Tuesday Briefing – The New York Times

Israeli negotiators have reduced the number of hostages they want Hamas to release in the initial phase of a truce to 33 from 40, Israeli officials said yesterday, offering a hint of hope for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

Cease-fire talks have been at a standstill for weeks, but a delegation from Israel was planning to fly to Cairo today to resume negotiations — but only if Hamas agreed to attend, according to two of the officials. Hamas did not respond to a request for comment on whether it would send representatives to Cairo.

Patrick Kingsley, The Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief, told me that “there are lots of stumbling blocks” before a possible deal.

“Hamas wants a truce that gives it a chance of surviving the war as a military force, whereas Israel wants a deal that would allow its army the chance to eventually resume fighting and rout Hamas,” Patrick said. “That’s why Israel wants a short cease-fire, while Hamas wants a longer one that could be dragged out into permanence.”

Russian troops have captured or entered a handful of villages on Ukraine’s eastern front during the past week, capitalizing on outgunned and outnumbered Ukrainian forces before the latest U.S. military aid can arrive, military experts said.

Congress recently approved $60 billion in military aid for Ukraine, and President Biden signed the package last week, vowing to expedite the shipment of arms. But before the aid arrives, Ukraine faces an onslaught in several vulnerable areas.

Russian forces are advancing steadily past Avdiivka, which they captured in February after months of fighting. Ukrainian forces fell back to a new defensive line along a series of small villages about three miles to the west, but that line has now been overrun. As many as 25,000 Russian soldiers are also trying to take Chasiv Yar, which lies on strategic high ground, about seven miles west of Bakhmut.

A looming assault on a city in the Sudanese region of Darfur, where genocidal violence killed as many as 300,000 people two decades ago, has prompted warnings from U.N. and U.S. officials who fear that mass bloodshed may be imminent.

El Fasher is the last city held by Sudan’s military in Darfur and the latest flashpoint in a year-old civil war between Sudan’s military and the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group that Sudan’s military nurtured and that became a bitter rival.

If the R.S.F. were to seize El Fasher, the group could control about a third of Sudan, with the country split into rival fiefs. But experts said that an assault on El Fasher would be risky for the R.S.F., and many Western and Arab officials hope that international pressure can persuade both sides to back down.

The northern spotted owl, a rare and fragile subspecies of spotted owl, is being muscled out of its limited habitat in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. by larger barred owls and now faces extinction. The barred owls are also posing a threat to the California spotted owl, another subspecies.

In response, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed culling up to half a million barred owls over the next 30 years. The plan has incensed some animal welfare and wildlife protection organizations.

Don’t stop believing: Rory McIlroy won the Zurich Classic.

When it comes to aging, we tend to assume that cognition gets worse as we get older.

But that’s not the case for everyone. For a little over a decade, scientists have been studying a subset of people they call “super-agers,” individuals ages 80 and up who have the memory ability of a person 20 to 30 years younger.

New research shows that the brains of super-agers appear to atrophy less than those of their peers, and that there is no obvious recipe for staying sharp. The super-agers in the study exhibited a wide range of behaviors, and they all tended to have strong social relationships.

For younger people, a new study bolsters the connection between physical fitness and better mental health.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thank you for reading, and see you tomorrow. — Dan

You can reach Dan and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

Thanks to Patrick Kingsley.

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