TIME Ukraine

Ukraine Grants Amnesty and More Autonomy to Separatist Regions

Ukraine
Darko Vojinovic — AP People dressed in old Soviet uniforms attend a parade in the town of Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, on Sept. 14, 2014

Rebel areas will be given "special status" for at least three years

As Ukrainians celebrated the passage of an agreement to deepen ties with the European Union on Tuesday, the country’s parliament approved legislation giving greater political autonomy to pro-Moscow regions in the country’s east.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed the move would protect the “sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence” of Ukraine following the signing of a tenuous cease-fire earlier this month that has largely quelled most, but not all, of the fighting in the country.

In accordance with the new law, rebel-held territory in Donetsk and Luhansk will receive “special status” for at least a three-year period, granting wider political autonomy from Kiev.

Also on Tuesday, the legislature pushed through a bill offering sweeping amnesty to rebels in the Donbass region; however, the legislation exempts individuals who may have participated grave crimes, such as the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, according to Voice of America.

Pro-Moscow separatists, who have been fighting a five-month insurgency against Kiev that has killed at least 3,000 people, remained wary of the resolutions.

“We will translate [the autonomy bill] into Russian, study it and give our opinion,” Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told pro-Kremlin news outlet RIA Novosti.

Zakharchenko’s deputy voiced even harsher skepticism.

“This is nonsense when the [parliament] of Ukraine passes bills not for Ukraine, but for Donbass,” said Andrei Purgin. “We have our own parliament for this purpose.”

Meanwhile in Washington, officials at the Pentagon said large numbers of Russian troops had begun to move back across the border, but remain poised to keep pressure firmly on Kiev.

“Those forces are close enough to be quickly brought back to bear if required,” General Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command, told reporters in Washington.

TIME ebola

U.N. Chief: ‘Ebola Has Gone Beyond Health Issues’

The virus threatens political stability in West Africa, Ban Ki-moon warns

The Secretary-General of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon, said Tuesday that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has “gone beyond health issues” and could even affect the political stability of the region.

“It has gone to the areas of affecting social and economic situations, it may even affect political stability if this is not properly contained and properly treated,” he said during a press briefing.

The Ebola virus has killed more than 2,400 people and there have been nearly 5,000 reported cases of the disease.

Ban said the U.N. is “taking the lead” in global efforts to fight Ebola, the Associated Press reports.

He will attend an emergency meeting Thursday between the U.S. and the World Health Organization to discuss a global “action plan” to contain the outbreak.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama confirmed increased U.S. efforts to contain the spread of Ebola.

TIME Pakistan

Two Pakistani Politicians Got Kicked Off a Plane by Furious Passengers

Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik speaks during an interview with Reuters in lslamabad
Faisal Mahmood—Reuters Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik speaks during an interview with Reuters in lslamabad on Aug. 4, 2012

Passengers mutiny after suspecting flight was delayed to accommodate a tardy MP and a former Interior Minister

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Karachi to Islamabad took off without two of its most high-profile ticket holders — a former Interior Minister and an MP from the ruling party — after an incensed group of passengers forced them to disembark.

The passengers were kept waiting on the tarmac for two hours before former Interior Minister Rehman Malik and legislator Ramesh Kumar Vankwani showed up to board, the BBC reported.

While PIA claims the hold-up was for technical reasons, the airline has in the past delayed departures to accommodate the schedules of politicians and high-ranking officials.

A video taken by one of the passengers shows Malik walking toward the aircraft door, being confronted by the angry mob shouting things like “You should be ashamed of yourself!” and “250 passengers have been put out because of you!” Malik tries, very briefly, to respond, but on realizing the passengers are having none of it, he turns around and walks off.

Malik later said he arrived late because PIA staff told him the flight was delayed. However, the incident has ignited a social-media storm in Pakistan and brought issues of favoritism or “VIP culture” into the spotlight.

