Mercedes Recalls 750,000 Cars Because of Defective Sunroofs

(NEW YORK) — Mercedes-Benz is recalling roughly 750,000 cars because the vehicles’ sunroofs could potentially detach and fly off, causing road hazards.

The cars include the Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class, E-Class, CLK-Class and the CLS-Class, made between 2001 and 2011. All four vehicles came with an optional sunroof, and the bonding material on those sunroofs can deteriorate, resulting in the sunroof detaching from the car, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Affected owners will be contacted by Mercedes on or after February 14, and the sunroofs will be inspected and replaced if necessary, free of charge.

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U.S. Men’s Soccer Team Cancels Plan to Train in Qatar Amid Mideast Tensions

(CHICAGO) — The U.S. men’s soccer team has canceled its plan to train in Doha, Qatar, from Jan. 5-25 “due to the developing situation in the region.”

The U.S. Soccer Federation announced the decision Friday, a day after a U.S. military air strike killed a top Iranian military commander.

The Americans will move training to a site in the United States that has not yet been determined. They will be use a roster of players mostly from Major League Soccer ahead of an exhibition against Costa Rica on Feb. 1 in Carson, California.

The USSF said it hopes to train in the future at Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup.

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Two Inmates Missing From Troubled Mississippi Prison, Officials Say

A search is underway for two inmates who are missing from a state penitentiary, officials in Mississippi said Saturday.

The Department of Corrections said in a Facebook posting that David May, 42, and Dillion Williams, 27, were discovered missing from the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman during an emergency count about 1:45 a.m.

May is serving a life sentence for two aggravated assault convictions in Harrison County, and Williams is serving a 40-year sentence for residential burglary and aggravated assault in Marshall County.

Five inmates have died in prison violence since Sunday; three of those deaths have occurred at Parchman. The prison is a series of cell blocks scattered across thousands of acres of farmland in Mississippi’s Delta region. Inmates who escape their cells sometimes don’t make it off the property.

Mississippi’s outgoing prisons chief said Friday that four of the five killings of inmates since Sunday stem from gang violence, as guards struggle to maintain control of restive inmates.

“These are trying times for the Mississippi Department of Corrections,” Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall said in a statement Friday.

All state prisons statewide remained locked down Friday, confining inmates to cells and blocking visitors.

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People Worried They’d Be Drafted Into a War With Iran Apparently Crashed the U.S. Selective Service Website

The website for the United States Selected Service crashed Friday morning, the Selected Service tweeted, seemingly amid fears of a possible armed conflict with Iran.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran — which have been growing for over a year now — sharply spiked Friday morning when the U.S. assassinated Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and one of the most powerful figures in the country. Iran has vowed to retaliate, and some Americans expressed their fears on the internet about the risk of an upcoming war. “World War III” swiftly began trending on social media, and it seems some Americans turned to the Selected Service website to remind themselves of the U.S.’s conscription policy, should a new draft take place.

Selective Service is crucially not the draft — the draft was abolished in the 1970s following opposition to the Vietnam war. Selective Service is an agency of the U.S. government that maintains information on Americans who could possible be drafted, were it ever to come back.

“Due to the spread of misinformation, our website is experiencing high traffic volumes at this time. If you are attempting to register or verify registration, please check back later today as we are working to resolve this issue. We appreciate your patience,” U.S. Selective Service tweeted.

When multiple people asked how to unregister for Selective Service, the Twitter account replied that “Registration is a requirement for all men 18-25.” Eligible citizens are required to sign up for Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday.

Some people on social media also posted about reexamining the “Selective Service” box on Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms. FAFSA helps determine whether those seeking a future or current college education are eligible for federal aid or qualify for unsubsidized loans. In order to receive potential FAFSA aid, men ages 18-25 have to sign up for Selective Service and the aid forms offer the means to register.

The Federal Student Aid Twitter account also made a point to clarify that men who filled out FAFSA forms would not be prioritized for conscription were the draft to return, explaining that “There is no priority order for Selective Service based on the FAFSA form (they use a random lottery number and year of birth).”

The Selective Service account also clarified on Twitter what legal steps would need to happen for the draft to be reinstated.

“In the event that a national emergency necessitates a draft, Congress and the President would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft,” the account tweeted.

Neither the President nor Congress have indicated the intention to pass such legislation.

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At Least 53 People Dead From Landslides, Flash Floods in Indonesia

(JAKARTA, Indonesia) — Landslides and floods triggered by torrential downpours have left at least 53 people dead in and around Indonesia’s capital, as rescuers struggled to search for people apparently buried under tons of mud, officials said Saturday.

