It’s Not Just Men and Boys Who Are Struggling Right Now

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about The Problem With Men. Several books have been published that focus on the declining fortunes of American males — notably Richard Reeves’s “Of Boys and Men” and Senator Josh Hawley’s “Manhood.” As summarized by my colleagues on their new podcast, “Matter of Opinion”: Men are less likely to graduate from college now, they’re lonely, they’re more likely to die “deaths of despair,” grapple with alcohol and drug abuse, and they’re participating less in the labor market.

These are all serious problems, and I certainly think it’s fair to say that there are deep societal issues that are plaguing men, specifically. But, as Lydia Polgreen points out toward the end of the podcast, things aren’t going all that well for many American girls and women, either.

Particularly for women without college degrees — who are still the majority of adult women — the future frequently isn’t golden. While Black and Hispanic women still earn less than their white and Asian American counterparts, overall, according to Pew Research, “the pay gap between college-educated women and men is not any narrower than the one between women and men who do not have a college degree.”

While white, Hispanic and Asian American women still outlive their Black and Native American counterparts, overall, the mortality trends appear to be going in the wrong direction most starkly for non-college-educated white women. In 2012, The Times reported, researchers found that “the steepest declines” in life expectancy “were for white women without a high school diploma.” In 2019, Republicans on the Senate’s Joint Economic Committee released a report that found that “the suicide rate for middle-aged non-Hispanic white women has approached its all-time high.” In 2020, the economist Anne Case, co-author of the book “Deaths of Despair,” put it bluntly:

It is hard to exaggerate the role that deaths of despair have played in increasing women’s mortality rates. In 1992, white women ages forty-five to fifty-four without a bachelor’s degree were three times more likely to die of heart disease than from a death of despair. Now they are thirty percent more likely to die from drugs, alcohol or suicide. Beneath these deaths we document increases in pain, in mental distress and social isolation for those without a four-year college degree.

An excellent new book by Monica Potts, “The Forgotten Girls: A Memoir of Friendship and Lost Promise in Rural America,” humanizes these bleak statistics. Potts, who grew up in Clinton, Ark., traces the divergent paths of herself and her childhood best friend, Darci. The children of working-class white parents in this small Southern town, they started out together as book-loving, straight-A students.

But by the end of high school, their fates had already split: Potts got scholarships to attend Bryn Mawr and went on to establish a career in journalism, while Darci languished in their hometown, with spotty employment. Darci struggled with domestic abuse and substance abuse, and her mother ended up raising her two children.

When I spoke to Potts earlier this week, she said part of her motivation for writing the book was that the conversation about who is struggling in America had been very focused on men. For all the advances we’ve made for girls and women, Potts said, “There are a lot of communities around the country where women are still really expected to take a back seat for men,” and they’re expected to rely on men. There’s also a permissive attitude toward boys that girls don’t benefit from. “Boys could get by with anything,” one of Potts’s childhood friends tells her, “but girls were held to a higher standard.”

In “The Forgotten Girls,” Potts, who graduated from high school in 1998, describes schoolmates as young as 14 having babies, and one who got married at 15. (She had to cross the state line into Missouri, where at the time it was legal to marry at that age.) Though Potts said getting married at 15 was an outlier, it was not unusual for girls to get married and start having children in their later teens. Theirs was a conservative Christian, and judgmental, culture, Potts writes, that frowned on premarital sex even though it was as common as anywhere else in America. “As if they were living in the Victorian era,” the girls in Clinton “assumed that because they’d gone all the way with someone, they had to marry him.” Many of these young marriages didn’t work out well.

At the heart of Potts’s book is the question: Why was she able to build a thriving, financially stable life and career for herself, when so many of her counterparts, who came from the same background, weren’t? After all, Potts had a horrible family tragedy occur just weeks before she left for college, and could have easily been diverted from her path up and out. She told me she thinks that her mother, who lived in Chicago in her 20s before returning to Arkansas, and hadn’t wanted to come back, was an influence. “The whole time she was raising us, it was all about how she didn’t want us to be satisfied in life in Clinton,” she said. But her mother’s propulsion came at a cost; Potts says she missed out on relishing some joys of her hometown culture, and its natural beauty, because she was so focused on leaving.

Potts did ultimately return to Clinton, where she now lives with her partner. And after years of struggling, Darci is now sober and doing well, she says. But Potts is careful to note that there’s a dearth of opportunity in towns like hers. “The kinds of jobs available and the kinds of opportunities available are just slim,” she said. The takeaway is that problems for girls and women in some parts of America are as sticky and complicated as the problems for boys and men: They’re cultural, they’re economic, and they’re entrenched.

“The Forgotten Girls,” isn’t particularly prescriptive, which I appreciated because often the proposed solutions underplay the scale of the problems — there’s no silver bullet fix, as much as we’d like there to be one. In her book, Potts quotes Tyler Watts, an assistant professor of developmental psychology at Columbia Teachers College, who studies educational policies aimed at underserved communities, and he sums up the gravity of the issues at hand: “All of the things that are leading someone to be disadvantaged are complex, and they’re sometimes multigenerational, and they’re embedded in both the culture and the environment and personal behavior. In order to come up with a solution to it, we probably have to find an intervention that is proportionate to the problem.”

The one thing Potts said she’d like to see for kids in places like Clinton is the ability to be connected to opportunities beyond their hometowns and their monocultures. The activities and communities tended to center on sports and church, Potts told me, and there’s so much to the world beyond that. In the book, she described a lucky break she had as a high school student, attending a summer program at Barnard, which she believes opened her eyes. She wants to see more children from backgrounds like hers having access to that kind of gateway.

Parenting can be a grind. Let’s celebrate the tiny victories.

My 3-year-old was throwing a tantrum over not wanting to go to day care. After a few minutes of rebellion, I reminded him we don’t have other family close by (we are immigrants), so we need to help each other out, and could he at least try? He stopped his tantrum, looked at me, said, “OK mommy,” and ran to the door to head out. He makes my day, everyday.

