TIME Nicaragua

Construction Will Begin on Nicaragua’s $50 Billion Canal in December

The project is mostly funded by China

Nicaraguan government officials say the country will begin construction on a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in late December.

The $50 billion project will cut 173 miles through the country, much of it through Lake Nicaragua, the largest fresh water source in Central America. By contrast, the Panama Canal is only 48 miles long.

Opponents of the project include environmentalists who say the canal will wreak havoc on sensitive areas, as well as farmers whose land will be affected.

Government officials say the project could double the country’s GDP.

[The Guardian]

TIME health

New Global Study Calls Violence Against Women ‘Epidemic’

A Pokot woman holds a razor blade after performing a circumcision on four girls in a village about 80 kilometres from the town of Marigat in Baringo County, Kenya, Oct. 16, 2014.
Siegfried Modola—Reuters A Pokot woman holds a razor blade after performing a circumcision on four girls in a village about 80 kilometres from the town of Marigat in Baringo County, Kenya, Oct. 16, 2014.

Governments need to step up their game to protect women, says extensive new research

When it comes to stopping violence against women, actions speak louder than words. So even though there’s increased worldwide awareness about violence against women, the problem won’t be solved unless countries make significant policy and financial changes to support victims, according to a five-part series of studies in The Lancet, one of the world’s premier medical journals.

The series, entitled “Violence Against Women and Girls,” calls the violence a “global public health and clinical problem of epidemic proportions,” and the statistics are bleak. 100-140 million women have undergone female genital mutilation worldwide, and 3 million African girls per year are at risk. 7% of women will be sexually assaulted by someone besides their partner in their lifetimes. Almost 70 million girls worldwide have been married before they turned 18. According to WHO estimates, 30% of women worldwide have experienced partner violence. The researchers said that these problems could only be solved with political action and increased funding, since the violence has continued “despite increased global attention,” implying awareness is not enough.

“No magic wand will eliminate violence against women and girls,” series co-lead Charlotte Watts, founding Director of the Gender Violence and Health Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a statement. “But evidence tells us that changes in attitudes and behavior are possible, and can be achieved within less than a generation.”

One of the major problems highlighted in the Lancet series is that much of the current research on violence against women has been conducted in high-income countries, and it’s mostly been focused on response instead of prevention. The study found that the key driver of violence in most middle-and-low income countries is gender inequality, and that it would be near impossible to prevent abuse without addressing the underlying political, economic, and educational marginalization of women.

The study also found that health workers are often uniquely positioned to help victims, since they’re often the first to know about the abuse.

“Health-care providers are often the first point of contact for women and girls experiencing violence,” says another series co-lead, Dr. Claudia Garcia-Moreno, a physician at the WHO, in a statement. “The health community is missing important opportunities to integrate violence programming meaningfully into public health initiatives on HIV/AIDS, adolescent health, maternal health, and mental health.”

The series makes five concrete recommendations to curb the violence against women. The authors urge nations to allocate resources to prioritize protecting victims, change structures and policies that discriminate against women, promote support for survivors, strengthen health and education sectors to prevent and respond to violence, and invest in more research into ways to address the problem. In other words: money, education, and political action are key to protecting the world’s most vulnerable women. Hashtag activism, celebrity songs, and stern PSAs are helpful, but this problem is too complicated to be solved by awareness alone.

“We now have some promising findings to show what works to prevent violence,” said Dr. Cathy Zimmerman from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “We urgently need to turn this evidence into genuine action so that women and girls can live violence-free lives.”

The study comes just in time for the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, on Nov. 25.

TIME Behind the Photos

Published Photographs Lead to Death Threats in Pakistan

A photographer has received “a credible and direct threat" against her life after five years of images shot in Pakistan were published in the U.K.

With the rise of extremist movements around the world, journalists have become prime targets in a war of communication both in the field and back at home, once their images have been published, as photographer Alixandra Fazzina learned this week.