Monsoon rains and rising rivers submerged a dozen districts in the greater Jakarta area and caused landslides that buried at least a dozen people.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said the fatalities included those who had drowned or been electrocuted since rivers broke their banks early Wednesday after extreme torrential rains hit on New Year’s Eve. Three elderly people died of hypothermia.

It’s the worst flooding in the area since 2007, when 80 people were killed over 10 days.

Rescuers recovered more bodies as flash floods and mudslides destroyed Sukamulia village in Bogor district. They were searching for a villager who was missing in a landslide in Lebak, a district in neighboring Banten province, Wibowo said.

The number of fatalities was expected to increase, with rescuers and villagers also searching for at least three people believed to be buried in another landslide in Cigudeg village in Bogor district, said Ridwan, the village’s secretary, who goes by a single name.

Ridwan said bad weather, blackouts and mudslides were hampering rescue efforts. He said rescuers on Saturday managed to reach eight hamlets that had been isolated for days by cut-off roads and mudslides and rescued more than 1,700 villagers in weak condition.

Four days after the region of 30 million people was struck by flash floods, waters have receded in many middle-class districts, but conditions remained grim in narrow riverside alleys where the city’s poor live.

Government data showed that some 173,000 people were still unable to return home and were crammed at damp emergency shelters, mostly in the hardest-hit area of Bekasi. Much of the city was still submerged in muddy waters up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) high, according to the disaster agency.

Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said that more downpours were forecast for the capital in the coming days, and that the potential for extreme rainfall will continue until next month across the vast archipelago nation. The government on Friday started cloud seeding in an attempt to divert rain clouds from reaching greater Jakarta to prevent possible flooding, the agency said.

Indonesia is hit by deadly floods each year, and Jakarta, the capital of Southeast Asia’s largest economy, is not immune. But this year’s have been particulary bad, with about 397,000 people seeking refuge in shelters across the greater metropolitan area as floodwaters reached up to 6 meters (19 feet) in some places.

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Calls Up Firefighter Reservists as Fire Threats Escalate

(SYDNEY) — Australia’s prime minister called up about 3,000 reservists on Saturday as the threat of wildfires escalated in at least three states, while strong winds and high temperatures were forecast to bring flames to populated areas including the suburbs of Sydney.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 23 people had died in the wildfires so far this summer, including two in a blaze on a highway on Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia state, the latest fatalities.

“We are facing another extremely difficult next 24 hours,” Morrison said at a televised news conference. “In recent times, particularly over the course of the balance of this week, we have seen this disaster escalate to an entirely new level.”

He also confirmed that his scheduled visits to India and Japan later this month have been postponed. He was due to visit India from Jan. 13 to 16 and Japan immediately afterward. Morrison came under fire for taking a family vacation in Hawaii as the wildfire crisis unfolded in December.

He said that the governor general had signed off on the calling up of reserves “to search and bring every possible capability to bear by deploying army brigades to fire-affected communities.”

Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said it was the first time that reservists had been called up “in this way in living memory and, in fact, I believe for the first time in our nation’s history.”

The government has committed 20 million Australian dollars ($14 million) to lease four fire-fighting aircraft for the duration of the crisis, and the helicopter-equipped HMAS Adelaide was deployed to assist evacuations from fire-ravaged areas.

The fire danger increased as temperatures rose to record levels across Australia on Saturday, surpassing 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit) in Canberra, the capital, and reaching a record-high 48.9 C (120 F) in Penrith, in Sydney’s western suburbs.

As night approached, 3,600 firefighters were battling blazes across New South Wales. Power was lost in some areas as fires downed transmissions lines, and residents were warned that the worst may be yet to come.

“We are now in a position where we are saying to people it’s not safe to move, it’s not safe to leave these areas,” state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters. “We are in for a long night and I make no bones about that. We are still yet to hit the worst of it.”

The deadly fire on Kangaroo Island broke containment lines Friday and was described as “virtually unstoppable” as it destroyed buildings and burned through more than 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres) of Flinders Chase National Park. While the warning level for the fire was reduced Saturday, the Country Fire Service said it was still a risk to lives and property.

The two men killed on Kangaroo Island were identified as Clayton Lang, 43, a leading plastic and reconstructive surgeon from Adelaide, and bush pilot and safari trip operator Dick Lang, 78.

New South Wales Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers warned that the fires could move “frighteningly quick.” Embers carried by the wind had the potential to spark new fires or enlarge existing blazes.

Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fizsimmons said the 264,000-hectare (652,000-acre) Green Wattle Creek fire in a national park west of Sydney could spread into Sydney’s western suburbs.

