TIME diplomacy

Obama Says Crimea Crisis Can’t Be Resolved ‘With a Gun Pointed’ at Ukraine

President Barack Obama, right, with Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, left, talk in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington
President Barack Obama, right, with Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, left, talk in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, March 12, 2014. Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP

In a joint appearance with the new Ukrainian leader, President Obama urged Russia to accept a diplomatic resolution to the standoff over Crimea

President Barack Obama joined the new leader of Ukraine on Wednesday in emphasizing that the United States stands with the country in its simmering conflict with Russia, and that a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Crimea is the best way forward.

“There’s another path available and we hope President Putin is willing to seize that path,” Obama said during an appearance at the White House with interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. “But if he does not, I’m very confident that the international community will stand firmly behind the Ukrainian government.”

With Russian troops controlling the Crimea region of Ukraine and Crimea preparing to vote on a referendum to split from Ukraine, Obama said the new government in Kiev remains open to negotiations with Moscow “that could lead to a different arrangement for the Crimean region, but that is not something that could be done with a gun pointed at you.”

Obama called on Congress to act swiftly in passing a $1-billion loan guarantee to help support Ukraine’s fragile economy, which has teetered in the aftermath of the uprising that led to the ouster of the former Kremlin-allied president Viktor Yanukovych. A Senate committee voted late Wednesday to approve an aid package that still needs to go before the full body for a vote.

Seated next to Obama, Yatsenyuk called on Russia to work through diplomatic channels to resolve the standoff.

“Mr. President, it’s all about freedom,” he said. “We fight for our freedom, we fight for our independence, we fight for our sovereignty and we will never surrender.”

In conjunction with talks held Wednesday, the Obama administration announced a deepening of the “strategic partnership” with Ukraine on issues including energy, science, nuclear security and non-proliferation. Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual will visit Kiev this month in an effort to improve energy efficiency and the development of alternative energy sources in Ukraine, which has been heavily dependent on Russian energy subsidies and resources.

TIME Food

Europe’s War on American Cheese

Feta cheese is seen on display in a delicatessen store in Sa
Graham Barclay—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The E.U. has Wisconsin feta in its crosshairs

Blessed are the geographically accurate cheese makers. In an attempt to defend and expand its piece of the growing global cheese market, the European Union wants the United States to ban the use of certain cheese names that have become ubiquitous for consumers.

The proposal, part of ongoing E.U./U.S. trade talks, would ban American cheese makers from using terms like parmesan, asiago, feta, gruyere, gorgonzola, fontina, romano and others that refer to European regions from which those cheeses originate. Domestic cheese producers would be forced to drop those names and rebrand their products, potentially ceding a major edge to their European competitors in booming international markets like Asia.

“It’s a clever trade barrier,” says John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. “There would be a lot of uphill work to do for cheese makers to convince consumers that their ‘salty white cheese in brine’ is feta. They would have to market it all over again.”

The widespread usage of European names has been an issue since the mid-1990s, when the E.U. released its geographical indication registry, which sought to restrict some category names to the regions most associated with them, like Scotland and Scotch whisky or France’s Champagne region for the eponymous sparkling wine. In 2012 the E.U. further shored up its exclusive claim to certain foods when it signed a free trade agreement with South Korea that blocked feta cheese made outside of Greece and asiago, fontina and gorgonzola made outside of Italy from being sold in South Korea.

“That was certainly a big wake-up call for us,” says Shawna Morris, senior director for the Consortium for Common Food Names, a Washington lobbying group formed by U.S. milk producers and dairy exporters to fight the E.U. proposals. Morris says her group is focused on what she believes is E.U. overreach against U.S. suppliers and products they’ve been making for decades. “We simply think it’s ridiculous to decide after so many years that they can no longer use these names.”

The stakes aren’t paltry. Last year, the U.S. cheese industry brought in $22 billion and produced 11 billion pounds of cheese, according to the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. ($10 billion of that is in Wisconsin alone.) Barring U.S. cheese makers from exporting feta or parmesan would give Greece and Italy an opportunity to step in. Marin Bozic, an assistant professor of dairy foods marketing economics at the University of Minnesota, says a deal would not only give Europe a non-price advantage in foreign markets, where American cheese exports are booming, but would affect domestic consumers, too.

