Your Friday briefing: Sri Lankan president resigns

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Hello. We cover the resignation of the President of Sri Lanka, President Biden’s cautious line on Iran in Israel and a political crisis in Italy.

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

Celebrations have 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, as protesters strategized in tents dotting the scenic seaside.

But Rajapaksa’s resignation does not resolve the country’s uncertain future. He handed over the reins to deeply unpopular Ranil Wickremesinghe, who quit as prime minister and had previously said he would step down. The political elite is fighting for the power vacuum. And Sri Lanka still faces severe shortages of food, fuel, medicine and other essential supplies.

Activists are trying to keep things calm. Yesterday, in an effort to reduce tensions, protest organizers announced they were withdrawing from most government buildings they had occupied, including the presidential mansion.

Quoteable: “We want to preserve these places, and we don’t want people to vandalize these places, and we also don’t want the state or other actors to use vandalism as a reason to vilify us and the movement,” said a protest leader.

The context: During the three months of protest, the activists stubbornly protected their reputation as members of a peaceful movement. Now the loosely organized leaders are trying to ensure that a mass citizen movement does not help tip a country still struggling with the legacy of a decades-long civil war into anarchy.


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

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid has pushed Biden to go beyond his public pledge to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Lapid said all democratic nations must commit to action: “If they continue to develop their nuclear program, the free world will use force.

Biden did not repeat that pledge. Instead, he just talked about preventing Iran from getting a weapon — not a program that might be aimed at developing one. Here are the live updates.

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

And after: Biden will meet with Saudi 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.

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

Officially, Russia has taken a “pause” in its desire to seize Ukrainian territory in order to regroup. But the mid-morning attack on the town of Vinnytsia – which is hundreds of kilometers from the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine – is the latest to hit a civilian target with no apparent military objective.

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

War crimes: The attack came as the Dutch government was hosting a conference in The Hague aimed at ensuring Russia is held accountable for human rights abuses in Ukraine. And Washington has blamed Russia for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian deportations.

Test: American 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 diplomatic ties with Pyongyang after North Korea became the third country to recognize two Russian-backed breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine, reports Al Jazeera.

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

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

Midway through the film, Amanda turned to her fellow viewer with an observation: Half of Meryl Streep’s acting is “glasses business.” Amanda has since turned her observation into a delightful exploration of Streep’s relentless play with glasses.

“It’s amazing how many times our most famous movie actress has built her performances on one of the most hacked-up tracks on the form,” Amanda writes. “I now follow this trend not in disbelief but in reverence.”

Movie after movie, Streep is constantly fiddling, stroking, pulling or twirling his glasses. Just think of how she strategizes behind massive sunglasses as a magazine editor in “The Devil Wears Prada” or ruthlessly lowers a pair of angular reading glasses to peer into a new unpolished recruit.

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

You won’t get the full experience unless you click on this link to enjoy Amanda’s GIF-filled close-up reading.

This chicken recipe is inspired by the michelada, a classic Mexican drink.

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

A series of Japanese fantasy novels are the basis of “The Deer King”, a tenderly crafted and brilliantly animated adventure film.

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