Your Friday Briefing

Biden weighs cluster munitions for Ukraine

After more than six months of deliberation, President Biden appeared on the verge of agreeing to ship cluster munitions to Ukraine. These are widely banned weapons known to cause grievous injury to civilians, and the step would sharply separate the U.S. from allies like Britain, Germany and France who have signed a treaty banning their use, stockpiling or transfer.

Several of Biden’s top aides, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, recommended the move last week, despite what they have described as deep reservations around both humanitarian concerns and worries that the U.S. would be drastically out of step with its allies, people familiar with the discussions said.

Ukraine, which has deployed cluster munitions of its own in the war, is burning through the available supply of conventional artillery shells, and it will take time to ramp up production. Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, has put pressure on Biden, arguing that the munitions — which disperse tiny bomblets — are the best way to kill Russians in trenches.

Context: For months, the Biden administration has tried to put off the decision, hoping that the tide of the war would turn in Ukraine’s favor. Part of the concern has been that the U.S. would appear to lose the moral high ground, using a weapon that much of the world has condemned and that Russia has used with abandon, and that Democrats abhor.

From the war: Russian missiles killed at least six people and destroyed dozens of homes in Lviv, a western Ukrainian city near Poland.

A Wagner mystery deepens

The mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was in St. Petersburg, Russia, as of yesterday morning and was a “free man” despite staging a rebellion against Moscow’s military leadership, said President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus. It is ever more unclear where Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenary group stand and what will become of them.

Lukashenko conceded that he “did not know what would happen later,” and he brushed off the idea that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, would simply have Prigozhin, once a vital ally, killed. “If you think that Putin is so malicious and vindictive that he will kill Prigozhin tomorrow — no, this will not happen,” he said.

A Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence, said that the Wagner leader had been in Russia for much of the time since the mutiny. The official said it was not clear whether Prigozhin had been in Belarus, in part because he apparently uses body doubles to disguise his movements.

Reports: A prominent Russian current-affairs television show broadcast video of what it claimed was a police search of Prigozhin’s opulent mansion in St. Petersburg, where it said large amounts of cash, firearms, passports, wigs and drugs had been found. A spokesman for Prigozhin denied that the house was his.

Heat records shattered around the globe

Monday through Wednesday were quite likely the hottest days in Earth’s modern history, scientists said. Forecasters warned that the Earth could be entering a multiyear period of exceptional warmth driven by continued emissions of heat-trapping gases, mainly caused by humans burning oil, gas and coal; and by the return of El Niño, a cyclical weather pattern.

The planet just experienced the warmest June ever recorded, with deadly heat waves scorching Texas, Mexico and India. Off the coasts of Antarctica, sea ice levels this year have plummeted to record lows, and in the North Atlantic, the ocean has been off-the-charts hot, with surface temperatures breaking records in May.

The sharp jump in temperatures has unsettled even those scientists who have been tracking climate change. “It’s so far out of line of what’s been observed that it’s hard to wrap your head around,” said Brian McNoldy, a senior research scientist at the University of Miami. “It doesn’t seem real.”

On the ground: Photographs show how one Mexican town endured 120-degree heat. “Even with an umbrella,” one student said, “I felt as if my eyes wanted to burst.”


Around the World

An Israeli court acquitted a police officer charged in the 2020 killing of Iyad al-Hallaq, an unarmed Palestinian man with autism.

At the elite British boarding school Eton College, its youngest ever headmaster is trying to navigate a tightrope between tradition and evolution.

Pieces of Munich’s main synagogue, which Adolf Hitler ordered demolished, were discovered in a river five miles from where the building once stood.

Other Big Stories

Janet Yellen, the U.S. treasury secretary, is embarking on a four-day trip to China that is expected to be a major diplomatic test.

The U.S. will finish destroying the last of its once-vast chemical weapons stockpile as soon as today.

A report warned that the enormous array of animal industries in the U.S. pose a significant risk of creating infectious disease outbreaks in humans.

German companies are increasingly caught in the diplomatic tussle between the U.S. and China.

The Week in Culture

Threads, Instagram’s new microblogging app, was downloaded more than 30 million times in 16 hours. Twitter has threatened legal action.

Political fights in the U.S. have come to school plays: People can’t agree on what shows are appropriate for students to stage.

The Smithsonian’s pick to direct a women’s history museum withdrew, citing “family issues,” after a review of how she handled sexual harassment claims in her previous role.

The band Wham! is the focus of a new Netflix documentary. It is a “nostalgic, fantastical elixir,” our critic writes.

Read our review of Olivia Rodrigo’s new single, “Vampire.”

A Morning Read

For years, poachers hunted in relative peace at the North Luangwa National Park in the African nation of Zambia. Then Delia Owens, the author of “Where The Crawdads Sing,” and her husband, Mark Owens, intervened, trying everything they could think of to stop the killing of elephants.

But the Americans’ crusade — one of many such interventions initiated by outsiders across Africa — and its long-term effects on local villagers have raised a question: Were the Owenses the good guys?


When rain stops play at Wimbledon: How players manage disruptions caused by the weather. (See more Wimbledon coverage here.)

The future of Formula 1: What we can learn from the release of the 2024 calendar.

How to scout, and train, a soccer goalkeeper: Forget hands. Feet, a “proactive” mind-set and height trackers are the keys to identifying the best keepers.

From The Times: In the Tour de France, the defending champion, Jonas Vingegaard, and the 2020 and 2021 winner, Tadej Pogacar, traded attacks in the Pyrenees.


The end of the ‘great resignation’

Tens of millions of workers in the U.S. have changed jobs over the past two years, a tidal wave of quitting that reflected a rare moment of worker power, as employees demanded higher pay, and employers, short on staff, often gave it to them.

The “great resignation” appears to be ending. The rate at which workers voluntarily quit their jobs has fallen sharply in recent months and is only modestly above where it was before the pandemic. Can the gains that workers made outlive the moment — or will employers regain leverage, particularly in a more challenging economy?

Wage growth has slowed, especially in low-paying service jobs, and employers, though still complaining of labor shortages, report that hiring and retaining workers have gotten easier. Those who do change jobs are no longer receiving supersize raises. “You don’t see the signs saying $1,000 signing bonus anymore,” Nela Richardson, an economist, said.


What to Cook

Julia Child’s clafoutis is as easy as it is elegant.


Our pick of Paris’s best bistros.


Lack of coordination doesn’t have to be a barrier to physical activity.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: It makes waves (four letters).

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

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a fabulous weekend. — Natasha

P.S. The Times restaurant critic Tejal Rao discussed writing about food served in film and on television.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on Russia after the Wagner rebellion.

You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

Natasha Frost writes the Europe Morning Briefing and reports on Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific from Melbourne, Australia. More about Natasha Frost

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