TIME Yemen

Yemeni President Flees as Rebels Take Base Vacated by U.S. Special Forces

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi giving a speech in the capital Sanaa in 2013.
Mohammed Huwais—AFP/Getty Images President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi giving a speech in the capital Sanaa in 2013.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels are advancing on Aden

SANAA, Yemen — Yemen’s embattled president fled his Aden home Wednesday for an undisclosed location as Shiite rebels neared his last refuge, five officials told The Associated Press.

Hadi fled just hours after the rebels’ own television station said they seized an air base where U.S. troops and Europeans advised the country in its fight against al-Qaida militants. That air base is only 60 kilometers (35 miles) away from Aden, the port city where President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had established a temporary capital.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to brief journalists. Witnesses said they saw a convoy of presidential vehicles Wednesday leaving Hadi’s palace, located at the top of a hill in Aden overlooking the Arabian Sea.

Forces loyal to Hadi had no immediate comment. U.S. and European advisers fled the seized air base days ago after al-Qaida fighters briefly seized a nearby city.

The advance of the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, threatens to plunge the Arab world’s poorest country into a civil war that could draw in its Gulf neighbors. Already, Hadi has asked the United Nations to authorize a foreign military intervention in the country.

Already, military officials said militias and military units loyal to Hadi had “fragmented,” speeding the rebel advance.

Early Wednesday, the satellite Al-Masirah news channel reported that the Houthis and allied fighters had “secured” the al-Annad air base, the country’s largest. It claimed the base had been looted by both al-Qaida fighters and troops loyal to Hadi.

The reported Houthi takeover of the base took place after hours-long clashes between rival forces around the base. The U.S. recently evacuated some 100 soldiers, including Special Forces commandos, from the base after al-Qaida briefly seized a nearby city. Britain also evacuated soldiers.

The base was crucial in the U.S. drone campaign against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which America considers to be the most dangerous branch of the terror group. American and European military advisers there also offered logistical in its fight against the al-Qaida group, which holds territory in eastern Yemen and has claimed directed the recent attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

U.S. operations against the militants have been scaled back dramatically amid the chaos in Yemen. U.S. officials have said CIA drone strikes will continue in the country, though there will be fewer of them. The agency’s ability to collect intelligence on the ground in Yemen, while not completely gone, is also much diminished.

The takeover of the base is part of a wider offensive led by Houthis, backed by loyalists of deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh within Yemen’s armed forces.

The Houthis, in the aftermath of suicide bombings in Sanaa last week that killed at least 137 people, ordered a general mobilization of its forces. The group’s leader, Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, vowed to send his forces to the south under the context of fighting al-Qaida and militant groups.

The Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in September and have been advancing south alongside forces loyal to Saleh.

On Tuesday, Houthi militias and allied forces fired bullets and tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters in the city of Taiz, known as the gateway to southern Yemen. The Houthis killed six demonstrators and wounded scores more, authorities said.

The Houthis also battled militias loyal to Hadi in the city of al-Dhalea adjacent to Taiz, which is Yemen’s third-largest city. The city also is the birthplace of its 2011 Arab Spring-inspired uprising that forced Saleh to hand over power to Hadi in a deal brokered by the U.N. and Gulf countries.

Hadi on Tuesday asked the U.N. Security Council to authorize a military intervention “to protect Yemen and to deter the Houthi aggression expected to occur at any hour from now” against Aden and the rest of the south. In a letter to the council’s president, Hadi said he also has asked members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League for immediate help.

Saudi Arabia warned that “if the Houthi coup does not end peacefully, we will take the necessary measures for this crisis to protect the region.”

Diplomatic missions of Hadi’s Arab Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, have evacuated their diplomatic staff from Aden over the past few days, officials said. They earlier evacuated from Sanaa and relocated to Aden to support Hadi.

TIME portfolio

Discover the Cultural Treasure Turkey Threatens to Flood

Construction of the hydroelectric Ilisu Dam threatens the ancient village of Hasankeyf

“Absurd.” That’s how documentary photographer Mathias Depardon describes the surreal scene of a mosque’s minaret jutting out from the water as a boat passes by in Savaçan.

The tiny community along the Euphrates River in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region was flooded by the filling of the Birecik Dam’s reservoir about 15 years ago, pushing its residents and others nearby into a new settlement erected by the country’s housing authority.

Activists worry Hasankeyf is next. The small village with ancient roots on the edge of the Tigris River is upstream from the hydroelectric Ilisu Dam, the last major dam to be built within the decades-long Southeastern Anatolia Project, Turkey’s largest hydropower project that is comprised of 22 dams and 19 power stations. Once construction on Ilisu is done—Turkey was forced to secure alternative funds after European backers pulled out, putting it behind schedule as environmental campaigns steadily lobbied against it—the filling of an 11 billion cubic-meter reservoir will inundate some 74,000 acres, including Hasankeyf.

