TIME Cuba

Cuban President Raúl Castro Honors Spies Jailed in U.S. as National Heroes

Raul Castro, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino,  Antonio Guerrero
Ramon Espinosa—AP Cuba's President Raul Castro and Gerardo Hernandez salute, as fellow agents Ramon Labanino, background, second from right, and Antonio Guerrero applaud during a medal ceremony, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015

The awards come despite thawing relations between Washington and Havana

Cuban President Raúl Castro awarded medals to five men on Tuesday, calling them national heroes for their espionage work in the U.S.

“The Cuban Five,” as they were nicknamed, had attempted to infiltrate Cuban exile groups within the U.S. but were arrested and imprisoned in 1998, Reuters reports.

All were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, but three were released from U.S. custody on Dec. 17 when President Barack Obama announced a shift in Washington’s relationship with Havana. (The remaining pair had already returned to their homeland.)

In exchange for the final three spies, the Cuban government released a Cuban prisoner convicted 20 years ago of spying on his home country for the U.S.

The prisoner exchange was one element of a dramatic recent shift in U.S.-Cuba relations. Both countries have announced that they will restore diplomatic relations after decades of hostility and sanctions.

The Cuban Five were presented to a group of Cuban government officials, military officers and dignitaries at the Cuban parliament. Castro led the ceremony, but his brother, former President Fidel Castro, was not seen. Fidel, 88, has not appeared publicly in over a year.

Gerardo Hernandez, 49, was the leader of the arrested spies. “The honor that we receive today also demands that we rise to the challenges facing the revolution,” he said.

[Reuters]

TIME Jamaica

Jamaica Decriminalizes Marijuana and Moves Toward Cultivation

Jamaican ganja farmer checks his marijuana plants
John Greim—LightRocket/Getty Images Jamaican ganja farmer checks his marijuana plants

New law decriminalizes possession of small amounts

A law passed in Jamaica on Tuesday decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, while also laying the groundwork for regulating the drug’s cultivation and medical usage.

The new law states that possession of up to 2 oz. of pot or weed, as it is otherwise known, will be considered a petty offense without going on a person’s criminal record, the Associated Press reported.

It also legalizes the cultivation of up to five marijuana plants on any premises and the use of the drug for religious purposes. Furthermore, tourists prescribed medical marijuana abroad can apply for a permit to buy it locally.

The amendment in Jamaica, where weed has long been a part of daily life but remained illegal, comes soon after Alaska became the third U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana.

However, both American and Jamaican authorities insisted that this does not change the strict rules and guidelines around cross-border drug trafficking and illegal cultivation.

TIME Somalia

Obama Nominates First U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Since 1991

New diplomat will fill a post that has been vacant since the country collapsed into chaos more than two decades ago

(WASHINGTON) — President Barack Obama has nominated a career diplomat to be the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia in nearly 25 years, filling a post that has been vacant since the Horn of Africa country collapsed into chaos in 1991, forcing the closure of the American embassy.

Obama on Tuesday tapped Foreign Service veteran Katherine Simonds Dhanani for the job, which will be based in neighboring Kenya until security conditions permit the embassy in the Somali capital of Mogadishu to reopen, the State Department said. Dhanani, currently director of regional and security affairs in the department’s Africa bureau, has previously served in India, Mexico, and Guyana and has significant African experience, having been posted in Zimbabwe, Gabon, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo.

The State Department said the nomination is a sign of the U.S. commitment to Somalia.

“This historic nomination signals the deepening relationship between the United States and Somalia,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “It also allows us to mark the progress of the Somali people toward emerging from decades of conflict. Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation.”

Somalia has been ravaged by conflict and instability since the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre 24 years ago, despite the formation of successive governments that have been plagued by civil strife, piracy and political uncertainty and continues to battle the al-Qaida affiliated al-Shabab militant group, which has staged attacks around east Africa and earlier this week threatened shopping malls in the United States and other Western nations.

Al-Shabab controlled much of Mogadishu during the years 2007 to 2011, but was pushed out of Somalia’s capital and other major cities by African Union forces.

Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabab continues to wage a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s government and remains a threat in Somalia and the East African region. The group has carried out many attacks in Somalia and in neighboring countries, including Kenya, whose armies are part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia’s weak U.N.- backed government.

The U.S. Embassy closed in 1991 when Somalia’s government collapsed in civil war. The situation quickly deteriorated, prompting the deployment of a U.S.-led U.N. peacekeeping mission. American troops withdrew from Somalia in 1994, months after the humiliating “Black Hawk Down” debacle when Somali militiamen shot down two U.S. helicopters. Eighteen U.S. soldiers were killed in the battle, which marked the beginning of the end of that U.S. military mission to bring stability.

