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Russia takes Ukrainian town of Avdiivka; Texas builds military camp on Mexico border

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vice President Harris arrive at a press conference at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.
Wolfgang Rattay
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POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vice President Harris arrive at a press conference at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

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Today's top stories

After a monthslong assault, Russian troops this weekend occupied the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka. It's Russia's first big battlefield win since last May, and it comes ahead of Russia's presidential elections in March. Ukraine's newly appointed military chief decided to withdraw troops to "preserve the lives and health of servicemen." In a Saturday call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President Biden blamed Ukraine's dwindling supply of weapons and ammunition on "congressional inaction."

  • A Ukrainian lawmaker tells NPR's Joanna Kakissis that Ukraine is being held hostage by election-year politics in the U.S. Republicans in Congress have been blocking a military aid package for Ukraine. Kakissis reports on Up First that Zelenskyy was at the annual Munich Security Conference this weekend, where he once again asked the West not to see this conflict as only Ukraine's war but one that will grow much larger if Russia keeps winning.


Despite international warnings, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not backing down from plans for an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, a city near the Egyptian border where more than 1 million displaced Palestinians are taking shelter.

  • Netanyahu has called for both a military plan and a plan to evacuate the civilians in Rafah, NPR's Greg Myre reports. But there's been no word of such a plan, which Myre says would be very complicated. Most Palestinians in Rafah are living in tents, and many say they have nowhere else to go. He adds that if Israel's claim that it's defeated 18 of Hamas' 24 battalions is accurate, it means Hamas has been badly weakened. But Hamas' internal and external leaders are intact, and the group has long had public support in Gaza, so "politically, it's still reasonably strong."  


Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas is building a military base camp in the city of Eagle Pass on the border with Mexico. The 80-acre facility would house National Guard troops and is part of a $10 billion state effort to limit illegal border crossings.

  • Texas Public Radio's Pablo De La Rosa reports that many were blindsided by Gov. Abbott's announcement of plans to build the facility. De La Rosa says Eagle Pass has been through a lot in the past few months after the state took over and militarized a park where people used to celebrate birthdays. Constitutionally, border security and immigration fall under federal control, but Gov. Abbott believes his state has a right to secure the border.

Life advice

/ LA Johnson/NPR
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LA Johnson/NPR

The real test for a relationship is not how often you're on the same page but how you're able to reach a shared understanding even when you're not. That's according to world-renowned relationship researchers and clinical psychologists Julie Schwartz Gottman and John Gottman. Their new book, Fight Right: How Successful Couples Turn Conflict into Connection, argues that conflict is actually useful in relationships. Here's how to come out of it stronger:

  • When a fight feels overwhelming, it's OK to take a break. Contrary to popular advice advising against going to bed angry, sometimes hitting pause is the best way to stop a bad argument from getting worse.
  • When you feel like you're in a standoff, use the bagel method: figure out what's important to you and what you're willing to compromise on, then compare notes with your partner.
  • When one partner starts a fight seemingly out of nowhere, with harsh words of judgment or criticism, it rarely ends well. Instead, try taking a gentler approach and use the "I" approach to express how you feel.

Today's listen

The cover photo from "Texas Hold 'Em," one of two new country singles by Beyoncé that debuted during Super Bowl LVIII.
/ Courtesy of the artist
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Courtesy of the artist
The cover photo from "Texas Hold 'Em," one of two new country singles by Beyoncé that debuted during Super Bowl LVIII.

A country music radio station in rural Oklahoma faced backlash last week when it briefly refused to play Beyoncé's new song, "Texas Hold 'Em." The station later claimed it wasn't aware she had recently released a country song. The incident has reignited a long-running conversation among country music fans about racism in the historically white, male-dominated genre.

Listen to parts of Beyoncé's new song and learn about what it could mean for Black women's future in the genre.

3 things to know before you go

Alistair Johnston of Nashville SC is issued a yellow card during the second half of a match against FC Cincinnati at Nissan Stadium on April 17, 2021 in Nashville.
Brett Carlsen / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Alistair Johnston of Nashville SC is issued a yellow card during the second half of a match against FC Cincinnati at Nissan Stadium on April 17, 2021 in Nashville.

  1. Major League Soccer will open its season this week with non-unionized replacement referees after the Professional Soccer Referees Association union rejected a contract they said fell "short of expectations." 
  2. Strong high-altitude winds over the Mid-Atlantic gave travelers on at least two commercial plans a boost this weekend. The aircraft hit supersonic speeds topping 800 mph.
  3. The FDA has approved a drug to help reduce allergic reactions from accidental exposure to certain foods like milk, eggs and nuts.

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi. Anandita Bhaleraocontributed.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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