TIME Music

A Video Featuring Snoop Dogg Has Caused Uproar Among a Religious Group in India

In the video, Snoop smokes what appears to be weed on a throne beneath the group's sacred symbol

Members of the Parsi Zoroastrian community in Calcutta have filed a petition in a local high court against the music video for the song “King” by Amitis featuring Snoop Dogg, calling it blasphemous and disrespectful toward their faith, the Times of India reports.

Zoroastrianism is a millennia-old faith with roots in ancient Persia and a flourishing community in India; its scripture emphasizes the sanctity of nature and the duality of existence. Amitis is an Iranian-born singer who now lives in Atlanta; “King” appears to be her entrance into the realm of Western pop. Snoop Dogg is Snoop Dogg — in this case, the eponymous king in question, who in the music video smokes what appears to be weed on a throne beneath the Faravahar, a sacred Zoroastrian symbol. Some strippers dance in front of it, too.

Unsurprisingly, the Zoroastrians in Calcutta have taken offense and have chosen to file a public-interest litigation — a form of civil complaint. In this case, the Zoroastrians who filed the petition are going after two companies involved in the production and distribution of the video, as well as the governments of West Bengal and India, requesting that the video be banned, the Times says.

No one involved with the video has commented on the petition. To Snoop’s credit, though, he has been making some (admittedly misguided) efforts to immerse himself in the cultures of foreign lands. For the 2008 Indian action film Singh Is Kinng (sic), he and actor Akshay Kumar released a hip-hop track of the same title whose lyrics made these cursory references to Indian culture: “Whatup to all the ladies hanging out in Mumbai/ cheese makes dollars, east-west masala.”

TIME

Chinese Stock Markets Are in the Middle of an ‘Unprecedented’ Slide

A man walks past an electronic board showing the benchmark Shanghai and Shenzhen stock indices, on a pedestrian overpass at the Pudong financial district in Shanghai
Aly Song—Reuters A man walks past an electronic board showing the benchmark Shanghai and Shenzhen stock indices, on a pedestrian overpass at the Pudong financial district in Shanghai, China, June 26, 2015.

State monetary policy has failed to fix the situation, and Beijing is growing desperate

In what analysts are describing as an unprecedented economic situation, China’s stock indexes are currently tumbling into a free fall, with panic taking the place of the brash confidence that, until last month, led these markets to rapidly develop into an unsustainable bubble.

That bubble appears to have now burst: by early afternoon local time on Friday, the Shanghai Composite Index had fallen 3.25% to an anemic 3,785.57 points; in the three weeks since it reached a seven-year high, it has lost 30% of its value.

Monetary authorities in Beijing are currently grasping for straws to remedy the situation, but numerous market interventions, including the fourth cut in interest rates since November, have failed to keep investors from frantically selling their Chinese stocks.

The turbulent situation is not yet catastrophic, but it illuminates the greater volatilities of China’s fraught existential dynamic: between an autocratic Communist government and the currents of free-market capitalism. In a country where stock investors now outnumber Communist Party members, if the market heals, it will likely heal itself. Beijing’s economic policies have thus far proven mostly ineffective.

Meanwhile, state authorities are attempting to blame the economic instability on calculated “foreign forces,” the Washington Post reports. State media outlets have alleged that Morgan Stanley or prominent investor George Soros may be purposely interfering in the Chinese markets. Messages making the rounds on WeChat, the country’s preeminent messaging service, allege that “‘international capital’ — or simply capitalism itself — [is] attacking China,” according to the Post.

In the face of this supposed malfeasance, prominent figures are encouraging their fellow countrymen to have faith in their faltering economy.

“Hold stocks with confidence,” was the advice of Fan Shaoxuan, a executive at microblogging service Sina Weibo, according to the Post. “Win glory for the country even if you lose the last penny.”