— Marcia Okabayashi, Texas

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China Has Had a Spy Base in Cuba for Years, U.S. Official Says

A Biden administration official said that the Chinese spy base was an issue inherited from President Donald J. Trump, and that Biden aides have been using diplomacy to try to counter it.

A Chinese spy base in Cuba that could intercept electronic signals from nearby U.S. military and commercial buildings has been up and running since or before 2019, when the Chinese base was upgraded, according to a Biden administration official.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence, said the spy base was an issue that the Biden administration had inherited from former President Donald J. Trump. After Mr. Biden took office, his administration was briefed about the base in Cuba as well as plans China was considering to build similar facilities across the globe, the official said.

The Biden administration has been working to counter China’s efforts to gain a foothold in the region and elsewhere, the official said, chiefly by engaging diplomatically with nations that China was pursuing as potential hosts for such bases. The official added that the administration had slowed China’s plans but declined to give specifics. 

The existence of an agreement to build a Chinese spy facility in Cuba, first reported by The Wall Street Journal and also reported by The New York Times and other news outlets, prompted a forceful response from Capitol Hill. In a joint statement on Thursday, Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the panel’s top Republican, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, said they were “deeply disturbed by reports that Havana and Beijing are working together to target the United States and our people.”

It is not clear if Beijing and Havana have plans to further enhance China’s intelligence gathering capabilities on the island nation.

John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, denied the reports earlier in the week, saying they were “not accurate.” He added that “we have had real concerns about China’s relationship with Cuba, and we have been concerned since Day 1 of the administration about China’s activities in our hemisphere and around the world.”

Some of the Biden administration’s critics questioned the motives for the administration’s response.

“Why did the Biden administration previously deny these reports of a C.C.P. spy base in Cuba? Why did they downplay the ‘silly’ C.C.P. spy balloon?” Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, the Republican chairman of the House select committee looking into strategic competition with China, said in a statement Saturday, referring to the Chinese Communist Party by its initials.

While Beijing’s global efforts to build military bases and listening outposts have been documented previously, the reports detailed the extent to which China is bringing its intelligence-gathering operations into ever-closer proximity with the United States. Cuba’s coastline is less than 100 miles from the nearest part of Florida, a close enough distance to enhance China’s technological ability to conduct signals intelligence, by monitoring the electronic communications across the U.S. southeast, which is home to several military bases.

The reports also surfaced at an awkward moment for the Biden administration, which has been trying to normalize relations with China after a protracted period of heightened tensions. Last year, several diplomatic, military and climate engagements between the two countries were frozen after Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan over objections from Beijing, which considers the self-governing island part of its territory.

High-level meetings, including an official trip by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, were canceled again earlier this year, after a Chinese spy balloon was seen crossing the United States by people on the ground, and tracked hovering near sensitive military sites.

Mr. Blinken is expected to make that official visit to Beijing soon, and it is unclear if revelations of a Chinese spy facility so close to U.S. territory could complicate those plans. Other issues hover over the trip, including growing calls for China to release Yuyu Dong, a prominent journalist who has been detained since February last year and is awaiting trial on charges of espionage that his family members say are false. Mr. Dong, a former Nieman fellow at Harvard, met for years in a transparent manner with American and Japanese diplomats and journalists in Beijing.

Edward Wong contributed reporting.

Joran van der Sloot Pleads Not Guilty in Natalee Holloway Extortion Case

More than a decade after being indicted by the United States for wire fraud and extortion, Joran van der Sloot was arraigned in Alabama.

Joran van der Sloot, who has been linked to the 2005 disappearance of an American teenager, Natalee Holloway, pleaded not guilty to extortion and fraud charges in court in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday after he was temporarily extradited from Peru to the United States.

At his appearance at the Hugo L. Black United States Court House, Mr. van der Sloot spoke only to decline the services of a Dutch translator and to acknowledge that he understood the charges against him.

He pleaded not guilty through his lawyer, Kevin Butler, a federal public defender.

Before arriving in Alabama on Thursday afternoon, Mr. van der Sloot, 35, had been serving a prison sentence in Peru, where he pleaded guilty to the 2010 murder of a 21-year-old Peruvian student, Stephany Flores.

Last month, the Peruvian authorities announced that they would allow his extradition temporarily to ensure that he “finally faces justice” in the United States.

“Peru was very instrumental in this process,” said George Seymore, a representative for Beth Holloway, Natalee’s mother. “They did not have to allow this process to go forward.”

Around the time of his arrest in the Flores case, Mr. van der Sloot was indicted by a federal grand jury in Alabama on charges of trying to extort Ms. Holloway for $250,000 for information about how her daughter died and where was her body, which has never been found.

He accepted an initial payment of $25,000 in an F.B.I. sting operation and gave what he knew was false information, the authorities said at the time.

Natalee Holloway was 18 when she disappeared after a night out in Aruba on May 30, 2005, during a trip with her Alabama high school class. A judge declared her legally dead in 2012, but the unsolved case has generated public interest for years.

“Now, 18 years later, the wheels of justice have finally begun to turn for our family, and we are getting our long-awaited day in court,” Ms. Holloway said in a statement. “With the felony arraignment complete, prosecution of this criminal case has officially begun.”

Ms. Holloway added that Mr. van der Sloot’s not guilty plea was “not disheartening to us” and that she was confident that federal prosecutors would gain a conviction.

Lawyers for the Holloway family expect the case to go to trial, but the timing remains unclear.

“While today’s arraignment represents a significant step forward, we must remember that the pursuit of justice is far from over,” John Q. Kelly, a lawyer for Beth Holloway, said in a statement.

Mr. van der Sloot was being held at the Shelby County Jail in Alabama as of Friday.