Ankara has long-positioned the dam as a provider of irrigation and jobs to an impoverished corner of Turkey, and considers it part of the solution to the country’s dependence on foreign energy imports amid increasing domestic demand, as the dam is expected to generate some 2% of Turkey’s current electricity supply. The tradeoff, aside from the further of squeezing crucial supplies downstream in Syria and Iraq, exacerbating already strained tensions from decades of cross-border water disputes, is that part of Hasankeyf—along with its found and still hidden archaeological treasures—and other nearby sites will morph from open air exhibits on ancient Mesopotamia to underwater treasure chests. (Hasankeyf was placed on the World Monuments Fund’s 2008 Watch List.)

Turkey says archaeologists are working to excavate, record and preserve “as much as possible.” And, like others impacted by dams, residents due to be displaced by water can move into a new settlement built across the river.

Depardon, who is half-French and half-Belgian, heard about the project after he moved to Turkey a few years ago. For the 34-year-old photographer, who estimates that he shoots 30 to 50 assignments in a given year, the disappearing village became part of his personal project: an environmental portrait of a land steeped in history before it’s drowned.

A lot of people have assumptions about what Hasankeyf will be like, he says, especially in light to what happened to Savaçan: “People don’t go [to Savaçan] with the nostalgia of the place. Obviously, they didn’t know the place before that, they’d never been there. But they go there and they visit as they would an entertainment park.” Still, he adds, not everyone in the area is against the dam.

Hasankeyf is the iconic at-risk community, Depardon says, but his project is more of a visual look at overall Turkish dam policy that’s driven, he says, by anti-environmental policymakers in Ankara. That’s part of why he named the project Gold Rivers. The expected completion of the dam this year, and the energy that it will help generate, will help pad state coffers while impacting local tourism industries: “The water is now money.”

Mathias Depardon is a documentary photographer based in Istanbul, Turkey. Follow him on Instagram @mathiasdepardon.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

Andrew Katz is a News Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @katz.

TIME Aviation

Germanwings Crash Site Yields a Damaged Black Box

Investigators still have no idea why the plane went down

One of the flight recorders, or black boxes, belonging to Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 has been recovered, but French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve says it has been damaged.

Investigators are hoping that at least some data from the recorder can be retrieved to shed light on the crash, the cause of which is still not known.

Search and recovery operations resumed in the French Alps on Wednesday morning, a day after the jet crashed and most likely killed all 150 people aboard.

The 24-year-old Airbus A320 was en route from the Spanish city of Barcelona to Dusseldorf in Germany when it went down just before 11 a.m. local time on Tuesday, scattering wreckage across more than four acres of craggy terrain near the village of Digne-Les-Bains in southeastern France.

French officials estimated that it would take “at least a week” to scour the remote site. More than 300 policemen and 380 firefighters have been mobilized in the effort, according to Agence France-Presse.

At least 67 Germans were believed to have been aboard Flight 4U 9525, along with around 45 Spanish passengers. Two Australians and two Japanese are also believed to have perished, as well as Belgian and Turkish travelers.

An unconfirmed report in Germany’s Spiegel magazine, cited in the Telegraph, said that some Germanwings staff felt the crash was related to repairs made on Monday to the nose-wheel landing doors of the ill-fated aircraft. Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, denied that there was any connection.

Nevertheless, scattered reports have emerged that some Germanwings employees are refusing to board the company’s planes in the wake of the disaster. “We understand their decision,” said Thomas Winkelmann, a Germanwings spokesperson, in a statement.

On Wednesday, aviation experts continued to wrestle with several puzzling aspects connected to the crash. Why was no distress made by the pilots? And why did it take Flight 4U 9525 an unusually long time to descend from its cruising altitude of approximately 38,000 feet?

“Eight minutes is a long time for a descent in an uncontrolled fashion,” Mike Daniel, an international aviation-safety consultant based in Singapore, tells TIME. “It could be more of a controlled fashion but we won’t know until they read the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder.”

Meanwhile, reports have also began to surface of lucky escapes.

Players from the Swedish first division soccer team Dalkurd FF had been originally booked to travel on Flight 4U 9525, but later switched their plans to avoid a layover in Dusseldorf.

“At first, our time was spent calming down our relatives on the phone because they had been worried sick about us,” Frank Pettersson, the team’s goalkeeper, told Yahoo News. “Later came shock as the thoughts of the victims onboard on that plane became more tangible.”

Read next: These Charts Show Why the Germanwings Crash Is Especially Unusual

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Burma

Are Slaves Catching the Fish You Buy?

In this Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 image from video, slaves from Burma lean over the deck of their trawler at the port in Benjina, Indonesia.
AP Slaves from Burma lean over the deck of their trawler at the port in Benjina, Indonesia, on Nov. 26, 2014

"These situations would be called modern slavery by any measure"

(BENJINA, Indonesia) — The Burmese slaves sat on the floor and stared through the rusty bars of their locked cage, hidden on a tiny tropical island thousands of miles from home.