“People will be confused,” Bozic says. “But the problem is that those names don’t indicate origin. They indicate method of preparation. When you order Greek feta, you don’t expect that it’s feta from Greece. You just expect feta.”

Consumers have come to understand these names as representative of a type of cheese rather than rooted in a certain place, Bozic argues. “It’s not adding anything for consumers. There’s nothing about Greek feta that would make it taste superior. It’s a common food name and reverting back 50 years is no solution. It’s going to be a hard fight, but I don’t see the U.S. relenting on this topic. I think the E.U. would have to make real concessions in other fields to make it beneficial for the U.S.”

TIME europe

Don’t Worry, Ukraine Won’t Go Nuclear

Russian troops occupy a Ukrainian military base in the Crimean town of Yevpatori, March 5, 2014.
Russian troops occupy a Ukrainian military base in the Crimean town of Yevpatori, March 5, 2014. Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME

Ukraine once had a massive nuclear arsenal. But despite calls in Kiev to develop a nuclear deterrent against Vladimir Putin's Russia, the idea is far-fetched. Building a bomb would be incredibly difficult and contradicts the country's long nonproliferation record

As Russia helps itself to Crimea, some Ukrainians are wishing they had a nuclear deterrent against Vladimir Putin’s territorial ambitions. Ukraine had a vast nuclear arsenal once, after all, which it gave up 20 years ago.

Now the country may be second-guessing that decision—and even contemplating whether to reverse it.

“[T]here’s a strong sentiment in Ukraine that we made a big mistake,” Pavlo Rizanenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, told USA Today this week. “In the future, no matter how the situation is resolved in Crimea, we need a much stronger Ukraine. If you have nuclear weapons people don’t invade you.”

That rhetoric startled foreign policy insiders in Washington. One former Obama administration official says he can’t recall hearing a Ukrainian official publicly regret the country’s denuclearization before.

But Rizanenko’s thinking isn’t unique. “Russia would not invade a nuclear state,” the controversial former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, said in an interview with TIME last week. Saakashvili, whose own country fought a territorial dispute with Putin in 2004, lived in Ukraine for several years and maintains deep political ties there. “Ukraine could still make a bomb,” he said.

In theory, that’s true. But experts say it would be a long and contentious road. Ukraine lacks suitable nuclear material and the means to produce it. Going nuclear would also bring down harsh reprisals from both Russia and the West.

Ukraine “does not have a plausible near-term scenario for developing nuclear weapons,” says Gary Samore, the former coordinator for weapons of mass destruction on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council.

“Over the long term, if they made a major national decision, they would have the capability” to develop nuclear weapons, says Matthew Bunn, a non-proliferation expert at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. But, he adds, “there would be a lot of chances for Russia and the United States to lean on them before it reached fruition.”

Obama administration officials aren’t sweating the prospect. Speaking at a nuclear security conference in Washington Tuesday, Samore’s White House successor, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, praised the Ukrainians as “important leaders in nuclear nonproliferation. … They have truly been trailblazers.”

“We fully anticipate that Ukraine will remain a leader in this field,” Sherwood-Randall added.

A Ukrainian move to reacquire nuclear weapons would reverse what may be history’s most dramatic voluntary surrender of military capability. For a brief moment after the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal—some 1,900 weapons, most of them long-range cruise missiles. Three year’s after the USSR’s 1991 collapse, which left Ukraine an independent state, the country signed an agreement with the U.S., Great Britain and Russia known as the Budapest Memorandum, under which it agreed to ship the warheads on its territory to Russia for elimination.

Ukraine’s then-president Leonid Kravchuk cast the decision in idealistic terms, saying it would lead the world toward “disarmament and for the elimination of nuclear weapons.” But he also had more pragmatic motives. The move earned yielded goodwill from the U.S., which linked the surrender to help from the World Bank, the IMF and NATO . (It also meant a quick cash infusion from the sale of nuclear material—rendered unusable for bombs—from the dismantled weapons).

Members of Ukraine’s parliament protested, calling nukes a crucial shield against Russia’s territorial ambitions—which were plenty clear even then: In July 1993, Russia’s legislature had voted unanimously to confirm the “Russian federal status” of the Crimean city of Sevastopol, leading Ukraine to appeal to the United Nations.

Russia backed down. But through the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine insisted on and won assurances of respect for its sovereignty and borders. Specifically, the parties pledged to “seek immediate United Nations Security Council action… if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression.”

