TIME India

New Delhi, the World’s Most Polluted City, Is Even More Polluted Than We Realized

INDIA-POLUTION
ROBERTO SCHMIDT—AFP/Getty Images Smog envelops buildings on the outskirts of the Indian capital New Delhi on November 25, 2014.

Researchers have been measuring background pollution when they should have been doing roadside readings

New Delhi has already been ranked the world’s worst polluted city by the World Health Organization, but a new study by U.S. and Indian scientists shows that the city’s air quality is far worse than previously thought.

American scientist Joshua Apte, working with partners from the University of California, Berkeley and Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology, roamed the streets of the Indian capital in an autorickshaw laden with air pollution monitors. He found that average pollution levels were up to eight times higher on city roads, the Associated Press reports.

Apte compared the readings from his road trips to readings at urban background sites, which he says are already extremely high. The levels of PM 2.5, the particle known to be most harmful to human health, were found to be 50 percent higher on Delhi’s roads during rush hour than during ambient air quality readings. Black carbon, a major pollutant, was found to be three times higher.

“Official air quality monitors tend to be located away from roads, on top of buildings, and that’s not where most people spend most of their time,” Apte said. “In fact, most people spend a lot of time in traffic in India. Sometimes one, two, three hours a day.”

India is the third largest polluting country in the world, after the United States and China — who both signed a major bilateral climate deal in Beijing earlier this month.

Its rapidly growing vehicle numbers, expected to hit 400 million by 2030, are posing a major threat that the government is well aware of.

Several steps have been taken to reduce the number of Indian automobiles running on diesel, and the country’s National Green Tribunal also announced on Thursday that it would ban any vehicles older than 15 years from New Delhi’s roads.

But far more drastic measures will be required to make a meaningful dent in Delhi’s air pollution levels, which, according to the latest WHO Ambient Air Pollution Database, are at just under 300 micrograms per cubic meter. The world’s second most polluted city, Karachi, clocks in at a little over 250, while the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai, internationally notorious for their pollution, clock in a relatively fresh 120 and 80 respectively.

TIME Afghanistan

5 Dead in Suicide Blast on British Embassy Vehicle in Kabul

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a suicide attack on a British embassy vehicle in Kabul
Omar Sobhani—Reuters Afghan security forces inspect the site of a suicide attack on a British embassy vehicle in Kabul on Nov. 27, 2014

KABUL, Afghanistan — A British embassy worker was among five people killed in a suicide attack in the Afghan capital on Thursday, a senior police official told NBC News. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast which targeted a vehicle on Kabul’s Jalalabad Road. At least 31 others, including three embassy staff, were injured, the senior police officer added. General Ayoub Salangi, the Afghan deputy interior minister, told Reuters the bomber was riding a motorcycle.

A spokesman for the U.K.’s Foreign Office told NBC News that “a British embassy vehicle was attacked in Kabul this morning.” He added: “We are working with Afghan officials to establish details.”…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME North Korea

New Kim on the Block: The Rise of Kim Jong Un’s Little Sister

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the Sinchon Museum
KCNA/Reuters North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the Sinchon Museum in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Nov. 25, 2014

But who exactly is Kim Yo Jong?

At last, a North Korea rumor proves true: all year, Korea watchers have been buzzing about the rise of Kim Jong Un’s little sister, Kim Yo Jong. She popped up at her father Kim Jong Il’s December 2011 funeral, then reappeared next to her brother on election day in March of this year. (Yes, North Korea has elections, of sorts.) Experts speculated that her presence at a high-profile political event signaled that she was on the rise within the regime but, as with many things in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as it is officially called, the theory was just that — until now.

On Thursday, Nov. 26, in an otherwise humdrum account of Kim Jong Un’s visit to a cartoon studio, state media listed Kim Yo Jong as “vice department director” in the powerful Central Committee of the ruling Worker’s Party. In March, when she was pictured beside her brother on polling day, she was identified only as a “senior official.” Though the precise role of a “vice department director” is unclear, that she has an official title suggests a relatively high-profile, and potentially important, role.

