U.S. senators reach deal on gun safety
Three weeks after 19 children and two teachers died in a gun massacre at a Texas elementary school, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators yesterday struck a deal on a gun control bill. The agreement includes enhanced background checks for people under the age of 21 and a provision to close the “boyfriend loophole” by extending to dating partners a prohibition on gun ownership for domestic abusers.
The deal, which still faces a perilous path in Congress, amounts to notable progress. But it falls far short of the sprawling reforms that President Biden, gun control activists and a majority of Democrats have long championed, such as universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.
Democrats hailed the plan, which would also toughen federal laws to stop gun trafficking and ensure that all commercial sellers are conducting background checks, as an opportunity to pass the most significant gun safety legislation in decades. The backing of 10 Republicans suggested that the plan could yet draw the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate.
Next steps: Senators were still haggling over crucial details, including how much additional time law enforcement would have to review juvenile and mental health records for prospective gun buyers younger than 21.
Quotable: Biden urged Congress to pass a gun safety measure quickly, saying there were “no excuses for delay.” He added: “Each day that passes, more children are killed in this country.”
The risks of Poland’s abortion ban
As the U.S. faces the prospect that the Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that has made abortion legal for nearly 50 years, Poland offers a glimpse of a country where the procedure is already practically out of reach even in the gravest circumstances, with sometimes tragic consequences.
At least three woman have died in the 17 months since Poland eliminated an exception permitting abortion in the case of fetal abnormalities, a decision enabled by a high court dominated by judges loyal to the conservative government. Only one in 10 Poles support the stricter ban. The rest of the population is roughly split between reverting to milder restrictions and legalizing terminations.
Since the ban was passed, abortion-rights activists have been threatened with prison for handing out abortion pills, and the number of Polish women traveling abroad to get abortions has swelled further. Technically, the law still allows abortions if there is a serious risk to a woman’s health, but critics say it fails to provide necessary clarity, paralyzing doctors.
No return: “Once you start chipping away at the right to abortion, it’s hard to go back,” said Krystyna Kacpura, the president of the Federation for Women and Family Planning, an advocacy group. “We are now at a point where the risks to women’s physical and mental health have reached a new quality.”
Russia gains traction in Sievierodonetsk
Russia is poised to encircle Sievierodonetsk, a city critical to its goal of seizing Ukraine’s east, while the neighboring city of Lysychansk is squarely in Moscow’s sights. Ukrainians have dwindling weaponry with which to defend their territory, prompting Ukrainian officials to call on NATO allies for faster delivery of longer-range weapons. Follow the latest updates.
With the momentum of the war shifting more decisively in Russia’s favor, Ukraine’s allies in Europe and elsewhere may soon find themselves forced to confront far more fundamental questions than what sort of weapons to provide, including whether to put pressure on Ukraine to reach a peace agreement with Russia or risk Russian escalation with more aggressive military support.
Ukraine is suffering horrific losses in the Donbas region, where the fight for Sievierodonetsk is playing out. By Ukraine’s own assessment, it is losing 100 to 200 people a day, in part because of Russian material superiority and in part because of Ukraine’s determination to fight on despite the increasingly bleak picture in the east.
Support: E.U. officials say they will try to tap a nine billion euro ($9.5 billion) funding pot to jointly procure military equipment. The bloc is also wrestling with the broader and politically fraught question of how to move forward with Ukraine’s bid for E.U. membership.
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A multimillion-dollar musical mystery
Antonio Stradivari is generally regarded as the greatest violin maker who ever lived. During the 17th and early 18th centuries, he created stringed instruments renowned for their craftsmanship and superior sound. Only about 600 survive today, all prized by collectors and performers alike. They may sell for as much as $20 million.
By analyzing the tree rings visible in the wood of two 17th-century instruments, a team of researchers led by Mauro Bernabei, a dendrochronologist at the Italian National Research Council in San Michele all’Adige, has uncovered evidence of how Stradivari might have honed his craft.
The instruments — a harp by Stradivari and a cello by the master luthier Nicola Amati — appear to have been made from the same 17th-century spruce. The findings are consistent with the theory that the young Stradivari shared a workshop and perhaps apprenticed with Amati, who was roughly 40 years his senior. Such a link has long been hypothesized, but it has remained stubbornly tenuous.
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That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha
P.S. The Times’s Video team won two Peabody Awards for its coverage of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and the war in Gaza.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the recall of San Francisco’s district attorney, Chesa Boudin.
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