TIME Ukraine

Ukrainian Government Troops Take Over Much of Luhansk

(KIEV, Ukraine) — A Ukrainian official says government troops have taken control of a large part of Luhansk — a besieged rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine — after days of street battles.

Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security Council, told reporters Wednesday in Kiev that government forces are now controlling “significant parts” of the eastern city.

Hard-hit Luhansk has been without electricity, running water or phone connections for 18 days due to the fighting. Russia has sent a massive aid convoy to help the residents there but it has not yet received Kiev’s approval, because the proposed route lies through rebel-held territory.

TIME Infectious Disease

Aid Group Slams Global Response to Ebola Outbreak

A Liberian burial team wearing protective clothing retrieves the body of a 60-year-old Ebola victim from his home on Aug. 17, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia.
A Liberian burial team wearing protective clothing retrieves the body of a 60-year-old Ebola victim from his home on Aug. 17, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia. John Moore—Getty Images

Countries are securing their own borders and leaving West Africa to fend for itself

The main agency fighting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is lashing out at the international response, calling it “non-existent.”

“We are completely amazed by the lack of willingness and professionalism and coordination to tackle this epidemic,” Brice de le Vingne, the operations director of Doctors Without Borders, told the Financial Times. “We have been screaming for months. Now the situation is even worse – we are today on the verge of seeing an entire country collapsing.”

An estimated 2,240 people have been infected with the virus in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since it first surfaced in March, and more than half of the afflicted have died. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) describes the current situation in Liberia as “catastrophic” and continuously deteriorating. The country has closed its borders, declared a state of emergency and on Tuesday it imposed a curfew on the main slum area in the capital of Monrovia, where Ebola panic has lead to public unrest.

Fear of infection has compounded the disaster, with workers and patients fleeing Monrovia hospitals in recent days, leading to an almost complete collapse of the health system and causing increased risks for other diseases such as malaria.

To be fair, many countries and organizations are sending aid to the affected region. The African Development Bank has pledged $56 million, the United Kingdom has increased its assistance to $8 million, China has sent supplies worth $4.9 million, E.U. support stands at $15.8 million, and the U.S. has pledged the same amount of aid as well as deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). According to MSF, however, that’s far from enough.

“Leaders in the West are talking about their own safety and doing things like closing airlines – and not helping anyone else,” Brice de la Vingne told the Guardian, comparing it with the rapid international response to the earthquake in Haiti, where 300,000 people died. “You need very senior people with high profiles, the kind of people who can coordinate a response to a million people affected by an earthquake.”

A million people are currently residing in quarantined regions and are at risk of not receiving adequate supplies of food and water, although the World Health Organization said Tuesday that it had started delivering food aid to hospitalized patients and quarantined districts, in cooperation with the World Food Program. This aid will continue for another three months.

However, the biggest unmet need is for additional well-trained health workers. Professionals on the ground are exhausted, and several hundred have died in part because of a lack of training. MSF and other organizations are stretched to breaking point, some of them because of their involvement in other crises. USAID, for example, is responding to four humanitarian crises at the same time: South Sudan, Syria, Iraq and the Ebola outbreak. It must also weigh up whether to put people at risk.

“There may be a lot of well-intentioned medical staff in the world, but this is Ebola,” DART leader Tim Callaghan told the development web site Devex.

MSF president Dr. Joanne Liu told told the New York Times that it is also more difficult to recruit medical professionals to deal with Ebola than for any other emergency, because of the risk of infection and the dangers of giving constant care to the patients. “You have to learn to live with fear,” she said.

TIME Middle East

Hopes of Prolonged Truce Dashed as Gaza Conflict Reignites

Smoke rises as Palestinians stand atop the rubble of a house, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip
Palestinians stand atop the rubble of a house, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 20, 2014. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa — Reuters

Talks in Cairo collapse after rockets are fired from Gaza into Israel

Fighting in Gaza continued into the early hours of Wednesday morning after talks between Israel and Hamas over a cease-fire collapsed in Cairo.

