Russia, Germany, Uber: Your Thursday Briefing


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Good morning. Sanctions for Russia, a new migration deal for Germany and a major setback for Uber.

Here’s the latest:

• The Trump administration said it would impose new sanctions against Russia for its poisoning in March of a former Russian spy and his daughter, who were living in England. Above, the scene of the crime.

The decision comes weeks after President Trump was widely criticized for questioning the findings of his own intelligence agencies on the Kremlin’s role in the 2016 presidential elections after he met with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

In other news related to the Russia investigation, Mr. Trump’s lawyers rejected the special counsel’s latest terms for an interview and offered a narrower format that would skip questions about obstruction of justice.

And here’s the latest from the trial of Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager and the first to be hauled to court as a result of the special counsel’s inquiry.

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• Refugees entering Germany after first arriving in Spain will be sent back under a new agreement between the two countries.

The deal with Spain is Germany’s first attempt to tighten border controls, after discontent with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming stance threatened to bring down her government. Germany is looking to strike similar deals with Greece and Italy.

Migrants in Italy, however, face a volatile environment. Hundreds who ended up working in tomato fields in southern Italy are protesting poor working conditions after two road accidents killed 16 laborers in 48 hours.

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• Saudi Arabia wants the West to know it will not tolerate criticism.

The country announced it would suspend flights to Canadian airports and cease buying barley or wheat from Canada. It will also stop sending its citizens to, and withdraw resident doctors from, Canadian hospitals.

These steps add to retaliatory measures on Monday after Canada’s Foreign Ministry called on Saudi Arabia — via Twitter — to release imprisoned activists.

The escalating feud is emblematic of the ruling style of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, above, who has responded to criticism from Sweden and Germany in a similar way.

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The decision in New York, the first major American city to rein in a company that has changed public transportation around the world, could provide a model for other governments.

In London, Uber was able to regain its taxi license only after it agreed to meet stricter regulations.

Business

Two elections in the U.S. states of Ohio and Kansas are still too close to call, exposing the Republican Party’s precarious position as it tries to hold on to its congressional majority. Above, Kris Kobach, a candidate for governor in Kansas. [The New York Times]

The organization behind the Oscars announced that it would introduce a “popular film” category at the Academy Awards and shorten its broadcast in an attempt to win back viewers. [The New York Times]

The Senate in Argentina, a predominantly Catholic nation, voted early Thursday against legalizing abortions for pregnancies up to 14 weeks, dealing a stinging defeat to a grass-roots movement that had galvanized women’s groups throughout Latin America. [The New York Times]

Belarus has detained at least 18 journalists, prompting an outcry from the Council of Europe and international nonprofit groups. [The New York Times]

The Europe-wide heat wave has shriveled up barley, leading to a potential beer shortage. But fret not, the hotter weather may be great for wine. [Fortune]

Ryanair, Europe’s largest budget airline, will cancel hundreds of flights on Friday as pilots in five countries stage a strike for higher salaries. [The Telegraph]

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

More than three million Americans have served in uniform in the Afghan and Iraq wars that started more than 15 years ago, and almost 7,000 of them have died. Our veteran war correspondent writes of the toll these grinding military campaigns have had on U.S. service members.

At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world, mental health has emerged as a prominent theme — both on stage and off.

“Welcome to Mawlynnong (God’s own Garden).” While waste chokes many of India’s cities, this small village in the northeast attracts tourists with its lush gardens and tradition of cleanliness.

Back Story

In the song “Imagine,” John Lennon sang about a world with no religion.

But religion was at the center of a controversy involving the Beatles guitarist, who apologized on Aug. 11, 1966, for favorably comparing his band’s popularity to that of Jesus.

“Christianity will go,” Mr. Lennon had said in an interview published five months earlier. “It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I know I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first — rock & roll or Christianity.”

The profile ran in a British newspaper without controversy. But when a teen magazine in the U.S. reprinted the quote in late July — just before the Beatles embarked on a U.S. tour — Americans took the slight to heart.

Radio stations, particularly in the South, refused to play the Fab Four’s music. Members of the Ku Klux Klan picketed the tour, and conservative groups burned their records.

Mr. Lennon apologized at the start of the tour — which ended up being the Beatles’ last — but it was clear he was frustrated by the outrage:

“I suppose if I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I would have got away with it. I am sorry I opened my mouth.”

Matthew Sedacca wrote today’s Back Story.

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