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Sri Lanka president gets long-sought win, steep challenges


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Six-times Sri Lanka’s prime minister, President Ranil Wickremesinghe had long aspired to the pinnacle of power, enduring setback after setback but always managing to recover from seemingly impossible defeats.

He has moved quickly to consolidate his position since lawmakers elected him this week to finish the term of his predecessor, ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In the wee hours Friday, army troops and police forcefully cleared the capital’s main protest site of demonstrators who had occupied it for months, angry over the country’s economic collapse.

On Friday, he appointed a classmate and ally of Rajapaksa, Dinesh Gunawardena, to be his prime minister and partner in rescuing the country from its predicament. The question is whether they can muster the political heft and public support to get the job done.

Even his critics respect Wickremesinghe for his perseverance.

“If you are broken down and think you can’t get what you want just look at a picture of Ranil Wickremesinghe,” said lawmaker Udaya Gammanpila, who supported Wickremesinghe’s main rival in the presidential vote.

Wickremesinghe is a divisive figure, unpopular among Sri Lankans fed up with shortages of food, fuel and medicine. Last week, protesters burned his private residence to the ground.

He’s as well qualified as anyone could be after nearly a half-century in politics, but it’s unclear that the wiles that kept him head of his party for most of that time will suffice to overcome a tide of public antagonism. Few view Wickremesinghe as a real change from the government that was toppled earlier this month when Rajapaksa fled the country as angry crowds stormed his office.

Born into a wealthy, politically active family whose fortune was made in timber and the media, Wickremesinghe trained as a lawyer and was elected to Parliament for the first time exactly 45 years before he took the oath of office Thursday.

In coming days, he is expected to make a major policy speech laying out plans for fixing Sri Lanka’s dire economic, humanitarian and political crisis.

Speaking just after he was pronounced the winner of Wednesday’s secret ballot in the parliament, Wickremesinghe urged fellow lawmakers to unite in saving the nation.

“People are not expecting the old politics from us, they expect us to work together,” he told Parliament.

Meanwhile, out on the streets, protesters were chanting, “Ranil, Go Home!”

Over the years, Wickremesinghe has moved in and out of the prime minister’s office as his United National Party gained and lost power. But he coveted the presidency, where the real power lies, running for office twice: in 1999 and 2005.

In 2020, Wickremesinghe’s party splintered and suffered a humiliating defeat in national elections. He became its sole representative in the parliament, appointed rather than elected to his seat based on the proportion of votes his party took in the vote. Detractors argued he lacks any mandate.

In May, Rajapaksa turned to Wickremesinghe to replace his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister after Mahinda was forced to quit.

The hope was to restore Sri Lanka’s international credibility after it stopped making payments on its $51 billion in foreign debt when its foreign reserves dwindled perilously low, and Wickremesenghe has been leading negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on a bailout.

But critics accuse him of protecting members of the Rajapaksa family, who are widely blamed for leading the nation into ruin, from allegations of corruption and other wrongdoing.

Rajapaksa’s resignation led to Wickremesinghe becoming acting president, in addition to being prime minister and finance minister. His assurances that he would restore order and severely punish protesters who had attacked politicians’ homes during the unrest won him support from dozens of lawmakers loyal to Rajapaksa.

He cannot afford to seem soft on security: Islamic State-inspired terrorist bombings that killed 260 people in 2019 were largely blamed on intelligence failures stemming from fractured communication and friction between Wickremesinghe, then prime minister, and then-president Maithripala Sirisena.

Tourism was devastated. Then came the pandemic.

During his lengthy career Wickremesinghe has headed various government ministries, as has his new prime minister, Gunawardena.

The latter, whose father Philip Gunawardena helped lead Sri Lanka’s fight to gain independence from Britain, earned a business degree in the U.S. and worked in New York before returning to Sri Lanka when his father died.

Wickremesinghe has become the public face of Sri Lanka’s crisis, delivering weekly addresses in Parliament, raising taxes and pledging to overhaul a government that increasingly has concentrated power under the presidency – a trend that many believe helped tip the country into its current predicament.

