Your Thursday Briefing

‘A great inflection point in history’

In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Biden last night called for investment in infrastructure, education, child care and scientific research, describing them as programs that would “propel us into the future” and allow the U.S. to win a global competition with China. Highlights from our coverage are here.

Hours before, Biden announced the third blockbuster domestic funding proposal of his presidency. The three proposals add up to about $6 trillion and reflect an ambition to restore the federal government to the role it had played during the New Deal and the Great Society.

Biden also laid out his broader foreign-policy and domestic agenda and described his decision to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11 as a way to make good on his promise to end America’s “forever wars” even as he warned that the U.S. still faced other threats around the world.

Firsts: Biden kicked off his address to Congress with a string of words that no American president had ever said before: “Madam Vice President and Madam Speaker.”

Quote: “America is moving — moving forward — and we can’t stop now,” the president said. “We’re in a great inflection point in history. We have to do more than just build back. We have to build back better.”

Germany puts Covid-19 deniers under surveillance

Germany’s domestic intelligence service said it would keep tabs on members of the coronavirus denier movement because they posed a risk of undermining the state.

The increasingly aggressive movement — fueled in part by wild conspiracy theories — has moved beyond criticizing lockdown measures and hygiene rules to taking on the state itself, its leaders, businesses, the news media and globalism, to name a few targets.

Over the past year, demonstrators have attacked police officers, defied the civil authorities and, in one widely publicized episode, scaled the steps of Parliament.

Connections: In announcing the decision, intelligence officials noted the movement’s close ties to extremists like the Reichsbürger movement, a network of groups that refuse to accept the legitimacy of the modern German state.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

Doctors, the public and the news media in India point to a so-called double mutant coronavirus variant as the explanation for the country’s skyrocketing number of cases, though scientists say the data is thin. Here’s how to help India amid its Covid-19 crisis.

The organizers of the Tokyo Olympics laid out ground rules for the Games, now less than three months away: daily tests for athletes, dining restrictions and no public transit.

More than 170,000 migrants crossed the U.S. border in March, but the Border Patrol is conducting no tests for the coronavirus when they first arrive, raising fears of spreading the virus further.

Watch how Pfizer makes its vaccine.

Ethics inquiry into Boris Johnson’s spending

Britain’s Electoral Commission is investigating whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson used funds from a Conservative Party donor to supplement his annual budget of 30,000 pounds ($41,600) for upgrading his official quarters, which are above the offices at 11 Downing Street.

Questions about his apartment makeover are only one of several issues dogging the prime minister. Johnson is also accused of making callous statements about imposing another lockdown and giving wealthy businesspeople unusual access to government contracts.

The prime minister claimed that attacks from opposition parties were an effort to deflect attention from the government’s successful rollout of coronavirus vaccines, which he predicted voters would reward in regional elections on May 6.

Details: Johnson denied reports that he had said he would rather let “the bodies pile high in their thousands” than impose a third lockdown. But he acknowledged that he had expressed deep frustration, saying that “they were very bitter, very difficult decisions for any prime minister.”

THE LATEST NEWS

Other Big Stories

Iranian military vessels twice harassed American ships in the Persian Gulf this month after a year of relative maritime peace.

The French government presented a new anti-terrorism bill that would allow intense surveillance of communications and tighten restrictions on terrorists emerging from prison.

F.B.I. prosecutors executed search warrants for Rudy Giuliani’s home and office as part of an investigation into whether he had broken lobbying laws when he was Donald Trump’s lawyer.

Three men in the U.S. were indicted on federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man shot to death while jogging.

The Senate voted to reinstate Obama-era controls on methane, a climate-warming pollutant, after the Trump administration wiped away the limits.

What Else Is Happening

Two Danish cattle farmers organized cello recitals for their cows, the result of a partnership with the Scandinavian Cello School, which teaches young musicians from around the world.

Real Madrid could be without Marcelo, one of its best defenders, for a Champions League semifinal match next week because he was randomly selected to work a shift at the polls during elections in Madrid.

The Samsung family in South Korea plans to part with a Picasso, a Monet and a Dali as part of a string of donations to pay $10.8 billion in inheritance taxes.

A Morning Read

Despite tens of billions of dollars in U.S. and NATO spending to build the Afghan security forces, officials and militia commanders across Afghanistan told The Times that they were unprepared to face the Taliban, or any other threat, on their own.

As the U.S. prepares to withdraw its troops, grave shortages of ammunition and supplies plague security forces. Pay is low, recruitment is dwindling, and corruption abounds.

Lives Lived

Michael Collins, above, who piloted the Apollo 11 spacecraft Columbia 60 miles above Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they became the first humans to walk on the moon, has died at 90.

ARTS AND IDEAS

Rediscovering France’s female playwrights

A growing movement within French theater is reclaiming the work of forgotten female artists, writes Laura Cappelle, a critic based in Paris. This is a lightly edited excerpt.

Around 150 women had professional careers as playwrights in prerevolutionary France, between the 16th and 18th centuries. But if you would have guessed a number close to zero, you’re not alone. For decades, the default assumption has been that deep-seated inequality prevented women from writing professionally until the 20th century.

Now, a growing movement within French theater is reclaiming those artists’ forgotten work and reviving a lost concept along the way: le matrimoine, the feminine equivalent of patrimoine — translated as patrimony, or what is inherited from male ancestors, and used as a catchall term to describe cultural heritage. By way of matrimoine, artists and academics are pushing for the belated recognition of women’s contribution to art history and the return of their plays to the stage.

Matrimoine is no neologism. “The word was used in the Middle Ages but has been erased,” said the scholar and stage director Aurore Evain. In 2013, she started the annual Days of the Matrimoine, a festival that runs alongside the Days of the Patrimoine, a national celebration of France’s cultural heritage.

That visibility is now affecting younger generations of scholars and artists, like Julie Rossello Rochet, a playwright who completed a doctoral dissertation last year on her 19th-century predecessors. Studying their work helped her process the unease she felt as a young writer, she said: “I kept hearing, ‘Oh, it’s so rare, a woman who writes for the stage.’ Actually, it isn’t.”

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook

Match roasted salmon with radishes and peas for a quick and satisfying springtime dinner.

What to Watch

Tender and exuberant, “Best Summer Ever” is a high school musical whose cast is largely disabled. The effect is a feeling of amazing warmth and camaraderie.

What to Read

In “Jackpot,” Michael Mechanic details how the ultrarich live and argues that inordinate wealth “harms us all” — including the ultrarich themselves.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: One of the senses (five letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, the president of The International New York Times, will be speaking at the World Press Freedom Conference. You can register here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about the Covid crisis in India.

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

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