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Your Tuesday Briefing: A Devastating Quake

Rescuers in Turkey and Syria were digging through rubble in search of survivors after a powerful earthquake collapsed thousands of buildings and killed more than 3,000 people.

It is another humanitarian disaster in an area already battered by war, a refugee crisis and deep economic troubles. Here are live updates, a detailed map of the damage and some pictures and video showing the aftermath.

An initial earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.8, the strongest felt in Turkey since 1939, struck before dawn on Monday. Hours later, in the afternoon, a second tremor measuring 7.5, almost as powerful as the first shock, shook the area again, complicating rescue efforts and terrifying millions of people living in the quake zone.

The epicenter was near the city of Gaziantep in south-central Turkey, where more than 1,650 people were killed.

In Syria, a country devastated by civil war, the scenes of destruction felt all too familiar. One of the areas hard-hit was northwest Syria, which is under the control of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition and is home to some 4.2 million people, more than half of whom have been displaced by war.

Governments around the world responded to Turkey’s request for assistance, deploying rescue teams and offers of aid. Syria requested help from Israel, a longtime enemy. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorized deliveries of aid to Syria as well as to Turkey.

Cultural loss: Gaziantep Castle, which was built as a watchtower in the Roman period, was heavily damaged.

Turkish politics: With an election looming, the earthquake is a major test for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose response to the 2021 wildfires was heavily criticized.

China said that another one of its balloons had floated over Latin America and the Caribbean, three days after it was detected by Colombia’s air defense. As with the balloon over the U.S., China said that it was for civilian purposes and that it had “deviated far from its planned course.”

The Colombian Air Force said that it had tracked the object and that it did not pose a threat to national security. But in the case of the balloon that bumbled its way across the U.S. and was shot down on Saturday, there were questions about China’s intent.

The errant balloon showed that control within the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s government and his security apparatus may not be as orderly as what Beijing projects. Questions about Xi’s judgment and that of his military and intelligence services now cloud assessments about how China would handle another crisis in a far more dangerous setting, such as over Taiwan.

Quotable: “What has been particularly damaging for China, both internationally and domestically, are the questions this raises about competence and how they’re reinforcing doubts about Xi Jinping’s leadership,” said a former official who worked in the Clinton administration.

Context: There is nothing new about superpowers spying on one another. During the Cold War, tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union came to a head over a U-2 spy plane. But for pure gall, there was something different this time.

For six decades, climate scientists measured greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere from a facility atop Mauna Loa, a volcano in Hawaii. That research was thrown into crisis when Mauna Loa erupted in November. The solution? Moving operations to Mauna Kea, the next volcano over.

Lives lived: Bob Born brought the marshmallow candies known as Peeps to American Easter baskets, starting a pop culture phenomenon. He died at 98.

Nairobi’s first library opened its doors in 1931 — to white patrons only. The city, a fast-growing capital of over four million people, still has very few bookstores or well-funded libraries. Urban planners argue that colonial systems continue to shape public infrastructure and unequal access across social class. Along with restoring the buildings, the nonprofit aims to include more books in African languages and incorporate services catering to those with disabilities.

Joyce Nyairo, a Kenyan academic, said the restored libraries could be “great equalizers.”

In Brazil: The newly elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, promised “more books in place of guns” as part of his once-unlikely political comeback. Can he deliver?

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