He said crews have been doing “extraordinary work” by setting controlled fires and using aircraft and machinery to try to keep the flames away.

Fitzsimmons called on residents and tourists in the path of the fires to evacuate as soon as possible.

“Our message has been to make sure you leave yesterday,” he said. “Leaving it until today is cutting it fine. The sooner you make that decision the better, and I would say do it now. Don’t leave it any longer because the window will shrink and will shrink very quickly.”

More than 130 fires were burning in New South Wales, with at least half of them out of control.

Firefighters were battling a total of 53 fires across Victoria state, and conditions were expected to worsen with a southerly wind change. About 900,000 hectares (2.2 million acres) of bushland has already been burned through.

In a rare piece of good news, the number of people listed as missing or unaccounted for in Victoria was reduced from 28 to six.

“We still have those dynamic and dangerous conditions — the low humidity, the strong winds and, what underpins that, the state is tinder dry,” Victoria Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp said.

Thousands have already fled fire-threatened areas in Victoria, and Crisp urged more people to leave. “If you might be thinking about whether you get out on a particular road close to you, well there’s every chance that a fire could hit that particular road and you can’t get out,” he said.

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Victoria police reported heavy traffic flows on major roads and praised motorists for their patient and orderly behavior.

The early and devastating start to Australia’s summer wildfires has already burned about 5 million hectares (12.35 million acres) of land and destroyed more than 1,500 homes. More acres have burned so far than in any one year in the U.S. in around seven decades, when Harry S. Truman was president.


McMorran reported from Wellington, New Zealand.

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Thousands in Iraq March in Funeral Procession for Iranian General Killed by U.S.

(BAGHDAD) — Thousands of mourners chanting “America is the Great Satan” marched in a funeral procession Saturday through Baghdad for Iran’s top general and Iraqi militant leaders, who were killed in a U.S. airstrike.

Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force and mastermind of its regional security strategy, was killed in an airstrike early Friday near the Iraqi capital’s international airport. The attack has caused regional tensions to soar.

Iran has vowed harsh retaliation, raising fears of an all-out war. U.S. President Donald Trump says he ordered the strike to prevent a conflict. His administration says Soleimani was plotting a series of attacks that endangered American troops and officials, without providing evidence.

An official with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq said it has scaled back operations and boosted “security and defensive measures” at bases hosting coalition forces in the country. The official spoke on condition of anonymity according to regulations.

Washington has dispatched another 3,000 troops to neighboring Kuwait.

Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s regional policy of mobilizing militias across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, including in the war against the Islamic State group. He was also blamed for attacks on U.S. troops and American allies going back to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The mourners, mostly men in black military fatigues, carried Iraqi flags and the flags of Iran-backed militias that are fiercely loyal to Soleimani. They were also mourning Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a senior Iraqi militia commander who was killed in the same strike.

The procession began at the Imam Kadhim shrine in Baghdad, one of the most revered sites in Shiite Islam. Mourners marched in the streets alongside militia vehicles in a solemn procession.

The mourners, many of them in tears, chanted: “No, No, America,” and “Death to America, death to Israel.” Mohammed Fadl, a mourner dressed in black, said the funeral is an expression of loyalty to the slain leaders. “It is a painful strike, but it will not shake us,” he said.

Two helicopters hovered over the procession, which was attended by Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and leaders of Iran-backed militias. The procession later made its way to the Shiite holy city of Karbala, in central Iraq.

The gates to Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies, including the U.S. Embassy, were closed.

Iraq, which is closely allied with both Washington and Tehran, condemned the airstrike that killed Soleimani and called it an attack on its national sovereignty. Parliament is to meet for an emergency session on Sunday, and the government has come under mounting pressure to expel the 5,200 American troops based in the country, who are there to help prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

The U.S. has ordered all citizens to leave Iraq and closed its embassy in Baghdad, where Iran-backed militiamen and their supporters staged two days of violent protests earlier this week in which they breached the compound.

Britain and France also warned their citizens to avoid or strictly limit travel in Iraq.

No one was hurt in the embassy protests, which came in response to U.S. airstrikes that killed 25 Iran-backed militiamen in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. said the strikes were in response to a rocket attack that killed a U.S. contractor in northern Iraq, which Washington blamed on the militias.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have steadily intensified since Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal and restore crippling sanctions.

The administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign has led Iran to openly abandon commitments under the deal. The U.S. has also blamed Iran for a wave of increasingly provocative attacks in the region, including the sabotage of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure in September that temporarily halved its production.

Iran denied involvement in those attacks, but admitted to shooting down a U.S. surveillance drone in June that it said had strayed into its airspace.

