TIME Web

Wikimedia Foundation Releases Its First-Ever Transparency Report

The group that oversees Wikipedia received 304 non-copyright related requests to alter or remove content and rejected all of them.

Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit responsible for Wikipedia, one of the most visited websites on the Internet, says that it received and rejected hundreds of general requests to alter or remove content over the previous two years.

According to the Foundation’s first-ever transparency report released on Wednesday, governments, organizations and individuals primarily in the United States, Germany and Britain made 304 general requests for alterations or removals from its various websites, which include Wikipedia. None of those requests were granted.

According to the report, between July 2012 and June 2014, the Foundation did grant 24 requests, or 41 percent, of the 58 requests to remove content cited for copyright infringement that the Foundation deemed valid. The report also says that the Foundation granted 8 requests, or 14 percent, of the 56 requests for user data, compliant with the Foundation’s terms, which in most cases require a warrant or court order.

“The Wikimedia Foundation is deeply committed to supporting an open and neutral space, where the users themselves decide what belongs on the Wikimedia projects,” the Foundation said in a blog post announcing the release of the report.

The report’s release coincided with the opening of the first stage of Wikimania, the annual conference of more than 2,000 Wikimedia fans and volunteer editors that is taking place in London this week. It also comes as other web giants, including Facebook, Twitter and Google, are increasingly releasing information about their interactions with governments around the world.

“Transparency is a tenet of the Wikimedia movement,” the Foundation said in its blog post. “The transparency report we share today is in furtherance of our commitment to such openness.”

One of the highest profile cases of a request to remove content came last year when a French intelligence agency asked the Wikimedia Foundation to remove an article about a French military base that it said contained classified military information. The Foundation, noting the information was openly available elsewhere, rejected the request and issued a statement about the incident here.

TIME Iraq

Be Captured and Killed, or Risk Dying of Thirst: The Awful Choice Facing the Refugees of Sinjar

Thousands flee Iraq's Sinjar
Thousands of Iraqis flee from the town of Sinjar, near the city of Mosul, to Erbil and Dohuk after armed groups affiliated with the Islamic State seized the town early on August 4, 2014. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

Tens of thousands of Iraqis are trapped on a barren mountain without water or aid. If they descend, they risk being massacred by Sunni militia

With the world’s focus on the conflict in Gaza, little international attention is being paid to an appalling humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq.

In the country’s far northwest, tens of thousands of people fleeing the Sunni extremist group Islamic State have been trapped on a mountain for days without water or other supplies. The refugees, primarily from the country’s Yazidi religious sect, have begun to die from dehydration and exposure, with no relief in sight.

They face an excruciating dilemma — attempt to flee and risk being captured and killed by insurgents, or remain on Mount Sinjar in the hope that aid will somehow get through.

“A humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar,” said Nickolay Mladenov, special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, in a statement released earlier this week. “The Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government should urgently restore their security cooperation in dealing with the crisis.”

Humanitarian workers say there is no way to deliver supplies to the area outside of intermittent airdrops being conducted by the Iraqi Air Force.

“It’s not possible to get to them by road, obviously because ISIS controls the access roads, so nobody can go, they cannot leave,” Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser, told TIME by phone from northern Iraq on Wednesday.

“It’s going to take a few more days before things coalesce into a more coordinated response.”

On Tuesday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that at least 40 children holed up on the mountain had died as result of dehydration.

“These children from the Yazidi minority died as a direct consequence of violence, displacement and dehydration over the past two days,” said Marzio Babille, a UNICEF representative, in a statement. UNICEF estimates that there are approximately 25,000 children still stranded in and around Sinjar.

Islamic State, which is notorious for its hatred of any group that does not abide by its fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam, is particularly harsh on the Yazidi, who follow an ancient religion with resemblances to Zoroastrianism.

Reports and photos posted by Islamic State earlier appeared to show summary executions of Yazidi men.

The insurgents have “been behaving in a very brutal way with everybody,” says Rovera. “With the Yazidi, it’s worse, simply because the Yazidis’ religion [is] considered devil worship.”