[BBC]

TIME Gaza

U.N. Announces a Deal to Rebuild Gaza

“We must fundamentally change the dynamics in Gaza,” U.N. envoy says

The U.N. has brokered a provisional deal with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to enable reconstruction work to begin in Gaza, U.N. Middle East envoy Robert Serry said Tuesday.

The U.N. says it will help to rebuild the private sector in the Gaza Strip and give the Palestinian Authority a leading role in reconstruction efforts.

Serry stressed the urgency of getting building materials into Gaza as well as reviving the economy.

“We consider this temporary mechanism, which must get up and running without delay, as an important step towards the objective of lifting all remaining closures,” he said, describing it as a “signal of hope to the people of Gaza.”

Serry gave assurances that the U.N. would monitor building materials so they did not end up into the hands of militants.

In July and August more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and thousands of homes were destroyed after a 50-day military campaign led by Israel. During that time, 66 Israeli soldiers and at least five civilians died.

Serry told the U.N. Security Council that a renewed conflict “would be a disaster” and that “we must fundamentally change the dynamics in Gaza.”

On Tuesday the World Bank released a report detailing the damage the conflict has inflicted on the Palestinian economy.

“The conflict and humanitarian tragedy in Gaza has made an already struggling Palestinian economy worse and put further stress on the fiscal situation of the Palestinian Authority,” said the report.

On Sept. 4, the Palestinian Authority estimated it would cost $7.8 billion to rebuild Gaza, Reuters reports.

TIME South Korea

A U.S. Citizen Who Tried to Swim Into North Korea Has Been Arrested

He reportedly wanted to "meet with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un"

South Korean soldiers have arrested a U.S. citizen attempting to swim across the Han River into North Korea.

A Defense Ministry spokesperson told Agence France-Presse the man, in his 30s, was detained Tuesday night and handed over to the relevant authorities.

“I was trying to go to North Korea in order to meet with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un,” the American told investigators, according to an unnamed government source cited by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

Crossing the heavily militarized border between the two countries, which are officially still at war, is tremendously dangerous. In September, South Korean troops shot dead a compatriot trying to swim to the North. In 1996, a naked and apparently drunk American crossed a river into North Korea from neighboring China on a dare. He was detained for three months on espionage charges before then New Mexico Congressman Bill Richardson secured his release during a visit to Pyongyang.

Three U.S. citizens — Kenneth Bae, Matthew Miller and Jeffrey Fowle — are currently in North Korean detention. Miller was sentenced to six years’ hard labor on Sunday for “hostile” acts against the regime after allegedly tearing up his tourist visa at immigration in May.

TIME could not immediately reach the U.S. embassy in Seoul for comment.

[AFP]

TIME england

New Analysis Reveals How King Richard III Died

Britain King Richard
AP This undated photo issued on Wednesday Sept. 17, 2014 by the University of Leicester shows a scan showing injuries to the skull of King Richard III.

Researches believe he died almost immediately from major blows to his head during battle

A forensic analysis on King Richard III’s skeletal remains has allowed scientists to construct a play-by-play of the English ruler’s final moments before he died in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

Researchers at the University of Leicester discovered nine wounds to King Richard’s skull and two wounds to his body, according to their new report published in The Lancet. The sheer number of skull wounds suggests that he had either lost or taken off his helmet, and that the head trauma caused his death, said Guy Rutty, who co-authored the report.

“The most likely injuries to have caused the king’s death are the two to the (underside) of the skull—a large sharp force trauma possibly from a sword or staff weapon, such as a halberd or bill, and a penetrating injury from the tip of an edged weapon,” Rutty said.

Researchers also said the fact that the wounds resembled those made by medieval weapons confirms the most recent accounts of the Battle of Bosworth Field, in which King Richard had abandoned its horse after getting stuck in a swamp, and was then killed by oncoming enemies.

King Richard’s remains were found in 2012 under a parking lot by University of Leicester researchers. The skeleton was found in a tight space without any personal items or adornments, suggesting his soldiers, fearful of enemies, buried their leader hastily, according to the New York Times.

