Russia-Ukraine, Boris Johnson, Lunar New Year: your Monday evening briefing
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Good evening. Here is the last Monday at the end of the day.
1. The US and Russia engage in a public diplomatic brawl to the UN Security Council on the Ukrainian crisis.
“The situation we face in Europe is urgent and dangerous,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador. “Russia’s actions strike at the very heart of the UN charter.” Russia opposed holding the meeting, calling it an “attempt to mislead the international community” and an example of “megaphone diplomacy”.
The 15-nation meeting, requested by the United States, represented the most publicized arena for the two powers to influence world opinion on Ukraine. As expected, it was adjourned without any action being taken.
The United States has declared that an invasion of Ukraine would lead to severe financial penalties for Russia. There are great risks that could have global repercussions. Meanwhile, a wave of bomb threats across Ukraine intensified an already anxious mood.
2. A judge rejected a plea deal from two of three white men facing federal hate crimes charges for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
Travis McMichael, 36, and his father, Gregory McMichael, had agreed to plead guilty, admitting for the first time that they attacked Arbery, who was black, because of his race. But the judge rejected the deal the men had made with the Justice Department due to fierce opposition from Arbery’s family, who objected that it allowed them to spend 30 years in a federal prison rather than a state prison.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, reported to federal prosecutors. “They went behind my back. I am totally, totally upset. My anxiety is beyond the roof,” she said.
The McMichaels and a third man were convicted of murder in November. The federal hate crimes trial is scheduled to begin next week in Brunswick, Georgia.
3. Long-awaited report outlines leadership failures in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office and excessive drinking in the workplace.
The report found Downing Street held parties that breached pandemic lockdowns, during a time when the government was urging the public to avoid socialising. The report did not directly implicate Johnson in any wrongdoing, leaving that judgment to a separate police investigation. This may give him some political breathing space.
In other pandemic news:
4. Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican Party faces new strains.
The former president has left no doubt about his intentions – plotting an influential role in the 2022 midterm elections and another potential White House bid. But shifts in Republican polls, disagreements over approvals and taunts over Covid vaccines suggest tensions between Trump and the right-wing movement he spawned.
Separately, the Biden administration plans to resume enforcement of mercury limits for coal-fired power plants that were weakened under Trump. The toxin is linked to developmental damage in children.
5. Athletes and journalists arriving in China for the Olympic Games face some of the most intense security measures ever imposed at an international sporting event.
Many of these are Covid precautions, but others reflect the Chinese government’s growing intolerance of dissent and criticism, rounding up activists and shutting down social media accounts before the Games begin. Friday. Whether Olympic participants, including athletes, will want or be able to speak out on matters that the government deems objectionable remains a question.
But first, these athletes, journalists and other participants have to make it happen. Call them the Logistics Games, because no Olympics in history has been so difficult to stage, reach or attend.
Also outside China: A video of a mentally ill woman who appeared to have been chained up by her family sparked outrage on social media.
6. How do you turn a social media giant of 68,000 people into a metaverse company?
Facebook’s decision to rebrand itself as Meta, a company that would introduce people to shared virtual worlds and experiences, led to some of the most drastic changes to Silicon Valley society in a decade. The result has been internal disruption and uncertainty, according to former Meta employees.
Some workers wondered if the company was rushing into a new product without addressing issues such as misinformation and extremism on its social platforms.
In other tech news, Spotify has been called upon to act after podcast host Joe Rogan was accused of promoting Covid-19 misinformation on his show. But this is unlike most other clashes between creators and tech platforms, writes our tech columnist.
7. An heir to a Texas oil fortune was fascinated by one of the greatest puzzles in the history of mathematics. His private research support may have helped solve it.
Fermat’s Last Theorem, written by French mathematician Pierre de Fermat, has baffled experts for over 300 years. Then a genius worked in secret for seven years to solve it, going public in the early 1990s. (The method used for end-to-end encryption cracked the code.)
Today, James Vaughn, a wealthy Texan philanthropist, shares how his financial support created a community of Fermat innovators who, over the decades, made Andrew Wiles’ breakthrough possible.
8. Two quarterbacks who were first draft picks are ready to face each other in the ultimate game of the NFL season.
Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Los Angeles’ Matthew Stafford both survived close calls on Sunday to make it to the Super Bowl on Feb. 13. Burrow led the Bengals to a second-half comeback against Kansas City, ending a 31-year playoff drought. The Rams qualified for their second Super Bowl since 2018 after passing San Francisco.
The Super Bowl will be played at the Rams’ home stadium, SoFi Stadium, in Inglewood, California. The halftime show — with performances by Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar — will feature 115 paid professional dancers. But some professional dancers have been asked to work without pay, sparking outrage over the undervaluation of commercial dancers who work with big name artists.
9. It’s Lunar New Year. Get ready for fruit.
Eating and giving fruit is a custom that many Asian families practice for the Lunar New Year. Oranges and pomelos are said to bring wealth and prosperity; for good luck, dragon fruit or carambola is favored. A gift of fruit shows “they are thinking of you, caring for you and loving you,” said Randy Su, 22, of Toronto.
This year, the holiday will fall on Tuesday, as the moon enters a new phase and ushers in the Year of the Tiger. For many, the inaugural party begins tonight. Here are eight recipes for a better year ahead.
10. And finally, the urban fishermen of Los Angeles.
Centuries ago, in areas that are now behind trading centers and housing estates, the Tongva people lived along the Los Angeles River and relied on fishing for food. After the arrival of Spanish settlers in 1781, the river also served as the main source of water for the Pueblo de los Ángeles.
Today it looks more like an oversized storm sewer than a river. What makes the act of fishing in Los Angeles almost provocative: a quiet activity against a backdrop of concrete, rubbish and overpasses. Photographer Madeline Tolle spent a lot of time there last winter and met many fishermen looking for a little respite. Looked.
Have a relaxing night.
Angela Jimenez photos compiled for this briefing.
Your evening briefing is posted at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
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