Your Thursday Briefing

Russia and Ukraine are increasing their military forces in southern Ukraine. Now, concerns are growing over what an escalation in fighting could mean for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the UN’s top nuclear official said yesterday.

“The situation is not improving,” said the official, Rafael Mariano Grossi, who yesterday crossed the front line to reach the Russian-controlled compound. “It is obvious that military activity is increasing throughout this region, so all possible measures and precautions must be taken so that the plant is not attacked and can be protected.”

Russian forces seized the nuclear plant, the largest in Europe, more than a year ago. They have used the artillery stationed there to launch attacks on nearby towns. Grossi has warned that shelling around the plant, some of which has hit critical equipment, could lead to a catastrophic nuclear accident.

In an implicit rebuke to Russia, he said: “This is a nuclear power plant. It is not a military base. It should never be a military base.”

In the same region: A fresh round of explosions rocked Melitopol, a Russian-occupied city that is a priority for Ukraine to recapture. (The nuclear plant is about 80 miles northwest of the city.) Melitopol’s recapture would build on Ukraine’s successes late last year: the army retook Russian-occupied areas in two nearby regions, Kharkiv and Kherson.

The surroundings: The nuclear plant is located on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, behind Russian lines. Ukrainian forces are stationed on the west bank of the river in front of the plant, and also hold ground on the east side of the river, some 35 miles from the complex.

Other war updates:

  • Germany promised more aid to Ukraine after lawmakers approved a spending bill that includes 8 billion euros (about $8.67 billion) of long-term military aid.

  • Russia sent a 13-year-old girl to an orphanage after her father, a Russian national, criticized the war in Ukraine.

An open letter from eight prime ministers urged tech giants to take more aggressive steps to combat disinformation on their platforms. The prime ministers expressed concern about the destabilizing effects of fake news from Russia, especially about the war in Ukraine.

His letter He called on the leaders of Meta and other companies to take action “against disinformation that undermines our peace and stability” and urged them to end efforts “to weaken our support for Ukraine amid Russia’s war of aggression.” Prime ministers also called for more coordinated regulation by governments.

National leaders called for tech companies to better control themselves; devote more resources to responding to false narratives; adjust algorithms to prioritize veracity over compromise; and clearly flag counterfeit and automated posts, including those produced by AI

“Technology platforms like yours have become virtual battlegrounds, and are being used by hostile foreign powers to spread false narratives that contradict factual media reports,” they wrote. Paid ads “are often used to call for social unrest, bring violence to the streets and destabilize governments,” they said.

AI: Tech leaders including Elon Musk have warned that the technology could pose “profound risks to society and humanity.”

Pope Francis will be hospitalized for several days to receive treatment for a respiratory infection, the Vatican said. The news raises concerns about the health of the 86-year-old pontiff.

Francis has a recent history of medical challenges. He has knee problems and sciatica which have caused him to have a severe limp and, in recent months, have often forced him to use a wheelchair. In the summer of 2021, he underwent major intestinal surgery.

Background: As a young man, he also survived severe pneumonia and had part of a lung removed.

Whats Next: Francis is scheduled to begin a busy series of ceremonies in the coming days, including Palm Sunday this weekend, followed by Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday on April 9.

China once invested billions in its attempt to become a soccer player, the world’s most popular sport. A decade later, the country has little to show for it. The great football dream seems to have failed.

The good, the bad and the lucky of Premier League hat-tricks: Sometimes greatness gives a player three goals in one game. Other times, more mundane factors they are at stake

The surprise return: Julie Ertz returns to the US women’s soccer team, but a spot for her on the World Cup it is far from guaranteed.

The president of the Premier League club that is playing a high-stakes game: A profile of Newcastle United chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan: Who is heAnd what is your relationship with Mohammed bin Salman?

The next time a British male between the ages of 18 and 35 searches for something like “pub crawl Amsterdam”, they might see an ad bluntly telling them to “stay away”. The Dutch capital is trying to discourage young Britons from “come to Amsterdam for a messy night”. The ads warn that you could incur fines, a criminal record, or permanent damage to your health.

The campaign is part of a broader crackdown on noisy tourists. Last month, Amsterdam introduced rules banning marijuana smoking on the streets of the red light district and requiring businesses to close at 3 a.m., three hours earlier than previously allowed. Cafes and restaurants must also close earlier, at 2 a.m.

But the Dutch capital is also fighting its own reputation: the city is known for marijuana and legal prostitution. And there’s still an appetite for singles weekends: “Business is booming on our end,” said a spokesperson for a party company. “I don’t think this is going to stop him.”

Try a faster recipe for home fries.

Norman Rush’s “Mating,” written in the 1990s, is finding a new audience among younger, romance-minded readers.