Biden’s surprise trip to Ukraine
President Biden made a sudden appearance yesterday in Kyiv’s presidential palace. The visit was intended to be a morale booster for shellshocked Ukrainians and a direct challenge to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, whose troops invaded Ukraine a year ago this week. “One year later, Kyiv stands,” Biden said. “And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands.”
The war in Ukraine is about power and the principle of territorial sovereignty, and about whether the Western-designed global order that Americans thought would prevail for decades will survive new challenges from Moscow and Beijing. But it is increasingly a contest between Putin and Biden, who have been circling each other for years.
Today, the men are set to deliver separate speeches, each vowing to stick with the war. Putin will most likely make the case anew that he is not only saving Ukraine from “Nazism” but saving Russia from being overrun by NATO. And Biden is expected to frame the war as a long battle between democracy and autocracy, in which the former has emerged the winner of the first year.
Back story: How Biden made a surreal and secretive journey into a war zone.
Related: Beijing has bristled against the U.S. claim that it was poised to give Russia “lethal support.” Such a step would be a major shift for China and would transform the war into a struggle between three superpowers, my colleague Edward Wong writes in an analysis.
Another earthquake rocks Turkey
Two weeks after a devastating quake hit southern Turkey and northwestern Syria, another powerful temblor struck the same region just after 8 p.m. yesterday, once again collapsing buildings and claiming lives. The latest quake had a magnitude of 6.4 and was centered in one of the areas hardest hit by the Feb. 6 quake and its aftershocks.
At least three people were killed and 213 injured, according to the authorities in Turkey, but local officials say more are trapped in the rubble. In the opposition-held area of northwestern Syria, at least 150 were injured, many of them trampled in a panicked rush to safety, but there were no confirmed deaths, according to the White Helmets, a civil defense group there.
Since the Feb. 6 quake, many people across the region whose homes were still standing have been sleeping in tents, shipping containers and other makeshift shelters for fear that their structures were unsafe — a fact that may have saved lives yesterday as more buildings tumbled.
First person: “All of sudden, I felt like the earth had been pulled out under my feet,” said one person in the area. “Such a strong quake, I don’t have words to describe it. I could not even walk straight to the door just one meter away.”
U.S. response: Hours before the disaster yesterday, Antony Blinken, making his first visit to Turkey as U.S. secretary of state, declared that the U.S. would further support Turkey in its earthquake recovery. The U.S. had already sent search-and-rescue teams, heavy equipment and more than $160 million in humanitarian aid and private donations, and Blinken announced an additional $100 million in aid.
More protests in Israel
Tens of thousands of protesters again gathered in Jerusalem as Israel’s far-right government pushed ahead with its plan aimed at curbing judicial oversight and giving politicians more influence. Critics say the overhaul will weaken and politicize the country’s courts and undermine Israel’s democratic foundations.
After hours of stormy debate, both bills passed a first, nonbinding reading after midnight with a majority of 63 in the 120-seat Parliament. Forty-seven members voted against it. Ten members were absent. As members of the governing coalition celebrated, opponents of the judicial overhaul said the day would be marked as a dark one in the annals of the country.
One bill would change the makeup of a nine-member committee that selects judges to reduce the influence of legal professionals. The change would effectively allow the government of the day to choose judges. The other would strip the Supreme Court of its power to strike down basic laws passed by Parliament. Opponents are alarmed by the speed at which the plan is moving forward.
Response: “Members of the coalition — history will judge you for this night,” Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition and a centrist, said on Twitter. “For the damage to democracy, for the damage to the economy, for the damage to security, for the fact that you are tearing the people of Israel apart and you simply do not care.”
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
Amid mounting aggression from China, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the president of the Philippines, has adopted a muscular foreign policy approach.
The police in England found the body of Nicola Bulley, whose disappearance prompted a national debate over privacy and the treatment of missing women.
Deaths in U.S. prisons rose nearly 50 percent during the pandemic’s first year, according to data examined by The Times.
Other Big Stories
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case challenging Section 230, a law that protects Google, Facebook and others from lawsuits over what their users post online.
The drug ketamine can be mind-altering, and getting it has become much easier for mental health patients. But a boom in at-home use has outpaced evidence of safety.
A new study suggests electrical stimulation of the spinal cord could eventually help some people disabled by strokes.
What Else Is Happening
Seventy-seven gold relics were returned to Cambodia. They came from the collection of a deceased scholar of ancient Cambodian art who was accused of having been an antiquities trafficking kingpin.
Prosecutors downgraded the charges against Alec Baldwin in the “Rust” case, reducing possible prison time if he is convicted.
A four-foot-long alligator, which may have been someone’s abandoned pet, was pulled from the lake of a Brooklyn park.
A Morning Read
The U.S. military is capable of many things, but finding the remnants of an unidentified flying object scattered across an expanse of Arctic ice in minus-30-degree weather is not one of them. (Canadian forces did no better.)
The unsuccessful mission felt like an incomplete end to the riveting saga of aerial assaults on mysterious objects. And many questions have been left unanswered: Were aliens involved? Surveillance devices of mysterious provenance? Hobby balloons? Or something else entirely?
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
Remembering Christian Atsu at his old church: The soccer player’s death in the earthquake that has devastated Turkey and Syria has shocked those in Newcastle, England, who knew him as a friend.
Should Chelsea worry about relegation? Chelsea has won two of its last 14 games in the Premier League. No team has won fewer in that same span. We should not underestimate how bad Chelsea’s play has been.
Barcelona’s night of rejuvenation: Ferran Torres was player of the match as Barcelona maintained its eight-point lead in La Liga. His performance marks a transformation.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Rewriting Roald Dahl
The British children’s author Roald Dahl, who died in 1990, was overtly antisemitic. He initially wrote the Oompa Loompa workers in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory as African pygmies. And his works have long been described as antisocial, brutish and anti-feminist.
To accommodate the norms and sensibilities of 2023, new editions of his works, including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Matilda” and “James and the Giant Peach,” have been rewritten. Characters are no longer described as “fat,” and references to “mothers” and “fathers” have been updated to “parents” or “family.”
The changes have prompted widespread criticism from prominent literary figures and others, including Rishi Sunak, the British prime minister, and the author Salman Rushdie, who described them as “absurd censorship.”
“When publishing new print runs of books written years ago, it’s not unusual to review the language,” a spokesman for the Roald Dahl Story company said. “Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the story lines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text.”
For more: “Teller of the Unexpected,” a biography of Dahl released this year, sidesteps controversy while capturing his grandiose, tragedy-specked life.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Shrove Tuesday — also known as Mardi Gras — calls for classic, buttery pancakes.
The snowy Swedish region of Sälen has welcoming cabins deep in the forest, trails for every level of skier and cloudberries everywhere.
Glossier, the purveyor of youthful beauty products, is getting a makeover.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Some home garden growings (five 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. See you tomorrow. — Natasha
P.S. The Times won three George Polk Awards, two for its coverage of the war in Ukraine.
There is no new episode of The Daily. On “First Person,” a mother grapples with how to help her mentally ill son.
Send feedback, thoughts and anything else to Natasha and the team at [email protected].
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