TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Protests Reach Violent High as Students Clash With Police Overnight

After two months of stalemate, the students attempt to block access to the government headquarters leading to intense clashes

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests descended into the worst violence seen so far early Monday, as demonstrators ended more than two months of largely peaceful civil disobedience with a dramatic escalation in tactics.

Thousands of protesters clashed with police overnight at the demonstration’s main encampment near government headquarters in well-heeled Admiralty district, at one point storming into a main thoroughfare and bringing evening traffic to a sudden stop. Police in riot gear fought back with a liberal use of batons and pepper spray, hurling protesters to the ground to make arrests. At least 40 people were hospitalized in the bedlam.

The night marked a major reversal in direction for what student leaders have long maintained was a movement principled in nonviolence. Student groups, who bristle at the Chinese government’s insistence on vetting candidates for Hong Kong’s top political leader, have urged protesters to show their readiness for the right to free elections by exercising restraint.

But months of waiting in the streets for an increasingly unlikely turnaround from either Beijing or the Hong Kong government, as well as seething anger at perceived police brutality, appear to have sharpened protesters’ ambitions.

“I think we’ve had enough,” said Doug Lee, 20, a musician, on Monday morning. “I’m ready to fight, ready to protect our people, ready for revolution.”

Speaking over a megaphone on Sunday night, two of the student leaders, Nathan Law and Oscar Lai, called for assembled protesters to surround the government offices and prevent employees from getting to work in the morning. Yet leaders gave little direction as to what should happen in the hours between their speeches and the start of the new working week.

“There is no plan,” said one protester, first-named Danny, as he stood at one entry to the headquarters. The 20-year-old insisted, though, that he at least knew that protesters would not charge at police and would remain peaceful.

Yet just minutes later, a group of protesters in helmets, goggles and face masks counted down and charged at police lines near Tamar Park, a swath of green hemmed by skyscrapers and lights wishing “Seasons greetings” to this freewheeling metropolis of 7 million. A second group of demonstrators charged at police blocking access to nearby Lung Wo Road, and protesters surged while cheering and clapping into the key thoroughfare.

Umbrellas were passed hand to hand toward the front line as protesters, reeling from pepper spray and bloodied by batons, were hurried out of the crowd and passed to medics. Protesters linked hands to surround wounded demonstrators and form the most makeshift of hospitals on the grass. One volunteer medic, Shane Lee, 21, said that he had treated at least 30 people overnight, including four head wounds and an arm fracture.

As the confrontations intensified, with police forcing protesters out of Lung Wo Road overnight, government employees were told they did not have to report to work.

By morning, intermittent clashes between protesters and police continued, with protesters showing a visible anger not seen before at a camp where protesters spend most of their time tapping at smartphones, studying, and passing around cakes and noddle dishes. In some instances, protesters threw water bottles at cops and raised middle fingers amid raucous jeers.

Police also heckled protesters, tearing down their banners calling for real democracy, and it at times became unclear who was aggressing on whom. Police say they made 40 arrests overnight.

“Why would Hong Kong police do that?” said one man, surnamed Tam, a 30-year-old hairdresser who told TIME he had been hit several times with a baton.

Protesters in Admiralty district had over the past few weeks entered a period of reckoning after Hong Kong’s political leaders had shut down any possibility of future talks with student groups. Student leaders’ plans to take their demands to Beijing ended at Hong Kong’s airport, when the Chinese government revoked their permits to visit mainland China. Meanwhile, polls put public support for the street occupations on the decline.

Questions about the future of the movement became all the more potent when police acted on an injunction brought by transport companies frustrated by the traffic disruption and cleared a virulent satellite protest site across the iconic Victoria Harbor in Kowloon’s raffish Mong Kok district.

Joshua Wong, a student protest leader, defended the evening of tumult in a Facebook post, saying that “students [were] forced to take this step,” after all other options were exhausted and after weathering months of police violence. Seven cops were arrested last week for the alleged beating of a protester during an earlier attempt to occupy Lung Wo Road, and local journalist groups have filed complaints at police headquarters over the violent arrest of two reporters covering protests in Mong Kok. Protesters have on recent nights convened in the neighborhood to — they insist — “go shopping” or wait for a bus, bringing traffic to an almost comic standstill as police chaff at protesters “cross[ing] the roads” slowly.

