December 14, 2018

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President Trump, Saudi Arabia, Brexit: Your Friday Briefing

President Trump, Saudi Arabia, Brexit: Your Friday Briefing
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Good morning. President Trump stokes immigration fears, Venice grapples with rising waters and Finns observe “National Jealousy Day.”

Here’s the latest:

That shocked the military because, officials told us, doing so would violate its terms of engagement.

Mr. Trump is chumming the waters for his base, while hoping that he won’t alienate suburban voters, who have already been abandoning Republicans in droves.

Separately, emails show that during the 2016 presidential campaign, the political operative Roger Stone sold himself to Trump advisers as a potential conduit to WikiLeaks. The special counsel is investigating whether Mr. Stone knew in advance about email releases damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign or was merely hyping himself.

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Tourists in rubber boots ate in flooded restaurants, or even frolicked in the streets, while locals agonized over the saltwater drenching of Venice’s private gardens and inestimable treasures, like St. Mark’s Basilica, above.

Rising seas pose an existential threat to Venice, but planned floodgates have been unfinished for more than a decade.

The full corrosive impact of the saturation will take time to show itself.

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• The U.S. stands by the Saudi crown prince.

The Trump administration has decided to back up Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 33, above, after the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to officials familiar with the deliberations, having concluded that he’s almost certain to stay in power.

But the U.S. is considering sanctions against the kingdom that would be limited enough to avoid a rupture with Prince Mohammed. In exchange, the White House is hoping to negotiate an end to the blockade of Qatar and the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government protested Saudi Arabia’s execution, without notice, of an Indonesian citizen. The woman, a maid, was convicted seven years ago of murdering her Saudi employer; a rights group has said she was defending herself from sexual assault.

• Finland’s “National Jealousy Day.”

Each Nov. 1, everyone’s taxable income is made public at precisely 8 a.m., and Finns start poring over the numbers. Above, journalists at a tax office in Helsinki on Thursday.

Reporters look for fodder — Who might be circumventing taxes? How much did the country’s best-known pornographic film star make? — and ordinary people take stock of inequalities both nationally and in their workplaces.

While there are some complaints about the invasion of privacy, many Finns told us that the ritual baring of incomes promotes egalitarianism, deters cheating and can make it easier to ask for a raise.

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• The fate of liberal democracy.

Strongmen are on the ascent around the world, in countries as different as Brazil and Hungary. Above, supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right Brazilian presidential candidate, celebrating his victory last month in Rio de Janeiro. He and other Brazilian leaders have vowed to kill criminals.

Research suggests that their success may stem from weaknesses inherent to democracy itself, our columnist writes.

In Europe, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has been seen by many as a dam against rising populism, but some experts told us that they saw her as one of its proximate causes, arguing that her insistence on austerity drove countries to extremes and the E.U. apart.

• The Malaysian financier Jho Low and two Goldman Sachs investment bankers were charged by U.S. prosecutors in a multibillion-dollar international fraud involving the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. Above, the Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York.

• Google employees around the world staged walkouts to protest the company’s handling of sexual assault accusations against executives.

• The editor of Waitrose Food, a popular British magazine, has resigned amid outrage over an email he wrote about “killing vegans.”

Apple beat Wall Street estimates in its last quarter.

Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

North Korean women who work in the country’s growing markets are often preyed on by officials demanding sexual favors, Human Rights Watch researchers found. Above, a silk factory in Pyongyang. [The New York Times]

• The British police are investigating whether Arron Banks, a businessman described as the “godfather of Brexit,” broke the law, focusing on suspicions that foreign loans supported the pro-Brexit campaign. [The New York Times]

• Amal Hussain, a starving 7-year-old girl in Yemen, has died. A searing portrait of her published in The Times last week had drawn heartbroken offers of help from readers. [The New York Times]

• Denmark accused Iran of trying to kill an Arab separatist leader on Danish soil. [The New York Times]

• A Spanish artist is facing a police investigation after painting a red dove on the tomb of Spain’s former dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco, whose remains the government is planning to exhume and relocate. [The New York Times]

Russia said that its Soyuz spacecraft would resume trips to the International Space Station, deeming them safe after a harrowing malfunction last month. [The New York Times]

• Macedonia and Greece have resumed direct commercial flights after more than a decade as the two countries come closer to resolving a long-running dispute over Macedonia’s name. [The Associated Press]

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

• Over decades, the family of Paul Rosenberg, an eminent Paris art dealer, has recovered many paintings looted by the Nazis, but one has stayed just out of reach: “Portrait of Mlle. Gabrielle Diot,” above, by Edgar Degas. A German dealer refuses to divulge the name of the current holder.

• An exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s scientific treatise “Codex Leicester” in Florence, Italy, is a window into the mind of a genius. “Make eyeglasses to see the moon larger,” a note reads, a century before the telescope.

• Switzerland, which dominates wheelchair racing, is hoping to groom its next champions.

• It’s not all bad news out there. This week’s uplifting stories include tiny free libraries, rooftop gardens and a dazzling duck.

The Meiji Jingu Shrine, where Princess Ayako of Japan married her commoner beau earlier this week, is also a fitting symbol for Tokyo and its wonderful contradictions.

While it appears ancient, the shrine, pictured above, is actually relatively new. It opened in the 1920s to commemorate Princess Ayako’s great-great-grandparents, Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.

It was during their era that Japan opened up to the West. But Japan also embraced traditional culture by officially cultivating the distinctive Shinto religion.

Today, Meiji Jingu is a forested refuge just steps away from Tokyo’s hipster shopping district Harajuku. And the shrine has become one of the city’s most desired locations for weddings.

When this reporter’s good friend and college classmate got married there several years ago, guests gushed over her elaborate kimono and the beautiful red sake bowls and the priests and priestesses who made the ceremony oh-so-Japanese.

She wasn’t alone. More couples are opting for this kind of traditional ceremony, according to local media reports.

But then again, the white wedding kimono that she wore was in a style thought to have been adopted from Western wedding gowns.

It goes to show the complex weaving together of old and new, of tradition and adopted tradition, in a city that’s constantly changing.

Hiroko Tabuchi, a former Tokyo correspondent now on our climate team, wrote today’s Back Story.

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