It’s unclear if, now that he has gained the long-sought presidency, Wickremesinghe will back reforms to curb its powers.

He has been known to take the initiative at critical moments.

In 2002, he tried to end a yearslong civil war, signing a Norway-brokered peace agreement with rebels who were fighting to create an independent state for the ethnic Tamil minority. The cease-fire won Wickremesinghe international acclaim, enabling him to salvage an economy on the brink of collapse after Tamil Tiger fighters attacked the island’s only international airport and destroyed many aircraft.

But the pact angered Sinhala Buddhist nationalists who saw it as a betrayal, and the cease-fire failed to hold. Then-President Chandrika Kumaratunga sacked Wickremesinghe and his cabinet and called an election, which his party lost.

Wickremesinghe ran for president the next year, losing to nationalist Mahinda Rajapaksa. In 2009, Rajapaksa defeated the Tamil Tigers, becoming a national hero in the eyes of the majority Sinhala Buddhists. During most of the years since then, the Rajapaksa family has dominated Sri Lankan politics, appointing family and friends in key political and administrative positions.

Wickremesinghe tends to keep his private life under wraps. He is married to Maitree Wickremesinghe, a professor and expert on gender and women’s studies.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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South Korea to lift ban on North Korea TV, newspapers despite tensions


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korea plans to lift its decades-long ban on public access to North Korean television, newspapers and other media as part of its efforts to promote mutual understanding between the rivals, officials said Friday, despite animosities over the North’s recent missile tests.

Divided along the world’s most heavily fortified border since 1948, the two Koreas prohibit their citizens from visiting each other’s territory and exchanging phone calls, emails and letters, and they block access to each other’s websites and TV stations.

In a policy report to new President Yoon Suk Yeol on Friday, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it will gradually open the door for North Korean broadcasts, media and publications to try to boost mutual understanding, restore the Korean national identity and prepare for a future unification.

Ministry officials said South Korea will start by allowing access to North Korean broadcasts to try to encourage North Korea to take similar steps. The ministry refused to provide further details, saying the plans are still being discussed with relevant authorities in South Korea.

Jeon Young-sun, a research professor at Seoul’s Konkuk University, said North Korea is unlikely to reciprocate because the flow of South Korean cultural and media content would pose “a really huge threat to” its authoritarian leadership.

Ruled by three generations of the Kim family since its 1948 foundation, North Korea strictly restricts its citizens’ access to outside information, though many defectors have said they watched smuggled South Korean TV programs while living in the North. In 2014, North Korean troops opened fire when South Korean activists launched balloons carrying USB sticks containing information about the outside world and leaflets critical of the Kim family toward North Korean territory.

Relations between the two Koreas remain strained over North Korea’s torrid run of missile tests this year. Yoon, a conservative, has said he would take a tougher stance on North Korean provocations, though he said he has “an audacious plan” to improve the North’s economy if it abandons its nuclear weapons.

Despite the North’s likely reluctance to reciprocate, Jeon said South Korea needs to ease its ban on North Korean media because the restrictions have led to dependence on foreigners and other governments to gather North Korea-related information. Jeon said that has increased the danger of acquiring distorted information on North Korea.

It wasn’t clear how anti-North Korea activists in the South would react to the government’s move. Jeon said there was little chance the move would promote pro-North Korean sentiments.

South Korea, the world’s 10th-largest economy, is a global cultural powerhouse. Its nominal gross domestic product in 2019 was 54 times bigger than that of North Korea, according to South Korean estimates.

Some observers say the ban must be lifted in a step-by-step process with discussions on what North Korean contents would be allowed first and how the access should be given to the South Korean public.

While it’s officially illegal to watch or read North Korean media in South Korea, authorities rarely crack down on experts, journalists and others using virtual private networks or proxy servers to access North Korean websites. A large number of North Korean movies, songs and other contents are also available on YouTube, which is accessible in South Korea.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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The proxy fight between Trump and Pence continues with Arizona rallies


The Arizona race is the latest test of Republican voters’ priorities, as they decide between a candidate who has built her campaign around Trump’s election lies and one who more closely reflects Pence’s desire to steer the GOP’s focus away from relitigating 2020 and toward conservative policies.

