TIME Autos

Volvo Is Banking on This Car to Crack the Top End of the World’s Biggest Auto Market

Front detail of Volvo's new XC90 Volvo Car Group

But will affluent Chinese consumers like the XC90?

Volvo unveils its first car under Chinese ownership on Tuesday. It’s a high-stakes moment for the Swedish carmaker —and a time of reckoning for the Chinese auto industry’s global ambitions.

“If Volvo is successful, it will have a great significance on Chinese automakers,” Bin Zhu, China forecast-team manager at consultancy LMC Automotive, tells TIME. “It could boost their confidence and set an example for the whole industry.”

More cars are being produced and sold in China than anywhere else in the world, yet the country’s domestic brands have failed to have international impact. In fact, they’re even struggling at home. More Chinese drive a Ford, Volkswagen or Nissan than a Chery, Dongfeng or Great Wall. And as buyers become more affluent, domestic marques are shunned even more.

Consultancy firm McKinsey forecasts that China’s premium car market will be the largest in the world by 2020. However, consumers they talk to doubt that any local carmaker will have come up with a model prestigious enough for them by then. Currently, the three top brands — Audi, BMW and Mercedes — dominate 75% of the premium sector and keep growing at the expense of local rivals. The new Volvo XC90 could buck that trend.

“It’s a car that hits right in the heart of the market,” James Chao, director of the IHS consultancy’s automotive unit, tells TIME. “It’s a little larger SUV, premium but not fully luxury. It’s retained a lot of Volvo’s European flair, while many people surely would feel proud to drive a Chinese vehicle of this caliber. If it’s priced competitively and realistically, it could be a hit.”

Success isn’t guaranteed. There was widespread skepticism when Geely first purchased Volvo in 2010. Other acquisitions, such as state-owned SAIC’s deal with Korean Ssangyong or SAIC’s subsidiary Nanjing Auto’s purchase of MG Rover, failed to bring the sought-for synergies.

“Sometimes the Chinese companies have taken a lot of time to absorb the knowledge, or the knowledge has been out of date,” says Bin. But, he adds, Volvo and Geely could be different. “Volvo needed a lot of investment to develop new technology, while Geely had money but no strong development team. It was a win-win situation.”

The partnership got off to a shaky start. Managers from the two companies publicly contradicted each other on how Scandinavian the new cars would be, and the sometimes brash Chinese tastes collided with the sober aesthetic of safety-minded carmakers from Torslanda. However, communication slowly improved and the two sides seem to have found some equal ground. In an interview with the Financial Times, Volvo’s head of design Thomas Ingenlath said that Geely’s owner Li Shufu had “opened our eyes” to the importance of a backseat experience that included a champagne cooler and a humidor. Li, for his part, expressed his admiration for Volvo’s values, and said that he thinks they may stand for something the Chinese are craving right now.

“Particularly in China, I think a lot of people start to realize: O.K., what are the things that they truly should value,” Li told the Financial Times. “That’s something that fits perfectly well with what Volvo is offering.”

There’s no arguing about the importance of the new XC90 to both firms: it’s the first to be rid of Ford technology (the American automaker sold Volvo to Geely in 2010) and the product of an $11 billion development process that will lead to a completely renewed Volvo fleet by 2020. If the XC90 doesn’t become successful, Li told the Wall Street Journal, “it will be very painful.”

The partnership does have one competitive advantage. Since Geely owns Volvo, it doesn’t have to live by the restrictions for joint ventures and can be more aggressive when it comes to research, development and manufacturing facilities inside China.

“We’ll absolutely see more cross-pollination in the coming five years,” says Chao at IHS, who says the Volvo name should give Geely a boost. “[Chinese automaker] Hongqi sold about as many cars last year as Audi does on an average day,” he says. “Maybe the best idea isn’t to introduce your own branded car in China at this point.”

LMC’s Bin agrees. “I think we’ll see more localization and cars tailor-made for China,” he says. In the long term, he says there could be “an opportunity to challenge the German automakers.”

Whatever the outcome, there is no denying the crucial importance of the XC90’s launch for Volvo.

“It’s the biggest proof of what we’re all about,” Alain Visser, Volvo’s head of sales and marketing, tells TIME. “If this doesn’t work out, we have an issue.”

