Your Tuesday Briefing: China’s New Military Drills Near Taiwan

Taiwan’s Coast Guard patrolled on Liuqiu Island, a coral island in the Taiwan Strait, on Saturday.Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

China announces more military drills near Taiwan

Just a day after ending its largest-ever military exercises near Taiwan, China announced new operations in the area.

It’s a sign that Beijing will keep up its military pressure on Taiwan, and could be normalizing its presence around the island before gradually cutting off access to its airspace and waters.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had detected multiple Chinese war ships involved in nearly 40 sorties near the island, including 21 that crossed the informal median line in the Taiwan Strait between the island and the mainland.

Background: Beijing cast the military exercises as punishment for last week’s visit from U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But they also offered a warning to allied countries like Japan, and served as practice for a possible attack.

Context: Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader in generations, has made it clear that he sees uniting Taiwan and China as a key goal. He is also keen to project an image of strength before a Communist Party congress scheduled in the fall, when he is expected to be confirmed to a third term.

Related: When a Taiwanese democracy activist was jailed in China, his wife drew international attention to his plight.

A Ukrainian soldier in mid-June at a mass grave for civilians in Lysychansk.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

War’s pervasive stench in Ukraine

“There was a mass grave that held 300 people, and I was standing at its edge,” writes Natalia Yermak, a Ukrainian reporter and translator for The Times. “The chalky body bags were piled up in the pit, exposed. One moment before, I was a different person, someone who never knew how wind smelled after it passed over the dead on a pleasant summer afternoon.”

Yermak was reporting from Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, near the front lines of the war with Russia, where deaths are an “inescapable reality that feels like the very air in your lungs.”

Our Coverage of the Russia-Ukraine War

  • On the Ground: As Russian troops appear to be preparing for new attacks in Ukraine’s east and south, Western officials say Russia’s critical manpower and equipment shortfalls could give Ukraine’s counteroffensive a better chance to succeed.
  • Nuclear Shelter: The Russian military is using а nuclear power station in southern Ukraine as a fortress, stymying Ukrainian forces and unnerving locals, faced with intensifying fighting and the threat of a radiation leak.
  • Refugees in Europe: The flow of people fleeing Ukraine has increased pressure across the region. Some cоuntries are paying shipping firms to offer new arrivals safe but tight quarters.
  • Prison Camp Explosion: After a blast at a Russian detention camp killed at least 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war, Ukrainian officials said that they were building a case of a war crime committed by Russian forces.

She thought that such tragedies would not follow her west — but once Yermak returned to Kyiv, she learned that her best friend’s cousin had been killed fighting in the east, and that she would soon have to stand over another grave.

“It was an experience familiar to many Ukrainians,” Yermak wrote. “Five months after the full-scale Russian invasion began, the wars’ front lines mean little. Missile strikes and the news of death and casualties have blackened nearly every part of the country like poison.”

Other war news:

  • Ukraine says its bet on diverting Russian attention to the south is slowly paying off.

  • The U.N. secretary general warned that attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant would be “suicidal.”

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine warned that he would not negotiate with Moscow if Russia goes through with planned referendums in areas of Ukraine it controls.

  • An ad hoc group of preservationists are working to save Ukraine’s artistic treasures.

A Kabul food-distribution center run by the U.N.Credit…Kiana Hayeri for The New York Times

Afghanistan is on a precipice

A year after the U.S. military departed Afghanistan, the country finds itself in a position of dire need.

The scale of suffering there today is difficult to fathom. Despite more than $100 billion in development spending by the West, Afghanistan has remained one of the poorest and most aid-dependent states in the world. Actions by the country’s fundamentalist Taliban government, like largely denying education to young women and decreeing that women must wear burqas, could undermine global good will and deplete the country’s work force — especially in critical fields like medicine.

Even members of the government have expressed frustration with the culture war encouraged by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, particularly those responsible for reviving a failing state.

“Why are we making problems for ourselves with these announcements? Just do your work,” one Taliban bureaucrat, a former military commander, told The Times Magazine. “People are just hearing these announcements about clothes — they aren’t seeing any actual work.”