If he is found guilty in the extortion case, he will first return to Peru to complete the rest of his 28-year sentence for the murder of Ms. Flores, who was killed by strangulation, before returning to the United States for prison time.

Expert Picks: Who Will Win the Belmont Stakes?

Joe Drape and Melissa Hoppert assess the contenders for the 155th Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

National Treasure, coming off a victory in the Preakness Stakes on May 20, will try to add another leg of the Triple Crown to his résumé with a win in the 155th Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

The Kentucky Derby winner, Mage, will not stand in his way; he is skipping the Belmont after finishing third in the Preakness. But Forte, the Derby favorite who was scratched the morning of the race with a foot bruise, is back and considered a strong contender.

The Belmont horses are listed in order of post position, with comments by Joe Drape and Melissa Hoppert of The New York Times. The morning-line odds were set by David Aragona of the New York Racing Association.

Purse: $1.5 million guaranteed Distance: 1½ miles

Track record: 2:24 (Secretariat, 1973)

Weight: 126 pounds

Post time: 7:02 p.m. Eastern on Saturday

How to watch: Coverage begins on Fox at 3 p.m. Eastern.

Joe Drape’s win-place-show picks: Arcangelo, Tapit Shoes, Angel of Empire

Melissa Hoppert’s picks: Tapit Trice, Forte, Arcangelo

Here’s how we see the field:

Trainer: Brad Cox Jockey: Jose Ortiz Odds: 20-1

Drape: This long shot may control the speed from the rail. He’s bred for this marathon and rounding into form. Dangerous runner.

Hoppert: His sire, Tapit, has produced four Belmont winners. But this colt, who has won once in five starts, will not add to that haul.

Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: Luis Saez Odds: 3-1

Drape: This race demands a high cruising speed. This colt is a closer who has trouble out of the gate. Short odds, no thanks.

Hoppert: This talented gray son of Tapit got stuck in traffic in the Derby and finished seventh. He has been training well since, and with more room to run, look for his closing kick to be on full display. My pick.

Trainer: Jena Antonucci Jockey: Javier Castellano Odds: 8-1

Drape: This gray colt has a win on the racetrack. He is not chewed up by the Triple Crown grind. My pick.

Hoppert: He’s rapidly improving and has already won on this track. Plus, his pedigree suggests he can go a mile and a half.

National Treasure, who won the Preakness Stakes on May 20, worked out at Belmont Park on Friday.John Minchillo/Associated Press

Trainer: Bob Baffert Jockey: John Velazquez Odds: 5-1

Drape: Nice Preakness win for this colt. This time around, however, he will be pushed early by a couple of others and will not get an easy lead.

Hoppert: He held on to win a slow Preakness by a nose, but the added distance will give him trouble.

Trainer: Antonio Sano Jockey: Marcos Meneses Odds: 30-1

Drape: He had two strong workouts at his home base Gulfstream Park in Florida. He wants the lead, but I do not think he can outrun his odds.

Hoppert: He went gate-to-wire in a one-mile optional claiming race at Gulfstream last time out, but he was no better than fifth in his Derby preps. Pass.

Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. Odds: 5-2

Drape: He has not raced in two months. Before the Derby scratch, he was the “wow” horse. In the Belmont, he will be the “not now” horse.

Hoppert: He won five straight to earn Derby favorite honors before being scratched the morning of the race with a hoof injury. He’s still the best of the bunch, but can he win this grueling of a race after such a long layoff?

Trainer: Brad Cox Jockey: Manny Franco Odds: 10-1

Drape: Honest colt who has competed at four different tracks. If he likes Belmont, he has a shot.

Hoppert: He’s a hard-trying colt who ran better than his fifth-place Derby finish suggests. But he would need a career-best performance to pull off an upset here.

Angel of Empire at Belmont Park on Wednesday.John Minchillo/Associated Press

Trainer: Brad Cox Jockey: Flavien Prat Odds: 7-2

Drape: He closed well in the Derby and fits with the Frenchman Prat. If he still has gas in the tank, he is a contender.

Hoppert: The third-place Derby finisher will add blinkers in the Belmont, a marathon in which he should thrive as long as Prat keeps him close to the leaders.

Trainer: Steve Asmussen Jockey: Joel Rosario Odds: 15-1

Drape: A closer with only two wins in 10 tries? No thanks.

Hoppert: A fourth-place finish in the plodding Preakness does little to inspire confidence.

Secretariat’s Legend Rolls on Like, Well, a Tremendous Machine

Fifty years after Secretariat clinched the Triple Crown with a runaway win in the Belmont Stakes, fans still long to connect with his story.

It was a performance for the ages, growing more mythic as time goes on. Having won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in record fashion, Secretariat rocketed out of the starting gate on June 9, 1973 — his best start yet — and never let up. He moved “liked a tremendous machine,” as the announcer Chic Anderson put it, and crushed his competition by a whopping 31 lengths to win the Belmont Stakes on an uncomfortably warm but utterly joyous afternoon at Belmont Park.

Like his lead in the Belmont, his legend has swelled even though his youngest current fans had not even been born when he was crowned the ninth Triple Crown champion and the first in 25 years. Nine of the best 3-year-olds in the country will face off Saturday during the 50th anniversary celebration of Secretariat’s Triple Crown feat, but none will even come close to achieving the superstar status of the big red horse.

“I was amazed with that horse all along,” said his jockey, Ron Turcotte, who at 81 is the lone survivor of Secretariat’s inner circle, which included the owner Penny Chenery, the trainer Lucien Laurin and the groom Eddie Sweat. “He was doing things that we’ve never seen before that we’ll probably never see again.”

Horses raced past the pole that indicates where the nearest competitor was when Secretariat won the Belmont. The pole is 253 feet, 2 inches from the finish line.Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

In the Derby, Secretariat broke a step slow, but Turcotte, unworried, let the colt find his legs and run his race. At the top of the stretch, Turcotte asked for more, and Secretariat zipped past his rival Sham to win by two and a half lengths in 1 minute 59⅖ seconds. He ran each quarter-mile faster than the one before, unheard-of in horse racing.

