🌍 A new UK leadership frontrunner

Protestors gather at presidential secretariat in Colombo on July 14, 2022.
Protestors gather at presidential secretariat in Colombo on July 14, 2022.
Image: Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images

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Here’s what you need to know

Rishi Sunak became the frontrunner in the UK Conservative party leadership race. He gained 101 votes in the second round of voting, with Penny Mordaunt coming in second. Suella Braverman was knocked out of the contest.

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned. He emailed a resignation letter from Singapore after fleeing the country with his family.

The euro fell below parity with the US dollar. It traded for less than $1 for the first time in 20 years as US inflation numbers from June came in higher than expected.

China’s heatwave has impacted 900 million people. Authorities have ordered factory power cuts to ensure air conditioners can remain on, but the heat has still proven deadly.

Meanwhile, Chinese homebuyers are staging a mortgage boycott in 80 cities. Buyers are refusing to make payments on unfinished and pre-sold units unless construction resumes.

Emirates airline rejected London Heathrow’s request to halt ticket sales. The airport has requested airlines stop flight sales amid staff shortages.

Italian prime minister Mario Draghi’s resignation was not accepted by president Sergio Mattarella. Draghi offered to step down after the government coalition fell apart over a key bill.

What to watch for

Covid’s omicron subvariant BA.5 has taken over the US, accounting for 65% of all covid cases in the country. The subvariant is highly contagious, and with immunity from booster shots waning, it carries a higher likelihood of breakthrough infections.

The White House shared its plan to tackle the BA.5 surge, which focuses on making vaccines and treatment available, providing free testing and masks, and encouraging building owners to improve ventilation. It relies on individual responsibility rather than public health interventions, and on testing and treating rather than avoiding the infection.

Judging from the same approach’s failure to control the spread over the winter, the US might once again experience a large number of infections—10% to 15% of the population—and consequent risk of severe illness and long covid.

Twitter and Musk’s least bad option

It’s a clash of the titans—titans with extremely expensive legal counsel. One of the world’s largest social media companies and the richest person on earth are preparing for a legal battle that could influence American mergers and acquisitions for decades to come.

There’s really no best case scenario for Twitter, a company that has struggled to make money and grow long before Tesla CEO Elon Musk scrambled its plans with a will-I-won’t-I $44 billion takeover bid. It’s a case of opting for the least bad option, out of the following four outcomes:

  • 🎯  The judge could side with Twitter and force Musk to complete the $44 billion deal.
  • 💰  Musk could be found in breach of contract and forced to pay a $1 billion termination fee.
  • 💨  Musk could win and walk away without paying a cent.
  • 🤝  There could be an out-of-court settlement involving an amount higher than $1 billion but lower than $44 billion.

The euro may be cheap, but going to Europe is not

The summer of “revenge travel” is here. People are itching to fly after two years of the pandemic, but soaring fuel prices and persistent high inflation are still likely to make a European vacation not just expensive, but difficult. We took a look, by the digits:

863%: Increase in air travel between the US and Europe in March, compared to the same month last year

100,000: Temporary cap on daily passengers allowed by Heathrow Airport in the UK—the world’s busiest airport and a major connection to points on the continent

$3.99: Cost to rent National Lampoon’s European Vacation on Amazon Prime in the US

✦  Tiffany Ap gives you the lowdown on summer travel, free of charge, thanks to your support. Consider becoming a Quartz member today and take 40% off (we know you need that discount if you’re traveling anytime soon).

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Surprising discoveries

A woman sits on the right side of the frame holding up the original painting, "Head of a Peasant Woman," in gloved hands. In the foreground is a laptop opened with an image of the Van Gogh self-portrait x-ray conveyed in shades of blue-gray and white.
Image: Neil Hanna/Handout via REUTERS

A Van Gogh self-portrait was found hidden beneath an earlier painting. Conservators discovered the likeness, complete with a neckerchief and hat, following a routine X-ray.

A heartbeat-like radio signal was detected from space. The burst came from a galaxy about 1 billion light years away.

Starfish embryos spontaneously self-organize into crystal-like formations. The pattern may one day inform how a swarm of robots could move in sync.

Rowdy the cat was caught after three weeks roaming about a US airport. She escaped her cage to chase some birds.

Woodpeckers’ tiny brains may be too compact to be damaged. Even when you’re pecking fast enough to make your head feel 1,400 times heavier than normal.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Send any news, comments, tiny brains, and eerie heartbeats to hi@qz.com. Reader support makes Quartz available to all—become a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Alex Ossola, Sofia Lotto Persio, Julia Malleck, Annalisa Merelli, Susan Howson, Scott Nover, and Morgan Haefner.