TIME Ukraine

Ukraine’s Parliamentary Vote Won’t Heal the Nation’s Divide

UKRAINE-RUSSIA-VOTE-CRISIS
Vasili Maximov —AFP/Getty Images A girl walks past booths at a polling station in Kiev on October 25, 2014, on the eve of the country's parliamentary elections.

By leaving millions of pro-Russian voters out of the electoral process, the ballot will only deepen the rifts that lie beneath the war in eastern Ukraine.

The lynch mob caught up with Nestor Shufrich on Sept. 30, when he was campaigning for re-election to Ukraine’s parliament. Outside the press conference he was due to give that day in the port city of Odessa, a gang of activists and right wing thugs were waiting for him with a garbage dumpster, into which they had planned to stuff the lawmaker in front of the assembled journalists. The ambush, part of a broader purge of politicians who are seen as sympathetic toward Russia, did not work out; Shufrich heard about it and cancelled the appearance. But the mob soon tracked him down inside the local government headquarters, tore his clothes off and beat him until his eyes swelled, his head concussed and blood poured from his nose.

A few weeks later, on the final stretch of the campaign, Shufrich recalled the incident like an occupational hazard. “These things come with the territory now, unfortunately,” he says on Friday, two days before the parliamentary ballot that will be held this weekend in most of the country, but not all of it. The huge parts of eastern Ukraine that are under the control of pro-Russian separatist rebels will not take part in the vote, and neither will the southern region of Crimea, which Russia invaded and annexed in March. “That means millions of our constituents will not be represented in this parliament,” Shufrich tells TIME. “How much of a national dialogue can you expect in those conditions?”

Probably not much at all. In the eight months since the revolution booted Ukraine’s Moscow-backed leaders from power, the country’s political discourse has devolved into a kind of blood sport, and Russia’s military meddling in Ukraine has only served to radicalize the political scene further in the lead up to the vote. Pro-Russian politicians from the old regime have been forced to flee the country in droves, typically to Russia, where the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych took refuge in February. The members of his party who stayed behind, such as Shufrich, have been routinely arrested and charged with separatism, attacked in the streets, beaten or thrown into dumpsters by crowds of vigilantes. An alarming number of Ukrainians seem to support the forces behind these attacks. According to the latest opinion polls, the populists set to take second place in these elections are from the aptly named Radical Party, which uses a pitchfork as its logo and treats even the vaguest relation or sympathy to Russia as a political mark of the devil.

For Ukraine’s new president, Petro Poroshenko, all this makes it a lot harder to pursue the peace agenda that helped get him elected in May. His political party, the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, is still set to get the most votes in these elections, but its ability to pursue negotiations with Russia and reconciliation with the separatists in eastern Ukraine will run up against the nationalists and militants with whom the party will have to share the legislative branch.

In an address to the nation two weeks before the vote, Poroshenko admitted that the peace process he initiated in September, including a shaky ceasefire agreed with the pro-Russian rebels, “is constantly attacked by the gung-ho patriots,” an oblique reference to nationalist groups like the Radical Party and its loudmouthed leader Oleh Lyashko. “These people are, for the most part, divorced from reality and eager to criticize,” he said. “But I nonetheless have no intention of changing my strategy.”

That will be a lot harder than he makes it sound. At the heart of his peace plan has been a series of concessions to the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, which he has allowed to elect their own separatist leaders and enjoy broad autonomy from the central government in Kiev. These acts of appeasement have been enough to slow the fighting around the conflict zones in the past month and a half, but they have also incensed the hardline political forces that want nothing short of a military victory over the separatists. The most radical among them have been the paramilitary commanders leading the fight against the rebels on the front lines and, more recently, campaigning for places in parliament.

One of them, the ultranationalist Andriy Biletsky, who leads a regiment of several thousand fighters, has called for Ukraine to scrap the ceasefire and push ahead with an all-out war. “We are negotiating [with Russia] from a position of weakness,” he told TIME in an interview last month in Kiev. “So any breather we get during this conflict will be just that, a temporary respite, and eventually the war will continue. So I don’t see the logic behind negotiating now.”