After five years of working in Pakistan documenting the intimate daily lives of women and children, the London-based NOOR photographer has now become the target of death threats after her work was published in a national British newspaper. “This weekend, some of these stories were published for the first time in The Guardian magazine and online. I received a lot of hate mail and I’ve seen a lot of people erode my credibility on social media. They were intent on trying to destroy me.”

Fazzina was due to travel to Pakistan on Nov. 20, but she has since received warnings from diplomatic sources about “a credible and direct threat against my life,” she says. “I’ve taken risks in Pakistan, but they were very weighted up risks,” she says. “I don’t want to kill myself for a story.” Now, she feels, fear has caught up to her in London.

Fazzina started her career as a frontline photographer covering under reported conflicts in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Northern Uganda. “Over the years, my work has changed” she says, “It’s gone on instead to look at the consequences and fallout of wars.”

In 2008, after working on a long-term project in Somalia, she moved to Pakistan. “When I arrived, the effects of extremism were really starting to hit home,” she says. “One of the first things I did was to cover what was essentially Pakistan’s first frontline in the tribal areas. It was the first time that Pakistan’s military had engaged and began an operation against the Taliban there.”

Pakistan has been facing conflicts on multiple fronts – from separatist movements in Balochistan to homegrown Pakistani Taliban factions spreading violence across the country and all the way to Karachi – in June, 28 people were killed in a coordinated attack at Jinnah International Airport in the country’s economic capital.

Fazzina’s ambition was to document the consequences of these conflicts. “What I want to get across is how much civilians suffer and to try and tell their stories, to show what the real effects of war are away from the frontlines,” she says. “Millions of people in Pakistan are still suffering now, and they’re not getting any assistance.”

In her photographs, Fazzina has tried to avoid pointing the finger at one particular culprit, instead putting the blame on all participants. “I’ve covered victims of collateral damage, victims of airstrikes, victims of drone strikes. I covered people suffering from the military, from foreign intervention in region and also from the Taliban. I’ve tried to cover victims of war from all sides because I believe that in any theater of war, all players are responsible.”

After diplomatic sources in Islamabad warned her of the threat on her life from local extremist groups, Fazzina has been forced to cancel a planned trip to Pakistan where she was to report on maternal health. “I take this threat very seriously. There is a strong possibility if I return I will be killed simply for having documented what are realities on the ground” she says. “But, I won’t be silenced by this threat.”

Fazzina’s situation isn’t unique, she explains, as Pakistani journalists and photographers constantly risk their lives to document their country. “It’s extremely difficult for journalists to report without facing some kind of a risk – be it threats, harassment, or even expulsion from the country by the state,” says Mustafa Qadri, a researcher at Amnesty International. “We’ve certainly seen this year a number of high-profile attacks on journalists, which seems to be in response to their work being critical of the government, Taliban, or political parties. What brings all of these cases together is the fact that there’s no justice, there’s no accountability. That basically sends a signal that if you’re not happy with what journalists are reporting, you can literally get away with murder.”

Since 2008, Amnesty International has documented 36 cases of journalists who were killed in response to their work, with many more cases of harassment remaining undocumented. The Committee to Protect Journalists has been trying to fight this problem, says Bob Dietz, the Asian program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Everyone feels that they have total impunity to direct a threat towards a journalist. Foreign journalists aren’t the largest targets for these things; it’s really the local Pakistani journalists who bear the brunt of it. A Pakistani journalist awakes in the morning, opens his phone and check for messages and there might well be a string of threats in there. It’s a way of life. It’s a reality that people are dealing with.”

“We’ve tried to combat it,” Dietz adds. “[We’ve asked] journalists not to hide these threats, and instead to bring them out in public as a way to disarm them.” Yet, the CPJ and Amnesty International don’t expect such menaces to subside, including those against Fazzina. “We really welcome the work that she did,” says Qadri. “We feel that not enough is done to expose the condition of women and girls in Pakistan; what ordinary life is for them. It’s really sad that in trying to do that, she’s now facing these kinds of threats.”

