Your Thursday Briefing: India’s Population Milestone


India will soon become the world’s most populous country, supplanting China for the first time in centuries, according to data from the United Nations.

With size — a population that now exceeds 1.4 billion people — comes geopolitical, economic and cultural power that India has long sought. And India’s economy has been growing much faster than its population for a generation, causing the proportion of Indians living in extreme poverty to plummet.

India’s work force is young and expanding, even as those in many industrialized countries are aging and, in some cases, shrinking. Its service sector is successful and wage costs are lower than in China, so India could try to capitalize on China’s difficulties and become a high-end manufacturing alternative.

Enormous challenges: India’s immense size and lasting growth also lay bare a multitude of problems. Most Indians still remain poor by global standards: Many young people are not well educated and face a looming shortage of good jobs. There is also a yawning gender gap, with only about one-fifth of Indian women working in formal jobs. The country’s infrastructure is in bad shape (though the government is working to change that), and the Hindu-first nationalism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party contributes to a combustible environment.

China is on track to massively expand its nuclear arsenal, potentially joining the U.S. and Russia as atomic superpowers and ushering in a new strategic era. In recent weeks, American officials have sounded almost fatalistic about the possibility of limiting China’s buildup.

China has built a reactor on its coast that excels at making plutonium, a key ingredient for producing nuclear bombs, though Beijing maintains that it is strictly for civilian purposes. It is also building three vast fields of missile silos while upgrading its missile technology and its “triad,” the methods for delivering nuclear weapons from land, sea and air.

Russia, which has threatened to use battlefield nuclear weapons in Ukraine, is cooperating with China to potentially produce arsenals whose combined size could dwarf that of the U.S.

The big picture: Just a dozen years ago, American leaders envisioned a world that would move toward eliminating nuclear weapons. Now the U.S. is facing questions about how to manage a three-way nuclear rivalry, which upends much of the deterrence strategy that has avoided a nuclear war.

Numbers: The U.S. and Russia each have 1,550 long-range nuclear weapons, and both countries are modernizing their arsenals. China currently has about 410 nuclear warheads — the latest Pentagon estimates say that warhead count could grow to 1,000 by the end of the decade.

Some people living along the front line in eastern Ukraine blame attacks on their towns not on the Russian forces that have bombarded their region for the past eight months, but on the Ukrainian Army.

Ukrainian soldiers call them “waiters,” because they refuse to be evacuated while awaiting a Russian takeover. They confound officials and the police with their support for Russia after months of attacks, repeat Russian propaganda lines and give information to the Russian military.

The police chief in the frontline town of Kostyantynivka blamed a relentless propaganda campaign that has been imposed for more than a decade. It has turned citizens against the government in Kyiv, he said, and pushed informants into the arms of the Russian proxy forces that took hold of parts of eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Tactics: Pro-Russian television and social media channels have suffused the area for years. One channel on Telegram often announces that the Ukrainian Army is firing mortars, just before a Russian missile strike.

Other developments in the war:

A fund-raising competition in rural New Zealand in which children try to kill the most feral cats was canceled after a backlash from animal rights organizations.

Culling invasive species like rats, rabbits and possums is not uncommon in New Zealand. While hunting feral cats is an acceptable way of controlling their population, one wildlife ecologist said, “it’s when you talk about children in particular, and doing it as a competition, I think, that it’s politically unwise.”

In 1923, the Eastman Kodak Company introduced 16-millimeter film, a new format that revolutionized moviemaking.

Major studios shot on 35-millimeter film, which produced a sharper image but was more expensive. Sixteen millimeter ushered in a new era of movies made outside the Hollywood system. Regular folks could now record their own lives; journalists and soldiers could film in the midst of war; and activists could shoot political documentaries in the street.

Today, 16 millimeter, which is increasingly expensive and difficult to process, is no longer optimal for amateur filmmakers. But filmmakers like Darren Aronofsky and Spike Lee still turn to it, attracted to 16 millimeter’s “grain,” a three-dimensional, pointillist texture that gives the finished movie a rougher look, evoking the analog past and the blurry nature of memory.

Source : Nytimes