 

TIME Military

Top General Tweaks Obama’s Iraq War Plan

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs suggests U.S. ground troops might be need in combat

The nation’s top military officer fired tracer rounds at President Obama’s vow not to send U.S. troops back into ground combat in Iraq Tuesday during his testimony on Capitol Hill. In fact, Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did it three times in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

And while he caveated what he told the panel about the escalating fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, his message was clear: if the U.S.-led effort to defeat ISIS and oust it from its self-proclaimed Islamic State straddling the Syrian-Iraq border falls short, Dempsey will go back to the Oval Office and ask Obama for a green light to send at least a limited number of American ground-combat forces to help get the job done.

What was striking was how he delivered the message. Pentagon officials are forever saying they won’t speak in “hypotheticals”—things that might happen in the future—yet Dempsey dropped an atomic what-if into his opening statement. “If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraq troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets,” he said, “I’ll recommend that to the President.”

Minutes later, Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the committee, asked Dempsey if having Syrian and Iraqi forces fighting ISIS on the ground was the best approach, “to avoid a Western ground force in a Arab or Muslim country?” Dempsey said Levin’s assessment was true, then added: “But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States, then I of course would go back to the President and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.” Both Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the panel that ISIS already represents a threat to the U.S.

Then Senator Jack Reed, D-R.I., followed up by asking Dempsey what might warrant U.S. troops getting involved in ground combat on Iraqi soil. The general responded by citing the key mission facing the Iraqi security forces: retaking Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from the ISIS. “If the Iraqi security forces and the [Kurdish] Pesh [merga fighters] were at some point ready to retake Mosul—a mission that I would find to be extraordinarily complex—it could very well be part of that particular mission to provide close combat advising or accompanying for that mission,” he said. In other words, he’s likely to make such a request.

Dempsey’s acknowledgement that a limited number of U.S. ground troops might be necessary to achieve mission success—he said he wasn’t talking about “armored divisions with flags unfurled” headed into Iraq—triggered questions for White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who made clear the President was sticking to his guns. “The President does not believe that it would be in the best interest of our national security to deploy American ground troops in a combat role in Iraq and Syria,” Earnest said after Dempsey testified. “That policy has not changed.”

By dinnertime, Dempsey’s spokesman had issued a statement trying to clean up the mess. “While we have advisers on the ground in Iraq today, the chairman doesn’t believe there is a military requirement for our advisers to accompany Iraqi forces into combat,” Air Force Colonel Ed Thomas said. “The context of this discussion was focused on how our forces advise the Iraqis and was not a discussion of employing U.S. ground combat units in Iraq.”

The Presidential pledge has riled serving and former military officers, who believe little is to be gained by unilaterally removing military options from the table. “I think the President made a big mistake in publicly saying he would not put boots on the ground,” says Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine general who led U.S. Central Command from 1997 to 2000. “Why tell the other guy what you won’t do?”

Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.V., doesn’t think Zinni’s question is relevant. He told Dempsey and Hagel about what he’s hearing from West Virginians. They want to know, he said, how a renewed U.S. war effort in the region—after spending 13 years, $1.6 trillion and 6,600 U.S. troops’ lives in Afghanistan and Iraq—would make things better.

“We took out Saddam. We thought that would change. Iraq’s in worse shape,” Manchin said. “We take out Gadhafi. We thought that would change. It got so bad in Libya, we’ve had to pull out our own embassy and our people in our embassy… it makes no sense to me, and I can’t sell it…no one believes the outcome will be any different.”

TIME Germany

93-Year-Old Former Nazi Charged With 300,000 Counts of Accessory to Murder

A replica hung in place of the stolen infamous "Arbeit macht frei" sign at the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland on Dec. 18, 2009.
Jacek Bednarczyk—AFP/Getty Images A replica hung in place of the stolen infamous "Arbeit macht frei" sign at the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland on Dec. 18, 2009.

The one-time member of Hitler’s S.S. has spoken publicly about working at Auschwitz

A 93-year-old man who was once a member of Hitler’s SS unit and worked at Auschwitz has been charged by prosecutors in Germany with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for his role in perpetrating the Holocaust.

