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Good morning. A deepening U.S. divide, Chinese crackdown’s surprise target, Banksy’s expensive prank. Here’s what you need to know:
• Remaking the U.S. Supreme Court, at a cost.
Against the backdrop of bitter protests, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the country’s highest court by one of the slimmest margins in history, putting the last of three branches of the U.S. government under conservative control.
The partisan battle over his elevation widened as accusations of sexual misconduct tapped fury over #MeToo and white privilege, a conflagration that deeply eroded the court’s apolitical image.
Next: Will Democratic rage dominate congressional midterms, just a month away? We have a guide with everything you need to know about the elections. And our newsletter Abroad in America helps make sense of what’s going on in Washington.
• Even Interpol is no shield from China.
Meng Hongwei, the Interpol president who was reported missing after leaving France for China, is being investigated for “violating the law,” the country’s anti-corruption watchdog said.
Across the border, Hong Kong declined to renew the visa of the Financial Times Asia news editor, Victor Mallet, which will lead to his expulsion. The move came after Mr. Mallet drew the ire of Chinese officials by hosting, as vice president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, a talk with the pro-independence advocate Andy Chan.
While Beijing has denied visas for foreign journalists, this is the first time Hong Kong has done so. Human rights activists warned of a deterioration of free speech and China’s increased interference in the semiautonomous city.
• The perils for Afghan women.
This weekend was 17 years since the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan. The conflict’s efficacy and lasting impact provides plenty of debate fodder in the West.
In Afghanistan, dozens of people were killed just in the last 24 hours, underscoring the war’s grinding toll. The country is also still wrestling with complex security and cultural questions. One example: Evidence shows that when women are involved in the security sector, nations enjoy a more stable, lasting peace. But only about 1.4 percent of Afghan security forces are women, pictured above. They are widely frowned upon, even referred to as “whores.”
And predators find many ways of stalking women. Because infertility is often blamed on them, a con man found his opening — going around the country for years claiming he could “cure” them with sex.
He filmed the encounters and then blackmailed the women. He is now on the run — and the women suspected of having fallen for his scheme are turning up dead.
• A pastor in Australia faces drought.
“We pray for your mercy in sending soaking rain that really replenishes the land and restores the country.”
So prays the Rev. Bernard Gabbott, above, who came to the small town of Wee Waa a decade ago to bring people to Jesus.
Today, as the worst drought in decades continues to wither a vast tract of rural Australia, he has become a counselor, a social worker and a philanthropist — facing changing weather and trying to keep one community from falling apart.
• China’s agricultural industry is undergoing a monumental shift. Small family farms are leasing their lands for others to work, planting the seeds for bigger commercial farms that could boost the economy.
• China’s central bank is cutting the amount that some lenders must hold in reserve, effectively pumping $174 billion into the economy. The move signals worries about slowing growth and increased pressures from the trade war with the U.S.
• Asia’s high demand for sea cucumbers has turned the unglamorous creatures into “black gold” for fishers, endangering the species and threatening to disrupt underwater ecosystems.
• “Venom,” starring Tom Hardy as a fanged antihero, and the bittersweet romance “A Star Is Born,” this time with Lady Gaga in the lead role, vastly exceeded expectations, sending the North American box office to an October record.
• Coming this week: Google’s new products, the Nobel Prize in Economics and bank earnings will all be announced over the next few days.
• Here’s a snapshot of global markets. The Tokyo stock market is closed today.
• Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he had a “good, productive conversation” with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and that a second U.S.-North Korea summit would come soon. Above, Mr. Pompeo with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. [The New York Times]
• The Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been critical of his country’s leaders, was most likely killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkish officials said, sharply escalating tensions between the two countries. [The New York Times]
• Tanushree Dutta, a former Miss India, filed a police complaint accusing the prominent actor Nana Patekar of sexually assaulting her on a movie set 10 years ago. [The Economic Times]
• More than 1,700 people have died from the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, officials said. [The New York Times]
• Does Japan’s obsession with the U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, the daughter of Japanese and Haitian-American parents, and its acceptance of Denny Tamaki, Okinawa’s newly elected Japanese-American governor, signal changing perceptions of mixed-race people? Our Tokyo bureau chief, Motoko Rich, weighs in. [The New York Times Sunday Review]
Tips for a more fulfilling life.
• BTS, the K-Pop boy band pictured above, turned their first U.S. concert into an interactive dialogue with the audience through Bluetooth-enabled lights that shifted and flickered with the performance. The New York show sold out, further illuminating the group’s success.
• Cuisine ingrained in DNA: The largest-scale genetic study to date of the Chinese population found genes catering to the metabolism of a kaleidoscopic range of foods, from the meat-heavy stews in the north to fresh greens in the south.
• In case you missed it: A framed artwork by Banksy, the renowned street artist, self-destructed immediately after it sold for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s. “We’ve been Banksy-ed,” said the auction house. And now the prices for his work look set to soar.
A key date in feline history just slunk past.
On Oct. 7, 1982, the musical “Cats” opened on Broadway, little more than a year after its debut in London’s West End. Scored by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the show had a script drawn from a playful volume of poetry, T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” It told a loose story about “Jellicle” cats gathered for a junkyard ball.
The New York show received mixed reviews (“Whatever the other failings and excesses, even banalities, of ‘Cats,’” Frank Rich wrote in The Times, “it believes in purely theatrical magic”). But it ran for 18 years, earning nearly $400 million. A revival in 2016 ran for about a year and a half. Above, Mr. Lloyd Webber with that cast.
Next stop: Hollywood. In December 2019, “Cats” makes its movie debut, with Steven Spielberg and Mr. Lloyd Webber executive producing. Shooting starts in Britain next month; James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen and Taylor Swift are among those slated to prowl the screen.
“I think the key to the ‘Cats’ movie is going to be: What do they look like?” Mr. Lloyd Webber said last year.
“I think that you can’t do ‘Cats’ with a great deal of C.G.I.,” he added. “Part of the thing is seeing that they are human beings.”
Nancy Wartik wrote today’s Back Story.
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