The New York Times 2024-02-24 22:49:50


Ukraine’s Deepening Fog of War

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

The forecasts are anything but optimistic: The best Ukraine can hope for in 2024, many Western officials and analysts say, is to simply hold the line.

Only a year ago, Ukraine was brimming with confidence. It had defied expectations, staving off Russia’s attempt to take over the country. Western nations, buoyed by Ukraine’s success, promised aid to help Ukrainians break through Russian lines.

But the flow of much-needed weapons from allies into the country was unpredictable, and slow. Ukraine’s own domestic arms production was mired in bureaucracy, top military officials have said. And the command structure of the army was not changing quickly enough to manage a force that had expanded from 200,000 troops to nearly a million in a matter of months.

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For Car Thieves, Toronto Is a ‘Candy Store,’ and Drivers Are Fed Up

Vjosa Isai drove around Toronto in a Volkswagen Passat with 290,000 miles on it, a vehicle not coveted by car thieves, to report this article.

Whenever Dennis Wilson wants to take a drive in his new SUV, he has to set aside an extra 15 minutes. That’s about how long it takes to remove the car’s steering wheel club, undo four tire locks and lower a yellow bollard before backing out of his driveway.

His Honda CR-V is also fitted with two alarm systems, a vehicle tracking device and, for good measure, four Apple AirTags. Its remote-access key fob rests in a Faraday bag, to jam illicit unlocking signals.

As a final touch, he mounted two motion-sensitive floodlights on his house and aimed them at the driveway in his modest neighborhood in Toronto.

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Ukraine Marks 2nd Anniversary of Russian Invasion, Determined Despite Setbacks

In solemn ceremonies and small vigils, state visits, stirring speeches and statements of solidarity, Ukraine and its allies marked the dawn of the third year of Russia’s unprovoked invasion with a single message: Believe.

“When thousands of columns of Russian invaders moved from all directions into Ukraine, when thousands of rockets and bombs fell on our land, no one in the world believed that we would stand,” said Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s newly named top military commander. “No one believed, but Ukraine did!”

On the 731st day of the war, Ukrainian soldiers once again find themselves outmanned and outgunned, fighting for their nation’s survival while also trying to convince a skeptical world that they can withstand the relentless onslaught, even as they suffer losses on the battlefield and are challenged up and down the front line by Russian forces.

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Sanitation Crisis in Gaza Spreads Disease

In a sprawling tent encampment in Gaza, the Israeli bombs fall close enough to hear and feel. But daily life is also a struggle against hunger, cold and a growing sanitation crisis.

A lack of sufficient toilets and clean water, as well as open sewage, are problems that displaced Palestinians have struggled with since the early days of Israel’s assault on Gaza.

For two months after Salwa al-Masri, 75, and her family fled to the city of Rafah, at the southernmost tip of Gaza, to escape Israel’s military offensive, she said she would walk 200 yards to reach the nearest bathroom. If she was lucky, younger women in line would let her jump ahead. Other times, she might wait up to an hour to use a dirty toilet shared with thousands of other people.

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Aleksei Navalny’s Body Was Returned to His Mother, Allies Say

The Russian authorities have transferred the body of the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny to his mother, his spokeswoman said on Saturday, ending a grim battle for custody of his remains, but it is unclear whether he will get a funeral that the public can attend.

“Aleksei’s body has been handed over to his mother,” Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said in a statement posted on social media. “The funeral is yet to come. We don’t know whether the authorities will interfere with carrying it out in the way the family wants and as Aleksei deserves.”

Mr. Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, on Saturday was still in the northern city of Salekhard, near the Arctic prison where Mr. Navalny was reported to have died on Feb. 16, Ms. Yarmysh said. She added that the opposition leader’s team would release information about the funeral “as it becomes available.”

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Farmers Clash With Police and Macron at Paris Agricultural Fair

France’s farmers vented their fury at President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday as he arrived at the annual agricultural show in Paris, a giant fair long seen as a test of presidents’ relationship with the countryside.

A large crowd that had camped outside the night before broke in and scuffled with police officers in riot gear while Mr. Macron entered through a side door to meet with unions demanding an end to hardships in the industry.

During an hourlong closed-door meeting before the fair opened, with top cabinet members at Mr. Macron’s side, farmers sang the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” at the top of their lungs, blew whistles, raised fists and shouted for the president to resign, as skittish prize cows and pigs brought to the capital from farms around the country looked on nervously from their display pens.

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Waiting for Serhiy

On April 12, 2022, as Russian forces continued their siege of Mariupol, a 22-year-old Ukrainian marine messaged with his sister.

