May 20, 2019

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U.S. Elections, Yemen, Lion Air: Your Thursday Briefing

U.S. Elections, Yemen, Lion Air: Your Thursday Briefing
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Good morning. American voters reaffirm wide divisions, investigators in Indonesia question Boeing’s instruments, India lights up for Diwali. Here’s what you need to know:

America’s new political landscape.

Democrats — propelled by voter fury toward President Trump — wrested control of the House in the midterm elections, ending two years of single-party dominance in the U.S., but cementing the country’s yawning rural/urban-suburban divisions. Republicans held their Senate majority.

Democrats energized more than 300 districts to shift further to the left, flipping 29 from Republican control. See what the blue wave looked like.

President Trump called for bipartisanship but threatened to retaliate if Democrats followed through on promises to investigate his financial and political dealings. “They can play that game, but we can play better,” he said.

What does all of it mean?

Potential gridlock: Democrats in the House will be able to curb the president’s legislative ambitions.

A more representative Congress: Voters elected the first Muslim and Native American women, among a series of historic firsts across the country.

The trade war effect: Some districts hit by retaliatory tariffs switched to Democratic candidates from Republican incumbents.

Russian trolls were at it again: Facebook waited till most of the polls had closed to announce that, on Monday, it had blocked more than 100 accounts linked to the same group of Kremlin-backed operatives that meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

More concerns over Boeing instruments.

Investigators looking into the deadly crash of a brand-new Boeing 737 Max 8 jet last week have determined that its angle-of-attack sensors — which gauge the degree of the plane’s ascent or descent — gave faulty readings.

Boeing revealed that in a statement, adding that it had issued a global alert to airlines on how pilots can reclaim manual control. Some sensors on the Lion Air jet had been worked on a day before the crash, which killed all 189 people aboard.

The Indonesian official leading the investigation said that he and Boeing officials had discussed the possibility that inaccurate readings fed into the Max 8’s computerized system could result in a sudden, automatic descent.

The Max 8 is the latest model in Boeing’s popular 737 line. Some 200 are in fleets and more than 4,500 have been ordered.


The Yemen war escalates.

A Saudi-led coalition and Yemeni government forces, above, stepped up the fight against Houthi rebels in Yemen over the past week, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that the U.N. says could leave as many as 14 million people at risk of starvation.

Warplanes have hit the capital, Sana, and the port city Hudaydah, where ships carrying 10,000 tons of emergency relief grains are waiting to dock.

The surge, which came days after the U.S. called for peace talks, may stem from Saudi Arabia’s desire to score more territorial gains before any talks begin.


#MeToo in Australia.

Closing arguments began in the defamation case brought by the Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush, above.

He’s suing the Daily Telegraph, Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid newspaper, for publishing allegations last year that he sexually harassed a young actress, Eryn Jean Norvill, during a production in Sydney of “King Lear.”

The case has brought a moment of reckoning to Australia’s entertainment industry as well as its relatively muted #MeToo movement.

In contrast to the U.S., where public figures have to prove allegations false, Australia has tough defamation laws that place the onus on publications to prove stories are true. And that means accounts of harassment may not be heard.

“There were a lot of stories being prepared in various media organizations ready to run that got killed,” said one lawyer.

• Australia will likely block CK Group, led by the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, pictured above, from acquiring the country’s largest gas pipeline company, amid rising fears of China’s influence.

• Cambridge Analytica, the consulting firm, broke British law by improperly harvesting Facebook data to aid President Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Brexit campaign, Britain’s top data protection watchdog found.

•The maker of the Grand Theft Auto video game, Rockstar Games, has filed at least five lawsuits around the world to crack down on what it calls “cheat” plug-ins. One led to the recent raid of a Melbourne home.

• U.S. stocks were up. Markets in India are closed. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

• A lawyer in the Philippines who opposed President Rodrigo Duterte’s lethal war on drugs was fatally shot in what his colleague called “premeditated, coldblooded murder.” [The New York Times]

• A meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a top North Korean diplomat has been called off, stalling Washington’s efforts to get the country to denuclearize. [The New York Times]

• Over 200 mass graves holding as many as 12,000 bodies were discovered in parts of Iraq that had been controlled by the Islamic State, underscoring what the U.N. called a “legacy of terror.” [The New York Times]

• Canada is already running low on marijuana, three weeks after the country legalized it for recreational use. [The New York Times]

• The Italian government has offered to help Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who was acquitted of blasphemy charges, leave Pakistan where she remains in detention. [NPR]

• The northern Indian city of Ayodhya lit up 300,000 clay oil lamps for the Hindu festival of Diwali, breaking a Guinness World Record. [CNN]

• Arthur Boggess Culvahouse Jr. was named the U.S. ambassador to Australia. Here’s a look at who he is. [Crikey, article is paywall free for Times readers]

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

• Despite “Crazy Rich Asians,” Hollywood has made little progress in bringing Asian-American actors into the fold without the hint of tokenism, writes our T Magazine features director. Above, a reimagined “The Breakfast Club.”

• Our 52 Places traveler journeyed around New Zealand and immersed herself in Maori culture, at the same time Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex toured the country. But the royal charm of the trip almost slipped away after rain and an ash cloud complicated what should have been an easy flight to Fiji.

• Tiny love stories: In 100 words or less, our readers share stories of a highway kiss, comforting snores and a rare connection.

“It’ll be up in lights on Broadway: Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World!” an adventurer exclaims in the 1933 film “King Kong.”

Eighty-five years later, a $35 million musical version with the big ape officially opens in New York tonight.

Before the movie was released, the excitement was palpable, even if newspapers didn’t exactly know what would be happening. “The film will show prehistoric monsters fighting one another and making weird sounds,” The Times wrote in 1933.

It was easy to see why the movie would be popular. The stop-motion special effects were groundbreaking, although film scholars saw thinly veiled racist overtones.

Nevertheless, the Times reviewer was enthralled: “Imagine a 50-foot beast with a girl in one paw climbing up the outside of the Empire State Building.”

The movie, starring Fay Wray as the beauty who charms the beast, was among the first to be shown at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, shortly after the 6,200-seat theater was converted to show films.

A box office hit, the movie was rereleased periodically and has featured in numerous remakes.

In the original, Kong was an 18-inch puppet. In the new Broadway production, the ape is 20 feet tall and weighs 2,000 pounds. Not bad for the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Kathleen Massara wrote today’s Back Story.


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