On Saturday, billboards appeared on major streets in Iran showing Soleimani and carrying the warning from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that “harsh revenge” awaits the US.

Iranian state television also aired images of a ceremony honoring Soleimani at a mosque in the Shiite holy city of Qom, where a red flag was unfurled above the minarets. Red flags in Shiite tradition symbolize both blood spilled unjustly and serve as a call to avenge a person who is slain.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Soleimani’s home in Tehran to express his condolences.

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The Quds Force commander was the face of Iran’s regional ambitions

“The Americans did not realize what a great mistake they made,” Rouhani said. “They will see the effects of this criminal act, not only today but for years to come.”

On the streets of Tehran, many said they mourned Soleimani and some demanded revenge.

“I don’t think there will be a war, but we must get his revenge,” said Hojjat Sanieefar. America “can’t hit and run anymore,” he added.

Another man, who only identified himself as Amir, was worried.

“If there is a war, I am 100% sure it will not be to our betterment. The situation will certainly get worse,” he said.

Global powers had warned Friday that the killing of Soleimani could spark a dangerous new escalation, with many calling for restraint.

Iran’s state TV reported that Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, made an unplanned trip to Iran where he met with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The Qatari diplomat was also set to meet with Rouhani.

Qatar hosts American forces at the Al-Udeid Air Base and shares a massive offshore oil and gas field with Tehran. It has often served as a regional mediator.

Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, took to Twitter to reiterate the kingdom’s call for “self-restraint” to avoid “unbearable consequences.”

Another Saudi official confirmed to The Associated Press that the U.S. did not give a heads-up to Saudi Arabia or its other Gulf allies before carrying out the strike that killed Soleimani. The official was not authorized to discuss security matters and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Italy’s Foreign Minister meanwhile condemned the strike that killed Soleimani, in a rare criticism of the U.S. strike from a Western ally.

In a Facebook post, Luigi Di Maio said the use of violence threatens to bring “destabilization and devastating humanitarian and migratory effects.”

Italy has long been one of Iran’s biggest trading partners in the European Union, and it has more than 800 regular soldiers and some 80 special forces in Iraq.

Illustrating Soleimani’s regional reach, Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, including the territory’s Hamas rulers, opened a mourning site for the slain general and dozens gathered to burn American and Israeli flags.

Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas official, said the killing of Soleimani was “a loss for Palestine and the resistance.” Iran has long provided aid to the armed wing of Hamas and to the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group.


El Deeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem, Jon Gambrell and Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, Zeina Karam in Beirut and Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip contributed.

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‘Our Broken System Has Been Exposed.’ How a British Woman’s Rape Case in Cyprus Has Become a Rallying Cry for Activists

“Exaggerated, confused, contradictory and incoherent.” With those words, a judge in a Cyprus courthouse on Dec. 30 dismissed the testimony of a 19-year-old British woman who said she had been forced to sign a retraction after reporting being raped by 12 Israeli men in the popular holiday resort town of Ayia Napa last summer. The judge instead found her guilty on a charge of public mischief, and she now awaits sentencing on Jan. 7.

Susana Pavlou, who attended the hearing in solidarity with the woman, says Judge Michalis Papathanasiou’s ruling was yet another example of the victim-blaming attitudes surrounding the case since the summer. “The way he made his judgement sounded entirely subjective,” says Pavlou, director of the Mediterranean Institute for Gender Studies, a Cyprus-based NGO focusing on women’s rights and gender equality. “No explanation was given about how he weighed the evidence and why he rejected the testimony of the young woman. We felt intensely that we were just hearing more of the same.”

The case has sparked an outcry in the U.K., where #IBelieveHer and #BoycottCyprus trended on Twitter as news of the decision spread. And in Cyprus, the young woman’s case has electrified women’s rights activists long fighting for reforms to the way authorities handle rape cases, and has prompted pleas for intervention from the country’s current Attorney General.

The woman, who has not been publicly identified, is now facing up to a year in jail in Cyprus and a fine of $1,500. She already spent more than a month in prison before being granted bail at the end of August, and has not been allowed to leave the island. “This woman has been punished enough,” Nicoletta Charalambidou, a Cyprus-based lawyer on her legal defense team, told TIME ahead of the sentencing on Jan. 7. “It’s brought a whole range of consequences into her life.”

From Victim to Suspect

On July 17, the young woman reported the crime to police just hours after the incident allegedly took place in her hotel room in Ayia Napa, where she had been on a working vacation. (Ayia Napa’s popularity as a tourist destination draws young people from across Europe to work there in hospitality industries over the busy summer season.) She told police that she had been raped by up to 12 young Israeli men; the same day, 12 men were arrested in connection with the complaint.

