TIME India

What the Death of Nido Taniam Tells Us About Racism in India

Indians from the northeastern states attend a vigil against racism and the beating and killing of student Nido Taniam, Feb. 2, 2014 in New Delhi.
Indians from the northeastern states attend a vigil against racism and the beating and killing of student Nido Taniam, Feb. 2, 2014 in New Delhi. Hindustan Times / Getty Images

An influx of migrants from India's ethnically distinct northeast has sparked racial tension, and now deadly violence, in big cities like Delhi

Nido Taniam was a young man from Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India. The son of a state legislator, Taniam was like 20-year-olds anywhere, with his trendy haircut and love of music. Last Friday, he stopped at a shop in a market in Delhi, to ask for directions. The shopkeeper and his friends made fun of Taniam’s hair and clothes and a brawl began. It ended with Taniam’s death.

This wasn’t a senseless fight over a haircut, however. It was Taniam’s East Asian features that marked him out for attack and his death highlighted the racism that many from India’s beautiful but impoverished northeastern states are subjected to.

While not every incident ends in such a horrific manner, assaults on young men from the northeast are commonplace in Delhi. Alana Golmei, founding member of the Northeast Support Centre and helpline, says she gets half-a-dozen distress calls a week. “This was waiting to happen,” Golmei told TIME.

It isn’t just physical differences that make people from the northeast stand out in a big city like Delhi. The fact that they hail from societies that are culturally more permissive than mainstream India highlights their otherness in the eyes of other Indians. A series of separatist insurgencies being waged by the indigenous peoples of the northeast also exacerbates tensions. Then there’s the fact that the northeast is geographically distinct from the rest of the country, connected to it by just a narrow strip of land known as the Siliguri Corridor.

“The identity of an Indian man [or woman] is culturally defined and anyone who doesn’t fit that mold is an outsider,” says Pradip Phanjoubam, a fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. “Once you are out of the northeast, you have to renegotiate the question of being an Indian as physically the northeast is a part of India but culturally it isn’t.”

In recent years, young people from the northeast — about 15,000 a year — have been making their way to the capital, fleeing the insurgencies and looking for better education and work opportunities. Casual racism is commonplace. They are derided as “Chinkies” (a reference to single-fold eyelids) or “bahadur” (a common term for Nepalese male servants in India).

The authorities have been ineffective in assimilating this new, ethnically and culturally distinct population. In 2007, the Delhi police published a much-criticized booklet, advising migrants from the northeast to avoid wearing revealing clothes and to not cook their native foods, such as bamboo shoots and fermented soy beans, for fear of upsetting Indian neighbors with unfamiliar smells. In 2011, the home affairs ministry made the use of hate-speech like “Chinky” punishable with five years in jail. Enforcement, naturally, is impossible, and legislation without the propagation of a multicultural and multiethnic view of India is meaningless.

“Societies do not change on their own,” says Ranjana Kumari, director of the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research. “We need to create conditions for this change, which includes identifying groups and areas that are perpetrating these kind of hate attacks.”

Taniam’s death might yet prove to be a flash point in addressing the problem. It certainly prompted an unprecedented show of concern from politicians. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal joined protests at Taniam’s killing on separate days, and Gandhi pledged to ensure that people from the northeast get “respect in this country.”

To people like Golmei, that respect cannot happen until mainstream Indian society acknowledges the racism deep within it. “Unless we recognize it and talk about it,” she says, “it’s not going to stop.”

TIME Syria

Syrian Rebels: U.S. Cash Boost After Failed Geneva Talks

A rebel fighter, who belongs to the Free Syrian Army, uses an iPad during preparations to fire a homemade mortar at a battlefront in Damascus on Sept. 15, 2013
A rebel fighter, who belongs to the Free Syrian Army, uses an iPad during preparations to fire a homemade mortar at a battlefront in Damascus on Sept. 15, 2013 Mohamed Abdullah / Reuters

Claim to have received hundred of thousands of dollars from the U.S. after negotiations with President Bashar Assad broke down

Syrian rebels claim to have received enhanced funding from the U.S. in the wake of failed peace talks with President Bashar Assad’s administration in Geneva.

