Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times
Asia buys Russian oil
An increase in Asian demand for discounted Russian oil offsets the significantly lower number of barrels sold to Europe, mitigating the effects of Western sanctions.
Most of the extra oil went to two countries: China and India. Chinese imports of Russian oil rose 28% in May from the previous month, while India went from having almost no Russian oil to buying more than 760,000 barrels a day.
Oil is being sold at a steep discount due to risks associated with sanctions imposed to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Yet soaring energy prices have boosted Russia’s oil revenues, which took in $1.7 billion more last month than in April.
More news from the war in Ukraine:
A train strike in Britain
Britain was dogged by its biggest railway strike in three decades on Tuesday – sparking what union and government leaders have warned could be a summer of social unrest.
Last-minute talks between the transport union and the rail operator collapsed on Monday evening, and hundreds of trains came to a standstill during the first of three days of planned strike action, throwing into chaos the travel plans of dozens of million Britons and visitors. Most trains will also likely be shut down on Thursday and Saturday, with disruption rippling through the system throughout the week.
The main union of railway workers is calling for a salary increase in line with the increase in the cost of living. The strikes are a major test for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has called on unions to compromise on their demands at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has kept ridership and ticket revenue well below normal levels.
Looking forward. With food and fuel prices soaring and wages not keeping pace, Johnson is likely to face other restless workers in multiple sectors. Teachers, airline workers and criminal defense attorneys are among those who have threatened to quit their jobs.
China’s expanding surveillance capabilities
Phone tracking devices are now everywhere in China, as are more than half of the world’s nearly one billion surveillance cameras, analysts estimate. The police create some of the largest DNA databases in the world there. And authorities are relying on facial recognition technology to collect voiceprints from the general public.
Times reporters have spent more than a year analyzing more than a hundred thousand government tender documents, revealing that China’s ambition to collect a staggering amount of personal data from ordinary citizens is broader than we never thought before.
The analysis found that police chose locations to maximize the data their facial recognition cameras could collect, such as where people eat, shop and travel. In a tender document from Fujian province, police estimated that there were 2.5 billion facial images stored at any given time.
Authorities are using phone trackers to link people’s digital lives to their physical movements. In one case, documents revealed that police purchased phone trackers in hopes of detecting a Uyghur-Chinese dictionary app, which would identify phones likely belonging to members of the oppressed Uyghur ethnic minority.
For a brief shining moment last summer, Wasabi the Pekingese was America’s most famous dog, having won the Best Show trophy at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. But a new champion will be crowned today, which begs the question: once a dog like Wasabi reaches the pinnacle of success, what does it do next?
ARTS AND IDEAS
You are still in mute mode
It has been almost 28 months since the offices closed at the start of the pandemic. More than enough time to buy a ring light, hang art on the walls, and figure out the mute button. But as Times economics reporter Emma Goldberg has found, many people still haven’t adapted.
Many people have continued to work from home with some level of casualness, as if any day could herald a quick return to cabins and daily commutes.
By the end of 2021, three million professional positions in the United States were permanently remote. Many other workers are in limbo, returning to the office part-time or waiting for a return-to-office plan that won’t be postponed. The confusion and ambivalence people feel can make it difficult to invest in making a remote work setup permanent.
Last week, Sujay Jaswa, a former Dropbox executive, did a video shoot with the camera pointing up at the ceiling. “His business philosophy does not include achieving decent zoom,” wrote Room Rater, a Twitter account that rates video call backgrounds.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for join us. — Jonathan and Matthew
PS This week, 50 years ago, Irish Republican Army men from Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast ended a 36-day hunger strike.
The latest episode of “The Daily” focuses on the hot US housing market.
You can reach Jonathan, Matthew and the team at [email protected].