The negotiations in the Egyptian capital came to an abrupt end after three rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel eight hours before the latest truce was set to expire. Hamas denied launching the initial barrage of artillery on Tuesday night, but later claimed responsibility for rockets fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Israel responded to the salvos with renewed airstrikes into the Gaza Strip and pulled its negotiation team from Cairo, where it had been engaged in talks with Palestinian representatives over the establishment of a prolonged truce.

“The Cairo process was built on a total and complete cessation of all hostilities and so when rockets were fired from Gaza, not only was it a clear violation of the cease-fire but it also destroyed the premise upon which the talks were based,” Mark Regev, the spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Reuters.

The Palestinian team was also set to depart Egypt, reported Haaretz.

On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Peter Lerner accused Hamas of firing 70 rockets into Israel since Tuesday. No Israeli causalities have been reported since the hostilities reignited. Israeli officials went on to label Hamas’s actions as a “grave and direct violation” of the truce.

“This is the eleventh cease-fire that Hamas has either rejected or violated,” tweeted Regev.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported that Hamas accused the Israelis of attempting to “assassinate” one of the group’s top military commanders, Mohammed Deif, during an air raid in Gaza City that reportedly killed his wife and child. There has been no confirmation whether Deif was also killed during the strike.

Following ten days of relative calm in the battle-fatigued strip, where more 380,000 people are displaced, Hamas and Israel remain at loggerheads, with both parties continuing to make demands that neither side appears willing to accept.

“On the Israeli side, you have a demand that is not going to be implemented under any circumstance — and that’s the disarmament of Hamas,” Nathan Thrall, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program, tells TIME.

“And on the Hamas side you have a demand that is not going to be implemented under any circumstances and that’s a full lifting of the what Hamas calls the blockade or siege of Gaza.”

Approximately 2,000 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis have been killed in the month-long war between Hamas and Israel. However, analysts suggest that the worst fighting may, at least for the time being, have passed.

“I think that there is a real sense of exhaustion with this conflict on all sides,” says Thrall. “The most likely scenario is that the most violent period of this conflict is behind us, but no one can predict for sure.”

TIME

10 Dead, 22 Missing in Hiroshima Landslide

Japan Landslide
Rescue workers search for survivors after a massive landslide swept through residential areas in Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 20, 2014 AP Photo/Kyodo News

Authorities issued warnings that further rains could trigger more landslides and flooding

(TOKYO) — Rain-sodden slopes collapsed in torrents of mud, rock and debris early Wednesday in the outskirts of Hiroshima, killing at least 10 people and leaving 22 missing, the government said.

Video footage from the national broadcaster NHK showed rescue workers suspended by ropes from police helicopters pulling victims from the rubble. Others gingerly climbed into windows as they searched for survivors in crushed homes.

Hillsides caved in or were swept down into residential areas in least five valleys in the suburbs of the western Japanese city after heavy rains left slopes unstable.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency, citing the local government, said 10 people were confirmeddead and another 22 were missing as of mid-afternoon. It said 19 people were injured, two seriously.

“A few people were washed away and it is hard to know exactly how many are unaccounted for,” said local government official Nakatoshi Okamoto, noting that the conditions in the disaster area were hindering efforts to account for all those affected.

Authorities issued warnings that further rains could trigger more landslides and flooding.

Landslides are a constant risk in mountainous, crowded Japan, where many homes are built on or near steep slopes. Torrential rains in the early morning apparently caused slopes to collapse in an area where many of the buildings were newly constructed.

Damage from land and mudslides has increased over the past few decades due to more frequent heavy rains, despite extensive work on stabilizing slopes. In the past decade there have been nearly 1,200landslides a year, according to the land ministry, up from an average of about 770 a year in the previous decade.

In October last year, multiple mudslides on Izu-Oshima, an island south of Tokyo, killed 35 people, four of whose bodies were never recovered. Those slides followed a typhoon that dumped a record 824 millimeters (more than 32 inches) of rain in a single day.

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine’s Rebel Capital Seeks Ersatz Normality

Russia Ukraine
A Russian military truck carries a MSTA-S self-propelled howitzer about 10 km from the Russia-Ukrainian border control point at town Donetsk, Russia, on Aug. 19, 2014 Pavel Golovkin—AP

The struggle to maintain normal life took a major blow over the weekend as water taps began to run dry

(DONETSK, Ukraine) — It has been weeks since Donetsk last had a traffic jam.