As soon as the negotiations ended — with no breakthroughs and uncertainty as to whether Assad will commit to the next round — rebels claim to have received a cash boast from Washington, reports The National.

Syrian rebel commanders in Jordan reportedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from U.S. officials when talks ended last weekend — cash they used to launch a new military campaign in their homeland’s south.

[The National]

TIME Asia

Western Countries Spend Less on Defense While Asian Nations Splurge

Japan is one of several Asian countries ramping up its defense budgets because of territorial disputes
Japan is one of several Asian countries ramping up its defense budgets because of territorial disputes Issei Kato—Reuters

Asia's territorial disputes are the main reason for the increased military expenditure

While the military budgets of many Western countries continued to decline in 2013, a number of Asian states have increased theirs.

A new report published by IHS Jane’s shows that the countries of the Asia-Pacific now account for 24% of global defense expenditure — a number that is likely to rise to 28% by the end of the decade.

According to the report, territorial disputes in the region are the main motivation for the increase.

The report also predicts that 2014 will be the first year since 2009 to see an overall rise in global defense spending, which will grow from $1.538 to $1.547 trillion.

The United Sates is still by far the biggest global defense spender. Its military expenditure of $582.4 billion in 2013 is more than four times the amount spent by China, number two on the list. China, Japan, India and South Korea all rank among the ten biggest global spenders.

[Wall Street Journal]

TIME China

Beijing Brands Philippine President ‘Amateurish’ and ‘Ignorant’

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe smiles with Myanmar's President Thein Sein and Philippine President Benigno Aquino as they leave the stage during a gala dinner of the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit meeting in Tokyo
From left, Burma's President Thein Sein, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III leave the stage during a gala dinner at the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit meeting in Tokyo on Dec. 14, 2013 POOL New / Reuters

War of words heats up over conflicting claims in the South China Sea

Beijing is not happy with the comparison between the Middle Kingdom and the Third Reich made by Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

During an interview with the New York Times earlier this week, Aquino said China’s claims in the South China resembled Nazi Germany’s demands for Czech territory in the 1930s.

“Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III, who has taken an inflammatory approach … has never been a great candidate for a wise statesman in the region,” read a rebuff published by the state-run Xinhua news agency. The article added that Aquino was an “amateurish politician who was ignorant both of history and reality.”

Aquino’s statement and Beijing’s rebuttal come as hostilities over multiple overlapping sovereignty claims in the South China Sea continue to intensify with diplomatic tit for tats.

According to Aquino’s spokesperson, the President was simply being a “storyteller” and citing “facts.”

[South China Morning Post]

TIME

Exclusive: President François Hollande Talks Syria, Spies and Secrets With TIME

TIME's Catherine Mayer and Vivienne Walt talk to Francois Hollande in the ƒlysŽe Palace, Paris. Marco Grob for TIME
Marco Grob for TIME

In an exclusive interview with TIME before his U.S. visit, the French president says the international community should've gone after Bashar Assad's regime back in the summer of 2012 before a series of massacres killed thousands

François Hollande has been known to spend nights elsewhere, but his official residence is the Elysée Palace. Here, in its 18th century splendor, he sat down with TIME on Jan. 25 in a discussion that ranged widely, from the malaise of the French economy to more personal travails. His approval ratings had dipped to record lows. Later the same day, Hollande would confirm his split from his official First Lady Valérie Trierweiler.

Next week Hollande arrives in Washington solo, kicking off an official state visit without the baggage many expected him to bring. French leaders have frequently tussled with their U.S. counterparts, and Hollande arrives in the wake of Edward Snowden’s game-changing revelations about America’s habit of snooping on her friends including France. Hollande calls this “a difficult moment, not just between France and the United States but also between Europe and the United States.” And, he adds, it has been uncomfortable for Americans, forced to confront “practices that should never have existed.” But, he says, there is no residue of bitterness between him and President Obama. Indeed he sees an opportunity “to build a new cooperation in the field of intelligence…We need intelligence services to fight against terrorism but they have to respect the principles of good relationships between allies and protect personal, confidential data.”

