Russia Sanctions, Afghanistan, Birds: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. The United States imposed tough sanctions on Russia, blaming it for the hacking operation that breached U.S. government agencies and the country’s largest companies.

President Biden ordered a series of measures including sanctions on 32 entities and individuals for disinformation and interference in the 2020 presidential election. Ten Russian diplomats were expelled from the embassy in Washington.

The administration barred American banks from purchasing newly issued Russian government debt. The moves aim to exploit Russia’s weak economy to pressure Moscow to relent in its campaign to disrupt American political life and menace Ukraine. Above, the Russian Central Bank in Moscow.

In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman said a response would be “inevitable” but did not immediately disclose what it would entail.

2. The United States and its allies are planning to deploy a less visible but still potent force in the region to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a terrorist base.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kabul to signal continued cooperation after President Biden announced the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. Above, Mr. Blinken, right, at the presidential palace in Kabul with Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar of Afghanistan.

Drawing lessons from the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, which allowed the rise of the Islamic State, the Pentagon is discussing with allies where to reposition forces and how to use drones, long-range bombers and spy networks in the new effort.

In Pakistan, the U.S. withdrawal is seen as a victory by the country’s powerful military, which has friendly ties with the Taliban. But if Afghanistan descends into bloodshed, Pakistan will feel the burden. Millions of Afghan refugees could cross the border, and if the Taliban return to power, it could embolden extremists in Pakistan who share similar ideologies.

3. Federal health officials implored Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus but said little about when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine might be put back into use.

“Hopefully we’ll get a decision quite soon, as to whether or not we can get back on track with this very effective vaccine,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, above, said during a House hearing on the government’s pandemic response.

4. Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of murder in the death of George Floyd, declined to testify.

For the first time in nearly three weeks of testimony, Mr. Chauvin, above right, spoke in the courtroom. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in his own defense.

The prosecution and the defense rested their cases, and closing arguments will begin on Monday. The case will then go to the jury, which could take minutes, hours, days or weeks to deliver a verdict. The city of Minneapolis is already preparing for protests and civil unrest.

5. Lawmakers in Alabama and North Dakota barred transgender girls and women from competing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

Three other states — Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee — have already passed legislation enacting bans on trans women and girls competing on female sports teams. South Dakota’s governor signed two similar executive orders. Last year, Idaho became the first state in the nation to pass a ban on transgender athletes, though a federal judge temporarily blocked the law from going into effect.

Supporters of the restrictions say they are necessary to ensure fair competition, but advocacy groups and sports organizations like the N.C.A.A. say the bills are based on inaccurate stereotypes and unfairly target transgender women and girls. Above, Rep. Neil Rafferty of Alabama speaks in support of trans rights during a rally in Montgomery,

“We’re gaining momentum here, which is just unquestionable,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton. Above, shopping in New York’s Soho neighborhood.

Economists expect China to report on Friday that its economy grew by 18 to 19 percent in the first three months of the year compared with the same period in 2020, a jaw-dropping figure that shows China’s remarkable post-pandemic surge.

7. A former alt-right YouTuber has a method for spreading hate.

To keep you watching, YouTube serves similar but often more extreme videos than those you have watched before. Caolan Robertson, above, who helped produce videos for a who’s who of right-wing personalities, learned how clever edits and a focus on confrontation could draw millions of views.

“We would choose the most dramatic moment — or fake it and make it look more dramatic,” he said. “We realized that if we wanted a future on YouTube, it had to be driven by confrontation. Every time we did that kind of thing, it would explode well beyond anything else.”

8. We asked young writers about their literary inspirations.

Over the past decades, we’ve occasionally asked young authors, who would later become some of the most widely read and respected artists of their generation, about their biggest influences. For the 125th anniversary of our Book Review, we did it again.

Their answers spanned genres and generations. Gabriel Bump named Denis Johnson, an author whom we asked the same question in 1984.

“More than anyone, Johnson captured what I wanted from literature,” he said. “His broad emotional register. His ability to see poetry and beauty everywhere.”

9. Around the world, the pandemic changed how we dress.

Italians retained a “minimum of elegance” by embracing quality knitwear. Flip-flop sales skyrocketed in Brazil. Closed borders and shrinking incomes in Russia meant a turn away from high-end foreign labels toward local designers.

In the U.S., we might be heading into a new jean cycle. Levi’s executives said on a recent earnings call that sales of loose or even baggy jeans for women and men were booming and that those styles might become a hallmark of the post-pandemic world.

10. And finally, spring’s avian extravaganza.

For birders across the U.S., it’s time to head out to woodlands and waterways to track down a favorite warbler, vireo or tanager. We asked bird enthusiasts from five regions to give us a rundown on what to look for.

In New York State, between 90 and 100 species of songbirds pass through in May, and up to a quarter are warblers, like the mourning warbler, above, in the Adirondacks. Their distinctive songs and colorful plumage make them the stars of the spring migration.

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