The regular rumble on the edge of this besieged city in eastern Ukraine is a constant reminder of the government’s effort to shell armed pro-Russian separatists out of their stronghold. Rebels give as good as they get, blindly lobbing shells back at an unseen foe.

As fighting edges ever closer to the center, hundreds of thousands have fled a city once home to 1 million people. The bustle of a major industrial center has given way to the stillness of fear.

College teacher Nataliya Badibina said she would have left to stay with relatives in Russia were it not for her mother and father.

“My parents are ill. They live nearby and I am not going to leave them,” said Badibina, whose apartment block in Donetsk’s western Petrovsky district had its windows blown out by shrapnel from a Grad rocket that landed in her courtyard.

Petrovsky district is on the edge of Donetsk and near some of the heaviest fighting seen in the city.

A local supermarket is still open and provides groceries for anybody with the money to buy them. Most people do their shopping before lunchtime, said Badibina, after which the daily booms of artillery start anew.

A few restaurants have braved the shelling and serve customers, albeit typically giving notice that they close well before the 11 p.m. rebel-imposed curfew. After that, the streets become deserted and an even ghostlier silence descends, only to be periodically punctured in the night by artillery booms.

Funds for many are running dry as pensions and government salaries are held up. City council spokesman Maxim Rovinsky said those paid on bank cards still get their money. Many others haven’t been paid since June.

On Tuesday, a crowd formed outside the 11th floor rebel headquarters in Donetsk amid rumors that pension and disability payments and child assistance were being given out.

Holding a sheaf of photocopied documents, Vyacheslav Melnikov said he was there to apply for money for his two disabled grandchildren.

“I don’t even have enough money to feed them. I hope they will help us,” he said.

One woman in line, Tatyana Ostrovksaya, said she wanted to be paid the money due to her brother, Viktor, who was killed in a rocket attack earlier in the month.

“They’re supposed to pay out two months’ worth of pension, but nobody will pay it to me,” Ostrovksaya said.

It is not immediately clear where the funds to pay such applicants will come from. Rebel leaders announced months ago that they would raise funds by levying taxes from local businesses, but almost all private enterprises have ceased to operate altogether.

Shops in pedestrian underpasses feel relatively safe from bombardment, although the racket of trams passing overhead can unnerve newcomers likely to mistake it for a rocket hitting the ground. Business owners say they have long become accustomed to the sounds of war. The sheer imprecision of the weapons being indiscriminately used by rebels and government forces alike makes a target of everybody.

Even as chaos brews, a kind of ersatz normality has taken over.

The rebel headquarters, once the Donetsk region administrative building, has been substantially tidied up since it was first occupied and ransacked by separatists in April.

Many windows and fittings are still smashed, but the smell of stale alcohol that permeated the stairwell is largely gone, as are the random piles of binders once stacked up haphazardly in the offices. Rebelbureaucrats sit at their desks and ink documents with their own self-styled stamps.

The barricades of bricks and tires that once skirted the building were removed in late May, although some crude graffiti remains.

The regular police service has been disbanded and in its place are officers from the self-described Donetsk People’s Republic. Drivers still mostly stop obediently at traffic lights, not least because the rebel road police now carry automatic rifles. Stories abound of drivers caught speeding having their cars impounded at the point of a gun.

As part of an ostensible law-and-order campaign, the rebel leadership announced this week that it was introducing the death penalty for the most serious crimes. Pressed for information about which offenses would be punishable by death, Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the rebel republic, was unable to offer specifics.

The struggle to maintain normal life took a major blow over the weekend as water taps began to run dry. Local authorities explained that damage to an electricity line had cut off power to the water treatment facility that provided for most of the city’s needs. Supplies are now sporadic or nonexistent in some neighborhoods.

Electricity and gas supplies continue to be provided to most of the city because of the efforts of utilities workers who, amid the fighting, repair damaged pipelines and overhead cables. Even gardeners working for City Hall continue to carefully tend flower displays; street cleaners have ensured Donetsk’s streets do not pile up with trash.