His attempts to escape the Russian siege had failed. He and his fellow Ukrainian marines were surrounded, dozens of miles from friendly lines. They were nearly out of food and water. Some panicked, others quietly resigned themselves to what would come next.

Then, about a day later, Serhiy Hrebinyk, a senior sailor, and his comrades emerged from their final holdout inside the sprawling Ilyich Iron and Steel Works in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. He quickly messaged his older sister: “Hi Anna. Our brigade surrenders in captivity today. Me too. I don’t know what will happen next. I love you all.”


Map locates the town of Trostyanets in northeastern Ukraine, and the eastern cities of Mariupol and Olvenika. It also locates the town of Kamyshin, on the Volga River in Russia.

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Netanyahu Issues First Plan for Postwar Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel released on Friday his most detailed proposal yet for a postwar Gaza, pledging to retain indefinite military control over the enclave, while ceding the administration of civilian life to Gazans without links to Hamas.

The plan, if realized, would make it almost impossible to establish a Palestinian state including Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, at least in the short term. That would likely accelerate a clash between Israel and a growing number of its foreign partners, including the United States, that are pushing for Palestinian sovereignty after the war ends.

The blueprint for Gaza comes after nearly 20 weeks of war in the territory and a death toll approaching 30,000 people, at least half of them women and children, according to Gazan authorities.

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Russia’s Brutal War Calculus


Two years of war have remade Russia.

Isolated from the West, it is now more dependent on China. Political repression is reminiscent of the grim days of the Soviet Union.

But Russia is not the economic shambles many in the West predicted when they imposed punishing sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine. Many Russians are pulling down their highest incomes in years.

Russian society has been refashioned in ways that have devastated some and lifted others. While government critics languish in jail and young men die in trenches at the front, other Russians — especially those willing to spout the official line — are feeling more optimistic than ever.

Here is a look at how Russia at war has changed — suffering enormous costs by some metrics but faring better than expected by others.

Daily Life

People fled Russia in droves after the invasion and draft, more than 820,000, although some returned.
Alcoholics were diagnosed in higher numbers after more than a decade of steady declines.
Demand for psychologists increased by more than 60% in the first year of the war.
Traffic to Facebook and Instagram dropped after Russia blocked them, and use of Telegram and secure platforms like VPNs surged.
Travel abroad plummeted from pre-pandemic days.
But people are making higher wages as men deployed to the front reduce the ranks of workers back home.
And Russians are shelling out on new homes, helped by generous government subsidies.

Despite the ways that life has changed, many people say they feel positive about how President Vladimir Putin is doing. His popularity surged as the war began and is now at its highest level in seven years.

Questions remain about how honest people feel they can be in polls, given the risks. And polls have signaled, too, that a substantial number would like the war to end. But Mr. Putin has convinced many that in invading Ukraine, Russia is defending itself against an existential threat from the West.

The Economy

Mr. Putin went into the war with his financial house in order.

Government debt was low. Funds were stashed away. And a team of agile technocrats were on hand to fend off a crisis.

After an initial shock, the Russian system recovered, thanks in part to emergency financial measures, high oil prices and trade with China and India. Moscow also greatly increased state spending.

Collectively, Russia has created its own wartime economy.

Trade with Europe dropped by about 65% after Western sanctions.
Toyotas and VWs, once popular, disappeared from car assembly lines.
But trade with China, India and Turkey boomed.
By last year, Chinese cars made up six of the top 10 car brands in Russia.
The G.D.P. overall was driven up last year by an enormous war-related government stimulus.
Unemployment dropped.
And more than two-thirds of Russians say their economic well-being is the same or better.
But inflation shot up too.

The economy is now in danger of overheating. The mortgage subsidies could be fueling a housing bubble. And the market is still off-kilter in some sectors, with shortages of certain medicines, for example, and dramatic reductions in car production.

If oil prices plunge, Russia will struggle. If the military spending spree ends, all bets are off. Russia can sustain warfare in Ukraine for the foreseeable future, but its long-term economic future is in doubt.

Support for the War

For the moment, at least, the resilient economy has boosted Mr. Putin. And a campaign of propaganda and repression have allowed him to reign virtually unchallenged.

As nationalist songs top the charts — “I am Russian, out of spite to the whole world,” goes one — less attention is being paid to the news. And the government plans to spend $500 million on “patriotic education” this year, including for a goose-stepping “youth army.”

