TIME South Korea

The South Korean PM Says He Will Quit Over the Ferry Tragedy

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won Announces His Will to Resign
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won leaves the Central Government Complex in Seoul on April 27, 2014 Park Young-Dae—Donga Daily/Getty Images

The South Korean President accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Chung Hong-won on Sunday, after the country's No. 2 official said he was prepared to step down because of the state's fumbled response to the April 16 ferry sinking

Updated: April 27, 2014, at 9 a.m. E.T.

South Korea’s Prime Minister Chung Hong-won has said he is prepared to resign in order to take responsibility for the government’s handling of the Sewol ferry disaster, in which over 300 people have been killed or are missing.

President Park Geun-hye accepted his resignation but asked Chung to remain in office until the government completes its rescue operations.

Fifteen crew members have been arrested and accused of not doing enough to help passengers escape the vessel, which sank on April 16. The captain’s order to evacuate the vessel was allegedly given when it was listing too severely for most passengers to leave. Subsequent investigations have also found that the Sewol may have been overloaded, overcrowded and under the command of an inexperienced junior officer at the time of the tragedy.

“There have been so many varieties of irregularities that have continued in every corner of our society and practices that have gone wrong,” Chung said. “I hope these deep-rooted evils get corrected this time and this kind of accident never happens again.”

He told media in the South Korean capital, Seoul: “As I saw grieving families suffering with the pain of losing their loved ones and the sadness and resentment of the public, I thought I should take all responsibility as Prime Minister.”

Although search teams are battling difficult conditions — including strong currents, poor visibility and freezing water — relatives of the dead or missing passengers have heavily criticized the official response to the disaster. When he visited an operational area near the site of the sunken ferry last week, Chung was booed and his car surrounded.

TIME Malaysia

Obama Visits Malaysia As Hunt for Missing Jet Goes On

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama arrives on Air Force One at the Royal Malaysian Air Force Airbase in Subang, outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 26, 2014. Carolyn Kaster—AP

The U.S. president reportedly voiced support for the search for the vanished Malaysia Airlines jet after landing in Kuala Lumpur, hours after a trip to Seoul where he spoke of North Korea as a "pariah state" that starves its people

President Barack Obama landed in Malaysia on the latest stop in his four-country tour of Asia Saturday, where he reportedly expressed solidarity with the country over the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

“[Obama] said he knows it is a tough, long, road ahead. We’ll work together. There is always support,” Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin said, AFP reports. Obama landed seven weeks to the day since Flight 370 vanished while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Despite a massive search operation involving several countries, there is still no sign of the downed jet.

Obama was due to discuss the search for the plane with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, CNN reports, as one of various issues to be discussed on the first visit of a sitting U.S. president to the country in nearly 50 years. Trade agreements, defense and maritime security were also on the agenda, according to Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

The president’s tour of Asia, which ends in the Philippines on Tuesday, is intended to speed up stalled negotiations on a regional trade agreement and reinforce support for U.S. allies amid China’s assertive claims to territories in the South China Sea.

While visiting American troops stationed in South Korea on Saturday, Obama called neighboring North Korea a “pariah state that would rather starve its people than feed their hopes and dreams.”

[Yahoo!]

TIME Afghanistan

Afghanistan Presidential Election Set For Run-Off

Abdullah Abdullah
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah talks during an interview with the Associated Press at his residence in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 24, 2014. Massoud Hossaini—AP

None of the candidates received the necessary 50% of vote to win outright in the April 5 election, according to preliminary results. The two leading candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, are expected to face off again in late May

Afghanistan’s former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah won the most votes in the country’s election of a new president, but not enough to avoid a run-off election with second place rival Ashraf Ghani.

None of the candidates in the April 5 election received the necessary 50% of the votes to win outright, according to preliminary results. The winner will replace outgoing President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally forbidden from running for a third term.

Abdullah, who ran against Karzai in the previous presidential election in 2009, won the most votes with 44.9 percent, the BBC reports. Former finance minister and World Bank official Ghani received 31.5 percent. The two could plausibly form a coalition government together, but are expected to compete in a run-off.

Final results will be confirmed on May 14 to allow time to process complaints. Reports of fraud have been increasing amid accusations from all sides that votes were purposefully miscounted and ballot boxes were stuffed. A run-off vote is expected to take place on May 28.

[BBC]

TIME Religion

Catholics Flock to Vatican for Historic Papal Canonization

Italy - Religion - Canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII
Nuns and Pilgrims gather aorund St. Peter's Square one day before the canonoization of John Paul II and John XXIII at the Vatican, April 26, 2014. Alessandra Benedetti—Corbis

More than a million Catholics are expected to arrive in Rome ahead of Sunday's historic double canonization, in which Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be recognized as saints. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will join Pope Francis at the ceremony

More than one million Catholics were expected to flock to Rome Saturday for the historic double canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII on Sunday.

The city of Rome has been repairing roads and preparing the city for the large influx of pilgrims planning to attend the ceremony officiated by Pope Francis, the National Catholic Register reports. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned the papacy last year, will attend the ceremony, CNN reports, though he will not officiate at the altar with his successor.

Pope John Paul II led the Catholic church for almost three decades and was an extremely popular figure among the laity. His canonization to sainthood was considered a formality after his death in 2005.

But the decision to canonize the late pope so swiftly is controversial for some, NBC reports. Traditionally, five years must pass after a pope’s death before the canonization process can began, but Benedict waived that requirement for John Paul II, leading some to believe he was fast-tracked too quickly.

Additionally, groups such as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) say they do not support sainthood for John Paul II because they believe he did respond adequately to the wide-ranging child sex abuse scandal within the church, that came to light during his papacy.

