TIME ebola

U.N. Rights Chief: Ebola, Extremists ‘Twin Plagues’

(GENEVA) — U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein drew comparisons between the Ebola outbreak and the Islamic State group Thursday, labeling them “twin plagues” upon the world that were allowed to gain strength because of widespread neglect and misunderstanding.

At his first news conference since becoming the U.N.’s top human rights official last month, Zeid focused on the “two monumental crises” that he said would inevitably cost nations many billions to overcome.

“The twin plagues of Ebola and ISIL,” he told reporters, using an acronym for the group, “both fomented quietly, neglected by a world that knew they existed but misread their terrible potential before exploding into the global consciousness during the latter months of 2014.”

Zeid said the U.N. human rights office has begun drawing up guidelines for Ebola-hit nations to follow if they impose health quarantines on people, because such efforts can easily violate a wide range of human rights if imposed and enforced unjustly.

Along the border of Iraq and Syria, the Islamic fighters who are seizing ground represent “a diabolical, potentially genocidal movement” that is the product of “a perverse and lethal marriage of a new form of nihilism with the digital age,” he said.

The veteran diplomat and prince from Jordan also urged Iraq to join The Hague-based International Criminal Court and to take the “immediate step” of accepting its jurisdiction to allow for the prosecution of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity that a U.N. Human Rights Council-appointed mission is investigating.

Syria has signed the treaty establishing the ICC, but has not ratified it.

TIME

Barack and Michelle Obama Congratulate Malala Yousafzai

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attend the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton on Feb. 6, 2014 in Washington.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attend the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton on Feb. 6, 2014 in Washington. Olivier Douliery—Getty Images

Let’s not simply be in awe of her age or her accomplishments. Let’s join her

A year ago, we were honored to welcome Malala Yousafzai to the Oval Office. From the moment she walked in, it was clear that this young woman–not much older than our own daughters–possessed character far beyond her years. The courage to stand up to Taliban gunmen determined to silence her. The conviction to fight back, not just for her own education but also for the future of young people everywhere. So we were thrilled when Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 10, alongside Kailash Satyarthi, who has inspired us with his work to combat child labor and slavery.

It wasn’t long ago that Malala was just a girl going to school every morning, laughing with her friends as class began. She was like millions of girls in America and around the world who aren’t famous but whose promise is boundless; girls who, if just given the opportunity and the support, could change the world. So as we celebrate 17-year-old Malala, let’s not simply be in awe of her age or her accomplishments. Let’s join her. Let’s all do our part to help unlock the extraordinary talents and potential of all our children.

Barack and Michelle Obama are the President and First Lady of the United States

TIME Thailand

Thai Dictator Faces Ire Over Bungled Investigation Into Murder of British Tourists

Thailand's Military Coup Continues As General Prayuth Receives Royal Endorsement
Thai military General Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks during a press conference after receiving the royal endorsement as the military coup leader on May 26, 2014, in Bangkok The Asahi Shimbun—2014 The Asahi Shimbun

The shoddy handling of the case has provoked international criticism

Thailand’s military dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha is facing fierce protests on his maiden trip overseas, with Thai exiles in Italy rallying Thursday against his May 22 coup, and an indignant crowd expected to gather in London on Friday to protest the botched investigation into the brutal murder of two British backpackers on the resort island of Koh Tao.

Two Burmese casual workers, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21, have been arrested for rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and murder of her friend David Miller, 24, who were found bludgeoned to death on the island’s idyllic Sairee Beach.

The mishandling of the case has made headlines around the globe.

On Tuesday, ignoring a litany of procedural irregularities, Prayuth told representatives from the British and Burmese governments that their role would be “limited to observation” as both nations must “respect our processes,” reported the Bangkok Post.

The investigation has been dubbed “a perfect job” by Thai police chief Somyot Pumpunmuang, but is in fact an “appalling mess” according to Felicity Gerry QC, a prominent British defense lawyer specializing in high-profile sexual-assault cases.

Her condemnation echoes those of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Thailand’s forensics’ chief, the U.K. government and the victims’ families.

Reports have emerged that Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were beaten and threatened with electrocution during interrogation. (The Thai police robustly deny the allegations.)

They were also forced by police into a macabre re-enactment of the murder, which, Gerry tells TIME, is “bound to prejudice everything and does the victim and victims’ families no good at all.”

Tourists have also been allowed to visit the crime scene and the handling of evidence has been condemned.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a witness hearing was called by Koh Samui Court, but the defense team, having just flown in from Bangkok, was permitted just half an hour to meet the suspects.