He even goes so far as to hold up the U.S. as an example to his own compatriots as he attempts to persuade the French people to accept his new-minted economic reform program that will mean some pain before the gains. “The first time that I went to the United States was in 1974,” he says. “I was 20 years old. America was in crisis. The dollar was at a low. The Watergate scandal had already erupted. And I still remember this vision I had of New York, which was a huge, fascinating city, dirty and violent. And I’ve been to the U.S. regularly but what impresses me most in this large nation is its capacity to overcome hardship and return to the heights.” He hopes to emulate that example but recognizes he’ll need to achieve results fast. “It’s the time scale that we have to shrink,” he says, using a familiar English slogan to make his point: “Plus que ‘yes we can,’ ce devrait être ‘yes we can faster’.”

The new issue of TIME carries an in-depth profile of Hollande and his plans for France and its worldwide role, based on that exclusive interview. The President’s priority at home is to revitalize the country’s torpid economy by reducing the cost of employment to businesses and trimming the bloated French state, a sharp change of direction for a politician elected on a Socialist ticket and one broadly welcomed by anyone with an interest in French prosperity—and that’s a large part of the interconnected world. Yet Hollande has no desire to trim the global role he sees for France. Syrian strikes may be on the back burner but French troops have been active in Mali and the Central African Republic. The U.S. and U.K., scarred by their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, are battle-weary. France, or at least its President, seems less so. “Even during this very difficult period, I wanted to demonstrate that France could assume its full responsibility on a global scale, no matter the area: human, financial, political,” says Hollande.

Of his aspirations on Syria, he says: “Our only goal is to strengthen the opposition and to avoid the dilemma whereby we only have the choice between Bashar Assad and al-Qaeda.” He says that the failures of the West led to this dilemma. “In August 2012, the international community should have been far more determined in dealing with the Bashar Assad regime,” he says. “He was weakened in political, military and personal terms. He had been abandoned by part of his general staff. The massacres had not reached the horrific level that we are now seeing.” The delay undermined the opposition and allowed al-Qaeda to gain purchase. Hollande had been poised to unleash air strikes on Syria last September aimed at weakening the Assad regime, when a last-minute swerve by President Obama led instead to a fresh bout of diplomacy. In a deal brokered in part by Russia, Syria began dismantling its chemical weapons capacity and Hollande stood down his strike force. “Everything was ready for the day that we’d chosen,” he tells TIME. “President Obama decided to go to Congress. But our threat to strike convinced the Russians and the Syrian regime to agree to surrender their chemical weapons. So it was a success for us. It was not as has been reported a victory for the Syrian regime.”

History is often made by accident. Hollande’s own route to the Presidency was full of surprising twists. His first two years in office has yielded quite a few shocks, not least his emergence as a figure of interest to the tabloid press. He is loath to answer questions about his private life, saying simply that it is “always at some moments a challenge, and that must be respected. In my own personal situation I can’t show anything.” And he tries not to show anything, apparently impassive as he answers the question, but flushing visibly. He wants to wrest the conversation back to important things like fixing France and shoring up the country’s global influence. His U.S. visit will be a good place to start.

TIME olympics

Americans Warn Airlines of Toothpaste Bombs on Sochi Flights

Security personnel patrol the Olympic Park at the 2014 Sochi  Winter Olympic Games
REUTERS

Amid an already tense security environment, the United States is now warning airlines flying to the site of Russia's Winter Olympics to be on the lookout for explosive devices disguised as passengers' toiletries that may be used to attack aircraft

American authorities are warning airlines with flights to Russia for the Olympic Games to be on the lookout for bombs in toothpaste containers or other similar cosmetic tubes.

Citing unnamed government officials, CNN and ABC News report that the warning was issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to both domestic and foreign airlines. The warning says intelligence reports suggest such containers could be used to store the ingredients for a bomb to be assembled aboard an aircraft. Authorities cautioned that they haven’t identified any specific threat to the U.S., CNN and ABC report.

