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Friday Briefing: A New Plan for Gaza Aid

President Biden is expected to announce during his State of the Union address that the U.S. military will build a floating pier off Gaza to let ships deliver food and other aid to Gazans, U.S. officials said.

Constructing the pier will involve hundreds or thousands of U.S. troops on ships just off shore, and will be built in cooperation with other countries in the region. It was unclear whether Israel would be joining the effort. Currently, aid can only enter Gaza through two land crossings in the south. Officials said yesterday that a third land crossing in the north could open soon.

Yet delivering aid by sea does not directly solve the central problem: Aid trucks have been unable to move freely amid intense Israeli shelling and ground fighting, which remains fierce in the South. Nor would it address the chaos that has accompanied the deliveries. An aid convoy was overrun by desperate Gazans last week, leading to more than 100 deaths when Israeli soldiers opened fire and many people were trampled in the chaos.

At the International Court of Justice: South Africa asked the U.N.’s highest court to issue emergency orders for Israel to stop what it called the “genocidal starvation” of Palestinians.

Negotiations: Hamas negotiators left Cairo yesterday without a breakthrough in talks over a cease-fire in Gaza, the group said. Hopes for an imminent truce with Israel continue to dim.

President Biden is set to deliver the State of the Union speech in a few hours, which will most likely be his best opportunity to address Americans before the general election. It’s not technically a campaign speech, but for American presidents in the last year of their first terms, the annual address represents the kickoff to their re-election effort.

“The biggest question for many voters remains whether, at age 81, he’s up to the job for another four years,” said Reid Epstein, who covers politics for The Times. “This is likely his biggest audience of the year until and if he debates Donald Trump in the fall. Democrats are hoping to see a vigorous and energetic president.”

Biden’s overarching message is expected to be that Trump, his likely rival, is a dire threat to democracy. Biden is also expected to lay out plans for a second term and try to persuade Americans that the economy isn’t so bad. Inflation is falling, unemployment is low and the stock market is doing well. Yet, roughly half of registered voters believe the economy is in “poor” condition, according to a recent Times/Siena College poll.

History: The State of the Union has become a portrait of disunity. It didn’t used to be that way.

Last month was the hottest February ever recorded worldwide and the ninth straight month to set a heat record. The warm weather was driven in many places by the burning of fossil fuels, an analysis found.

Even more startling, global ocean temperatures in February were at an all-time high for any time of year, the E.U.’s climate monitoring organization found. The two sets of figures offer a portrait of an unequivocally warming world.

Charles Lindbergh Jr. was kidnapped in New Jersey and killed nearly 100 years ago. But new speculation about the kidnapping, and pressure to force DNA testing of evidence, have revived scrutiny of what was known as the “crime of the century.”

Lives Lived: Josette Molland, a member of the French Resistance, painted stark scenes of what she saw and endured in Nazi camps. She died at 100. See her paintings here.

The Academy Awards, which begin on Sunday night in Los Angeles, are the biggest night in American cinema. For a preview, we spoke with Kyle Buchanan, who covers the film industry for The Times.

What should we know about the awards this year?

Kyle: The Oscars always dream of a situation where the biggest films of the year are also the most nominated, and they got their wish twice over this year.

They have “Oppenheimer” facing off against “Barbie,” the two titanic blockbusters from last year that were so big that we coined the “Barbenheimer” portmanteau to honor them.

Is the industry as obsessed with that showdown as the rest of us?

They’re absolutely obsessed and heartened by it. Those films brought a lot of people back into theaters. They reminded them why they care about movies.

So to have the ultimate awards body also show such interest in them is all to the good. There’s a matchup in sensibilities between the populist lean of the multiplex crowd and the sometimes more esoteric bent of the Academy.

I mean, you even had people like Hillary Clinton weighing in on the Barbie snubs. So suffice it to say, if people were ever going to tune in to the Oscars and feel personally invested, it appears to be this year.

Got any predictions for us?

You wouldn’t lose much if you voted “Oppenheimer” nearly across the board.

That said, the major race with the most drama is for best actress: Emma Stone from “Poor Things” and Lily Gladstone from “Killers of the Flower Moon” have been strong all season, trading off major industry prizes. That one could absolutely go either way.

For more: Read more of Kyle’s predictions, and deconstruct key scenes from all 10 of the best picture nominees.

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