TIME

A Brain-Eating Parasite Has Killed a 21-Year-Old California Woman

80121543
Mark Newman—AP 'Do Not Allow Water To Enter Your Nose' Amoeba (Naegleria fowleri) warning sign at thermal pool, Roger's Spring, Lake Mead, Nevada, U.S.A.

This is the second such fatality in the U.S. to occur in the last year

Public health officials have confirmed that a brain-eating amoeba caused the death of a 21-year-old woman in eastern California last month, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The woman contracted the parasite on private property in the town of Bishop, about 60 miles southeast of Yosemite National Park. She awoke from a nap last month with flu-like symptoms; physicians at Northern Inyo Hospital initially diagnosed her with meningitis. When her symptoms worsened, she was transported to a hospital in Reno, where she ultimately died of cardiac arrest.

Naegleria fowleri, as the amoeba is officially known, can thrive in warm freshwater and soil; infections result when contaminated water enters the nose, allowing the parasite to travel to the brain. It manifests itself first in flu-like symptoms — fever, vomiting, headaches — before inducing hallucinations, seizures, and, in more than 95 percent of instances, death.

This is the second naegleria fowleri-related fatality in the U.S. to occur in the last year. In July 2014, nine-year-old Hally Yust died from the infection after water skiing in a contaminated lake in Kansas. The majority of cases in the country have been in the southeast.

Health officials are eager to note, however, that the occurrences of the amoeba are rare and infections even rarer.

“I want to emphasize that there have been no evident cases of amoeba contamination in the U.S. in well-maintained, properly treated swimming pools or hot springs,” Richard Johnson, a public health officer in Inyo County, California, told the Times.

TIME Music

Prince Abandons All Streaming Music Services, Other Than Jay Z’s

Prince
John Shearer—AP Prince presents the award for album of the year at the 57th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on February 8, 2015.

Prince's decision marks another major industry coup for the fledgling Tidal

Spotify has had the streaming music market cornered for a few years now, with old stalwarts like Pandora and Rhapsody steadily holding their own in the margins, but relative newcomer Tidal holds a valuable utility: the support of artists who otherwise resent streaming music services.

On Wednesday, Mashable reports, the music of R&B-pop artist Prince — who in 2010 famously announced that the Internet was “completely over” — disappeared from every streaming service other than the eight-month-old company acquired by rapper-cum-music-mogul Jay Z this past March.

“Prince’s publisher has asked all streaming services to remove his catalog,” a spokesperson for Spotify told Mashable. “We have cooperated with the request, and hope to bring his music back as soon as possible.”

The Spotify representative apparently failed to check Tidal, where as of Thursday morning the Prince anthology — 24 albums, 20 singles and EPs, three versions of “When Doves Cry” — awaits the service’s nearly 800,000 subscribers.

Prince’s decision marks the second major industry coup in just three months for the fledgling company, which has retained rights to the music of Taylor Swift in spite of the artist’s very public hostility toward subscription-based streaming music.

TIME movies

Watch Hollywood Blow Up London in the Trailer For London Has Fallen

This is a disaster movie, so Morgan Freeman is in the White House, of course

At this point, the canon of apocalypse cinema is predictable. The audience will witness one of four eschatological events — an alien invasion; a meteor strike; some implausible meteorological event; an epidemic that either kills people or turns them into zombies — that will seemingly only ravage the United States, where Morgan Freeman sits in the White House.

Should these catastrophes strike elsewhere, we witness them in brief scenes that serve only to preview what will soon come to America’s shores. These moments tend overwhelmingly to take place in Asia: recall the destruction of Shanghai in Armageddon, or that bizarre hail storm that manages to literally kill a Tokyo salaryman in The Day After Tomorrow.

London, one of the world’s largest cities, is usually spared. There was Threads, the BBC’s 1984 Cold War morality play about nuclear war, but that’s mostly it. Apparently eyeing this lapse as a problem, Hollywood will soon release London Has Fallen, the frankly titled sequel to 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen in which North Korean operatives blow up the White House.