[National Catholic Register]

TIME Ukraine

G7 Nations Confirms New Russia Sanctions As Military Observers Detained

Crisis in Ukraine
Ukrainian Special forces in position at a checkpoint on the main road between Sloviansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, April 24 2014. Maysun—EPA

As the G7 nations prepared new sanctions for Russia, Ukrainian separatists detained independent military observers on suspicion of being "NATO spies"

The United States and other G7 countries announced “broader, coordinated” economic sanctions to be imposed on Russia Friday, while Russia negotiates the release of military observers detained by separatists in the eastern part of Ukraine.

In a statement, the G7 leaders praised Ukraine for taking steps to meet the de-escalation agreement brokered in Geneva two weeks ago, while condemning Russia for neither taking appropriate steps nor castigating the actions of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

“We have now agreed that we will move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Russia,” leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States said in a statement.

“Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine’s presidential elections, we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia’s actions.”

The sanctions could begin as early as Monday, the Associated Press reports.

Meanwhile, negotiators worked Saturday to secure the release of 13 visitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) detained by Russian separatists, including eight from a German-led party and five Ukrainians, ABC reports.

Russia said it would do all it can to release the detainees, according to state media. “Russia as a member of the OSCE will undertake all possible steps in this matter,” Russia’s OSCE envoy Andrei Kelin said.

A separatist leader in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, announced his group would be willing to release a group of detained military observers it suspected of being NATO spies in exchange for the release of jailed pro-Russian supporters, the AP reports.

 

TIME ukraine crisis

Pentagon: Russia Violated Ukrainian Airspace

Crisis in Ukraine
Ukrainian Special forces in position at a checkpoint on the main road between Sloviansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, April 24 2014. Maysun—EPA

A Pentagon official said Russian warplanes violated Ukrainian airspace several times on Friday and called on Russia to "de-escalate the situation." Ukraine's acting president said his country would treat any incursion by Russian troops across the border as an invasion

The Pentagon said Friday that Russian warplanes entered Ukrainian airspace several times in the last 24 hours, USA Today reports.

“We call upon the Russians to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, according to USA Today.

The violation of Ukrainian airspace threatens to escalate an already tense showdown in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian military and police are conducting operations against pro-Russian separatists, raising concerns of a Russian intervention. Russia has amassed thousands of troops along the border, a month after Russia annexed the southern Crimean peninsula.

Ukraine’s acting president Oleksander Turchinov said earlier Friday that his country would treat any incursion by Russian troops across the border as an invasion, Reuters reports.

 

[USA Today]

TIME russia

Russia’s Credit Rating Cut as Country’s Economy Falters

Standard & Poor's assigned Russia a BBB- credit rating, a hair above junk status, as Russia faces harsh sanctions and economic hard times

Standard & Poor’s cut Russia’s credit rating to a notch above “junk” status, as the country’s economy falters amid Western governments’ threats of harsher sanctions on top of those already in place.

The downgrade on Russia’s currency from BBB to BBB- will make it more expensive for the Kremlin to borrow money. That will likely result in a tighter credit supply, further damaging the country’s economy. BBB- is the lowest investment-grade credit status.

The S&P said when announcing the downgrade that it was reacting to the tense geopolitical situation between Russia and Ukraine, which could lead to foreign investors and domestic capital fleeing Russia.

Approximately $51 billion has flowed out of Russia in the first quarter of the year alone, about equal to the average annual amount of capital flight in the five years before 2013.

Russia’s central bank raised interest rates from 5.5% to 7% shortly after the S&P’s announcement, citing the inflationary impact of the sinking ruble, the New York Times reports.

Russia’s economy grew a measly 1.3% last year. That growth rate could fall well below 1% this year if tensions in Ukraine continue.

TIME Soccer

Tito Vilanova, Former FC Barcelona Coach, Dies at 45

Former FC Barcelona football coach Tito Vilanova waving after signing his contract during a presentation at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.
Former FC Barcelona football coach Tito Vilanova at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, June 15, 2012. Lluis Gene—AFP/Getty Images

Former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has died of throat cancer, the club announced Friday. He was 45.

“The FC Barcelona is in immense mourning,” the football club’s official account tweeted. “Tito Vilanova has died at the age of 45. May he rest in peace.”

Vilanova was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011. He stepped down from his coaching post last year after leading his team to the top of La Liga to undergo further cancer treatment.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu paid his respects to Vilanova on Twitter. “Tito Vilanova was a wonderful person, and will never be forgotten at FC Barcelona. Thank you for everything you taught us. Rest in peace.”

TIME

Kerry Warns Russia Over Ukraine

Kerry says Russia violating Geneva agreement

With tensions smoldering in eastern Ukraine, the U.S. gave Russia a new warning Thursday. Saying Russia was using “the barrel of a gun and the force of the mob,” Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russian intelligence and special ops of actively working to destabilize eastern Ukraine.

“For seven days, Russia has refused to take a single concrete step in the right direction. Not a single Russian official—not one—has publicly gone on television in Ukraine and called on the separatists to support the Geneva Agreement, to support the stand-down, to give up their weapons and get out of the Ukrainian buildings,” Kerry said, adding that “if Russia continues in this direction, it will not just be a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake.”

TIME Bali

Australian Man Arrested After Drunken Hijacking Scare

One drunk man shut down a Bali airport for several hours

An Australian man is under arrest Friday after he allegedly caused a hijacking alert on a Virgin Australia flight headed from Brisbane to the Indonesian holiday island of Bali.

A Bali Air Force commander says the 28-year-old man was drunk and started pounding on the cockpit door. Crew members later seized and handcuffed the man, who was identified as Matt Christopher Lockley.

Airport officials said that the Bali airport resumed normal operations later in the day after being shut down for several hours.

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