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New York Times view for 2022 August 29 – September 04

Author Headshot By Amelia Nierenberg

Writer, Briefings

August 29

We’re covering artillery strikes near a nuclear plant in Ukraine and a political scandal in Finland.

Shelling around the Zaporizhzhia power plant has raised fears of a catastrophic nuclear accident.David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Attacks near Ukraine nuclear plant intensify

Russian artillery strikes continued near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine yesterday as negotiations continued over allowing international inspectors to visit the complex.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, has assembled a team of experts with the hope that they will visit the plant in southern Ukraine “in the next few days,” officials said. They would assess physical damage, determine whether safety and security systems are functional and evaluate working conditions, the agency said.
But as talks continue, a possible crisis looms. Increased barrages near the plant struck towns, ammunition dumps and a Russian military base in intensive fighting yesterday, raising questions about whether the area would ever be secure enough to allow inspectors anywhere near the plant.
Background: Russia and Ukraine have acknowledged the risks of a potential nuclear accident at the plant, the largest power station in Europe, but neither appears to be pausing attacks. And for weeks, the countries have blamed each other for firing artillery at the nuclear plant.
Details: Ukrainian officials have rushed to hand out potassium iodide to tens of thousands of people living near the plant. The drug can protect people from radiation-induced thyroid cancer.
Other updates:
  • Ukraine is using retrofitted equipment, like missiles and rocket systems mounted on trucks and speedboats, to score big wins against Russia.
  • Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, offered incentives to Ukrainians to move to his country, part of widening efforts to integrate people living in territory it occupies.
  • During the war, Ukrainian women have taken on new roles, including demining and combat. But they are increasingly bearing the worst of the conflict.
“It feels sometimes that my mere existence is a provocation to some,” Sanna Marin said last year.Saara Mansikkamaki for The New York Times

Finland debates its leader’s parties

Sanna Marin, Finland’s 36-year-old prime minister, is engulfed in a scandal after videos of her dancing at a party were leaked this month.
The conflict, my colleague Katrin Bennhold reported from Helsinki, is at the heart of the country’s identity shift to becoming a beacon of progressive modernity. Some Finns are clamoring for Marin’s resignation, arguing that her conduct is unbecoming of a prime minister. Others see her as inspirational.
The issue has also raised the question of whether Marin is held to a different standard than older male leaders. “This hurts a certain type of elderly man,” said Tarja Halonen, who was Finland’s first female president. “They are afraid of the situation — that it’s more and more normal that women of all ages take political roles and that women are now more the rule than the exception.”
Context: Even by Finnish standards, Marin is exceptionally young and her government exceptionally female. When she took office in 2019, at 34, she was more than 20 years younger than her two immediate male predecessors when they entered office.
Legacy: Marin has guided Finland through the coronavirus pandemic with one of Europe’s lowest death rates. After Russia invaded Ukraine, she traveled to Sweden to win support for Finland’s and Sweden’s momentous bid to join NATO.
A Pride parade in Vienna in June.Lisa Leutner/Reuters

Serbia cancels a gay Pride event

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s president, has canceled EuroPride, an annual weeklong L.G.B.T.Q. celebration.
“This is a violation of minority rights,” Vucic acknowledged, “but at this moment, the state is pressured by numerous problems.” He cited tensions with Kosovo, economic problems and concerns about anti-gay protesters.
The announcement shocked organizers, who vowed to go ahead with the festivities, planned for Sept. 12-18. They said they were prepared to start a legal challenge and that a cancellation would violate their rights of freedom of assembly and expression, detailed in the Serbian Constitution and protected by European human rights law.
Background: EuroPride is a weeklong festival that has been held since 1992 in a different European city each year. More than 15,000 people, many traveling from abroad, were expected to attend the event in Belgrade, which would have culminated in a Pride march.
Context: Belgrade’s bid to host EuroPride had been supported by Serbia’s prime minister, Ana Brnabic, who is the first woman and first openly gay person to hold that position. It would have been Serbia’s first year hosting the event.
Continue reading the main story

Andy Rain/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • British household energy bills are expected to nearly double in October.
  • Spain has passed a law requiring sexual consent to be “freely expressed.”
  • An elite Danish school is engulfed in scandal after multiple accusations of sex abuse and bullying.

