Your Thursday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering the latest from Trump’s impeachment trial, bad news for Britons dreaming of foreign travel and the sound of a 17,000-year-old conch shell.

Mr. Trump’s defense team has claimed that he did not want his supporters to storm the Capitol and that his language was protected free speech, not incitement of violence or insurrection. “There is no set of facts that ever justifies abrogating the freedoms granted to Americans in the United States Constitution,” Bruce Castor Jr., one of his lawyers, said.

Separately, Georgia prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into Mr. Trump’s phone call in January to the Georgia secretary of state asking him to “find” votes.

Republicans: Thousands of people have left the G.O.P. since the Capitol riot, according to voting registration data.

The announcement dashes the hopes of would-be holidaymakers and those in the tourism industry alike — many of whom believed that a relatively successful vaccine rollout in Britain might let Britons enjoy trips overseas this summer.

The transportation secretary, Grant Shapps, said on British television that international travel would depend on “everybody having their vaccinations” in Britain and that restrictions could remain in place as long as other countries have not made significant progress in vaccinations.

By the numbers: As of Wednesday, Britain had administered more than 12.5 million vaccine doses, equivalent to about 18 percent of its population, one of the highest rates in the world.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

As recently as four years ago, anxiety about nuclear weapons was low, except where North Korea was concerned. But unrestrained modern technologies, a lack of arms control and more numerous players have together created a world filled with nuclear dangers.

Many experts are now warning that President Biden must once again make arms control a priority or risk an accelerating nuclear arms race, with new threats to American allies in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. But few want to discuss those perils, especially in Europe, where debate about the risk of nuclear arms is almost nonexistent.

America’s partners in Europe and Asia want reassurance that U.S. security guarantees are valid, realistic and reliable, experts said. The most immediate fix in the wake of the Trump presidency would be to restore America’s dwindling credibility, though even that may not be easy.

Analysis: “The combination of these challenges raises the nuclear security of our allies anew, as they ask whether they can continue to rely on the United States as they’ve always done,” said Ivo Daalder, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO.

International relations: Mr. Biden spoke on Wednesday evening with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, the first conversation between the two since Mr. Biden’s election.

Myanmar sanctions: Mr. Biden announced a freeze on $1 billion in Myanmar government funds held in the U.S. and warned of more actions targeting the generals who deposed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup.

A small army of thousands in Britain has been hired by the country’s National Health Service and government-contracted firms for temporary jobs that are in high demand during the pandemic — like cleaning hospital wards, contact tracing and administering virus tests. Above, testing site workers near Cambridge.

Though the jobs are generally not well-paid, some workers say the work is providing them with solace: “If this is something I can do to help in the pandemic, or say I’ve played my part in it, that’s more rewarding than another job or not doing anything at all,” said Georgia Paget, an out-of-work stage manager.

Indian farmer protests: After initially refusing the Indian government’s requests to take down accounts critical of its handling of huge protests by farmers, Twitter relented on Wednesday and removed over 500 accounts. The company said it had acted after the government issued a notice of noncompliance, placing the company’s local employees under threat of prison.

Cladding crisis: The British government announced billions in additional funding for people living in apartment blocks clad in flammable material, who have been shouldering the costs of remediation work and safety patrols since the deadly Grenfell Tower blaze in 2017 drew attention to the problem.

China’s climate progress: Scientists said that emissions from China of CFC-11, a banned gas that harms the Earth’s ozone layer, had fallen sharply. The findings ease concerns that increased emissions would slow progress in the struggle to repair the ozone layer.

New Zealand’s Parliament: Rawiri Waititi, a Maori politician, was kicked out of Parliament this week for forgoing a tie, which he called a “colonial noose,” in favor of a traditional Maori pendant. Now, a committee has decided neckties are no longer mandatory.

Ancient sounds: A foot-long, 17,000-year-old conch shell is an extremely rare example of a “seashell horn” from the Paleolithic period — and it still works. A musician recently coaxed three notes from the Stone Age instrument. Listen here.

What we’re listening to: This gripping episode of the Reply All podcast, which looks at problems in Bon Appétit’s Test Kitchen long before the publication’s reckoning with racism last year.

Commonplace books can be traced to the Roman era and were a standard exercise in Renaissance Europe. Making one involves copying down your favorite lines from other people’s works into an annotated notebook. These can be song lyrics, movie dialogue, poems and any inspiring bits you find in your reading and listening. Here’s a guide for making one with modern technology.

Get inspired. The Yale University Library has scanned pages of historical commonplace books in its holdings, and the Harvard Library has a few in its own online collection, as well as images of a version of John Locke’s 17th-century guide to making commonplace books, which was originally published in French.

Take notes. For sheer simplicity, collecting your commonplace entries in a word-processing document stored online is one option. If you find that approach unwieldy, consider the note-taking app that came with your phone — Apple’s Notes or Google Keep. Just enter quotations and other text snippets whenever you get the urge. If you want to skip the typing or pasting, Google Keep can scan and transcribe text from images of book pages, and Apple’s Siri voice assistant or Google Assistant can create a note and take dictation.

Convert a paper notebook. What if you’re someone who has been keeping a physical commonplace book for years but would like to digitize the whole thing without retyping it all? One method: Snap a photo of each page and import the image into your notes app, which also preserves the look of your original hand-scrawled entries.

That’s it for this briefing. See you on Friday.

— Natasha

Thank you
Melina Delkic wrote today’s Back Story. Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the rest of the break from the news. You can reach Natasha and the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about what it will take to reopen schools in the U.S.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: What soy and almond milk lack (five letters). You can find all of our puzzles here.
• Rebecca Blumenstein, a deputy managing editor, is joining the publisher’s office as deputy editor.

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