Ukraine’s allies pledge military aid
Around 50 allies of Ukraine will meet at Ramstein Air Base in Germany today to chart the next steps in the defense of Ukraine. Already, they have made it clear that they intend to furnish a major infusion of military aid that is expected to total billions of dollars’ worth of matériel to help the country fend off Russian aggression as the war nears its first anniversary.
Ukraine has redoubled its pleas for more advanced weapons, like tanks and air defense missiles, ahead of an expected Russian springtime offensive that could be decisive in the war.
The countries that signed a pledge of support after the meeting, including Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Slovakia, said in a joint statement that they were committed to “collectively pursuing delivery of an unprecedented set of donations” in support of Ukraine.
Germany: One big question remains: Will Berlin in the end agree to send advanced, German-made battle tanks to Ukraine? Or at least allow other countries that now have them to do so?
Details: U.S. officials said they planned to send nearly 100 Stryker combat vehicles as part of a roughly $2.5 billion shipment of arms and equipment. Estonia said it would send its largest military aid package, worth about $122 million. And Britain reiterated its commitment to sending Challenger 2 tanks and also said it would supply 600 Brimstone missiles.
‘Extraordinary measures’ as the U.S. hits its debt limit
The U.S. reached its $31.4 trillion debt cap yesterday, the total amount it can borrow. The country is now gearing up for a bitter partisan battle over raising the cap, as the Treasury Department begins using a series of accounting maneuvers to ensure the federal government can keep paying its bills — and federal workers — ahead of what’s expected to be a protracted fight over whether to increase the borrowing cap.
The milestone is a product of decades of tax cuts and increased government spending by both Republicans and Democrats. But at a moment of heightened partisanship and divided government, it is also a warning of the entrenched battles that are set to dominate Washington and could end in economic shock.
Newly empowered House Republicans have vowed that they will not raise the borrowing limit again unless President Biden agrees to steep cuts in federal spending. He, in turn, has said he will not negotiate conditions for a debt-limit increase, arguing that lawmakers should lift the cap with no strings attached to cover spending that previous Congresses authorized.
Letter to Congress: “The period of time that extraordinary measures may last is subject to considerable uncertainty, including the challenges of forecasting the payments and receipts of the U.S. government months into the future,” wrote Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary. “I respectfully urge Congress to act promptly to protect the full faith and credit of the United States.”
Warnings: Economists said that the nation risks a financial crisis and other immediate economic pain if lawmakers do not raise the limit before the Treasury Department exhausts its ability to buy more time.
Over a million protest Macron’s pension plan
More than a million protesters, chanting slogans like “retirement before arthritis,” took to the streets in France to protest the government’s plan to raise the legal age of retirement to 64 from 62. Striking workers across the country closed schools, stopped many trains, disrupted the Paris Metro, lowered electricity output and curtailed flights.
Emmanuel Macron, France’s centrist president, who is in the first year of his second and final term, wants to push through an overhaul of what he views as an untenable pension system. But in a country where work is viewed by many as a burden rather than an opportunity, and retirement as the panacea beyond it, his determination has ignited fierce resistance.
Labor unions, from the extreme left to the moderate center, united behind the protests, as did often splintered left-of-center political parties. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the extreme-right National Rally party that has attracted growing support among the working class, also called for “an unjust reform” to be blocked.
What’s next: A long confrontation, involving further strikes, seems inevitable. For the French left, which has failed to reach even the runoff round of the last two presidential elections, defeating pension changes amounts to a critical test of its heft and ultimately of its eventual capacity to return to power.
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Around the World
For inveterate drinkers, Dry January is an opportunity to take a break and rethink less healthy habits. For the owners of bars, the voluntary month of sobriety is a collective financial drain, coming at a time when business is already slow because of cold weather and holiday fatigue.
“I’m willing to advocate for a dry June — our business can better take the hit then,” one owner said, laughing. “Or maybe people can take turns stopping to drink?”
Related: Research makes it clear that any amount of drinking can be detrimental to your health. Here’s why you may want to cut down on your consumption beyond the end of this month.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
What Cristiano Ronaldo should expect in the Saudi Pro League: The former Manchester United star is swapping the Premier League for one ranked 58th-best. He should have no trouble scoring goals — lots of them.
How Chelsea is following baseball’s lead: The London soccer club’s new owners are signing players to exceptionally long contracts. It’s a big bet for the new regime.
From The Times: LIV Golf, a new tour that is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, signed a TV deal.
Australian Open: Andy Murray’s stirring five-set comeback against Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia ended a day that also saw the men’s singles favorite Novak Djokovic win while playing with a hamstring injury.
ARTS AND IDEAS
A tiger rivets South Africa
South Africa is never boring. At the moment, there’s an energy crisis and plenty of political drama. But people here had something more unusual to talk about this week: a tiger on the loose in a residential area south of Johannesburg.
Sheba, an 8-year-old female, escaped from her enclosure on a private farm in the Walkerville area last weekend. The news spread panic in the neighborhood and gripped South Africans throughout the nation. Sheba mauled a 39-year-old man and killed two dogs and a pig. Even with a police helicopter circling over the area, she evaded searchers until the early hours of Wednesday morning, when she was shot and killed.
South Africa is a nature lover’s paradise, but every now and again two worlds collide. In 2021, a lost hippopotamus turned up in northern Johannesburg and wandered through backyards, cooling itself in swimming pools until it was captured. And last year in Pringle Bay, a vacation spot outside Cape Town, troops of baboons terrorized visitors. — Lynsey Chutel, a Briefings writer in Johannesburg.
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