Good morning. We’re covering Russia’s victory in a key eastern city, Japan’s devastating heat wave and Pakistan’s debate over transgender rights.
Russia seizes Lysychansk
Ukraine’s military said Sunday that it had withdrawn from the key eastern city of Lysychansk, the last city in Luhansk Province still held by Ukraine.
Moscow’s victory means Russian forces are in control of large parts of the Donbas, a coal-rich region that has become Russia’s focal point since its defeat around Kyiv in the spring. Ukrainian forces are now bolstering defenses along the border line between Luhansk and the neighboring province of Donetsk, residents said.
After Ukraine withdrew from Lysychansk, explosions hit the center of a Russian city just north of Ukraine, killing four, officials said. It is the deadliest known episode affecting civilians in Russia since the start of the war. Moscow blamed Ukraine for the attack in Belgorod; Ukraine’s military had no immediate comment.
Here are live updates.
What’s next: Lysychansk offers Russia a base to mount offensives on cities to the southwest. Yesterday, the Ukrainian city of Sloviansk suffered its heaviest shelling. At least six people were killed and more than a dozen were injured, the mayor said.
A heat wave engulfs Japan
Japan is enduring one of its worst heat waves on record. Officials are urging people to keep their air-conditioners running to avoid heat stroke, though doing so could lead to potential power shortages.
Japan’s aging population is especially vulnerable to heat stroke and exhaustion, and officials have attributed a number of deaths to the heat.
Hospitalizations are also rising: Officials said that over 4,500 people with symptoms of heat stroke and exhaustion were taken to hospitals in ambulances in recent days, more than four times the number from the same period a year ago. Most patients were 65 or older.
Better Understand the Russia-Ukraine War
Data: In Tokyo on Saturday, temperatures exceeded 95 degrees Fahrenheit — about 35 Celsius — for the eighth straight day. The capital has only seen such a streak once before since 1875, when record-keeping began.
Context: Japan is vulnerable to power blackouts in periods of high demand because it relies heavily on liquefied natural gas, which is hard to stockpile, and which has become more expensive since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Pakistan’s debate on trans rights
Four years ago, Pakistan became one of the few countries to protect transgender people’s rights in statute. It enacted a law that prohibits discrimination in schools, workplaces and public settings, and guarantees the right to choose one’s gender on official documents.
Initially, some emerged from the shadows. But recently, violence has surged. In a spate of attacks in March, four transgender people were killed and others were injured in the northwest.
Enforcement of the law is also inconsistent. The legislation calls for the establishment of protection centers, where trans people can access mental health services, legal services and temporary housing. But only one has opened so far, in Islamabad, the capital.
And discrimination remains common. Many people live as they did before 2018, hiding their identities, shunned by their families, denied medical care and huddling together in group homes for safety.
Data: Pakistan has recently averaged about 10 homicides of transgender people annually, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring project. That’s more than before the law passed and, relative to population, far more than its neighbors.
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Kaleem Ullah Khan, the “mango man,” has spent a lifetime grafting 300 types of mango onto one mother tree. By doing so, the 82-year-old horticulturist has grafted his own life story onto it as well.
“Sometimes, the tree asks me questions — and I sit up and think about them,” he said. “It leaves me restless — what does it want? I think about the questions for hours.”
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The search for life out there
This month, the James Webb Space Telescope will begin spying on planets that orbit other stars. Astronomers hope that the powerful telescope will reveal whether some harbor atmospheres that might support life.
Identifying an atmosphere in another solar system would be remarkable enough. But there is even a chance — albeit tiny — that one of these atmospheres will offer what is known as a biosignature: a signal of life itself.
Since 1995, scientists have found more than 5,000 exoplanets. Some are similar to Earth — roughly the same size, made of rock rather than gas and orbiting in a “Goldilocks zone” around their star, not so close as to get cooked but not so far as to be frozen.
The relatively small size of these exoplanets has made them extremely difficult to study, until now. The James Webb Space Telescope, launched last Christmas, will change that, acting as a magnifying glass — gathering signals as faint as a few photons per second — to let astronomers look more closely at these worlds.