Just a few yards away, other workers loaded cargo ships with slave-caught seafood that clouds the supply networks of major supermarkets, restaurants and even pet stores in the United States.

But the eight imprisoned men were considered flight risks — laborers who might dare run away. They lived on a few bites of rice and curry a day in a space barely big enough to lie down, stuck until the next trawler forces them back to sea.

“All I did was tell my captain I couldn’t take it anymore, that I wanted to go home,” said Kyaw Naing, his dark eyes pleading into an Associated Press video camera sneaked in by a sympathetic worker. “The next time we docked,” he said nervously out of earshot of a nearby guard, “I was locked up.”

Here, in the Indonesian island village of Benjina and the surrounding waters, hundreds of trapped men represent one of the most desperate links criss-crossing between companies and countries in the seafood industry. This intricate web of connections separates the fish we eat from the men who catch it, and obscures a brutal truth: Your seafood may come from slaves.

The men the AP interviewed on Benjina were mostly from Myanmar, also known as Burma, one of the poorest countries in the world. They were brought to Indonesia through Thailand and forced to fish. Their catch was then shipped back to Thailand, where it entered the global stream of commerce.

Tainted fish can wind up in the supply chains of some of America’s major grocery stores, such as Kroger, Albertsons and Safeway; the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart; and the biggest food distributor, Sysco. It can find its way into the supply chains of some of the most popular brands of canned pet food, including Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. It can turn up as calamari at fine dining restaurants, as imitation crab in a California sushi roll or as packages of frozen snapper relabeled with store brands that land on our dinner tables.

In a year-long investigation, the AP talked to more than 40 current and former slaves in Benjina. The AP documented the journey of a single large shipment of slave-caught seafood from the Indonesian village, tracking it by satellite to a gritty Thai harbor. Upon its arrival, AP journalists followed trucks that loaded and drove the seafood over four nights to dozens of factories, cold storage plants and the country’s biggest fish market.

The tainted seafood mixes in with other fish at a number of sites in Thailand, including processing plants. U.S. Customs records show that several of those Thai factories ship to America. They also sell to Europe and Asia, but the AP traced shipments to the U.S., where trade records are public.

By this time, it is nearly impossible to tell where a specific fish caught by a slave ends up. However, entire supply chains are muddied, and money is trickling down the line to companies that benefit from slave labor.

The major corporations contacted would not speak on the record but issued statements that strongly condemned labor abuses. All said they were taking steps to prevent forced labor, such as working with human rights groups to hold subcontractors accountable.

Several independent seafood distributors who did comment described the costly and exhaustive steps taken to ensure their supplies are clean. They said the discovery of slaves underscores how hard it is to monitor what goes on halfway around the world.

Santa Monica Seafood, a large independent importer that sells to restaurants, markets and direct from its store, has been a leader in improving international fisheries, and sends buyers around the world to inspect vendors.

“The supply chain is quite cloudy, especially when it comes from offshore,” said Logan Kock, vice president for responsible sourcing, who acknowledged that the industry recognizes and is working to address the problem. “Is it possible a little of this stuff is leaking through? Yeah, it is possible. We are all aware of it.”

The slaves interviewed by the AP had no idea where the fish they caught was headed. They knew only that it was so valuable, they were not allowed to eat it.

They said the captains on their fishing boats forced them to drink unclean water and work 20- to 22-hour shifts with no days off. Almost all said they were kicked, whipped with toxic stingray tails or otherwise beaten if they complained or tried to rest. They were paid little or nothing, as they hauled in heavy nets with squid, shrimp, snapper, grouper and other fish.

Some shouted for help over the deck of their trawler in the port to reporters, as bright fluorescent lights silhouetted their faces in the darkness.

“I want to go home. We all do,” one man called out in Burmese, a cry repeated by others. The AP is not using the names of some men for their safety. “Our parents haven’t heard from us for a long time. I’m sure they think we are dead.”

Another glanced fearfully over his shoulder toward the captain’s quarters, and then yelled: “It’s torture. When we get beaten, we can’t do anything back. … I think our lives are in the hands of the Lord of Death.”

In the worst cases, numerous men reported maimings or even deaths on their boats.

“If Americans and Europeans are eating this fish, they should remember us,” said Hlaing Min, 30, a runaway slave from Benjina. “There must be a mountain of bones under the sea. … The bones of the people could be an island, it’s that many.”

_______

For Burmese slaves, Benjina is the end of the world.

Roughly 3,500 people live in the town that straddles two small islands separated by a five-minute boat ride. Part of the Maluku chain, formerly known as the Spice Islands, the area is about 400 miles north of Australia, and hosts small kangaroos and rare birds of paradise with dazzling bright feathers.

