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April 7, 2022

 

Good morning. We look at “the Putin wing” of the Republican Party.

 
 
 
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Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in 2019.Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Their man in Moscow

Donald Trump turned Vladimir Putin into a popular figure among a significant segment of Republican voters. As a candidate, president and ex-president, Trump has repeatedly praised Putin, calling him “strong,” “savvy” and “genius.” Trump has also echoed Putin’s ideology, by harshly criticizing NATO.

Taking their cue from Trump, some Republican voters began to view Putin more favorably. A YouGov poll in January found that Republicans viewed Putin more favorably than they viewed President Biden, Kamala Harris or Nancy Pelosi.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has changed the situation, damaging his popularity in the U.S., even among Republicans. If anything, many Republican voters say they wish the Biden administration would take more aggressive action to help Ukraine, according to the Pew Research Center. Yet Trump’s effect on Putin’s popularity has not entirely disappeared: There is still a meaningful faction of Republican elites who feel an affinity for the Russian president.

Today’s newsletter looks at this faction. Representative Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican and frequent Trump critic, describes it as “the Putin wing of the G.O.P.” It both admires him as a strong leader and likes his right-wing nationalism, including his opposition to NATO, Western liberalism and L.G.B.T. rights.

For now, this wing remains on the party’s fringe, with little ability to affect policy. Senator Lindsey Graham has called Putin’s defenders “outliers,” while Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, has described Putin as an evil dictator who is murdering people.

But the G.O.P.’s Putin wing still has influence. It is affecting coverage by the most important news source for Republicans voters: Fox News. It seems to be shaping the behavior of another major corporation: Koch Industries. And Trump remains a leading contender to win the 2024 Republican nomination, which suggests the party’s Putin-friendly faction may not remain on the fringe.

In their own words

In the days leading up to the invasion, Trump praised Putin for recognizing Ukraine’s economic and strategic value to Russia. “He’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper,” Trump said. “We could use that on our southern border.”

In recent days, Trump has shifted to a more mixed message, both saying that Putin should negotiate a peace agreement and praising him as “driven.” Trump has also encouraged Putin to release negative information on Biden’s family.

Tucker Carlson, the host of one of cable television’s highest-rated shows, has suggested that American liberals represent a bigger threat than Putin. “It might be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about?” Carlson said in February. “Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist?”

Carlson has also promoted a false rumor, popular in Russia, accusing the U.S. of funding biological weapons labs in Ukraine. These comments are consistent with Carlson’s history of arguing that the U.S. should align itself with Russia over Ukraine. “I think we should probably take the side of Russia, if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine,” he said in 2019.

Koch Industries, the conglomerate whose controlling family is a major funder of Republican candidates and conservative causes, has said it would continue to operate in Russia even as many Western companies have left.

Political advocacy groups affiliated with Charles Koch have also questioned why the U.S. is levying harsh sanctions on Russia and have suggested that a Ukrainian victory is not in America’s interest, as Judd Legum of the Popular Information newsletter has reported. “The United States can and should do very little for Ukraine,” Will Ruger, the president of a Koch-funded group, has said. “Ukraine simply doesn’t matter to America’s security or our prosperity.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Georgia congresswoman, has criticized both Russia’s invasion and Ukraine’s government. President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government is corrupt, she claimed (without offering evidence), and is in power only because the Obama administration helped overthrow the previous regime (which is not true). She has argued that the U.S. should not send weapons to Ukraine.

Matt Rosendale, a Montana congressman, called Zelensky “a less-than-forthright president of the Ukraine.”

Former Trump administration officials have echoed their boss’s comments. “I have enormous respect for him,” Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, said of Putin. “He is very savvy, very shrewd.” Peter Navarro, who was a Trump economic adviser, said that Ukraine was “not really a country” because it used to be part of the Soviet Union. Douglas Macgregor, another administration official, said that Russian forces had been “too gentle” with Ukraine.

At least two Republican candidates have made similar comments. “I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another,” J.D. Vance, who is running for Senate in Ohio, said. Joe Kent, who is trying to win a primary over a House Republican who voted to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 riot, called Putin’s demand to control part of eastern Ukraine “very reasonable.”

In some cases, Russian state television has shown its appreciation for these kind words toward Putin. It has aired clips of Carlson’s show, defended Trump from what it calls unfair attacks by the American media and suggested that Trump should become president again.

State of the War

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A disabled Russian tank in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv.Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

More on Ukraine

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Traces of two lives lost this past week in Kharkiv.Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
 

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THE LATEST NEWS

The Virus
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Dining inside a Manhattan restaurant last month.Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
 
Politics
 
Other Big Stories
 
Opinions

Many vaccine-hesitant Americans were persuadable. Both liberals and conservatives failed them, says Ross Douthat.

Jon Shields once opposed campus “safe spaces.” Now he thinks open inquiry requires taking students’ discomfort seriously.

 
 

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MORNING READS

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Members of the Harvard Black Law Students Association.Lelanie Foster for The New York Times

K.B.J.’s nomination: Black women at Harvard Law School reflect on Ketanji Brown Jackson. “We are literally walking in her shoes.”

Untz untz: Explore Germany’s new museum dedicated to techno.

Unearthed footage: How a local TV station found a clip of Prince at 11 years old.

DALL-E: This A.I. draws anything at your command.

A Times classic: What our critic saw bingeing “Game of Thrones.”

Advice from Wirecutter: Try a muscle-pummeling massage gun.

Lives Lived: Eric Boehlert was a veteran journalist who was a fierce critic of right-wing misinformation and hypocrisy in the news media. He died at 57.

 

SPORTS AND IDEAS

An M.L.B. season preview

The Major League Baseball season, delayed by a labor fight, finally begins today. Three players are especially worth watching:

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels: Ohtani, who draws comparisons to Babe Ruth as a pitcher who hits home runs, is the game’s most exciting player. He may also be the only pitcher to hold a bat with any frequency this season. That’s because the National League has adopted the designated hitter — allowing other players to bat in place of pitchers — nearly 50 years after the American League did.

Max Scherzer, New York Mets: Scherzer, who has been named the league’s best pitcher three times, joined a Mets roster that already had an elite starter, Jacob deGrom. The duo could be fearsome once deGrom returns from an injury. The Mets are now outspending the Yankees. Will they also outplay them?

Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays: The normally thrifty Rays signed Franco, a shortstop, to a lucrative deal after only his first season. They will need his preternatural batting talent to compete in the A.L. East: The Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox all have strong lineups.

 

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook
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David Malosh for The New York Times

Tangy, sweet, and scene-stealing, try Melissa Clark’s pomegranate-bathed casserole.

 
What to Read

In a memoir, Molly Shannon recounts her comedy career and the family tragedy that changed her life.

 
What to Do

Go birding with a purpose this spring.

 
Late Night

Jimmy Kimmel tripped out over communicating mushrooms.

 
Now Time to Play
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The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were organizing and razoring. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.

Here’s today’s Wordle. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Inclined (five letters).

If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

 
 

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. The U.N. established the World Health Organization 74 years ago today.

The Daily” is about Covid in Africa. On the Modern Love podcast, City Hall marriages.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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April 10, 2022

 

Good morning. More expensive gas could have lasting consequences.

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Pumping gas at a Shell gas station in Houston.Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Why gas prices are up

If you were hoping for much cheaper gas anytime soon, I have some bad news: Prices probably won’t drop much for at least a few months.

The causes of more expensive gas will most likely be with us for a while. After driving U.S. prices to more than $4 a gallon, Russia’s war in Ukraine continues with no clear end in sight. Producers so far seem unwilling, or unable, to pump out enough supply to fill the gap caused by the war.

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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

When I asked whether any good short-term solutions exist, Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service, gave a simple answer: “No.”

For Americans, the immediate effect is that life will simply cost more. We will pay more when we fill up our gas tanks or pay energy bills in the next few weeks or months. The price of many other goods will go up, because so many things — food, iPhones, PlayStations, cars — must be transported at one point or another by a truck, a boat or a plane burning fossil fuels.

