TIME India

Indian Holy Man Arrested Following Clashes at Ashram

Supporters of Satguru Rampalji Maharaj, a self-styled "godman" take shelter under placards as they are hit by a police water cannon during a protest outside the ashram of Rampal in Hisar
Supporters of Sant Rampal, a self-styled "god-man," take shelter under placards as they are hit by a police water cannon during a protest outside their ashram in Hisar in the northern Indian state of Haryana on Nov. 18, 2014 Stringer India—Reuters

The spiritual leader was taken into custody late Wednesday after a weeklong conflict

A self-proclaimed Indian spiritual guru was arrested Wednesday, putting an end to his protracted efforts to evade the police during which six people died and nearly 200 were injured.

Sixty-three-year-old Sant Rampal was taken into police custody late Wednesday night at his 12-acre ashram near Hisar in the north Indian state of Haryana, the BBC reported.

Rampal, who has ignored 43 court summonses since 2010 citing ill health, was taken to the nearby district of Panchkula and medically examined before being locked up. “We have examined him and his condition, including his blood pressure, is stable,” one of the doctors told the Times of India.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court canceled the religious leader’s bail in a previous murder case on Thursday morning, the Times reported.

Rampal is accused of inciting his followers to open fire on a village in 2006, an incident in which one man died.

A weeklong effort by local police to apprehend him reached a climax on Tuesday, when thousands of his supporters reportedly attacked police surrounding the ashram with acid, petrol bombs and guns while Rampal remained holed up inside.

Four women were found dead at the ashram on Wednesday as thousands of supporters fled the premises, while another woman and an 18-month-old child died later at a hospital.

The “god-man” expressed remorse for the casualties, but denied allegations that he used his followers as a line of defense. “I am sorry about the deaths of my followers, but I didn’t use any as a human shield,” news channel NDTV quoted him as saying at the hospital.

Rampal, who has been charged with sedition along with several supporters, appeared in court Thursday afternoon and was remanded to judicial custody until Nov. 28.

TIME russia

Russia’s Lackluster Economy Means Putin Simply Can’t Afford a New Cold War

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to toast with ambassadors in the Alexander Hall after a ceremony of presentation of credentials by foreign ambassadors in the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. Alexander Zemlianichenko—AP

Moscow needs the West

One of the axioms of global geopolitics is that a country can project power only as far as its economic might allows. There is good reason why the United States, by far the world’s largest economy, has been the dominant force in all things political and military for the past 60 years. And we can see China now rising to superpower status on the back of its spectacular economic ascent.

Vladimir Putin should take note. As Russia’s president attempts to reassert his nation’s clout in Europe, he is doing so on an ever shakier economic foundation. The question for Putin going forward is whether his stumbling economy can support his geopolitical ambitions. The answer is anything but clear.

Russia’s economy was struggling even before Putin’s adventurous foray into Ukraine. The country had been one of the high-fliers of the developing world, so much so that Goldman Sachs included Russia in its BRICs — the emerging economies that would shape the economic future — along with Brazil, India and China. But a feeble investment climate, endemic corruption and excessive dependence on natural resource exports eventually laid Russia low. Growth last year sunk to only 1.3%, down from the 7% to 8% rates experienced a decade ago.

Since Putin’s intervention in Ukraine, Russia’s economic situation has worsened severely. GDP inched upwards only 0.7% in the third quarter from a year earlier, and the International Monetary Fund is forecasting mere 0.2% growth for all of 2014. Sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European Union in the wake of Putin’s intervention in Ukraine have blocked some major Russian banks and companies from accessing financing in the West, starving them of much-needed foreign capital. As a result, the value of the Russian currency, the ruble, has deteriorated by 30% against the dollar so far this year, routinely hitting new record lows along the way.

In a recently released study, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development predicted that Western sanctions would help push Russia into a mild recession in 2015. Sanctions, the bank noted, “negatively affected business confidence, limited the ability of companies and banks to access international debt markets and contributed to an increase in private capital outflow.”

Meanwhile, Putin’s countermeasures have made matters worse. His decision to ban the import of some foodstuffs from the West has caused prices for fresh produce and other necessities to rise. Combined with the weakening ruble, that’s pushing up inflation, which bites into the pocketbook of the average Russian family. Moscow’s economy minister recently said that he expects inflation to exceed 9% by early 2015. The nasty mixture of a depreciating currency and escalating prices have forced the central bank to hike interest rates, which will act as a further drag on growth.

Headwinds from the global economy are making matters even worse. Tumbling oil prices spell bad news, both for overall growth and the financial position of the government, which is reliant on tax revenues from its energy industry to fund the budget. In 2013, oil and gas accounted for 68% of Russia’s total exports, while duties on those exports, combined with taxes on mining, accounted for 50% of the federal government’s revenue.

Putin so far hasn’t flinched. Instead, he has been scrambling to evade Western sanctions and find new sources of exports and investment in Asia. On the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, held in Beijing this month, Russia agreed to a deal to supply even more natural gas to China, on top of a $400 billion pact inked earlier this year.