Earlier this summer, Islamic State, along with a smattering of Sunni militias, launched a blitzkrieg throughout northern Iraq capturing large swaths of territory along both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Since then, the militant group has enforced its brand of draconian rule over their territory — targeting religious minorities and destroying troves of prized cultural and religious artifacts deemed heretical.

On Sunday, at least 200,000 people fled the Sinjar region as militants loyal to Islamic State routed Kurdish forces.

Thousands of refugees have made it to the Kurdish Autonomous Region in the far north of the country, but supplies are being stretched by the day as the displaced crowd into refugee camps, cramped apartments and mosques.

In the absence of strong military support from Baghdad, Kurdish militia fighters, including troops from as far away as Turkey and Syria, launched a massive counteroffensive on Tuesday in attempt to dislodge the heavily armed ISIS fighters from the northwest.

TIME Japan

Top Japanese Scientist Who Co-Authored Discredited Stem-Cell Study Commits Suicide

Yoshiki Sasai
Yoshiki Sasai, deputy chief of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo on April 16, 2014. Police said Sasai, 52, was found dead on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. AP

Death is mourned as huge loss to scientific community

A top Japanese scientist who oversaw and co-authored a controversial stem-cell study has committed suicide by hanging, authorities said on Tuesday.

Yoshiki Sasai, 52, was found in a research institution next to his workplace by a security guard on Tuesday morning and was pronounced dead at a hospital two hours later.

Sasai was deputy director of the prestigious RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, and supervised a study by lead author Haruko Obokata that was published in the journal Nature earlier this year.

Obokata claimed to have found a highly innovative new method for creating stem cells, but when the method could not be replicated, a probe was launched and it was found that parts of the study had been plagiarized. The paper was withdrawn from Nature in July, following months of dispute about its veracity.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Sasai maintained that he was brought into the project at a late stage. He consistently expressed remorse for not keeping a closer eye on the research, while continuing to argue that parts of the study held evidence of a genuine breakthrough.

Phil Campbell, editor in chief of Nature, issued a statement calling Sasai’s death a great loss to the scientific community. “Yoshiki Sasai was an exceptional scientist, and he has left an extraordinary legacy of pioneering work across many fields within stem cell and developmental biology,” Campbell said.

TIME India

In Unpredictable India, Security Services Embrace the Drone Revolution

Members of Sikh community stage a protest demonstration in Jammu against Uttar Pradesh government
Members of the Sikh community shout slogans as they burn tires during a protest in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on July 27, 2014. Jaipal Singh—EPA

South Asia's diverse topography, chaotic overpopulation and vast, unplanned cities make drones especially useful

Late last month, a land dispute in Saharanpur, in north India’s Uttar Pradesh state, snowballed into a riot between the local Sikh and Muslim communities, leaving three people dead and injuring over a dozen. Sadly, such clashes are nothing new in this highly polarized state of 200 million. Just last year, communal violence in nearby Muzaffarnagar district claimed 62 lives.

Nevertheless, there was something novel about how this latest bout of violence was addressed. The state’s police called upon a young entrepreneur to help monitor and advise security operations using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more popularly known as drones.

Within hours, drone cameras were up and running in Saharanpur town, keeping close tabs on the volatile and unfolding situation, even in areas security personnel couldn’t reach by car or foot. This helped direct resources to where they were needed most.

“Some of the roads and streets in Saharanpur — and this is pretty typical of most Indian towns — are so narrow that the forces cannot enter there,” says Ankit Mehta, co-founder and CEO of IdeaForge, which manufactures UAVs in India. “But a drone-assisted camera can easily fly in and monitor the situation for the cops.”

In India, drone entrepreneurs like Mehta have been quick to realize that the nation’s diverse topography, chaotic overpopulation and vast, unplanned cities severely hobble traditional security operations, making airborne technology particularly advantageous.

Drones are now being used for monitoring large public gatherings — such as Ramadan processions in Lucknow, also in Uttar Pradesh, where sectarian clashes last year claimed three lives — which frequently spiral out of control due to large, unwieldy crowds. (India regularly suffers stampede-related tragedies.)