In London Has Fallen, London falls, under circumstances not made entirely clear by its teaser trailer. We learn that the British Prime Minister has died, and that his funeral is “the most protected event on earth,” and then disaster happens. Chelsea Bridge blows up. The Queen’s Guard abandons its usual stoicism and begins shooting at an unspecified target. Westminster Abbey blows up. Morgan Freeman, reprising his role as U.S. Vice-President Allan Trumbull, watches aghast from the White House Situation Room.

The film is slated for a January 2016 release.

TIME Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, Thousands March Toward a Political Impasse

Human Rights Front Gather For July 1st Protest
Anthony Kwan—Getty Images Protesters march on a street during a rally as they hold banners and shout slogans on July 1, 2015 in Hong Kong.

On an annual day of protest, marchers call for democratic freedoms that Beijing is unwilling to grant

In the years since Queen Elizabeth relinquished her last major colony to China in 1997, Hong Kong has frequently commemorated July 1 — the anniversary of the “handover,” as it’s known here — as a day of demonstration, with thousands marching through the sweltering metropolis to air their political grievances. It makes sense: after all, under the political agreement between the U.K. and China, Hong Kong would operate as a quasi-democracy under the umbrella of Chinese rule, and in the democratic imaginary, the right to assembly is axiomatic.

Beyond that, though, there are no real reliable axioms when it comes to democracy in Hong Kong, other than that, for this Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, democracy itself may be an illusion. Nine months have passed since the beginning of the Umbrella Revolution, when hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers besieged the city’s busiest districts to push for a greater say in how their leader is chosen. But, 12 days ago, Hong Kong lawmakers vetoed the government’s showpiece electoral bill because it required all candidates for the city’s top job to undergo screening by Beijing. It is now highly unlikely that the central government will consider other reform proposals for some time.

That leaves the pro-democracy movement at an impasse. At last year’s July 1 demonstrations — in hindsight, a prologue to the Umbrella Revolution — Hong Kongers called for political upheaval; today, they gather to sit shivah for the stalemate, but also to contemplate their next move.

“This is a day when we restart our campaign — when we ask ourselves what we can do next,” Johnson Cheung, who leads the pro-democratic Civil Human Rights Front, says.

The Hong Kong government is also groping for a way forward. As activists burned an SAR flag outside an official ceremony to mark the 18th anniversary of the handover this morning, Leung Chun-ying, the incumbent chief executive (as the highest official in Hong Kong is called) sought relief in pocketbook issues.

“The government needs the support and cooperation of the entire community if we are to boost the economy and improve the livelihood of the people of Hong Kong,” he told assembled dignitaries.

Underscoring the gulf between the city’s democratic and pro-Beijing camps, Leung also appeared to suggest that a freer political system would not be able to solve Hong Kong’s serious social ills — among them appalling income inequality and sluggish social mobility. “As the experience of some European democracies shows,” he said, “democratic systems and procedures are no panacea for economic and livelihood issues.”

In the mid-afternoon, thousands began to assemble at Victoria Park — a rare greensward in this densely packed city, serving as the march’s starting point and as a traditional place of protest. Many demonstrators carried the colonial-era Hong Kong flag, not as a demonstration of loyalty to Britain but as a defiant assertion of the city’s origins as an international entrepot and the emblem of what they believe to have been a better time. In contrast to the almost carnival atmosphere of previous marches, the mood this year appeared subdued and numbers appeared notably fewer than previous years. Organizers blamed political fatigue.

“At this point, there’s not much we can do politically,” said marcher Thomas Yan, vice chairman of the pro-democracy party People Power. “All we can do now, and in the future, is focus on civic education — on informing the people.”

Marcher Maria Chen agreed that Hong Kong needed to reflect on its next move. “I don’t know what’s next for Hong Kong,” she said. “I hope they listen to us, but I think Hong Kong needs to figure it out for itself. Our future should lie in our hands.”

