Putin offers a brief cease-fire
Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, ordered a unilateral cease-fire for Russian troops from midday today to the end of tomorrow to observe the Orthodox Christmas, according to the Kremlin. Ukrainian officials dismissed the move as a “banal trick” and a “propaganda gesture,” pointing out that Russia had bombarded civilians on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Ukraine has expressed skepticism over Moscow’s previous pledges to exercise military restraint. In March, it accused Russia of violating a humanitarian cease-fire, which had been meant to allow evacuations from the besieged city of Mariupol. Some pro-war Russian nationalists also dismissed the proposal, underlining the depth of mutual animosity.
Analysts said the order appeared to be a public relations move that Putin could exploit regardless of Ukraine’s response. If Kyiv agrees, it would give Russia’s battered military an opportunity to regroup. And if it does not, Russia can claim it has the higher moral ground and can further vilify Ukraine to the Russian public.
Diplomacy: Russia’s announcement came hours after Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey, who has positioned himself as a mediator, spoke to Putin and called for a cease-fire.
McCarthy loses his 11th speaker vote
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California lost his 11th bid for the House speakership yesterday, even after offering fresh concessions to a hard-right band of Republican rebels in a desperate effort to lock down their votes. There was no clear sign of when the impasse would end, leaving the chamber deadlocked for a third day.
McCarthy has agreed to key demands from the right-wing dissidents that would vastly weaken the power of the speakership and could make the House ungovernable, including allowing a single lawmaker to force a snap vote to oust the speaker. But no votes had moved by nightfall, and it is unclear whether he can pick up enough converts to prevail.
Until a speaker is chosen, the House is essentially paralyzed. It cannot pass laws or even swear in its members. Republicans’ thin majority in the chamber, with 222 seats, means that almost all of the party’s members must agree on a speaker. The winner needs 218 votes. McCarthy drew at most 203 votes and has slipped since then, to 200 yesterday.
Alternatives: Far-right Republicans have lined up by turns behind candidates including, on Tuesday, Jim Jordan, who voted for McCarthy; and, on Wednesday and Thursday, Byron Donalds, the party’s first Black nominee for speaker. The lawmakers do not expect their candidates to win but wish to register their displeasure.
Pope Benedict is laid to rest
The Roman Catholic Church yesterday laid to rest Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis, Benedict’s successor, presided over the funeral, in a final peculiarity to end a strange era in the modern church in which two popes, one resigned and one in power, one conservative and one liberal, coexisted in the tiny confines of the Vatican.
Francis opted for a homily that reflected his own vision of the church, and he paid respects to Benedict by repeatedly citing his predecessor’s words, even as he made explicit mention of him only once. He also reflected the theologian’s core belief of putting Jesus at the center of life by meditating on how Jesus had put himself in God’s hands.
Not everyone was satisfied with Francis’ approach, which Benedict’s supporters said had seemed paltry in comparison with the homily that Benedict himself, then a cardinal, delivered at the funeral of John Paul II — an eloquent and full-throated ode to the life and legacy of a larger-than-life figure who had run the church for more than a quarter-century.
Quotable: “Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom,” Francis said in his homily, referring to Jesus’ role as husband to the church, “may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever!”
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Farewell to ‘Stomp’
Since it arrived in the East Village in 1994, “Stomp,” the wordless percussion spectacle of twirling, tapping, sweeping and banging, has been a mainstay of New York culture. After nearly three decades, the production is closing for good, because of declining ticket sales.
“Stomp” was a natural fit in the East Village of the 1990s, where it lived alongside the Blue Man Group and rock clubs like CBGB and Brownies. But even as it became a global phenomenon, and despite having been conceived by two Britons who met as street performers in Brighton, England, in the early ’80s, it remained a symbol of the cultural landscape of New York.
“I’m a little bit sad,” Steve McNicholas, a co-creator of the show, said. “We were part of the landscape of the Village, and it’s a shame to say goodbye to that.”
For more: Readers and Times critics shared their memories of the show.