Your Wednesday Briefing
The land portion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Lubmin, Germany, last week.Credit…Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
Gas leaks raise suspicions of Russian sabotage
Explosions under the Baltic Sea and the rupturing of major natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany appeared to be a deliberate attack, officials across Europe said yesterday, deepening uncertainty about European energy security amid soaring prices and fears of running short of fuel over the winter.
Three separate leaks erupted from the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which were already caught up in the conflict over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sending swirling streams of methane to the surface of waters off Denmark and Sweden. Top Polish and Ukrainian leaders blamed Moscow, while the Russian state media suggested U.S. or Ukrainian involvement.
The pipelines have been a focal point of the broader confrontation between Russia and Europe. After the E.U. imposed economic sanctions on Russia, Moscow began withholding its natural gas, threatening the continent’s energy supply.
Background: The C.I.A. issued a vague warning in June to a number of European nations, including Germany, that the two Nord Stream gas pipelines that carry natural gas from Russia could be targeted in attacks, officials said.
Related: A potential agreement between Israel and Lebanon, which have technically been at war since 1948, could increase production of natural gas, helping energy-starved Europe.
Four days of staged referendums on joining Russia in occupied parts of Ukraine wrapped up yesterday. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is expected to annex the territories soon.
The Kremlin has personnel waiting at Russia’s borders, attempting to confront young Russian men trying to join an exodus out of the country to avoid a military draft.
Liz Truss’s economic gamble
Liz Truss, the British prime minister, campaigned as a tax cutter and a champion of supply-side economics. Having now delivered that free-market agenda — the tax cuts and deregulatory plans that have stunned financial markets — her political future hangs in the balance. In the latest polls, the opposition Labour Party has taken a lead of 17 percentage points over Truss’s Tories.
Labour is seizing the moment to present itself as the party of fiscal responsibility. As some experts predicted that the pound could tumble further, economists and analysts said that uncertainty over Britain’s economic path would continue to hang over the markets and Truss’s government.
The British government has proposed cutting taxes at a time of near-double-digit inflation, as well as making the unexpected decision to abolish the top income tax rate. The chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, did not submit the package to the scrutiny a government budget normally receives, deepening fears that the tax cuts would blow a hole in Britain’s public finances. The International Monetary Fund has urged the government to reconsider.
Currency: The pound stabilized briefly against the dollar yesterday, as did 10-year rates on British government bonds, though both began to gyrate later in the day after a senior official at the Bank of England signaled an aggressive increase in interest rates.
Response: The Bank of England’s chief economist offered a first glimpse into how the bank would assess the government’s sweeping package of tax cuts, borrowing and spending.
The threat of authoritarianism
Within the E.U., countries like Hungary — which the European Parliament recently declared could “no longer be considered a full democracy” but an “electoral autocracy” — and Poland represent substantial challenges to liberal democracy and the rule of law. Similar threats exist around the world from autocracies including Russia, China, Turkey and the oil-rich Gulf.
In the late 1990s, 72 countries were democratizing, and only three were growing more authoritarian, according to data from the V-Dem Institute, which monitors democracy and its variants. Last year, liberal democracies were at their lowest level in 25 years, as only 15 countries grew more democratic, while 33 slid toward authoritarianism.
Experts and politicians have pointed to how the digital revolution and the confusion between truth and lies have contributed to the undermining of democracy. A separate concern is a potentially different value system among younger voters, who seem to care more about climate change, which they regard as existential, than they do about democracy.
War in Ukraine: The U.S. and its NATO allies have presented the war as a fight for democracy against totalitarianism, despite Ukraine’s own shaky history of democracy and transparency. But many countries, including mostly democratic ones like India, regard it as a form of an American-Russian proxy war.
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
Hurricane Ian is forecast to make landfall in Florida this afternoon, possibly as a Category 4 hurricane.
The path to getting a shot that guards against H.I.V. to South Africans who need it is proving to be uncertain.
More than 800,000 people were evacuated from central Vietnam before the arrival of Typhoon Noru, which made landfall today and weakened to a tropical storm as it moved across mainland Southeast Asia.
Having depleted its own waters, China’s immense deepwater fishing fleet now fishes far from the nation’s borders, including around the Galápagos Islands.
Other Big Stories
Observations of the DART spacecraft colliding with Dimorphos, as captured by the Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System.CreditCredit…ATLAS Project
NASA’s DART spacecraft could not take pictures of the very moment it slammed into an asteroid on Monday. But telescopes on Earth were watching.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, said it had taken down a targeted Chinese campaign aimed at influencing the U.S. midterm elections in November.
The U.S. is changing its asylum application process in an effort to fix what one official called a “very broken system.”
What Else Is Happening
Cuba will allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.
A drug in development for Alzheimer’s disease slowed the rate of cognitive decline in a large late-stage clinical trial, the drugmakers said.
In an interview, Roger Federer opened up about his goodbye to tennis and the future of the sport. “Nobody needs to play like me, by the way,” he said.
A Morning Read
Thousands of Spanish children were taken from hospitals and sold to wealthy Catholic families, who raised them as their own. This is Ana Belén Pintado’s story.
“My own husband,” she said, “he also knew, and he didn’t tell me because he thought I knew it already, like it was some kind of intimate secret of mine, and I didn’t want to let it out.”
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
How England avoided mutiny before the World Cup: The wave of joy that swept Gareth Southgate’s team to the Euro 2020 final had been replaced by a growing sense of unrest. But a 3-3 draw against Germany has quelled the dissent. For now.
Gio Reyna is reclaiming his U.S. men’s national soccer team place after a lost year: Regardless of his role, Reyna’s game-changing ability makes him one of the most important players on the U.S. roster. The hope is that after getting through the past year, he can show that quality in Qatar — but he ominously exited Tuesday’s friendly with hamstring tightness.
Manchester United Women is still playing catch-up, but hope exists: Now is the time to capitalize on England’s historic Euros win, with back-to-back WSL wins over Reading and West Ham.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The love prescription
John and Julie Gottman are renowned marriage researchers who famously claim they can guess with over 90 percent accuracy whether a couple’s relationship will last, and if they’ll be happy, after observing them for just 15 minutes.
Their No. 1 relationship hack comes down to little more than small acts of engagement. When one partner makes an earnest “bid for connection,” like observing a beautiful view or sharing a fact, the other partner has three choices: Ignore the outreach (turn away); respond negatively (turn against); or, as the Gottmans suggest, acknowledge the bid positively (turn toward).
These moments of “turning toward” are deposits in a couple’s emotional bank account that they can draw on in moments of conflict, the Gottmans say. Not only do the pair believe they have found the scientific foundation of lasting love, they think a whole lot of it boils down to how nice people are to their partners during small daily moments.
“No matter how frantic a day, there are always opportunities to turn toward,” they write in a new book. “It costs very little in terms of time, and the payout is huge.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Tikka marinade imbues the white fish of your choice with extreme flavor.
Is matcha good for you?
What to read
A new, unauthorized biography of Anthony Bourdain portrays the end of his life.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Fishing pole (three letters).
And here are 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. — Natasha
P.S. The Times’s Culture section is welcoming two editors to the team: Barbara Chai and Jason Bailey.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on pandemic fraud in the U.S.
You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].