Benjina is impossible to reach by boat for several months of the year, when monsoon rains churn the Arafura Sea. It is further cut off by a lack of Internet access. Before a cell tower was finally installed last month, villagers would climb nearby hills each evening in the hope of finding a signal strong enough to send a text. An old landing strip has not been used in years.

The small harbor is occupied by Pusaka Benjina Resources, whose five-story office compound stands out and includes the cage with the slaves. The company is the only fishing operation on Benjina officially registered in Indonesia, and is listed as the owner of more than 90 trawlers. However, the captains are Thai, and the Indonesian government is reviewing to see if the boats are really Thai-owned. Pusaka Benjina did not respond to phone calls and a letter, and did not speak to a reporter who waited for two hours in the company’s Jakarta office.

On the dock in Benjina, former slaves unload boats for food and pocket money. Many are men who were abandoned by their captains — sometimes five, 10 or even 20 years ago — and remain stranded.

In the deeply forested island interiors, new runaways forage for food and collect rainwater, living in constant fear of being found by hired slave catchers.

And just off a beach covered in sharp coral, a graveyard swallowed by the jungle entombs dozens of fishermen. They are buried under fake Thai names given to them when they were tricked or sold onto their ships, forever covering up evidence of their captors’ abuse, their friends say.

“I always thought if there was an entrance there had to be an exit,” said Tun Lin Maung, a slave abandoned on Benjina, as other men nodded or looked at the ground. “Now I know that’s not true.”

The Arafura Sea provides some of the world’s richest and most diverse fishing grounds, teeming with mackerel, tuna, squid and many other species.

Although it is Indonesian territory, it draws many illegal fishing fleets, including from Thailand. The trade that results affects the United States and other countries.

The U.S. counts Thailand as one of its top seafood suppliers, and buys about 20 percent of the country’s $7 billion annual exports in the industry. Last year, the State Department blacklisted Thailand for failing to meet minimum standards in fighting human trafficking, placing the country in the ranks of North Korea, Syria and Iran. However, there were no additional sanctions.

Thailand’s seafood industry is largely run off the backs of migrant laborers, said Kendra Krieder, a State Department analyst who focuses on supply chains. The treatment of some of these workers falls under the U.S. government’s definition of slavery, which includes forcing people to keep working even if they once signed up for the jobs, or trafficking them into situations where they are exploited.

“In the most extreme cases, you’re talking about someone kidnapped or tricked into working on a boat, physically beaten, chained,” said Krieder. “These situations would be called modern slavery by any measure.”

The Thai government says it is cleaning up the problem. On the bustling floor of North America’s largest seafood show in Boston earlier this month, an official for the Department of Fisheries laid out a plan to address labor abuse, including new laws that mandate wages, sick leave and shifts of no more than 14 hours. However, Kamonpan Awaiwanont stopped short when presented details about the men in Benjina.

“This is still happening now?” he asked. He paused. “We are trying to solve it. This is ongoing.”

The Thai government also promises a new national registry of illegal migrant workers, including more than 100,000 flooding the seafood industry. However, policing has now become even harder because decades of illegal fishing have depleted stocks close to home, pushing the boats farther and deeper into foreign waters.

The Indonesian government has called a temporary ban on most fishing, aiming to clear out foreign poachers who take billions of dollars of seafood from the country’s waters. As a result, more than 50 boats are now docked in Benjina, leaving up to 1,000 more slaves stranded onshore and waiting to see what will happen next.

Indonesian officials are trying to enforce laws that ban cargo ships from picking up fish from boats at sea. This practice forces men to stay on the water for months or sometimes years at a time, essentially creating floating prisons.

Susi Pudjiastuti, the new Fisheries Minister, said she has heard of different fishing companies putting men in cells. She added that she believes the trawlers on Benjina may really have Thai owners, despite the Indonesian paperwork, reflecting a common practice of faking or duplicating licenses.

She said she is deeply disturbed about the abuse on Benjina and other islands.

“I’m very sad. I lose my eating appetite. I lose my sleep,” she said. “They are building up an empire on slavery, on stealing, on fish(ing) out, on massive environmental destruction for a plate of seafood.”

_________

The story of slavery in the Thai seafood industry started decades ago with the same push-and-pull that shapes economic immigration worldwide — the hope of escaping grinding poverty to find a better life somewhere else.

In recent years, as the export business has expanded, it has become more difficult to convince young Burmese or Cambodian migrants and impoverished Thais — all of whom were found on Benjina — to accept the dangerous jobs. Agents have become more desperate and ruthless, recruiting children and the disabled, lying about wages and even drugging and kidnapping migrants, according to a former broker who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution.

The broker said agents then sell the slaves, usually to Thai captains of fishing boats or the companies that own them. Each slave typically costs around $1,000, according to Patima Tungpuchayakul, manager of the Thai-based nonprofit Labor Rights Promotion Network Foundation. The men are later told they have to work off the “debt” with wages that don’t come for months or years, or at all.

