TIME technology

Amazon Investing Another $2 Billion in India

Customers Collect Online Orders From An Amazon.com Inc. Locker
An Amazon.com Inc. pickup and collect locker at Newbury Park railway station in Newbury Park, U.K., on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Bloomberg / Getty Images

Amazon CEO says he has "never seen" a market grow quite this fast

Amazon plans to invest an additional $2 billion in its India operations, the company announced Wednesday, in an attempt to grab a growing slice of the country’s online retail market.

“We see huge potential in the Indian economy and for the growth of e-commerce in India,” CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “India is on track to be our fastest country ever to a billion dollars in gross sales.”

Amazon launched its e-commerce site in India last year, going head to head with Flipkart, a local company founded by two former Amazon employees. On Tuesday, Flipkart announced that it had raised $1 billion in funding, the largest-ever sum raised by an Indian internet firm, the BBC reports, but still only half of what Amazon could retrieve from its deep pockets.

“A big ‘thank you’ to our customers in India,” Bezos added, “we’ve never seen anything like this.”

 

TIME India

About 150 May Be Trapped in Landslide in India

A landslide hit the village of Ambe in Pune district, Maharashtra state, and buried about 40 houses

(NEW DELHI) — A landslide hit a village in western India following torrential rains Wednesday, sweeping away scores of houses and burying more than 150 people, an official said.

Federal rescue workers were being hampered by continuing rains and poor roads leading to the village of Ambe in Pune district in Maharashtra state, where the landslide buried about 40 houses, said local commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh.

“There are constraints. It’s a hilly area and heavy rains are still continuing,” Deshmukh told CNN-IBN.

Residents began the work of clearing the debris, he added.

Landslides are common in the area during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September.

The Pune district about is 151 kilometers (94 miles) southeast of Mumbai, India’s commercial capital. The nearest medical center is about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the village.

TIME India

John Kerry Hopes for Warmer Welcome in India After Israel Fiasco

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about terms of a cease-fire in fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas on July 25, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about terms of a cease-fire in fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas on July 25, 2014. Charles Dharapak—AP

New Delhi has suggested that it's committed to an improved economic relationship with the U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will fly to New Delhi on Wednesday in a bid to improve Washington’s relationship with India. He is undoubtedly hoping the visit will go well. Kerry, after all, has not had the best week.

On Friday, the Secretary of State left Egypt with his tail between his legs having failed to broker a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Things got worse for him Monday after the cease-fire framework he helped draft was leaked to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which called it a “prize for terror.” Haaretz, which is normally considered left-leaning, claimed the former Democratic senator was like “an alien, who just disembarked his spaceship in the Mideast.”

This was hardly the reaction Kerry and his team expected from one of the U.S.’s staunchest allies. On Monday, spokesperson Jen Psaki said: “We sent them a clearly labeled confidential draft of ideas… This draft… of ideas was based on the Egyptian proposal that they had supported from just weeks … just a couple of weeks before that.”

Luckily for Kerry, experts say he’s likely to receive a friendlier welcome when he arrives in India this week. “The Indians would like a good relationship with the U.S.,” says Ronald Granieri, executive director at the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Center for the Study of America and the West. “The U.S.-India relationship is fundamentally a very important one,”adds Xenia Wickett, project director of Chatham House’s U.S. Program. “There’s a recognition on both sides that this could be a very positive and strategic relationship.”

That’s not to say the ground is completely smooth ahead of Kerry’s India trip. In recent days, the Indian media has highlighted the December arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was accused of falsifying her housekeeper’s papers and underpaying her. Media outlets have claimed that this has soured relations with India, impeding Kerry’s visit.

Then there’s India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 for failing to halt the 2002 Hindu-led riots which occurred when he was governor of Gujarat. The mobs killed 1,000 people, the majority of which were Muslims.

Wickett, who has just returned from India, is unconvinced that either of these events will hurt Kerry’s visit. “Within the new government… there is a much more rational sense of what’s important. This will not affect bilateral relations.” Modi, after all, was first denied a visa by the Bush administration. Khobragade was arrested during the former Indian administration.

But what about trade relations? The waters of U.S.-India relations were muddied at the ongoing World Trade Organization talks in Geneva, when member states had agreed to a reform of custom rules but India demanded that a deal on stockpiling, scheduled for 2017, be reached now.

That demand threatens to derail the anticipated reform, and has been met with criticism from the U.S. Ambassador to India, Michael Punke, who said he was “extremely discouraged” by Indian negotiators’ intransigence.

These tensions can easily be put aside in favor of pursuing mutually beneficial relations, says Milan Vaishnav, associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The new government in India recognizes that if they were elected on a platform of getting the economy back on track, they need the U.S,” he says. “This is a relationship that has been gathering speed for the past decade.”

“If the Indian economy grows, the U.S. will do well and [any future] trade disputes will fade into the background,” he adds.

Strategically too, both sides need each other. If the U.S. and India can forge greater economic ties, it reduces the reliance that both countries have on the Chinese economy. “The U.S. would like a better relationship with India as they start to see China as a strategic rival,” comments Granieri.

All of that said, Kerry’s visit to New Delhi is unlikely to make great waves. Modi is due to visit the U.S. in September to meet with President Barack Obama and it is then, according to Granieri that any new initiatives would be announced. “Modi wouldn’t want to devalue the importance of his September visit,” he says.

Nevertheless Kerry is likely to be greeted with open arms when he disembarks from his spaceship on Wednesday. His job too, will be far easier than it was in Egypt. “It’s not a heavy lift [this time],” notes Vaishnav. “I think that it’s going to go pretty well, the trip is largely symbolic rather than substantive.” Surely that’s a welcome alternative to brokering peace in the Middle East.

TIME Gadgets

Watch Out Google Glass, Smart Shoes Are On The Way

A company in India is getting on board with the newest type of on-the-go technology with smart shoes

+ READ ARTICLE

In India, you’ll be able to wear technology somewhere completely different: On your feet. Lechal is the world’s first interactive haptic feedback footwear company, whose Bluetooth-enabled insoles and shoes will be available for purchase starting in September.

These insoles and shoes can link up with Google Maps, count and record footsteps and calories, and give users feedback through vibrations. Now that’s really putting the pedal to the metal.

TIME

Congressman Mistakes U.S. Officials For Indian Ones

"I am familiar with your country, I love your country," Florida Congressmember Curt Clawson told high-ranking U.S. officials Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar

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Rep. Curt Clawson, a freshman Republican congressman from Florida, mistook two senior U.S. officials for representatives of the Indian government during a House hearing on Friday.

“I am familiar with your country, I love your country,” Clawson said to Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar, addressing fellow U.S. citizens who hold high-ranking positions in the State Department and Commerce Department, respectively.

“Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I’d like our capital to be welcome there,” he told Biswal and Kumar. “I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?”

After a lingering silence, Clawson smiles slowly. Kumar appears to grin, while Biswal echoes Clawson’s sentiment, informing him it should probably be directed to the Indian government. It’s unclear whether Clawson realized his error.

Nisha Biswal serves as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, while Arun Kumar is Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service. Both were introduced was U.S. officials before testifying before the House Asia and Pacific subcommittee, according to Foreign Policy.

TIME Appreciation

Watch a 6-Year-Old Kid Rollerskate Under 39 Cars

Yes, really. It's called limbo skating

+ READ ARTICLE

For the past several years, this ridiculously flexible kid has been honing some pretty impressive rollerskating skills. He’s 6-year-old Gagan Satish from India, and he might have just broken a world record by skating under 39 SUVs.

But to him, 39 is nothing. His next goal is to glide under 100 cars. We have complete faith in him. (Seriously though, how? How does he make his body do this? What is happening?)

TIME India

An Indian Boy With 260 Teeth Just Got 232 of Them Pulled Out

Indian Boy Gets 232 Pulled
Indian dentists operate on Ashik Gavai at JJ Hospital in Mumbai on July 22, 2014, AFP/Getty Images

Doctors said the operation was "really fun"

A boy in India endured a six-hour operation Monday to remove 232 teeth that grew as a result of a rare medical condition. Now, Ashik Gavai, 17, has 28 teeth left—four fewer than most adult mouths.

17-year-old Gavai had been suffering from composite odontoma, a condition in which a benign tumor forms in the mouth, causing additional teeth to grow as well. In Gavai’s case, a molar tooth in his lower jaw had grew hundreds of smaller teeth. Gavai’s doctors at J.J. Hospital in Mumbai couldn’t initially remove the growth deep in Gawai’s jaw with normal surgical tools, so they opted for a “basic chisel and hammer” before more delicately removing teeth one-by-one. His doctors called their operation a “world record,” and are planning to submit it to Guinness World Records.

“I have never seen anything like it in all my years of practice,” Sudanda Dhiware, head of the hospital’s dentistry department, told the Washington Post. “We were so excited by it. And it was really fun for us to be able to extract them all, one by one.”

The condition doesn’t normally result in teeth as plentiful as Gavai’s — Dhiware said medical literature shows that a maximum of 37 teeth have been extracted in the past.

Gavai, who comes from a poor family of cotton growers hours outside of Mumbai, had noticed swelling along his jaw months before his operation. But local doctors were unable to fix his condition, and his family didn’t have enough money to seek immediate, proper treatment. Fearing that Gavai’s puffy cheek may have been cancer-related, his family went to a state-run hospital, where they obtained funds through a program offering financial support to poor patients.

Gavai is currently recovering from his grueling surgery, and his doctors are hoping that the condition doesn’t reoccur—which it could, if a bit of tumor, even microscopic, remains.

[Washington Post]

TIME brics

The BRICS Don’t Like the Dollar-Dominated World Economy, but They’re Stuck With It

World For Money
Thomas Trutschel—Photothek/Getty Images

The latest summit of the world’s leading emerging markets took more steps toward replacing the U.S.-led global financial system. But change will come very, very slowly

When the BRICS get together for their annual summit — as they did last week in Brazil — they always make a lot of noise about changing the way the global economy works. They have good reason to be frustrated. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are gaining in economic power and crave the political clout to match, but standing in the way is a global financial system organized by the West and dominated by the U.S. They’re forced to conduct their international business in the unstable U.S. dollar, making their economies swing back and forth with the winds of policy crafted in Washington, D.C., and New York City. The West has ceded influence in institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) only grudgingly. To them, today’s financial system is out of touch with the changing times, and ill-suited to support the world’s up-and-coming economic titans.

So in their summit, from July 14 to 16, the five BRICS announced two major initiatives aimed squarely at increasing their power in global finance. They announced the launch of the New Development Bank, headquartered in Shanghai, that will offer financing for development projects in the emerging world. The bank will act as an alternative to the Washington, D.C.—based World Bank. The BRICS also formed what they’re calling a Contingent Reserve Arrangement, a series of currency agreements which can be utilized to help them smooth over financial imbalances with the rest of the world. That’s something the IMF does now.

Clearly, the idea is to create institutions and processes to supplement — and perhaps eventually supplant — the functions of those managed by U.S. and Europe. And they would be resources that they could control on their own, without the annoying conditions that the World Bank and the IMF always slap on their loans and assistance. Carlos Caicedo, a Latin America analyst at consulting firm IHS, noted, for instance, that the New Development Bank “has the potential to match the role of multilateral development banks, while offering the BRICS a tool to counterbalance Western influence in international finance.”

In theory at least, the BRICS possess the financial muscle to make that happen. Four of the BRICS — China, India, Brazil and Russia — are now ranked among the world’s 10 largest economies. (South Africa, not a member of the original constellation of BRICs as conceived by Goldman Sachs, comes in a distant 33rd.) Yet the reality is more problematic. The BRICS at this point are simply not committing the resources necessary to make anything but a dent in global finance.

Research firm Capital Economics estimates that the New Development Bank, with initial capital approved at only $100 billion, could offer loans of $5 billion to $10 billion a year over the next decade. Though that’s not an insignificant amount, it’s far lower than the $32 billion the World Bank made available last year. The situation is the same with the currency swaps. Set at a total size of $100 billion, the funds available would be a fraction of those the IMF can muster.

That’s assuming these initiatives ever get off the ground. This sixth BRICS summit is the first to produce anything beyond mere rhetoric, and it remains to be seen if they can cooperate on these or any other concrete projects. Despite their common distaste for the U.S.-led global economy and desire for development, the BRICS share as many differences as similarities. They have vastly diverse levels of development and types of political systems, and the bilateral relations between some of them are strained. India and China, for instance, routinely spar over disputed territory, while Brazil sees China as much as an economic competitor as partner.

Beyond that, all of the BRICS have serious economic problems to deal with at home. The new government in India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be hard pressed to implement the reforms necessary to jumpstart the country’s stalled economic miracle. Growth in Brazil, South Africa and Russia has been even more sluggish. China’s growth has held up, but it suffers from rising debt, risky shadow banking and excess capacity. And now Moscow has to contend with sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe over its aggressive policy toward Ukraine. It may soon face even greater isolation as the world probes its connections to the separatists in Ukraine, who reportedly downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 with the loss of nearly 300 lives.

Meanwhile, whether they like it or not, the BRICS will be stuck operating by the rules of the U.S.-led world economy for the foreseeable future. There is simply no other currency out there that can replace the U.S. dollar as the No. 1 choice for international financial transactions. China has dreams of promoting its own currency, the yuan, as an alternative, and has made some progress. But the yuan can’t truly rival the dollar until China undertakes some fundamental financial reforms — liberalizing the trade of the yuan and capital flows in and out of the country. That’s far-off. And until then, China’s massive reserve of dollars forces it to continually invest in dollar assets. Even as Beijing bickers with the U.S. over cyberspying and regional territorial disputes, it has been loading up on U.S. Treasury securities — buying at the fastest pace on record so far this year.

Still, the steps taken during this latest BRICS summit point to what may be the future of the global economy. Though their initiatives may be small and tentative now, they signal an intent to remake the global financial system in their own interest as they continue to grow in economic power. Perhaps one day it’ll be the U.S. that does the complaining.

TIME Photos

Feel Good Friday: 12 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From Bastille Day to baby ducks, here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

TIME India

6-Year-Old Gang-Raped in Indian School by Staff Members, Say Police

Demonstrators from AIDWA hold placards and shout slogans during protest against recent killings of two teenage girls, in New Delhi
Demonstrators from the All India Democratic Women's Association hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against the rape and murder of two teenage girls, in New Delhi on May 31, 2014 Adnan Abidi—Reuters

India’s National Crime Records Bureau says one rape was reported in India every 21 minutes last year

Furious parents are protesting outside a prominent school in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, where a 6-year-old girl was allegedly raped by two members of staff.

Police say the July 2 assault has only now been reported after the girl complained of stomach pains and was taken by her parents to seek medical attention, reports the BBC.

No arrests have yet been made, but family members of pupils at the school have reacted with considerable anger, tearing down the building’s gates and haranguing staff.

“They have handled [the matter] very shoddily,” Vivek Sharma, the father of a student, told the BBC.

The case will be a test for new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who promised during his election campaign to protect the nation’s 614 million women, but raised eyebrows with a first budget that earmarked only $25 million for women’s safety but $33 million for the world’s largest statue in his home state of Gujarat.

Sexual violence in India has become headline news since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a medical student aboard a bus in the capital New Delhi. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, during 2013, one rape was reported every 21 minutes, despite the vast majority of attacks believed to go unreported.

[BBC]

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