Here’s what you need to know:
G.O.P. is left with little room for error
• With three months until the midterm elections, this week’s voting revealed the vulnerabilities that Republicans face in many suburbs and with moderate voters.
Key races in Kansas and Ohio remain undecided, but party veterans have an increasingly bleak view of their prospects this fall. Republicans can afford to lose only 22 seats to maintain control of the House.
“There’s a real likelihood that they not only win the House, but they win it by 10 or 12 more seats than they need,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said of the Democrats.
President Trump took credit for Republican candidates’ success on Tuesday, but he is also largely responsible for a political climate that undermines them, one of our White House correspondents writes.
• Separately on Wednesday, Representative Chris Collins, a New York Republican, was charged with insider trading. He said he would remain on the ballot in November.
New sanctions against Russia
• The measures announced by the Trump administration on Wednesday are a response to the attempted assassination in March of a Russian former spy living in England and his daughter.
The U.S. had already agreed with Britain’s determination that Russia was to blame for the attack involving an obscure nerve agent. Western countries expelled about 150 Russian diplomats, including 60 from the U.S.
• Russia will face even tougher measures if it fails to prove that it’s no longer using chemical weapons, according to the terms of a 1991 law.
A big blow to Uber and Lyft
• New York is the first major American city to halt new vehicle licenses for ride-hailing services and to set a minimum pay rate for drivers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, said the measures passed on Wednesday would reduce traffic and improve drivers’ low wages. Uber warned that the cap could result in higher prices and longer waits.
• The legislation, our columnist writes, “suggests the extent to which the false promises of the sharing economy are becoming better understood and, how much more aggressively they still could be counteracted.”
Argentina rejects legalizing abortion
• The country’s Senate narrowly defeated a measure early today that would have allowed abortions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Promoted by a grass-roots movement, the bill had galvanized women’s groups throughout Latin America. In the region, only Cuba, Guyana, Uruguay and Mexico City allow all women to have early-term abortions.
• Argentina is the birthplace of Pope Francis, who recently denounced abortion as the “white glove” equivalent of the Nazi-era eugenics program.
Puerto Rico toll is quietly raised
• The territory’s government acknowledged online that 1,427 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in September, more than 20 times the official toll.
The new figure appeared in the draft of a report set to be released today, requesting $139 billion from Congress.
• The island’s government was widely criticized for undercounting deaths after a power outage stretched for months.
“The Daily”: New path for pardons
• Granting clemency was long a cumbersome bureaucratic process. That has changed under President Trump.
• The Treasury Department outlined the types of companies and professionals now eligible for a 20 percent tax break. Among the possible beneficiaries: President Trump’s real estate empire.
• Facebook has long been a vehicle for rumor and paranoia around the world. The debate over the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has brought that reality home to Americans, our columnist writes.
After Facebook, Apple and Google purged videos and podcasts from Mr. Jones’s Infowars site, its app became one of the most downloaded in the U.S.
• A day after Elon Musk declared on Twitter that he might try to take Tesla private, banks raced to figure out how they might get involved.
Mr. Musk’s tweet has also drawn the interest of securities regulators, our columnist writes.
• The Times added more than 109,000 digital-only subscribers in the second quarter, enough to make up for a continued decline in advertising revenue. It now has 2.9 million digital-only subscribers, of 3.8 million total.
Tips for a more fulfilling life.
• Can you stop wanting to cheat on your partner?
• How to have better family meals.
• Recipe of the day: Fill a pita with an herb omelet, vegetables and a tahini-yogurt sauce.
• Church officials resign in harassment case
The lead pastor and the entire board of elders resigned on Wednesday from Willow Creek Community Church, one of the nation’s most influential evangelical congregations.
They said they had made a mistake by failing to believe the women who accused the Rev. Bill Hybels, the church’s founding pastor, of sexual harassment.
• A popularity contest at the Oscars
Alarmed by plunging TV ratings, the organization behind the Academy Awards said it would add a category for blockbuster films, a move that was widely mocked on social media. The telecast will also be shortened.
• Relics for sale on the Jersey Shore
Can vintage shops and salvage sellers bridge an economic divide in the newly revitalized Asbury Park, N.J.?
• A different Sherlock on the case
• Best of late-night TV
Samantha Bee took stock of Donald Trump Jr.’s Russia connections: “Any time there was collusion going on, Donny was there. He shows up everywhere. He’s like the Forrest Gump of collusion!”
• Quotation of the day
“Finally. We’re starving to death.”
— Elizabeth Cassarino, a yellow-taxi driver in New York, on the city’s decision to cap licenses for ride-hailing cars.
• The Times, in other words
• What we’re reading
Albert Sun, an assistant editor, recommends this presentation from ProPublica and Reveal: “The two news organizations hired engineers to build scale models of different levee systems and to test rising water levels. The conclusions are clear: These flood prevention systems can actually make floods worse.”
In the song “Imagine,” John Lennon sang about a world with no religion.
But religion was at the center of a controversy involving the Beatles guitarist, who apologized on Aug. 11, 1966, for favorably comparing his band’s popularity to that of Jesus.
“Christianity will go,” Mr. Lennon had said in an interview published five months earlier. “It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I know I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first — rock & roll or Christianity.”
The profile ran in a British newspaper without controversy. But when a teen magazine in the U.S. reprinted the quote in late July — just before the Beatles embarked on a U.S. tour — Americans took the slight to heart.
Radio stations, particularly in the South, refused to play the Fab Four’s music. Members of the Ku Klux Klan picketed the tour, and conservative groups burned their records.
Mr. Lennon apologized at the start of the tour — which ended up being the Beatles’ last — but it was clear he was frustrated by the outrage:
“I suppose if I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I would have got away with it. I am sorry I opened my mouth.”
Matthew Sedacca wrote today’s Back Story.
Correction: A picture caption in Wednesday’s Morning Briefing referred incorrectly to a man who survived Sunday’s earthquake in Indonesia. Natro Aryadi was one of only a handful who were pulled alive from the rubble in Lombok, he was not one of few survivors on the island.
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