Your Friday Briefing: Russia Sentences Brittney Griner to 9 Years
We’re covering Chinese military drills around Taiwan and the sentencing of the American basketball star Brittney Griner.
U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner stood in a defendants’ cage in Khimki, outside Moscow, on Aug. 4.Credit…Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters
Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years in Russia
A Russian court sentenced Brittney Griner, the W.N.B.A. star who has been detained in Moscow since February, to nine years in a penal colony on drug charges.
The guilty verdict, which most experts considered preordained in a legal system in which defendants are rarely acquitted, leaves Griner’s fate subject to diplomatic wrangling between Russia and the U.S. The countries have been discussing the possibility of a prisoner swap that would bring Griner home in exchange for one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers.
U.S. officials maintain that Griner was wrongly detained and held as a political bargaining chip. President Biden, who called the sentence “unacceptable,” now faces a difficult choice between standing firm on his proposal to trade the arms merchant Viktor Bout for Griner and another American, Paul Whelan, or sweetening the offer.
News from the war in Ukraine:
Ukrainian fortifications in the east have come under intense attack in recent days.
U.S. and European officials believe that manpower and equipment problems could again slow Russian operations and give Ukraine’s counteroffensive a better chance to succeed.
The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to accept Sweden and Finland into NATO.
Ukraine is building a war crimes case around an explosion at a Russian prison camp that killed at least 50 Ukrainian troops.
Chinese military tests threaten Taiwan
China’s military is currently conducting live-fire military tests in the waters surrounding Taiwan — a show of force intended to punish the island for hosting U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this week.
At least 11 Chinese missiles struck seas north, south and east of Taiwan within 24 hours of Pelosi’s departure. The drills, some of which are being held in areas less than 10 miles from the Taiwanese coast, will also have given Chinese forces valuable practice should they one day be ordered to encircle and attack the island.
While imminent conflict is unlikely, the exercises, which are set to last a full three days, are putting the region on edge. Tensions could escalate dangerously, especially if something goes wrong. The Japanese government said that five Chinese missiles had fallen into its exclusive economic zone, the first time any had landed in those waters.
U.S. view: American officials have expressed concern that the events could trigger an unintended confrontation between Chinese and Taiwanese forces, especially if the Chinese military launches a missile over the island, or if an incursion into disputed airspace leads to a midair conflict.
In China: On social media, many Chinese were disappointed with Beijing’s limited response to Pelosi’s visit, especially given the government’s tough rhetoric. Some users compared the military to the Chinese men’s soccer team, a laughingstock in the country because it has qualified for the World Cup only once.
Next stop: Pelosi met with political leaders in South Korea on Thursday and remained largely silent on China’s response, The Associated Press reported. The South Korean president, who is on vacation, spoke with her over the phone rather than in person — which critics saw as an intentional snub, with South Korean relations with China in mind.
Australia advances major climate legislation
Long criticized for ignoring the harmful effects of climate change, Australia — the world’s third-largest fossil fuel exporter — took a major step toward cutting its emissions.
The country’s Lower House of Parliament passed a bill that commits the government to reducing carbon emissions by at least 43 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, and reaching net zero by 2050. It is expected to pass through the Senate in a few weeks.
“The impact of climate change is real. We need a response which is real,” said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who campaigned on the commitment when he challenged the long-governing conservative coalition in a May election. “The government is offering that.”
But the move is widely seen as long overdue. A separate proposal pitched by the Australian Greens that would have required a 75 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 was rejected. The leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt, has argued that the government’s lower target will lead to the demise of the Great Barrier Reef, which is expected to continue struggling under current warming trends.
Global context: The 43 percent pledge brings Australia closer to reductions promised by Canada, South Korea and Japan, while still falling short of commitments from the U.S., the E.U. and Britain.
THE LATEST NEWS
India unexpectedly withdrew a proposed bill on data protection that was criticized by both privacy advocates and tech companies.
The U.S. will give $25 million in agriculture development aid over five years to projects in Cambodia to help alleviate food insecurity.
Covid outbreaks shut down Japan’s semiconductor plants, and an unanticipated surge in demand for electronics constrained supplies. The country is now spending billions to catch up.
Britain’s central bank raised interest rates by half a percentage point, the largest jump since 1995, and warned that the country could see a long recession starting later this year.
The French Parliament approved a $65 billion inflation relief package.
Following Iran’s announcement this week that it has the technical ability to produce a nuclear warhead, negotiators from the U.S. and Iran arrived in Vienna to attempt to restore the 2015 nuclear deal. Expectations are low.
Viktor Orban, the populist prime minister of Hungary, spoke as an opening day headliner at a conservative event in Texas.
The U.S. declared a public health emergency over monkeypox, but its supply of the vaccine will be limited for months because officials waited too long to ask the maker to process enough vials.
Scientists published the latest images from the James Webb Space Telescope, including photos of the aptly named Cartwheel galaxy.
A Morning Read
In Ireland, efforts are underway to preserve the call of the corncrake — a small, shy bird related to the coot. Its harsh and monotonous cry is seldom heard today, yet for older generations it was a beloved sound of summer, evoking wistful memories of warm weather, hay making and romantic nights.
ARTS AND IDEAS
All-time greats in decline
For 119 years, New Zealand’s All Blacks have dominated men’s rugby.
With three World Cup titles and an all-time winning percentage of nearly 80 percent, no country on earth has a winning record against them.
Yet after a series of defeats led to a humbling drop in the world rankings, the team — and New Zealand — is facing a prospect that once seemed unthinkable: The All Blacks are in decline, and this time they might not have what it takes to bounce back.
The All Blacks lost four of their last five matches, sliding back to fourth in the world rankings, their lowest position ever. Their struggles have left New Zealand asking not only why its most iconic representatives have faltered, but also what it means when the world’s greatest rugby team isn’t actually the best.
Part of the answer? New Zealand has changed. While rugby still fascinates many, the number of men who play the game is dropping as interest in other sports grows. A recent study found that only 7 percent of young New Zealanders regularly play.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
This version of pasta alla Norma includes prosciutto.
What to Read
In “Mothercare,” the novelist Lynne Tillman unsentimentally writes about attending to her mother’s failing health.
Here’s how heat waves are altering tourism in Europe.
Now Time to Play
Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Jet black (four letters).
Here are today’s Wordle and today’s Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Matthew
P.S. Matt Purdy was named Editor at Large, a new leadership position at The Times.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the Kansas abortion referendum.
You can reach Matthew and the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.