Asia

First Thing: Kremlin says talk of Biden-Putin summit is ‘premature’

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Good morning.

Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, has said it is “premature” to talk about specific plans for a summit between Putin and Joe Biden, after an announcement on Sunday from the French president, Emmanuel Macron, thathis Russian and US counterparts had agreed in principle to attend talks aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine crisis.

The Élysée Palace had put out a statement after last-minute diplomatic efforts by Macron to try to dissuade Russia from invading Ukraine amid further US warnings that war was imminent.

The White House has confirmed Biden’s readiness to hold a summit but made clear it was wary about the sincerity of the offer.

What did Peskov say? He said Putin and Biden could meet if they considered it necessary, but emphasised that it was “premature to talk about specific plans for a summit” and no concrete plans were in place.

Is the threat of a Russian attack still predicted? Yes. The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said: “Everything we are seeing suggests that this is dead serious, that we are on the brink of an invasion.”

Credit Suisse leak unmasks criminals, fraudsters and corrupt politicians

Massive leak reveals secret owners of £80bn held in Swiss bank. Composite: Doug Chayka

A massive leak from one of the world’s biggest private banks has exposed the hidden wealth of clients involved in torture, drug trafficking, money laundering, corruption and other serious crimes.

Details of accounts linked to 30,000 Credit Suisse clients are contained in the leak, which unmasks the beneficiaries of more than 100bn Swiss francs (£80bn) held in one of Switzerland’s best-known financial institutions.

The leak points to widespread failures of due diligence by the bank, despite repeated pledges over decades to weed out dubious clients and illicit funds. The Guardian is part of a consortium of media outlets that has been given exclusive access to the data.

My colleagues can reveal how Credit Suisse have repeatedly opened or maintained bank accounts for a panoramic array of high-risk clients across the world.

What has the bank said about the revelations? “Credit Suisse strongly rejects the allegations and inferences about the bank’s purported business practices,” it said in a statement.

‘This should terrify the nation’: the Trump ally seeking to run Arizona’s elections

Arizona state representative Mark Finchem speaks at a Trump rally in Des Moines, Iowa, last October. Photograph: Rachel Mummey/Reuters

Last September, Donald Trump released a statement through his Save America website. “It is my great honor to endorse a true warrior,” he said, “a patriot who has fought for our country, who was willing to say what few others had the courage to say, who has my Complete and Total Endorsement.”

Former US presidents usually reserve their most gushing praise – replete with Capital Letters – for global allies or people they are promoting for high office, writes Ed Pilkington. A candidate for the US Senate, perhaps, or someone vying to become governor of one of the biggest states.

Trump by contrast was heaping plaudits on an individual running for an elected post that a year ago most people had never heard of, let alone cared about, endorsing a bid by Mark Finchem, a Republican lawmaker from Tucson, to become Arizona’s secretary of state.

Why should this be so worrying? The post holder is the chief election officer, with powers to certify election results, vet the legal status of candidates and approve infrastructure such as voting machines. In short, they are in charge of conducting and counting the vote.

Meanwhile, Trump’s new social media venture, Truth Social, has launched on Apple’s App Store. Read about that here.

In other news …

In Florida a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which would ban discussion of sexuality and gender identity in schools, was passed by the state senate’s education committee. Photograph: Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images

Republicans in several states have launched efforts to ban books pertaining to race and LGBTQ+ issues from classrooms while some legislatures are pushing to introduce laws that would ban teachers from discussing homosexuality. But it’s a crackdown that few parents have asked for.

US immigration courts are struggling to function at the most basic level, with judges who are already woefully understaffed and often undertrained now overwhelmed by a growing backlog of more than 1.6m cases, industry leaders have warned.

The three-week occupation over Covid rules and the Trudeau government ends with 76 vehicles towed and 191 arrests. Canadian police secured the downtown core of Ottawa with fencing on Sunday, as city workers cleaned up trash and snow plows cleared streets after two days of tense standoffs.

When is a classical music composition not actually classical? This is the conundrum at the heart of a heated row over the shortlisted songs for the Grammys, the annual awards that will be handed out in a few weeks’ time to recognise outstanding contributions to music.

Don’t miss this: How Dr Becky Kennedy became Instagram’s favourite ‘parent whisperer’

Kids aren’t afraid of feelings, Dr Becky Kennedy says, but of feeling alone in those feelings. Photograph: Linda Venuto Photography/Getty Images

What started as a useful tip on social media has turned the US psychologist and mum of three into a parenting phenomenon and the voice of reason for a generation of young mums and dads. In terms of translating deep ideas into social media nuggets for time-starved parents to consume in spare moments, Dr Becky Kennedy seems to have aced the market. But is it possible to come away with meaningful change from such short snippets?

Climate check: the new trend for becoming ‘coral’ when you die

A reef ball that has been colonised by various marine life. The rough surface helps coral and algae grow on it. Photograph: Eternal Reefs

A desire to return to the ocean goes back millennia, with evidence of sea burials in ancient Egypt and Rome. Today, the idea of an ocean burial chimes with a search for eco-friendly alternatives to traditional burial and cremation. While the reef model still requires cremation, the idea is that the structures will help restore marine habitats by mimicking some characteristics of a coral reef. But do underwater cremation memorials help people regenerate marine habitats in death or are they a “greenwashing” gimmick?

Last Thing: Finnish cross-country skier suffers frozen penis at Winter Olympics

Remi Lindholm in the 50km cross country event, in which a thin suit offered little protection in the cold. Photograph: David McIntyre/Penta Press/REX/Shutterstock

The men’s 50km mass start skiing race at the Beijing Games was shortened to 30km but that did little to help Finland’s Remi Lindholm, who needed a heat pack at the end of the race to thaw out a particularly sensitive body part. Lindholm spent just under an hour and 16 minutes traversing the course in howling, freezing winds, leading to his penis becoming frozen for the second time in a cross-country skiing race, after a similar incident in Ruka, Finland last year.

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