Your Tuesday briefing


Good morning. We report on a US attack that killed the leader of Al Qaeda and the first Ukrainian grain shipments since the start of the war.

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

“Justice has been done and this terrorist leader is gone,” President Biden said in a speech to Americans last night.

The attack, in the heart of central Kabul last weekend, was the first US strike in Afghanistan since US troops 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 has profoundly shaped Al Qaeda and its terrorist movements with his writings and arguments. He was widely portrayed as the intellectual backbone of the organization, but his death is likely to have little impact on the group’s day-to-day operations.

Politics: The strike is a major victory for the Biden administration’s counter-terrorism efforts, and supports the president’s argument that the US can still fight terrorist organizations without a major deployment of ground forces.

context: The US alleges that the Taliban violated a peace agreement by letting al-Zawahri into Afghanistan. The Taliban allege that the US violated a peace agreement by carrying out the strike.

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

The ship’s departure raised hopes that much-needed grain would soon reach the Middle East and Africa. It will be inspected in Turkish waters today before proceeding to Lebanon. There are 16 more ships waiting to leave Odessa in the coming days, a Ukrainian official said.

But the shipments may do little to satisfy global hunger, which has increased, fueled by wars, climate problems and the coronavirus pandemic. In the Horn of Africa, for example, a four-year drought has left 18 million people severely hungry.

Background: A Russian blockade has prevented Ukraine from exporting about 20 million tons of grain. Last month, Turkey and the UN signed an agreement with Ukraine and Russia to resume exports. Here are details on the deal.

Warning: Citing the war and tensions over North Korea and Iran, UN Secretary General António Guterres said humanity was “just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear destruction.”

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

The US House speaker, Pelosi, has not confirmed that she plans to visit the self-governing island on a close trip to Asia. But all indications indicate that she may already be visiting this evening.

US officials tried to reassure Beijing that such a visit would not be the first of its kind, nor would it represent any change in policy towards the region. Nothing about a possible visit “would change the status quo,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters.

The US also warned China to keep a cool head. “There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with long-standing US policy into any kind of crisis or conflict, or use it as a pretext to prevent aggressive military activity in or around the Strait of Taiwan,” Kirby said.

Analysis: Due to current economic and political forces, Beijing is unlikely to spark a crisis.

Beijing: Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has long vowed to face any challenge against the country’s claim to Taiwan. And the State Department responded strongly to news of Pelosi’s potential 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 as the US is already consumed by the war in Ukraine.

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

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

But when they find satisfaction and connection in the kitchen, their dishes are sometimes criticized for not being Korean enough.

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

So to ‘keep Singapore livable’, the government is funding a high-tech, multi-institutional project 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 any money.

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

Singapore’s wealth gives it the means to invest in such high-tech solutions. But its geographic location near the equator also makes it a good model for other countries, especially countries in the tropics.

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