Yesterday’s virtual summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin made little apparent headway in defusing the crisis over Ukraine in the wake of a Russian troop buildup, and instead delegated officials from each country to stay in contact.
The two leaders talked by videoconference for more than two hours, during which they laid out their positions.
The Kremlin said Putin and Biden had traded threats regarding Russia’s buildup of forces near the Ukrainian border. Putin accused Nato forces of undertaking “dangerous attempts to develop Ukrainian territory and increase its potential along our borders”.
Putin went on to demand “reliable, legal guarantees” that would specifically prevent Nato from expanding its territory toward Russia or place missile systems in countries bordering Russia.
What did the US say about the meeting? The US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said: “The discussion between President Biden and President Putin was direct and straightforward. There was a lot of give and take, there was no finger-wagging. But the president was crystal clear about where the United States stands on all of these issues.”
Olaf Scholz elected to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor
Olaf Scholz will succeed Angela Merkel as Germany’s new chancellor after securing a majority of 395 of 736 delegates’ ballots in a parliamentary vote.
Scholz will oversee a liberal-left “traffic light” coalition government between his Social Democratic party (SPD), the Greens and the liberal Free Democratic party (FDP), the first power-sharing agreement of such a kind in Germany, and the first governing alliance with three parties since 1957.
Scholz, a former mayor of Hamburg and finance minister in Merkel’s final term, secured 21 fewer votes than the 416 seats the three coalition parties have in the Bundestag, though several politicians were absent from the vote due to illness.
The politician, who removed his mask to accept the vote with a smirk, will head to the Bellevue Palace – the residence of the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier – to be formally appointed.
Was Merkel there? Yes, she was watching proceedings from the visitors’ gallery. The outgoing chancellor received a standing ovation from almost all delegates in the last minutes of her tenure.
When will the new government take over? The new government is to be announced in parliament at 1.30pm CET today, after which Scholz and the ministers in his cabinet will swear their oaths.
US fentanyl deaths will rise, warns Narcan developer
The overdose crisis that killed more than 100,000 Americans in one year is “all about fentanyl” and will only going to get worse, Roger Crystal of Opiant Pharmaceuticals has said.
Deaths from fentanyl will continue to rise and overdoses may be increasingly difficult to battle in the US, said Crystal, who helped develop Narcan nasal spray, an easy-to-use medication that reverses overdoses.
Those who are overdosing from fentanyl have a shorter window of time to be saved and may need additional doses of the medication.
“Fentanyl is an opioid, but it’s a different beast entirely. It acts faster, it’s much stronger, and it lasts longer,” Crystal said. That means overdose reversals need to happen faster, and multiple doses of naloxone may be needed. Sometimes, he said, a person is revived with one dose, but falls back into an overdose because of fentanyl’s long-lasting effects.
Where does fentanyl come from? Most comes into the US from Mexico or China. But the synthetic opioid can be made in a lab anywhere, making it difficult for authorities to limit the supply – unlike, for instance, heroin, which is sourced from opium poppies that need to be grown.
In other news …
Kellogg has said it is permanently replacing 1,400 workers who have been on strike since October, a decision that comes as the majority of its cereal plant workforce rejected a deal that would have provided a 3% raise. The decision follows months of bitter disagreement between the company and the union.
An American hedge-fund billionaire who surrendered 180 looted and illegally smuggled antiquities valued at $70m has been handed an unprecedented lifetime ban on acquiring other relics as part of an agreement with the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
French police have arrested a man on suspicion of being a former member of the Saudi royal guard who is accused of being involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The man, named as Khalid Aedh al-Otaibi, was taken into custody at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.
Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, signed an agreement with Chinese officials, estimated to be worth about $275bn, to placate threats that would have hobbled its devices and services in the country, The Information reported yesterday.
Stat of the day: 87,000 young children are diagnosed with lead poisoning in the US each year
Three decades after the neurotoxin was banned as an ingredient in paint, gasoline and water pipes, 87,000 young children are diagnosed with lead poisoning in the US each year. Today, lead lingers in houses and apartments, yards and water lines, and wherever states and communities ramp up testing it becomes clear that the nation’s lead problem is worse than realized, experts say. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics this fall suggested that more than half of all US children have detectable levels of lead in their blood.
Don’t miss this: Steven Spielberg on making West Side Story with Stephen Sondheim
The acclaimed director used to get scolded by his parents for singing songs from West Side Story at the dinner table. He was 10 when he became obsessed with the Broadway cast album, which his father brought home in 1957. “It has never left my life,” he says. “I’ve played the cast album to my kids. They memorised the songs growing up. I’ve got videos where I’m running around the place playing Officer Krupke and all the Jets. Those videos prove how West Side Story has permeated my entire life and the lives of my kids and grandkids. It’s crazy!”
… or this: what our feline friends really think about hugs, happiness and humans
Despite the fact that cats are common pets, we know relatively little about them. This, says Dr Carlo Siracusa of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, “is partly due to practical problems”. Dogs are easy to study: you can take them to a lab and they will be content. But cats are intensely territorial creatures. “The behaviour of a cat is so modified by its environment that if you move it to a laboratory,” says Siracusa, “what you’ll see is not really reflective of what the normal behaviour of the cat is.” So what are our feline friends really thinking?
Climate check: ‘bizarre’ fish songs raise hopes for coral reef recovery
From whoops to purrs, snaps to grunts, foghorns to laughs, a cacophony of bizarre fish songs has shown that a coral reef in Indonesia has returned rapidly to health. The reef had been devastated by blast fishing, where explosives are used to stun or kill everything in the area. The corals are being restored, but scientists wanted to know if the many other creatures that inhabit reefs were also returning. The result was “exciting and inspiring”.
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Last Thing: will New York’s cream cheese shortage force bagel joints to go easy on the schmear? An investigation
In terms of quintessential New York experiences, ordering a bagel with cream cheese tops the list. But now, bagel shop patrons are beginning to have problems securing one half of their orders. A cream cheese shortage is throwing New York City’s bagel shops across all five boroughs into a frenzy, leaving some of the city’s top bagel spots with only enough schmear in stock to last a few days. To find out whether they are overdoing the amount of cream cheese on each bagel, the Guardian got out a ruler and visited New York City’s bagel establishments.