TIME Aviation

Indiana Teen Dies While Flying Around The World

The father-son team were flying around the globe.

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17-year old Haris Suleman’s body has been recovered after the plane he and his father, Babar Suleman, were flying went down the coast of Samoa.

The plane crash occurred on Tuesday as the two were attempting to fly around the world in 30 days. If successful, Haris would have been the youngest person to accomplish such a feat.

Haris’ father Babar is considered missing at this time, as rescuers search around the site of the crash. The reason for the plane going down is currently unknown.

TIME russia

Russian Media Narrative on MH17 Tragedy Highlights Kremlin’s Grip on Public Opinion

A camoflage sheet is hung to block the view through a gate of the Malyshev Factory, a state-owned producer of heavy machinery where a train transporting the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was taken on July 22, 2014 in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
A camoflage sheet is hung to block the view through a gate of the Malyshev Factory, a state-owned producer of heavy machinery where a train transporting the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was taken on July 22, 2014 in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Brendan Hoffman—Getty Images

Most Russians get their information about the world from television, much of which is controlled or influenced by the state

Outside Russia, the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) has refocused the world’s attention on the separatists in eastern Ukraine who are suspected of shooting down the plane with Russian arms. But inside Russia, a dramatically different narrative has taken hold. The conspiracy theories are as varied as they are bizarre: The Ukrainian military shot down the plane in a failed assassination attempt on Putin, the plane was filled with dead bodies, the crash was orchestrated by the U.S. or NATO.The theories have one thing in common: Russia, and Putin, are not to blame. It may be mind-boggling in the West, but one thing the crash has brought disturbingly to light is the extent of Putin’s grip on public opinion in Russia.

When it comes to the information wars over the MH17 crash, the Kremlin fights its battles almost exclusively on TV. Despite an expansion of new-media outlets in the 1990s and early 2000s, the state has since reasserted control over much of Russian media. According to a recent poll by the Levada Center, an independent non-profit research organization based in Moscow, 90 percent of Russians say they get their information about Russia and the world from television, nearly all of which is owned or influenced by the Kremlin. Only 24 percent said they get information from the Internet.

“We used to hear many people saying they are fed up with state television,” says Mikhail Zygar, the editor-in-chief of TV Rain, Russia’s only independent news channel. “Probably this changed because Russian television changed. It used to be like North Korea and now it’s like Fox News.”

Not long after Putin first came to power in 2000, the Kremlin began exerting its influence over Russia’s privately owned television stations. By the end of 2001, all of the country’s major channels were owned by either the Russian state or by companies with close ties to the government. Since then, pro-Kremlin news coverage has seen a gradual but flamboyant makeover. State-owned channels like Rossiya and its many sister stations, Channel One and NTV, broadcast flashy, graphic-enhanced bursts of sensationalism on the various “threats” and “enemies” battering away at Russian wellbeing.

It reached a fever pitch with Russia’s annexation of Crimea. State-controlled outlets began running bombastic, round-the-clock coverage depicting the Crimean crisis as a battle of good versus evil: benevolent, virtuous Russian-speakers defended by heroic rebel militias, battling against a stranger-than-fiction partnership of bloodthirsty Ukrainian fascists and the American political class, among other perceived interlopers intent on weakening Russia politically and economically. Earlier this month, Channel One took the media onslaught to new lows when it aired an uncorroborated and highly disputed story claiming the Ukrainian military had crucified a three-year-old boy in the former rebel stronghold of Slavyansk.

“This campaign of raw propaganda on Russian television has gone on for some time, but its intensity is unprecedented,” says Masha Lipman, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank. “The conflict was framed here in a very clear way—‘ours’ versus a variety of evil-doers identified with a number of bad words, like ‘fascist’ and ‘Nazi.’”

“The shift during the Crimean crisis was very psychologically important,” says Zygar. “The significance for many people was that we’ve been weak and we’ve been wrong for many years, but now we’re right and we’re strong. It’s a very pleasant thing to discover, that at last you’re strong and you’re loved and you’re on the right side and you don’t have to feel sorry.”

Putin’s disinformation campaign taps into a deep history of media manipulation, which has left many Russians distrustful of almost everything they read and hear. The mesh of vague and often-conflicting insinuations is well suited to a long-held Russian tradition of conspiracy-minded skepticism and a sense of grievance towards the West.

“I don’t think that there is some kind of extraordinary force of state propaganda persuading the Russian audience that the pro-Russian militias are not to blame,” says Zygar of TV Rain. “Conspiracy theories are eternally popular within the country. They usually aren’t real accusations. It’s some kind of half-joking everyday speculation. If we have bad weather, probably it’s the result of some weather weapon from Washington… This is really the way a lot of people’s brains are functioning.”