Higher fuel prices have broader consequences, too. A push to drill more oil and natural gas, or to more aggressively pursue alternative energy sources, could affect climate change (in good or bad ways). A public angry over the cost of living could protest or vote out the politicians in power. People in the U.S. and other countries aiding Ukraine could begin to wonder whether their support is worth pricier gasoline and other goods.

With the Covid pandemic’s retreat, many of us wanted — and expected — some sense of relief after two awful years. Higher gas prices, and broader inflation trends, work against that, as if we are merely trading one crisis for another. And just as with the pandemic, no clear end is in sight.

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A refinery in California.Bing Guan/Reuters

Producers vs. low prices

At the onset of the pandemic, demand for fuel collapsed as people stayed home. Once much of the world reopened, demand returned.

But supply has not kept pace, much like strained supply lines have raised food prices and impaired the flow of cars, electronics and other goods. By turning much of the world against a major oil and gas producer in Russia, the war in Ukraine only made supply problems worse.

Some of the supply issues are by design. OPEC Plus, a cartel of oil-producing countries that includes Russia, has worked to keep prices — and therefore profits — as high as possible by limiting supply. The cartel has held fast to its approach.

But it is not just OPEC. American oil companies have deliberately slowed production after a pair of recent fracking boom-and-bust cycles left them with a glut of supply and plummeting prices. “We’re having the third boom, and these executives don’t want to have the third bust,” Kloza said.

All of that leaves few good solutions in the short term. Even if public pressure or a strained market eventually pushes producers to drill more, new production can take months to spin up, especially given labor and supply shortages. And even if U.S. producers step up, OPEC Plus could decide to cut back — to keep prices high.

Other potential solutions that lawmakers have mentioned or enacted, like a gas tax holiday or direct cash relief, could make inflation worse by putting more money in people’s pockets and keeping demand high without necessarily increasing supply. “We’re not in a position to help households right now because it would cause more inflation,” Jason Furman, an economist at Harvard, told me.

Meanwhile, some experts suggested that the best chance of a quick decline in gas prices is an outcome nobody wants: a new Covid variant or a recession tanking the economy and demand.

A cascading problem

Gas prices tend to get disproportionate attention compared to their actual economic impact, Furman said.

One reason for that: The cost of gas is incredibly transparent, posted on giant signs across the country. The visibility can make rising gas prices a symbol for broader inflation trends.

Rachel Ziemba, an energy expert at the Center for a New American Security, said she was worried that higher gas prices will cause social and political instability. Around the world, inflation has already prompted protests and even riots. Higher gas prices in particular have historically led to lower presidential approval ratings, as voters blame those in charge for inflation and bad economic conditions.

Some experts worry that higher gas prices will eventually hurt Western resolve against Russia, if Americans and Europeans start to ask whether supporting Ukraine is worth the price. Recent polls suggest the public is willing to make some sacrifices for the war effort, but polling also shows increasing discontent with inflation.

So the consequences of rising gas prices are not just to your wallet, but also possibly geopolitical.

 

NEWS

War in Ukraine
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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Gen. Aleksandr V. Dvornikov in 2016.Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, via AP
 
Other Big Stories
 
The Week Ahead
  • The U.S. government will release its latest monthly inflation data on Tuesday. Experts expect prices to have climbed more than 8 percent.
  • France’s presidential elections today are expected to elevate President Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen to a dramatic two-week runoff.
  • The N.B.A. playoffs begin on Saturday. The Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns are the top seeds.
  • The Christian Holy Week begins today with Palm Sunday. The Jewish holiday of Passover begins Friday night. Here are Times recipes for the occasion.
 

FROM OPINION

 
 

The Sunday question: Is Washington’s Covid outbreak the price of normalcy?

With vaccines widely available, it’s up to individuals to decide whether to attend events like the D.C. banquet that likely became a superspreader event, Dr. Leana Wen argues. Dr. Uché Blackstock disagrees, arguing that mandating precautions would have kept attendees safer.

 
 

Journalism like this is only possible with subscribers.

Support the reporting that goes into The Morning. Subscribe to The Times with this special offer.

 

MORNING READS

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Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

Behind the mic: The actress Laverne Cox asked the questions, for a change.

Advice from Wirecutter: How to clean a bird feeder.

Sunday Routine: A “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” tour guide takes fans to 1950s New York.

A Times classic: The 25 greatest actors of the 21st century (so far).

Don’t call it “kamping”: The budget campground network K.O.A. is going after the luxury market.

 

BOOKS

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Naima Green for The New York Times

Fighting death: Delia Ephron’s new book combines a medical thriller, a cancer memoir, a love story and a heroic journey.

By the Book: Books are like pheromones — they “unite, divide, attract and repel people,” the critic Margo Jefferson says.

Our editors’ picks: “The Candy House,” Jennifer Egan’s sequel to “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” tells more than a dozen related stories and defies neat summarizing.

Times best sellers: Ten Steps To Nanette,” by the comedian Hannah Gadsby, is new on our hardcover nonfiction list. See all our lists here.

The Book Review podcast: The critic Jennifer Wilson talks about new fiction that highlights how conflict has transformed Ukrainian lives.

 

THE SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE

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Illustration by Andrew Rae

On the cover: It’s the magazine’s money issue. Kick off with nine ways to visualize Jeff Bezos’ wealth.

Recommendation: Make the most of April showers by recording thunderstorms.

Unplug: Fantasize about a simpler life via soothing YouTube videos about building huts and fires.

 

NOW TIME TO PLAY

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Here’s a clue from the Sunday crossword:

121 Across: Cocktail often made with Tennessee whiskey, ironically

Take the news quiz to see how well you followed this week’s headlines.

Here’s today’s Wordle. Here’s today’s Spelling Bee. If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

 
 

Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times. — German

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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April 13, 2022

 

Good morning. Inflation is up sharply. We look at why prices might ease — and why they might not.

 
 
 
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Gasoline prices have risen 48 percent since March 2021.Gabby Jones for The New York Times

Rising prices

The overall cost of gas, food and other everyday items is increasing at its fastest rate in more than 40 years. And experts cannot say with confidence whether price increases will speed up or slow down in the coming months.

The accelerating price rate — in other words, inflation — hit 8.5 percent in March over the previous year, according to a federal report released yesterday. That was the fastest increase since 1981.

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Chart shows year-over-year percent change. | Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Rising gas prices drove more than half of the March increase, largely because of the war in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russia, a major oil and gas producer. But costs for other goods, including housing, increased significantly in March, too.

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Chart shows year-over-year changes in select categories of the Consumer Price Index. | Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The problem is the same as it has been for the past year: Supply chains are failing to keep up with elevated consumer demand. “It is really a broader imbalance between supply and demand,” my colleague Jeanna Smialek, who covers the economy, told me.

American life is subsequently more expensive, with increases in prices so far outpacing gains in wages.

In response, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, is raising interest rates to increase the cost of borrowing money. The goal is to slow down the economy and, therefore, inflation.

But some experts worry that the Fed is moving too slowly and that its approach could force it to take more drastic steps to tame prices down the line. The nightmare scenario: The Fed has to tank the economy, as it did in the 1980s by aggressively raising interest rates, to end stubbornly high inflation.

Given these stakes, today I want to walk through the reasons that inflation might stay high, and the reasons it might not, over the next few months.

Why it might get worse

The Federal Reserve aims for an inflation rate of roughly 2 percent a year, trying to strike a balance of high employment levels without runaway price increases. But inflation is running much higher right now, and is also greater in the U.S. than in Europe and other developed countries. There are reasons to believe this will remain a problem for some time.

Unexpected events have disrupted supply lines for the past few years and could again. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already caused gas prices to spike. Because Ukraine is a major food producer, the war has also increased food prices and may continue to do so.

Covid has distorted supply lines since 2020, and future variants and outbreaks could do the same. That is already happening in China, where some places are locking down to try to contain new outbreaks — potentially interrupting the flow of goods from the world’s biggest manufacturer.

“Covid is the root of all evil,” Claudia Sahm, an economist at the Jain Family Institute, told me. “It has been extremely disruptive and tragic in people’s lives. It has also been disruptive in their livelihoods.”