In an earlier court hearing in December, the woman said that she had initially agreed to consensual sex with one of the group. But the trial this week referred to a video recording of the incident, found on the phones of some of the Israeli men. The woman’s lawyers said that it showed her having consensual sex with one of the group, while telling the other men to leave as they attempted to enter the room. Judge Papathanasiou referred to the video in his decision, saying that the woman had felt “embarrassed” because of its existence and that was “the reason why she initially gave false statements.”

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Ten days after the incident was reported, on July 27, the woman was asked to go to a local police station where she retracted her statement. She has since said that she was forced to do so by the Cyprus police, who deny the allegation. Michael Polak, director of Justice Abroad and part of the young woman’s legal team, says that the lack of footage from the police station in Cyprus likely contributed to this. “Nothing is caught on tape or video, so that creates an environment where people can be put under pressure.” According to lawyer Charalambidou, the young woman was also kept at the police station for eight hours without a lawyer on July 27, the day she retracted her statement, and was not properly informed of her rights. She also says that the woman’s right to interpretation and translation were violated. “It was never clear, and still not clear in my opinion, when she ceased to be a victim of a crime and became a suspect of another crime,” says Charalambidou. “She was asked to come into the police station on July 27 as a victim, and she came out as a suspect of committing the crime of public mischief. The line there is very blurred.”

The woman was arrested and detained immediately after retracting the statement, while the men, some of whom are minors, were released and returned home to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv on July 29. A group of them were filmed and photographed popping champagne bottles while chanting “Am Yisrael Chai” (the people of Israel live) along with “the Brit is a whore,” according to local media.

The woman’s trial began at the start of October with the verdict delayed until Dec. 30. The 12 men were not required to give evidence at the trial — a decision Polak calls suprising. But a pathologist called to give evidence examined the woman’s injuries from photographs and found them consistent with her testimony. He also told the court that there was blood on a used condom found inside the hotel room, as well as DNA from three of the young men inside the condom. “He was quite clear with his evidence that it supported what she was saying,” says Polak.

However, the woman’s legal team say the judge did not want to link the rape case with the actual public mischief case, thus shutting down a major line of defense. “During the trial, the judge on a number of occasions said ‘It’s not about the rape, I don’t want to hear about the rape case,’ so he had closed his mind to one of the major elements,” says Polak. The BBC reported that as Papathanasiou delivered the verdict, he said that “there was no rape or violence,” and that police had thoroughly investigated the case, “making all necessary arrests.”

The woman is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, hallucinations, and a condition called hypersomnia that causes her to sleep for 18-20 hours a day, according to her mother. “She needs to get home as soon as possible so she can get the proper treatment,” says Polak. Her family has traveled from Britain to Cyprus to support her through the legal process, which has also led to the young woman losing her place at university. The family has started a crowdfunder to help with the high cost of legal fees.

As the case developed this week, so did diplomatic tensions, as U.K. government officials called the situation “deeply distressing.” The U.K. Foreign Office can get involved in cases abroad where they believe a British national’s human rights and right to a fair trial have been breached. On Dec. 30, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expressed “serious concern” about the case and said that he will raise the matter with Cypriot authorities — a move the young woman’s family has welcomed.

Problems in the System

For those following the case in Cyprus closely, the verdict did not come as a surprise. “We knew it from July, when the accusation of rape came up, that the system would fail this woman,” says Zelia Gregoriou, associate professor at the University of Cyprus and founding member of the Network Against Violence Against Women, a group that demonstrated in solidarity with the woman at the courthouse earlier this week, wearing scarves around their faces with images of lips sewn shut. “Every rape claim is treated pre-emptively as a false rape claim, and that’s why we had to be there. It’s not the exception.” Gregoriou says female victims are often threatened by the police, and warned that they will be exposed and publicly humiliated.

Cyprus ratified the U.N. Convention on preventing and combating violence against women in 2017, six years after the treaty was opened for signature. Yet experts say its measures have not been fully implemented and that the country’s authorities are not doing enough to protect women and support survivors.

“This has been the year our broken system has been exposed, whether it’s the criminal justice system, whether it’s the social welfare system, whether it’s our victim support and protection system — this year has revealed just how broken it is,” says Pavlou. A 2014 E.U. survey found that 15% of women aged 18–74 years in Cyprus said they experienced intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. According to a 2018 Amnesty International report, Cyprus has the E.U.’s highest rate of reporting sexual violence to the police, yet experts say that the conviction rate in such cases is low, and that women are often not taken seriously by the authorities.

