May 20, 2019

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Jack Ma, Lion Air, Gene-Edited Babies: Your Wednesday Briefing

Jack Ma, Lion Air, Gene-Edited Babies: Your Wednesday Briefing
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Good morning. We’re back after a few days off. Today, the billionaire member of China’s Communist Party, the data from Lion Air’s black box and the world’s first genetically edited babies — perhaps. Here’s the latest.

Jack Ma is a member of the Communist Party.

Mr. Ma, above, China’s richest man and the founder of the country’s biggest e-commerce company, Alibaba, was listed as a member of the Chinese Communist Party in its official newspaper.

It might seem odd that a billionaire entrepreneur who made his wealth in the private sector belongs to an organization that propagates the ideals of Karl Marx.

But Mr. Ma’s membership didn’t surprise many in China — and it “reveals a party that is eager to prove its legitimacy by affiliating itself with capitalist success stories,” writes our Asia tech columnist, Li Yuan.

→ Go deeper: In the second part of our China Rules special series, we look at how the country unleashed upward economic mobility and embraced free enterprise while still maintaining state control.

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Data from the crashed Lion Air jet points to Boeing’s system.

Indonesian investigators are scheduled to release a report today with information from the so-called black box of the plane that crashed last month.

Information from the data recorder is consistent with investigators’ theory of a fatal tug-of-war between the pilots and the Boeing 737’s new automatic anti-stall system, which appears to have engaged after the plane’s computer processed faulty sensor data. The plane’s nose was forced down more than two dozen times while the pilots fought to lift it, finally losing control.

After the crash, pilots expressed concerns that Boeing hadn’t fully informed them of the new system and how to respond to it.

→ In case you missed it: Our journalists, who interviewed dozens of employees, officials and aviation analysts to get a sense of the Indonesian airline’s company culture, found that Lion Air was cutting corners long before the crash.

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Three U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Witnesses said a roadside bomb detonated as an American convoy passed near Ghazni City, in the southeast. It was the worst loss of life for American troops in the country this year.

The Taliban, which now controls more territory in Afghanistan than since the start of the war, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group has been pressing the fight for Ghazni City, pictured above, since August.

Meanwhile, the military is investigating whether an Afghan soldier who killed a Czech soldier last month in the western province of Herat was beaten or tortured to death while in custody. The U.S. Green Beret unit at the scene has been sent home, officials said.

• Coming today: The Bank of England will release a report on the potential economic impact of different Brexit scenarios. It comes about a week before the British Parliament votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s draft deal, which her cabinet and E.U. lawmakers have already approved.

Apple shares have fallen 20 percent over the last month, bringing it close to losing its position as the most valuable company to Microsoft. They tumbled further on Tuesday after President Trump suggested tariffs on the company’s devices imported from China.

• The chief executive of Condé Nast is stepping down. The publisher, whose magazines include Vogue and The New Yorker, has been grappling with shrinking circulation and advertising.

• In the U.S., fewer small and medium-size companies are listing on the stock markets, seeking large buyout deals instead. This shift gives big companies an outsize influence.

• U.S. stocks were down slightly. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

• A Syrian refugee, above center, who was stranded in Kuala Lumpur International Airport for more than seven months landed in Vancouver, where he has been granted asylum. [The New York Times]

• A Chinese scientist who claims to have created the world’s first genetically modified babies using the powerful Crispr gene-editing technique will present his work today. [The New York Times]

• In Myanmar, the senior general who presided over the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims is glorified in a sprawling military museum, a lasting tribute to a man barred from Facebook for using the platform to stir hatred. [The New York Times]

• Six people in a Japanese village popular with tourists were found dead inside a farmhouse, including five members of the same family. [The Guardian]

• The Chinese government has started construction of a domestically built aircraft carrier, the third in the army’s fleet, according to a state-run news agency. [CNN]

• More than 145 whales died after beaching themselves in southern New Zealand. More than half were euthanized by conservation workers who could not rescue them. [The New York Times]

• Martial law goes into effect in Ukraine today, a measure that the country’s Parliament voted for after Russia seized three Ukrainian naval vessels in a shared waterway. [The New York Times]

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

• In South Korea, the country with the highest rate of cosmetic surgery per capita, a handful of women are challenging rigid beauty standards in a push they call “Escape the Corset.” Above, a member of the new movement.

• Britain released a list of hundreds of scientists who could appear on the new 50-pound note. One of the nominees? Margaret Thatcher, the country’s first female prime minister — and also a chemist said to have played a role in the invention of soft-serve ice cream.

• Asia is a growing market for Western-style, multiday music festivals. But the region’s conservative governments are not quite on board, seeing them as threats to stability, safety and social values.

Larry Smith, a Christmas tree farmer in rural North Carolina, worked his whole life to send a tree to the White House.

Shirley Figueroa, a retired public servant from New York City, above left, grew up with “no trees on my block.”

But when Ms. Figueroa’s 72-foot Norway spruce is lit at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan tonight, it will join Mr. Smith’s 19-foot Fraser fir, now adorning the Blue Room in the White House, as one of the nation’s celebrated evergreens.

Mr. Smith spoke over the roar of his tractor. He said the tree that White House scouts chose from his farm was one he hadn’t bothered to trim in the last couple of years. (They liked the natural look.)

Last year, Ms. Figueroa and her wife bought a home an hour and a half north of New York City. It came with a tree that the Rockefeller Center scouts already had an eye on.

“I can’t take any credit” for the tree’s success, she said.

Azi Paybarah, our New York Today columnist, wrote today’s Back Story. Sign up for New York Today and find out what you need to know in the city each morning.

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