Taiwan, Russian Resignation, and the Year's Most Influential People Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Tuesday, May 24, and we're covering the US stance toward Taiwan, a Russian dissenter, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].



Strategic Ambiguity 

President Joe Biden indicated yesterday the US would militarily defend Taiwan if China were to invade the island, a statement which came amid a visit to Japan. The comments appeared to depart from a decades-old policy of strategic ambiguity defining the US stance toward Taiwan (see 101). The White House later clarified the country's position on Taiwan had not changed.


China and Taiwan have had bitter relations since 1949, when the island broke away following China’s Communist revolution (see history). Beijing views Taiwan as under its control, while Taiwan maintains it is a sovereign nation. The US has long supported Taiwan’s independence but has adopted a neutral stance on the question of its sovereignty. Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the US is committed to ensuring Taiwan has resources to defend itself but isn't required to involve US military. 


Anxiety on the island has spiked in recent years following Beijing's crackdown in Hong Kong, which raised fears of a similar fate in Taiwan. 

Russian Diplomat Quits

A Russian diplomat working as part of the country's mission to the United Nations resigned his post yesterday in protest of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Boris Bondarev, who had worked for the Russian Foreign Ministry since 2002, released a scathing public statement in which he criticized President Vladimir Putin, calling the war a crime against both the Ukrainian and Russian people. 


Moscow has not commented on Bondarev's departure or public denouncement. Read the full resignation letter here.


In related news, a 21-year-old Russian tank commander was sentenced to life in prison by a Ukrainian court after pleading guilty to killing an unarmed civilian four days into the war. The verdict capped the first war crimes trial held by Ukraine against captured Russian soldiers. 


On the ground, Russia continued its assault on eastern Ukraine. Reports suggest Russian forces have made slow but steady gains in consolidating their position in the Donbas region. See updates here.

Child Vaccine Data

A COVID-19 vaccine regimen developed by Pfizer and partner BioNTech demonstrated 80% efficacy against symptomatic infections in children aged 6 months to 4 years, the companies announced yesterday. Children under 5 years old represent the last major age group without access to a vaccine against the coronavirus in the US. 


The data relied on a three-dose regimen, with each dose one-tenth the amount of those administered to adults. Previous data from Moderna, which used a two-dose regimen, showed around 50% efficacy in children aged 6 months to 2 years and 37% efficacy from 2 to 6 years old. 


Following the news, federal health officials said they would convene an outside expert panel to review the data from June 14-15, the next step toward emergency use authorization for young children. The age group represents about 6% of the US population, or around 20 million children. 


See overall COVID-19 stats for the US here.

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

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> Johnny Depp won't testify again in Amber Heard defamation lawsuit; trial likely to conclude this week (More) | SiriusXM buys Conan O'Brien's podcast network for a reported $150M (More)


> Rappers Gunna and Young Thug denied bail in Georgia racketeering case (More) | "Star Wars" Death Star designer Colin Cantwell dies at 90 (More)


> Naomi Osaka ousted from French Open in first round (More) | No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic advances to second round in first Grand Slam match in more than seven months (More)

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Science & Technology

> Federal court upholds suspension of Florida law restricting political content moderation by social media platforms; Supreme Court currently considering an emergency appeal of a similar law in Texas (More)


> Researchers discover a neural circuit in the retina that allows mice to detect shadows even in near-complete darkness, say similar circuitry exists in humans (More)


> Low-cost gel film capable of pulling water from desert air; prototype device produced one-and-a-half gallons of clean water per day in environments with less than 15% humidity (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets up (S&P 500 +1.9%, Dow 2.0%, Nasdaq +1.6%) to start the week (More)


> Starbucks will permanently close its 130 stores in Russia (More) | Sources say Airbnb plans to close its Chinese business, will remove listings by the summer (More)


> Shares of social media giant Snap fall over 25% after CEO warns of upcoming misses to quarterly expectations (More) | GameStop launches wallet for cryptocurrencies and NFTs (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas hold statewide primaries today; Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) enters the day with a wide lead over Trump-backed former Sen. David Perdue (More) | Texas holds primary runoffs (More


> Global monkeypox outbreak spreads to at least 12 countries; officials say the virus is likely being transmitted through sexual contact (More)


> Southern Baptist Convention executive leadership meets today following an independent report that found the organization covered up cases of clergy sexual abuse for two decades (More) | Background on the report (More)



The Ransom

NYT | Staff. More than two centuries ago, Haiti broke free from colonial rule by France. However, new research reveals the French throne exacted a heavy and long-lasting ransom from the new country under the threat of reinvasion. (Read)

The Haunting of Eleanor and Annie

Truly*Adventurous | Haley Hamilton. A supposed paranormal experience shared by two women at the turn of the 20th century left their families wondering if they'd been whisked back in time—and served as partial inspiration for "The Haunting of Hill House." (Read)

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Historybook: Samuel Morse sends first commercial telegraph message (1844); The Brooklyn Bridge is opened in NYC (1883); HBD Bob Dylan (1941); HBD musician Patti LaBelle (1944); RIP jazz legend Duke Ellington (1974).


"A problem is a chance for you to do your best."

- Duke Ellington

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