Car Crash Victim Woke from Coma Speaking French and Thinking He Was Matthew McConaughey

He hadn't spoken the language in 12 years

A 25-year-old British man awoke after a car crash believing he was Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey and speaking fluent French, despite only having a very basic grasp from school.

Rory Curtis, a former semi-professional soccer player, suffered a severe brain injury after an accident in August 2012. He was in an induced coma for six days while doctors tried to save his life. When he woke up, he began speaking to nurses in French. Curtis told the Daily Mail: “I can’t explain how it happened. It’s incredible really…I was just casually chatting away about how I was feeling in this perfect French accent.”

He added: “I wasn’t really that good at it at school, so I don’t how my brain has managed to do what is has. I don’t know how I know it — I just do.”

“Also, in my head I thought I was Matthew McConaughey… At times I was in hospital thinking, ‘I can’t wait to get out of here and back to filming movies.'”

Thanks to an experimental drug, Curtis has now recovered and has retrained as a barber. But while he now knows he isn’t a famous Hollywood actor, he is still able to speak perfect French more than two years later.

[Daily Mail]

TIME foreign affairs

High School Revisited: Kim Jong Un Gets an Invite from Russia

AFP / Getty Images North Korea leader Kim Jong un, seated at right, visits a command center of the North Korean army in this undated photograph provided by North Korea.

Chilly relations persist between North Korea and China, its traditional date

It’s possible to see North Korea’s alleged cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment as little more than high schoolers intercepting notes sent from desk to desk during class when the teacher wasn’t looking.

But geo-strategically, the schoolhouse drama ratcheted up Monday, when the Russians confirmed that they have invited Kim Jong Un to Moscow next May—before the North Korean leader meets with the leadership of China, his country’s historic benefactor.

Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov said that Kim has been invited to Russia’s 70th anniversary celebrating the end of World War II. “Invitations have been sent to many leaders of countries, including Kim Jong Un,” he told reporters. “Signals have been received that he means to come to Moscow and participate in the celebrations.”

READ MORE North Korea’s Internet Comes Back on After About 9 Hours

All the international chest-thumping over the U.S. claim that North Korea hacked into Sony’s computers, destroying data and posting embarrassing revelations about the company’s internal workings for all the world to read, misses a bigger point: Beijing is not happy with Kim Jong Un, and Moscow’s move on the Outstanding Leader highlights just how far he has fallen in Beijing’s esteem.

Kim has counted on financial support from China to keep his impoverished nation alive. With the price of oil collapsing, there’s little chance that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be able to offer much financial aid to Pyongyang.

In a further example of warming ties, the official North Korean news agency on Sunday hailed the publication of Kim’s Let Us Brilliantly Accomplish the Revolutionary Cause of Juche, Holding Kim Jong Il in High Esteem as the Eternal General Secretary of Our Party in Russia. “Juche” is Korean for self-reliance, a mantra of Kim Jong Il, the father of the current North Korean leader.

READ MORE The Interview Is Not the First Time Hollywood Bowed To a Dictator

Kim has never visited a foreign country since taking over North Korea following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011. China would be the natural place for his debut on the world stage, given the alliance between the two nations that dates back more than a half-century to the Korean War.

But strains between the two longtime allies began to show following missile and nuclear-weapons tests, including a 2013 atomic blast after Kim assumed command. The Chinese government summoned Pyongyang’s ambassador to the foreign ministry in Beijing to decry that test, and reduced energy shipments to North Korea.

Relations between Beijing and Pyongyang remain chilly. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited South Korea in July, the first time that a Chinese leader visited Seoul before Pyongyang. “The Chinese are so displeased with Kim’s leadership style and actions that Chinese President Xi has visited Seoul and hosted South Korean president Park in Beijing, but Xi has not visited Pyongyang and has not invited Kim to Beijing,” former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst John McCreary wrote Monday. “Last week in Beijing, President Xi met the speaker of the South Korean national assembly, apparently to emphasize Chinese preferences.”

Adding to the pressure, China is investigating North Korea’s possible role in the Sony hack, Bloomberg reported Monday.

READ MORE Ukraine Inches Closer to NATO in Important Vote

Things could get dicey in Moscow if Kim accepts Putin’s invite. In another flashback to high school, Moscow also has invited South Korean President Park Geun-hye to the anniversary celebration. If both attend, it could lead to the first meeting between the two Korean leaders.

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine Inches Closer to NATO in Important Vote

Genya Savilov—AFP/Getty Images Deputies of Ukrainian Parliament vote for a bill dropping Ukraine's non-aligned status in Kiev on December 23, 2014.

The country's status is no longer "non-aligned"

Ukraine took a major step on Tuesday in a parliamentary vote to drop its “non-aligned” status, which made the country ineligible to participate in military alliances and war—a status more famously upheld by Switzerland. As a result, Ukraine’s government could now apply to join NATO.

