Your Tuesday Briefing

Good morning. We’re covering a U.S. strike that killed Al Qaeda’s leader and the first Ukrainian grain shipments since the war began.

Ayman al-Zawahri, shown here in 1998, was described by an Obama administration official as “the ideological leader of the modern global jihad.”Credit…AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan

U.S. strike kills Al Qaeda’s leader

A U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan killed Ayman al-Zawahri, the top leader of Al Qaeda and a key plotter of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He took over Al Qaeda after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

“Justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” President Biden said in an address to Americans last night.

The strike, in the heart of downtown Kabul over the weekend, was the first U.S. attack in Afghanistan since American forces left the country last year. The Taliban condemned the operation. Here are live updates.

Legacy: Zawahri, 71, was born in Egypt and trained as a surgeon before becoming a jihadist. He profoundly shaped Al Qaeda and its terrorist movements with his writing and arguments. He was widely depicted as the organization’s intellectual spine, but his death is likely to have little impact on the group’s day-to-day operations.

Politics: The strike is a significant victory for the Biden administration’s counterterrorism efforts, bolstering the president’s argument that the U.S. can still fight terrorist organizations without major deployments of ground forces.

Context: The U.S. claims that the Taliban violated a peace agreement by letting al-Zawahri into Afghanistan. The Taliban claims the U.S. violated a peace agreement by conducting the strike.

Ukraine’s agriculture minister said last week that there was $10 billion worth of grain stored in the country.Credit…Photo by Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times. Video by the United Nations.

Ukraine resumes grain shipments

A ship loaded with corn left Ukraine yesterday for the first time since Russia invaded in February.

The departure of the ship raised hopes that desperately needed grain would soon reach the Middle East and Africa. It is set to be inspected in Turkish waters today before continuing on to Lebanon. There are 16 more ships waiting to leave Odesa in the coming days, a Ukrainian official said.

But the shipments may do little to ease global hunger, which has increased, fueled by wars, climate issues and the coronavirus pandemic. In the Horn of Africa, for instance, a four-year drought has left 18 million people facing severe hunger.

Our Coverage of the Russia-Ukraine War

  • Setting the Stage: Ahead of sham elections on annexation, the Kremlin is using fear and indoctrination to force those in occupied regions of Ukraine to adopt a Russian way of life.
  • In the East: Ukrainians in the embattled Donetsk Province face a grim choice after President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a mandatory evacuation of the region.
  • In the South: As Ukraine lays the groundwork for a counteroffensive to retake Kherson, Russia is racing to bolster its troops in the region.
  • Economic Havoc: As food, energy and commodity prices continue to climb around the world, few countries are feeling the bite as much as Ukraine.

Background: A Russian blockade has prevented Ukraine from exporting roughly 20 million tons of grain. Last month, Turkey and the U.N. brokered an agreement with Ukraine and Russia to restart exports. Here are details on the deal.

Warning: Citing the war and tensions over North Korea and Iran, António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, said that humanity was “just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”

Fighting: Russia has turned Europe’s largest nuclear power plant into a fortress. Local residents worry that shelling could lead to a radiation leak.

American officials told Nancy Pelosi that a stop in Taiwan might instigate a response from China that could escalate out of control. Credit…Anna Rose Layden for The New York Times

A standoff over Pelosi’s trip

The U.S. warned China yesterday not to respond with military provocations to an expected trip to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi, the U.S. House speaker, has not confirmed that she plans to visit the self-governing island on a closely watched tour to Asia. But all indications suggest that she will visit, perhaps as early as this evening.

American officials sought to reassure Beijing that such a visit would not be the first of its kind nor represent any change in policy toward the region. Nothing about a potential visit “would change the status quo,” John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, told reporters.

The U.S. also warned China to keep a cool head. “There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with longstanding U.S. policy into some sort of crisis or conflict, or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait,” Kirby said.

Analysis: Current economic and political forces may make Beijing unlikely to court a crisis.

Beijing: Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has long vowed to answer any challenge to the country’s claim to Taiwan. And the Foreign Ministry responded strongly to news of Pelosi’s possible trip, promising that China would “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Washington: White House officials have privately expressed concern that such a visit could escalate tensions in Asia when the U.S. is already consumed with the war in Ukraine.


World News

Credit…Michel Lunanga/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • U.N. peacekeepers killed two people at a border crossing in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, officials said. Protests against the U.N. have simmered for weeks.

  • England celebrated its women’s soccer team yesterday after its victory in the European Championship final. Scores of young girls cheered on the players.

  • Latin America’s six largest economies are shifting left. Inflation and the war in Ukraine are challenging politicians as they try to meet voter expectations.

  • The Indian state of Tamil Nadu has outlawed single-use plastic. Its relative success in curtailing plastic pollution comes from strict policing.

U.S. News

  • The death toll from floods in Kentucky rose to 37 people, with more rain expected.

  • The American West is prone to deadly wildfires. Here are four main reasons.

  • The U.S. once had 20 million doses of a vaccine that could be used against monkeypox. In May, when the current outbreak emerged, only about 2,400 usable doses were left.

  • Beyoncé will replace two words in a new song after criticism over “ableist language.” Lizzo had also removed the same term, which has been used as a slur against disabled people, from her song “Grrrls.”

A Morning Read

Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

Food is identity. But for Korean chefs who are adopted, it can be complicated.

In the U.S., through restaurant cooking, they’re exploring a heritage they didn’t grow up with. Some call their food Korean-style, Korean-inspired or “vaguely Asian.”

But as they find fulfillment and connection in the kitchen, their dishes sometimes attract criticism for not being Korean enough.


Singapore’s climate experiment

In Singapore, temperatures are rising at twice the global average. Many fear that the extreme heat could make the affluent city-state uninhabitable.

So to “keep Singapore livable,” the government is funding a high-tech, multi-institutional project to try to tackle the challenge of urban heat. Researchers are building a computer model of Singapore to let policymakers analyze the effectiveness of various heat mitigation measures — and make district-specific tweaks — before spending money.

Winston Chow, the lead researcher, described his team’s approach as trying to find “the critical component of climate that really affects your discomfort.” Is it low wind speed? High air temperatures? Solar radiation? The answer, he said, “can help a lot with smarter urban design at the planning level, or with how individuals deal with heat.”

Singapore’s wealth gives it the resources to invest in such high-tech solutions. But its geographical position near the Equator also makes it a good model for other countries, particularly nations in the tropics.


What to Cook

Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times.

This summer squash scampi has a juicy snap, similar to shrimp.

World Through a Lens

Maine’s “ice mermaids” submerge themselves in near-freezing water.


Some people are looking to date only those who are actively working on their mental health. “You used to hide that you were going to therapy when you met people, but now it’s the same thing as going to the gym,” one 39-year-old said.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “This Greek letter: ψ” (three letters).

And here’s today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Amelia

P.S. After leaving The Times to run for governor of Oregon, Nick Kristof will return as an opinion columnist.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on monkeypox.

You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].

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