That “pivot” to Asia will take time to bear fruit, however. Right now, none of the negative factors damaging Russia’s economic prospects look likely to turn positive any time soon. “We expect the stagnation trend to continue and potentially accelerate next year, exacerbated by lower oil prices, tighter monetary policy and continued uncertainty on the geopolitical front,” noted Barclays economist Eldar Vakhitov in a recent report.

Still, Putin’s economic woes haven’t yet translated into political problems. The Russian public appears to be patriotically rallying around Putin’s aggressive foreign policy and setting aside concerns about the economic fallout. In the latest poll conducted by the Levada Center, a Moscow-based independent research organization, an amazing 60% of the respondents said they believed that Russia was heading in the right direction, up significantly from 40% a year earlier. Putin’s approval rating stands at an even more astronomical 88%.

What the future may hold is another issue. A good part of Putin’s political success has been based on his record of improving people’s welfare, but with no relief in sight for Russia’s economic troubles, it may only be a matter a time before the general populace begins to feel the pinch more sharply. Nor can Putin ignore his economy’s need for foreign investment and technology to upgrade industry and create jobs. He may eventually find himself facing a critical choice — maintaining his foreign policy goals or softening his stance towards the West out of economic necessity.

Recall that the Soviet Union collapsed, after all, because its economy could not sustain its international policies. Putin has to watch that history doesn’t repeat itself.

TIME Thailand

Thai Cinema Chain Pulls New Hunger Games Movie Because of the Three-Finger Salute

Thaialnd Hunger Games
An anticoup protester gives a three-finger salute as soldiers keep eyes on him from an elevated walkway near a rally site in central Bangkok on June 1, 2014 Thanyarat Doksone—AP

The gesture is synonymous with opposition to the Thai junta

One of Thailand’s main theater chains has pulled the latest installment of the hit Hollywood franchise The Hunger Games after five students were arrested for flashing the three-finger sign of dissent from the film at military dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The salute has become synonymous with opposition to Thailand’s May 22 military coup. A spokesman for Apex cinemas told the Bangkok Post on Wednesday that the company had dropped the sequel, Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, as “we feel our theaters are being used for political movements.”

The decision comes after Prayuth was speaking in Khon Kaen, a city in Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region where the family of ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra maintains fervent support. Five students showed up sporting T-shirts that read “We don’t want the coup” and made the three-fingered “District 12” salute at the junta leader before being arrested.

Prayuth appeared to laugh off the challenge to his authority. “Well, that’s it. But it’s O.K. Go easy on them. We will take care of the problems. Any more protests? Make them quick,” he said, according to the Post.

The students were released later that same evening and ordered to report to the military with their parents the next day. Later on Wednesday, 11 students were arrested at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument for staging a picnic in solidarity with those detained in Khon Kaen. (Thai students often disguise their protests as picnics by handing out food.)

“I’m surprised something like this hasn’t happened much earlier given the general discontent with the regime,” David Streckfuss, an American scholar of Thai history based in Khon Kaen, tells TIME.

According to the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy — an anticoup student group that had offered 160 free tickets for the movie premiere to anyone who could answer the question, “In what ways is the Capital in the Mockingjay is similar to Bangkok?” — Apex canceled the movie after receiving a call from the police. A spokesman for the cinema denied it was under any pressure when speaking to the Post.

Thailand’s 18th military coup since 1932 has seen more than 200 academics, activists and journalists arbitrarily detained for up to a month, according to Human Rights Watch, and strict censorship imposed. Some of those voicing criticism from abroad have had their families threatened and passports revoked.

In addition, the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has documented “hundreds, possibly thousands” of people in the northeast who have been “summoned, monitored, followed and harassed by the military,” says Streckfuss.

TIME Pakistan

Dad Sentenced to Death In Pakistan for ‘Honor Killing’ of Daughter

Farzana Parveen was beaten to death in broad daylight outside the High Court in the city of Lahore

Four Pakistani men were sentenced to death Wednesday for the murder of Farzana Parveen, a pregnant woman ostracized by her family for marrying without their approval.

The 25-year-old was slain by her father and three brothers in May for marrying Muhammad Iqbal, a widower from a nearby village, and shunning her cousin to whom she had been betrothed in January.

Infuriated by her act of defiance, Parveen’s father, brother and two cousins assembled and bludgeoned her to death. Hours after the killing, authorities arrested the victim’s father, who told police he killed Parveen to “preserve the family honor,” reports the New York Times.

On Wednesday, a Pakistani court found the four men guilty and sentenced them to death, prosecutor Abdul Samad told journalists. Another cousin will face 10 years in prison for aiding the crime.

While such “honor killings” are known to occur in Pakistan’s rural regions, Parveen’s murder has sparked outrage as it took place in broad daylight and right outside the High Court of Lahore, considered Pakistan’s cultural capital. Parveen had arrived in the city to testify in a lawsuit filed by her family, who insisted Iqbal had kidnapped and forced her into marriage.

[NYT]

TIME Japan

A Japanese Woman Has Been Linked to the Deaths of Six of Her Partners

The men all died shortly after starting a relationship with her

A Japanese woman, who has been linked to a series of mysterious deaths, has been arrested on suspicion of fatally poisoning her husband.