For the 40-year-old photographer, these threats are indicative of a massive shift in war reporting. “The landscape has really changed from fundamentalist groups wanting to tell their stories to journalists becoming actual targets of these groups,” says Fazzina. “In some way, the voices that can speak out against human rights abuses are slowly being silenced. And people would rather shoot the messenger than acknowledged the actual state of [affairs].”

Alixandra Fazzina is a London-based photographer represented by NOOR.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME U.K.

Soccer Club Will Not Let Convicted Rapist Train

The club was criticized for initially agreeing to allow the soccer star to train

British soccer club Sheffield United has withdrawn its offer to let convicted rapist Ched Evans use their training facilities following his release from prison, according to a statement made Thursday.

Sheffield United had agreed to allow Evans to train with them again after the Professional Footballers’ Association argued the soccer star should be free to resume his career.

MORE: Soccer star convicted of rape returns to training amid angry debate

The club has now reversed the decision, citing the unexpected intensity of the public reaction.

A string of patrons resigned from the club and more than 165,000 members of the public signed a petition calling on the club not to allow Evans to play again.

Evans played for Sheffield United for three years before he was convicted in 2012 of raping a 19-year-old woman. He served two and a half years of a five-year sentence and was released from prison last month.

 

 

TIME Television

Watch Stephen Colbert Question Jon Stewart’s Patriotism

“Are you a blame America first?” the show host asks his former boss from the Daily Show

Television worlds collided Thursday when Jon Stewart appeared as a guest on Daily Show alumni Stephen Colbert’s show, The Colbert Report, to promote his new film Rosewater.

“How does it feel to know that your entire career could have been shouted into a sock and thrown over an overpass?” Colbert says, needling his old boss.

Colbert calls Stewart his “friend and nemesis.”

“Rather than killing everyone else what if we were to…coexist with them in some kind of fashion,” Stewart asks the reactionary conservative Colbert.

“You mean like the bumper sticker?” asks Colbert.

Colbert praised Rosewater, a film about a journalist jailed in Iran after doing an interview with a Daily Show corespondent.

“It’s a beautiful film and that offends me. Why is it that you can do your show,” Colbert says, “and you do it well, and now you’re doing something else well.”

Read next: Jon Stewart Admits He Wants to Rip Off Benedict Cumberbatch’s Clothes

TIME United Kingdom

First Bus to Run on Human Waste Takes to UK Streets

Gas-powered vehicles are better for the environment

Britain’s first bus to be powered entirely by human and food waste went into service Thursday.

The environment-friendly vehicle can travel up to 186 miles on one tank of biomethane gas, which is produced from the annual sewage and food waste of about five people.

Engineers hope the bus will play an important role in improving urban air quality and in providing a sustainable way of fuelling public transport.

The Bio-Bus seats 40 people and will be a shuttle between Bristol Airport and Bath in South West England.

[Guardian]

 

 

 

 

 

TIME The Philippines

It’s Been Five Years Since the Maguindanao Massacre and the Perpetrators Are Still Free

Filipino journalists light candles to commemorate the 2nd year anniversary of the "Maguindanao Massacre" at the National Press Club compound in Manila
Erik de Castro—Reuters Filipino journalists light candles to commemorate the second-year anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre at the National Press Club compound in Manila on Nov. 23, 2011

On Nov. 23, 2009, in the southern Philippines, 57 people were killed, most of them journalists. There have been no convictions

The killers used a state-owned backhoe to dig a pit, then shoved the bodies in. When investigators arrived on the scene of Nov. 23, 2009, massacre in Ampatuan — a small town in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao — they found the bullet-riddled corpses of 57 men and women, dozens of whom were journalists.

It has now been five years since the worst-ever act of election violence in the Philippine history, and the worst recorded attack on journalists the world has known. By now, the awful details of what happened that day are well established: 57 people, en route to register an opposition candidate for an upcoming election — or, in the case of journalists, to cover that registration — were stopped, executed by gunmen, and buried on site. It was a brutal, sloppy job; the executioners, it seems, were not worried about getting caught.