Less than a hundred meters up Hennessy Road, police officers stood between marchers and a group of pro-Beijing demonstrators staging a counter rally. As tensions flared and verbal barbs were traded, the pro-Beijing camp turned up the volume on its loudspeaker and blared the Chinese national anthem — a melody that Hong Kong soccer supporters have recently taken to jeering at international matches.

“After the democrats vetoed the [government’s electoral bill], we realized we needed a new direction,” Agnes Chow, a senior member of the student activist group Scholarism, told TIME earlier. “We’re in a very passive position politically, because any attempt at constitutional reform is going to be led by the central government in Beijing.”

Passive is an interesting choice of word, coming from someone who was at the forefront of the Umbrella Revolution — the largest and most violent political demonstration in China since the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. Chow is uncertain what will come next, but is keen to note that tensions continue to mount.

It isn’t just rhetoric. Late Sunday night, Joshua Wong, the outspoken 18-year-old activist who has emerged as a figurehead of Hong Kong’s democratic zeitgeist, was leaving a movie with his girlfriend when an unknown assailant “grabbed [his] neck, and punched [his] left eye,” he tells TIME. Earlier that evening and mere blocks away, a group of “localists” — those in favor of far greater Hong Kong autonomy, even complete independence, from China — staged a rally to protest the politically and culturally provocative presence of street musicians from mainland China. Violence quickly erupted between the localists and members of pro-China groups, who turned up to support the musicians.

“My own view is that this is predictable,” David Zweig, a professor of social sciences at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, tells TIME. “We can see a shift from civil disobedience and towards more violence. People are becoming more frustrated with the fact that Beijing has made no concessions.”

Those on the march appeared to understand this political reality. “So long as the Beijing government is insisting we don’t have a way out, legislative reform can hardly happen,” Ken Wu, a 27-year-old social worker, told TIME.

The SAR government is not in a conciliatory mood either. During his address at today’s official ceremony, Chief Executive Leung spoke of the “serious threats to social order and the rule of law” posed by last year’s Umbrella Revolution, and warned that the city’s development would be seriously impeded if democratic legislators continued to block the government’s legislative agenda.

“All we ask is for the citizens of Hong Kong to respect the system,” Po Chun-chung, of the pro-Beijing Defend Hong Kong Campaign, said, as the march went by. Many demonstrators, tired of what they see as the mainland’s encroachment on the city’s autonomy, and its reneging on promises of genuine democracy, would like to ask Beijing to do the same.

“The [mainland] Chinese have gotten dirtier and dirtier,” said Eric, a 32-year-old protester. “They get their hands into our lives and we don’t have any way to fight back. This is the only way.”

—With reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Alissa Greenberg/Hong Kong

TIME Music

Here Are the Best Albums of 2015 So Far

From feminist Swedish songwriters to revolutionary American rappers, see the best albums of the first half of the year

Since the digital age transformed the way people consume music, many have lamented the death of the album. And though it’s true that playlists and algorithm-crunching radio stations have for some supplanted the start-to-finish album listening session, there are still countless artists who hold the form sacred.

From a crop of newcomers, oldies-but-goodies and comeback queens alike, TIME selects this year’s albums (so far) that gave us the greatest reason to sit down and hear the whole thing out:

  • Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly

    Best of Albums 2015 - Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
    Interscope Records

    The Compton rapper’s follow-up to good kid, m.A.A.d city is funkier and looser than its predecessor—which is a better match for Kendrick, really, as his rapping really never colored inside the lines. It’s also angrier. Over songs that ooze and unsettle, Lamar asks tough questions about what it means to be a black man in America today. “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015,” he snarls on the politically charged “The Blacker the Berry.” No, he’s just making sense of his own contradictions like everybody else does. You may not like some of his conclusions, but there’s no arguing that his process is riveting.

    —Nolan Feeney

  • Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

    Best of Albums 2015 - Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
    Mom + Pop Music

    Courtney Barnett has the uncanny ability to take a topic as mundane as staring at the ceiling or reading the safety warning on a truck—”If you can’t see me I can’t see you”—and build a palpable world around it. Her jaunty little rockers, carried by the laidback confidence of her ever-so-slightly gravelly voice, are like little dioramas you can enter and exit at will, tactile down to the Vegemite crumbs on the floor.

    —Eliza Berman

  • Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp

    Best of Albums 2015 - Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp
    Merge Records

    Alabama native Katie Crutchfield’s third album as Waxahatchee marks a shift from introspection to external observation, as Ivy Tripp explores the ethos of a generation given to a prolonged, meandering search for fulfillment. Though her vibe has been described as evoking the ’90s alt-rock scene, her themes are unmistakably of the here and now.

    —Eliza Berman

  • Mark Ronson, Uptown Special

    Best of Albums 2015 - Mark Ronson, Uptown Special
    RCA

    It’s always satisfying when a left-of-center talent has a mainstream hit, and with his new album, Ronson is getting his biggest name-on-the-door commercial success yet. Uptown Special has all the intelligence of the musician/producer’s previous work, with a hearty helping of retro fun and big-hitting collaborations with the likes of Bruno Mars.

    —Sarah Begley

  • Bjork, Vulnicura

    Best of Albums 2015 - Bjork, Vulnicura
    One Little Indian

    Pop culture talks about Björk like she’s an alien. It’s half true: even as her ninth album does away with the high concepts of her last few records—2004’s Medulla was all a capella, 2011’s Biophilia was the world’s first “app album”—she still sounds like she sailed in from another dimension on the back of the swan that became her Oscars dress. Yet Vulnicura’s almost real-time account of her split from longtime partner and artist Matthew Barney is heart-wrenchingly human.

    —Nolan Feeney

  • Jamie xx, In Color

    Best of Albums 2015 - Jamie XX, In Color
    Young Turks

    This solo LP from one member of shift key-averse minimalists the xx doesn’t always sound like something you’d hear in the average club, but it’s steeped in dance-music history nonetheless. Jamie adds and re-arranges samples like Jenga bricks, using the song’s ever-changing architecture to both play tribute to the past and look forward. Aggressive breakbeats keep up the album’s pulse, while warm layers of keyboards and synths envelop the listener like a fog that’s well worth getting lost in.

    —Nolan Feeney

  • Shamir, Ratchet

    Best of Albums 2015 - Shamir, Ratchet
    XL Recordings

    “I have no gender, no sexuality, and no f-cks to give,” 20-year-old Shamir tweeted in March, just a few days after winning over crowds at SXSW. In a country that’s still learning there’s a difference between the first two items in his list, such a statement could have overshadowed his music. Instead, Shamir made Ratchet, a magnetic debut album that’s far more interesting than questions about his identity thanks to dark, woozy beats that anchor his attitude-filled falsetto. You’ll be itching for a night out with Shamir after just one listen.

    —Nolan Feeney

  • Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear

    Best of Albums 2015 - I Love You, Honeybear
    Sub Pop

    Call him a pessimist, a cynic or just a plain old realist, but Father John Misty (real name Josh Tillman) is nothing if not searingly honest; his lyrics are packed with acerbic observations about himself and the world around him. The lyrics and music on his latest album are often playfully at odds, as on an electronic number that laments what’s lost in electronic communication or a jingly folk tune about an unbearable woman who thinks she sings like Sarah Vaughan (“Why don’t you move to the Delta?” he suggests sarcastically).

    —Eliza Berman

  • Tove Styrke, Kiddo

    Best of Albums 2015 - Tove Styrke, Kiddo
    Sony Music Entertainment

    Instead of making the kind of shimmering dance music Sweden is best known these days—the kind of music she made as a teenager following her stint on Swedish Idol—22-year-old Tove Styrke loads Kiddo with playful, island-inflected pop and subversive feminist messages about smashing the patriarchy. What else did you expect from a record named after the heroine from Kill Bill?