In the Preakness, Turcotte made a bold decision to launch a spectacular move on the first turn. After taking the lead, Secretariat was never challenged, and he won by two and a half lengths. Sham again settled for second. Secretariat’s final time was recorded as 1:55, a second slower than the Preakness record. But clockers recorded faster times, and by Monday, the stewards voted to change the official time to their clocker’s mark of 1:54⅖, still short of the record. It wasn’t until 2012, after Chenery hired companies to conduct a forensic review of the race using technology that hadn’t existed in 1973, that the Maryland Racing Commission agreed to change the official time to 1:53, establishing the record at last.

Then came the Belmont, his pièce de résistance. If Anderson’s call of the race was the pinnacle of his lyrical craft, then a picture credited to the track photographer Bob Coglianese was its visual counterpart. It shows Secretariat head on, hooves hovering above the track in full flight, as Turcotte looks over his left shoulder at the timer that would register Secretariat as running the Belmont in 2:24, two seconds faster than any horse before or after. A blue-and-white checked pole — the color of Chenery’s silks — marks the margin of victory, almost unbelievable in scope. “I still had a lot of horse when I passed the wire,” Turcotte said. “He wasn’t even sweating.”

Secretariat about to win the 1973 Belmont Stakes by a record 31 lengths. This photograph is among the best known artifacts of the day.Bob Coglianese/Lexington Herald-Leader, via Tribune News Service, via Getty Images

Adam Coglianese, who took over as official track photographer when his father retired, said of the photograph: “That stride is exactly what we would look for today. It’s basically dumb luck. When you shoot one frame, like they did back then, you can’t plan what you’re going to get.”

A recent account questioned whether Bob Coglianese, who was the New York Racing Association’s track photographer for over 50 years, had taken the picture at all. Adam Coglianese disputed any claim to the contrary but acknowledged that he knew little of the particulars of the black-and-white shot, including whether it had even been developed that night.

“He was very cautious about everything we did,” Adam Coglianese said of his father. “I don’t think people understand what goes into preparing for a Triple Crown. For weeks going into American Pharoah’s race, I was drawing a map of where each of my 20 photographers would stand.”

Whether Bob Coglianese, who died last year at 88, or someone else on his team shot the image only seems to add to the horse’s legend, which extended far beyond the racetrack.

Belmont Park track photographer Adam Coglianese, the son of Bob Coglianese.Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

In Paris, Ky., off Secretariat Way, sits Claiborne Farm, one of America’s most storied breeding operations. Its black-and-yellow breeding shed, built in 1910, has produced 22 winners of the Derby, 20 of the Preakness, 22 of the Belmont and six of the 13 Triple Crown champions, including Secretariat.

A corner stall in the stallion barn still bears Secretariat’s name and that of his sire, Bold Ruler, among those of other elites who have inhabited the space. Father and son are buried behind the office in a graveyard that is a who’s who of thoroughbred royalty.

On most days, Secretariat’s modest gravestone is draped with mementos from fans, who mark every birthday and anniversary with roses — some red, some painted blue. They also leave pennies, a nod to Chenery, an unlikely heroine who took over her father’s farm early in Secretariat’s career and saved it with the horse’s Triple Crown run and the $6.08 million syndication of his breeding rights, a record at the time.

Secretariat’s tombstone in Paris, Ky. The pennies are a tribute to his owner, Penny Chenery.Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

“He kind of was like a rallying cry for America,” the Claiborne president, Walker Hancock, said, invoking the era of Richard Nixon, the Watergate scandal and the end of the Vietnam War. “He kind of brought everyone together after everyone was so divided.”

Secretariat’s popularity — he graced the covers of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated and was the subject of a Disney movie — reinvigorated the farm from the day he arrived on Nov. 12, 1973, when several hundred people greeted him at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington. Thousands more flocked to Claiborne each year. So many showed up that a privacy fence had to be erected alongside the road.

“They thought they could just walk over and pet a stallion,” Joe Peel, the stallion manager, said with a chuckle.

The tours have continued since Secretariat’s death on Oct. 4, 1989, at age 19 from laminitis, a painful hoof disease. Dr. Thomas Swerczek of the University of Kentucky performed Secretariat’s necropsy and estimated his heart to be about 21 to 22 pounds, or nearly two and a half times larger than the average thoroughbred’s.

Claiborne Farm, where Secretariat was conceived and stood at stud.Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

As with the photograph, there is no proof, as the necropsy was performed hastily and without proper equipment and documentation, according to an interview in 2020. But Swerczek stood by his assertion until he died last year at 82.

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., has not had a traveling exhibit in over two decades. It took Secretariat’s milestone to get the museum back on the road.

The exhibit, titled “A Tremendous Machine” after Anderson’s call of the race, has followed Secretariat’s Triple Crown path, traveling to Louisville, Baltimore and now Elmont, N.Y. Its final stop will be at Colonial Downs in September because Secretariat was born in Virginia, at Chenery’s Meadow Farm.

Along the way, organizers have been collecting stories and photographs from visitors. Some saw Secretariat race; others visited him at the farm. Some owned his descendants. Several have locks of his hair. One man, who was stationed overseas while in the Army in 1973, recalled listening to the Belmont on the radio and crying tears of joy.

Souvenirs related to Secretariat for sale at Belmont Park.Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

“It just makes people feel so good,” said Cate Masterson, the director of the museum, which will host a larger Secretariat exhibit this summer. “It’s a trip down memory lane.”

In Paris, Secretariat’s adopted hometown, a new three-story mural gives the appearance of Turcotte and Secretariat charging down Main Street. A park and a statue are planned beneath.

