Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times


Investigators combed bombed-out towns and freshly dug graves in Ukraine yesterday for evidence of war crimes, as a wide-ranging investigation by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe detailed what it said were “clear patterns” of human rights violations by Russian forces, some of which may constitute war crimes.

Such claims are famously difficult to investigate and still harder to prosecute. But the war in Ukraine may prove different, some experts say. An International Criminal Court investigation into possible war crimes has been underway since last month, and some countries have been looking at ways for the U.N. to prosecute Russia for what is known as the crime of aggression.

“There will be prosecutions, and probably all over the world,” said Leila Sadat, an international law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. “Ukraine is actually crawling with war crimes investigators right now.”

Support: President Biden said the U.S. would send an additional $800 million in military and other security aid to Ukraine. The package will include “new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine,” he said.

In a rapid response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and despite threats from Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, of “serious political and military consequences” — both Finland and Sweden are now seriously debating applications for membership in NATO and are widely expected to join the alliance.

Should these militarily nonaligned Nordic countries opt to do so, it would be yet another example of the counterproductive results of Putin’s war in Ukraine. Instead of crushing Ukrainian nationalism, Putin has enhanced it. Instead of weakening the trans-Atlantic alliance, he has solidified it. And instead of blocking NATO’s growth, he has catalyzed its potential expansion.

At a news conference in Stockholm yesterday with Magdalena Andersson, the Swedish prime minister, Sanna Marin, the Finnish prime minister, said a decision on whether to apply for membership would be made “within weeks.” The subsequent application process could take a year or more.

NATO response: Officials said only that the alliance has an open-door policy and that any country wishing to join can ask for an invitation. The secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said simply: “There are no other countries that are closer to NATO.”

More than 250 people have died after days of rain drenched Durban and surrounding areas near South Africa’s east coast, prompting criticism from residents that the government had failed in its promises to prepare for what are increasingly frequent storms.

Although the rain in the region stopped on Tuesday, officials were still trying to fully assess the human and infrastructure toll, as rescue crews rummaged through muddy hillsides in search of the missing. The rain washed away bridges, leaving gaping holes in roadways, and swept homes and shacks from their foundations.

Local officials disputed the suggestion that the government was to blame for the devastation, on the grounds that the storms had been more widespread than in previous years and much of the damage resulted from landslides. “It has got nothing to do with the drainage system,” said Mxolisi Kaunda, the mayor of the local municipality, at a recent news conference.

Quotable: “When infrastructure fails, it leads to human catastrophe,” said S’bu Zikode, the president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a shack dwellers movement concentrated in the province where the rain and flooding occurred.

Tech companies really want their employees to be happy — or at least less annoyed — about returning to the office. So they’re providing Lizzo concerts, food trucks and other perks.

The challenge is how to balance flexibility with maximizing the usefulness of office time, said Nick Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University. “Employees aren’t going to come in regularly just for the frills,” he added. “What are you going to do next? Get Justin Bieber and then Katy Perry?”

A new exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel’s oldest art museum, showcases artists from outside the traditional pantheon, including both West Bank settlers and Palestinians; highlights some lesser-known works by well-known artists; and departs from a chronological narrative that puts art in the service of Israeli history.

The show constitutes nothing less than a reimagining of the Israeli artistic canon and how it should be displayed, Patrick Kingsley, our Jerusalem bureau chief, reports.

Works in the exhibition include a bust by a Scottish Jewish artist, Benno Schotz, who spent most of his life in Glasgow. The largest installation, at 30 yards long and pictured above, is by a Palestinian Ukrainian citizen of Israel, Maria Saleh Mahameed, who grew up in an Arab city in the country’s north. And the oldest work, by Samuel Hirszenberg in 1908, depicts the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine in Jerusalem that has become an emblem of Palestinian nationalism.

The aim is to allow visitors to enjoy the artworks on their own terms, according to the collection’s curator, Dalit Matatyahu. “We were taught, or learned, to look at art just as a symbol for something else,” she said. “I’m trying to look at the art as if I do not know anything.”

Read more about the exhibition.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. The Times won the top award from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing in five categories.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the next phase of the war in Ukraine.

You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].


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