TIME Vietnam

Anti-China Riots in Vietnam Leave at Least 21 Dead

A general view of a damaged Chinese owned shoe factory is seen in Vietnam's southern Binh Duong province May 14, 2014. Thanh Tung Truong—Reuters

Protests against China's territorial ambitions in the South China Sea have spread to central Vietnam, where more factories have been torched. Hundreds of ethnic Chinese have fled the country

At least 21 people were killed as anti-China riots in southern Vietnam escalated and spread to the center of the country on Thursday.

A doctor in Ha Tinh province described five of the dead as Vietnamese workers and others as Chinese. He said they were among roughly 100 people sent to his hospital, Reuters reports. Over 600 Chinese have fled across the border to Cambodia.

The riots erupted following a large-scale demonstration on Tuesday to protest China’s May 1 deployment of an oil rig in waters claimed by both Beijing and Hanoi, triggering the most critical stand-off between the two countries in over three decades.

Rioters have torched and vandalized dozens of foreign-owned factories, mistaking them for Chinese enterprises. On Wednesday, they attacked a $20 billion Taiwanese-owned steel plant set to be the largest in Southeast Asia once it is completed in 2020.

About 600 people have been arrested for looting and inciting the crowd in Binh Duong province, where the riots started, state-run Thanh Nien newspaper quoted the local police chief as saying.

An editorial in the Beijing-friendly Global Times said that Vietnam had “cornered itself” and pointed out that demonstrators during similar outbursts of nationalist fervor in China — such as the anti-Japan demonstrations of 2012 — were more restrained. (However, Japanese automakers lost an estimated $250 million in output during the protests over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.)

Vietnamese and Philippine hopes of a united regional stance in the face of Chinese assertiveness were meanwhile dashed as Southeast Asian leaders failed to agree on a joint statement during the ASEAN summit last weekend. Hanoi and Manila are the most embroiled in territorial conflicts with China in the South China Sea, but face opposition from neighboring countries with precious economic ties to Beijing.

The United States has called on both sides to show restraint, with White House spokesman Jay Carney telling a regular briefing that this kind of dispute needs “to be resolved through dialogue, not through intimidation.”

 

TIME Vietnam

The Last Time China Got Into a Fight With Vietnam, It Was a Disaster

Vietnam China Anger
Vietnamese protest against China’s deployment of an oil rig in the disputed South China Sea in front of the Chinese Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday, May 10, 2014. Associated Press

Current Sino-Vietnamese tensions are merely the latest in a series of bitter conflicts between the two countries. The last time Hanoi and Beijing pushed each other to the brink, tens of thousands perished

Smoldering nationalist anger in Vietnam exploded into frenzied violence in the suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City this week as thousands of rioters swept through industrial parks north of the city’s commercial hub, razing any factory believed to be Chinese owned. After more than two decades of peace, Beijing and Hanoi are at odds again.

China’s decision earlier this month to deploy a colossal, state-owned oil rig in fiercely contested waters off the Vietnamese coast appears to have succeeded in derailing the delicate relations between the countries.

The Chinese state press lashed out publicly at its southern neighbor on the heels of several maritime skirmishes last week, with one hawkish editorial calling on Beijing to teach Vietnam the “lesson it deserves.” The language closely resembled Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping’s 1978 vow to teach Hanoi a “lesson” — and the echo is most unfortunate, because on that occasion the result was tens of thousands of deaths.

Like many Vietnamese of her generation, 75-year-old Dim remembers the conflict well. During the early hours of Feb. 17, 1979, she was asleep with her husband and children in their stone cottage in farmlands outside the northern city of Cao Bang, when the sky opened up with artillery shells.

“We didn’t have time to grab anything,” says Dim. “I just ran.”

It was the beginning of two years of homelessness and hunger as the starving family wandered through the mountains, begging and looking for refuge. Although decades have passed since the war’s end, she still shudders with loathing of the Chinese.

“Oh! I still hate them,” says Dim. “I’m still scared of the Chinese people, even now. I don’t know when I’ll next have to run.”

