Wednesday Briefing: Aid workers killed in Gaza

Plus, can A.I. really boost productivity?
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Morning Briefing: Asia Pacific Edition

April 3, 2024

Author Headshot

By Amelia Nierenberg

Writer, Briefings

Good morning. We’re covering the deaths of aid workers in Gaza and a call between President Biden and Xi Jinping.

Plus, can A.I. really boost productivity?

The roof of a white vehicle with the logo for World Central Kitchen which has been marred by a blackened hole left by a military strike.
The aid workers were traveling in armored vehicles clearly marked with the World Central Kitchen logo. Ismael Abu Dayyah/Associated Press

Aid workers killed in Gaza

Israeli strikes on an aid convoy run by the charity group World Central Kitchen killed seven of its workers in the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized, and said Israel “deeply regrets” the strike. He called it “a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people.”

The workers were traveling in clearly marked vehicles, and World Central Kitchen said it had coordinated its movements with Israel’s military. Israel is investigating the circumstances surrounding the strikes.

The war has been exceptionally dangerous for aid workers — at least 196 have been killed since the war began, according to the U.N. World Central Kitchen, which has become an important player in delivering supplies to an enclave on the edge of famine, has suspended its operations in Gaza. So has another aid agency, American Near East Refugee Aid.

What we know: The aid workers killed included a Palestinian, an Australian, a Pole, three Britons and a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen. The convoy of three vehicles had just left a food warehouse. Videos and photos verified by The Times suggest it was hit multiple times.

Other updates:

  • Damascus strike: Israel’s bombing of an Iranian Embassy building in Syria was a major escalation of its shadow war with Iran, our chief diplomatic correspondent writes.
  • Al-Shifa: Israel granted our Jerusalem bureau chief a rare visit to the major Gazan hospital.
  • The U.S.: Donald Trump’s call for Israel to “finish up” the war, without insisting on freeing hostages first, has alarmed some Republicans and Israelis.
A close up shot of President Biden speaking into a microphone. He's wearing a blue suit with an American lapel pin.
The call was part of the Biden administration’s goal of managing competition “responsibly,” an official said. Bonnie Cash for The New York Times

In a rare call, Biden spoke with Xi

President Biden had a rare telephone conversation with Xi Jinping, China’s leader, yesterday that was aimed at addressing a variety of issues, both combative and cooperative, and steady a relationship that hit a multi-decade low last year.

The topics raised by Biden included fighting narcotics production, the Middle East conflict, North Korea’s nuclear program and China’s support of Russia during the Ukraine war, according to a summary provided of the call. He also raised concerns over Beijing’s aggression involving Taiwan and the South China Sea.

China said that Xi had called for “concrete actions” to demonstrate a U.S. commitment not to support Taiwan’s independence. Xi also criticized the “endless stream of measures” taken by the U.S. to try to suppress China’s economy, science and technology, China said.

Context: Biden and Xi have both sought to prevent any public eruptions. Biden wants to focus on his re-election campaign, while Xi faces a troubled economy and corruption in the top ranks of his military.

What’s next: Janet Yellen, the U.S. treasury secretary, is heading to China this week for economic talks. Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, will follow soon afterward.

A military vehicle carrying a number of soldiers drives down the road as dawn is beginning to break.
Russian soldiers who now fight for Ukraine riding on top of an armored vehicle. David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Drones struck deep inside Russia

Exploding drones hit an oil refinery and munitions factory far to the east of Moscow yesterday. Ukrainian media and military experts said the attack was among the longest-range strikes with Ukrainian drones so far in the war.

The drones struck in the Tatarstan region, about 700 miles (over 1,100 kilometers) from Ukrainian-held territory. Ukraine’s campaign of strikes against Russian refineries since last October has shrunk Russia’s refining capacity, and has recently forced Moscow to enact a six-month ban on gasoline exports.

Weapons: Ukraine is increasing its arms production. It may not be moving fast enough.

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The authorities said renovation work at the club, Masquerade, may have caused the fire. Ozan Kose/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MORNING READ

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This is neither a prison nor a fortress. Instead, it’s a bird house on Borneo for swiftlets. Nyimas Laula for The New York Times

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ARTS AND IDEAS

A vibrantly colored graphic composed of a cartoonish computer at the center, surrounded by arrangements of various icons and shapes.
Shira Inbar

Is A.I. increasing productivity?

Many big companies have adopted generative A.I. to deal with annoying tasks, beef up their marketing pushes or match prices to demand. And enthusiastic tech investors have added trillions in market value to a few firms.

But the research on A.I. and efficiency is still shaky. Many economists and officials seem dubious that A.I. has spread enough to show up in productivity data already. Others, like the M.I.T. labor economist David Autor, say it could potentially increase the size of the middle class by allowing workers to perform some tasks that currently require highly skilled experts.

RECOMMENDATIONS

A shallow bowl filled with yellow pasta garnished with green herbs.
David Malosh for The New York Times

Cook: Add turmeric to this creamy pasta.

Read: Neel Mukherjee’s “Choice” is a novel full of characters deciding how much truth to tell.

Eat: Planning a trip to New York? Here’s our ranking of the 100 best restaurants.

Give: Take a look at these presents for frequent travelers.

Play Spelling Bee, the Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku. Find all our games here.

That’s it for today. See you tomorrow. — Amelia

P.S. Spelling Bee enthusiasts explained why they wake up in the middle of the night to write hints.

Email us at briefing@nytimes.com.

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