TIME

Indonesia Bans Noah

Rio Premiere of "NOAH"
Russell Crowe attends the premiere of Noah in Rio de Janeiro on March 12, 2014. He said the banning of the film in some Muslim countries was "not unexpected" Getty Images

The Hollywood biblical blockbuster contradicts Islam, say film censors in the world's most populous Muslim nation

 

Indonesia has banned the release of the Hollywood blockbuster Noah, saying the biblical epic contradicts the teachings of the Koran and may mislead people.

“We don’t want a film that could provoke reactions and controversies,” said Film Censorship Board member Zainut Tauhid Sa’adi on Monday, according to news portal Detik.com. “Members of the Film Censorship Board have agreed to reject [the film].”

Noah, an adaptation of the Old Testament story of Noah’s Ark, stars Russell Crowe in the title role and was scheduled to be released in Indonesia on March 28 — the same date as in the U.S.

However, the largest cinema franchise in Indonesia, 21 Group, confirms that it will no longer be releasing the film. “We will follow the censors’ decision, and Noah will not be screened,” said Catherine Keng, the company’s corporate secretary.

The news of the ban has been greeted largely with condemnation and derision in Indonesia’s social media forums. “Stupidity is indeed unlimited. The example is at LSF!” tweeted Mumu Aloha, managing editor of Detik.com’s entertainment website detikHot, referring to the Indonesian initials of the Film Censorship Board.

Other Twitter users pointed out the glaring inconsistency in the banning of the Darren Aronofsky–directed blockbuster on the one hand and the free availability of locally made soft-porn horror flicks on the other.

Said filmmaker Joko Anwar on his Twitter account: “Common sense in Indonesia regresses far. So sad.”

Islamic scholar Mohamad Guntur Romli also slammed the ban. “A film that is based on a biblical story can’t be accused of violating, for example, Islamic doctrines,” Guntur tweeted.

Noah, who appears in the Bible’s Book of Genesis, is revered by the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Indonesia, home to the world’s largest number of Muslim adherents, has a sizable Christian minority, comprising around 10% of its total population.

Censorship-board member Zainut defended the ban by claiming, “Essentially, the film contains elements of SARA” — the Indonesian acronym that refers to the country’s four sensitive issues: ethnicity, religion, race and sectarian sentiment.

But Guntur countered: “It’s the Film Censorship Board that could trigger SARA if they indeed ban Noah because it’s influenced by the Bible.”

The ban in Indonesia follows similar moves in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain in early March. A representative of Paramount Pictures, which produced the $125 million movie, said “The official statement they offered … is because ‘it contradicts the teachings of Islam.’”

Also this month, clerics at al-Azhar University, a main center of Islamic learning in Cairo, issued a religious edict against Noah, objecting to “any act depicting the messengers of God and the companions of the Prophet [Muhammad].” Egypt has yet to decide whether it would allow the film to be screened.

Zainut denied that Indonesia was influenced by the bans in the Middle East.

Early screenings of Noah also generated criticisms from conservative Christian groups in the U.S., who claimed the movie did not following the Bible story closely enough, though religious leaders have since come around and endorsed the film.

Crowe, who plays the ark-building patriarch, shrugs off the controversy his film has sparked in the Muslim world. “To be frank, given that it is a tenet of the Muslim religion that you can’t make stories or render images about the Prophet, it was not unexpected that some Islamic nations would ban the film,” he told the Telegraph.

The Indonesian censors do not say if the ban is due to the depiction of Noah. But Guntur points out that while images of the Prophet Muhammad are taboo in Indonesia, it is not uncommon to have other Islamic prophets, including Noah, as well as Muhammad’s companions, pictured in children’s comic books.

Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, which portrays the final hours of Jesus, whom Muslims regard as a prophet, was screened in Indonesia but banned in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain. In Malaysia, the 2004 film was allowed to be screened for Christians only.

TIME norway

Norway’s Army Has Introduced Unisex Dorms and Reports No Problems

Shotgun firing on board KV Svalbard, the Norwegian Navy's largest vessel. Haakon Kjøllmoen—Sjøforsvaret / Forsvarets mediesenter

Sharing bedrooms is reducing gender differences and increasing team spirit

It may sound like a counter-intuitive move, but the Norwegian Army’s decision to make females share bedrooms with their male colleagues has actually led to a drop in sexual harassment.

