Your Thursday Briefing
Good morning. We’re covering a possible prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia, and another rate increase by the Fed.
Paul Whelan, left, and Brittney Griner, both detained by Russia, could be released in exchange for Viktor Bout.Credit…Pool photos by Alexander Zemlianichenko/
U.S. proposes a prisoner swap
The U.S. offered a prisoner swap to Russia: Viktor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer, for Brittney Griner, the W.N.B.A. star, and Paul Whelan, a former Marine.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that he would speak to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine about a “substantial proposal” to free Griner and Whelan. The U.S. State Department says the two were wrongfully detained.
Blinken’s comments came the same day that Griner, who has been detained in Russia on drug charges since February, testified in court. She said that she had been tossed into a bewildering legal system with little explanation of what was happening. Here are live updates.
Background: Bout, who is known as the “Merchant of Death,” is serving a 25-year federal prison sentence for conspiring to sell weapons to people who said they planned to kill Americans. Whelan was sentenced in Russia in 2020 to 16 years in prison on espionage charges.
Energy: Russia cut the flow of natural gas to Germany yesterday. Germany, the E.U.’s largest economy, is now turning to liquefied natural gas to keep warm through the winter.
Fighting: Ukrainian missiles struck a key bridge in Kherson as Russia increased attacks across southern Ukraine. The U.S. estimated that more than 75,000 Russian forces have been killed or injured.
Dissent: Russian opposition figures face a difficult choice: Stay and risk imprisonment or try to keep up the resistance from abroad.
The Fed raises interest rates, again
The U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point yesterday, sticking to its aggressive campaign to rein in inflation.
The unusually large interest-rate move comes even as the U.S. economy begins to slow. Jerome Powell, the chair of the Fed, said that a third “unusually” large three-quarter-point rate could be coming in September. He stressed that he did not think the U.S. is in a recession.
Still, Powell said, “We need growth to slow. We don’t want this to be bigger than it needs to be, but ultimately, if you think about the medium to longer term, price stability is what makes the whole economy work.”
Reaction: His comments appeased investors. The S&P 500 stock index ended the day up 2.6 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite posted its best day since April 2020.
What to Know About Brittney Griner’s Detention in Russia
What happened? In February, Russian authorities detained Brittney Griner, an American basketball player, on drug charges, after she was stopped at an airport near Moscow. Since then, her detention has been repeatedly extended. Ms. Griner’s trial began on July 1; she has pleaded guilty.
Why was she detained? Officials in Russia said they detained Ms. Griner after finding vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage; a criminal case carrying a sentence of up to 10 years was later opened against her. Ms. Griner’s lawyers have argued that the star had a medical prescription for the hashish oil and mistakenly carried the drug into Russia.
Why was she in Russia? Griner was in Russia playing for an international team during the W.N.B.A. off-season. Trading rest for overseas competition is common among the league’s players for many reasons, but often the biggest motivation is money.
How is the U.S. approaching the situation? U.S. officials have said that Ms. Griner was “wrongfully detained,” adding that they were working aggressively to bring her home. Two days after Ms. Griner sent a handwritten letter to President Biden asking him not to forget about her, Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Cherelle Griner, the W.N.B.A. star’s wife, who had questioned whether the Biden administration is doing enough.
What are the possible outcomes? With her guilty plea making the verdict all but a foregone conclusion, Ms. Griner’s lawyers have been arguing for leniency. Experts say that her best hope may be for the Biden administration to suggest a prisoner swap with a Russian citizen being held by the United States. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on July 27 that the United States had put forward a proposal to gain her release in talks with Russia weeks earlier.
Background: The Fed began raising interest rates from near-zero in March. After making a quarter-point move to start, the central bank raised rates by half a point in May and by three-quarters of a point in June, the largest single step since 1994. Consumer prices climbed by 9.1 percent in the year through June.
Explanation: Here’s how rate increases act as America’s main tool for cooling down prices and what they mean for mortgages and credit cards.
Lufthansa cancels flights
Lufthansa Airlines canceled virtually all its flights in and out of Frankfurt and Munich yesterday after around 3,000 employees walked off the job to protest for better wages. Nearly 130,000 travelers were stranded.
The protest was scheduled to end at 6 a.m. this morning, but the wage fight is likely to continue. A union official said that salaries were “not high enough to account for inflation,” while Lufthansa outlined pay increases that it had already offered.
