Your Thursday Briefing6 min read
A long-awaited call between Zelensky and Xi
Xi Jinping, the leader of China, spoke with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine yesterday in a one-hour telephone call, the first known contact between the two leaders since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. Zelensky had made repeated requests to talk to the Chinese leader.
China’s official account of the discussion was notable for its omission of two words: “Russia” and “war.” It referred instead to the need for a “political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis,” and warned of the danger of nuclear escalation. Zelensky described the call as “long and meaningful.”
In recent months, Xi has been trying to burnish his image as a global statesman by helping restore diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran and by rolling out the red carpet in Beijing for visiting world leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France. In February, China released a 12-point plan laying out a path to ending the war.
Response: The Biden administration welcomed the call as “a good thing.” But whether it is “going to lead to some sort of meaningful peace movement, or plan, or proposal — I just don’t think we know that right now,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
Dynamics: China has grown particularly close with Russia, and it shares the Kremlin’s goal of upending a world order dominated by the U.S. and its allies. American officials have said they believe Beijing has seriously considered sending military aid to Moscow for its war in Ukraine.
In other news from the war in Ukraine:
Aleksei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, said that Russian authorities had initiated “absurd” new terrorism charges against him that could lead to life in prison.
Nearly all the combat vehicles promised by Ukraine’s Western allies have arrived in the country, NATO’s top military commander said.
Leaked documents suggested Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, might have been undergoing chemotherapy, although no evidence has emerged to support that.
A deadly boat disaster in the Mediterranean
At least 55 people drowned after a boat sank off the coast of Libya, according to the U.N. migration agency. It is the latest in a series of deadly accidents in just a few days involving migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. The boat left Garabouli, a town east of Tripoli, Libya’s capital, yesterday morning. Only five survivors were brought to shore by the Libyan coast guard.
Human rights organizations have for years protested the lack of preventive search and rescue patrols by countries around the Mediterranean.
After the dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi was toppled and killed in 2011, Libya descended into civil war, and its territory remains divided among warring factions. It has become a major transit point to Europe for tens of thousands of African migrants. With few pathways for legal migration available, many pay smugglers to help them make the dangerous sea crossing.
Toll: In total, 661 people have died in the central Mediterranean this year, according to Flavio di Giacomo, a spokesman for the U.N. migration agency. The number of deaths at sea includes people who went “missing” but after some hours are considered dead.
More power for Catholic women
Pope Francis will let women vote at the Synod of Bishops, an influential meeting, for the first time, an important step toward giving them more say in the affairs of the Roman Catholic Church.
During the meeting, bishops from all over the world gather in Rome to discuss issues vital to the church and act as an advisory body to the pope. In 2021, the pope amended church laws to let women be Bible readers at Mass, serve at the altar and distribute communion — practices that were already common in many places.
Context: “It’s an important change,” said Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, a top organizer of the meeting. “It’s not a revolution.”
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
President Biden moved to bolster the American nuclear umbrella guarding South Korea and vowed that any nuclear attack by North Korea would “result in the end” of the government in Pyongyang.
The youth wing of the far-right Alternative for Germany party has been deemed a threat to German democracy by the country’s domestic spy agency.
Singapore hanged a man for conspiring to traffic about two pounds of marijuana. Human rights groups called the punishment excessive.
Part of a research rocket that took off from Sweden landed in a mountain range across the border in Norway, creating some rare friction between the two neighbors.
Other Big Stories
British regulators rejected Microsoft’s plan to acquire the video game giant Activision Blizzard, potentially killing the largest merger in consumer technology in decades.
E. Jean Carroll took the witness stand in a civil trial over her allegations of rape against Donald Trump. Her lawyers are asking the jury to find the former president liable for battery and defamation.
After three straight quarters of declines, Meta reported that revenue for the first quarter jumped 3 percent from a year earlier.
Twitter’s verification changes have made it harder to distinguish genuine accounts from fakes.
Many Americans say President Biden’s age is a factor in the 2024 race. But a close reading of the polls suggests it might not be so important by Election Day.
What Else Is Happening
The Biden administration’s plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants could hinge on the ability of plant operators to capture carbon dioxide.
An old tuberculosis vaccine known to bolster the immune system did not prevent Covid infections among health care workers.
Arizona’s governor vetoed a bill that would have let home cooks legally sell perishable food like tamales. A culinary and cultural backlash followed.
A Morning Read
This spring, a new professional cricket league for women in India held its inaugural season, a $500 million bet on female talent in the country’s most popular sport.
The Women’s Premier League is already creating new opportunities for female athletes, as seen in one village in Punjab, where a team of girls ranging in age from 9 to 14 dream of becoming professional cricket players.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
How long until Wrexham reaches the Premier League? It took 15 years for Wrexham to escape one league, but what might the wait be to climb to the top?
The Brazilian star who went to the Premier League and disappeared: Arthur Melo has played just 13 minutes since joining Liverpool in August. What went wrong?
Formula One to debut extra “Sprint Shootout” qualifying in Azerbaijan: Teams unanimously approved the new format. Here’s what it will look like.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Apes who love to spin
A gorilla named Zola in the Calgary Zoo gained global fame after videos of him whirling in circles spread online. But it turns out that it’s pretty typical behavior: Other great ape species also seem to regularly enjoy stimulating their senses through spinning, according to a recent study.
Researchers found that most apes spun at an average rotation velocity of 1.43 revolutions per second — a speed rivaling professionally trained human dancers and aerialists. The longest spin session lasted 28 revolutions, and the fastest, achieved by a bonobo, clocked in at a brain-scrambling four revolutions per second.
It may look funny, but humans do it too, and potentially for the same reason — it’s fun and exhilarating. Our love for gyration is evidenced by the enduring popularity of playground merry-go-rounds and revolving park rides, and the irresistible draw of somersaulting down a hill.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Cheesy cauliflower steaks are tasty just as they are or with a marinara sauce.
What to Listen to
Podcasts on fashion, style and the place of clothing in pop culture.
What to Watch
“Trenque Lauquen,” a multipart Argentine epic, traces a mysterious disappearance.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Big celebrity (four letters).
And here are today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha
P.S. Photographers for The Times were recognized by the World Press Photo awards for coverage of the Golden Gays, a community of gay Filipino men, and Cambodian surrogate mothers.
“The Daily” is on President Biden’s re-election chances.
You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].
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