More conventionally, drones have also been used in disaster management. Last year, they played a low-key but invaluable role in relief operations in Uttarakhand, a hilly and inhospitable terrain where flash floods killed thousands and displaced many more.

Another Mumbai-based drone company called Airpix partnered with NGOs to carry out aerial surveillance of the flood-hit areas for rebuilding purposes, better planning and enhanced communications. Airpix also helps the Mumbai police monitor major gatherings including Ganesh Chaturthi, an Indian festival that culminates with hundreds of thousands of devotees ferrying idols to be immersed in the sea, creating traffic gridlock all over the city.

But despite a bevy of humanitarian and public-safety work, the image of drones as instruments of war remains hard to shake off. “The misconception that drones are meant more for destructive purposes seems to still linger around,” says Shinil Shekar, head of sales and marketing at Airpix. “And it is important that people be more educated about their potential civilian applications.”

Even so, India is tipped to be “booming” for micro and mini-unmanned aerial vehicles for both civilian and military use by the U.S.-based Advanced Defense Technologies Inc., which calls the market a “multimillion-dollar business that will grow steadily.”

Certainly, Mehta is confident about the future; IdeaForge currently boasts an annual turnover in excess of $1 million, and Mehta expects this to increase by five or six times this year. “It is a scalable opportunity for indigenous entrepreneurs,” he says.

TIME El Salvador

El Salvador Priest Slapped With More Charges for Assisting Gang Members

Antonio Rodriguez
In this Tuesday Oct. 24, 2006 file photo, Roman Catholic priest Antonio Rodriguez Tercero explains the function of the youth center in the San Salvador suburb Mejicanos, El Salvador. Luis Romero—AP

The Catholic official is accused of helping hardened criminals get lesser sentences and continue extorting their victims

Authorities in El Salvador have handed down new charges for a Spanish priest charged with participating in gang activity and giving aid to gang members.

The litany of charges against Roman Catholic priest Antonio Rodriguez Tercero includes: convincing officials to reduce gang member sentences, smuggling contraband into prisons and helping gang members continue extorting victims from behind prison walls, the Associated Press reports.

Tercero says he is being targeted due to his “honesty.” The priest, who runs a parish in a low-income neighborhood and works with gang member rehabilitation programs, has been a critic of the Salvadoran government’s anti-gang efforts.

The same sweep that nabbed Tercero also netted 12 police officers, two judges, three court employees and two prosecution officials for suspected collaboration with the region’s powerful street gangs.

[AP]

TIME feminism

Advocates Seize on White House Africa Summit to Call for End to Child Marriage

US - Africa Leaders Summit Continues In Washington DC
Swaziland King Mswati III, South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit, Djbouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, South Africa President Jacob Zuma, left to right, and other African leaders listen to U.S. President Barack Obama deliver closing remarks during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel August 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Activist groups called on African government officials to ban child marriage amid President Barack Obama’s first U.S.-Africa summit Tuesday.

“Child marriage is a complex human rights issue. It violates myriad women’s rights,” said Amanda Klasing, a women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, during a discussion at United Nations Foundation on Tuesday hosted by the International Center for Research on Women.

The summit was one of many sideline events in Washington coinciding with the U.S.-Africa Summit, a three-day gathering that brings together President Barack Obama with nearly 50 heads of state from across the African continent.

Advocates for the rights of women and girls said issues facing women and girls must be addressed at the summit—particularly the marrying off of young girls. According to a recent UNICEF report, marriage at a young age can lead to women who are less educated, more susceptible to challenges during birth (due to lack of education) and less likely to receive medical care during pregnancy.

The greater issue, advocates said, is that marriage prevents young women from making decisions about their own bodies and lives.

An estimated 700 million women across the globe were once child brides, according to a recent UNICEF report, and about 14 million girls are married off before they reach the age of 18 every year. The International Center for Research on Women found Africa is home to 15 of the 20 countries where child marriage is extremely prevalent.

Without empowering women, says Behailu T. Weldeyohannes, a professor of law at Jimma University in Ethiopia, there is little chance the continent’s burgeoning economy will flourish.

