TIME India

Cars Older Than 15 Years Can No Longer Drive in the Indian Capital

Traffic make way in haze mainly caused by air pollution in Delhi, India on January 20, 2014. Air pollution in India exceeds that of China as diesel fuel subsidies encourage ownership of polluting vehicles. (Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg)
Kuni Takahashi— Bloomberg Finance LP Traffic make way in haze mainly caused by air pollution in Delhi, India on January 20, 2014.

The city of 17 million is one of the world's most polluted

More than a few car owners in New Delhi will likely have to get rid of their vehicles, after the country’s apex court upheld a ban on automobiles older than 15 years on the sprawling capital’s streets.

India’s Supreme Court on Monday confirmed the measure put forth by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) last November, the Indian Express reports.

“One tribunal is trying to do something which is good for people,” a bench led by Chief Justic H.L Dattu said. “Let us assist them and not discourage them. We are not interfering with their order.”

The NGT recently attempted to ban diesel vehicles older than 10 years as well, but adjourned its decision by two weeks following protests from affected transport companies. India’s minister for road, transport and highways said last week that the government was exploring various options for highly polluting vehicles, and on Tuesday sought an extension of six months on the phasing out of older cars.

New Delhi has been deemed one of the world’s most polluted cities; several studies deem its air highly toxic and unfit to breathe.

TIME India

The Unusual Way One Indian Town Is Enforcing Its Controversial Ban on Beef

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Photo by Evgeni Zotov—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Photographing every cow, calf and bull is also providing photographers with a decent payday

Some six weeks after one of India’s largest states banned the consumption and sale of beef, prompting widespread outrage, consternation and existential questions for those who depend on the meat for their livelihoods, one of its towns has deployed a rather unique way of ensuring compliance.

Police in Malegaon in the western Indian state of Maharashtra are making sure no one slaughters the bovine creatures by taking photographs of each and every cow, calf and bull (along with their owners) in the town, the Indian Express reports.

The photos are then tabulated in the imaginatively titled “Cow, Bull, Calf” register at each of Malegaon’s seven police stations.

Cow slaughter has always been banned in Maharashtra under a law dating back to 1976, but the government’s attempt to expand it to include bulls and bullocks in 1995 was only officially implemented this year. The move caused a great deal of controversy, with many accusing the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of unfairly targeting minorities (cows are sacred in Hinduism, and a significant portion of the country’s cattle traders are Muslims, while beef is mainly consumed by impoverished lower-caste communities).

“We aren’t picking and choosing,” the town’s additional superintendent of police Sunil Kadasane told the Express. “Every cattle owner — Hindu or Muslim — will be a part of the exercise.”

The government justified the beef ban on Monday, the Times of India reported, claiming to the Bombay High Court that it was a “reasonable restriction” and did not violate food-security laws as a public petition alleged. Maneka Gandhi, India’s Women and Child Development Minister, advocated the expansion of the ban to the entire country in an interview Monday night.

A total of 312 cattle belonging to 174 owners have been recorded in the three weeks since the photo initiative began — right down to the address, occupation and family members of the owner as well as from whom the animal was purchased, and an undertaking signed by the owner that reads, “We will neither slaughter nor give away our pet for slaughter.”

The police register has received mixed reactions from Muslims within the Malegaon community.

“If it’s a law, it’s a law,” Nayim Rehman, who got his picture taken on the very first day, told the Express. “There is no harm in getting my cattle photographed by the police. It’s for my protection.”

But cattle trader Farookh Qureshi is furious. “It only targets Muslims, as if we love to slaughter animals,” he says.

Malegaon is no stranger to religious tensions, having seen communal riots following the infamous Babri Mosque demolition in 1992, as well as terrorist attacks in 2006 and 2008. But the slaughter ban’s impact is mostly being felt in its small-scale industries — leather and jewelry manufacturers as well as soap factories and bone-crushing units have all shut down.

The only ones truly happy, if you don’t count the cows, seem to be the photographers. “I will make some good money. There are several farmers who own cows in Malegaon,” Mohsin Shaikh told the Express. “A picture of each, and imagine a register full of my photographed animals.”