The move has angered the Russian government, which pressured Ukraine into adopting neutrality in 2010 and has said that the country must remain out of any bloc as a condition of peace in eastern Ukraine, where 4,700 have died in a pro-Russian uprising in the past eight months.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took a strong stance against the vote, saying that an application to join NATO would “turn Ukraine into a potential military opponent for Russia,” and warned that the vote—as well as new sanctions against Russia signed by the U.S.—will both have “very negative consequences.”



Ebola Survivor To Deliver On-Air Christmas Message

Review of the Year 2014
Andrew Matthews—PA Wire/AP British Ebola survivor William Pooley during a press conference at the Royal Free Hospital in north London, Dec. 13, 2014.

William Pooley will appear on British television on Christmas Day

As Ebola continues to devastate entire regions in West Africa, one survivor of the infectious disease is preparing to deliver a plea for help on Christmas Day.

William Pooley, a British nurse who contracted the disease this summer in Sierra Leone, has been asked to deliver a special Christmas message on a British television network. Pooley, who overcame the disease after he was air-lifted back to the U.K. for treatment, has since returned to continue working in Sierra Leone, helping those stricken with Ebola.

According to the BBC, Pooley will say in his message that “Ebola is unlike any disease I’ve ever witnessed. Nothing can prepare you for the effect it has on the infected, on their families and on their communities.”

“I don’t want to make you feel guilty, but I would like you to think just for a few minutes about what you could do to help,” he’s expected to continue. “This is a global problem and it will take the world to fix it. What a wonderful Christmas present that would be.”

The message will be aired on the British network Channel 4, which has aired its own Christmas speech as an alternative to Queen Elizabeth II’s own annual Christmas Day speech since 1993.

Pooley has spoken out in the past about other efforts to bring awareness to the Ebola crisis many in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are facing, most notably by calling out Band Aid 30’s superstar charity single “cringeworthy.”


TIME France

France to Boost Holiday Security After String of Attacks

French soldiers patrol near the Eiffel Tower in Paris as part of the "Vigipirate" security plan
Gonzalo Fuentes—Reuters French soldiers patrol near the Eiffel Tower in Paris as part of the "Vigipirate" security plan on Dec. 23, 2014.

Over 20 injured in apparently unrelated attacks

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced Tuesday that there will be increased police and military presence in public areas over the Christmas holidays since a string of attacks left 20 people injured since Saturday.

Valls said 300 soldiers would be deployed to monitor French streets after the series of attacks in different cities. On Saturday, a man shouting “God is great!” in Arabic was shot by the police after allegedly attacking them, the BBC reports. On Sunday, another man shouting the same phrase injured 13 people when he drove into a group of pedestrians in Dijon. On Monday, a van drove into a Christmas market in Nantes, injuring 10 people.

Of the 10 injured pedestrians, 5 are in serious condition and one injury is life-threatening. Valls said on television Tuesday that 200-300 soldiers would be deployed within hours to keep the streets safe.

The Prime Minister said there was “no link” between the attacks, but urged public “vigilance.” President Francois Hollande has called an emergency cabinet meeting.


TIME celebrities

U.S. Stars Invade British Christmas Shows

David Hasselhoff, Jerry Hall and Priscilla Presley are among the American celebs who are starring in holiday plays across the pond

While most Americans might be unfamiliar with British pantomimes — the family-friendly musical comedy stage plays that take place across the U.K. at Christmas — it seems like there are many American actors who are eager to get involved.

This year there are five U.S. celebrities headlining British pantomimes, reports The Independent, including stars Jimmy Osmond, David Hasselhoff and Priscilla Presley, who have all performed in pantomimes before. Joining them in the U.K. this year will be new-comers Linda Gray and Jerry Hall.

In recent years, actors Henry Winkler, Pamela Anderson, Mickey Rooney, Stefanie Powers, Antonio Fargas and Patrick Duffy have also taken part in various Christmas shows in Britain.

But it seems like even the most eager U.S. stars are occasionally taken aback once they hit the stage. Pantomime actors are known for their interaction with the audience, which came as a surprise to Presley when she played the Wicked Queen in Snow White in 2012. “In all honesty, I really didn’t understand the script when I first read it,” she told The Independent. “In one of my lines I say, ‘Go ahead and boo. Boo all you like’, and I thought, ‘Should I be coaxing people to boo at me?'”

Fortunately for Presley, who’s reprising her role as the Wicked Queen this year, she now knows that booing is all part of the British pantomime charm.


TIME portfolio

See Life in Eastern Ukraine’s Underground Shelters

Fragile ceasefires in eastern Ukraine have resulted in a population trapped in underground shelters

When photographer Ross McDonnell went to cover the ongoing Ukrainian crisis as a freelancer, he felt his photographs didn’t stand apart from the hundreds being produced in the region at that time.

“You are dealing with very intense circumstances and you come away from that feeling like you haven’t had [any] real connection to the people involved in these situations,” the Irish photographer tells TIME. “I wasn’t able to put my visual stamp or to escape the news cycle of what was happening there, so I wanted to go back and do something a bit more personal and be a bit more engaged.”