Nor do many of the activists and protestors who rose up last winter against the Yanukovych regime. In the past few weeks, as the parliamentary elections grew near, thousands of them have again begun to demonstrate in Kiev for a harder line against the separatists, at times clashing with police in scenes that have been painfully reminiscent of the revolution that brought Poroshenko to power in the first place. These protestors do not represent a part of the electorate that can be easily ignored or sidelined. In a nationwide survey released this week, 40% of respondents said they are prepared to take to the streets for a resumption of the winter uprising if Ukraine’s new leaders fail to meet the demands of the revolution.

At the heart of those demands is the drive to purge the ruling class of anyone with ties to the ousted government, and on that front Poroshenko has tried to deliver. Earlier this month, he signed the so-called “lustration” law, which would affect up to a million people who had been on the government’s payroll under the old regime. After an elaborate vetting process, these civil servants could be banned from holding any job in the state bureaucracy for a decade, thus branding a huge portion of the country as unfit for public service. It is under the vengeful spirit of this law that Shufrich and other holdouts from the Yanukovych government have been facing mob justice in the streets. “We’re like pariahs now,” he says.

In the course of a few turbulent months, the purge has helped disrupt an uneasy balance of power that had held in Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union. The electoral map of the country had been split for years roughly down the middle with a political east-west divide. Voters in the central and western parts of the country tended to favor integration with Europe, and bristled at Russia’s frequent attempts to treat Ukraine like a wayward stepchild. But to the east and south of the Dnieper River that bisects Ukraine, and especially in the industrial eastern regions where the dominant language has always been Russian, voters broadly favored the close ties with Moscow on which their economic fortunes depended. For the past two decades, both halves of Ukrainian society had ample representation in parliament. Sometimes they turned the chamber into a venue for food fights and bare-knuckle boxing, but at least all sides got to have their say.

What finally ruptured this balance was the Russian annexation of Crimea in March. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was outraged at the revolution that toppled his ally in Kiev, sent his troops to occupy the Crimean peninsula and absorb it into Russia. But he did not win many allies in Ukraine in the process. Even the regions that had previously favored closer ties with Moscow began to see a surge of ill will toward the Russian President and the country he represents. According a survey conducted in May, two months after the annexation of Crimea, 76% of respondents had a negative view of Putin, up from 40% just a year earlier.

The main exceptions to that trend were the two separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where the vast majority of people expressed support for Putin in May despite his annexation of a piece of their country. These breakaway chunks of eastern Ukraine, which are home to at least 10% of the country’s 45 million people, are now being left out of the electoral process. Instead of taking part in this weekend’s elections, the rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine will hold their own ballots next month, thus helping to formalize their split with the rest of the country. “If you count the people of Crimea, that comes to seven million Russian-speaking voters who will not be represented in the new parliament,” says Shufrich.

For the ruling government in Kiev, that might not be such a bad thing. The absence of millions of pro-Russian voters will ensure that Ukraine’s new leaders, as well as the nationalist parties, get a stronger mandate to rule at the polls, while the closest thing to a pro-Russian party running in these elections – the newfangled Opposition Bloc of Shufrich and his allies – has been so badly humiliated and demoralized by the post-revolutionary purge that it is not expected to win any seats in the parliament. This may well reflect the new anti-Russian mood in Ukraine as a whole. But it will not help heal the national divide. Instead of moving into the somewhat more civilized framework of parliamentary debate, the conflict over eastern Ukraine will still be caught up in the discourse of purges, guns and garbage dumpsters.

TIME ebola

Study: Current Aid Promises Won’t Contain Liberia’s Ebola Outbreak

Health workers from the Liberian Red Cross wear protective gear as they shovel sand which will be used to absorb fluids emitted from the bodies of Ebola victims in front of the ELWA 2 Ebola management center in Monrovia on October 23, 2014.
Zoom Dosso—AFP/Getty Images Health workers from the Liberian Red Cross wear protective gear as they shovel sand which will be used to absorb fluids emitted from the bodies of Ebola victims in front of the ELWA 2 Ebola management center in Monrovia on October 23, 2014.

