(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)
Good morning. A resignation in Washington, a growing gun culture in Italy and anger over collapsed buildings in France.
Here’s the latest:
• “Dear Mr. President, at your request I am submitting my resignation.”
President Trump removed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, above, an effective implementer of his agenda who became a punching bag after recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
Matthew Whitaker, Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff and a Trump loyalist, will become acting attorney general — and will oversee the investigation, whose scope he has criticized as verging on a “witch hunt.” Senior officials in the Justice Department are intensely suspicious of him, some seeing him as a White House spy.
• Gun culture in Italy.
The most powerful figure in Italy’s populist government, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, above, has promoted himself as a law-and-order tough guy, cracking down on immigration, declaring a war on drugs and creating a sense of public safety emergency.
While campaigning earlier this year, Mr. Salvini pledged to cooperate with a group advocating looser gun laws, and in September they notched a victory when the government made it possible to own more guns, including the semiautomatic AR-15.
Italy’s gun lobby doesn’t have the clout the N.R.A. wields in the U.S., but it is growing.
• A Russian theater director goes on trial.
Kirill Serebrennikov, above, renowned across Europe and beyond, is charged in a financial fraud case that is seen by Russia’s intelligentsia as a test of artistic freedom under President Vladimir Putin.
He and three co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to embezzle more than $2 million in government funds in a Kremlin-sponsored art project. They face up to 10 years in prison.
Mr. Serebrennikov’s productions at the Gogol Center, a small Moscow theater, challenged Russia’s conservative culture and often featured thinly veiled criticism of Mr. Putin. The artistic community fears that Mr. Putin, having tamed the country’s oligarchs and news media, may now be determined to bring the arts to heel.
• More concerns over Boeing instruments.
Aircraft problems may have played a role in the fatal crash of a brand-new Boeing 737 Max 8 in Indonesia last week, investigators said.
An Indonesian official suggested that inaccurate readings could have prompted the Lion Air plane to enter a sudden, automatic descent. That added a new element to what investigators have been scrutinizing, including faulty airspeed indicators and possibly flawed maintenance.
Boeing has issued a worldwide bulletin on how to respond to errant data to all operators of the plane, one of the most popular in commercial aviation.
The developments suggested that multiple factors may have combined to cause the crash, which killed all 189 people aboard. Above, investigators examining engine parts.
• Facebook said that it had blocked more than 100 social media accounts linked to Russian trolls trying to influence the U.S. midterm elections. While the company has made strides in cleaning up its service, it continues to behave best when placed under a microscope, our columnist writes. Above, its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
• The trade war effect: Some U.S. House districts hit by retaliatory tariffs switched to Democratics in the midterms. Meanwhile, Canada expressed optimism that Democrats would approve a new North American trade deal.
• AbeBooks, a secondhand and rare bookselling network owned by Amazon, bowed to a worldwide strike of antiquarian booksellers, appearing to reverse its largely unexplained decision to cut off stores in five countries.
• Here’s a snapshot of global markets.
• The death toll rose to six in the collapse of two buildings in Marseille, France, above. Residents said city officials had ignored obvious problems with the buildings. [Agence France-Presse]
• A lawyer in the Philippines who opposed President Rodrigo Duterte’s lethal war on drugs was fatally shot in what a colleague called “premeditated, coldblooded murder.” [The New York Times]
• A meeting this week between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a top North Korean diplomat has been called off, with Washington’s efforts to get the country to denuclearize increasingly stuck. [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, illustrating what the U.N. called a “legacy of terror.” [The New York Times]
• President Emmanuel Macron of France complimented Marshal Philippe Petain — who helped win World War I but collaborated with the Nazis in World War II — calling him a “great soldier” and prompting an outcry among French Jews. [The Associated Press]
• Canada is already running low on marijuana, three weeks after the country legalized it for recreational use. [The New York Times]
Tips for a more fulfilling life.
• New research is closing in on a biochemical basis for the placebo effect, the mysterious phenomenon whereby suffering people get better from treatments like sugar pills, above, that shouldn’t work — potentially opening a Pandora’s box for Western medicine.
“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.
Your Morning Briefing is published weekday mornings and updated online.
Check out this page to find a Morning Briefing for your region. (In addition to our European edition, we have Australian, Asian and U.S. editions.)
What would you like to see here? Contact us at [email protected].