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American basketball star Brittney Griner is back in court for her trial for cannabis possession amid U.S. diplomatic efforts to secure her release. The WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist returned to court on Tuesday, a month after her trial began. She could face 10 years in prison if convicted. As her trial has progressed, the Biden administration has faced growing public pressure to get her released. In an extraordinary move, Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, urging him to accept a deal under which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction, would go free.

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Drought and unusually hot weather have raised the salt levels in Italy’s largest delta, where the mighty Po River feeds into the Adriatic Sea south of Venice. It’s killing rice fields along with the shellfish that are a key ingredient in one of Italy’s culinary specialties. The impact may be more lasting, as saltwater is leaching inland distances never before recorded, seeping into aquifers. Plants along the banks of the Po River are wilting as they drink in water from salinated aquifers and secondary waterways have dried up, shrinking amphibians and birds’ wetland homes.

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The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain has set out from the port of Odesa. The departure of the ship laden with corn follows an internationally brokered deal that is expected to finally allow large stores of Ukrainian crops to reach foreign markets and ease a growing hunger crisis. The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni departed Odesa on Monday morning headed for Lebanon. Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements with Turkey and the U.N. clearing the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural goods that have been stuck in Black Sea ports because of Russia’s invasion. Ukraine is one of the world’s key breadbaskets.

AP
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Since Brittney Griner last appeared in her trial for cannabis possession, the question of her fate has expanded from a cramped courtroom on Moscow’s outskirts to the highest level of Russia-U.S. diplomacy. The WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist is to return to court on Tuesday. That is a month after the beginning of the trial in which she could face 10 years in prison if convicted. As the trial has progressed, the Biden administration has faced rising calls for action to win her release. In an extraordinary move, Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week spoke to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, urging him to accept a deal under which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction, would go free.

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Benchmark U.S. crude oil for September delivery rose $2.20 to $98.62 a barrel Friday. Brent crude for September delivery rose 52 cents to $107.14 a barrel. Wholesa e gasoline for August delivery fell 2 cents to $3.49 a gallon. August heating oil fell 6 cents to $3.62 a gallon. September natural gas rose 10 cents to $8.23 per 1,000 cubic feet. Gold for August delivery rose $12.60 to $1,762.90 an ounce. Silver for September delivery rose 33 cents to $20.20 an ounce and September copper rose 10 cents to $3.57 a pound. The dollar fell to 133.35 Japanese yen from 134.35 yen. The euro rose to $1.021 from $1.017.

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Asian shares are mostly higher following a broad rally on Wall Street, but Hong Kong's benchmark sank more than 2%. Investors have grown more convinced that the Federal Reserve may temper its aggressive interest rate hikes aimed at taming inflation after data showed the U.S. economy contracted in the last quarter. But investors are cautiously eyeing regional tensions over China’s stance on Taiwan after President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping spoke for more than two hours on Thursday. Japan's factory output in June jumped 8.9% from the previous month. The Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy contracted at a 0.9% annual pace in April-June following a 1.6% year-on-year drop in the first quarter.

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Shares are mostly higher in Asia after the Federal Reserve ratcheted up its campaign against surging inflation by raising its key interest rate three-quarters of a point. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority matched that with an increase of its own. Oil prices pushed higher while U.S. futures edged lower. The Fed’s latest hike lifts the benchmark short-term rate to its highest level since 2018. The S&P 500 gained 2.6% and the technology heavy Nasdaq jumped by the most in over two years. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also closed higher. Strong earnings from Google's owner Alphabet, Microsoft and other companies helped lift investors’ mood.

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The latest Russian court hearing in the drug trial of American basketball star Brittney Griner has focused on testimony about countries that regard cannabis as having legitimate medicinal uses. Griner has acknowledged she was carrying vape canisters containing cannabis oil when she was arrested in February at a Moscow airport. But she contends she had no criminal intent and that the canisters ended up in her luggage inadvertently because of hasty packing. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of transporting drugs. Griner’s trial began July 1. Tuesday’s session lasted about 90 minutes before the case was adjourned until Wednesday.

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Asian stock markets are higher as investors brace for another sharp interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve to cool inflation. Shanghai, Hong Kong and Seoul advanced. Tokyo edged lower. Oil prices rose more than $1 per barrel. Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index gained 0.1% ahead of this week’s Fed meeting at which officials are expected to announce a rate hike of up to three-quarters of a percentage point, triple the usual margin. Investors worry that aggressive rate hikes by the Fed and other central banks to contain surging inflation might derail global economic growth.

AP

The U.S. women pulled a shocking upset in the 4-by-100 relay at world championships while the men finished second after a sloppy baton exchange that has become a ritual for that star-crossed team. Andre DeGrasse beat Marvin Bracy to the line by .07 seconds to lift Canada to the victory in the men's race in 37.48 seconds. Bracy fell behind after twice reaching back and whiffing on the exchange from Elijah Hall, who went tumbling to the ground after he finally let go of the stick. The U.S. women, a clear underdog to a Jamaican team that had won all but one of the six sprint medals at this meet, pulled the upset when Twanisha Terry held off 200 gold medalist Shericka Jackson for a .04-second victory.