TIME Malaria

World’s First Viable Malaria Vaccine Shows Success in Trials

Malaria is present in over 100 countries and threatens half of the world's population

The results of final clinical trials of the first viable malaria vaccine show it offers partial protection against malaria for up to four years. The vaccine is called RTS,S and has been developed over two decades by GlaxoSmithKline and a non-profit organization funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

It is designed for children in African countries and if approved by international regulators, like the World Health Organization, it could be made available for use in Africa from October.

However, early trial data from 2011 and 2012 – carried out on 16,000 children from seven African countries – showed that vaccines in babies aged 5 – 17 months were only effective in 46% of children, diminishing hopes that RTS,S would be effective.

But final data published in The Lancet journal Friday showed that the vaccinated children were still protected four years later, and that protection rates were improved with booster shots.

Malaria currently kills more than 660,000 people a year, and some 1,300 children in sub-Saharan Africa die every day from the parasitic disease – nearly one child every minute.

Although the RTS,S vaccine is only partially effective, it marks a scientific milestone as the first to reach advanced clinical trials with some success.

[Reuters]

TIME Italy

Terror Suspects Planned Bombing Attack on Vatican, Italian Authorities Say

Italian police officers patrol outside St. Peter's Square in Rome. Islamic extremists suspected in a bomb attack in a Pakistani market that killed more than 100 people had also planned an attack against the Vatican in 2010 that was never carried out, an Italian prosecutor said Friday.
Gregorio Borgia—AP Italian police officers patrol outside St. Peter's Square in Rome. Islamic extremists suspected in a bomb attack in a Pakistani market that killed more than 100 people had also planned an attack against the Vatican in 2010 that was never carried out, an Italian prosecutor said Friday.

Italian authorities said Friday they were making arrests of 18 suspected terrorists

(MILAN) — Islamic extremists suspected in a bomb attack in a Pakistani market that killed more than 100 people had also planned an attack against the Vatican in 2010 that was never carried out, an Italian prosecutor said Friday.

Wiretaps collected as part of an investigation into an Islamic terror network operating in Italy gave “signals of some preparation for a possible attack” at the Vatican, prosecutor Mauro Mura told a news conference in Cagliari, Sardinia. That included the arrival in Rome of a Pakistani suicide bomber, Mura said.

The Pakistani eventually left Italy, Mura said, without explaining why. The Italian news agency ANSA reported that there were two suicide bombers and that they were warned off by their associates in Italy when police began executing search warrants in the case.

The Vatican downplayed the significance of the alleged plot.

“From what it appears, this concerns a hypothesis that dates from 2010 which didn’t occur. It has therefore no relevance today and no reason for particular concern,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

The news of the planned attack came as police said they arrested nine suspected extremists accused of plotting terror in Pakistan aimed at stopping that government’s actions against the Taliban. Arrest warrants were being executed against some 20 suspects.

At the time of the suspected plot to bomb the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI was still reeling from the effects in the Muslim world of a 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany, in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman,” particularly “his command to spread by the sword the faith.”

While relations with the Muslim world were eventually repaired, tensions flared again in 2011 when Cairo’s al-Azhar institute, the pre-eminent theological school of Sunni Islam, suspended interfaith talks with the Vatican after Benedict called for greater protections for Egypt’s minority Christians.

More recently, Italian officials have made clear they take seriously the threat of the Islamic State group to conquer Rome and the seat of Christianity. Security has been beefed up at the Vatican and the head of the Swiss Guards has said they are ready but that they have no information about an imminent threat.

Pope Francis himself has said he realizes he may be a target but that he fears mostly for the innocent crowds who come to see him every time he’s in public.

The investigation was launched in 2005, but Mura said it was slowed when news of the investigation leaked to the media, alerting the suspects that they were being watched.

Authorities said some of the suspects sought in the probe were responsible for “numerous bloody acts of terrorism in Pakistan,” including the October 2009 explosion in a market in Peshawar in which more than 100 people died. That attack happened on the same day that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, Mura noted.

One of the suspects arrested Friday had a construction business in Sardinia that participated in work for a Group of Eight summit planned for Sardinia but that was later moved to quake-stricken Aquilia, in Abruzzo to boost reconstruction.

