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Novichok, Poland, Trade War: Your Friday Briefing

Category: Europe,World

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Good morning.

Experts theorize on the latest Novichok poisoning, Polish judges rebel and the trade war begins. Here’s the latest:

• Scott Pruitt, above, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, resigned after months of allegations of legal and ethical violations as well as a string of federal inquiries into his spending and management practices. Mr. Pruitt played a lead role in urging President Trump to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The new acting E.P.A. administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal lobbyist who shares Mr. Pruitt’s zeal for undoing environmental regulations.

Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador to Russia said that the summit meeting next week in Finland between Mr. Trump and President Vladimir Putin would be one on one — which usually means alone with translators, if needed.

• It’s been a momentous week for Europe’s struggle over the migration crisis, and possibly its identity.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, above, met with Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, Viktor Orban, in Berlin, where she discussed Europe’s border dilemma. At the end of the week, Ms. Merkel and her governing coalition partners, the Social Democrats, both agreed to something they’ve long rejected: establishing tight controls along Germany’s border with Austria and raising the possibility of deportations.

Meanwhile, we sat down with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria, who discussed free movement across E.U. borders. The bloc’s founding principle may soon weaken as Mr. Kurz and other populist E.U. leaders push to control borders further after public revolt against migrants.

“A Europe without internal borders can only exist,” he said, “if it has functioning external borders.”

Separately, U.S. immigration officials said they were mounting a round-the-clock effort to meet the court-ordered deadlines to reunite the thousands of children and parents who were separated at the border with Mexico.


Their announcement came shortly after the governing Law and Justice party began a purge of the Supreme Court. The tribulations within Warsaw’s top two courts have underlined the tensions in a nation under the grip of an increasingly authoritarian government.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, issued a joint statement to bury the controversy surrounding Poland’s now-amended Holocaust law. But Israel’s Holocaust memorial center criticized the announcement, asserting that it was filled with “grave errors and deceptions.”


The Romanian Parliament quickly approved changes to the criminal code, which critics say are aimed at weakening anti-corruption efforts. Above, protesters outside the government headquarters in Bucharest. [The New York Times]

Italian parents will no longer have to provide state-run schools with a doctor’s note to prove their children have been vaccinated, raising concerns that vaccination compliance will drop. [The New York Times]

To combat anti-Semitism among children, the German government plans to send anti-bullying experts to selected schools across the country. [BBC]

In Thailand, a former Thai Navy diver helping with the rescue of a soccer team trapped in a cave has died, running out of oxygen after a supply run, officials said.

In Ireland, a referendum will be held on whether to remove a clause in the Constitution stating the importance of a woman’s “life within the home,” the government announced. [Reuters]

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

“Challenge the impossible”: Our correspondents went along with a boating team composed of visually impaired paddlers as they prepared for Hong Kong’s annual Dragon Boat Festival, which combines sacred rituals with serious competition.

There’s no telling what will become of a Wimbledon junior champion. Few become Grand Slam champions. In second-round matches on Thursday, the 2003 Wimbledon girls’ champion Kirsten Flipkens lost to Jelena Ostapenko, while the 2011 champion Ashleigh Barty beat the 2012 champion Eugenie Bouchard.

Back Story

And the Cave Rescue Organization, the oldest cave-rescue group in Britain, says it has responded to 2,927 episodes since its founding in 1935. Of those, 745 were in caves; the rest were on mountains and in disused mines and other locations.

The all-volunteer group says the episodes involved 4,193 people and hundreds of animals, including 252 lambs, 226 sheep, 79 dogs, nine cows, nine ducks, one rabbit and one cat.

Mike Ives wrote today’s Back Story.


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