Official memories in Vietnam, however, are far more selective. While the country proudly celebrates its victorious wars against French and American forces, Hanoi remains largely quiet about the Sino-Vietnamese War. (China’s official stance is even more muted.) But that hasn’t kept the Vietnamese people from simmering with animosity toward their historic foe.

In the years following the U.S. withdrawal from Indochina, relations among the socialist nations of Southeast Asia violently deteriorated. Pogroms conducted against Vietnam’s ethnic Chinese community, and the overthrow by Vietnamese forces of Pol Pot — Beijing’s ally — set the stage for a showdown, as did Vietnam’s alliance with China’s great rival, the Soviet Union.

In the winter of 1978, when Deng Xiaoping made his threat of a “lesson,” more than 80,000 Chinese troops were sent across the border into Vietnam. Chinese Deputy Defense Minister Su Yu boasted of being able to take Hanoi in a week, but the untested and under-equipped People’s Liberation Army (PLA) met fierce resistance from battle-hardened Vietnamese forces deployed across the frontier’s limestone karsts. The Chinese were slaughtered by local militia from positions that had been utilized for centuries against invaders from the north.

“More Chinese soldiers were getting killed because they were fighting like it was the old times,” says Vietnamese veteran Nguyen Huu Hung, who witnessed the PLA’s human waves being mown down near the city of Lang Son. “They were in lines and just keep moving ahead … they didn’t run away.”

It would take just six weeks for Beijing to call off its “self-defensive counteroffensive.” Teaching the Vietnamese a lesson turned out to be a costly affair. Official casualty statistics have never been released by either Beijing or Hanoi; however, analysts have estimate that as many as 50,000 soldiers died during the confrontation.

“I heard that [China] said they wanted to teach Vietnam a lesson, but I can’t see what the lesson was,” says Hung. “Our job was to fight against them. But the losses, to be honest, were huge.”

When the Chinese began their pullout in early March, the retreating troops implemented a barbaric scorched-earth policy. Every standing structure in their path was destroyed. Any livestock they encountered were killed. Bitterness was sown.

Much like Dim, 59-year-old Nhung fears that someday the Chinese may return. Illiterate and impoverished, the ethnic Tay native remembers how Chinese troops gathered all the food stocks from surrounding villages and set their provisions ablaze. “It didn’t stop burning for 10 days,” she says.

After the invasion commenced, Nhung took shelter in musty limestone caverns that housed the surviving members of 14 local villages just a few miles south of the Chinese border. From time to time they would sneak out to forage for food.

“If they saw someone on the road, [the Chinese] would fire at them,” says Nhung, who now sells roasted sweet potatoes and bottles of tea to the occasional tourists who visit the caves she once cowered in.

By 1991, Vietnam was five years into its nascent economic reforms and in desperate need of friends. The Soviet Union was falling apart and the Americans were still holding firm to their embargo against the country, but China was rising. Hanoi repaired ties with Beijing, and for the past two decades the country’s ruling Communist Parties have largely remained as “close as lips as teeth,” as the old socialist slogan goes.

“They face similar challenges,” Tim Huxley, executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Asia office, tells TIME. “I think there’s quite considerable empathy between them in that they’re both trying to manage a transition to economic and social modernity.”

However, one irritant in the relationship continues to fester — Beijing’s ambitious claim over a lion’s share of the South China Sea. With an estimated 24.7 trillion cu. ft. of proven natural gas and 4.4 billion barrels of oil waiting to be tapped, Vietnam’s economic future is dependent on having access to its share of those waters.

“What’s the party got? It’s not popular vote. It’s not the charismatic leadership of Ho Chi Minh,” says Carlyle A. Thayer, an emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales and a Vietnam specialist. “It has the vestiges of nationalism and standing up to foreign aggressors and it has economic growth.”

Sporadic protests against China have been increasingly common in the country in recent years, and when the government’s response to Chinese aggrandizement is viewed as weak, a new crop of rebel netizens harasses the party online for kowtowing to Beijing.

