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.
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.
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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Business & Markets
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Politics & World Affairs
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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)
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)
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)
New Yorker | Kyle Chayka. The age of infinite scrolling has consumers worrying whether they actually like what the algorithm is selling. (Read, paywall)
Historybook: Egyptian queen Cleopatra dies by suicide (30 BCE, estimated); James Bond creator Ian Fleming dies (1964); IBM personal computer is released (1981); Largest ever Tyrannosaurus rex discovered (1990); Hollywood icon Lauren Bacall dies (2014).
"Imagination is the highest kite one can fly."
- Lauren Bacall
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