TIME olympics

Ukraine Will Compete in Sochi Paralymics

Flag bearer Mykhaylo Tkachenko of Ukraine attends the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, March 07 2014. Julian Stratenschulte—EPA

Despite Russia's military forces moving into Crimea, Ukraine has decided to participate in the Winter Paralympics in Sochi just hours before the opening ceremonies and had earlier consulted with athletes

Ukraine has decided it will participate in the Winter Paralympics in Sochi even as Russian troops have taken over the Crimea region of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Paralympic Committee announced its decision just hours before the opening ceremonies of the games Friday, the Associated Press reports. It consulted with the athletes before opting not to boycott the competition amid a tense geopolitical standoff with Russia.

“I don’t remember a situation when the organizing country during a Paralympics started an intervention on the territory of a country taking part. I don’t know what to extent the team can focus on the result now,” the the AP quoted Valeriy Sushkevich, president of the National Paralympic Committee of Ukraine, saying to the R-Sport agency.

Sushkevich added that he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday to ask for peace during the games. Putin reportedly listened to his case, though he did not guarantee a truce. Sushkevich said Ukraine’s team will leave if the military conflict escalates further.

The International Paralympic Committee has asked Russia to recognize the U.N.’s Olympic Truce, which appeals for ceasefire during the Olympic games. The Ukrainian athletes chanted “peace to Ukraine” during the flag-raising ceremony in Sochi on Thursday night. The incident is now being investigated as a possible breach of Olympic rules that ban political protest.


TIME Africa

Ex-Girlfriend Says ‘Blade Runner’ Had a Temper and Loved His Gun

Samantha Taylor says Oscar Pistorius was trigger happy and quick to get angry


Oscar Pistorius’ ex-girlfriend said Friday that the Olympian double-amputee known as “Blade Runner” had a temper and was known to fire his gun when angry.

Samantha Taylor testified at Pistorius’ murder trial in South Africa that he was quick to get angry, would frequently scream at her and her family members, and cheated on her multiple times, including with Reeva Steenkamp, the woman he’s accused of murdering. She also said he never went anywhere without his pistol, and recalled at least two occasions when he had drawn or fired his gun out of anger, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Taylor said Pistorius had once fired his pistol out of an open sunroof because he was angry that a policeman had stopped the car and touched the gun. Taylor also described another incident when Pistorius had pulled a gun on a car that was following theirs.

Taylor’s testimony also rebutted one of the defense’s key arguments, that Pistorius sounded like a woman when he screamed. “When he screamed, it sounded like a man,” she said.

Pistorius killed his girlfriend, Steenkamp, very early on Valentine’s Day morning last year. His defense team says the Olympian athlete shot into the bathroom thinking he was shooting an intruder and protecting Steenkamp. The prosecution says Pistorius shot Steenkamp during an argument that was heard by multiple neighbors.

Taylor said that Pistorius did occasionally wake up and think there were intruders in the house, but she said he always woke her up when that happened.



What Global Petropolitics Really Mean for You

This week on WNYC’s Money Talking, I chatted about the news story that interests me the most at the moment—the economic backdrop for the escalating political crisis in Ukraine and what the crisis means for the economies of Europe, Russia, Ukraine and the United States. Listen below.


America Can’t Fix Europe’s Russian Energy Problem

Gasoline pump at gas station
Kyoungil Jeon—Getty Images

With the tumult in the Ukraine continuing, there’s been a lot of talk over the last week about how the U.S. may have a major lever in the fight against Putin’s Russia—petro-politics. Usually, it’s emerging markets like Russia that use oil and gas as a political tool. And indeed, the fact that countries like Germany get about a third of their energy from Russia is a key reason that Europe hasn’t been as willing to go along with trade sanctions in the past. Sure, the Russians need Europe as much as Europe needs them (if not more)—about 70 percent of Russia’s export revenues come from oil and gas, much of it sold to the Continent. But no European leader wants to risk an energy shortfall or peak prices in the middle of winter.

The question is whether the U.S., which is becoming a major shale oil and gas producer in its own right, can actually do anything to help Europe loosen the Russian energy noose. The Obama administration believes it can, and is pushing to accelerate the process of getting American liquid natural gas (LNG) online and ready for export. A front-page story in the New York Times hinted that American energy could make a big difference in Europe, and in the conflict with Russia.

I think that view is overly optimistic. Here are three reasons why:

  1. LNG is, and remains, a very localized market. The first LNG export port to clear the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) hurdle is Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass port, on the Sabine Pass River on the border between Texas and Louisiana. But it won’t come online until late 2015 at the very earliest—possibly even 2016. The next three ports on the wait list haven’t even been green lighted.
  2. The U.S. isn’t producing a lot of shale oil and gas yet, anyway. While the U.S. energy department is predicting that shale oil production will climb to about 10 million barrels per day by 2017, right now, it’s about 3 million bpd. Given that America itself consumes over 90 million bpd of fossil fuel, it’s not as if we are about to become a major energy exporter, even as our own production rises.
  3. We need cheap energy at home if we are going to fuel the manufacturing renaissance. We’ve heard a lot about the growth of manufacturing in America over the last few years. But a big part of that story is easier access to cheap shale oil and gas here at home. American business wants to build pipelines to take Western shale oil and gas to Rust Belt factories to improve competitiveness. If we start to see much of it going to Europe, we may have a political and/or trade fight on our hands.

