Your Thursday Briefing
Biden calls for a new inquiry into the coronavirus
President Biden has ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, calling for a broad government report on whether the virus was accidentally leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China. He has given them 90 days to report back.
The request came as the W.H.O. faced criticism over a March report dismissing the possibility of a lab accident. The theory was largely drowned out last year by scientists’ accounts of the virus’s more likely path from an animal host to humans in a natural setting.
Quotable: Testifying to Senate lawmakers, Dr. Francis Collins, the National Institutes of Health director, said the virus “most likely” arose naturally. “But we cannot exclude the possibility of some kind of a lab accident,” he added.
Putin’s Belarus headache
Belarus’s diversion of a plane heading to Lithuania and its arrest of a journalist who was on board may have opened a new, more complicated chapter in the already convoluted relationship between Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus’s leader, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
The two are increasingly leaning on each other, though they have sharply diverging interests. Putin wants more influence on Belarus, and Belarus’s leader wants an ever-tightening iron grip.
Belarus is a country of just 9.5 million people, but for Putin, it is both a critical ally and a strategic problem — especially as Russia seeks to smooth out its relationship with the West. (For those catching up, here’s what’s happening in Belarus.)
Putin’s choice: President Biden will hold his first face-to-face meeting with Putin in three weeks. The Russian leader will have to decide how far he will go to continue supporting Lukashenko.
The U.S.’s diplomatic outreach to Palestinians
Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, on Tuesday promised the Palestinian government $112 million in aid and a reopened consulate in Jerusalem, both part of a broad pledge to rebuild ties that had been severed by the previous administration in favor of Israel.
But doing so risks angering Israel, the most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East, whose leaders are already anxious about the Biden administration’s attempts to rejoin a nuclear agreement with Iran. Israel has long opposed and worked to undermine a deal.
With the raw emotion of deaths and wreckage from an 11-day war still fresh in the minds of both Israelis and Palestinians, Blinken’s actions represented, in tone at least, an attempted revival of America’s former role as a more neutral mediator in the Middle East’s most protracted conflict.
Quotable: “The aspirations of the Palestinian people are like those of people everywhere,” Blinken said after meeting the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas. The U.S. is committed “to working with the Palestinian people to realize these aspirations,” he added.
Innocent lives: At least 66 children were killed during the violence this month, almost all of them Palestinian, according to initial reports. These are the children who died — children who dreamed of becoming dentists or engineers, who liked languages or riding their bikes and who were adored by their parents and siblings.
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Dai Guihua, a 31-year-old mother of two in Langtang, a Chinese mountain town, wished for a better life for her family. But then her husband vanished, his white car plunging into a river, after they had racked up steep medical bills for their daughter.
Twenty-two days later, she walked to a pond and took her own life, as well as those of her son and daughter. Her story has became a symbol of the struggles of people in rural China who have been left behind by the country’s economic boom.
“In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf.” Eric Carle, the artist and author of more than 70 children’s books, including “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” has died at 91.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Welcome to FoodTok
These days, the fastest way to become a food celebrity is not through the Food Network, but on TikTok. The app has spawned viral food trends — like baked feta pasta and dalgona coffee — as well as a new generation of cooking stars who are largely self-taught, preparing meals in their home kitchens.
Within 24 hours of posting his first TikTok in 2019, Eitan Bernath, now 19, had tens of thousands of followers. His upbeat and approachable food videos have since earned him over a million more, and he has three full-time employees, as well as a gig as a resident culinary expert on “The Drew Barrymore Show.”
Other up-and-coming food creators are making six figures through the app and sponsorships, often using TikTok fame to launch cookware lines, cookbooks and more.
For many fans, the cooking stars’ lack of professional training is part of the appeal. “I think what TikTok has done with Gen Z and teaching people how to cook, it’s just more relatable,” Bernath told the Times. “The feedback I hear all the time is, ‘If this 18-year-old Eitan can cook this so effortlessly, then I can, too.’” Read Taylor Lorenz’s full story.
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What to Cook