Liberia does not have the resources it needs to end the Ebola outbreak any time soon.

The amount of treatment center beds and infection control resources needed to curb the Ebola epidemic in Montserrado County, Liberia vastly surpasses the donations pledged for the region from the international community, scientists say.

In a new report published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers from Yale School of Public Health used modeling to compare estimates of case numbers in Liberia to currently available resources as well as those resources promised by international bodies. Their data show that without significantly scaled up efforts, there will be 170,996 cases of Ebola and 90,122 deaths related to the virus in Montserrado County by Dec. 15. But, the researchers say that if there’s a significantly ramped up effort that provides 4,800 treatment beds and a fivefold increase in detection and diagnostics in November, there could be 77,312 cases prevented by the same date.

Here’s the problem: The United States, for example, has only promised 1,700 beds to all of West Africa. Clearly, those numbers do not match up, making catastrophic projections for case and death tolls all the more realistic.

“While the window of opportunity for timely control of the Ebola outbreak has passed, the risk of catastrophic devastation both in West Africa and beyond has only just begun,” said study author Alison Galvani, a professor of epidemiology at Yale in a statement. “While vaccines to prevent Ebola remain unavailable, our study urges a rapid and immediate scaling-up of all currently available non-pharmaceutical intervention strategies to minimize the occurrence of new cases and deaths.”

But where is that scale-up going to come from? The answer is unfortunately unapparent.

TIME ebola

Mali Aims to Limit Ebola Spread After First Case Dies

Electron micrograph of Ebola virus
NIAID/EPA

Two-year-old girl from Guinea tested positive on Oct. 23, died the next day

A two-year-old Guinean girl who recently traveled to Mali and was later confirmed to have Ebola has died, officials said on Friday, one day after her positive diagnosis meant the virus had reached its sixth nation in West Africa.

The child died around 4 p.m. local time at a treatment center in the western town of Kayes, a health official told Reuters. On Thursday, Health Minister Ousmane Kone told state television that she had traveled from neighboring Guinea, where more than 900 people have died in an outbreak that has killed nearly 4,900 and infected more than 9,900 others. The girl was admitted to a hospital on Wednesday night, where she tested positive for Ebola.

Health officials told the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a report released Friday, that she was accompanied to Mali by her grandmother. The girl’s mother was reported to have died a few weeks earlier, but WHO could not yet confirm that the grandmother went to Kissidougou, in southern Guinea, for the funeral. The pair returned to Mali by public transportation and arrived in the capital, Bamako, where they stayed for two hours before moving on to Kayes.

The girl had begun bleeding from the nose before she left Guinea, the report found, “meaning that the child was symptomatic during their travels through Mali” and that “multiple opportunities for exposure occurred when the child was visibly symptomatic.” The initial investigation identified 43 close and unprotected contacts, including 10 health workers.

The Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene said in a statement it had “taken all necessary steps to prevent the spread of the virus” and the government called for calm, claiming it had identified and isolated those who had contact with the child and begun monitoring for symptoms. Tracing this particular case is “a work-in-progress,” Isabelle Nuttall, the WHO’s director of Global Capacities, Alert and Response, tells TIME. WHO had already sent a team of 10 to Mali at the beginning of the week to work on mobilization activities and preparedness operations, and is sending more as part of a rapid response team.

Mali still has its border open to travelers from Guinea, though border checkpoints and health points have been implemented on major roads and crossings. Greg Rose, health advisor to the British Red Cross, says the fact that the child is now “in a more remote location is a good thing” because Kayes is not situated on the main transport routes (unlike larger towns situated on the Niger River) and only has a population of around 127,000, a fraction of Bamako’s 1.8 million. Another positive, Rose says, is that “it doesn’t look like the situation from where this child has come is out of control,” which could reduce the risk of transmission. He adds that Kissidougou, where the child’s mother is believed to have died, has seen relatively few cases since the beginning of the epidemic and is now the site of a treatment center.