Pence is set to hold two events Friday with Karrin Taylor Robson, the former Arizona Board of Regents member who has become the GOP establishment favorite in the governor’s race and is endorsed by term-limited Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

Pence, Robson and Ducey will visit a Peoria business that manufactures tactical equipment for law enforcement on Friday morning, and later attend a border security briefing at the National Border Patrol Council’s office in Tucson.

Trump, meanwhile, is campaigning with a slate of candidates who have parroted his lies about widespread fraud in the 2020 election — led by Kari Lake, a former local television news anchor who Ducey said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” is “misleading voters with no evidence.”

Also part of that Trump ticket are Senate candidate Blake Masters, who is seeking to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in a race that is crucial in the battle for control of the Senate, as well as secretary of state contender Mark Finchem and attorney general hopeful Abe Hamadeh, all of whom are expected to speak at Friday’s event.

“The establishment-side of the GOP is dying. This is Trump’s GOP,” Lake said on Twitter Thursday.

Ducey, though, said in an interview that Pence “brings the imprimatur of a true conservative to this race.”

“He’s an exceptional leader,” Ducey said. “He’s been an invaluable partner to me and my team. When he served as governor of Indiana, he was a great colleague and collaborator with other governors. And as Vice President, he continue[d] to be. So when Mike Pence speaks out on this race, it brings all of that and more.”

The winner of the Republican primary for governor is likely to face Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is widely seen as the frontrunner in the Democratic primary.

If Lake wins the August 2 primary, she would join Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano on the list of GOP gubernatorial nominees in swing states who have embraced lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

Election deniers have won the Republican nod in other key races in battleground states, as well. The Michigan GOP at a convention chose election deniers as their candidates for secretary of state and attorney general, and Nevada Republicans chose an election denier as their secretary of state nominee.

If those election deniers win in November’s midterm elections, they would be poised to control their states’ election machinery or influence its legal process in the 2024 presidential race.

Pence’s escalating clash with Trump

Arizona is the second gubernatorial primary in which Pence has made a move aimed at limiting Trump’s influence.

In Georgia, Pence rallied on the eve of the May primary with Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who easily defeated the Trump-endorsed former Sen. David Perdue in a contest that revolved around Trump’s pledge to punish Kemp for refuting the former President’s lies about fraud in a state President Joe Biden won by 11,779 votes.

Biden defeated Trump in Arizona by 10,457 votes, a reality Trump has also rejected. His lies about fraud led Republicans who control the state Senate to commission a partisan review of the 2020 results in Maricopa County, the home of Phoenix.

That review — conducted by a firm with no experience auditing elections — cast doubt on some mail-in ballots, due to what elections experts pointed out were the reviewers’ misunderstandings about how the process works. But it did not find any substantial change in the state’s vote totals.

Pence in recent weeks has attempted to steer the Republican Party away from Trump’s obsession with the 2020 election and toward the conservative policies that Pence was known for advocating as a congressman and Indiana governor, before he joined Trump’s ticket in 2016.

In a speech Wednesday night at the Florence Baptist Temple in Florence, South Carolina — one of the first states to vote in the GOP’s presidential nominating process — Pence focused on the path for abortion opponents after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade.

He used his remarks to deliver a blueprint of sorts to his fellow Republicans to strengthen abortion restrictions and further limit the federal government’s involvement in the issue. He said Republicans need to back policies that would make adoption easier and less expensive, and urged the party to push for state laws banning abortion.

“As we gather tonight, we must recognize that we’ve only come to the end of the beginning. Standing here in the first days of a post-Roe America, we must resolve that we will not rest, we will not relent until the sanctity of life is restored in the law of every state in the nation,” Pence said.

Trump, meanwhile, remains focused on feuds with state officials over the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

Following a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that declared mail-in ballot drop boxes illegal in future elections, state Assembly Speaker Robin Vox, a Republican who hired a former state Supreme Court justice who had already embraced Trump’s lies about election fraud to search for evidence to support those claims, said that Trump called him last week to urge him to decertify the state’s 2020 results.