Lyra Miller, who operates a bed-and-breakfast on her horse farm, hosts visitors who return yearly to visit Secretariat’s grave. She also owns a diner on Main Street named Lil’s Coffee Shop.

The week of the Derby, she chatted with regulars, one of whom was a 96-year-old veterinarian, Dr. Robert Copelan, who treated Secretariat during his Triple Crown quest. The feat was fresh on people’s minds even 50 years later. One by one, they pondered the legends: the records, the earth-shattering performance, the woman in charge, the champion’s heart.

“It’s crazy, isn’t it?” Miller said. “People talk about him as if he’s still alive. In a way, he still is.”

A statue of Secretariat in the paddock at Belmont Park.Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Russian Convict Troops Suffered Greatest Losses in Ukraine: Report

Russian convict troops suffered the greatest losses in Ukraine mainly due to their lack of military experience to fight in the war that Russian President Vladimir Putin launched last February, according to a joint report released Friday by BBC Russian Service and Mediazona, an independent Russian media organization.

In the report, data from open sources were used to reveal that 25,218 Russian soldiers died in Ukraine as of June, but the real number of dead Russian soldiers could exceed 50,000, according to the BBC. Russian units made up of volunteers, mobilized citizens, and prisoners fighting as part of the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group, a private military unit conducting operations in Ukraine, have been greatly suffering in the war since last December, the report added.

Meanwhile, the media organizations found that 4,689 Russian prisoners suffered the most serious losses as the majority of them died during the fights for Soledar and Bakhmut. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Wagner, said that about 10,000 convicts died during the assault on Bakhmut, according to the report, which added that if this figure is correct then that confirms that the media organizations’ list of deaths could be half as much as the real number of casualties. Additionally, 60 percent of 2,467 mobilized Russians died since January of this year.

Russia doesn’t disclose the number of its dead soldiers, volunteers, or prisoners killed in the war in Ukraine, but its defense ministry said last September that 5,937 Russian personnel died, according to Current Time TV, a Russian-language television channel. Newsweek couldn’t independently verify the figure released by the ministry or the number of dead Russian soldiers mentioned in the BBC/Mediazona report.

Ukrainian soldiers from the 28th Brigade practice firing their AK-47 assault rifles and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) in the Donbas region, Ukraine, on April 26. Russian convict troops suffered the greatest losses in Ukraine mainly due to their lack of military experience to fight in the war that Russian President Vladimir Putin launched last February, according to a joint report released Friday by BBC Russian Service and Mediazona.
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images

Putin’s war has extended throughout major Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, Kherson, Odessa, and Bakhmut—the latter has been the site of monthslong fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops, with both sides claiming victory over the city.

The Russian president launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine with confidence that his country would achieve a quick victory, but Ukraine responded with a stronger-than-expected defense effort, mainly boosted by Western military and humanitarian aid that has deterred Russian military goals and limited their advancements.

In April, Russian prisoners’ rights activist Olga Romanova said that Russian prisoners were signing contracts with the Russian defense ministry to fight in Ukraine for an extended period of time. Romanova, director of the civil rights organization Russia Behind Bars, wrote on Telegram at the time that the ministry has been recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine since February.

The recruits would sign contracts with the ministry to fight for six months, but this period has now been extended to 18 months, Romanova wrote citing reports from the Sverdlovsk and Yaroslavl regions.

In March, Prigozhin announced that more than 5,000 former prisoners have been released since summer 2022, after fulfilling their contracts with the Wagner Group, according to Meduza. In addition, Russia Behind Bars estimates that over 50,000 prisoners have been recruited by Wagner since last winter. However, Prigozhin said in February that his paramilitary unit is no longer recruiting Russian prisoners to fight in Ukraine.

Newsweek reached out by email to the Russian foreign affairs ministry for comment.

welcome to your

How to Use AI to Automate the Dreaded Office Meeting

Generating a slide deck, talking points and meetings minutes can all be done in a snap. All you need are the right prompts.

Oscar Nimmo

Hello! Welcome back to On Tech: A.I., a pop-up newsletter that teaches you about artificial intelligence, how it works and how to use it.

Last week, I told you how to use creative A.I. tools that generate and edit stunning images. Now let’s move on to automating some time-consuming, sometimes tedious, parts of many office jobs.

Yes, I’m talking about meetings. I’ll go over how to speed through tasks like preparing for presentations, writing talking points and writing out the minutes using generative A.I. tools like ChatGPT.

A common-sense warning before we begin: Anything you do using an online service can potentially be seen by the company that runs it, whether it’s a big tech company or an A.I. startup. So if your meeting covers sensitive topics like trade secrets or personnel issues, this may not be the best time to experiment with these new tools.

The website Gamma will automatically generate a detailed and colorful slide deck that includes graphics, charts and text. You’ll likely have to tweak the text and add some of your own photos. But think of this generator as a presentation template on steroids that automates the boring stuff, so you can work on the finer details.

First you sign up for a free account, click “presentation,” and type a prompt. As with text and image generators, the more detailed your prompts, the better.

Here is an example I used that describes a hypothetical presentation:

Staffing updates for a tech startup. Announcing new hires, including a director of diversity, a head of HR and 7 new software engineers. We now have head count of 120 people and are hoping to expand to 150 by 2024. In the future we’ll be hiring a head of business development and expand sales staff.

Gamma responds to prompts with an outline summarizing the slides and template options in different color schemes.

Using my prompt, Gamma created a presentation with seven slides. Gamma included panels describing the roles of the new director of diversity and head of HR .

Here’s a snippet of two slides that Gamma created:

Brian X. Chen/The New York Times
Brian X. Chen/The New York Times

The last step is to edit the presentation. In my example, I would add the names of the new hires, their bios and their headshots.

A word of warning: Generative A.I. systems are vulnerable to a phenomenon called “hallucination,” where the model makes up plausible-sounding nonsense. Especially in a work setting, it’s vitally important to triple-check that no inaccuracies have crept in.

