Your Friday Briefing

A man watched volunteers search for bodies in the old quarter of Antakya City in Hatay Province on Thursday.Credit…Emily Garthwaite for The New York Times

‘No more Antakya’

The U.N. yesterday sent an aid convoy into opposition-controlled Syria, its first since a powerful earthquake hit the region three days ago, a natural disaster that has killed more than 20,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless across Syria and neighboring Turkey. As of yesterday, the death toll in Turkey exceeded the 17,600 mark. An additional 3,377 people are known to have died in Syria.

Truck shortages, blocked roads and other logistical hurdles are impeding efforts by the 100,000-plus rescue personnel working in Turkey to unearth victims, bury the dead and provide aid to desperate survivors. Subfreezing temperatures and widespread shortages of two essential utilities — heating and electricity — will not make their work any easier.

Across the border in northwestern Syria, where millions displaced by the country’s civil war had been enduring a brutal winter without heating when the earthquake hit, power outages are creating fuel shortages in hospitals. Snowfall has further complicated rescue efforts there.

A city destroyed: Across Antakya, the ancient capital of Hatay Province and a city of 200,000 people, thousands are grasping for solutions. “No more Antakya,” said the owner of a hotel in the city. “I lost my friends; I lost the buildings where I ate and drank with my friends. I lost all my memories. I don’t have any reason to live in Hatay anymore. Because there’s nothing.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday.Credit…Omar Havana/Getty Images

Zelensky links Europe to Ukraine’s fate

Speaking before E.U. leaders yesterday, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, made the case that his country’s war with Russia was Europe’s battle, too. Russia is “the most anti-European force of the modern world,” he said. “We Ukrainians are on the battlefield together with you.”

European lawmakers received Zelensky’s speech with roaring applause, welcoming the president to Brussels after his trips to London and Paris. The tour was his second trip outside Ukraine since the invasion nearly a year ago, casting Zelensky, a comedian before he won election in 2019, into the role of a wartime president.

Since then — with increasing levels of Western aid — Ukraine has beaten back Russia from the capital, Kyiv, and has retaken thousands of square miles of territory. But the pace of fighting has slowed, and Russia’s onslaught on Ukraine’s infrastructure has continued. Now Zelensky is appealing for financial aid to run and rebuild his country, and political support to give it hope, including quick accession to the E.U.

Quotable: “This is our Europe,” Zelensky told the lawmakers. “This is our way of life.”

In other news from the war:

  • The Kremlin-affiliated Wagner mercenary group, known for its ruthless tactics, said it would no longer recruit fighters in Russian prisons.

  • Better trained and equipped Russian divisions have joined tens of thousands of newly mobilized soldiers trying to break through the front line, Ukrainian officials and analysts said.

The labor market has remained very strong, with hiring persisting even in sectors that are usually sensitive to changes in interest rates, like construction.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Chances of a growth rebound

Experts had warned of a potential recession in the U.S. in 2023 as borrowing costs rose and growth and the labor market slowed in turn. Those calls are now getting a rethink: Employers added more than half a million jobs in January, the housing market shows positive signs, and analysts are now raising the possibility that growth will simply hold up.

Not every data point looks sunny: Manufacturing remains glum, consumer spending has been cracking, and some think a mild recession this year remains likely. But there have been enough surprises pointing to continued momentum that central bank officials themselves seem to see a better chance that the nation will avoid a painful downturn.

While a gentle landing would be a welcome development, economists are beginning to ask whether growth and the job market will run too warm for inflation to slow as much as central bankers are hoping — eventually forcing the Fed to respond more aggressively or to keep rates high for longer than expected.

Hikes: The Federal Reserve lifted rates from near zero early last year to above 4.5 percent as of last week — the fastest series of policy adjustment in decades. For a while, those higher borrowing costs seemed to be clearly slowing the economy. But as the central bank has shifted toward a more moderate pace of rate moves, markets have relaxed.


Around the World

Credit…Provided by the F.B.I.
  • The Chinese spy balloon that was shot down off the coast of the U.S. last week carried several electronic surveillance tools, American officials said.

  • Nicaragua’s authoritarian government handed over 222 political prisoners to the U.S., officials said, in a signal of its desire to restart relations.