Five years on, that culture of impunity persists. Though the Philippine’s popular President, Benigno Aquino III, promised swift action on the case, there have been no convictions. Lawyers for the clan accused of orchestrating the massacre — who, like the town are also called Ampatuan — have successfully stalled as prosecutors scramble to hold together their case while assailants track and target witnesses. (Many of the alleged masterminds plead not guilty on charges related to the deaths and deny involvement.)

The trial is a case study in intimidation and abuse. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and have others documented multiple attempts to silence witnesses with cash. Where that fails: violence. Four witnesses have already been killed, including Dennix Sakal, once a driver for one of the chief suspects, who was this month shot to death as he drove to meet state prosecutors. “Dead men tell no tales,” was the bitter remark of the National Press Club.

Even before the killings in Maguindanao, the Philippines was considered one of the world’s worst countries for journalists. More than 100 journalists have been killed in the line of duty since the 1980s, according to local rights groups, and those who target media personnel usually go unpunished. The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that upwards of 90% of killers walk free.

Part of the problem is that swaths of the country are controlled by political clans with private armies and legal protection. A 2010 HRW investigation into the Maguindanao killings described them as “an atrocity waiting to happen.” The 96-page report was titled They Own People — a reference to family that, with the help of local police and military personnel, “has controlled life and death in Maguindanao for more than two decades.”

Aquino was supposed to stop this. Early in his term, the scion of an altogether different political family promised to eliminate private armies that thrived under his predecessors, and to pursue justice for Maguindanao. But his government’s handling of the Maguindanao case, as well as the use of violence against media in general, is seen by ordinary people and rights activists alike as a striking and somewhat perplexing failure. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) says that 23 journalists were killed in the first 40 months of Aquino’s tenure — the worst rate since 1986.

Asked about violence against journalists during a press conference with President Obama last spring, Aquino bungled his reply. First, he said that “something like 52 journalists,” were killed at Maguindanao, when the total dead was 57, of which no more than 32 were journalists. Many were surprised by his confusion over a basic fact about an atrocity that, as the PCIJ describes it, “put the Philippines on the world map.”

He then appeared to suggest that the journalists who were killed were corrupt and that this was the reason justice was slow in coming. “Perhaps we are very sensitive to personal relationships by the people who are deceased who were killed not because of professional activities, but shall we say, other issues,” he said.

Graft has been endemic in Philippine journalism for years, but the unfounded suggestion — if that it what it was — that the reporters killed at Maguindanao were corrupt, or that they somehow brought about their own fate, or that they deserved less than swift, sure justice, is naturally outrageous and the President’s comments have appalled the Philippine media corps.

“The lack of justice in Maguindano has merely emboldened those who would kill journalists,” says Shawn Crispin, an adviser for the Committee to Protect Journalists who has investigated the case. “If they can’t prosecute worst ever massacre of media personnel in the history of the world, what message do you send?”

TIME uk

U.K. Independence Party Wins Second Parliamentary Seat in By-Election

Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, shakes hands with Mark Reckless in Gillingham
Suzanne Plunkett—Reuters Nigel Farage, left, leader of the U.K. Independence Party, shakes hands with Mark Reckless, the former Conservative Party MP for Rochester and Strood, during the by-election ballot count at Medway Park in Gillingham, England, on Nov. 21, 2014

The key win, six months before the general elections, puts pressure on David Cameron

The U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) struck another significant blow to British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday, winning its second parliamentary seat in two months from a constituency that Cameron had vowed to win at any cost.

Mark Reckless, who joined UKIP from Cameron’s Conservative Party, won the Rochester and Strood by-election that was triggered by his defection by 2,920 votes, the Guardian reported.

