Good morning. We cover global energy challenges, missile deception in North Korea and the wild world of Wikipedia.
War provides global access to energy
On Thursday, the White House announced a plan to release up to 180 million barrels of oil from US strategic reserves, the largest release since it was created, in hopes of lowering gas prices. Oil prices, which had risen since the fighting began in Ukraine, fell modestly on expectations of the announcement. But diesel prices are still rising.
At the same time, OPEC and its allies, including Russia, decided to stick to their previously agreed plan of modest monthly production increases. Yet European leaders again rejected Russia’s demand to pay for gas supplies in rubles.
Food: The UN predicts the worst global hunger crisis in decades as the conflict curbs grain exports. Ukraine said Thursday it had lost $1.5 billion in such exports since the start of the war.
saboteurs: Ukraine’s fear of Russian spies has led to an increase in checkpoints, hotlines and apps for reporting suspicious activity.
Schools: European teachers struggle to explain the war to their students.
fighters: Hundreds of Syrian mercenaries will join Russian forces, effectively doing a favor: Moscow helped President Bashar al-Assad crush the rebels in the country’s 11-year civil war.
State of the war:
NATO said there was little evidence that Russia was fulfilling its promise to withdraw from the area around Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, and that troops appeared to be regrouping instead.
Has North Korea faked a launch?
North Korea last week conducted its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile test yet, saying it had launched the Hwasong-17, the newest and largest ICBM.
South Korea now says this may have been a ruse. Officials say Kim Jong-un used video editing to disguise an older, though possibly upgraded, Hwasong-15 missile, exaggerating the north’s weapons performance. Kim urgently needs diplomatic contact with the US and the South, as well as boosting his image at home.
The launch may not have been a hoax. But if so, it provides insight into Kim’s domestic strategy: He used it as propaganda, relying on a crude presentation of photos and a Hollywood-style video to demonstrate his seemingly unerring leadership.
Recent: North Korea began testing the Hwasong-17 this year and had two successful launches, on February 27 and March 5. During its third test, on March 16, the rocket exploded shortly after launch. Some analysts say this deception may have been damage control.
Pandemic Tensions in Hong Kong
Shortly after the Omicron variant overwhelmed Hong Kong’s health care system, Beijing stepped in to help. China sent contractors to build isolation facilities, more than 1,000 medical workers to treatment centers and even butchers to help stabilize the local meat supply.
The city’s Beijing-backed establishment welcomed the aid. But some residents see the outreach as an overreach.
Critics are frustrated by the centralized isolation of patients and widespread building blockades — common features of China’s strategy to have zero Covid cases, but poignantly ill-aligned with the city’s long-standing protections for individual freedoms.
Did you grow up in a grid city, like parts of New York, Osaka or Melbourne? A recent study suggests that this may have hindered your lifelong navigation skills, a finding that could eventually lead to navigation-based tests to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.
ART AND IDEAS
The Strange World of Wikipedia
We often take Wikipedia for granted. An alphabetical list of US states. The year the actor died. What does the flag of Nepal look like again?
But Annie Rauwerda, the 22-year-old who created the @depthsofwikipedia Instagram account to mine some of the site’s weirdest pages, thinks it’s the best thing on the web. “It’s what the internet was supposed to be,” she said. “It has a hacker ethos of working together and making something.”
War between Russia and Ukraine: important developments
She engages in deep web archaeology, exposing pages from funny (a chicken literally crossing a road in China’s Yunnan province) to beneficial (Hatsuyume, the Japanese word for the first dream of the new year).
Followers often pitch her pages, but it’s hard to impress Rauwerda these days. If something has already caused ripples on social media, she won’t bother: “There are only 25 zeppelins in the world, for example,” she said. “It went viral on Twitter a few days ago. I was shocked. I was like, ‘Everyone knows this.’”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook?
That was it for today’s briefing. Until next time. — Amelia
PS A hidden haiku from The Times: “But in the midst of / all this became Will Smith’s victory / defeat.”
The latest episode of “The Daily” is about partisan gerrymandering in the US
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