  • North Korea released photographs of a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile that analysts say would be easier to launch and harder to spot.

  • Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, declared a “state of disaster” in response to an electricity crisis that has led to outages of up to 10 hours a day.

  • A Manhattan store that claims to be the oldest cheese shop in the U.S. will close its doors next month.

Other Big Stories

Credit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times
  • France’s prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, seldom shares her past. “It’s a personal story that’s quite painful,” she said. But, she added, “It’s also a history that gives me strength — enormous strength.”

  • SpaceX tested the most powerful rocket ever built.

  • France, Germany, Sweden and Denmark have had notable, if limited, success in arresting declines in birthrates like those bedeviling China and Italy. Here’s how they did it.

  • The Church of England is considering whether to use gender-neutral terms to refer to God, weeks after it announced that it would not allow same-sex marriages in church.

The Week in Culture

  • Gustavo Dudamel, the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will leave his post in 2026 to become the music director of the New York Philharmonic.

  • The German pop singer Kim Petras said she was the first transgender woman to win a Grammy in the best pop duo and group performance category. Revisit the best and worst moments from the night — and Beyoncé’s record-breaking wins.

  • John Cleese will reboot “Fawlty Towers,” the 1970s British sitcom, with his daughter.

  • A new Hogwarts video game is the latest battleground over J.K. Rowling’s comments on transgender issues, dividing fans and gamers.

  • A jury found that an artist’s NFTs of Hermès bags infringed on the company’s trademark rights, in a blow to the NFT market.

A Morning Read

Credit…Ryokei Mifune

The sight of Ryokei Mifune, who goes by Uni, has surprised more than a few Australian drivers: a slight Japanese man in a traditional “kasa” straw hat and flimsy sandals, pushing along on a child’s nonmotorized toy scooter. He is cutting across from Melbourne to Sydney and then following the coast to Cairns, a journey of more than 2,000 miles.

“I like that no one has done it; I thought it would be a good challenge,” Uni said. He added, “If I were copying something someone else had already accomplished, it wouldn’t be any fun.”

Lives Lived

Dionne Warwick with Burt Bacharach at a retrospective concert in 1998.Credit…Rahav Segev

The songs of Burt Bacharach matched the romantic optimism of the 1960s. He died on Wednesday at 94.


How Vinicius Jr became the focus of racist abuse in Spanish soccer: Real Madrid’s star forward has been persistently targeted. Why him? And what’s being done?

What female Manchester United fans think of Mason Greenwood’s future: Women’s voices have been largely absent from debates about Greenwood, so we asked female football fans what they think.

What if Manchester City’s players were drafted by the rest of the Premier League? Here’s a completely unserious, just-for-fun hypothetical — what if Manchester City’s players were divided up among the other clubs?

From The Times: Find answers to your questions about the Super Bowl on Sunday. Rihanna will perform in the halftime show.


A woman scrutinizing “Mistress and Maid” (1664-67), on loan from the Frick Collection.Credit…Melissa Schriek for The New York Times

28 gemlike Vermeers

An exhibition of works by the 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer opens today in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, a show that is probably “never to be replicated,” the Times critic Jason Farago writes.

Depending on how you count, the artist’s overall output was somewhere around 40 to 45 paintings, across a career that lasted no more than two decades. (Only about 35 of those 17th-century works are thought to exist today.) Remarkably little is known about him, despite efforts by authors, filmmakers and researchers to fill the empty space.

This exhibition brings together about 80 percent of his surviving works. It took years of diplomacy to organize, Jason notes, because no museum wants to send away its Vermeers, even for a short while. The museum has already sold over 200,000 tickets.

For more: The exhibition will include the painting “Girl With a Flute,” even after scholars concluded, after careful scientific and artistic study, that the painting was not by Vermeer.


What to Cook

Credit…Julia Gartland for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

Browse our Valentine’s Day recipes, including this scallop pasta.

What to Watch

“Cunk on Earth” looks like an ambitious BBC documentary — until its fictional host starts to ask some deeply silly questions.


Spend 36 hours in New Orleans.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Tree found hidden in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s name (three letters).

And here are today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a fabulous weekend. — Natasha

P.S. Doug Schorzman will be our next Asia editor.

“The Daily” is about San Francisco’s struggle to recover from the pandemic.

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

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