Mura also said some of the suspects had very close ties to al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, and that wiretaps included phone calls inquiring about his health.

Police said the aim of the terror network was to create an insurrection against the Pakistani government.

___

Nicole Winfield contributed to this report from Rome.

TIME Armenia

Armenia Marks Centennial of Killing of 1.5 Million

ARMENIA-TURKEY-HISTORY-GENOCIDE
Kirill Kudryavtsev—AFP/Getty Images Soldiers stand guard during a commemoration ceremony for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in front of the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial in Yerevan, Armenia, on April 24, 2015

An estimated 1.5 million died in the massacres, deportations and forced marches of 1915

(YEREVAN, Armenia) — The presidents of Russia and France joined other leaders Friday at ceremonies commemorating the massacre 100 years ago of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks, an event which remains a diplomatic sore point for both sides.

The annual April 24 commemorations mark the day when some 250 Armenian intellectuals were rounded up in what is regarded as the first step of the massacres. An estimated 1.5 million died in the massacres, deportations and forced marches that began in 1915 as Ottoman officials worried that the Christian Armenians would side with Russia, its enemy in the World War I.

The event is widely viewed by historians as genocide but modern Turkey, the successor to the Ottoman Empire, vehemently rejects the charge, saying that the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest. On the eve of the centennial, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that his nation’s ancestors never committed genocide.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande and other dignitaries assembled Friday morning at the Tsitsernakaberd memorial complex in the capital, Yerevan.

Each leader walked along the memorial with a single yellow rose and put it into the center of a wreath resembling a forget-me-not, a flower that was made the symbol of the commemoration.

“We will never forget the tragedy that your people went through,” Hollande said.

France is home to a sizeable Armenian community. Among the French Armenians at Yerevan was 90-year old singer Charles Aznavour who was born in Paris to a family of massacre survivors.

Russian President Vladimir Putin used his speech to warn of the dangers of nationalism as well as “Russophobia” in a clear dig at the West-leaning government in Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the Vatican after Pope Francis described the killings as genocide. The European Parliament has also triggered Turkey’s ire by passing a non-binding resolution to commemorate “the centenary of the Armenian genocide.”

Armenian President Serge Sarkisian expressed hope that recent steps to recognize the massacre as genocide will help “dispel the darkness of 100 years of denial.”

Sarkisian also welcomed Armenians from Turkey who were preparing to gather in Istanbul’s Taksim Square to honor the dead, calling them “strong people who are doing an important thing for their motherland.”

TIME europe

Police: 14 Migrants Killed by Train in Macedonia

14 migrants died after being hit by trains at night

(SKOPJE, Macedonia) — Fourteen migrants believed to be from Afghanistan and Somalia who were heading north toward the European Union were killed by an express train as they walked along tracks in central Macedonia at night, police said Friday.

The group had been walking along tracks in a narrow gorge near the central Macedonian town of Veles at around 10:30 p.m. (2030 GMT) Thursday night when they were hit by an express passenger train heading from the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki to the Serbian capital of Belgrade.

Police spokesman Ivo Kotevski said the migrants were believed to have been part of a larger group of about 30-40 people. He said authorities had detained eight other migrants who were uninjured but remained in the area until police arrived. They were taken to Veles, where they were to be questioned by a prosecutor. The remaining survivors are believed to have fled.

Migrants and refugees using the overland route from Greece to central and Western Europe often use train tracks to guide them along their way and to evade police. Local media have reported five similar incidents along train tracks in Macedonia which left six migrants dead in November and December last year.

Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees attempt to reach the more prosperous central and western European countries by heading from Turkey to nearby Greek islands, then either try to sneak onto Italy-bound ferries, or head overland through Macedonia.

Although short, the sea journey from the Turkish coast is perilous, with smugglers overloading unseaworthy boats and often abandoning vessels after entering Greek waters so as to evade arrest. On Monday, a wooden yacht packed with about 90 migrants ran aground on the shore of the Greek island of Rhodes, leaving three people dead, including a young boy.