The unisex dorms, housing two women and four men, have been tried out at a military base in northern Norway. Ulla-Britt Lilleaas, co-author of the report The Army: The Vanguard, Rear Guard and Battlefield of Equality, said that the experience helped the women become “one of the boys.”

One of the women was surprised to find that sharing a room made gender differences less relevant.

“You have to be a team here, and then you have to live together in order to be able to trust in one another,” she said.

The Norwegian armed forces have previously distinguished themselves for progressive ideas such as allowing male recruits to grow their hair long (as long as it’s kept in a pony-tail or braids) and serving vegetarian meals once a week. In 2013, Norway became the first NATO country to make military service compulsory for both genders.

[The Local]

TIME russia

Looking at the World Through Putin’s Pupils

Russian President Vladimir Putin Signs Law Completing Crimea Annexation
Sasha Mordovets / Getty Images

Russia looks like it is readying to cleave Ukraine, perhaps bringing some of its eastern half back into the warm embrace of Mother Russia. After Vladimir Putin’s sleight of army, which deftly plucked Crimea back to the Kremlin’s fold after 60 years, anything is possible.

“The [Russian] force that is at the Ukrainian border now to the east is very, very sizable and very, very ready,” U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top commander, said Sunday. The North Atlantic alliance has tried partnering with Russia for stability in Eurasia, he added, but “Russia is acting much more like an adversary than a partner.”

Given this sudden shift in the geostrategic winds, it’s worth pausing and pondering how this latest chill between Washington and Moscow looks to the Russian people. Whether military moves are justified to outsiders sometimes seems fuzzy if such actions are taken against allies, client states or puppet regimes—especially if they’re in the neighborhood.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and decades of economic anemia in Russia that followed for everyone except plutocratic oligarchs, it’s easier to understand Putin’s successful military roll. After all, from a Russian point of view, the U.S. has been stepping on a lot of toes a little too close to Red Square.

So it may be worth considering how things look through former KGB-apparatchik Putin’s light-blue eyes. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the U.S. has:

  • Booted longtime Soviet ally Saddam Hussein and his Iraq military from Kuwait in a 100-hour ground campaign in 1991. Sure, Saddam was a cruel dictator, and someone we hanky-pankyed with to help keep Iran in line, but Baghdad was basically a Russian client. Baghdad is 6,200 miles from Washington, D.C., but only 1,600 miles from Moscow.
  • In 1999, the U.S. led a 10-week bombing campaign that forced the Serbs—Slavs, just like the Russians, and long-time allies of Moscow—out of Kosovo. Sure, Serbian President Slobodan Milošević was a thug to Americans, but to the Russians he was a Slav and one-time communist ally. Milošević, known as the “Butcher of the Balkans,” died of a heart attack in 2006 while imprisoned in the Hague in the Netherlands. His death came shortly after the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia denied him permission to get specialized cardiac care in Russia. Belgrade is 4,700 miles from Washington, D.C., and 1,100 miles from Moscow.
  • In 2001, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, a nation on Russia’s doorstep that it had tried, and failed, to subjugate during a decade-long occupation that ended, ignominiously for Moscow, in 1989. The U.S. has been in Afghanistan even longer, but it’s not sure how long the improvements the U.S. has been able to bring to Afghanistan, at a cost of 2,216 American lives and nearly $1 trillion, will last. Kabul is 6,900 miles from Washington, D.C., and 1,100 miles from Moscow.
  • In 2003, apparently convinced that the original President Bush’s failure to topple Saddam was half-hearted and ill-conceived, his son finished up what his father started by bringing “shock and awe” to downtown Baghdad. It led to the collapse of Saddam’s brutal government. After U.S. troops captured Saddam later that year, his political opponents hanged him in 2006.

Each of these events bothered at least some Russian elements in a big way. And while they may have appeared right, and even necessary, to most American eyes, Russians saw them as increasing evidence of U.S. bullying (not nice) and encroachment on Russia’s sphere of influence (really not nice). Local time in Baghdad and Kabul, for example, is within an hour of Moscow’s.

For those keeping score at home, Russia invaded the former Soviet republic of Georgia in 2008. It also recognizes Georgia’s separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Now it has gobbled up Crimea, and more of Ukraine may follow.

“Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people,” President Obama said Monday in the Netherlands. “We’re united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far.”

