Your Tuesday Briefing

Residents collecting humanitarian aid in Bakhmut, Ukraine.Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

Ukrainian strike kills scores of Russian troops

In a deadly attack on New Year’s Day, Ukrainians used American-made long-range HIMARS rockets to kill dozens — and perhaps hundreds — of Moscow’s troops in the occupied city of Makiivka, in eastern Ukraine. The strike prompted outraged Russian war hawks to accuse their military of lethal incompetence.

The attack killed 63 troops in a building housing them, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. A former Russian paramilitary commander in Ukraine, Igor Girkin, wrote that “many hundreds” were dead and wounded. Ukrainian military officials said it appeared that “about 400” Russian troops had been killed, though they did not explicitly take responsibility for the attack.

None of the claims could be independently verified, but even the lowest number would represent one of the worst Russian losses in a single episode in the war, and an embarrassment for Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader. Pro-war Russian bloggers and some government officials said the debacle was caused by the military’s own mistakes.

Big picture: More than 10 months after an invasion that many expected would produce a quick Russian victory, each side has suffered more than 100,000 killed and wounded, by Western estimates, and the war has become one of attrition, with no evidence of an end in sight.

In other news from the war:

  • The invasion of Ukraine, compounding the effects of the pandemic, has contributed to India’s economic ascent.

  • The Russian blockade of grain shipments from Ukraine has made global starvation worse.

China’s factory activity contracted in December.Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

China’s perilous road to economic recovery

Nearly three years of “zero Covid” measures have crushed businesses in Chinese cities like Guangzhou, whose streets are lined with shuttered stores. China’s reversal of its Covid restrictions in early December was meant to help places like Guangzhou. But a chaotic approach to reopening has led to a tsunami of infections that has swept across the nation.

Faced with an unpredictable — and uncontrolled — epidemic and financial uncertainty, people and companies are spending cautiously, suggesting that the road to recovery will be uneven and painful. China is also confronting broader challenges beyond its borders, as the global economy slows, dragged down by high inflation, an energy crisis and geopolitical turmoil.

China’s factory activity contracted in December as rapidly spreading infections grounded workers, snarled deliveries and dampened demand, according to a government survey of manufacturers. For service industries like restaurants, business was almost as bad as in early 2020, during the nearly nationwide lockdown that followed the first Covid outbreak in the city of Wuhan.

Quotable: “The epidemic has had a great impact on the production and demand of enterprises, the attendance of personnel, and logistics and distribution,” the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement.

Mourners viewing the body of Benedict XVI on Monday.Credit…Ben Curtis/Associated Press

Tens of thousands pay respects to Benedict

Tens of thousands of people — a mix of Roman Catholic faithful and tourists — lined up outside St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City yesterday to pay last respects to Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus, who died on Saturday at age 95 and who is now lying in state. The Vatican said that at least 65,000 people passed through on the first day of the public viewing.

Benedict led the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics from 2005 to 2013. He stunned the world a decade ago when he announced that he would retire, the first pope to do so in some 600 years, citing his declining state of health. He lived for another 10 years, residing in a secluded monastery in the Vatican and remaining “hidden from the world,” as he had pledged to do.

Inside St. Peter’s, Benedict rested on a simple dais in front of the main altar, dressed in traditional red and white garments, his hands crossed beneath a rosary. There were no other papal insignia or regalia, such as the silver staff with a crucifix. Two Swiss Guards, who protect the pope and his residence, stood at attention as mourners passed by.

Church politics: Bereft Catholic conservatives have mourned the loss of a leader who championed the traditions, doctrines and church law and order that they cherished. Pope Francis, his successor, has a less orthodox vision, welcoming divorced or L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics and restricting the Latin Mass adored by traditionalists.


Around the World

Credit…Maja Smiejkowska/Reuters
  • Public sympathy for striking health workers in Britain remains strong, posing a challenge for Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, who has promised to confront trade unions.

  • Mourners in Brazil paid their respects to the soccer icon Pelé, whose wake was held at a soccer stadium in Santos, the port city that he made famous as the star of its soccer club for 18 years.

  • Four people, including two British citizens, died yesterday when two helicopters collided midair in a tourist area in Queensland, Australia, on the Gold Coast.

  • Dubai suspended its 30 percent tax on alcohol, a move that could help the Gulf emirate attract more tourists and businesses.

Other Big Stories

Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times
  • President Biden used a slim congressional majority to enact legislation that could reshape the American economy — if his administration can make the laws work as intended.

  • Climate activists have been blocking traffic in Germany, stirring debate among the public over whether the environmentalists are going too far.

  • The House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 released a whirlwind of documents and wrapped up its work yesterday.

What Else Is Happening

  • Australia blocked a cruise ship from docking for around a week after identifying a possibly toxic organism on its hull, leaving passengers stranded at sea.

  • A right-wing Croatian director has cast Kevin Spacey in an upcoming film as the Croatian leader Franjo Tudjman, whom some call a patriot and others revile as an ethnonationalist zealot.

  • The actor Jeremy Renner is in critical but stable condition after an accident plowing snow.

A Morning Read

Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times

Millions of people fly for the holidays in late December. Frustration is often a part of that travel, but if an airline gets things right, the food it serves can help take the edge off. If not, a bad meal just compounds the misery. What does it take for that tray to make its way to you?


What we’re hearing about Chelsea midfield targets: Midfield is an area of concern after the draw with Nottingham Forest on Sunday — so what do we know about the team’s transfer targets?

Leeds United needs 49ers takeover: The majority ownerAndrea Radrizzani has said Leeds needs more investment to compete in the Premier League. New owners could change the club’s trajectory.

U.S. soccer’s best performances of 2022: Some of the best displays across American men’s and women’s soccer came on the year’s biggest stages.


Credit…Jon Han

On happiness

What is the secret to being happy? It might be prioritizing your relationships with your family, friends and spouse, as one long-running study suggests, or having the fortune to live in a country with a strong social safety net. Pharrell Williams, the singer of the song “Happy,” believes that gratitude is the answer to finding happiness in everything.

Pin it on good health, perhaps, or on not being a 15-year-old girl; on seeking joy in the mundane or on “nunchi,” a Korean word referring to the art of sensing how others feel and responding appropriately. (You probably won’t find happiness in homeownership.)

One possible route: The Times’s new 7-day happiness challenge, which offers a week of advice on a crucial element of living a good life — your social ties. To get started, take this quiz to assess the strength of your current relationships, and here are some tips for building more joyful social bonds.


What to Cook

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

Try this bold meat-free reimagination of classic stroganoff.


The photographer Simbarashe Cha captured the sartorial choices of residents of Dakar, the Senegalese capital.

What to Read

Elinor Lipman’s latest novel, “Ms. Demeanor,” brings charm and high jinks with a dose of social commentary.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “___ the record show …” (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. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. Alaska became a state on this day in 1959.

“The Daily” will return tomorrow.

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

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