“While we are not aware of a specific threat to the homeland at this time, this routine communication is an important part of our commitment to making sure we meet that priority,” an official told ABC News. “As always, our security apparatus includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, and DHS will continue to adjust security measures to fit an ever evolving threat environment.”

Security in the host city of Sochi has been high for months, as the Russian government prepares for the Winter Olympics that start this week while also combating the threat of militants operating in the Caucasus. In the months leading up to the Olympics, terrorist groups have issued threats, and three suicide bombings in as many months have rocked cities in Russia. That has clearly had an impact on observers in the U.S. — in a CNN poll released on Wednesday, 57% of Americans said they believe a terrorist attack at the Sochi Games is likely.

“Out of an abundance of caution, [the Department of Homeland Security] regularly shares relevant information with domestic and international partners, including those associated with international events such as the Sochi Olympics,” the department said in a statement.

TIME France

Exclusive: President François Hollande Talks Syria, Spies and Secrets With TIME

TIME's Catherine Mayer, left, and Vivienne Walt talk to François Hollande in the Élysée Palace, Paris.
TIME's Catherine Mayer, left, and Vivienne Walt talk to François Hollande in the Élysée Palace, Paris. Marco Grob for TIME

In an exclusive interview with TIME, the French President skirted issues surrounding his personal life but talked tough on Syria and his vision of France's place in the world

François Hollande has been known to spend nights elsewhere, but his official residence is the Élysée Palace. Here, in its 18th century splendor, he sat down with TIME on Jan. 25 in a discussion that ranged widely, from the malaise of the French economy to more personal travails. His approval ratings had dipped to record lows. Later the same day, Hollande would confirm his split from his official First Lady Valérie Trierweiler.

Next week Hollande arrives in Washington solo, kicking off an official state visit without the baggage many expected him to bring. French leaders have frequently tussled with their U.S. counterparts, and Hollande arrives in the wake of Edward Snowden’s game-changing revelations about America’s habit of snooping on her friends, including France. Hollande calls this “a difficult moment, not just between France and the United States but also between Europe and the United States.” And, he adds, it has been uncomfortable for Americans forced to confront “practices that should never have existed.” But, he says, there is no residue of bitterness between him and President Obama. Indeed he sees an opportunity “to build a new cooperation in the field of intelligence … We need intelligence services to fight against terrorism, but they have to respect the principles of good relationships between allies and protect personal, confidential data.”

He even goes so far as to hold up the U.S. as an example to his own compatriots as he attempts to persuade the French people to accept his new-minted economic-reform program that will mean some pain before the gains. “The first time that I went to the United States was in 1974,” he says. “I was 20 years old. America was in crisis. The dollar was at a low. The Watergate scandal had already erupted. And I still remember this vision I had of New York, which was a huge, fascinating city, dirty and violent. And I’ve been to the U.S. regularly, but what impresses me most in this large nation is its capacity to overcome hardship and return to the heights.” He hopes to emulate that example but recognizes he’ll need to achieve results fast. “It’s the timescale that we have to shrink,” he says, using a familiar English slogan to make his point: “Plus que ‘yes we can,’ ce devrait être ‘yes we can faster.'”

French President François Hollande TIME cover
Photograph by Marco Grob for TIME

The new issue of TIME carries an in-depth profile of Hollande and his plans for France and its worldwide role, based on that exclusive interview. The President’s priority at home is to revitalize the country’s torpid economy by reducing the cost of employment to businesses and trimming the bloated French state, a sharp change of direction for a politician elected on a Socialist ticket and one broadly welcomed by anyone with an interest in French prosperity — and that’s a large part of the interconnected world. Yet Hollande has no desire to trim the global role he sees for France. Syrian strikes may be on the back burner, but French troops have been active in Mali and the Central African Republic. The U.S. and U.K., scarred by their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, are battle-weary. France, or at least its President, seems less so. “Even during this very difficult period, I wanted to demonstrate that France could assume its full responsibility on a global scale, no matter the area: human, financial, political,” says Hollande.