Little good that does now, when the aggressor is Russia—which wields veto power on the Security Council—and when Putin argues that the 1994 deal is obsolete anyway. On March 4, the Russian president described post-revolutionary Ukraine as “a new state,” one “with which we have signed no binding agreements” (never mind that Putin also calls Kiev’s new government illegitimate).

In a closed-door Capitol Hill briefing from members of Congress on Tuesday, Obama administration officials were pressed about the ominous precedent of seeing the violation of a state that relinquished nuclear arms in return for security guarantees. Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn asked assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland why the U.S. hasn’t done more to enforce the Budapest Memorandum against Putin’s Crimean annexation.

“She said it was a political treaty, not a NATO-type binding treaty, and so you make political noises and objections and that’s all you can do,” Lamborn told TIME after the briefing.

Given all that, it’s not hard to see why Ukrainians might want to revert to pre-Budapest days themselves and go nuclear again.

Easier said than done.

Ukraine does have some highly trained scientists from the former Soviet nuclear complex, including, according to Bunn, Vyacheslav Danilenko, an implosion systems designer who has been linked to Iran’s nuclear program. What it lacks is nuclear material.

That wasn’t the case just a few years ago. When Obama took office, Ukraine still had enough highly enriched uranium (HEU)—in the form of fuel for scientific research reactors—to build several nuclear weapons. But in a signature achievement of Obama’s drive to enhance global nuclear security, Kiev agreed to give up that material as well. The last of Ukraine’s HEU was shipped out of the country in March 2012—one reason Sherwood-Randall dubbed the Ukrainians nonproliferation “leaders” and “trailblazers.”

Today, Ukraine operates several civilian nuclear reactors, but lacks a reprocessing facility to enhance its reactor fuel to bomb-grade quality. The country does possess natural uranium, but not the centrifuges needed for its enrichment. “In theory, Ukraine could develop an indigenous capability to produce fissile material,” Samore says. “But it would take many years.”

Too long to save Crimea. But long enough for severe condemnation and retribution—both from a threatened and dangerous Russia and an American president who considers nuclear nonproliferation one of his most important priorities. A nuclear Ukraine isn’t impossible, but it’s almost certainly not going to happen.

-with reporting from Alex Rogers in Washington

TIME Israel

Israel Passes Law Drafting Ultra-Orthodox Into the Army

Hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews rally in a massive show of force against plans to force them to serve in the Israeli military, blocking roads and paralyzing the city of Jerusalem, March 2, 2014.
Hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews rally in a massive show of force against plans to force them to serve in the Israeli military, blocking roads and paralyzing the city of Jerusalem, March 2, 2014. Oded Balilty—AP

Israel’s parliament passed a controversial law mandating that some ultra-Orthodox men serve in the national army despite their religious beliefs. The law will take effect as soon as it gets approval from Prime Minister Netanyahu's cabinet

Israel’s parliament on Wednesday passed a law requiring at least some ultra-Orthodox men—strictly observant Jews known by their black fedoras and discomfort with the secular world—to serve in the national army. The controversial measure will become law with cabinet approval, which is virtually assured given the support of 67 of the 68 lawmakers who make up Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.

The stated intention of the bill is to share the burden of military service equally, but it’s also aimed at preserving Israel’s economy: Military service is an established gateway to employment and currently fewer than half of ultra-Orthodox men work for a living. Jewish Israelis not protected by exceptions previously granted the ultra-Orthodox are obliged from age 18 to present themselves for military service that runs three years for men and two years for women.

Beyond the inevitable social resentments of taxpayers irked by having to support the ultra-Orthodox community, the absence of ultra-Orthodox from the workforce cost Israel’s economy more than $1.5 billion in 2010, according to the finance ministry. Known in Hebrew as haredi, or “God-fearing,” the ultra-Orthodox currently make up 10 percent of Israel’s population, but are the fastest-growing segment of the country’s population, with a birth rate of 7.1 percent (compared to 1.4 percent for other Jewish Israelis). More than half now live in poverty. The governor of Israel’s central bank recently warned that failing to integrate them into the workforce will cost the gross national product three percentage points a year.

“Listen, one in every seven 18-year-old male Israelis is haredi,” says Ofer Shelah, a leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, which campaigned heavily on the issue in elections last year. “A third of those who entered first grade in the Jewish population of Israel entered a haredi school. Therefore, if we don’t get them into the draft–and even more important, into the work force—in 12 years we will have nobody to serve in the army, and in 15 years we’ll have nobody to work… That is how important this bill is.”