“He would like us to do something different in Wisconsin. I explained it’s not allowed under the constitution. He has a different opinion,” Vos told CNN affiliate WISN.

CNN’s Mike Warren and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.

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Japan OKs preparation step for Fukushima plant water release


TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s nuclear regulator on Friday approved details of a planned release of treated radioactive wastewater from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea next year.

The approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority will enable Tokyo Electric Power Co. to start building necessary facilities ahead of the discharge. It came two months after a preliminary greenlight and a subsequent public review process.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings submitted the plan in December based on a government decision last year to release the wastewater as a necessary step for the plant’s ongoing decommissioning.

A massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s cooling systems, causing triple meltdowns and the release of large amounts of radiation. Water that was used to cool the three damaged reactor cores, which remain highly radioactive, has since leaked into basements of the reactor buildings but was collected and stored in tanks.

Local fishing communities and neighboring countries have raised concerns about potential health hazards from the radioactive wastewater, which TEPCO and government officials say will be treated to levels far below releasable standards. They maintain that the environmental and health impacts will be negligible.

Japan nuclear authority chairman Toyoshi Fuketa told reporters Friday that the release plan had no major technical or safety issues. He said the regulators will ensure approved procedures are strictly followed with transparency.

The government and TEPCO say that of more than 60 isotopes selected for treatment, all but one, tritium, will be reduced to meet safety standards. Scientists say impacts of long-term, low-dose exposure to tritium for the environment and humans are still unknown. Tritium affects humans more when it is consumed in fish, they say.

The contaminated water is being stored in about 1,000 tanks at the damaged plant. Officials say they must be removed so that facilities can be built for its decommissioning. The tanks are expected to reach their capacity of 1.37 million tons next year.

TEPCO said it plans to transport treated and releasable water through a pipeline from the tanks to a coastal facility, where it will be diluted with seawater and then sent through an undersea tunnel with an outlet about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) away to minimize the impact on local fishing and the environment.

The government and TEPCO still need to gain local consent for building the tunnel and other related facilities. They plan to begin gradually releasing the treated water in spring 2023.

China on Friday renewed its protest over the planned wastewater release and urged Japan to carry out the disposal in “a scientific, open, transparent and safe manner.”

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin demanded Japan “stop pushing the discharge plan before reaching a consensus with all stakeholders and relevant international agencies.”

Japan has sought help from the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the water release meets international safety standards and reassure local fishing and other communities and neighboring countries that have opposed the plan.

Experts from the IAEA visited the plant earlier this year and said Japan was taking appropriate steps for the planned discharge.

In a statement Friday, TEPCO pledged to sincerely respond to the IAEA reviews, ensure safety, provide data to the public and strengthen its radiation monitoring. The company also vowed to do its utmost to explain the water discharge plans and gain the public’s understanding about the decommissioning.


AP video producer Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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Zeldin’s alleged attacker released, Hunter Biden probe ‘not adding up’ and more top headlines


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Good morning and welcome to Fox News’ morning newsletter, Fox News First. Subscribe now to get Fox News First in your email. And here’s what you need to know to start your day …

CONGRESSMAN CALLED IT – Rep. Lee Zeldin perfectly predicts what would happen to would-be attacker under New York law. Continue reading …

‘NONE OF IT MAKES ANY SENSE’ – Ex-prosecutor says Hunter Biden developments ‘don’t add up’. Continue reading …

CRIME CRISIS – Cop shot and killed same day mayor of NY city declares state of emergency. Continue reading …

BLAME BIDEN – GOP states push back against DC, NYC calls for federal help with migrant surge. Continue reading …

REWRITING LEGACIES – Jefferson, Madison’s homes become woke monuments attacking Founding Fathers. Continue reading …



‘FRUITLESS’ SEARCH – Pentagon should end ‘woke’ hunt for military extremism, says former Green Beret. Continue reading …