So who is Kim Yo Jong? Korea scholars believe she was born in 1987 or 1988, making her 26 or 27 years old, and that she is close to her brother, Kim Jong Un. Their father, former dictator Kim Jong Il, fathered at least seven children by four women, but Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo Jong have the same parentage. They were raised by their mother Ko Young Hui at a hillside estate, says Michael Madden, the founder of North Korea Leadership Watch. Largely restricted to the palace grounds, they were exposed, for the most part, to family members and close friends. “As they say in [Martin Scorsese’s mafia epic] Goodfellas, ‘There were never any outsiders,’” says Madden. “The life of Kim children was hermetically sealed.”

At some point in the mid-1990s, as North Korea starved, Kim Jong Un and his sister Kim Yo Jong were sent to to school in Switzerland. They studied under pseudonyms, presumably to protect their privacy and keep them safe. Remarkably little is known about their time there, Madden says. Upon returning to the DPRK, Kim Yo Jong likely attended university, although the details of that period are still fuzzy. Her stature within the clan started to crystallize at Kim Jong Il’s funeral, when she was spotted walking directly behind heir-apparent Kim Jong Un.

Analysts are still piecing together what, exactly, Kim Yo Jong does. She has been pictured several times in her brother’s company, often on “field guidance tours” (that’s DPRK-speak for the Kim clan looking at things). These appearances have fueled theories that she serves as a sort of events director and aide to her brother, managing his schedule and accompanying him on trips. If that is indeed her role — and again, these things are difficult to pinpoint — it suggests a level of closeness that would give her access to a lot of information. “She may be one of the only people Kim Jong Un trusts completely,” Madden says.

Her presence at Kim Jong Un’s side is rich with symbolism. Her first official public appearance, in March 2014, came not long after the disappearance of her aunt Kim Kyong Hui, who has not been seen since her husband Jang Sung Thaek was executed in late 2013. Before the purge, Kim Kyong Hui was a close adviser to Kim Jong Il, holding key jobs in the ruling party and “protecting her brother’s flank,” according to Ken Gause, a Korea expert at CNA Corp., a Washington, D.C.–based research firm. Kim Il Sung, the country’s revered founding father, also ruled with a sibling — his brother — at his side (until he demoted him).

This new sibling pairing provides an important sense of continuity. Though North Korea is often called a communist state, it is really more of a totalitarian monarchy. North Koreans are taught that Kim Il Sung was a fearsome warrior who, while camped at the base of Mount Paektu with some comrades, crushed a much larger force of Japanese invaders. His son and heir, Kim Jong Il, is said to have been born at the same site, imbued with the same superhuman abilities — heck, he officially shot 11 holes in one in his first-ever game of golf.

Since the deification of the Kim clan is what makes North Korea tick, providing a symbolic link to the past makes sense, even while power passes to the next generation. “The old power elites loyal to Kim Jong Il are being pushed out,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, in an interview earlier this year. “They will be replaced by new, younger elites who can safeguard the leadership of Kim Jong Un.” So goodbye, Kim Kyong Hui, and hello, Kim Yo Jong.

Vote Now: Who Should Be TIME’s Person of the Year?

TIME Thailand

The Military Vows to Rule Thailand Until 2016 and Ramps Up Political Purges

Poompanmuang, chief of Royal Thai Police, stands among antique Buddha statues that were seized during an investigation into Chayaphan, a former commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau, at a military base in Bangkok
Athit Perawongmetha—Reuters General Somyot Poompanmuang, chief of Royal Thai Police, stands among antique Buddha statues that were seized during an investigation into former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayaphan, at a military base in Bangkok on Nov. 26, 2014

News comes as Justice Minister announces "indefinite" imposition of martial law

Thailand may be ruled by a military dictatorship until 2016, a senior junta official has revealed. His comment came as a purge of political rivals intensified in the Southeast Asian nation.

Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, Thai Finance Minister Sommai Phasee said elections “may take, maybe, a year and a half.” Coup leader General Prayuth Chan-Ocha had previously vowed to hand power back to the people before the end of 2015.

“Everything depends on the road map, so we must see first if the road map can be completed,” explained Sommai. “Elections take time to organize.”

The news comes after Thai Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya revealed martial law would remain “indefinitely.” He also disclosed that police top brass had been detained for corruption offenses involving tens of millions of dollars.

Former Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) chief Pongpat Chayapan and 16 associates were charged this week with various embezzlement offenses — including operating gambling dens, hording cash and gold, and taking bribes from oil smugglers — as well as insulting the nation’s revered royal family.

Thailand has the world’s strictest law governing lèse majesté, or royal defamation. Under Article 112, sentences range from three to 15 years’ imprisonment and human-rights activists frequently say the legislation is used as a tool of political oppression.

However, it is “quite unusual for lèse majesté to be used against high-ranking police officers — against their own people,” says Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai political scientist at Japan’s Kyoto University.

Analysts say the latest arrests are evidence of Prayuth fortifying his position rather than tackling corruption. A staunch royalist, the 60-year-old appears to be targeting the institution of the police, which is known to back the powerful family of ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

However, others say the purge is more related to the sensitive subject of royal succession. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, beloved by Thais, will be 87 on Dec. 5 and is ailing. His heir, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, does not command anything like the same veneration.

Bhumibol is also the world’s wealthiest monarch, worth an estimated $30 billion, and many ascribe Thailand’s ongoing political tribulations to jostling for control of this vast treasure chest.

Deposed CIB chief Pongpat is known to be close to the Crown Prince — he frequently wears a pin with a photo of the royal couple’s son, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti — and three of his associates arrested Wednesday are relatives of Vajiralongkorn wife, the Royal Consort Princess Srirasm, including her brother, Natthapol Akkharaphongpricha.

There are many conflicting theories about what is happening. Some suspect it could be a schism within the royal family itself, or even an attempt by the nation’s new leaders to cloister Vajiralongkorn from powerful allies. However, Srirasm comes from humble means — she’s a former waitress — and so the targeting of her kin could be an attempt to expunge the more rakish elements of the Crown Prince’s circle before the succession.

What’s indisputable, though, is that “this is about using Article 112 as a political weapon to undermine political opponents,” says Pavin. “I don’t think this is as simple as being just about corruption, not at this point in Thai politics.”

No matter what the cause, some say the opportunity to root out bad apples should not be missed. “We should take this opportunity to clean up all the corrupt police,” Chuwit Kamolvisit, a former Thai brothel owner now enjoying a coda as an anticorruption politician, tells TIME. “If we cannot trust the top police like Pongpat, then how can we trust the rest of the Thai police?”

That said, there’s little evidence that Thailand’s military government is best placed to administer this remedy. Over the past six months of military rule, habeas corpus has been suspended, strict censorship imposed and hundreds of people threatened and imprisoned for trivial acts of defiance — like giving the three-finger salute used in The Hunger Games movies.

Meanwhile, General Prayuth’s younger brother — assistant army chief Lieut. General Preecha Chan-Ocha — was recently revealed to have amassed $2.5 million in net assets. He has not been investigated.

Asked whether top military generals are also corrupt, Chuwit chuckles nervously. “This is Thailand,” he says, “there is corruption everywhere.”

TIME Pakistan

Militants Gun Down Pakistan Health Workers as Polio Crisis Intensifies

Hospital staff stand near the bodies of anti-polio drive campaign workers who were shot by gunmen, at a hospital morgue in Quetta
Naseer Ahmed—Reuters Hospital staff stand near the bodies of antipolio campaign workers who were shot by gunmen, at a hospital morgue in Quetta, Pakistan, on Nov. 26, 2014

There have been 260 new cases of polio diagnosed in the South Asian nation this year

Public-health workers continue to be gunned down at will by Islamic militants across Pakistan, where ongoing attacks against vaccination teams have hampered the government’s ability to rein in a spiraling polio crisis.