TV Rain, which launched in 2010, is one of a small but tenacious crop of independent outlets that continue to challenge the mainstream narrative. Others include the opposition-leaning newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Russian Forbes and financial daily Vedomosti, which is partially owned by the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. But for the most part, they are all preaching either to the choir or to the deaf. According to Levada Center, Putin’s approval rating in June was 86 percent, the highest it’s been in 14 years.

“For at least a decade, Putin has not had to worry about any real political opposition,” says Lipman. “He didn’t crush non-governmental media but he sort of insulated them, where they could say what they want but did not have access to a broader audience.”

Only two percent of Russians say they watch TV Rain regularly, the Levada Center found, compared to 71 percent for Rossiya-1, 48 percent for NTV and 8 percent for Channel One.

So in the days after the MH17 downing, while TV Rain was supplementing live coverage from the crash site with a broad range of on-air commentary, from guests, including separatists, Ukrainian officials and independent experts, the vast majority of Russians were watching something quite different. The phrase “on Ukrainian territory” punctuated every twist and turn of the coverage on state media, as Russian arms and aeronautical experts were brought on camera to blame Ukraine and argue the impossibility that the rebels could have fired weaponry sophisticated enough to bring down the jet.

These days Russia’s independent media seems increasingly on the brink of extinction, especially since December 2013, when Putin decreed into existence the state news conglomerate Rossiya Segodnya, which subsumed leading news agency RIA Novosti and the international radio service Voice of Russia. The man he appointed to head the massive organization is Dimitry Kiselyov, a right-wing TV presenter best known in the west for bragging that Russia is “the only country in the world capable of turning the United States into radioactive dust” and recommending burning the hearts of gay people who die in auto accidents.

“We have this kind of tradition of black August in our country. Every year something horrible happens in August. This year we joke that August has come in July,” said Mikhail Zygar of TV Rain. “Just half a year ago, no one could believe the annexation of Crimea. When we discussed the possibility, all of us told each other, ‘No. That’s not possible. Never.’ But we are all living in some fantastical reality now. After Crimea, after war in eastern Ukraine and after everything else that’s happened, it’s possible to believe anything.”

TIME Israel-Gaza conflict

As Israel Fights Hamas in Gaza, Egypt Plays the Peacemaker Once Again

APTOPIX Mideast Israel Palestinians
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City on July 24, 2014. Adel Hana—AP

Egypt craves Western and Arab approval but fears strengthening Hamas

John Kerry, the beleaguered U.S. Secretary of State, arrived in Cairo Monday to try and broker another cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian militant group which controls the Gaza Strip. But it’s not the U.S. that’s most likely to get a deal done – it’s Egypt.

Egypt has often played the role of negotiator when conflicts between Israel and Hamas have bubbled up in the past. Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak brokered a cease-fire between them in 2009. After Mubarak was given the boot in 2011, it was left to Mohamed Morsi to negotiate the next truce.

Cairo, though, has a rough road ahead. Israel and Hamas aren’t likely to seek a cease-fire just yet, as both are claiming successes in their latest bout of violence. Israel says it’s destroying Hamas’ tunnel network. Hamas, meanwhile managed to scare several international airlines away from flying to Israel for a few days for fear of rocket attacks. It also claimed to have captured an Israeli soldier.

Egypt’s position as peacemaker dates back to 1979, when then-president Anwar Sadat, exhausted by Egypt’s 30 years of war with Israel, signed a peace agreement between the two countries. It was a deeply controversial decision — Israel is not, and was not, considered a traditional ally by other Arab countries. Sadat was assassinated two years later.

“In the intervening 35 years [since 1979], Egypt has always played an important role, both because of its geography and the peace treaty,” says Robert Danin, Senior Fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations. “It is the largest Arab country and still has a leadership role.”

Yet for Egypt’s current president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who took control after playing a key role in ousting the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi, the peace treaty and its accompanying accord agreeing to Palestinian autonomy no longer carry much weight.

“The view in the west is Egypt has traditionally played [the role of peacemaker] and this is a role they should play now,” says Eric Trager, Wagner Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “But Sisi is in an existential conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Hamas is the Palestinian equivalent. Egypt views Hamas as the same as the enemy they’re fighting at home … It’s not going to offer cease-fire terms that are at all favorable to Hamas.”

International diplomacy isn’t exactly at the top of Sisi’s agenda, either. Facing upheavals in Egypt’s Western Desert and the Sinai, plus the ever-present threat of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s president has his own domestic conflicts to sort out.

It’s easy to assume that a prolonged war between Israel and Hamas would benefit Egypt, who wants to see Hamas weakened. But Danin thinks otherwise, as Egypt’s Arab partners put pressure on it to act.