But despite such warnings, Putin is getting support for his latest land grab from an unusual corner. “We respect the decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office said over the weekend. Kabul’s U.S.-installed and propped government was the first western-backed democracy to endorse Putin’s move.

“It’s clearly not helpful,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said Monday of Karzai’s comments. “It’s the opinion of the alliance that Russia is absolutely in violation of international obligations, violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and we continue to call for them to remove their troops from Crimea.”

Don’t count on that call being answered.

TIME Environment

WHO Report: Air Pollution Killed 7 Million People in 2012

People wearing masks are seen on a hazy day at Tiananmen Square in Beijing
People wearing masks are seen on a hazy day at Tiananmen Square in Beijing February 13, 2014. Kim Kyung Hoon—REUTERS

Heart disease, stroke brought on by air pollution led to about 80% of deaths

Air pollution killed 7 million people across the globe in 2012, making it the world’s largest single environmental health risk, according to the World Health Organization.

Outdoor air pollution was linked to about 3.7 million deaths, with about 80 percent of those deaths the result of stroke and heart disease. The most air pollution-related deaths happened in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, per AFP. Meanwhile, the effects of indoor air pollution — caused by coal, wood, and open-air fires — killed an estimated 4.3 million people, NBC News reports.

“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” WHO’s Dr. Maria Neira said in a statement. “Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”

For comparison’s sake, a 2008 WHO report estimated outdoor pollution led to about 1.3 million deaths, while about 1.9 million people were killed by indoor pollution. The jump in figures is due to a change in research methods, AFP reports.

[NBC News]

TIME Taiwan

Taiwanese Students Carry Out Epic Occupation of Parliament

Protesters, including many students, continue their occupation of Taiwan's main legislature, demonstrating against a new trade pact that would strengthen ties with China

TIME russia

Putin’s Fear of Texting Kept U.S. Spymasters in the Dark

President Putin phones as he watches TV in his residence in Novo-Ogarevo outside Moscow in 2012.
Russian President Putin phones as he watches TV in his residence in Novo-Ogarevo, outside Moscow, in 2012 Alexey Druzhinin—AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't use a cell phone, nor does he often use technology, which makes it very difficult for America's spymasters to tap his devices for actionable intelligence ahead of Russian military movements

Earlier this month, as Russia began its takeover of the region of Crimea, U.S. spy agencies reportedly found a worrying silence in the spot where they were listening most attentively — the digital space around Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military brass. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, U.S. intelligence services could not intercept any communications on the start of the Crimean invasion. One U.S. official called it a piece of “classic maskirovka,” the Russian spy term for masking sensitive data. But at least part of the radio silence may have a simpler explanation: Putin, by his own admission, does not have a cell phone for the Americans to tap.

Nor can he be called a man of the Internet age, which he has long derided, most recently on March 20, two days after he formally annexed Crimea from Ukraine. During a meeting that day with Russian industrialists, one of them cited documents that could be found online. “I rarely look at that,” Putin retorted, “into that place where you apparently live, that Internet.”

Outmoded as that may sound, the remark was in line with Putin’s long-established communication habits, which have apparently made him a very hard target for foreign spies. Unlike German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose phone was tapped for years by the U.S. National Security Agency, Putin does not do text messaging. He has no social-networking pages. He gets his news from the daily briefings of his own spy agencies. And as early as 2005, at the start of his second term as President, Putin said that he does not own a cell phone.

“If I had a mobile phone, it would never stop ringing,” Putin said when asked about this most recently in 2010. “More than that, when my home phone rings, I don’t ever answer it.”

That seems astounding for the leader of a country that has more activated cell phones than people and more Internet users than any other nation in Europe. But in some ways Putin’s technophobia is part of a Russian tradition older than the telephone itself: an aversion to blabbering that has been hardwired into the national psyche after a century of life in an industrial police state. In Soviet times, the eavesdropping practices of Putin’s alma mater, the KGB, even gave rise to a Russian saying that my grandmother still uses when talking to my mother. “This is not a telephone conversation,” Russians like to say in the middle of a telephone conversation, reminding each other that only the most innocent chatter is safe to transmit over an insecure line.

“This is a Soviet habit,” says Andrei Soldatov, a Moscow-based expert on the Russian surveillance state. “Nothing can beat it out of us.”

