TIME World Cup

It’s Pope vs. Pope in the World Cup Final

Pope Francis embraces Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Castel Gandolfo summer residence in 2013.
Pope Francis embraces Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Castel Gandolfo summer residence in 2013. Osservatore Romano/Reuters

But the Argentine pontiff and his German predecessor probably won't watch the game together, the Vatican says

The Vatican has cast doubts on a papal soccer party after saying Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, probably won’t watch the World Cup final together, the Associated Press reports.

Sunday’s final sees Argentina and Germany go head to head for the trophy but for Argentine Pope Francis, the final’s a little past the 77-year-old’s bedtime.

The Vatican’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Pope normally goes to bed at 10pm local time, an hour after kick off. However, he added that though the Pope isn’t a big sports fan “we’ll see in the coming days” whether the Pope will delay his slumber.

Pope Francis has already promised that he won’t pray for his home team to win. German Pope Benedict is also unlikely to pay much attention, apparently preferring intellectual hobbies over the athletic.

“Both would want the better team to win, without taking sides,” Lombardi tactfully stated.

Nevertheless, social media has already dubbed Sunday’s match “the final of the two popes” and has spawned the hashtag, #holywar.

On Sunday, Argentina and Germany will meet in their third World Cup final. In 1986, Diego Maradona led Argentina to victory, which Germany quickly overturned in the 1990 World Cup final. Despite their history, Germany remains the clear favorite to win.

[AP]

TIME Israel

Israel Says 6 Rockets Fired at It Every Hour

But Israel has hit approximately 800 targets in the Gaza Strip during recent conflict

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Over the last three days, 401 rockets have been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, according to a military spokesman.

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Peter Lerner told TIME that since 8pm local time Monday, rockets have been entering Israel at a rate of around six every hour.

In response, Israel has ramped up its assault on Gaza, striking 60 targets since the early hours of Thursday. “Israel has hit approximately 800 targets since the operation began,” a second IDF spokesperson told TIME. “These include underground terror tunnels, terror infrastructure and military compounds.”

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said Thursday that 81 Gaza citizens have been killed as a result of the recent conflict. Included in this toll are 15 women and 22 children.

Israel has suffered no reported fatalities and only a few injuries. The IDF credit this in part to their Iron Dome defense system which their spokesperson called “a literal lifesaver”. Iron Dome has intercepted 70 rockets since the beginning of the operation.

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine has intensified this week after the bodies of three Israeli teenagers, missing for over two weeks, were found dead on June 30. Israel has blamed Hamas for their deaths but the Islamist group has neither confirmed nor denied the charge.

In apparent retaliation, a group of Israeli men abducted and killed Palestinian teenager Abu Khdair on July 2. His death sparked days of violent protests between the Palestinian youth and Israeli police.

Amidst these deaths, Islamist groups increased rocket fire into Israel, prompting the Israeli military to retaliate. The escalating conflict has ended years of relative calm in the region.

TIME intelligence

Report: Chinese Hackers Target Information of Federal Employees

John Kerry, Liu Yandong
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong attend the plenary session of the annual China-U.S. High Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China Thursday, July 10, 2014. Andy Wong—AP

Revelations come as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits Beijing for bilateral talks

Chinese hackers penetrated the computer networks of a U.S. government agency in March, gaining access to databases that store the personal information of all federal employees, in one of the only security breaches of government servers in the past year, senior Washington officials disclosed to the New York Times.

It is unclear how far the hackers delved into some of the databases of the Office of Personnel — which stores applications for security clearances that list personal information such as financial data, former jobs, past drug use and foreign contacts of tens of thousands of employees — before the threat was discovered and thwarted by federal authorities, officials said. It is also not known if the hackers were connected to the Beijing government.

A senior official of the Department of Homeland Security said that although the Office of the Personnel contains personal information, a response team within the Homeland Security had not “identified any loss of personally identifiable information” during the cyber attack. Government agencies are not obliged to inform the public about security threats unless it is verifiable that personal information has been stolen.