Rose believes that being able to isolate people who are asymptomatic will prove a major advantage for Mali. Since the government has reacted very quickly and identified this case early, he adds, it will be able to do much more to contain any spread of Ebola from this sole case. In comparison, “when you have a disseminated outbreak like in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, where resources are limited, they can only isolate symptomatic people.”

Nuttall believes it is still too premature to assess the effectiveness of Mali’s public health response. But “so far, it looks good,” Rose says. “If you look back to Guinea when the outbreak first began in January of this year, nothing was being done because everybody was taken by surprise,” he adds. “Experience of Ebola in other contexts had shown that Ebola outbreaks tend to burn out so Guinea was neglected, which is why this got out of hand.”

While experts believe Mali’s health system is stronger than some of its neighbors, it is still quite weak. “In this part of Africa, as a general rule, the health system needs to be strengthened,” Nuttall says. Maternal mortality ratio, which Rose says is a solid indicator of public health infrastructure because it depends so much on the provision of health services and skilled attendants, is at 550 deaths per 100,000 live births in Mali. That figure isn’t as high as other countries affected by Ebola — Liberia stands at 640, Guinea at 650 and Sierra Leone at 1,100 — but is still remarkably high when compared with the U.S. (28 per 100,000) and the U.K., at just eight.

As the situations in Nigeria and Senegal have shown — both were recently declared Ebola-free — it is possible to contain the virus and control the epidemic. But as more cases pop up in the three hardest-hit countries, and now with Mali’s first case quickly turning deadly, controlling anxiety and fear alongside any actual spread could be a feat.

TIME ebola

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses Could Be Ready Next Year

Liberia Races To Expand Ebola Treatment Facilities, As U.S. Troops Arrive
John Moore—Getty Images U.S. Navy microbiologist Lt. Jimmy Regeimbal handles a vaccine box with blood samples while testing for Ebola at the U.S. Navy mobile laboratory on October 5, 2014 near Gbarnga, Liberia.

Five new experimental vaccines are expected to undergo testing

Pharmaceutical companies are committed to making millions of doses of Ebola vaccines available next year, the World Health Organization announced Friday.

The United Nations organization said that two vaccines are currently ready for clinical trials and five more experimental vaccines are expected to undergo testing in the first four months of 2015.

The remarks were made by WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny and publicized on the WHO’s Twitter account. Kieny cautioned that the the vaccines might be “proven not usable” but it’s still “prudent” to prepare a large amount, according to the Twitter account. Over 4,800 people have died from Ebola this year.

If early testing goes well, more advanced trials of the potential Ebola vaccines could take place in the West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak as soon as December.

TIME ebola

NYC Doctor With Ebola Described As a ‘Dedicated Humanitarian’

Doctor Quarantined At NYC's Bellevue Hospital After Showing Symptoms Of Ebola
Bryan Thomas—Getty Images A health alert is displayed at the entrance to Bellevue Hospital October 23, 2014 in New York City.

Friends and colleagues have high praise for Dr. Craig Spencer as he begins a fight for his life

The New York City-based doctor who tested positive for Ebola Thursday after working with virus patients in the West African country of Guinea is a high achiever and a “dedicated humanitarian,” the hospital where he works said in a statement.

Dr. Craig Spencer “is a committed and responsible physician who always puts his patients first,” said a statement from New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, where Spencer serves as an emergency room doctor. Before being diagnosed with Ebola, Spencer had been working with humanitarian aid group Doctor’s Without Borders fighting the virus’ outbreak in West Africa.

Spencer, 33, left Guinea, one of the countries hardest hit by the recent Ebola outbreak, on Oct. 14. Spencer returned to the U.S. via New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Oct. 17. He began showing symptoms on Thursday, Oct. 23, when his temperature was recorded at a slightly elevated 100.3 degrees fahrenheit, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday morning, clarifying widespread reports Thursday that Duncan’s temperature was above 103 degrees. Ebola can incubate undetected in the body for up to 21 days before an infected person shows symptoms. Ebola patients are not contagious until they show symptoms, and they become increasingly contagious as they get more sick.