This strike is just the latest travel interruption in Europe. Airport and other transport employees have been striking throughout the summer to demand better staffing and pay.
And even as international Covid-related restrictions continue to wane, the pandemic has left deep scars across the travel industry: Airports and airlines who let employees go during the pandemic are now struggling to meet a recent surge in demand.
Airports: Heathrow, in London, and Schiphol, in Amsterdam, have both tried to limit the number of passengers in August. Heathrow’s announcement came after photographs of luggage piled up at the airport circulated on social media.
Tips: A flight attendant offered suggestions for avoiding airline chaos this summer.
THE LATEST NEWS
A Greek opposition leader was targeted with malicious spyware, the first attempted hack detected against a European Parliament member.
Credit Suisse reported a $1.65 billion loss for the second quarter, even as its European rivals Deutsche Bank and UBS reported gains.
An Iraqi court overturned the conviction of a British tourist who was imprisoned for stealing ancient artifacts from an archaeological site.
In a reversal, Senator Joe Manchin agreed to a climate and tax package, which he said could reduce inflation.
The Senate passed a $280 billion bill aimed at building up America’s manufacturingand tech sectors to counter China.
President Biden tested negative for the coronavirus and concluded his five-day isolation.
At least four people were killed when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the northern Philippines yesterday morning.
Three U.N. peacekeepers were among at least 15 people killed in anti-U.N. protests in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Bangladesh said it was seeking a loan from the I.M.F. a week after introducing scheduled power outages in response to soaring fuel costs.
Hundreds of Iraqis breached Parliament yesterday, protesting a nominee for prime minister chosen by Iran-backed parties.
What Else Is Happening
In a jarring shift for Hong Kong, the city’s leaders are rushing to embrace Xi Jinping, China’s leader.
Meta, once known as Facebook, reported its first revenue decline since the company went public a decade ago.
A study found that Europeans consumed milk products for thousands of years despite lacking lactase, an enzyme that helps digest dairy.
A women’s Tour de France was revived this week after a 33-year absence.
A Morning Read
Digital media is changing language — sometimes rapidly. American Sign Language is no exception.
Check out this video-filled story on how people who are deaf or hard of hearing are responding to the spread of smartphones and video.
Live Lived: James Lovelock, aBritish ecologist, captured the scientific world’s imagination with his Gaia theory, which portrays the Earth as a living creature. He died on Tuesday, his 103rd birthday.
The Plight of Brittney Griner in Russia
The American basketball star has endured months in a Russian prison on charges of smuggling hashish oil into the country.
- Why Griner Was in Russia: Brittney Griner was playing for the basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the W.N.B.A. off-season.
- Hostage Diplomacy: In recent years, several Americans have been swept up by hostile governments looking to use them as bargaining chips. Brittney Griner might be one of them.
- The Limits of U.S. Power: Ms. Griner’s detention in Russia has come to symbolize the American government’s finite ability to protect its citizens abroad, bringing attention to the plight of dozens of other Americans believed to be wrongfully detained by foreign governments.
- The N.B.A.’s Low Profile: The league has been mostly quiet in the public campaign to free Ms. Griner, even though it founded and still partly owns the W.N.B.A. Here’s why.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The year of Barbie
The color of the season is pink. The inspiration: Barbie.
It started with the high-fashion world. During Paris Fashion Week, Valentino debuted a pink collection, and in Rome this month, Anne Hathaway attended his show in a hot-pink sequined dress. Lizzo, Lil Nas X, Kim Kardashian and other celebrities have also been spotted in pink.
The trend, dubbed “Barbiecore,” is also popular among millennials and Gen Z. As the website Who What Wear put it: “Yes, the dolls you played with as a child are leading the sartorial charge right now. Talk about a true nostalgic revival.”
Then there’s the live-action Barbie movie that comes out next year, directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken. Photos of the actors rollerblading in extremely bright outfits have been hard to miss online: “the social media dopamine hit of summer,” as described by Vanessa Friedman, the fashion director and chief fashion critic for The Times.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT, READ
What to Cook
Buy frozen puff pastry to make this colorful carrot tart.
What to Read
The essays in “How to Read Now” meditate on interpretation, inheritance and understanding.
Default settings can make us unnecessarily share our data. Here’s what you should turn off right away.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and a clue: “Cake levels” (five letters).
And here’s today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Amelia
P.S. The Times won three awards from the Education Writers Association.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the N.F.L. quarterback Deshaun Watson.
You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].