Monday Briefing

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III will be in Israel, Bahrain and Qatar this week.Credit…Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

Israel’s allies push it to scale back its war

Lloyd Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, this week. U.S. officials are pushing Israel to transition to a more focused phase in the country’s war on Gaza, involving more precise, intelligence-driven missions, and the foreign secretaries of Britain and Germany have issued a joint call for a “sustainable” cease-fire.

Ten weeks after Hamas’s initial attack on Israel, the death toll in the Gaza Strip has climbed to nearly 20,000, according to local health officials, and international rights groups warn that the humanitarian crisis there is spiraling even further. The roughly 100 individuals who have been kidnapped by Hamas and other armed groups are also in peril.

That reality was evident last week, when Israeli forces mistakenly killed three Israeli hostages. The deaths have drawn anguish in Israel and raised new questions about how Netanyahu’s government is prosecuting the war. Relatives of hostages have taken to the streets to demand a cease-fire so that their loved ones can return home, and thousands have protested at weekly rallies.

In other news from the war:

  • In Gaza, some families have experienced the loss of dozens of members within three months.

  • American universities are starting to clamp down on pro-Palestinian protests and events on campus, in what some describe as a troubling development for freedom of expression.

  • Israel’s military took reporters into a reinforced tunnel in the northern Gaza Strip, a tour aimed at showing the scale of the challenge in trying to wipe out Hamas.

Over half a million people have fled their homes in just the past two months, mostly into camps that have sprung up in and around Goma.Credit…Arlette Bashizi for The New York Times

An overlooked crisis in Congo

More than six million people have been displaced by war in eastern Congo, where a conflict has dragged on for nearly three decades, stoking a vast humanitarian crisis that by some estimates has claimed over six million lives.

It is now lurching into a volatile new phase, with over 100 armed groups and several national armies vying for supremacy, complicated by the interference of foreign powers eyeing the region’s vast reserves of gold, oil and minerals. Corruption, massacres and rape are common.

Though millions of people are suffering, aid groups struggle to draw attention to the conflict. “There’s a sense of fatalism about Congo,” Cynthia Jones, the World Food Program head in the region, said. “People seem to think, ‘That’s just the way it is.’”

Vladmir Putin has turned the exits of major Western companies into a windfall for Russia’s loyal elite and the state itself.Credit…Pool photo by Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik

Putin’s enrichment scheme

Companies that want to leave Russia do so on terms set by President Vladimir Putin — in ways that benefit his government, his elites and his war on Ukraine.

Western companies that have left Russia have declared more than $103 billion in losses since the start of the war, according to a Times analysis of financial reports, and their exits have been subject to ever-increasing taxes, generating at least $1.25 billion in the past year for Russia’s war chest.

News analysis: How Hungary steamrollered Europe’s plan to throw Ukraine a financial lifeline worth $52 billion.


Around the World

Credit…Lucy Craymer/Reuters
  • New Zealand’s new right-wing government, the most conservative in a generation, has abandoned a fleet of policies aimed at benefiting Māori, the country’s Indigenous people.

  • Lured by a fake job, a man was trapped in a labor camp by a Chinese gang. After six months of secretly sending details from inside a scam operation, he suddenly went silent.

  • Voters in Pirna, a city in eastern Germany, elected a far-right mayor, a reflection of the surging popularity of the nationalist party Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

  • At least 61 migrants drowned off the coast of Libya last week, an international agency said.

What Else Is Happening

Credit…Photo illustration by Rebecca Chew
  • Post-Roe voting might bring America to a new consensus on abortion rights — but only if the voters keep getting their say.

  • Michigan State University has reached a $15 million settlement with the families of three students killed in a shooting on campus in February.

  • Corporate party planners have noted a shift in office holiday festivities: more daytime celebrations, less booze.

  • A rare Italian vase bought at a secondhand store for $3.99 sold at auction for more than $100,000.

What Else Is Happening

  • Religious fanatics on the U.S. Supreme Court have forced women to flee to terminate pregnancies, even very risky ones, Maureen Dowd writes.

  • Oprah Winfrey has both suffered under diet culture and paid her suffering forward, profiting from the aspiration to thinness, Jennifer Weiner writes.

  • Ginger Allington urges you to consider the true costs of cheap cashmere.

  • It’s time for U.F.O. whistle-blowers to show their cards, Ross Douthat says.

A Morning Read

Credit…Janice Chung for The New York Times

There is no Christmas lunch like a Korean American Christmas church lunch, where hundreds of people gather in one room for elaborate banquet dishes; fancy braises; barbecued favorites; party noodles; and all manner of soups and stews.

For younger Koreans born and raised in America, church can be a sometimes painful reminder of a life left behind. But Christmas lunch can conjure something else: a flood of good memories, and a reminder of the beautiful aspects of that kind of fellowship.


Migrant worker diaries: One year on from the World Cup.

Tear gas, cages and lock-ins: On being an away soccer fan in Europe.

Fostering a culture shift: Analyzing Fred Vasseur’s impact at Ferrari.


Credit…Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images

Jeff Koons killed her review

Remy Golan, a professor of art history, had submitted an essay on Jeff Koons’s monumental sculpture “Bouquet of Tulips,” including an interview with the artist, to Brooklyn Rail, a New York City arts journal. The editor was pleased — until the Koons studio read a copy of the unpublished essay and ordered it axed, citing “Jeff’s concerns.”

Experts in journalism say that the essay should not have been read by its subject before being published, with one describing the turn of events as “chilling.” Yet the case is one of several in which writers have accused a publication of yielding to pressure from a subject or killing a critical story.


Credit…Romulo Yanes for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Vivian Lui.

Cook: Readers suggest topping these “Indian-ish” baked potatoes with chopped cilantro.

Read: Times commenters shared their favorite books of the year.

Quiz: Can you guess the location of these holiday lights?

Watch: Revisit “Pocahontas” — and ponder why a remake isn’t in the works.

Play the Spelling Bee. And here are today’s Mini Crossword and Wordle. You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Natasha

P.S. Here are seven things we learned analyzing 515 million Wordles.

You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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