In June, the country was also rocked by the trial of its first ever known serial killer, when a Greek-Cypriot army officer was handed multiple life sentences for killing five foreign women and two of their children over the course of three years. As more details about the case emerged, questions were raised about the failure of the police to properly investigate the disappearances of these women. “The whole sequence of the various authorities and the way they treat violence against women is problematic,” says Charalambidou. “It’s not a surprise that this case [involving the British woman] is treated in the same way and the same manner.”

Experts say high numbers of cases involving rape and sexual assault drop out of the criminal justice system for a variety of reasons, including victims retracting their statements. Several studies have linked this trend to a lack of support for those who report rape and sexual assault. “Certainly, we don’t have specialized services, like rape crisis centers, so [the British woman] wasn’t offered them because they don’t exist,” Pavlou says.

Rallying Support

The case has energized local women’s rights activists in Cyprus, who say they felt a duty to protect the British woman from the outset of the case. In October, the Mediterranean Gender Institute complained to the country’s broadcast and journalism regulators about the victim-blaming narratives in the media coverage surrounding the case. On Dec. 15, the country’s Journalist Ethics Committee found that several media outlets had violated the young woman’s right to privacy, and that coverage included discrimination based on her gender. Pavlou says that if the sentencing on Jan. 7 is severe, her organization, along with other NGOs that form the Cyprus Women’s Lobby group, is prepared to appeal to the president of Cyprus to intervene.

As Tuesday’s sentencing approaches, Gregoriou plans to return to the courthouse along with several dozen demonstrators. She sees this case as part of a broader struggle in Cyprus. “We fight violence against the British woman and we fight violence against every woman,” says Gregoriou. And after a difficult year for women’s rights in the country, some are hopeful that this case can bring about much-needed change. “We do not have a culture of protest in Cyprus, but we’re seeing that come very much to the fore in recent months,” says Pavlou. “We won’t stay silent, women are speaking up, social media is on fire and that’s all very heartening for us.”

These acts of solidarity have helped give the young woman the strength to continue the case, according to her lawyer. “She feels very supported through social media and messages coming through from the local network in Cyprus, from Israel, from the U.K.,” says Charalambidou. The legal team is currently preparing the ground of appeal, and is willing to take the case to the Supreme Court in Cyprus and potentially the European Court of Human Rights — a lengthy procedure that could last for as many as four years.

“It’s a slow process, but our client definitely wants to pursue all available procedures to clear her name and fight for her rights,” says Charalambidou, who says it is a test case with the potential for impact on Cyprus’ justice system. “Our client is sending a message that she’s not only doing it for herself, but she believes that something has to change in the way that these kinds of cases are handled by states in general, not just in Cyprus.”

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Iran Has Vowed Revenge Against the U.S. For Killing Qasem Soleimani. Here’s What May Happen Next

In the long-running shadow war across the Middle East, the United States and Iran have avoided direct confrontation at all costs. Their tense and unpredictable conflict has unfolded instead in covert operations through proxy forces, subterfuge and sabotage. So President Donald Trump’s order on Thursday to assassinate Qasem Soleimani, military commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in a high-profile drone strike outside the Baghdad airport has plunged the two adversaries into uncharted territory.

Soleimani, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) major general who reported directly to Iran’s supreme theocratic ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, helped build, organize, fund and deploy constellations of Shi’ite militias mounting insurgencies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Soleimani projected an image as master of the Middle Eastern chessboard, posting selfies from battlefields across the region. Venerated among legions of devotees, Soleimani cultivated an international following that eclipsed terror leaders better known in the West, including Osama bin-Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who were also killed by American forces.

The death of a man considered a hero by millions is a tectonic event that carries unknown consequences for Washington and Tehran and risks igniting a wider conflict that could engulf the Middle East. Khamenei called for three days of mourning on Friday, but promised vengeance. “His demise will not stop his mission,” Khamenei said, according to the Fars News Agency, a semi-official news outlet in Iran. “But the criminals who have the blood of General Soleimani and other martyrs of the attack on their hands must await a tough revenge.”

The Trump Administration, for its part, says it killed Soleimani in order to stave off more bloodshed. American officials said the U.S. received intelligence that Soleimani was planning another attack in the region. “We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump said during brief remarks at his Mar-a-Lago resort in south Florida, where he was vacationing. “We did not take action to start a war.”