Of his aspirations on Syria, he says: “Our only goal is to strengthen the opposition and to avoid the dilemma whereby we only have the choice between Bashar Assad and al-Qaeda.” He says the failures of the West led to this dilemma. “In August 2012, the international community should have been far more determined in dealing with the Bashar Assad regime,” he says. “He was weakened in political, military and personal terms. He had been abandoned by part of his general staff. The massacres had not reached the horrific level that we are now seeing.” The delay undermined the opposition and allowed al-Qaeda to gain purchase. Hollande had been poised to unleash air strikes on Syria aimed at weakening the Assad regime in September, when a last-minute swerve by President Obama led instead to a fresh bout of diplomacy. In a deal brokered in part by Russia, Syria began dismantling its chemical-weapons capacity and Hollande stood down his strike force. “Everything was ready for the day that we’d chosen,” he tells TIME. “President Obama decided to go to Congress. But our threat to strike convinced the Russians and the Syrian regime to agree to surrender their chemical weapons. So it was a success for us. It was not as has been reported a victory for the Syrian regime.”

History is often made by accident. Hollande’s own route to the presidency was full of surprising twists. His first two years in office has yielded quite a few shocks, not least his emergence as a figure of interest to the tabloid press. He is loath to answer questions about his private life, saying simply that it is “always at some moments a challenge, and that must be respected. In my own personal situation I can’t show anything.” And he tries not to show anything, apparently impassive as he answers the question, but flushing visibly. He wants to wrest the conversation back to important things like fixing France and shoring up the country’s global influence. His U.S. visit will be a good place to start.

TIME olympics

Team Figure Skating at the Winter Olypmics: What You Need to Know

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada perform during an ice dance figure skating training session at Iceberg Skating Palace during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, February 5, 2014.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada perform during an ice dance figure skating training session at Iceberg Skating Palace during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, February 5, 2014. How Hwee Young / EPA

Meet the newest event in Sochi

Bet you didn’t know that figure skating could be a team sport, did you?

Figure skating is already one of the marquee events of the Winter Games, and since four different disciplines of the sport apparently weren’t enough, the International Olympic Committee decided to add another—a team event. So for the first time ever, figure skaters this year in Sochi can earn more than one medal at the Games, a possibility not lost on those hungry for hardware.

The competition begins on Thursday, as the men and pairs do their best to add to their country’s totals. Here’s what you need to know, and what to watch for.

Which countries are competing?

Only 10 countries earned the right to compete at the event, based on how their skaters finished at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, the International Skating Union’s Grand Prix series this season, and other events. In order of rank, those countries are:

  1. Canada
  2. Russia
  3. U.S.
  4. Japan
  5. Italy
  6. France
  7. China
  8. Germany
  9. Ukraine
  10. Great Britain

How is the event scored?

Just like in the other skating events, each skater performs two routines—a short and a free program, for a total of eight scores per country. First place receives 10 points, second place nine points, and so on down the line.

Only the top five scoring teams will continue on to compete in the free skate.

Which skaters are competing?

Each country’s skating federation will determine which athletes will skate which events. Each team is allowed two substitutions across all four disciplines; one ladies’ skater may perform the short program, for example, while another performs the free, and one pairs team may compete in the short and another compete in the free, and that would exhaust that country’s substitutions.

Entries for each category (ladies, men, pairs and dance) must be submitted 24 hours before the scheduled event.

Which US skaters will be chosen to compete?

The U.S. skaters have kept their strategy under wraps. As the 2013 world team trophy champs, the Americans have a good chance of grabbing gold; seven of the eight members of that championship team are competing in Sochi.

What strategy is involved?

The event stretches over three days of competition, beginning Thursday (the day before Opening Ceremonies) with the men’s and pairs short programs. Russia, which only qualified one male skater in the men’s event, 2006 Olympic gold medalist Evgeny Plushenko, will have to use him in both the short and free programs of the team competition, but has more play in the pairs and dance events, in which they have three teams each.

Coaches and skaters will have to balance the demands of competing in potentially four programs in the space of a week, and the U.S. athletes have hinted that they would be eager to spread the wealth at the team event to maximize the number of athletes able to participate.

