Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, plans to declare today that some 40,000 square miles (about 104,000 square kilometers) of eastern and southern Ukraine will become part of Russia.

The annexation has been broadly denounced by the West. But it is a signal that Putin is prepared to raise the stakes in the 7-month-old war. He will do so in a “voluminous” speech, a spokesman said, part of a choreographed ceremony designed to lend an air of legitimacy to its illegal takeover.

Despite Moscow’s posturing, the four regions — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizka and Kherson — are not fully under Russian control after months of fighting. And Ukrainian forces are closing in on the city of Lyman, a Russian-occupied rail hub, which would leave Moscow’s troops in an increasingly perilous position in Ukraine’s east.

Fighting: Putin acknowledged “mistakes” in the rollout of his conscription order, as the Kremlin tried to reduce public discontent. And Russian losses are evident in the thousands of calls soldiers have made from the battlefield to relatives at home. “Our offense has stalled,” one man said. “We’re losing this war.”

Brazil is holding its elections on Sunday, and fears are rising as to whether Jair Bolsonaro, its anti-democratic president, will accept a defeat.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro’s political party released a document that claimed, without evidence, that government employees and contractors had “absolute power to manipulate election results without leaving a trace.” The electoral authority immediately rebuked the claims, calling them “false and dishonest, with no backing in reality.”

But Bolsonaro may well have to override voters and strong-arm a result to stay in power. In polls, he has long trailed Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former president. If da Silva surges to power, it would be a once unthinkable comeback for the zealous leftist, who was in prison on corruption charges just three years ago.

Context: For months, Brazilian officials and foreign diplomats have feared that Bolsonaro was setting the stage to dispute an election loss.

What’s next: If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff on Oct. 30. But it looks increasingly likely that da Silva could win outright.

Hurricane Ian is barreling toward South Carolina after devastating southwestern Florida.

The storm, one of the most powerful to strike the U.S. in the past decade, left about 2.6 million people without power in Florida, as water flooded streets and destroyed homes. The death toll is still being assessed, but President Biden said there were “early reports of what may be substantial loss of life.”

Climate change played a key role in the destruction. Sea surface temperatures off Florida’s southwest coast were warmer than usual, which allowed the storm to pick up energy just before crashing into the state.

Context: Scientists say that while climate change has not necessarily increased the number of hurricanes, it has made them more powerful, as warmer ocean waters strengthen and sustain those storms.

Explanation: The oceans have absorbed more than 90 percent of the excess heat from human-caused global warming over the past 50 years. Most is stored in the top few hundred meters.

Danny Weil rides a motorcycle in a carnival motordrome known as the “Wall of Death,” which he says is only one of three left in the U.S. He bills his gravity-defying attraction as family-friendly, but he knows it can be frightening, too.

That’s part of the appeal. “You can go to a NASCAR race and possibly see a human being die,” he explained. “And that’s why it’s the most popular spectator sport in the country.”

Is Qatar really ready to host a World Cup?: Qatar has been transformed since it won the World Cup bid riddled with corruption in 2010 but the questions persist on the countdown; is it really ready to host an event on this scale?

The biggest issues the U.S. needs to fix before the World Cup: The U.S.’s most disheartening international window since October 2019 has left Gregg Berhalter looking for answers before Qatar.

Searching for Manchester United owner Joel Glazer: The U.S. family behind one of the world’s biggest soccer clubs is rarely seen or heard.

In a pessimistic global economic climate, the southern African nation of Zambia seems to be the exception.

Last year, the country elected Hakainde Hichilema, a wealthy businessman and political outsider, as president. Since then, many Zambians have hailed their new leader as a miracle worker.

Before the election, Zambia defaulted on its debts, and inflation was skyrocketing. Now, inflation has dropped to single digits, and the country’s currency, the kwacha, is one of the best performing in the world.

“I felt a lingering sense of relief in my travels in Zambia,” said Ruth Maclean, The Times’s West Africa bureau chief. Ruth recently met with Hichilema at his home in Lusaka, the capital. As an opposition leader, he was detained 15 times and ran for president five times. Many Zambians relate to his poor upbringing in a grass-thatched hut, and African leaders see in him a new model of leadership.

“He had a sort of steely, steady confidence that I can imagine might be very reassuring to countries and companies with which Zambia does business,” Ruth said.

But Zambia’s honeymoon phase may not last. To overhaul the economy, Hichilema struck a deal with the International Monetary Fund that would include the reduction of fuel and agricultural subsidies. Economists say that such policies will hurt the poor and test Hichilema’s vision.

“Zambia is the guinea pig of the moment,” Ruth said. “Watch this space.” — Lynsey Chutel, briefings writer based in Johannesburg

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