Brexit, Ukraine, Magnus Carlsen: Your Thursday Briefing

Brexit, Ukraine, Magnus Carlsen: Your Thursday Briefing


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Good morning. Senators spurn President Trump on Yemen, alarm over possible gene-edited babies, and a steer that’s astonishingly big.

Here’s the latest:

• Senators spurn Trump on war in Yemen.

Furious over President Trump’s embrace of Saudi Arabia after the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, U.S. senators will consider ending American military support for the Saudi-backed war in Yemen.

Fourteen Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to bring to the floor a measure to end American military action in Yemen, where a Saudi-led bombing campaign against Houthi rebels has put 14 million people on the brink of starvation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, above, and Defense Secretary Jim Matthis told senators that withdrawing military support would damage an alliance with Saudi Arabia they see as vital. They also said there was no clear evidence that Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was organized by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, contradicting the conclusion of the C.I.A.

Even if the Senate measure is approved, it is unlikely to pass the House until after Democrats take over the majority in the new year.

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“I feel proud, actually.”

The Chinese scientist He Jiankui, left, who claims to have created the world’s first genetically edited babies, defended his work at a conference in Hong Kong, saying it was both ethical and safe.

Scores of scientists have criticized the research, which Dr. He revealed only after the birth this month of twin girls whose embryos he said he had altered to make them invulnerable to H.I.V. infection. He doesn’t appear to have sought approval from Chinese regulators. A senior Chinese official reportedly said that the experiment, if confirmed, would violate regulations.

The birth of gene-edited children is alarming for both practical and theoretical reasons. First are safety worries — for example, unintended genetic effects. Then there is the concern that editing could be used to engineer babies with superior skills or desired physical features.

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• Norway retains chess supremacy.

After a flurry of fast-paced tiebreakers, the Norwegian player Magnus Carlsen, left, held onto his world chess championship, beating Fabiano Caruana, right, who has been gunning to become the first American to win the title since Bobby Fischer in 1972.

The first 12 games in the tournament, some lasting as long as seven hours, all ended in draws — a first for an event that dates to the 1800s.

Mr. Carlsen, the world’s top-ranked chess player for the past eight years, has become a mainstream celebrity in Norway, where fans now play the game in bars, clubs and even on trams.

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• A holiday in misery.

The appropriately named War Hostel Sarajevo in the Bosnian capital offers nobody’s idea of luxury: a sound system that blasts the harrowing racket of gunfire and explosions day and night; no beds, just thin mattresses; and its answer to a penthouse suite, “the bunker,” a din-filled windowless dungeon where comforts are banned.

“I decided to give people what they wanted,” said Arijan Kurbasic, above, the manager of the establishment.

What people want is a bitter taste of life in Bosnia during the ethnic warfare of the 1990s. Mr. Kurbasic says he isn’t cultivating nostalgia for Europe’s worst period of bloodshed since World War II. Quite the opposite, he says: He wants guests to experience the sheer immersive hell of war to understand that it is not a game.

The hospitality industry’s term for what he offers is “dark tourism,” a niche but growing global market focused on places where terrible things happened, like Chernobyl.

In a small concession to peacetime, the Sarajevo hostel has Wi-Fi.

Two words from the Federal Reserve’s chairman, Jerome Powell, speaking above in New York, juiced U.S. markets on Wednesday, erasing losses from November. Investors saw his comments as a sign that the central bank might stop raising interest rates.

• But there are signs that one of the longest U.S. economic expansions in history might be nearing its end, possibly setting the stage for recession.

• Brexit will make Britain poorer than it would have been if it had stayed in the E.U., regardless of what trade deal is struck, according to a British government report that framed the government’s Brexit plan, set for a vote in Parliament on Dec. 11, as the least destructive option.

Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

“This is a border incident, nothing more”: President Vladimir Putin tried to play down Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian Navy vessels and sailors as an isolated incident rather than a possible catalyst for a wider war, even as a Russian court in the disputed Crimean peninsula sent a second group of captured sailors to jail. Above center, one of the sailors after a court hearing. [The New York Times]

• The. U.N. is scrambling to find a new venue for next year’s global summit meeting on climate change after Brazil backed out as host. The incoming foreign minister in Brazil’s new far-right administration has called the movement to reduce global warming a plot by “Marxists.” [The New York Times]

• Representative Nancy Pelosi overwhelmingly won the Democratic nomination to be speaker in the new Congress, but the 32 votes against her signaled she might still have to fight to secure the post in a full House vote in January. [The New York Times]

• Knickers, a 6-foot-4-inch steer in Australia, captured the world’s attention after a photo of the enormous animal circulated online. [The New York Times]

• And today’s word of the day is “cow”: That’s specifically a female that has had at least one calf. A steer, like Knickers, is a neutered male.

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

• We’ve begun a special project at The Times, called Past Tense, to bring online millions of archived photographs stored three floors underneath our headquarters, digitizing a visual record of the entire 20th century starting from 1896. Above, The Times’s photo library in 1948.

• Carolina Marín is the first women’s badminton player to win three world championships. But in Spain, she is a badminton unicorn — an athlete with no rivals.

Margaret Atwood will write a sequel to her feminist dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The new book, “The Testaments,” will be released next fall — and was inspired by “the world we’ve been living in,” Ms. Atwood said.

“Mary Poppins Returns” will glide into Los Angeles tonight for its red carpet premiere. Emily Blunt, portraying the title character, hopes to fill the large shoes left by Julie Andrews in the 1964 film.

But Mary Poppins existed before either of those two British actresses was even born. She flew into the world in 1934 on the pen of the author P.L. Travers, above.

Travers was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Queensland, Australia, in 1899. As a teenager, she was a Shakespearean actress, a dancer, a journalist and a poet.

She moved to England in 1924 and soon dreamed up a governess who slid up banisters and imparted cheeky life lessons. A decade later, “Mary Poppins” was published in London to critical acclaim. Travers would continue to write stories about Poppins over the next half-century. She died in 1996.

“I think the idea of Mary Poppins has been blowing in and out of me, like a curtain at a window, all my life,” she said in 1964.

Andrew Chow wrote today’s Back Story.

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Your Morning Briefing is published weekday mornings and updated online.



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