The percentage of people saying the country is moving in the right direction is the highest in decades, 71% last month.
Support for Russian military actions in Ukraine is even higher, though many Russians have indicated that they aren’t comfortable sharing their opinion about the war.
Repression of those opposing the war is widespread.
Treason convictions nearly tripled.
The war has accelerated a crackdown on the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
Soviet-style denunciations are back, as Russians report “unpatriotic” behavior by fellow citizens to the authorities.
Freedom of assembly has been obliterated, with nearly 20,000 Russians detained for their antiwar stance.
Independent journalists have been forced to flee, and many have been declared foreign agents.
Mr. Putin’s best-known critic, Aleksei A. Navalny, died after years of inhumane treatment in prison.
The number of prisoners in Russia has actually decreased dramatically.
But that’s primarily because many were recruited to fight, and often die, in Ukraine.

Blood and Treasure

In the early months of the war, Mr. Putin’s military made grave mistakes, but it has regrouped. Russia fended off a Western-backed Ukrainian counteroffensive and has taken the initiative on the front, buoyed by frozen American aid for Ukraine.

Still, Russia has sustained huge costs to get this far. It is far from controlling the four regions it claims to have annexed, let alone the rest of Ukraine, and Mr. Putin may need to carry out another draft.

He claims he would like to negotiate an end to the war, but skeptics see that as a ploy to undercut Western aid to Ukraine.

Moscow has made increasing gains in recent weeks. It now controls about 18 percent of Ukraine, up from 7 percent before the full-scale invasion.
But its control of Ukraine is down from the 27 percent Russian forces once occupied at their height.
The progress is coming at a higher cost. Military spending has eclipsed social spending at the federal level for the first time in Russia’s 32-year post-Soviet history. It makes up about a third of the national budget.
Some 60,000 Russians have been killed in the fighting, according to U.S. officials.
That’s two Russian soldiers for every square mile taken from Ukraine since the invasion.
The popularity of the war appears to ebb when it comes to support for the draft. Only 36% of Russians support another mobilization to replenish forces.

To replenish its ranks, Russia has been targeting prisons and poorer regions for recruits.

Soldiers in Ukraine are earning roughly three times the average Russian salary — and in many cases more. Compensation to families of soldiers who die in Ukraine can be more than $84,000, more than nine times the average annual Russian salary.

But despite their stated support for the war, many Russians would be happy for it to end. Half of Russians say they want to start peace talks.

Want to Lose a Lot of Money, Fast? Buy a Small Soccer Team in England.

Geoff Thompson knows there are plenty of people who want to buy what he has to sell. The phone calls and emails over the last few weeks have left no doubt. And really, that is no surprise. Few industries are quite as appealing or as prestigious as English soccer, and Mr. Thompson has a piece of it.

It is, admittedly, a comparatively small piece: South Shields F.C., the team he has owned for almost a decade, operates in English soccer’s sixth tier, several levels below, and a number of worlds away, from the dazzling light and international allure of the Premier League. But while his team might be small, Mr. Thompson is of the view that it is, at least, as perfectly formed as any minor-league English soccer club could hope to be.

South Shields has earned four promotions to higher leagues in his nine years as chairman. The team owns its stadium. Mr. Thompson has spent considerable sums of money modernizing the bathrooms, the club shop and the private boxes. There is a thriving youth academy and an active charitable foundation. “We have done most of the hard yards,” Mr. Thompson said.

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Orban Gives Green Light to Sweden’s NATO Bid

Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary on Friday declared an end to a monthslong spat with Sweden over the expansion of NATO, saying that a visit by his Swedish counterpart had rebuilt trust and paved the way for the Hungarian Parliament to vote on Monday to ratify the Nordic nation’s membership in the alliance.

“We are ready to fight for each other, to give our lives for each other,” Mr. Orban said at a joint news conference in Budapest, the Hungarian capital, with the visiting Swedish leader, Ulf Kristersson. Hungary has been the last holdout in formally endorsing Sweden’s NATO membership.

The sudden warming of relations between the two countries followed a decision by Sweden to provide Hungary with four Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets in addition to the 14 its air force already uses, and a promise that Saab, the maker of the warplanes, will open an artificial intelligence research center in Hungary.

Hungary had been stalling for 19 months on ratifying Sweden’s admission to NATO, a delay that had puzzled and exasperated the United States and other members of the military alliance.

Mr. Orban and other Hungarian officials have given differing explanations for the foot-dragging. These have included complaints over Swedish accusations of democratic backsliding in Hungary under Mr. Orban, teaching materials critical of Hungary in Swedish schools and comments that Mr. Kristersson made years before taking office.

While Mr. Orban insisted on Friday that Sweden’s offer of new fighter jets and a research institute was not part of a deal over NATO membership, media outlets controlled by his governing Fidesz party trumpeted the increased military cooperation with Sweden as a triumph for Hungarian negotiating tactics.