“The employers are probably more worried about the fish than the workers’ lives,” she said. “They get a lot of money from this type of business.”

Illegal Thai boats are falsely registered to fish in Indonesia through graft, sometimes with the help of government authorities. Praporn Ekouru, a Thai former member of Parliament, admitted to the AP that he had bribed Indonesian officials to go into their waters, and complained that the Indonesian government’s crackdown is hurting business.

“In the past, we sent Thai boats to fish in Indonesian waters by changing their flags,” said Praporn, who is also chairman of the Songkhla Fisheries Association in southern Thailand. “We had to pay bribes of millions of baht per year, or about 200,000 baht ($6,100) per month. … The officials are not receiving money anymore because this order came from the government.”

Illegal workers are given false documents, because Thai boats cannot hire undocumented crew. One of the slaves in Benjina, Maung Soe, said he was given a fake seafarer book belonging to a Thai national, accepted in Indonesia as an informal travel permit. He rushed back to his boat to dig up a crinkled copy.

“That’s not my name, not my signature,” he said angrily, pointing at the worn piece of paper. “The only thing on here that is real is my photograph.”

Soe said he had agreed to work on a fishing boat only if it stayed in Thai waters, because he had heard Indonesia was a place from which workers never came back.

“They tricked me,” he said. “They lied to me. … They created fake papers and put me on the boat, and now here I am in Indonesia.”

The slaves said the level of abuse on the fishing boats depends on individual captains and assistants. Aung Naing Win, who left a wife and two children behind in Myanmar two years ago, said some fishermen were so depressed that they simply threw themselves into the water. Win, 40, said his most painful task was working without proper clothing in the ship’s giant freezer, where temperatures drop to 39 degrees below zero.

“It was so cold, our hands were burning,” he said. “No one really cared if anyone died.”

________

The shipment the AP tracked from the port of Benjina carried fish from smaller trawlers; AP journalists talked to slaves on more than a dozen of them.

A crane hoisted the seafood onto a refrigerated cargo ship called the Silver Sea Line, with an immense hold as big as 50 semi-trucks. At this point, by United Nations and U.S. standards, every fish in that hold is considered associated with slavery.

The ship belongs to the Silver Sea Reefer Co., which is registered in Thailand and has at least nine refrigerated cargo boats. The company said it is not involved with the fishermen.

“We only carry the shipment and we are hired in general by clients,” said owner Panya Luangsomboon. “We’re separated from the fishing boats.”

The AP followed the Silver Sea Line by satellite over 15 days to Samut Sakhon. When it arrived, workers on the dock packed the seafood over four nights onto more than 150 trucks, which then delivered their loads around the city.

One truck bore the name and bird logo of Kingfisher Holdings Ltd., which supplies frozen and canned seafood around the world. Another truck went to Mahachai Marine Foods Co., a cold storage business that also supplies to Kingfisher and other exporters, according to Kawin Ngernanek, whose family runs it.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes,” said Kawin, who also serves as spokesman for the Thai Overseas Fisheries Association. “Kingfisher buys several types of products.”

When asked about abusive labor practices, Kingfisher did not answer repeated requests for comment. Mahachai manager Narongdet Prasertsri responded, “I have no idea about it at all.”

Every month, Kingfisher and its subsidiary KF Foods Ltd. sends about 100 metric tons of seafood from Thailand to America, according to U.S. Customs Bills of Lading. These shipments have gone to Santa Monica Seafood, Stavis Seafoods — located on Boston’s historic Fish Pier — and other distributors.

Richard Stavis, whose grandfather started the dealership in 1929, shook his head when told about the slaves whose catch may end up at businesses he buys from. He said his company visits processors and fisheries, requires notarized certification of legal practices and uses third-party audits.

“The truth is, these are the kind of things that keep you up at night,” he said. “That’s the sort of thing I want to stop. … There are companies like ours that care and are working as hard as they can.”

Wholesalers like Stavis sell packages of fish, branded and unbranded, that can end up on supermarket shelves with a private label or house brand. Stavis’ customers also include Sysco, the largest food distributor in the U.S.; there is no clear way to know which particular fish was sold to them.

Sysco declined an interview, but the company’s code of conduct says it “will not knowingly work with any supplier that uses forced, bonded, indentured or slave labor.”

Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for National Fisheries Institute, which represents about 75 percent of the U.S. seafood industry, said the reports of abuse were “disturbing” and “disheartening.” ”But these type of things flourish in the shadows,” he said.

A similar pattern repeats itself with other shipments and other companies, as the supply chain splinters off in many directions in Samut Sakhon. It is in this Thai port that slave-caught seafood starts to lose its history.

The AP followed another truck to Niwat Co., which sells to Thai Union Manufacturing Co., according to part owner Prasert Luangsomboon. Weeks later, when confronted about forced labor in their supply chain, Niwat referred several requests for comment to Luangsomboon, who could not be reached for further comment.