“If [the leadership is] shown to actually be compromising on national sovereignty for the sake of ideological solidarity with China, that is a very, very grave criticism of the party,” says Nayan Chanda, editor in chief of YaleGlobal online magazine.

In 2013, the Vietnamese government arrested more than 40 bloggers and activists for making such criticisms, among other things. Over 30 are still behind bars, according to Reporters Without Borders.

But following last week’s clashes over the oil rig, the Vietnamese government has taken a decidedly harder line with Beijing. During the ASEAN Summit in Burma, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung blasted the Chinese for “slandering” Vietnam and escalating tensions in the region.

“National territory is sacred,” the Prime Minister told fellow heads of state. “Vietnam vehemently denounces acts of infringement and will resolutely protect our national sovereignty and legitimate interests in conformity with the international law.”

Large officially sanctioned demonstrations have also been allowed across the country, and the state press has, for the first time in recent memory, followed the unrest closely. On social media, users are decrying Chinese arrogance and some are calling for Chinese blood.

Veterans like Hung, however, show a little bit more caution. He knows only too well what happens when both sides push each other to the brink.

“I don’t think the rest of the society, especially young people, know enough about [that war],” says Hung.

But even Hung, who now has business in southern China, and who admits that politics hardly interests him, says he would pick up arms without hesitation if the Chinese ever came knocking again.

“Of course,” he says with a steady voice. “Because I’m Vietnamese.”

TIME

The Star of France’s Right-Wing

TIME International Magazine Cover, May 26, 2014
Photograph by Christopher Morris—VII for TIME

Marine Le Pen, president of France's far-right National Front, sat down with TIME to discuss this month's European elections, French politics and her ambitious plan to dismantle the European Union

Marine Le Pen is shaking up French politics, three years after taking over France’s far-right National Front from her father, Jean-Marie. With record low ratings for Socialist President François Hollande, and the opposition UMP conservatives riven by internal splits, the National Front grabbed thousands of mainstream votes in municipal elections in March. Now Le Pen is plotting her assault on the E.U. in the European elections due to take place from May 22-25. She sat down with TIME on April 29 for a cover interview in this week’s European edition. In this Q&A, Le Pen discusses her plans for a radically changed Europe, and her ambitions to run France:

Q: There seems to be a strong chance you will be able to create an official political bloc within the E.U. parliament. What can you do with that?

A: We will defend the country, defend our interests, against the big financial interests, the banks. What the E.U. fights for is big financial interests, and for the banks. These interests are in contradiction with the European people. We’ll try to get pieces of our sovereignty back. We will defend European people all together, to block the advancement of the integration of Europe, which we consider a total failure. We have transferred legislative, budgetary, monetary powers [to the E.U.] Countries have fewer powers than each of the 50 states in the U.S.

Q: Which pieces of sovereignty are possible to reclaim?

A: Controlling our borders. The Schengen agreement [which allows for free movement within a group of E.U. countries], we will fight against. Getting control back over our borders, and the fact that our constitution should have higher powers than the E.U. laws. The right to promote economic patriotism … When there are two people with same qualifications, the priority should be given to the national. Also, like the U.S. has, we should give priority to national companies in the bids for public tenders. Voilà.

Q: Would you rather reform the E.U. parliament, or take it apart altogether?

A: The E.U. is not reformable in its present form. It has to disappear and be replaced by a Europe of nations that are free and sovereign. You can’t reform it just by adjustments. This project is radically different. It’s a totally different ideology. In the E.U. parliament we can block the advancements towards integration. We can block things through referendums, and pose the question to the French: Do you want to stay in the E.U. or leave E.U.?

Q: What is your major argument to get out of the E.U. and the euro?

A: The E.U. has become a totalitarian structure, and if we want to stay a free, sovereign country we cannot remain in it. The only solution is to get out of it.

Q: Many leading economists say an exit from the euro, let alone the E.U., would be an economic disaster.

