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Your Friday Briefing

“MAGA forces are determined to take this country backward,” President Biden said.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Biden speaks on U.S. democracy

President Biden addressed the U.S. in a prime-time speech last night. He spoke about the threat to American democracy, warning that the country’s values are under assault by those loyal to former Donald Trump.

“For a long time, we’ve reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed,” Biden said. “But it is not. We have to defend it. Protect it. Stand up for it. Each and every one of us.”

In remarkably direct remarks, Biden defined the upcoming midterm elections as a “battle for the soul of the nation.” He accused Republicans loyal to Trump of embracing extremism and undermining democratic values.

Citing the “extraordinary experiment of self-government” represented by the Constitution, Biden said that “history tells us a blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy.”

Analysis: Ahead of the midterm elections, Biden has spent less time calling for compromise and more time accusing Republicans of presenting a danger to democracy, using some of the sharpest and most combative language of his presidency.

Politics: After winning their primaries, several Republicans have minimized references to Trump and to abortion.


Some U.N. inspectors returned to Ukrainian-held territory after visiting the Zaporizhzhia power plant.Credit…Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Inspectors at nuclear power plant

A team of U.N. inspectors crossed the front line to finally reach the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant yesterday. Five experts, out of a group of 14, will stay until Saturday to monitor the plant.

Hours before the group arrived, Russian mortar shells struck the plant, Ukraine’s nuclear energy company said. The plant deployed emergency backup measures, prompting the shutdown of one reactor and the activation of backup generators at another.

More Coverage of the 2022 Midterm Elections

  • An Upset in Alaska: Mary Peltola, a Democrat, beat Sarah Palin in a special House election, adding to a series of recent wins for the party. Ms. Peltola will become the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress.
  • Evidence Against a Red Wave: Since the fall of Roe v. Wade, it’s hard to see the once-clear signs of a Republican advantage. A strong Democratic showing in a New York special election is one of the latest examples.
  • G.O.P.’s Dimming Hopes: Republicans are still favored in the fall House races, but former President Donald J. Trump and abortion are scrambling the picture in ways that distress party insiders.
  • Digital Pivot: At least 10 G.O.P. candidates in competitive races have updated their websites to minimize their ties to Mr. Trump or to adjust their uncompromising stances on abortion.

The shelling highlighted the safety risks the team had come to assess, though Russia and Ukraine traded accusations over who was to blame. Repeated shelling has raised fears of an atomic catastrophe.

In remarks after his visit, the top U.N. nuclear inspector, Rafael Grossi, said that he continued to worry about the plant’s safety. “It is obvious that the plant and physical integrity of the plant have been violated several times,” he said, adding, “This cannot continue to happen.”

Other updates:

  • The chairman of Lukoil died yesterday after falling from a hospital window, the latest suspicious wartime death of a businessman with ties to the Russian energy industry.

  • Ukrainian children are returning to school in the midst of war.


Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, is the front-runner to replace Boris Johnson.Credit…Susannah Ireland/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Britain prepares for a new leader

Britons will find out who will be their new prime minister on Monday. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, is favored to defeat Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor of the Exchequer.

Their fight to succeed Boris Johnson as the country’s leader, and as the leader of the Conservative Party, has often seemed divorced from Britain’s dire economic problems, our London bureau chief reports.

That may come, in part, from the nature of this election. The next prime minister will be chosen in balloting not by tens of millions of British voters, but by roughly 160,000 dues-paying members of the Conservative Party.

The party’s members, whom the two candidates have sought to woo, tend to be older, wealthier and more right-wing than the broader British electorate. Neither candidate has offered a comprehensive package to deal with families hard hit by spiraling food and fuel prices.

Truss: She has preached a message of lower taxes and smaller government to a receptive audience of faithful Tories.

Sunak: He has presented himself as the candidate of hard truths and said that the government cannot afford to cut taxes before it tames double-digit inflation.