The longer these disruptions go on, the longer Americans may come to expect inflation to become a regular part of life — and the worse inflation could get as a result.

Consider wages: If people expect high inflation, they will demand higher pay. But to pay higher wages, employers are likely to pass that cost to consumers by charging them higher prices. Higher wages could also mean elevated demand, because people will have more money to spend. This “wage-price spiral,” as economists call it, was a major contributor to high inflation in the 1970s.

Why it might get better

Some experts are optimistic. They believe that inflation could start coming down later this year. “The Fed is very capable of bringing down inflation,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at the Economic Innovation Group. “That said, I think there is a lot of risk.”

One positive hint, from yesterday’s report: The core inflation index, which measures prices excluding more volatile food and energy costs, increased at a slower rate in March than it did in previous months. That could suggest that inflation is peaking.

Gas prices are also already down a bit from a peak in March. Some of that is driven by China’s lockdowns, keeping many potential consumers home. Over time, the world may also adjust to the Ukraine war’s shock to oil and gas markets. The West, for example, could find alternatives to Russian oil and gas, like more U.S. drilling or clean energy sources, to fill current gaps in supply.

And the war could end, reducing any further impact on global markets.

Meanwhile, Covid cases are declining worldwide. If potential future waves do not cause major disruptions, inflation could cool as supply lines get back to normal.

The Biden administration is separately taking some actions, like releasing oil from strategic reserves and allowing summertime sales of ethanol-based gas. But the effects of those moves are expected to be small.

Consumer demand could drop as well. Higher prices could discourage some spending. And extra cash from the economic stimulus packages of the past few years, which some experts argue helped fuel inflation, is drying up, leaving Americans with less money to spend.

All of that, along with the Federal Reserve’s actions, could put the economy in a better balance between supply and demand in the coming months.

For More

  • At grocery stores, prices are rising for beef, poultry, fish, eggs, flour, fruit and milk.
  • The economist Paul Krugman expects inflation to ease, but that “won’t mean that the inflation problem is over,” he argues in Times Opinion.
 

THE LATEST NEWS

Subway Shooting
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Wounded people at the 36th Street station yesterday.Armen Armenian/via Reuters
 
War in Ukraine
 
Politics
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Brian Benjamin leaving court yesterday.Jefferson Siegel for The New York Times
 
Other Big Stories
  • Road rage killings in the U.S. have exploded over the past year. “Now instead of throwing up the finger, they’re pulling out the gun and shooting,” the mayor of Houston said.
 
Opinions

Ending America’s support for global vaccinations is unbelievably shortsighted, Michelle Goldberg argues.

Bret Stephens on how the U.S. should respond if Russia uses chemical weapons.

 
 

Journalism like this is only possible with subscribers.

Support the reporting that goes into The Morning. Subscribe to The Times with this special offer.

 

MORNING READS

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Illustrations by Rosemary Mosco

Pigeons: They’re more than rats with wings.

At the Seder table: Need a Haggadah? There’s a QR code for that.

An oasis: This beach in Mexico is an L.G.B.T.Q. haven. Can it last?

A Times classic: Enter the calm place.

Advice from Wirecutter: Stylish coasters to spruce up your table.

Lives Lived: Gilbert Gottfried’s credits ranged from the family-friendly “Aladdin” to the vulgarity of “The Aristocrats” and included a brief stint on “Saturday Night Live.” He died at 67.

 

ARTS AND IDEAS

A Renaissance music primer

In “5 Minutes That Will Make You Love …,” The Times asks musicians, critics and experts to recommend a song in a certain musical style. The latest edition explores a lesser-known area: Renaissance music.

“We wanted to shine a light on music you’re most likely not going to hear at your local symphony,” Zachary Woolfe, The Times’s classical music critic, told us. “There’s an incredible variety in the compositions of the 15th and 16th centuries, but this selection focuses on some of the most beautiful choral writing ever made.”

The songs on the list evoke the listener’s imagination of life centuries ago. In many of them, celestial harmonies sound as though they are echoing in a cathedral. Others are fun and surprising: “Come, sirrah Jack, ho,” a jaunty ode to drinking and smoking, is like a night in a tavern. Listen to that one, and many more.

 

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook
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Bryan Gardner for The New York Times

Salmon soba noodles with a tangy sauce is a quick-cooking meal.

 
What to Read

Stefan Al’s “Supertall” is a thoughtful inquiry into the new generation of skyscrapers, which are taller and more widespread than their predecessors.

 
Profile

How Viola Davis drew on a life of private hardship to become one of the greatest actors of her generation.

 
Late Night

Stephen Colbert scoffed at John Eastman, a former legal adviser to Donald Trump.

 
Now Time to Play
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The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were loveably and volleyball. Here is today’s puzzle.

Here’s today’s Wordle. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: ___ of time (five letters).

If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

 
 

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.

P.S. Sidney Poitier became the first Black performer to win an Oscar for best actor 58 years ago today.

The Daily” is about the next phase of the war in Ukraine. On “The Argument,” a debate about the challenges facing liberalism.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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April 14, 2022

 

Today we’re turning The Morning over to Amanda Taub, the author of The Times’s Interpreter newsletter, which explains international news. Amanda wrote this dispatch from Poland.

Good morning. The war in Ukraine has led to familiar, but heightened, problems for women.

 
 
 
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Lubomira Pancuk, center, with her daughter and son.Maciek Nabrdalik for The New York Times

A crisis for mothers

If there’s one thing to understand about the Ukrainian refugee crisis in Poland, it’s this: Approximately 90 percent of the refugees are women and children.

Because of military conscription, Ukraine has barred most men between 18 and 60 from leaving. So although millions of people have fled the Russian invasion, the ones who cross the border are women, children, and some older men.

That has meant devastating separations for the families involved. But it also means that this crisis of forced migration is foremost a crisis for women — particularly for mothers.

A world of women

To understand how that crisis is playing out, I went to Zabki, a small suburb outside Warsaw, which exemplifies the promise and challenges of Poland’s effort to welcome Ukrainian refugees.

The first refugees arrived within days of the Russian invasion, said Malgorzata Zysk, the town’s mayor. Officially, more than 1,500 Ukrainian refugees now live in Zabki, with about 100 registering each day. But Zysk estimated that the real numbers are about twice as high.

In a small apartment lent to her by Zabki’s government, Lubomira Pancuk showed me photographs of her family gathered in January for Orthodox Christmas. In the pictures, she is pregnant, next to her husband and three daughters, all smiling for the camera. “We were all together, happy, waiting for the baby,” she said.

Less than two months later, the war forced her to flee to Poland with her children, including her three-week-old son, who was born prematurely and has jaundice. Her husband is still in Ukraine.

Pancuk’s eyes filled with tears as she described the generosity of Zabki’s government and residents.

But the family lives precariously, reliant on a small allowance from the Polish government and the generosity of their Polish neighbors. It is impossible for Pancuk to work because she must care for her baby.

“I don’t know what my plans will be,” she said. “I am just living day to day.”

It’s a story that I heard over and over from women refugees in Poland. They told me that their priorities were simple: a safe place to live with their children, far from the bombs and battles.

But security and stability often cost more than the small allowance the Polish government offers to Ukrainian families. Though thousands of Polish citizens have lent refugees rooms or apartments, soon many refugee mothers will have to work to pay the rent.

That means Ukrainian mothers must solve a higher-stakes version of the problem that working mothers face all over the world: how to find both affordable child care and employers willing to accommodate their needs as parents.

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A family at a refugee center in Zabki, Poland.Maciek Nabrdalik for The New York Times

A system under strain

Family-friendly policies, such as flexible working hours, are relatively rare in Polish workplaces — the legacy of years of high unemployment.

Care for children under 3 is often so expensive that many women find it cheaper to stay home until their children are old enough for preschool. And although the government has expanded state-funded preschools for 3- to 6-year-olds as part of its nationalist campaign to convince Polish women to have more children, spaces were already in short supply in many parts of the country before the war began.

