INDIA – Population grows to 1.2 billion

NEW DELHI | India is home to 17 percent of the world’s people, as its population climbed to 1.21 billion this year, though growth actually slowed for the first time in 90 years, census officials said Thursday.

The South Asian nation – second only to China in number of people – added 181 million in the past decade, said C. Chandramouli, the census commissioner. That increase alone is nearly the entire population of Brazil.

United Nations projections show that India could overtake China and its 1.34 billion people as the world’s most populous nation by 2030, though Mr. Chandramouli said a more rigorous analysis of data would be needed before India made its own projections.

India’s population is nearly equal to the combined populations of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Japan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, he said.

Yet the 17.6 percent increase was down from 21.5 in the last count a decade ago.

Nursultan NazarbayevKAZAKHSTAN – Vote expected to re-elect president

ASTANA | A heavy turnout in Sunday’s election in Kazakhstan looked set to overwhelmingly reaffirm President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s domination of this oil-rich Central Asian nation.

Preliminary results were to be announced early Monday.  [Four exit polls run by government-friendly institutes late Sunday estimated that Nazarbayev received an average 95 percent of the vote. Approximately 90% of the 9 million eligible voters reportedly cast ballots.] Early voters and 18-year-olds casting their ballot for the first time were rewarded with household goods, such as food blenders and electric kettles.

Mr. Nazarbayev (see photo), a 70-year-old former Communist Party boss, has ruled Kazakhstan virtually unchallenged since the 1980s, when it was still part of the Soviet Union.

Opposition politicians refused to take part in the election, called for a boycott and described the vote as a sham. [No previous elections in Kazakhstan have ever been judged free and fair by independent monitors.  International observers criticized this election, saying it failed to meet international democratic standards.  Nearly 400 monitors in the country had complained prior to the election about the lack of transparency, competition and media freedom.]

POLAND – Renaissance synagogue set to reopen

ZAMOSC | Seventy-two years after the Nazis arrived, the Polish town of Zamosc is getting its synagogue back.

One of the most important surviving synagogues in Poland, a Renaissance gem looted by the Nazis and suffering from decades of neglect, is reopening this week after a meticulous restoration, part of an effort to reclaim the country’s decimated Jewish heritage.

The refurbishing of the synagogue in Zamosc, an eastern Polish town near the border with Ukraine, comes as Poland’s tiny remaining Jewish community is struggling to preserve some of the most important Jewish sites that survived the Holocaust before they fall into irreversible decay.

But in a sign of how thorough Adolf Hitler’s genocide was, there are almost no Jews left in the town. The cream-colored house of prayer now will serve largely as a place for art exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events in the largely Catholic area.

“The people, they are gone,” said Michael Schudrich, Poland’s chief rabbi. “But at least in their memory, we can do the best to preserve that which remains.”

The population of Zamosc, an exquisite Renaissance town recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, was 40 percent Jewish on the eve of World War II. Today, there could be a handful of Jews in the town of 65,000, but nobody really knows for sure, since people here often still hide their Jewish roots, scarred by the trauma of the war and the anti-Semitism of the communist era that followed.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at: World Briefs on March 31st, World Scene on April 3rd and Briefly on April 3rd.


1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
a) the countries that share its borders
b) the religious breakdown of the population
c) the type of government
d) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]e) the population

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to for a list of continents.]

2. For India:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What is the population of the world?
c) What is the population of the United States?
d) Which country, currently the most populous, will India possibly surpass in less than 20 years?

3. For Kazakhstan:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What did early voters and those voting for the first time receive at the polls?
c) In general, approximately 54% of Americans eligible to vote do so in presidential elections. What percent of Kazakhstani voters turned out for President Nazarbayev’s election?
d) What do you think about the gifts some voters received? Explain your answer.

4. For Poland:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Why will the synagogue be used mainly for art exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events instead of for religious services?

