Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

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

1. Voter fraud prosecution is rare, erratic and often undeserved.

As part of our Democracy Challenged series, The New York Times reviewed some 400 voting-fraud charges filed since 2017. Often, voters didn’t know they’d broken a law. Serious penalties usually fell hardest on those least able to fight back: Poor and Black people were likelier to go to jail than comfortable retirees.

In Florida, where the governor, Ron DeSantis, has encouraged a show-no-mercy approach, a prison inmate who thought he was allowed to vote was sentenced in May to almost a full extra year in jail. But in The Villages, a Republican-leaning retirement community, two residents arrested last winter for double voting avoided felony charges by taking a civics class.

In other political news: We profiled Judge Aileen Cannon, who ruled to appoint a special master to review materials Donald Trump took to Mar-a-Lago. And Steve Bannon, a onetime Trump adviser, is expected to surrender to as-yet-unknown state charges tomorrow.

2. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, vowed to fulfill “his duty to the end” in Ukraine.

Russian forces are struggling on the front lines, the country’s economy is straining under sanctions and the U.S. estimates that there have been more than 80,000 Russian casualties during the war.

3. Europe’s protected forests are being chopped down in the name of clean energy.

The E.U. considers burning pellets made from wood and sawdust to be a form of renewable energy and subsidizes them. Wood is now Europe’s largest renewable energy source, far ahead of wind or solar.

Next week, the European Parliament is scheduled to vote on a bill that would eliminate most industry subsidies and prohibit countries from burning whole trees to meet clean energy targets.

In other climate news, California narrowly averted rolling blackouts during an intense heat wave.

5. China’s “zero Covid” strategy endures, even after most of the world has learned to live with the coronavirus.

Tens of millions of Chinese are still quarantined, schools are closed, businesses are in limbo and whole cities are at a standstill. Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, has turned zero Covid into an ideological issue, making use of less effective Chinese vaccines and prioritizing nationalism over the guidance of scientists.

The question is how long China will maintain its approach. The country’s economy could hang in the balance, but any reversal would seem to undercut Xi’s vision ahead of an important Communist Party meeting next month where he is all but certain to extend his rule.

In other Covid news, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York lifted the mask mandate on New York City’s public transportation.

6. After a long delay, the portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama hang in the White House.

The paintings were finally unveiled in the East Room today at a ceremony attended by the former first couple and their successors, Joe and Jill Biden.

The portrait of the former president, by Robert McCurdy, is a hyper-realistic depiction, set against an empty background; the former first lady’s, by Sharon Sprung, shows her elegantly perched on a red couch.

The Trump administration broke with tradition and did not unveil the portraits of the Obamas, which were completed years ago. It is not clear whether the Biden White House will hold a ceremony to unveil the portraits of Donald and Melania Trump once they are completed.

7. The National Football League season kicks off tomorrow night. We’ve got you covered like a cornerback eyeing a wideout.

The Times’s 2022 season preview will get you up to speed on all 32 teams, including Russell Wilson’s move to the Denver Broncos and whether this will actually be Tom Brady’s last season. (OK, we don’t know the answer to that yet.)

The Buffalo Bills face the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams — who lead The Athletic’s Power Rankings — at 8:20 p.m. Eastern on Thursday in the season opener.

In other sports news, Coco Gauff and Nick Kyrgios are out of the U.S. Open, and the W.N.B.A. star Sue Bird has retired.

8. Apple unveiled its new iPhone 14 and Apple Watches today.

For the first time since the pandemic began, Apple returned to the Steve Jobs Theater to release product updates. At its annual marketing event, the company showed off the $800 phone’s satellite capabilities for emergency situations and its improved front and rear cameras. Unlike the basic iPhone, the iPhone 14 Pro, which costs $999, has a new processor as well as an updated camera.

Sharing the spotlight was the new $800 Apple Watch Ultra, aimed at serious sports enthusiasts. The price of Apple’s entry-level watch, the Apple Watch SE, dropped to $250.

Apple is now manufacturing some of its iPhones outside China, partly in response to rising geopolitical tensions. But the new iPhone’s development also shows how important Chinese engineers have become to the device.

9. Wakanda’s women spoke movingly of the sequel to “Black Panther.”

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” opens Nov. 11 (the July trailer drew 172 million views in 24 hours). But Chadwick Boseman, who played T’Challa, Wakanda’s leader, died in 2020 of colon cancer. Recasting T’Challa proved controversial, and the studio declined to use another actor even though viewers argued that the character was a role model for Black boys and men.

The movie’s fierce female cast leaned on and inspired one another during a tough, grief-stricken shoot. Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright and others discussed the experience with The Times.

10. And finally, fashion month is “back back.”

It partially returned a year ago, writes our chief fashion critic, Vanessa Friedman. But lingering pandemic effects meant some designers didn’t show. Now, with restrictions mostly gone, a jam-packed schedule of IRL shows will unfurl in New York, London, Milan and Paris. The four-week season will kick off with New York Fashion Week, beginning with Fendi on Friday.

What’s new? Japanese designers are back; NFTs are in. Expect new brands, political statements and big debuts. Our guide will help you make sense of it all.

Have a glamorous evening.

May-Ying Lam compiled photos for this briefing.

Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

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