TIME Iran

Lawyer: Washington Post Reporter in Iran Faces 4 Charges

Washington Post's Jason Rezaian has been arrested for nearly 9 months and faces charges of espionage and three other crimes

(TEHRAN) — A Washington Post reporter jailed for nearly nine months in Iran faces charges of espionage and three other crimes, his lawyer revealed Monday following her first in-depth meeting with the journalist.

The Post, citing a statement from defense lawyer Leila Ahsan, said Jason Rezaian also faces charges of “conducting propaganda against the establishment,” ”collaborating with hostile governments” and “collecting information about internal and foreign policy and providing them to individuals with malicious intent.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, Ahsan described the journalist as being in good spirits and health, but said his continued detention alongside other inmates and a lack of access to outside media has taken a toll on his well-being.

Ahsan’s comments were the first confirmation of the exact charges Rezaian faces.

Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said in a statement that Ahsan’s meeting with Rezaian on Monday lasted 90 minutes and was conducted in the presence of an official translator. Baron said the charges, which he described as “ludicrous,” carry a maximum penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison.

“It is absurd and despicable to assert, as Iran’s judiciary is now claiming, that Jason’s work first as a freelance reporter and then as the Post’s Tehran correspondent amounted to espionage or otherwise posed any threat to Iranian national security,” Baron said.

Rezaian’s lawyer said his continued imprisonment without bail is unjustified.

“There is no legal basis for continuing his detention,” she told the AP. No trial date has been set, she added.

Earlier Monday, the official IRNA news agency quoted Gholamhossein Esmaili, the director-general of the Tehran provincial justice department, saying Rezaian’s case had been referred to a branch of Revolutionary Court. He said the process of bringing the case to trial had been prolonged because “the case has various aspects and (the case file) is thick.”

Rezaian, 39, was arrested on July 22 along with his Iranian wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who is a reporter for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, and two other journalists whose names have not been made public.

All but Rezaian have since been released, though Baron said Salehi also faces “an impending trial on an equally baseless charge.”

The Post has repeatedly criticized its reporter’s detention and the limits on his access to legal assistance. Baron said the judge hearing the case, Abolghassem Salavati, rejected “several initial choices” of lawyers for Rezaian.

Among them was Masoud Shafiei, who represented three American hikers arrested by Iranian authorities in 2009. He however was prevented from completing the formalities needed to represent Rezaian, leading the family to eventually hire Ahsan. She only met him once briefly, before she had officially been named as his attorney, prior to Monday’s meeting.

“We continue to believe that Jason’s defense team should be permitted to grow to include additional lawyers of his choosing,” Baron said.

Judge Salavati has presided over a number of politically charged cases, including those of protesters arrested in connection with demonstrations that followed the 2009 presidential elections. He is known for his tough sentencing.

Deputy U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday if the reports were true, the charges are “patently absurd” and should be dropped immediately and Rezaian should be freed.

“He should immediately be freed so he can return to his family. The charges should immediately be dismissed,” Harf said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the charges against Rezaian are absurd, should be dismissed, and that he should be released to his family.

Washington has pressed Iran to release Rezaian and other Americans jailed in Iran, including during talks on the sidelines of negotiations about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Rezaian’s detention and possible trial comes as Iran negotiates with world powers over its contested nuclear program.

TIME India

Flipkart, India’s Amazon, Plans to Shut Down Its Website Within a Year

General Images of Flipkart As India's Largest Online Retailer Said To Buy Competitor Myntra
Brent Lewin—Bloomberg/Getty Images The websites for Flipkart, bottom, and Myntra.com are displayed on an Apple Inc. iPad and iPhone 5c respectively in an arranged photograph in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.

The firm's mobile traffic has apparently increased tenfold in less than 18 months

Flipkart, India’s biggest e-commerce company, said on Monday that it plans to shut down its website within a year and transition completely to a mobile app.

“Last year, we had more on the app but still did our web and desktop. In the next year or so, we’re going to be only mobile,” Michael Adnani, Flipkart’s vice president, retail and head of brand alliances, told the Times of India.

The decision is a reaction to the rapid growth of smartphone users in India, which is the third largest Internet market after China and the U.S. The Boston Consulting Group projects that the South Asian nation will have more than 550 million Internet users in 2018, of which almost 80% will be on mobile devices.