TIME indonesia

The Execution of Several Foreigners in Indonesia Appears Imminent

President Joko Widodo has said he will not interfere

Correction appended, April 24

In a sign that it may be preparing to put 10 mostly foreign drug offenders to death, Indonesia has asked foreign diplomats to travel Saturday to visit the maximum-security prison on the island of Nusakambangan where the inmates are being held.

According to Reuters, the legally required 72-hour notice has not been announced but a diplomat the news agency spoke with on condition of anonymity said, “We still don’t know when the actual date of the execution will happen but we expect that it will be in days.”

On Tuesday, through the state-owned news agency Antara, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the executions were “only awaiting the conclusion of all procedures and the legal process, which I will not interfere in. It is only a matter of time.”

The condemned include Australian, Brazilian, French and Nigerian nationals, as well as a Filipina maid named Mary Jane Veloso who has sparked a social-media campaign for clemency.

Also set to be executed are the two Australian ringleaders of the Bali Nine drug-smuggling group, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Repeated appeals to spare their lives have been made by the Australian government and the case has created tensions between the two countries. France also blasted the Indonesian legal system on Thursday.

According to David McRae, a senior research fellow at the Asia Institute in the University of Melbourne, who wrote an analysis paper on the subject in 2012, Jakarta is torn between domestic and international considerations. “One [stream of thought] relishes the opportunity for the government to present itself as firm in the face of international pressure,” he tells TIME. “But I think there are others who are concerned at the prospect of Indonesia’s relations with various of its important international partners becoming mired in needless rancor.”

Indonesia has severe punishments for drug offenses and has once again started implementing the death penalty after a five-year stoppage.

[Reuters]

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the drug offenders. Nine are foreigners and one is Indonesian.

TIME indonesia

The Internet Is Begging the Indonesian Government to Spare a Filipina Single Mother’s Life

A protester holds a placard urging the Philippine and Indonesian government to save Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina facing execution in Indonesia, during a protest in front of the Indonesian embassy in Makati city
Romeo Ranoco—Reuters A protester holds a placard urging the Philippine and Indonesian governments to save Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina facing execution in Indonesia, during a protest in front of the Indonesian embassy in Manila on April 24, 2015

"Is my President a murderer?”

As the executions of 10 drug convicts loom in Indonesia, a massive social-media campaign has kicked off in support of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina maid set to face the firing squad.

The hashtag #MaryJane was the No. 2 trending topic on Indonesia’s Twittersphere on Friday morning, hours after Veloso was transferred to the execution island of Nusakambangan. As her family flew to the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, where Veloso was held, Indonesians rallied to urge President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, to spare the life of the 30-year-old migrant worker.

Indonesian celebrity chef Rahung Nasution launched a tweet storm on Friday morning, detailing how Veloso ended up in an Indonesian prison and how the Indonesian government handled her case. “Jokowi is not battling drugs. He is executing poor women, like the migrant workers in Saudi Arabia!! #MaryJane,” Rahung tweeted, referring to the two Indonesian domestic workers executed in the Middle East country last week.

Dewi Candraningrum, the chief editor of feminist magazine Jurnal Perempuan (Women’s Journal), uploaded her charcoal-on-paper drawing Mary Jane and tweeted, “She is a victim of trafficking. Is my President a murderer?” The National Commission on Violence Against Women also posted a series of tweets on why the government should not execute Veloso.

One Twitter user wrote, “I agree with death penalty for drug cases, as long as it’s for big-time drug dealers, not couriers or duped victims like #MaryJane.”

Another tweeted, “Sorry for #MaryJane how is it possible for a victim of a drug dealer is sentenced to death. As if people’s life is a plaything.”

While local support for other foreign drug convicts has been muted, there is a wider sympathy toward Veloso, a single mother of two, who said she was not a drug dealer but a victim of trafficking and was duped into carrying narcotics into the country. She was initially promised a job in Malaysia, but upon arrival there, she was told her job was in Indonesia. While in Malaysia, the drugs were secretly sewn into a suitcase she was lent, her family said. She was arrested at Yogyakarta airport in April 2010 after authorities found 2.6 kg of heroin in her suitcase. She was found guilty and sentenced to death later that year.

