North Korea, World Cup, Yemen: Your Thursday Briefing

North Korea, World Cup, Yemen: Your Thursday Briefing


Asia and Australia Edition

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Good morning. World Cup news, invasion at a Yemeni port, and different takes on North Korea. Here’s what you need to know:

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CreditKirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

And there’s longer-range news: The U.S., Mexico and Canada will host the 2026 World Cup, North America’s first since 1994. Their successful joint proposal promised record crowds and revenues, and $11 billion in profits for FIFA, soccer’s governing body.

Morocco, whose rival bid pledged a profit less than half as large, criticized the focus on money until the bitter end. Above, soccer officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico after the announcement.

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CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

• Spin mode on North Korea.

Pyongyang declared a victory of sorts after the Singapore summit meeting with the U.S., claiming it had won major concessions.

The North’s state-run news media said that President Trump had not only promised to end joint military drills with South Korea, but also to lift sanctions and allow a “step-by-step” denuclearization process, rather than the immediate dismantling of its nuclear program.

CreditShawn Thew/EPA, via Shutterstock

• Why offend allies and cozy up to adversaries?

That’s the question raised by President Trump’s embrace of North Korea, on the heels of a bitter falling-out with Canada.

A White House correspondent who covered the Singapore meeting writes: “It may be that he disregards the traditional preoccupations of American foreign policy — power and values — in favor of a more narrow worldview shaped by his experience as a businessman.” In other words: considerations of profit and cost might outweigh virtually any other consideration.

Separately, we looked at Mr. Trump’s billionaire friend Tom Barrack, above, “a fellow tycoon and a flattering courtier, a confidant and a power broker” who has helped Mr. Trump become seen as perhaps the best friend in the White House that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have ever had.

CreditNajeeb Almahboobi/EPA, via Shutterstock

• Saudis and U.A.E. are leading an invasion in Yemen.

The attack on a vital port city is expected to worsen misery in the war-ravaged country, already the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

The effort seemed aimed at tipping the balance in Yemen’s long-running civil war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, but sustained fighting and cutting the pathway for foreign aid could kill hundreds of thousands of people and threaten millions with famine.

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CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

• The University of New Hampshire will become the first flagship state school in the U.S. to accept scores from the gaokao — China’s famously grueling college entrance exam that generally lasts about nine hours over two days.

The university now joins dozens of European, Australian and Canadian institutions, as well as a handful of private American schools, that have been screening Chinese candidates using cutoff gaokao scores.

Above, family members outside a school in Hangzhou, China, on the first day of the gaokao.

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Business

• Comcast announced an offer worth $65 billion for the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s businesses, setting up a showdown with Disney for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. The all-cash Comcast offer is the first of an expected wave of merger efforts after the AT&T-Time Warner ruling.

• ZTE isn’t out of the woods. The Chinese tech giant’s shares fell by 40 percent on Wednesday, shaving nearly $3 billion from the company’s value. Wary investors fear that the Trump administration will yield to political pressure to back off the deal to save it.

• AT&T may soon control a mammoth portfolio — CNN, HBO, Warner Bros. and much else. Here’s our breakdown of the impact of the ruling allowing the company’s $85.4 billion merger with Time Warner.

• Rampant price manipulation may have accounted for at least half of the tremendous increase in the price of Bitcoin last year, researchers said.

• U.S. stocks were mixed. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

CreditMihan News Agency, via European Pressphoto Agency

• In Iran, newly empowered hard-liners are clamping down on dissent. The human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, above, was arrested by security forces and taken to the notorious Evin Prison. [The New York Times]

• Dimitrious Gargasoulas faces a hearing in Australia to determine if he is fit to stand trial over the 2017 rampage on Bourke Street in Melbourne that killed six people, including two children. A psychiatrist said that Mr. Gargasoulas believes “he is the second coming of Christ.” [The Guardian]

• In Old Delhi, the original city center of India’s capital, we followed one of the last “town criers” — those who wake their neighbors for morning prayers and a final meal before sunrise during the holy month of Ramadan. [The New York Times]

• Vietnam’s worst flare-up of anti-China sentiment since 2014 threatens to aggravate the already tense relations between Beijing and Hanoi. [South China Moring Post]

• Air quality in New Delhi entered the danger zone, mainly because of dust storms from western India, according to the pollution control board. [Reuters]

• The rise and rise of #mprraccoon. A raccoon climbed a 25-story building in St. Paul, Minn., and became a Twitter sensation along the way. (But not everyone was rooting for the peaceful ending.) [The New York Times]

Smarter Living

Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.

• Do you have the right stuff to be a stool donor?

• Embracing and creating art can be a powerful way to deal with trauma.

• Recipe of the day: Make up a creamy, chunky and zesty mashed potato salad.

Noteworthy

CreditJorge Fernández/LightRocket, via Getty Images

• Africa’s “wooden elephants” are dying. Scientists believe “an unprecedented combination of temperature increase and drought” has left the oldest and largest baobab trees unable to support their massive trunks.

• Tim Winton is a surfer, environmentalist and one of Australia’s most beloved writers. (He was declared a “living treasure” in 1997.) Our reporter spent time with him ahead of the U.S. debut of his novel “The Shepherd’s Hut,” which touches on a persistent Winton theme: “the terror generated by toxic masculinity.”

• And Tony Finau, 28, is the PGA Tour’s first full-time player of Samoan and Tongan descent. He learned to play golf in his parents’ garage. He dislocated his ankle the day before the Masters, then finished 10th. It wouldn’t be a shock if Finau improved on that showing at this week’s U.S. Open.

Back Story

CreditLibrary of Congress

When the American writer Harriet Beecher Stowe died in 1896, The Times minced no words about her antislavery book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly,” the century’s best-selling American novel.

“In the English language, the Bible and Shakespeare’s works are its only rivals,” The Times noted.

Rapidly translated into at least 20 languages, including Russian, Spanish and Finnish, it was also an overnight international phenomenon.

Stowe lived for years across the Ohio River from Kentucky, meeting fugitive slaves and seeing Southern plantations firsthand. But her novel had another inspiration as well: the loss of an adored son to cholera.

She once wrote, “It was at his dying bed and at his grave that I learned what a poor slave mother may feel when her child is torn away from her.”

The book began as a newspaper serial in 1851. With evocative characters — saintly Uncle Tom, the slave child Topsy, the villainous master Simon Legree — it sparked outrage about slavery.

“No book in American history molded public opinion more powerfully,the critic David Reynolds wrote in “Mightier Than the Sword,” a book about the novel’s writing, reception and modern reputation.

Nancy Wartik wrote today’s Back Story.

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