Your Friday briefing - The New York Times - Bark Sedov

Your Friday briefing – The New York Times

With Ukraine facing deeper isolation by the day, Russia appeared to recalibrate its stance somewhat, allowing greater humanitarian access to the devastated port city of Mariupol and appearing to back out of a payment confrontation with European gas customers. Fighting around Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, continued unabated. Follow the latest updates.

The people of Mariupol have been cut off from the outside world for weeks by heavy Russian bombardment and fierce fighting. Thousands of civilians are said to have died. Survivors are trapped in basements with no heat or electricity and are desperately short of food, water and other basic necessities. A Red Cross team planned to enter the city on a rescue mission.

Russian officials scoffed at American claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s subordinates had misled him about the course of the war. “You don’t understand President Putin,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “They don’t understand the decision-making mechanism, and they don’t understand the efforts of our work.”

Quotable: “Russia is keeping pressure on Kyiv and other cities, so we can expect additional offensive actions that will bring even more suffering,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference.

Gas: Putin had demanded that European customers of his country’s natural gas pay in rubles or risk a shutdown, a condition those governments refused. But after speaking with the Russian leader, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the Russian president would make a “concession” to European countries.

More news from the war:

  • As many in Europe face the shock of having war on their doorstep, teachers say they are faced with difficult questions about the conflict from concerned children.

  • The White House announced a plan to release up to 180 million barrels of oil from US strategic reserves.

  • European leaders are considering giving security guarantees to Ukraine to facilitate a deal with Moscow.

  • The UN has set up a commission to investigate allegations of Russian war crimes.

  • A European bank predicts that Ukraine’s economic output will shrink by 20 percent this year and that of Russia by 10 percent.

Days before he stands for re-election against an unexpectedly organized opposition on Sunday, Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, is using the power of his office to shape the contours of the election better to his liking, unleashing a new round of changes to the electoral laws of the country, which benefit his party Fidesz.

The situation is considered so extraordinary that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an intergovernmental organization, is sending observers to oversee the elections. It is only the second time in EU history that the group has launched a full-scale surveillance operation against a member of the bloc.

For more than a decade, Orban has not hesitated to use government power to undermine democratic norms and cement one-party rule. He has rewritten the constitution, redesigned the courts and used news outlets to advance his agenda or spread misinformation about his rivals. Many of the largest independent outlets were also taken over by its allies.

Details: Hungary is divided into 106 districts, each of which elects a member of parliament. A further 93 seats are allocated to political parties according to a unique formula. Orban changed the formula for the allocation of seats in favor of Fidesz.

A federal judge in Florida ruled that portions of the state’s year-old election law were unconstitutional and racially motivated. And he banned Florida from making similar legislative changes for the next decade without federal approval.

It was the first time since the 2020 election that a federal court struck down key elements of the wave of election legislation enacted by Republicans.

“For the past 20 years, the majority of the Florida Legislature has attacked the voting rights of its black constituents,” Judge Mark Walker wrote in the decision. He argued that Republicans’ attacks were “part of a cynical attempt to stifle turnout among supporters of their opponents.” The decision will certainly be appealed.

There is a Swiss political party that opposes the use of PowerPoint. Some people believe that Avril Lavigne died in 2003 and was replaced by a look-alike. And a stone in a museum in Taiwan is eerily similar to a piece of meat.

These quirky facts and many others like them come from @depthsofwikipedia, an Instagram account that shares bizarre and surprising snippets from Wikipedia. Some posts are sane — like one about Hatsuyume, the Japanese word for the first dream of the year — while others aren’t safe for work (for example, a post about panda pornography).

Annie Rauwerda started the account in the early days of the pandemic when others were baking sourdough bread and learning to knit. “Wikipedia is the best thing on the web,” she told the Times. “This is how the internet should be. It has that hacker ethos of collaborating and making something.”

Zachary McCune, brand director of the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the online encyclopedia, said that @depthsofwikipedia is an extension of the site’s participatory ethos. “It’s a place where Wikipedia comes alive, like an after-hours tour of the best of Wikipedia,” he said.

Read more about the account.

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