U.S. Navy, via Reuters

Alejandro Cegarra for The New York Times
Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has staked his legacy on a new train meant to reinvigorate the country’s poorest region.
But the project is threatened by a ballooning budget and rushed construction over fragile terrain. Even though it may be hurtling toward disaster, he refuses to slow it down.

August 30

We’re covering Ukraine’s expanded southern offensive and a political crisis in Iraq.

Ukrainian soldiers riding back from near the Kherson front line.Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Ukraine bolsters its counteroffensive

Ukrainian forces launched ground assaults yesterday in multiple areas along the front in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, apparently stepping up a counteroffensive aimed at recapturing territory seized by Russia.
Fighting along a swath of the front line escalated sharply, according to Ukrainian officials. Kyiv said that its military had “breached the occupiers’ first line of defense near Kherson,” as part of a multipronged advance.
The reports of intensifying fighting came as U.N. nuclear experts prepared to visit the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which lies to the north of Kherson. The inspectors will arrive this week, tomorrow at the earliest.
Details: Artillery strikes near the Russia-controlled plant, which is Europe’s largest nuclear facility, have raised fears of a meltdown.
Context: For months, Ukrainian officials have promised a broad counteroffensive in the Kherson region to push Russian forces from the western bank of the Dnipro River, a natural barrier. It was unclear if the fighting yesterday was the start of that larger effort.
In other updates:
  • Ukraine also claimed to have destroyed a large Russian military base behind Russian lines in the Kherson region. It was not possible to immediately verify the claims.
  • Ukraine’s railroads are offering vital connection now that skies and ports are closed.
Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr clashed with the police in Baghdad’s Green Zone yesterday.Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Political chaos grips Iraq

Iraq’s political chaos deepened yesterday after Muqtada al-Sadr, a powerful Shiite cleric, said he was retiring from politics.
In response, protesters supporting Sadr took to the streets of Baghdad and breached barriers in the so-called Green Zone — the area around Parliament, Iraqi government offices and diplomatic missions. At least 12 people were killed when the security forces opened fire.
Sadr’s announcement could mark a more dangerous phase of Iraqi turmoil, and it raised fears that his followers would increasingly turn to street protests. Baghdad and most provinces were under curfew by yesterday evening.
It could also deepen a political stalemate: Iraq hasn’t had a new government since candidates loyal to Sadr won the biggest bloc of seats last October. In June, he ordered the new lawmakers to resign. His followers then set up a tent camp that has blockaded Parliament for more than a month, preventing lawmakers from meeting.
Analysis: The cleric has said he was leaving politics before, prompting questions about whether this could be a tactic to gain the upper hand in future negotiations to form a government.
The wreckage of a ship that sank in World War II has emerged in the Danube River.Fedja Grulovic/Reuters

Europe tries to deal with drought

Europe is confronting one its worst droughts in decades: Nearly 65 percent of E.U. territory is currently under some degree of drought warning, according to one estimate.
Rivers are running low, paralyzing commerce and causing disruptions for companies that transport goods and commodities like oil and coal. The drought has also exposed the carcasses of World War II ships and disrupted European river cruises.
As droughts become more frequent, Britain is looking to reprocess its sewage into drinking water in the future. The head of Britain’s Environment Agency said that people would need to be “less squeamish” about the idea.
Analysis: Climate change will make extreme weather — like droughts, hurricanes and other large storms — more frequent and intense.
Context: Toilet-to-tap recycling is already in place in Australia, Singapore, Namibia and parts of the U.S. It’s cheaper than desalination and can be used in inland areas.

Ramon Van Flymen/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • Air France is under scrutiny after a series of incidents raised concerns about safety. In June, for instance, two pilots got into a fight in the cockpit. They were suspended.
  • Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, has returned from a three-day visit to Algeria. He is trying to reshape a fraught relationship and account for historical wrongs.

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
  • In China, 28 people were charged months after video circulated of men beating women in a restaurant. The attack prompted outraged discussion about misogyny, but the government has tried to change the topic to gangs.
  • Angola’s ruling party eked out a win yesterday, though it was its weakest showing in five elections, as young people turned away.
  • Taiwan is caught in a geopolitical game over its semiconductor industry. China’s push to compete in the sector may not be going as well as Xi Jinping hoped.

