Your Thursday Briefing: A Texas school shooting

Plus Russia’s narrowed focus and Africa’s evolving stance on Ukraine.

Good morning. We’re covering a school shooting in Texas, Russia’s narrowed focus in Ukraine’s east and diplomacy in Africa.

A group of men embraced at the school’s entrance on Wednesday.Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The New York Times

A deadly school shooting in Texas

Nineteen children and two teachers were killed on Tuesday in a single classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Officers fatally shot the 18-year-old gunman at the scene. Here are live updates.

The gunman also wounded several more children. Before entering the school, he shot his grandmother.

Authorities have identified all the victims. Amerie Jo Garza, 10, was “a jokester, always smiling,” her father said. Eva Mireles, a teacher, “loved those children,” her neighbor said.

Background: The massacre is the second-deadliest school shooting on record in the U.S., only surpassed by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six teachers a decade ago. “I guess it’s something in society we know will happen again, over and over,” a Sandy Hook father said.

National context: The massacre amplified an anguished debate over firearms legislation and the nation’s stupefying record of gun violence. Before the pandemic, the U.S. had more guns than citizens, and the pace of gun buying has risen. So has the toll of gun violence, especially on children.

International context: After the Christchurch massacre, which left 51 people dead in 2019, New Zealand banned most semiautomatic weapons and launched a buyback scheme to get thousands of guns out of circulation. The U.S.’s unique commitment to protecting guns has roots in the backlash to the Civil Rights Movement, Amanda Taub writes in The Interpreter, our sister newsletter.

A Ukrainian rocket launcher drove toward Sievierodonetsk on Tuesday.Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Russia narrows its focus in the east

Once, Moscow thought it would roll through Ukraine in a matter of days. Now, as the fourth month of the invasion dawns, Russia has concentrated its firepower and shortened supply lines to a 75-mile-wide sliver of land in the Donbas. It is making incremental gains. Here are live updates.

Sievierodonetsk, the easternmost city still under Ukrainian control, is Russia’s main target. Russian forces are approaching from three sides, at least six people have died and Ukrainian officials fear a repeat of the siege tactics used in Mariupol. “Sievierodonetsk is barely alive,” the head of the regional military administration said.

Analysis: Military analysts and Western intelligence officials believe that Russian forces would face brutal urban combat if they tried to fully capture Sievierodonetsk, and that they would struggle to mount an offensive deeper inside Ukraine.

Taiwan: The Biden administration accelerated its efforts to reshape Taiwan’s defense systems, using lessons from Ukraine in how to fend off a larger military. On Wednesday, China’s Army described organizing combat drills in the sea and airspace around Taiwan.

Other updates:

Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany and President Cyril Ramaphosa met last week in Pretoria, South Africa.Kim Ludbrook/EPA, via Shutterstock

Germany, Ukraine and Africa

Senegal and South Africa were among 16 African countries that abstained from a U.N. vote to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These abstentions have caused diplomatic tensions between Africa, Europe and the U.S., which Olaf Scholz tried to repair on his first trip to Africa since becoming the German chancellor.

As he tried to steer conversations toward questions of energy independence, Scholz saw firsthand the reluctance of some African countries to join the West in confronting Russia. The neutrality “could have far-reaching consequences for diplomacy and aid and assistance,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, an African think tank.

Senegal: Germany is working to wean itself off Russian gas; Senegal is preparing to develop renewable energy and it recently discovered offshore gas deposits. But President Macky Sall, the chairman of the African Union, put forth a both-sides diplomacy in a joint news conference with Scholz in Dakar, announcing that he would travel to both Moscow and Kyiv on an upcoming trip.

South Africa: Scholz and President Cyril Ramaphosa met with business leaders at the headquarters of the country’s main fuel supplier. Ramaphosa defended his unwillingness to impose sanctions on Russia and called for dialogue between Ukraine and Moscow.

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THE LATEST NEWS

World News
North Korean state media described this undated photo as Kim Jong-un standing next to an intercontinental ballistic missile.Korean Central News Agency, Via Reuters
U.S. News
Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, right, with former Vice President Mike Pence on Monday. Nicole Craine for The New York Times
A Morning Read
A mango orchard in Malihabad, India.Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

A blistering heat wave has devastated India’s beloved mango crop, threatening farmers’ livelihoods and imperiling culinary traditions. “The soul of a farmer shudders at seeing these fruitless trees,” one grower said.

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ARTS AND IDEAS

Love in the stars

Right now, mercury is in retrograde. If that sentence means something to you, you may be suited to the constellation of popular apps that use astrology to map meaning onto relationships. Among them: Ilios, a new dating app that matches users based on their supposed astrological compatibility.

At a recent launch event with college students, interest in the app generally fell along gender lines, Madeleine Aggeler reports. Most of the men knew their zodiac signs but felt indifferent. “I think for a week in seventh grade I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s so me,’” said Luke Anderson, 21, a Pisces. “And then I was like, ‘Oh wait, no, I don’t care.’”

Women tended to appreciate the concept more. “It’s basically like a weird statistic,” said Lexi Brooks, a 23-year-old Aries. — Sanam Yar

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook
Chris Simpson for The New York Times

Doenjang, a Korean fermented soybean paste, both marinates and lacquers this quick salmon dinner.

What to Read

The Uncollected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick” gathers the author’s elegant, eccentric ruminations on topics across American life.

Fitness
Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Towel (off) (Three letters).

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia and Lynsey

P.S. China lifted a Cultural Revolution ban on Shakespeare 45 years ago.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the Uvalde school shooting.

Sanam Yar wrote today’s Arts & Ideas. You can reach Amelia, Lynsey and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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