January 19, 2019

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Ukraine, Mars, Paul Manafort: Your Tuesday Briefing

Ukraine, Mars, Paul Manafort: Your Tuesday Briefing
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Good morning. Ukraine goes on a war footing, President Trump waves off global warming and a NASA lander reaches Mars.

Here’s the latest:

• War drums sound.

A naval standoff between Russia and Ukraine edged toward the possibility of wider war.

Waving a sheaf of paper as he spoke to Parliament, above, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine said he had intelligence on Russian preparations for a ground offensive, although analysts told us an invasion seemed unlikely. Parliament voted to declare one month of martial law, only in regions bordering Russia-backed breakaway regions.

The murky Russian attack Sunday on Ukrainian ships in waters near Crimea is coming into somewhat clearer focus. Russia acknowledges firing on the ships as they tried to pass through the narrow Kerch Strait and seizing them along with 23 Ukrainian sailors, who are still being held.

At a special session of the U.N. Security Council, Ambassador Nikki Haley of the U.S. called the attack an “arrogant” and “outlaw” act, echoing Britain, France and others.

NATO said it would increase its military presence in the area and called on Russia to guarantee freedom of navigation for Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait — through which Russia, seeming to tamp down the confrontation, has allowed cargo traffic to resume.

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• “I don’t believe it.”

That was President Trump’s response to a report by 13 federal agencies that says global warming will inflict deep damage on the U.S. economy — causing a knives’ drawer of different disasters, like wildfires and crop failure — unless drastic action is taken to reduce carbon emissions. Above, a refinery in Port Arthur, Texas.

We looked at how Mr. Trump’s administration is moving in the other direction as it denies that catastrophe looms, aggressively dismantling policies meant to curb greenhouse pollution.

From smokestacks and cars to methane and coal, Mr. Trump’s regulatory rollbacks have been systematic, and the atmospheric impact will be global.

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• Death of an Afghan detainee.

Wahidullah Khan, 19, was a commando for the Afghan military when he opened fire last month on Czech soldiers at an air base in western Afghanistan, killing one of them. Above, the coffin arriving in Prague.

Quickly taken into NATO custody, he was beaten and returned to Afghan troops unconscious, Afghan and American officials told our journalists. Shortly afterward, he died.

Now American and Czech forces are under investigation in his death.

The Czech Republic, which has about 250 soldiers in Afghanistan, denied that its soldiers were involved in the death.

• Red dawn.

Completing a journey of six months and 300 million miles, NASA’s InSight lander touched down at a spot near the Martian equator, amid a sandy, flat expanse that has been compared to a parking lot.

When it sent a confirmation signal back to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, scientists there started cheering. “My inner 4-year-old came out,” said the mission’s project manager, Tom Hoffman, seen above with the first image sent by InSight.

In the months ahead, the lander will listen for tremors — marsquakes — and collect data that will be used to map the crust, mantle and core of Mars, helping scientists understand how the rocky planet and others, like Earth, formed.

How exactly do you land on Mars? First, as our interactive explains, it helps to check the local weather forecast.

• With vehicle sales slowing, G.M. announced that it would idle five factories in North America and cut roughly 14,000 jobs. Above, a G.M. plant in Warren, Ohio, where there will be cuts.

• In Part 2 of our China Rules series, we examine how China, instead of getting freer as it got richer, managed the opposite. In Part 3, we show how it’s leveraging its economic might to challenge the liberal democratic order.

• In 2008, the massive U.S. bank bailout made it through Congress on the second try. But hopes in Britain that the Brexit deal might have more than one chance at Parliament’s approval seem optimistic.

• Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

• Paul Manafort, above, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has repeatedly lied to federal investigators since reaching a plea agreement, the special counsel Robert Mueller said in a court filing. Mr. Mueller said that breached the terms of the deal and voided all promises of leniency — but not Mr. Manafort’s guilty plea. [The New York Times]

• A Chinese scientist claimed that he had created the world’s first genetically edited babies, twin girls who were born this month. If true (he offered no evidence), many fear it will open the door to “designer babies.” [The New York Times]

Open Society Foundations, the philanthropic group founded by George Soros, will halt its operations in Turkey, where it has been under attack by the government. [The New York Times]

• A prosecutor in Argentina, which hosts the Group of 20 summit meeting this week, is examining whether to bring war crimes charges against one of the attendees: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. [The New York Times]

• Matthew Hedges, a British academic sentenced last week to life in prison by the United Arab Emirates on highly contentious spying charges, has been pardoned after fierce lobbying by Britain. [The New York Times]

• In a swipe at Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, President Trump called her Brexit deal “great for the E.U.” [The New York Times]

• After 12 straight draws, the American chessmaster Fabiano Caruana and his Norwegian opponent, Magnus Carlsen, are set to break their stalemate on Wednesday at the World Chess Championship final in London. [BBC]

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

• In memoriam: Bernardo Bertolucci, above right, the Italian director of “Last Tango in Paris,” whose work included intense chamber dramas and historical epics, has died at 77.

• On the 20th anniversary of an international pact on repatriating art looted by the Nazis, an American official involved in the negotiations said that five countries — Hungary, Poland, Spain, Russia and Italy — have been dragging their feet.

• Georgia has beautiful mountains, reliable snow, great food and welcoming people. Now the country just needs to decide how to build a tourism industry.

In the U.S., the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone. The rush of Black Friday shopping is over. Cyber Monday deals are wrapping up.

And now comes a chance to shift attention away from consumption.

Today is Giving Tuesday. Founded by the 92nd Street Y in New York City in 2012 and propelled by social media, it’s now a global movement encouraging charitable donations and service.

At its core: “The idea that no act of giving is too small to make an impact,” one of the organization’s executives told The Times.

That same belief inspired Adolph S. Ochs, above right, the publisher of The Times, to help a man in need on Christmas Day in 1911.

That encounter led Ochs to found the Neediest Cases Fund, our annual charity campaign. And more than a century later, we’re still sharing stories of people in need — and giving readers a way to help — throughout the holiday season.

After all, as one longtime donor summed it up: “We’re all in this together.”

Remy Tumin, a reporter for the 107th annual Neediest Cases campaign, wrote today’s Back Story.

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