Your Tuesday Briefing – The New York Times

The leaders of the U.S. and China held their third conversation in 10 months, a three-hour virtual summit, in an effort to keep “communication lines open” and avoid military action as tensions escalate.

Among the top issues were human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, trade measures, the future of Taiwan and cybersecurity. China has built up its military presence in the South China Sea in recent years, and cyberclashes have intensified.

Xi was joining the virtual meeting from China, where he has been since January 2020, while Biden participated from Washington. Since becoming president, Biden has spoken twice with Xi, but they have not met in person this year.

Avoiding escalation: Biden has repeatedly said he believes improving relations is possible and wise. Xi said in his opening remarks that the countries should work together.

Analysis: “No relationship is shaping the planet more,” writes our correspondent Raymond Zhong. “And no relationship seethes, across such a wide and consequential set of issues, with more tension and mistrust.”

President Biden signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law yesterday, a bipartisan victory that will pour billions into the nation’s roads, ports and power lines.

The bill is a hallmark of President Biden’s policy goals. While it stopped short of realizing his full-scale ambitions for overhauling America’s transportation and energy systems, Biden said it was evidence that lawmakers could work across party lines and solve major problems.

Among the major expenses in the law are $47 billion for climate resiliency, $73 billion for the country’s electricity grid, $66 billion for rail lines and $65 billion for high-speed internet. Here’s a rundown.

Governments in Europe, again the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, are singling out the unvaccinated.

Austria took the hardest line yesterday, starting a lockdown of the unvaccinated as it deals with a 134 percent increase in cases in the last two weeks. The unvaccinated must stay home unless they’re traveling for work, school, food or medical care.

In Germany, the incoming government has said that unvaccinated people will need a negative test to travel on buses or trains. In France, booster shots will be required for people who are 65 and older in order to secure a health pass. And in Italy, vaccinations or negative tests are required to work.

Some European leaders considered the harsh steps a measure too far.

Despite Britain’s rash of new cases in recent weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted mask mandates and health passes. Still, he said he worried about “storm clouds that are gathering over the continent.”

Signs of trouble: Eastern Europe’s Covid surges continue, especially in Romania and Bulgaria. Latvia responded to an outbreak with a full lockdown. Russia and Ukraine also increased restrictions.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

News From Europe

In remote southwestern Bulgaria, the Rhodope Narrow-Gauge Railway — a 100-year-old railroad and the last of its kind in the country — is the only means of transportation connecting locals to a nearby market town, which sustains their incomes. But ridership is down and maintenance costs are high, threatening the railway’s survival. See what it’s like for the daily riders who rely on the train.

An international cryptocurrency competition seems to be underway. Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Malta, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam are all in the race. But tech entrepreneurs like Ukraine, above, and Ukrainians like crypto.

Ukrainians are among the most avid cryptocurrency users in the world, ranking fourth in an index compiled by Chainalysis, behind Vietnam, India and Pakistan. The volume of cryptocurrency transactions each day, about $150 million, exceeds the volume of interbank exchanges in government-issued currency.

Residents lack better options. Banks in Ukraine are so sclerotic that sending or receiving even small amounts of money from another country involves an obstacle course of paperwork. The country itself has suffered through too many scandals to expect a major influx from international investment banks.

The government is hoping to bury its bad reputation with an assist from cryptocurrency. Step one in this ambitious campaign was legalizing and regulating Bitcoin.

But the status quo is still attractive for some. “I like that it’s corrupt here,” one crypto entrepreneur originally from New Jersey said. “Here, we get to play the game that only elites in the U.S. play.”

What to Cook

And here is the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Melina

P.S. Raymond Zhong, a technology reporter currently based in Taiwan, will be joining our Climate Desk as a climate science reporter.

The latest episode of “The Daily” looks at how the U.S. military hid a deadly airstrike in Syria.

Matthew Cullen and Victoria Shannon contributed. You can reach the team at

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