Good morning. We’re covering a possible deal on Ukraine’s blocked grain and an interest rate hike in Europe.
Ukraine’s grain: Unblocked?
Turkey said that Moscow and Kyiv had reached a deal to unblock Ukrainian grain exports. The Turkish presidency said the pact would be signed today, but Russia and Ukraine did not confirm they had reached an agreement.
If signed, a deal would help alleviate a global food shortage. Ukraine is one of the world’s breadbaskets, and more than 20 million tons of grain have been trapped in the country’s Black Sea ports since Russia invaded.
Details: Russia’s de facto blockade of the Black Sea has caused Ukraine’s exports to drop to one-sixth of their prewar level, which has exacerbated famine in Africa and undermined food supply chains already battered by the pandemic.
Europe raises rates amid inflation
The European Central Bank raised its three interest rates by half a percentage point yesterday as inflation ballooned across the continent, war raged in Ukraine and fears of an economic slowdown grew. The increase, the first in over a decade, was twice as large as expected.
Consumer prices in the eurozone rose on average 8.6 percent last month from a year earlier. The last time inflation was this bad in the region, the euro didn’t exist.
Officials hope the move will be a powerful tool to help control rapid inflation, and the central bank described it as an effort to “front-load” its rate increases. And in a sign of investor confidence, European stocks ended the day roughly where they started.
Financial context: Last week, the euro fell to parity with the dollar for the first time in 20 years. That added to the bloc’s inflationary pressures because the lower currency value increased the cost of imports. Concern is growing that the bloc will enter a recession.
Global context: The increase follows similar measures taken by the U.S. Federal Reserve and dozens of other central banks this year. The world’s outlook has worsened in recent months, as pandemic-induced disruptions and the war in Ukraine have continued to disrupt supply chains.
In part, that’s because deaths are not rising significantly. Severe cases aren’t, either, and intensive care units are not brimming with Covid patients. Instead, the authorities appear to be relying on high vaccination rates, expanded booster access and past infections to dull the effect of Omicron subvariants, though some experts still worry about vulnerable people.
Europeans also appear to have decided to live with the virus. People are traveling again, entering restaurants without masks and sitting in metro seats once left open for social distancing.
“These are things from the past,” one woman in a Roman bookstore said of floor stickers urging customers to maintain “a distance of at least 1 meter.” She described the red signs, with their crossed-out spiky coronavirus spheres, as artifacts, “like bricks of the Berlin Wall.”
The U.S.: President Biden tested positive for Covid yesterday. The White House said he was “experiencing very mild symptoms.”
Australia: The country’s Covid hospitalizations are nearing a high, but the authorities have refrained from bringing back restrictions.
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The difficulty of adapting Austen
The best Jane Austen adaptations are true to the novel’s plot and confident in their own worlds. A version of “Persuasion” on Netflix is neither, Sarah Lyall writes.
The problem isn’t that the film takes liberties, she writes. Many Austen iterations do: “Fire Island” sets “Pride and Prejudice” in a present-day vacation home with a group of gay men looking for love. But the new “Persuasion” diverges from the novel’s careful pace, allowing characters to reveal their feelings early on. And it mixes its 19th-century setting with modern phrases (“If you’re a five in London, you’re a 10 in Bath,” one character says).
In an interview, the film’s director, Carrie Cracknell — a drama wunderkind who was the co-leader of a major London theater before she was 30 — defended her choices: “One of the big hopes I had for the film was to draw in a new audience to Austen, and to make them feel that they really recognize the people onscreen.”