“Students occupy peacefully, but are faced with police violence,” wrote Wong, who has accused police of assaulting him, including punching him and touching his groin, during his arrest in Mong Kok earlier this week.

Hong Kong Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok denied the police used excessive force. “Batons and bricks were found in the bags of the protesters,” he told reporters.

Lam Cheuk-ting, chief executive of the Democratic Party, said that student leaders had not discussed their plans to surround government headquarters with either the pro-democratic legislators or the leaders of Occupy Central, the group that originally called for pro-democracy sit-ins here but later ceded the face of the protests to two student groups.

“I understand why they don’t retreat because the government hasn’t responded to our demands, any of the demands,” he tells TIME. “But we all know that if the deadlock continues we will gradually lose support from the public.”

On Monday morning, as the tumult eased into a tense calm, protesters were determined to keep fighting, yet uncertain where it would get them.

Meanwhile, a group of British MPs have been refused access to Hong Kong where they intended to investigate the relationship the U.K. has with its former colony. British nationals do not normally need visas for Hong Kong, which has enjoyed significant autonomy from Beijing under a principle of “one country, two systems” since it was handed back to China in 1997.

Richard Ottaway, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, accused Beijing authorities of acting in an “overtly confrontational manner.” Such accusations are becoming all too common as this battle for Hong Kong’s future builds to an indecorous crescendo.

— With reporting by Per Liljas, Helen Regan, Rishi Iyengar and David Stout / Hong Kong

TIME Military

The Drumsticks of War

A member of Afghan security forces arrives at the site of a Taliban attack on a foreign aid workers' guest house in the Afghan capital of Kabul
Omar Sobhani / Reuters A member of Afghanistan's security forces arrives at the site of a Taliban attack on a foreign-aid workers' guest house in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Saturday. Three South Africans perished in the attack.

While Americans enjoyed the holiday weekend, their allies in Afghanistan and Iraq grew increasingly weakened

The average American couldn’t be blamed for missing, over the long Thanksgiving weekend, the growing evidence that the deaths of the 6,841 U.S. troops in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq may have been in vain. The nation is weary of war, and holiday news media coverage—fallout in Ferguson, Mo., Black Friday gluttony and football—reflected America’s growing disinterest.

But for anyone paying attention, the news over the weekend was decidedly bleak.

Suicide attacks have been averaging one a day in the Afghan capital of Kabul over the past two weeks. On Saturday, the Taliban attacked a guesthouse, killing a South African father and his two teenage children. After detailing the carnage Sunday, Kabul’s police chief quit in despair. The same day, President Ashraf Ghani, unable to form a new government, fired most of the ministers he inherited. The Taliban overran what used to be the biggest British army base in southern Afghanistan, a month after the Brits had turned it over to Afghan security forces. (Later, Afghan forces took it back.)

About 1,400 miles away, in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Sunday that his government has been paying the salaries of at least 50,000 “ghost soldiers.” It’s not like Iraq can afford to pay non-existent troops: al-Abadi also said he has had to toss out his proposed 2015 budget because it was based on selling Iraqi oil at $70 a barrel (it fell to $64 last week, he noted—a cut of nearly 10%). And an Iraqi military helicopter, trying to hit targets belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, killed an innocent pair of brothers Saturday in the town of Yathrib. A second airstrike killed 15 people who were headed to the brothers’ funerals.

Such problems are common in war. They’re just not common after more than a decade of U.S. sacrifice, and repeated pledges by those in charge that such sacrifices will not have been made in vain.

Unfortunately, there’s now no one in charge at the Pentagon. The White House had the temerity to oust Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last Monday—while praising him effusively—without having a candidate to take his place. In the military, that’s called dereliction of duty. During wartime—for those in uniform—it’s punishable by death. For everybody else, it’s just politics.

TIME Italy

Italy Investigating 11 Deaths Possibly Linked to Flu Vaccine

The Italian Pharmaceutical Agency has yet to confirm a link

Italy is investigating the deaths of several people who took an influenza vaccine as the total death toll climbed to 11.

