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Morning news brief

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Today, we begin with perfection.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Leila, isn't that how we always begin?

FADEL: I mean, obviously, Steve. But I'm talking about a perfect game in baseball.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Ground into third. Donaldson has it. There he is. Perfection for Domingo German.

INSKEEP: Domingo German is the Yankees pitcher who threw the perfect game. He faced 27 batters, and not a single one got on base. Major League Baseball's first perfect game in 11 years and the first under the new pitch clock.

FADEL: In addition to sports, though, we are following the news. Russia's president is asserting control after a failed uprising last weekend.

INSKEEP: Some of Vladimir Putin's generals have not been seen in public, and that has fed questions about who may be under suspicion or under arrest for what they knew of the mercenary mutiny.

FADEL: And all of this is being closely watched in neighboring Ukraine. NPR's Greg Myre is in Kyiv and met a Ukrainian general who is not under arrest. Greg, who is he?

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Yes, I spoke with General Viktor Nazarov. He's the chief adviser to Ukraine's top general. And Nazarov's own background is very interesting. He's 61 now, but as a young officer, he spent nearly a decade in the Soviet army. So some of his fellow officers at that time are now senior figures in the Russian military. So he's waging war against former comrades in arms. They all wore the same uniform when they began their military careers in the 1980s.

FADEL: OK, so he clearly has some insights into the Russian military that he's fighting. Does he think this mutiny in Russia is going to change the dynamics on the battlefield in Ukraine?

MYRE: So he's looking at it really just from a military perspective. In that sense, he doesn't really think so. He says the mercenary group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin were the deciding factor in this fight for the eastern town of Bakhmut that lasted for many months. But after the Wagner mercenaries captured the town, the Wagner forces pulled back, saying they needed to regroup. And they handed the town over to the regular Russian army. Let's have a listen.

VIKTOR NAZAROV: (Non-English language spoken).

MYRE: So he's saying here that the Wagner forces retreated to camps back from the front lines. They're in the far east of Ukraine. Wagner is seen more as an attack force, not a defensive force, and therefore they're not expected or weren't expected to play a crucial role now that Russia is mostly on the defensive, trying to stop this Ukrainian offensive.

FADEL: So he doesn't see a huge impact. How did the general describe the current state of Ukraine's offensive?

MYRE: So he said all this new equipment that the U.S. and NATO have been sending make Ukraine a more powerful army capable of an offensive like this. But he was also willing to point out Ukraine's disadvantages. He said Ukraine has lost many of its best, most experienced fighters. It's relying much more heavily on troops that were recently called up. They have limited training and no combat experience. And he also said, based on his background, don't underestimate the Russians. They have deep reserves and are very well-entrenched.

FADEL: Now, you told me a little bit about who he is, his history. But I want to hear more about his personal story. He was a Soviet military officer, and now he's fighting his former colleagues. How does he feel about that?

MYRE: Sure. So when the Soviet Union broke up, Ukraine became independent, and he decided to return to his native Ukraine. He was a battalion commander. And before he headed home, he gathered his troops on his last day. And then at this point in our conversation, he switched to English.

NAZAROV: And I invited my colleague, officers, sergeants from my battalion. And I said them, one thinks that never in future we saw each other for the sights of our guns.

MYRE: He hoped they'd never see each other through the sights of the guns, but that's exactly what's happening now.

FADEL: NPR's Greg Myre in Kyiv, thank you for your reporting.

MYRE: Sure thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: Smoke and heat are making it unhealthy to breathe in parts of the U.S.

INSKEEP: Yeah, the heat wave in the Southwest has spread. Parts of the Midwest and East Coast are getting smoke from Canada's wildfires.

FADEL: And NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey is joining us this morning to discuss just how unhealthy this all is. Good morning.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: OK, so we've seen images from Chicago and Detroit, now smoke again in New York and in the D.C. area. How bad is this for people's health?

AUBREY: Sure. Well, in the Chicago area, the air quality index is hovering above 200, which is very unhealthy. In Washington, D.C., right now, it's about 165 - also unhealthy. I spoke to Dr. Ravi Kalhan. He's a pulmonologist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. He told me with the heavy smoke and haze, these tiny, minute particles from the forest fires can get into people's lungs, and this can trigger a flare-up for people with asthma or chronic lung disease.

RAVI KALHAN: And associations are pretty clear in the medical literature that if you inhale a bunch of particles - particulate matter - there's a systemic inflammatory reaction in the body that can actually do things like trigger heart attacks and strokes.

AUBREY: He says susceptible adults should limit outdoor exposure, consider masking when going out and invest in high-quality filters or air purifiers for their homes. Bottom line - he tells his patients to limit outdoor activity when air quality index hits a hundred. And right now, in many places, from Chicago to D.C., it's much higher than that. You can check out the air quality in your own town at the website airnow.gov.