The bottom line: American can’t save Europe when it comes to energy. The Continent needs to wean itself off Russian gas, no question. But it’s more likely to do that by rethinking its recent reductions in nuclear energy and overly generous subsidies for green energy (which have pushed up prices), as well as by looking abroad to places like West Africa for new energy sources than by counting on the US for a quick energy fix. While America’s push to speed up the LNG approval process may send a useful political message to Putin, it won’t change the European energy dynamic on the ground anytime soon.

TIME Music

‘Beethoven’ of Japan Apologizes After Revelation He Didn’t Write Music

'It is indeed the case that I have deceived people and for that I am extremely sorry,' Mamoru Samuragochi said

The artist once called the ‘Beethoven’ of Japan formally apologized Friday for deceiving fans about composing his own music. He also admitted he is not legally deaf, saying he can “hear sounds, but the sounds are twisted.”

“I have caused a great deal of trouble with my lies for everyone, including those people who bought my CDs and came to my concerts,” Reuters reports Mamoru Samuragochi said during a news conference in Tokyo.”It is indeed the case that I have deceived people and for that I am extremely sorry.” News of his deception broke in February, when the 50-year-old Samuragochi admitted he had used a ghostwriter. Music professor Takashi Niigaki later came forward as the writer.

Days after news of his ghostwriting broke, Japanese figure skater Daisuke Takahashi used his music in a performance during the Olympics. On Friday, Samuragochi said he and Niigaki would meet at coffee shops where the composer would write out “general plans” from which Niigaki would compose music. Samuragochi’s most popular work is a tribute to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima called “Hiroshima Symphony.”


TIME Africa

International Court Convicts Congo Rebel of War Crimes

Former Congolese warlord militiaman Germain Katanga sitting in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2009.
Former Congolese warlord militiaman Germain Katanga sitting in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2009. Michael Kooren—AFP/Getty Images

Former warlord Germain Katanga was convicted by the International Criminal Court of a crime against humanity and four war crimes for his involvement in a 2003 attack that left about 200 villagers dead in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The International Criminal Court found Congolese rebel leader Germain Katanga guilty of a crime against humanity and four war crimes on Friday, making him the second person to be convicted since the court was established in 2002.

The charges against Katanga, 35, stem from a massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo more than a decade ago, when the Ituri region was years deep into fighting that started over the control of land and natural resources. The unrest later devolved into all-out war between ethnic groups that left an estimated 50,000 people dead.

Katanga, who was transferred to The Hague by Congolese authorities in 2007 and denied the charges, was tried over complicity in planning and leading an attack in Bogoro on Feb. 24, 2003, when at least 200 people were killed. He was found guilty of murder—the crime against humanity—as well as four other war crimes: murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging.

The three-judge panel said Katanga, who was 24 at the time and thought to be the commander of the Patriotic Resistance Force of Ituri, helped to supply the weapons used in the early morning attack meant to “wipe out” Bogoro, strategically located near Uganda.

Nicknamed ‘Simba,’ or lion, he showed no emotion as judges convicted him as accessory in the attack. He was cleared of direct involvement as well as offenses like sexual slavery, rape and using child soldiers, even though young combatants were in Bogoro that day.

Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert of Belgium, in a dissent read by another judge, slammed the verdict, writing “the only thing I pretend to know is that we do not know enough to convict Germain Katanga of the charges against him.” She also claimed his right to a speedy trial was violated and Friday’s majority verdict was “unjustifiably late.”

TIME europe

Russia Embraces Potential Crimea Split From Ukraine

Cossacks guard the local parliament building in Crimea's capital Simferopol, March 6, 2014.
Cossacks guard the local parliament building in Crimea's capital Simferopol, March 6, 2014. Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME

Russian lawmakers say they would support Crimea if it chooses, in an upcoming referendum opposed by the U.S., to break away from Ukraine

Russia’s parliament signaled Friday it will support a vote in the Crimea region of Ukraine to break away from the country, saying the region would be welcome as an equal part of Russia if it votes to leave Ukraine in an upcoming referendum.

Valentina Matvienko, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, met with the head of Crimea’s parliament on Friday, the Associated Press reports. “If the decision is made, then [Crimea] will become an absolutely equal subject of the Russian Federation,” Matvienko said, comparing the referendum, which is scheduled for March 16, to a scheduled referendum in Scotland on whether to become independent from the United Kingdom.

