Ukraine goes on the offensive


Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive in the south of the country, to retake Russian occupied Kherson. The highly anticipated move could change the shape of the war. Meanwhile, UN nuclear watchdogs are headed to assess the Zaporizhzhia power plant in the southeast of Ukraine, as shelling has been stoking fears of nuclear disaster.

  • Plus, clothing brands respond to our growing waistlines.
  • And, why $20 per hour is the new $15 per hour.

Guests: Axios’ Dave Lawler and Jennifer Kingson.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Emily Peck, Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Alex Sugiura, and Ben O’Brien. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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EMILY PECK: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Tuesday, August 30th. I’m Emily Peck, in for Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what we’re covering today: clothing brands respond to our growing waistlines. Plus, why twenty dollars an hour is the new 15 dollars an hour. But first, Ukraine goes on the offensive. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

Ukraine’s new offensive

EMILY: Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive in the south of the country, to retake Russian occupied Kherson. The highly anticipated move could change the shape of the war. Meanwhile, UN nuclear watchdogs are headed to assess the Zaporizhzhia power plant in the Southeast of Ukraine as continued shelling has been stoking fears of nuclear disaster. Axios’s Dave Lawler is covering all this. Hi, Dave.

DAVE LAWLER: Hi.

EMILY: So what does this counteroffensive entail?

DAVE: As far as, you know, we don’t know exactly the scale of it quite yet, but we have been waiting for this news for a few weeks. Now, basically in the early days of the war, Russia was not successful in taking Kiev. They had some struggles in the east, but in the south of the country, they were able to take and hold a couple of areas, including around this city called Kherson, which is a city of around 300,000.

Ukraine has been foreshadowing that they were planning a counter offensive to try to retake the city and the area around it. And then we got some reports yesterday in the morning that there was all sorts of shelling happen along the lines in Kherson and that Russia may be falling back in certain areas.

Some of that is still unconfirmed, and so the big question is, you know, does Ukraine have. The weapons, the manpower, can they make Russia fall back? Can they retake this area? It’s something we haven’t seen Ukraine do really advance on these established Russian positions.

And so it is definitely a new phase in the war, but this is sort of the first 24 hours. So we’re not exactly sure how they’ll try to pull it off and what exactly the operation will look like.

EMILY: How prepared is Russia for this?

DAVE: Russia has now moved quite a few troops down from the east, into the south of the country to prepare. Also what Russia’s been doing in Kherson, they’ve introduced the Ruble, they’ve issued some Russian passports. They’re really trying to establish this as a Russian enclave inside of Ukraine. And the White House has said that they might try to have a referendum to basically annex this territory into Russia.

So that could be another factor in why Ukraine felt like they had to make a move to retake this ahead of those moves on the Russian side.

EMILY: Has U.S. funding and weaponry made a difference here? In terms of Ukraine’s ability to take the offensive?

DAVE: A big difference. So one thing it’s allowed Ukraine to do is conduct strikes far behind the main front lines of the battle.

They have longer range artillery. Now that’s let them take out some Russian ammunition depots. Planes in some cases, really to try to prepare the ground, uh, for this kind of attack. So that’s made a big difference. Also you know, the general idea that the US is going to continue to pour weapons in gives the Ukrainians some confidence that they can undertake more aggressive operations, without the risk that they’re gonna be totally outgunned by the Russian.

EMILY: Let’s turn to the nuclear power plant. What will this visit from the international atomic energy agency actually accomplish?

DAVE: Yeah. So first of all, it’s a damage assessment. There has been shelling all around this plant. The plant briefly lost access to the Ukrainian electric grid, which is a big problem. And so basically they need to look at what’s damaged and what they can do to fix it. You may remember in the early days of the war, there was actually a battle right around this plant. You don’t really want warfare to be happening around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. Now it’s in the news again, because once again, there’s fighting near there. Both sides blame the other and UN’s nuclear watchdog has said that this is an accident waiting to happen potentially on quite a large scale. So they’ve been begging for access to this plant for weeks now. And they’re finally gonna be able to get in there and at least see what’s gone wrong and maybe what needs to be fixed. But you know, again, it’s a, it’s a quite complicated operation and there are security concerns as well when this is, you know, obviously an active war zone.