Rovinsky of the city council said the hospitals and the fire service are also still operating, although there is a shortage of personnel and medical supplies.

The rebel FM radio station, Radio Respublika, broadcasts tips on how to behave in the event of shelling. Among the pieces of advice offered by the radio presenter in one afternoon show was to always keep mobile phones fully charged, have an emergency suitcase with basic items at hand and stock up on medicine such as painkillers and tranquillizers.

“And you must also have water. Plus some food, which should be high-calorie and not take up too much room, like dry fruit or hard cheese,” he said.

If larger numbers of people have not fled the prospect of all-out urban fighting, it is partly out of fear that their homes will be looted, as Badibina said happened in the Petrovksy district.

Many once eagerly fulminated against the government or grumbled quietly about the rebels. Now a kind of resigned trepidation is setting in as winter beckons.

“Let’s just hope this is all over before the cold sets in,” Badibina said, “because winter is going to be hard.”

TIME russia

Chinese, Russian Media Turn Criticisms Back on U.S.

Police Shooting Missouri
A man is arrested as police try to disperse a crowd during protests in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 20, 2014. Jeff Roberson—AP

"China gets criticized so much by the West that when something like this happens, it's convenient to offer a countercriticism"

(BEIJING) — Chinese and Russian state media have seized on the U.S. police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old and ensuing protests to fire back at Washington’s criticisms of their own governments, portraying the United States as a land of inequality and brutal police tactics.

The violence in the St. Louis, Missouri, suburb of Ferguson comes amid tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine, as well as friction between Washington and Beijing over what China sees as a campaign to thwart its rise as a global power.

Both countries have chafed under American criticism of their autocratic political systems — China and Russia tightly control protests and jail dissidents and demonstrators — and the events in Ferguson provided a welcome opportunity to dish some back.

“China gets criticized so much by the West that when something like this happens, it’s convenient to offer a counter-criticism,” said Ding Xueliang, an expert on Chinese politics at Hong Kong’s University of Science and Technology.

The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 at the hands of a white police officer has inflamed racial tensions in the predominantly black suburb of Ferguson, where the police force is mostly white. Violent confrontations between police and protesters followed, in which tear gas, flash grenades and Molotov cocktails were exchanged.

A tartly-worded editorial in China’s Global Times newspaper on Tuesday said that while an “invisible gap” still separated white and black Americans, countries should deal with their problems in their own way without criticizing others.

“It’s ironic that the U.S., with its brutal manner of assimilating minorities, never ceases to accuse China and countries like it of violating the rights of minorities,” said the popular tabloid, published by the ruling Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily.

The Xinhua News Agency ran a similar commentary, tossing in references to enduring racism, National Security Agency spying and drone attacks abroad.

“Obviously, what the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others,” Xinhua said.

U.S. criticisms of China center on attacks on political critics, along with heavy-handed policies toward minorities, especially Tibetans and the Muslim Uighur ethnicity from the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Washington also chides Russia over its intolerance of dissent and has joined the European Union in imposing sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for Ukrainian separatists.

Both China and Russia have invested heavily in state-controlled news outlets to project their own version of events.

In Russia, state television station Rossiya emphasized the use of force in dispersing protesters in Ferguson, sending the underlying message to Russians that the security forces in the democratic West are no less brutal or tolerant of protest than in Russia. Shots of rampaging protesters also seemed meant as a warning of the dangers of allowing protests to get out of control.

In Monday’s broadcast, a reference to recent U.S. military interventions was thrown in for good measure.

“Everything looked as if it were a military operation somewhere in Afghanistan or Iraq,” said reporter Alexander Khristenko. “Forming themselves into their own kind of fist, the police slowly moved forward, clearing the street, and the people saved themselves by running into residential areas.”

Like Rossiya, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV sent a reporter to report live from Ferguson — something unthinkable in the case of similar unrest in China. It also ran clips from U.S. talk shows blasting the police action and quoted African-American political commentator Richard Fowler saying social injustice was worsening.