“Today’s meeting is a milestone in a long process,” Mr. Orban said. “This long process can also be called the process of rebuilding trust, and we can mark the end of this phase today.”

After months of complaining that Sweden had shown insufficient respect for his country, Mr. Orban praised it on Friday as a trusted partner. He noted that it had taken in many Hungarian refugees after Soviet troops crushed an anti-communist uprising in Budapest in 1956, and that it had strongly supported Hungary’s 2004 entry into the European Union.

Mr. Kristersson’s visit to Budapest reversed his earlier position that he would to travel to Budapest for talks with Mr. Orban only after the Hungarian Parliament had voted to approve his country’s NATO membership.

Swedish-made Gripen warplanes, provided under a lease agreement, form the backbone of the Hungarian air force. Pro-government news outlets in Hungary reported in recent days that Mr. Orban was pushing for a better deal on the aircraft as part of his negotiations over Sweden’s NATO membership.

As Mr. Kristersson arrived in Budapest, Saab, the maker of Gripen warplanes, announced that it had signed a contract with the Swedish state to deliver four additional fighters to Hungary.

Some diplomats and analysts saw Mr. Orban’s sudden focus on expanded military cooperation with Sweden as a face-saving way out of an impasse that critics say had damaged Hungary’s reputation as a reliable ally and secured no clear benefits in return.

Until Friday, the most tangible benefit for Hungary, or at least for Mr. Orban, from the long delay in accepting Sweden had been all the attention given to a nation that otherwise has little military, diplomatic or economic clout. It accounts for 1 percent of the European Union’s economic output and has a military with about 40,000 active-duty members, about the size of New York City’s police force.

Magyar Nemzet, a media outlet that often channels Mr. Orban’s views, on Friday celebrated Hungary’s prime minister taking center stage with a banner headline: “Viktor Orban is on the front page of Swedish newspapers.”

Hungary became the final obstacle to Sweden’s NATO admission after Turkey’s Parliament voted last month to approve it. After the Turkish vote left Hungary standing alone, Mr. Orban assured the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, that the “Hungarian government supports” Sweden’s membership and would get Parliament to act “at the first possible opportunity.”

But when opposition legislators called a session of Parliament early this month to vote on Sweden’s entry, Fidesz boycotted the session.

Sweden’s membership became entangled in Mr. Orban’s frosty relations with the Biden administration, which has strongly supported Sweden’s bid to join the alliance, and with the Hungarian leader’s opposition to Washington’s policy of supporting Ukraine with weapons.

“We would very much like to see President Trump return to the White House and make peace here in the eastern half of Europe,” Mr. Orban said last Saturday in his annual state of the nation address.

A bipartisan delegation of United States senators that visited Budapest last weekend to press Hungary to swiftly ratify Sweden as a NATO member received a cold shoulder, as Hungarian ministers and legislators from Fidesz all declined to meet with them. In a message posted on social media, Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, said the country would not be swayed by foreign delegations. “It is not worth it for visiting American senators to try to exert pressure,” he said.

In a sign of growing frustration, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, this month called Mr. Orban “the least reliable member of NATO” and raised the possibility of imposing sanctions on Hungary for blocking the expansion of the alliance.

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For Many Ukrainians, It’s Been a 10-Year War, Not a 2-Year One

Andrew E. Kramer covered the Maidan uprising in 2014, the war in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine that began in 2022.

They were a ragtag army, fighting with baseball bats, Molotov cocktails and plywood shields. But for Ukrainians, the protesters who faced off with riot police on Kyiv’s main square a decade ago were the first soldiers in a war still raging today.

The demonstrators were part of the Maidan uprising of 2014, when Ukrainians took to the streets to protest the decision by President Viktor F. Yanukovych to forgo closer ties to Europe and instead more closely align Ukraine with Moscow. In the uprising’s violent, final days police killed more than 100 protesters.

Their portraits now adorn a wall of honor at St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv. They are displayed first, ahead of portraits of soldiers killed in the simmering, eight-year conflict in Ukraine’s east that served as a prelude to Russia’s full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022. And a museum dedicated to the street uprising identifies those who died on the square as the first soldiers killed in the war with Russia.

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Where Hostage Families and Supporters Gather, for Solace and Protest

A week after Hamas-led terrorists stormed his kibbutz and kidnapped his wife and three young children, Avihai Brodutch planted himself on the sidewalk in front of army headquarters in Tel Aviv holding a sign scrawled with the words “My family’s in Gaza,” and said he would not budge until they were brought home.