It was “just enough time to explain what is a lawyer, why you need a lawyer and what does a lawyer do for you,” says Andy Hall, a Thailand-based migrant labor activist helping to organize the defense.

A request to postpone the hearing to allow adequate time for the defense to prepare was thrown out by the judge, who claimed defense witnesses posed a flight risk, even though the witnesses were employed and legally resident in Thailand — coveted status for migrant Burmese.

“It makes absolutely no sense why, in such a sensitive case, the court would rush hearings and it once again undermines the accused’s right to a fair trial,” says Hall.

Back in the U.K., the distraught families of Miller and Witheridge can only watch and pray. “As a family we hope that the right people are found and brought to justice,” said Witheridge’s family in a statement last week.

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Top Media Official Shared a Fake Photo of a Beaten Cop

He was hoping to win sympathy for police dealing with pro-democracy protesters, but the move backfired

The Hong Kong cop’s wounds looked grave — so grave, in fact, that he appeared to have just arisen from one.

The media-and-communications adviser to Hong Kong’s beleaguered leader, Leung Chun-ying, posted a photo to Facebook on Wednesday that showed a grimacing, blood-spattered “cop” said to have been wounded in a clash with pro-democracy protesters the previous night.

The photo was being circulated by supporters of the police, keen to show that the demonstrators weren’t as peaceful as they claimed to be.

“Everybody who uses violence is wrong,” wrote an impassioned Andrew Fung, under the photo of a man wearing police blue, his hands and face caked in bright blood. “If the police get hurt, you should have sympathy. The idea of democracy includes love.”

There is no suggestion that Fung knew the image to be a fake when he shared it. But, unfortunately for him, this was not a Hong Kong cop. It was an actor, made up to play an undead cop on a new local TV show called Night Shift.

The gaffe has left Fung, and many others who shared it, also red-faced — but with embarrassment, not cheap theatrical makeup.

HKTV, the network set to air Night Shift, confirmed on Facebook on Wednesday that the image was of one of its actors. It posted the zombie-cop photo next to a picture of the show’s actor without his living-dead makeup.

Twitter users also gleefully pointed out the error.

Ironically, Fung’s post about a grievously injured policeman came as outrage built in the city over the beating by officers of a political activist during a demonstration in the early hours of Wednesday. The violent incident was filmed by a TV news crew and has jolted open a fresh rift in unrest that has paralyzed parts of downtown Hong Kong for almost three weeks.

Fung’s Facebook page is private, and it was not clear on Thursday if the post was still there.

TIME Nepal

More Than 20 Dead, Dozens Remain Missing as Blizzards Batter Himalayas

Nepal Avalanche
In this photo provided by the Nepalese army, soldiers carry an avalanche victim before he is airlifted in Thorong La pass area, in Nepal, on Oct. 15, 2014 AP

Four Canadians, three Israelis reportedly among the deceased, authorities still searching for some 85 missing persons

The effects of Cyclone Hudhud, which battered India’s east coast over the weekend, are being felt further north, as resultant blizzards in neighboring Nepal’s Annapurna region killed at least 20 people on Wednesday.

Officials said that nine locals, three Polish nationals, three Israelis and one Vietnamese were killed in the region’s Mustang district, according to the Indian Express. Four Canadians and an Indian also lost their lives in the neighboring district of Manang, and the search for nearly 85 others reported missing is being focused on the Thorang pass that connects the two areas.

Reuters reported that the Nepalis killed were a group of yak herders and that the search for hikers, which was called off Wednesday night local time owing to bad light and weather, resumed on Thursday morning. “One army helicopter has already left for the site and more helicopters will be pressed into service later,” said Mustang district Governor Baburam Bhandari.

This week’s disaster, which took place during Nepal’s peak trekking season, marks a bad year for the country’s tourism industry. Several Sherpa guides lost their lives in an avalanche at the base of Mount Everest in April, the worst accident in the history of the world’s tallest mountain. CNN reports that many Sherpas refused to go back up Everest after the incident, and as many as six trekking companies canceled their 2014 expeditions.

Kathmandu-based Adventure Mountain Explore Treks and Expedition are still heading out while exercising a great deal of caution and restraint in all situations.

Tika Regmi, who heads the company’s trekking and mountaineering department, says all his guides are advised to stay put during a natural disaster, or immediately descent if safe. “But some guides and Sherpas feel they need to listen to the customers’ wishes,” he tells TIME. According to Regmi, there are foreign trekkers who feel getting their money’s worth is most important and will press on despite adverse conditions. “But no amount of money is more valuable than their lives,” he says.

