Your Friday Briefing: Ukraine Launches a Southern Counteroffensive


We’re covering a Ukrainian counteroffensive and an effort by Europe’s central bank to tamp down inflation.

Ukrainian officials said their forces used long-range missiles and artillery to attack more than 200 Russian targets in the south on Thursday. The strikes destroyed six ammunition depots, the military said.

The effort — boosted significantly by a flow of powerful Western weapons — has put pressure on Moscow’s military infrastructure and supply lines in and around Kherson Province, which Russian forces seized in March. The gathering scale of Ukraine’s attacks in the south is consistent with preparations for a ground offensive.

Ukraine’s military success comes as it is again trying to make its case to the world that it can defeat the Russians. Officials are pointing to successes such as a recent Ukrainian artillery attack on a bridge critical for Russian supplies.

But despite the Ukrainians’ renewed optimism, military analysts and Western officials said it was far too soon to forecast a reversal of fortunes, and that a long slog seems more likely.

While he is fully vaccinated and twice boosted, the positive test raises health concerns for the 79-year-old president. He is receiving Paxlovid, an antiviral drug used to minimize the severity of Covid-19, and will isolate at the White House. Biden will “continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time,” his press secretary said.

Biden’s positive test also underscores how Covid remains a persistent threat in the U.S., even as much of the country tries to moves past the pandemic. Fueled by the BA.5 subvariant, cases and hospitalizations have surged.

More virus news:

The increase — by a bigger-than-expected half a percentage point — was an abrupt end to eight years of negative interest rates aimed at getting banks to lend generously, although the increase leaves the bank’s key rate at zero percent. European stocks ended the day roughly where they started, after investors reacted positively to the E.C.B.’s aggressive action to tame inflation.

In countries that use the euro, inflation is soaring at its fastest rate in generations, reaching 8.6 percent in June. The hike was driven largely by rising energy and food prices. The E.C.B. has a particularly tricky task: balancing the economic weaknesses and debt burdens of 19 different countries.

Recession concerns: Wall Street’s most talked about recession indicator, the yield curve, is sounding its loudest alarm in two decades. An inversion of it has preceded every U.S. recession for the past half century, and it’s happening now.

What’s next: The E.C.B. introduced a new tool — the Transmission Protection Instrument — to keep bond markets in check. It doesn’t want to use it.

The best Jane Austen adaptations are true to the novel’s plot and confident in their own worlds. A movie version of “Persuasion” on Netflix is neither, Sarah Lyall writes.

The problem isn’t that the film takes liberties, Sarah 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.”

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