Grazyna Swiezak, the director of a preschool in Zabki, said that she and her staffers were happy for the opportunity to help Ukrainian children.

The school anticipates that some refugee children will need emotional support, and Swiezak said she hoped to find Ukrainian- or Russian-speaking psychotherapists to help them. But on my recent visit there, the scene seemed idyllic. In a row of sunlit classrooms, Ukrainian children played with new friends.

But good will cannot necessarily overcome institutional limitations. The caps on preschool class sizes, for instance, were intended to ensure that children had adequate supervision. Expanding them further could jeopardize children’s education, and perhaps their safety.

And the new spots created for Ukrainian children are filling up. More than half of the new spaces at the preschool are already taken, Swiezak said. New families arrive in town every day.

If the government expands support for Ukrainian mothers without making similar efforts to meet Polish women’s unmet needs, there is a risk of political backlash.

“Some people will have understanding for the fact that these people have suffered so much, and want to help them get safe footing in the Polish territory,” Iga Magda, a labor economist at the SGH Warsaw School of Economics, said. “But others will not care as much.”

“The last thing we need is a conflict here,” Magda told me. “This is what Putin wants the most, right?”

To read more from Amanda, sign up for the Interpreter newsletter.

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Advice from Wirecutter: Tips for bold, bright, dyed Easter eggs.

Lives Lived: Jerry Uelsmann’s surreal prints combined elements of multiple photographs, conjuring dreamlike imagery. He died at 87.

 

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Some of Rihanna’s recent outfits.Victor Boyko/Getty Images For Gucci, Mike Coppola/Getty Images, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Fenty Beauty by Rihanna

The celebrity bump

Rihanna was already an icon — she’s had more than a dozen chart-topping hits, is known for her trendsetting red-carpet looks, and founded hugely successful cosmetics and lingerie lines. Now, she’s changing what a celebrity pregnancy looks like.

What sets Rihanna’s maternity outfits apart is that they’re not so different from what she wore before. She has embraced her body throughout her pregnancy, showing up to events in sheer tops and bras, skintight dresses, and custom-made jumpsuits designed to flaunt her belly. Rihanna is showing that she is “autonomous, powerful and herself, even while carrying a life,” Renée Ann Cramer, author of “Pregnant With the Stars,” told The Times.

It’s a significant move considering that the pregnant body has long been “policed, hidden away and considered problematic,” our fashion critic Vanessa Friedman writes. Three decades ago, many stores banned an issue of Vanity Fair featuring a naked and pregnant Demi Moore on the cover. The photographer who snapped that cover, Annie Leibovitz, has now photographed Rihanna for the May issue of Vogue. Her outfit: a red lace bodysuit.

 

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Slow-cooker kofte in tomato-lime broth is delicious over rice.

 
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In “Seek and Hide,” the law professor Amy Gajda writes about the complexity of the right to privacy.

 
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Revisit “Mississippi Masala,” a love story from 1991 starring Sarita Choudhury and Denzel Washington.

 
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Here’s today’s Wordle. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Whole host (five letters).

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Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.

P.S. “When I can’t sleep I’ve been doing Wordle,” Vice President Kamala Harris told Democratic donors last night.

The Daily” is about Twitter and Elon Musk. The Modern Love podcast is about teenage anthems.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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Today we’re turning The Morning over to Jodi Kantor and Karen Weise, who have reported on labor issues at Amazon, including the recent successful union drive at a Staten Island warehouse.

Good morning. Amazon and its new union share the same problem.

 
 
 
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Derrick Palmer, an Amazon worker, protesting in 2020.Dave Sanders for The New York Times

Amazon vs. the union

Last Wednesday, Derrick Palmer clocked in for his 7:15 a.m. shift at Amazon’s giant warehouse on Staten Island and spent the day packing boxes with board games, iPhones and mini vacuum cleaners. The following morning, he boarded a train to Washington, D.C., where more experienced labor leaders hailed him and his best friend, Christian Smalls, for doing what had once seemed impossible: unionizing an Amazon facility.

In the past week, their David-versus-Goliath victory has become a symbol of growing worker power. On a recent episode of “The Daily,” the two men relayed the twists and turns of their story, from a fateful misdirected email that rebounded in their favor, to the D.I.Y. tactics they used, like free marijuana and bonfires, to forge a bond with co-workers.

But whether their victory will last is far from assured. In the coming weeks, the fight between the new union and Amazon is likely to become even more heated. Amazon is marshaling its legal might to try to overturn the election. The new union will attempt to win another, more difficult vote at a second Staten Island location. And everyone will be watching to see if similar efforts emerge at other Amazon facilities — and whether the company will be able to extinguish them.

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The original Amazon Labor Union protesters.DeSean McClinton-Holland for The New York Times

As this unfolds, here are three questions to watch for:

1. What does this union want?

Smalls and the other Amazon Labor Union leaders won in large part because the Staten Island workers have a long, varied list of frustrations. This week, he said that the A.L.U. was prepared to demand broad changes in Amazon’s working conditions and on safety, pay and benefits. But the campaign lacks the kind of single, galvanizing goal, like a $15-an-hour minimum wage, that has given other labor organizing efforts a focal point.

Amazon, partly responding to the political pressures of the national minimum wage campaign, raised wages to $15 in 2018 and now pays an average starting pay of more than $18 an hour.

2. How will Amazon respond?

To overturn the election, Amazon would have to meet a high bar, proving not only that misconduct occurred but that the problems were so widespread that they tainted the entire vote, Wilma Liebman, a former head of the National Labor Relations Board, explained.

But no matter the outcome, or whether the new group succeeds in negotiating a contract, the company has a larger question to answer: How will it respond to the underlying concerns that allowed the union drive to get this far?

Amazon, in a sense, faces the same conceptual challenge that the new union does: The list of workers’ grievances with the company is just so long.

Our Times investigation last year revealed how strained Amazon’s labor model had become, with a sky-high 150 percent annual turnover rate and a low-trust, management-by-machine approach. In contrast to its precise handling of packages, its human resources systems were so overtaxed that we found a pattern in which the company inadvertently fired its own employees. Injury rates continue to be a serious concern. And there’s more.

On Thursday, in his first letter to shareholders since taking over as chief executive, Andy Jassy acknowledged the breadth of problems. “We’ve researched and created a list of what we believe are the top 100 employee experience pain points and are systematically solving them,” he wrote.

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Palmer speaking to a truck driver about unionizing last year.Dave Sanders for The New York Times

But Amazon, known for its ambition, shows no sign of making fundamental changes. In yesterday’s letter, Jassy said he would continue to take an “iterative” approach — making repeated tweaks — to the company’s year-old goal of becoming “Earth’s Best Employer.”

3. Will other warehouses follow?

Smalls has said that workers at more than a hundred other Amazon facilities have contacted the union, interested in organizing at their locations. In an interview this week, he said that the A.L.U. now plans to go national. If the Staten Island efforts prove contagious, Amazon would start looking more like Starbucks, where more locations are voting to unionize every week.

But it’s too early to tell if anything like that will happen. “Let’s not make a single event a movement,” Andrew Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union, said in an interview this week. “We don’t know whether this is an extraordinary occurrence or a reproducible event.”

Last month, in another contested election, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama appear to have narrowly rejected unionizing, though the margin is close enough that the results will not be known until hundreds of contested ballots are litigated.

The key difference between Amazon and Starbucks is the sheer size of each site, which must individually unionize. For Starbucks, the union needs about 20 votes to prevail in a single cafe; at Amazon, with its enormous warehouses, the union needs more than a thousand, making each election a far harder task.

The stakes of this fight could not be higher for Amazon, whose entire retail model rests on a coast-to-coast chain of manual labor, or for unions themselves. Despite the rapid organizing at Starbucks — and the frequent arrival of high-profile examples of other new organizing efforts — union membership has been on a downhill slope for decades.

If workers at Amazon — the nation’s second-largest employer, and perhaps the most influential one of our time — decide they don’t want or need unions, or cannot overcome Amazon’s resources, it will be an ominous sign for the relevance of organized labor. So expect nothing less than a bitter, messy, drawn-out battle that could help determine the future of American work.