On Wednesday, heavily armed militants in the Baluchistan region capital of Quetta mowed down members of an antipolio campaign, leaving four public-health workers dead and three others injured. Survivors of the ambush chided government officials for failing to provide sufficient security for the team.

“Two men on a motorcycle stopped our car and started shooting. No security arrangements were made,” one of the victims told the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. “We called everyone, but no one came to our rescue.”

The bloody scene in Quetta this week has sadly become all too familiar in conflict-riven Pakistan. On Monday, near the city of Peshawar, gunmen mounted on a motorcycle shot and injured another polio health worker. A Taliban splinter group later claimed responsibility for the attack and issued a statement deriding the polio vaccine as “dangerous to health” and “against Islam,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The uptick in brazen attacks against health workers has saddled Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s embattled administration with renewed criticism, after he made boisterous promises during his campaign in 2013 to make peace with Taliban forces.

“Such cowardly attacks against our goal of polio-free Pakistan will further strengthen our resolve to stamp this menace out of the country,” Ayesha Raza Farooq, the Pakistani Prime Minister’s focal person on polio eradication, said in a statement on Monday. “I urge the provincial government to take all measures necessary to protect the polio teams and ensure safe conduct of polio campaigns.”

The militants’ suspicion of vaccination programs has been fueled in large part by the bogus hepatitis B campaign crafted by U.S. clandestine officials searching for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, which later lead to the dramatic killing of the al-Qaeda chief by Navy Seals.

In 2012, Taliban forces operating in the country’s tribal belt banned polio vaccinations and began openly attacking public-health officials trying to administer inoculations. More than 60 public-health workers have been killed in the country since the declaration.

Since 2012, transmission of the virus has been most intense in the country’s restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). But following an offensive launched by the Pakistani military against insurgents in FATA’s North Waziristan in June, close to 1 million people fled the area. As a result of the exodus, the polio epidemic has spread to other parts of Pakistan that had previously been unexposed to the highly contagious virus.

In the onslaught’s wake, public-health officials claim to have vaccinated more than 1 million people in the past few months, including 850,000 children under the age of 10, who were previously inaccessible, according to the Global Polio Initiative. Still, polio continues to spread across the country.

Public-health officials confirmed this week the existence of 260 new polio cases in Pakistan this year — a fourfold increase since the same duration in 2013, according to the New York Times. Pakistan is one of just three countries where polio remains endemic.

TIME Egypt

Egypt Jails 78 Boys for Being at a Muslim Brotherhood Rally

Morsi supporters stage rallies on Rabaa's 1-year mark
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images Anticoup protesters shout slogans as they march at al-Haram Street during a demonstration on Aug. 14, 2014, in Cairo, marking the first anniversary of the killing of hundreds of Morsi supporters by security forces

The youngest are 13 years old; sentences range up to five years

Seventy-eight boys have been sentenced to up to five years in prison by an Egyptian court for being present at Muslim Brotherhood protests.

The boys, between the ages of 13 and 17, were sentenced for taking part in a rally calling for the return of President Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted in 2014, the BBC reports.

But a defense lawyer for the boys says some of them were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ever since Morsi was deposed, Egyptian authorities have been cracking down on thousands of his supporters and indeed on any opposition. At least 1,400 people have died and more than 15,000 are in prison.

A draft antiterrorism law was approved Wednesday, giving the government blanket powers to ban opposition groups on charges such as harming national unity and disrupting public order.

[BBC]

TIME Hong Kong

Seven Hong Kong Police Officers Arrested for Allegedly Beating Democracy Activist

Attack was captured by local TV news crew

Seven Hong Kong police officers have been arrested on suspicion of beating a political activist who was taking part in the city’s pro-democracy protests.

The police force stated that the officers had been arrested on suspicion of “assault occasioning actual bodily harm.”

The case concerns Civic Party member and social worker Ken Tsang, who was lead away and then assaulted by a group of police officers following clashes between protesters and police in the early hours of Oct. 15.

