US senators agree on gun safety
Three weeks after a gun shooting killed 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school, a bipartisan group of US senators yesterday reached agreement on a gun control bill. The agreement includes expanded background checks for those under the age of 21 and a provision to close the “boyfriend gap” by extending a domestic violence gun ban to dating partners.
The deal, which still faces a perilous path in Congress, is a remarkable step forward. But it falls far short of sweeping reforms that President Biden, gun control activists and a majority of Democrats have long advocated, such as universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.
Democrats hailed the plan, which would also tighten federal laws to halt the gun trade and ensure all commercial sellers conduct background checks, as an opportunity to pass the most significant gun safety legislation in decades. Support from 10 Republicans suggested the plan could still get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.
Next Steps: The senators were still haggling over key details, including how much extra time law enforcement would have to review youth and mental health records of potential gun buyers under the age of 21.
Quotable: Biden urged Congress to pass a gun safety measure quickly, saying there were “no excuses for delay.” He added, “Every day that goes by, more children are being killed in this country.”
The risks of the Polish ban on abortion
As the US faces the prospect of the Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, who could overturn the decision that has legalized abortion for nearly 50 years, offers Poland a glimpse into a country where the process is already practically out of reach in even the direst of circumstances, with sometimes tragic consequences.
At least three women have died in the 17 months since Poland scrapped an abortion exemption for fetal abnormalities, a decision made possible by a Supreme Court dominated by judges loyal to the Conservative government. Only every tenth Pole supports the stricter ban. The rest of the population is roughly divided between returning to more lenient restrictions and legalizing layoffs.
Since the ban was passed, abortion activists have threatened jail for distributing abortion pills, and the number of Polish women traveling abroad for abortions has continued to rise. Technically, the law still allows abortions when there is a serious risk to a woman’s health, but critics say it lacks the clarity it needs and is crippling doctors.
No return: “Once you start undermining abortion rights, it’s hard to come back,” said Krystyna Kacpura, president of the Association for Women and Family Planning, an advocacy group. “We are now at a point where the risks to women’s physical and mental health have reached a new level.”
Russia is gaining traction in Sievierodonetsk
Russia is poised to encircle Sievierodonetsk, a city crucial to its goal of conquering eastern Ukraine, while the neighboring city of Lysychansk is directly in Moscow’s sights. Ukrainians have dwindling weapons with which to defend their territory, prompting Ukrainian officials to ask NATO allies for faster shipments of longer-range weapons. Follow the latest updates.
As the momentum of the war shifts more decisively in Russia’s favor, Ukraine’s allies in Europe and elsewhere may soon find themselves forced to ask themselves far more fundamental questions than what kind of weapons to supply, including whether they should pressure on Ukraine to reach a peace deal with Russia or the risk of a Russian escalation with more aggressive military support.
Ukraine is suffering appalling losses in the Donbass region, where the battle for Sieryerodonetsk is taking place. By its own estimation, Ukraine is losing 100 to 200 people every day, partly because of Russia’s material superiority, partly because of Ukraine’s determination to keep fighting despite the increasingly grim situation in the east.
Support: EU officials say they will seek to tap a €9 billion ($9.5 billion) funding pot to jointly procure military equipment. The bloc is also grappling with the broader and politically sensitive issue of how to move forward with Ukraine’s bid for EU membership.
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A multi-million dollar musical mystery
Antonio Stradivari is widely regarded as the greatest violin maker that ever lived. During the 17th and early 18th centuries he created stringed instruments that were known for their craftsmanship and superior tone. Only around 600 examples survive today, all of which are treasured by collectors and artists alike. They can be sold for up to $20 million.
By analyzing the tree rings visible in the wood of two 17th-century instruments, a team of researchers led by Mauro Bernabei, a dendrochronologist at the Italian National Research Council in San Michele all’Adige, has found clues as to how Stradivarius made his could have refined boat.
The instruments – a harp by Stradivari and a cello by master luthier Nicola Amati – appear to have been made from the same 17th-century spruce. The findings are consistent with the theory that the young Stradivarius shared a workshop and may have been apprenticed to Amati, who was about 40 years his senior. Such a connection has long been suspected, but has remained stubbornly tenuous.
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That’s it for today’s briefing. Thank you for joining me. – Natasha
PS The Times video team won two Peabody Awards for its coverage of the January 6 riots in the Capitol and the war in Gaza.
The latest episode of The Daily is about the removal from office of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
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