 

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Mysteries: He created the first known movie. Then he vanished.

Climate change: Even the cactus may not be safe.

Modern Love: The loneliness of the locked-down single mother.

A Times classic: How to keep moths off your clothes.

Advice from Wirecutter: Spring cleaning? Here’s how to wash bathroom tile, kitchen countertops and hardwood floors.

Lives Lived: William G. Hamilton spent more than 40 years fixing bone spurs, tendinitis and other dance-induced ailments as New York City Ballet’s first in-house doctor. He died at 90.

 

ARTS AND IDEAS

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Rehearsing “The Scandal at Mayerling” in Glasgow.Emily Macinnes for The New York Times

Bringing consent to ballet

For dancers, touch is routine. Now, when it comes to choreography that simulates sex or violence onstage, some companies are hiring intimacy directors, Laura Cappelle writes in The Times.

In recent years, more films and plays have turned to intimacy directors to choreograph scenes and look after the physical and emotional well-being of performers. But intimacy work for screen and theater doesn’t necessarily translate to dance, where the choreography mostly can’t be altered. And dancers have been discouraged from speaking up when they feel uncomfortable. Tales of boundaries being crossed are commonplace in ballet, where training starts young and most companies maintain a strict hierarchy.

Intimacy coaching sessions offer a space for dancers to voice their concerns. For a production at Scottish Ballet, two intimacy directors gave workshops and had private discussions with dancers. Afterward, the change in the dancers was “instant,” the company’s director said.

In one exercise, the dancers used a drawing of a body to mark the areas that felt vulnerable, and then communicated that to their colleagues. “To see it in black and white, and to speak to your partner, it opens up that whole trust,” one dancer said. “And it wasn’t just me saying it. It was the whole group.”

 

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P.S. Are you a student, parent or teacher who’s experienced anti-cheating software? Our colleague Kashmir Hill wants to hear about it.

The Daily” is about a prisoner who spent decades in solitary confinement.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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April 17, 2022

 

Good morning. The Brooklyn shooting and other headline-making violence are part of a broader trend.

 
 
 
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A subway station in Manhattan.Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

More mass shootings

A gunman opened fired in a Brooklyn subway, wounding 10 people on Tuesday and injuring others. A mall shooting in South Carolina yesterday wounded 10. A gang shootout this month in Sacramento killed six and wounded 12 more. New Orleans reported its bloodiest weekend in 10 years. Road rage shootings appear to be up in some states.

These are examples of America’s recent violent turn. Murders have spiked nearly 40 percent since 2019, and violent crimes, including shootings and other assaults, have increased overall. More tragedies, from mass shootings to smaller acts of violence, are likely to make headlines as long as higher levels of violent crime persist.

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Sources: Jeff Asher; F.B.I.

Three explanations help explain the increase in violence. The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns disrupted all aspects of life, including the social services that can tame crime and violence. The high-profile police killings of 2020 and the protests that followed strained police-community relations. And Americans bought a record number of guns in recent years.

Another explanation, covered in this newsletter before, ties these issues together: a growing sense of social discord and distrust. As Americans lose faith in their institutions and each other, they are more likely to lash out — sometimes in violent ways, Randolph Roth, a crime historian at Ohio State University, told me.

Besides Covid and police brutality, the country’s increasingly polarized politics and poor economic conditions have also fueled this discord. That helps explain the murder spike, as well as recent increases in drug addiction and overdoses, mental health problems, car crashes and even confrontations over masks on airplanes.

But given the shootings of the past two weeks, I want to step back and focus on violent crime trends in particular, with the help of charts by my colleague Ashley Wu.

Experts pointed to several reasons for concern: not only the headline-making tragedies, but also continued murder rate increases in some cities and the persistence of problems that contributed to more violent crime in the first place. But experts also see some potentially hopeful signs: recent decreases in murder rates in other cities, the easing of Covid-related disruptions and growing distance from the more chaotic police-community relations of 2020.

The bad news

It is too early to draw firm conclusions about 2022’s levels of violence; crime trends usually take shape in the summer. But so far this year, murders are up 1 percent in major U.S. cities, and some places are reporting sharp increases, according to the crime analyst Jeff Asher’s team.

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Sources: University of Chicago Crime Lab; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; city police departments; American Community Survey

The major causes of the 2020-21 murder spike still linger to varying degrees. The guns that Americans bought remain in circulation. While Covid cases have plummeted and lockdowns have ended, new variants are still disrupting social services and life in general.

Community-police relations are also still fraught, especially in minority neighborhoods. “If there is a fundamental breakdown in the community, the police are simply not going to be able to do an effective job,” said Charis Kubrin, a criminologist at the University of California, Irvine.

There are other reasons for concern: The worsening drug crisis could fuel violence between rival gangs and dealers. The end of federal pandemic-era relief programs, like the child tax credit, is already increasing poverty rates.

Inflation is particularly concerning because it could drive people to engage in property crime if they cannot keep up with higher expenses, said Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. And “some of those robberies end up as homicides,” he told me.

The old and new problems also feed into social discord. In March, 75 percent of adults said they were dissatisfied with the way things were going in the U.S., up from 65 percent three years ago, before the pandemic, Gallup found.

The good news

The data show some bright spots. The rise in homicides reported for 2022 is lower than the 2020-21 increase. In several big cities, murders are actually down.

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Sources: University of Chicago Crime Lab; city police departments; American Community Survey

“It’s too early to say,” Jamein Cunningham, a criminal justice expert at Cornell University, told me. “But it’s nice to have numbers that at least, relative to this time last year, suggest it might be easing.”

Murder rates are still 30 percent lower than they were during the previous peaks between the 1970s and ’90s. “I don’t think the Wild West days of the ’70s and ’80s are coming back,” said John Roman, a senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago.

As Covid cases fall, so will the pandemic’s effects on crime and violence. More distance from the police violence and protests of 2020 could also ease police-community tensions. (This seemed to happen before: Murders spiked in 2015 and 2016 after protests over police brutality, then murder rates leveled off, before spiking again in 2020.) And the social discord wrought by those problems could start to fade.

Federal funding is also flowing to cities and states to combat crime. The specifics and execution matter, but studies broadly suggest that more support for policing and other social services, which many places are now adopting, could help.

For More

 

NEWS

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A shopping center in central Kharkiv was struck by what appeared to be guided missiles on Saturday.Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
 
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The Week Ahead
  • Ukrainian officials are expected to attend meetings in Washington this week to discuss the effects of Russia’s invasion on the global economy.
  • Philadelphia’s newly reinstated indoor mask mandate goes into effect tomorrow.
  • Adults in New Jersey will be able to legally purchase recreational marijuana beginning Thursday.
  • Earth Day is on Friday. President Biden will travel to Seattle to discuss his administration’s plans for combating inflation and climate change.
  • Today is Easter. Celebrate with these stress-free holiday dinner recipes.
 

FROM OPINION

 
 

The Sunday question: Should elected officials be age-limited?

Doubts about the mental fitness of Senator Dianne Feinstein, 88, argue for mandatory retirement ages, The New York Post’s Maureen Callahan says. David Graham makes the counterargument, noting in The Atlantic that some lawmakers stay sharp longer than others.

 
 

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MORNING READS

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Rocco DiSpirito at Balthazar.Janice Chung for The New York Times

Sunday Routine: The chef Rocco DiSpirito lives for the seafood tower at Balthazar.

Love: How it rewires the brain.

Advice from Wirecutter: Get better sound from your TV.

Suffering for fashion: No more, writes Rhonda Garelick.

A Times classic: Now we know where Stonehenge’s stones came from.

 

BOOKS

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Rebecca Clarke

By the Book: The novelist Ocean Vuong will read a book or poem just about anywhere — including at a mixed martial arts fight.

Our editors’ picks: “Lucky Breaks,” by Yevgenia Belorusets, is a newly translated story collection about war’s effects on women in eastern Ukraine.