“I don’t think it’s just African-Americans. I think what you have is a continued fight between the haves and the have-nots,” Fowler said.

Russia’s always-bellicose Russia Today channel ran an interview with U.S. professor and government critic Mark Mason, who called the Ferguson protests an outgrowth of income inequality and the militarization of American police forces.

“The police protect the Wall Street bankers, who own the City Hall, the City Council, the State House, the Federal government, the president of the U.S. and the Congress,” Mason told the channel.

There were also distinctions between the Russian and Chinese coverage, reflecting domestic concerns and the state of their relations with Washington.

While Russia and the U.S. have feuded bitterly and publicly, Beijing has sought to cultivate a stable relationship with Washington in which it is treated as an equal partner. Unlike in Russia, the U.S. is also widely admired by the Chinese public, who’ve made it a top choice for overseas education, investment and emigration.

China maintains an official policy of non-intervention in other countries’ affairs and says criticisms should be made in private. Too much open vitriol could undermine that position, and apart from the opinion pieces, Chinese media’s coverage of Ferguson has been relatively straight-forward.

The issues of racism and social unrest are also delicate one for China, which has been shaken by a rising number of protests and a string of violent incidents blamed on Uighur radicals seeking to shake offChinese rule over Xinjiang. Critics say the ensuing security crackdown has led to widespread abuses, including the killing of civilians.

The danger is that overplaying its criticism of the U.S. could open the window for more critical self-reflection among Chinese citizens, especially minority groups, Ding said. “They want to avoid holding an unintended public education campaign.”

The government is aware of that and is likely muting its coverage of Ferguson to avoid comparisons with Xinjiang, said Qiao Mu, director of Beijing Foreign Studies University’s Center for International Communications Studies.

“They’re wary of collateral damage, of tainting themselves,” Qiao said.

— Associated Press writer Lynn Berry contributed to this report from Moscow

TIME europe

Europe’s Economic Woes Require a Japanese Solution

Rome As Italy Returns To Recession In Second-Quarter
A pedestrian carries a plastic shopping bag as she passes a closed-down temporary outlet store in Rome, Italy, on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. Italy's economy shrank 0.2 percent in the second quarter after contracting 0.1 percent in the previous three months. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The region’s economy is starting to resemble Japan’s, and that threatens to condemn Europe to its own lost decades

No policymaker, anywhere in the world, wants his or her national economy to be compared to Japan’s. That’s because the Japanese economy, though still the world’s third-largest, has become a sad case-study in the long-term damage that can be inflicted by a financial crisis. It’s more than two decades since Japan’s financial sector melted down in a gargantuan property and stock market crash, but the economy has never fully recovered. Growth remains sluggish, the corporate sector struggles to compete, and the welfare of the average Japanese household has stagnated.

The stark reality facing Europe right now is that its post-crisis economy is looking more and more like Japan’s. And if I was Mario Draghi, Angela Merkel or Francois Hollande, that would have me very, very nervous that Europe is facing a Japanese future — a painful, multi-decade decline.

The anemic growth figures in post-crisis Europe suggest that the region is in the middle of a long-term slump much like post-crisis Japan. Euro zone GDP has contracted in three of the five years from 2009 and 2013, and the International Monetary Fund is forecasting growth of about 1.5% a year through 2019. Compare that to Japan. Between 1992 and 2002, Japan’s GDP grew more than 2% only twice, and contracted in two years. What Europe has to avoid is what happened next in Japan: There, the “lost decade” of slow growth turned into “lost decades.” A self-reinforcing cycle of low growth and meager demand became entrenched, leaving Japan almost entirely dependent on exports — in other words, on external demand — for even its modest rates of expansion.

It is easy to see Europe falling into the same trap. Low growth gives European consumers little incentive to spend, banks to lend, or companies to invest at home. Europe, in fact, has it worse than Japan in certain respects. High unemployment, never much of an issue in Japan, could suppress the spending power of the European middle class for years to come. Europe also can’t afford to rely on fiscal spending to pump up growth, as Japan has done. Pressure from bond markets and the euro zone’s leaders have forced European governments to scale back fiscal spending even as growth has stumbled. It is hard to see where Europe’s growth will come from – except for increasing exports, which, in a still-wobbly global economy, is far from a sure thing.

