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Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly last night to approve a long-stalled $95.3 billion package of aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, sending it to President Biden for his signature and ending months of uncertainty about whether the U.S. would continue to back Kyiv against Russian aggression.

The legislation had nearly been derailed because of right-wing opposition. The vast majority of senators in both parties supported the package, and Senate leaders regarded its passage as a triumph, particularly given the opposition to aid for Ukraine that had built up in the House.

Ukraine is running short of the munitions it needs to fight and had grown desperate for the aid to pass. My colleague Marc Santora, who has been reporting from Ukraine since the start of the war, told me that “what this aid means, in the most simple terms, is guns and bullets.”

“But beyond that,” he continued, “what this has done is provided a much-needed boost for the morale of both Ukrainian soldiers on the front and civilians living under the threat of near-nightly Russian drone and missile bombardments.”

Donald Trump had a dismal day in court yesterday; the judge presiding over his criminal trial in New York City told a defense lawyer that he was “losing all credibility,” and a key witness described what prosecutors called a conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The witness, David Pecker, the longtime publisher of The National Enquirer, detailed a crucial 2015 meeting with Trump and Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, during which, prosecutors claimed, they hatched a plot to conceal sex scandals looming over Trump’s campaign.

Pecker’s testimony followed a bruising hearing for Trump and his legal team. In the hearing, the prosecution urged the judge to hold Trump in contempt for repeated attacks on witnesses and jurors that they said had violated a gag order. The judge did not issue an immediate ruling.

Here are five takeaways.

The comments were among the first indications of the Israeli military’s plans if it were to conduct a major ground offensive in Rafah. The Biden administration has urged Israel to forgo such an action, but Israeli officials have repeatedly said that the army will enter Rafah to fight Hamas battalions there.

More Gaza news:

  • Bodies: The U.N. human rights office called for an independent investigation into two mass graves found after Israeli forces withdrew from hospitals in Gaza.

  • Gaza: Read about two families searching for enough food to keep their children alive.

Sometime in the late 18th century, a sign appeared outside a butcher’s hut in the English town of Stratford-upon-Avon. “The Immortal Shakspeare was born in this house,” it announced, using a common spelling of his name for the time. Today, the town is one of Britain’s most popular tourist destinations, drawing up to three million visitors a year, many to see the birthplace.

But it turns out that no one knows exactly where Shakespeare was born.

Italy’s champions: Inter Milan beat its rival, A.C. Milan, to clinch its 20th Serie A title.

Iga Swiatek: The Polish tennis star has spent 100 weeks as the world No 1.

Nothing to lose: Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, knows he can play the waiting game with the Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.

A European auction house will list a painting by Gustav Klimt for sale today, projecting it will fetch at least 30 million euros, or about $32 million, in its pre-auction estimate.

Whoever buys it will obtain a portrait whose subject, provenance and current ownership are either unknown, not public or the subject of debate.

The mysteries surrounding the portrait have only added to the interest in the sale of this work by Klimt, whose highly decorative paintings are now among the art market’s most coveted trophies.

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