Your Thursday Briefing: U.S. Believes Ukrainians Were Behind a Killing in Russia

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that parts of the Ukrainian government signed off on the car bomb attack near Moscow in August that killed Daria Dugina, the daughter of a prominent Russian nationalist.

An assessment about Ukrainian complicity was shared within the U.S. government last week and has not been previously reported. Specifics about the operation remained scant: American officials did not disclose which elements of the Ukrainian government were believed to have authorized the mission, who carried out the attack or whether President Volodymyr Zelensky had cleared it.

Ukraine has denied involvement in the assassination. Senior Ukrainian officials repeated those denials when asked about the American intelligence assessment.

American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the U.S. did not provide intelligence or otherwise assist in the attack. They added that the American government would have opposed the assassination if it had been consulted, and that Ukraine was admonished for it.

Background: Some American officials suspect that Dugina’s father, Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian ultranationalist, was the actual target of the operation, and that the operatives who carried it out believed he would be in the vehicle with his daughter.

Context: Ukraine’s security services have demonstrated their ability to attack collaborators on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine. But killing Dugina would be one of the boldest operations to date and could provoke Moscow to carry out retaliatory strikes against Ukrainian officials, for little direct military gain.

Chinese naval and air force exercises in August showed that China would probably blockade Taiwan before attempting an invasion, and the democratically governed island would have to hold its own until the U.S. or other nations intervened, if they decided to.

Smaller, maneuverable weapons systems could be critical to Taiwan’s endurance, and U.S. officials are quietly pushing Taiwanese officials to order more of them. Many of the weapons that could bolster Taiwan’s defenses are going to Ukraine, and arms makers are reluctant to set up new production lines without long-term orders.

Background: China has long sought to control Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory, and the U.S. has worked to help the island without enraging Beijing. President Biden said last month that the U.S. was “not encouraging” Taiwan’s independence, but he has also said that the U.S. would defend the island if China attacks.

Context: The Biden administration announced last month that it had approved a $1.1 billion weapons sale to Taiwan, and officials are discussing how to streamline the sale-and-delivery process. Getting weaponry through a Chinese blockade could risk setting off a confrontation between China and the U.S.

The oil industry cartel and its allies, including Russia, approved a drop in oil production of two million barrels a day to shore up prices.

Australia announced a plan to prevent any more of its plant and animal species from going extinct, an ambitious goal for a country that has lost species at one of the highest rates in the world. Scientists and conservationists welcomed the 10-year plan, which commits to preserving 30 percent of Australia’s landmass and specifies protecting animals like the growling grass frog, but they worried that it would still prove to be insufficient.

Critics have largely focused on animated shows like “The Simpsons” while sidelining “Beavis and Butt-Head,” Mike Judge’s 1990s cartoon about two teenage numbskulls who mock music videos. But overlooking the popular MTV program is a mistake, writes Jason Zinoman, The Times’s new critic at large.

“Can I explain why Beavis pulling his T-shirt over his blond bouffant and declaring himself the Great Cornholio made me laugh louder than anything Bart Simpson has ever done?” Zinoman writes. “No, but it’s true. Sometimes life (and thus comedy) is stupid.”

“Beavis and Butt-Head” stuck to plots that Zinoman called “pointedly indifferent.” The result was humor that felt effortless, unaffected and, to many, moronic — but still hilarious. But the heart of the show was them watching and commenting on music videos. For Zinoman, then a budding critic, watching the program was “essentially watching the performance of criticism.”

Paramount+ has made a major investment in the show, putting old seasons online and rolling out a new movie and a reboot. The new show maintains the imbecility of the original, though some episodes, alas, have more developed plots.

This pulled pork recipe is saucy, satisfying and easy enough to pull off for dinner whenever you want.

The Octonauts” is one of the first TV shows to teach very young children about climate change.

Here are five minutes that will make you love bebop.