A: And many economists think the opposite. They think the euro is not viable and that the only path back to get jobs and growth down is to get back the national currency.

Q: Let me ask you about French politics. What effect has the National Front had on its political rivals?

A: The National Front is the center of gravity in French politics. On both right and left, they are taking our ideas. The right has taken the concept of nation, the fight against illegal immigration, getting tougher on crime. The left has totally taken our strategy and language: Giving a big role for government in economic patriotism and protectionism. We are the center of gravity, and they are taking ideology from us.

[But] even though they have taken the ideas, they have never implemented them when they’re in power, and now there’s a lot of disappointment in them in France … The local successes [in the municipal elections] gives us the local roots we need, given how the election system operates in France. Then we also can show what the National Front mayors can do. Our adversaries were saying, ‘okay you have these ideas but we’ve never seen you run things.’ Now we’ll show what we can do.

Q: How will life feel different for those people living in a National Front town under a National Front mayor?

A: We will lower taxes, which are very high. We will get tougher on petty crime. That is extremely important. The parties are victims of their own lies: They always dramatize the threat of the National Front, saying that cities were going to be a shambles and going to go bankrupt. The simple fact is that we will show that this is a lie, that it’s a caricature.

Q: But some believe you’re a threat.

A: The French no longer believe it. They see a rich country that is on verge of bankruptcy, with massive unemployment. It is easy for [mainstream parties] to instill fear in people, to scare them out of voting for the National Front. Some of our policies are being implemented elsewhere, and it doesn’t bring about catastrophe. In the U.S. you have economic patriotism, the U.S. patrols its borders, they lock up criminals and delinquents, they crack down on illegal immigrants—and it’s not a drama.

France is a country that operates in a slightly strange way, with contradictions. It’s balanced between the market economy and enterprise, and the existence of public services, and a strategic state… It’s also a secular country. It’s very brutalized by the development of communitarianism. That is to say, communities that want special treatment, and special consideration. That is totally against our history, our constitution and way of life. The French are one and indivisible.

Q: Give me an example.

A: For example when a religion demands that at school, kids should be taught sports separately, girls and boys, in order to respect the religion. For us, that is [makes strangling motion]… It is shocking to us. Or a public swimming pool with different opening times for men and women.

Q: You’re talking about Muslims.

A: It’s the big religions, fundamentalist, not just Muslims. Not all Muslims, but Islamists who, now permanently in France, are constantly asking for special treatment.

Q: Right after the municipal elections in March, the first statement you made was a plan to reintroduce pork into the school canteens in the National Front towns. Why make an issue of this? It seems harmless keeping pork off the menus.

A: The fundamentalists began by demanding substitutes for pork. Then they wanted pork and non-pork not be served together. Now they want pork to be banned altogether. Air France now facilitates this by not serving pork, just in order to accommodate a minority. The minority’s needs are being imposed on the majority. If our political adversaries are tacking right, that is not by accident. It is a mischaracterization. Every time people say we are ‘extreme right,’ people think we are racist. The use of the term ‘far right’ is used because they know that it really scares people. In the U.S., that means the Ku Klux Klan in white robes and hats.

Q: You’ve said the immigration situation in France is a “castastrophe.” What’s so disastrous about it?

A: We have no control over our immigration. That is why it is a disaster. As opposed to the U.S., we actually help these people even when they are here illegally. We treat them for free. Their children go to school for free. We give them housing in the projects. We have five million people who are unemployed. We cannot bear this burden. I believe that if the U.S. treated its illegal immigrants as we do, the Americans would be much more against immigration than they are today. The French are treated less well than foreigners, in their own country. This brings about a deep feeling of unfairness. It is grounds for future potential for conflict.

Q: Your opponents hear you talk about immigration and say the party is racist and discriminatory. How do you react to that?

A: Our program is about nationality. We’ve never had anything in it about ethnic background. Now it is certain today that 40% of foreigners in France are unemployed.

Q: Your critics are quite vociferous. Do you receive a lot of threats?

