TIME Military

NATO’s Back in Business, Thanks to Russia’s Threat to Ukraine

Armed militants outside the regional state building seized by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on Wednesday. Genya Savilov / AFP / Getty Images

But its efforts are limited to protecting itself, not saving Kiev

Back in 1993, during the earliest days of the Clinton Administration, Senator Richard Lugar of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned that with the Soviet Union history, NATO needed to “go out of area, or out of business.”

Like any self-respecting, self-perpetuating armed bureaucracy, the alliance got the hint, deploying forces—and, in some cases, fighting—in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Gulf of Aden and Libya.

President Clinton may have moved from the world stage, and Senator Lugar may have lost the 2012 Indiana Republican primary to an ultimately-defeated Tea Party candidate, but NATO—thanks to Russia’s threat to Ukraine—is now firmly back in business, finally in its own area.

The North Atlantic alliance made clear Wednesday that “a political solution is the only way forward” in dealing with Russia’s threats to its former fellow Soviet republic. That may be the only way forward for NATO and the West. But Russia may not be willing to play fair.

“We call on Russia to be part of the solution,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. “To stop destabilizing Ukraine, pull back its troops from the borders and make clear it doesn’t support the violent actions of well-armed militias of pro-Russian separatists.”

Good luck with that, Secretary General.

When NATO faced a similar situation in the Balkans in the 1990s, importuning for political solutions failed and ended with thousands of bombing runs against Serbian targets. The Serbs are Slavs, as are the Russians. So are the Ukrainians. Ethnicity isn’t destiny, but it plays a role.

NATO hopes that Thursday’s meeting in Geneva among representatives from Ukraine, Russia, the U.S. and the European Union will ease tensions. “We continue to call on Russia to take action that de-escalates the situation and the tensions in Ukraine by returning its forces to their pre-crisis positions and numbers; moving its forces from the Ukrainian border as well from Crimea; ceasing its support for armed separatist groups that have seized government buildings, blockaded roads and stockpiled weapons in eastern Ukraine; and engage directly in a dialogue with Ukraine about its concerns when it comes to ethnic Russians in parts of Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.

U.S. aid to Ukraine so far has consisted of 300,000 Meals-Ready-to-Eat for famished fighters in the field. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Wesley Clark, the retired Army general who served as NATO’s commander during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, is urging deliveries of nonlethal aid, including body armor, night-vision goggles and aviation fuel to help Ukraine thwart any Russian invasion. The list only serves to highlight how little the West is willing to do to help Ukraine. No one believes it will make much difference if Russian tanks cross the border.

“We’re actively considering forms of assistance, the kinds of assistance that we may be able to provide to Ukraine,” Carney said. “We are not considering lethal assistance, but I’m not going to itemize the types of assistance that are under consideration.”

Rasmussen made it clear that NATO is making military moves—but only to calm its jittery new members who fear Moscow. “We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water and more readiness on the land,” he said. “Air policing aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region. Allied ships will deploy to the Baltic Sea, the eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, as required.”

But their mission is limited to defending NATO’s 28 member states. There is no appetite in the West for military action to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty, despite a 1994 pact among Russia, Britain and the U.S. pledging to honor its borders.

So it looks like the Cold War has returned: the Soviet Union crushed uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, while NATO observed from the sidelines. Russia did it in Georgia in 2008, and Crimea last month. It could happen in Ukraine momentarily. Once again, NATO will be watching.


TIME 100: Egyptian Presidential Candidate Leads TIME 100 Poll

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the man largely responsible for ousting the former president of Egypt in a coup d’etat last year, holds a commanding lead in TIME's reader poll, followed by Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga

Correction: Appended, April 16.

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the man largely responsible for ousting the former president of Egypt in a coup d’etat last year holds a commanding lead in the TIME 100 reader poll, with pop icons Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga neck and neck close behind.

Though the final TIME 100 list of the most influential people of the year worldwide is always ultimately chosen by the editors, TIME seeks the input of readers in an online poll.

The recording artist Rihanna, who made the TIME 100 in 2012, is currently in fourth place, followed by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, whose TIME cover last year proved… um… divisive among his fans.

Next down the list are Beyonce and Miley Cyrus followed by the only other non-pop icon in the top 10, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has made headlines in recent weeks by unrepentantly banning social media in his country. Singers Katy Perry and Taylor Swift round out the top 10.

Polls closed at 11:59 p.m. on April 22, with the final winner announced April 23. We’ll announce our official TIME 100 list on April 24.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly referred to Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. He is the former defense minister of Egypt and a presidential candidate.