Leaders from both houses of Russia’s parliament said on Friday that they would support Crimea’s bid for secession. “We will respect the historic choice of the people of Crimea,” said speaker of the lower house, Sergei Naryshkin, the New York Times reports.

The statements are the clearest signal yet that Moscow supports Crimea’s move to break away from Ukraine, something the United States is fiercely opposing. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia does not intend to annex Ukraine, and that the residents have the right to determine their future. Russia’s parliament is introducing legislation that would make it easier for Crimea to join Russia. Under Russia’s constitution, it can only annex foreign territory if the foreign government agrees, and the leaders of Ukraine’s interim government have opposed Crimea’s secession. “Crimea was, is and will be an integral part of Ukraine,” interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said, calling a secession referendum “an illegitimate decision.”

President Barack Obama said this week that the referendum violates international law. But Obama has seen Russia rebuff every diplomatic effort to stem its influence in Ukraine. Ethnic Russians are a majority in Crimea, and if the referendum passes, it would be another barrier for the White House’s efforts to persuade Putin to pull Russian forces out of the peninsula.

While the key players in the Ukrainian crisis traded statements about the country’s political future, a U.S. warship crossed Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait on Friday on the way to the Black Sea. The USS Truxtun is scheduled to conduct military exercises with forces from the Bulgarian and Romanian navies, according to a U.S. Navy statement. The Pentagon announced the deployment on Thursday, a day after it unveiled plans to commit more fighter jets to a NATO air patrol mission in the Baltics. The additional military support is intended to reassure allies in neighboring countries after Russia’s military intervention in Crimea.


* This post was updated at 12:00 p.m. EST

TIME Middle East

Bombings and Shootings in Iraq Leave 22 Dead

Country facing its bloodiest year since 2008

A series of bombings in central Iraq and two shootings in the country’s north left 22 dead on Thursday, adding to the death toll in what has been the deadliest year in the country since 2008.

A dozen bombs exploded in central Iraq, including four car bombs in Baghdad that killed 11 and wounded 47, AFP reports. Four bombs exploded south of Baghdad and a car bomb targeted checkpoints in and around Baquba, just north of the capital, leaving nearly a dozen people dead. Meanwhile, two police officers were killed in shootings in the northern city of Mosul.

The wave of violence came after 21 people were killed in and around Baghdad on Wednesday from 10 bombings and three shootings. More than 1,800 people have been killed so far this year in Iraq, according to an AFP tally, including more than 700 in February alone. The majority of attacks have targeted Baghdad and the surrounding cities, but the Iraqi government is still battling anti-government militants in the western Anbar Province. More than 300,000 people have fled violence in Anbar, according to United Nations figures, the largest displacement of people in Iraq since the height of the sectarian civil war in 2006-2008.


TIME europe

Turkey Threatens to Ban Facebook and YouTube

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara on Feb. 18, 2014. UMIT BEKTAS—REUTERS

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hints at barring users in his country from the social network and video-sharing service after controversial audio recordings, purportedly implicating him in a corruption scandal, began circulating on the sites in recent weeks

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey threatened Thursday to ban Facebook and YouTube in the country, after audio recordings purportedly implicating him in a corruption scandal circulated on the sites in recent weeks.

Speaking with Turkish broadcaster ATV late on Thursday, Erdogan said his government “will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook,” Reuters reports. He said barring the sites was a possibility.

In recent weeks, audio recordings purportedly of Erdogan and his allies have been circulating online, ahead of local elections later in March. The latest recordings, published on YouTube on Thursday, claim to be of Erdogan suggesting that the proprietor of a Turkish newspaper sack two journalists over a lead story about Kurdish peace talk efforts. Other recordings are allegedly of him telling his son to dispose of large amounts of money before police raids as part of a graft investigation last year.

Erdogan, who has been in power since his Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the elections in 2002, maintains that the moderate U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen is attempting to discredit him with what he says are fabricated recordings.


TIME Venezuela

Venezuela Expels Panama Ambassador, Top Diplomats

A protester throws a molotov cocktail at Venezuelan security forces during an anti-government demonstration on March 6, 2014 in Caracas.
A protester throws a molotov cocktail at Venezuelan security forces during an anti-government demonstration on March 6, 2014 in Caracas. John Moore—Getty Images

Quartet given 48 hours to leave the country

Venezuela’s government has broken off ties with Panama and expelled its ambassador and three other diplomats.

The foreign ministry of Venezuela declared the quartet “persona non grata” in the troubled Latin American country and ordered them to leave within 48 hours.

The Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has also frozen all trade and economic ties with Panama.

The note was delivered after Panama called a meeting between North, South and Central American countries to seek a solution to the tense situation in Venezuela. On Feb. 4, anti-government protests erupted and quickly turned violent.

At least 20 people have died in clashes between protesters and riot police, and close to 300 persons have been injured.


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