Your Friday Briefing

A wildfire near Belin-Béliet, in southwestern France, last weekend. Credit…Thibaud Moritz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The strain of Europe’s sizzling summer

A scorching European summer has affected nearly every part of the economy and even its normally cool regions, a phenomenon aggravated by human-caused climate change. Across the continent, people have experienced wildfires, harvest-threatening drought and extreme heat.

The heat has also exposed the vulnerabilities of Europe’s energy system, already laid bare by the loss of Russian gas to E.U. sanctions. Wildfires in Britain have left thousands of northern homes without electricity; drought in Germany has dried up the waterways crucial for transporting coal; and in France, warming rivers have complicated the flushing of nuclear reactors.

Hydropower makes up 90 percent of Norway’s electricity and allows it to export power to several of its neighbors. But reservoir supplies have sunk to the lowest point in 25 years, driving up prices and political tensions. While Norway is eager to integrate into the European market, the country, which is rich in gas and oil, is under pressure to keep more of its energy for itself.

Analysis: “The best way to solve this crisis and get energy security is to as fast as possible be independent from Russian gas,” said Steffen Syvertsen, the chief executive of Agder Energi. “But that is a big task.”

Related: For months, China has faced its most severe heat wave in six decades. The economy is suffering, and the heat wave is forecast to persist for at least another week.

Ukrainian emergency rescue teams practicing a nuclear disaster drill this week in the city of Zaporizhzhia.Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Tensions at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

The Russian and Ukrainian militaries have accused one another of preparing to stage an imminent attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, risking a catastrophic release of radiation. Russian forces seized control of the sprawling plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power station, in early March but have kept Ukrainian staff there to operate it.

The Ukrainian intelligence agency yesterday said that engineers employed by Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear company, had “urgently” left the plant and that only “operative personnel” would be allowed at the plant on Friday. A Ukrainian plant employee said that workers were terrified. “Everyone is scared of tomorrow’s provocations announced by Russia,” she said.

For the first time in history, nuclear power plants are squarely in a war zone. For many Ukrainians, the risk is all too familiar: The Chernobyl plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986, lies in Ukraine, north of Kyiv, the capital. Russian forces seized that plant, too, early in the war, before withdrawing.

Shelling: The complex has been hit several times already, with each side blaming the other. Russian military units have taken up positions on and around the grounds, prompting charges that they are using Zaporizhzhia as a shield, knowing that the Ukrainians are reluctant to fire back.

In other news from the war:

  • António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, met with the Ukrainian and Turkish presidents to discuss nuclear safety and review the progress of grain exports.

  • In the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, victims of wartime atrocities are still being buried. Some have no names, only numbers.

  • Russian rocket attacks killed at least 15 civilians in the city of Kharkiv, bringing the civilian death toll there to over 1,000.

Liz Truss, the British foreign secretary and a Conservative candidate for prime minister.Credit…Neil Hall/EPA, via Shutterstock

The fight to replace Boris Johnson

Britain’s Conservative Party is in the throes of a rancorous campaign to choose a new leader. If, as expected, Liz Truss is elected next month, she will take power during a period of immense economic stress, with soaring energy prices because of the war in Ukraine, supply-chain disruptions and the hollowing out of the British labor market by Brexit.

And yet the multiple shocks Britain faces seem strangely disconnected from the contest to succeed Boris Johnson, the prime minister. The blinkered nature of the debate, analysts say, reflects the peculiarities of the British political system: Only rank-and-file members of the Conservative Party can vote for the next leader.

That constituency, estimated at around 160,000 people, is on average older, whiter and wealthier than most Britons. For this rarefied group, Truss’s promise of tax cuts is more alluring than stark warnings that Britain needs to batten down the hatches. Her opponent, Rishi Sunak, who argues that the government must first tame inflation, is trailing in the polls.

Johnson: The caretaker prime minister is on vacation in Greece, having skipped the chance to hold a crisis meeting with his would-be successors.

Labor unrest: Train travel in Britain largely ground to a halt this week after railway workers walked out over wage disputes, the latest work stoppage in a summer of strikes.


Other Big Stories

Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times
  • The Biden administration will begin formal trade negotiations with Taiwan in the fall, deepening economic and technological ties.

  • A federal judge ordered the U.S. Justice Department to redact the affidavit used to search Donald Trump’s Florida home ahead of its possible release.

  • After a teenager in Nebraska terminated her pregnancy in the third trimester using pills, she and her mother are facing criminal charges. Their private Facebook messages are being used as evidence.

Around the World

Credit…Thoko Chikondi for The New York Times
  • Earlier this year, polio seemed almost eradicated. But cases have popped up around the world: first in Malawi, then in Pakistan, Israel and Britain. The virus was located last week in New York City’s wastewater.

  • In northern Afghanistan, hundreds of Shiite Muslims joined an uprising led by a former Taliban commander. Times journalists spent time with the rebels.

  • Soldiers raided Palestinian human rights organizations that Israel has accused of having links to terrorism. The U.N. and rights groups criticized the move.

What Else Is Happening

  • Sanna Marin, the leader of Finland, has faced scrutiny after leaked videos showed her dancing energetically, striking poses and singing with friends at private parties.

  • The wreck of a U.S. Navy destroyer has been found off the coast of southwest England, 105 years after it was sunk by a German submarine.

  • Dermatologists who specialize in hair loss say that minoxidil, the key ingredient in a topical treatment, worked even better when taken orally at a low dose.

A Morning Read

Credit…via The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Bottom right, Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

“The burden of proof should be on the Met to prove the Met has the right to legally own Cambodia’s national treasures.”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City, has worked hard to build up its South and Southeast Asian collection. But 13 items came from a dealer who was later indicted as an illegal trafficker of Cambodian artifacts. Cambodian officials now say they believe many of those items were stolen.

Lives Lived

Hanae Mori, a Japanese couturier, was the first Asian woman to join the ranks of French high fashion. She has died at 96.


A feud over the Zulu throne

The Zulus have a new king. But it’s not clear exactly who he is.

South Africa’s largest nation has been gripped by a battle over the royal succession since King Goodwill Zwelithini’s death last year. Tomorrow, Misuzulu Sinqobile Zulu is expected to perform a ritual that will be a precursor to his formal coronation. Last weekend, his brother Simakade ka Zwelithini carried out the same ritual.

Misuzulu has already been recognized by the South African government and senior members of the royal family. But his right to the throne is being challenged by Simakade, King Zwelithini’s oldest living son. There has been a scuffle at the royal palace. At least one news outlet ran a poll asking readers to pick a king.

During a televised court hearing that weighed custom and constitutional law, a judge ruled in favor of Misuzulu. But his detractors have refused to accept the decision.

There’s more at stake than a royal title. The head of the Zulus will control a $3.9 million annual budget provided by the South African government. And as the traditional leader of 14 million people, the Zulu king also has a politically influential position.


What to Cook

Credit…Kate Sears for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

Hibiscus punch is a celebratory — but nonalcoholic — party drink.

What to Read

In “Elizabeth Finch” by Julian Barnes, an adult student nurses an obsession with his teacher.


The tank top is enjoying a renaissance.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Ave. crossers (three letters).

And here’s today’s Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. Ken Bensinger is joining The Times’s Politics desk to cover right-wing media.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on documents at Mar-a-Lago.

Lynsey Chutel wrote today’s Arts & Ideas. You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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