A Catholic Podcasting Star Says Theocracy Is Not the Way

“All of us get a say,” says Father Mike Schmitz. “From the deeply religious to the convicted atheist and everyone in between.”

August 31

We’re covering the death of Mikhail Gorbachev and efforts to get U.N. inspectors to an imperiled nuclear plant.

During his six years in power, Mikhail Gorbachev lifted the Iron Curtain and transformed the world.Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Mikhail Gorbachev dies at 91

Mikhail Gorbachev, a reformist leader who oversaw the end of the Soviet Union, has died at 91.
His rise to power set in motion a series of revolutionary changes that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Few leaders in the 20th century, indeed in any century, have had such a profound effect on their time.
Abroad, he was hailed as a hero. At home, he promised and delivered greater openness — glasnost — as he implemented his policy of perestroika to restructure his country’s society and faltering economy. And although it was not his intention to liquidate the Soviet empire, he presided over an extraordinary five months in 1989 when the Communist system imploded from the Baltics to the Balkans.
Vladimir Putin: The Russian president has called the collapse of the Soviet Union the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Putin sees the war with Ukraine as part of his battle to undo Gorbachev’s legacy.
Reaction: Gorbachev lived long enough to see the East-West divide revived during the war in Ukraine. He is being lionized by the West, but is reviled by some in Russia.
Interview: In a 2016 interview with The Times, Gorbachev was defiant: “Russia needs more democracy,” he said.
A camouflaged Ukrainian position near Kherson.David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

U.N. inspectors stalled in Ukraine

U.N. nuclear experts arrived in Kyiv yesterday with plans to inspect the imperiled nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia “within days.”
Their path to get to the facility in southern Ukraine is still unresolved. A senior Ukrainian adviser said that Russian forces had fired on possible routes to the facility. The shelling seemed intentional, he said, but he expressed hope that the 14 inspectors would reach the plant “one way or another.”
As delays continue, fears of an atomic accident continue to grow. Conditions at the Russian-controlled plant have been unraveling for weeks. Yesterday, the E.U. announced plans to give Ukraine 5.5 million potassium iodine tablets, in case of a radiation leak.
Analysis: Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, appears to be using the facility to scare Ukraine’s leaders and to warn the West to stay out of the conflict.
Fighting: Yesterday, Ukraine claimed to have broken through Russian defenses at multiple points in the southern Kherson region. It could be the beginning of a broad and coordinated counteroffensive.
Other updates:
Muqtada al-Sadr called on his supporters to pull back. Qassem Al-Kaabi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Violence in Iraq appears to subside

Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shiite cleric in Iraq, called for protesters to leave Baghdad’s Green Zone yesterday, after two days of deadly violence that left 24 dead.
Witnesses and Iraqi security officials confirmed that shooting had stopped after his call. But the turmoil has raised fears that Iraq is caught in a perilous cycle with no functioning government — and no common ground to make one.
Notably, the tensions flared between different Shiite political factions, highlighting long-building friction at the heart of Iraqi politics. Sadr leads one faction, which is mistrustful of Iran and espouses Iraqi nationalism.
Other groups are backed by Iran, and some of them are Shiite militias that answer more to Iran’s Shiite theocracy than to Iraq’s government.
Context: Iraq is a majority Shiite country, but Shiites faced years of harsh repression under Saddam Hussein. They came to political power after the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Details: Sadr’s followers took to the streets of the capital after he announced on Monday that he planned to retire from politics. They fought with security forces, which include members of the Iranian-backed militias that Sadr opposes.

Andy Wong/Associated Press
  • Xi Jinping is poised to win five more years in power as China’s top leader at the next Communist Party congress, set to open on Oct. 16.
  • Mississippi’s capital does not have access to safe drinking water.
  • India’s Supreme Court declared that same-sex parents, single parents and blended families deserve equal treatment, its latest ruling to push back against conservative social norms.
  • U.S. life expectancy fell precipitously during the pandemic, from an average of nearly 79 years in 2019 to 76 in 2021. It is the sharpest two-year decline in nearly 100 years.