Thai Union Manufacturing is a subsidiary of Thai Union Frozen Products PCL., the country’s largest seafood corporation, with $3.5 billion in annual sales. This parent company, known simply as Thai Union, owns Chicken of the Sea and is buying Bumble Bee, although the AP did not observe any tuna fisheries. In September, it became the country’s first business to be certified by Dow Jones for sustainable practices, after meeting environmental and social reviews.

Thai Union said it condemns human rights violations, but multiple stakeholders must be part of the solution. “We all have to admit that it is difficult to ensure the Thai seafood industry’s supply chain is 100 percent clean,” CEO Thiraphong Chansiri said in an emailed statement.

Thai Union ships thousands of cans of cat food to the U.S., including household brands like Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. These end up on shelves of major grocery chains, such as Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons, as well as pet stores; again, however, it’s impossible to tell if a particular can of cat food might have slave-caught fish.

Thai Union says its direct clients include Wal-Mart, which declined an interview but said in an email statement: “We care about the men and women in our supply chain, and we are concerned about the ethical recruitment of workers.”

Wal-Mart described its work with several non-profits to end forced labor in Thailand, including Project Issara, and referred the AP to Lisa Rende Taylor, its director. She noted that slave-caught seafood can slip into supply chains undetected at several points, such as when it is traded between boats or mingles with clean fish at processing plants. She also confirmed that seafood sold at the Talay Thai market — to where the AP followed several trucks — can enter international supply chains.

“Transactions throughout Thai seafood supply chains are often not well-documented, making it difficult to estimate exactly how much seafood available on supermarket shelves around the world is tainted by human trafficking and forced labor,” she said.

Poj Aramwattananont, president of an industry group that represents Thai Union, Kingfisher and others, said Thais are not “jungle people” and know that human trafficking is wrong. However, he acknowledged that Thai companies cannot always track down the origins of their fish.

“We don’t know where the fish come from when we buy from Indonesia,” said Poj of the Thai Frozen Foods Association. “We have no record. We don’t know if that fish is good or bad.”

______

The seafood the slaves on Benjina catch may travel around the world, but their own lives often end right here, in this island village.

A crude cemetery holds more than graves strangled by tall grasses and jungle vines, where small wooden markers are neatly labelled, some with the falsified names of slaves and boats. Only their friends remember where they were laid to rest.

In the past, former slave Hla Phyo said, supervisors on ships simply tossed bodies into the sea to be devoured by sharks. But after authorities and companies started demanding that every man be accounted for on the roster upon return, captains began stowing corpses alongside the fish in ship freezers until they arrived back in Benjina, the slaves said.

Lifting his knees as he stepped over the thick brush, Phyo searched for two grave markers overrun by weeds — friends he helped bury.

It’s been five years since he himself escaped the sea and struggled to survive on the island. Every night, his mind drifts back to his mother in Myanmar. He knows she must be getting old now, and he desperately wants to return to her. Standing among so many anonymous tombs stacked on top of each other, hopelessness overwhelms him.

“I’m starting to feel like I will be in Indonesia forever,” he said, wiping a tear away. “I remember thinking when I was digging, the only thing that awaits us here is death.”

TIME Afghanistan

Thousands Are Protesting in Afghanistan Over the Savage Lynching of a Young Woman

Her death is as a symbol of the injustice and violence faced by many, especially women, in the country

Large numbers of people took to the streets in the Afghan capital Kabul for a second day on Tuesday, protesting against the brutal death of a woman who was falsely accused of burning the Quran and killed by an enraged mob.

Men and women painted their faces red and carried banners bearing pictures of 27-year-old Farkhunda’s bloody face while chanting, “Justice for Farkhunda” and “Death to the killers,” reports the Associated Press.

Farkhunda, a religious scholar, was beaten and run over by a car before her lifeless body was burned and thrown into the Kabul River by a mob last Thursday.

She had been arguing with a local mullah about his practice of selling amulets to women at a shrine. During the argument, she was accused of burning the Muslim holy book and a crowd overheard and attacked her.

An official has confirmed that Farkhunda did not desecrate the Quran.

Demonstrators on Tuesday called for action against officials and religious leaders who initially said her death was justified.

A spokesperson for Kabul police, Hasmat Stanikzai, was fired over comments he made on social media supporting her killers.

According to AP, 28 people have so far been arrested and 13 police officers have been suspended over the incident.

Some demonstrators see Farkhunda’s death as a symbol of the injustice and violence faced by many people, especially women, in the country.