“A year ago, 6% of our traffic was coming from mobile. In less than 18 months, that traffic is 10-fold,” Adnani said. “That shows the significance of what a mobile phone is doing for the consumers and consequently doing for us.”

Two-thirds of Flipkart’s 8 million monthly shipments come from cities and small towns, where most people don’t have access to desktop computers and broadband Internet.

Fashion e-retailer Myntra, which Flipkart acquired last year, is also set to abandon its website in favor of an app on May 1.

TIME Italy

One Migrant’s Harrowing Journey From Senegal to Italy

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Giovanni Isolino—AFP/Getty Images Shipwrecked migrants disembark from a rescue vessel as they arrive in the Italian port of Augusta in Sicily on April 16, 2015.

He traveled through the Sahara for more than 12 days before reaching chaotic Libya and the treacherous Mediterranean

Mahmoud’s journey across the Mediterranean to Europe in mid-April was a hellish two-day ordeal. The 28-year-old vomited uncontrollably as the tight-packed boat tossed on the choppy waters, he recalls, while several passengers died of dehydration and were buried at sea. He was weak and shaken by the time the vessel drifted ashore in Italy, and he remains haunted by the experience. “Even now I have a problem in my head,” he told TIME on Monday, recounting a traumatic four-month trip from his home in Senegal into Fortress Europe. “I cannot sleep,” he says, speaking by phone from an immigrant center in Rome, where he is now applying for refugee status. “Many people I met have died trying to cross to Europe.”

With at least 1,000 migrants dead in the Mediterranean this past week — the deadliest week at sea for migrants in memory — E.U. officials are scrambling to devise strategies to halt the armada of smugglers’ boats crossing from North Africa, and to prevent more mass drownings, which are turning the Mediterranean into a mass grave of migrants. Many are fleeing wars or poverty back home, facing severe risks that have spiraled in their deadliness. About 1,500 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean since Jan. 1, compared with 96 in the first four months of last year, according to the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration.

Shocked at the toll, E.U. leaders are set to discuss a raft of emergency measures in Brussels on Thursday, including deploying more boats to help migrants — something many E.U. countries have been loath to do until now — and streamlining immigration and asylum requests from Africa, where hundreds of thousands of people are leaving for Europe.

But above all, E.U. officials say that for the mass deaths to stop, there is one place where peace is needed, and now: Libya.

With the great majority of boats leaving from Libya’s coast, European officials believe that country’s collapse into chaotic violence has allowed a rapacious mafia of human traffickers to flourish with impunity. E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters Monday that Europe wanted to work with Libyans to form a national unity government, so rival factions could together administer the country and help crack down on traffickers. “We invite all Libyans to have the same sense of urgency,” she said, “not only to save their country but the many human lives that are put at risk on their own territory.”

Judging from Mahmoud’s harrowing description of his journey through Libya, and from interviews with those who remain in Libya, however, stopping the smugglers will be a daunting task.

Despite the deaths on the Mediterranean, Libyan traffickers are still finding thousands of eager customers, mostly African, who are desperate for a way out and willing to pay smugglers a hefty $1,000 each to squeeze on to heavily overloaded boats.

Mahmoud, who requested his last name not be used for fear of complicating his request for asylum in Italy, estimates he paid a steep $2,130 to smugglers throughout the trip.

After leaving Senegal, Mahmoud crossed the blistering Sahara for more than 12 days, traveling through Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, as groups of migrants were passed from one smuggling group to the next, each demanding payment. With little to eat or drink, he recalled, several migrants died in the sand. When they finally staggered into Tripoli, they found a terrifying city racked by gunfire and militia battles. When Mahmoud ventured out to find work in order to pay for his onward journey, he says, police arrested him and jailed him for “one month and four days.”

Libya’s Catholic Bishop, Father Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, told TIME from Tripoli on Monday that he has begun begging Africans who visit his whitewashed Italianate church in the city not to risk death on the unforgiving sea. “I try to discourage them, I try to teach them courage,” he says. But his pleas have fallen on deaf ears. And meanwhile, hundreds more migrants keep arriving in Libya, in search for smugglers to take them to Europe.

