Yellen’s surprise trip to Ukraine
One week after President Biden visited Kyiv, Janet Yellen, the U.S. treasury secretary, made an unannounced visit to the Ukrainian capital to emphasize the U.S. commitment to providing the money Ukraine needs to operate as the war enters a second year.
During the trip, Yellen met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and announced the transfer of $1.25 billion in economic assistance to Ukraine. She promised the U.S. would “stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
The visit is part of a concerted diplomatic push by the Biden administration to show support for Ukraine while maintaining pressure on Russia. The secretary of state, Antony Blinken, will visit two former Soviet republics this week and is expected to urge them to maintain their distance from Russia as well as China.
Context: Yellen was involved in crafting the economic sanctions that the U.S. imposed on Russia during the war. She also devised the price cap that the U.S. and its allies enacted to limit the sale price for Russian oil. Her visit came amid an intensifying political debate about whether the U.S. can continue to provide billions of dollars to Ukraine.
Other news from the war: After suffering staggering losses, the Russian military is relying on tens of thousands of inexperienced conscripts to carry out its latest offensive.
A Northern Ireland trade deal
Britain and the European Union have reached an agreement on one of Brexit’s thorniest legacies: the trade status of Northern Ireland. The deal could avert a potential trade war between Britain and the E.U. and smooth over relations between the two sides that have been strained since Brexit.
Yesterday’s deal, known as the Windsor Framework, was announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, after weeks of confidential talks.
Northern Ireland is still part of Britain, which voted to leave the E.U. in 2016. But Ireland remained in the union, creating a complicated border situation between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Negotiators had long struggled to find a way to allow goods to move smoothly between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. E.U. officials worried about the integrity of their open market, and there were concerns about the fragility of peace in a region long plagued by sectarian violence.
Details: Under the terms of the deal, goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland that were intended to stay there would pass through a “green” channel without routine checks. Those designated for Ireland would pass through a “red” channel that would have more controls. The agreement also diminishes the role of the E.U.’s judicial branch in any trade disputes.
What’s next: England’s Parliament still needs to vote for the deal, but it will likely pass because the opposition Labour Party has said it supports the agreement.
A devastating winter in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is gripped by a winter that both Afghan and aid group officials are describing as the harshest in over a decade, battering millions of people already reeling from a humanitarian crisis.
As of Monday, more than 200 people have died from hypothermia and more than 225,000 head of livestock have perished. Those figures do not take into account the vast human toll from malnutrition, disease and untreated injuries as clinics and hospitals are overwhelmed with ailments related to the extreme cold, mostly among children.
While Afghanistan has endured natural disasters and economic desperation for decades, the harsh temperatures this winter come at a particularly difficult moment. In late December, the Taliban administration barred women from working in most local and international aid organizations — prompting many to suspend operations, severing a lifeline for communities reliant on the aid.
Context: After Western troops withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021, sanctions crippled the banking sector, food prices soared and hospitals filled with malnourished children. Today around half of the country’s 40 million people face potentially life-threatening levels of food insecurity.
THE LATEST NEWS
China accused the U.S. of politicizing the coronavirus pandemic after the U.S. Energy Department concluded with “low confidence” that the virus emerged from a lab in Wuhan, China.
The Indian authorities arrested a top leader of the opposition Aam Admi Party for corruption. A.A.P. supporters said the arrest was politically motivated.
Around the World
Mobs of Israeli settlers burned and vandalized at least 200 buildings in four Palestinian villages near the site where a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli settlers.
A 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey yesterday, killing at least one person three weeks after a devastating quake left more than 50,000 people dead in the same region.
More than 100,000 people took to the streets of Mexico on Sunday to protest new laws that would hobble the country’s election agency.
Other Big Stories
Indian Americans are rapidly climbing the political ranks in the U.S.
Elon Musk called the media racist against white and Asian people in a tweet as some newspapers stopped running the “Dilbert” comic strip after its creator described Black people as a “hate group.”
The Biden administration announced a crackdown on the labor exploitation of migrant children, days after The Times published an investigation into the practice.
A Morning Read
In Himalayan Buddhism, the religious roles of nuns have long been restricted by rules and customs. But one sect is changing that, mixing meditation with kung fu and environmental activism.
Japan’s video game high school
Japan’s first e-sports high school, which mixes traditional class work with hours of intensive video game training, was founded last year in Tokyo with the intention of feeding the growing global demand for professional gamers.
But educators believe they have stumbled onto something more valuable: a model for getting chronically absent students back in school.
“School refusal” — absenteeism often linked to anxiety or bullying — has been a preoccupation in Japan since the early 1990s, and the problem has grown in recent years.
Educators have experimented with different models, including distance learning, while frustrated parents with means have turned to private schools. The E-Sports High School students, however, mostly found their own way to the school.
The school’s philosophy is to draw students in with games and then show them that “it’s really fun to come to school, it’s really useful for your future,” its principal said.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Spiced shrimp and quick-pickled red cabbage make easy, dressed-up taco fillings.
What to Read
Reid Mitenbuler’s “Wanderlust” is a compelling introduction to the Danish explorer Peter Freuchen, a man drawn to some of the most isolated places on Earth.
What to Watch
“Film, the Living Record of Our Memory” explores the delicate task of saving the history of movies.
REM sleep is magical. Here’s what we know about it.
Now Time to Play
Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Villains, in wrestling lingo (5 letters).
Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Dan
P.S. The word “overbundle,” meaning to swaddle a newborn too tightly, appeared for the first time in The Times yesterday.
“The Daily” is on an election denialism lawsuit against Fox News.
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