“She is an example of probably what has happened silently to many,” Amrullah Saleh, a political leader and former director of the state intelligence service, told AP. “She drew a line with her blood between those who want justice, rule of law, and those who are extreme in their views and who breed in lawlessness”

[AP]

TIME Yemen

Yemen Leader Asks U.N. to Back Military Action Against Rebels

A Houthi Shiite rebel with Yemen's flag painted on his face chants during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 27, 2015
Hani Mohammed—AP A Houthi Shi'ite rebel with Yemen's flag painted on his face chants during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, on Feb. 27, 2015

The embattled President is looking for support against a Shi'ite Houthi insurgency

(UNITED NATIONS) — Yemen’s embattled president asked the U.N. Security Council to authorize a military intervention in support of his government to oust Houthi Shiite rebels who control much of the disintegrating country’s north and are advancing south.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said in a letter to the council obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press that he had also asked members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League to immediately provide “all means necessary, including military intervention to protect Yemen and its people from the continuing Houthi aggression.”

Hadi, the country’s internationally recognized leader and a key U.S. ally, asked the Security Council to approve a resolution that can be militarily enforced under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter.

The Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in September and have been advancing south alongside forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in 2011 as part of a U.S.-backed, Gulf-brokered deal after months of protests against his rule. The rebels have recently closed in on the southern port city of Aden where Hadi fled and is now based.

Hadi said a Security Council resolution should invite willing countries to immediately support Yemen’s legitimate government “by all means and measures, to protect Yemen and deter the Houthi aggression expected to occur at any hour from now against the city of Aden” and other cities in the south.

Military convoys are heading to attack Aden and the south, Hadi said, and Yemeni air force jets controlled by the Houthis are continuing to fly and bomb Aden “in a very alarming and dangerous” way.

Hadi also said Yemen’s missiles have been looted, and asked the Security Council “to control the missile capability looted from the legitimate authority or assign a neutral country to monitor it.”

He said all efforts at a peaceful settlement have been rejected by the Houthis whose goal is to control the country.

“The Yemeni people have never faced such heinous aggression,” he said. “The threats posed by the Houthis are not targeting the security of Yemen but the regional and international peace and security.”

The Houthis are members of the Shiite Zaydi community, which makes up around a third of Yemen’s population and is concentrated in the north. Their opponents view them as a proxy of Shiite Iran, charges the Houthis deny.

The turmoil has undermined Yemen’s ability to combat al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the target of a U.S. drone program, and the country now also faces a purported affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for a series of suicide bombings killing at least 137 people last Friday.

Hadi also asked the Security Council to help Yemen face al-Qaeda and Daesh, the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

TIME energy

Low Oil Prices Help Arctic Avoid a ‘Gold Rush’ Scenario

arctic-oil-rig
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The Arctic remains a "vulnerable area" with strong environmental rules

The plunging price of oil over the past nine months has forced many if not most energy companies to cut back drastically on spending, especially on projects in Arctic waters, where exploration and drilling are more difficult and expensive. But the Norwegian government says such delays could pay off in the long run.

The list of companies paring back their plans is long, and exploration in the Arctic Ocean north of Western Europe will decline by half in 2015.

One company is Lundin Petroleum of Sweden, which cites the plunge in oil prices for its plans to drill no more than four exploratory wells in the Barents Sea in 2015. Three other European companies – Vienna-based OMV, Germany’s Wintershall AG and Italy’s Eni – are committed to only one exploratory well each this year. In 2014 these companies together drilled 13 such wells, a record.

Read more: Is Rosneft The Best Buy On The Global Markets?

Meanwhile, Russia’s state-owned Rosneft and Norway’s state-owned Statoil are also drastically reducing plans for immediate investment in Arctic waters. In fact, Statoil has once again postponed any commitment to develop its Johan Castberg oil field in the Barents Sea because the high cost of the project at a time of low oil revenues.

The field is believed to hold between 400 million and 600 million barrels of oil, but would cost an estimated $15 billion to set up new facilities on Norway’s northern coast to develop it. Statoil says a decision on when to begin work on Johan Castberg won’t come any earlier than 2016, maybe 2017.

“We have made significant progress in reducing costs for Johan Castberg,” said Ivar Aasheim, the Statoil executive responsible for sanctioning projects in Norwegian waters. “However, current challenges in relation to costs and oil prices require us to spend more time to ensure that we extract the full benefit of the implemented measures.”

Read more: Big Changes Needed For Big Oil To Survive

As grim as the news may seem, Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende says these delays eventually may benefit Arctic oil exploitation by preventing a melee of exploration in an environmentally fragile region.

Brende told an Arctic conference in Oslo on March 12 that the region is heating up faster than most other areas of the Earth because of climate change, and that part of that heating can be attributed to the burning of gas, which emits fully half as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide as coal.

There have been expectations that the Arctic Ocean would soon be open to increased mining, energy exploitation and shipping, Brende said, but they turned out to be too optimistic. “We should be very happy that there was not a‘gold rush,’ ” he told reporters after his address to the Oslo conference. “A‘gold rush’ is not positive, it’s throwing oneself at resources at breakneck speed.

Read more: The Easy Oil Is Gone So Where Do We Look Now?