TIME Infectious Disease

Liberia’s West Point Slum Reels From the Nightmare of Ebola

Residents of the West Point slum receive food aid during the second day of the government's Ebola quarantine on their neighborhood on August 21, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. John Moore—Getty

Food prices skyrocket overnight after the Monrovia slum is quarantined

A few weeks ago, West Point was merely the worst slum in war-racked Liberia. Today, it is both that and the most notorious urban center of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak.

It is also quarantined from the rest of the Liberian capital Monrovia, and its dank alleyways subject to a nightly curfew. Barricades and barbed wire have gone up, and troops posted. Ships started patrolling the waterfront on Wednesday to further restrict the movement of the 70,000 or so residents. Food prices have skyrocketed. On Thursday, hundreds of people lined up for government handouts of rice and water.

“At the moment West Point is stuck at a standstill and is in an anarchy situation,” Moses Browne of aid group Plan International told the Associated Press.

Over 1,400 people have died in the five-month Ebola outbreak, and Liberia is the country that has been worst hit. Almost a thousand people have been confirmed infected, and more than half of them have already died. Rural Lofa County is worst hit part of the country, but when it was found that Ebola had made its way into West Point, authorities became alarmed.

“There’s a higher risk of contagion for any infectious disease in an environment that is so crowded and that lacks running water and proper sanitation,” Kamalini Lokuge, a research fellow at Australian National University’s College of Medicine, Biology and Environment tells TIME.

With only four toilets, that environment would be West Point.

Adds Lokuge: “Ebola is nowhere as contagious as the flu, but you need to spread knowledge about how it is transmitted in order to control it.”

Over the past week, this has proven to be one of the gravest problems in West Point. On Saturday, a health center was looted and Ebola patients sent running, after a rumor spread that infected people were being brought in from other parts of the country. Others refused to believe the disease existed. “There is no Ebola,” some protesters attacking the clinic shouted.

“There is a high level of disbelief in the government in West Point,” Sanj Srikanthan, the International Rescue Committee’s emergency response director in Liberia, tells TIME. “The government has made a concerted effort to reach out to community leaders, youth groups and churches with the message that the only way to contain the disease is to understand it. But some people still believe Ebola is a conspiracy, and those people we need to reach.”

But even in West Point itself, conveying the gravity of the disease is a challenge. “There’s a degree of anger, people are feeling they are being neglected for others,” Srikanthan says. “This makes it harder to convince people of the seriousness of Ebola.”

Clashes erupted between West Point residents and police when the barricades were first raised and the 9 pm to 6 am curfew imposed, and the area is still tense.

On Thursday, senior United Nations officials arrived in Africa to oversee the Ebola response, including Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s pointman David Nabarro. Srikanthan, like other aid workers, believe the presence of dignitaries is of utmost importance .

“This is a forgotten corner of the world facing an unprecedented situation,” he said. “This is still a containable outbreak, but local resources are simply overwhelmed. It would be great to see some recognizable faces taking control over certain aspects of the response.”

He also believes that the situation is not entirely hopeless.

“The situation may be catastrophic, but it is one that can be turned around,” he says. “I think the risks have been overhyped, and that even humanitarians are, to an extent, affected by the fears reported by media. Being in Monrovia, you’re not necessarily going to get Ebola, it’s not airborne.”

TIME Malaysia

Malaysia Still Yearns for Closure as the First MH 17 Bodies Return

MALAYSIA-RUSSIA-UKRAINE-CRISIS-AVIATION-REMAINS
Soldiers carry a coffin with the remains of a Malaysian victim from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which crashed in Ukraine, during a ceremony at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Aug. 22, 2014 Manan Vatsyayana—AFP/Getty Images

The country has declared Aug. 22 its national day of mourning, but some are already focusing on the next step: seeking justice

Malaysia came to a standstill Friday morning as the first remains of its nationals killed on the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were received with a minute of silence.

Relatives gathered with political dignitaries on the tarmac of Kuala Lumpur International Airport for a solemn reception of the caskets. Others waited at domestic airports across the country, to which some of the bodies would be forwarded.

They were also waiting a little over a month ago, when the ill-fated jetliner was scheduled to land, but the difference was that then their loved ones were alive, and they were expecting to be reunited with them for the Eid al-Fitr festivities.

“Although we are sad, we thank God that the government has taken care of this process in such a good way,” says Zulrusdi bin Haji Mohamad Hol, who was waiting for the remains of his cousin Ariza Ghazalee and her son in the city of Kuching. “We hope maybe the remains of the rest of the family will arrive on Sunday.”

