Your Friday Briefing

Good morning. We’re covering a U.S. climate and tax deal and a looming Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The legislation’s most immediate effect will be supercharging the growth of wind and other clean energy industries.Credit…Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

U.S. debates climate and the economy

The gross domestic product of the U.S. shrank again, fueling fears of a recession.

G.D.P. fell 0.2 percent in the second quarter after a 0.4 percent decline in the first. That means by one common but unofficial definition, the U.S. economy has entered a recession, two years after it emerged from the last one.

News of the back-to-back contractions heightened a debate in Washington over whether a recession had begun and, if so, whether President Biden was to blame.

Democrats are increasingly focused on taming inflation. They argue there’s one possible step forward. It’s the energy, tax and health care agreement that was announced Wednesday after Senator Joe Manchin reversed his opposition to the bill.

If it can get past Republican opposition, the $369 billion package would be the most ambitious action ever undertaken by the U.S. to combat climate change. It comes during an abnormally hot summer, and Democrats hope it will pass ahead of fall’s midterm elections. Here are seven key provisions of the bill.

Context: Most economists still don’t think the economy meets the formal definition of a recession. But for many, the label matters less than the economic reality: Growth is slowing, businesses are pulling back and families are struggling to keep up with rapidly rising prices.

A Ukrainian tank in a camouflaged position in the southeast Kherson region.Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Ukraine’s growing counteroffensive

Ukraine said it had a limited window to dislodge Russia’s forces in the south as it prepares for a counteroffensive in and around Kherson, a strategic port city.

Ukrainian forces have been preparing for a broad counteroffensive in the south. Now, Russian troops around Kherson are increasingly isolated from eastern strongholds after coordinated Ukrainian strikes disrupted crucial resupply routes.

But Russia is hurrying to bolster its forces in the region and to solidify control of the territory it holds. The Ukrainian military said that Russia was moving “the maximum number” of forces to the southern front in the Kherson region.

Our Coverage of the Russia-Ukraine War

  • Grain Blockade: A breakthrough deal aims to lift a Russian blockade on Ukrainian grain shipments, easing a global food crisis. But in the fields of Ukraine, farmers are skeptical.
  • An Ambitious Counterattack: Ukraine has been laying the groundwork to retake Kherson from Russia. But the endeavor would require huge resources, and could come at a heavy toll.
  • Economic Havoc: As food, energy and commodity prices continue to climb around the world, few countries are feeling the bite as much as Ukraine.
  • Inside a Siege: For 80 days, at the Avtostal steelworks, a relentless Russian assault met unyielding Ukrainian resistance. This is how it was for those who were there.

In the north, Russia renewed its assault yesterday, conducting strikes from the Black Sea and Belarus that injured at least 15 people in and around Kyiv, Ukrainian authorities said. And missiles continued to rain down on Kharkiv, in the northeast.

In the east: Ukrainian forces continue to hold their defensive lines while targeting key Russian strongholds.

Culture: Painting will not stop missiles. Music will not end suffering. But culture is not powerless, and a visit to Ukraine reaffirms what it can do at its best.

Grain: Ukraine’s harvest is underway, swelling the country’s backlog of grain. Some farmers have their doubts about an international agreement to ease a blockade on grain shipments through the Black Sea.

“You’re telling me; I have to go around in a wheelchair, eh?” Pope Francis said in a speech. “But that’s how it is, that’s life.”Credit…Ian Willms for The New York Times

Pope Francis speaks for the old

Pope Francis, 85, has long spotlighted older people and regularly denounces how they are treated like garbage in a “throwaway culture.”

On a trip to Canada this week, as he relied on aides to get in and out of wheelchairs, Francis used his own visible frailty to again demand dignity and respect for other older people.

In Alberta, Francis said that there needed to be “a future in which the elderly are not cast aside because, from a ‘practical’ standpoint, they are no longer useful.”

Analysis: The world is aging rapidly. A U.N. report predicted that by 2050, people age 60 and over will exceed people under 15. “Never as many as now, never as much risk of being discarded,” Francis said.

Context: Francis — who has had numerous health issues — is not the first pope to make the dignity of the old a central concern of his later papacy. His immediate predecessors ailed in public or resigned citing advanced age.



Credit…Left, Daniel Leal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images; Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
  • A verdict in the “Wagatha Christie” feud is expected today. Here’s a primer on the British libel case between two television personalities.

  • German inflation increased to 8.5 percent this month. Russia’s cuts to natural gas deliveries could drive record energy prices even higher.

World News

Credit…Mandel Ngan/AFP, via Getty Images (left) Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse—Getty Images
  • President Biden and Xi Jinping, China’s leader, spoke about Taiwan during a marathon video call yesterday. Neither side reported any concrete progress.

  • Iran has increased exports of its increasingly sophisticated drone technology, an effort to build global clout and generate funds.

  • Sweeping legislation in Australia designed to prevent foreign interference, specifically from China, will be tested in court for the first time.

  • Global businesses, which once flocked to China, are bracing for the economic fallout from its pandemic restrictions.

What Else Is Happening

  • The U.S. will distribute 800,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine.

  • The U.N. reported that more than 1.5 million people contracted H.I.V. last year, many of them young girls. That’s roughly three times the global target.

  • A study found that vitamin D pills do not prevent bone fractures in most people, casting doubt on widespread claims.

A Morning Read

Credit…From left: David Hou; Sara Krulwich/The New York Times; Ellie Kurttz, via Royal Shakespeare Company

Three prestigious Shakespeare companies staged “Richard III” this year. Their different approaches to casting the title character, who describes himself in the opening scene as “deformed,” illuminate growing debates about representation, identity and disability.


What’s in a water bottle?

You can tell a lot about comedians from their vessel of choice, writes Jason Zinoman, our comedy critic.

Jerry Seinfeld, a renowned perfectionist, opts for an elegant glass next to a sleek label-less bottle. Bo Burnham, whose schtick is self-awareness, once started a special by fumbling his bottle and then dancing to a song about the gag. And Chris Rock, whose shows feel more like events, doesn’t have a bottle at all.

“Their purpose seems obvious — to quench thirst, duh — but stage actors get dry mouths, and no Hamlet puts down his sword to pick up an Evian,” Jason writes.

Instead, Jason argues that the frequent sips, and the choice of the bottle, are there for a splash of authenticity.

“The water bottle is the prop that clues us in that a comic — not a character — is at work,” Jason writes. It’s “the idea that the comic onstage is telling you what they think, not just playing a character and refining ideas into constructions designed to make you laugh.”


What to Cook

Credit…Grant Cornett for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: JoJo Li.

This tomato and watermelon salad is summer in a bowl.

What to Read

“The Inheritors” examines South Africans’ struggles to move past apartheid.

Summer Sports

Try stand-up paddling.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword with a clue: “You are here” (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. Gilbert Cruz, our current Culture editor, will take over the Books desk.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on inflation.

You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].

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