Russian Squeeze, Fat Tuesday, and Avocados in Gangland Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Tuesday, March 1, and we're covering the squeeze on the Russian economy, the return of Mardi Gras celebrations, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].



Sanctions Tighten on Russia

Ukrainian and Russian delegations met yesterday at the Belarusian border, the first direct talks since Russia's invasion of Ukraine last week. No agreement was met, though both sides reportedly agreed to continue talks. 


Russia continued its assault on major cities, including extensive shelling on Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. Officials have confirmed more than 100 civilian deaths across the country since fighting began six days ago, though the figure is likely higher. By yesterday, satellite images suggested a 40-mile-long Russian convoy was less than 15 miles from the center of the capital of Kyiv. 


Analysts say sanctions have begun to hit the Russian economy. About half of the country's central bank's foreign assets have been frozen, with the bank raising benchmark interest rates to 20%. The value of the ruble fell almost 30%, dropping below $0.01, as Russian citizens flocked to ATMs to withdraw cash. The country's stock exchanges will be closed for a second consecutive day today.


Separately, Switzerland, suspending its tradition of neutrality, agreed to freeze Russian assets. 


More than 500,000 Ukrainians have fled the country. See photos from the exodus here.

State of the Union

President Joe Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address today, a speech that comes against the backdrop of rising inflation, subsiding COVID-19 cases, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 


The address comes as Biden's approval rating has dropped to around 40%, down almost 15 points from a year ago. Consumer prices rose by 7.5% annually in January, the biggest spike since 1982, while pandemic-weary Americans are slowly returning to normal following the omicron COVID-19 surge. The speech likely represents the largest audience for Biden ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, in which Democrats face an uphill battle.


Sources say Biden is likely to focus on Ukraine, the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year, and revisiting his Build Back Better spending package.  


The speech will be aired on major networks beginning at 9 pm ET. 

Fat Tuesday Arrives

Cities across the globe are set to celebrate Mardi Gras today, the final day before the Christian fasting and religious observance period of Lent begins. Many are expected to be lively affairs following a 2021 season largely muted in the face of a winter coronavirus surge. 


New Orleans returned to an almost full schedule of events after canceling its famous parades last year for just the second time since 1951. The city's iconic krewes—Mardi Gras-focused social clubs (see overview)—returned to the streets and will culminate with parades by the Krewes of Rex and Zulu today, among others. 


About 1.4 million people visit New Orleans during a typical Mardi Gras, generating up to $1B in revenue for the city. The celebration also generates almost 100,000 pounds of discarded beads. 


See how some of the fantastical floats that move through the city's streets are made here.

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> FIFA and UEFA ban Russian national teams and clubs from 2022 World Cup and other major European competitions (More) | NHL suspends business ties with Russia (More)


> Neil Diamond sells entire song catalog, including 110 unreleased tracks, to Universal Music for an undisclosed amount (More)


> Major League Baseball extends deadlines for collective bargaining talks to 5 pm ET today; season, which begins March 31, may be shortened if deadline is missed (More) | Derek Jeter steps down as CEO of Miami Marlins after five years (More)

Science & Technology

> TikTok rolls out 10-minute video uploads globally, up from current three-minute limit; feature moves TikTok closer to competing with YouTube for some creators (More)


> Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases planned update to its global climate assessment, concludes extreme weather events are already causing irreversible impacts on many plant and animal species (More)


> Judge rules lucrative patents on CRISPR gene-editing technology belongs to the Harvard-MIT Broad Institute, invalidating claims made by UC Berkeley (More)

Business & Markets

In partnership with WeGift

> US stock markets end mixed (S&P 500 -0.2%, Dow -0.5%, Nasdaq +0.4%) as investors assess Ukraine (More) | New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq temporarily halt trading of certain Russian companies (More)


> Following BP’s move Sunday, Shell ends partnerships with Russian energy companies representing approximately $3B in assets (More) | Airbnb to offer free housing to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine (More)


> Shares of Zoom fell double digits in after-hours trading amid reduced revenue forecast as employees return to office environments (More)

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Politics & World Affairs

> The 2022 midterm season officially gets underway, as Texas hosts first primaries of the year; voters will choose candidates to run for governor, attorney general, and more (More)


> Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine less effective in children 5 to 11, study says; at one-third of a regular dose, protection against hospitalization fell from 100% to 48% over a seven-week period (More) | California, Oregon, and Washington announce end to school mask requirements starting March 12 (More)


> Five million people under flood watch in Pacific Northwest as "atmospheric river" weather phenomenon brings heavy rains to the region (More)



The Road to Pleasure

NeoLife | Stav Dimitropoulos. How an experimental drug addressing a symptom of depression called anhedonia—the inability to feel pleasure—could usher in a new era of precision medicine in psychiatry. (Read)

Avocados in Gangland

The Conversation | Jeffrey Miller. A look at the history of Mexico's multibillion-dollar avocado industry and how it found itself in the middle of a bloody cartel turf war. (Read)



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The history of Mardi Gras.


An annual selection of the best in visual journalism.


Skip the register at Amazon's first cashier-less Whole Foods.  


Teen solves 211 Rubik's cubes while on a pogo stick.


Small Italian town divided over silenced church bells.


A $6K "Star Wars" experience.


Buy a home in Maine, get $40K for your student loan debt.


When you bite into a pearl worth thousands of dollars


Clickbait: Bulldog gives birth to a green puppy.


Historybook: Articles of Confederation are ratified, go into effect in the US (1781); Writer Ralph Ellison born (1914); The Peace Corps is established (1961); HBD actress Lupita Nyong'o (1983); HBD Justin Bieber (1994).


"Power doesn't have to show off ... When you have it, you know it."

- Ralph Ellison

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