The problem has its roots in state policy: At Israel’s 1948 founding, its founders agreed to subsidize the livelihoods of 400 “Torah sages” to replace the religious scholars lost in the Holocaust. Over the years, the subsidies were extended to any haredi man who wished to spend his day studying scripture, as community norms prescribe.

“To live a spiritual life and study the Torah is a life aspiration for any haredi man, but when you can’t feed your family, that’s a privilege you can’t afford,” says Yitzhak Bloch, 28, an ultra-Orthodox man from the central Israel city of Elad who came to the conclusion when he found his family on the brink of poverty, after the birth of a third child. He found work as an investments consultant, and says gainful employment “doesn’t come at the expense of spirituality. I still study the Torah, after working hours. Studying the Torah was and still is the essence of any haredi man.”

Few ultra-Orthodox are educated to enter the workforce, however. In their emphasis on religious studies, ultra-Orthodox schools seldom teach math or English, crucial subjects to employers. “The greatest difficulty today is the English language,” says Motti Feldstaine, director general of the Kemach, a foundation offering vocational training to ultra-Orthodox. “Math you can get in a concentrated course, but a language is much harder to assimilate in a short period.”

Still, driven by shrinking subsidies and rising costs of living, increasing numbers of religious males are working. In 2007, only 39 percent of ultra-Orthodox men had paying jobs. A gradual acceptance in the haredi community of the need to work, coupled with growing state funds promoting training for them, brought participation in the work force to 46 percent in 2010. The goal for 2020 set by a government committee is 65 percent.

It won’t be easy. Many senior rabbis see the government’s efforts as an assault on religion—a sentiment, critics suggest, that the law passed Wednesday aggravates by threatening draft dodgers with jail. Moreover, the haredi emphasis on living apart from secular society—ultra-Orthodox have sometimes stoned cars that drive on the Jewish Sabbath—has made them an “other” to many Israelis. “There’s a great barrier among secular employers when it comes to employing haredi men,” says Pini Gross, head of the Maftech job placement center. “They see them as bunch of stone throwers and their natural attitude is to employ only the ones who are like them.”

But working side by side seems to help, says Bloch. “Many secular workers join us for the prayers, and there are also some friendships between secular and haredi workers,” he says. It just takes, he says, an openness to change.

with reporting from Karl Vick / Tel Aviv

TIME Iran

Russia Will Build More Nuclear Power Stations in Iran

Moscow agrees to help Tehran increase its nuclear capacity, in defiance of international sanctions on the regime

Russia reached an agreement with Iran Tuesday to build two more nuclear power plants in Iran, reportedly in exchange for thousands of barrels of the country’s oil.

The two power stations are due to be constructed in the city of Bushehr in southwestern Iran, next to the country’s first nuclear power plant, reports Iranian news agency FNA. “Iran and Russia reached a preliminary agreement to build at least two new nuclear power plants,” Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said.

Iran’s ambassador to Moscow announced in February that Russia would be willing to exchange goods and equipment for potentially 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day. Nations in the West had expressed concern about a deal between Russia and Iran potentially complicating chances of reaching an agreement over Iran’s nuclear capacity.

[FNA]

TIME Puerto Rico

The Next Financial Catastrophe You Haven’t Heard About Yet: Puerto Rico

On Tuesday, the island sold $3.5 billion in new debt. But the crisis still poses a danger to everyday U.S. investors

+ READ ARTICLE

Until recently, Puerto Rico was an investors’ tax heaven, renowned for its sandy beaches and killer rum. But the island is in dire financial condition and thousands of U.S. mom-and-pop investors may lose a big part of their savings if the small territory goes bankrupt.

It all started with an over-borrowing spree that lasted for decades. It ended with an island of fewer than four million residents accumulating $70 billion dollars in debt. That is a debt per capita of around $10,600 – or 10 times the median for U.S. states, according to the ratings agency Standard and Poor’s.

Puerto Rico’s over-borrowing was facilitated by an eager group of U.S. investors. U.S. mutual funds were more than willing to buy Puerto Rico bonds, because the island has a special financial advantage: its bonds are triple tax-exempt, which means that bondholders do not pay federal, state and local taxes for their coupon income (i.e. interest) from the bonds.