Canada is also strong in pairs and dance, with three teams each, while the U.S. qualified three teams in ice dance, including reigning world champions and Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White, but only two in pairs.

The ladies’ events, on Feb. 8 and Feb. 9, will be a good opportunity for Russia, Japan and the U.S. to tally up points; the U.S. team includes new national champion Gracie Gold, and Ashley Wagner, who came in third in this season’s Grand Prix Final, and newcomer Polina Edmunds. Japan has Mao Asada, the reigning Olympic silver medalist, new national champion Kanako Murakami and Akiko Suzuki. Russia produced some surprisingly talented teens this season, after some mediocre rankings in recent years; look for Yulia Lipnitskaya and Adelina Sotnikova to stun the judges with their jumps.

And finally, training-mates-from-different-countries Davis and White (U.S.) and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (Canada), who work with coach Marina Zoueva in Canton, Mich., may face off in the short and free programs in ice dance; they are the reigning silver and gold medalists, respectively, from Vancouver.

TIME Iran

Iran Leader Nods to Obama on Health Care

Meet #RouhaniCare

Iran plans to launch an initiative to get all its citizens covered by health insurance, President Hassan Rouhani announced on Twitter Wednesday.

Rouhani’s account, which is not controlled by him directly but is widely viewed as credible and has broken news on his actions in the past, threw in the hashtag #RouhaniCare, clearly an homage to Obamacare—President Barack Obama’s health care reform law—and perhaps an olive branch as the two countries try to expand on a landmark deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

The Islamic Republic already has a fairly extensive network of basic public clinics and health care is guaranteed to Iranians under the constitution.

TIME Greece

Debt-Ravaged Greece Has a Budget Surplus After a Decade of Deficits

There's positive news from Europe's struggling economies, but don't celebrate too much: the eurozone is far from out of the woods

For the first time in recent memory, a month’s worth of economic news out of a debt crises-ravaged Europe wasn’t just positive—it was downright hopeful, especially in many of the countries hardest-hit by the eurozone crisis.

In Ireland, Citi raised its growth forecast for the country’s economy, consumer confidence jumped to the highest level in six-and-a-half years, and according to a survey by Deloitte, 96 percent of Irish CFOs said they think the economy has returned to growth or will do so this year. Portugal’s unemployment rate declined, while in Spain, unemployment rose, but at a slower rate than in previous years, suggesting the Spanish labor market might have hit the bottom.

Perhaps the most exciting news came out of Greece, a country wracked by the economic crisis, years-worth of unfunded liabilities and an economy that has been in a nosedive since 2008. Last month, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras prepared to announce that the country was projected to post its first primary surplus in more than a decade. According to the New York Times, the projected surplus was about 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion), while Bloomberg reported a slightly higher figure of over 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion). Never mind that Greece has more than 240 billion euros in bailout loans it still needs to pay back; a surplus, any surplus, had to be seen as a sign that the country could finally be beginning to repair the weak political systems and structural economic problems that drove the country into a hole in the first place.

Not quite. Before Samaras announced the projected surplus, Greece’s top administrative court ruled that some public sector wage cuts – part of a sweeping austerity plan meant to help shore up the country’s finances –were unconstitutional. Now the Greek government will likely have to repay police officers, firefighters and military personnel about 300 million euros in back pay.

Like previous reports that the Greek budget may be in the black, the announcement was of a primary surplus, which doesn’t take into account interest payments on the country’s massive debt. Austerity measures, while deeply unpopular in Greece, were necessary to secure a bailout from Europe’s wealthier countries, but they may have exacerbated the effects of an already painful recession.

In some ways, the future looks similar to the recent past: Germany is reportedly preparing a third rescue package worth 10 billion to 20 billion euros. Still, there are glimmers of actual hope. A survey released earlier this week showed that Germany, Europe’s largest economy, had the highest increase in manufacturing last month, and that Spain, Italy and Ireland all saw boosts as well. Greek manufacturers were reporting their first expansion since the summer of 2009. Small manufacturing rebounds and modest foreign investment won’t be enough to save Greece’s economy, but together they provide a welcome respite from a very long stretch of grim, depressing news.

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