Your Wednesday Briefing
A Volkswagen factory in Dresden, Germany. The German economy contracted in the fourth quarter.Credit…Matthias Rietschel/Reuters
Europe’s economy edges higher
Europe’s economy is showing signs that it may avoid a recession this winter, even as it struggles against persistent inflation, rising interest rates and a ceaseless war in Ukraine. The eurozone economy grew 0.1 percent in the last quarter of 2022, compared with the previous quarter, according to the latest data.
The I.M.F. yesterday raised its forecast for economic growth in countries that use the euro to 0.7 percent in 2023, from a prediction of 0.5 percent in October, after better-than-expected results last year. Overall inflation appears to be at or past its peak, and consumers have been surprisingly resilient amid the economic turmoil.
Not all the predictions are positive, however. On Monday, Germany reported that its economy, Europe’s largest, had unexpectedly contracted in the fourth quarter, putting it at risk of a recession. And in the week of Brexit’s third anniversary, the I.M.F. forecast that Britain would be the only major economy to contract in 2023, performing even worse than heavily blacklisted Russia.
Soaring prices: Inflation rates rose both in France and in Spain, where they had previously slowed for five consecutive months. Data for the entire eurozone will be released on Wednesday.
The battle for Bakhmut
Russian forces are ratcheting up pressure on the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, pouring in waves of fighters to break Ukraine’s resistance and targeting its supply lines, as Moscow seeks to secure its first significant battlefield victory in months. Both sides are believed to be preparing for larger offensives as warmer spring weather arrives.
Russia has intensified its effort to capture Bakhmut — which it sees as crucial to the objective of seizing the entire Donbas area in the east — after months of bombardment yielded little progress. Civilians have streamed out, abandoning a city that before the war had a population of about 70,000, and a series of battles has resulted in heavy casualties on both sides.
Bakhmut’s strategic value, military analysts say, is as a crossroads for some of the region’s highways. Capturing the city would not guarantee that Russia could make major advances in the east but would put it in better position to do so. Already, the main Ukrainian supply route into the town is within range of Russian artillery, leaving Ukraine relying on a road to the west.
Firepower: Ukrainian fighters and analysts say that Moscow has relied increasingly on the sheer weight of troop numbers. About 300,000 reservists were called up in September, bolstering the army’s strength, though many the new soldiers were relatively inexperienced.
In other news from the war:
Despite the weight of Western sanctions, Russian trade appears to have largely bounced back to where it was before the invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
France said it would deliver 12 additional Caesar howitzers to Ukraine.
Competing goals in Israel
Israel’s right-wing cabinet is calling for a hard crackdown, including home demolitions, deportations and death sentences, in response to a sequence of violent Palestinian attacks on Israelis. At the same time, the U.S. has implored Israel to remain calm and focus on de-escalation after the deadliest Israeli raid in years on Palestinians in the West Bank.
Benjamin Netanyahu, in his latest spell as Israel’s prime minister, faces a tricky balancing act between two competing approaches. On the domestic stage, his new far-right partners want him to annex the West Bank, exert more control over Jerusalem’s holy sites and take harsher measures against Palestinians. Internationally, however, he is being nudged toward moderation.
Netanyahu needs all of these partners. His coalition government has no majority in Parliament without the involvement of the far right, after other parties refused to work with him because of his ongoing trial for corruption. And internationally, only good will from the U.S. and Arab states can help him shore up a regional alliance against Iran and normalize ties with Saudi Arabia.
Moderation: A spiral of bloodshed and reprisals could sorely test Netanyahu’s juggling skills. “This is a government without a responsible grown-up,” said Anshel Pfeffer, one of Netanyahu’s biographers. “The only person who could be a responsible grown-up is Benjamin Netanyahu himself.”
Antony Blinken: Following talks with Israeli officials in Jerusalem, the U.S. secretary of state met with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. Blinken acknowledged that the outlook on a Palestinian state was not a positive one. “What we’re seeing now for Palestinians is a shrinking horizon of hope, not an expanding one,” he said.
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
Over 1.2 million protesters marched in France yesterday against widely unpopular government plans to raise the legal age of retirement to 64 from 62.
Four people have been charged in the U.S. with involvement in the 2021 assassination of Jovenel Moïse, the president of Haiti.
When China abandoned its strict “zero Covid” policy, many feared a prolonged tsunami of infection. Two months later, the worst seems to have receded.
Mercenaries from the Wagner private military company may have committed war crimes in Mali, according to the U.N.
Other Big Stories
The F.B.I. searched a Biden-founded think tank last year after the president’s aides found government documents there.
Pope Francis is visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country’s first papal visit in almost 40 years.
The death toll from the suicide bombing at a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan, has risen to at least 101.
Many Black families are leaving New York as raising children in the city becomes ever more expensive.
The dolphins of the U.S. Navy are now at the vanguard of geriatric marine mammal medicine. And in Brazil, bottlenose dolphins help fishermen pull in their catch.
The Biden administration plans to let the coronavirus public health emergency expire on May 11, even as an average of 500 people die from the virus in the U.S. each day.
Recent strange activity around Jupiter’s volcanic moon, Io, has confused and excited scientists.
Experts in the U.S. are now advising aggressive treatment for children with obesity, including weight loss drugs or surgery in some cases. Here’s why their advice is changing.
A Morning Read
At least three trends have emerged from the first comprehensive survey of more than 1,000 bog bodies — a burial tradition believed to span 7,000 years.
Many of those found had a disability or were young at the time of their death. A striking number met violent ends. But it is still unclear why: Were they murdered? Executed? Or sacrificed to the gods?
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
Chelsea adds Argentine World Cup star: Midfielder Enzo Fernández had been a target of the Blues seemingly all January, and now the young star is headed to West London.
Confusion over Barcelona’s transfer calculations: It might seem like the January transfer window was quiet for Barcelona, but there was increasing tension and confusion behind the scenes.
How will Weston McKennie fit in at Leeds? McKennie should complement Leeds’s existing midfield options and give Jesse Marsch’s 4-3-3 a better chance to thrive.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The last Boeing 747
Yesterday, Boeing handed over the last 747 it will ever make: No. 1,574. The massive airplane, credited with bringing air travel to the masses, was first rolled out for testing in 1968. In the decades since, it has ferried billions of people around the globe. But as smaller, more efficient two-engine airplanes have begun to travel longer distances, the world has moved on.
In recent years, interest in the 747 has concentrated around cargo operations, where it excels because of a unique nose shape that allows cargo to be loaded more easily, as well as its reliability, capacity and ability to fly huge amounts of goods between major cargo hubs.
A life in freight is a far cry from the plane’s glamorous early years. In 1970, after its maiden commercial flight, it became an instant public sensation. The four-engine airplane was much larger than any other and could fit hundreds of people at a time. The upper deck, reachable by a spiral staircase, hosted a luxurious lounge. Owning a 747 became a status symbol for airlines: One even installed a piano bar in the main cabin.
TimesPast: Read our 1968 story on the plane. “It is an awesomely big craft,” our reporter wrote. “The grace of its silhouette is diminished only by a hump atop the nose.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
These pistachio morning buns stay soft and pillowy for days.
What to Read
In the novel “Stolen,” Ann-Helén Laestadius draws on her background as a member of the Sami, an Indigenous Arctic people.
Hold the juice: You don’t need to do a detox.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: In good shape (five 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. See you tomorrow. — Natasha
P.S. Sia Michel has been named as our next Culture editor.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the damage that drought has caused to the Colorado River.
You can reach Natasha and the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.