I did everything suggested in the appropriate articles to set the firefox as default; still requires continuous confirmation.
I set Firefox as default in the preferences; and
sudo update-alternatives --config x-www-browser There is only one alternative in link group x-www-browser (providing /usr/bin/x-www-browser): /usr/bin/firefox-esr Nothing to configure. --- indicates that everything seems to be OK.
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there's a checkbox in Preferences > General > "always check if Firefox is your default browser"
that is my problem; I checked this box and it works when I call Firefox directly. When I call FF from Thunderbird this setting is not respected and I have reconfirm the default setting.
You may look if Thunderbird has an extra optin for opening links. I think Thunderbird has some kind of built in Browser. So you may look in the Thunderbird settings for an option like "open links" or "browser" or something like that.