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Your Monday Briefing – The New York Times

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Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, further intensified the crisis in Ukraine by placing his nuclear forces on alert, threatening the West as it rallied behind Ukraine. President Biden chose to de-escalate by refusing to change America’s own alert status, portraying Putin as once again manufacturing a menace. Follow the latest updates.

The U.N. Security Council responded by voting to convene a rare special session of the General Assembly — only the 11th time it has done so since 1950. Eleven of the Security Council’s 15 members voted in favor of the resolution. China, India and the U.A.E. abstained, as they had for a resolution last week condemning the invasion.

Despite Putin’s announcement, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, agreed to talks with Putin at the border with Belarus “without preconditions.” The talks are scheduled to begin today.

Fighting: The violence continued yesterday, with the Russians “shelling in almost all directions,” according to a Ukrainian military official. Residents of Ukraine’s country towns have joined the fight. More than 350 civilians, including 14 children, have been killed since the invasion began, according to Ukrainian officials. Satellite imagery showed a miles-long convoy of hundreds of Russian military vehicles closing in on Kyiv.

Two new studies point to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, as the birthplace of the coronavirus pandemic. Scientists concluded that the virus was very likely present in live mammals sold in the market, an object of early suspicion, in late 2019.

The studies, which have not yet been published in a scientific journal, suggest that the virus twice spilled over into people working or shopping there, and it found no support for the so-called lab leak theory.

But some outside scientists said they remained unconvinced by the studies’ findings. There is no direct evidence that animals at the market were infected with the coronavirus, and no wildlife was left there by the time Chinese researchers collected genetic samples in early 2020.

Details: Data on Covid cases from the social media app Weibo from December 2019 through February 2020 pointed to the market as the origin of the outbreak, with the virus then spreading to surrounding neighborhoods. The researchers ran tests that showed it was extremely unlikely that the pattern could be produced by chance.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

The Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a dispute that could restrict or even eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to control the pollution that is heating the planet, potentially shredding President Biden’s plans to halve greenhouse emissions in the U.S. by the end of the decade.

The outcome could also have repercussions that stretch well beyond air pollution, restricting the ability of federal agencies to regulate health care, workplace safety, telecommunications, the financial sector and more.

At issue is a lack of a federal regulation that governs emissions from power plants, after the Supreme Court put Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, his chief strategy to fight climate change, on hold. The Biden administration has yet to issue its own legislation. It is highly unusual for the court to take up a case that revolves around a hypothetical future regulation, legal experts said.

Analysis: “They could handcuff the federal government’s ability to affordably reduce greenhouse gases from power plants,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton. The power sector is the country’s second-largest source of carbon emissions.

Climate news: At least eight people died after days of torrential rain brought floods to Queensland, Australia.

Brazil, a country known for “beach bodies,” has become the world leader in enshrining protections for the overweight.

Over the past 20 years, Brazil’s obesity rate has doubled to more than one in four adults. In response, activists have fought to make life less difficult for overweight Brazilians, and the success of their efforts stands out globally for changing not just attitudes, but also laws.

Leo Bersani was a scholar of French literature. But he found renown for his studies of gay identity and his arguments that gay men should resist imitating conventional heterosexuality. Bersani has died at 90.

Cleaning out a home can be a morbid, depressing task, often best left until after you’re gone, when it’s no longer your problem. But what if you decide to tackle the chore now, while you’re still here to make the decisions?

As we begin to emerge from a long and deadly pandemic, some older Americans have decided to do just that, Ronda Kaysen reports for The Times. Professional home organizers are seeing an increase in calls from older clients who want to cut through the clutter and make their lives more livable.

Professionals often refer to the task as “death cleaning,” a term popularized in 2018 with the publication of the book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,” by Margareta Magnusson. It posits that the prospect of our eventual demise is reason enough to purge.

Magnusson suggests we choose not to burden our loved ones with a lifetime of personal effects, including letters or journals that may offend or upset. “I don’t think that’s nice to leave that to your own children,” she said in an interview. Simply put, we should be preparing for the end throughout our lives, pruning as we go.

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