TIME Television

Nun Wins Italy’s Version of The Voice

Sister Cristina Scuccia stole the show, performing in her habit.

Italy’s version of singing competition The Voice has been won by a surprising candidate — when she isn’t singing on television, Sister Cristina Scuccia is a member of the Ursulan Sisters of The Holy Family in Milan.

The final of The Voice Of Italy was held last night and Sister Cristina’s version of “Livin’ On a Prayer” stole the show, winning her over 62% of the vote.

“My presence here is not up to me, it’s thanks to the man upstairs,” she said, presumably referring to God and not the show’s lighting and sound technicians.

After celebrating her win with a rendition of The Lord’s Prayer, Scuccia also credited her participation to Pope Francis. Francis has called for the clergy to become more involved outside of the church, although it’s not clear if this was what he had in mind.

TIME India

Why Modi Is No Erdogan

India's new PM has much in common with the Turkish leader, but the analogy only goes so far

As Narendra Modi stormed into the consciousness of the world beyond India, analysts everywhere scrambled to interpret him for their readers and viewers. The easiest interpretive reflex of all is the comparison; and so it was inevitable that Modi, India’s new Prime Minister, came to be likened to Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Ariel Sharon, Shinzo Abe and Deng Xiaoping. Even Vladimir Putin was invoked as a comparator, notwithstanding the fact that there is nothing in Modi’s record or rhetoric to suggest that he will seek to annex the land of a neighboring country—or pose bare-chested atop a horse.

The analogy that stood out as most informative—and least rose-tinted—was the likening of Modi to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s Islamist-democrat Prime Minister. At first glance, the parallels between Modi and Erdogan seem striking: Both men head parties that have expressed disdain for their countries’ secular traditions, instead channeling the religious aspirations of a large section of the citizenry. Both men dominate their parties, there being in neither the Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nor the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) a politician of stature who can mount a credible leadership challenge. Modi and Erdogan profess to be free-marketers, and yet they face accusations of crony capitalism. Both men are known to be reluctant delegators of authority, centralizing policymaking and execution. And both draw accusations of high-handedness from their critics, evoking in those who would oppose them a fear that they cannot be trusted with a pluralist democracy.

Yet it would be a mistake to be seduced by this comparison into concluding that Modi is India’s Erdogan. There are as many differences between the two as there are similarities. More important, the differences between the politics and institutions of India and Turkey are so great as to render the resemblance between the two men entirely superficial.

Erdogan came to power in 2003, bristling to undo the Kemalist state. From the beginning, he sought to roll back laws and practices that barred Turkey’s overwhelmingly Muslim population from being as Muslim in public as they wished to be. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk espoused a radical secularism that suppressed much of the culture of ordinary Turks, and Erdogan’s project was a counterrevolution against the founder of the Turkish republic.

Modi’s cultural revolution does not call for a remaking of the Indian state. India’s constitutional secularism, unlike Turkey’s, is intended to be benign, allowing the practices of all religions to coexist in the public sphere. India’s Hindu believers, unlike Turkey’s devout Muslims, have never had to fight the state to express themselves in public. Yes, Indian secular elites have cultivated a disdain for the Hindu heartland, but there has been no legal curb on Hinduism in India, no ramming of secularism down Hindu (or, for that matter, Muslim) throats.

Indian democracy is more accomplished, and self-assured, than Turkey’s. Erdogan is an autocratic Prime Minister in a rudderless democracy whose institutional checks are feeble. Modi may dominate the BJP, but Erdogan incarnates the AKP. India’s federal structure ensures that there are limits on even the most autocratic Prime Minister. You want to build a state-of-the-art highway between Delhi and Mumbai? You have to negotiate passage with the chief ministers of at least four states. Erdogan, by contrast, can do as he pleases.

There is also the difference in international stature between India and Turkey that will bring about its own curbs on Modi. Turkey is a middling regional power that has, under Erdogan, squandered every diplomatic chip that Ankara once possessed. Even as he has nurtured economic growth, Erdogan has presided over the global shrinking of Turkey.

Modi, on the other hand, seeks the aggrandizing of India, the building of new relations, not the dismantling of old ones. And whatever his likeness to Erdogan, there is one crucial difference: he is a man of almost disconcerting discipline. It is inconceivable that he would wade into a crowd, fists flailing, shrieking “spawn of Israel” at a protester, as Erdogan did recently.

There is nothing Modi measures so carefully as his own words.

Varadarajan is the Virginia Hobbs Carpenter fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution

TIME France

Obama Meets With Putin as Russia Mends Ties With the West

It has taken Russia less than three months since its invasion of Ukraine to find its way back to the table with U.S. and European leaders

President Barack Obama had his first face-to-face chat Friday with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, since their relations broke down over the Ukraine crisis early this spring. Their brief conversation about stopping the ongoing bloodshed in eastern Ukraine was the clearest sign yet that ties are on the mend, and that Putin’s decision in March to annex a chunk of Ukrainian territory will not lead to his isolation from the club of Western leaders.

