TIME Spain

After Four Centuries, Don Quixote Writer’s Remains May Be Found

Specialists use ground-penetrating radar to penetrate into the sub-soil in central Madrid
Specialists use ground-penetrating radar to peer into the subsoil beneath a Trinitarian convent in a quest to find the remains of Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes in Madrid on April 28, 2014. Sergio Perez—Reuters

A team of researchers will spend several months excavating a Madrid church in search of Miguel de Cervantes' bones

When Miguel de Cervantes, the Spanish writer best known for penning Don Quixote, died in April 1616, he was buried at a Trinitarian convent in Madrid.

For centuries, that’s all we really knew. The exact location of his remains was poorly documented and thus forgotten; it was long assumed that what was left of one of modern literature’s first great writers had been lost for good.

On Monday, however, researchers said they had identified a handful of locations in a Madrid church where Cervantes may have been buried — although they were quick to rein in their optimism.

“We don’t want to generate false hopes,” forensic anthropologist Francisco Etxeberria, the project’s leader, said at a news conference, according to an AFP report. “I don’t know if we are going to find him … We are talking about a universal figure, we want to do things without any rush, seriously.”

The Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians, where Cervantes’ bones are suspected to lie, has been renovated several times over the centuries, meaning any remains once buried there may have been misplaced. The excavation process, BBC reports, will require several months of effort.

The city of Madrid will fund the next phase of the project, which first began in April, Mayor Ana Botella told reporters at the news conference.

TIME world cup 2014

1 Worker Dead, 2 Injured After Brazil Monorail Construction Failure

The accident is the latest bump in the road for the 2014 World Cup host country's preparations

A structure collapsed during monorail construction in Sao Paolo, Brazil, on Monday, killing one worker and injuring two others.

The monorail is intended to connect the city’s Congonhas Airport to three metro lines, ahead of the start of the FIFA World Cup on June 12, but the crew is already working way past deadline, the BBC reported.

A concrete support beam fell and dealt a deadly blow to one person laboring below, the Associated Press says. Officials are investigating the cause of its collapse.

The accident marks the latest in a series of stumbles as the country prepares to host the international soccer tournament, which will bring millions of tourist to the area. Sao Paolo is set to host the opening game. During the construction of Brazil’s 12 World Cup arenas, eight have reportedly died.

[BBC]

TIME

Bergdahl: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

President Obama Makes A Statement On Release Of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
President Obama announces the release of Bowe Bergdahl, with the sergeant's parents by his side, in the White House Rose Garden May 31. J.H. Owen / Getty Images

Misinformation clouds the debate over the soldier-Taliban swap

Monday marked the first time in a week that the controversy swirling around the deal to win Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s release wasn’t on the front pages of the nation’s three most influential newspapers.

A clear bottom line seems to be emerging, both among the military and the public: President Obama was right to make a deal to bring him home. But two tough questions remain: did Obama give too much to win Bergdahl’s release? And will Bergdahl be held accountable for any malfeasance that may have contributed to his nearly five years in captivity?

Statements made rashly often don’t hold up in hindsight. Sure, talking heads on cable TV continue to foam at the mouth, but the fact that the dust is beginning to settle following Bergdahl’s exchange for five senior Taliban leaders on May 31 offers a chance to ponder where the story now stands.

Here’s an accounting, based on interviews with current and former military troops, including some who served with Bergdahl, as well as family members who believe the hunt for the missing soldier led to the deaths of their loved ones:

  • With the U.S. troop presence shrinking in Afghanistan, the Taliban feared Bergdahl was a depreciating asset. If his value shrunk too much, the Administration fears that the Taliban might have come to believe that keeping him alive wasn’t worth the effort.
  • Bergdahl was sick and getting sicker. According to U.S. military officials, he was brutalized and confined to a cage, often in the dark, following escape attempts. “It was a proof-of-life video” that convinced the Administration to act, a senior Pentagon official says of a December 2013 recording that U.S. officials didn’t see until January. “Just showed him talking and referring to recent events. Though difficult to make precise medical diagnoses from such, it was evident to experts who watched it that he was not in good health.” The Administration’s line might have more credibility if the recovery had happened more quickly after seeing the video. There are also suspicions that the Taliban began treating Bergdahl better as negotiations for his release looked like they might succeed.
  • The White House plainly erred in having the President hold a Rose Garden ceremony with Bergdahl’s parents, Bob and Jani, to announce his release. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday the choice of the garden to make the announcement signaled the President’s commitment to leave no soldier behind. “We didn’t have to do it at the Rose Garden, but that is a very important principle,” he added. “So standing in the Rose Garden to make that assessment or make that commitment clear is exactly what the President chose to do.”
  • Retired four-star Marine general Anthony Zinni, who once headed U.S. Central Command, said the Pentagon may have stumbled by not telling the White House that military should handle the return announcement. “It was the right thing to do to bring him home, but I think it was handled miserably and I think the fault lies with the Pentagon,” Zinni says. He recalls when Vietnam-era U.S. troops held as prisoners came home, and the strict orders from commanders to avoid saying anything too laudatory about those suspected of less-than-stellar actions while imprisoned. “I distinctly remember the generals getting cautioned about not going overboard,” Zinni says. Of course, he acknowledges, the White House could have ignored such warnings from the Pentagon.
  • The White House compounded the problem by sending Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., on television the following day to declare that Bergdahl had served “with honor and distinction.” That really set off the troops who served alongside Bergdahl and say he deserted. The White House’s counter has been weak. “The point that I would make to you is that any American who puts on the uniform and volunteers to fight for this country overseas is doing something honorable,” Earnest said Monday.
  • Perhaps a half-dozen U.S. troops died hunting for Bergdahl after he allegedly left his post in southeastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. “Bergdahl’s walking away was a large factor contributing to my son’s death,” Andy Andrews of Cameron, Texas, said Monday. His son, 2nd Lieutenant Darryn Andrews, was killed by an RPG September 4, 2009, while protecting a fellow soldier. They had been on a routine patrol near where Bergdahl vanished, and had been asking locals about him when they were attacked. “Sergeant Bergdahl is not a hero, and my son—who sacrificed himself to save others—was a hero,” Andrews says. This is the most inflammatory charge, and quickly surfaced, once Bergdahl was out of enemy hands, from soldiers who served with him. That tells us two things: the soldiers kept quiet (they had also signed non-disclosure agreements concerning Bergdahl’s disappearance) until he was safe. But once safe, they felt their sense of duty required them to tell the truth as they saw it. But direct links between the deaths and the hunt for Bergdahl remain elusive.
  • Some fringe elements have posted anonymously—absent proof and without hearing Bergdahl’s side of the story—that he is a traitor. They contend Bergdahl is a deserter and deserves to be shot. His hometown of Hailey, Idaho, feeling the ire, cancelled a welcome-home celebration slated for June 28. While this is beyond vile, it’s something that today’s polarized politics nurtures. “They say we’re kind of a disgrace, or what a shame it is to have a celebration for a traitor,” Kristy Heitzman of the local Chamber of Commerce said. “They say they had planned on coming to the area to go fishing or camping, but now they won’t be coming to Idaho.”
  • The deal makes U.S. troops more vulnerable to kidnapping now that the Taliban know they can be swapped for high-value comrades. While some military officers agree, they also note that a U.S. POW has now been shown to be more valuable that a U.S. KIA.
  • Critics of the deal maintain the five senior Taliban released for Bergdahl will, in all probability, return to the fight after spending the coming year in high-walled villas in Doha, Qatar, 1,200 miles from Kabul. Military officers say that’s likely.
  • There is concern that the swap seems to have been a one-off deal, with no larger bargain—one that might help end the war—in the offing. “The goal of this recent effort was to secure the release of Sergeant Bergdahl,” Earnest said. “We did not want to reduce the likelihood of our success in securing his release by injecting a rather complicated variable into it.”
  • There will be plenty of time to probe just how Bergdahl came to be missing in the coming months. If an investigation determines that he should face charges of desertion or other counts, he could plead guilty in exchange for reduced punishment. There is a sense in some military quarters that five years imprisoned by the Taliban is punishment enough.

The true bottom line, after all the acrimony—and sanctimony—is pretty straightforward. “He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of -a-bitch,” James Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general who served as chief of U.S. Central Command from 2010 to 2013, said Monday. “So let’s get him back, let the Army investigate, and we’ll sort it out.”

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Suspected of Kidnapping Another 20 Women

The extremist group reportedly abducted women from a nomadic settlement near Chibok, Nigeria, last week

Members of the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram are suspected to have kidnapped 20 women near the Nigerian town where nearly 300 schoolgirls were abducted in April.

The Associated Press reports a vigilante-group member said armed men abducted the women by gunpoint on Thursday, also kidnapping three men who made an effort to thwart the attack. The women reportedly lived in a nomadic settlement near the Nigerian town of Chibok.

The extremist group has remained in international headlines since the April abduction of around 275 girls, many of whom remain missing, inspired a global movement to return them entitled #BringbBackOurGirls.

Last week, Boko Haram militants reportedly also killed hundreds in attacks in northeastern Nigeria.