A: We receive death threats all the time. By Facebook, Twitter, and letters, always. Of course. Because there are people who don’t support our ideas and cannot stand the idea that we think differently from them. And the political class contributes to it, by pillorying us and characterizing us as a threat, all the while using our own political arguments as elections approach. It is almost as if they are trying to incite people and pushing them to be violent.

Q: You have said you think the National Front will be in power in a decade. How do you get from here to there, from having just a few seats in the Assembly to actually being in power?

A: This path might be shorter than what one might think. The way elections in France work, the elections for President can change completely the legislature. The legislative elections always follow the presidential elections. Some polls show that I could reach 46% in a runoff in the presidential election.

Q: But your father faced a similar situation in 2002. He got into the second round in the presidential elections, and then he faced a huge vote against him in the second round. Why would it be different with you?

A: I think the situation is not at all comparable to 2002. The National Front has gone from being a movement of opposition and protest, to a party that is ready to govern. France has changed as well. People realize that the choices that were put before them were wrong choices. By definition, we have become a party that represents 25% of voters that has restructured itself in a way that is capable of governing.

Q: How different politically are you from your father?

A: It is the context that has changed a lot. My father spent a good part of his life fighting traces of ultra-communism. And I’ve spent a good chunk of my life fighting against ultra-liberalism. Obviously the context and the threats have changed. Today the great threat is ultra-liberalism and not ultra-communism. I’m a woman of my time. My father is a man of his time.

We are not the same generation. Economic patriotism existed then, and today it doesn’t exist at all. I have sensitivity to social conditions but that is also a consequence of the era in which I live. I’m 45 years old, and we’ve been talking about the economic crisis for 40 years. I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe it is the responsibility of the leaders, that perhaps this was the responsibility of the leaders who have been governing for a long time. This crisis did not just brutally fall on us.

Q: Are you close to your father?

A: He’s my father. We have occasions to exchange opinions, and we’re able to exchange opinions. He has a lot of political experience behind him. It would be a shame to deprive myself of this experience, this knowledge, of French political life. So we arrange to see one another regularly, though probably not enough for his liking.

Q: What age did you know you wanted to go into politics?

A: I was not really conscious of it. I fell into it. I was weaned on politics my whole life. I tried to get away from politics, to be a lawyer, but it always caught me, like a virus.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity

TIME Asia

China’s Great Property Boom May Be Coming to a Desperate End

A laborer works on the scaffolding of a construction site for a new residential building in Beijing on May 8, 2014 Kim Kyung-Hoon—Reuters

Analysts have warned for years that China is in the midst of a gargantuan property bubble and the inevitable reckoning may have finally arrived as massive oversupply and a tightening of credit appears to be crushing the market—with consequences for the global economy

You know a property market is in trouble when developers stage long-jump contests to attract buyers. That’s what happened earlier this month in the eastern city of Nanjing. Looking to sell apartments in a new residential complex, a local newspaper reported that agents from the developer, Rongsheng Group, lined up potential customers behind a queue and asked them to leap forward. Those who jumped the farthest got the biggest rebates — up to $1,600.

Chinese newspapers these days are riddled with such tales of desperation. On May 9 in the central Chinese city of Changsha, pretty girls were enlisted to hand out 50,000 tea eggs to lure people into a housing fair. Developers in Shenzhen and Fuzhou are offering to sell apartments with no down payment. In Hangzhou in April, two real estate agents competing for buyers got into such a vicious fistfight that the police had to intervene.

Are we witnessing the end of China’s great property boom? For years now, some analysts have warned China was in the midst of a gargantuan property bubble, ready to burst at any moment, with dire consequences. But Chinese real estate defied the naysayers and continued to soar. Both developers and customers, bypassing restrictions imposed by policymakers to constrain the industry, continued to build, invest and propel prices higher.

Now, though, the inevitable reckoning may have finally arrived. Massive oversupply combined with a tightening of credit orchestrated by the government appears to be crushing the market. Government statistics show that the amount of unsold commercial and residential property hit an all-time record in March. “We are convinced that the property sector has passed a turning point and that there is a rising risk of a sharp correction,” analysts at investment bank Nomura commented in a May report.