CAPITOL RIOT PROBE – Jan. 6 Committee attempts to show that Trump deliberately ignored calls from staff to deescalate riot. Continue reading …

‘BAD DEAL FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE’ – Nikki Haley opposes computer chips bill: ‘We don’t need to be China to beat China.’ Continue reading …

PARTY PIVOT? – House Democrats facing potentially challenging re-elections push for police funding vote prior to recess. Continue reading …



‘TOO BIG FOR ONE PERSON’ – Special ed programs in public schools plagued by problems, experts warn. Continue reading …

CHAPPELLE CANCELLATION FALLOUT – Comics outraged over ‘assault on freedom of speech’ after venue caves to the Left. Continue reading …

‘LIES’ – Nancy Pelosi blasted by Twitter users after denying she gave info to husband for stock trades. Continue reading …

‘TEACHING MOMENT’ – CNN guests praise White House’s ‘transparency’ on President Biden’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Continue reading …



JESSE WATTERS – With Dems saying Biden has to go, is Michelle Obama making a run for the White House? Continue reading …

TUCKER CARLSON – Biden’s COVID-19 positive test steps on vaccine message. Continue reading …

SEAN HANNITY – The anti-Trump smear will come to a pathetic end, at least for now. Continue reading …

LAURA INGRAHAM – Liberals love to fawn over Europe, even when it’s collapsing. Continue reading …



SURGING COSTS – How housing is fueling searing-hot inflation. Continue reading …

CULTURAL CONTRIBUTION – Meet the American who invented Buffalo wings and disrupted the entire chicken industry. Continue reading …

STARS BEHIND BARS – Celebrity lawyer tells Fox News Digital what prison time is really like for reality stars. Continue reading …

‘UNSUSTAINABLE’ APPROACH – China ‘in distress’: economy suffering ‘rapid’ slowdown as ‘systemic’ problems surface. Continue reading …



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Judge says Prince Harry can sue U.K. government over security plan


LONDON (AP) — Prince Harry can take the British government to court over his security arrangements in the U.K., a judge in London ruled Friday.

Harry and his wife Meghan lost publicly funded U.K. police protection when they stepped down as senior working royals and moved to North America in 2020. The prince wants to pay personally for police security when he comes to Britain and is challenging the government’s refusal to permit it.

Judge Jonathan Swift ruled Friday that the case can go to a full hearing at the High Court in London. He refused some aspects of the challenge but said some grounds “give rise to an arguable case” that deserves a hearing.

The judge said “a conclusion at the permission stage that a case is arguable is some distance from a conclusion that the case will succeed at final hearing.”

A date has not been set for the case to be heard.

Harry and the former actress Meghan Markle married at Windsor Castle in 2019 but stepped down as working royals the following year, citing what they described as unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media.

Harry’s lawyers have said the prince is reluctant to bring the couple’s children — Archie, 3, and 1-year-old Lilibet — to his homeland because it is not safe.

Harry, also known as the Duke of Sussex, wants to be able to pay for the protection, saying his private security team in the U.S. doesn’t have adequate jurisdiction abroad or access to U.K. intelligence information.

His lawyers also say a February 2020 decision by the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures, removing his full royal security, was unreasonable because Harry was not allowed to make “informed representations beforehand.”

The British government says the committee’s decision was reasonable, and that it is not possible to pay privately for police protection.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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Explosions, gunfire at a military base near Mali’s capital


BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Explosions and gunfire were heard early Friday morning in the area of the Kati military base on the outskirts of Mali’s capital city Bamako, according to local residents, in a suspected attack by Islamic extremists.

The military has cordoned off the roads to Kati, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) northwest of Bamako.

The leader of Mali‘s ruling junta Lt. Col. Assimi Goita frequently stays at the Kati camp, where he launched the 2020 coup that brought him to power.

Jihadi rebels linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State group have been fighting an insurgency in the West African country for more than 10 years. Their attacks have mostly been in northern Mali, but recently the extremists have moved into central Mali. In recent weeks, they have moved closer to the capital.

