February 3, 2023

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Your Wednesday briefing – The New York Times

On the New Year’s weekend, Russia sent about 80 exploding drones towards Ukraine. The Ukrainian military crushed everyone, officials said. But military experts wonder if the gains are sustainable, with some estimating that it costs up to seven times more to shoot down a Russian drone with Ukrainian missiles than to launch one.

Ukraine is becoming increasingly adept at repelling drones, but Russian attacks have been relentless. Analysts estimate that Russia has shot down around 600 drones on Ukraine since September. The campaign, which has targeted infrastructure and has been accompanied by numerous rocket attacks, has shut down electricity, heating and water across the country.

Since the beginning of the war, both sides have used drones for reconnaissance and attacks. It’s the first time the devices have been so widely used in a European war. Military experts are increasingly viewing Ukraine as a proving ground for cutting-edge weapons and information systems that could anticipate warfare for generations to come.

News from Russia: Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, has abandoned the pretense that life goes on as normal despite the war, evidenced by Ukraine’s quick acknowledgment of mass casualties last weekend.

China’s foreign ministry yesterday lashed out at Covid testing requirements imposed on travelers from China by more than a dozen countries, calling the entry requirements unscientific and “excessive” and threatening countermeasures. Health experts have said the travel restrictions will not stop the spread of new variants.

Countries including Canada, the US, France, Spain, Japan and the UK have concerns about a surge in infections in China, the risk of new variants emerging from the outbreak and the government’s perceived reluctance to share coronavirus data voiced. Restrictions include requiring travelers to present a negative Covid test or undergo mandatory testing upon arrival.

At a press conference in Beijing, Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, said there were ulterior motives behind the restrictions. “We firmly reject the practice of manipulating Covid prevention and control measures to achieve political goals and will take appropriate action in line with the principle of reciprocity,” she said.

Details: China still requires inbound travelers to show a negative result of a polymerase chain reaction or PCR test performed within 48 hours of departure.

Israel’s new ultranationalist Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, yesterday paid a brief and provocative visit to a holy site in Jerusalem sacred to Jews and Muslims, defying threats of backlash from the militant group Hamas and sparking an angry backlash of Palestinians from leadership and condemnations from the Arab world.

The site is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, where two ancient temples were located, and by Muslims as the noble sanctuary, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other important Islamic shrines are located. Palestinians and many other Muslims in the region see such visits by Israeli politicians as part of an effort to change the site’s status and give more rights to Jewish believers there.

Ben-Gvir’s visit, which lasted less than 15 minutes and was heavily guarded, was the first visit by such a senior Israeli official in years and was uneventful. It was an early indicator of the no-compromise approach that Israel’s new government, its most right-wing and religiously conservative yet, has taken on the Palestinians.

Quotable: While on site, Ben-Gvir referred to Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, saying, “The Israeli government will not surrender to a murderous organization, a heinous terrorist organization.” He continued : “The Temple Mount is the most important place in the world for the Jewish people. It is open to everyone.”

The pandemic affected children’s reading skills. Librarians do whatever it takes to connect teens with books — including dance routines and dinosaur outfits on TikTok.

At first, the librarians struggled to look cool. Then came a rethink. “Lean in the cringe,” said one. Teenagers are overwhelmed, she added: “Put a smile on their face.”

Argentina’s teammates want Lionel Messi for the next World Cup: midfielder Alexis Mac Allister and the rest of the national team still want Messi there when Argentina defend the cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026.

Erling Haaland’s secret weapon? He’s like an owl: the Manchester City striker got off to a flying start. A big part of his success depends on how well he scans the game.

Pelé’s time in the USA: The greatest footballer in the world arrived in New York in 1975 and left a lasting impression on everyone he met.

The Times’s Well newsletter asked readers for the best advice they had received or given in 2022. Over 600 smart, witty replies were received — 20 of which were featured in the newsletter (plus a bonus tip: “Never cook bacon naked.”) Here are five of the best.

“When you are in a depressive episode, never make a major decision or change your hair. Wait until you’re better. Then decide.” — J. Alex Sanger, Chicago

“The best advice I received was to photograph my parents doing everyday things, because that’s how I want to remember them.” – Lori Gosselin, Seattle

“Take criticism from someone you wouldn’t ask for advice.” – Leonard Foonimin, Falcon Heights, Minn.

“I was at a vintage store with my friend Max and I saw a sequin top. I remarked to him that I couldn’t wear a sparkly top like that anywhere in my life right now, but I would love to. He simply replied, “Choose a different lifestyle.” I’ve been thinking about those words every day since.” — Monika Tanouye, London

“Don’t sweat the little things – and don’t pet the sweaty things.” – George Kahn, Potsdam, NY