TIME Africa

A Terrifying Ebola Outbreak in West Africa Is Spreading Fast

This scanning electron micrograph, SEM, depicts a number of Ebola virions. UIG/Getty Images

There are no known treatments or vaccines for the hemorrhagic fever, which kills up to 90 percent of those who become infected

Guinea’s capital Conakry has been hit by an Ebola epidemic that has already claimed dozens of lives in the country’s southern forests.

“At least 59 out of 80 who contracted Ebola across the West African country have died so far,” said UNICEF in a statement to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

There are no known treatments or vaccines for Ebola, a viral hemorrhagic fever that kills up to 90 percent of those who become infected, depending on the strain of the virus. The virus is spread through direct contact with blood, feces or sweat, by sexual contact or unprotected handling of contaminated corpses. First discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, the disease has spread in several outbreaks, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.

“This outbreak is particularly devastating because medical staff are among the first victims … hindering the response and threatening normal care in a country already lacking in medical personnel,” UNICEF said.

The organization has sent five tons of aid to the country’s most affected regions, and has urged Guineans not to attend funerals when possible and to avoid all contact with the sick and the dead.

[AFP]

TIME Joseph Kony

The Hunt for Ugandan Warlord Joseph Kony Just Got a Lot More Intense

Joseph Kony
Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army answers journalists' questions in Ri-Kwamba, Sudan, on Nov. 12, 2006 Stuart Price—AFP/Getty Images

President Obama is adding about 150 special-operations personnel and four aircraft to the years-long pursuit of the Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, who has avoided detection as his ranks have ravaged large swaths of Central Africa

Military aircraft are for the first time to join an enlarged U.S. special-operations force in Uganda as President Barack Obama ramps up efforts to hunt down notorious warlord Joseph Kony.

CV-22 Osprey aircraft will arrive by midweek, along with refueling aircraft and some 150 Air Force special-operations personnel, according to the Washington Post. A total of 300 U.S. troops will now be stationed in the restive Central African state.

Kony, whose brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has spent years plundering villages, mutilating civilians and kidnapping children across large swaths of Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

LRA atrocities publicized on the Internet have sparked waves of revulsion around the world.

[Washington Post]

TIME Military

Iran’s Building a Mock Aircraft Carrier for a Movie

Iran says its faux flattop is to star in a movie. Digitalglobe

The Iranians are putting together a pontoon barge the size of an aircraft carrier, but it won't pose a threat to the U.S. Navy - it'll just be starring in a movie about an accidental U.S. attack on an Iranian passenger jet

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the U.S. Navy’s fleet of 10 aircraft carriers should be feeling pretty smug right about now. Why?

  • First, the U.S. Marines are busy acquiring a three-flattop fleet known as the America class. The first of this new class of amphibious assault ships, the $3.4 billion USS America, is slated to join the fleet later this year.
  • Second, the Chinese painted a carrier-sized target deep in the Gobi desert about a year ago before attacking it with their new ship-killing missiles.
  • Finally, the Iranians are busy constructing a crude barge two-thirds the size of the 1,092-foot long USS Nimitz, the world’s biggest warship. According to the Navy, it consists of little more than “pontoons with steel construction to replicate hull, flight deck and superstructure.” Think of it as a parade float, of absolutely no military utility.

What’s going on here?

The first ship of the Marines’ new class of mini-carriers, the USS America, in sea trials in November. Navy photo

Well, there’s no better way to grab the attention of U.S. intelligence than pretending to build or destroy aircraft carriers, which have served as the heart of the U.S. Navy’s fleet for 70 years.

The U.S. Marines have always been leery of relying on the U.S. Navy for air support. That’s why they have their own Gator navy to ferry their airplanes to battle (these ships are owned and operated by the Navy, but dedicated to the corps’ use).

The Marines apparently are a little late to the Defense Department’s push for joint operations, where each service brings its own skills to the fight. But it makes sense, in a perverse Pentagon kind of way: seeing as the Marines are basically a second land army, why shouldn’t they have their own naval fleet and air force, as well?