By the time the African migrants arrive in Tripoli, they have already paid dearly for leaving home — so dearly, in fact, that stopping short of Europe seems almost unfathomable. Mahmoud never contemplated turning around, a decision that would have required retracing the perilous Sahara route, which he says had “many bandits and robbers.”

Martinelli said many migrants crowded into his church on Sunday, just hours after the news broke that hundreds of migrants appeared to have drowned in the worst single incident in the Mediterranean on record. “The church is full, full, full of Africans,” he said, speaking from Tripoli. “They all want to get to Italy, they all want a possibility to leave.”

Smugglers finally packed Mahmoud and others into a dinghy late one night in early April, but the vessel sprang a leak and the group turned back. Police shot at them as they clambered back ashore, according to his account, killing seven migrants. A few days later, smugglers tried again, packing hundreds into a boat at midnight and sending them across the Mediterranean.

Although his nightmarish journey is now over, Mahmoud says the experience has left him severely affected, and with lasting medical problems. Asked what he tells friends back in Senegal who are considering making the same trek to Europe, he says, “I tell them, ‘Never, never, never go.’”

Read next: More Migrants Saved From Drowning as E.U. Tries to Act

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TIME russia

How the Boston Marathon Bombing Hurt Tsarnaev’s Homeland

Dr. Khassan Baiev talks  to a patient and his father at the children's hospital in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, on April 17, 2015.
Yuri Kozyrev—Noor for TIME Dr. Khassan Baiev talks to a patient and his father at a children's hospital in Grozny, Chechnya, on April 17, 2015

A renowned Chechen surgeon who once gave shelter to the Tsarnaev family near Boston tells TIME about the pain of losing Americans' trust

Late last year, as the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber was nearing its conclusion, an old friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s family realized it was time for him to leave his home in Massachusetts and go back to his native Chechnya.

Khassan Baiev, a renowned physician, had spent more than a decade by that point doing charity work around Boston, mostly aimed at bringing American medical care to children in Chechnya and other parts of southern Russia. But after the marathon bombings in 2013, and the subsequent trial of the younger Tsarnaev brother, it was nearly impossible to continue this type of philanthropy.

“People began telling me that they can’t help Chechnya after what happened, or they won’t,” says Baiev. “So I didn’t see a choice. I had to accept that the bonds I had built were broken.”

The strain on Baiev’s ties with American donors began to show soon after the blasts, when police identified the suspects as Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, whose father hails from Chechnya. Although the brothers had never actually lived there, the region’s reputation among the American public was so badly stained after the bombings that even raising small donations for its children became a struggle, Baiev says. “It was like the entire nation became associated with terrorism.”

That shift in the American consciousness, he says, has hurt many ethnic Chechens who had nothing to do with the bombings. According to the prosecution, the Tsarnaev brothers, both adherents of a radical strain of Islam, had intended to punish the U.S. for its wars in the Muslim world. The two bombs they detonated near the race’s finish line wounded hundreds of innocent people and killed three others on April 15, 2013, including an 8-year-old boy. Days later, Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with U.S. law enforcement, while his younger brother was arrested, put on trial and finally convicted this month. On April 21, the jury in Boston will consider whether to sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to life in prison or the death penalty.

The 21-year-old has so far expressed no public remorse over the bombings. But whatever suffering he intended to cause Americans, Tsarnaev could hardly have planned to do so much harm to the people of Chechnya, whom he had claimed to love and identified with while growing up in the Boston area. “Most doors are closed to us after what happened,” says Heda Saratova, a leading rights campaigner in Chechnya who has helped many families in the region seek asylum in the West. Since the marathon bombings, she says, it has become far more difficult, and usually impossible, for even the most persecuted and vulnerable people in Chechnya to be granted U.S. asylum.

Few are more vulnerable than the thousands of children born with birth defects in Chechnya, often as a result of the region’s wars with Russia in the 1990s, and many of them have found themselves cut off from the medical care that Baiev’s charity was previously able to provide.

