The world in brief

Catch up quickly on the global stories that matter

Updated 3 hours ago (01:07 GMT+1 / 08:07 Hong Kong)

Rishi Sunak, an early front-runner in Britain’s Conservative Party leadership contest, officially launched his candidacy. The former finance minister, whose resignation last week triggered Boris Johnson’s departure as prime minister, distanced himself from his rivals by arguing against tax cuts before inflation has been brought under control. As if to atone for his act of political regicide, Mr Sunak warned against “demonising” the “remarkable” Mr Johnson.

The committee probing the January 6th insurrection provided evidence of an “unhinged” meeting in which White House lawyers faced off against Donald Trump’s advisers who sought to keep him in power. The next day, Mr Trump tweeted that there would be a “wild” protest in Washington on January 6th. Video from violent, far-right groups suggested that they viewed the tweet as a call to arms, and the resulting riot as a “revolution”.

Twitter sued Elon Musk to try to force the world’s richest man to honour his agreement to buy the social-media company for $44bn. A court in Delaware is to decide whether the mercurial boss of Tesla and SpaceX can walk away from the acquisition. Twitter’s share price has fallen sharply since the deal was struck, and then fallen still more since Mr Musk indicated that he would renege on it.

Sri Lanka’s outgoing president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled the country on a military jet, according to immigration officials. Gota, as the embattled leader is known, had promised to step down this week amid protests over the county’s economic crisis. Mr Rajapaksa and his brother were previously thwarted in their attempts to leave the county. Parliament intends to choose a new president on July 20th.

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Spain’s government said it would impose a windfall tax on banks and energy companies, to be worth $7bn over two years, to lessen the pain caused by inflation. Pedro Sánchez, the Socialist prime minister, argued that the move will trim the firms’ excessive gains owed to rising interest rates and high energy costs. Shares of Spain’s biggest banks fell.

America claimed that Iran is planning to supply Russia with “several hundred” combat drones for use in Ukraine. Ukrainian military officials said that they managed to destroy a Russian ammunition depot near Kherson with American-made HIMARs, a kind of mobile rocket-launcher. Meanwhile the death toll from a Russian missile strike on a residential building in Donetsk province rose to 33.

Heathrow’s chief executive asked airlines serving Britain’s busiest airport to stop booking reservations for the summer. Staff shortages have snarled up operations, leading to queues, delays and mistakes that are altogether “not acceptable”, John Holland-Kaye wrote. Airlines are encouraged (but not required) to help limit Heathrow’s capacity to 100,000 passengers per day, down from a forecast of 104,000.

Fact of the day: November 15th 2022, the date on which the UN thinks the global population will reach 8bn. Read the full article.

Gota get out of this place

Photo: AP

Days after protesters turfed out the president of Sri Lanka, the country remains in limbo. Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country on a military jet bound for the Maldives, according to immigration officials. He was supposed to step down on Wednesday.

Protests erupted in March over extended power cuts. Installing a new prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, failed to appease Mr Rajapaksa’s critics. On July 9th protesters demanded both men go. Anger towards the president and his family, many of whom also held plum posts, is at fever pitch. Basil Rajapaksa, a brother and a former finance minister, is also reported to have fled the country.

Parliament intends to choose a new president on July 20th. The main opposition party has nominated its leader, Sajith Premadasa. Mr Wickremesinghe is a contender too. If Mr Rajapaksa resigns, he loses his immunity and may face charges for his role in the country’s economic collapse. Moreover, as he seems to appreciate: in view of ordinary Sri Lankans’ anger, his personal safety cannot be taken for granted.

Joe Biden’s aimless trip to the Middle East

Photo: Getty Images

Even Israeli officials acknowledge that they are a sideshow of the tour. On Wednesday Joe Biden arrives for his first visit to the Middle East as president. During his stay in the Holy Land he will meet Israel’s new caretaker prime minister, Yair Lapid, as well as Palestinian leaders. His itinerary also includes a visit to a Holocaust memorial site and a tour of the church where Jesus is believed to have been born.

The more interesting leg of his trip starts on Friday, in Jeddah. As president Mr Biden has avoided Muhammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, loathed by Democrats for his dismal human-rights record and chummy ties with Donald Trump. But with oil hovering around $100 a barrel, Mr Biden hopes to persuade the Saudis to pump more. And he wants to nudge them towards normalising relations with Israel. It may be a wasted trip: oil producers have little spare capacity, and the Saudis are in no rush to open an embassy in Tel Aviv (let alone Jerusalem).

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Forget Musk: Twitter is overdue a shake-up

Photo: Getty Images

Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter was advertised as one of the biggest buy-outs in history. Now it threatens to become instead one of the ugliest disputes. Twitter filed a lawsuit against Mr Musk on Tuesday for pulling out of the $44bn deal. The judge could allow Mr Musk to walk away with a penalty of as little as $1bn. Alternatively, he could order the Tesla founder to complete the deal at the agreed price. But whoever prevails in court, Twitter has bigger problems to reckon with.

While Facebook has soared to 1.9bn daily users, Twitter has reached just 230m. Younger upstarts, notably TikTok, have lapped it. Its product has stagnated, and revenue growth is disappointing. Although nearly all of Twitter’s money is made from advertising, it controls less than 1% of worldwide digital-ad spending. Private ownership once looked as if it might enable the shake-up Twitter needs. Instead, the Musk affair may become yet another distraction from the urgent task at hand.

Inflation rears its head again in America

Photo: EPA

The upward march in prices can feel relentless. On Wednesday data for June are expected to show that inflation in America reached an annual pace of 8.8%, marking yet another four-decade high. The recent decline in oil prices means this might prove to be the peak. But that is scant comfort for people struggling with everything—from food to flights and haircuts to rents—becoming more expensive.
The immediate matter of interest for financial markets is what another high inflation reading will mean for the Federal Reserve. Most analysts reckon the Fed will raise interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point later this month, notching up a second consecutive jumbo rate rise. In turn, investors are reducing their expectations of future inflation rates, just as the Fed intends. Unfortunately, they are doing the same for future growth. That is something the Fed cannot avoid.

Gardening rodents

Photo: Nature Picture Library

Gophers love to dig. Their signature mounds are the bane of gardeners and farmers across Central and North America. But man and rodent have more in common than they may realise. According to a recent study published in the journal Current Biology, gophers might be the only mammals, other than humans, that qualify as farmers.

Tunnelling is hungry work, yet gophers rarely forage on the surface. That has presented a puzzle, since zoologists at the University of Florida realised gophers could not be getting enough energy from the food they encounter as they dig. When the researchers investigated further, they found the gophers kept alive the roots of plants growing down into their burrows like stalactites. These roots, which are fertilised with the gophers’ waste, in turn provide food for the animals. Admittedly, this requires a loose definition of farming—cultivation is closer to the mark. But gophers are exhibiting impressively complex behaviour. Whether this will nurture any affection among the farmers whose fields they undermine, however, is doubtful.

Daily quiz

Our baristas will serve you a new question each day this week. On Friday your challenge is to give us all five answers and, as important, tell us the connecting theme. Email your responses (and include mention of your home city and country) by 1700 BST on Friday to [email protected]. We’ll pick randomly from those with the right answers and crown one winner per continent on Saturday.

Wednesday: Which Methodist preacher founded the Salvation Army?
Tuesday: Which member of the Monty Python group trained as a doctor?

Do not think your single vote does not matter much. The rain that refreshes the parched ground is made up of single drops.

Kate Sheppard