China has tested a ship-killing missile against a carrier-sized target in the Gobi desert. WCT

China, following in the footsteps of its regional rival, Japan, has never cared for U.S. aircraft carriers patrolling off its coast. That explains its effort to develop weapons that can put such American warships at risk, without having to build a costly blue-water navy of its own.

So those two carriers make some kind of sense. But the Iranian example, first reported in the New York Times, doesn’t. The mock carrier is under construction in Bandar Abbas, an Iranian port city on the Strait of Hormuz. “We do not assess that Iran has the capability to build an aircraft carrier,” says Navy Commander Jason Salata of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain. “We do not assess that this particular barge would impact our operations here.”

Iran has pulled such stunts before. Last year, the aviation world hooted and hollered when it rolled out the F-313, Iran’s first homemade “stealth” fighter.

What’s the carrier actually for? Iranian media reported Sunday that the fake carrier will star in a movie about the 1988 shootdown of an Iranian Airbus airliner by the U.S. Navy, which killed all 290 aboard.

The official Navy probe into the tragedy didn’t mention any involvement by a carrier. In fact, the warship that fired the missile that downed the airliner was the USS Vincennes, a cruiser. So constructing a mock carrier for such a movie doesn’t make sense.

But, given that one of the actors involved in the production of Airbus is Sean Ali Stone, son of U.S. filmmaker Oliver Stone, perhaps it does.

TIME

VIDEO: Ukraine Foreign Minister Says Threat of War is ‘Growing’

Ukraine Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia said Ukraine would continue using diplomatic and economic tactics to contain Russia, but added that “the people are also ready to defend their homeland.”

Ukraine Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia told ABC’s This Week Sunday that he was deeply concerned about the Russian troops massing on Ukraine’s eastern border, and said the chances of war were “becoming higher.”

He said Ukraine would continue using diplomatic and economic tactics to contain Russia, but added that “the people are also ready to defend their homeland.”

Meanwhile, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken defended the Obama administration’s sanctions on Russia in the wake of its annexation of the disputed region of Crimea. Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Blinken said the Russian economy had taken “a real hit.”

TIME Turkey

Turkish Military Shoots Down Syrian Jet

Turkey said it was forced to act after a Syrian MIG-23 aircraft flew into the country's airspace near the Kasab border crossing. "If you violate my airspace, our slap after this will be hard," said Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan

A Syrian airplane was shot down on Sunday by the Turkish military, which claimed the jet had violated the country’s airspace.

“Our F-16s took off and hit this plane,” Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said. “Why? Because if you violate my airspace our slap after this will be hard.”

The Turkish military said a Syrian MIG-23 plane entered Turkish airspace near the Kasab border crossing, where Syrian rebels have been fighting forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad since Friday. A Turkish F-16 shot the Syrian jet down with a rocket. Syria says the pilot was able to eject before the plane crashed, Reuters reports.

Just six months ago Turkey shot down a Syrian helicopter that entered its airspace in the same area.

[Reuters]

TIME Ukraine

‘Very Sizable’ Russian Force on Ukrainian Border, NATO Chief Warns

Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, take cover behind an armored vehicle as they attempt to take over a military airbase in the Crimean town of Belbek near Sevastopol, March 22, 2014.
Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, take cover behind an armored vehicle as they attempt to take over a military air base in the Crimean town of Belbek, near Sevastopol, on March 22, 2014 Shamil Zhumatov—Reuters

NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe is concerned about Russian forces massing at the Ukrainian border as fears grow that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be eyeing a Russian-speaking region of Moldova

Russian military exercises on Ukraine’s eastern border have Western powers concerned over what Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next move could be, NATO’s top military official said Sunday.

“The [Russian] force that is at the Ukrainian border now to the east is very, very sizable and very, very ready,” said U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, in a speech at the German Marshall Fund think tank. More than a week ago Russia began military exercises near the Ukrainian border involving 8,500 artillerymen, Reuters reports.