Spencer graduated from Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, studied Chinese language and literature at Henan University in China, earned a medical degree from Detroit’s Wayne State University School of Medicine and, in 2008, started his residency in New York, becoming a fellow at the Columbia University Medical Center’s International Medicine Program, according to information drawn from his LinkedIn profile by The Wall Street Journal. Spencer’s LinkedIn page has since been taken down.

“He was an outstanding student, humanitarian, excellent physician,” one of Spencer’s professors told the Journal. “He’s done a lot of good international work. He had been to parts of the world—marginalized, disenfranchised—working to improve the human condition.”

According to a friend who met Spencer through the website Couchsurfing, which connects travelers with free places to stay, he’s a runner who plays the banjo and speaks French, Chinese and Spanish.

TIME royals

Queen Elizabeth II Sends Her First Tweet

Britain’s monarch dabbled in social media on Friday by sending her very first tweet.

While opening the Information Age exhibit at London’s Science Museum, the Queen, referring to herself as Elizabeth R., tapped out her first tweet from the official Twitter account of Buckingham Palace.

A statement from the museum said director Ian Blatchford had invited Queen Elizabeth to mark the occasion on social media. “I mentioned earlier that Queen Victoria took a great interest in the invention of the telephone, and Your Majesty has followed in this tradition of embracing new technology,” he told her. “You made the first live Christmas broadcast in 1957 and an event relished by historians took place on [March 26, 1976], when you became the first monarch to send an email, during a visit to the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment. May I now invite you to join me so that you may send your first tweet.”

The tweet’s author was then verified by the @BritishMonarchy account with a follow-up tweet and a photo of the Queen sending the message.

Read next: See Kate Middleton’s Stunning Fashion Evolution

TIME

The South Korean Ferry Tragedy Has Exposed a Bitter Political Divide

Sewol Disaster Impact On South Korea Continues
Paula Bronstein—Getty Images A man holds a candle as protesters continue their fight at the Sewol ferry protest camp September 16, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea.

Incredibly, right-wing groups in South Korea have a problem with families of Sewol victims continuing to mourn their loved ones

When the Sewol ferry sank in April, South Korea was united in trauma over the tragedy of a routine ferry ride that somehow resulted in the deaths of around 300 people, many of them high school kids.

More than six months later, that grief has mutated into bitterness along political lines, and given rise to a slow-burn faceoff between antagonistic civic groups in the heart of the South Korean capital.

In Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul’s symbolic center, amid groups of tourists taking selfies, relatives of some of those who died on the Sewol and their supporters have, for more than three months, been camped out in a makeshift tent city. And on a sidewalk across the square, civic groups with a very different take on the issue of the sinking have set up their own camp.

The relatives are calling on the government to mandate a thorough investigation into the cause of the sinking. “All we want is the truth,” said Kim Sung-shil, the 50-year-old mother of a high school boy who died in the sinking. More than six months after her son’s death, Kim still introduces herself as “Dong-hyuk’s mom.”

The families and their supporters argue that corruption and corner-cutting were behind the sinking, and need to be rooted out. The company that operated the Sewol is believed to have violated safety regulations by overloading the ship and failing to train the crew in how to carry out an emergency evacuation. The government’s emergency response has also been criticized for being late and ineffective.

When it went down on Apr. 16, the Sewol was carrying 476 people, only 172 of whom were rescued, many by private vessels who went to the scene to help out. Ten bodies have still not been recovered.

“If we never find the real truth behind the tragedy, our society will just become a darker place where people fear for their safety,” Kim said.

In part because most of them came from a working class suburb, victims of the sinking have become identified with the political left, leading to a forceful backlash from right wing groups that have their roots in red-bashing. Across the road from where Kim is camped out, right-wingers argue that the grieving families have been at it long enough and it’s time to get back to business as usual.