In Putin’s case, though probably not in my grandmother’s, the Kremlin devotes massive resources to keeping conversations private. The Russian school of cryptography, says Soldatov, has a long track record of standing up to Western spies. Most recently in 2009, both American and British spy agencies reportedly attempted to tap the communications of Dmitri Medvedev, who was then serving as Russia’s President, during a summit of world leaders in London. According to documents provided to the Guardian newspaper by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, they bugged the phones, but they could not break the Kremlin’s encryption, says Soldatov. “Our special services may not be great. But when the task is to protect the data of just a few top people, they can manage.”

Putin, a former spymaster himself, makes that as easy for them as possible. During one of the rare instances when state TV showed him using what appeared to be a cell phone in 2010, it was not the type of smartphone that the NSA has proved so adept at tapping. It was a bricklike device, black and clunky, which Putin held to his ear while standing in a forest of birch. Whatever that gadget was, it earned him a lot of ridicule from the snarky Russian blogosphere.

So did the contents of his private office, which was first shown to the public in 2012 as part of a fawning documentary aired on state TV in time for Putin’s 60th birthday. On his desk, there did appear to be a computer, although Putin made clear that this was not his source of news. The stack of red folders from his intelligence agencies provided that, and as for his methods of communication, there was a bank of ancient yellow telephones on his desk, the type found in any Kremlin office. Instead of a dial pad, these usually have just one button with a name beside it, and my only attempt to play with one a few years ago, in the pressroom of Putin’s residence, revealed no secrets. The line was dead.

TIME health

Iraq Sees First Confirmed Case of Polio In 14 Years

The strain observed in an Iraqi six-month-old matches one observed in Syria last September

Iraq has reported its first confirmed case of polio in 14 years, and the World Health Organization said displacement caused by the ongoing violence in the Anbar Province of Iraq and Syria may be to blame.

A six-month old baby near Baghdad was paralyzed as a result of the debilitating virus, which is generally found among children under five years old. According to the humanitarian news service Irin News, the strain matches one observed in Syria last September, though how the Iraqi child contracted the virus is not known.

Doctors in the region say relentless conflict has made it difficult to track and immunize vulnerable populations. “When you have large population movements and system breakdown, implementation of vaccinations can be patchy, and then you have a perfect picture for the re-introduction of the virus,” said Marzio Babille, UNICEF representative in Iraq, according to Irin. “That was the case in Syria and now this is the case in Iraq.”

Although polio is highly contagious and incurable, it can be prevented using vaccines. Worldwide cases of polio have decreased by 99% since 1988 due to global eradication efforts. WHO officials increased surveillance and immunization for polio as a result of the outbreak in Syria and are planning to revamp efforts beginning in April. The WHO will focus immunization and surveillance in the Anbar region of Iraq, which shares a border with Syria, because of where the previous outbreak spread.

An estimated 400,000 people are displaced because of the conflict in Anbar. Officials are reportedly investigating whether or not the polio case in Baghdad came as a result of movement from the region. A WHO official told Irin security issues in the area make it difficult for them to administer immunizations.

[Irin News]

TIME Syria

For Syrians, Social Media Is More Useful than the U.N. Security Council

Residents wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp on Jan. 31, 2014 in Damascus.
This photo taken at Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus in Jan. 2014 went viral and was later displayed on billboards at New York’s Times Square. UNRWA—Getty Images

A damning new report shows a U.N. Security Council resolution has done little to provide humanitarian relief to Syria's besieged, beleaguered civilians, even as a social media campaign for one town manages to crack regime resolve

According to a scathing internal assessment inadvertently leaked to the media, last month’s United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the use of siege warfare in Syria, where an estimated 220,000 people had been cut off from basic food and health supplies as part of an ongoing campaign to starve citizens into submission, has achieved little results. On February 22, Security Council Resolution 2139 called for the Syrian government, as well as armed opposition groups, to immediately open access for the delivery of desperately needed aid. The passage of the resolution was hailed as a hopeful sign of progress and promised relief from the “chilling darkness” that had fallen over the Syrian people.

Of course residents of Yarmouk, one of the besieged towns cited in the original resolution, don’t need a report to spell out what they already know: that the little aid that has managed to trickle through in the wake of the resolution makes a mockery of U.N. resolve. “We can’t call this living,” says Mahmood Nasar, a 24-year-old anti-regime activist, via Skype from inside Yarmouk. “People are not living. They are psychologically and physically drained.” Still, the aid that did manage to break through may have had more to do with a serendipitous photo and a massive social media campaign than any finger wagging from the U.N.