UKIP continues to extend its influence over the voters six months before the British general elections, in what many say is a worrying sign for Cameron’s leadership. Cameron’s humiliation is compounded by the fact that he went all-out to secure a victory, demanding three visits to Rochester from his MPs and going there five times himself.

“Whichever constituency, whatever your former party allegiance, think of what it would mean to have a bloc of UKIP MPs at Westminster large enough to hold the balance of power,” Reckless said in his victory speech. “If you believe in an independent Britain, then come with us and we will give you back your country.”

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said Friday’s “massive” victory makes next year’s elections anybody’s game. “All bets are off, the whole thing’s up in the air,” he said.

TIME Burma

Inside the Kachin War Against Burma

High school and university students receive drill instructions in Laiza, which lies in a Kachin Independence Army–controlled part of Kachin state, in Burma, on Nov. 10, 2014.
Adam Dean—Panos for TIME High school and university students receive drill instructions in Laiza, which lies in a Kachin Independence Army–controlled part of Kachin state, in Burma, on Nov. 10, 2014.

Burma's rulers have promised cease-fires with various ethnic groups that have been battling the military, in some cases for decades. But in the hills of Kachin, peace is further away than ever

Morning mist hangs low on the jungle as Kachin cadets stand to sleepy attention on this November morning, clutching slabs of wood whittled into the contours of rifles. Not far away in the mountains of northern Burma, soldiers in the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) face off against Burmese positions, a state of intermittent war that has prevailed since a 17-year cease-fire between the ethnic militia and the Burmese army collapsed in 2011.

The 162 cadets training at the military academy in rebel-held Laiza are hardly a fighting force — they are high school and college kids undergoing their first guerrilla training. Still, the KIA, which controls chunks of land near the Burmese border with China, needs all the recruits it can get.

“The Burmese want to steal all our land, but they will never succeed,” says Hkawng Lum, a student from Myitkyina, the Kachin state capital that is under Burmese army control. The 19-year-old has been training at the military academy for one month and will eventually return behind enemy lines to serve in the KIA reserve. “Every Kachin,” he says, “will fight to the death.”

On Nov. 19, a heavy artillery attack by the Burmese army overwhelmed another KIA training camp in Laiza, killing 23 officers in training — a body blow to ethnic rebels who have been forced to manufacture their own knockoff rifles and land mines. The assault, which killed cadets from several ethnic groups, came as the KIA and the Burmese army had been holding fitful peace talks, even as skirmishes had proliferated across the state.

“We knew that the Burmese army was full of tricks,” says a Kachin Independence Organization information officer. “The peace process is dead.”

The United Nationalities Federal Council, which represents a diversity of Burma’s many ethnic groups, said that the shelling had “caused a tremendous obstacle in building trust.” The Nov. 19 attack came just days after Burma had hosted an international summit attended by national leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama. On his second visit to the country in two years, Obama warned that Burma’s much lauded reforms were by “no means complete or irreversible.”

Since Burma’s military junta began a transition to a quasi-civilian government three years ago, its rulers have promised an imminent national cease-fire with various ethnic armed groups that have been battling the Burmese military practically since the nation gained independence from the British in 1948. National reconciliation is seen as key in helping the nation’s economy develop but the ethnic militias are wary of giving up autonomy to the centralized Burmese state. Some truces have been struck, although not with the 10,000-strong KIA. Even in areas technically under armistice, continuing clashes undercut talk of peace. It escapes no one’s notice that some of the worst fighting is occurring in regions that boast some of Burma’s most-plentiful natural resources.

“When the Burmese army talks about a cease-fire, they mean stopping shooting for a short while,” says Manam Tu Shan, a 67-year-old Kachin church deacon in Laiza. “But what we mean by a cease-fire is living peacefully and being able to practice our traditions without the Burmese interfering.”

Although Burma is dominated by the Bamar, or Burman, ethnic group, some 40% of the country’s population is composed of dozens of ethnic minorities — the Kachin, the Karen, the Shan, the Wa, the Chin, the Mon and the Rakhine, among many others. When the country, now known officially as Myanmar, gained independence, it did so as a federal union in which several ethnic groups were given the option to secede if they were unhappy with their new state.