An additional eight fatalities possibly related to Novartis AG’s Fluad vaccine have been identified, Bloomberg reports. As a precaution, two batches of the drug were suspended after three people died within 48 hours of getting the shot.

“At the moment it’s not possible to confirm that there is a direct link between taking the vaccine and the reported deaths,” the Italian Pharmaceutical Agency said in a statement. “More complete information is necessary and a thorough analysis of the cases must be conducted.”

Novartis said Fluad, which was approved in 1997, has a “robust” history of safe usage and that there was “no causal relationship” found between the deaths and the vaccine.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Ukraine

Watch Drone Footage Explore Chernobyl From Above for the First Time

The good news: brown bears are returning to the area

Areas affected by the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 are still frozen in time, as haunting drone footage of the empty city of Pripyat reveals.

The scenes of rusted ferris wheels and abandoned buildings, shot by British filmmaker Danny Cooke for a CBS 60 Minutes segment that aired last week, mark the first time Chernobyl has been seen by air, The Guardian reports.

“Chernobyl is one of the most interesting and dangerous places I’ve been,” Cooke said. “There was something serene, yet highly disturbing about this place. Time has stood still and there are memories of past happenings floating around us.”

Some things are changing in Chernobyl, however: Scientists have observed what they believe is the first evidence of brown bears in the area in more than a century.

Though researchers had previously suspected that the bears had returned, cameras set up in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone actually caught a bear on video, the BBC reports.

“There have been suggestions that they have existed there previously but, as far as we know, no-one has got photographic evidence of one being present on the Ukrainian side of the exclusion zone,” said Mike Wood of the University of Salford.

[The Guardian] [BBC]

TIME Egypt

Mubarak Court Ruling Another Blow to the Spirit of Egypt’s Revolution

Seen as major setback for what's left of Arab Spring movement

An Egyptian court cleared Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday of charges related to corruption and the killing of demonstrators during the 2011 uprising that ejected him from power.

The ruling dealt a blow to many Egyptians who took part in the revolution and who demanded Mubarak be held accountable for 30 years of repressive rule and for the deaths of at least 846 protesters who were killed during the uprising.

“The failure to hold Mubarak accountable for the deaths of hundreds of protesters, while Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds of Egyptians for merely participating in demonstrations, is emblematic of the glaring miscarriages of justice doled out by Egypt’s judiciary,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at Human Rights Watch. “This is a fresh slap in the face to every Egyptian who believed that their revolution would bring fairness into their lives.”

The removal of the charges was seen as another setback for what is left of the driving spirit of the Arab Spring’s most significant revolution. Many of the institutional changes engendered by the uprising have been reversed.

Mohamed Morsi, the Islamist President elected in 2012, was removed by the military last year following a separate wave of protests. The current President, former military chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, has presided over a sweeping campaign on Islamists and other political dissidents.

Mubarak was acquitted in Saturday’s ruling, issued by a three-judge panel in the morning hours, of corruption charges related to the sale of natural gas to Israel at below-market prices. The head judge on the panel, Mahmoud Kamel al-Rashidi, announced that the charges of involvement in the deaths of protesters had been ruled inadmissible on a technicality.

Mubarak is currently serving a prison sentence in a separate corruption case and did not immediately go free. Sitting in the courtroom wearing sunglasses, the former autocrat showed little emotion in the televised hearing.

By late afternoon, several hundred anti-government protesters gathered outside Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the central site of the protests that forced Mubarak out in 2011. Security forces had sealed the entrances to the square. Demonstrators faced off with armored personnel carriers across a barbed wire fence dragged into place by soldiers.

“The people demand the fall of the regime!” the crowd chanted in a reprise of an iconic chant of the revolution. “Down with military rule!” Though nowhere near the size of previous Tahrir demonstrations the rally was a rare display in a country where the resurgent regime has criminalized unauthorized protest.

“I want to ask a question: How did they [the protesters] die?” said a demonstrator named Karim Abdel Wahab, standing in the crowd. “Was it Photoshop? Did they kill themselves?” He held a handwritten cardboard sign reading, “Where is justice?” As he spoke, the demonstration swelled. Later, police scattered the crowd using gunfire and teargas. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that it dispersed the protesters after Muslim Brotherhood members began fighting with other protesters.