EMILY: Axios world editor, Dave Lawler. Thank you so much.

DAVE: Thanks Emily.

EMILY: In a moment, the movement toward inclusive sizing in clothing.

Retailers embrace “inclusive sizing”

EMILY: Welcome back to Axios today. I’m Emily Peck in for Niala Boodhoo. Over 60% of Americans gained undesired weight last year, according to the American Psychological Association.

So this year clothing brands are responding. They’re tossing the term plus size and replacing it with inclusive sizing. Fashion retailers are promising to be more body positive and offer sizes for women well beyond 2 to 16, Jennifer Kingson has been writing about this for Axios What’s next. Hey, Jennifer.

JENNIFER KINGSON: Hey, Emily.

EMILY: So, what does inclusive sizing mean? Is it just an updated term for plus size?

JENNIFER: No, it’s actually bigger and more than that. Not only are retailers going on the traditional plus sizes, which tended to start at size 16 and perhaps go up to 26 – that was kind of the traditional Lane Bryant definition. Now the gold standard is to go from size zero zero on the petite size, all the way through size 40, which is the standard set by a company founded seven years ago actually called Universal Standard. They say that because the average American woman is a size 18, that’s a medium in their parlance and they work upwards and down from that.

EMILY: So what’s motivating brands to make changes. Is there a big market?

JENNIFER: Well, historically there’s been little appetite for it. People have said they want larger sizes, but when it comes to actually spending money, those sizes go unwanted on the racks.

Nowadays, younger consumers in particular and social media stars are putting out pictures of themselves. Letting it all hang loose…psting images of themselves on TikTok and Instagram and elsewhere. Generation alpha, Gen Z, they’re proud of what they look like, no matter what size they are. And brands are taking heed and putting out more sizes that are gonna make them pleased. It’s also the case that people like to shop together, the historic practice of putting the plus sizes in one department, or even isolated on a separate floor meant that people couldn’t shop as one or one member of the shopping party was shunted off to a different area where the clothes were stodgy and Dowdy looking. These days, the most forward looking brands are making every size of clothes in every style.

It’s a bet that hasn’t worked out for some companies. Old Navy stumbled when it tried to do it, and they found what they called broken sizing, meaning that the middle sizes that are most popular were snapped up and they were left with a lot of the largest and smallest sizes. So they had to scale back, but, retailers are working very hard to get this right, because they know it’s important and key to their futures.

EMILY: Jennifer. I know I’m not alone in gaining some pandemic. Wait, can you talk about how, or if that plays into this trend at all

Jennifer: Oh it absolutely has. And a company called Core Site Research, which tracks the retail industry has measured this 42% of people said in a poll that they gained significant enough weight that they’re shopping for larger sizes.This kind of inclusive or extended sizing trend is not just a, a fad, it’s a necessity.

EMILY: As inclusive sizing as taking off in women’s clothes, what about men’s?

JENNIFER: Men are being left behind so far and it’s frustrating for a lot of them. It’s not entirely clear why this is happening…perhaps because men don’t like to shop as much, they’re not quite as caught up in, in fast fashion as, as women are. And also because historically men’s sizes are measured in inches. But, predictions are among retail experts that men’s brands will catch up.

EMILY: Jennifer Kingson is chief correspondent for Axios What’s next. Thanks Jennifer.

JENNIFER: Thanks Emily.

The era of the $20 per hr minimum wage

EMILY: One last story for you that I’ve been following: New data from jobs site Indeed finds that more workers are searching for jobs that pay $20 an hour than $15 an hour.

That’s a big deal – a sign of how fast inflation and a labor shortage pushed up wages – far quicker than seemed imaginable to me before the pandemic. After all, it was just a decade ago that Fight for fifteen was born – the union-led push to organize fast food workers and get them a raise. Now activists want to go further — in New York some Democratic lawmakers are seeking to raise the minimum wage to $20 from 15.

You can read the story on Axios Markets, the daily newsletter I write with Matt Phillips. And please subscribe!

That’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Emily Peck. Thanks for listening, stay safe, and Niala Boodhoo will be back here with you tomorrow morning.



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