Analysis & Comment

Your Wednesday Briefing: The Search for the Missing Titanic Sub

A missing submersible’s air is running out

An international team of rescuers was racing against time to find a deep-diving submersible with five people on board after it lost contact in the North Atlantic during a tour to explore the wreck of the Titanic.

The submersible, the Titan, is thought to be equipped with less than two days’ worth of oxygen, and as of 1 p.m. Eastern time yesterday, there was probably about 40 hours of breathable air left, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Contact with the Titan was lost on Sunday more than halfway into what should have been a two-and-a-half-hour dive. The five people on board are Hamish Harding, a British businessman and explorer; Shahzada Dawood, a British-Pakistani businessman and explorer, and his son, Suleman; and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a French maritime expert who has been on over 35 dives to the Titanic wreck site. Stockton Rush, the chief executive of OceanGate Expeditions, was piloting the submersible, according to the company.

The search for the Titan faces a series of obstacles, and even if it can be found, retrieving it will not be easy. The search area lies more than two miles below the surface, with pressure equal to being beneath a 100-story tower of solid lead.

Dangerous tourism: OceanGate Expeditions has provided tours of the Titanic wreck since 2021 for a price of up to $250,000 per person, as part of a booming high-risk travel industry. Leaders in the submersible-vehicle industry sent a letter in 2018 to the company’s chief executive warning that “the current ‘experimental’ approach” of the company could result in “catastrophic” problems.

“There are so many things that can go wrong,” our colleague William Broad, who has been down in a similar submersible, said. “Communications can go out, as is clearly the case with the Titan submersible. The scarier, worse things are the nonelectrical mechanical breakdowns, for instance when the propellers that move the submersible around stop working.” Or, he added, if the ballast won’t drop, then you can’t get back to the surface.

Harding acknowledged in a 2021 interview that he had taken on deep-sea missions in the past knowing that rescue would not be an option. “If something goes wrong, you are not coming back,” he said.

A shake-up at Alibaba

The Chinese tech giant’s chairman and chief executive, Daniel Zhang, will leave his post, Alibaba announced yesterday. Two long-serving executives will take over the top positions, while Zhang will serve only as chief executive of the company’s cloud computing division.

The reshuffle comes at a critical time, as the company splits into six units. Alibaba was the highest-profile target of a crackdown by Beijing on the power of China’s biggest tech companies.

Joseph Tsai, an Alibaba veteran, will take over as chairman. Eddie Yongming Wu, who like Tsai is an Alibaba co-founder, will become chief executive.

“The trusted team, the old guard, is back in control,” said the chairman of an investment advisory firm in Beijing.

Other developments:

Finance: China’s central bank cut key interest rates yesterday, a clear sign of concern in the Chinese government and corporate sector that the country’s economy is stalling.

Trade: In a new plan clearly aimed at China, the European Commission wants to bar European companies from exporting military-linked technology.

U.S.-China relations: Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing showed how differently both countries perceive their rivalry.

3 found guilty of acting as China’s agents in the U.S.

A federal court in New York City convicted three men of stalking and harassing a former Chinese government official who moved to the U.S. over a decade ago and lived in New Jersey with his family.

The men — Michael McMahon, a retired New York police officer, Zhu Yong and Zheng Congying — were also found guilty of acting as unregistered foreign agents, and Zhu was convicted on a second conspiracy charge.

Prosecutors said the men were key to a plot to force the former official, Xu Jin, to return to China, where he could have faced the death penalty on an embezzlement charge.

Prosecutors accused the men of playing roles in Operation Fox Hunt, which the Justice Department contends is part of Beijing’s attempt to control Chinese nationals around the world.


Around the World

Himalayan glaciers are disappearing even more quickly than scientists thought.

Palestinian gunmen killed four Israelis outside a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, Israel said. An Israeli civilian killed the gunmen.

French police searched the headquarters of the Paris 2024 Olympics organizing committee as part of a corruption investigation.

Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, begins a state visit in Washington tomorrow. Today, he plans to lead a yoga session at the U.N., The Associated Press reports.

Other Big Stories

Andrew Tate, the British American influencer known for his misogyny, will face human trafficking charges in Romania.

Indonesians investigating a powerful local official made a shocking discovery: 65 men locked in cages.

The public can now see the site in Rome where Julius Caesar was likely killed.

U.S. Politics

Hunter Biden, the president’s son, will plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges as part of a deal that will likely allow him to avoid serving a prison sentence.

A judge ordered a trial as soon as Aug. 14 for Donald Trump, who is accused of illegally retaining confidential documents and obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them.

Trump’s real estate project in Oman highlights concerns about how his business deals and politics intersect.

The War in Ukraine

Russia launched its first drone attacks on Kyiv in more than two weeks, and also targeted Lviv, a large city in the west.

Ukrainians who were held captive by Russia say that beatings were common.

A Morning Read

Take a stroll down Geylang Road, a street food destination in Singapore’s red light district, where stalls showcase the city’s distinctly multicultural Chinese, Malay and Indian flavors.

“No matter how full you are,” our travel reporter Christine Chung writes, “there’s always room for an extra meal in Singapore.”


Is it time to end the medical eponym?

The tradition of naming newly discovered body parts and diseases after great medical figures was once considered medicine’s highest honor. But the discovery that dozens of eponyms were linked to Nazi-era doctors, including Asperger’s syndrome, has led to a re-examination.

Still, some scholars say the tradition should live on, arguing that even “canceled” eponyms can serve as a reminder of the paths that medicine should never go down again.


What to Cook

This hearty farro and mushroom dish has a rich, earthy flavor.

What to Watch

Pixar’s “Elemental,” a clever, animated girl-meets-boy story, is a Times critic’s pick.

What to Listen to

Here are new tracks from Doja Cat, Peggy Gou, Elliott Sharp and others.

What to Read

“By All Means Available” looks at U.S. achievements and errors in Afghanistan.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Trickles (five letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Justin and Amelia

P.S. Jonah Markowitz wrote about his two-year experience taking pictures in a Brooklyn neighborhood known as “Little Bangladesh.”

“The Daily” is about the drop in the U.S. inflation rate.

We welcome your feedback. You can reach us at [email protected].

Justin Porter is an editor on the Briefings newsletter team at The Times.

Amelia Nierenberg writes the Asia Pacific Morning Briefing for The Times. @AJNierenberg

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