“It’s time for someone to stand up and say enough is enough,” said Bae Sung-gwan, a conservative activist and retired career soldier. He added, “At the time of the sinking, everyone felt sympathy for them, but a long time has passed and that sympathy has run out.”

In late September, while Sewol families and supporters were holding a hunger strike, rightwing activists held a protest of their own where they feasted on pizza and fried chicken directly in front of them.

Kim Sung-shil said of her conservative adversaries, “I have no idea why they’re here. It’s like they don’t have families.”

The Sewol incident and its fallout even led Lee and some associates, all graying men, to revive the Northwest Youth Association, a conservative youth group with a history of anti-communist purges.

After the 1951-53 Korean War, South Korea was, for decades, led by military dictatorships who argued that harsh controls were necessary to protect the country’s fragile peace from North Korean communist infiltration.

Some far-right activists also still believe that South Korea could at any time be overrun by communists from North Korea. “The leftists are using this [the Sewol sinking] as a chance to seize power. If they come to control the government, our country will be vulnerable to communists,” said Kang In-ho, a rightwing activist manning his side’s main table, gathering signatures for a petition seeking for any special Sewol investigation to be cancelled.

Parliament was deadlocked for weeks due to disagreement over the composure of the investigative body and the limits of its authority. The ruling and opposition parties reached a compromise on the law in early October, but the families are refusing to accept it on the grounds that they weren’t given a say in choosing who will carry out the investigation. The bill mandating the investigation will be passed at the end of October, once parliament finishes regular audits of government ministries.

The outdoor struggle is therefore likely to continue, even as Seoul’s crisp autumn weather segues into the bitter cold of winter. Kim says she’s in for the long haul. “I know Dong-hyuk is watching,” she said. “I can’t give up now.”

Kang In-ho says it’s time to move on from the Sewol tragedy. “The economy is suffering because they’re trying to keep everyone sad.”

But, Kang says, he’s not ready to move on from his own activist camp just yet. When asked how long his group planned to keep their post, Kang points over his shoulder at the Sewol families and says, “One day longer than them.”

TIME Malaysia

Malaysia’s Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim Awaits Sodomy Appeal Verdict

MALAYSIA-POLITICS-OPPOSITION
Manan Vatsyayana—AFP/Getty Images Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim addresses the media after a meeting with senior Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) leaders in Subang Jaya on Aug. 17, 2014.

The 67-year-old's conviction has been slammed by human rights groups as "politically motivated"

Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim returns to court next week to learn whether he will be jailed on sodomy charges.

On Tuesday, Malaysia’s Federal Court will hear Anwar’s appeal of his March conviction for engaging in homosexual acts, charges both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say amount to “politically motivated persecution.”

Speaking to TIME on Friday, Anwar said his chances “didn’t look good.”

“Most of Malaysia does not believe that I will get a fair trial or a decision based on the facts of the law,” he said. “But I want to show young people that [my conviction] is a small price to pay in the struggle for freedom and justice.”

Anwar was originally arrested on July 16, 2008, after a former male aide alleged the pair had engaged in consensual sexual relations — criminalized under Malaysia’s colonial-era “sodomy law.” The High Court then acquitted Anwar on Jan. 9, 2012, ruling that DNA samples vital to the prosecution case could have been contaminated.

On March 7, 2014, the Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal and sentenced Anwar to five years imprisonment. The hearing was originally scheduled for April but was curiously moved forward a month. This meant Anwar was disqualified from running in the Kajang district state assembly election on March 23.

Phil Robertson, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, has urged the Malaysian authorities to drop the case or risk making a “travesty of the country’s criminal justice system.”

“Prosecuting Anwar for something that should never be considered a crime shows how far the government is prepared to go to remove a political opponent,” he said.

Anwar’s imprisonment has been stayed during his appeal, but if convicted he faces five years in prison plus a mandatory five-year prohibition on running for office, effectively ending the 67-year-old’s political career.