Although the Obama Administration encourages companies to be transparent about security breaches, the attack on the Office of Personnel was never announced to the public because “the administration has never advocated that all intrusions be made public,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the Times. However, relevant federal, state and local agencies were apparently notified of the threat. “None of this differs from our normal response to similar threats,” she added.

The U.S. and China have engaged in bitter cyber security disputes in the past. The U.S. Justice Department indicted five alleged Chinese hackers from the People’s Liberation Army for theft of corporate secrets in May. Following the indictment, China halted plans to create a bilateral group focused on cyber security. Documents revealed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden also showed that his former employer penetrated the systems of Huawei, a Chinese company that produces computer network equipment.

The new revelations come as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting Beijing for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue — a discussion on American political, economic and security relations with China.

Although Kerry has not yet specifically mentioned the security breach, he said that cyber hacking on American companies had a “chilling effect on innovation and investment,” AP reports. Chinese foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi responded that the two countries had to establish trust to prevent future cyber attacks.

[New York Times]

TIME Iraq

Iraqi ‘Terrorist Groups’ Have Seized Nuclear Materials

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014. Stringer/Reuters

Approximately 88 pounds of uranium compounds stored at an Iraq university have been taken, though they are likely unenriched and so difficult to make weapons from

Iraq has told the U.N. that Islamist insurgents have seized nuclear materials used for scientific research from Mosul University in northern Iraq, according to Reuters.

Approximately 88 pounds (40 kilograms) of uranium compounds were stored at the university, wrote Iraq’s U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 8.

The letter, obtained by Reuters, calls for international assistance to “stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad” and warns that the materials could be smuggled out of Iraq.

“Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state,” wrote Alhakim. He added that they “can be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.”

“These nuclear materials, despite the limited amounts mentioned, can enable terrorist groups, with the availability of the required expertise, to use it separate or in combination with other materials in its terrorist acts,” said Alhakim.

A U.S. government source familiar to the situation told Reuters that the materials seized do not appear to be enriched uranium and therefore would be difficult to produce weapons from.

A Sunni militant group called the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has stirred violent unrest and occupied large areas of Syria and Iraq in recent months.

“The Republic of Iraq is notifying the international community of these dangerous developments and asking for help,” said Alhakim.

[Reuters]

TIME Thailand

The Thai Junta Revokes a Famed Academic’s Passport in Its Crackdown on Dissidents

THAILAND-POLITICS-PROTEST
Thai policemen stand guard during a demonstration by an anticoup protester at a shopping mall in Bangkok on June 22, 2014. Pornchai Kittiwongsakul—AFP/Getty Images

Little wonder the BBC's World Service has launched a new Thai-language “pop-up” Internet service to counter the military's tightening grip on media and opinion

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, the prominent Thai political scholar and outspoken opponent of the country’s coup, has had his passport revoked as part of the Thai junta’s ongoing campaign against dissenters.

“I am now a stateless person,” Pavin, who is based at Japan’s Kyoto University, tells TIME. “The junta not only claims the right to take control of politics, but the right to define who should be, or should not be, Thai citizens.”

Pavin has not been charged with any crime and is now expected to seek asylum in Japan.

Since the May 22 putsch, the junta has stifled all forms of opposition. Politicians on both sides of the political divide have been detained, strict censorship introduced and peaceful protesters hauled off the street by soldiers in civilian clothing for the merest flickers of dissent. These include making the three-fingered salute from The Hunger Games, reading George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, and serving or eating sandwiches — an anticoup symbol — in an “antagonistic” manner.

Thanapol Eawsakul, editor of the Red Shirt–leaning Fah Diew Khan magazine, was detained over the weekend for simply posting on Facebook that military authorities had instructed him to refrain from making critical remarks about the junta. He is expected to remain in custody for seven days.

Until now, only Thai nationals outside the country have felt able to voice opposition to the coup — the Southeast Asian nation’s 12th since 1932. However, this may change now that Pavin has been made an example of. Considerable pressure is also being put on dissenting Thais living abroad, through both diplomatic channels and threats to family members still at home.

