

Blatter hinted that the pick of the Gulf state ahead of the likes of the U.S. or South Korea was due to pressure from Germany and France, with then French President Nicolas Sarkozy convening the Qatari Emir and UEFA president Michel Platini at the Élysée Palace in Paris.

“You couldn’t imagine the Swiss President doing that,” he said.

[RTS]

TIME India

India’s Opposition On Track to Sweep National Elections

The Bharatiya Janata Party has scored a major victory and appears on track to have won a majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament, pulling off the best election performance by a single party in decades and paving the way for Narendra Modi to become the nation’s next Prime Minister

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has scored a major victory in India’s national elections and appears on track to have won a majority of seats in India’s lower house of Parliament, paving the way for Narendra Modi to become the nation’s next Prime Minister.

Partial counting indicates that the Hindu-nationalist party has pulled off the best performance by a single party in decades, buoyed both by Modi’s well-received campaign and a profound anti-incumbency sentiment felt across the nation after 10 years of government under the outgoing Congress Party. According to partial results at 9:30 E.T., the BJP was leading with 283 out of 543 seats in India’s lower house of parliament, according to India’s Press Information Bureau, a number that would give the party an absolute majority and clear mandate in the next government.

Though final results have yet to be announced, many foreign heads of state are reportedly already scrambling to congratulate Modi. “Good days are coming,” Modi said in a speech before supporters in Gujarat on Friday evening.From today for next five years, the journey has started.”

A record number of voters participated in world’s largest election, a mammoth five-week process that ended on May 12. Over 66% of eligible voters cast their ballots, compared with 58% in the last vote in 2009.

The results so far are a massive blow to Congress, very likely facing its worst showing ever with only 45 seats, according to partial results. The party has already conceded defeat, with analysts blaming it on the poor performance of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in leading the party’s campaign and, more broadly, an overall crisis in party leadership.

“We have to introspect,” Kapil Sibal, a Congress minister who appeared set to lose his New Delhi parliamentary seat to a BJP candidate, told NDTV. “We have to [make] corrections and look at it positively.”

In its first national contest, the Aam Aadmi Party, led by former bureaucrat Arvind Kejriwal, is on track for a relatively muted showing — leading in just four seats at 9:30 E.T. — compared with its successful first state elections in New Delhi in December. After taking control of the New Delhi government, Kejriwal stepped down from the chief minister’s post after less than two months in office, a move widely seen as damaging to the fledgling party in its national debut.

Markets, meanwhile, surged on the strong BJP indicators, with the Sensex reaching an all-time high and the rupee gaining strength. Indian industrialists have long been clambering for more pro-business policies from Congress and its allies, and have said Modi’s decisive leadership style will help get the economy back on the high-growth path.

Modi’s fast climb in national politics has taken many in India by surprise since his appointment as the BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate in September. Having famously sold tea as a boy on the train platforms of his hometown in the western state of Gujarat, Modi rose through the state’s political machine to become its powerful chief minister in 2001. It’s a narrative that resonates with many Indian voters, but he has also been a divisive figure since a wave of bloody religious riots took place on his watch in Gujarat in 2002, in which over 1,000 Muslims were killed. Though Modi has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the courts, many, particularly within India’s large Muslim community, remain apprehensive about the prospect of a Modi-led government.

Aware of these sensitivities, the BJP was careful to downplay its Hindu roots throughout its campaign, focusing instead on issues of stable governance, development and job creation as Modi set out to reinvent himself as a national leader. His team ran a tireless and well-organized campaign, holding hundreds of rallies around the nation and making astute use of social media and carefully targeted advertising.

The party’s resounding win reflects the more conservative mind-set of provincial as opposed to metropolitan India. “It’s the first time you have a regional leader come to power in the center on his own gumption,” says Pradeep Chhibber, a political scientist at University of California, Berkeley. “This is a victory for small-town conservative India.”

TIME Photos

Feel Good Friday: 21 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From rocket launches to Conchita Wurst, here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

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