Three Adventure Mountain guides are currently at a guesthouse with their clients, and Regmi says it was their reading of the situation that saved their lives. Another company, whom he did not wish to name, pressed on and now has several groups missing. “It’s a natural disaster so no one can control,” he says. “We can only control our people and our guides.”

Regmi has already started receiving emails with requests for cancellations. He says the danger should pass within a week as the weather improves, but does worry about the long-term impact of these incidents.

“I’m sure it’s not a good message for people who are coming from all over the world,” he says.

TIME Nepal

Nepal Blizzard, Avalanche Death Toll Rises to 25

(KATMANDU, Nepal) — Search and rescue teams flying on army helicopters spotted the bodies of eight more trekkers killed in a series of blizzards and avalanches that have hit central Nepal in recent days, raising the death toll in the region to 25, officials said Thursday.

About 70 people were still missing along or near the popular Annapurna trail, said Ganga Sagar Pant of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, and the death toll there was expected to rise.

The route, 160 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of the capital, Katmandu, was filled with international hikers because October is peak trekking season, when the air is clear and the weather is cool. There were also many Nepalese on the trails because of local festivals.

At least 12 people died when they were caught in a sudden blizzard Tuesday in the Thorong La pass area.

As the weather improved, rescue workers recovered the bodies of four hikers — two Poles, an Israeli and a Nepali — from around Thorong La. Two trekkers from Hong Kong and 12 Israelis were airlifted Wednesday to Katmandu, where they were being treated at Shree Birendra Hospital.

The blizzard, the tail end of a cyclone that hit the Indian coast a few days ago, appeared to contribute to an avalanche Wednesday that killed at least eight people in Phu village in the neighboring Manang district. The dead included one Indian and four Canadian trekkers as well as three villagers, said government official Devendra Lamichane. The villagers’ bodies were recovered Wednesday, he said.

But digging out the foreigners’ bodies, which are buried in up to two meters (6 ½ feet) of snow, will take days, he said. Three Canadian trekkers who survived the avalanche were taken by helicopter to a shelter in a nearby village. No update was immediately available on their condition.

Meanwhile, authorities said five climbers were killed in a separate avalanche some 75 kilometers (46 miles) to the west, at the base camp for Mount Dhaulagiri. The climbers, two Slovaks and three Nepali guides, were preparing to scale the 8,167-meter (26,800-foot) -high peak, the world’s seventh tallest, said Gyanedra Shrestha of Nepal’s mountaineering department. Their bodies were recovered Thursday.

An avalanche in April just above the base camp on Mount Everest killed 16 Nepalese guides, the deadliest single disaster on the mountain. Climate experts say rising global temperatures have contributed to avalanches in the Himalayas.

TIME Syria

ISIS Retreating from Kobani, Says Kurdish Official

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobane, seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border, on Oct. 14, 2014 Umit Bektas—Reuters

The radical Islamist militants now reportedly control only 20% of the border town, as opposed to about 40% before

The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has suffered setbacks and has begun retreating from parts of the Syrian border town of Kobani, according to a local official, who said Kurdish forces were advancing against the militant group.

Idris Nassan told the BBC that ISIS had previously controlled almost half the town but currently occupies “less than 20%.”

The retreat comes after the U.S. stepped up the intensity of air strikes in the region, with al-Jazeera quoting U.S. officials as saying Western coalition forces had launched about 40 air strikes in the past two days. “We know we’ve killed several hundred of them,” said Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, while admitting that the strategically important Syrian-Turkish border town could still fall to the radical Islamist group.

Air strikes have also been launched in parts of neighboring Iraq, where ISIS is rapidly making inroads into the Anbar province, and is reportedly advancing on a town just 25 miles from the capital Baghdad.

“That’s probably ISIS’s key victory here,” Matthew Gray, a senior lecturer at the Australian National University’s Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, tells TIME. Gray is of the opinion that although Kobani’s location on the border with Turkey — and thus with NATO and the Western world — makes it important to defend, Anbar’s proximity to Baghdad and the economic advantages it represents make it far more significant strategically. “If I were ISIS, I’d probably be happy to let Kobani go as long as I have Anbar,” he says.

Despite the recent achievements of Operation Inherent Resolve, as U.S. President Barack Obama has now termed the battle against ISIS, Gray says there’s a limit to how much air strikes — even with helicopters as opposed to fixed-wing aircraft — can achieve without ground troops.

Even so, the current retreat is “significant,” says Gray, “especially if they’ve lost several hundred.”

“It doesn’t neutralize the other observation that to completely destroy or thoroughly degrade ISIS will require substantial action from troops on the ground,” he adds.

Read next: More Americans Say Boots Are Needed on the Ground to Fight ISIS

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