When President Biden announced last week that a U.S. drone strike in Kabul killed Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of Al Qaeda, he appeared to exaggerate al-Zawahri’s role in major attacks.


World News

It appeared that Israel’s Iron Dome defense system had intercepted a number of rockets fired from Gaza.Credit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times
  • Israel and Palestinian militants agreed to a cease-fire, ending a three-day conflict.

  • Thousands of Egyptian political prisoners endure harrowing conditions for offenses as minor as liking an antigovernment Facebook post.

  • Chad’s military government signed a cease-fire agreement with dozens of rebel groups, but not the country’s most powerful armed group.

  • The Federal Maritime Commission is an obscure U.S. institution charged with regulating the massive global shipping industry — and now, taming inflation.

Climate legislation

The U.S. Capitol on Sunday.Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times
  • The U.S. Congress is on the cusp of major climate legislation, an effort that has taken more than 50 years.

  • Senator Joe Manchin only supported the bill after extracting concessions for the pipeline industry, one of his biggest financial backers.

  • Passing climate, health care and tax provisions has President Biden on a sudden roll, but whether the efforts will mark a turning point in his presidency remains to be seen.

What Else Is Happening

  • Former President Donald Trump asked his top White House aide why his generals weren’t “totally loyal” like Nazi officers, according to a new book by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser.

  • Travis and Gregory McMichael, previously sentenced to life for murder convictions in state court for the slaying of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man,received additional life sentences on federal charges for hate crimes.

  • The killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque have led to a state of “managed panic” in New Mexico’s Muslim community.

  • Maps in four U.S. states were ruled illegal gerrymanders, but they are still in use.

  • In today’s profoundly unequal economy, low-income people could face inflation now and job losses later.

  • Republican voters in Wisconsin still want to overturn the 2020 election.

A Morning Read

Desdemona, a robot who performs in a band (but is probably not aware of that fact).Credit…Ian Allen for The New York Times

Current artificial intelligence technology is not actually sentient, and can’t create robots who can emote, converse or jam on lead vocals like a human. But it can mislead people, writes my colleague Cade Metz.

Lives Lived

Olivia Newton-John sang pop hits in the 1970s and ’80s and starred in “Grease,” one of the most popular musical films of its era. She died on Monday at 73.


The invincible spotted lanternfly

The spotted lanternfly, a beautiful affliction in several states.Credit…Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Scientists say that there is only one option when you see a spotted lanternfly in the U.S.: Kill it on sight.

For years, American officials have urged people to squash the attractive but destructive insects, which scientists believe arrived in the country in 2011 in a shipment of stones. But the invasive bugs, native to parts of Asia, are proliferating in New York City and elsewhere.

Freelance bug-squishers cannot turn back the lanternfly tide by themselves. But lanternflies, one urban ecologist told The Times, “invite a lot of participation.” She hopes that citizen exterminators will engage their representatives on the pest, and turn their attention to other invasive species as well.

Invasive pests are tenacious. Rabbits in Australia became an ecological and economic scourge after they were introduced in the 19th century. Scientists killed hundreds of millions of them by introducing the myxoma virus — the deadliest vertebrate virus — but as Carl Zimmer wrote in June, the rabbits adapted and kicked off an evolutionary arms race.

But if New Yorkers can’t check the lanternfly, there’s a silver lining: they feed on the tree of heaven, a tough, stinky invader with which city-dwellers have a love-hate relationship.


What to Cook

Credit…Dane Tashima for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

You can have cheesy pasta, juicy corn, fried rosemary and loads of bacon in 20 minutes with this one-skillet tortellini recipe.

What to read

Kotaro Isaka’s “Three Assassins” is a surrealist fable disguised as a crime novel.

What to watch

The Thai TV actress Pattrakorn Tungsupakul is the secret weapon in “Thirteen Lives,” a new film based on the Thailand cave rescue.

Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword. And a clue: Word before power or pretzel (4 letters).

Here are today’s Wordle and today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Dan

P.S. Carlos Lozada will become an Opinion columnist for The Times this September.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the Alex Jones verdict.

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

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