Sixty-seven-year-old Chisako Kakehi was arrested by Kyoto police on Wednesday. Japanese media say cyanide was found in the body of her 75-year-old husband, who died in Dec. 2013, one month after the couple was married, Associated Press reports.

But Isao Kakehi was just one of six men who came to untimely deaths shortly after marrying or beginning a relationship with the woman.

In 2012, cyanide was also found in the blood of her 71-year-old partner who died after falling off his motorcycle. According to Kyodo news service, the cause of death was attributed to heart disease.

Chisako Kakehi denies she had a hand in any of the deaths.

[AP]

TIME ebola

Cost of Ebola for West Africa Far Lower Than Once Feared

Financial toll for hardest-hit region could fall between $3 billion and $4 billion, or about one-tenth of what the World Bank initially forecast. In its latest report on the global Ebola epidemic, WHO counted 5,177 deaths out of 14,413 reported cases of the disease

An aggressive response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has reduced a massive $32.6 billion economic tab initially forecast by the World Bank, a top official at the organization said Wednesday.

Francisco Ferreira, the World Bank’s chief economist, said at a lecture in Johannesburg that the outbreak’s total financial toll in the region could fall between $3 billion and $4 billion, according to Reuters. Ferreira pointed to successful efforts to contain the disease in some West African countries as a sign that the World Bank’s worst-case scenario is unlikely. But, he also warned that Ebola could still spread if those efforts are not maintained.

“It has not gone to zero because a great level of preparedness and focus is still needed,” Ferreira said, according to Reuters.

In its latest report on the global Ebola epidemic, the World Health Organization counted 5,177 deaths out of 14,413 reported cases of the disease. Liberia has seen the most deaths by far, at greater than 2,800, followed by Sierra Leone and Guinea at more than 1,000 each. The United States has had four reported cases of the disease and one confirmed death.

This year’s outbreak has affected businesses in West Africa and worldwide. A number of airline stocks dipped last month following reports that a potentially-infected woman had flown from Cleveland to Dallas on Frontier Airlines. Meanwhile, the stock market in general suffered in October, in part due to investor concerns over the spread of the disease.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Research

Study Suggests Banking Industry Breeds Dishonesty

Bank industry culture “seems to make [employees] more dishonest,” a study author says

Bank employees are more likely to exhibit dishonesty when discussing their jobs, a new study found.

Researchers out of Switzerland tested employees from several industries during a coin-toss game that offered money if their coins matched researcher’s. According to Reuters, there was “a considerable incentive to cheat” given the maximum pay-off of $200. One hundred and twenty-eight employees from one bank were tested and were found to be generally as honest as everyone else when asked questions about their personal lives prior to flipping the coin, the Associated Press reports. But when they were asked about work before the toss, they were more inclined toward giving false answers, the study determined.

The author of the study says bankers are not any more dishonest than other people, but that the culture of the industry “seems to make them more dishonest.”

The American Bankers Association rebuffed the study’s findings to the AP.

“While this study looks at one bank, America’s 6,000 banks set a very high bar when it comes to the honesty and integrity of their employees. Banks take the fiduciary responsibility they have for their customers very seriously,” the Association said.

[AP]

TIME Honduras

Honduras’ Miss World Contestant Found Murdered

Miss World Honduras 2014 and his sister found dead
Miss World Honduras 2014 María José Alvarado in the ceremony of the event in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on April 26, 2014 EPA

María José Alvarado had been missing for almost a week

Honduras beauty-pageant contestant María José Alvarado, 19, and her sister Sofía, 23, were found murdered and buried in western Honduras on Wednesday.

María José was supposed to participate in the Miss World competition in London this week. The sisters went missing about a week ago and were last seen leaving a party and getting into an unlicensed car in Santa Barbara, Honduras — an area known for drug-gang activity, Reuters reports.

Interior Minister Arturo Corrales told media that Sofía’s boyfriend Plutarco Ruiz was responsible, Reuters reports. Ruiz was arrested with another man on Tuesday.

“We are devastated by this terrible loss of two young women, who were so full of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of María José Alvarado & Sofía Trinidad at this time of grief,” said Julia Morley, Chairman Miss World Organization in a statement.

In 2013, Honduras was named the world’s murder capital.

TIME Scandal

‘Pickup Artist’ Accused of Promoting Sexual Assault to Be Barred From U.K.

A petition demanding Britain cancel Julien Blanc's visa garnered more than 150,000 signatures

An American “pickup artist” accused of promoting sexual assault appears set to be banned from entering the United Kingdom, according to a report Wednesday that cited the Home Office.

Julien Blanc was apparently informed that his application for a British visa has been rejected, the Guardian reports. The decision by Home Secretary Theresa May comes after a petition demanding that Britain cancel his visa garnered more than 150,000 signatures.

Blanc, 25, gives paid seminars and bootcamps that promise to teach men how to “Make Girls BEG To Sleep With You After SHORT-CIRCUITING Their Emotional And Logical Mind” and develop “panty-dropping masculinity with this rock-solid structure to self-generate the powerful emotions girls crave.” But critics have called the courses predation in disguise as dating advice.

[The Guardian]

TIME

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