Russian Pivot, Will Smith, and Homebuying in America Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

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Russia (Maybe) Pivots

Russian officials signaled Friday the military assault on Ukraine may shift focus to the eastern Donbas region, implying a monthlong attack on cities across the country was a ploy to distract Ukrainian forces. The statements come as Russian forces have largely been rebuffed by Ukrainian troops, with reports of mounting Russian casualties and a breakdown in supply logistics. It is unclear if, or when, the statements will translate to a change in Russian tactics on the ground. 


The contested Donbas region, located in southeastern Ukraine along the Russian border, has been controlled by pro-Russian separatist factions since 2014 (see visual explainer). Moscow recognized the independence of the territory in late February, just ahead of its full-scale invasion.


President Joe Biden visited Poland over the weekend, a country that has taken in more than 2.1 million Ukrainian refugees. In a speech, Biden declared Putin "cannot remain in power"—comments the White House walked back, saying they did not amount to a call for a regime change in Russia. 


Separately, listen to intercepted communications from Russian soldiers outside Kyiv highlighting logistical issues early in the war. 

Awards and Altercations

"Coda" was the big winner at the 2022 Oscars last night, taking home the ceremony's top award of best picture. The film, distributed by Apple TV+, became the first from a streaming service to win the award. Troy Kotsur also won best supporting actor for his role in the film, while writer and director Siân Heder won best adapted screenplay. 


In a jarring and unscripted moment, actor Will Smith walked on stage and smacked comedian Chris Rock following a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The actor later apologized during his acceptance speech for Best Actor for his role in "King Richard." See a full clip of the incident here.


Separately, Jessica Chastain won best actress for her work in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," while Jane Campion won best director for "The Power of the Dog." See the full list of winners here.

Final Four Set

The final four teams of the men's NCAA basketball tournament were locked in over the weekend. Despite upset-laden early rounds, traditional powers make up the final four teams—No. 1 Kansas will play No. 2 Villanova, while No. 2 Duke will face off against archrival No. 8 North Carolina. The semifinals will be held Saturday, with the championship Monday, April 4 (time TBD). 


Duke's win over No. 4 Arkansas in the Elite Eight gave coach Mike Krzyzewski his 13th Final Four appearance, passing legendary UCLA coach John Wooden for most all-time. See Krzyzewski's postgame news conference here. Separately, North Carolina's win over Saint Peter's ended the Peacock's Cinderella run, having become the first 15-seed team to make the Elite Eight.


On the women's side, favorites have largely dominated the bracket, with No. 1 seeds South Carolina and Stanford advancing to the Final Four. The women's Elite Eight wraps up tonight

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Taylor Hawkins, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and 12-time Grammy-winning drummer for Foo Fighters, dies at 50; Hawkins reportedly had drugs in system at time of death (More)


> Joan Joyce, LPGA golfer, softball legend, and member of US women's national basketball team, dies at 81 (More)


> US men's national soccer team tops Panama 5-1, nearly clinching spot in 2022 FIFA World Cup; Canada qualifies for first time since 1986 (More) | See latest CONCACAF standings (More)

From our partners: Mortgage rates are near historic lows. And interest rates are expected to climb from here. No matter what you bought your home at, there's no stopping you from refinancing at the incredible market rates today, which can amount to thousands in savings. Carpe diem, while it lasts.

Science & Technology

> Ukrainian officials say they will auction 54 non-fungible tokens documenting the first three days of the Russian invasion in an effort to raise funds (More)


> Researchers confirm the Great Barrier Reef is suffering its fourth mass bleaching event in six years (More) | How warming waters lead to bleaching (More)


> Astronomers capture close-up image of rare phenomena known as odd radio circles; the origin of the giant rings of radio waves, which have only been spotted five times, remains unknown (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets end mixed Friday (S&P 500 +0.5%, Dow  +0.4%, Nasdaq -0.2%), but indices see second consecutive week of gains (More)


> US pending home sales in February down 5.4% year-over-year (More) | Average 30-year US mortgage rates climb 1.3% from three months ago, largest increase since 1994 (More)


> Streaming music giant Spotify joins growing list of companies to suspend operations in Russia (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> White House FY23 budget proposal to be released today; includes a minimum tax of 20% on households worth more than $100M (More) | ... plus a 4% rise in defense spending (More) | Budget serves as a recommendation to Congress; see process overview (More)


> Second black box located from downed Eastern Airlines crash that killed 132 people last Monday (More) | Israel hosts six-way talks with the US and four Arab League countries (More)


> Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R, NE-1) to resign by end of week after conviction of lying to federal officials about an illegal campaign contribution (More)



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A deep-dive into US housing affordability


... and where Americans moved in 2021.


Reviewing the metaverse's fashion week.


Scientists decipher the unique diet of vampire bats.


What it's like to witness a nuclear explosion. (paywall, NYT)


Why we use "LOL" so much.


The largest diamond in auction house history is set to receive bids.


LeBron James adds a Razzie to his accolades.


Clickbait: When you let a baby bird nest in your hair for three months.


Historybook: RIP English novelist Virginia Woolf (1941); RIP Native American Olympian and athlete Jim Thorpe (1953); RIP musician W.C. Handy (1958); Earthquake in western Turkey kills over 1,000 (1970); HBD Lady Gaga (1986).


"If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people."

- Virginia Woolf

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