TIME Behind the Photos

A Turkish Flag Draws Parallels to Iconic Iwo Jima Photo

Turkish soldiers put a wire fence around area after Turkish flag is raised on Feb. 22, 2015 in the Esme region of Aleppo where the Tomb of Suleyman Shah will be placed.
Firat Yurdakul—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Turkish soldiers put a wire fence around area after Turkish flag is raised on Feb. 22, 2015 in the Esme region of Aleppo where the Tomb of Suleyman Shah will be placed.

Photographer Firat Yurdakul captured a scene reminiscent of Joe Rosenthal's WWII image

Seventy years ago, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the historic photograph of five U.S. Marines and a Navy officer raising the American flag on Iwo Jima. The photograph marked a decisive, but not ultimate, victory for the U.S. during World War II, and was printed across the front pages of hundreds of newspapers in America.

On Feb. 22, 2015—just before the iconic photograph’s anniversary—a group of Turkish soldiers were portrayed in a similar ceremonial setup, this time in Syria.

Earlier that day, the Turkish army had launched a military operation 20 miles into its neighboring country to the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the Ottoman Empire’s founder, Osman I. The area around the tomb has been controlled by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and soldiers tasked with guarding it have been trapped there for months. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a televised news conference that the mission aimed to evacuate the soldiers and relocate the remains; the tomb was then destroyed.

With the new tomb situated in Turkish-controlled territory just 600 ft. inside Syria, journalists and photographers were invited to document the historic groundbreaking. “It was an embedded operation,” says Firat Yurdakul of the Anadolu photo agency. “On the day, we had no idea where we were going. As we were waiting at the border, Turkish soldiers, tanks and armored vehicles entered Syria.”

Once the area was secured, bulldozers started working on the new tomb. They were followed by a group of soldiers carrying a flagpole, which they quickly raised on the new historic site in front of Yurdakul’s camera. “I [don’t] think the soldiers were posing for a photo,” he tells TIME. “The Turkish flag has an important meaning in [our] society, thus they were trying to do that ritual as honorably as they [could].”

U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945. Strategically located only 660 miles from Tokyo, the Pacific island became the site of one of the bloodiest, most famous battles of World War II against Japan.
Joe Rosenthal—APU.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945.

Naturally, Yurdakul admits that his photo resembles Rosenthal’s icon. “Without any doubt, young photojournalists like [myself] have common references—Joe Rosenthal is one of them. I thought about Rosenthal’s picture as I was taking [this] photo,” but, he assures, it was “completely spontaneous.”

With additional reporting by Mikko Takkunen

TIME Syria

British Police Believe 3 Missing Teen Girls Have Entered Syria

The three Londoners were suspected of flying to Turkey to cross into Syria

London’s Metropolitan Police said Tuesday that officials believe three teenage girls who traveled to Turkey have entered Syria.

Police said in a statement they “now have reason to believe that [the girls] are no longer in Turkey,” but did not provide further details, CNN reports. Officials had been hunting the classmates—Shamima Begum, 15; Kadiza Sultana, 16; and Amira Abase, 15—after they boarded an Istanbul-bound flight on Feb. 17. The girls’ parents have publicly pleaded for them to return home.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters earlier in the day it was “condemnable and shameful” that British authorities allowed the girls to leave for Turkey. “The search efforts are ongoing. If we can find them, great,” he said. “If not, then it is the British authorities who are responsible, not Turkey.”

[CNN]

TIME career

IMF Chief Christine Lagarde: Female Equality Laws Are Good For the Economy

BELGIUM-GREECE-EU-EUROGROUP-FINANCE
JOHN THYS—AFP/Getty Images International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde gives a joint press after an Eurogroup Council meeting on February 20, 2015 at EU Headquarters in Brussels. ( JOHN THYS--AFP/Getty Images)

Notes GDPs would increase dramatically if laws changed to make it easier for women to work

International Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde has some good news for economies in the developing world: in one step, they can boost their GDPs up by up to 30 percent. All they have to do is let women into the workforce.

In an article posted Monday on the IMF’s blog, Lagarde discusses a new study that found that over 90% of countries worldwide have some kind of legal restrictions that keep women from working, getting loans, or owning property. Women make up 40% of the global workforce, but in some regions they’re vastly underrepresented– only 21% of women in the Middle East and North Africa work outside the home.

Lagarde says that fixing the laws that keep women from fully participating in the economy could boost GDPs– by a lot. Getting women equally represented int the workforce would amount to a 9% increase in Japan’s GDP, a 12% increase in the United Arab Emirates, and a 34% increase in Egypt. In the US, our GDP would increase by 5% if we made it easier for women to participate in the economy.

Changing the laws is only the first step– Lagarde also notes that childcare and maternity leave benefits also play a major role in whether and how women work outside the home. Currently, the US is one of few developed countries that offers no guaranteed maternity leave, and the IMF study found that in 2009, the U.S. spent only 1.2% of our GDP on family benefits– less than any other developed country. Oh great.