I tested another site similar to Gamma that created beautiful slides, but also made up imaginary employees and paired them with photos of actual people that it scraped off the internet. Not good!

To prepare for the hypothetical meeting to discuss staff updates, I would start by telling a chatbot like ChatGPT, Bard or Bing: “Act as if you are my executive assistant that will compile talking points for me, the chief executive of a tech startup, for a presentation on…” and then paste in the earlier prompt I used to create the slide deck.

(Remember, “act as if…” is one of the golden prompts for using generative A.I.)

The chatbot would then generate a list of talking points that can accompany each slide, along with some suggested remarks. Again, you may need to make some edits.

Let’s say you wanted to quickly jot down notes recapping what was discussed at the meeting. Zoom and Google include tools that use A.I. to automatically transcribe speech from a meeting into a text file, as long as the meeting is recorded with everyone’s permission. You can then paste the transcript into a chatbot and ask it to summarize it. (Remember, don’t do this with sensitive information.)

If you use Google Meet with a business license, meeting transcripts are turned on by default and a link to a Google Doc gets emailed to the host. (You can also follow Google’s steps to activate the transcription feature.)

If you’re using Zoom, you will need a business, education or enterprise license with cloud recording enabled in the account settings. When the Zoom meeting starts, enable cloud recording. Once the meeting ends, the service will automatically generate the transcript.

From there, go to a chatbot and type in the prompt, “Act as if you are my executive assistant. You are compiling meeting minutes using this transcript.” Then paste in the part of the transcript that you want summarized, and the chatbot will automatically format it into a minutes memo. (If the transcript is too long, you can tell the chatbot that you will be pasting it in multiple parts, and that you will say when you’re done.)

If the meeting isn’t recorded but someone has taken notes, they can be pasted into a chatbot along with the same prompt to format the document into a meetings memo.

Next week, I’ll cover how to use A.I. for consumption — think vacation planning and shopping.

This Week in Audio: Biden’s Age, Cringe Comedy and Beyoncé’s World Tour

Each week, we share the best of new audio journalism and storytelling.

This week, we traveled to Afghanistan and Ukraine, debated gerontocracy and dove into the golden age of cringe comedy. Welcome to your weekly newsletter from New York Times Audio.

The app features exclusive shows, narrated articles and much more, and is included for news subscribers on iOS. Download the app here.

Every week, the app’s editors select their favorite listens that provided news, depth and serendipity.

Matthew Murphy/Grapevine Public Relations, via Associated Press

culture shorts

Ahead of the Tony Awards this weekend, our critics discuss two shows they love.
By Jesse Green and Elisabeth Vincentelli

Ingo Barth/ullstein bild, via Getty Images

Reporter reads

An obituary for Astrud Gilberto, whose soft vocal performance of the song helped make Brazilian bossa nova a hit in the United States.
By Jim Farber

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Evgeniy Maloletka/Associated Press


A week on the ground in Kyiv left our Opinion columnist convinced.
By David French

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Photo Illustration: The New York Times; Image: CRAFTSCI/Science Photo Library, via Getty Images

This American life shorts

A man finds out his “good for nothing” uncle is actually his father.
Hosted by Ira Glass

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the daily

What our reporter found when she traveled across Afghanistan was not what she had expected.
Hosted by Sabrina Tavernise
Reporting by Christina Goldbaum

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Photo illustration by Lola Dupre

The New York Times magazine

Tim Robinson’s sketch show, “I Think You Should Leave,” is the perfect comedy show for our overheated cultural moment.
By Sam Anderson

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Yolanda Hoskey for The New York Times

Reporter reads

A trans model’s memoir recounts the highs and lows of living openly.
By Shane O’Neill

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Illustration by The New York Times; pool photo

matter of opinion

Our hosts debate the pros and cons of gerontocracy.
Hosted by Michelle Cottle, Ross Douthat, Carlos Lozada and Lydia Polgreen

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Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Parkwood

New York magazine

An insightful critique of her Renaissance world tour.
By Hunter Harris

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Animal Rights and the Making of a Revolution

In 1971, a half-dozen graduate students at Oxford University held what was perhaps the first protest of the modern animal rights movement. They insisted that respecting animals was a moral imperative.

And the world changed.

No, not right away. But one of those students, a young Australian philosopher named Peter Singer, turned his ideas into a transformative 1975 book, “Animal Liberation,” that was initially mocked for overreach. “The animal movement was still widely seen as crackpot,” Singer recalls.

Yet to anyone who thinks that ideas are irrelevant in a practical age, think again. His arguments stirred a slow-motion revolution that has changed the way we treat other animals.

Singer has just issued a new edition of the book, updated and titled “Animal Liberation Now.” It’s a monument to the remarkable spread of the ideas he articulated in 1975. At least nine states and the European Union now ban veal crates, hen cages or tight stalls for sows. The top supermarket chains in America have agreed to sell only cage-free eggs by 2026, and McDonalds has done the same.

A court in Argentina accepted that habeas corpus rights apply to a chimpanzee. Israel and California have banned the sale of fur coats. Pope Francis has suggested that animals go to Heaven and that the Virgin Mary “grieves for the sufferings” of mistreated livestock.

How times have changed. When Mary Wollstonecraft advocated for the rights of women in 1792, that seemed to some so ridiculous that a satirist mocked her by calling for the rights of animals as well. Now it’s unquestioned (at least in the abstract) that rights extend to people of all races and religions, including women, and in some cases to animals as well. When voters face referendums on animal rights, they often approve them by large margins.

Yet there’s so much more to be done, as the new edition of Singer’s book documents.

Agribusiness has been very successful at two things: producing very cheap protein and hiding from public view the cruelty that has been ingrained in factory farming to cut costs.