See before and after photos of the restored synagogue at



  • By the 19th century, Great Britain had become the dominant political power on the subcontinent.
  • The British Indian Army played a vital role in both World Wars.
  • Nonviolent resistance to British rule, led by Mohandas GANDHI and Jawaharlal NEHRU, eventually brought about independence in 1947.
  • Communal violence led to the subcontinent’s bloody partition, which resulted in the creation of two separate states, India and Pakistan.
  • The two countries have fought three wars since independence, the last of which in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh.
  • India’s nuclear weapons tests in 1998 caused Pakistan to conduct its own tests that same year.
  • In November 2008, terrorists allegedly originating from Pakistan conducted a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai, India’s financial capital.
  • Despite pressing problems such as significant overpopulation, environmental degradation, extensive poverty, and widespread corruption, rapid economic development is fueling India’s rise on the world stage.
  • In January 2011, India assumed a nonpermanent seat in the UN Security Council for the 2011-12 term. (from the CIA World FactBook website at



  • The president also is the commander in chief of the armed forces and may veto legislation that has been passed by the Parliament.
  • President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been in office since Kazakhstan became independent.
  • In 1995, President Nazarbayev called for a referendum that expanded his presidential powers: only he can initiate constitutional amendments, appoint and dismiss the government, dissolve Parliament, call referenda, and appoint administrative heads of regions and Astana and Almaty.  (from the U.S. State Department website at
  • Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world, and the 15th least densely populated, with its 16.6 million people sharing a territory about five times the size of France. 
  • Kazakhstan has the world’s 40 billion barrels of proven oil reserves according to BP, putting it in 11th place worldwide, and in 2009 produced about 1.7 million barrels a day, or about 2 per cent of the world’s procution.
  • It’s supergiant Kashagan field was the biggest discovery in 40 years when it was discovered in 2000.
  • The country in 2009 became the world’s biggest producer of uranium.
  • It has the second largest uranium, chromium, lead and zinc reserves, the fifth largest copper reserves, and ranks in the top ten for coal, iron and gold. (from London’s Daily Telegraph)


  • From the founding of the Kingdom of Poland in 1025 through to the early years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth created in 1569, Poland was one of the most tolerant countries in Europe.
  • Known as a “Jewish paradise” it became a unique shelter for persecuted and expelled European Jewish communities and a home to the world’s largest Jewish community. …
  • For centuries, Poland was home to the largest and most significant Jewish community in the world….
  • With the weakening of the Commonwealth and growing religious strife…, Poland’s traditional tolerance began to wane from the 17th century onward.
  • After the partitions of Poland in 1795 and the destruction of Poland as a sovereign state, Polish Jews were subject to the laws of the partitioning powers, primarily the increasingly anti-Semitic Russian Empire, but also Austro-Hungary and Kingdom of Prussia (later known as the German Empire).
  • Still, as Poland regained independence in the aftermath of World War I, it was the center of the European Jewish world with one of world’s largest Jewish communities of over 3 million.
  • Anti-Semitism, however, from both the political establishment and from the general population, common throughout Europe, was a growing problem.
  • At the start of World War II, Poland was partitioned between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
  • The war resulted in the death of one-fifth of the Polish population, with 90% or about 3 million Polish Jews killed along with approximately 3 million Polish Gentiles (Christians).
  • Although the Holocaust occurred largely in German occupied Poland there was little collaboration with the Nazis by her citizens.
  • Collaboration by individual Poles has been described as smaller than in other occupied countries.
  • Statistics of the Israeli War Crimes Commission indicate that less than 0.1% of Polish gentiles collaborated with the Nazis.
  • Examples of Polish gentile attitudes to German atrocities varied widely, from actively risking death in order to save Jewish lives, and passive refusal to inform on them; to indifference, blackmail, and in extreme cases, participation in pogroms.
  • Grouped by nationality, Poles represent the biggest number of people who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. (from wikipedia)



INDIA:  Read FAQs on India’s census at the government website



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