As the Russians like to say, Putin is once again rukopozhatny, or worthy of a handshake.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for a leader whose close friends and associates have been the targets of Western sanctions over the past three months. During preparations for Obama’s trip to Europe this week, the White House avoided questions over whether the U.S. President would speak with Putin or even shake his hand in France, where the two gathered on Friday along with a dozen European leaders to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasions.

But the host of the occasion, French President Francois Hollande, has gone out of his way to use the ceremony at the Chateau de Benouville in Normandy as a venue for peace talks. He first facilitated a conversation between Putin and the newly elected President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, whose victory in last month’s presidential race Putin has yet to recognize as valid. The pair met, along with Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, over lunch. Hollande told French television the interview was substantive and they “passed on the message” that Russia should recognize Poroshenko’s presidency.

And once Poroshenko had accepted the chance to speak with Putin, albeit with a sour look on his face, Obama went along with the trend. “Putin and Obama expressed the urgent need to stop the violence and military actions” in eastern Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters after their chat.

Obama and Putin spoke for about fifteen minutes after a luncheon, according to a White House readout of the conversation. Obama told Putin that the recent election of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko marks a potential turning point in American-Russian relations, provided Putin recognizes Poroshenko as Ukraine’s legitimate leader. Obama also urged Putin to stop supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Most of Russia’s state media led with the news of the conversation, signaling how eager the Kremlin’s image-makers have grown to cast Putin as a welcome guest among his Western counterparts.

“Lots of subtle messages being plied for the audience at home,” noted Timothy Ash, an analyst at London’s Standard Bank. “Over Crimea, Putin the warrior, now on the Normandy stage, Putin the Peacemaker,” Ash said in a note to investors, who have been pumping money back into the Russian stock market as the risk of further Western sanctions has diminished. “Market certainly loving this,” Ash wrote.

But it’s not clear how much Obama’s home audience will love his rapprochement with Putin. In a commencement speech to the West Point military academy last week, the U.S. President held up Russia’s isolation as a sign of American influence in the world. “Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away,” Obama said. “Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions.”

That condemnation has now eased off of demands for Russia to return the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine, calling instead for Putin to “de-escalate” the ongoing conflict by reining in pro-Russian militants fighting to break away more of Ukraine. The West is now watching for Putin to recognize the legitimacy of his Ukrainian counterpart, and Moscow has signaled its willingness to do that after Poroshenko’s inauguration on Saturday. It would then be a matter of time before Kiev and Moscow come to the negotiating table to resolve their differences, giving Putin a chance to make amends with the West just a few months after invading his neighbor. Considering the price he would have paid in diplomatic isolation, the conquest of a peninsula with two million inhabitants would then start to look like a very good gamble indeed.

TIME europe

Ministers: Facebook, Google Must Meet Europe’s Privacy Standards

Tech giants like Facebook and Google must meet Europe's stricter standards

In a move that could complicate how American companies like Facebook and Google do business abroad, European justice ministers said Friday that companies based outside the European Union must meet Europe’s stricter privacy rules, Reuters reports.

“Data-protection law will apply to non-European companies if they do business on our territory,” EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding told Bloomberg. The ministers have not yet finalized any new related legislation, but discussions “have clearly moved from dormant to dynamic” and should be done later this year, she added.

The ministers’ statement marks another step in an ongoing intensive reform of the continent’s data-protection laws. It also backs up recent rulings by the EU’s Court of Justice, which said last month that Europeans have the “right to be forgotten” from search engines like Google. Tens of thousands of Europeans have already exercised that right.

American and European attitudes over personal privacy have long differed, with more Europeans than Americans believing that privacy should be more closely protected. Europeans’ views on privacy only became stronger after it was revealed last year that the U.S. National Security Agency had been spying on European citizens, including top leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Experts do not think that privacy standards like the “right to be forgotten” are likely to ever gain traction in the U.S., given the country’s general attitudes towards digital privacy, the First Amendment and the political influence of big tech companies like Google.


TIME World Cup

The State of Cristiano Ronaldo

As he prepares for the World Cup, Portugal's star goal scorer is doing anything it takes to stay healthy.

Photo-illustration: Joe Giddens—AP

Cristiano Ronaldo was built to play soccer. Named the best player in the world this year, the 29-year-old Portuguese goal scorer boasts an unusually high proportion of what physiologists call fast-twitch muscle, which allows him to accelerate, leap beyond defenders and shoot powerfully from a distance with little setup. But not even Ronaldo’s body was built for the strain he has endured over what has been a particularly grueling season.

He is currently recovering from leg injuries that are a result of his playing an enormous number of games for his club team, Real Madrid, and for Portugal’s national team. His injury history, age (he has been playing for major teams since he was 17), physique and even his travel schedule are factors that increase his injury risk in the World Cup, which starts June 12.

His fitness level may affect whether Portugal is one of the two teams that advance from its first-round group, which includes Germany, Ghana and the U.S. Portugal is leaving as little to chance as possible and has hired a physical therapist from the Real Madrid sports-medicine staff to look after Ronaldo and two other teammates with physical vulnerabilities. The battle to keep this soccer phenomenon healthy is an around-the-clock task.