“Africa right now is considered as a poor continent, but potentially it is not poor,” said Weldeyohannes. “If we address gender-based violence and if we provide education, if we provide health, if we provide other services to women—that by itself can increase the [Gross Domestic Product].”

Economic data backs this up. A 2011 World Bank study on the economic benefits of investing in girls found that if young Nigerian women and men had equal rates of economic activity—meaning active participation in the job market by both genders—annual GDP growth in the country would increase by 3.5%.

There are certainly precedents in intervention programs aimed at empowering young women that leaders could look to, should the activists’ words take root. A pilot study conducted by the Population Council and United Nations Population Fund in collaboration with stakeholders in Ethiopia was able to prevent girls age 10 to 14 from marrying young by working with communities, providing school supplies, and setting up mentor groups with girls.

But community-based work alone can’t solve the problem — Governments must put in place laws that promote equality and protect girls as they develop. Dorothy Aken’Ova, the executive director of the International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights in Nigeria, says Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is reportedly attending the Summit, has yet to prove he’s willing to take a real stance on protecting women, even after the kidnapping of over 200 girls from a school by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram drew the world’s attention and ire.

“I am concerned that [Jonathan] is not connecting with the groups that matter adequately on this situation,” Aken’Ova says. “If he could only pause for once and get some feminist analysis into the situation then he will not be far away from a lasting solution. But the question is, is he ready to engage with the feminist movement in the country?”

TIME Middle East

No Easy Answers to Charges of War Crimes in Gaza

A Palestinian man enters his destroyed home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 5, 2014.
A Palestinian man enters his destroyed home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 5, 2014. Oliver Weiken—EPA

Experts on both sides say there were, but proving it will be hard and prosecuting even harder

A three-day cease-fire began in Gaza Tuesday, while Israeli and Palestinian delegations traveled to Cairo to negotiate peace.

But looming over negotiations to end the conflict is the ugly specter of war crimes, which both Israel and Hamas have been accused of committing. On July 23, Navi Pillay, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, suggested that attacks on civilians by both Israel and Hamas may have violated international law “in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”

That’s no idle charge — war crimes are breaches of international humanitarian law defined by the Geneva Conventions as:

“Wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including… wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, …taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”

Investigating and proving this is a lengthy and complex process that could take many months. Nevertheless, experts on both sides of the conflict have already drawn their own conclusions.

“It is fairly clear that Hamas has committed war crimes as a matter of systematic [authorized] policy,” says Abraham Bell, Professor of Law at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. “Hamas has used child soldiers, human shields, indiscriminate firing and weaponry incapable of discriminate firing during the conflict. It has also committed perfidy – using protective objects in an attempt to shield combatants – such as storing rockets in schools,” he adds.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-GAZA-CONFLICT
A picture taken from the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows the trail of a missile launched by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system as it intercepts and destroys a rocket launched from Gaza into Israel on August 4, 2014. Jack Guez—AFP/Getty Images

Though aware Israel has been similarly accused of war crimes, Bell is unconvinced. “It’s hard to argue that there are significant war crimes going on from the Israeli point of view,” he comments. “The IDF has lawyers who accompany and advise commanders on missions.”

Israel’s detractors might argue that these legal experts could be more effective: The U.N. places the most recent death toll in Gaza at over 1,200, most of them civilians. Bell says civilian deaths are not necessarily war crimes. “You could end up with a lot of civilian casualties and have acted in accordance with the law,” he says. “It’s expected that there are going to be a lot of civilian deaths in urban warfare.”

Not on this scale, says Simon Natas, partner at ITN solicitors, who has worked with the UK-based organization Palestine Solidarity Campaign.”There are two enormously powerful inferences to draw from the extraordinarily high number of civilian casualties caused by Israel. Either it’s targeting civilians or its attempts to distinguish them from combatants is wholly inadequate,” Natas says. “Both constitute war crimes.”

“We know that Israel has directly targeted non-combatants… I don’t think there is any doubt that they deliberately attacked civilian targets such as mosques, hospitals and the Islamic University in Gaza,” he says.