Times best sellers: “I Color Myself Different,” by Colin Kaepernick and illustrated by Eric Wilkerson, is a children’s picture book best seller. See all our lists.

The Book Review podcast: Elizabeth Alexander, the author of “The Trayvon Generation,” discusses how video technology has changed our understanding of violence.

 

THE SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE

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On the cover: How Viola Davis became one of the greatest actors of her generation.

Recommendation: Have you considered a pet rabbit?

Eat: Strawberry-glazed chamomile cake. (Pair it with tea!)

 

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27-Across: Apt facial hair for a teacher?

Take the news quiz to see how well you followed this week’s headlines.

Here’s today’s Wordle. Here’s today’s Spelling Bee. If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

 
 

Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times. — German

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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April 18, 2022

 

Good morning. The West is arming Ukraine and punishing Russia. Today we look at the countries that aren’t.

 
 
 
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Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the U.N. Security Council this month.Timothy A. Clary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The ‘messy middle’

If you live in most any Western country, your government’s support for Ukraine, including sending weapons and imposing sanctions on Russia, can give the impression of a united global response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

But that isn’t the case. Most of the world’s 195 countries have not shipped aid to Ukraine or joined in sanctions. A handful have actively supported Russia. Far more occupy the “messy middle,” as Carisa Nietsche of the Center for a New American Security calls it, taking neither Ukraine’s nor Russia’s side.

“We live in a bubble, here in the U.S. and Europe, where we think the very stark moral and geopolitical stakes, and framework of what we’re seeing unfolding, is a universal cause,” Barry Pavel, a senior vice president at the Atlantic Council, told me. “Actually, most of the governments of the world are not with us.”

Today’s newsletter offers a guide to some of those countries and why they have committed to their stances.

National interests

India and Israel are prominent democracies that ally with the U.S. on many issues, particularly security. But they rely on Russia for security as well and have avoided arming Ukraine or imposing sanctions on Moscow. “In both cases, the key factor isn’t ideology but national interests,” says my colleague Max Fisher, who has written about Russia’s invasion.

India is the world’s largest buyer of Russian weapons, seeking to protect itself from Pakistan and China. India joined 34 other countries in abstaining from a United Nations vote that condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as you can see on the map below. And India appears to be rebuffing Western pleas to take a harder line.

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The United Nations vote took place on March 2. Some countries did not formally submit votes. | Source: United Nations

Israel coordinates with Russia on Iran, its chief adversary, and in neighboring Syria (with which Russia has a strong relationship). Russian-speaking émigrés from the former Soviet Union also make up a sizable chunk of the Israeli electorate. Israel’s prime minister has avoided directly criticizing Putin, and though its government has mediated between Ukraine and Russia, little has come out of the effort.

Several Latin American, Southeast Asian and African countries have made similar choices. Bolivia, Vietnam and almost half of Africa’s 54 countries declined to support the U.N. resolution condemning Russia. Some rely on Russian military assistance, said Bruce Jones, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Others don’t want to risk jeopardizing trade relations with China, which has parroted Russian propaganda about the war.

Those countries “might be more accurately described as disinterested,” Max says, unwilling to risk their security or economies “for the sake of a struggle that they see as mostly irrelevant.”

West skeptics

Some countries, citing the West’s history of imperialism and past failures to respect human rights, have justified opposing its response to Ukraine. South Africa’s president blamed NATO for Russia’s invasion, and its U.N. ambassador criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq during a debate last month about Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis.

Other countries, including some that voted to condemn Russia’s invasion, accuse the West of acting counterproductively. Brazil’s U.N. ambassador has suggested that arming Ukraine and imposing sanctions on Russia risk escalating the war.

“There’s nothing intellectually incoherent between viewing Russia’s actions as outrageous and not necessarily fully siding with the West’s reaction to it,” Jones told me.

Autocratic leaders — including in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Nicaragua — may also feel threatened by Ukraine’s resistance and the West’s framing of the invasion as a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, experts said. “They’re concerned that this could inspire opposition movements in their own countries,” Nietsche said.

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Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in Beijing in February.Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Russia’s friends

China, with all its economic and military might, has seen the war as a chance to enhance its own geopolitical standing as a counterweight to the U.S. while still maintaining ties to Russia. The countries recently issued a joint statement proclaiming a friendship with “no limits.” But China has struggled with the delicate balancing act of honoring that commitment without fully endorsing Russia’s invasion: Beijing has denounced Western sanctions but has not appeared to have given Russia weapons or economic aid.

“China’s support for Russia, while very important, is also carefully hedged and measured,” Max says.

Four countries — North Korea, Eritrea, Syria and Belarus — outright voted with Russia against the U.N. resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine. Belarus is a former Soviet state whose autocratic leader asked Putin to help suppress protests in 2020 and allowed Russia to launch part of its invasion from within Belarus.

Russia intervened in Syria’s civil war on behalf of the Moscow-aligned government there, and Syria is sending fighters who may aid Russian forces in Ukraine.

What’s next?

It’s not unusual for countries to avoid picking sides on big global issues. Several stayed neutral during World War II; dozens sought to remain free of both U.S. and Soviet influence during the Cold War.

But if the war in Ukraine drags on, Jones said, neutral countries could come under stronger international pressure to condemn Moscow. And for countries with close ties to Russia, even neutrality can be an act of courage.

More on Ukraine

  • The fate of Mariupol, in the southeast, hinges on a battle at a steel factory, where Ukrainian forces are holding out.
  • Capturing Mariupol would create a land bridge between Russia’s stronghold in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
  • Russian forces fired missiles at Lviv, in western Ukraine, killing at least six people. It’s part of a pattern of attacking cities even as they prepare for an offensive in the east.
  • In Russia, brutal crimes by soldiers are rarely investigated or acknowledged — let alone punished.
  • A Ukrainian village is haunted by the disappearance of five men who went to feed the cows.
 

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To win the next election, Democrats need to deliver on their promises from the last one, Senator Elizabeth Warren argues.

Gail Collins and Bret Stephens discuss Elon Musk’s bid to buy Twitter.

 
 

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Devon Henry and his company have taken down 23 monuments in the South.Sanjay Suchak

Monuments: A Black contractor has become Virginia’s go-to Confederate statue remover.

The future: A.I. is mastering language. Should we trust what it says?

Soul mates: More than 50 years after Otis Redding’s death, Zelma Redding hasn’t stopped loving him.

Scene report: A casual dinner series has become one of the most coveted invitations in Los Angeles.

Quiz time: The average score on our latest news quiz was 9.3. Can you do better?

A Times classic: Actually, cats like people!

Lives Lived: Kevin Lippert began by selling reprints of classics from the trunk of his car and became what one architect called an “impresario for the culture of architecture.” He died at 63.

 

ARTS AND IDEAS

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A Barnes & Noble store in Hingham, Mass.Cody O'Loughlin for The New York Times

Books’ big-box embrace

Once upon a time, Barnes & Noble was the nemesis of indie booksellers across America. Now, it’s important to their survival, The Times’s Elizabeth Harris reports.

Many book enthusiasts and writers used to see the chain as “strong-arming publishers and gobbling up independent stores,” Elizabeth writes. But in today’s book landscape, upended by online sales, Barnes & Noble helps readers discover new titles and publishers stay invested in distributing in physical stores, a boon for booksellers of all sizes.

“It would be a disaster if they went out of business,” a literary agent said. “There’s a real fear that without this book chain, the print business would be way off.”

Barnes & Noble’s success stemmed from offering big discounts on best sellers and an enormous variety of books. Amazon supersized that formula: Its discounts are steeper, it has a seemingly endless selection of books, and it now sells more than half the physical books in the U.S.

What’s lost in that process are the accidental finds — the books that readers pick up in a store. Such discovery in chain and indie bookstores is crucial for writers who aren’t established names. “The more Amazon’s market share grows, the less discovery there is overall, and the less new voices are going to be heard,” the founder of an independent publisher said.

 

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook
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Bobbi Lin for The New York Times

Citrus-dressed salmon roasted over potatoes is a flavorful one-pan meal.