THE LATEST NEWS

Europe

Credit…Isabel Infantes/Reuters
  • Spain is offering free train tickets for journeys under 300 kilometers (186 miles) until the end of the year, an effort to fight inflation and rising costs of living.

  • At Shakespeare’s Globe, a play depicting Joan of Arc as nonbinary, written by a transgender playwright, has inflamed debates about gender.

Around the World

  • China has locked down Chengdu, a major city, imposing the country’s most drastic coronavirus restriction since Shanghai went into a two-month lockdown in April.

  • A man was arrested after pointing a gun at Argentina’s vice president outside her home. She appeared unharmed, according to video footage.

  • The pandemic erased two decades of progress in math and reading for American schoolchildren.

  • If Tehran and Washington agree to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran could export more of its energy. But a deal might come too late to ease prices this winter.

What Else Is Happening

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
  • Serena Williams and Venus Williams lost their doubles match at the U.S. Open last night.

  • Twitter is finally unveiling an edit button.

  • California approved a wave of aggressive measures to fight global warming, including voting to keep its last nuclear power plant open.

A Morning Read

Credit…Ichoan Nursing Home

A nursing home in Japan has recruited babies to spend time with its residents.

It’s a win-win: Socializing across generations has been shown to draw older people out, making them smile and talk more. And the young visitors are rewarded in diapers, baby formula and free baby photo shoots.

SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC

Has Tottenham emerged from this transfer window stronger? With an aggressive approach, Tottenham spent $167 million to add depth to a squad that desperately needed it. After all that, was it enough? The real proof will have to come on the pitch.

England’s midfield star Keira Walsh scouts her own critical match: The Euro 2022 final was Walsh’s game. The 25-year-old controlled the early stages, helped England weather a second-half wobble and assisted on the opening goal. One month after lifting the trophy, Walsh watches the game back for the first time.

Liverpool’s greatest midfielder could be in trouble: Aston Villa’s ambition this season was to start challenging the elite. But the pressure is mounting on manager Steven Gerrard after their fourth defeat in five games. The clock is already ticking for a Liverpool legend.

The Athletic, a New York Times company, is a subscription publication that delivers in-depth, personalized sports coverage. Learn more about The Athletic.

ARTS AND IDEAS

China cancels African debts

China has announced that it would cancel some debts of 17 African countries. The move is aimed, in part, at addressing accusations of “debt trap diplomacy,” the idea that China has encroached on the continent by lending countries more money than they can pay back.

Beijing hasn’t revealed who will benefit from the cancellation, but the news was already being celebrated in Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest countries. A front-page story in The Nation, an influential independent newspaper there, reported that the cancellation of 5.5 billion kwacha, or $5.3 million, had “excited Treasury and economic commentators.” In Nigeria, pundits estimated that the cancellation could clear nearly 4 percent of their country’s total borrowing.

Chinese leadership has been battling the complex debt-trap narrative, pointing to research showing that Africa owes more to Western lenders. The cancellation also positions China as an “all-weather friend,” in the words of its Foreign Ministry, said Cobus van Staden, a co-founder of the nonprofit China-Global South Project.

But the loans the Chinese government planned to cancel are zero-interest loans that amount to just a fraction of its lending to Africa, van Staden added. For instance, Angola — China’s largest debtor in Africa — is unlikely to benefit because the country borrowed from Chinese banks, said Francisco Paulo, an economist based in Luanda, Angola’s capital. — Lynsey Chutel, a Briefings writer based in Johannesburg

PLAY, WATCH, EAT, READ

What to Cook

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Bring these raspberry pie crunch bars to a picnic this weekend.

What to Watch

In “The Book of Delights,” a Brazilian drama based on a novel by Clarice Lispector, a schoolteacher takes an odyssey into erotic self-discovery and existential desire.

What to Read

Memorable encounters and thrilling action fuel Stephen King’s latest novel.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “Play mini-golf” (four 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. — Amelia

P.S. Anatoly Kurmanaev will join The Times’s Russia team to help cover the war in Ukraine.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on Mikhail Gorbachev.

You can reach Amelia and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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