An individual seen whipping a dog risks arrest, but CEOs whose companies in effect torture chickens are celebrated for their business acumen. Individualized animal abuse is a crime; systematic animal abuse is a business model.

Peter Singer.Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek

Singer writes about how poultry have been bred so birds grow extremely quickly and with huge breasts, since breast meat is particularly valuable. By one estimate, if human babies grew at the same pace as today’s broiler chickens, at two months they would weigh 660 pounds — so it’s no surprise that chickens’ legs often give out and that by some accounts they suffer chronic pain.

When animals are reduced to widgets to maximize quarterly profits, it’s inevitable that there will be mistreatment. A farm in San Diego reportedly disposed of 30,000 live, squirming hens (who apparently were no longer producing sufficient eggs) by feeding them into a wood chipper. It was cost-effective.

For the last half-dozen years, I’ve avoided meat, in part because of Singer’s writing, in part because of my experience raising livestock and poultry on our family farm, and in part nudged by my daughter. But I puzzle over the complexities.

I don’t eat factory-farmed food, but is it OK to eat farm animals that have been humanely raised? (I could be open to that; after all, I do eat animals like elk that have been hunted, partly because natural predators are rare.) I stopped eating octopus after reading a book about their intelligence and empathy, but what about shrimp? (For now, I do eat shrimp and other shellfish.) To me, the central issue is as the philosopher Jeremy Bentham expressed it in the 18th century: “The question is not, can they reason, nor can they talk, but can they suffer?” And the answers for, say, oysters, aren’t always obvious.

We haven’t figured out our moral obligations to fellow humans, so perhaps it’s understandable that we haven’t worked out our obligations to shellfish. But the way people struggle with these questions strikes me as a measure of moral progress — and of the power of ideas.

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood,” wrote John Maynard Keynes. “Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”

And so it is that a philosopher’s book originally published almost half a century ago prodded our consciences and changed what will be on summer barbecue grills around the world. That is the moral force of an idea whose time has arrived.

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Giving Red America a Reason to Love Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are rare in Moses Lake, Wash., a small city in the fertile Columbia Basin about a three-hour drive east of Seattle. In that conservative farms-and-factories community, few people have the cash or the inclination. The only electric vehicle I saw during a two-day visit last month was a Tesla in the hotel parking lot.

Over the next few years, however, hundreds of Moses Lake residents are going to be entering the electric vehicle business. Two different companies, attracted by cheap hydropower, are opening plants there, each backed by $100 million in federal money, to produce a key ingredient for electric vehicle batteries.

The investment is part of the roughly half a trillion dollars the Biden administration is marshaling to transform an economy fueled by carbon into one fueled by clean, renewable energy, and it illustrates a gamble at the heart of that broader effort.

Instead of delivering electric vehicles, solar panels and other green technologies at the lowest possible cost, no matter their country of origin, the Biden administration is determined to use this opportunity to expand domestic manufacturing. And it is concentrating much of that effort in rural and Rust Belt communities, where reactionary politics have taken hold most strongly. The plan to combat global warming is also a bid for industrial revival and a transformed political landscape.

Moses Lake, in central Washington State, has had a dearth of opportunities for young people in recent decades.

There is a real risk that President Biden’s economic and political aims will come into conflict with his environmental goals. If domestic production results in higher costs, that could suppress demand for electric vehicles. Political opposition to renewable energy, on the rise in many conservative communities, could impede production. But giving people an economic stake in the transition to green energy may well be the nation’s best chance to build a durable political consensus in favor of confronting global warming.

The novelist Upton Sinclair observed, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Well, the opposite is true, too.

In Moses Lake, where one city official described the local version of the American dream to me as “house-boat-truck,” it is possible to imagine that one day in the not-too-distant future, workers at the battery plants will be driving electric pickups.

The environmental case for investing 200 million tax dollars in Moses Lake is that gas-powered vehicles produce 24 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, and persuading consumers to drive electric vehicles instead is going to require a lot of batteries that are more powerful and more affordable than what’s available today.

Right now, almost all electric vehicles are powered by batteries that use graphite to store electricity. Scientists have long known that silicon can hold more energy than graphite. But silicon swells as it charges, with results much like a soda can left in a freezer. The two companies building factories in Moses Lake, Sila Nanotechnologies and Group14 Technologies, make specially modified forms of silicon that solve the swelling problem. Batteries using the special sand can propel vehicles up to 20 percent farther than existing batteries. Recharging is a lot faster, too.

At Group14’s first plant, outside Seattle, trays of carbon that look like badly burned brownies emerge from a long oven and are milled into a powder so fine that a thimbleful could coat a hockey rink. The key to Group14’s technology is that each of those tiny grains of carbon is about two-thirds air, like a very porous sponge or a coral reef. The grains are then placed in a chamber of silane, a gaseous form of silicon, which fills about half of their interiors, leaving room for expansion when the silicon is charged. The resulting black powder is shipped to battery plants, where it will be painted onto thin strips of metal and stacked inside batteries.

A battery cell assembly line at Group14’s research site in Woodinville, near Seattle.
Carbon chunks at a Group14 plant in Woodinville, Wash., that will be ground into powder and injected with silicon.

Sila, which uses a different process to reach similar ends, has its own small factory at its Bay Area headquarters. Together, the two companies make enough powder to power a few hundred vehicles per year. The factories in Moses Lake, which together will cost more than $700 million, will each produce enough for about 200,000 vehicles a year. Group14 has signed Porsche as an investor and a customer; Sila is working with Mercedes-Benz.

Both companies say they would have moved ahead even without direct federal funding. But the money does mean that they can grow faster. Rick Luebbe, the chief executive of Group14, said the company was able to raise additional capital on the back of the federal money, allowing it to build two production lines in Moses Lake rather than one. “It’s a validation for people who want to work for us, for people who want to support us, and for customers,” he said.

