Bordeaux Fires, Evansville Explosion, and Saving Sequoias Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Friday, Aug. 12, and we're covering fires in France's wine region, a probe into a deadly explosion in Indiana, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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Prisoner Swap Talks

Russia confirmed yesterday negotiations with the US are underway over a prisoner swap, which would reportedly release WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan. The trade would likely exchange the Americans for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, while some experts predict Russia may propose a two-for-two swap.


The news comes a week after Russia confirmed it was open to discussing the issue, but only within the diplomatic channel determined by Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden in Geneva last year.


A Russian court found Griner guilty on drug charges, sentencing her to nine years in prison last week. Whelen was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges in 2020. The administration has classified both Americans as wrongfully detained. Educator Marc Fogel, also detained on a drug charge, has not been classified as wrongfully detained and is unlikely to be included in the swap.


See inside a Russian penal colony here.

Bordeaux Fires

Thousands of firefighters are battling the second round of wildfires to ravage southwest France in less than a month, with 10,000 people evacuated so far. At least 16 homes and over 37,000 acres of pine forest have been destroyed in communities south of Bordeaux, just east of the Atlantic coast.


Due to a drought French officials have called the worst on record—amid the fourth heat wave of the season—excessively dry forests are erupting in flames as drifting embers fuel flare-ups. Smoke has drifted to coastal areas where beachgoers have been encouraged to wear masks. Just last month, close to 40,000 people had to be evacuated from the region for two similar-sized fires.


France has called upon at least seven European allies to send help, including Germany, Sweden, and Italy. Employers have been asked to give leave to volunteers among their workforce, who make up close to 80% of the nation's firefighters. 

Evansville Explosion

Investigators are working to identify the cause of a deadly house explosion in Evansville, Indiana, which left three people dead and damaged almost 40 nearby homes. One other person was reportedly hospitalized following the incident, while the search for additional victims amid the debris was paused yesterday to allow federal officials to perform a blast analysis. 


Witnesses said the explosion was powerful enough to move vehicles, including a mail truck, and reverberated across the town of roughly 120,000 people. Debris was found more than 100 feet from the house in every direction. The cause of the blast has not been determined; however, it is the second in the past five years—a 2017 natural gas explosion left two people dead.


See a clip of the explosion here and photos from the aftermath here.

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with CanvasPeople

> Actress Anne Heche, 53, not expected to survive after suffering brain injury following single car crash last week (More) | Legoland rollercoaster crash injures 31 in Germany (More)


> NBA to retire Bill Russell's No. 6 across all 30 franchises, the first NBA player to receive that honor (More)


> NFL preseason kicks off in earnest this weekend; see previews for all 32 teams (More) | Chicago Cubs top Cincinnati Reds 4-2 in MLB's second "Field of Dreams" game (More)

From our partners: Free large canvas?! Bring beautiful photos from the camera roll to the living room, with CanvasPeople. They print your favorite images onto high-quality canvases, and today they're giving 1440 readers one free 16x20 canvas print (over $120 in value). Just pay S&H; create yours today!

Science & Technology

> Data reveal the Arctic has warmed four times faster on average than the rest of the planet over the past four decades; amplification effect comes as reflective ice and snow melt into seawater (More)


> Scientists find first definitive proof that the moon inherited helium and neon from the Earth's crust; results support theory the moon originated from a collision between the Earth and another celestial object (More) | Giant-impact hypothesis 101 (More)


> Researchers identify the third known henipavirus capable of jumping from animals to humans; experts say the respiratory virus isn't fatal and does not spread easily in humans (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets end mixed (S&P 500 -0.1%, Dow +0.1%, Nasdaq -0.6%) as investors digest inflation figures (More)


> Shares of The New York Times up 11% after activist investor ValueAct takes 6.7% stake (More)


> Electric vehicle maker Rivian posts higher Q2 revenues ($364M) than expected, but projects wider losses for the year after losing $1.7B in the quarter (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Attorney General Merrick Garland says Justice Department will seek to unseal warrant behind Monday search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence (More) | Trump also calls to release the information (More) | Armed man killed after confrontation at Cincinnati FBI field office (More)


> Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest in Europe, reportedly shelled again by Russian forces (More) | Satellite images show Russian air base in Crimea severely damaged after explosion (More) | See updates on the war (More)


> Virginia man sentenced to 12 years in prison for 2019 bank robbery in case that tested the constitutionality of "geofence warrants," or obtaining phone location history as evidence (More)



Saving the Sequoias

Reuters | Staff. Crews in Yosemite are taking steps to protect the world's largest trees, at risk from more frequent wildfires and a drier climate. (Read)

Beneath Baltimore

This Is Love | Phoebe Judge. (Podcast) Evan Woodard has a child-like love for finding old stories—by digging up ancient stuff from the ground. (Listen)

Navajo Biking

Short of the Week | Fritz Bitsoie. Inspired by the old horse trails of his Diné people, 17-year-old Nigel James created the first mountain bike race in the Navajo Nation. (Watch)

Algorithmic Anxiety

New Yorker | Kyle Chayka. The age of infinite scrolling has consumers worrying whether they actually like what the algorithm is selling. (Read, paywall)



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- Lauren Bacall

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