 
What to Listen to

Get to know Tokischa, a gleefully raunchy Dominican rapper who has collaborated with J Balvin and Rosalía.

 
What to Read

Jennifer Grey, the “Dirty Dancing” star, opens up about rhinoplasty gone wrong, the implosion of her career and more in a memoir.

 
Late Night

“Saturday Night Live” featured Easter greetings from political figures and a flute solo by Lizzo.

 
Now Time to Play
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The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was chemical. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.

Here’s today’s Wordle. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Team (five letters).

If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

 
 

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.

P.S. A 1949 cartoon in The Times depicted Stalin as the Easter Bunny.

The Daily” is about student loans. “Sway” features the playwright Tony Kushner.

Claire Moses, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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April 19, 2022

 

Good morning. Coronavirus cases have risen in major cities. Hospitalizations have not.

 
 
 
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A coronavirus testing site in Brooklyn.Spencer Platt/Getty Images

‘Big screaming headlines’

A couple of weeks ago, the news was full of stories about high-profile people contracting Covid-19. The list included Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, other members of Congress (like Joaquin Castro, Susan Collins, Adam Schiff and Raphael Warnock), New York Mayor Eric Adams and several Broadway stars (like Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Daniel Craig).

Some of these infected celebrities were not exactly young. Collins and Garland are both 69. Pelosi is 82.

So far, however, none of their cases appears to be severe. As David Weigel, a Washington Post reporter, noted yesterday:

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These anecdotes are part of a trend. In several places where the number of cases has risen in recent weeks, hospitalizations have stayed flat. (In past Covid waves, by contrast, hospitalizations began rising about a week after cases did.)

Consider New York:

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Charts show 7-day averages. | Source: New York Times database

Or Washington:

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Charts show 7-day daily averages. | Source: New York Times database

Similar patterns are evident in Chicago and Seattle, as well.

How could this be? As is often the case with Covid, the answer is not completely clear. But at least some of it reflects the changing nature of the pandemic, many experts believe. The share of cases that turn into severe illnesses seems to be declining, for three main reasons:

  • Vaccines and booster shots are effective and universally available to Americans who are at least 12. (Covid continues to be overwhelmingly mild among children).
  • Treatments — like Evusheld for the immunocompromised and Paxlovid for vulnerable people who get infected — are increasingly available.
  • Tens of millions of Americans have already been infected with the virus, providing them with at least some immunity.

To be clear, these trends will not eliminate severe Covid. The number of nationwide hospitalizations will probably rise in coming weeks, especially if cases continue to rise. The official number of cases has already increased 43 percent in the past two weeks, and hospitalizations have risen in a small number of states, like Vermont. Nationally, though, hospitalizations have not yet risen, probably for the same three reasons I listed above.

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Charts show 7-day averages. | Source: New York Times database

Even if hospitalizations do rise in coming weeks, a declining share of coronavirus cases that result in serious illness would be very good news, Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia University, has pointed out.

“I haven’t seen a Covid patient in the E.R. in weeks and go to work now expecting not to,” Spencer told me, “despite a swirl of Covid in the community.”

Among other things, a decoupling of cases and severe illness would mean that hospitals were less likely to become overwhelmed during future Covid surges. When hospitals avoid getting swamped, they can provide care to every patient who needs it — which becomes another factor that reduces bad health outcomes.

‘Misleading’

Going forward, this newsletter will begin to pay less attention to statistics on coronavirus cases and more attention to statistics on hospitalizations. “Looking at the data in the same way we’ve been accustomed over the past two years can be misleading,” Spencer said.

We won’t completely ignore the case numbers, because they still have some relevance. But the cases data has become both less reliable and less meaningful than earlier in the pandemic.

It is less reliable because of the recent closure of many testing clinics and the shift toward at-home testing. The data on Covid hospitalizations and deaths doesn’t suffer from these problems and appears to be as accurate as it was earlier in the pandemic.

The cases data is less meaningful than it used to be because vaccines are universally available to U.S. adults — and vaccines tend to turn Covid into an illness of similar severity to a flu, including for the elderly and the immunocompromised. More recent treatments like Paxlovid play a role, too.

One telling comparison: In the county that includes Seattle (which keeps detailed data), the daily Covid death rate for boosted elderly people has recently hovered around two per million. That’s higher than the national flu death rate during a mild influenza season and somewhat lower than the rate during a heavy influenza season.

For boosted people (and children), the odds of severe Covid really do resemble the odds of severe influenza. And you don’t tend to see news stories every time a member of Congress or a Broadway star contracts the flu.

I understand why the country is still treating Covid as a much bigger deal. For one thing, the large number of unvaccinated people means that Covid is still killing about 500 Americans a day. For another, Covid has dominated life for more than two years, and we can’t simply flip a switch and return to our 2019 habits.

But nor would it be rational to treat the 2022 version of Covid as if it were identical to the 2020 version. It isn’t. Vaccines, treatments and even natural immunity have transformed the impact of the virus, especially for Americans who have chosen to protect themselves.

More on the virus

 

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THE LATEST NEWS

State of the War
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A missile hit a tire-fitting plant in Lviv yesterday.Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times
  • Russia started its large-scale offensive in Ukraine’s east, said Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president. The region is bracing for its full force.
  • Russia claimed its missiles hit hundreds of targets, including fuel and weapons depots, to weaken Ukraine’s supplies.
  • The U.S. will soon train Ukrainian troops to operate the howitzers that Washington is sending.
 
More on Ukraine
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This Italian parish has severed ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
 
Politics
 
Other Big Stories
 
Opinions

Germany claims to be comfortable with World War II reckoning. So why does it keep celebrating car tycoons with Nazi ties? David de Jong asks.

“No happy endings”: Margaret Renkl on the books that taught her about death — and about how to live.

 
 

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MORNING READS

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Families greeting Mickey Mouse at Disneyland yesterday.Alex Welsh for The New York Times

Disneyland: It’s been two years, but they’re back. “Hugs for everyone!”

Start-up land: The tech bubble hasn’t burst. Instead, things got bubblier.

Talk: Julia Roberts hasn’t changed. But Hollywood has.

A Times classic: The island where people forget to die.

Advice from Wirecutter: The best road-trip gear.

Lives Lived: DJ Kay Slay, the New York D.J. for Hot 97, broke artists and stoked beefs that gave fuel to the careers of Nas, Jay-Z, 50 Cent and others. Slay died at 55.

 

ARTS AND IDEAS

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Yuka, 3, goes shopping by herself on the show.Netflix/Nippon TV

Little kids in the big world

Netflix’s latest hit seems designed to turn American parents into nervous wrecks. “Old Enough!,” a Japanese series, follows young children, between 2 and 5, as they leave home for their first solo journey to run an errand.

The show is a delight, with each episode running around 10 minutes. Kids pick up groceries, visit grandma’s house or fetch a cabbage from a farm. They often forget their instructions or get distracted by the big world around them. Camera crews and safety teams covertly follow along, and a narrator provides excited commentary.

While “Old Enough!” is new to U.S. audiences, it has been airing in Japan since the 1990s. Its popularity there reflects Japan’s parenting culture, which views independence as a central part of a child’s life, Hisako Ueno and Mike Ives write in The Times. “It’s a rite of passage,” one filmmaker explained. “These errands have been a very symbolic mission for decades.” — Tom Wright-Piersanti, a Morning editor

For more: In the On Parenting newsletter, Jessica Grose writes that the show made her consider how overprotective American parenting has gotten.

 

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook
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Stephen Scott Gross for The New York Times

Spring is here, and asparagus has appeared.

 
What to Watch

In the show “A Very British Scandal,” Claire Foy plays a duchess whose sex life became the subject of salacious tabloid stories in the 1960s.

 
What to Read

Grant Ginder’s fifth novel, “Let’s Not Do That Again,” is about a woman whose adult children alternately help and threaten her political aspirations.

 
Late Night

The hosts condemned Florida’s ban on some math books.

 
Now Time to Play
mail?url=https%3A%2F%2Fstatic01.nyt.com%

The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were complicit and impolitic. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.