The report, the first of a series of monthly assessments on the resolution’s implementation, notes that the numbers of Syrian civilians under siege have hardly changed. The report goes on to detail government obstruction to the delivery of vital humanitarian aid, from “unanswered” requests for convoy approvals to a “lack of internal communication… resulting in denial of access or delays at checkpoints, and continued insecurity.” Medical assistance in particular has been singled out, according to the report. “Since the adoption of the resolution, medical supplies have been removed by government officials from [humanitarian aid] convoys … which would have assisted around 201,000 people.” The government of President Bashar Assad “has ramped up its campaign of dropping barrel bombs into residential neighborhoods of Aleppo city, [making] no effort to distinguish civilians from military targets.” The report is equally vociferous against elements within the armed opposition, who are keeping some 45,000 Syrians under siege as a bargaining tactic.

Not only does the report offer a bleak assessment of the situation in Syria, which is described as a country whose “cities and villages have been reduced to rubble;” it is an oblique indictment of the U.N. and the Security Council, which has so far been unable to force the Syrian regime, or the rebels for that matter, to respect the sanctity of human life. “Frustration applies to a lot of places in Syria,” says Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] that is overseeing the delivery of aid to Yarmouk, a former Palestinian refugee settlement on the outskirts of Damascus that has been under siege for nine months. “In Yarmouk the situation is beyond imagination. We have women dying in childbirth for lack of medical care, widespread reports of children with malnutrition and people starving, and eating animal feed to survive; all this in the capital city of a UN member state in the 21st century. It beggars belief.”

But unlike many other cities and towns mentioned in the report, Yarmouk is at least seeing some assistance—UNRWA has been able to deliver 9000 aid parcels, containing enough basic food to feed a family for 10 days, in the past two months. That probably has more to do with a viral social media campaign that cast a harsh light on government intransigence than any harshly worded U.N. statement, raising further questions about the efficacy of a politics-plagued international body whose veto-wielding members are divided over Assad’s right to rule.

UNRWA’s Yarmouk campaign, which has been built around a now-iconic photo of teeming masses surging over an apocalyptic scene of destruction to reach a food distribution point, has drawn international attention in a way that few other scenes of Syrian suffering have. The photo was displayed simultaneously on massive electronic billboards in New York’s Times Square and Tokyo’s Shibuya district, and was tweeted, “liked” and shared some 38.5 million times. Celebrities from Alfonso Cuarón to Hugh Grant, Sting, Annie Lennox and Hanif Kureishi joined in to call for humanitarian access. Gunness doesn’t claim that a photo broadcast appearing on the Times Square Jumbotron changed the regime’s calculation overnight, but social media did play a role, he says. “The parties know they are being scrutinized. We have plenty of anecdotal evidence that the social media campaign is being felt on the ground. The fact that we now have a humanitarian corridor open for aid says a lot about what has been achieved.”

It also says a lot about the herculean efforts necessary to move the Assad regime to act. Gunness admits that what little UNRWA has been able to force through to the 18,000 starving residents of Yarmouk is but “a drop in the bucket.” The UNRWA food parcel, he says, “is barely enough to stave off malnutrition.” Even with all the tweets, celebrity endorsements and worldwide attention, only a fraction of Yarmouk’s residents have received aid, let alone achieved the freedoms called for by the Security Council. “The U.N. resolution is not about keeping people one millimeter from the brink of starvation and destitution. We want the full realization of all their needs,” says Gunness.

That may take a while. In order to forestall an inevitable veto from Security Council member Russia, which backs the Assad regime, the resolution’s stated response for noncompliance was watered down to a less threatening “further steps” to be debated in a subsequent meeting. Further steps that of course risk another Russian veto. As long as Russia has an interest in keeping Assad in power, Syria’s other cities under siege my have to hope for their own social media campaigns to crack the barriers to aid.

