Europe Edition

Greece, Trade, Novichok: Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning. Greece faces tragedy, the E.U. makes a trade offer and Austria tightens its borders.

Here’s the latest:

CreditAngelos Tzortzinis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• Greece is facing its worst tragedy in a decade.

Wind-fueled wildfires near Athens have ravaged seaside areas, killing at least 76 people. Another 187 were hospitalized.

The country deployed its entire fleet of water-dropping aircraft and called on the E.U. for help as gale-force winds pushed the fires through coastal regions. Thousands were forced to flee, leaving behind charred resorts and smoldering farms.

One group of 26 men, women and children gathered in the hope that they could find a narrow path down to the water. They nearly reached it. They all died, some in each other’s arms.



CreditGianni Cipriano for The New York Times

• European negotiators are offering the Trump administration trade proposals to help ease tensions with the U.S.

At a meeting today in Washington, the E.U. will propose two options for the trading relationship: a limited trade pact on industrial goods and the slashing of tariffs on foreign cars by all major auto exporters. Above, a steel factory in Italy.

But it may not be enough to appease President Trump, who has expressed skepticism about trade pacts and branded the E.U. as a “foe.”

If you need evidence that Mr. Trump intends to stay the course with tariffs, look no further. His administration announced up to $12 billion in emergency relief for U.S. farmers hurt by the escalating trade war.



CreditHenry Nicholls/Reuters

• New clues are emerging about how Russian operatives might have transported a military-grade nerve agent to Britain.

Charlie Rowley, one of the victims who was exposed to the Soviet-designed poison, told a British television channel that he had found a bottle wrapped in cellophane inside a box. He thought it was a perfume bottle.

The liquid inside the bottle spilled onto his hands when he tried to put the pump dispenser on the bottle, he said, but he quickly washed it off. Mr. Rowley’s girlfriend, Dawn Sturgess, died from the encounter. Above, a police cordon near where Ms. Sturgess and Mr. Rowley began to show symptoms of poisoning.

The British authorities believe the substance, known as Novichok, was the same one that sickened a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter.



CreditLena Mucha for The New York Times

• “It’s a young border, but it has been through a lot.”

Reinhold Höflechner is the mayor of Spielfeld, a small Austrian town that borders Slovenia. The border, 100 years old this year, vanished in all but name when Slovenia joined the E.U.’s passport-free travel zone in 2007.

But the town became a stop on the migrant route in 2015, and the memory of thousands of refugees arriving has split the town: Some welcome a new fence. Others fear a loss of freedom.

Above, a military patrol on the Austrian side of the border.



CreditJenn Ackerman for The New York Times

What should America do with its unwanted guns? At steel mills around the country, the answer is simple: melt them.

Britain unveiled a new plan to sharply tighten its oversight of foreign takeovers. The move comes as more Western nations harden their use of national security as a litmus test for Chinese investments.

Facebook finally has official status in China: a $30 million subsidiary registered in Hangzhou. But signs of possible complications have already emerged.

Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

In the News


CreditAttapeu Today, via Associated Press

Rescue operations are underway in Laos, above, where hundreds of people are unaccounted for after a billion-dollar hydropower dam that was under construction collapsed. [The New York Times]

The Tour de France hit a cloud of tear gas the police had intended for protesters and came to a stop as eyedrops and water were used to treat several riders. [The New York Times]

A new Ebola vaccine and a rapid response are being credited for halting an outbreak that began in the Democratic Republic of Congo in April. Just 33 people died, compared with 11,000 during an outbreak in West Africa in 2014. [The New York Times]

A Dutch study of Viagra on women was shut down after 11 babies died from an experimental drug trial. It was designed to test whether the medication could help increase babies’ growth in the womb. [The Guardian]

A graphic novel has made the longlist of the Man Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award, a first for the format. [The New York Times]

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.


CreditEvan Cohen

When we eat, or don’t eat, may be critical for health.

The benefits (and limits) of using tech to plan a wedding.

Recipe of the day: Chicken braised in vinegar over polenta is the kind of weeknight meal that feels luxurious.



CreditAurore Valade

What happens when the banners and protest signs are rolled up and put away? A new exhibit in Arles, France, shows that the lives of full-time activists can be messy, joyful and sometimes lonely.

For Hannah Gadsby, creating her furious stand-up special “Nanette” was an act of self-preservation. The result has been a sensation “beyond my comprehension,” the Australian star says.

Our 52 Places to Go writer visited the Baltics, where she got a taste of two beautiful, complicated cities, Tallinn and Vilnius. She is now halfway through her journey. Based on photos alone, how many of her destinations can you identify?

Back Story


CreditDavid Gahr/Getty Images

Well, I try my best

To be just like I am

But everybody wants you

To be just like them …

So sang Bob Dylan on this day in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival, in an epochal musical moment.

Mr. Dylan had been expected to play acoustic folk. But after a Rhode Island M.C. belittled the Paul Butterfield Blues Band for playing electrically, he rebelliously decided to go electric himself, backed by several Butterfield Blues members.

He opened Sunday night with an amped-up “Maggie’s Farm.” Pandemonium ensued. It was (apocryphally) reported that Pete Seeger tried chopping through the sound cables with an ax, in a folk purist rage; Mr. Seeger later said he was simply upset by amplifier distortion. Some audience members booed, though whether because of poor sound, Mr. Dylan’s “betrayal,” his truncated set or the flustered M.C. Peter Yarrow was unclear. Mr. Dylan may or may not have cried onstage.

He once characterized Mr. Seeger’s reaction as a “dagger” to his heart.

But the windows had been shaken, the walls rattled. Music was changing for good.

Mr. Dylan (to one of whose songs this writer would walk down the aisle) took his place among the world’s most influential musicians. He was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions” in the American song tradition.

How does it feel to be on your own? At Newport, Mr. Dylan had begun to answer his own question.

Nancy Wartik wrote today’s Back Story.


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