Your Friday Briefing

President Biden called on Congress to approve $33 billion in more aid to Ukraine, arguing that U.S. arms and humanitarian assistance are helping beat back Russian invaders in a conflict with global consequences. “The cost of this fight is not cheap,” he said. “But caving to aggression is going to be more costly.” Follow the latest updates from the war.

The request represented an extraordinary escalation in American investment, more than tripling total emergency expenditures and putting the U.S. on track to spend as much this year helping the Ukrainians as it did on average each year fighting in Afghanistan, if not more. There is broad bipartisan support for more aid.

Biden also sent Congress a plan to increase the government’s power to seize the assets of oligarchs tied to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. The proceeds could be used to help the Ukrainians. Hours later, Congress passed legislation allowing Biden to use a World War II-era law to lend weapons to Ukraine quickly.

In other news from the war:

  • Russian missiles struck Kyiv a few miles from where the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, was meeting with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

  • Officials from Ukraine and the U.N. continued to call for a cease-fire and humanitarian corridors out of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol.

  • Russian intelligence was behind a chemical attack on Dmitri Muratov, the Nobel Prize-winning editor of Novaya Gazeta, an independent newspaper critical of the Kremlin, U.S. officials said.

NATO is exploring ways to reinforce security for Finland and Sweden should they ask to join the alliance, as they have said they are likely to do, even in the period before the other 30 member countries ratify their membership, officials for the alliance said.

In recent weeks, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland have been moving toward requesting formal membership. But the ratification process takes time, and the countries cannot count on NATO to come to their military aid until it is completed.

NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said yesterday that he had discussed ways to bridge the interim period before the countries are covered by the group’s security guarantee. “It’s their decision, but if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be warmly welcomed and expect the process to go quickly,” he said.

U.S.: Though the Pentagon has not offered a formal security guarantee, officials in Washington said that bilateral agreements in place with the countries should help deter Russian aggression aimed at impeding their NATO membership.

Since the 1950s, two parties — the Socialists, on the left, and Les Républicains, on the right — have provided three-quarters of France’s presidents and nearly all of the country’s prime ministers. But in this month’s presidential election, candidates for both parties cratered, with each receiving less than 5 percent of the vote.

The stark collapse capped a yearslong downward spiral for both parties, which have struggled to convince voters that they can handle concerns like security, inequality and climate change, experts say. Instead, the second-round runoff was fought between Emmanuel Macron, France’s centrist president, and Marine Le Pen, of the far-right National Rally party.

The old left-right division has given way to a new landscape, split into three major blocs. Macron’s broad, pro-globalization center is now flanked by more radical forces: on the right, Le Pen and her anti-immigrant nationalism; on the left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a fiery stalwart who champions state-led policies against E.U. rules and the free market.

Background: Macron’s centrist party, founded six years ago, landed an initial blow to the system in 2017, shattering the left. With the vote earlier this month, the right is feeling the damage.

Next steps: Macron is set to be in office until 2027; French law limits presidents to two consecutive terms. After that, it is unclear whether the traditional parties will be able to rebound.

On the banks of the Nile, hundreds of people gather for iftar, the sunset meal that breaks the daily fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Once they have eaten, there is a palpable sense of relief.

“We come here to forget it all,” one young musician said. “The heat, the electricity cuts, the protests. Here, at least, we can sing.”

Don’t say “good luck,” don’t wear green, don’t give flowers, don’t whistle, always leave a light on. And definitely, never say the Scottish play’s name, or you risk personal catastrophe.

Theaters are superstitious places. When the new Broadway revival of “Macbeth” canceled performances because its lead, Daniel Craig, had tested positive for the coronavirus, there was chatter of the curse again, Alexis Soloski reports for The Times.

The “Macbeth” superstition is an invention of the critic and essayist Max Beerbohm. In 1898, Beerbohm wrote a column falsely claiming that a young male actor had died before the play’s debut. His words took hold, and stories of Macbeth-adjacent injuries, accidents and deaths began pouring in.

A lot can go wrong during a live performance, Anjna Chouhan, a lecturer on the work of Shakespeare, pointed out. Actors may subscribe to superstitions and various preshow and post-show rituals as a way to “enforce your control over things that can’t be controlled.”

The Times spoke with Broadway performers — among them believers and skeptics — about whether they had experienced supernatural moments in the theater.

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