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Your Thursday Briefing


With thousands of people camped in the cold at the Poland-Belarus border, Western officials have accused Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus’s repressive ruler, of using asylum seekers as human weapons and trying to manufacture a migrant crisis in Europe in retaliation for sanctions against his country, creating a new flash point in East-West relations.

Western officials said Lukashenko had increased the number of people allowed to fly into his country and then funneled them westward toward the E.U. It appears that the number of flights to Minsk from the Middle East have at least doubled over the past 10 days.

European officials said that E.U. member states were united when it comes to defending Europe’s borders and that uncontrolled immigration was over. In response, Brussels is contemplating further sanctions aimed at Belarus. But few believe that new sanctions will move Lukashenko any more than previous ones have.

The migrants: Innocent children, women and men are in freezing conditions, stuck between Polish border guards and barbed wire on one side and Belarusian troops on the other. At least 10 people have died; other estimates are higher. On either side of the border, migrants have faced brutal beatings.

Montargis, a town 75 miles from Paris, was the center of the Yellow Vest social uprising, an angry protest movement over an increase in gasoline taxes that was sustained for more than year by a much broader sense of alienation felt by those outside France’s major cities.

Three years on, the economic and political disconnect that nearly tore France apart remains just below the surface. Talk of a renewable-energy revolution in Paris has provoked concern in Montargis and towns like it about the potential costs to working-class people whose livelihoods are threatened by that clean-energy transition.

Household gas prices are up 12.6 percent in the past month alone, partly the result of shortages linked to the coronavirus. Electric cars seem fancifully expensive to people who were encouraged not so long ago to buy fuel-efficient diesel automobiles. And a wind turbine that will slash property values is not what people want to see down the road.

Quotable: “If Parisians love wind turbines so much, why not rip up the Bois de Vincennes and make an attraction of them?” one resident asked, alluding to the vast park to the east of Paris.

Background: For Emmanuel Macron, facing an election in April, the transition to clean energy has become a delicate subject. He has portrayed himself as a green warrior, albeit a pragmatic one, but knows that any return of the Yellow Vests would be disastrous for his election prospects.


In the final days of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the U.S. and China agreed to “enhance ambition” on climate change by cutting emissions this decade, and China committed for the first time to address emissions from methane.

Separately, six big automakers and 30 national governments agreed to phase out gas-powered car sales worldwide by 2040. Some of the world’s biggest car manufacturers, including Toyota, Volkswagen and the Nissan-Renault alliance, did not join the pledge, which is not legally binding. The governments of the U.S., China and Japan abstained.

A primary goal of the conference is to agree on stronger action to keep the average global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), compared with preindustrial levels. But negotiators hoping to put together a stronger climate accord still face a long list of hurdles.

Political memo: As the host leader of the U.N. conference on global warming, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, was hoping to project statesmanship. But a mushrooming ethics scandal in British politics has dominated the week, overshadowing his climate ambitions.

Over four months and 5,000 miles, a 12-foot-tall puppet of a 9-year-old Syrian girl named Amal trekked from Turkey to Britain to find her mother. In a politically divided continent, were any minds changed?

When “Chicago” premiered in 1975, it wasn’t a hit. Inspired by sensationalist murder trials, the vaudeville-style musical follows the character Roxie Hart’s ascent to fame after she kills her lover. The production “seemed too chilly, in those days, to be truly loved,” Ben Brantley wrote in The Times, pointing to the show’s themes of “greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery.”

But then came a streamlined reworking of the production in 1996 that bubbled “like vintage Champagne,” Brantley wrote. “Chicago” went on to become the longest-running American musical in Broadway history and nabbed six Tony Awards, a film adaptation and over 30 international reproductions.

The show has stayed fresh with the help of dazzling cast members: singers like Patti LaBelle and Usher, movie stars like Brooke Shields and Patrick Swayze, and even reality TV personalities like NeNe Leakes. “It’s not a stunt: We don’t take anyone that can’t fulfill the stage work,” the producer Barry Weissler said. “There have been people — even important people in the music world — who couldn’t cut it onstage, so didn’t make it into the show.”

For the 25th anniversary of the revival, Juan A. Ramírez spoke with the musical’s composer, producers and actors about its history.

That’s it for today’s briefing. And a programming note: I’m away until next week, but my colleagues will be filling in to get you the latest news.

Thanks for starting your day with The Times — Natasha

P.S. The word “gloopiness” — describing magma from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii — appeared for the first time in The Times this week.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about a man who identifies the bodies of migrants who died trying to reach Spain.

Sanam Yar wrote today’s Arts and Ideas. You can reach Natasha and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.


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