Passers-by stopped to commiserate with him and to try to lift his spirits. They brought him coffee, platters of food and changes of clothing, and welcomed him to their homes to wash up and get some sleep.

“They were so kind, and they just couldn’t do enough,” said Mr. Brodutch, 42, an agronomist who grew pineapples on Kibbutz Kfar Azza before the attacks on Oct. 7. “It was Israel at its finest,” he said. “There was a feeling of a common destiny.”

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An English City Gave Soccer to the World. Now It Wants Credit.

As far as the man in the food truck is concerned, the patch of land he occupies in Sheffield, England, is about as humdrum as they come. To him, the spot — in the drab parking lot of a sprawling home improvement superstore, its facade plastered in lurid orange — is not exactly a place where history comes alive.

John Wilson, an academic at the University of Sheffield’s management school, looks at the same site and can barely contain his excitement. This, he said, is one of the places where the world’s most popular sport was born. He does not see a parking lot. He can see the history: the verdant grass, the sweating players, the cheering crowds.

His passion is sincere, absolute and shared by a small band of amateur historians and volunteer detectives devoted to restoring Sheffield — best known for steel, coal and as the setting for the film “The Full Monty” — to its rightful place as the undisputed birthplace of codified, organized, recognizable soccer.


Map locates Sheffield, Manchester and London in England. It also shows where Wembley Stadium is in northwest London.

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How John Travolta Became the Star of Carnival

Jack Nicas and Dado Galdieri reported this article among the giant puppets of the Carnival celebrations in Olinda, Brazil

Leer en español

It was near the start of one of Brazil’s most famous Carnival celebrations, in the northern seaside city of Olinda, and the town plaza was jammed with thousands of revelers. They were all awaiting their idol.

Just before 9 p.m., the doors to a dance hall swung open, a brass band pushed into the crowd and the star everyone had been waiting for stepped out: a 12-foot puppet of John Travolta.

Confetti sprayed, the band began playing a catchy tune and the crowd sang along: “John Travolta is really cool. Throwing a great party. And in Olinda, the best carnival.” (It rhymes in Portuguese.)

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‘This Is Where I Want to Be’

When Ayelet Khon moved back to the Kfar Azza kibbutz with her husband two months after the brutal Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7, the first thing she did was hang a string of rainbow-colored lights up on the front patio.

At night, when darkness drenches this community, the twinkling colors are the only lights visible.

“We are going to keep these lights on and never turn them off — even if we’re out for the evening — they are lights of hope,” Ms. Khon said she told her husband, Shar Shnurman.

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Manhattan or Pulau Rhun? In 1667, Nutmeg Made the Choice a No-Brainer.

Richard C. Paddock and

Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono, along with the photographer Nyimas Laula, spent three days on Pulau Rhun to document life on the remote island.

The isles of Manhattan and Pulau Rhun could hardly be farther apart, not just in geography, but also in culture, economy and global prominence.

Rhun, in the Banda Sea in Indonesia, has no cars or roads and only about 20 motorbikes. Most people get around by walking along its paved footpaths or up steep stairways, often toting plastic jugs of water from the numerous village wells or sometimes lugging a freshly caught tuna.

But in the 17th century, in what might now seem one of the most lopsided trades in history, the Netherlands believed it got the better part of a bargain with the British when it swapped Manhattan, then known as New Amsterdam, for this tiny speck of land.


Map locates the Maluku Islands in eastern Indonesia. It also locates Pulau Rhan, an island in the Banda Island group, which is part of the Maluku Islands.

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Can Gabriel Attal Win Over France?

Gabriel Attal, 34, is a new kind of French prime minister, more inclined to Diet Coke than a good Burgundy, at home with social media and revelations about his personal life, a natural communicator who reels off one-liners like “France rhymes with power” to assert his “authority,” a favorite word.

Since taking office in early January, the boyish-looking Mr. Attal has waded into the countryside, far from his familiar haunts in the chic quarters of Paris, muddied his dress shoes, propped his notes on a choreographed bale of hay, and calmed protesting farmers through adroit negotiation leavened by multiple concessions.

He has told rail workers threatening a strike that “working is a duty,” not an everyday French admonition. He has shown off his new dog on Instagram and explained that he called the high-energy Chow Chow “Volta” after the inventor of the electric battery. He has told the National Assembly that he is the living proof of a changing France as “a prime minister who assumes his homosexuality.”

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Architect Embraces Indigenous Worldview in Australian Designs

Jefa Greenaway will never forget the first time he heard his father’s voice. It was in 2017, when he was watching a documentary about Indigenous Australians’ fight to be recognized in the country’s Constitution.

