Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tightened his grip on India’s democracy, critics and analysts say, by leaning on the judiciary to protect his party’s allies and to target rivals.

Last week, a court sentenced India’s best-known opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, to two years in prison for criminal defamation — the exact length of time needed to oust him from Parliament.

Legal experts said the case against Gandhi, which stemmed from a 2019 speech in which he seemed to liken Modi to a pair of prominent “thieves” with the same last name, was flimsy. Still, it might prevent Gandhi from contesting elections for years to come.

Modi’s immense popularity, forged through a combination of Hindu nationalism and extensive welfare offerings, has allowed his government to bend the judicial system to its will through pressure and enticements. Judges who are seen as pliable have gone on to receive cushy roles in Parliament, governorships, or appointments to government commissions. Those who show streaks of independence face career stagnation.

Reaction: Modi, speaking to party workers on Tuesday, said that those who had accused him of subverting institutions were engaged in a “conspiracy” intended to “finish off the credibility” of those institutions. He will lead his party in elections next year.

Context: Modi has not gone as far as Indira Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother, who in the 1970s ruled by decree and threw opponents in prison. But his less blunt methods may be more effective. By leaving India’s democratic institutions intact but bending them to his will, he has found cover both at home and with Western allies.


Elon Musk, along with more than 1,000 other tech leaders, called for a halt to the development of artificial intelligence in an open letter that warned of “profound risks to society and humanity.”

The letter asked A.I. labs for a pause in rolling out systems more powerful than GPT-4, the chatbot introduced this month by OpenAI, which Musk co-founded. The pause would provide time to implement “shared safety protocols” for A.I. systems, the letter said. “If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium,” it added.

A.I. developers are “locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one — not even their creators — can understand, predict or reliably control,” the tech leaders wrote.

The letter, released by the nonprofit Future of Life Institute, was also signed by Steve Wozniak, a co-founder of Apple, and Rachel Bronson, the president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Context: Experts are worried that bad actors could use A.I. to spread disinformation and that people will rely on these systems for medical and emotional advice. The tools have been criticized for getting details wrong.

U.S. elections: A.I. is already affecting the 2024 elections in the U.S., producing fake images of Donald Trump getting arrested and videos that mimic President Biden’s voice.

Vanuatu, the tiny Pacific island nation on the front line of rising sea levels, led a successful effort at the United Nations to ask the world’s highest court a high-stakes question: Can countries be sued under international law for failing to slow down climate change?

The U.N. General Assembly adopted the measure by consensus on Wednesday. The U.N. will now ask the International Court of Justice to issue an opinion on whether governments have “legal obligations” to protect people from climate hazards.

The court’s opinion would not be binding. But it could turn the voluntary pledges that countries made under the Paris climate accord into legal obligations under a range of existing international statutes, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That could lay the groundwork for new legal claims.

Context: A similar idea was floated years ago by the Marshall Islands and Palau, but it went nowhere because of opposition from powerful countries. (The U.S. has authority over the defense of both.)

A breakdown in negotiations between a Chinese tech company and a major American game developer led to a nightmare scenario for more than three million Chinese gamers: Their access to hugely popular games like World of Warcraft was yanked. The rift shows the increasing difficulty of doing business in China.

Lives lived: Yang Bing-yi, the founder of the popular Taiwanese soup dumpling chain Din Tai Fung, has died at 96.

An adult visiting Wat Pho, a sprawling royal temple in the heart of Bangkok, might be struck by the masterful mosaics or the 151-foot-long golden Buddha statue. But to a child, the most compelling sight can be much simpler: perhaps a line of little bronze bowls, where visitors can place donations and make wishes.

“I liked to put the little coins into the bowls,” said Sophie Vermeer, 10. Her mother had slightly different priorities. “In general, I want to open their horizons and make them tolerant people,” said Claudia Vermeer, 41.

How might trips through children’s eyes differ from their parents’ perspectives? The Times asked parents and children at landmarks around the world to photograph what they each found most interesting. The pictures offered some insight into the interests of traveling children. Take a look here.



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