Although the violent turmoil in eastern Ukraine has eased, the Ukrainian Army and pro-Russian rebels continue to battle over areas in Donetsk, now the self-proclaimed independent state of Donetsk People’s Republic. As a result, people without the resources to leave the region are now living in a network of underground shelters to hide from the continuous shelling.

Many of these shelters were built during the Cold War era, when the eventuality of a nuclear fallout felt real, and when McDonnell heard about them, he saw an opportunity to reconnect with his subjects.

In October, he went back to the region, and by that time, the local population had gotten used to the in-and-out swarms of journalists. McDonnell stuck around. It wasn’t until after several visits that he “started to get a sense of who the characters were, what the dynamics was among the people, what you were dealing with in the shelter,” he says. “There’s [a] kind of community but it’s a forced community. Essentially nobody wants to be there.”

“All they can focus on at the moment is [their] immediate surroundings, feeding themselves every day,” he adds. “I guess that’s what the aesthetics of this series are meant to represent – the kind of very narrow world they are surrounded by.”

McDonnell also attempted to put himself in the position of his subjects, in a space still decorated with photographs of Soviet soldiers and artilleries from the the Cold War era. “To see in these paintings of the actual instruments of war that are being used outside and to see the iconography, this Soviet past surrounding them all the time, it’s psychologically very stressful for them,” he says.

Together, these bleak images capture an atmosphere that speaks of the people’s state of mind – trapped in the present, without any idea of what the future will bring.

Ross McDonnell is is a photographer and filmmaker born in Dublin. LightBox has previously featured McDonnell’s work on the Ukrainian protests, the ‘Auto Defensa’ anti-criminal uprisings in Mexico, Irish public housing projects and Enrique Metinides. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

Ye Ming is a contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

TIME conflict

Global Arms Treaty Comes Into Force on Christmas Eve


But the U.S., China and Russia have still not ratified it

A global arms treaty aiming to cut off the weapon supply for human-rights violators comes into force Wednesday, and campaigners vow to enforce its implementation.

“For too long, arms and ammunition have been traded with few questions asked about whose lives they will destroy,” Anna Macdonald, director of the Control Arms coalition of NGOs, told Agence France-Presse. “The new Arms Trade Treaty which enters into force this week will bring that to an end. It is now finally against international law to put weapons into the hands of human rights abusers and dictators.”

A total of 60 countries including France, Great Britain and Germany have all pledged to adhere to the the treaty, while 70 others, including China, Russia and the largest exporter of all, the U.S., have approved but are yet to ratify it.

Campaigners note that much work remains to implement regulation of the $85 billion global weapons trade, and a first meeting between the signatory states will be held around September.

ATT, as the treaty is known, is the first major arms accord since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996.

TIME russia

Facebook Angers Russian Dissidents by Blocking Protest Page

Maxim Zmeyev—Reuters Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny sits before a court hearing in Moscow, August 14, 2014.

The company blocked a page rallying opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the request of the government's Internet monitor

Facebook has waded into a political controversy in Russia after it blocked a page promoting a demonstration in favor of prominent opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

The social networking site acquiesced to the request of the Russian government’s Internet monitor Roskomnadzor Saturday after the event site attracted more than 12,000 attendees, New York Times reports.

Navalny, a runner-up in Moscow’s 2013 mayoral election, has had several run-ins with Kremlin authorities and has been under house arrest since February pending a criminal case against him.

Vadim Ampelonsky, a spokesman for Roskomnadzor, said that Facebook deleted the page since it called for an “unsanctioned mass event.” However, supporters of Navalny accuse Facebook of kowtowing too easily to President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.

“We were very surprised and very disappointed because of the speed with which Facebook has satisfied an ordinary request of Roskomnadzor without even contacting the organizers of the event,” said Kira Yarmysh, a press aide to Navalny.

The company frequently gets requests from governments to block content, but maintains it has thorough policies to handle them.

[New York Times]

TIME Qatar

At Egypt’s Request, Qatar Suspends Al-Jazeera Affiliate in Cairo

Mideast Qatar Egypt Al Jazeera
Kamran Jebreili—AP In this Wednesday Nov. 1, 2006 file photo, A Qatari employee of Al Jazeera Arabic language TV news channel passes by the logo of Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar.

The channel has been alone domestically in covering the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's beleaguered political party

In a concession to Egyptian authorities, Qatar will stop broadcasting an Al-Jazeera affiliate in Cairo that has criticized Egypt’s military-led government.

In agreeing to the suspension, Qatar is seeking closer ties with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, which had urged the tiny gulf state to cease its long-time support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — the political party of the ousted president whom Sisi displaced, Mohamed Morsi, Reuters reports. Qatar owns Al-Jazeera, though the international news channel is yet largely seen a free voice in a region severely wanting for free media voices.

The local station, Al Jazeera Live Egypt, was the last major news outlet in Egypt that was willing to cover the Brotherhood.

Two journalists for Al Jazeera —Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy — began serving seven-year sentences last December on charges of conspiring with the Brotherhood against the Egyptian state, while a third, Baher Mohamed, received a ten-year sentence. All three vehemently deny the charges, which have been condemned by human-rights groups.


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