“It was poignant, surreal,” Mr. Greenaway recalled. “In one word: emotional.”

In the film, his father, Bert Groves, an Indigenous man and a civil rights activist born in 1907, recounts how he was prevented from pursuing an education because of the size of his skull, a victim of phrenology, the pseudoscience that lingered in Australia into the 20th century.

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The Friar Who Became the Vatican’s Go-To Guy on A.I.

Before dawn, Paolo Benanti climbed to the bell tower of his 16th-century monastery, admired the sunrise over the ruins of the Roman forum and reflected on a world in flux.

“It was a wonderful meditation on what is going on inside,” he said, stepping onto the street in his friar robe. “And outside too.”

There is a lot going on for Father Benanti, who, as both the Vatican’s and the Italian government’s go-to artificial intelligence ethicist, spends his days thinking about the Holy Ghost and the ghosts in the machines.

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Cleaning Latrines by Hand: ‘How Could Any Human Do That?’

When he came to fully realize exactly what his parents and older brother did for a living, and what it likely meant for his own future, Bezwada Wilson says he was so angry he contemplated suicide.

His family members, and his broader community, were manual scavengers, tasked with cleaning by hand human excrement from dry latrines at a government-run gold mine in southern India.

While his parents had tried hard to hide from their youngest child the nature of their work as long as they could — telling Mr. Bezwada they were sweepers — as a student Mr. Bezwada knew his classmates viewed him with cruel condescension. He just didn’t know the reason.

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A Child of Another War Who Makes Music for Ukrainians

When the owner of an underground club in Kyiv reached out to Western musicians to play in Ukraine, long before the war, there were not so many takers.

But an American from Boston, Mirza Ramic, accepted the invitation, spawning a lasting friendship with the club’s owner, Taras Khimchak.

“I kept coming back,” Mr. Ramic, 40, said in an interview at the club, Mezzanine, where he was preparing for a performance during a recent tour of Ukraine.

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Playing Soccer in $1.50 Sandals That Even Gucci Wants to Copy

The wealthy pros of Ivory Coast’s national soccer team were resting in their luxury hotel last week, preparing for a match in Africa’s biggest tournament, when Yaya Camara sprinted onto a dusty lot and began fizzing one pass after another to his friends.

Over and over, he corralled the game’s underinflated ball and then sent it away again with his favorite soccer shoes: worn plastic sandals long derided as the sneaker of the poor, but which he and his friends wear as a badge of honor.

Shiny soccer cleats like his idols’? No thanks, said Mr. Camara, a lean 18-year-old midfielder, as he wiped sweat from his brow.

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Russian Skaters Stripped of Olympic Gold, Setting Up New Fight for Medals

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International skating’s governing body on Tuesday sought to put an end to a two-year-old controversy by revising the disputed results of a marquee figure skating competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. But in stripping Russia of its victory in the team event, awarding the gold medal to the United States and denying Canada the bronze it had been expecting, the sport may have only set the stage for yet another protracted legal fight.

The revised finishes were announced by the skating body, the International Skating Union, one day after the teenage Russian star Kamila Valieva was banned for four years for doping. Disqualifying Valieva, a 15-year-old prodigy who had led Russia to an apparent victory, had the most immediate effect on the Olympic team standings: elevating the U.S. to gold and Japan to silver, while, surprisingly, dropping Russia just enough that it could still claim the bronze.

Within hours, Russia’s Olympic committee, already furious about Valieva’s ban, announced that it would appeal any outcome that denied it the team gold. Canadian officials quickly threatened to appeal the ruling as well. That left skating officials and the International Olympic Committee, which had chosen not to award medals in the team event until Valieva’s doping case was resolved, wondering how they could at last arrange a “dignified Olympic medal ceremony” for an ugly dispute that appeared nowhere near its end.

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FIFA Convictions Are Imperiled by Questions of U.S. Overreach

Nearly a decade after police officers marched world soccer officials out of a luxury hotel in Zurich at dawn, revealing a corruption scandal that shook the world’s most popular sport, the case is at risk of falling apart.

The dramatic turnabout comes over questions of whether American prosecutors overreached by applying U.S. law to a group of people, many of them foreign nationals, who defrauded foreign organizations as they carried out bribery schemes across the world.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year limited a law that was key to the case. Then in September, a federal judge, citing that, threw out the convictions of two defendants linked to soccer corruption. Now, several former soccer officials, including some who paid millions of dollars in penalties and served time in prison, are arguing that the bribery schemes for which they were convicted are no longer considered a crime in the United States.

