Your Tuesday Briefing: Bakhmut in Ruins
With Bakhmut in ruins, Ukraine shifts focus
Ukraine has tacitly acknowledged that Russia has seized Bakhmut: A Ukrainian official said today that Russian forces are engaged in “mopping up” operations to clear the remaining Ukrainian soldiers in the city — even as Kyiv seeks to shift the focus from the apparent loss to the battle for the city’s outskirts.
The recent comments signaled a shift in how Ukraine is portraying the war’s deadliest campaign. For months, even as its hold on Bakhmut shrank to a few blocks, Ukraine would emphasize fierce fighting to keep the Russians from seizing the city. Officials now appear to be acknowledging that their focus is changing from defending Bakhmut to making it difficult for Russians to hold it.
But Bakhmut itself is destroyed. Drone footage captured by The Times shows the once-peaceful city, known for its salt mines and sparkling wine, reduced to ashes.
“By the time Russia declared victory over the ruins, it was clear the city was all but lost,” said our colleague Marc Santora, who reported from the Bakhmut region last week. “At the same time, a different battle is playing out around the city — this one for the high ground taken by Russian forces over the winter.”
In a statement, the Cyberspace Administration of China said that Micron’s products posed “relatively serious cybersecurity problems” that could threaten national security.
Background: The move, which came on Sunday, is the latest step in an ongoing tech battle between the U.S. and China. Many analysts viewed it as retaliation for Washington’s efforts to cut off China’s access to high-end chips.
Analysis: The ban creates a space in the market that Chinese chip makers could fill. It could also become a wedge between the U.S. and its allies, whose companies could make billions of dollars if they were to step in and pick up business that Micron might lose.
Mexico’s top rights official targeted by spyware
While looking into abuses by the armed forces, Alejandro Encinas, the government’s under secretary for human rights, was targeted with Pegasus, the world’s most notorious spyware, our colleagues Natalie Kitroeff and Ronen Bergman report.
While there’s no proof of who hacked Encinas’s phone, the military is the only entity in Mexico with access to the spyware, according to five people familiar with the contracts.
The spyware attacks on Encinas, which have not been reported previously, seriously undercut President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s pledge to end what he has called the “illegal” spying of the past.
Context: Mexico has long been shaken by spying scandals. But this is the first confirmed case of such a senior member of an administration being surveilled by Pegasus in more than a decade of the spy tool’s use in the country.
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For the last 16 or so years, the South Korean poet Hwang In-suk has fed cats on her late-night walks through Seoul, coaxing the animals — her favorite muses — from their hiding places with a soft psst.
Hwang said her nocturnal cat-feeding routine has let her discover “worlds that I wouldn’t have found,” and informed her work, which explores loneliness and impermanence in the South Korean capital.
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Rice in danger
Half of humanity eats it. And climate change is destroying it.
In China, extreme rainfall has reduced rice yields over the past 20 years. In Pakistan, heat and floods have destroyed harvests. And in California, a drought has led many farmers to fallow their rice fields.
Farmers have had to get creative, shifting their planting calendars or letting their fields dry out on purpose in areas where water is running low. Plant breeders are also using ancient varieties of the grain to create new seeds able to withstand high temperatures, salty soils and other climate hazards.
“We are in a fundamentally different moment,” one climate expert said. “It’s a question of producing more with less.”