Natas further claims that the extensive shelling — which, he says, “has characterized this conflict” — is the real “indiscriminate firing” Bell accuses Hamas of carrying out. “There are vast areas where all houses have been flattened,” Natas says. “It’s simply not possible to repeatedly fire these types of shells and not risk disproportionate civilian casualties.”

Though Israel says it warns civilians of attacks by dropping leaflets, leaving pre-recorded messages, and firing warning missiles, Natas is unimpressed. “A civilian is entitled to say ‘I want to remain in my home’ and it doesn’t mean they can be killed for exercising that right.”

Natas concedes that Hamas, too, fires indiscriminately at Israeli civilian areas but adds: “They don’t have the sophisticated technology to only hit military targets… they use extremely primitive weapons.” That lack of discrimination is not deliberate, he says, but due to a technical lack of control when retaliating against a more powerful, national military. That militant organizations can be accused of war crimes when they’re forced to resort to crude weaponry for self-defense, he says, is “an issue that international law needs to get to grips with.”

Accusations of war crimes are easy to come by, but prosecutions of them are not. While the UN Human Rights Council conducted a war crimes inquiry into a three-week conflict in Gaza in 2008-9 that concluded there had been serious violations on both sides, it had no powers of enforcement. For prosecution to actually go ahead, the domestic country must first have investigated its own conduct.

Natas says that Israel’s analysis of its own actions during war has never been carried out with sufficient rigor or impartiality, and believes it will be much the same after Operation Protective Edge. So, he says, “two NGOs in Gaza – al-Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – will be impartially collecting evidence of war crimes along with the U.N.”

Though Natas says the Gazan NGOs will also report on any crimes committed by Hamas, Bell says the militant group won’t carry out an internal investigation into its own conduct either. “A terrorist organization is not going to investigate its own war crimes,” he says.

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinians remove pieces of rubble from a house hit by an Israeli airstrike in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, on August 4, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

Once the internal process has been completed, the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) can intervene if it thinks the process has been unsatisfactory. However, the court doesn’t have jurisdiction in Israel or in Palestine, meaning that it can’t prosecute them without U.N. Security Council referral.

Israel refused to ratify the I.C.C.’s treaty, the Rome Statute, in 1998, and though Palestine is keen to join the treaty after being declared a non-member state by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, Natas says it’s under pressure from Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. to stay away lest it tries to prosecute Israeli officials. The U.S. also voted against making Palestine a non-member state.

Two other options remain. The U.N.’s Security Council can request an I.C.C. investigation or an independent country that has universal jurisdiction can prosecute individuals for war crimes. Universal jurisdiction is possessed by 166 states, who, according to Amnesty International, “have defined one or more of four crimes under international law (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture) as crimes in their national law.”

Both Natas and Bell agree that the former looks unlikely. Bell thinks the U.N. Security Council won’t target a Palestinian military group whilst Natas says that the U.S., Israel’s strongest ally and a permanent member of the council, would veto any attempt to take Israeli officials to the I.C.C.

However, prosecution of Israel or Hamas could still happen in one of those 166 states. “It remains a distinct possibility that the prosecutions could happen in another country,” says Natas. “It’s just a question of them having the will and the political power.”

Any attempt to prosecute either party would cause huge international ramifications, but it likely wouldn’t come any time soon. Any war crimes inquiry would need to come after the conflict has drawn to a lasting halt, and a domestic investigation has been carried out — and right now, less than a day into a shaky cease-fire, what everyone is hoping for is peace.

TIME Religion

Behind British Minister of Faith Sayeeda Warsi’s Resignation Over Gaza

Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, British Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 10, 2013.
Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, British Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 10, 2013. T. Mughal—EPA

Her choice is bold and dramatic, and it sends a strong statement that political will requires moral courage.

Politicians don’t often quit out of principle. They especially do not quit out of moral principle. But, on the rare occasion that they do, it is dramatic.

That’s what happened Tuesday morning, when Sayeeda Warsi, the United Kingdom’s first Minister of Faith and the first Muslim to serve as a Cabinet minister, resigned in protest of her government’s approach to the crisis in Gaza. “For some weeks, in meetings and discussions, I have been open and honest about my views on the conflict in Gaza and our response to it,” she wrote in her resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, which she posted on Twitter. “My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East Peace Process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”

Cameron replied in a statement, thanking her for her work and regretting her decision. “Our policy has always been consistently clear–the situation in Gaza is intolerable and we’ve urged both sides to agree to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire,” he said.