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Depardieu Sexual Assault Suit Dropped Over Statute of Limitations

A sexual assault lawsuit filed against Gérard Depardieu by a French actress has been dropped because it was past the statute of limitations, prosecutors in Paris said on Monday, but the French actor is still under investigation in a separate case.

In the lawsuit that was dropped, the actress Hélène Darras had accused Depardieu of groping her on the set of “Disco,” a comedy released in 2008. Her suit had been filed in September but was made public only last month, shortly before she appeared in a France 2 television documentary alongside three other women who also accused Depardieu of inappropriate comments or sexual misconduct.

The documentary, which showed Depardieu making crude sexual and sexist comments during a 2018 trip to North Korea, set off a fierce debate in France that prompted President Emmanuel Macron and dozens of actors, directors and other celebrities to defend Depardieu, splitting the French movie industry.

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Incendio en Valencia: hay al menos 9 muertos

Un día después de que un incendio arrasara un complejo de viviendas de gran altura en la ciudad española de Valencia, que derivó en la muerte de al menos 9 personas, los investigadores policiales intentaban determinar por qué las llamas se habían extendido por los dos edificios en menos de una hora.

El Times  Una selección semanal de historias en español que no encontrarás en ningún otro sitio, con eñes y acentos.

Las primeras sospechas recayeron en los materiales de construcción, pero era difícil determinarlo, ya que las dos estructuras permanecían tan calientes que los bomberos no pudieron entrar en los edificios sino hasta alrededor del mediodía del viernes, horas después de haber llegado al lugar durante la noche anterior.

Luis Sendra, decano del Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de la Comunidad Valenciana, dijo que los investigadores tendrían que esperar a que las estructuras se enfriaran para poder precisar si el revestimiento exterior podría haber contribuido a avivar el fuego. Afirmó que los huecos entre el aislamiento y el revestimiento podrían haber facilitado la propagación de las llamas.

“Es pronto para saber la causa exacta”, dijo Sendra. “Pero por la rapidez con que se extendió, podría haber mucha similitud con Grenfell en Londres”.

Setenta y dos personas murieron en el incendio de Grenfell, que consumió un edificio de apartamentos de gran altura en el oeste de Londres en 2017. Se habían utilizado materiales inflamables en el revestimiento de ese edificio, lo que aceleró la propagación del fuego.

En una rueda de prensa celebrada el viernes por la mañana, Carlos Mazón, presidente de la Comunidad Valenciana, anunció un periodo de luto de tres días y afirmó que siete bomberos habían resultado heridos en el incendio.

El gobierno de la comunidad autónoma había anunciado a primera hora del viernes que 10 personas habían fallecido en el incendio, pero de acuerdo con información que apareció en los medios de comunicación españoles más tarde ese mismo día, citando fuentes policiales, se afirmaba que el número de muertes se había revisado y eran nueve, y una persona desaparecida.

En unas imágenes dramáticas que circularon en los medios de comunicación españoles se veía a un bombero saltando desde el séptimo piso a una colchoneta de seguridad en el suelo. Dos residentes también fueron rescatados de un balcón tras quedar atrapados por el fuego; mientras los bomberos contenían las llamas con mangueras, los residentes trepaban de balcón en balcón para llegar a una plataforma de rescate elevada por un camión de bomberos.

El complejo residencial de Valencia, la tercera ciudad más grande de España, estaba formado por un edificio de 14 plantas y otro más bajo, y tenía un total de 138 viviendas, según Sendra.

Un equipo de 15 agentes forenses de la policía nacional está llevando a cabo una investigación sobre el incendio. Tampoco estaba claro el origen del incendio.

Aún no se sabía con claridad qué materiales se utilizaron en el exterior de los edificios. Sendra declaró a los medios de comunicación que el uso de aluminio en las fachadas de los edificios estaba permitido por la normativa de construcción española, pero que el uso de poliuretano como aislante no lo estaba.

Tampoco quedaba claro si se había utilizado poliuretano. Sin embargo, Esther Puchades, vicepresidenta del Colegio Oficial de Ingenieros Técnicos Industriales de Valencia, afirmó en un comunicado que “todos los indicios apuntaban al poliuretano como el causante de la voracidad de las llamas y el color del humo”.

Un comunicado del colegio señaló que algunos de los materiales de la fachada de los edificios contenían plástico que se incendió con rapidez, pero añadía: “No podemos asegurar que sea un material en concreto hasta que no acabe la investigación”.