Malaysia’s May 5, 2013, general elections saw the Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) coalition led by Anwar win 50% of the popular vote. However, this only translated to 89 parliamentary seats due to the “first past the post” electoral system. (The incumbent National Front coalition government of Prime Minister Najib Razak gained 47% of the vote but 133 seats.)

Anwar and independent observers have alleged electoral irregularities and widespread gerrymandering, and thousands took to the streets to demand an investigation. Najib’s administration strenuously denies any impropriety.

TIME Nigeria

Dozens More Women And Girls Abducted By Boko Haram in Nigeria

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls
Olamikan Gbemiga—AP A man poses with a sign in front of police officers in riot gear during a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped girls of the government secondary school in Chibok, in Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 14, 2014.

Residents say the kidnappings come a day after a truce between the militants and the Nigerian government

The militant Islamist group Boko Haram has been accused of abducting dozens more women and girls from two villages in Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa state.

Residents say the alleged kidnappings, which haven’t been confirmed by authorities, took place a day after a reported truce between the militants and Nigerian government, the BBC says.

The government hopes negotiations with Boko Haram will secure the release of more than 200 girls who were taken hostage by the militants in April. But the Islamist group has not confirmed the ceasefire.

The April kidnapping, in Borno state, sparked mass protests in Nigeria and calls for the government to do more to save the girls under the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

Meanwhile a bomb blasted through a bus station Wednesday in northern Bauchi state, killing five people and injuring 12. No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack.

[BBC]

TIME The Philippines

Philippine Transgender Murder Becomes a Rallying Point for LGBT Rights

Aaron Favila—AP A Filipino activist holds flowers and a slogan during prayers in suburban Quezon city, Philippines on Thursday Oct. 23, 2014, to call for justice for the killing of Filipino transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude.

Activists say the death of Jennifer Laude highlights the vulnerable position of trans people in the Philippines

The burial of transgender woman Jennifer Laude has sparked a “National Day of Outrage” in the Philippines, with LGBT organizations staging candlelight vigils across the country on Friday.

A U.S. Marine has been accused of her killing.

“We will deliver messages of solidarity and push for justice,” says Charlese Saballe, chairwoman of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP). “The media attention to Jennifer’s case means a slow movement toward bringing transgender issues to the mainstream.”

Following Laude’s Oct. 11 murder, media have mostly focused on the fact that suspect Joseph Scott Pemberton has been held under U.S. guard, under a defense agreement between the two countries. Loud criticism has been raised over the agreement, with protesters attempting to carry a mock coffin to the U.S. embassy in Manila on Friday.

However, as Steven Rood, the Asia Foundation’s representative in the Philippines, points out, much of that will blow over.

“There’s the sensitivity of not treating Filipinos as second-class citizens in their own country,” he says. “But the backdrop is that the average Filipino citizen is very much in favor of having U.S. troops here. This doesn’t threaten U.S.-Filipino relations; the strategic benefits for the alliance will override this specific issue.”

Rather, some people hope that the strong bilateral connection between the two countries could impact the LGBT rights struggle in the Philippines. LGBT groups have participated in several protests outside the U.S. embassy in Manila and at vigils in the U.S.

“If media and other groups in the U.S. frame [Laude’s murder] as a hate crime and focuses on transgender rights, it might trickle down to people in society here and affect how they treat transgender and LGBT people,” says Saballe.

While visible, LGBT people in the Philippines lack anti-discriminatory legislation and the legal recognition of transgender available in many other countries, including the U.S.

“[Seen] with American eyes, the position of the LGBT community in the Philippines is an unusual one,” says Rood. “It’s a normal part of the Filipino community, but the violence they may be subjected to has not been very visible. This will certainly be a rallying cry.”

Saballe, whose organization also monitors violence against LGBT people in the Philippines, stresses that the community is “not really accepted in society.” She adds, “Only days after Jennifer was killed, two other trans women were murdered.”

Friday’s protest action is being held simultaneously in four cities in the Philippines, with a solidarity event also arranged in the Netherlands and a discussion forum in Thailand.

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