Your Friday Briefing

President Biden speaking at the White House yesterday about his request for aid to Ukraine.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Biden asks Congress for $33 billion for Ukraine

President Biden called on Congress to approve $33 billion in more aid to Ukraine, arguing that U.S. arms and humanitarian assistance are helping beat back Russian invaders in a conflict with global consequences. “The cost of this fight is not cheap,” he said. “But caving to aggression is going to be more costly.” Follow the latest updates from the war.

The request represented an extraordinary escalation in American investment, more than tripling total emergency expenditures and putting the U.S. on track to spend as much this year helping the Ukrainians as it did on average each year fighting in Afghanistan, if not more. There is broad bipartisan support for more aid.

Biden also sent Congress a plan to increase the government’s power to seize the assets of oligarchs tied to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. The proceeds could be used to help the Ukrainians. Hours later, Congress passed legislation allowing Biden to use a World War II-era law to lend weapons to Ukraine quickly.

In other news from the war:

  • Russian missiles struck Kyiv a few miles from where the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, was meeting with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

  • Officials from Ukraine and the U.N. continued to call for a cease-fire and humanitarian corridors out of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol.

  • Russian intelligence was behind a chemical attack on Dmitri Muratov, the Nobel Prize-winning editor of Novaya Gazeta, an independent newspaper critical of the Kremlin, U.S. officials said.

Soldiers from the Finnish Defence Forces during a joint international military exercise in Norway last month.Credit…Jonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Plans for Sweden and Finland to join NATO

NATO is exploring ways to reinforce security for Finland and Sweden should they ask to join the alliance, as they have said they are likely to do, even in the period before the other 30 member countries ratify their membership, officials for the alliance said.

In recent weeks, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland have been moving toward requesting formal membership. But the ratification process takes time, and the countries cannot count on NATO to come to their military aid until it is completed.

NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said yesterday that he had discussed ways to bridge the interim period before the countries are covered by the group’s security guarantee. “It’s their decision, but if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed and expect the process to go quickly,” he said.

U.S.: Though the Pentagon has not offered a formal security guarantee, officials in Washington said that bilateral agreements in place with the countries should help deter Russian aggression aimed at impeding their NATO membership.

President Macron, whose policies have straddled the left and right in France, is set to be in office until 2027.Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Are France’s traditional political parties dead?

Since the 1950s, two parties — the Socialists, on the left, and Les Républicains, on the right — have provided three-quarters of France’s presidents and nearly all of the country’s prime ministers. But in this month’s presidential election, candidates for both parties cratered, with each receiving less than 5 percent of the vote.

The stark collapse capped a yearslong downward spiral for both parties, which have struggled to convince voters that they can handle concerns like security, inequality and climate change, experts say. Instead, the second-round runoff was fought between Emmanuel Macron, France’s centrist president, and Marine Le Pen, of the far-right National Rally party.

The old left-right division has given way to a new landscape, split into three major blocs. Macron’s broad, pro-globalization center is now flanked by more radical forces: on the right, Le Pen and her anti-immigrant nationalism; on the left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a fiery stalwart who champions state-led policies against E.U. rules and the free market.

Background: Macron’s centrist party, founded six years ago, landed an initial blow to the system in 2017, shattering the left. With the vote earlier this month, the right is feeling the damage.

Next steps: Macron is set to be in office until 2027; French law limits presidents to two consecutive terms. After that, it is unclear whether the traditional parties will be able to rebound.


Around the World

  • A spate of gang-related killings in El Salvador has led the government to declare a state of emergency, suspending key civil liberties guaranteed in the Constitution. Most Salvadorans are not complaining.

  • Two South Koreans have been arrested on charges of spying for North Korea.

  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, arrived in Saudi Arabia in an effort to mend relations frayed by the brutal killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

  • Cases of measles have surged by nearly 80 percent worldwide this year, a dire consequence of pandemic-related disruptions to childhood vaccinations.

  • A heat wave that has been pummeling India and Pakistan for weeks is expected to intensify over the weekend.

Business News

Credit…Uwe Anspach/DPA, via Associated Press
  • A day after Russia ceased gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, Germany is preparing for the possibility that it could be next. A quick cutoff could be painful.

  • The U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter, as supply constraints at home, demand shortfalls abroad and rapid global inflation weighed on an otherwise resilient recovery.

  • U.S. officials plan to ban sales of menthol cigarettes.

  • Amazon posted its slowest quarterly growth in years and its first quarterly loss since 2015.

What Else Is Happening

  • Despite international promises to cut back, global deforestation remains high.

  • A shipment of five million honeybees bound for Alaska was diverted to Atlanta and left out on a hot tarmac. Despite the efforts of local beekeepers, most of the bees perished.

  • For predicting some dog behaviors, breed is essentially useless, and for most, not very good, a study has found.

  • If fossil fuel emissions continue apace, the oceans could experience a mass extinction by 2300, researchers say. But there is still time to avoid it.

  • James Corden, the British theater actor and comedian turned late-night TV host, will leave his nightly CBS show next year.

A Morning Read

Credit…Abdulmonam Eassa for The New York Times

On the banks of the Nile, hundreds of people gather for iftar, the sunset meal that breaks the daily fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Once they have eaten, there is a palpable sense of relief.

“We come here to forget it all,” one young musician said. “The heat, the electricity cuts, the protests. Here, at least, we can sing.”


Superstitions of the stage

Don’t say “good luck,” don’t wear green, don’t give flowers, don’t whistle, always leave a light on. And definitely, never say the Scottish play’s name, or you risk personal catastrophe.

Theaters are superstitious places. When the new Broadway revival of “Macbeth” canceled performances because its lead, Daniel Craig, had tested positive for the coronavirus, there was chatter of the curse again, Alexis Soloski reports for The Times.

The “Macbeth” superstition is an invention of the critic and essayist Max Beerbohm. In 1898, Beerbohm wrote a column falsely claiming that a young male actor had died before the play’s debut. His words took hold, and stories of Macbeth-adjacent injuries, accidents and deaths began pouring in.

A lot can go wrong during a live performance, Anjna Chouhan, a lecturer on the work of Shakespeare, pointed out. Actors may subscribe to superstitions and various preshow and post-show rituals as a way to “enforce your control over things that can’t be controlled.”

The Times spoke with Broadway performers — among them believers and skeptics — about whether they had experienced supernatural moments in the theater.


What to Cook

Credit…Craig Lee for The New York Times

If you’re cooking for friends this weekend, you could do much worse than this classic chicken marbella.

What to Listen to

Revel in our selection of the five best classical albums to stream right now.

What to Watch

Loved “Call My Agent” on Netflix? “Ten Percent” is a new British take on the French comedy about showbiz.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Without doing anything (four 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. — Natasha

P.S. Times Opinion is expanding its Opinion Today newsletter to Saturdays. Sign up to receive analyses, essays and interviews six days a week.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the future of the pandemic.

You can reach Natasha and the team at

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