For more than a decade, Baiev had served as a vital link between his homeland and the U.S. medical establishment, which has long held him up as a model of courage and selflessness. While most Chechen doctors fled the region during its wars against Russia, Baiev stayed behind to work as a battlefield trauma surgeon, treating wounded combatants from both sides of the conflict even as his operating room quaked with the thuds of Russian artillery. He often lacked basic supplies, even rubber gloves, but after one particularly ferocious battle, he conducted at least 67 amputations and eight skull surgeries in the course of two days, pausing only once to drink a cup of coffee.

Throughout the wars, his willingness to treat the wounds of Chechen rebel leaders made him a target for the Russian forces, who repeatedly detained him and, he says, subjected him to frequent beatings. He earned no less scorn from many of his fellow Chechens for performing surgeries on wounded Russian soldiers. But his dedication to the Hippocratic oath, which obliges a physician to treat the injured regardless of their politics, made him a hero of the medical profession, and he was granted political asylum in the U.S. in 2000.

Two years later, in the spring of 2002, the 8-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev arrived with his parents at Baiev’s doorstep in Needham, Mass. They were part of the wave of Chechen refugees then seeking asylum in the U.S., and a relative in Canada had given them Baiev’s phone number, suggesting he may be able to help. “I’d never seen or heard of them before they called me that day,” he says. For about a month, he let the Tsarnaevs live with him while they were looking for a place of their own. (Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his two sisters joined the family later that year.)

From the weeks they spent living together, Baiev remembers the young Dzhokhar as a “quiet but willful” boy who found easy friends in the neighborhood. “He was a totally normal kid, loved to play, loved life.” After they found their own apartment in a Boston suburb, the Tsarnaevs never stayed in touch with Baiev, and the doctor was in any case too busy lecturing and campaigning to keep up with all his Chechen friends in the area.

The book he published in 2003 describing his experience during the wars — The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire — went on to become standard reading for American medical students, and later that year, he became the director of a charity called the International Committee for the Children of Chechnya (ICCC), which soon began organizing trips for American surgeons to visit the region to treat children affected by the wars.

There was never any shortage of patients, he says, because “Chechnya was like a testing ground for Russian weapons. God only knows what they dropped on us.” Although the Russian government has never conducted a public study on the rate of birth defects in Chechnya since 2000, Baiev contends that it is many times higher than the global average, leading in particular to cleft palates and other physical abnormalities.

In the decade before the Boston Marathon bombings, he and his U.S. colleagues provided free treatment to thousands of children born in Chechnya with such conditions, usually during the visits to the region that Baiev would organize once a year. For his service, the health-advocacy group Physicians for Human Rights honored him at a gala in Boston in 2006, and he showed up to receive the award with his typical flair, wearing the traditional garb of a Chechen warrior. (To pass security at the event, his friends convinced him to leave the outfit’s ceremonial dagger in the car.)

But the visit to Chechnya he organized for U.S. doctors in the fall of 2014 turned out to be his last with the ICCC. “We just couldn’t find enough support in America after what the Tsarnaevs did,” he says. As a result, he decided at the end of last year to close the charity down. Now, even though most of his family still lives in the U.S., Baiev has moved back to Grozny to work full-time at the local children’s hospital. “I felt there was more I could do here on my own,” he tells TIME during a recent visit to his ward, which he now runs with two local doctors.

Each morning, he puts on the scrubs he got from Harvard Children’s Hospital and makes the rounds of the cramped but spotless facility in Grozny. The desk in his office is decorated with a little American flag and a miniature version of the Statue of Liberty, both symbols of the years he spent building bonds between the U.S. and Chechnya. “But it feels like a lot of that effort was wasted,” he says.

After the marathon bombings, he feels it could take years for his region to regain the sympathy of the Americans who once aided his work so generously. And though he doesn’t seem to blame anyone for withdrawing that support, he says he can’t help but see it as another link in a chain of injustice.

TIME United Kingdom

Female Chess Legend: ‘We Are Capable of the Same Fight as Any Other Man’

Judit Polgar, Hungarian chess grandmaster.
Ondrej Nemec—Getty Images Judit Polgar, Hungarian chess grandmaster.

“It’s not a matter of gender, it’s a matter of being smart,” Judit Polgar says

Judit Polgar, one of the world’s top chess players, has hit back against a claim by another of the game’s stars that men are naturally better chess players.