This slow-growth trap is showing up in Europe today as low inflation – something else that has plagued Japan for years on end. Deflation in Japan acted as a further brake on growth by constraining both consumption and investment. Now there are widespread worries that the euro zone is heading in a similar pattern. Inflation in the euro zone sunk to a mere 0.4% in July, the lowest since the depths of the Great Recession in October 2009.

Sadly, Europe and Japan also have something else in common. Their leaders have been far too complacent in tackling these problems. What really killed Japan was a diehard resistance to implementing the reforms that might spur new sources of growth. The economy has remained too tied up in the red tape and protection that stifles innovation and entrepreneurship. And aside from a burst of liberalization under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in the early 2000s, Japan’s policymakers and politicians generally avoided the politically sensitive reforms that might have fixed the economy.

Europe, arguably, has been only slightly more active. Though some individual governments have made honorable efforts – such as Spain’s with its labor-law liberalization – for the most part reform has come slowly (as in Italy), or has barely begun (France). Nor have European leaders continued to pursue the euro zone-wide integration, such as removing remaining barriers to a common market, that could also help spur growth.

What all this adds up to is simple: If Europe wants to avoid becoming Japan, Europe’s leaders will have to avoid the mistakes Japan has made over the past 20 years. That requires a dramatic shift in the current direction of European economy policy.

First of all, the European Central Bank (ECB) has to take a page out of the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) recent playbook and become much more aggressive in combating deflation. We can debate whether the BOJ’s massive and unorthodox stimulus policies are good or bad, but what is beyond argument at this point is that ECB president Draghi is not taking the threat of deflation seriously enough. Inflation is nowhere near the ECB’s preferred 2% and Draghi has run monetary policy much too tight. He should consider bringing down interest rates further, if necessary employing the “quantitative easing” used by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

But Japan’s case also shows that monetary policy alone can’t raise growth. The BOJ is currently injecting a torrent of cash into the Japanese economy, but still the economic recovery is weak. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finally seems to have digested that fact and in recent months has announced some measures aimed at overhauling the structure of the Japanese economy, by, for instance, loosening labor markets, slicing through excessive regulation, and encouraging more women to join the workforce. Abe’s efforts may prove too little, too late, but European leaders must still follow in his footsteps by taking on unions, opening protected sectors and dropping barriers to trade and investment in order to enhance competitiveness and create jobs.

If Europe fails to act, it is not hard to foresee the region slipping hopelessly into a Japan-like downward spiral. This would prove disastrous for Europe’s young people — already suffering from incomprehensible levels of youth unemployment — and it would deny the world economy yet another pillar of growth.

TIME Pakistan

Protesters Demand the Resignation of Pakistan’s Prime Minister

Anti-government marchers enter Red Zone
Pakistani political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) members celebrate entering the Red Zone in Islamabad, Pakistan, on August 20, 2014. Thousands of protesters ran over the barricades and entered Pakistani capital Islamabad's sensitive Red Zone area, which houses state buildings, on Tuesday night as the heavy force deployed there offered no resistance. Chanting anti-government slogans, protesters wanted to topple the government. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

Political opponents claim that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was fraudulently elected

Thousands of antigovernment protesters in Islamabad marched to the Parliament on Tuesday to demand the resignation of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Reuters reports.

Opposition leaders claim that Sharif was unfairly elected to power last year.

The protests are being led by former international cricketer Imran Khan — head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party — and prominent politician-cleric Tahir ul-Qadri.

Khan, who is demanding that Sharif’s government make way for fresh elections, alleges that Sharif’s party won last year’s poll through fraudulent means. On Monday, he also claimed that 34 members of his PTI party would resign from their seats in the National Assembly in protest against the current regime.

Qadri is accusing Sharif of corruption and wants the current administration replaced by a unity government of technocrats. The two leaders have held separate protests in the past, but announced earlier this week that they would join forces to march on Parliament.