This created a large buyers base for Puerto Rico’s bonds, which encouraged the commonwealth to keep issuing debt. As a result, today around 70 percent of U.S. mutual funds own Puerto Rico securities, according to Morningstar, an investment research firm that specializes in data on mutual funds and similar investment offerings.

But Puerto Rico did not handle prudently enough this easy cash flow that was coming in. “For years, Puerto Rico practiced deficit financing, which essentially means taking out long-term debt to cover short-term financial needs; this was created by too much spending relative to revenues,” says municipal bond market expert Chris Mier, chief strategist at Loop Capital, an investment bank and advisory firm.

“This is unsustainable from an economic policy point of view in the long run, but since the ratings remained above investment grade, the buyers of the debt did not worry excessively,” says Mier.

The spark that lit the fuse came in 1996, when President Clinton repealed legislation that gave tax incentives for U.S. companies to locate facilities in Puerto Rico. The island’s economy began to sputter, and after the great recession, the decline in the island’s governmental finances continued.

At at time when the island is experiencing steady population loss and very low productivity, the unsustainability of unbalanced budgets and rapidly growing debt became increasingly evident.

Then the downgrades came: in the past several years, ratings agencies gradually downgraded Puerto Rico’s debt notch by notch. And the island’s government continued to promise investors that it would pass a balanced budget – something that has not occurred in over a decade.

To make things worse, a “brain drain” is occurring, as young qualified professionals are fleeing an unemployment rate of 15.4%, compared to the 6.6% federal unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The fact that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens makes migration much easier and appealing, says Puerto Rican consultant Heidie Calero, president of Calero Consulting Group.

Currently, Puerto Rico’s population is 3.7 million on the island, versus 4.9 million Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the island’s population will drop to 2.3 million in 2050.

“Around 51 percent of the island’s population is on welfare. How do you make them participate in the economy?” asks Calero. The size of the island’s “underground economy” was recently estimated at approximately $20 billion; and that is just an approximation since nobody really knows how much revenue goes unaccounted for, says Calero.

In February 2014, all three major ratings agencies downgraded Puerto Rico’s debt to below investment grade, widely referred to as ”junk” status in bond market circles. This indicates a greater risk of possible default or a debt restructuring. For U.S. investors, this means that the crisis in Puerto Rico will have a severe impact, not only on Wall Street but also on thousands of mom-and-pop investors.

The decline in market value of Puerto Rico bonds has reduced the value of investors’ holdings by at times as much as 35%, says Mier. But Mier cautions that there are many possible scenarios, including favorable ones where Puerto Rico succeeds in resolving its budget and debt problems and returns to investment grade ratings.

But to do that, the government needs to balance two seemingly conflicting goals: economic growth and fiscal austerity, says economist Carlos Soto-Santoni, president of Nexos Económicos, a Puerto Rico-based consulting firm, and deputy advisor for former Governor Rafael Hernández Colón’s administration.

In 2013 alone, the government passed $ 1.36 billion in new taxes. While this increases the government’s revenue, it makes doing business on the island more onerous – which in turn further impedes economic growth, says Soto-Santoni.

Solving the economic puzzle will determine whether Puerto Rico will be for the U.S. what Greece was for the European Union.

Ellie Ismailidou is a reporter for Debtwire Municipals

TIME World

One Direction Urges Fanbase To Get Political With Promise of Free Tickets

The BRIT Awards 2014 - Show
Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and Zayn Malik from One Direction receive the award for Best Video at the BRIT Awards 2014 at 02 Arena on February 19, 2014 in London, England. Karwai Tang—WireImage

"One Directioners" could be rewarded for social action such as writing to politicians about international development aid and cracking down on corporation tax avoidance.

Well, this is one way to get kids involved with politics.

One Direction have partnered with Global Citizen — a social action network with a focus on extreme poverty — to offer fans the chance to win free concert tickets. All they have to do is perform a variety of tasks to earn points — including writing or calling politicians.

By logging onto the Global Citizen site, 1D fans can send letters to the UK’s finance minister George Osborne, the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening, asking for a standing commitment to international development aid and to crack down on British corporations avoiding tax in other countries. Those letters help fans earn points toward the chance of winning tickets to see Harry Styles and co. in concert.