September 01

We’re covering Vladimir Putin’s reaction to Mikhail Gorbachev’s death and Putin’s hesitance to draft civilians to fight against Ukraine.

Mikhail Gorbachev, addressing the U.N. General Assembly in 1988.Bill Foley/Getty Images

Putin reacts to Gorbachev’s death

After Mikhail Gorbachev died at 91, all eyes turned to Vladimir Putin, the leader of Russia.
Putin has called the end of the Soviet Union a “genuine tragedy” for Russia and the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” He has blamed Gorbachev, the U.S.S.R.’s final leader, for bending to the demands of a treacherous and duplicitous West.
Yesterday, Putin offered a brief conciliatory message. He called Gorbachev a “statesman” who “deeply understood that reforms were necessary” and “strove to offer his own solutions to urgent problems.”
But Putin did not mention the war in Ukraine, where he is fighting to reverse Gorbachev’s legacy.
The Kremlin: Soon after Gorbachev’s death, it became clear that he would not be venerated by the Kremlin as other former leaders had been. A column published by the state news agency said Gorbachev could “serve as an illustration that good intentions of a national leader can create hell on earth for a whole country.”
Global reaction: Western leaders remembered Gorbachev as an honest reformer and hailed him as a visionary. But in China, his legacy is a cautionary tale.
Russian men ages 18 to 27 are required to serve in the military for a year.Alexey Malgavko/Reuters

Hesitancy in Russia to hold a draft

Russia’s loudest cheerleaders of the war in Ukraine are pushing for a draft. But Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, has so far chosen to avoid mass conscription.
Many are puzzled: Putin has repeatedly framed the war as an existential battle for Russia but insists on fighting the biggest land war in Europe since World War II with a Russian military that is essentially at peacetime strength.
The move appears to be strategic. Putin is trying to maintain domestic stability and prevent widespread public backlash. Even though the Kremlin released an order last week to increase the target size of the military by 137,000 service members, analysts said it appeared that Putin was still intent on adding to the ranks by aggressive recruitment, rather than by large-scale conscription.
Now, though, the debate has grown more urgent. Ukraine is gaining momentum on the southern front. And the recent killing of Daria Dugina, an ultranationalist commentator, has magnified the voices of radical hawks who believe that the Kremlin is underestimating the enemy and lulling Russian society into a false sense of security.
Other updates:
A security guard at a detention center in Xinjiang, China, last year.Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

U.N. denounces China’s conduct in Xinjiang

China may have committed “crimes against humanity” in its mass detention of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim groups in its far western region of Xinjiang, the U.N.’s human rights office said yesterday.
The forceful denouncement came in a much-delayed report, released minutes before Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, was to leave office. China had pressured her not to publish it.
The report does not appear to use the word “genocide,” a designation applied by the U.S. and also by an unofficial tribunal in Britain last year.
But it treats as credible rights groups’ and activists’ claims that China has detained Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others, often for having overseas ties or for expressing religious faith. It also says that allegations of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, “appear credible and would in themselves amount to acts of torture or other forms of ill-treatment.”
Details: The report’s release ended a nearly yearlong delay that had exposed Bachelet and her office to fierce pushback by activists and others who had accused her of caving to Beijing.
Quotable: Sophie Richardson, the China director for Human Rights Watch, described the report as “an unprecedented challenge to Beijing’s lies and horrific treatment of Uyghurs.”

The German government reached a compensation deal with the families of athletes killed at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

 Friday September 02 briefing

We’re covering President Biden’s speech on U.S. democracy and the arrival of U.N. inspectors at an imperiled nuclear power plant.