TIME Canada

This Mystery Tunnel Has Canada’s Cops Baffled

toronto-tunnel-ejo-022415_2d56b36788e88734a509c5de01d5b463
NBC News Toronto Police photo of a tunnel found near York University in Toronto is shown during a press conference on Feb. 24, 2015.

The 33-foot-long underground pathway left no trace of the diggers

Toronto police are baffled over a “sophisticated” mystery tunnel uncovered last month near one of the venues for the Pan American Games, a sporting event that kicks off this summer.

Cops are so perplexed over who would have dug out a 33-foot-long underground pathway that on Tuesday they asked for the public’s help. “The individuals responsible for building it clearly had some level of expertise in ensuring its structural integrity,” Toronto Deputy Chief Mark Saunders said at a news conference.

No one was inside the reinforced tunnel when a conservation officer found its entrance near a pile of dirt in…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

Read next: Stop and Look at This Koala Trying to Steal a Land Rover

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Nigeria

American Missionary Kidnapped in Nigeria

NIGERIA-CRIME-KIDNAPPING-US
AFP/Getty Images US missionary Reverend Phyllis Sortor of the Free Methodist Church was kidnapped on Feb. 24, 2015 by unknown gunmen in the village of Emiworo, Nigeria.

The kidnapping is likely to have been carried out by a criminal gang

Armed men kidnapped an American missionary from a school in Nigeria and have demanded the equivalent of almost $300,000 for her safe return, Nigerian police said Tuesday. The Rev. Phyllis Sortor, a missionary with the Free Methodist Church in Seattle, was identified by her church as the U.S. citizen abducted from the Hope Academy compound in Kogi state.

A group of five armed men, three of whom had masks over their faces, jumped the walls of the compound and fired shots into the air at 10:30 a.m. local time Monday (4:30 a.m. ET), Kogi Police Commissioner Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi said. Speaking to NBC News…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME United Kingdom

Witness This British Politician Crash and Burn in a Live Interview

Britain's Green Party leader Natalie Bennett speaks during the party's general election campaign launch in central London
Stefan Wermuth—Reuters Britain's Green Party leader Natalie Bennett speaks during the party's general election campaign launch in London on Feb. 24, 2015.

Later apologized for suffering a "mind blank"

A warning for anyone with a crippling fear of freezing up while public speaking or being interviewed: This gets awkward.

U.K. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett appeared on a London radio station Tuesday to unveil her party’s manifesto ahead of the country’s general election in May. Although the Green Party currently exists on the margins of national politics in the U.K., with just one elected member of parliament, it has big proposals to introduce a universal welfare payment or “citizen’s income” of 72 pounds ($111) a week, and to build 500,000 public housing units.

The problem came when the interviewer, Nick Ferrari of London broadcaster LBC, asked how her party proposed to pay for all those new homes. Her answer—that it would remove tax breaks for private landlords—did not satisfy her interlocutor, who pressed the question as British interviewers tend to do. And that’s when things began to get excruciating:

Ferrari: The cost of 500,000 homes, let’s start with that. How much would that be?

Bennett: “Right, well, that’s, erm… you’ve got a total cost… erm… that we’re… that will be spelt out in our manifesto.

Ferrari: So you don’t know?

Bennett: No, well, err.

Ferrari: You don’t, ok. So you don’t know how much those homes are going to cost, but the way it’s going to be funded is mortgage relief from private landlords. How much is that worth?

Bennett: Right, well what we’re looking at with the figures here. Erm, what we need to do is actually… uh……… we’re looking at a total spend of £2.7… billion.

Ferrari: 500,000 homes, £2.7billion? What are they made of, plywood?

Bennett later apologized for suffering a “mind blank” during the LBC interview. “I am very happy to confess that and I am very sorry to the Green Party members who I did not do a very good job representing our policies on,” she said. “That happens, I am human.”

Listen to the entire interview here:

 

TIME europe

European Officials Suggest Ban on Cloned Meat

Genetically Cloned Calves
Erik S. Lesser—Getty Images The first herd of eight genetically identical cloned calves are presented during a press conference June 26, 2001 at the University of Georgia in Athens.

A ban on consuming meat or dairy from cloned livestock has been on hold since 2013

European officials said Monday that they want to bar cloned livestock, amid debate over a proposed ban that has been stalled since 2013.

“Consumers don’t want it, farmers don’t need it and the suffering of all animals involved is severe and extreme,” Anja Hazekamp, a Dutch representative to the European Union’s parliament, said during a public hearing in Brussels. Her remarks were reported by the trade publication Global Meat News.

The E.U. drafted a proposal to ban cloned meat sales in 2013, but passage has been stalled amid questions of how to impose the ban on meat imported from abroad. European farmers do import semen from cloned animals for breeding, and industry advocates have rejected labels on cloned meat products as too onerous and costly to implement.

Read more at Global Meat News

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