Pep Benlloch, presidente de la asociación de vecinos de la zona, dijo en una entrevista en la cadena de televisión Antena 3 que en el complejo vivían muchos extranjeros, entre ellos ucranianos, pero que, en un principio, había estado vacío durante mucho tiempo debido a los precios prohibitivos por el auge de la construcción.

La policía y el ayuntamiento señalaron que no podían confirmar inmediatamente cuántas de las viviendas estaban habitadas en el momento del incendio. El complejo se construyó durante el auge inmobiliario de mediados de la década de 2000, según Sendra.

Un residente de 67 años que solo dio su nombre de pila, Pep, dijo el viernes a los medios de comunicación españoles que había salido de su vivienda con su esposa poco después de que se declarara el incendio.

“Cogí la cartera, el móvil, y logré salir del infierno”, dijo el hombre, hablando fuera del hotel donde ha sido alojado temporalmente.

Jorge, quien vive en el barrio de Campanar, dijo que había salido a dar un paseo cuando vio el incendio y se unió a un pequeño grupo de personas que contemplaba con horror cómo el edificio era consumido por las llamas.

Inmediatamente empezó a grabar; hizo un video del edificio en llamas, con el sonido de gritos de fondo, que publicó en las redes sociales

“Olía a plástico quemado”, dijo Jorge, quien solo dio su nombre de pila, en una entrevista.

El ayuntamiento de Valencia señaló en un comunicado que se había instalado una locación de asistencia en un edificio cercano para ofrecer apoyo práctico y psicológico a los residentes sobrevivientes.

El presidente del gobierno de España, Pedro Sánchez, visitó el viernes el lugar del incendio, agradeció a los trabajadores de emergencia y ofreció “trasladar nuestra solidaridad, nuestro cariño y nuestra empatía” a las familias afectadas por el fuego.

“La prioridad ahora”, dijo, “es la búsqueda de víctimas”.


Emily Schmallcolaboró con reportería.

EE. UU. indagó acusaciones de vínculos del narco con aliados del presidente de México

Funcionarios de la ley estadounidenses indagaron durante años afirmaciones de que aliados del presidente de México, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, se habían reunido con cárteles del narcotráfico y recibido millones de dólares luego de que asumió el cargo, según consta en registros de EE. UU. y de acuerdo con tres personas con conocimiento del tema.

La indagatoria, de la que hasta ahora no se había informado, descubrió información que señalaba posibles vínculos entre operadores poderosos de los cárteles y funcionarios y asesores mexicanos cercanos a López Obrador cuando ya gobernaba el país.

Pero Estados Unidos nunca abrió una investigación formal a López Obrador y los funcionarios que estaban haciendo la indagatoria al final la archivaron. Concluyeron que había poca disposición en el gobierno estadounidense para rastrear acusaciones que pudieran implicar al líder de uno de los principales aliados del país, dijeron las tres personas con conocimiento del caso, quienes no tenían autorización de ofrecer declaraciones públicamente.

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EE. UU. defiende a Israel ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia

El miércoles, un día después de vetar los llamados a un alto al fuego inmediato en Gaza, Estados Unidos defendió la ocupación israelí de Cisjordania y Jerusalén Oriente, ocurrida a lo largo de décadas, argumentando ante el más alto tribunal de las Naciones Unidas que Israel se enfrentaba a “necesidades muy reales en materia de seguridad”.

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La más reciente defensa estadounidense de Israel en la escena internacional se produjo en la Corte Internacional de Justicia de La Haya, donde Richard Visek, asesor jurídico en funciones del Departamento de Estado de EE. UU., instó a un panel de 15 jueces a no exigir la retirada inmediata de Israel de los territorios palestinos ocupados.

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¿Quién controla las prisiones de Latinoamérica? ¿El hampa o los guardias?

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El ejército de Ecuador fue enviado a recuperar el control de las prisiones el mes pasado, luego de que dos cabecillas importantes se fugaron y bandas criminales organizaron con rapidez una serie de disturbios que paralizaron el país.

La semana pasada, dos reclusos en Brasil con conexiones a una pandilla importante se convirtieron en los primeros en escapar de una de las cinco prisiones de máxima seguridad del país, según las autoridades.

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4 Ways Autocrats Have Used Interpol to Harass Faraway Enemies

Interpol is the world’s largest police organization. It serves as a powerful bulletin board that governments and law enforcement agencies use to team up to pursue fugitives across the globe. At its best, it helps track down killers and terrorists.

But it is also a novel weapon for strongmen and autocrats in the hunt for political enemies, giving them the power to reach across borders and grab their targets — even in democracies.

Here are some of the ways countries can exploit Interpol:

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