The New York Times - Your Thursday Briefing: Crisis averted?

Leaders call an explosion in Poland an “unfortunate accident.” Plus, Tuvalu’s “digital twin.”
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By Amelia Nierenberg

Writer, Briefings

Good morning. We’re covering an “unfortunate accident” in Poland. Plus, Tuvalu’s digital plan to weather sea level rise.

Investigators near the site of the explosion in Przewodow, Poland.Wojtek Radwanski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Poland calls blast a likely accident

On Tuesday, an explosion in Poland near the border with Ukraine killed two people. Initial reports suggested that a Russian missile caused the explosion. But a fuller picture has since emerged.

Andrzej Duda, Poland’s president, said that early indications suggested that Ukrainian efforts to counter a barrage of Russian missiles caused the blast — not a direct attack on his country. He called it an “unfortunate accident” and said that there was “no evidence at the moment that it was a rocket launched by Russian forces.”

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, also said that a Ukrainian air defense missile most likely caused the explosion in the tiny village of Przewodow, and that a fuller investigation was still underway. But Stoltenberg and the White House both said that even if the missile was Ukrainian, Russia was ultimately responsible.

“Let me be clear: This is not Ukraine’s fault,” Stoltenberg said. “Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.”

Details: Stoltenberg stressed that there was no indication of a deliberate attack by Russia or of any Russian plans to attack a NATO ally — meaning that NATO’s commitment to collective defense was not at issue.

Blame: Russia denied responsibility. Ukraine did, too. Both countries use the type of Russian-built missile that was recovered from the scene.

Attacks: Russia’s strikes on infrastructure have continued, leaving more Ukrainians without utilities or internet.

Diplomacy: At the G20 summit, China said it wanted to “deepen practical cooperation” with Russia but signaled that Beijing is becoming more guarded about the war.

Justin Trudeau and Xi Jinping spoke briefly at the G20 summit in Bali.Adam Scotti/Prime Minister’s Office, via Reuters

Xi’s tense exchange with Trudeau

Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, spoke sharply to Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, at the end of the G20 summit. In a short video, Xi accused Trudeau of leaking details of a conversation.

“That’s not appropriate,” Xi said, with a tight smile, speaking through a translator. He said that “sincerity” would be needed for fruitful discussion.

“In Canada, we believe in free and open and frank dialogue,” Trudeau responded, adding: “We will continue to look to work constructively together, but there will be things we will disagree on.”

Xi got the final word, offering a glimpse into his muscular style of personal diplomacy. “Let’s create the conditions first.” After a brisk handshake, they parted ways.

Context: Earlier this month, Trudeau sharply criticized China after reports of election meddling. He said China and other countries were “continuing to play aggressive games with our institutions, with our democracies.”

Details: Xi and Trudeau spoke briefly but did not have a formal meeting. Canadian media reported that Trudeau had discussed the war in Ukraine and also raised the interference reports, citing the prime minister’s office.

People protesting in Guangzhou, China, as seen in a still image obtained from a video.Video Obtained by Reuters

A rare Covid protest in China

Residents in Guangzhou took to the streets on Monday after three weeks of lockdown and food shortages.

The rare protest in China’s southern manufacturing hub reflected growing public frustration with disruptions caused by the nation’s strict “zero-Covid” policy. Many demonstrators were migrant workers working in the city’s textile industry, witnesses told The Times.

Guangzhou officials have enforced lockdowns in several districts that are home to roughly 6 million people. They put up barricades around neighborhoods where positive cases were recorded.

Some protesters tore down such fences. Videos circulating on social media showed an overturned police vehicle, ransacked food provisions and altercations between residents and health officials. It was unclear if anyone died.

Numbers: Nationwide, case counts reached 19,609 yesterday, the highest daily total in over six months.

Context: Earlier this month, a poorly managed outbreak in the world’s largest iPhone assembly complex in Zhengzhou led to a worker exodus and a delay in iPhone shipments.

Other details: In Beijing, authorities locked down Peking University after finding one recorded case, The Associated Press reports.

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CLIMATE

Tuvalu’s ‘digital twin’

Tuvalu, a tiny, low-lying nation island in the Pacific, is on the front lines of sea level rise. Already at high tide, 40 percent of the capital district is underwater.

This week, Tuvalu announced that it plans to build a digital version of itself to live on after its physical land is submerged or becomes uninhabitable.

Part archive, part obituary, the eye-catching project is also a quest for “digital sovereignty,” an effort to preserve statehood and administrative functions even as the water rises. (Seoul and Barbados have taken similar steps to move management to the metaverse.)

“We’ve been looking at how can we continue to function as a state, although we lose our territory,” Simon Kofe, Tuvalu’s minister of foreign affairs, told me in an interview.

Kofe described the project as a “digital twin in the metaverse” of the country itself and compared it to “a government in exile,” which can happen after a coup.

Kofe presented the idea to COP27 in a recorded speech, which he delivered from a digital model of an island that he said was likely to be one of the first spots in Tuvalu to be submerged. Last year, he spoke to COP26 standing knee-deep in the sea.

“The primary strategy for us is to save the islands,” Kofe told me. “But as a responsible government, we feel that we need to have a Plan B because the science is telling us that we’re heading toward that worst-case scenario.”

In other climate news: At COP27, world leaders are clashing over whether they should stick to a target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Beyond that threshold, scientists say, the risk of climate catastrophes increases significantly.

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

Cooking
Bryan Gardner for The New York Times

This one-pot vegetable biryani is adaptable and flavorful.

Books

Tracers in the Dark” chronicles the hunt for crypto-criminals.

Music

The 2023 Grammy shortlist celebrates the year’s best records.

Ask Well

What are sugar alcohols and are they better for you than regular sugar?

Games

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Vindaloo or korma (five letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

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

P.S. Our Seoul newsroom has made some exciting changes, as editors take on new roles.

The Daily” is on the Republican Party. And “Still Processing” discusses returning to the office.

You can always reach me at briefing@nytimes.com.

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