Breedlove called it “very worrisome” that Russian forces are positioned to make a run into the Moldovan region of Transnistria, a Russian-speaking separatist region that shares a border with southwestern Ukraine. The speaker of Transnistria’s separatist parliament has urged Putin to incorporate the region into the Russian Federation, as Moscow did with Crimea, formerly in Ukraine, last week. Transnistria attempted to break away from Moldova as the Soviet Union was falling apart, fearing that Moldova would unite with Romania.

With Crimea now effectively subsumed into the Russian Federation, Moscow may feel that Transnistria is “the next place where Russian-speaking people may need to be incorporated,” Breedlove said.

[Reuters]

TIME Turkey

Turkey Tightens Twitter Blackout

APTOPIX Turkey Twitter
Members of the Turkish Youth Union hold cartoons depicting Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a protest against a ban on Twitter on March 21, 2014, in Ankara Burhan Ozbilici—AP

The Turkish government has blocked a widely shared method of circumventing its recently imposed ban on the social media network after reports about corruption in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were spread by users across the country

With a ban on the social-media service Twitter entering its fourth day, the government of Turkey has hardened its digital blockade, making it increasingly difficult for Internet users to circumvent the government’s censorship.

Twitter has been officially blocked in Turkey ever since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that he would “wipe out” the service and other social-media networks, but users initially found circumventing the ban easy.

Although access to the URL twitter.com was blocked, Turks spread a code through word of mouth and graffiti that allowed them to directly access Twitter. Typically your browser converts twitter.com into a specific location online (sort of like how Google Maps translates a home address into GPS coordinates). Instead, Turks shared with each other the exact coordinates for Twitter, allowing them to bypass the blocked URL.

But as of Sunday, Erdogan has constricted the controls, blocking the direct coordinates that allowed people to access Twitter despite the ban, the Washington Post reports. Twitter is still accessible for the tech-savvy via Virtual Private Networks and by using the encryption and circumvention software TOR, though both methods require a slightly more advanced level of IT expertise.

Erdogan’s government has become increasingly intransigent in recent weeks, after recordings purporting to reveal corruption in his administration were widely circulated on social media. The heightened tensions are a symptom of a deeper divide in Turkish society between supporters of Erdogan — a conservative and an Islamist — and secularists who had long controlled Turkish politics before he came to power.

“We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says,” Erdogan said. “Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.”

[The Washington Post]

TIME Flight MH370

French Satellite Offers Fresh Lead in Hunt for Missing Jet

A crew member aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft searches for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean
A crew member aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft searches for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean on March 22, 2014 Jason Reed—Reuters

New satellite images that may show debris from the missing Malaysian Airlines flight seem to keep popping up, but search planes keep drawing a blank

The latest clue in the two-week search for a missing Malaysia Airlines jet comes from a French satellite, which has picked up images of what may be debris from the Boeing 777 in the southern Indian Ocean.

In a statement Sunday, Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport said the country had received images from French authorities “showing potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor.” Search efforts have been focused on this area, southwest of Perth, Australia, after both Chinese and Australian satellites picked up evidence of objects floating in the area in the past week, the Associated Press reports.

No evidence of the missing flight MH370 has been found, although searchers discovered a wooden pallet of the sort used when loading some airplanes. The airliner has been missing since March 8 after vanishing while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people, most of them Chinese nationals, on board.

Authorities say the search could be hampered Sunday by a tropical cyclone in the vicinity.

[AP]

TIME Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama Arrives in China in Style

Accompanied by her two daughters and mother, Michelle Obama visited China and met with the country’s president and his wife. See the different outfits that the first lady wore during her stay.

TIME iwo jima

VIDEO: The Story Behind the Iconic Iwo Jima Photograph

The photo depicts the raising of the American flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima, which drew to a close 69 years ago this week

When AP photographer Joe Rosenthal watched marines hoisting the flag on Iwo Jima in 1945, he wasn’t sure he got the shot. It turned out to be one of the most famous photographs from WWII.

In the video above, Hal Buell, former photo editor of the Associated Press, narrates the history and significance of what Rosenthal captured in the image. The battle ended 69 years ago this week.

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