Your Tuesday Briefing – The New York Times

President Biden told a news conference in Japan yesterday that he would use military force to defend Taiwan if it were ever attacked by China, forgoing the “strategic ambiguity” traditionally favored by US presidents, and a firmer line at a time of emerging tensions in the region.

In response to a reporter who asked if the US would be “willing to get militarily involved to defend Taiwan if it comes to that,” Biden simply said yes. “That’s the commitment we made,” he added. The statement set the stage for new tensions between the US and China, which insist that Taiwan is part of its territory.

While Biden seemed to suggest he would be willing to go further on behalf of Taiwan than he has to help Ukraine, the White House was quick to claim that its policies had not changed and that the US would provide Taiwan with the “military means to defend” if necessary.

citable: “The idea that it can be taken by force, just by force, is just not appropriate,” Biden said of Taiwan. “It would disrupt the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine. And so it is a burden that is even stronger.”

Diplomacy: Biden has enlisted nearly a dozen Asia-Pacific countries to join a new loosely defined economic bloc aimed at countering China and reaffirming US influence in the region.

Boris Bondarev, a Russian diplomat at the UN, became the most prominent Russian official to resign and publicly criticize the war in Ukraine. “During 20 years of my diplomatic career, I have seen several twists and turns in our foreign policy, but I have never felt more ashamed of my country than I was on February 24 of this year,” he said in an email to colleagues, referring to the date of Russia’s invasion of its neighboring country.

Bondarev wrote: “Those who conceived this war want only one thing: to remain in power forever, to live in pompous tacky palaces, to sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian navy, to enjoy unlimited power and complete impunity. To achieve that, they are willing to sacrifice as many lives as necessary.”

The resignation came on the same day that Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky told political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos that they should go much further to punish Moscow for invading his country. Follow the latest updates from the war.

dismissal: Anatoly Chubais, the climate envoy to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, resigned and left the country in March, reportedly because of his opposition to the war. Several Russian state television journalists have also resigned in protest. And some business leaders have spoken out against the war.

Clamping: The Kremlin has made extraordinary efforts to silence dissent about the war. On state television, opponents of the war are regularly branded as traitors. A law signed by Putin will punish “false information” about the war — possibly defined as anything contrary to the government line — with as much as 15 years in prison.

In other news from the war:

As more than a dozen countries grapple with monkeypox outbreaks, health officials are rushing to assess the reserves of vaccines and treatments that may be needed to contain the spread. The WHO has stockpiled about 31 million doses of vaccine against smallpox, which could be used to contain monkeypox, but may have lost some of their potency in the decades since they were made.

Yesterday there were more than 100 confirmed cases of monkeypox in 14 countries outside Africa, with dozens more under investigation. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has urged health officials in Europe to assess the availability of smallpox vaccines, antivirals and personal protective equipment.

The largest monkeypox clusters have been reported in Europe, particularly Spain. Spanish officials are investigating two possible sources of the outbreaks: a major gay pride event in the Canary Islands and a sauna in Madrid. Many of the first infections in Europe were reported in men who have sex with men.

Details: The original smallpox vaccine is associated with rare but serious side effects and should not be given to certain patients, including those with weakened immune systems. A newer vaccine, called Jynneos, was approved in 2019 for the prevention of both smallpox and monkeypox.

Prevention: Officials may recommend immunizing a circle of close contacts around those found infected — an approach called ring vaccination that has been used to quell other rare disease outbreaks.

Every time we send an email, tap an Instagram ad, or swipe our credit cards, we create a piece of digital data that pings around the word.

The flow of such bits and bytes, which was largely unregulated, helped fuel the rise of transnational mega-corporations like Google and Amazon and reshape global communications, commerce, entertainment and media. Now the era of open borders for data is coming to an end.

Baseball is full of traditions, superstitions and quirks. But few are as amusing or as aromatic as the myriad players—many of them from Latin America—engaged on a daily basis: soaking themselves in cologne or perfume before taking to the field.

While a baseball field may be the last place people would expect to smell concoctions of flowers, fruit and tree oils, the players have their reasons, reports James Wagner for The Times.

One of the most quoted: they don’t want to smell bad when they sweat, and the emotions associated with their colognes and perfumes – special occasions, a specific mood, positive vibes – are useful reminders during exciting competitions.

Framber Valdez, a Dominican pitcher for the Houston Astros, alternates between three scents: a refreshing, tropical scent for games and exercises; a softer option for when he’s not casting; and yet another scent for going out with his teammates – this one he described as “very intense”.


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