Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times

Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, met yesterday with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in the first private, face-to-face exchange between a U.S. cabinet member and a top Kremlin official since the invasion of Ukraine. The meeting showed that the Biden administration saw a need to re-establish in-person diplomatic contacts with Moscow.

Blinken said he had used the unscheduled encounter, which lasted less than 10 minutes, to demand that Russia end its war on Ukraine, as well as to call for it to return to the New START nuclear arms control treaty. He also urged Moscow to free Paul Whelan, an American citizen who the State Department says is wrongfully imprisoned on espionage charges.

The meeting occurred on the sidelines of a gathering of top G20 diplomats. It came at a critical moment in the war: Both sides are marshaling more troops and weapons for planned spring offensives, hoping to score decisive breakthroughs. There has been little recent movement on the battlefield.

In other news from the war:

  • Senior American generals in Germany hosted Ukrainian military officials for a set of “tabletop” exercises designed to help Kyiv map out its next moves.

  • A brief armed incursion into a Russian border village by partisans claiming to fight for Ukraine drew an emergency response from the Kremlin yesterday.

Unusually high numbers of people fleeing economic misery and growing insecurity in their home countries are crossing the border from the U.S. into Canada. Nearly 40,000 migrants unlawfully entered the country last year — more than double the number in 2019 — and the number arriving monthly has soared recently, including almost 5,000 people in January.

Canada has actually sought to increase legal migration: Facing labor shortages, the country recently committed itself to accept 1.5 million newcomers by 2025. But an extraordinary pandemic-era movement of migrants across the world has left Canada grappling with a rare surge in mass illegal border crossings by land.

Using the kind of anti-migrant language that is rarely heard in Canada, opposition politicians are calling on the government to close off the country’s most famous illegal border crossing, Roxham Road in Quebec. After complaints mounted that the province was unfairly shouldering the effects, thousands of asylum seekers were transferred to communities in the neighboring province of Ontario.

Political effects: The surge in asylum seekers is also complicating a planned visit to Canada in March by President Biden, as he and Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, both face increasing domestic pressure to deal with unlawful migration at their borders.

The Greek government was supposed to install a safety system nearly three years ago that was designed to prevent deadly rail accidents. Instead, leading up to a devastating head-on train collision this week, railway officials had to rely on a rudimentary system that was not fully operational, leaving Greece’s busiest rail corridor vulnerable to human error.

Much of what happened before the crash, which killed 57 people, remains unclear. But officials and experts agreed on one thing: If a modern safety system had been in place as planned, it would have been all but impossible for a freight train to end up on the same track as a crowded passenger train.

Greece’s rail system consistently ranks among the continent’s most dangerous despite having received $700 million in modernization money from the E.U. over the past decade. The installation of the new safety system became so bogged down that a senior government official quit last year to protest what he called “unjustifiable delays.”

Context: The E.U. expects its 27 member countries to put in place sophisticated new procedures known as the European Train Control System by the end of the decade. That system monitors trains and takes control when they go too fast, pass through red lights or end up on the wrong tracks. Putting it into effect has been inconsistent across the bloc.

The Hotel Pennsylvania, in midtown Manhattan, was once the largest hotel on earth, with 2,200 rooms, shops, restaurants and its own newspaper.

Now, just 10 of its 22 stories remain, as chunks of a place that once mattered are gradually torn away. Scattered here and there are remnants that summon echoes of clattering cutlery and lobby chatter, haunting clarinet solos and the resonant voice of Doris Day.

The saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who shaped modern jazz as one of its most influential composers, died at 89.

The soccer star who spoke with a stutter and inspired millions: An interview with Ken Sema has been viewed more than 11.5 million times.

A guide to sounding like a Chelsea coach: Mourinho, Tuchel, Ancelotti and Conte: What can Graham Potter learn from his predecessors about talking “like a Chelsea coach?”

From The Times: The American speedskater Jordan Stolz, who at 18 is drawing comparisons to the Olympic champion Eric Heiden, will compete at the world championships this weekend in the Netherlands.

The Supreme Court is set to rule on a question that could change the way we think about art: Do artists have the right to appropriate another work in their own creation?

The case is based on an Andy Warhol silk-screen that adapted a photograph of the musician Prince. The original photographer objected to the print’s being republished, raising the question of whether she, or Warhol, could rightfully claim ownership of the image. An appeals court ruled in her favor.

Nine major American museums, including the Metropolitan in New York and the Getty in Los Angeles, wrote in a letter to the court that a decision against Warhol could also affect their collections, including works by Vincent Van Gogh and Roy Lichtenstein.

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