[AP]

TIME Egypt

Sisi Inauguration Marred By Video Showing Apparent Sexual Assault In Crowd

Cellphone video went viral on social media, shortly after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed to crack down on sexual violence

A horrific video of a nearly naked woman being attacked in a crowd at Tahrir Square, Cairo during the inauguration festivities for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi Sunday has created a scandal in the wake of celebrations for the new leader.

The video shows a woman wearing only a black shirt, surrounded by a group of men who appear to be ripping off her clothes and beating her. She has enormous bruises on the lower half of her body, which is completely naked. At the end of the two-minute video she is carried, bloody and bruised, to apparent safety in a vehicle. The video went viral on Facebook and Twitter, prompting anguished debate on the sites of activists against sexual harassment and violence in Egypt.

The brutal attack is especially embarrassing considering Sisi’s recent promise to end the the pattern of sexual assaults that have occurred in the crowds that have been gathering in Tahrir Square since the mass protests there three years ago. Sisi vowed during his campaign to “restore the sense of shame” to the perpetrators of sexual crimes, and his government recently announced it would toughen up the laws on sexual harassers.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement Monday that seven men had been arrested for harassment during the inauguration festivities, but could not link the arrests directly to the men in the video. “The celebrations included large crowds that reached thousands and millions in some cases, and harassment happens in these crowds,” Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif told the New York Times, saying the attacks were difficult to prevent but that “the police confront it in a vigorous way.”

 

TIME Ukraine

Exclusive: Ukraine’s President Seeks ‘Understanding’ With Russia

Merkel Meets With New Ukrainian President Poroshenko
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Carsten Koall—Getty Images

In his first interview as President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko tells TIME that he has no choice but to keep Russia at the negotiating table, as no country is prepared to guarantee his country's security from further attack

Ukraine’s new President Petro Poroshenko wants to see Russia punished for what he calls the “tragedy” that befell his country this year. But even as Russia has annexed one region of Ukraine and encouraged a violent rebellion in two others, Ukraine does not have the option of breaking off ties with the Kremlin, Poroshenko told TIME in his first interview since taking office. His government has no choice but to seek “an understanding” with Russia, he says, even if for no other reason than the hard reality of Ukraine’s geography.

“Maybe some Ukrainians would like to have Sweden or Canada for a neighbor, but we have Russia,” he said on Monday inside the Presidential Administration Building in Kiev, fidgeting with a set of rosary beads throughout the interview. “So we can’t talk about a firm sense of security without a dialogue and an understanding with Russia.” That is why Poroshenko spent the first full day of his tenure on Sunday in marathon talks with the Russian ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov. Their positions remain miles apart, at best leaving Poroshenko room for “cautious optimism” for restoring civil relations with Russia, he said.

But whatever progress they will make toward a cease-fire between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian rebels in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, Poroshenko has no intention of making nice with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “To be honest, I’m not very interested in what Citizen Putin thinks of my state,” he said. If the Russian leader doubts Ukraine’s right to exist within its current borders, the best way to convince him otherwise is to build a powerful army and a thriving economy, Poroshenko said. “No one would allow himself to doubt the existence of small countries like Singapore,” the Ukrainian President said, “because when a country is strong, effective, comfortable, monolithic, such doubts would never enter anyone’s minds.”

Achieving that will require support from the West, he told TIME, not least of all the kind of military aid that he has been requesting. “We’re talking about assistance that will be able to stop this aggression” from Russia, he said of his discussions last week and this weekend with U.S. and European leaders. “The help can take all kinds of forms, from intelligence to military technology, from blocking our airspace to enforcing a maritime blockade” in case of attack.

Poroshenko said he discussed these kinds of support last week with U.S. President Barack Obama, and brought it up again with Vice President Joe Biden, who attended Poroshenko’s inauguration on Saturday. But no Western nation has agreed to provide any security guarantees to Ukraine, nor have they made any firm pledges to renew the so-called Budapest Memorandum, the 1994 agreement between the U.S., Russia and the U.K. that was supposed to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

With the annexation of Crimea in March, Russia violated that agreement, and Poroshenko has since become convinced that even the U.N. Security Council is no longer capable of preventing conflict between major powers. “When one of the veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council has in effect become an aggressor, that shows that the old system isn’t working,” he said. This argument came up in his talks with Western leaders last weekend in France, and he said they agreed “without question” about the need for the “global security architecture” to be revised. “The struggle for Crimea is a struggle to prevent such precedents from repeating themselves in the future,” he said. “We can’t allow unpunished aggression.”