—with reporting by Hania Mourtada / Beirut

TIME Egypt

Egypt’s Mass Death Sentencing of 529 People Stirs Global Outrage

A relative of a supporter of Egyptian ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi is supported as he faints outside the courthouse on March 24, 2014 in the central Egyptian city of Minya, after the court ordered the execution of 529 Morsi supporters after only two hearings.
A relative of a supporter of Egyptian ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi is supported as he faints outside the courthouse on March 24, 2014 in the central Egyptian city of Minya, after the court ordered the execution of 529 Morsi supporters after only two hearings. AFP/Getty Images

The death sentence for 529 defendants, unprecedented in modern Egyptian history, came after a controversial one-day trial that casts Egypt's military-backed government in even worse light amid its ruthless crackdown on dissent

With the abrupt sentencing of 529 defendants to death after a one-day mass trial that allowed no genuine defense, Egypt’s state institutions appear to be taking their cues from the terrorists they claim to be targeting. The order Monday by a judge in Upper Egypt brought condemnation from rights groups and foreign observers in terms familiar to the aftermath of a car bomb — “indiscriminate,” “mass killing,” “grotesque,” “disaster,” “exterminationist.” Legal experts scrambled to find an instance in modern history where more executions were ordered in a single go, and came up empty.

“This is way over the top and unacceptable,” Mohammed Zarei, a human rights attorney in Cairo, told the Associated Press. Egypt’s courts, he said, were turning “from a tool for achieving justice to an instrument for taking revenge.”

That has been the trend across the state apparatus since last July 3, when Egypt’s military deposed the elected government led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the insular Islamists who had failed to bring the country together following the 2011 overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. The new government’s methods have been unapologetically blunt: 1,400 to 2,000 killed, including nearly 1,000 in August on a few blocks of the Cairo streets where Brotherhood loyalists camped out for weeks to protest the coup. The death sentences announced Monday arose from riots that broke out in response to that Cairo assault in August; protesters in Minya, 150 miles south of the capital, attacked a police station and a deputy commander was killed.

If blunt force has come to be expected in the street, however, it still stands out in a courtroom. Outraged reports from Minya took their weight from accumulation of details — the airing and discussion of which are usually the point of a trial, but that judge Said Youssef refused even to hear. The wife of one defendant, an attorney who frequently represented Brotherhood members, told Buzzfeed that phone and visitor logs showed he was in a meeting when the charges claimed he had been arrested. Another defendant was confined to a wheelchair by paralysis at the time of the disturbance.

Defense attorneys complained that they had no chance to examine investigative files running more than 3,000 pages. Only a fraction of the defendants were even present in the courtroom, where decorum deteriorated and bailiffs moved in after the judge refused to postpone proceedings so defense lawyers could read the evidence.

“The judge stood up, looked at us, put his hands on his belly and announced: Monday is the verdict,” defense attorney Yasser Zidan told AP.

The stunning sentence that followed could yet be overturned by Egypt’s Grand Mufti. But Monday’s verdict stirred international opprobrium against an Egyptian regime that has arrested 16,000 citizens, declared the Brotherhood a “terrorist organization” and jailed journalists, human rights advocates and democratic activists who had been leaders in the 2011 uprising that deposed President Hosni Mubarak. U.S. State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf said it was “pretty shocking” that 529 people were sentenced to die for the death of one policeman and it “defies logic” that they were all tried appropriately within just two days. “There’s no place for politically motivated convictions in a country that’s moving toward democracy,” she said.

Dissent is not brooked by the current military-backed government. It pointedly refuses to draw any distinction between the Brotherhood, which historically eschews violence, and militant Islamist extremists who are waging guerrilla and terror attacks against the state in the Sinai peninsula, and occasionally on the mainland. Monday’s sentence reflected the government’s continued willingness not only to alienate Egyptians sympathetic to the Brotherhood, but label them as an enemy. “You cannot sentence 528 people to death at once,” one observer Tweeted, giving an alternate total also circulating in reports. “That is a civil war.”

The stage was set for Tuesday, when 682 more defendants are scheduled for trial, including the top Brotherhood official, Mohamed Badie, whose title is Supreme Guide. The proceedings are, once again, in Minya.

TIME animals

Flamingos Massacred At Frankfurt Zoo

15 birds were killed, some beheaded, and it's still unclear if the murderer was human or fox

Fifteen flamingos at the Frankfurt Zoo were killed over two nights, some beheaded in their sleep, and authorities are still hunting for the culprit, the Associated Press reports.

Bite marks indicate a fox might be responsible for the killings, but zoo director Manfred Nieksich said a human may have butchered the pink Chilean Flamingos before the fox arrived. Necropsies were being conducted Monday, he told the AP.

Keepers first found nine of the animals dead in their enclosure on Friday. The next day, six more flamingos were found dead — even after extra security was called in.

[AP]

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