Veloso launched her first appeal in March, questioning the competence of the translator provided to her during the trial, but it was rejected by the Indonesian Supreme Court. She was transferred from Yogyakarta’s prison to Nusakambangan execution island at 1 a.m. on Friday.

On Friday, the Philippine government filed a second appeal for judicial review on behalf of Veloso in another attempt to save her life.

TIME India

A Documentary on Cricket Demigod Sachin Tendulkar Is in the Works

Red Carpet Studio - 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards - Shanghai
Ian Walton—Getty Images/Laureus Former Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar attends the 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards at Shanghai Grand Theatre on April 15, 2015, in Shanghai

The sporting legend turned 42 on Friday

Fans and well-wishers of Sachin Tendulkar (there are literally billions of them) were devastated when the legendary Indian cricketer announced his retirement from the sport two years ago. But as India’s “god of cricket” turns 42 on Friday, his supporters around the world have something to look forward to.

Tendulkar is busy shooting a documentary feature on his life, and a photograph released by Indian news channel CNN-IBN shows him deep in conversation with the film’s British director James Erskine next to a trunk of his most treasured possessions.

Producers of the film, which was announced earlier this year, are reportedly targeting a 2016 release on big screens. The film does not have a title yet, but some of Tendulkar’s 9.08 million Twitter followers might get to decide that.

TIME Armenia

German President Enrages Turkey by Referring to 1915 Armenian ‘Genocide’

German President Joachim Gauck delivers a speech at the Berlin Cathedral Church in Berlin, Germany, April 23, 2015
Michael Sohn—AP German President Joachim Gauck delivers a speech at the Berlin Cathedral Church in Berlin, Germany, April 23, 2015

"The fate of the Armenians stands as exemplary in the history of mass exterminations, ethnic cleansing, deportations and yes, genocide"

German President Joachim Gauck on Thursday angered Turkey by labeling the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 as a “genocide” ahead of Friday’s centennial commemoration of the event, which took place during World War I.

A day before the German parliament debates using the term “genocide” for the Armenian massacre, Gauck said, “The fate of the Armenians stands as exemplary in the history of mass exterminations, ethnic cleansing, deportations and yes, genocide, which marked the 20th century in such a terrible way.”

However, the contentious term has sparked outcry within Turkey, which has a significant Armenian minority and officially contends that both sides suffered a heavy death toll during the war. The successor state of the Ottoman Empire, as the territory was known during 1915, has never formally acknowledged the Armenian massacre as a genocide.

On Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Dautoglu urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel to exclude the genocide label in parliamentary debates. “To reduce everything to a single word, to put responsibility through generalizations on the Turkish nation alone … is legally and morally problematic,” he said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the Armenian deaths “our shared pain” and offered to establish a joint historical commission to examine the deaths, but fell short of acknowledging the events as a “genocide.”

“[U]sing the events of 1915 as an excuse for hostility against Turkey and turning this issue into a matter of political conflict is inadmissible,” Erdoğan said in a statement.

Pope Francis recently provoked the ire of Erdoğan for labeling the 1915 Armenian killings as the “first genocide of the 20th century.”

TIME India

India Stays World’s Top Beef Exporter Despite New Bans on Slaughtering Cows

Handcarts used for transporting meat are seen parked at an abattoir during a strike against a ban on the slaughter of bulls and bullocks in Mumbai
Danish Siddiqui—Reuters Handcarts used for transporting meat are seen parked at an abattoir during a strike against a ban on the slaughter of bulls and bullocks in Mumbai on March 23, 2015

While cows have long been sacred for many in the Hindu-majority nation, exports of buffalo meat remain a huge industry

India’s exports of beef are on the rise even as several states expand their bans on the slaughter of cows and bullocks, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

India has been the largest exporter of beef in the world since last year, and has further widened its lead over second-ranked Brazil with a projected total of 2.4 million tons exported in 2015 against Brazil’s 2 million.

The USDA report, released earlier this month, predicts that global beef exports overall will rise to a record 10.2 million tons, 3% higher than the October 2014 forecast.

Beef has also overtaken basmati rice as India’s largest agricultural food export in terms of value, according to data from the country’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products’ Export Development Authority, cited by the Economic Times newspaper.