Oscar Gröning is accused of taking money from victims’ luggage as they arrived at the concentration camp and giving it to SS headquarters, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Through his activities, he provided the Nazi regime with economic advantage and supported systematic killings,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. The prosecutor alleges that Gröning knew that prisoners who were deemed unfit for work at the concentration camp were automatically sent to gas chambers where they were systematically murdered.

Gröning’s case is unusual because the accused has already spoken publicly in interviews with Der Spiegel and the BBC about the role he played at Auschwitz, which amounted, he said, to adding up money taken from the primarily Jewish victims of the Third Reich. Convicting former Nazis in Germany has historically been hard, due to the difficulty of proving them guilty of specific crimes many decades in the past. The conviction in 2011 of U.S. auto worker John Demjanjuk as an accessory to nearly 30,000 murders opened the possibility to other similar prosecutions, the Journal reports.

Gröning’s attorney declined to comment on the case but said his client is in good health.

[WSJ]

TIME Iraq

U.S. Mission to Destroy ISIS Doesn’t Faze Extremists

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
Reuters

Militant group remains defiant in the face of a broadening international coalition of military powers and their allies in the region

The U.S. is shoring up support across the Middle East for its mission to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), but the militants seem unfazed by the broadening coalition against them.

“We welcome America into Syria with open arms… and an explosive belt,” tweeted a man calling himself Abu Abdullah Britani.

Since President Barack Obama announced U.S. forces would not hesitate to hit the militants inside Syria, nearly 40 nations have pledged to join the coalition. Increasingly, both regional and international states fear the threat of the expansionist Jihadis.

Yet for now, little has changed in the militants’ strategy. “ISIS is responding by not backing down, ” said Christopher Harmer, a senior analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, who served several tours with the U.S. army in Iraq. That might be due, in part, to the fact that this coalition is so far more about moral support than military backing. The U.S. is the only external state yet to have acted against the group.

“Every nation state in the world is willing to stand up and say, ‘ISIS is evil. I think ISIS sucks’,” said Harmer. “ISIS doesn’t give a tin s–t about what the U.N. says or what the [Gulf Cooperation Council] says. All they care about is what is actually happening to them.”

And perhaps for these militant fighters the mere fact that they have earned such a broad coalition of opposition is a source of pride. Despite over a month of U.S. strikes and ground operations by Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi national forces, the progress against the group has been limited.

One ISIS sympathizer, who tweets in both English and Dutch, appears to welcome the U.S. involvement. “Ya Allaah give us the Honour to Fight the US face 2 face. The problem is they can’t face us only with planes:P,” he wrote on social media. His profile says of the United States military: “They lost the war in Afghanistan, there was NO Mission Accomplished in Iraq, They are just wasting there [sic] Economy.”

Despite the promise of air strikes and weapons for ISIS rivals, those sentiments of defiance have been echoed by militants on the ground, along with threats against states joining the coalition. In the most recent video, believed to show the gruesome murder of British aid worker David Haines, the black-clad killer says in an English accent that the execution is ISIS’s response to the U.K. sending weapons to Kurdish forces to fight them. Other sites have posted broader messages threatening countries that join the coalition.

And even if the intensifying air campaign pushes ISIS off military fronts with the Iraqi, Kurdish, and Syrian force, the militants could be driven to hide amongst the civilian population of the urban centers—like Mosul—that are under their control.

Then the group could easily return to the traditional methods of terrorism, such as IEDs and suicide bombings, that it used before becoming a well-organized militant movement with state-building aspirations. The group has thousands of members eager to die for their cause.

“Stop threatening me with drone strikes and death. That’s like threatening a fat American with a visit to McDonalds and a Big Mac,” tweeted one self-identified militant, who calls himself Abu Turaab and put his location as inside the Islamic Caliphate.

