Your Wednesday Evening Briefing – The New York Times

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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Wednesday.
1. A new inflation report spells trouble.
Prices in June climbed 9.1 percent from last year in the U.S., the fastest pace since 1981, as the cost of gas, rent and groceries continued to soar and everyday life became more expensive for American households.
There was more unwelcome news: A core inflation index that strips out food and fuel prices — giving a sense of underlying inflation trends — unexpectedly picked up to 5.9 percent, spelling trouble for the Federal Reserve. If people begin to ask for higher wages in anticipation of price increases, companies could try to pass their labor costs along to customers by raising prices, perpetuating the cycle.
The report ramped up pressure on the Fed to continue raising interest rates. Here are the main takeaways from the hot inflation number.
While gas prices are still high, a four-week decline offered some relief to drivers.
In other economic news, the dollar rose to parity with the euro for the first time since 2002.
2. President Biden landed in Israel as he began a four-day trip to the Middle East.
Almost immediately, Biden sought to calm Israel’s fears of a potential nuclear deal with Iran, arguing that Israel would be safer with a renewed nuclear accord.
Biden promised to not cave to one of Tehran’s key demands — that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be taken off Washington’s foreign terrorist list as part of any agreement — and assured Israel that the U.S. would use force if needed to stop Iran from developing a bomb.
From Israel, Biden will travel on to Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed to be the mastermind of the brutal 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. The trip will be fraught with political perils, including the formalities of a handshake.
3. Trust in U.S. democracy has eroded across the political spectrum, a Times/Siena College poll found, with 58 percent of surveyed voters saying the system needs reform.
The discontent among Republicans is driven by their widespread, unfounded doubts about the legitimacy of the nation’s elections. For Democrats, it is the realization that even though their party controls the White House and Congress, Republicans are the ones achieving long-sought political goals.
The latest survey results come as the House committee investigating Jan. 6 revealed new evidence this week that Donald Trump and his aides had a hand in directing the mob to the Capitol. The committee honed in on one “unhinged” meeting in particular that, even by the standards of the Trump White House, was extreme.
4. Sri Lanka plunged deeper into crisis as protesters lost patience with the leadership.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as acting president before Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives in a military plane. But the appointment is unlikely to satisfy the demands of protesters calling for a wholesale change of the political leadership, which they blame for nearly running the country into bankruptcy. Here is how Sri Lanka reached this moment of crisis.
Protesters did not back down after Wickremesinghe’s appointment and surrounded the prime minister’s residence, where they were met with tear gas, in the capital, Colombo. They also took control of the prime minister’s office. Wickremesinghe declared a curfew and referred to some protesters as a “fascist threat.”
Read more about the Rajapaksas, Sri Lanka’s powerful ruling family, and their military ties.
5. Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are working to release grain from Ukraine’s blockaded ports and ship it to countries facing rising hunger.
Turkish and U.N. representatives joined the talks, held in Istanbul. António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, said after the meeting that “the progress was extremely encouraging. We hope that the next steps will allow us to come to a formal agreement.”
The urgency is real. More than 22 million tons of grain are stuck in Odesa and other Black Sea ports that are blockaded by Russian warships. Famine looms in the Horn of Africa, where years of drought are already devastating communities in Somalia.
On the front line, Ukraine’s military said, newly arrived Western weapons systems have allowed it to strike deep within Russian-controlled territory.
6. Most elite colleges give a boost to applicants who are children of alumni. The century-old tradition may be facing its biggest test yet.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments this fall about race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. If, as many experts expect, the court ends or rolls back affirmative action — the widely used practice of considering race in selecting students — the ruling could prompt a reconsideration of legacy applicants.
Many colleges say legacy students cement family ties and multigenerational loyalty. Explicitly favoring the children of alumni would become harder to defend if racial preferences were no longer allowed.
7. Our reporters traveled to a forest community in the Democratic Republic of Congo to understand what’s driving deforestation.
Logging companies working in the Congo Basin cut precious old-growth trees for use in furniture and home construction. But regular people searching for bundles of wood to make charcoal are also taking a heavy toll on the forest. They play a surprisingly large role in the deforestation of a region that rivals the Amazon in ecological importance.
That’s partly because felling and burning trees unleashes stores of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and cooking with wood fires and charcoal affects air quality. But for people in Congo, there’s often no choice.
8. Two towns in Sardinia are battling it out for the distinction of having the longest-living residents.
Perdasdefogu is hoping that its recognition by Guinness World Records as the municipality with “the largest concentration of centenarians” will spur an economic revitalization. Currently, the town has seven residents aged over 100. But Seulo, a smaller town on the island, has threatened Perdasdefogu’s grand plans by staking a rival claim to the title.
If you’re trying to live as old as some Sardinians do, a sprawling new study showed that healthy eating and regular workouts do not, in isolation, stave off health issues later in life. They need to be done together.
9. Give native plants a chance.
Say the word “annuals” and most gardeners think of subtropical plants like petunias, begonias and marigolds that grow in the warmest months in temperate gardens. Native annuals, however, do so much more than provide summer color. As one expert put it, “Annuals are earth healers.”
Native annuals like partridge pea, black-eyed Susan, lemon bergamot and even sunflowers are great options, writes The Times’s garden columnist, Margaret Roach. While they hold space for the perennials to size up, they also support the food web (and look beautiful doing it). The tricky part is, most of us can’t name native annuals, so some homework is involved.
10. And finally, something fishy.
Canned sardines have a new following. But your new favorite treat is, in fact, a product of a very old operation.
We traveled to Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city and the capital of the fish-canning industry, to tour Conservas Pinhais & Cia. The fish-canning factory was founded in 1920 and opened to visitors last year. The fish are known for their high quality and perfect seasoning, and the cannery’s employees, mostly female, will often sing. Take a look.
Have a tightly packed (with fun) evening.
David Rosenberg compiled photos for this briefing.
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