Falling apartment prices spell bad news for China’s economy. Real estate is one of the main drivers of China’s growth, with property investment accounting for 16% of GDP by Nomura’s calculations. A downturn could dash hopes for a recovery of the world’s second largest economy, already suffering through its worst slowdown in more than a decade, and the impact would be felt across the world. Real estate investment in China affects global prices of commodities like iron ore, so a slowdown can send shockwaves from Australia to Brazil. Falling property prices could also subvert the wealth of the Chinese middle class, dampening consumption of everything from cars to coffee. That could hurt companies like General Motors, McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Beijing’s leaders got themselves into this mess with their go-slow approach to reform. In the country’s tightly controlled financial markets, the average Chinese citizen has few options when investing his or her newfound wealth. That has made property option No. 1 for investors, pushing up the market to dizzying heights. Now the declining market presents some tough choices for policymakers. A sharp downturn in property could lead to serious financial problems at the nation’s indebted developers, causing bad loans at the banks to rise. Developers that borrowed from the country’s poorly regulated shadow-banking industry could cause even worse problems for the financial industry. Depressed property could also present the government with a major social issue. With so many Chinese families having invested their savings in apartments, falling prices could lead to widespread discontent.

There is ample evidence to suggest that the deflating of Chinese property could turn very ugly. A Barclays economist warned that the “risks of a disorderly adjustment are real and rising.” Nomura points out that new housing starts, an important indicator of where the market is headed, plunged in the first quarter of 2014. Property sales declined too in 2013. “It is no longer a question of ‘if’ but rather ‘how severe’ the property market correction will be,” the investment bank asserted.

The question now is: What will Beijing do? So far, the country’s top leaders have been (wisely) allowing China’s overall growth to slow while they focus on controlling debt and reining in the out-of-control financial sector. A tumbling housing market, however, will put more pressure on the government to reverse course by loosening credit to pump up growth — a strategy that might alleviate pain in the short run, but only intensify the economy’s long-term problems of debt and excess capacity. The central bank this week already issued guidelines encouraging banks to speed up mortgage approvals and offer reasonable rates of interest for some home buyers.

China’s problems with property shine a spotlight on how the country’s continued foot-dragging in liberalizing and strengthening its financial sector and altering its investment-obsessed growth model are creating major threats to its stability. And it is yet more evidence of how China’s role in the world has jumped from being a critical support for growth amid a disastrous downturn in the West, to becoming a primary risk to the health of the global economy.

TIME Thailand

Grenades and Gunfire Kill Three as Bangkok Protests Turn Bloody Once Again

An anti-government protester blows her whistle during a rally outside the office of Election Commission in Bangkok May 15, 2014.
An anti-government protester blows her whistle during a rally outside the office of Election Commission in Bangkok May 15, 2014. Chaiwat Subprasom—Reuters

Three people were killed and at least 21 injured in the Thai capital when a camp of antigovernment demonstrators was brutally attacked, just hours after talks on fresh elections were postponed over security concerns

Three people were killed and at least 21 injured in Bangkok early Thursday morning, as M79 grenade rounds and gunfire from a passing pickup truck tore through a group of demonstrators camped in the center of the sprawling Thai capital.

“The first victim was a protester who was sleeping at the Democracy Monument, while the second victim was a protest guard who died from gunshots,” Thai police major Wallop Prathummuang told AFP.

The violence came just hours after talks on new elections between Thailand’s interim Prime Minister and the Election Commission were postponed over security concerns, and later on Thursday around 100 demonstrators stormed a military compound to disrupt the rearranged gathering — blowing their trademark whistles and waving Thai flags.

At least 28 people have been killed and 800 wounded since the current strife kicked off in November.

Thailand’s political deadlock has intensified since Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was ousted by the Constitutional Court last week on charges of nepotism. Her supporters, known colloquially as Red Shirts, want elections slated for July 20 to go ahead and are currently amassed outside Bangkok.

