Your Thursday Briefing

A new personnel camp in Crimea.Credit… © 2022 Maxar Technologies

U.S. troops deployed to Eastern Europe

President Biden has approved the deployment of about 3,000 additional U.S. troops to Eastern Europe to reassure NATO allies anxious over tensions surrounding Ukraine. The troops, which include 1,000 already in Germany, will head to Poland and Romania, according to the Pentagon. The U.S. has said it will not deploy troops to Ukraine in the event of a conflict there.

Biden’s decision comes days after Pentagon leaders said that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, had deployed enough troops and military hardware at Ukraine’s borders to conduct a large-scale invasion. New satellite imagery shows no sign of a slowdown in Moscow’s military buildup.

“It’s important that we send a strong signal to Mr. Putin and the world that NATO matters,” the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters. “We are making it clear that we are going to be prepared to defend our NATO allies if it comes to that.”

Response to Moscow’s demands: The U.S. and NATO rejected Russian demands that Ukraine never join the alliance but offered to provide more transparency on missile deployments in Eastern Europe, according to a report from the Spanish newspaper El País.

News analysis: Is Biden’s strategy with Putin working, or provoking Moscow to war?

Homerton University Hospital in East London.Credit…Andrew Testa for the New York Times

The ‘parallel universe’ of a London I.C.U.

If there was an end in sight to the Covid-19 pandemic, you’d hardly know it on the front lines at Homerton University Hospital in East London. Two years in, masked nurses and doctors in blue paper gowns still shuffle from one coronavirus patient to the next, offering lifesaving care. Some patients linger for days or weeks, if not months.

Political leaders have moved onto heralding the mild symptoms of the Omicron variant and declaring the pandemic all but over. But for doctors and nurses, a return to a normal rhythm of work is still a long way off.

England lifted nearly all coronavirus restrictions in mid-January as infection and hospitalization rates dropped steeply. Covid vaccines have also slashed the number of people falling seriously ill. But while Homerton’s intensive care units are no longer overflowing, as they were early last year, they still face a steady influx of coronavirus patients.

By the numbers: Since the start of the pandemic, the hospital has treated more than 2,000 coronavirus patients. Nearly 500 died from Covid, according to hospital data.

Quotable: “We live in this parallel universe,” said Lucy Jenkins, who leads the team of critical care nurses.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Three more Conservative Party lawmakers called for a no-confidence vote in Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, over a furor around illegal parties during lockdown.

  • Tonga, still recovering from a volcanic eruption, went into lockdown after recording its first community transmission cases.

  • An experimental nasal vaccine that would coat the surfaces of the nose, mouth and throat with long-lasting antibodies may prove to be a pandemic game changer.

Afghan migrants a few hundred yards from the Iranian border in November.

Over a million flee as Afghanistan’s economy collapses

Thousands of Afghans are trying to cross the border into Iran and Pakistan each day, in an intensified migration scramble that is stoking fears in Europe.

Since the U.S. withdrew troops and the Taliban seized power, Afghanistan has plunged into an economic crisis that has pushed millions already living hand-to-mouth over the edge. Incomes have vanished, more than half the population faces life-threatening hunger, and badly needed aid has been stymied by Western sanctions against Taliban officials.

The exodus has raised alarms across the region and in Europe, where politicians fear a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis. Determined to contain migrants in the region, the E.U. last fall pledged over $1 billion in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and neighboring countries hosting Afghans who have fled.

Foreign aid: “We need new agreements and commitments in place to be able to assist and help an extremely vulnerable civil population,” Jonas Gahr Store, the Norwegian prime minister, said last month. But Western donors are still wrestling with complicated questions over how to help ordinary Afghans without propping up the new Taliban government.

Migrant crises: Twelve migrants froze to death in Turkey, a Turkish minister said, accusing Greek guards of stripping them and forcing them back across the border. And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, at least 60 people were killed after militants attacked a makeshift camp housing displaced people.


Around the World

Credit…September Dawn Bottoms for The New York Times
  • An enormous winter storm is sweeping across the U.S. Nearly a foot of snow piled up in parts of the Midwest.

  • Inflation in the eurozone broke a record, climbing to 5.1 percent in January, amid high energy costs and uncertainty surrounding tensions over Ukraine.

  • President Biden’s pledge to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court has forced Republicans into a tricky political calculation: how to oppose the nominee without appearing to be racist and sexist.

Winter Olympics

Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar/The New York Times
  • The opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics is on Friday, but curling teams, hockey players and freestyle skiers have their debuts this week. Here are the latest updates.

  • The Times sat down with three dozen Olympians competing in the scariest, most dangerous events in the Winter Games and asked them if they get scared by what they do. (They do.)

  • Several athletes and at least one International Olympic Committee member will not take part in the Games, after testing positive for the coronavirus in the final days before opening ceremony.

What Else Is Happening

  • Meta, formerly Facebook, reported a quarterly drop in profits of more than $10 billion as it builds its virtual reality business.

  • A man was charged with selling the fentanyl-laced heroin that killed the actor Michael K. Williams last year.

  • Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN, is stepping down amid revelations of a relationship with another top executive.

  • Dolly Parton, Eminem, A Tribe Called Quest, Beck and Carly Simon are among the first-time nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

A Morning Read

Credit…Natalie Ivis for The New York Times

Steve Rinella describes himself as “an environmentalist with a gun.” The star of “MeatEater” on Netflix is teaching a new kind of hunter about how killing animals can be part of loving nature.

Lives Lived

The Italian actress Monica Vitti starred in a series of 1960s masterpieces directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, including “L’Avventura.” She died at 90.


‘Not in word list’

If you’ve ever played Spelling Bee, there’s a chance you’ve been frustrated when the game didn’t recognize a word you entered. Sam Ezersky, the Bee’s editor, is on the receiving end of a lot of those complaints.

But choosing which words will make the official list isn’t as easy as you may think, as Sam explained in a Twitter thread. Some common terms are proper nouns (“Barbacoa”); some are two words (“road map”); and some are modern slang without an official definition (“laggy”), all of which would disqualify them.

Many decisions are more subjective, on words that might appear in the dictionary but would be unknown to most players — like “ototomy,” an omission that Sam’s own father complained to him about.

“I neither want to skew too easy nor too hard, so that anybody can delight in playing,” Sam told us. “After all, that’s why my role exists in the first place: to find a balance for what would otherwise be an unchecked, unfiltered lexicon.”

And he continually seeks that balance. Sam says he regularly adds words to the list after hearing from readers — as he recently did with Barbacoa, road map and laggy.


What to Cook

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

This cauliflower and cashew curry is complexly flavored, yet approachable enough for a weeknight.

What to Listen to

Reggae, house, step, ballet, tap, jazz: Listen to the music that inspired great choreographers.

Virtual Travel

For a slice of Paris, Dorie Greenspan brings you to the streets of Saint-Germain-des-​Prés via this elegant and easygoing cake.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Spell “drunk” backward and you get a potential etymology of this word, an unlikely partier (four letters).

And here is the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. A new podcast from the creators of “Serial” — called “The Trojan Horse Affair” — investigates a supposed Islamist plot to infiltrate British schools.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about Donald Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 election.

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

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