10 things you need to know today: July 20, 2023

China rebuffs John Kerry's climate push, Russian strikes destroy Ukrainian grain stuck in ports, and more

John Kerry speaks at a lectern in front of U.S. flags
Chinese President Xi Jinping said China will phase out carbon pollution on its own timetable
(Image credit: Andrea Verdelli / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

1. China rebuffs Kerry's call for tougher joint climate action

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday rejected a push by John Kerry, President Biden's climate envoy, for a joint commitment to accelerate action to fight climate change. Xi said in a Wednesday speech that China would continue working toward phasing out carbon pollution on its own timetable, "never under the sway of others," according to the official People's Daily. Kerry held three days of negotiations in Beijing that ended with no new agreements. "We had very frank conversations but we came here to break new ground," he said. The impasse suggested that U.S.-China tensions could hinder joint efforts to address the climate crisis. China, like the U.S. currently contending with extreme heat, generates 31% of global emissions. The U.S. is responsible for 14%.

The New York Times

2. Russian strikes destroy Ukrainian grain in ports

Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian ports have destroyed 60,000 tons of grain since Moscow earlier this week ended the Russia-Ukraine deal that had allowed safe passage of Ukrainian agricultural exports through the Black Sea. Russian strikes against two of the three ports covered under the agreement knocked out a "considerable amount" of export infrastructure, Ukraine's agriculture minister, Mykola Solskyi, said. Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at Western nations that condemned Russia's decision to end the deal, accusing Ukraine's allies of using the grain deal as "political blackmail" and accusing them of failing to honor commitments to Russia included in the agreement.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

BBC News

3. Whistleblowers accuse IRS of 'slow-walking' Hunter Biden case

The Republican-led House Oversight Committee on Wednesday heard testimony from two IRS whistleblowers who accused the tax agency of "slow-walking" a criminal investigation into the finances of Hunter Biden, President Biden's son. Witness Joseph Ziegler, a 13-year IRS Special Agent with the Criminal Investigation Division, said as he testified on the matter for the first time that prosecutors didn't follow normal procedure in the case. His testimony was in line with that of the other whistleblower, Gary Shapley, who said IRS investigators recommended charges far more serious than the misdemeanors Hunter Biden pleaded guilty to in a deal with prosecutors. The Justice Department and the White House have denied the president's son got special treatment.

CNN The Associated Press

4. U.S. seeks details on soldier detained after crossing into North Korea

Pentagon officials have "reached out" to North Korean military counterparts seeking information on the fate of U.S. Army Private Travis King, who dashed into the isolated, nuclear-armed state this week, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Wednesday. "My understanding is that those communications have not yet been answered," Miller said. King, 23, was facing disciplinary action for getting into fights in Seoul when he left an airport before a flight out of South Korea, blended in with tourists visiting the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, and "willfully and without authorization" dashed across the border, the Pentagon said.


5. GOP moderate Chris Sununu won't run for reelection as N.H. governor

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a popular moderate Republican, announced Wednesday that he would not seek reelection in 2024. "Public service should never be a career, and the time is right for another Republican to lead our great state," he said. Sununu has been a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump. Sununu once considered running for president in 2024, but decided against it, warning that a crowded field would make it easier for Trump to win the party's nomination and hand a likely general election victory to President Biden. Democrats have been unable to unseat Sununu, but believe his departure could give them a better shot at electing a Democratic governor.


6. Progozhin video appears to show Russian mercenary leader in Belarus

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, said in his first social media video since leading a short-lived mutiny in late June, said his forces would not return to fight in Ukraine. In the blurry clip, Prigozhin also repeated his criticism of Russia's military leadership, and congratulated several hundred men dressed in military fatigues. "You have done a lot for Russia," he said in the video, which was posted on Telegram and verified by The Washington Post. "Now, what is happening at the front line is a disgrace in which we do not need to participate." Prigozhin and the Wagner troops now reportedly are in Belarus on the invitation of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, who persuaded Prigozhin to abandon his march toward Moscow.

The Washington Post

7. Stanford president announces resignation after manipulated-research allegation

Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne announced Wednesday he would resign after an independent review found he supervised flawed research and failed to correct distortions of the scientific record the work caused. "Although the report clearly refutes the allegations of fraud and misconduct that were made against me, for the good of the University, I have made the decision to step down as President effective August 31," Tessier-Lavigne wrote. The independent review began in December after the California university's student newspaper reported that Tessier-Lavigne, a neuroscientist and biotech entrepreneur, co-authored work that contained manipulated data and images.

Los Angeles Times

8. Mob storms Swedish embassy in Baghdad over Stockholm Quran burning

Iraqi protesters stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad on Thursday in an outburst of anger over a planned burning of a Quran in Stockholm. Video posted online showed a crowd waving flags and signs with the image of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose supporters called the protest, gathered outside the embassy, with some demonstrators breaking in and starting a small fire. The protests came after Swedish police authorized a demonstration outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm where an Iraqi asylum seeker plans to burn a Quran outside Iraq's embassy in Baghdad. Last month, police in Sweden's capital approved a similar demonstration outside the city's main mosque.

The Associated Press

9. Wesleyan ends legacy admissions

Wesleyan University announced Wednesday that it was ending so-called legacy admissions, or preference shown toward applicants with family or donor ties to the school. The elite Connecticut liberal arts college, following similar changes at such universities as Johns Hopkins, said the move was "important" as the school seeks ways to continue ensuring it has a diverse student body despite the Supreme Court's recent ruling against affirmative action in college admissions. Legacy admissions have been widely criticized as an unfair advantage for white and wealthy students. Supporters of legacy admissions say giving weight to family ties helps encourage alumni to remain engaged and make donations to their alma mater.

BBC News

10. DOJ assesses reports of migrant abuse on Texas' border

The Justice Department said Wednesday it was looking into "troubling" reports that Texas troopers were pushing migrants back into the Rio Grande to keep them from reaching the United States. The troopers allegedly were ordered not to give the migrants water, according to the reports. DOJ spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa told CNN the department is working with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to conduct an assessment, the first step toward a full investigation. Gov. Greg Abbott's office said in a joint statement with top public safety officials that Texas leaders hadn't issued any orders under Operation Lone Star, which aims to stop undocumented migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, that "would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross the border illegally."


Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.