Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times

Russia and Ukraine are ramping up their military forces in southern Ukraine. Now, concerns are rising about what an escalation in fighting could mean for the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the top U.N. nuclear official said yesterday.

“The situation is not improving,” said the official, Rafael Mariano Grossi, who crossed the front line to reach the Russian-controlled complex yesterday. “It is obvious that military activity is increasing in this whole region, so every possible measure and precaution should be taken so that the plant is not attacked and can be protected.”

Russian forces seized the nuclear plant — the largest in Europe — more than a year ago. They have used artillery stationed there to launch attacks on nearby towns. Grossi has warned that shelling around the plant — some of which has hit critical equipment — could lead to a catastrophic nuclear accident.

In an implicit rebuke to Russia, he said: “This is a nuclear power plant. It is not a military base. It should never be a military base.”

In the same region: A new round of explosions shook Melitopol, a Russian-occupied city that is a priority for Ukraine to retake. (The nuclear plant is around 80 miles northwest of the city.) Recapturing Melitopol would build on Ukraine’s successes late last year: The military retook Russian-occupied areas in two nearby regions, Kharkiv and Kherson.

The surrounding area: The nuclear plant lies on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, behind Russian lines. Ukrainian forces are stationed on the western shore of the river across from the plant, and they also hold ground on the east side of the river, about 35 miles from the complex.

Other updates from the war:

  • Germany promised more help to Ukraine, after lawmakers passed a spending bill that includes 8 billion euros (about $8.67 billion) of long-term military aid.

  • Russia sent a 13-year-old girl to an orphanage after her father, a Russian national, criticized the war in Ukraine.

An open letter from eight prime ministers urged tech giants to take more aggressive steps to fight disinformation on their platforms. The prime ministers expressed concerns about the destabilizing effects of fake news from Russia, especially about the war in Ukraine.

Their letter called on the leaders of Meta and other companies to take action “against disinformation that undermines our peace and stability” and urged them to stamp out efforts “to weaken our support to Ukraine amid Russia’s war of aggression.” The prime ministers also called for more coordinated regulation from governments.

The national leaders called for tech companies to better self-police; devote more resources toward responding to false narratives; adjust algorithms to prioritize truthfulness over engagement; and clearly mark deepfakes and automated posts — including those produced by A.I.

“Tech platforms like yours have become virtual battlegrounds, and hostile foreign powers are using them to spread false narratives that contradict reporting from fact-based news outlets,” they wrote. Paid ads “are often used to call for social unrest, bring violence to the streets and destabilize governments,” they said.

A.I.: Tech leaders, including Elon Musk, warned that the technology could present “profound risks to society and humanity.”

Pope Francis will be hospitalized for several days for treatment of a respiratory infection, the Vatican said. The news raises concerns about the 86-year-old pontiff’s health.

Francis has a recent history of medical challenges. He has knee problems and sciatica that have caused a severe limp and have, in recent months, often required him to use a wheelchair. In the summer of 2021, he underwent major intestinal surgery.

Background: As a young man, he also survived severe pneumonia and had part of a lung removed.

What’s next: Francis is scheduled to begin a busy series of ceremonies in the coming days, including Palm Sunday this weekend, followed by Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday on April 9.

China once poured billions into its bid to become a player in soccer, the world’s most popular sport. A decade later, the country has little to show for it. The great soccer dream appears to have failed.

The good, the bad and the lucky of Premier League hat tricks: Sometimes, greatness gets a player three goals in a game. Other times, more mundane factors are at play.

The surprise return: Julie Ertz is returning to the U.S. women’s soccer team, but a place for her in the World Cup is far from guaranteed.

The Premier League club chairman who is playing a high-stakes game: A profile of Newcastle United’s chairman, Yasir Al-Rumayyan: Who is he, and what is his relationship with Mohammed bin Salman?

The next time a British man between 18 and 35 searches for something like “pub crawl Amsterdam,” he may see an ad that bluntly tells him to “stay away.” The Dutch capital is trying to deter young British men from “coming to Amsterdam for a messy night.” Ads warn that they could incur fines, criminal records or permanent damage to their health.

The campaign is part of a broader crackdown on rowdy tourists. Last month, Amsterdam introduced rules that banned smoking marijuana on the streets of the red-light district and that required businesses to close by 3 a.m., three hours earlier than previously allowed. Cafes and restaurants must also close earlier, by 2 a.m.

But the Dutch capital is also fighting its own reputation: The city is known for marijuana and legal prostitution. And there’s still an appetite for bachelor weekends: “Business is booming on our end,” a spokesman for a party company said. “I don’t think this is going to stop it.”

Try a faster recipe for home fries.

Norman Rush’s “Mating,” written in the 1990s, is finding a new audience among younger readers thinking about romance.

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