But punishing Russia is not an option for Poroshenko at this point. The best he can do is to build a military that can prevent a future Russian attack and, at the same time, stay at the negotiating table with the country he calls an aggressor. His goals are modest. Apart from stopping the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, he wants Russia to offer a new “model of behavior, a model of guarantees” that would restore a sense of stability. So far, he doesn’t have anything close.

TIME World Cup

Brazil Prepares for the World Cup with Mixed Emotions

An activist holds a protest poster in front of the municipal stadium prior to a training session by Japan's national soccer in Sorocaba
An activist holds a protest poster in front of the municipal stadium prior to a training session by Japan's national soccer in the town of Sorocaba, June 8, 2014. Maxim Shemetov—Reuters

Many in the soccer-mad nation are angry at the cost and mismanagement of preparations for the tournament

When Brazil kicks off against Croatia on Thursday in the first game of the 2014 World Cup, Brazilians will celebrate the return of soccer’s premier tournament for the first time since 1950 to the country that most of the world sees as the true home of soccer. But it will likely be a bittersweet celebration, marred by anger as much as by the inevitable partying. That’s because the run-up to the World Cup has, in many respects, been an $11 billion showcase for the deficiencies of a nation that can seem so confident and yet still finding its feet as a major economic and political power.

Many of the stadiums built or renovated for the tournament are only just ready after embarrassing delays, airport buildings will remain unfinished, and some infrastructure projects have not even started. Brazilians are furious about the public money being spent when many Brazilians remain living in poverty and when many basic government services are crying out for investment. A poll published on June 2 revealed that only a slender majority of Brazilians remain in favor of the World Cup – 51% – compared with 42% who are against it.

“For the first time in my life there is no euphoria in the air at the prospect of a World Cup,” says Milton Hatoum, aged 61, who is one of Brazil’s best known novelists.

Brazilians are also depressed by the incompetence, corruption and greed of those in charge. About two million people took part in protests against the World Cup last year, and more demonstrations are planned once the games are underway.

The poll numbers suggest that the Brazilian government and Brazil’s soccer authorities have made a mess of an event that they hoped would give the country a huge boost. It is particularly embarrassing since the sport remains its most important symbol of national identity. “São Paulo feels quiet. Only a few streets are painted with murals. I’m not seeing a party atmosphere,” says Hatoum of his home city, which is hosting the opening game on Thursday.

But some observers of the role soccer plays in Brazil believe that the lack of enthusiasm, and even outright hostility to the World Cup this year will give way to Brazil’s outsized passion for soccer as soon as the tournament begins. “There’s no way that the World Cup will fail to take off,” wrote Tostão, a veteran of Brazil’s 1970 World Cup-winning side, in his column in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper last week. “There is an avalanche of adverts and news stories, thousands of people want to make money from it, there is a huge nationalistic sentiment, the feeling that we need to party in the streets has surged in the last few days and – most importantly – the national team is playing well and its star forward player [Neymar] is magisterial.”

Some Brazilians believe that for all the anger at the way the World Cup there are signs that fans will be swept up by the pure joy of the games. Last year at the Confederations Cup – which marked the start of the anti-World Cup protests – the crowd sang the Brazilian national anthem so loudly and determinedly that they broke with protocol and kept on singing after the recorded music had stopped. The anger at the authorities was channeled into a rousing and patriotic wall of sound.

And then there’s the Neymar factor. For the first time since the golden era of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaká ended almost a decade ago, Brazil once again has a contender for the best player in the world. Neymar is loved not only because he plays well, but also because he plays in a very Brazilian way. His game is based around improvisation, teasing dribbles and sublime ball skills – what Brazilians call “futebol-arte”, or artistic soccer. Neymar’s charisma on the pitch makes Brazilians proud not just of him, but of themselves.

“Neymar is not quite at level of [Lionel] Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but he has a bigger repertory of beautiful plays, with more special tricks. He plays like a child at an informal kickabout game, always up for having fun and dribbling past whoever gets in his way,” wrote Tostão.

So long as Neymar is on form, Brazilian fans believe their team can win the World Cup for the sixth time. If they do, the tournament will be remembered as an $11 billion showcase for Brazil’s sporting supremacy rather than as the public relations disaster it has been so far.

A win may alleviate public anger at the mismanagement of the event, but this is likely only to be temporary since the preparations for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics are already beset with similar problems.“Of course Brazilians will support their team, and if they are champions there will be huge celebrations. But the joy at the football does not exclude the anger. What’s different about this World Cup is that for the first time Brazilians have realized that there are some things that are more important than football,” says Hatoum.

