December 16, 2018

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U.S. Elections, Iran, Saudi Arabia: Your Monday Briefing

U.S. Elections, Iran, Saudi Arabia: Your Monday Briefing
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Good morning.

Here’s the latest: U.S. midterms are nigh, Iranian sanctions are back and chefs look for inspiration in the Amazon.

• Closing arguments in the U.S. election.

Tumultuous 2018 midterm campaigns barreled through their final weekend and toward Election Day on Tuesday.

The most prominent campaigners are on opposite sides of a vast political divide. President Trump has been crisscrossing the country to deliver fear-based messages on immigration and other issues. Former President Barack Obama has been assailing him in a surprisingly sharp, systematic way.

• Sanctions have returned.

By the time you read this briefing, the United States will have reimposed severe economic sanctions on Iran and financial penalties for those who continue to import Iranian goods. Above, Iranian rials at a currency exchange shop in Basra, Iraq.

The reinstated sanctions threaten to widen a rift between the U.S. and its European allies, who have criticized President Trump for abandoning the landmark 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

But the U.S. undercut its own sanctions by granting six-month waivers to eight countries — including India, South Korea, Japan and China, among the world’s largest importers of Iranian oil. The E.U. did not receive an exemption.

Separately, Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin, has been lobbying Washington to save his companies from Trump administration sanctions. His efforts may prove successful.

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• In Germany, one of the longest dry spells on record has left part of the Rhine, above, at record-low levels for months, causing havoc for many European businesses.

Around 80 percent of the cargo transported by ship in Germany travels the Rhine, which many freighters have had to stop plying. Gas stations reliant on the river for fuel delivery from the Netherlands have run dry, and a German chemical plant that uses the Rhine’s water had to trim back production.

Europeans are bracing for further instability, with one researcher predicting that because of a warming climate, “the extremes are going to happen more often.”

Separately, an environmental group has found new evidence that rogue factories in China are behind the resurgence of the banned gas CFC-11, which destroys the ozone layer and contributes to global warming.

• Paradise or “Death Island”?

The Thai island of Koh Tao, above, is popular with Western tourists. But at least nine European visitors have died or disappeared there since 2014, and a rape allegation by a 19-year-old British woman has raised new questions about how the police handle serious crimes against tourists.

The police said they had found no evidence to support the rape allegation and arrested 12 people who had posted about it on Facebook.

• McKinsey, Booz Allen Hamilton and Boston Consulting have all continued work with Saudi Arabia even as investors distance themselves after the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Above, a Saudi investment conference in Riyadh last month.

• Since President Trump took office, there has been a sharp decline in financial penalties against banks and big companies accused of malpractice, a Times investigation found.

• Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate run by Warren Buffett, bought back nearly $1 billion of its own stock during its blockbuster third quarter.

• Apple’s decision to limit disclosures — including how many iPhones, iPads and Macs it sells each quarter — and its disappointing forecast for fourth-quarter sales dragged down its stock.

• Coming this week: BMW will publish its third-quarter earnings, and E.U. foreign ministers will meet to discuss trade relations with the U.S. and how to modernize the World Trade Organization.

Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

The London police are investigating accusations that some members of Britain’s opposition Labour Party posted anti-Semitic threats online. Above, demonstrators outside the party’s head office. [The New York Times]

Ross Edgley, a British man who spent five months at sea, is believed to be the first person to swim around the island of Great Britain. [The New York Times]

The husband of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted in Pakistan of blasphemy charges, appealed to Britain and other countries for asylum, saying their lives were in danger amid public demands for her execution. [Reuters]

Voters in New Caledonia, a French Pacific territory, chose to remain part of France in an independence referendum. [BBC News]

A man-eating tiger in India blamed for the deaths of 13 people was killed after a monthslong hunt that involved drones, elephants and a bottle of cologne. Conservationists were furious she was not instead captured. [The New York Times]

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

Celebrated chefs in the Andes are venturing deep into the Amazon on a quest for new ingredients like caiman, a relative of the alligator, and the carp-like paiche. [The New York Times]

The New York City Marathon: Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia pulled ahead late to win the men’s race in 2 hours 5 minutes 59 seconds. Mary Keitany of Kenya won the women’s race for the fourth time, finishing in 2:22:48.

In the wheelchair division, Daniel Romanchuk of the U.S. upset the defending men’s champion, Marcel Hug of Switzerland, by one second in 1:36:21. Manuela Schar of Switzerland defended her title in the women’s race in 1:50:27.

• Novak Djokovic lost to Karen Khachanov of Russia in the final of the Paris Masters tennis tournament, ending a 22-game winning streak.

• In memoriam: Judith Kazantzis, 78, the British feminist poet and activist. She once said she “began to write to remedy the despair of a young housebound mother.”

Stickers can be surprisingly motivating, even for adults.

At least that’s the idea behind the “I Voted” stickers handed out at polling stations in the U.S. — that they’ll encourage voters to turn out, and inspire those who see them to vote themselves. (Election Day is Tuesday.)

The stickers first appeared in the 1980s, offered by businesses, unions and civic groups. State and local governments began making their own.

While some states keep it simple, others take the opportunity to express their identities. Some stickers, like Alabama’s, Ohio’s and Tennessee’s, incorporate the shape of the state. Georgia’s use the state’s famous peach, while California’s is in 13 languages.

Alaskans who voted early this year got stickers with cartoon versions of state animals. Louisiana’s stickers, which feature the Cajun artist George Rodrigue’s iconic “Blue Dog,” have appeared on eBay.

New York City has its own subway-themed sticker. Other cities are following Chicago’s lead and offering wristbands instead.

The stickers have also gone online. Instagram has “I Voted” and “Yo Voté” emblems, along with a “We Voted” story on Election Day that gathers posts by a user’s friends.

Do they actually make a difference? One study found that in 2010, Facebook’s “I Voted” button drove 340,000 Americans to the polls.

But either way, you still get a sticker.

Jennifer Jett wrote today’s Back Story.

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Your Morning Briefing is published weekday mornings and updated online.



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