Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times
Desperation builds in Turkey and Syria
Two days after a devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake killed more than 12,000 people in Turkey and Syria, families huddled under improvised tents in the cold rain, resting on bits of furniture pulled from the wreckage. On the border between the two countries, the bodies of Syrian refugees who had died in the quakes were returned home — but humanitarian aid was not allowed to enter.
Many in Turkey were angry that it was taking so long for rescue crews with heavy machinery to arrive. In Kahramanmaras, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey visited yesterday, three bodies were recovered from a six-story building. There were at least six more victims in the rubble. “The volunteers were here, but not the state,” said one relative.
Buildings have fallen across streets all across southern Turkey, rendering them impassible, and a fire station in Pazarcik was turned into a makeshift funeral home. Cracks in the walls of buildings that still stood were wide enough to reach through. Broken glass littered the ground, threatening to slash the feet of survivors, many of whom were still in the sleeping clothes they wore when the quake struck.
Zelensky’s call for fighter jets
Britain will train Ukrainian pilots on NATO-standard jets as a “first step,” the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said yesterday, strongly suggesting the training pledge was a prelude to providing Ukraine with advanced British fighter planes to help battle invading Russian forces. “With regard to aircraft, we have already said nothing is off the table,” he added.
The announcement came at a joint news conference with Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, who yesterday made a surprise visit to London on which he thanked Britain for its robust military support of his country but issued a blunt demand: supply Ukraine with fighter jets, a step the British government and the Biden administration have so far resisted.
Britain was in the vanguard in offering tanks to Ukraine and has promised to send 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks, which Sunak said would arrive within “weeks.” Zelensky has called for additional advanced weaponry from the West, without which, he warned, the war in Ukraine could descend into a stalemate with Russia.
Agenda: The news conference followed Zelensky’s address to the British Parliament and his meeting with King Charles III at Buckingham Palace, and he went to Paris yesterday evening for another stop on the brief tour of Europe, where he met with President Emmanuel Macron of France and the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, at the Élysée Palace.
In other news from the war:
There are “strong indications” that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, approved the supply of a missile system that separatists used in 2014 to down a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine, killing all 298 aboard, an inquiry found.
A mobile clinic in Ukraine is trying to restore medical services to villages once occupied by Russian forces as fighting rages nearby. “They’ll never beat our people,” one team member said.
China’s global spy balloon program
Officials at American intelligence agencies said that China’s spy balloon program is part of a global surveillance effort designed to collect information on other countries’ military capabilities. Balloons have been spotted operating over the Americas, Southeast Asia, East Asia and Europe over the past several years, a Pentagon spokesman said.
The balloons have some advantages over the satellites that orbit the earth in regular patterns, U.S. officials said. They fly closer to earth and drift with wind patterns, which are not as predictable as the fixed orbits of satellites, and they can evade radar. They can also hover over areas — satellites are generally in constant motion — and can produce clearer images.
China’s military modernization has been driven by the conviction that the People’s Liberation Army had to catch up with advanced rivals like the U.S., as well as develop weapons and strategies that could give it a surprise edge. Balloons became a small but active part of that strategy.
Recent events: U.S. officials said their knowledge of what China was capable of collecting from its balloon program had increased dramatically, particularly after last week. In the U.S., three balloons were observed during the Trump administration and two during the Biden administration.
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From The Times: On Tuesday night, LeBron James scored the record-breaking 38,388th point that had eluded generations of superstars. At 38, he did it at an age when most players have retired. His longevity is one key to the record — but so are 3-pointers. Here’s how he did it.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Taking the plunge
At 9 a.m. sharp on New Year’s Day, 130 New Yorkers met to jump into the icy Atlantic Ocean. Some have been doing it for months: They’re part of the New York Dippers Club, one of the many cold water therapy groups that began this winter.
Cold plunges are increasingly popular, Alyson Krueger writes in The Times, driven in part by wellness influencers and celebrities on social media. But the idea isn’t new: The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates believed that water therapy could alleviate fatigue, and doctors in the 18th century recommended cold baths to treat fevers.
The Wim Hof method pairs cold exposure with breathing and meditation to help manage anxiety and stress. The frigid water brings on what feels like a panic attack at first, proponents say, before the body relaxes and the mind quiets. But the science behind it still isn’t clear.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Natasha
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