Last week gunmen attacked an army checkpoint about 60 kilometers outside Bamako, killing at least six people and wounding several others, officials said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it appears to be by the al-Qaida-linked rebel group known as JNIM that has carried out several other attacks around Bamako.

The attacks show “how the al-Qaida affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin continues to expand its operations outside its traditional strongholds in northern and central Mali,” said Héni Nsaibia, a senior researcher at The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

“As in other Sahelian countries such as Burkina Faso and Niger … major cities including the capitals themselves, are increasingly surrounded by a steady spread of Islamist militancy that poses an ever-increasing risk and challenge to the security environment.”

Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began attacking the Malian army and its allies. Insecurity has worsened with attacks in the northern and central regions.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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Cheaper Gas


After months of gas prices making life more expensive, they have quietly started to go down — providing financial relief for many Americans.

The average nationwide price this week was $4.49 a gallon, down from a peak of $5.01 in June. The average price of gas is still about $1.30 higher than it was a year ago, but it has now fallen for more than a month.

That is welcome news for consumers: Higher gas prices affect not just people filling their cars but also, through higher transportation costs, the price of almost everything else.

Falling prices are also potentially good news for political and social stability. Because gas prices are so visible — posted on giant signs across the country — they have an outsize impact on how Americans feel things are going, experts say. The sentiment can extend beyond financial concerns.

Consider Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which caused gas prices to spike in the West as Europe vowed to stop relying on Russian oil and gas. American and European leaders have worried since the war began that rising gas prices could hurt public support for efforts against Russia, because people could come to see the personal cost as too great. So falling gas prices could help sustain public support for Ukraine.

Historically, rising gas prices have also hurt incumbent political leaders. Sure enough, approval ratings for President Biden and European leaders have fallen as the prices of gas and other goods have increased. Unchecked, it is the kind of widespread disapproval that can lead to global political instability and extremism. In Italy, for example, the recent collapse of the government could give way to a takeover by a far-right alliance that includes a political party with neo-fascist roots.

But gas prices also get at something deeper than partisan politics or any individual policy debate: They help dictate the public mood. As the pandemic has waned, Americans have hoped for a return to normal. But rising gas prices and inflation, along with an increase in violent crime and the war in Ukraine, instead feed into a broader sense of chaos and anomie already fueled by Covid. It is as if Americans have traded some crises for others.

“Is this for real?” Caroline McNaney in New Jersey recalled thinking. “I took a job further from home to make more money, and now I feel like I didn’t do anything for myself because gas is so high.”

Falling gas prices, then, offer the kind of reprieve people have wanted after a few chaotic years.

Several factors are behind the good news. Oil and gas production has ticked up in the U.S. and elsewhere, increasing supply. Some people are driving less to avoid high prices, decreasing demand. Continued Covid disruptions, particularly in China, have also played a role; lockdowns lead to fewer people traveling, further reducing global demand for oil and gas.

The process is playing out slowly — a result of what experts call the “rocket and feather” effect: Gas prices tend to rise quickly, like a rocket, and fall more slowly, like a feather. Gas stations are quicker to increase prices and slower to reduce them to maximize profits. And while rising gas prices drive consumers to comparison-shop more, falling prices ease the need to do so — reducing competitive pressure.

Since gas prices fall more slowly than they rise, they still have room in the coming weeks to drop further — to catch up with reduced oil prices, said Christopher Knittel, an economist at M.I.T.

And as strange as it may sound, a weakening economy could help further reduce gas prices. The Federal Reserve has recently increased interest rates, raising the cost of borrowing in an effort to pull down demand and tame inflation. That could lead to more unemployment, but also to a slowdown in price increases after months of record inflation.

Beyond a few weeks, the future of gas prices is less certain. “There are still risks out there,” said Rachel Ziemba, an energy expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Among them: More atrocities in Ukraine could further push Europe to stop buying Russian oil and gas. Russia could retaliate against Western sanctions by withholding its shipments, tightening worldwide supply again. Climate change continues to make oil and gas companies cautious about boosting production too much. China’s economy could improve and increase demand, particularly if Covid restrictions ease.