‘”At a certain point [conflict] isn’t [beneficial],” says Danin. “When things get out of hand, the perception in the Arab world is that Israel is slaughtering Palestinians … it puts Egypt in a difficult position.”

Egypt’s acting as a negotiator not only appeases the Arab world — its financial backers in the Gulf States particularly — but the U.S. as well.

“Sisi needs to establish his credibility in the West,” says Dr. Claire Spencer, Head of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House. Brokering a cease-fire presents “Egypt as a power to be reckoned with,” she adds.

If Egypt can help put an end to Israel’s current invasion in Gaza, it will be lauded as a peacemaker and a key player in international diplomacy. Yet Sisi may have darker motives for getting involved with negotiations. Cairo’s current record on rule of law, democracy and human rights is dubious, to say the least. The recent sentencing of three Al-Jazeera journalists to seven years in jail is only one example of this. “When people are focusing on Israel this is good,” says Danin. “It means people aren’t focusing on Egypt.”

Sisi, then, is torn. Arranging a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas will paint him as a hero to the West and the Arab world, both sick of the bloodshed in Gaza. Yet any cease-fire that benefits Hamas will cost him support amongst his party and strengthen an enemy. Caught in this deadlock, a truce looks unlikely. Whatever Sisi suggests, Hamas is almost sure to refuse.

TIME Venezuela

Armed Forces Push Residents Out of ‘World’s Tallest Slum’

As part of a governmental initiative, squatters are being removed from their residences by armed forces.

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On Tuesday, Venezuelan armed forces began the process of forcing out residents at the Tower of David, the nation’s tallest slum, the government’s “Great Housing Mission.”

The 45-story building, originally built to be a high-rise bank, was never completed and abandoned, then taken over by people in need of shelter.

Prior to the start of the evacuation, the slum acted as home to over 3,000 squatters, many of whom have resisted their removal. The building is also home to businesses including a beauty salon, multiple bodegas, and an unlicensed dentist.

TIME Disasters

No, Fidel Castro’s Niece Wasn’t on the Algerian Plane

Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro, gives a press conference in Havana, Cuba on May 5, 2014.
Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro, gives a press conference in Havana, Cuba on May 5, 2014. Franklin Reyes—AP

"I’m alive and kicking"

Multiple news outlets reported Thursday that Cuban President Raul Castro’s daughter—Fidel Castro’s niece—was on the Air Algérie flight that disappeared earlier in the day, citing information from the airport in Burkina Faso. Mariela Castro, a sexologist and gay rights activist, is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education.

But she wasn’t on the flight.

“I’m at a meeting, happy and healthy,” she told the television network TeleSUR. “I’m alive and kicking.”

The Facebook post which appeared to have first reported the news was later deleted.

 

 

TIME Middle East

Explosions at Gaza School Kill at Least 16, Health Ministry Says

A Palestinian man holds a girl injured during shelling at a U.N.-run school sheltering Palestinians, at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip on July 24, 2014.
A Palestinian man holds a girl injured during shelling at a U.N.-run school sheltering Palestinians, at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip on July 24, 2014. Alessio Romenzi for TIME

An estimated 750 Palestinians and at least 32 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its operation to counter rocket strikes from Hamas

Updated at 7:50 p.m. ET

At least 16 people were killed after a U.N.-run school sheltering Palestinians in northern Gaza was destroyed, officials said on Thursday.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 200 people were wounded in the attack. This marks the fourth time that a UN facility has been hit since Israel began Operation Protective Edge on July 8, the BBC reports.

Nearly 750 Palestinians and at least 32 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the fighting, which intensified last week when Israel launched a ground operation to destroy tunnels used by Hamas to deploy a regular stream of rockets into Israel.

The international community has struggled to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, even as the United Nations has condemned both sides in the conflict.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Wednesday there was a “strong possibility” that Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza while also condemning the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed “outrage and regret” after rockets were found to have been stored inside a UN building in Gaza.

A spokesman for the Israeli military, Lt. Colonel Peter Lerner, said that it was possible that the damage had been caused by Hamas rocket fire, Reuters reports. “We don’t strike schools. We don’t strike U.N. facilities. We do not target the United Nations,” he was quoted in the New York Times.

More than 140,000 Palestinians have been displaced in Gaza since the fighting, many of whom have taken shelter in UN buildings, the UN has said.

According to CBS, survivors at the school on Thursday said they were warned that the school was being targeted and were preparing to leave when Israeli forces opened fire. The Israeli military told CBS it was reviewing the incident.

[BBC]

An earlier version of this story drew a premature conclusion that the attack on the Gaza shelter was committed by Israel. The source of the attack has not yet been confirmed.