TIME Nigeria

Nigerian Military Retracts Report That Most Kidnapped Schoolgirls Were Released

A report Wednesday stated that all but 8 had been released. It retracted that claim on Thursday, but declined to say how many girls were still being held in captivity

Updated Friday April 18

The Nigerian military claimed Wednesday that nearly all of the 129 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted earlier this week by the Islamist group Boko Haram “have been freed” but eight remain missing. In a statement Thursday, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade retracted that report, drawing criticism from distraught families who accused the government of spreading lies. According to the BBC, the military has confirmed that 44 of the girls have escaped captivity and 85 are still missing.

The military is conducting a search-and-rescue operation for the remaining girls and one of the alleged kidnappers has been apprehended. Neither the girls’ condition nor the reason for their alleged release were immediately clear, CNN reports. The girls were abducted Monday night from their dormitories at their school in northeastern Nigeria, where the militant Islamist group has been waging a campaign of violence and terror for years. After a gun battle with authorities, militants loaded the girls onto busses and drove them away in a caravan.

This story was updated to reflect the Nigerian military’s retraction of its initial report.


TIME Bizarre

The ‘Most Haunted Island’ on Earth Is Now Up for Auction

Poveglia: A Venice Lagoon Island of Sadness and Horror
VENICE, ITALY - AUGUST 27: Beds and furniture remain in one of the dormitories in the psychiatric ward of the abandoned Hospital of Poveglia on August 27, 2011 in Venice, Italy. The island of Poveglia, with its ruined hospital and plague burial grounds, is said to be the most haunted location in the world. The area is located within a multi-million dollar piece of real estate but is deserted and off limits to the public. The dark and derelict forbidding shores are only minutes away from the glamour of the Venice Film Festival on the Lido. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images) Marco Secchi—Getty Images

American Horror Story: International Edition

For those who watched American Horror Story and thought, “Gee, it looks like Connie Britton is having a fantastic time, how can I recreate this living experience?”—you’re in luck. To pay off its public debt and appease the European Union’s budgeting guidelines, Italy is auctioning an island off of Venice that just happens to be considered one of the most haunted places on earth! Or as HuffPost puts it, “Like Hell, but in Italy.” Getting driven into madness by ghosts is so much more fun when you get to eat pasta while doing it!

Why should you be afraid of the deserted Venetian island of Poveglia?

For starters, it is deserted. Even though it’s beautiful and incredibly close to Venice, one of the most fannypack and Segway-tour-filled cities in the world. Literally 10 minutes from Saint Marco Square.

Poveglia’s sordid history serves asa good explanation for why no one wants to go there. The 17-acre island became a dumping ground for Europeans dying of the plague. And as the rumors have it, the ghosts of the plagued still haunt the island. Things took a turn for the lighter in 1922 when a hospital for the elderly—thought to be a cover for mental institution—was opened. Cue widely spread rumors of botched lobotomies and a doctor who threw himself to his death from a hospital tower. No doubt a side-effect of getting haunted by the patients he was maiming.

Other fun facts: there’s a local saying that goes “When an evil man dies, he wakes up in Poveglia,” there are rumors that the soil is made 50% out of human ash, and talk that an American TV host was possessed during a recent visit to the island.

Apart from that, though, we’re sure it will make a great spot for a destination getaway.

TIME Nigeria

Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls Said to Be Taken to Islamist Stronghold

Officials are offering a $300,000 reward to anyone with information that can lead to the girls' rescue

Updated at 5:18 p.m. ET

More than 100 Nigerian schoolchildren abducted by gunmen Tuesday were released Wednesday after first being taken to an area known to be an Islamist stronghold. Nigeria’s defense ministry confirmed Wednesday that 129 schoolgirls in total were taken in the northeastern state of Borno before a few escaped their captors. All but eight of the girls have now been released, though it was not immediately clear why.

Some of the girls who escaped before the release said the kidnapped girls had been taken to an area where Islamist extremist group Boko Haram is known to have camps, a tribal chief told the AFP. Nigerian officials blame Boko Haram for a bombing in the Nigerian capital of Abuja just hours before the mass abduction that killed 75 people.

The governor of Borno said 14 of the hostages had escaped in total. The governor is offering 50 million naira, or approximately $300,000, to anyone who can provide information that leads to the rescue of the remaining hostages.

