Your Tuesday Briefing

The U.S. and Russia engaged in a public diplomatic brawl Monday at the U.N. Security Council over the Ukraine crisis.

The Americans, backed by their Western allies, accused Russia of endangering peace and destabilizing global security by massing more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders. Kremlin diplomats dismissed what they called baseless and hysterical U.S. fearmongering aimed at weakening Russia and provoking armed conflict.

The Council meeting of 15 nations, requested by the U.S. last week, represented the highest-profile arena for the two powers to sway world opinion over Ukraine. As expected, it adjourned with no action taken.

Remarks: Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador, said that “Russia’s actions strike at the very heart of the U.N. charter.” Russia objected to having the meeting at all, calling it “an attempt to mislead the international community” and an example of “megaphone diplomacy.”

Where things stand: More than a month of bluster and posturing, menacing military maneuvers and high-level diplomatic meetings have not made the security crisis gripping Europe any easier to assess. A full-scale invasion would be likely to result in fierce fighting and potentially the worst bloodshed on the continent since the end of World War II.

On the ground: A wave of bomb threats across Ukraine has intensified an already anxious mood.

A highly anticipated report released yesterday described leadership failures in the office of Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, as well as excessive workplace drinking.

The report found that Downing Street held parties that breached pandemic lockdowns when the government was urging the public to avoid socializing. It did not directly implicate Johnson in wrongdoing, leaving that judgment to a separate police investigation. That may give him some political breathing room.

Sue Gray, the author of the report, was forced to scrub the document of its potentially most damaging details because London’s Metropolitan Police is investigating eight parties. Ominously, the police said late yesterday that they had so far collected more than 500 pages of evidence and more than 300 photos.

Quotable: “There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No. 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times,” the report said. “Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did.”

As the Omicron variant of the coronavirus sweeps across the world, vaccinated and largely protected families are strained by varying comfort levels around risk — whether people will dine indoors; send their children back to school; attend exercise classes; and receive visitors at home.

In Italy, which now has one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world, the schism in society is no longer between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, or the socially responsible and the scofflaws, but between the risk takers and the risk averse. For many vaccinated families, the recent holiday season hammered home those variations.

An increasing number of people who have received a third vaccine dose have, emboldened by Omicron’s apparently light symptoms for the vaccinated, entered a bring-it-on phase of the pandemic. Others are still coming to terms with a virus that is seemingly everywhere, and forcing themselves to adjust their comfort levels and do more.

First person: “The young feel much more free,” said one woman in her 70s. At a recent wedding she attended with her husband, a friend of theirs stayed outside in the cold the whole time, she said.

By the numbers: In Italy, more than 80 percent of the population, including children, has had two doses of a vaccine. That number is expected to tick up as more children are vaccinated.

In other pandemic news:

The art of the celebrity pregnancy photo shoot has evolved. Its new winning entrant? Rihanna.

Dating shows have been a television staple for decades, from the 1965 premiere of “The Dating Game” to the ongoing 20-year run of “The Bachelor” and its spinoffs. Now, two podcasts — “This Is Dating” and “It’s Nice to Hear You” — are reimagining the matchmaking format for audio, Reggie Ugwu writes in The Times.

“This Is Dating” follows four people looking for love. A dating coach guides them, and producers select candidates based on the dater’s preferences. Listeners follow the four on multiple first dates, conducted over Zoom. (The contestants use real voices and fake names.) The effect is something like eavesdropping.

“It’s Nice to Hear You” takes cues from shows like “The Dating Game” in which contestants get to know their prospective partners without seeing them. It follows three couples who correspond once a day for 30 days via voice memo, without exchanging photos or other identifying details.

“You’re not being distracted by what someone looks like or what’s in their background,” Heather Li, the show’s creator, said. “I think it’s harder to prejudge someone if you don’t have as many data points.”

For more: Read Caity Weaver in The Times on why viewers love dating shows where contestants can’t see each other.


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