The Evening: A Success and a Setback for Ukraine

Ukraine said today it had destroyed the Russian warship Novocherkassk in Crimea, one of the most significant attacks against Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet in months. But in a setback, Ukraine acknowledged that it had largely retreated from the eastern city of Marinka after a monthslong battle.

Russia said that the ship had been damaged overnight by “aircraft-guided missiles,” but did not specify whether it had been permanently disabled.

The developments underscore the diverging fortunes of the two combatants in a war that has largely settled into a deadlock: Ukraine racking up naval successes in the Black Sea and Crimea, and Russia pressing its attack on battlefields in the east.

During a news conference today, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top military commander, compared the failed fight to defend Marinka to the battle for Bakhmut, which fell to Russia last May. Every inch of Ukrainian land is vital, he said, but “the lives of our fighters are more important to us.”

Ron Dermer, a close adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a member of Israel’s war cabinet, was scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, in Washington today.

The U.S. continues to pressure Israel to lower the intensity of its military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, even as Netanyahu and Israeli military officials vow that the war will go on.

“We’re not stopping, we are continuing to fight and are deepening the fighting in the coming days,” Netanyahu said yesterday, adding that “this will be a long battle, and it is not close to ending.”

Retail sales increased 3.1 percent from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to data released today. Spending rose across many categories, with restaurants experiencing one of the largest jumps, 7.8 percent. Apparel and groceries also had gains.

The figures were a big relief for retailers who had feared that consumer spending would fall and suggest that the economy remains strong.

Donald Trump is planning to wrench apart the economies of the U.S. and China if he returns to power, an aggressive expansion of his first-term efforts to upend America’s trade policies.

Trump has said he would enact new restrictions on Chinese ownership of a range of assets in the U.S., bar Americans from investing in China and phase in a complete ban on imports of goods like electronics, steel and pharmaceuticals. Such a move would risk alienating allies and igniting a global trade war.

Kim Severson, who covers food culture, wanted to get an early idea of what dining might look like next year. Here’s some of what she learned.

For starters, meals are so 2023. The new year is going to be all about snacks. Delicious bites are a low-stakes way to explore new cuisines. Water will also be bigger than ever, whether it’s flavored with one powder or another, or conserved as conscious consumers look for foods that don’t drain an ever more precious resource. Buckwheat, too, is a rising star. Here’s what else to watch for.

Sometimes, emotional repair can be found in something as simple as a skein of yarn.

Samantha Moore made an animated documentary about the Merrymakers, a small group of older knitters in rural England, after her mother developed dementia and forgot how to read a knitting pattern.

When your life’s falling apart, it can help to “create a purpose in it for yourself,” one of the Merrymakers said. “And if that purpose is quite small, it doesn’t matter. It’s important. It’s something tangible.” Watch the documentary here.

We asked readers to share tips.

“I often endure a 10-plus-hour flight from New York to Hawaii to see my family for the holidays. It’s the only time a year when I slow things down and read a newspaper. Trapped on the long-haul flight, it’s just me and the articles: business, arts, sports. I fumble with the large sheets of paper, folding the pages in half, my fingers getting stained with ink. It’s my annual way to unwind and get lost in the writing — engrossed in the printed words instead of swiping and scrolling on a screen, a rare delight in this ever-digital world.” — Jennifer Suzukawa-Tseng, New York City.

It’s not easy to perform a veterinary exam on a wild, multi-ton marine mammal that might surface for only seconds at a time. But for the last five years, a team of veterinarians, marine biologists and engineers has been developing drones and infrared cameras to do just that.

The goal is to perform regular, remote health assessments for killer whales in the Pacific Northwest — and, if necessary, to intervene with personalized medical care.

Have a healthy evening.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Justin

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