At first glance, one might assume that this story is simply “Muslim minister resigns over U.K. support for Israel.” Warsi is, after all, the first Muslim to serve in so high a position, and soon after her resignation, she called for an immediate arms embargo against Israel in an interview with the Huffington Post UK.

But that’s almost certainly too simplistic an understanding of what happened. Warsi has built her professional career on a foundational principle that religious and historic divides do not necessitate irreconcilable divisions or violence. She made it her mission to help create a government that, as she often said, would “do God” and advocate for faith’s place in society. That meant working for people of all faiths. She spoke out against Islamophobia and worked to make sure British government was inclusive for Muslims. In 2012 she let the U.K.’s largest ministerial delegation to the Vatican. Last year she came to Washington, DC, to speak out against the global persecution of Christians. One of her main goals was to encourage the international community to develop a cross-faith, cross-continent commitment to protect Christian minorities. Religious persecution, she told me at the time, is the biggest challenge of the 21st century. “It is about working up the political will,” she said. “It is about getting some consensus, it is about politicians being prepared to take on these difficult challenges.”

Her personal faith story is also one that bridges divides often thought to be unbridgeable. She is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants and grew up in a Muslim family with a blended theological background that included both Shias and Sunnis. “We were taught to respect and love other faiths as much as we loved our own, and I suppose, you know, quite strong teachings that you can only truly be a Muslim if you also are Christian and Jewish before that, that actually Islam is just an extension of the other faiths and it has been a process where various books have been revealed at various times,” she told me. “I don’t see there is a collision course between people of faith, I actually do think it is instinctively based up on the same values.”

Her whole story is rooted in commitment to a higher calling. It makes her decision to resign is all the more dramatic, and it sends a strong statement that political will requires moral courage. “I always said that long after life in politics I must be able to live with myself for the decision I took or the decisions I supported,” she said in her resignation letter. “By staying in Government at this time I do not feel I can be sure of that.”

She may have resigned, but that does not mean her voice has been silenced: it may be louder as a result.

TIME Afghanistan

U.S. General Officer Killed in ‘Insider Attack’ in Afghanistan

Afghan National Army soldiers keep watch at the gate of a British-run military training academy Camp Qargha, in Kabul on August 5, 2014.
Afghan National Army soldiers keep watch at the gate of a British-run military training academy Camp Qargha, in Kabul on August 5, 2014. Omar Sobhani—Reuters

The Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday that a U.S. general was killed,

Updated 5:17 p.m. ET August 5

A man in an Afghan army uniform opened fire Tuesday on American-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, injuring up to 14 troops and killing a United States general officer, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said at a news conference hours after the incident that the officer, Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, was “one of if not the highest ranking deaths” in the war in Afghanistan. Greene was re-assigned in January from a position in Washington, D.C., to take on the role of deputy commanding general in Afghanistan.

Multiple news outlets reported through the day that a U.S. Army major general was killed in the attack in Kabul, with the New York Times saying the officer was the highest-ranking member of the U.S. military to die in hostilities in Afghanistan.

Kirby said there were up to 15 casualties, including members of the Afghan National Security Forces. He said the shooter was suspected to be a member of the ANSF.

The NATO-led forces confirmed earlier that the attack occurred at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul, and not Camp Qargha as the German military said in its statement earlier Tuesday.

A spokesman for Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry, Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, said a “terrorist in an army uniform” opened fire on local and international troops, according to the Associated Press.Azimi said the shooter was killed. The German military, which said the assault was launched “probably by internal attackers,” said a German brigadier general was among the injured.

So-called “insider attacks” in Afghanistan have dropped sharply since 2012, when such attacks killed 53 coalition troops, according to the AP. Last year, 16 people were killed by such attacks.

The Taliban, which often take credit for such attacks, did not immediately comment to a New York Times reporter.