“We are capable of the same fight as any other man, and I think during the decades that I actively played chess I proved it as well,” Polgar told TIME in an interview Monday. The native Hungarian became a chess prodigy along with her two sisters and broke Bobby Fischer’s record to become the youngest grandmaster at age 15 in 1991. It’s not a matter of gender, it’s a matter of being smart,” the grandmaster added.

Polgar’s comments came after a storm erupted over Nigel Short’s remarks that people should “gracefully accept it as a fact” that women possess different skills than men, while also suggesting that women are worse drivers.

“I don’t have the slightest problem in acknowledging that my wife possesses a much higher degree of emotional intelligence than I do,” he told New in Chess magazine. “Likewise, she doesn’t feel embarrassed in asking me to maneuver the car out of our narrow garage. One is not better than the other, we just have different skills.”

Polgar, who announced her retirement last year, pointed out that she had defeated Short “quite a few times.” She also defeated Garry Kasparov, widely considered to be the finest chess player in history, in 2002.

“I grew up in what was a male dominated sport, but my parents raised me and my sisters [to believe] that women are able to reach the same result as our male competitors if they get the right and the same possibilities,” she said.

Polgar, who founded the Judit Polgar Chess Foundation to use chess as an education tool, says she sees roughly an equal number of young boys and girls competing in chess at equal levels. But she says fewer girls pursue chess later on, in part because they choose not to and in part because they do not receive the same encouragement from parents, teachers and other people around them.

“Whenever I speak to parents or to kids, I always encourage them that if they believe, if they do the work, if they are really dedicated, then they can do it,” she says. “No matter whether they are a boy or a girl.”

TIME North Korea

See Kim Jong Un Celebrate Ascent of North Korea’s Highest Peak

This photo taken on April 18, 2015 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 20, 2015 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on a snow-covered Mount Paektu during sunrise in Ryanggang Province.
KNS—AFP/Getty Images This photo taken on April 18, 2015 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 20, 2015 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on a snow-covered Mount Paektu during sunrise in Ryanggang Province.

“Climbing Mt. Paektu provides precious mental pabulum more powerful than any kind of nuclear weapon,” said a state media report.

North Korean state media released a collection of celebratory images of leader Kim Jong Un at the summit of the country’s highest peak.

The state-run Rodong newspaper reported that Kim climbed Mt. Paektu on Saturday with a group of fighter pilots and other party and military leaders.

The country’s media is keen on portraying the supreme leader—a member of this year’s TIME 100—in action, such as when video surfaced of him flying a small plane.

North Korean propaganda says Mt. Paektu, which rises some 9,000 feet, was the birthplace of Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s father — though historians say he was actually born in Soviet Russia.

“When one climbs snow-stormy Mt. Paektu and undergoes the blizzards over it, one can experience its real spirit and harden the resolution to accomplish the Korean revolution,” the Rodong report said. “Climbing Mt. Paektu provides precious mental pabulum more powerful than any kind of nuclear weapon and it is the way for carrying forward the revolutionary traditions of Paektu and giving steady continuity to the glorious Korean revolution.”

TIME Yemen

U.S. Warship Heads to Yemeni Waters to Intercept Iranian Weapons

The USS Theodore Roosevelt anchors off the coast on March 23, 2015 in Gosport, England.
Dan Kitwood—Getty Images The USS Theodore Roosevelt anchors off the coast on March 23, 2015 in Gosport, England.

(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Navy officials say the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is steaming toward the waters off Yemen and will join other American ships prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi (HOO’-thee) rebels fighting in Yemen.

The U.S. Navy has been beefing up its presence in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea amid reports that a convoy of Iranian ships may be headed toward Yemen to arm the Houthis.

The Houthis are battling government-backed fighters in an effort to take control of the country.

There are about nine U.S. ships in the region, including cruisers and destroyers carrying teams that can board and search other vessels.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ship movement on the record.

TIME europe

More Migrants Saved From Drowning as E.U. Tries to Act

A migrant is helped disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy, early, April 20, 2015.
Alessandra Tarantino—AP A migrant is helped disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy, early, April 20, 2015.