Parties backed by Yingluck’s powerful family have historically derived strong support from the populous northern and northeastern provinces, and any fresh ballot would likely add to their previous five consecutive election victories.

Knowing this, antigovernment protesters — mainly royalists and urban middle classes — want polls postponed until reforms can be instigated to permanently clip the wings of the Shinawatra clan.

A caretaker administration has been in office since parliament was dissolved in December, meaning that myriad infrastructure and development projects lie mothballed.

The crisis is now drawing greater attention from policymakers in Washington. Thailand was the first country President Barack Obama visited after his 2012 re-election, and though bilateral trade only notched some $37 billion or so in 2012, American investment in the kingdom is significant, totaling some $13 billion.

Just as important, Thailand is a major strategic defense partner for the U.S. in the region. “A lot of the work we’re doing with Thailand is not about bilateral issues per se, but how we work together to deal with problems, challenges and opportunities in the broader region,” State Department Asia specialist Scot Marciel told a meeting arranged by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Tuesday.

TIME South Africa

Oscar Pistorius Ordered to Undergo Psych Evaluation

South African courts aim to settle the issue of Pistorius' mental health.

The trial of South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp took an unexpected turn this week when a judge ordered him to undergo mental evaluations to determine whether he suffers from generalized anxiety disorder.

Defense witness Dr. Meryl Vorster explained that Pistorius’ anxiety disorder is what forced him to respond to the perceived threat in “fight-mode” versus “flight-mode.” That claim led the prosecutor to request a psychological evaluation, which judge Thokozile Masipa agreed to allow.

It’s unclear whether the evaluation will help or hurt Pistorius’ as he attempts to convince the judge that he killed Steenkamp by accident because he mistook her for an intruder. What is certain is that the tests will delay the trial to allow time for both the evaluation and the report.

Pistorius’ double-murder trial started on March 3.

TIME Turkey

Anger at Turkish Mine Disaster Rebounds on Erdogan

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits scene of accident following the coal mine fire disaster in Soma district of Manisa, western Turkish province, on May 14, 2014.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits scene of accident following the coal mine fire disaster in Soma district of Manisa, western Turkish province, on May 14, 2014. Ege Gurgun—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

After surviving a massive corruption scandal, battles with social-media sites and protests over his authoritarian politics, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's populist image may be further harmed by the deadly coal-mine disaster in Soma

As if Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t have enough to worry about with a massive corruption scandal, running battles with the world’s most popular social-media sites and stubborn protests over his authoritarian politics, Wednesday’s catastrophic mine accident in the city of Soma looks set to trouble his premiership yet further.

Only six weeks after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party dominated Turkey’s municipal elections, a victory that was widely viewed as a vote of confidence in the Premier, the mine explosion quickly stirred discontent. Protesters congregated at the local party headquarters in the city of 100,000 people, 480 km southwest of Istanbul, some calling the Premier “murderer” and “thief,” according to news reports.

Demonstrators, some wearing miner’s helmets, also gathered outside the Istanbul headquarters of the company that owned the mine; underground, commuters played dead on subway platforms in a show of solidarity with the dead miners. Another group in the capital city of Ankara tried to march on the Energy Ministry before being dispersed by police.

Erdogan reacted to the disaster much as any leader would: he canceled a planned trip to Albania in order to visit the site and ordered three days of mourning. But he was more combative than statesmanlike when confronted with the complaints of grieving families that safety had been shortchanged at the mine. The deaths occurred after an electrical transformer exploded during a shift change, with more than 700 workers in the mine. The death toll stood at 274 on Thursday, with at least 150 others still trapped in smoldering tunnels filled with toxic gases.

“Explosions like this in these mines happen all the time. It’s not like these don’t happen elsewhere in the world,” Erdogan said at a news conference after his site visit, before listing a series of global mining disasters going back to 1862.

