Your Monday Briefing

The Ukrainian flag was raised over a newly established checkpoint yesterday Hushchyntsi, Ukraine.Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Putin ratchets up tensions on Ukraine

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, further intensified the crisis in Ukraine by placing his nuclear forces on alert, threatening the West as it rallied behind Ukraine. President Biden chose to de-escalate by refusing to change America’s own alert status, portraying Putin as once again manufacturing a menace. Follow the latest updates.

The U.N. Security Council responded by voting to convene a rare special session of the General Assembly — only the 11th time it has done so since 1950. Eleven of the Security Council’s 15 members voted in favor of the resolution. China, India and the U.A.E. abstained, as they had for a resolution last week condemning the invasion.

Despite Putin’s announcement, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, agreed to talks with Putin at the border with Belarus “without preconditions.” The talks are scheduled to begin today.

Fighting: The violence continued yesterday, with the Russians “shelling in almost all directions,” according to a Ukrainian military official. Residents of Ukraine’s country towns have joined the fight. More than 350 civilians, including 14 children, have been killed since the invasion began, according to Ukrainian officials. Satellite imagery showed a miles-long convoy of hundreds of Russian military vehicles closing in on Kyiv.

Ukraine’s president: Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Zelensky was often derided as a comic turned unlikely politician. But with the help of social media, he has become the leader Ukraine did not know it needed.

Go deeper: Here are six books to read for context on Ukraine.

In other news from the conflict:

  • The war has forced Israel into a delicate diplomatic balancing act.

  • As the crisis deepens, oil prices are climbing. The oil giant BP announced that it would “exit” its nearly 20 percent stake in Rosneft, the Russian state-controlled oil company.

  • Amid pressure from allies and horror over Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Germany is strengthening its military.

  • For more than a decade, the leaders of China and Russia have forged a respectful, perhaps even warm relationship. The invasion of Ukraine could strain those ties — or forge, in diplomatic isolation, an alliance that reshapes the world order.

The Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan last year.Credit…Thomas Peter/Reuters

Data points to Wuhan market as the pandemic’s origin

Two new studies point to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, as the birthplace of the coronavirus pandemic. Scientists concluded that the virus was very likely present in live mammals sold in the market, an object of early suspicion, in late 2019.

The studies, which have not yet been published in a scientific journal, suggest that the virus twice spilled over into people working or shopping there, and it found no support for the so-called lab leak theory.

But some outside scientists said they remained unconvinced by the studies’ findings. There is no direct evidence that animals at the market were infected with the coronavirus, and no wildlife was left there by the time Chinese researchers collected genetic samples in early 2020.

Details: Data on Covid cases from the social media app Weibo from December 2019 through February 2020 pointed to the market as the origin of the outbreak, with the virus then spreading to surrounding neighborhoods. The researchers ran tests that showed it was extremely unlikely that the pattern could be produced by chance.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • The war in Ukraine is straining North African economies already weakened by the pandemic.

  • After an outcry, Hong Kong said it would allow infected children to remain with their families instead of being separated from them.

  • More than five million children worldwide lost a caregiver to Covid-19 in the first 19 months of the pandemic, a study estimates.

Steam billowing from a power plant in Craig, Colo., last year.Credit…Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

The biggest climate change case in a decade

The Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a dispute that could restrict or even eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to control the pollution that is heating the planet, potentially shredding President Biden’s plans to halve greenhouse emissions in the U.S. by the end of the decade.

The outcome could also have repercussions that stretch well beyond air pollution, restricting the ability of federal agencies to regulate health care, workplace safety, telecommunications, the financial sector and more.

At issue is a lack of a federal regulation that governs emissions from power plants, after the Supreme Court put Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, his chief strategy to fight climate change, on hold. The Biden administration has yet to issue its own legislation. It is highly unusual for the court to take up a case that revolves around a hypothetical future regulation, legal experts said.

Analysis: “They could handcuff the federal government’s ability to affordably reduce greenhouse gases from power plants,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton. The power sector is the country’s second-largest source of carbon emissions.

Climate news: At least eight people died after days of torrential rain brought floods to Queensland, Australia.


Around the World

Credit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times
  • President Biden selected Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee for the Supreme Court. As a federal public defender, Jackson, who would be the first Black woman to serve as a justice, took on the cases of criminal defendants and Guantánamo detainees.

  • Amazon is trying to erect new headquarters on sacred land in South Africa, prompting fierce debate among Indigenous leaders.

  • Doctors told Pope Francis, 85, to rest because of acute knee pain. He will not preside over Ash Wednesday services this week.

  • The Greek authorities have recovered eight bodies from a ferry that caught fire this month en route to Italy. At least three people remain missing.

What Else Is Happening

  • The internet was supposed to bring price transparency. Instead, shoppers are losing sight of what things should cost. At the same time, corporate America is lifting prices and bragging about bigger profits as consumers open their wallets and spend heartily.

  • DNA evidence has revealed that a troublemaking bear in California and Nevada known as Hank the Tank isn’t one bear, but several.

A Morning Read

Credit…Dado Galdieri for The New York Times

Brazil, a country known for “beach bodies,” has become the world leader in enshrining protections for the overweight.

Over the past 20 years, Brazil’s obesity rate has doubled to more than one in four adults. In response, activists have fought to make life less difficult for overweight Brazilians, and the success of their efforts stands out globally for changing not just attitudes, but also laws.

Lives Lived

Leo Bersani was a scholar of French literature. But he found renown for his studies of gay identity and his arguments that gay men should resist imitating conventional heterosexuality. Bersani has died at 90.


Credit…Trisha Krauss

The life-affirming comforts of ‘death cleaning’

Cleaning out a home can be a morbid, depressing task, often best left until after you’re gone, when it’s no longer your problem. But what if you decide to tackle the chore now, while you’re still here to make the decisions?

As we begin to emerge from a long and deadly pandemic, some older Americans have decided to do just that, Ronda Kaysen reports for The Times. Professional home organizers are seeing an increase in calls from older clients who want to cut through the clutter and make their lives more livable.

Professionals often refer to the task as “death cleaning,” a term popularized in 2018 with the publication of the book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,” by Margareta Magnusson. It posits that the prospect of our eventual demise is reason enough to purge.

Magnusson suggests we choose not to burden our loved ones with a lifetime of personal effects, including letters or journals that may offend or upset. “I don’t think that’s nice to leave that to your own children,” she said in an interview. Simply put, we should be preparing for the end throughout our lives, pruning as we go.

Read more about clearing out clutter.


What to Cook

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times

You won’t miss the meat in this vegetarian version of Southern dirty rice.

What to Listen to

The band Tears for Fears is returning with its first new album in 18 years.

What to Read

Our editors’ picks of the best new books include a high-octane thriller and meticulous, well-crafted short stories.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Mother of a piglet (three letters).

Here’s 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. In “The Book Review” podcast, the author Dennis Duncan discusses his new book, “Index, a History of the,” a historical overview of the humble index.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on Ukraine.

You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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