Former U.S. officials are holding secret talks with prominent Russians about the war in Ukraine. New allegations cast doubt over the story of a Texas man who was recently found after he was reported missing eight years ago. And a new study looks at the correlation between a higher body mass index and mortality risk.
Here’s what to know today.
A secret Ukraine backchannel between ex-U.S. officials and prominent Russians
A group of former senior U.S. national security officials are holding secret talks with prominent Russians believed to be close to the Kremlin — and, in at least one case, with the country’s top diplomat — according to four former officials and two current officials who were briefed on the discussions.
The high-level talks aim to lay the groundwork for potential negotiations to end the war in Ukraine. At a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in April, some of the thorniest issues in the war were on the agenda, like the fate of the Russian-held territory that Ukraine may never be able to liberate, and the search for a diplomatic off-ramp that could be tolerable to both sides.
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The Biden administration knows about the talks, but they did not take place at its direction.
The discussions are known as “Track Two diplomacy,” a form of unofficial engagement involving private citizens not currently in government. Such discussions have yielded results in the past. But some diplomats, foreign policy scholars and national security professionals are divided over whether they’ll result in a solution. Read Josh Lederman’s exclusive story here.
More coverage of the war in Ukraine
More Mar-a-Lago search warrant information released
Federal agents investigating Donald Trump’s connection to classified materials were concerned that the whereabouts of some documents were unknown, according to a less-redacted version of a search warrant affidavit that was made public yesterday. The affidavit reveals Justice Department officials became concerned about documents’ whereabouts after viewing security cameras from Mar-a-Lago that showed White House valet Walt Nauta moving boxes out of a storage area where Trump and his lawyers had previously acknowledged keeping classified documents. The new court filing also references other alleged incidents mentioned in Trump’s indictment.
Questions emerge about disappearance of Rudy Farias
Houston police have launched an investigation into the alleged disappearance and discovery of a 25-year-old man who had been reported missing eight years ago. It was widely reported over the weekend that Rudy Farias was “located safe” after a years-long search. But at least one neighbor insists Farias was never missing and that he had been living with his mom on their block. A community activist who said he was with Farias when he met with Houston police detectives backed up the account.
Twitter’s latest competitor is here
The growing list of platforms looking to challenge Twitter’s dominance just got larger. Instagram’s Threads app debuted last night, a day earlier than anticipated, and Meta says they have already received 10 million sign-ups.
Threads draws information from your Instagram account when you first sign in. For example, you’ll keep your Instagram username and have the option to follow accounts you already follow. Here’s what else you need to know.
Wagner mercenary chief is still in Russia despite deal to end mutiny
The mystery surrounding the fate of Russia’s rebellious mercenary Wagner Group deepened today with the leader of Belarus saying the fighters and their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, were not in his country.
Prigozhin turned back his soldiers after apparently striking a deal brokered by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko that would see them leave Russia for its neighboring ally. Lukashenko said last week that Prigozhin was in Belarus. Today however, he told a rare news conference that the mercenary leader was still in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, despite the Kremlin effectively saying he had been banished.
U.S. on edge after reports of deadly virus among babies
In May, the World Health Organization called attention to a cluster of a particular type of dangerous and often deadly viral sepsis in babies. That included nine babies in France who were infected within their first month of life. Seven died. In addition, twin boys in Italy were found to be infected with the same strain.
Later this week, the WHO is expected to update global reports of enterovirus-related neonatal sepsis, a spokesperson said. And with increasing circulation of similar enteroviruses that usually spike in the summer and early fall, pediatric infectious disease experts in the U.S. are “on pins and needles,” one doctor said.
▼ Today’s Talker
Having a higher BMI doesn’t necessarily indicate…
…a higher risk of death, a study published yesterday found, adding to a growing body of evidence that suggests body mass index alone is not an accurate indicator of a person’s health. BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight by the square of their height, and the figure has been used for decades to assess whether a person’s weight is “healthy.” But experts say there may be a stronger indicator of health.
▼ Politics in Brief
2024 campaign trail: A voter in Iowa asked Mike Pence if he second-guesses his actions on Jan. 6, 2021. “That was a constitutional right that you had to send those votes back to the states,” she said. In his response, Pence shut down her assertions.
Florida politics: Two of the top public health officials in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration — responsible for tracking and preventing the spread of communicable diseases — have left their positions. Their departures leaves the state facing a “serious health risk,” some experts say.
White House ‘substance’: A formal lab test of the white substance found at the White House over the weekend came back positive for cocaine. Finding out who was responsible for the drugs will be difficult.
2020 election fallout: A high-profile Georgia lawyer who embraced and promoted Donald Trump’s bogus election claims announced he was retiring amid disciplinary probes.
▼ Staff Pick
The tenants who took on their landlords — and won
As a renter, I know how tough it can sometimes be to hold landlords accountable for keeping their properties in good condition. So it was rewarding to read about a group of Minneapolis tenants — who were fed up with problems like black mold, pest infestations, cracked foundations and, on top of all that, rising rents — banded together and scored some wins against one America’s largest corporate landlords. — Elizabeth Robinson, newsletter editor
▼ In Case You Missed It
A 28-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison immediately after he pleaded guilty to the rape of a 10-year-old girl who then traveled to Indiana for an abortion.
An Alaska Airlines flight from Atlanta to Seattle was diverted after a passenger made a “direct threat” to the aircraft’s safety.
Russian jets harassed U.S. drones that were conducting a mission against ISIS targets in Syria, a commanding officer said.
A Subway sign making light of the Titan submersible tragedy that read “Our subs don’t implode” was taken down after it went viral.
Tuesday was the hottest day in the world since record keeping began, according to preliminary data. The previous hottest day on record? Monday.
Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, announced they’re separating after 30 years of marriage — but they’re not filing for divorce, they’ll still live together and they’re open to dating other people.
▼ Select: Online Shopping, Simplified
If you’re looking to update your current TV, we have some good news: there are plenty of varieties and price points to choose from. Here are the 11 best smart TVs to consider, and find out what experts say you should consider before making a purchase.
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