Here’s today’s Wordle. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Do a great job (five letters).

If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

 
 

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. A data scientist, a bar trivia host and more. Meet The Times’s first Diverse Crossword Constructor fellows.

The Daily” is about dissidence in Russia.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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April 20, 2022

 

Good morning. As a new phase of the war begins, we look at Russia’s advantages — and Ukraine’s.

 
 
 
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A bombing in Kharkiv yesterday.Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Can Ukraine keep winning?

Ukraine has defeated Russia in the first phase of their war, and a second phase has begun.

Having failed to topple Ukraine’s government, Russia has narrowed its ambitions and is concentrating on the eastern part of Ukraine known as the Donbas region. Vladimir Putin’s new goal appears to be severing Donbas from the rest of Ukraine and creating puppet republics there.

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The New York Times

This new phase brings some big advantages that Russia did not have when it was attempting to conquer all of Ukraine. But Putin and his military also face some of the same challenges — including low morale — as before. The outcome remains highly uncertain.

(Here’s a Times overview of the coming battle.)

Today’s newsletter explains the battle for Donbas, with help from Times reporters around the world. We will start by looking at Russia’s new advantages and then consider Ukraine’s continuing advantages.

Russia’s edge …

When I was talking with Eric Schmitt — a Times senior writer who has been covering military issues for most of the past three decades — he offered a useful analogy for thinking about the war’s new phase.

Until now, much of the fighting has occurred in parts of Ukraine that roughly resemble an American suburb, Eric explained. There are houses, office buildings and side streets where Ukrainian forces can hide and then attack Russian soldiers. This physical geography leaves civilians vulnerable — but benefits troops that are using guerrilla warfare to defend territory against an advancing army.

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A ravaged suburb of Kyiv.David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Much of the Donbas region is different. Its geography more closely resembles the plains of Kansas than a New York City suburb. “It’s much more wide open,” Eric said. “There are fewer places for Ukrainians to pop out from.”

Today, there are actual trench lines in Donbas, stretching over hundreds of miles and sometimes separating areas controlled by Ukraine from those controlled by Russia. This terrain will allow Russia to use its many tanks, large missile systems and other heavy weapons systems; Ukraine’s military has far fewer of these. The shoulder-fired missiles that Ukraine has been receiving from the West, and using to great effect over the past two months, will probably be less helpful in Donbas.

The newly focused battlefield has other tactical advantages for Russia, too:

  • It can concentrate its troops in Donbas, and a direct conflict between the countries’ armies seems to favor Russia. When the war began, it had more than twice as many troops as Ukraine, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
  • The Donbas region borders Russia, allowing Putin’s generals to build shorter and less exposed supply lines than they needed elsewhere in Ukraine.
  • Russia is familiar with the territory. It began fighting sporadic battles in Donbas in 2014 and has since been supporting separatist rebels there. The new head of the war effort, General Aleksandr Dvornikov, has overseen Russian operations in Donbas since 2016, after commanding Russian troops in Syria.

In addition to military tactics, public opinion in Donbas also appears to be more favorable to Russia than it is elsewhere in Ukraine. Shortly before the war, about 30 percent of the region’s residents wanted it to become part of Russia, while about another 10 percent favored independence, according to a poll by academic researchers.

In areas currently controlled by Russian-backed separatists — which make up more than one-third of Donbas — a slight majority favored leaving Ukraine. That’s very different from the situation in the rest of the country, where Ukrainian patriotism is widely shared.

… and Ukraine’s edge

Together, Russia’s advantages offer reason to believe that it may fare better in the next phase of the war than during its humiliating defeat and withdrawal in the initial phase.

But before you assume that’s inevitable, it is worth remembering something: On paper, Russia also seemed likely to win the first phase of the war. Military planners in Moscow expected that they would be able to topple Ukraine’s government within days or weeks. Many experts in the U.S. and Western Europe — and many westerners in Ukraine when the war began — assumed the same.

It didn’t happen. Russia’s military proved far less effective than most observers expected.

Its air force was not able to dominate the skies over Ukraine. Its military units rarely communicated over encrypted lines, allowing Ukraine to intercept its messages. Many Russian troops did not expect to invade Ukraine and were not happy their superiors ordered them to do so.

“The vehicles are still poorly maintained, troop morale will remain low,” Michael Repass, an American major general who has worked with Ukraine for years, told The Times.

Even if winning control of Donbas is an easier task than overwhelming all of Ukraine, it is not easy. Ukraine has highly motivated troops, more of whom can now shift to Donbas. And the West is racing to supply Ukraine with tanks and heavy, longer-range artillery, as well as the shoulder-fired missiles that proved so effective around Kyiv. “How this logistical race goes could well shape the outcome of the war,” this Times story explains.

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A body in the street in Kharkiv after a Russian artillery strike.Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Public opinion in Donbas may also be shifting away from Russia, because of the invasion. “If a bomb falls on your house, latent sympathies change into hard antipathies,” Michael Schwirtz, a Times reporter in Ukraine, said. At the start of the war, he was reporting from Kharkiv, an eastern Ukrainian city where — as in parts of Donbas — the primary language is Russian. Yet the invasion nonetheless made many Kharkiv residents “viciously, viciously angry,” Michael said.

The Institute for the Study of War, a military research group in Washington, offered this summary:

Russian forces may be able to gain ground through the heavy concentration of artillery and numbers. However, Russian operations are unlikely to be dramatically more successful than previous major offensives around Kyiv. The Russian military is unlikely to have addressed the root causes — poor coordination, the inability to conduct cross-country operations, and low morale — that impeded prior offensives.

The bottom line: A quick victory — by either side — seems unlikely. Then again, war is often very difficult to predict.

More on Ukraine

 

THE LATEST NEWS

The Virus
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An Amtrak train to New York yesterday.Hilary Swift for The New York Times
 
Business
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Dean Baquet and Joe Kahn.Celeste Sloman for The New York Times
 
Other Big Stories
 
Opinions

Marine Le Pen has softened her image during her latest run for president of France, but she’s as dangerous as ever, Rim-Sarah Alouane writes.

Air pollution is killing us. And that’s a better political argument for curbing greenhouse gas emissions than climate change, Binyamin Appelbaum argues.

 
 

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MORNING READS

Microwave smells: The office is probably more annoying than you remember. Here are tips to get through your return.

Breaking heartbreak: Ways to fall out of love with an ex.

Frugal traveler: Strategies to beat rising prices.

Ask Well: How to tell when menopause is over.

A Times classic: Tales from the teenage cancel culture.

Advice from Wirecutter: Heels that convert to flats are too good to be true.

Lives Lived: Kathryn Hays had a brief turn in “Star Trek” but found enduring appeal as a soap opera star on “As the World Turns.” She died at 87.

 

ARTS AND IDEAS

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Coachella, last weekend.Amy Harris/Invision, via AP

Coachella is back

The music festival Coachella, held over two weekends in the California desert, is back from a two-year pandemic hiatus. And this year’s event serves as a bellwether for the live music industry, The Times’s Ben Sisario writes.

During its first weekend, many B-list celebrities, influencers and festival enthusiasts flooded social feeds with #CoachellaContent. Some highlights:

Standouts: Doja Cat’s set made a case for headliner status, Vulture writes, and Billie Eilish became the youngest headliner in the festival’s history.

Surprises: Harry Styles and Shania Twain — both draped in sequins — belted her hit “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” “This lady taught me to sing,” Styles said.

One more thing: The composer Danny Elfman — who took his shirt off during his set — performed a wild mishmash of his works, including the theme from “The Simpsons.”

 

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook
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Johnny Miller for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Laurie Ellen Pellicano.

Adding an orange, rind and all, to this cake imparts a wonderful flavor, pleasantly bitter and sweet.

 
What to Watch

Jerrod Carmichael’s HBO stand-up special “Rothaniel,” which explores family secrets and sexual orientation, is “remarkable,” Wesley Morris writes.

 
What to Read

Louisa Lim’s “Indelible City” is an unapologetically personal book about Hong Kong.

 
Late Night

The hosts