Sources: ProZone; FIFA; UEFA; AS; BBC; Guardian; Men’s Health; ESPN; Sky Sports; David Tenney, Seattle Sounders FC; Chris West, University of Connecticut; John Sullivan, Clinical & Sports Consulting Services

TIME France

Obama, Putin Honor D-Day Veterans Amid Tensions Over Ukraine

Obama, Putin and other world leaders gathered during a time of diplomatic conflict to honor veterans from one of history's greatest battles

For just a few warm sparkling hours on Friday, the fractious tensions over Ukraine between the U.S., Europe and Russia, were swept aside as 17 leaders—including Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin—converged on Normandy’s coast to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, which would help crush the Nazi occupation of Europe and end World War II. With the fraught politics between Western leaders and Russia left unspoken, it was a day to remember an era when all these countries shared a common enemy: Nazi Germany.

Friday’s ceremonies capped a week of intense emotion on these beaches, where U.S., British, Canadian and other troops stormed into Europe under heavy bombardment on June 6, 1944, and then fought their way, village by village, through Normandy for three months, crushing or driving out German soldiers. About 100,000 soldiers on both sides died in Normandy, many of them just teenagers who landed on the beaches with no combat experience. Of those who died, 9,387 Americans are buried in the U.S. war cemetery in this small Norman village, on the cliffside overlooking Omaha Beach, where U.S. forces clambered ashore on D-Day in one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

At a wreath-laying ceremony Friday with French President François Hollande, President Obama delivered a heartfelt speech to about 12,000 people. The speech, which was both intimate and poetic, said that D-Day was a display of the U.S. commitment to freedom, since young Americans were willing to die “to liberate people they had never met.”

Although there was no talk of the current-day conflict over Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, Obama appeared to make a veiled reference to those tensions, saying that Americans had helped rebuilt Europe after World War II, and then went home, and “claimed no land” in Europe. Yet the presence of Putin at the D-Day celebrations ensured that the issue of Ukraine was not entirely forgotten. Asked on French television Friday about why world leaders had included the Russian president, Hollande said testily, “How can you not invite the president of a people who left nine million dead in the battle against Nazism,” and said the D-Day landings were only possible since the Red Army held the Eastern front.

For the dwindling numbers of U.S. veterans—now in their late eighties and early nineties—this has been an intensely emotional week in which thousands of Normans, as well as people from across Europe and the U.S., have visited villages hard hit during the war. Hundreds of veterans made the grueling trip, many at the French government’s expense, in what will be the world’s last glimpse of them in any significant number. About 200 of them sat on stage with Obama and Hollande Friday, and were given two long standing ovations by the crowd, once when Obama said to the veterans, “Gentlemen, we are truly humbled by your presence here today.”

Indeed, in a far more cynical world, the U.S. veterans who have hobbled on canes or been pushed in wheelchairs around the villages of Normandy this week have been mobbed by young Europeans and Americans, who have traveled to France for the D-Day celebrations. Many simply stare at them, press them for stories about the D-Day battles, and even ask them for autographs.

On Utah Beach, where the 4th U.S. Infantry Division stormed ashore on D-Day, several veterans answered questions from shy French schoolchildren Thursday evening. “This is the first time I’ve been back in 70 years, and we must have done a good job, because France has been free for 70 years,” said Charles Wilson, 88, from Carlisle, Kentucky, who said he’d ridden his tank into Paris on his 19th birthday, the day allied troops drove the Nazis out of the city. Recalling the moment he staggered ashore on Utah Beach at 18, Wilson said, “I was scared to death. None of us had had any combat experience.”

Some veterans admitted after Obama’s speech on Friday that the trip had been both physically and emotionally draining. “I would not have missed this for the world,” said Leo Cohen, 94, from Queens, N.Y. He arrived in France on Tuesday for his first trip back to Normandy since 1944. Cohen said he had landed on Utah Beach about 20 miles East of here, nine days into the D-Day invasion, to offload supplies for the U.S. Army, and recalled hiding in an apple orchard while U.S. bombers flew ahead. Despite the emotional experience of his return to Normandy, Cohen admitted that the trip had been “an ordeal.”

With hundreds of veterans in Normandy this week, the contrasts to today’s U.S. military—what Obama called in his speech on Friday “the 9/11 generation of service members”—are clear to the U.S. military’s top ranks gathered here. “We were all in as a nation, as nations,” Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, told TIME on Thursday, recalling the final months of World War II. “We mobilized the economy, we mobilized the nations,” he said. “The contrast to today’s Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the U.S. is that less than one percent serve.”

That sense—that a more idealistic era is fading from view forever—has been stark in Normandy this week, and could explain the fascination people have had when meeting those who lived through the climactic fight against Nazi occupation. Gazing across the packed cemetery from the podium, Obama said, “Whenever the world makes you cynical, stop and think of these men.”

TIME Pictures of the Week

TIME’s Best Pictures of the Week

From the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest, to World Environment Day and the NBA Finals, TIME presents the best photos of the week.


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