The Prime Minister has largely weathered the controversies that have gathered about him over the past year, thanks in part to the economic expansion he has overseen over the decade-plus rule of the AKP, as his party is known in Turkey. But the mine disaster could strike in a visceral way at the core of the Premier’s populist image, as a self-described “black Turk” who stands with the common man against elitists who controlled national politics for most of Turkey’s history.

Erdogan’s close links to big business, in particular the construction industry, was after all at the heart of the massive judicial probe prosecutors pursued until he ordered them reassigned. And after almost a dozen years in power, his party cannot avoid responsibility for the country’s abysmal record on worker safety. The Geneva-based International Labour Organization in 2012 ranked Turkey third worst in the world for worker deaths.

The Soma disaster carries specific risks for the incumbent. Last month, a local lawmaker petitioned Turkey’s parliament to investigate the mine; Ozgur Ozel, a member of the opposition Republican People’s Party, said residents had complained incessantly that the mine was not safe. The effort was thwarted by Erdogan’s party, some members of which publicly mocked the proposal. Erdogan pointed out on Wednesday that the mine had passed inspections in March.

The issue is sure to be revisited now, and for some time to come. Already media outlets critical to Erdogan were linking the Prime Minister to the disaster and alleging the mine operators were given advance notice of inspections. “Massacre in the mine,” read the headline on one column in the English language Today’s Zaman on Wednesday. “Symptom of a one-man regime.”

TIME World

PHOTO: Pope Floats

Pope Francis Balloon
A balloon flies past Pope Francis during his general audience in St Peter's Square at the Vatican on May 14, 2014. Tiziana Fabi—AFP/Getty Images

A wayward balloon got between the Pope and a photographer today

A pink balloon managed to get right in-between Pope Francis and a photographer at St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, setting up this perfectly-timed shot.

TIME

Kate Middleton’s Phone Was Hacked 155 Times by Tabloid Editor

Kate Middleton Phone Hacked
Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge arrives at Winmalee Girl Guides Hall during her Australian tour in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney on April 17, 2013. Paul Miller—EPA

Clive Goodman, a former editor at the now-defunct tabloid News of the World, admitted to hacking Kate Middleton's phone no less than 155 times, and intercepting the phones of Prince William and Prince Harry dozens of times

A former British tabloid editor admitted to hacking Kate Middleton’s phone a whopping 155 times on Wednesday.

Clive Goodman, who served as a royal editor at the now-defunct News of the World said he also intercepted Prince William and Prince Harry’s calls dozens of times while on the witness stand on Wednesday, The Associated Press reports. He began targeting Middleton around 2005, when she and Prince William began getting more serious.

“I have been as open and honest about hacking about hacking as I can be, but nobody has asked me any questions about this before,” Goodman said.

Goodman, who has been charged with conspiring to pay for royal phone information, was jailed in 2007 for eavesdropping on royal aides’ phone calls. He is now among several former News of the World employees on trial for phone hacking and other misdeeds while at tabloid.

[AP]

TIME South Africa

Mine Strikers Urged to Hold Their Ground

South Africa Mine Strike
Miners on strike chant slogans as they march in Nkaneng township outside the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg, South Africa on May 14, 2014. Siphiwe Sibeko—Reuters

South African miners dug their heels in as they demanded higher wages at the world's third-largest platinum mine. A leader of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union said to "remain steadfast and be peaceful," even amid a gathering police force

Strike leaders urged thousands of club-wielding South African mine workers to peacefully continue striking in the face of a deadline to return to the underground mines Wednesday.

The platinum mine workers were told by Joseph Mathunjwa, who leads the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, to “remain steadfast and be peaceful,” AFP reports—even as armored police vehicles and a helicopter circled the area. The police warned they would not tolerate intimidation of workers who want to return to the mines.

The strike at the world’s third-biggest platinum mine began in January, when more than 80,000 members of the miners union demanded a salary of 12,500 rand (about $1,200), or more than double their current wages.

A standoff between rival unions in 2012 led to the deaths of 34 strikers after police opened fire on a crowd.

[AFP]

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser