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Tuesday Briefing: Blinken’s High-Stakes Middle East Trip

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Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, landed in Saudi Arabia yesterday, beginning his visit to the Middle East. He is trying to prevent the Israel-Hamas conflict from becoming a broader regional war — and to rally allies around a proposal to release hostages in Gaza.

Here’s the latest.

Blinken’s visit comes as the U.S. and its Arab allies wait for Hamas to respond to a proposal for a potential cease-fire. Under the proposed agreement, Hamas would return more than 100 Israeli hostages held in Gaza in exchange for a pause in fighting there and for the release of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

The Biden administration is also pursuing further retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed militias that have targeted U.S. troops. A U.S. official said Blinken would seek to reassure U.S. allies that the strikes should not be interpreted as an escalation of fighting in the Middle East.

Politics: Many blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel for the security failures that led to the Oct. 7 attacks and want him out of office. While there’s no clear way to force early elections, there are other ways to oust him.

The death toll from the wildfires in Chile has risen to at least 122. President Gabriel Boric announced a two-day mourning period and said it was Chile’s worst disaster since a 2010 earthquake that left more than 400 people dead and displaced 1.5 million others.

“We’re standing before a tragedy of immense proportions,” Boric said.

Many people were on summer vacations near Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, coastal cities west of Santiago, the capital, when the fires swept through. Some people ran with children in their arms. The incinerated husks of cars lined the streets. Early signs suggest that flawed evacuation orders may have contributed to the death toll, and authorities believe that some of the fires were sparked intentionally.

Buckingham Palace said King Charles III, Britain’s monarch, has been diagnosed with a form of cancer and was suspending his public engagements to undergo treatment. The announcement cast a shadow over his busy reign that began barely 18 months ago.

Last week, the 75-year-old was discharged from a hospital after a procedure to treat an enlarged prostate. The palace did not disclose the type of cancer, but said it was detected during that procedure. It is not prostate cancer, a palace official said.

Bezwada Wilson leads one of the largest organizations fighting caste discrimination in India. “In my growing up years, I was made to feel different from the rest in school,” said Bezwada, 57, who was born into a caste assigned to remove dried human waste from latrines by hand.

He has spent 40 years trying to eradicate the practice and retrain workers.

Taylor Swift won her fourth album of the year award, breaking the record for the category. (She beat Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon, who have each won three.) Billie Eilish won song of the year, Miley Cyrus won record of the year and Victoria Monét was named best new artist. Phoebe Bridgers picked up the most awards: three for boygenius and one for a collaboration with SZA. Read about the highlights here.

“The show was particularly joyous, slick and thoughtful, featuring several striking performances and a few raw acceptance speeches,” our critics write. “All in all, it captured pop music as it actually is — centerless, and subject to change at any moment.”

See the standout outfits and a list of winners. And read an appraisal of Tracy Chapman’s performance of her song “Fast Car.”

Cook: French onion soup is a labor of love.

Read: “Praiseworthy” is the latest novel from Alexis Wright, arguably the most important Aboriginal Australian — or simply Australian — writer alive today.

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