Your Friday Evening Briefing
Here’s what you need to know at the end of the day.
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By Nancy Wartik and Daniel E. Slotnik
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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Friday.
1. “It was the wrong decision. Period.” A top Texas police official acknowledged several missteps in the Uvalde school shooting.
At a news conference, the Texas Department of Public Safety director gave the most detailed account yet of the shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead. While up to 19 officers waited in the school hallway, multiple people, including at least two students, called 911 begging for help. Thinking the gunman was barricaded in and “there were no kids at risk,” the police didn’t enter the classroom until 12:50 p.m., 78 minutes after the shooter walked inside, said the director, Steven McCraw.
The shooter fired more than 100 rounds and at one point walked into the hallway. When specially equipped Border Patrol agents arrived, some 40 minutes after the gunman, local police held them back.
“What do I say to the parents?” McCraw asked, adding, “If I thought it would help, I would apologize.”
2. The National Rifle Association opened its annual convention in Houston.
Wayne LaPierre, the head of the N.R.A., condemned the Uvalde shooting but added that the government couldn’t “legislate against evil.” President Biden’s gun control proposals, he said, would restrict “the fundamental human right of law-abiding Americans to defend themselves.”
Senator Ted Cruz offered an unapologetic defense of gun rights. Former President Donald Trump opened his speech by praising himself for — showing up. Several key guests scrapped their appearances out of respect for the victims. The Texas governor, Gregg Abbott, went to Uvalde, though he submitted prerecorded remarks to the N.R.A. Senator John Cornyn of Texas said he had to be in Washington, and Dan Patrick, Texas’ lieutenant governor, backed out. Performers including Don McLean, Larry Gatlin and Lee Greenwood declined to appear. Protesters gathered as the meeting began. Follow our updates here.
3. Russian forces are slowly gaining ground in eastern Ukraine, seizing a second midsize city in a week.
The advances came after fierce artillery bombardments. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned that Russian forces wanted to burn cities in the east “to ashes.”
Russian and Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had captured Lyman, the second city to fall this week, and moved closer to encircling the larger city of Sievierodonetsk.
Zelensky charged that Russia’s actions in Ukraine were “an obvious policy of genocide.” A new report from international legal scholars mainly supported that stance, noting that Russian tactics like the indiscriminate bombardment of residential areas established a “genocidal pattern.”
In Russia, some academic researchers are working to prevent colleagues who supported the war from being elected to the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences.
4. Coronavirus cases and gas prices are surging, but that won’t stop many people from traveling this Memorial Day weekend.
About 39.2 million Americans will be on the move over the long weekend, inching closer to prepandemic levels, according to estimates by AAA.
They are taking to the roads and skies even as both Covid cases and hospitalizations in the U.S. have increased more than 25 percent from two weeks ago. Gas prices have reached a national average of $4.60 a gallon, up from $3.04 last year.
5. Republican lawmakers are running a campaign to punish companies that address climate change.
In recent months, conservatives have moved beyond tough words and used both legislative and financial leverage to pressure the private sector to drop climate action and any other causes they label “woke.”
Live Updates: Russia-Ukraine War
In Texas, for instance, a new law bars the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that the state comptroller says are boycotting fossil fuels.
These efforts come after years of many companies in the financial sector boasting that they were prioritizing environmental, social and governance issues rather than pure profits. That activism has often put them at odds with the Republican Party.
In other political news, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Donald Trump filed to halt the New York attorney general’s civil investigation into his business practices.
6. India’s Supreme Court is removing barriers that deny prostitutes their rights.
Sex work is legal in the country, but even so, prostitutes face harassment and marginalization. The court has worked to counteract such problems, including with an order this month that the police must stop arrests and harassment of adult workers, who also shouldn’t be separated from their children.
In a statement, the court noted, “It has been noticed that the attitude of the police to sex workers is often brutal and violent,” adding, “Police should treat all sex workers with dignity.”
In other news from India, “Tomb of Sand,” a book about an 80-year-old woman’s trip to Pakistan, became the first Hindi novel to win the International Booker Prize.
7. In this housing market, it makes less sense to move.
Homeowners, sitting on historically low mortgage rates and with fewer homes for sale, will find that it’s much more expensive to buy new homes. With inflation, renters may do better by staying put rather than signing new leases.
Russia-Ukraine War: Key Developments
In eastern Ukraine. After seizing the city of Lyman, Russian forces are coming closer to surrounding the much larger city of Sievierodonetsk, the easternmost city still under Ukrainian control. Lyman is the second midsize Ukrainian city to change hands in one week.
In Kharkiv. Several neighborhoods in the northeastern city, where the Ukrainians repelled an attempted Russian encirclement in mid-May, came under fire again. At least nine people were killed in the attack, which shattered the sense of relative peace that had begun returning there.
Talks in Europe. European Union leaders will gather on May 30 and 31 to discuss Ukraine’s financial needs for reconstruction and the effect of the war on the global economy. But hopes that the summit would also see the end to a standoff with Hungary over a possible Russian oil embargo appear to have faded.
The war’s economic toll in Russia. Gripped by sanctions and isolated from Western suppliers, Russia is working to stave off a return to Soviet-era scarcity and prop up the economy. The Biden administration said it expected the country to default on its bond payments to U.S. investors after the Treasury Department allowed an exemption that permitted Russia to make those payments to lapse.
Overall, moving rates have declined since the mid-1980s, when one in five people moved yearly. In 2021, only one in 12 did. In Boulder, Colo., rents rose more than 15 percent over the last year, while a small two-bedroom, one-bathroom fixer-upper recently sold for $1.25 million. As one real estate economist said, “Unanimously, I think people would say there’s less happiness in the country as people are living in a mis-housed unit.”
8. There’s a website that offers a potentially dangerous superpower from the world of science fiction.
PimEyes, a paid online service, allows users to upload images of their faces and then scours the internet for matches. It can dig up photos that many people would rather keep hidden.
Users are supposed to search only for their own faces, but there are no barriers in place that stop them from looking for others’, and privacy advocates are concerned that the service can be easily misused.
Separately, the collapse in cryptocurrency prices this month has renewed scrutiny on celebrities who endorse the risky assets.
9. After 19 years, it’s a wrap for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Oprah Winfrey, Pink, Jennifer Aniston and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were among those who delivered their heartfelt goodbyes in the last few weeks. Despite being groundbreaking, the show fell victim to workplace controversies. Beginning in 2020, staffers complained of racism, intimidation and sexual harassment. Not long afterward, the show’s ratings cratered.
The program’s success seemed unlikely when it debuted in 2003. At the start of the 3,339th (and last) episode yesterday, DeGeneres noted that when “Ellen” started, “I couldn’t say ‘gay,’” adding, “I said it at home a lot. ‘What are we having for our gay breakfast?’ Or ‘Pass the gay salt.’”
10. And, finally, eat, watch and read this Memorial Day weekend.
Can’t travel? A vacation read “can be a destination in itself,” writes our colleague Sarah Lyall, and The Times’s Books department has some summer book recommendations that will whisk you away.
This summer’s upcoming films take place in a variety of locations, from familiar vacation spots like Fire Island to more distant locales like Burundi, Iran and Valhalla, mythological home of Thor.
Holiday barbecues can also give you a chance to escape — try a new recipe like the Tajín Grilled Chicken from this list of 12 Memorial Day cookout recipes.
Have a summery weekend.
Sarah Hughes compiled photos for this briefing.
We’re off for Memorial Day on Monday. See you on Tuesday.
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