Your Wednesday Briefing
Inventory decisions at Raindrops on Roses in St. Albans, England, are now “less spontaneous, more calculated,” said Karolina Birsen, a manager.Credit…Suzie Howell for The New York Times
Dire warnings for British businesses
Britain is staring down the specter of stagflation, a ruinous mix of stagnant economic growth and rapid inflation. The country is experiencing the fastest pace in consumer price growth in four decades — a 9 percent inflation rate. Economic growth ground to a halt in February and contracted slightly in March.
Rising prices are inflicting pain around the world, but there is a concern that Britain faces more persistent problems than many of its neighbors. The country has a tight labor market — partly because of Brexit, which took away a large European labor pool, and partly because long-term sickness has kept hundreds of thousands out of work — and is at the mercy of Europe’s energy crisis.
Disposable household incomes are expected to drop 1.75 percent this year, and, as of April, consumer confidence was at a 14-year low. Businesses are making complicated calculations about how high they can push their prices to compensate for their own rising costs without driving away customers.
Rising costs: Companies that import goods from the E.U. have complained that extra red tape is increasing their costs. Economists say Brexit has pushed food prices up 6 percent. In October, household energy bills are expected to rise by £800, or $1000, to £2,800, or about $3,500, a year.
Politics: With a fresh electoral challenge looming and Britain’s economy in a downward spiral, there are few easy ways for Boris Johnson, Britain’s weakened prime minister, to reverse his fading fortunes.
A difficult choice in Sievierodonetsk
Ukraine’s leaders face a critical strategic decision: Withdraw from Sievierodonetsk, the midsize city in eastern Ukraine that has been a focus for both Russia and Ukraine for several weeks, or remain and risk being boxed in. “In the first option there is risk,” said Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president. “In the second option there is risk.” Follow the latest updates from the war.
The situation reflects the choices the country has had to make since the Russian invasion began — between giving ground to avert death and destruction in the short term and holding out against long odds in hopes it will pay off. Ukraine’s position throughout the war has been that it intends to hold onto its sovereign territory, not yield it to Moscow.
Sievierodonetsk is the last major city in the breakaway region of Luhansk that the Russians have not taken; capturing it would give them near-total control of that enclave. Falling back could be demoralizing to Ukraine’s forces. And some Ukrainian soldiers said it was worth continuing to fight to inflict more casualties on the already depleted Russian forces.
Casualties: More than 40,000 Ukrainians have been killed or wounded during the war, an official said. Exiled leaders warned that Russian-occupied Mariupol is at risk for disease outbreaks as dead bodies remain in the streets there.
Global growth will be choked amid inflation and war
For large and small nations, the prospect of averting a recession is fading amid the war in Ukraine, supply chain chokeholds, Covid-related lockdowns in China and dizzying increases in energy and food prices, according to the World Bank. Together, those factors are “hammering growth,” David Malpass, the bank’s president, said in a statement.
World growth is expected to slow to 2.9 percent this year from 5.7 percent in 2021. The outlook, delivered in the bank’s Global Economic Prospects report, is not only darker than one produced six months ago, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but also below the 3.6 percent forecast in April by the International Monetary Fund.
Other than a few oil-exporting nations like Saudi Arabia, which are benefiting from prices above $100 a barrel, nearly every country has seen its outlook dim. In the most advanced economies like the U.S. and Europe, growth is forecast to slow to 2.5 percent this year. China is projected to see growth drop to 4.3 percent from 8.1 percent in 2021.
Emerging nations: The poorest nations will grow poorer, hungrier and less secure. Roughly 75 million more people will face extreme poverty than were expected to before the pandemic.
Refugee crisis: Nearly seven million Ukrainians, predominantly women and children, have streamed across the border to avoid the violence. Even though some have returned home, the sudden strain on E.U. countries’ budgets and resources further stresses economies already under pressure.
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
Criminal organizations in Mexico are controlling more territory in less-populated regions. Increasingly, health care workers, caught in the crossfire, are reluctant to work in such places.
Firefighters in Bangladesh did not know that chemical drums were at a shipping container depot where 41 people died in a series of powerful explosions.
Ryanair now requires South African citizens traveling to Britain to fill out a questionnaire in Afrikaans, a language once imposed by the white-led apartheid government that many South Africans do not speak. Those unable to complete it are not allowed to travel.
An effort by right-wing lawmakers to oust Sweden’s justice minister over rising gun violence has become embroiled in geopolitics, complicating the country’s application to join NATO.
Other Big Stories
As the Great Salt Lake dries up, Utah is facing “an environmental nuclear bomb.” If it continues to recede, it will cause a disastrous chain reaction.
On occasion, monkeypox can be transmitted through aerosols, similar to the coronavirus. Should you wear a mask?
Figure skating’s governing body will raise the minimum age for elite competitions to 17, after a young Russian skater was accused of doping at the Olympics.
The E.U. reached an agreement that all new smartphones, tablets and laptops must use the same charger.
A Morning Read
The real chicken mystery has nothing to do with whether the egg came first. When, where and how did a bird of the jungle head down the path that eventually led to a chicken potpie?
Two articles offer an updated origin story for the humble hen, putting the emergence of the domestic chicken around 3,500 years ago in what is now Thailand.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Ruth Negga on Lady Macbeth
The actress Ruth Negga has been nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Lady Macbeth in “Macbeth” at the Longacre Theater in New York. For The Times, Negga spoke to Salamishah Tillet about playing the character. This is a lightly edited excerpt.
Even before I started rehearsals I was like, “What’s all this jazz about her being evil?” She’s not evil; it’s this archetype that chases her: the deadly villainess, the villain behind the man. That’s what she’s become known for, and she’s been robbed of any idiosyncrasy or personality. But whereas we rail against [Macbeth] for his procrastination, I think she could have done a bit more thinking things through.
The thing is, time wasn’t on her side. This is what happens when you just have all these ideas and they seem great and you’re really getting things going and you don’t have much time. I mean, she makes one bad mistake when you think about it. Very few people act from a core of badness or evilness. I loved her desire to be alive, to reach for things, to strive, and I was so excited to play someone who has such clear ideas of what they think they deserve, especially a woman.
For me, her femininity is important because I was familiar with this idea that she could seem like this sexless, austere, bloodless, lustless sort of shell. That just doesn’t chime with the Lady on the page, so I wanted her to have no shame, be lusty and alive, and really enjoy her sexuality and her femininity, and not be frightened to stand out from the crowd.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
This bright summer pasta captures the flavors of eggplant Parmigiana without the fuss of frying, layering and baking.
With multiple grand openings, Paris is making a stylish comeback out of the pandemic.
What to Watch
“Ms. Marvel,” a series about a teenage Muslim superhero, premieres on Disney+ today.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “Lost ___ is never found again”: Benjamin Franklin (four 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. — Natasha
P.S. The Times will host a live and online event series on climate reporting to take place in London, New York, San Francisco and Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt ahead of COP27 this November.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on gun control.
You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].