“The Arctic is a very vulnerable area where we have to go step by step,” he said, being careful to apply strong environmental rules.

Nevertheless, Brende said, “It is safe to assume that Arctic gas will have its day,” because oil and gas will continue to supply the majority of the world’s energy for the foreseeable future and that the Arctic will continue to be a key source of these fossil fuels.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

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No Country for King Coal — the Changing U.S. Energy Mix

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Coal’s decline contrasts strong growth among non-hydro renewables like wind and solar

As of late last year coal formed the backbone of U.S. electric generation capacity. At a share of roughly 39 percent, it still does. However, the U.S. energy mix is rapidly changing and coal is past its peak.

In 2015, the U.S. is expected to retire nearly 13 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generation – three times more than last year. An additional 5.2 GW will be retired in 2016. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) are the primary cause of this year’s large-scale retirements. MATS are slated to enter into force by year’s end, and the retrofits necessary to meet the increased emissions standards are largely, and by design, cost-prohibitive.

Most of the closings, more than 8 GW, are centered in the Appalachian region. Hardest hit is Ohio – and some of its largest utilities, AEP and FirstEnergy – where approximately 2.4 GW is leaving the fold. Indiana and Kentucky round out the top three with closings of more than 2 GW and 1 GW respectively. Outside of Appalachia, the U.S.’ largest carbon dioxide emitter Southern Company will convert its 1.4 GW Yates plant to natural gas.

Read more: A “Wave of Bankruptcies” About To Hit Coal Industry

Coal’s current woes are well documented, but the industry – while dying – is far from dead. Simply put, you cannot replace almost 1.5 trillion kilowatthours of annual electricity generation overnight. For big coal, the looming retirements represent the lowest hanging – and lowest capacity – fruit. By 2040, coal is expected to account for approximately 21 percent, or 254.1 gigawatts, of electricity generating capacity – second only to natural gas.

Coal’s decline contrasts strong growth elsewhere – namely, among non-hydro renewables like wind and solar. Utilities expect to add over 20 GW of utility-scale generating capacity to the grid in 2015. Of that total, wind, solar, and natural gas additions will account for 91 percent.

Read more: Is China Exporting Its Pollution?

Since 2000, wind has been one of the fastest growing sources of new electricity supply and that trend will continue toward 2020. The industry expects to expand by more than 11 percent, or 9.8 GW, this year. Additions are planned across the nation, but the Plains states – from the Canadian border down to the Gulf – will see the bulk of new capacity. Per tradition, Texas will do it bigger. IKEA’s Cameron Wind project and Capital Dynamics’ Green Pastures development are just a fraction of the reported 7.5 GW of wind capacity currently under construction in Texas – already the nation’s largest producer of wind power.

Solar installations are largely limited to California, where new additions – 1.2 GW – are expected to account for more than 50 percent of the nationwide total for 2015. In fact, First Solar’s Desert Sunlight solar farm in the Mojave Desert – online as of February –will supply a quarter of this year’s new capacity. However, the real solar surprise comes out of North Carolina. The state, which has renewable portfolio standard policies in place, plans to add 0.4 GW to its approximately 1 GW of existing installed capacity. Leading the charge is Duke Energy, the state’s – and nation’s – largest electric power holding company. Duke recently announced investments of up to $225 million into commercial solar projects, which follows its $500 million commitment to North Carolina solar of late last year.

Read more: Renewables Poised For Massive Growth In The Middle East

The projected wind and solar capacity additions provide sufficient evidence that cheap oil – and cheap coal – won’t significantly alter steady renewables growth. Still, far lower utilization rates mean natural gas will replace much of the coal-fired losses in terms of pure generation. In all, natural gas will add 6.3 GW of generating capacity this year.

For now, gas is the bridge, but the jury is not out on its ultimate effectiveness. It’s actually quite dirty over its entire lifecycle and recent research suggests that a heavy blend of wind and coal may actually result in lower emissions than the current natural gas-based transition. That won’t work however, without steady congressional support for the production tax credit.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

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1,000-Pound Bomb From World War II Unearthed in London

World War II Bomb London
Sergeant Rupert Frere—Britain's Ministry of Defence/AFP/Getty Images An unexploded 1,000-pound bomb discovered at a building site in south London, on March 23, 2015.

Hundreds evacuated while experts work to defuse the explosive

Experts safely defused a 1,000-lb. bomb from World War II on Tuesday after it was unearthed in southeast London.

The 5 ft.-long bomb, which was 6-9 ft. below ground, had prompted an evacuation of 1,200 homes in Southwark after a construction vehicle discovered the device on Monday, officials said in a statement. As of Tuesday evening, affected residents were allowed to return home, with the bomb defused and removed.

The Southwark area, once the commercial hub of London, had been heavily bombed during World War II. Bombs continue to be discovered decades after the war ended in 1945: between 2009 and 2014, the London Fire Brigade was notified of seven unexploded bombs from World War II.

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