Your Monday Briefing

The presidential motorcade in Brasília on Sunday.Credit…Dado Galdieri for The New York Times

Lula becomes Brazil’s president

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, widely known as Lula, took the reins of the Brazilian government yesterday in an elaborate inauguration, complete with a motorcade, a music festival and hundreds of thousands of supporters filling the central esplanade of Brasília, the capital. It caps astunning political comeback for the man who was once Brazil’s most popular president.

The departing far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, was supposed to supposed to pass Lula the presidential sash as part of the ceremony, an important symbol of the peaceful transition of power. Instead, facing various investigations from his time in office, he flew from Brazil to Florida on Friday night, where he plans to stay for at least a month.

Lula ascended the ramp to the presidential offices with a diverse group of Brazilians, including a Black woman, a disabled man, a 10-year-old boy, an Indigenous man and a factory worker. A voice then announced that he would accept the green and yellow sash from “the Brazilian people.” A 33-year-old garbage collector placed the sash on the new president.

Speech: In an address, Lula said that he would fight hunger and deforestation, lift the economy and try to unite the country. But he also took aim at his predecessor. “Under the winds of redemocratization, we used to say, ‘Dictatorship never again,’” he said. “Today, after the terrible challenge we’ve overcome, we must say, ‘Democracy forever.’”

Cleaning up the site of a missile strike in Kyiv. Credit…Laura Boushnak for The New York Times

Russian airstrikes in Ukraine

In the first moments of the new year, dozens of Ukrainians recorded themselves singing the national anthem, as a swarm of exploding drones buzzed over the capital in an attack that followed a missile barrage earlier that evening. At least one person was killed, and more than 20 were wounded.

The momentary good cheer masked some hard realities for a country under assault. Ten months into the war, Ukraine has turned the tide in ground combat in the southeast but also can do little to stop Russia from launching relentless missile strikes.

Ukraine has been developing long-range drones to strike back, and Russian airfields suffered drone attacks twice in December. But these are pinpricks compared with Moscow’s massive waves of strikes on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure. Military analysts say these attacks are intended to cut electricity and heat and to demoralize the population.

Volodymyr Zelensky: In a New Year’s Eve address to the nation, the Ukrainian leader sought to rally citizens. “This year began on Feb. 24,” he said, the date Russia invaded Ukraine. “It can still be dark, loud and complicated for us. But we will definitely never be afraid again.” The year, he said, was “our year. The year of Ukraine. The year of Ukrainians.”

Bucha: On one of the last nights of the Russian occupation of Bucha in March, a lone Russian soldier left a trail of blood and devastated lives in a last paroxysm of violence. Nine months after those events, the grief of family members remains raw.

A picture of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at a Vatican City shop.Credit…Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Uncertain funeral plans for Pope Benedict

The Catholic Church has found itself in rare territory, as a living pope — Pope Francis — prepares on Thursday to preside over the funeral of his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died on Saturday at 95.

No one quite knows what the first funeral for a pope emeritus will look like; Matteo Bruni, the Vatican spokesman, has said it would be “simple” and “solemn but sober,” in keeping with Benedict’s wishes. Official delegations from Germany, Benedict’s homeland, and Italy will be present, but it is not yet clear whether other nations will send representatives.

The Vatican said that Benedict’s body would be displayed to the faithful for a final “farewell” in St. Peter’s Basilica for three days starting on Monday morning. Until then, his remains will stay at Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, where he lived during his nearly 10-year post-papacy, before being ultimately buried in the Vatican grottoes.

Quotable: “We are moved as we recall him as such a noble person, so kind,” Francis said on Saturday. “And we feel such gratitude in our hearts: gratitude to God for having given him to the church and to the world; gratitude to him for all the good he accomplished, and above all, for his witness of faith and prayer, especially in these last years of his recollected life.”

Obituary: Benedict was a quiet scholar of diamond-hard intellect who spent much of his life enforcing church doctrine and defending tradition before shocking the Roman Catholic world by becoming the first pope in six centuries to resign. Read his obituary.

From Opinion: Benedict’s legacy will be felt across decades or even centuries, Ross Douthat writes.


Around the World

Credit…Susan Burghart
  • Amid a tech cold war with China, U.S. companies have pledged nearly $200 billion for chip manufacturing projects since early 2020.

  • “A difficult year comes to an end”: Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, reflected on his first year in office in a bittersweet address.

  • North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, vowed to expand his country’s nuclear capabilities ​“exponentially” against its rival, South Korea.

  • A restoration that darkened the face of a bronze statue of Victor Hugo near his birthplace in Besançon, France, has spurred a racist backlash.

  • As American firms seek to limit their exposure to the pitfalls of making goods in China, some are moving production to Mexico.

From Opinion

  • There has never been a better time to be short, Mara Altman says.

  • “Barbara created her own good fortune”: Katie Couric reflects on her mentor and competitor, Barbara Walters, who died on Friday at 93.

  • Emi Nietfeld explains why many students edit mental illness out of their college applications.

  • Forget the beach bod, Tish Harrison Warren writes. Try these soul resolutions instead.

A Morning Read

Credit…Bethany Mollenkof for The New York Times

When does life begin? The question at the heart of America’s abortion debate is the most elemental — and the most complicated.

Some states draw the line at conception, others at six weeks or 15 or around 40. Many others point to viability, the time when a fetus can survive outside the uterus. The implication is that after the determined time the developing embryo or fetus is a human being with rights worth protecting.


What it’s like to live your life as “the next Pelé”: The Brazil legend was so impressed by Nii Lamptey at an under-16 World Cup that he anointed him as his “natural successor.” Here’s what happened after.

Was Saudi Arabia really the best you could do?: CristianoRonaldo has become the highest-paid soccer player on the planet. That might be the only trophy that matters to him these days.

Ronaldo, Wiegman, Messi and Weghorst: Our writers review the best, worst and silliest moments of 2022 in soccer.


2023 in culture

Welcome to a new year of culture. Among the releases that Times critics are most looking forward to:

Margaret Lyons can’t wait for “Succession” Season 4: “Oh, I can hear the jangly piano theme now, and just knowing that the bereft and broken Roys, their gorgeously cruel dialogue and endless, joyless quests for power will be back on my screen soon fills me with elation.”

Mike Hale is eagerly awaiting two crime dramas that take different approaches to a venerable format, the mystery of the week: Fox’s “Accused” and Peacock’s “Poker Face.” Both premiere this month.

Zachary Woolfe recommends a production of Wagner’s “Lohengrin.” The production has been absent for a while from the 25 or 30 titles at the center of the Metropolitan Opera’s history. “It’ll be a major event when, on Feb. 26, the opera finally returns to New York in a new staging.”

Browse all the recommendations, including dance, art and more.


What to Cook

Credit…Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

For a special breakfast, serve Swiss rosti with smoked salmon, sour cream and a poached egg.

What to Read

10 new books to watch out for this month.

From Wirecutter

Our 100 most popular recommendations for 2022 can help you get a jump on 2023.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Spurt (four letters).

And here are today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s all for the first briefing of 2023 — and not 2024, as Friday’s newsletter erroneously suggested. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. The Pulitzer-winning feature reporter Eli Saslow is joining The Times as a writer at large.

Here’s Friday’s edition of “The Daily,” an update on a young man who fled Vladimir Putin’s draft.

You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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