It would take 400 more factories the size of the ones in Moses Lake to make enough silicon to power all the vehicles produced in an average year. But the government isn’t betting just on silicon. It is simultaneously funding an even bigger expansion of graphite manufacturing at factories in Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee. It’s also backing companies pursuing other alternatives to graphite, and other potential breakthroughs in battery technology. The government is trying to pick winners only in the sense that it wants the next big idea in batteries to be made in the United States.

Backing domestic production marks a break with decades of federal economic policy that treated low prices as the primary goal, and imports as the best way to achieve that goal. In 2005, for example, the government introduced tax credits for the installation of solar panels, without restrictions on the country of origin. Over the next six years, imports of Chinese solar panels increased to $2.7 billion a year, up from $21 million a year.

Chinese companies also have raced ahead in the market for electric vehicle batteries, but the Biden administration is hoping to leapfrog them by investing in a new generation of ideas. China controls three-quarters of the world’s supply of graphite, but “our technology requires sand and energy,” said Gene Berdichevsky, the chief executive of Sila. “Those can be sourced in quite a lot of places.”

The federal government is also rigging the competition against Chinese producers. Under the Inflation Reduction Act, passed last year, buyers of electric vehicles are eligible for tax credits of up to $7,500. But as of April 18, the credit is available only if at least half of the value of the vehicle’s battery was produced in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and at least 40 percent of the minerals were produced in the United States or by an approved list of allies. Over the next few years, those requirements will gradually rise to 100 percent for the battery and 80 percent for the minerals.

Other subsidies could take an additional $9,000 off the price of cars with American batteries. The incentives are enough that for the first time, some electric vehicles are now cheaper than comparable gas-powered cars.

The residents of Moses Lake are eagerly anticipating the benefits.

Adan Lopez, 20, is studying physics at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake. He isn’t sure whether he wants to stay in the area. “Jobs are kind of limited around here,” he said. “If you want to do anything, people have to go to Spokane or Seattle.”

Brant Mayo, executive director of the Grant County Economic Development Council, said the Moses Lake region has been chasing factories since the early 1990s to bring higher-paying jobs to the area. “We want our kids and our grandkids, if they want to be in the area, to have an opportunity to do whatever they want here,” he said.

Working on the future home of the Group14 plant in Moses Lake.
A class for high school students at Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center in Moses Lake.

Factories also attract factories. After Microsoft opened a data center in the nearby town of Quincy, a company that makes plastic conduits for data centers opened a 50-employee operation. Three electrical firms also have opened offices.

The potential costs of trying to orchestrate economic development are less obvious and less concentrated, and thus easier to ignore. But they could easily outweigh the benefits. Government investment can allow companies to take risks that investors wouldn’t support, but it also can insulate companies from market discipline, propping up underperforming technologies and preventing better ideas from gaining traction. Preserving factory jobs also is expensive, and higher costs could slow the adoption of electric vehicles. It costs about twice as much to build a battery plant in the United States as in China, according to one recent estimate.

The urgency of global warming means that the Biden administration may be gambling with time it can’t afford to lose.

Moses Lake, population 26,040, was created by federal investment. The area was a sparsely populated desert until the damming of the Columbia River began in the 1930s. The Democratic Party’s vision of cheap power and water created one of the nation’s most productive farming regions, famous for its apples and potatoes. But the city and the surrounding region are now “bright red,” in the words of Steve Starr, the lonesome chairman of the local Democratic Party.

Steve Starr, the head of the Grant County Democrats, is skeptical that federal government investments in the area’s economy will change local politics.

Mr. Starr is skeptical that this new season of federally funded economic growth will make a difference. Other issues loom larger. At the county fairgrounds, the Democrats have a building with a big sign out front reminding visitors about the government’s role in the region’s history. The Republican Party’s building, just across the way, has a large sign declaring opposition to abortion.

Mr. Starr also says the government’s role in the current factory boom is easy for people to ignore. Instead of public works, the government is backing private companies. The sign in front of Group14’s future factory doesn’t have any mention of federal funding.

“Without the federal government this would be an uninhabited desert, but you won’t hear Republicans here say that,” Mr. Starr said. “Are people going to accept the idea that Biden, through federal government initiatives, is helping our economy? My answer is, sadly, probably not.”

Some Republicans insist they don’t want the help. The congressman who represents Moses Lake, Dan Newhouse, joined all but a few of his Republican colleagues in voting against the 2021 legislation that is providing funding for the battery plants, and against the 2022 bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, that is providing an even larger block of funding for similar projects. In April, he voted for the House debt ceiling bill that would have rolled back much of that federal funding.

Electric vehicles, in particular, are becoming a partisan battleground. Republican lawmakers in Wyoming introduced a resolution this year calling for the state to ban the sale of electric vehicles by 2035 to “ensure the stability of Wyoming’s oil and gas industry.” The resolution, which did not pass, directed Wyoming’s secretary of state to send a copy to the governor of California, which has a law banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles starting in 2035.

In Moses Lake, the most likely flashpoint is access to power. The cheap, green electricity from two Columbia River dams is still the community’s greatest asset and it remains under public control. It is the most important reason Group14 and Sila both chose to build factories here.

Wanapum Dam on the Columbia River in Grant County. Access to hydroelectric power is a lure for manufacturers.

But there is not enough of it. The local utility, the Grant County Public Utility District, says that it expects to begin buying electricity from outside the county by 2025. For the battery plants, or other factories, to grow here, the community is going to have to invest in expanding its supply of renewable energy.

Richard Hanover grew up in Moses Lake and now works as the director of development at the Port of Moses Lake, which controls much of the region’s industrial land. When he was a child, he said, it didn’t seem possible Moses Lake would ever have a chance at the kind of prosperity that is now within reach.

“It wasn’t even possible when I started here nine years ago,” he said.

Now it is. Will Moses Lake seize the opportunity?

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