For a long time, it was not sure whether they would get them back at all.

On July 17, when MH 17 was shot down over Ukraine, 298 people were killed. Two-thirds of the passengers were from the Netherlands, where the flight originated, and 44 were Malaysians — the second largest nationality. But the horror in Malaysia was aggravated by the fact that the incident occurred only four months after another Malaysia Airlines aircraft, MH 370, disappeared without a trace over the South China Sea.

People demanded an immediate recovery of the bodies, not least because of the Islamic requirement of prompt burials. Instead, they were shocked to hear that the crash site was being raided and international investigators obstructed, by the same pro-Russian rebels who were widely blamed for the missile strike.

“I’m very angry,” Zulrusdi said at the time. “They’re inhumane, they don’t understand. First they murder our relatives, then they keep the corpses with them.”

It therefore came as a great relief when a Malaysian delegation to Ukraine managed to negotiate with the separatists for the safe removal of bodies from the scene. And yet: “There is no feeling of closure, since people still don’t understand how two planes could be lost in only a few months,” says James Chin, professor of political science at Monash University Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

He says that Aug. 22, declared the country’s “national day of sorrow,” will at least be an opportunity for people to pay their respects to the victims. “Now we can move on to the second stage,” he adds, referring to the criminal investigation led by a Dutch team. “Everyone is looking forward to the release of their interim report at the end of this year.”

Ten Dutch prosecutors and 200 police officers are currently piecing together the case. It’s the biggest criminal investigation ever conducted in the Netherlands, although it hasn’t been confirmed what the exact charges are.

“Of course murder, but we also have the crime of ‘wrecking an airplane’,” Wim de Bruin from the Dutch prosecution service told BBC. “And we could use international criminal law — that would mean possible charges of war crimes, torture and genocide.”

When a Pan Am plane was blown up over Lockerbie, in Scotland, in 1988, it took three years to finish the investigation and another seven for the trial. In contrast to MH 17, that incident didn’t take place over a region wrecked by war — a fact that considerably complicates the current probe.

While the recovery of the black box, photos from the scene, satellite images and information from air-traffic control have made them optimistic of publishing a preliminary report already within two weeks, the international team of 25 air-crash investigators still hasn’t been able to access the crash site. Counterterrorism experts fear that doing so might put the effort of retrieving the bodies at risk.

Meanwhile, a second aircraft carrying caskets is expected at Kuala Lumpur International Airport soon. But several Malaysian victims remain unaccounted for, since only 30 have been identified so far. Zulrusdi says he will keep praying that they will all return, and that peace and justice can be found.

“Of course justice must be done,” he says, “not only for us, but for our country and for the world.”

TIME Music

Judge Rules That Shakira’s Hit Song ‘Loca’ Broke Copyright Laws

Colombian singer Shakira smiles during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Fifa World Cup, before the final match between Germany and Argentina, at Maracana Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, southeastern Brazil, on July 13, 2014. Eduardo Nicolau/Estadao Conteudo—Agencia Estado/AP

Damages have yet to be fixed

A federal judge in New York has found that the Spanish-language version of Shakira’s hit song ‘Loca’ breaks copyright laws.

The song, which has sold millions of copies since its 2010 release, was found to indirectly infringe on a song by Dominican singer Roman Arias Vazquez, the BBC reports.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled Tuesday that ‘Loca’ was based on a song by Dominican rapper El Cata, which in turn resembled Vazquez’s 1990s song ‘Loca con su Tiguere.’

El Cata, whose real name is Eduard Edwin Bello Pou, denies the resemblance, the BBC says.

Damages for the plaintiff, Mayimba Music, haven’t yet been determined.

The English version of ‘Loca’ was “not offered into evidence” at the trial.

[BBC]

TIME Ukraine

Rebels in Besieged Ukrainian City Reportedly Being Reinforced

A Russian APC moves in a field in about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the Russia-Ukrainian border control point at Russian town of Donetsk, Rostov-on-Don region on Aug. 18, 2014. Pavel Golovkin—AP

Separatist rebels fighting to maintain control of Luhansk appear to be aided by a supply of men and weapons from over the border in Russia

The Ukrainian army has blasted its way into the separatist stronghold of Luhansk, but Reuters reports that retreating rebels are fighting to maintain control of the city, aided by a supply of men and weapons from over the border in Russia.

