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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Friday Briefing – The New York Times

WorldEuropeFriday Briefing - The New York Times

Israel struck Iran early this morning, according to two Israeli defense officials, in what appeared to be the country’s first military response to Iran’s attack last weekend.

Three Iranian officials confirmed that a strike had hit a military air base near the central Iranian city of Isfahan early on Friday, but did not say which country had attacked.

The explosions came less than a week after Iran fired more than 300 missiles and drones at Israel, its first direct attack on the country, in response to an Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria that killed seven Iranian officials on April 1.

For days, Israeli leaders have threatened to respond to Iran’s strikes, which turned the two countries’ yearslong shadow war into a direct confrontation. The attack came after the U.S. and European allies imposed new sanctions on Iranian military leaders and weapons makers, while imploring Israel not to risk a wider war by retaliating too strongly.

Read the latest updates here.

Voting begins today in a multistage election in India in which hundreds of millions of people will cast ballots to determine whether their country’s powerful prime minister, Narendra Modi, will win a third term in office.

The vote is seen as a referendum on Modi’s economic record and his increasingly centralized and Hindu-first vision of India. The elections run through June 1, and results are expected on June 4.

My colleague Amelia Nierenberg spoke to Mujib Mashal, the South Asia bureau chief.

How likely is a victory for Modi?

Modi and his coalition, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, have a huge, solid majority. And despite an anti-incumbency ethos in Indian elections, Modi is different — his personal appeal is huge. He’s very popular. And he basically rules as one man, without having to go through regular parliamentary discussions and debates.

However, there can always be a surprise element in Indian elections. That’s particularly true because Modi has such tight control of the media and information that you may never get an exact sense of what could be percolating on the ground.

What is Modi’s pitch?

He argues that his 10 years in office have helped India’s stature on the global stage. He says that India is rising as an economic and diplomatic power and that he’s helping to inject some ambition into the country.

And a lot of people say that Modi’s 10 years have brought some stability to the country. But there’s a contradiction in India’s rise. While it’s growing as an economic and diplomatic power, it’s a very unequal growth. The economy is not creating enough jobs for its huge youth population, and hundreds of millions of people are still at the mercy of government rations.

A lot of his pitch remains along religious lines. He mixes economic and development appeal with a strong Hindu nationalist, Hindu-first appeal.

How so?

Modi wants India as a developed country. He also wants it to develop according to a Hindu nationalist vision.

He brings it all together in this one simple narrative: He is helping India rise. For him, for his party, the identity of India is directly linked to the idea of Hinduism.

What’s the opposition’s strategy?

Their pitch is largely a criticism of Modi. But they are struggling for ideological clarity, beyond the fact that Modi is growing autocratic, that Modi is following politics of communal hate and that Modi is favoring his billionaire friends.

How are people feeling about this election?

The pride in voting is great — people celebrate the process, which the turnout makes clear. But, increasingly, there’s also this sense that voting itself is overemphasized, and that democracy is not just about voting. It’s also what happens when a kind of strongman like Modi uses his popularity to reshape that democracy between the votes.

As China’s cities grow, they are sinking, and Beijing and Tianjin are among those sinking the fastest, according to a new study.

In 100 years, a quarter of China’s urban coastal land could sit below sea level because of a combination of subsidence and sea level rise. The key to minimizing the damage is groundwater extraction, the researchers said.

Lives lived: Dickey Betts traded fiery licks with Duane Allman as a guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band. He died at 80.

When heavyweights clash: Analyzing Real Madrid’s victory over Manchester City.

Conditional acceptance: Chelsea’s Lauren James is subjected to further online racist abuse.

You needn’t be able to name a Keith Haring picture to recognize it; its vibrating line and electric palette are practically neon signs.

Haring’s view was that art ought to be available to as many people as possible, and he correctly identified that most people’s exposure to it was not in galleries but on the street and in stores. The most likely place you’ll encounter Haring’s art now is still not the museum, but the mall, which was his own doing.

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