The President’s remarks appear to be an attempt to ease tensions. But Administration officials privately warned members of Congress that Iran is expected to retaliate against the U.S., either at home or abroad, “within weeks,” according to a senior congressional staffer, who described a Friday briefing from the State and Defense Departments as well as U.S. intelligence agencies. “There is no indication that there is going to be a de-escalation in the near future,” the staffer says. “The only question is how bad is the retaliation going to be and where and what is it going to hit.” Administration officials did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Over the past six months, Iran has been blamed for several high-profile security incidents, including the protests outside the U.S. embassy in Iraq; the shoot-down of a U.S. surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz; the sabotage and seizure of several oil tankers near the Persian Gulf; the aerial bombardment of oil facilities in Saudi Arabia; and a rocket attack on a military base in Iraq, which killed an American contractor and injured four U.S. service members.

Close observers of the region fear the conflict could now move from low-grade, one-off attacks into a full-blown war. The Trump Administration on Friday urged all American citizens to leave Iraq “immediately” and bolstered the number of forces to the Middle East in anticipation of retaliatory violence. The Pentagon announced the deployment of about 3,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division to Kuwait, an “Immediate Response Force” that joins the 15,000 American troops sent to the Middle East since the situation with Iran began to deteriorate last spring.

White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien says Iran now has two options. “One is further escalation, and pursuing that path will lead to nowhere for the Iranian people or for the regime,” he told reporters on a conference call Friday. “The alternate path is for them to sit down with the United States; for them to give up its nuclear program; for Iran to stop its regional escapades and proxy wars in the Middle East; to stop taking hostages; and to behave like a normal nation as part of the community of nations.” O’Brien said the U.S. was willing to meet with Iranian leadership without preconditions. But the Trump Administration has delivered this message before, only to be rebuffed by Tehran.

But few U.S. officials believe Iran will choose the latter path. Tehran’s retaliation could range from a protracted campaign against U.S. forces in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain and elsewhere to terrorist attacks on American and allied embassies or other targets to cyberattacks, says a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. If the Iranian regime seeks to avoid an outright war it would be destined to lose, it might refrain from backing a major attack or renewed assaults on shipping in the Persian Gulf, the official says. Even a comparatively muted response could inflict significant costs, especially on oil shipping and facilities. Some energy experts estimate that even without a protracted conflict, oil prices could reach or exceed $150 a barrel, increased U.S. production notwithstanding.

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“Definitely there will be revenge. There will be harsh revenge,” Iranian Ambassador to the U.N. Majid Takht Ravanchi told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Friday. “Iran will act based on its own choosing, the time, the place…We will decide.”

Despite such pledges, Soleimani’s killing may compel Tehran to think twice before they attack the U.S. or its partners, says Norman T. Roule, a former senior CIA officer who managed the Iran portfolio at the office of the Director of National Intelligence in both the Trump and Obama Administrations. “Iran will need to respond, but the way they do so must simultaneously save face without risking a broader conflict,” Roule says. “Regime survival must be their primary goal.”

Douglas Silliman, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Kuwait who is now president of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, says Iran is patient and may not respond immediately or directly. “Retaliation against this strike may not necessarily come against American targets,” he says. “You could see a variation on what you’ve seen the past four months,” including strikes on Saudi oil facilities and shipping as in the past, all the way up to U.S. targets. “There are plenty of American targets in the Gulf,” Silliman adds, “not just soldiers and sailors and airmen and marines, but spouses and children as well.”

Iran is also likely to respond using allies, rather than its own forces, following Soleimani’s lead as Quds commander in activating proxy forces to launch attacks against the U.S. and its allies. Soleimani oversaw Iranian-backed groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which among other things attacked the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. The Pentagon assessed in April that Iran-backed militants killed at least 603 U.S. troops in Iraq, or 17% of all Americans killed between 2003 and 2011.

Through these forces, Tehran is involved in every single major military conflict in the Middle East, almost always on the side of America’s enemies. Israel and Gulf nations have pressured the White House to address what they see as a growing Shi’ite sphere of influence across the region. The personal relationships Soleimani forged in the region will be hard for Iran to replace, but the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Quds Force are organized, hierarchical military machines that are sure to follow their new command, Silliman said. Iran named Soleimani’s successor, Brigadier General Esmayeel Qaani, in less than 24 hours.

America’s allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain are likely targets of Iranian military or cyber retaliation. Iran already has attacked the computer networks of Saudi Aramco oil company and Qatar’s Rasgas natural gas company. There could be plots far beyond the region, says Eric Edelman, former ambassador to Turkey under President George W. Bush. “They will look for ways to hit us where we don’t expect it,” he says. “But they will be patient. When their nose is bloodied, they tend to take a step back and reassess, before making the next move.”

Analysts fear that if Iran misjudges Trump’s willingness to use force, the conflict could quickly spiral out of control. The Trump Administration has been hollowed out by departures within the State, Homeland Security and Defense Departments, and much of the National Security Council deliberation processes have been eliminated.

