Wednesday Briefing: Modi’s bruising path to a third term

Also, a Times analysis of the destruction in Ukraine.
Morning Briefing: Asia Pacific Edition

June 5, 2024

Good morning. We’re covering Narendra Modi’s election setback in India and a Times analysis of the destruction in Ukraine.

Plus, the man who couldn’t stop going to college.

A white-haired and bearded man raises his hands in peace signs as he is showered with confetti. A crowd cheers and celebrates behind barricades.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his victory yesterday. Atul Loke for The New York Times

Modi wins, but his party suffers losses

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India claimed a third term in office yesterday. But early results suggest his party won by a far narrower margin than expected. The aura of invincibility around Modi has been shattered.

Results indicated that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would still win the most parliamentary seats, but not enough for an outright majority. It will likely need smaller parties in its coalition to form a government. The outcome was a surprising setback for the B.J.P.

See live results here.

The Indian National Congress, the main opposition, was doing better than expected. The party had been seen by many as irrevocably weakened after big losses in the previous two elections. The Congress and its allies increased their margin against Modi by tapping into issues like unemployment, social justice and the prime minister’s ties to India’s billionaires.

Context: Modi will be only the second Indian leader to start a third straight term after Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister. Modi called it “a historical feat in India’s history” yesterday.

Economy: As the results became clearer, India’s stock markets plunged. By the end of trading yesterday, the markets were down 6 percent, nearly wiping out the year’s gains.

Images illustrating the damage to buildings.
The New York Times; damage data from Corey Scher and Jamon Van Den Hoek

What Ukraine has lost

Since World War II, few countries have experienced the level of devastation that Ukraine has. But until now, the scale has been too vast to see more than a glimpse at a time.

My colleagues published the first comprehensive picture of the totality of the destruction. Using detailed analysis of years of satellite data, they created a record of each town, each street, each building that has been blown apart. In some places, like the city of Marinka, not a single resident is left. So many people have lost more than their homes. They’ve lost their communities, their histories.

“If I shut my eyes, I can see everything from my old life,” said Iryna Hrushkovksa, 34, who was born and raised in the city, adding, “But if I open my eyes, it’s all gone.”

The scale of destruction: More buildings have been destroyed in Ukraine than if every building in Manhattan were to be leveled four times over. Parts of Ukraine look like Dresden or London after World War II, or Gaza after half a year of bombardment.

HIMARS: Ukraine used a U.S.-made rocket system to destroy missile launchers inside Russia, a Ukrainian official said. The strikes came just after the U.S. granted permission for Ukraine to do so.

The rubble of a destroyed building.
The damaged Iranian embassy complex in Damascus, Syria, in April. Firas Makdesi/Reuters

Israel killed an Iranian general in Syria

Israeli airstrikes in Syria killed an Iranian general who was there as an adviser, the Iranian media said. He was believed to be the first Iranian killed by Israel since the two countries almost went to war in April, after Israel bombed Iran’s embassy compound in Syria.

Iran is currently enmeshed in a leadership crisis stemming from the death of its president last month. A new wave of attacks on Israel seems unlikely. The Iranian was identified as Gen. Saeed Abyar, a member of the Quds Force, a branch of the Revolutionary Guards.

Gaza: In an interview with Time magazine, President Biden suggested that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was prolonging the war to stay in power.

MORE TOP NEWS

Migrants sit against the secondary border fence as they wait to be processed by Border Patrol.
Migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border this year.  Guillermo Arias for The New York Times
  • Asylum: President Biden issued an executive order that would temporarily seal the U.S.-Mexico border to those seeking asylum. It could take effect immediately.
  • France: Biden will begin a visit today, during which he will try to rally U.S. allies in defense of Ukraine — even as he defies them on the war in Gaza.
  • U.S.: Louisiana lawmakers passed a bill that could order people convicted of child molestation to undergo surgical castration.
  • Brazil: Climate change worsened recent flooding, scientists said. Downpours there killed at least 172 people and displaced more than half a million.
  • OpenAI: A group of current and former employees warned that the company had not done enough to prevent its technology from becoming dangerous.
  • Germany: Floods caused by a weekend of heavy rain led towns to declare a state of emergency and evacuate citizens.
  • Covid: New strains, known as “FLiRT” variants, are circulating in the U.S., but there has been only a small increase in emergency room visits and positive tests.
  • Music: The hip-hop mogul Sean Combs has sold his majority stake in Revolt, a media company he founded. Combs has been facing mounting accusations of sexual and physical abuse.

Sports

  • Baseball: Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter pleaded guilty to charges of bank and tax fraud over a betting scandal. The interpreter was accused of taking millions from the baseball star.
  • French Open: Novak Djokovic withdrew because of an injury. Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek won their matches. Here are more updates.

MORNING READ

A grid of photographs of Bolgers wearing graduation garb or college swag.
The Bolger family; Arnold Gold/The New Haven Register, via Associated Press

Benjamin Bolger has spent his life amassing academic degrees. He has 14 advanced degrees, including a few that took many years to complete, such as a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

The reason for his university quest is simple: “I love learning,” he told our reporter.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

We hope you’ve enjoyed this newsletter, which is made possible through subscriber support. Subscribe to The New York Times.

ARTS AND IDEAS

An illustration of a large creature with glowing red eyes. Its paws are on stacks of paper, which are also in its mouth, in between its baring fangs. Nearby, people are holding documents, two of them holding up one that says “404.”
Yifan Wu

Chinese websites are disappearing

China’s internet is vanishing in chunks. Posts are being removed and censored.

As of 2023, there were only 3.9 million sites, down from 5.3 million in 2017, the country’s internet regulator found. A recent post on WeChat reported that nearly all information shared on China’s internet — news portals, blogs, forums, social media sites — between 1995 and 2005 was no longer available.

While it’s costly and difficult to archive a website anywhere, internet publishers in China are under intense pressure to censor as the country has made an authoritarian turn under Xi Jinping’s leadership, Li Yuan writes in the column The New New World.

Internet companies have more incentive to over-censor and let older content disappear by not archiving.

Two weeks ago, Nanfu Wang, a documentary filmmaker, searched her name on the film review site Douban and came up with nothing. “Some of the films I directed had been deleted and banned on the Chinese internet,” she said. “But this time, I feel that I, as a part of history, have been erased.”

RECOMMENDATIONS

Two white bowls hold summer shrimp scampi with tomatoes, corn and lemon wedges.
David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Cook: This shrimp scampi comes together in one skillet.

Read: In the novel “Blessings,” a gay Nigerian boy works to understand himself in an often hostile country.

Watch: A grande dame of theater faces a complex reckoning in “The Great Lillian Hall.”

Play: Spelling Bee, the Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku. Find all our games here.

That’s it for today. See you tomorrow. — Amelia

P.S. The Times has surpassed two million digital subscribers outside the U.S.

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400 pairs of wireless earbuds later …

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We have a winner ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏

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