Pavin was a particularly vocal critic of the military and repeatedly refused to return to his homeland and report to the authorities as instructed. When first summoned, he famously offered to send his pet Chihuahua instead, and has continued to pen disparaging op-eds and to condemn the junta to foreign media.

Meanwhile, on Thursday the BBC’s World Service launched a new Thai-language “pop-up” Internet service to counter the propaganda being peddled by the military regime.

“One of the fundamental principles of the World Service is to bring impartial and accurate news and to countries when they lack it,” Liliane Landor, controller of language services for the World Service, told the Telegraph. “We think the time is right to trial a new Thai and English digital stream to bring trusted news and information to people inside Thailand.”

TIME indonesia

The World’s Third Biggest Democracy Is in Political Limbo

INDONESIA-ELECTION
Supporters of Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo rally in central Jakarta after the close of polls on July 9, 2014 ROMEO GACAD—AFP/Getty Images

Indonesia's highly polarized presidential election ends in a close call. The country must wait at least until final results are declared on July 22 to know the shape of its political future

Both candidates in Indonesia’s highly polarized presidential election have claimed victory.

Initial counts by early evening on Wednesday gave the populist governor of Jakarta, Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, around 52% of the vote. His rival, former army general Prabowo Subianto, received about 48%.

Official results are not expected until July 22, meaning that the world’s third largest democracy — and most populous Muslim nation — will be in political limbo for the next two weeks. Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has appealed for both sides to show restraint and not to celebrate with mass rallies until the General Elections Commission releases the final tally.

Nevertheless, Jokowi supporters celebrated what they consider his victory with a huge gathering at the Welcome Statue in Jakarta’s central business district and a smaller one at the Proclamation Monument in downtown Jakarta before the breaking of the Ramadan fast on Wednesday night. The latter site, where the country’s founding fathers Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta declared independence, is an emotive one for Indonesians. “Today a new history has been made, a new chapter for Indonesia,” Jokowi told the crowd that had gathered there. “This is a victory for the people of Indonesia.”

In a bid to defuse tensions, President Yudhoyono, whose party endorses Prabowo, met the two candidates at his private home outside Jakarta on Wednesday night. At the center of contention are the polling firms — almost a dozen of them — that have done the quick counts, since many pollsters are known to be either affiliated with or even held on retainer by different candidates. However, political analysts say the half-dozen or so firms that give Jokowi a lead not only show a similar margin of victory for him, but also correctly predicted the results of the legislative elections in April.

“We can safely conclude that the quick counts from CSIS, SMRC and others predicting a Jokowi victory are right,” said Aaron Connelly, East Asia fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy, who focuses on Indonesia’s politics. In contrast, he says, quick counts that give Prabowo victory “are all over the place, which suggests they have been manipulated to produce a certain result.”

In a blow to the credibility of Prabowo’s camp, an executive at polling firm Poltracking Institute said on Wednesday night that in order to “maintain professionalism” the firm had canceled its agreement to work with tvOne — a station owned by Prabowo backer and Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie.

Poltracking’s results put Jokowi as the winner, but tvOne and other stations owned by Prabowo’s coalition supporters — like Hary Tanoesoedibjo’s RCTI and Global TV — have only broadcast quick counts from pollsters that give Prabowo victory.

It is unlikely that Prabowo (who said in an interview that “losing is not an option”) will concede anytime soon — even, says Connelly, “if it would be better for stability, the markets and the country’s welfare.” If Prabowo is still unhappy with the electoral commission’s official count later this month, he could challenge it in the Constitutional Court. That means Indonesia won’t know for sure who its next leader is until late August.

In the meantime, the situation remains fraught. With paramilitary groups like the Pancasila Youth and the Islamic Defenders Front supporting Prabowo’s presidential bid, there are fears that a hitherto peaceful election process could degenerate into violence.

“I pray whoever loses will behave like a statesman and accept his defeat because elections are the people’s voice,” said pro-Jokowi activist Nong Darol Mahmada on Twitter.

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