“MAGA forces are determined to take this country backward,” President Biden said.Doug Mills/The New York Times

Biden speaks on U.S. democracy

President Biden addressed the U.S. in a prime-time speech last night. He spoke about the threat to American democracy, warning that the country’s values are under assault by those loyal to former Donald Trump.
“For a long time, we’ve reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed,” Biden said. “But it is not. We have to defend it. Protect it. Stand up for it. Each and every one of us.”
In remarkably direct remarks, Biden defined the upcoming midterm elections as a “battle for the soul of the nation.” He accused Republicans loyal to Trump of embracing extremism and undermining democratic values.
Citing the “extraordinary experiment of self-government” represented by the Constitution, Biden said that “history tells us a blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy.”
Analysis: Ahead of the midterm elections, Biden has spent less time calling for compromise and more time accusing Republicans of presenting a danger to democracy, using some of the sharpest and most combative language of his presidency.
Politics: After winning their primaries, several Republicans have minimized references to Trump and to abortion.
Some U.N. inspectors returned to Ukrainian-held territory after visiting the Zaporizhzhia power plant.Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Inspectors at nuclear power plant

A team of U.N. inspectors crossed the front line to finally reach the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant yesterday. Five experts, out of a group of 14, will stay until Saturday to monitor the plant.
Hours before the group arrived, Russian mortar shells struck the plant, Ukraine’s nuclear energy company said. The plant deployed emergency backup measures, prompting the shutdown of one reactor and the activation of backup generators at another.
The shelling highlighted the safety risks the team had come to assess, though Russia and Ukraine traded accusations over who was to blame. Repeated shelling has raised fears of an atomic catastrophe.
In remarks after his visit, the top U.N. nuclear inspector, Rafael Grossi, said that he continued to worry about the plant’s safety. “It is obvious that the plant and physical integrity of the plant have been violated several times,” he said, adding, “This cannot continue to happen.”
Other updates:
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, is the front-runner to replace Boris Johnson.Susannah Ireland/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Britain prepares for a new leader

Britons will find out who will be their new prime minister on Monday. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, is favored to defeat Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor of the Exchequer.
Their fight to succeed Boris Johnson as the country’s leader, and as the leader of the Conservative Party, has often seemed divorced from Britain’s dire economic problems, our London bureau chief reports.
That may come, in part, from the nature of this election. The next prime minister will be chosen in balloting not by tens of millions of British voters, but by roughly 160,000 dues-paying members of the Conservative Party.
The party’s members, whom the two candidates have sought to woo, tend to be older, wealthier and more right-wing than the broader British electorate. Neither candidate has offered a comprehensive package to deal with families hard hit by spiraling food and fuel prices.
Truss: She has preached a message of lower taxes and smaller government to a receptive audience of faithful Tories.
Sunak: He has presented himself as the candidate of hard truths and said that the government cannot afford to cut taxes before it tames double-digit inflation.

Isabel Infantes/Reuters

Ichoan Nursing Home
A nursing home in Japan has recruited babies to spend time with its residents.
It’s a win-win: Socializing across generations has been shown to draw older people out, making them smile and talk more. And the young visitors are rewarded in diapers, baby formula and free baby photo shoots.

China cancels African debts

China has announced that it would cancel some debts of 17 African countries. The move is aimed, in part, at addressing accusations of “debt trap diplomacy,” the idea that China has encroached on the continent by lending countries more money than they can pay back.
Beijing hasn’t revealed who will benefit from the cancellation, but the news was already being celebrated in Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest countries. A front-page story in The Nation, an influential independent newspaper there, reported that the cancellation of 5.5 billion kwacha, or $5.3 million, had “excited Treasury and economic commentators.” In Nigeria, pundits estimated that the cancellation could clear nearly 4 percent of their country’s total borrowing.
Chinese leadership has been battling the complex debt-trap narrative, pointing to research showing that Africa owes more to Western lenders. The cancellation also positions China as an “all-weather friend,” in the words of its Foreign Ministry, said Cobus van Staden, a co-founder of the nonprofit China-Global South Project.
But the loans the Chinese government planned to cancel are zero-interest loans that amount to just a fraction of its lending to Africa, van Staden added. For instance, Angola — China’s largest debtor in Africa — is unlikely to benefit because the country borrowed from Chinese banks, said Francisco Paulo, an economist based in Luanda, Angola’s capital. — Lynsey Chutel, a Briefings writer based in Johannesburg.

Published by Guestspeaker

A joint effort of several authors who do find that nobody can keep standing at the side and that “Everyone" must care about what is going on in today’s world. We are a bunch of people who do not mind that somebody has a totally different idea but is willing to share the ideas with others and to be Active and willing to let others understand how "today’s decisions will influence the future”. Therefore we would love to see many others to "Act today".

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