Britain currently devotes 0.7% of gross national income to the international development budget, though there has been recent backlash from some members of parliament who say that the money would be better spent within the U.K.

“With public opinion on development mixed, the email will urge the government not to cut funding, which would risk millions of lives around the world,” a Global Citizen spokesman told the Independent. “The letter will also encourage the government to crack down on company tax avoidance by British companies in the developing world, which hampers progress in those states.”

The insanely popular boy band aren’t the only acts to get involved with Global Citizen project. Katy Perry, Jessie J, Pearl Jam and Arcade Fire are also among the performers offering up concert tickets in exchange for social action by fans.

[Independent]

TIME Ukraine

G-7 Nations Won’t Recognize Crimea Referendum

Pro-Russian gathering in Yevpatoria, Crimea, March 5, 2014.
Pro-Russian gathering in Yevpatoria, Crimea, March 5, 2014. Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME

Leaders of seven world powers, in staunch opposition to Russia's aggression in Ukraine's Crimea region, say they will take collective action if Russia moves to annex the semi-autonomous peninsula that will decide to stay or go on March 16

The leaders of the G-7 countries issues a stern admonition Wednesday to Russia for its aggression in Ukraine, warning that it would not recognize the outcome of a referendum in Crimea and would take collective action if Russia moved to annex the region.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea would be a violation of the United Nations charter, said the G-7 in a statement, as well as several treaties Russia is party to. Crimea’s referendum would be a “deeply flawed process” held under the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it said.

“In addition to its impact on the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states,” said the G-7. “Should the Russian Federation take such a step, we will take further action, individually and collectively.”

The G-7 nations, which include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have suspended preparations to meet in Sochi, Russia for a G-8 meeting, as the Kremlin paves a path for Crimea’s annexation.

Russian troops occupied Crimea earlier this month, taking effective control of the peninsula as the local government prepared for a March 16 referendum that would allow Russia to officially annex the region.

TIME Turkey

Turkey Prepares To Bury Teenage Victim of Protests

Berkin Elvan, the teenager who died on Tuesday, months after being struck in the head by a police teargas canister during demonstrations in Istanbul, will be laid to rest Wednesday. His death has rekindled protests across the city

Thousands of people gathered in Istanbul on Wednesday in preparation for the funeral of a teenage boy who died this week after being hit by a police teargas canister during demonstrations last year.

The death of Berkin Elvan, 15, on Tuesday sparked demonstrations in cities across the country. The teenager fell into a coma after a blow to the head from a police teargas canister during clashes between demonstrators and security forces in June 2013, reports the BBC. At the time, Elvan was on the way to buy bread for his family. After his funeral in Cemevi, a march is due to take place through the center of the city.

The demonstrations started last year in response to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempts to close down a park in the center of Istanbul, paving the way for a shopping mall, but spiraled into widespread protests against his leadership. Elvan’s injury became a rallying point for anti-state protesters. His death is the eighth linked to clashes between demonstrators and state security forces.

President Abdullah Gül sent a message to Elvan’s family, admitting that “the mind of the state has become overwhelmed by anger and hatred.”

[AP]

TIME Crime

Oscar Pistorius Shot Girlfriend While On Stumps, Says Forensics

A forensic analyst testified that Oscar Pistorius was likely on his stumps when he fatally shot his girlfriend, partially confirming the athlete's version of events.

Oscar Pistorius fatally shot his girlfriend while on his stumps, a forensic analyst said Wednesday, as the double-amputee athlete’s murder trial continued.

Testimony from forensic analyst Police Col. J.G. Vermeulen will be welcomed by Pistorius’s lawyers, as it partially confirmed the athlete’s account of what happened on Feb. 14, 2013 when he killed Reeva Steenkamp. Prosecutors have said Pistorius intentionally killed his 29-year-old girlfriend after a fight, while Pistorius’ defense says he believed there was an intruder in his house.

The star athlete claims he was not wearing his prosthetic legs when he fearfully approached the bathroom and shot his girlfriend, and then put them on to kick down the locked bathroom door. He said he smashed the locked door open with a cricket bat to get to his girlfriend after he realized what had happened, reports the Associated Press.

Vermeulen said that based on the angle of the shots, it appears Pistorius was on his stumps when he fired through the bathroom door. But he also concluded that Pistorius likely didn’t have his prostheses on when he bashed open the door. The case continues.

[AP]

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