Caught on video by a local TV news crew, the incident instantly became a cause célèbre and severely aggravated tensions between citizens and the police.

TIME Cricket

Australian International Cricketer Phillip Hughes Dies Aged 25

Tributes have poured in for the young star

Australian international cricketer Phillip Hughes has died at Sydney’s St. Vincent’s Hospital.

The 25-year-old was in critical condition after he was hit on the head by a ball while batting during an important domestic game in the city on Tuesday.

The incident sent shock waves through the cricket world and was a reminder that, despite its genteel reputation, cricket can be a highly dangerous sport.

Hughes was struck on the rear left side of the head below the helmet by a short, fast ball — known in cricketing parlance as a bouncer — delivered by New South Wales bowler Sean Abbott.

Denser and heavier than baseballs, cricket balls can reach speeds of 100 m.p.h., turning them in potentially lethal projectiles — even when players are wearing protective gear, as the example of Hughes tragically shows.

Hughes, who grew up on a banana farm outside Sydney, had undergone emergency surgery and was kept in an induced coma until passing away on Thursday afternoon, local time.

Tributes have poured in for the young star, who was the first Australian batsman ever to score a century in his debut for his national side in the one-day form of the game.

 

TIME Uruguay

Watch Uruguay’s President Give This Homeless Man Money During a TV Interview

"I want you to be President forever!"

Correction appended: Nov. 27, 2014, 2:25 a.m. E.T.

Uruguayan President José Mujica was talking to journalists in the capital Montevideo on Tuesday night when a homeless man asked him for some change.

“Give me a coin of yours, Pepe,” the man said.

“Look, brother,” replied the President, “I don’t have a coin but don’t cry!”

Mujica then handed the man a 100 peso bill.

The man shouted, “I want you to be President forever!” to which Mujica replied, “No, no … You’re crazy!”

The footage aired on Uruguay’s Teledoce TV channel.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated that President José Mujica gave a homeless man a $100 bill. He gave the man a 100 peso bill.

TIME person of the year

Narendra Modi Leads TIME’s Person of the Year Poll

Narendra Modi
Jason DeCrow—AP Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India waves to the crowd as he arrives to give a speech during a reception by the Indian community in honor of his visit to the United States at Madison Square Garden, Sept. 28, 2014, in New York.

India's leader is well ahead of the Ferguson, Mo., protesters and Russia's Vladimir Putin

Vote Now for TIME’s Person of the Year.

Narendra Modi, the newly elected Indian prime minister, has a significant lead in TIME’s 2014 Person of the Year polls, with 11.1% of the vote as of Wednesday evening. The leader of the world’s largest democracy has raised hopes among Indians that he’ll invigorate the country’s economy and tear down the bureaucratic red tape that has slowed development.

Should Narendra Modi Be TIME’s Person of the Year? Vote Below for #TIMEPOY

The Ferguson, Mo., protesters now stand at 8.8% as of late Wednesday, edging out Russian President Vladimir Putin (5.9%), who was TIME’s Person of the Year in 2007, and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever, Malala Yousafzai (5%).

The earlier bump for the protesters came amid violent unrest in the St. Louis suburb and subsequent demonstrations that rippled across the U.S. Thousands expressed solidarity with slain 18-year-old Michael Brown’s family following the grand jury announcement not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for causing his death. Crowds from New York to Los Angeles gathered and chanted the rallying cry, “Black lives matter.”

Since 1927, TIME has named a person who for better or worse has most influenced the news and our lives in the past year.

The Person of the Year is selected by TIME’s editors, but readers are asked to weigh in by commenting on any TIME Facebook post that includes #TIMEPOY, tweeting your vote using #TIMEPOY, or by heading over to TIME.com’s Person of the Year voting hub, where Pinnion’s technology is recording, visualizing and analyzing results as they are received. Votes from Twitter, Facebook and TIME.com’s voting hub are pooled together to create the totals displayed on the site. You can see the results of the poll and vote on your choice for person of the year here.

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