The court’s decision was the latest episode in a lengthy and complex legal saga that is likely to continue as Egypt’s chief prosecutor announced Saturday that he plans to appeal the decision to drop the case over the protesters’ deaths. Mubarak had initially been sentenced to life in prison in June 2012 after being convicted of failing to prevent the deaths of demonstrators, but a court ordered a retrial on procedural grounds in January 2013.

The ruling was part of the complex interplay between Egypt’s judiciary and the government; at times the judiciary can appear like an arm of the government and at others as an independent state institution. Egyptian judges espouse a diverse set of philosophies and fiercely proclaim their independence from the executive. Some judges criticized Mubarak’s excesses while others supported the system that he oversaw. Many of those same judges have issued harsh sentences rulings against the dissidents and journalists under the crackdown under el-Sisi.

“This is absolutely a triumph for the old regime and for what has come to be called the ‘deep state.’ And the context for the trial has been political from the beginning,” said Nathan Brown, a political scientist and expert on Egypt’s judiciary at George Washington University.

Brown also said the politicized nature of the trial did not mean that the ruling was legally illegitimate, citing procedural and conceptual flaws with the investigation and trial. “A true prosecution of Mubarak — if the impetus had been based on criminal law and not just politics — would have required full cooperation of the security apparatus. The verdict is likely justified by the evidence presented to the court. But a true investigation of the Mubarak presidency did not occur.”

TIME India

Modi Drops From Lead in TIME’s Person of the Year Poll

Ferguson protestors surged ahead this week of the leader of the world's largest democracy

Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi has fallen to second in TIME’s Person of the Year poll with seven days to go in the voting.

A wave of unrest in Ferguson and around the country focused attention back on the United States this week, lifting Ferguson protestors into first place in the TIME reader polls with 10.7% of the vote. Modi slid into second with 10% of the vote.

Modi, the newly elected Indian prime minister–and leader of the largest democracy in the world–has raised high hopes among Indians that he can invigorate the country’s economy and cut bureaucratic red tape that has slowed development in India.

A grand jury’s decision in Ferguson on Monday not to indict a police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man has caused an outcry across the United States, as thousands of protesters marched in solidarity with the family of victim Michael Brown. Demonstrations at the end of the week disrupted Black Friday shopping in San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Seattle.

Since 1927, TIME has named a person who, for better or worse, has most influenced the news and our lives in the past year.

The Person of the Year is selected by TIME’s editors, but readers are asked to weigh in by commenting on any TIME Facebook post that includes #TIMEPOY, tweeting your vote using #TIMEPOY, or by heading over to TIME.com’s Person of the Year voting hub, where Pinnion’s technology is recording, visualizing and analyzing results as they are received. Votes from Twitter, Facebook and TIME.com’s voting hub are pooled together to create the totals displayed on the site.

You can see the results of the poll and vote on your choice for person of the year here.

Who should be TIME’s Person of the Year? Vote Below for #TIMEPOY

TIME space

Astronauts on the International Space Station Can Now Enjoy Espresso

Espresso in Space
Lavazza/AP A prototype of Lavazza's and Argotec's "ISSpresso" machine. The final version of the coffee machine will be the first real Italian espresso machine on The International Space Station, and will coincide with a six-month mission by Italy’s first Italian female astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti.

The Italian engineered 'ISSpresso' can be sipped through a straw

If the only thing keeping you from joining the space program was a lack of decent coffee outside Earth’s orbit, you no longer have that excuse.

This week Italy sent astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti to the International Space Station with a specially designed espresso machine that works in zero-gravity.

Designed by Turin-based Lavazzo and engineering firm Argotec, the ISSpresso, pumps water under high pressure through the machine into a pouch, where it can be sipped through a straw.

Part of an international crew that arrived on the Russian Soyuz craft, Cristoforetti, 37, also a captain in the Italian air force, “will be not only the first female astronaut from Italy to go into space, but also the very first astronaut in the history of the conquest of space to savor an authentic Italian espresso in orbit,” the companies said in a statement.
If slurping hot coffee through a straw sounds less than ideal, more innovations are on the horizon, thanks to researchers in Portland, where coffee obsession rivals that in Italy.

