Your Wednesday Briefing: Russia Suspected of Pipeline Sabotage
This image released by Denmark showed methane bubbling up onto the surface of the Baltic Sea from the pipeline.Credit…Agence France-Presse, via Danish Defence
Gas leaks raise suspicions of Russian sabotage
European nations are investigating two suspicious leaks in gas pipelines from Russia to Germany, raising concerns about possible sabotage.
The leaks under the Baltic Sea on Monday caused a sudden drop in pressure in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines — neither of which had been active. Sweden’s national seismic network said it had detected large undersea explosions near the locations of the leaks. Footage released by Denmark showed a swirling mass of methane bubbling up onto the water’s surface.
Speculation immediately fell on Russia, which denied responsibility. Several countries are investigating. “It is an extraordinary situation,” said Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, adding, “It is difficult to imagine that it could be accidental.”
Context: The pipelines have been a focal point of the broader confrontation between Russia and Europe. After the E.U. imposed economic sanctions on Russia, Moscow began withholding its natural gas, threatening the continent’s energy supply.
Analysis: The leaks underscored the vulnerability of Europe’s energy infrastructure, even as the continent tries to wean itself off supplies from Russia. Offshore gas fields in the Mediterranean near Israel could offer a solution.
Four days of staged referendums on joining Russia in occupied parts of Ukraine wrapped up yesterday. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is expected to annex the territories soon.
Japan’s consul general in Vladivostok, a far-eastern Russian city, was detained, blindfolded and harshly interrogated before being ordered to leave the country.
Vietnam braces for Typhoon Noru
More than 800,000 people were evacuated from central Vietnam as of yesterday evening. Typhoon Noru is forecast to make landfall today in or near the city of Danang.
Among the places in its expected path was Hoi An, an ancient trading port and UNESCO World Heritage site. Several airports in central Vietnam were closed, and a curfew went into effect yesterday evening.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center said that Noru had lost strength and was no longer a “super typhoon.” Still, it was producing maximum sustained winds of 143 miles (about 230 kilometers) per hour yesterday evening.
Noru hit the Philippines on Sunday, causing flooding and killing at least eight people, officials said. A similar storm, Hurricane Ian, battered the Caribbean yesterday and was on a path toward Florida.
Climate change: As Earth’s climate warms, more storms are turning into hurricanes, or typhoons. Here are key facts about how climate change can rapidly intensify tropical storms.
China is suspected of election meddling
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, said yesterday that it had taken down what it described as the first targeted Chinese campaign aimed at influencing the U.S. midterm elections in November.
In the campaign, users posed as conservative Americans, promoting gun rights and criticizing President Biden, or as liberals from Florida, Texas and California, opposing guns and promoting reproductive rights.
The effort appeared limited in scope — it involved only 81 Facebook accounts — and was often clumsy. For instance, Meta said that the fake posts, which began appearing in November 2021, used profile pictures of men in formal attire but the names of women. The users mangled the English language and did not attract many followers.
Context: In previous influence campaigns, China’s propaganda apparatus concentrated pushing the Communist Party line. But this time, said Ben Nimmo, Meta’s lead official for global threat intelligence, Beijing “is talking to Americans, pretending to be Americans rather than talking about America to the rest of the world.”
THE LATEST NEWS
Japan buried Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister who was assassinated in July, in a divisive state funeral yesterday, the BBC reports.
At least 66 people died in Bangladesh when a boat carrying Hindu pilgrims capsized, The Associated Press reports.
An avalanche on a mountain in Nepal killed at least one person and injured 14. Separately, a noted American ski mountaineer is missing after apparently falling into a crevasse while trying to ski down the same peak.
Liz Truss, Britain’s new prime minister, is sticking to her free-market agenda, but as economic turmoil mounts, her leadership may already be in jeopardy.
The U.S. is changing its asylum application process in an effort to fix what one official called a “very broken system.”
Cuba will allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.
What Else Is Happening
NASA deliberately crashed a spacecraft into a small asteroid to see if humanity could alter the trajectory of planet-threatening rocks in the future.
Brazil’s Supreme Court has expanded its power to counter the antidemocratic stances of Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s president. But some fear that the judiciary has gone too far.
Currencies around the world are falling, except for bitcoin.
A Morning Read
Beijing is letting dating apps flourish, even as it cracks down on other tech companies. It’s a strategic choice: The apps could nudge people toward relationships at a time when China’s marriage and fertility rates are at record lows. They’re also helping users fight loneliness after Covid lockdowns wreaked havoc on social connections.
ARTS AND IDEAS
China’s global fishing operation
Over the past two decades, China has built the world’s largest deepwater fishing fleet, with nearly 3,000 ships. Having severely depleted stocks in its own coastal waters, China now fishes in any ocean in the world, and on a scale that dwarfs some countries’ entire fleets near their own waters.
In the international waters just off Argentina, Ecuador and Peru, for example, China accounted for about 80 percent of the fishing this year. In the last few years, its ships have operated almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week, off the coast of South America. The scale has raised alarms about the harm to the local economies and the environment, as well as the commercial sustainability of tuna, squid and other species.
The Chinese effort has also prompted diplomatic and legal protests. The fleet has been linked to illegal activity, including encroaching on other countries’ territorial waters, tolerating labor abuses and catching endangered species.
But much of what China does, however, is legal — or, on the open seas at least, largely unregulated. And given the growing demands of an increasingly prosperous consumer class in China, it is unlikely to end anytime soon.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Liang ban qie zi, a Shanghainese steamed eggplant dish, is a silky revelation.
What to Read
A new, unauthorized biography of Anthony Bourdain documents his dark final days.
Is matcha good for you?
Now Time to Play
Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: One of the ancient grains (five letters).
Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia and Lauren
P.S. On the “In the Bubble” podcast, Andy Slavitt, a former White House official, talked with The Times’s David Leonhardt about the threats to American democracy.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on pandemic fraud in the U.S.
You can reach Amelia, Lauren and the team at [email protected].