But for now, falling gas prices are one bit of good news during a summer marred by headlines about inflation, war, heat waves and rising Covid cases.

“Nope,” in theaters today, is one of the summer’s feverishly anticipated movies. That’s because the film’s director, Jordan Peele, has become Hollywood’s best bet for a good time.

This is Peele’s third film, after “Us” and the politically pointed “Get Out,” which satirized post-Obama race relations to nightmarish effect. As A.A. Dowd writes at The Ringer, audiences associate Peele’s name with mind-bending thrillers, much as they did with M. Night Shyamalan in the early 2000s. “What really links the two,” Dowd writes, is “an affinity for the place where horror, science fiction, and drama intersect.”

The Times review: Does “Nope” live up to the hype, our critic asks? Yup.

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As more coupons move online, older and low-income shoppers get left out


“It has saved me a lot of money over the years,” said the 62-year-old resident of DeBary, Florida. She clips coupons and redeems them at her local Winn-Dixie supermarket to save on cereal, toilet paper, coffee, and snacks for her grandson, whom she is helping raise.

But over the past two years, Ingram said she has seen fewer deals. That’s because some of Winn-Dixie’s coupon offerings have moved exclusively online. At first, Ingram noticed that it was only a couple items, but now it’s grown to dozens, including meat and produce.

Ingram has tried several times to download the store’s app to redeem these coupons. But she isn’t tech savvy and gave up.

She spends around $125 a week on groceries and said she’d save up to $30 a week if she were able to redeem the digital coupons — money that would go toward paying for clothing for her grandson, gas and cat food. The highest inflation in decades is taking a bite out of her paycheck and every dollar counts.

“If you’re not 20-something with an expensive cell phone to do this, then too bad,” she said.

Ingram’s mother, who is 82 years old and lives off her Social Security benefits, struggles to use a cell phone and also is unable to take advantage of these digital coupons.

The Ingrams are part of a large group of digitally challenged shoppers unable to access online coupons.

As some manufacturers and stores cut back on printing weekly coupons and move more deals online, these shoppers are getting left out.

According to Pew Research Center, 39% of people 65 and over do not own a smartphone, and 25% don’t use the internet. Additionally, 24% of adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year don’t own a smartphone, while 41% don’t have a computer. This means that millions of older and low-income shoppers — the people who often depend on coupons the most to stretch their dollars — are shut out of deals only available to online shoppers.

“This is a new hurdle for shoppers in store,” said Edgar Dworsky, a consumer advocate and founder of Consumer World, who has documented this trend. “Isn’t this the worst time to be paying higher prices? We’re not talking about pennies.”

Dworsky checked 50 top supermarkets’ weekly advertisements in June and found that two-thirds of them advertise digital-only deals. Many had doubled or tripled the number of digital-only deals offered compared to the same week a year ago.

To be sure, Winn-Dixie still offers the Ingrams and other customers who aren’t online ways to save.

The chain mails out printed coupons to customers’ homes, has them on receipts, and has kiosks in stores where customers can enter the phone number linked to their free store rewards card to print out personalized coupons. Customers can sign up for the rewards program by telephone, too.

“We are very sensitive to the pressure that today’s inflationary dynamic is putting on our customers, which is why we offer a variety of ways to save,” said a spokesperson for Winn-Dixie-owner Southeastern Grocers.

But many consumers are moving online, and grocers have responded by stepping up their digital rewards.

Some companies, such as Walgreens (WBA), stopped printing coupon catalogs and moved their weekly advertisements online. CVS (CVS) stopped printing them for newspapers but some are still in stores.
In the second quarter of 2020, redemptions of digital coupons in the United States surpassed redemptions of the most common type of paper coupons for the first time, according to market research firm Inmar Intelligence.

“The growth of digital coupons is outpacing the growth of print coupons,” said Rob Wiesberg, the general manager of incentives at Inmar.

For stores, personalized digital coupons delivered to customers through their apps represent a more surgical option to reach customers than mass distribution through the newspaper.