FADEL: OK. So what about people who don't have asthma or chronic lung disease, generally healthy people? Is the smoke and heat a concern for people who don't have any of these conditions?

AUBREY: Well, short-term exposure to the particulates from the forest fires is manageable, doctors tell me. And air quality is supposed to start improving tomorrow in many parts of the country. But Dr. Kalhan says when the air quality index is at 200, it's the equivalent of smoking about a half pack of cigarettes. And that's not likely to harm someone one time. But what if these exposures keep coming and coming, he asks.

KALHAN: If the frequency of those days increase or if the exposure occurs when the person is younger, spends more time outdoors, then it probably has more long-term impacts on health and creates, you know, a true public health problem that we need to understand.

AUBREY: He's actually starting a big national study to examine how smoke and other environmental factors can impact millennials' lung health.

FADEL: OK, so now that we've discussed all the unhealthiness of the smoke in the air, let's talk about the heat wave and how unhealthy that is, which has been moving north and east. Does the heat combined with the wildfire smoke mean even more work for our lungs?

AUBREY: Well, the high heat can trigger ground-level ozone or smog, which is a gas that is harmful to our health. Smog forms when two types of air pollution - volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen, which come from tailpipes and smokestacks - react with each other in heat and sunlight. And Dr. Kalhan says this can be dangerous too.

KALHAN: Ground-level ozone, when inhaled by people, is quite damaging to the respiratory tract. The respiratory epithelium has a very high susceptibility to injury and inflammatory reactions from ground-level ozone.

AUBREY: So when you have heat, wildfire smoke - you have two things that can trigger respiratory problems - and the fine particulates from the smoke, the ground level from the ozone and the heat - when conditions are ripe for both to happen at the same time, it stands to reason this cannot be good for our health.

FADEL: NPR's Allison Aubrey, thanks.

AUBREY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: People in France are protesting a police shooting. An officer shot and killed a 17-year-old boy.

INSKEEP: The officer had stopped the teenager just outside of Paris for a traffic violation. Police said the officer shot in self-defense after the teen rammed his car into the police vehicle. Video posted on social media showed the cop shooting into that vehicle, which triggered such a strong reaction that President Emmanuel Macron called a crisis meeting today.

FADEL: Reporter Rebecca Rosman is in Paris and has been following this story. Good morning, Rebecca.

REBECCA ROSMAN, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So tell us about the protests overnight.

ROSMAN: Well, clashes actually first erupted on Tuesday night in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, which is where the incident took place. But last night is where we really saw the protests start to spread to other parts of the country, cities like the southern city of Toulouse or Lille in the north. Thirty-five people were arrested in Paris alone, and you saw vehicles and buildings being set on fire. Then you had demonstrators shooting fireworks and throwing stones at police, who then responded by spraying tear gas to disperse the crowds. And the government has deployed 2,000 police officers in and around Paris alone to maintain order.

FADEL: And what is the government saying about the shooting?

ROSMAN: Well, there's this crisis meeting today, as was mentioned. But the government has acted quite quickly, I have to say, to condemn the situation. Here's French President Emmanuel Macron reacting to what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Speaking French).

ROSMAN: So he's saying what happened was unexplainable and inexcusable. And Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne also said the police officer who fired the shot clearly didn't comply with the rules. And I should point out that this sort of really quite quick and quite blunt reaction is unusual for the government, which has historically been quite cautious about criticizing the police.

FADEL: Interesting. So clearly, they understand this has struck a national nerve. But what about the family of the 17-year-old who was killed? Have they said anything?

ROSMAN: Yeah. So the boy's mother has posted a video on TikTok calling for a revolt for her son. And the family has also organized a silent march this afternoon in the square where he was killed.

FADEL: I want to understand what the protesters are demanding. And do protesters see this killing as part of a larger pattern in France?

ROSMAN: I think what they are trying to do is seize this moment as an opportunity to open a wider debate about what they see as systemic police abuse, particularly in the working-class suburbs. You know, there's long been complaints of police brutality and discrimination in these areas, especially against lower-income households and racial minorities. Last year, there were 13 people killed after being stopped for traffic violations. And people in France have called out this kind of thing before when it's happened. And we saw some protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing in 2020. But this one, especially with this video, it just hits closer to home. And you have some lawmakers expressing concern, saying they're worried about police brutality in France mirroring what they've seen happening in the U.S. So I think we can expect not just more protests, but a wider conversation here about this issue.

FADEL: Reporter Rebecca Rosman in Paris. Thank you, Rebecca.

ROSMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.