Your Wednesday Briefing

Trump charged with 34 felonies

Donald Trump was yesterday accused by Manhattan prosecutors of orchestrating a hush-money scheme to pave his path to the presidency and then covering it up from the White House. The former U.S. president pleaded not guilty in the case, which has far-reaching political consequences. He was indicted on 34 felony counts.

Trump stands accused of covering up a potential sex scandal involving the porn star Stormy Daniels. Appearing at the Criminal Courts Building in Lower Manhattan, he said fewer than a dozen words — of which “not guilty” were two — in a surreal scene for a man who months ago mounted a third run for the White House. His supporters rallied outside the building.

The case is the beginning of the former president’s journey through the criminal justice system. He faces three other criminal investigations related to accusations of undermining an election and mishandling sensitive government records, issues at the core of American democracy and security.

While the charges in New York focus on the payoff to Daniels, prosecutors also accused the former president of orchestrating a broader scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election by purchasing damaging stories about him to keep them under wraps.

Response: Speaking in a 21-minute televised address last night, Trump cast the case against him as unfair and politically motivated. “This is a persecution, not an investigation,” he said.

For more: Read the annotated indictment here.

Finland joins NATO

Finland yesterday became NATO’s 31st member state, a strategic defeat for Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, who had attempted to block the alliance’s expansion but instead galvanized Finland to join amid the devastating war in Ukraine. The Finnish flag was raised at NATO headquarters, and President Sauli Niinisto of Finland declared, “It is a great day for Finland.”

NATO’s commitment to collective defense will now extend to a country that shares an 830-mile border with Russia. Finland’s artillery forces are the largest and best equipped among European NATO members, with 700 howitzers, 700 heavy mortars and 100 rocket launcher systems.

Many details about how Finland will integrate into the alliance are still to be determined. A new Finnish government, which is still to be formed after an election on Sunday, must decide whether the country will accept foreign troops on its soil, or even nuclear weapons belonging to its allies.

Sweden: Finland had wanted to join “hand in hand” with Sweden, but that process was upended because Turkey and Hungary objected. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has called for Sweden to extradite figures he regards as terrorists, including Kurds and others who he believes supported the 2016 coup attempt against him.

Death on video in Bakhmut

Around Bakhmut and other fiercely contested cities and towns in eastern Ukraine, Russia and Ukraine are increasingly ordering deadly bombardments remotely, directed by aerial drones and witnessed at a distance on a soundless video feed.

Ukraine maintains continual aerial surveillance of Russian positions. When one drone’s battery is running low, another is already in flight to take its spot. Only when Russian soldiers congregate or attempt to advance do Ukrainians fire artillery. Russia also uses drone surveillance to target Ukrainian positions with incessant artillery.

The fighting in and around the condemned city of Bakhmut has been among the fiercest and most lethal of the war, with tens of thousands killed and wounded, according to Western governments. The city’s strategic significance is debatable. But each side has justified carrying on by saying it is weakening the opposing army with high casualties.

Related: The U.S. announced another $2.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine, including $500 million for ammunition and equipment from U.S. stockpiles.

Evan Gershkovich: Since the Wall Street Journal reporter was detained, Anton Troianovski, our Moscow bureau chief, has experienced an “outburst of solidarity for Evan by Russians who themselves have struggled to tell their country’s story and make it a better place, often at great cost.”


Around the World

Italy’s hard-right government ordered some areas to stop certifying foreign birth certificates for same-sex couples who used surrogacy, leaving some babies in legal limbo.

Families of the migrants killed in a fire at a detention facility in Mexico last week are still searching for the bodies of loved ones.

At least one person was killed and about 30 others were injured when a passenger train derailed in the Netherlands after striking a crane that was on the tracks.

The death of an unarmed Mexican man who was shot as he crossed an Arizona ranch has aggravated tensions over cross-border migration.

An avalanche in the Indian Himalayas killed at least seven tourists.

Other Big Stories

British officials fined TikTok $15 million for violating rules protecting the personal data of children under 13.

Virgin Orbit, a satellite launch company founded by Richard Branson, filed for bankruptcy protection after one of its rockets failed to reach orbit in January.

Under indictment on fraud charges, a onetime aide to Maryland’s former governor died after a manhunt and a shootout involving the F.B.I.

Science Times

Sudden heat waves in Melbourne, Australia, can cause mass deaths in the city’s flying fox population. So officials have devised a solution: They’re giving the bats a shower.

A study of almost five million adults found the benefits of moderate drinking to be negligible and the risks to be potentially significant.

Two outbreaks of the deadly Marburg virus in Africa could be a chance to test a vaccine — if researchers are mobilized in time.

New A.I. systems can produce short videos based on a written prompt.

More than 1,500 bison in Yellowstone National Park were killed to prevent the spread of disease to livestock. But the scope of the culling has drawn criticism.

A Morning Read

When the tourists who rode Thailand’s now unemployed captive elephants disappeared from resort destinations, the animals and their owners returned to their home villages. The owners say their elephants are considered part of their families, and that their well-being is of the utmost importance, whatever the cost.

“Those beautiful-world people accused us of not loving our elephants and torturing them by having them carrying tourists around or using hooks and chaining them,” one elephant keeper said. “They should understand that if the elephants roam around freely, they would destroy the neighbors’ field or property. Worse, they might eat fertilizer, thinking it is food.”

Lives Lived

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou was on track to be a concert pianist before becoming a nun. Years later, her recordings unexpectedly gained fans worldwide. Guèbrou died at 99.


Chelsea’s latest coaching failure: Before Graham Potter was fired, some referred to him as “Harry” or “Hogwarts” behind his back, while some roster selections caused confusion. Here’s where it went wrong.

Lionel Messi and Paris St.-Germain sink to a new low: Can Messi find a spark again in Paris? The flame, like the club’s season, appears to be flickering.

From The Times: The New Zealand women’s soccer team said its players would not wear white shorts at the World Cup this summer, acknowledging the concern that some players had expressed about period leaks.


Rethinking the retirement age

When retirement benefits were introduced around the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the retirement age was typically set far beyond the average life expectancy, as a kind of symbolic offering accessible only to a lucky and long-lived few.

Today, many more people have access to a national retirement fund, retiring in their 60s and living well into their 70s — or even longer. In response, several countries are debating raising the retirement age to try to offset the costs of an aging population.

Putting finances aside, what are the mental and physical implications of raising a national retirement age? Our cognitive faculties typically persist far into our 70s, but not all jobs are made equal, and more physically demanding roles can take a toll on people’s health, especially if they continue to work well into their 60s.

“One of the areas that we don’t talk enough about is: What do people deserve?” said Pinchas Cohen, who works on gerontology at the University of Southern California. “Is a few wonderful years when you’re still healthy — that you can do things and travel and so on — is that a national goal?”


What to Cook

This flourless almond cake is fragrant and aromatic.

What to Read

How Pablo Picasso became a pariah in Paris.

What to Listen to

150 years after his birth, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s music is here to stay.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Where preterm babies recover, for short (four letters).

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

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow — and a happy Passover to those who are celebrating. — Natasha

P.S. The U.S., U.K. and 10 other countries signed the treaty that created NATO, The Times reported 74 years ago today.

“The Daily” is on the election for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.

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

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