TIME India

An Indian Boy With 260 Teeth Just Got 232 of Them Pulled Out

Indian Boy Gets 232 Pulled
Indian dentists operate on Ashik Gavai at JJ Hospital in Mumbai on July 22, 2014, AFP/Getty Images

Doctors said the operation was "really fun"

A boy in India endured a six-hour operation Monday to remove 232 teeth that grew as a result of a rare medical condition. Now, Ashik Gavai, 17, has 28 teeth left—four fewer than most adult mouths.

17-year-old Gavai had been suffering from composite odontoma, a condition in which a benign tumor forms in the mouth, causing additional teeth to grow as well. In Gavai’s case, a molar tooth in his lower jaw had grew hundreds of smaller teeth. Gavai’s doctors at J.J. Hospital in Mumbai couldn’t initially remove the growth deep in Gawai’s jaw with normal surgical tools, so they opted for a “basic chisel and hammer” before more delicately removing teeth one-by-one. His doctors called their operation a “world record,” and are planning to submit it to Guinness World Records.

“I have never seen anything like it in all my years of practice,” Sudanda Dhiware, head of the hospital’s dentistry department, told the Washington Post. “We were so excited by it. And it was really fun for us to be able to extract them all, one by one.”

The condition doesn’t normally result in teeth as plentiful as Gavai’s — Dhiware said medical literature shows that a maximum of 37 teeth have been extracted in the past.

Gavai, who comes from a poor family of cotton growers hours outside of Mumbai, had noticed swelling along his jaw months before his operation. But local doctors were unable to fix his condition, and his family didn’t have enough money to seek immediate, proper treatment. Fearing that Gavai’s puffy cheek may have been cancer-related, his family went to a state-run hospital, where they obtained funds through a program offering financial support to poor patients.

Gavai is currently recovering from his grueling surgery, and his doctors are hoping that the condition doesn’t reoccur—which it could, if a bit of tumor, even microscopic, remains.

[Washington Post]

TIME Germany

Poll: Only Germans Think They Are Helping to Fix Global Warming

Germany Debates Its Energy Future
Wind turbines stand behind a solar power park on October 30, 2013 near Werder, Germany. Sean Gallup—Getty Images

Germans have a pretty high opinion of themselves when it comes to environmental stewardship, according to a recent TIME poll, but their pride might be a little premature.

From among six large countries surveyed in a recent TIME poll, only Germany sees itself as more a part of the solution to global warming (60%) than part of the problem (40%). Only in Germany did the majority of poll respondents report that their country has a “mostly” or “somewhat positive” role in combating global warming.

The TIME poll surveyed 3,505 online respondents between May 10 and May 22 from the Germany, the United States, Brazil, Turkey, India and South Korea, with an equal number of respondents in each country. The margin of error in the survey is 1.8%.

Despite their environmentalist pride, Germans are not optimistic about the ability of the world as a whole to change its polluting ways—just 19% of Germans think the planet can reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 37% of respondents overall.

The Germans’ pride likely stems from Energiewende, or “energy transition,” Germany’s closely-followed effort to ramp up energy production from renewable sources. The country has indeed significantly increased solar and wind power, and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy in April found Germany to be the most energy-efficient major economy on earth. Germany hit a new record around noon on a day in May this year, producing 74% of its electricity needs from renewable sources.

The problem is that, while solar power plants may be super-effective power producers at noon on a sunny day, without scalable energy-storage technologies they aren’t so effective producing power for other times—when it’s dark, for example. Because Energiewende has been accompanied by a rapid move away from nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster Germany has had to make up its energy deficit by increasing its reliance on coal for the first time in years. German CO2 emissions have actually been rising over past three years.

The country is continuing to perfect and expand its renewable energy portfolio and may one day succeed in cutting back again on its coal habit. For the time being though German perceptions aren’t quite in line with the reality.

TIME Iraq

UN: ISIS Orders Women and Girls in Mosul to Undergo Genital Mutilation

"This is not the will of Iraqi people," U.N. humanitarian coordinator says

Islamic extremists who control parts of northern Iraq have ordered girls and women in and around the city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation, a United Nations official said Thursday.

Nearly 4 million girls could be affected by the “fatwa” issued by the militant group that refers to itself as the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq Jacqueline Badcock told reporters in Geneva via videolink from Iraq.

“This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed,” she said according to Reuters. “This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by terrorists.”

[Reuters]

TIME viral

This Is What It Looks Like When The Queen Photobombs Your Selfie

One is amused

An Australian field hockey player was minding her own business, talking a selfie at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, when her picture was photobombed by the Queen. As in, Elizabeth II, Queen of England.

AND she was smiling.

This wasn’t the Queen’s first time embracing millennial photobomb culture, either:

Royals. They’re just like us.

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