Gunmen on Tuesday reportedly torched buildings and opened fire on guards at the Government Girls Secondary School on before forcing their way into the school. They then loaded dozens of schoolgirls into trucks and drove off. Some girls jumped from the vehicles carrying them away while some of the gunmen were distracted, getting away from their captors.

Boko Haram has been attacking schools, universities and other targets over the past several years as a part of an ongoing rebellion against Nigeria’s government and Western influence. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands since 2009, AFP reports.


TIME Terrorism

Al-Qaeda’s Second-in-Command Seen in New Video

A video that surfaced recently on Islamist websites purports to show al-Qaeda fighters meeting in an open-air gathering

A video published recently on Islamist websites purports to show a large group of al-Qaeda fighters, including the terrorist group’s second in command, gathering in an open air location.

Counterterrorism authorities are scrutinizing the video for clues to potential plots, the Washington Post reports, citing unnamed U.S. officials. Officials told the Post the video appears to be recent and authentic. They declined to explain why there had been no U.S. strike on the gathering in an undisclosed, open location.

Nasir al-Wuhayshi, al-Qaeda’s leader in Yemen, is said to appear in the video without a mask, along with other group leaders. Some faces in the footage are blurred out, raising fears the organization may be seeking to protect the identities of recruits being trained for attacks.

The video evokes footage shot in the late 1990s of al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. The terrorist network’s Yemen affiliate has generally avoided open-air meetings.

The United States has carried out eight strikes in Yemen so far this year. A U.S. strike there in December killed a dozen people in a wedding caravan.

[Washington Post]


We Want Your Pictures for Earth Day

Looking at the Icebergs, Near Franklin Island, Ross Sea, Antarctica in 2006.
Looking at the Icebergs, Near Franklin Island, Ross Sea, Antarctica in 2006. Camille Seaman

Google+ and TIME are teaming up to find beautiful pictures of our planet. Selections made by TIME's photo editors will be featured here on TIME.com on Earth Day

Earth doesn’t do ugly. There’s virtually no place you can live on the planet that at some point can’t knock you out with its flat-out gorgeousness—and we’re not just talking rainforests and coral reefs here. Badlands are anything but bad when you appreciate their raw, rugged beauty; the same is true of tundras and deserts and sprawling plains—fruited or not. The odds are at least one of these bowl-you-over vistas is located in your part of the world.

OK, so prove it. To honor Earth day 2014, Google+ and Time want to see your best picture of your beautiful Earth, which you can share with the straight-up hashtag #MyBeautifulEarth. Google+ will feature your images on a page of all of that local loveliness from now through April 22, which can be seen and savored in real time, as the page grows. Time’s photo editors will cull through the submissions, and the best of them will appear here on TIME.com on Earth Day. Earth being what it is—and people being what we are—it’s almost certain that at some point you’ve looked around yourself and wished that everybody could see the mesa or glacier or mountain or river or coastline or canyon or valley or bay just outside your window. On April 22, 2014, they could.

To share your photo, go to plus.google.com and click on “Share what’s new” in the Share box at the top of your stream, or open the Google+ app on your phone, and click the blue camera icon. Add a description for your photo, and include the hashtag #mybeautifulearth. Add your photo to your post, then add “Public” in the “To:” box. Click Share, and you’ve shared your part of the planet with the world.

TIME China

FBI Movie Warns U.S. Students Not to Spy for China

A new video from the FBI tells the true story of Glenn Duffie Shriver, an American student currently serving four years behind bars for conspiring to pass on classified data to the Chinese. The agency urges students to watch the video before studying abroad

As far as movies go, Game of Pawns is a bit of a stinker. But the true-life tale behind the FBI’s short film about a young American busted for selling information to the Chinese almost makes up for its clunky dialogue and China clichés.

Game of Pawns tells the story of Glenn Duffie Shriver. In 2010, Shriver pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide national defense information to officers of the People’s Republic of China and was sentenced to four years in federal prison. The story of how he got there forms the heart of the movie—and the FBI’s warning.We’d like American students traveling overseas to view this video before leaving the U.S. so they’re able to recognize when they’re being targeted and/or recruited,” says a statement published Monday on the agency’s website.

The docudrama opens with some stock Oriental wisdom: “There is an old Chinese proverb: Life is like a game of chess, changing with each move,” intones the narrator. “And to win the game you must often sacrifice your pawns.” Enter Shriver. We see the American, then 24, greeting Chinese friends on campus (“What up dog?”) and partying with Chinese women. “It was going to be the best year of my life,” he says. “Shanghai was amazing. It fit me like a glove.”