Brazil may not win, of course. Failure to secure the trophy would be a huge disappointment, but it would not be a disaster on the scale of what happened the last time Brazil hosted the World Cup. In 1950 Brazil lost the final game against Uruguay, a result that is widely considered the greatest tragedy in contemporary Brazilian history. The trauma reinforced a sense of failure and insecurity that scarred the national psyche for the next decades – even once it had won the tournament in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

But contemporary Brazil is a very different place from the Brazil of 1950. The country is now not only known for soccer. It is the world’s seventh biggest economy, an agricultural superpower, and it has huge untapped resources of oil and gas. Brazilian sportsmen have won tennis grand slams, motor racing championships and track-and-field world records.

Winning the World Cup would be cause for the world’s biggest street party. But unlike in 1950, a loss would not leave such a huge scar. Even as they prepare to host the world’s greatest soccer tournament, Brazilians know that there is a lot more to their country than the beautiful game.

Bellos is the author of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life

TIME Israel

Now You Can Go to Burning Man After Birthright

The arts and music festival came to Israel for the first time last week, with 3,000 revelers descending on the Negev desert

TIME Pakistan

Karachi Airport Witness Describes ‘Pure Chaos’ of Attacks

PAKISTAN-UNREST-KARACHI-AIRPORT
Smoke rises after militants launched an early morning assault at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan on June 9, 2014. Rizwan Tabassum—AFP/Getty Images

Kamal Faridi, a 29-year-old entrepreneur from Karachi, told TIME what it was like to be caught up in the Taliban assault that left at least 23 dead

Taliban gunmen besieged Karachi airport on Sunday, killing at least 23 people. Kamal Faridi, a 29-year-old Information Technology entrepreneur based in Karachi, was traveling to Germany via Dubai on Sunday night and got caught in the melee.

Faridi had checked in for his Emirates flight around 11pm on Sunday, and was waiting in the lounge for the boarding announcement. “Suddenly we heard some gun shots, which we thought were fireworks,” Faridi told TIME. “Then we saw the security forces taking position outside the lounge.”

“They asked us to lie down on the ground and hide ourselves against the furniture as the lounge was covered in glass. In another 10-15 minutes more security personnel had arrived and huddled us to another room.”

“Initially there was pure chaos as we didn’t know what was happening and everyone thought they were going to die. Within ten minutes we were told of the terrorist attack.”

The commandos told Faridi and his fellow travelers that some unidentified gunmen had taken control of the old terminal – which is more like an administrative wing and only caters to VIP and Hajj flights – which lies 2-3 kilometers away from where Faridi was waiting to board his flight. The old terminal had no passenger flights, fortunately.

Faridi said a “resigned, even fearful calm” fell upon the room where they were waiting. “Apart from the whimpers of children, it was quiet, only to be broken by a loud cheer of ‘Allahu Akbar’ when we heard on the security force wireless that a few of the terrorists had been shot down.”

“We were instructed not to receive calls or take pictures,” he said. “We lay crouching on the ground for almost 4-5 hours, by which time the security forces had announced thrice that they would evacuate us, but weren’t able to.”

“Crouching on the ground, shutting my ears and sometimes eyes tightly, I could still see the flashes of gun shots. They would stop for a second and it would all be a deathly quiet before it would start again in an interminable shower.”

Around 3.30am one of the officers came to evacuate Faridi and his co-travelers. Shaken, Faridi went straight home.

“In Pakistan it’s almost a war situation. Everyone knows anything can happen any moment and we are prepared for any eventuality,” he said. “But it’s different when you find yourself in the middle of a terror attack. The five-hour ordeal was a trauma for me. If I close my eyes I can still hear the shots ringing out and I jump in my mind.”

TIME World

Love Can Make a Bridge Collapse

'Love padlocks' attached to a fence of the Pont des Arts bridge over the Seine river in Paris on June 9, 2014.
'Love padlocks' attached to a fence of the Pont des Arts bridge over the Seine river in Paris on June 9, 2014. Jacques Demarthon—AFP/Getty Images

More like a bridge railing, but still

A two-meter segment of the iconic Pont des Arts bridge in Paris was overcome with the weight of love and partially collapsed Sunday night.

The bridge has become famous for “love locks,” a tradition in which people fasten a lock to the bridge and then throw the key into the river as a symbol of eternal love and ironclad commitment. But the locks became too heavy and a portion of the bridge railing buckled under the pressure of so many romantic expectations, France 24 reports.

A part of the bridge collapsed last summer under the weight of the locks, causing many to say the locks pose a safety threat to the thousands of people who walk over the bridge every day or ride under it on ferries. Some are even calling for all the locks to be removed, which means everybody who ever attached a lock to the bridge will instantly break up and fall out of love.

Maybe the bridge just wanted something a little more causal.

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