Trump has already authorized cyber attacks against Iranian computer systems, increased the U.S. troop presence in the region and continued to ratchet up its “maximum pressure” campaign. The Administration has imposed tougher economic sanctions since walking away from the 2015 six-nation deal to curb Iran’s nuclear-weapons program more than a year ago.

Partly as a result, Iran’s economy is collapsing and the population is exhausted and frustrated, says Gerard Araud, a former French ambassador to Washington and the U.N. Even in Lebanon and Iraq, citizens are demonstrating against Iranian influence. Tehran recognizes it is in a difficult situation.

“People are talking about World War Three. The Iranians are not suicidal. The regime has always been very shrewd and very keen on surviving,” Araud says. “The options of what the Iranians can do are very limited. Trump didn’t react in September to the Iranian provocation, but now they know he is ready to react and he is totally unpredictable—because no one was expecting this—and he is brutal. So they have to calculate their response in a very prudent way.”

Write to W.J. Hennigan at

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5 Inmates Have Been Killed in Mississippi Prisons This Week. Here’s What to Know

A week of violence in Mississippi prisons has left five inmates dead and many others injured in what authorities are calling “major disturbances”.

In a statement sent to TIME, the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) confirmed that three inmates have been killed at Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm. Another man was killed in Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility in Houston, Miss. and a fifth in South Mississippi Correctional Institute in Leakesville, Miss.

According to the Associated Press the latest victim, 36-year-old Dennoris Howell was stabbed to death at Parchman Farm on Friday morning.

“We are continuing to be vigilant and mindful of the situation,” MDOC Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall said in the statement. “These are trying times for the Mississippi Department of Corrections. It is never a good feeling for a commissioner to receive a call that a life has been lost, especially over senseless acts of violence.”

All prisons across the state are on lockdown, and have been since Sunday. Many inmates at Parchman Farm have been moved to more secure housing units to prevent more violence, according to the MDOC.

The lockdown means that inmates can only move in emergency situations, and that there will not be any visitation this weekend.

Though the MDOC has not provided any further details, Sunflower County Sheriff James Haywood says that the violence is connected to gang disputes in the prisons, according to the AP. (When reached for comment, the Sunflower County Sheriff’s department referred TIME to the MDOC.)

Sunflower County coroner Heather Burton also told The Clarion Ledger that her understanding is that the violence at Parchman Farm is due to “gang related riots.” The situation is “unprecedented,” she added, and “kind of surreal at this point.”

The first murder occurred on Dec. 29 at the South Mississippi Correctional Institute when an inmate, Terradance Dobbins, 40, was killed. Two other inmates were also injured in the incident, the AP said. This death prompted the original lockdown on Sunday.

On New Year’s Eve, Walter Gates, 25, was killed at Parchman Farm in a prison fight that also left other inmates injured. Gates reportedly suffered multiple stab wounds. Then on Jan. 2, a second inmate was killed at Parchman. This inmate has not been identified; he also suffered stab wounds according to the AP.

Also on Jan. 2, Gregory Emary, 26, was killed at Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility. Despite the fatality, Chickasaw County Sheriff Jim Meyers told the AP that they had the situation under control in “three minutes.”

Howell’s death on Jan. 3 brought the week’s grim total to 5.

According to the MDOC, the first four deaths were part of a “major disturbance”. Howell’s death however is apparently unrelated.

The fifth death comes just a few days after Commissioner Hall announced that she will be resigning from her position in mid-January to work in the private sector. According to the Jackson Free Press, Hall will be advocating for “criminal justice reform and to support better wages and working conditions” in her new role.

The Mississippi American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says prisons in the state have been dealing with deaths for years. This is partly due to the system being understaffed. The Mississippi ACLU is also critical of the way the prison system is run in the state.

“Mississippi has a mass incarceration problem. Dramatic increases in imprisonment over the last 40 years have brought prisons and jails across the state to the breaking point,” Joshua Tom, former Interim Director of the ACLU of Mississippi said in a 2019 press statement.

In the midst of the prison violence this week across the state, a U.S. District judge announced that a private prison in Mississippi is not violating inmates’ rights.

Judge William Barbour ruled against a lawsuit, originally filed in 2013, that alleged the East Mississippi Correctional Facility was violating the rights of prisoners by not providing healthcare, leaving them in solitary confinement for long periods of time and placing them at risk of violence from guards.

“While Plaintiffs and their expert witnesses argue that the environment and healthcare services at the prison could and should be better, those arguments do not establish that the conditions under which they are currently housed, as a class, are cruel and unusual,” Judge Barbour said in his ruling.

Write to Josiah Bates at

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