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Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

5 min read

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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Wednesday.

1. Russia and Ukraine intensified their information war, presenting dueling narratives about the Mariupol steel plant where nearly 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered.

Russia trumpeted the surrender as a victory over what it has falsely called Nazism. Ukrainians are awaiting results of secret negotiations over the captured soldiers, who have sent only cryptic messages saying they’re following orders. Some are members of the Azov Battalion, which has far-right origins; the Russian Supreme Court planned a hearing on whether to declare the group a “terrorist organization.”

Ukrainians saluted the soldiers as heroes but tried to focus attention on the trial of a young Russian soldier accused of killing a civilian. Broadcast on YouTube, his trial has symbolic resonance as an effort to hold Russia accountable on war crime accusations.

On the front lines, Ukrainian doctors are working around the clock in skeleton crews.

In diplomatic news, strongmen in Turkey and Hungary stalled unity in the E.U. and NATO.

3. The Buffalo shooting suspect revealed his planned massacre online.

About 30 minutes before the attack, Payton Gendron invited a group of people to join a Discord chatroom. Until that moment, the posts in the room had been visible only to him, including hand-drawn maps of the grocery store he openly said he planned to attack.

No one he invited seems to have alerted the police. Someone who encouraged an act of mass shooting might be criminally liable, but the bar for charges would be high.

New York’s governor, Kathy Hochul, said today she wanted to strengthen “red-flag” laws by ordering the State Police to seek emergency orders barring weapon possession by people believed to be a threat to themselves or others.

4. A study of private health insurance claims found that even people with mild Covid can experience ongoing, debilitating symptoms known as long Covid.

Of 78,252 patients diagnosed with long Covid symptoms, 76 percent were not sickened enough by the initial infection to require hospitalization. Nearly a third had no pre-existing conditions. Almost all were under 65.

Long Covid seems to affect 10 to 30 percent of adults who had the virus. The researchers had planned to continue tracking patients to see how long their symptoms last but decided to publish data from the first four months now, “given the urgency” of the issue.

In North Korea, Kim Jong-un said his country should emulate China in dealing with a Covid outbreak — but Pyongyang doesn’t have the resources to sustain a “zero Covid” policy.

In the U.S., officials said a third of Americans live in areas where the risk of infection is now so high that they should consider masking up indoors.

5. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned, at a Group of 7 meeting this week, of global “stagflationary effects.”

Speaking in Bonn, Germany, Yellen suggested that the U.S. is prepared to withstand turbulence, given a strong labor market and healthy household finances. Europe, she warned, is more vulnerable, in part because of Russian energy dependence. She’s expected to press at G7 for continued Russian sanctions and has signaled that the pressure will intensify, as Russia’s future as a top energy exporter is in doubt.

In the U.S., poor results from retailers like Target and Walmart gave the S&P 500 its biggest drop since June 2020. Nasdaq dropped 4.7 percent. Millions of amateur investors are being affected by the chaos.

6. Murder, she wrote? The question is being decided in a Portland, Ore., courtroom.

Nancy Brophy, a romance novelist, once wrote a blog post titled “How to Murder Your Husband.” To do it, she said, a wife must “be organized, ruthless and very clever.” Now Brophy is on trial, accused of murdering her own husband. He was shot dead at the Oregon Culinary Institute in 2018.

Investigators found that Brophy had bought a “ghost gun” kit that could be used to modify the gun she had turned over to investigators. Brophy testified that it was research. “It was for writing,” she said. “It was not to, as you would have it, murder my husband.”

7. A doctor chose the only public outdoor funeral pyre in the U.S. for his perfect ending.

Dr. Philip Incao died in February at the age of 81. A practitioner of “anthroposophic” medicine and a believer in reincarnation, he moved to Crestone, Colo., in 2006. The former gold mining town, which draws many spiritual seekers, erected its public pyre more than a decade ago. Bodies are placed at home on ice for several days before being burned.

More than half of Americans choose cremation over burial. But community cremation sites have been taboo. “Burial as a practice in the U.S. is basically designed so that the American family doesn’t have to deal with the dying,” Dr. Incao said before his death.

8. In a landmark agreement, top male and female U.S. national soccer team players are now guaranteed equal pay for international matches.

They’ll also share any World Cup prize money. The decision by the U.S. Soccer Federation ends years of litigation and dispute. The deal comes months after a group of top women’s players settled a gender discrimination lawsuit and six months before the men’s team plays at the World Cup in Qatar.

The deal also includes a provision through which teams will pool unequal payments from FIFA, the world soccer’s governing body. For the most prominent U.S. women’s players, the agreement could result in a $24 million payout.

In other sports news, Colin Kaepernick is teaming with Scholastic to publish a graphic novel about his life called “Colin Kaepernick: Change the Game.”

9. Do airline climate offsets work?

Many people do it when booking flights: Check a box to fight the climate impacts of the trip by funding things like tree planting with a few dollars.

We asked readers to submit climate change questions, and they asked about offsets. Are they “just guilt money”? To some extent, the answer is yes.

Some experts say that offsets limit some damage until the world transitions to renewable energy. But many others feel that offsets distract from more effective solutions. One argued that carbon credits highlight “the whole trading approach of companies being able to buy their way out of their responsibility to reduce their own emissions.”

10. And finally, Barnum & Bailey — and no animals.

Five years ago, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus said it was folding its tents after 146 years, facing tepid sales and a public unhappy about animal acts.