Although the slaughter of cows, sacred for the Hindus that make up India’s majority population, has long been banned in several parts of the country, states like Maharashtra — one of its largest — recently expanded the ban to include bulls and bullocks as well. However, since India’s exports are composed entirely of water-buffalo meat or carabeef, the bans will not affect the figures cited in the report.

“It could bring an end to illegal slaughter and raise the price for buffalo meat, thus proving to be beneficial for companies like us who are engaged in legal slaughter and export of buffalo meat,” Priya Sud, a partner at New Delhi–based Al Noor Exports, told the Times.

TIME Chile

Ash Piles Up From Eruption of Chile’s Calbuco Volcano

Residents fear contaminated water, respiratory illnesses and flight disruptions

(ENSENADA, Chile) — Twin blasts from the Calbuco volcano in southern Chile sent vast clouds of ash into the sky, covering this small town with thick soot and raising concerns Thursday that the dust could contaminate water, cause respiratory illnesses and ground more flights.

Ensenada, in the foothills of the volcano, looked like a ghost town but for an occasional horse or dog roaming its only street. Most of the 1,500 residents had evacuated after the initial eruption Wednesday, with only about 30 people refusing to leave out of worry for their homes and animals.

Daniel Patricio Gonzalez left with his wife, 7-year-old son and 4-year-old twins, but he returned to town Thursday night to assess the damage. The roof at the restaurant he manages had caved in from the weight of the mounting ash.

“This hurts a bit, but there’s nothing to do against nature. The important thing is that my family is fine,” Gonzalez said.

The volcano erupted Wednesday afternoon for the first time in more than four decades, spewing out a plume of ash more than 6 miles (10 kilometers) high. Emergency officials were taken by surprise and had only a few minutes to issue an alert.

Calbuco had another spectacular outburst early Thursday with lightning crackling through a dark sky turned reddish orange by the explosion.

As the ash cloud spread Wednesday, “people went into a state of panic,” said Miguel Silva Diaz, an engineer who lives in Puerto Montt, a city about 14 miles (22 kilometers) from the volcano. “Then, at around 1 a.m., I heard a loud noise, as if somebody had detonated an atomic bomb.”

Winds blew ash in a widening arc across to Argentina. No injuries were reported and the only person reported missing since the eruption was located Thursday.

Authorities evacuated 4,000 people as gas and ash continued to spew, and they closed access to the area around the volcano, which lies near the cities of Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt, some 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of Santiago.

“I was shocked. I had just arrived home when I looked through the window and saw the column of smoke rising up. We called our families, posted photos,” said Daniel Palma, a psychologist who lives in Puerto Varas.

“We woke up today with a blanket of fog and it hasn’t cleared. We have a layer of smoke above us,” Palma said, adding that many were concerned about the possible effects of the ash on their health.

The Chilean national geology and mining service warned that people should prepare for a third and “even more aggressive eruption.”

President Michelle Bachelet, who visited the area Thursday, declared a state of emergency.

“We don’t have any problems with supplies, water or sewage up to now. That’s not the problem,” she said. “Our problem is a respiratory one, from inhaling all of this ash, and the fact that this ash could generate some sort of environmental contamination.”

The short-term dangers related to the ash include eye and skin infections as well as water contamination, said Bernardo Martorell, a physician and the head of the sanitary planning division at Chile’s health ministry.

“That’s why the people in the area need to evacuate,” Martorell said.

The ash continued to fall Thursday in Puerto Montt and other nearby cities. Patricio Vera, director of a local radio station, said that after the initial eruption, hundreds of people rushed to buy gasoline, forcing stations to ration sales, while supermarkets closed early to avoid the risk of looting.

LATAM and other airline companies cancelled flights to and from Puerto Montt because airborne ash can severely damage jet engines.

The 6,500 foot (2,000-meter) Calbuco last erupted in 1972 and is considered one of the top three most potentially dangerous among Chile’s 90 active volcanos.

By Thursday afternoon, ash had made its way to Villa La Angostura, Argentina, a small town about 56 miles (90 kilometers) northeast of Calbuco. Cars and streets were coated with a thin layer of ash, but people were otherwise going about their business.

“We are praying that the volcanic activity will be as short as possible,” said mayor Roberto Cacault.

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