After 1,000 migrants died in a week, European officials are slowly taking action

Hundreds of migrants were rescued from two separate boats on the Mediterranean on Monday as European Union officials rushed to find a way to reduce the numbers of migrants crossing the sea and save the ones who make the journey.

According to reports, one boat off the Libyan coast was carrying about 300 people, and another off the Greek island of Rhodes, from which about 80 migrants were rescued from the sea. That came just one day after about 700 migrants trying to get to Europe are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean’s Strait of Sicily near Libya—the single worst loss of life in years of a spiraling migrant crisis. The overloaded fishing boat tilted, and then sank, after hundreds of passengers rushed to one side of the vessel in order to hail a passing Portuguese merchant ship.

With more than 1,000 people drowned in the past week alone—the deadliest week in memory—foreign and interior ministers of the E.U.’s 28 countries met in Luxembourg to thrash out a strategy and to coordinate E.U. efforts. The plan includes increasing funding to the E.U.’s border-patrol program at sea and expanding its brief to rescuing people—something aid organizations have pushed for for months—and trying to push Libyan politicians to form a united government, to resolve the chaos there. “With this latest tragedy, we have no more excuses, the E.U. has no more excuses, the member states have no more excuses,” the E.U.’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters. “We need immediate action from the E.U.”

E.U. officials announced that the continent’s leaders would hold an emergency summit on Thursday.”We have to stem the flow from the Libyan side,” Malta’s Prime Minister George Vella told CNN on Monday. “The numbers are being augmented by those who are making mountains of money from these poor people.” With a similar message, British Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking during an election campaign in Cheshire, England, called the scenes of overloaded migrant boats “horrific,” and said, “We should put the blame squarely on the appalling human traffickers.”

Yet the situation is more complex than that. Despite the veneer of unity in Luxembourg among E.U. officials, Europe is sharply divided over whether to mount search-and-rescue efforts in international waters. Several E.U. leaders fear such efforts would encourage thousands more migrants to try make it to Europe—the so-called pull factor—at a time when right-wing political parties have soared in national elections on a message of limited immigration to Europe.

Last November, the E.U. scrapped funding for an Italian maritime rescue program, Mare Nostrum, and replaced it with an E.U. program called Triton, whose $3.1 million monthly budget is one third its predecessor’s budget. Unlike the defunct Mare Nostrum, the E.U. program is focused on border control, and limits its boats to patrolling only to within 30 miles of Europe’s sea borders—leaving tens of thousands of migrants vulnerable to drowning on the high seas or close to the North African coast.

That decision has proved disastrous, according to refugee officials, who say that limiting rescue programs has not deterred migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean. “If you accuse Mare Nostrum of being a pull factor, that means you do not want people to come, at any cost, even if you see them sink in the sea,” says Christopher Hein, director of the Italian Council for Refugees, one of the only international aid organizations working with migrants inside Libya. “Nobody would be so cynical to say so openly, but this is the logical consequence of this policy.”

Father Mussie Zerai, a Catholic priest from Eritrea, has been been a telephonic lifeline for thousands for migrants for years. From his home in Switzerland, Zerai fielded hundreds of migrants’ distress calls from sea, and would immediately raise the alarm with Italian or Maltese coastguards, who then dispatched rescue teams. As his fame spread among African migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, his number spread too, even written on the walls of migrant detention centers in Libya.

All week, the frantic calls have come from inside rickety boats on the Mediterranean, with voices crying desperate pleas. “Help us! Help us!” they shout, down a crackling telephone line from the middle of the sea, to one of the very few people in Europe whose mobile numbers they have at hand: “I’ve received at least seven or eight distress calls from the sea in the last week,” says Zerai, describing several calls from migrants while crammed into boats. “There are pregnant women giving birth in the boat. People are in really bad condition. They are panicking, especially the women and children,” he says, then sighs, “It is just shocking.”

But he says his rescue efforts have become far more difficult, now that Italy’s rescue program—which had a monthly budget of about $10 million—has been cancelled. “The passengers call and give me all the information, even the condition of the boat, and I give that all to the Italian and Maltese coastguard,” he says. “But now I call the coastguard, and they say they need time to move to international waters,” he says. “That means many, many hours. In that time, people can die.”

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