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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Thursday.
1. After meeting with world leaders in Brussels today, President Biden said that Russia should be dropped from the Group of 20 industrialized and developing nations.
If G20 nations don’t agree, he said, then Ukraine should be able to join. His comments came after back-to-back summits of NATO and the Group of 7 and just before a third summit, with the European Union. The White House also announced that the U.S. will accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and donate $1 billion to help European countries with migrant surges.
Concern is rising among Western leaders that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, may deploy chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. NATO agreed to provide Ukraine with equipment and training for that possibility and is boosting its own preparedness.
In the U.S., a majority of Americans feel Biden hasn’t cracked down hard enough on Russia, according to a poll.
2. Ukraine is trying to seize the momentum with a counteroffensive.
The move alters the central dynamic of the fighting and raises a surprising question: not how far Russian forces have advanced but whether Ukrainians are now pushing them back.
A Russian rout was expected when the war started, but missteps have allowed Ukraine to take the offensive. Ukrainian forces have recently blown up parked Russian helicopters in the south, and the military claimed it destroyed a naval ship in the Sea of Azov.
Western and Ukrainian officials also have claimed progress in fierce fighting around the capital, Kyiv. The asserted gains in territory are hard to verify, but Western governments have issued cautiously optimistic assessments of the counteroffensive.
In other news from the front, hundreds of Belarusian dissidents have joined the fight to defend Ukraine.
Republicans attacked her with the claim that her sentencing record was lenient toward people charged with possessing images of child sexual abuse, leading to a back-and-forth over Republican views of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which is rooted in an internet myth about child trafficking.
Polls suggest QAnon supporters make up a significant portion of the Republican base. A White House spokesman called a Republican senator’s language an “embarrassing QAnon-signaling smear.” Conservatives said the Biden administration was invoking QAnon to fire up its own base.
4. The highly contagious BA.2 subvariant of Omicron is now the main driver of coronavirus cases worldwide, the W.H.O. reported yesterday.
The subvariant, which doesn’t cause more severe illness, made up about 86 percent of the cases the organization tracked between Feb. 16 and March 17, while other subvariants — BA.1 and BA.1.1 — were 13 percent of cases.
A newly released C.D.C.-run surveillance study of more than 16,000 travelers arriving in airports from abroad showed that the earliest-known cases of the BA.2 subvariant appeared in the U.S. in December. As of yesterday, about a third of new cases in the country were BA.2.
5. Under a new policy meant to drastically shorten the application process, asylum officers rather than overloaded immigration judges would evaluate seekers’ claims.
The Biden administration released the new policy today as an interim final rule. Some experts believe it would be the most sweeping change to the process in a quarter-century, freeing up backlogged immigration courts and reducing the overall procedure to six months rather than the current average of about five years.
For the plan to be fully operational, the government needs to hire hundreds of new asylum officers in order to handle about 75,000 asylum seekers a year.
6. In 2021, the U.S. experienced the slowest annual population growth in its history, driven by significant population decline in some of its most vibrant cities, new Census Bureau data shows.
Some of the fastest-growing regions in the country still boomed, but overall gains were nearly erased by losses in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, which lost a combined total of 700,000 people from July 2020 to July 2021.
Skyrocketing housing costs and pandemic-motivated moves partly explain why cities lost residents and rural areas drew them. But ongoing demographic shifts preceding Covid, like a falling birthrate and steep drops in immigration, also help to explain a general decline in population growth. The country’s high Covid death rates also played a role.
7. After 40 years, the women’s N.C.A.A. basketball tournament is finally looking more like the men’s.
Since a viral video from last year’s tournament spurred a review of inequities between men’s and women’s athletic events, there are real signs of change, our reporter writes. The name March Madness, a trademark the N.C.A.A. had reserved for the men’s tournament, is everywhere; more women’s teams are competing than ever; attendance records are being set.
In the N.C.A.A. men’s tournament, only 16 teams remain, to be whittled to the Final Four by the end of this weekend. Here’s what to look out for before the men’s Sweet Sixteen begins tonight and the women’s Sweet Sixteen begins Friday.
In other sports news, the former N.B.A. center Enes Kanter Freedom says the league is blackballing him for his activism.
8. The Kibbe body-typing system, all the rage in the ’80s and ’90s, has a new digital fan group.
Kibbe body-typing, created by image consultant David Kibbe to counter “fear-based” fashion and style guidance, was once popularized by Oprah, People magazine and this newspaper. Eventually it dropped from favor, but the practice is being enthusiastically revived on TikTok, Reddit and other social media. Categorizing figures into 13 types — including “flamboyant natural” and “soft classic” — the system encourages embracing, rather than disguising, the body.
New fans are also tweaking the original system’s lack of diversity. One of them, Brentanny Edwards, who made a TikTok about Kibbe typing for women of color said, “I thought it was really important for Black women to see the different archetypes on a face that looks like theirs.”
9. A 400-year-old oak in Poland is this year’s European Tree of the Year, it was announced at an awards ceremony in Brussels on Tuesday.
Russia’s candidate — an oak tree said to have been planted 198 years ago by the novelist Ivan Turgenev — was disqualified, because of the country’s actions in Ukraine. The Polish tree, organizers said, symbolizes Poland’s resistance to aggression and its warm welcome to Ukrainian refugees.
The tree competition began in 2011. The Polish tree sits in the Bialowieza Forest, the last primeval, or largely untouched by humans, forest in Europe’s lowlands.
10. And finally, they took to the streets. All of them.
Around the country, a small group of people are traversing every last street in their town or city, mapping their progress as they go. The idea isn’t new, but it’s taken on life and meaning during the pandemic as a way to fight the blues and gain new appreciation for hometown sights.
Jennifer Jacobsen-Wood and Mary Hosbrough, who took to calling themselves “The Pedestrians in Peoria,” covered about 1,247 miles in Peoria, Ill., on 170 walks over 23 months before finishing their circuit last fall.
The women, who grew up in the area, said they saw their walks as a way to counter what they considered to be a pervasive but unwarranted fatalism in how some Peorians viewed their city.
Have a complete evening.
Sean Culligan compiled photos for this briefing.
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