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Your Friday Night Briefing – The New York Instances


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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Friday.

1. Staged voting began in Russian-occupied Ukraine.

Ukrainians in the country’s east and south were forced to vote in referendums on joining Russia while Russian soldiers, wearing balaclavas and wielding guns, flanked election workers. Some Ukrainians hid in their homes, terrified that voting against Russia’s annexation would lead to their being abducted, or worse. Others expressed fear that their homeland was being usurped in what they called a sham vote.

The aim of the vote, which has been met with international condemnation, was clear: to give Vladimir Putin, Russia’s leader, a pretext to gobble up Ukraine. The referendums brought back memories of staged votes in 2014 in Crimea that were swiftly followed by Russia’s annexation of the peninsula.

2. Britain is going full tilt on tax cuts and free-market economics.

Prime Minister Liz Truss’s new government announced a series of sweeping tax cuts and deregulatory policies, essentially gambling that a freer market will spur economic growth. The plans are a sharp break from the Boris Johnson era and represent a shift toward Thatcherism, which turned the economy around in the 1980s, albeit at a high cost for many, with rising unemployment and labor unrest.

The negative reaction from financial markets underscored the extent of the gamble. The value of British stocks, bonds and the pound sank to lows against the U.S. dollar not seen since 1985.

In the U.S., the S&P 500 slid by 1.7 percent today, finishing its second consecutive negative week and putting the index on track for its third straight quarterly loss for the first time since 2008.

In other business news, U.S. oil prices fell to their lowest since January.

3. Some election deniers who are running for office are changing their tune as elections approach.

Several Republicans who won their primaries this year while claiming that the 2020 election had been stolen from Donald Trump are now distancing themselves from that message. They include Don Bolduc in New Hampshire, Blake Masters in Arizona, Tiffany Smiley in Washington State and Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania.

In some sense, the contortions are about having it both ways, writes my colleague Jonathan Weisman. They are signaling to undecided swing voters that a candidate is willing to move toward the middle, while winking at the right-wing base. The question is: Will voters buy it?

4. The Supreme Court ruled that Alabama could execute a prisoner by a method he fears.

Alan Eugene Miller, who was convicted of murdering three men in 1999, said he submitted a request to be killed by suffocation rather than lethal injection because of his fear of needles. The state suggested that he had never made the request, and sought to move forward with the injection. This week, a federal judge sided with Miller.

But the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 order without explanation, overruled the federal judge and said the lethal injection could proceed. Miller was spared when prison officials were unable to insert an intravenous line into Miller’s veins yesterday by midnight, when his death warrant expired. The state said the execution would be rescheduled “at the earliest opportunity.”

5. Developers are building tall towers with fewer homes in New York City.

Residential buildings are being torn down to create new ones that climb higher, but sometimes they offer fewer units than the ones they replace — potentially worsening the city’s affordable housing crisis.

6. Hilary Mantel, the prize-winning author, died at 70.

Mantel was the author of 17 books and was one of Britain’s most decorated novelists. She was best known for “Wolf Hall,” “Bring Up the Bodies” and “The Mirror and the Light,” her fictional trilogy based on the life of Thomas Cromwell, which earned her two Booker Prizes and have sold millions of copies.

In a 2020 review of the final book of the Cromwell trilogy, a Times reviewer wrote that Mantel’s writing envelops the reader “in the sweep of a story rich with conquest, conspiracy and mazy human psychology.” The Times book staff put together a guide to her writing.

7. The performance arts are facing a crisis: Ticket prices are rising and fewer Americans are willing to pay.

Arts institutions are voicing concern that the high barrier to entry — especially compared to the seductively low cost of streaming services at home — is too large a hurdle for newcomers.

But now, some classical performing institutions like the Chicago Sinfonietta and Lincoln Center are taking a cue from the theater world and opting for a fresh approach: pay-what-you-can ticketing. So far, the results have been heartening.

8. Change is coming to “Saturday Night Live.”

Eight of the NBC sketch comedy show’s cast members — including Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson and Chris Redd — will not be returning for the 48th season, which starts next weekend. The nearly complete overhaul leaves open questions about the future of the show.

But “S.N.L.,” which won the Emmy this month for variety sketch series, has usually found a way to revitalize itself, era after era. And Lorne Michaels, its creator and executive producer, said the turnover was both necessary and “exhilarating.”

Michaels spoke to our reporter Dave Itzkoff about the future of the show.

In other on-screen news, my colleague Farah Fleurima looked into why movies feature slim actors wearing fat suits, rather than simply hiring big actors to play big characters.

9. Roger Federer will end his celebrated tennis career with his greatest rival by his side.

Federer, who at 41 is retiring from the sport, plays his final competitive match today alongside Rafael Nadal. The doubles pair take on Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock, both younger American stars.

Federer’s pairing with Nadal is a fitting conclusion: The rivalry between the two was a 21st-century staple — righty versus lefty, panache versus perspiration — that drew many young fans to the sport.

In other sports news, the Boston Celtics suspended their coach, Ime Udoka, for the entire upcoming season. A person briefed on the matter said he had an inappropriate relationship with a female team employee that was a violation of the team’s organizational guidelines.

10. And finally, movie buffs are giving analog film a second life.

Over the last decade, as theaters adapted to the digital era, a notable few kept their film projectors. Paradoxically, the threat to the dated technology has given it a new cachet.

Now, 35-millimeter film is thriving in New York City. A small group of museums and niche theaters is finding success, and a ready audience, by using antiquated projectors to show older, sometimes obscure titles that are available only on film.

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