An estimated 50,000 protesters have been holding demonstrations in Islamabad for five days. Reuters says that some are equipped with cranes and bolt cutters to dismantle and remove the shipping containers that are being used to barricade the government “red zone,” where Parliament and other state buildings are located.

Sharif originally called on the country’s powerful military — which deposed him in a 1999 coup — to secure the red zone, but Khan issued him a warning. “If police try to stop us and there is violence, Nawaz, I will not spare you, I will come after you and put you in jail,” Reuters reported him as saying to a crowd of supporters.

As marchers approached the capital, Sharif relented and announced that protesters could enter the area. Sharif’s daughter Maryam Sharif said on Tuesday through her Twitter account that this was because there were families among the demonstrators.

The Guardian reported that protesters, including women throwing rose petals on the ground, were not stopped by police officers as they marched into the red zone.

The protests have put pressure on the weakened government that already has poor relations with the military. It also threatens to further shake the stability of Pakistan, which is battling against a bloody Taliban insurgency and a high unemployment rate.

[Reuters]

TIME Mexico

Mexico Says Mine Firm Lied About Chemical Spill

Buenavista del Cobre copper mine could face fines of up to $3 million for violations of safety and environmental standards

(MEXICO CITY) — Mexico’s top environmental official said Tuesday that a mining company lied about a spill of millions of gallons of acids and heavy metals that contaminated two rivers and a dam downstream.

Environment Secretary Juan Jose Guerra Abud said the mine falsely claimed the spill earlier this month was caused by unusually heavy rain. Officials say a construction defect at a holding pond allowed mining waste to flow out.

“At the start, they told us it was excessive rain” that caused the containment pond to overflow, Guerra Abud said. “That was totally false,” he said, saying there were no rains on that scale.

“They said there would be a series of aid programs for the populations, which also did not happen when they said they would,” he added at a news conference.

Guerra Abud said the Buenavista del Cobre copper mine could face fines of up to $3 million for violations of safety and environmental standards. The mine is owned by the Grupo Mexico consortium, which earlier said in a statement that “torrential and unusual rains” were to blame and that it responded immediately by trying to contain the Aug. 7 spill.

The spill sent about 10 million gallons (40,000 cubic meters) of mining acids into two rivers and on to a dam that supplies water to the capital of the northern state of Sonora.

Authorities have ordered a shut-off of water use from the dam until its safety can be ensured. The Environment Department office has also ordered an inspection of all Buenavista del Cobre’s properties to verify the company is complying with environmental laws.

National water commission head David Korenfeld said acids and pollutants like arsenic have been so diluted they are now within acceptable limits at the dam. A decision to renew use of the dam’s water could come as early as Friday, after multiple tests are carried out, he said.

But Korenfeld said the dam would have to raise intake levels for years to avoid stirring up possibly contaminated sediment. “The procedures for operating the dam are going to have to change for the next few years,” he said.

The mine piles up crushed rock and then leaches out metals using acid that collects in containment or transfer ponds until it is processed.

Arturo Rodriguez, the head of industrial inspection for the Attorney General for Environmental Protection, said lax supervision at the mine, along with some rain and construction defects, appeared to have caused the spill. Rodriguez said mine operators should have been able to detect the leak before such a large quantity got into the rivers.

TIME Liberia

Liberia President Declares Ebola Curfew

Liberia says escaped Ebola patients returned to quarantine
Liberian nurses retrieve a looted generator stolen from the M V Massaquoi Elementary school that was used as an Ebola isolation unit in West Point, Monrovia, Liberia, Aug. 19, 2014. Ahmed Jallanzo—EPA

(MONROVIA, Liberia) — Liberia’s president has declared a curfew and is imposing a quarantine of a major slum in the capital Monrovia as the death toll mounts from Ebola.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced late Tuesday that movements now would be restricted between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The country is already under a state of emergency, and the latest action also will block all movement in and out of West Point, home to at least 50,000 people.

Over the weekend, residents angered over the placement of an Ebola center in West Point looted the facility and 37 patients left who were supposed to be under surveillance. Health officials said that all of those later returned.

At least 466 people have died from Ebola in Liberia, and panic already has led to social unrest.

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