Your Tuesday Briefing – The New York Times


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

Responding to a reporter who asked whether the U.S. would be “willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that,” Biden simply said yes. “That’s the commitment we made,” he added. The declaration set the stage for fresh tensions between the U.S. and China, which insists that Taiwan is part of its territory.

Though Biden appeared to be suggesting that he would be willing to go further on behalf of Taiwan than he has in helping Ukraine, the White House quickly asserted that its policy had not changed, and that the U.S. would provide Taiwan with the “military means to defend itself” if necessary.

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

Diplomacy: Biden has enlisted nearly a dozen Asia-Pacific nations to join a new, loosely defined economic bloc meant to counter China and reassert U.S. influence in the region.

Boris Bondarev, a Russian diplomat at the U.N., became the most prominent Russian official to resign and publicly criticize the war in Ukraine. “For 20 years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on Feb. 24 of this year,” he said in an email to colleagues, referring to the date of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.

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

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

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

Clampdown: The Kremlin has gone to extraordinary lengths to silence dissent on the war. On state television, the war’s opponents are regularly branded as traitors. A law signed by Putin punishes “false information” about the war — potentially defined as anything that contradicts 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 outbreaks of monkeypox, health officials are rushing to assess reserves of vaccines and treatments that may be needed to contain the spread. The W.H.O. has stockpiled about 31 million smallpox vaccine doses, which could be used to contain monkeypox but which may have lost some potency in the decades since they were made.

As of yesterday, there were more than 100 confirmed cases of monkeypox in 14 countries outside Africa, and 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 in Spain. Spanish officials are investigating two potential sources of the outbreaks: a major gay pride event held in the Canary Islands and a sauna in Madrid. Many of the initial infections in Europe were reported among men who have sex with men.

Details: The original smallpox vaccine is associated with rare but severe side effects and shouldn’t be given to certain patients, including those who are immuno-compromised. A newer vaccine, called Jynneos, was approved in 2019 for prevention of both smallpox and monkeypox.

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

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.

Largely unregulated, the flow of bits and bytes such as these helped fuel the rise of transnational megacompanies like Google and Amazon and reshaped global communications, commerce, entertainment and media. Now, the era of open borders for data is ending.

Baseball is full of traditions, superstitions and quirks. But few are as amusing or as aromatic as the one countless players — many of them from Latin America — engage in daily: dousing themselves in cologne or perfume before stepping onto the field.

Although a baseball field is perhaps the last place people would expect to smell like concoctions of flowers, fruits and tree oils, the players have their reasons, James Wagner reports for The Times.

Among the most cited: They don’t want to smell bad when they sweat, and the emotions attached to their colognes and perfumes — special occasions, a specific frame of mind, positive vibes — are helpful reminders during tense competitions.

Framber Valdez, a Dominican pitcher for the Houston Astros, alternates between three scents: a refreshing, tropical one for games and practice; a softer option for when he isn’t pitching; and yet another fragrance for going out with his teammates — this one he described as “very intense.”

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