Shriver’s zest for China got a little out of hand. Short on cash and unsure what to do with his life, he answers an online ad looking for essays on U.S.-China relations. A woman named Amanda, who would become his handler, pays him $120 for his thoughts on international affairs and praises his handiwork. After a few meetings, she takes him to meet her colleague, Mr. Tang, who keeps the flattery coming. “What impressed me most about your paper, Glenn, was your insight into the Chinese mind,” he tells him. “Most Westerners make no attempt to truly understand us.”

It is hard to know what the real Shriver was like at the time (though this 2012 Washingtonian profile offers some clues). But China expats will certainly see something familiar in the onscreen Shriver. Like many young people who come to study or work in China, this Shriver seems bright, curious and well-meaning. He also seems rather full of himself — willing to believe, for instance, that he, more than others, truly gets the place. Willing to believe that his insight, in the form of short essays, could be of genuine interest to powerful people. It is outrageously naive. But he was 24. And they were paying.

As his relationship with Amanda and Tang develops Shriver twice takes, but flunks, a U.S. State Department test. The Chinese give him stacks of U.S. cash nonetheless. Things escalate when they suggest he apply to work at the CIA. In the movie, Shriver hesitates: “What, um–what exactly are you asking me?” In the next shot, as he gazes out at the Shanghai skyline, he calls them back and makes his play: “I’m going to need $40,000 to start.”

The rest of Game of Pawns tracks his inevitable downfall, complete with a high drama scene at U.S. customs, a failed lie-detector test, and an on-plane arrest as he tries to flee. The short film’s timeline seems to skip some key details — it is a docudrama, after all — and makes no mention of U.S. espionage. We still do not know exactly how, or when, the authorities caught on to him. We do know he is doing four years in jail for accepting a total of $70,000 in return for information.

The film was posted on the FBI site along with a prison-cell interview with Shriver. He talks about how he was wooed by his handlers, and admits to being driven by greed. “You know when you’re having money thrown at you especially when you’re at a place like Shanghai,” he says. He then falls back on the film’s “pawn” metaphor: You know we live in a very sheltered society,” he says. “And when you go out among the wolves, the wolves are out there.”

In the end, the effort comes off as cross between a public service announcement and a parody. And given the stereotypical view of China on display here, the people behind it, like Shriver, seem well-intentioned but unforgivably naive.

TIME Middle East

Iran Mulls Ban on Vasectomies

Iran's supreme leader has encouraged the government to boost birthrates by rolling back family planning laws

Lawmakers in Iran are considering whether they should ban vasectomies and tighten abortion laws in an effort to boost the country’s birth rate.

The parliament in Tehran voted this week in favor of further discussions about making vasectomies illegal and punishing anyone involved in supplying contraceptive services, the Guardian reports. Iran implemented a birth control program 20 years ago that included the distribution of free condoms and subsidies for male sterilization. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year criticized the country’s family planning laws as too similar to those of Western countries, making it likely the new measures under consideration will pass parliament. Khamenei had encouraged the government to take action to address an aging population and to almost double the population from 77 million to 150 million.

Some activists say the country’s declining birth rates on social, economic and cultural factors, the Guardian reports, and worry a change in policy will lead to greater maternal mortality rates. “We have enough young people who will procreate when they marry in the coming years,” said Kamiar Alaei, a doctor who has worked on HIV treatment programs in the country and was previous imprisoned there. “Slashing contraceptive services altogether will only increase unintentional abortion and maternal mortality.”



Iraq Shutters Abu Ghraib Prison

The country's justice ministry has relocated the infamous prison's inmates over concerns about militant attacks, following a jailbreak last July

Iraq’s government has closed the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, citing security concerns in the increasingly restive area of the country.

Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimmari announced that its 2,400 inmates had been relocated to other jails in the country’s central and northern provinces. On Tuesday the justice ministry described the prison as in a “hot area,” the BBC reports. Militants attacked the jail in July 2013, freeing dozens of inmates and killing at least 50 prisoners and security guards in the process. The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Abu Ghraib is situated in a region west of the capital, Baghdad. Under Saddam Hussein’s rule thousands of people are thought to have been tortured and perished behind its walls, and in 2004 the prison was at the centre of a scandal involving abuses committed by U.S. soldiers against Iraqi inmates. Since then it was renamed Baghdad Central Prison.

The justice ministry did not say if the closure would be temporary, or permanent.




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