Your Friday Briefing: Sri Lanka’s President Resigns


Good morning. We’re covering the resignation of Sri Lanka’s president, President Biden’s careful line on Iran in Israel and a political crisis in Italy.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka submitted his resignation by email from Singapore yesterday. He had fled his country early Wednesday after months of fervent protests.

Celebrations erupted across Sri Lanka, where citizens blame the Rajapaksa dynasty for the country’s economic collapse and widespread hardship. Speeches and music blared from a main stage in Colombo, the capital, while protesters strategized in tents dotting the scenic seaside.

But Rajapaksa’s resignation does not resolve the country’s uncertain future. He handed the reins to the deeply unpopular Ranil Wickremesinghe, who moved from his role as prime minister and had previously said he would resign. The political elite are fighting over the vacuum of power. And Sri Lanka still faces grave shortages of food, fuel, medicine and other critical supplies.

Activists are working to keep things calm. Yesterday, in an effort to reduce tensions, protest organizers announced that they were pulling out of most government buildings that they had occupied, including the presidential mansion.

Quotable: “We want to preserve these places, and we don’t want people to vandalize these places, nor do we want the state or other actors using vandalism as a reason to vilify us and the movement,” one protest leader said.

Context: Over the three months of protest, activists have doggedly protected their reputation as members of a peaceful movement. Now, the loosely organized leaders are trying to ensure that a mass citizens’ movement does not help tip a country still grappling with the legacy of a decades-long civil war into anarchy.

On his second day in Israel, President Biden again contended with a diplomatic disagreement over how to approach Iran and its nuclear ambitions.

Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Yair Lapid, pushed Biden to go beyond his public commitment of stopping Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon. Lapid declared that all democratic nations must vow to act: “If they continue to develop their nuclear program, the free world will use force.”

Biden did not repeat that commitment. Instead, he stuck to talking about blocking Iran from obtaining a weapon — not a program that might be intended to develop one. Here are live updates.

Background: Israel has conducted covert sabotage and assassination operations to slow Iran’s ability to enrich nuclear fuel. Biden has insisted that diplomacy and a restoration of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement are the best ways to find a permanent solution.

What’s next: Biden will meet with Saudi Arabia’s leaders today. He once tried to isolate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over human rights abuses. Now, he needs Prince Mohammed’s help.

Russian strikes in central Ukraine killed at least 23 people yesterday, officials said. Three children were among the dead.

Emergency responders are frantically searching for survivors in the rubble, and dozens are missing. More than 70 people, including three children, were also hospitalized, Ukrainian officials said. Here are live updates.

Officially, Russia has taken a “pause” in its drive to capture Ukrainian territory in order to regroup. But the midmorning attack on the city of Vinnytsia — which is hundreds of miles from the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine — is the latest to hit a civilian target without an apparent military aim.

Analysis: The strategy underscores one of Russia’s most brutal psychological weapons: the terrorizing of civilians.

War crimes: The attack came as the Dutch government hosted a conference at The Hague intended to ensure that Russia is held accountable for violations of human rights in Ukraine. And Washington accused Russia of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian deportations.

Trial: The U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner appeared in a Russian court yesterday after pleading guilty to drug charges. The trial — which shows the limits of American power — is expected to continue today.

North Korea: Kyiv cut its diplomatic relations with Pyongyang after North Korea became the third country to recognize two Russian-backed separatist republics in Ukraine’s east, Al Jazeera reports.

In the Congo River Basin, people collect bundles of wood to make charcoal. The search for cooking materials plays a surprisingly large role in the deforestation of the carbon-absorbing forests, which are critical to slow global warming.

A few years ago, my colleague Amanda Hess was watching “The Post,” a movie about the Pentagon papers. Meryl Streep plays Katharine Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post.

In the middle of the movie, Amanda turned to her viewing companion with an observation: Half of Meryl Streep’s acting is “glasses business.” Amanda has since spun out her observation into a delightful exploration of Streep’s relentless play with spectacles.

“It’s stunning how often our most celebrated movie actress has built her performances on one of the form’s hackiest bits,” Amanda writes. “I now follow this trend not with incredulity but with reverence.”

In movie after movie, Streep is constantly fidgeting with, fondling, removing or twirling her glasses. Just think of how she strategizes behind massive sunglasses as a magazine editor in the “The Devil Wears Prada” or ruthlessly lowers an angular pair of reading glasses to scrutinize an unpolished new hire.

“I’ve come to see a pair of glasses on Streep’s face as a Chekhov’s gun,” Amanda. “At some point you know they’re coming off, and it’s going to be fabulous.”

You’re not going to get the full experience unless you click on this link to enjoy Amanda’s GIF-filled close read.

This chicken recipe draws inspiration from the michelada, a classic Mexican beverage.

K-Ming Chang’s first short story collection, “Gods of Want,” explores emigration and queer love.

A series of Japanese fantasy novels is the basis for “The Deer King,” a tenderly wrought and brilliantly animated adventure movie.

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