Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

A surge in demand from Asia for discounted Russian oil is making up for the significantly lower number of barrels being sold to Europe, dulling the effects of the West’s sanctions.

Most of the additional oil has gone to two countries: China and India. China’s imports of Russian oil rose 28 percent in May from the previous month, while India has gone from taking in almost no Russian oil to buying more than 760,000 barrels a day.

The oil is being sold at a steep discount because of the risks associated with sanctions imposed to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Still, soaring energy prices have led to an uptick in oil revenue for Russia, which took in $1.7 billion more last month than it did in April.

More news from the war in Ukraine:

Britain was hobbled on Tuesday by its largest railway strike in three decades — setting off what union and government leaders warned could be a summer of labor unrest.

Last-ditch talks between the transport union and the rail operator collapsed Monday night, and hundreds of trains ground to a halt for the first of three planned days of strikes, throwing travel plans for tens of millions of Britons and visitors into chaos. Most trains will also probably be halted on Thursday and Saturday, with disruptions rippling across the system for the entire week.

The main railway union is demanding a pay raise in line with the increase in cost of living. The strikes are a major test for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who called on the unions to compromise on their demands at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has kept ridership and ticket revenue well below normal levels.

Looking ahead. With soaring food and fuel prices and wages that are failing to keep pace, Johnson is likely to face other restive workers across multiple industries. Teachers, airline employees and criminal defense lawyers are among those who have threatened to walk off the job.

Phone-tracking devices are now everywhere in China — as are more than half of the world’s nearly one billion surveillance cameras, analysts estimate. The police there are creating some of the largest DNA databases in the world. And the authorities are building upon facial recognition technology to collect voice prints from the general public.

Times reporters spent over a year analyzing more than a hundred thousand government bidding documents, revealing that China’s ambition to collect a staggering amount of personal data from everyday citizens is more expansive than previously known.

The analysis found that the police chose locations to maximize the data their facial recognition cameras could collect, such as places where people eat, shop and travel. In one bidding document from Fujian Province, the police estimated that there were 2.5 billion facial images stored at any given time.

The authorities are using phone trackers to link people’s digital lives to their physical movements. In one case, documents revealed that the police bought phone trackers with the hope of detecting a Uyghur-to-Chinese dictionary app, which would identify phones likely belonging to members of the oppressed Uyghur ethnic minority.

For a brief, shining moment last summer, Wasabi the Pekingese was the most celebrated dog in America, after winning the best in show trophy at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. But a new champion will be crowned today, which raises the question: Once a dog like Wasabi reaches the pinnacle of success, what does he do next?

It has been almost 28 months since offices shut down at the beginning of the pandemic. More than enough time to buy a ring light, hang some art on the walls and figure out the mute button. But as Emma Goldberg, a Times business reporter found, many people have still not adapted.

Plenty of people have kept working from home with a certain level of flippancy, as though any day might herald a sweeping return back to cubicles and commutes.

At the end of 2021, three million professional roles in the U.S. went permanently remote. Many other workers have been in limbo, going back to the office either part time or waiting for a return-to-office plan that won’t be postponed. The confusion and ambivalence people feel can make it hard to invest in making a remote work setup feel permanent.

Last week Sujay Jaswa, a former Dropbox executive, did a video shoot with the camera aimed toward the ceiling. “His business philosophy does not include pulling off a decent zoom,” Room Rater, a Twitter account that scores video call backgrounds, wrote.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining us. — Jonathan and Matthew

P.S. This week 50 years ago, Irish Republican Army men in Belfast’s Crumlin Road jail ended a 36-day hunger strike.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the red-hot American property market.

You can reach Jonathan, Matthew and the team at [email protected].

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