[NYT]

TIME Video Games

Google Removes ‘Bomb Gaza’ Game From Play Store

Google Play

The company has removed several other games related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent days, claiming they violate the the Google Play store's policies.

In Bomb Gaza, a game about doing precisely what its peremptory title commands, you play as the Israeli Air Force, tapping a touchscreen to pour red-nosed bombs into a 2D multi-level landscape filled with cartoonish people wearing white robes and clutching children — meant to signify civilians — as well as others draped in black, clutching rifles, touting greenish headbands and grinning maniacally. The goal is to hit those black-garbed militants — presumably members of Palestinian militant group Hamas — while avoiding the white-clad civilians.

At some point in the past 24 hours, Google removed Bomb Gaza from its Android Play store (the game was released on July 29). It’s not clear why. Google’s only officially saying what companies like it so often say when handed political hot potatoes: that it doesn’t comment on specific apps, but that it removes ones from its store that violate its policies. The game’s dismissal comes just as Israel says it’s pulling out of Gaza in observance of a three-day ceasefire, on the heels of a month-long fight that has to date left nearly 1,900 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and 67 Israelis (mostly soldiers) dead.

It’s unclear which of Google’s policies Bomb Gaza might have infringed, but in Google’s Developer Program Policies document, it notes under a subsection titled Violence and Bullying that “Depictions of gratuitous violence are not allowed,” and that “Apps should not contain materials that threaten, harass or bully other users.” Under another titled Hate Speech, Google writes “We don’t allow content advocating against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity.”

Bomb Gaza isn’t the only Gaza-centric game Google’s removed: another, dubbed Gaza Assault: Code Red is about dropping bombs on Palestinians using Israeli drones. Its designers describe the game as “[bringing] you to the forefront of the middle-east conflict, in correlation to ongoing real world events.” It was also just yanked, as was another titled Whack the Hamas, in which players have to target Hamas members as they pop out of tunnels.

Politically-themed games about touchy current issues have been around for years, from depictions of deadly international situations like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to others modeled on flashpoints like school shootings. In late 2008, a game called Raid Gaza! appeared around the time Israel was carrying out “Operation Cast Lead,” a conflict that left 13 Israelis and some 1,400 Palestinians dead. In that title, you’re tasked with killing as many Palestinians as you can in three minutes, and actually afforded bonuses for hitting civilian targets, all while listening to a version of the Carpenter’s saccharine “Close to You.”

But the game wasn’t merely a pro-Israeli celebration of violence against Palestinians, it was a pointed editorial reflection on the horrors of the Gaza conflict. As games critic Ian Bogost wrote at the time:

The game is headstrong, suffering somewhat from its one-sided treatment of the issue at hand. But as an editorial, it is a fairly effective one both as opinion text and as game. It is playable and requires strategy, the exercise of which carries the payload of commentary.

Other games about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persist: There’s Peacemaker, a more serious and simulation-angled game about the conflict that its developers say was designed “to promote peace.” Another, called Iron Dome (still available on Google’s Play store), lets players intercept incoming rockets using Israel’s eponymous missile defense system. A third, called Rocket Pride (also still available on Google’s Play store), lets players provide “support for the besieged Gaza Strip” by firing rockets at targets in Israel. There’s clearly a winnowing process here, in other words, with Google favoring some apps but not others. It’s just not clear what that process is.

I haven’t played Bomb Gaza, so I can’t speak to its efficacy as either a game or an editorial commentary (or whether it was even intended as the latter). When I reached out to the game’s creator, he told me it had been “developed without any budget” and “more for fun,” and that he was “very surprised to catch such attention with it.”

But the game’s removal raises older questions that we need to keep asking: Should companies like Google remove politically charged games because passerby find them offensive? Are we overreacting to some of these games instead of taking the time to consider whether they’re intended as satirical (be it nuanced or crude, successful or misguided)? Are games that depict violence related to a current event fundamentally so different from caustic political cartoons or scathing op-eds? And should companies like Apple and Google and Amazon — and thereby the swiftly narrowing channels through which we’re acquiring more and more of our content — also be the arbiters of what’s morally tasteful?

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