On Monday a team at Portland State University presented a paper, The Capillary Fluidics of Espresso, detailing a way to enjoy espresso in space in a manner similar to the one on Earth – which is to say in a cup – by replacing the role of gravity with the forces of surface tension.

Espresso, noted the team, which included a member of NASA and also a high school student, “is distinguished by a complex low density colloid of emulsified oils. Due to gravity, these oils rise to the surface forming a foam lid called the crema …. To some, the texture and aromatics of the crema play a critical role in the overall espresso experience. We show how in the low-g environment this may not be possible. We also suggest alternate methods for enjoying espresso aboard spacecraft.”

Of equal importance, these impressive innovations mean that, should the ISS ever encounter life on other planets, aliens’ first experience of coffee will not be adulterated with pumpkin spice.

This article originally appeared at PEOPLE.com

TIME Companies

Malaysia Airlines Apologizes for Insensitive Twitter Promotions

MALAYSIA-AUSTRALIA-CHINA-AVIATION-SEARCH
Manan Vatsyana—AFP/Getty Images Airport groundstaff walk past Malaysia Airlines planes parked on the tarmac at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on June 17, 2014.

“Want to go somewhere but don’t know where?”

Malaysia Airlines posted an unfortunate tweet as part of its year-end promotion.

“Want to go somewhere but don’t know where?” read the post on Twitter, part of a promotion of special deals by the national carrier, Yahoo News reports.

Twitter users criticized the national carrier for the tone-deaf tweet, sent out after two major calamities for the company this year: the disappearance of MH370 over the south Indian Ocean and the deadly destruction of MH17 in Ukrainian air space by rebel separatists.

Bookings have dropped due to the two disasters, in which a total of 537 were killed.

Another seemingly oblivious Malaysia Airlines ticket sale promotion asked passengers what places were on their “Bucket List.”

The airline apologized for the tweet on Saturday.

TIME Venezuela

Now There’s a Ballet About Hugo Chávez

Venezuela Chavez Ballet
Ariana Cubillos—AP John Lobo, 29, performing as Venezuela's late president Hugo Chavez in the star role of the "Ballet of the Spider-Seller to Liberator", at the Teresa Carreno Theater in Caracas, Nov. 27, 2014.

"From Spider-Seller to Liberator" celebrates the life of the late Venezuelan president. Critics call it propaganda

Political biographies just got a little more on pointe.

A state-sponsored ballet in Venezuela on Saturday will celebrate the late Hugo Chavez’s life from infancy to his reign as the country’s president and loudly vocal challenger to the United States.

The piece, From Spider-Seller to Liberator, leads the viewer from Chávez’s humble origins in the state of Barinas to his transformation into “the guide of the fights of the Venezuelan people’s struggles,” the Guardian reports.

Cuban journalists gathered the late president’s personal recollections from his speeches and his weekly television show as a basis for the piece. It begins with a recording of Chávez’s voice saying: “I was like a seed which fell on hard ground.”

Critics say the show is a propaganda piece to sustain the myth of Chavez’s life, who died last year of cancer.

[The Guardian]

TIME India

Tigers Are Dying in Record Numbers in India

Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
De Agostini/Getty Images A Bengal tiger at Ranthambore National Park, India, on March 3, 2014

Some 274 tigers have died over the past four years, most of them because of poaching

A record number of tigers died in India over the most recent census period, a total of 274 deceased in the past four years.

Only 82 of those tigers died because of natural causes, while more than 70% of tiger deaths were due to poaching or for undetermined reasons, Indian science-and-environment magazine Down to Earth reports.

Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar released the figures in response to a question in the Parliament on Nov. 26.

India had approximately 1,706 tigers, according to the 2010 census. The overall population of tigers may not suffer when India’s official tiger-population census for 2014 gets released next month.

“Here, we are not taking tiger births into account,” said S.P. Yadav, deputy inspector general with the National Tiger Conservation Authority. “An adult tigress can give birth to younger ones every 90 days. If, of four-five litters that a tigress gives birth to, even one-two survive, these numbers can be compensated.”

[Down to Earth]

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