But an army coup in 1962 ushered in nearly half a century of brutal military rule. Most generals were Bamar chauvinists who won their stripes by battling various ethnic militias in the eastern and northern fringes of the country. Some of that strife, which displaced millions of ethnic villagers and subjected them to institutionalized rape and forced labor by Burmese soldiers, has been described as the longest-running civil war on earth. The current Burmese government has also been criticized for its treatment of more than a million Muslim Rohingya, a largely stateless group that lives in western Burma. Hundreds of Rohingya have been killed in pogroms over the past couple years and 140,000 have been sequestered in ghetto-like camps.

Bleakness and Bounty
The KIA headquarters in Laiza feels like a Wild West town, but with none of the romance of that description. Until the turn of this century, Laiza was little more than a dusty border outpost with China. But as the Burmese army pressed in, the KIA stronghold took on outsize importance. Laiza is now a collection of cement-block buildings with stores selling Chinese plastic goods, pirated DVDs and the latest in army-camouflage fashion. Heroin and methamphetamines are a scourge, as is human trafficking across the border with China.

If the town is bleak, the hills surrounding Laiza, and spreading across Kachin, are some of the most bountiful on earth. There is jade, gold, timber and hydropower. Banana plantations dot the landscape, as does the odd golf course, a relic of colonial sportsmanship enjoyed by the KIA top brass. There are also more than 100,000 Kachin who have fled the fighting to live in remote refugee camps. To survive, some villagers pan for gold for Chinese-owned companies, their pay meager even by the standards of one of Asia’s poorest nations.

While the Bamar are Buddhist, the Kachin, like several major ethnic groups in Burma, practice Christianity. There are no pagodas in Laiza, just as there are no churches in Naypyidaw, the bunkered Burmese capital that the generals unveiled in 2005. Although the Kachin are proud of their martial prowess — Kachin soldiers fought alongside the Allies in northern Burma during World War II and were known to string the teeth of their enemies around their necks — they have been excluded from the Burmese Defense Services Academy (DSA), which trains the nation’s next generation of military elite. (Before the army takeover in 1962, one headmaster of the DSA was Kachin.) These days, the highest-ranking Kachin in the Burmese army is a mere captain.

Laiza itself is deeply militarized, with some men carrying geriatric rifles that look like they did their best work during World War II. Most of the bullets are Chinese imports, and they are precious. At the Laiza military academy, Major Kyaw Htwi admits that live-ammunition training is too expensive for common practice. Some of the machine guns on hand are held together with duct tape. But the major has taught Kachin cadets for 21 years and is confident of his charges’ ability to adapt to jungle warfare.

“The Burmese want the ethnics to become extinct,” he says, as a soldier pulls a Kachin flag up a flagpole and salutes the dusty pennant. “But we will never give up our struggle.”

Days later came the Burmese army attack. There is no peace now in the hills of Kachin.

TIME Ukraine

Report: U.S. Will Boost Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine

Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk arrive for their meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, 21 Nov. 21,2014.
Sergey Dolzhenko—EPA Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk arrive for their meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, 21 Nov. 21,2014.

Vice President Joe Biden said to be discussing aid during his visit

The Obama Administration is ready to increase its delivery of nonlethal aid to the Ukrainian government, but will refrain from furnishing Kiev with weapons to use in its fight against pro-Russian forces in the country’s southeast, according to a new report.

Reuters, citing unnamed U.S. officials, reports that Vice President Joe Biden will discuss the aid with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s administration during his trip to Kiev, where he landed Thursday.

The new nonlethal aid is said to include surplus supplies from the Pentagon’s inventory, including Humvees and radar systems.

Biden’s arrival in the Ukrainian capital coincides with the release of a new U.N. report claiming that at least 1,000 people have been killed in the country since the government and separatists signed a cease-fire deal in September.

Read more at Reuters.

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