Companies also get more data on customers when they download an app and can better track whether customers are responding to the coupons

“We used to have blunt instruments in the newspaper, where pricing had to go down for eight pages of items and whatever it was, and you had to release that six weeks before,” Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS) CEO Lauren Hobart said earlier this year.

But since the company has shifted its coupons to digital, “we are now literally making day-to-day decisions,” she said.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Turkey Promises a Deal to Get Grain Out of Blocked Ports


Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

The Turkish presidency says that a signing ceremony will be held on Friday to unveil a deal brokered between Ukraine and Russia aiming to allow millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to be exported, alleviating a global food shortage.

There was no official confirmation from Moscow or Kyiv that an accord had been reached — only that negotiations would continue on Friday. After officials in both capitals confirmed on Thursday that the two sides were getting closer to an agreement, the Kremlin said on Friday that Russia’s defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, had traveled to Turkey.

“We can confirm that the signing is being prepared today,” the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters. “But let’s wait — let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

More than 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain has been trapped in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February, cutting off grain exports from one of the world’s breadbaskets, exacerbating famine in Africa, and undermining international food supply chains already battered by the pandemic.

In a war in which President Vladimir V. Putin has shown a willingness to target civilians and weaponize energy and food, Russia’s blockage of Ukraine’s grain exports has rippled across the world and has been among the gravest international repercussions of Moscow’s attack on its neighbor.

Russia’s de facto blockade of the Black Sea caused Ukraine’s exports to drop to one-sixth of their prewar level. Officials have sought to break the impasse for months, as international aid organizations have made increasingly dire forecasts about an increase in food prices and rising rates of hunger and starvation. At the same time, Western countries have treaded carefully, mindful of the risks of ensnaring NATO in the war.

Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

Andrei Rudenko, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, told Interfax on Thursday that the negotiations are proceeding “quite dynamically, and the parties are participating in them constructively.”

He added, “Therefore, we hope we’ll be able to reach a consensus in the near future.”

Any prospective agreement could fall apart at the 11th hour. And if a deal goes through, there could be major obstacles to implementing an agreement between the two warring nations. It is also unclear how much grain would be released and what condition it would be in after being stored for months in a war zone.

The United Nations said on Thursday that its secretary general, António Guterres, had landed in Istanbul as part of his effort “to ensure full global access to Ukraine’s food product and Russian food fertilizer.”

“The situation remains a little bit fluid, so I can’t really say when something will be signed,” said the United Nations deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, earlier on Thursday. “But as you can see from the fact that he is traveling to Istanbul, we are moving ahead with this.”

Last week, after meeting in Istanbul with negotiators from Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, Mr. Guterres told reporters that a deal was “technically done” and that he would interrupt his vacation and travel to Istanbul for the signing of it.

Until now, one of the major hurdles to an agreement were the mines Ukraine had placed in its ports on the Black Sea Coast to deter Russia’s warships. In late June, Mr. Guterres outlined the primary elements of a deal proposed by the United Nations and Turkey that would solve that problem.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

According to three senior government officials, Mr. Guterres said Ukrainians had agreed to remove only a few of the mines and have their own Navy or Coast Guard captains steer freighters to international waters. Foreign crews would then take the ships to Istanbul, before continuing to other destinations.

A control center would be set up in Istanbul to oversee the operation, and Turkish officials would play the main role in checking the vessels to guarantee to Russia that the empty ships were not ferrying weapons back to Ukraine.

Two top senior European officials with direct knowledge of the talks, who could not be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, also said on Thursday that they were optimistic a deal would be struck on Friday in Istanbul. The European Union is not party to the negotiations.

For its part, the Russian side has insisted its own grains and fertilizers are stuck because of E.U. measures — an allegation the Europeans have vehemently rejected as propaganda. Russian grains and fertilizers are not sanctioned by the European Union.

On Thursday, the bloc published a set of legal clarifications that sought to dispel any doubt that companies can export Russian grains and fertilizers without running afoul of sanctions.

Ned Price, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said the Biden administration would welcome an agreement, but stressed the importance of ensuring that Russia abides by and implements it.

Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting from Tbilisi, Georgia and Edward Wong from Lewes, Del.

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