Ukrainian military spokesman Anatoly Proshin told the Guardian on Monday that government forces would completely encircle Luhansk within 24 hours. Inside, residents are facing a catastrophic situation. After almost two weeks under siege, they are in dire need of food, water and medical supplies.

On Monday, a missile hit a convoy of residents fleeing the city, reportedly killing dozens. Both sides blame each other for the incident, which took place on the road leading to the Russian border.

The Ukrainian army intends to cut off the supply link from Russia to rebel fighters in Luhansk, which is located along the main route between the two countries. Moscow denies providing any assistance, but on Friday two British journalists witnessed two dozen military vehicles crossing into Ukraine.

On Monday, Polish TV correspondent Wojciech Bojanowski reported on another convoy — including artillery, infantry vehicles and tanks — moving toward the border.

On Saturday, Alexander Zakharchenko — prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic — claimed that the separatists were going to receive 150 armored vehicles, and 1,200 Russian-trained troops, in order to launch a major counter-offensive.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned on August 11 that there was a high probability of further Russian intervention in Ukraine. Much attention has since been focused on a convoy of trucks purportedly carrying humanitarian aid from Moscow, but which Kiev believes could contain military supplies.

For almost a week, the trucks have been stalled on the Russian side of the border, while the International Committee of the Red Cross, who is overseeing the shipment, awaits a security clearance.

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine Inspects Russian ‘Aid’ Convoy

A Russian serviceman sits atop an armored vehicle outside Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Russia's Rostov region, on Aug. 15, 2014. Dozens of heavy Russian military vehicles amassed on Friday near the border with Ukraine where a huge Russian convoy with humanitarian aid came to a halt as Moscow and Kiev struggled to agree border crossing procedures Maxim Shemetov—Reuters

Inspection comes after Russian military vehicles are seen entering Ukraine overnight

Russian military vehicles reportedly crossed into Ukraine late Thursday.

Correspondents from the Guardian and the Telegraph say they witnessed at least 23 armored personal carriers, fuel trucks and other logistics vehicles marked with Russian military plates passing through a break in the border fence.

Ukraine has long held that Russian troops are operating within its borders, but evidence has been sparse. This incursion, while small, feeds fears that a larger-scale invasion may be looming.

Meanwhile a Russian convoy of about 260 trucks is currently halted some 30 km short of the border. Russia claims it is a dispatch of humanitarian aid to war-torn eastern parts of Ukraine. Kiev, on the other hand, fears it may be a covert shipment of military supplies to Moscow’s separatist allies, or equipment to be stockpiled ahead of a future Russian invasion. Russia has amassed around 20,000 troops along the border, and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned Monday that there was a “high probability” of further intervention from Moscow.

On Thursday, the kilometers-long line of white trucks unexpectedly changed course, stopping in the vicinity of a border crossing held by the separatists. This threatened to spark a new row with Kiev, which has previously said that it would regard it as an invasion if the convoy used a border crossing not controlled by Ukraine.

However, tensions started easing Friday as Ukrainian border service representatives and custom officials were able to begin inspecting the cargo in the presence of representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Kiev has sent its own aid shipments to the country’s east, but the need for humanitarian relief remains dire. Though authorities boast that the city of Donetsk will be fully recaptured by the country’s Independence Day on Aug. 24, Ukrainian advances in rebel-held territory have also had a grave humanitarian impact.

In the past two weeks, the conflict’s total death toll has almost doubled, and by a conservative U.N. estimate now stands at nearly 2,100. There are major shortages of water, electricity and medical supplies. The self-declared separatist governor of Luhansk announced his resignation Thursday, saying in a video posted on social media that the region was “at the edge of a human catastrophe.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared all claims of ulterior motives for their humanitarian dispatch as “absurd.” Yet, reporters, including Courtney Weaver of the Financial Times, have noted that the convoy has taken on a militarized appearance, acquiring an escort that includes antiaircraft weapons and helicopters. Weaver also noted that most of the trucks in the convoy appeared to be Russian military trucks covered in either white paint or white tarpaulin.

TIME animals

Watch a Dog Desperately Try to Keep Fish Alive

Looks like it has never seen a fish out of water

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This dog looks like it just can’t stand watching other animals die. Splashing water on fishes lying still on the ground, it seems bent on rescuing them from suffocation. This dog’s determination is sure to warm the coldest of hearts.

WATCH: Dog Absolutely Loses Its Mind When It Meets The New Family Kitten

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