    —Nolan Feeney

  • Laura Marling, Short Movie

    Best of Albums 2015 - Laura Marling, Short Movie
    Virgin

    At this point it’s a bit belated to call the 25-year-old Marling wise beyond her years. But wise, plain and simple, continues to apply to the British folk musician. With a voice that seems mystically linked to Joni Mitchell circa 1970 and the lyrical sensibility of a poet, Marling is sharp as ever on her fifth album as she explores, with equal parts vulnerability and tenacity, how to be alone and how to be in love.

    —Eliza Berman

  • Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love

    Best of Albums 2015 - Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
    Sub Pop

    It’s almost unfair that one of the very first albums released in 2015 could also be the year’s best—at least to other musicians putting out new music, not to the listeners who get treated to 33 minutes of unbridled ferocity on the band’s first LP since 2005. Guitarist-vocalists Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker trade sinewy guitar riffs as tough as shark skin while spitting out lyrics that are casual in their devastation: “Only I get to be sickened by me,” Brownstein quivers on the highlight “Bury Our Friends.”

    —Nolan Feeney

TIME Innovation

‘I Don’t Have Ethics': The Dark Heart of Google’s Latest Chatbot

"I'm in the middle of nowhere"

A new research paper released by Google this week reaffirms what’s been more or less obvious since HAL 9000 murdered four astronauts in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey: computers do not make particularly dependable friends.

The Google project—an admittedly more benign exercise than Kubrick’s—was yet another attempt to fashion a “conversational model” of artificial intelligence. Colloquially, we refer to these systems as “chatbots”—programs that can somewhat convincingly engage in human discourse.

The researchers behind the experiment, Oriol Vinyals and Quoc V. Le, programmed their particular chatbot with two sets of data: guidelines from an IT troubleshooting help desk and a database of movie subtitles. The ensuing dialogue was mostly awkward and occasionally nihilistic.

“What is the color of water?” the researchers asked.

“Water,” the computer replied simply.

“Where are you now?” they asked.

“I’m in the middle of nowhere.”

“Tell me the definition of morality,” the researchers requested.

“I don’t have ethics,” the machine advised them.

According to the transcript, this went on for awhile. Philosophical banter proving futile, Vinyals and Le switched gears, with more coherent results.

“What do you think about Cleopatra?” they asked.

“Oh, she’s very regal.”

Read more dialogue here.

TIME China

China-Backed Development Bank Holds Signing Ceremony in Beijing

China-led AIIB members ink accord for its inception by year's end
AP—Kyodo Delegates from more than 50 countries gathered to sign the articles of agreement that specifies the new lender's initial capital and other details of its structure.

Conspicuously absent from the ceremony was the U.S., which declined to join the bank

Delegates from 57 founding member states gathered in Beijing on Monday to finalize and ratify the terms of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the China-backed multilateral development bank seen by some as a strategic rival to the World Bank and similar international financial institutions.

The signing ceremony comes eight months after Beijing officially launched AIIB, which intends to “focus on the development of infrastructure and other productive sectors in Asia” and “promote interconnectivity and economic integration in the region,” according to its mission statement. It will begin with a $50 billion capital base, the BBC reports.

Of its founding members — which include Australia, Russia and Germany — China will be the largest shareholder, with 25% to 30% of all votes. Conspicuously absent from the roster is the U.S., which in October expressed concern over the bank proposal’s “ambiguous nature.” While World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has praised the new institution, citing the “massive need” for fresh investments in Asia, some critics see its establishment as a self-serving exercise in Chinese soft power.

TIME LGBT

See How Support For Same-Sex Marriage Changed Over Time

See how attitudes have changed over the years

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that all 50 states must allow same-sex couples to be married, and recognize same-sex marriages in states where it was legalized already.

Here are a series of charts that show how approval ratings for same-sex marriage have changed over recent years for different groups.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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