The U.S. needs an international coalition or regional allies both to lend legitimacy to their military operation, and to provide bases and on-ground training where the U.S. won’t go. But key in battling ISIS will be getting other Sunni militant groups to fight against them. However, the appearance of a broad U.S.-led coalition, backed by many western nations, will not be appealing for most armed Sunni groups and may instead increase resentment against the West, rather than bring others on side. The U.S. has been assisting the Free Syrian Army, who have been battling both Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and ISIS, but in Iraq allies have been harder to find.

“In the face of this new coalition, [these groups] aren’t coming out against ISIS any more than they were before. On the contrary, the focus of their rhetoric is on the air strikes,” said Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on Syrian and Iraqi militants with the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum.

In a rare joint statement, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) condemned the U.S.-led alliance in Iraq and Syria and called on the fractured and battling Jihadi movements of Syria to unite against the shared enemy. “Stop the infighting between you and stand as one rank against America’s campaign and that of its satanic alliance,” said the statement, according to a translation by the Jihadi monitoring group SITE.

The U.S. faces an uphill battle convincing other Sunni groups that the enemy of their enemy is their friend, al-Tamimi said. “It’s not looking good. As part of its strategy the U.S. wants to find Sunni allies on the ground who can help build up an internal revolt against ISIS,” he said. But Iraqi insurgents that have tensions with ISIS aren’t convinced. The Islamic Army in Iraq’s spokesman has said the coalition intends to target Muslims under the pretense of a new war on terrorism.

“If [these groups] are going around saying this is war against Islam,” says al-Tamimi, “then there is not much hope for that right now.”

TIME ebola

Obama on Ebola: ‘The World Is Looking to Us’

US President Barack Obama makes a statement following meetings at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sept.16, 2014 in Atlanta.
Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images US President Barack Obama makes a statement following meetings at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sept.16, 2014 in Atlanta.

Obama confirms U.S. efforts to lead the charge against the Ebola virus sweeping through West Africa

President Barack Obama confirmed the U.S.’s renewed and bolstered efforts to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in a press conference Tuesday at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

The U.S. has committed to sending a deployment of 3,000 U.S. military forces and over $500 million in defense spending to West Africa, a response the President says is a national-security priority since the epidemic has “profound security implications.”

“Faced with this outbreak, the world is looking to us, the United States, and it’s a responsibility that we embrace,” said the President. “It’s a potential threat to global security if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic. That has profound effects on all of us, even if we are not directly contracting the disease.”

Obama spent the day at the CDC headquarters to talk about the U.S. response — called Operation United Assistance — and to thank health care workers dealing with the outbreak. Before leaving Washington to travel down to Atlanta, Obama met with Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly and his wife Amber. Brantly was in the nation’s capital to testify before Congress about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Brantly contracted Ebola while treating patients in Liberia as a missionary doctor for the organization Samaritan’s Purse. “[I am] grateful to [Dr. Brantly] and his family for the service he has rendered to people who are a lot less lucky than all of us,” Obama said Tuesday.

During his Atlanta trip, Obama also met the Emory University Hospital doctors who have been treating American patients with Ebola evacuated to the U.S.

The WHO has reported 4,963 cases of Ebola and 2,453 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Obama says the U.S. has four central goals: to control the outbreak, address the ripple effect, coordinate a broader global response, and urgently build up a public-health system for the countries for the future. “This massive ramp-up of support from the United States is precisely the kind of transformational change we need to get a grip on the outbreak and begin to turn it around,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization in a statement sent to media.

As part of the U.S. effort to combat the outbreak, Department of Defense personnel will offer training and epidemic logistics. At the request of the Liberian government, the U.S. will set up a military command center in Liberia, led by Major General Darryl Williams, commander of U.S. Army forces in Africa. The Pentagon is also poised to deliver 130,000 sets of personal protective equipment and thousands of kits that can be used for disease diagnostics. Africa Command engineers will be constructing several additional treatment facilities and more than 1,000 beds, and will train up to 500 health care workers a week. In his press conference, Obama reiterated that the threat of Ebola spread in the U.S. is extremely low.

“The reality is that this epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better,” concluded Obama. “The United States of America intends to do more … We’re going to continue to make sure that the world understands the need for them to step alongside us.”

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