Your Wednesday Briefing: Quake’s Death Toll Soars
Rescue workers saved a 3-year-old girl from a collapsed building in Kahramanmaras, Turkey. Credit…Emin Ozmen for The New York Times
Rescuers race against time
As the death toll from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria rose to at least 7,100, the window for finding survivors was beginning to narrow. Rescue workers were digging through debris in freezing conditions. The World Health Organization said the death toll was expected to increase by the thousands.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in Turkey’s 10 affected provinces. “We are face to face with one of the biggest disasters ever for our region,” he said in a nationally televised address. Here are live updates, and photos and videos of the aftermath.
Personal account: Garo Paylan, a member of the Turkish parliament from Diyarbakir, one of the worst-affected cities, has lost three of his relatives in the quake. “People are trapped under the rubble,” he told “The Daily.” “We were hearing from them, but nowadays, we don’t hear from them anymore.”
Getting aid to Syria: The only border crossing with Turkey approved by the U.N. for transporting international aid into Syria is closed because of earthquake damage. The quake zone also includes both government- and opposition-controlled lands, which complicates relief efforts. Sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s government mean the country cannot receive direct aid from many countries.
Turkish politics: The state of emergency could include curfews and travel bans. Some fear that Erdogan could use the powers to repress dissent as he fights for his political future just months before an election in May.
Tectonic plates: The earthquake and large aftershock were among more than 70 large quakes to hit the region since 1900. Turkey’s two main fault zones make it one of the most seismically active regions in the world.
Chinese propaganda targets the balloon
The Chinese authorities have deployed their propaganda machine to control discussion at home about the balloon that was downed by a U.S. fighter jet. The move appears to be part of a broader strategy to downplay an incident that has potentially embarrassed China and threatened to further derail U.S.-China relations.
Chinese censors are limiting news coverage and curating online conversation to ensure that the balloon doesn’t become a domestic headache as well as an international one. Still, jokes about the suspected spy balloon have been making the rounds on social media.
The State of the War
- A New Offensive: As the war intensifies in Eastern Ukraine, doctors struggle to handle an influx of injuries and soldiers fret over the prospect of new waves of conscripts arriving from Russia.
- Russia’s Economy: Shunned by the West, Russia was for a time able to redirect its oil exports to Asia and adopt sanction evasion schemes. But there are signs that Western controls are beginning to have a deep impact on the country’s energy earnings.
- Leadership Shake-Up: President Volodymyr Zelensky’s political party will replace Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov. The expected move comes amid a widening corruption scandal, although Mr. Reznikov was not implicated in wrongdoing.
- Nuclear Fears Abate: U.S. policymakers and intelligence analysts are less worried about Russia using nuclear weapons in the war. But the threat could re-emerge, they say.
The government’s apparent acceptance of humorous responses could be an effort to allow an outlet for nationalist feeling, said Chong Ja Ian, an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore.
“It’s probably an effort to mollify domestic sentiment,” he said, “but also trying not to let things blow out of control.” State media has largely avoided covering the saga, other than carrying the foreign ministry’s statements.
In the U.S.: At least 11 states are considering bills that would bar Chinese citizens and companies from buying land. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas has announced that he would sign a broad ban on any real estate or land purchases in his state by Chinese entities.
Can Russia sustain an offensive?
Russia is relying on masses of troops to make slow gains in its push to capture more of eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials say. But it remains unclear whether Moscow can mobilize enough forces to sustain a prolonged offensive and change the course of the war.
Russia is seeking to overrun Ukrainian positions in the east by pouring more conscripts into the battle, especially around Bakhmut. That has allowed it to make incremental gains, but at a cost of hundreds of dead and wounded soldiers each day, according to U.S. officials.
Ukraine’s military intelligence has warned that Russia plans to mobilize as many as half a million more soldiers to sustain its campaign, but Western officials question whether President Vladimir Putin can find hundreds of thousands more soldiers without triggering a greater domestic backlash.
The Kremlin is already struggling to train and arm the soldiers it does have, military analysts said. British intelligence said that Russia was aiming to capture the rest of the Donetsk region but had “only managed to gain several hundred meters of territory per week,” because of a lack of munitions and maneuver units.
The energy war: Russia has outmaneuvered Western curbs on its oil revenue by redirecting exports to Asia. But there are signs that new embargoes are beginning to have an impact on energy earnings.
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A Morning Read
David Solomon, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, has been spinning records for years as an amateur D.J., a hobby that has taken him from tiki bars in the Bahamas to clubs in downtown Manhattan.
But some see potential conflicts of interest — like when a Goldman client helped Solomon get the rights to remix a Whitney Houston hit.
ARTS AND IDEAS
President Biden will deliver one of the biggest speeches of his presidency in the coming hours. Preparations for the State of the Union address began weeks ago to help him navigate his stutter.
The president has met with a close group of aides at the White House and has read drafts aloud from top to bottom. He practiced in front of teleprompters, making sure the language was relatable and clear. Biden has noted to a former aide that one of the hardest things for a stutterer to do is speak while standing up.
He also uses a system of annotating his speech with lines and dashes, to remind himself to take a breath or help him get through a tough transition. It can look like he’s marking up a piece of music.
The speech will begin at 9 p.m. Eastern time (that’s 10 a.m. in Hong Kong). Here’s a preview.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Share these three new chocolate dessert recipes with someone you love.
What to Read
Colette is considered by some to be the greatest French author of the early 20th century. If you haven’t read her work, here’s where to start.
What to Watch
The horror movie “They Wait in the Dark” takes a look at toxic parenting.
Here are tips on how to talk to your partner about sex.
Now Time to Play
Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Move like mud (four letters).
Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia and Mariah
P.S. Harvey Araton, a former Times sports reporter, reflects on covering LeBron James.
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