October 20, 2018

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Charlottesville, Turkey, Caspian: Your Monday Briefing

Charlottesville, Turkey, Caspian: Your Monday Briefing
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Asia and Australia Edition

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Good morning. Protests and counterprotests in Washington, Turkey’s lira in danger and China’s outreach to the Czech Republic. Here’s what you need to know:

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CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

• It was almost over as soon as it began.

A small group of white nationalists marched through downtown Washington on their way to a rally in front of the White House, on the anniversary of their divisive Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Va. They were met by thousands of counterdemonstrators denouncing racism and white supremacy.

And then the white nationalists were gone.

In Charlottesville, organizers and participants from last year’s counterdemonstrations there massed in a park. With no sign of white supremacists there, tensions were confined to interactions between the left-leaning protesters and the heavy deployment of police officers.

CreditMurad Sezer/Reuters

• The Trump administration is adding pressure on Russia and Turkey, and markets are reacting.

Russia’s ruble has tumbled, as an angry Kremlin faces new U.S. sanctions in response to the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter.

Sharply increased U.S. tariffs against Turkey, prompted in part by its detention of an American pastor, have sunk the lira. That’s reverberating through the global economy.

The stock prices of European banks, which have been big lenders to Turkish banks, dropped over fears of Turkish corporate bankruptcies. The currencies of China, Brazil and Mexico also weakened, and U.S. stocks fell before recovering.

CreditFilip Singer/EPA, via Shutterstock

• China has been funneling business deals and political capital into Eastern and Central Europe, regions less likely than the West to challenge China on human rights or expanding territorial claims.

Our team of reporters look at the buying binge one mysterious company, CEFC China Energy, went on in the Czech Republic — and the confusion left in the country when Chinese authorities detained the company’s owner. Above, crowds gathered when President Xi Jinping visited in 2016.

Meanwhile, a United Nations panel convening in Geneva expressed alarm over reports that China has detained a million or more ethnic Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang and forced as many as two million to submit to re-education and indoctrination.

One panelist said that, in the name of combating religious extremism, China had turned Xinjiang into “something resembling a massive internment camp, shrouded in secrecy, a sort of no-rights zone.”

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CreditIvor Prickett for The New York Times

• There was a secret weapon in the fight to oust the Islamic State from Iraq and Syria: a spy, perhaps Iraq’s greatest.

Capt. Harith al-Sudani infiltrated the terror group, foiling 30 vehicle-bomb attacks and 18 suicide bombers, according to the director of his counterintelligence unit, Al Suquor, or the Falcons — itself one of the most important but least known organizations on the front lines of the war on terrorism.

Our Baghdad bureau chief tells the story of his heroism, for which he paid with his life.

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CreditNASA

• “Wow, here we go.”

Eugene Parker, a retired American astrophysicist, saluted NASA’s launch of a spacecraft named after him: the Parker Solar Probe.

In the next seven years, it will skim the sun’s outer atmosphere and, hopefully, fill in many of the blanks in human understanding of our star.

One particularly urgent area of study is the solar wind, the stream of charged particles Dr. Parker was the first to predict. Solar explosions can send the particles in a deluge to Earth, with the potential to devastate electrical systems.

CreditPool photo by Alexey Nikolsky

• Caspian Sea deal: The five bordering countries — Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan — agreed to a formula for dividing up the world’s largest inland body of water and its potentially vast oil and gas resources.

• Chinese officials, worried that a looming demographic crisis could imperil economic growth, are scrambling to try to stimulate a baby boom.

• “The Meg,” a brassy, computer-generated mishmash of a film that was co-financed and co-produced by Warner Bros. and China’s Gravity Pictures, pulled in a stunning $141.5 million on its opening weekend.

• Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

CreditAdriane Ohanesian for The New York Times

• Kenyan authorities arrested the chairman of the agency that manages public land and the boss of the state railway on suspicion of corruption over land allocation for the $3 billion flagship Nairobi-Mombasa railway, a project financed by China. [The New York Times]

• “More and more wounded and dead every hour.” A hospital official in the southeastern Afghan city of Ghazni reported that more than 100 officers and soldiers had been killed in three days of fighting. Taliban forces appear to have taken most of the province’s 18 districts, potentially cutting the country in half. [The New York Times]

• Two cave divers, one of whom had helped rescue a Thai soccer team last month, had to be rescued from a flash flood in Phuket. [Straits Times]

• Indonesia’s next presidential race will be a lot like the last one. President Joko Widodo and his 2014 opponent, the former army general Prabowo Subianto, are running, and some analysts expect more smear campaigns and appeals to sectarian sentiment. [The New York Times]

• A 12-year-old boy survived a plane crash in Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua. [A.P.]

• The 10th Gay Games: The gathering of athletes, for events ranging from basketball to dancesport, came to a close in Paris. Here are photos of the self-declared “most inclusive” sporting event. [The New York Times]

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

CreditLars Leetaru
CreditNeal Boenzi/The New York Times

• V.S. Naipaul: an appraisal. The writer — Indian by descent, Trinidadian by birth, educated in England — died on Saturday at the age of 85. His unsympathetic views of postcolonial life in Africa and the Caribbean made him among the most controversial writers of his time. “When I talk about being an exile or a refugee I’m not just using a metaphor,” he said. “I’m speaking literally.”

CreditTopham/Express/Getty Images

The twin brothers were hired to settle a bet.

Ross and Norris McWhirter, who were born on Aug. 12, 1925, ran an agency that supplied facts and figures to London newspapers in the 1950s, when they were approached to compile what became the Guinness Book of Records.

A few years before, Sir Hugh Beaver, a managing director of the Guinness Brewery, was on a hunting trip in Ireland and got into an argument with friends about whether the golden plover was the fastest game bird in Europe.

No reference book could prove him right (he wasn’t), but Sir Hugh saw a marketing opportunity: Surely, these sorts of debates were happening in pubs throughout Ireland and Britain.

A Guinness employee recommended the McWhirter twins, and, after a little more than 13 weeks of writing around the clock, they finished the first edition in 1955. Six months after publication, it was Britain’s best-selling book.

Two decades later, Ross McWhirter told an interviewer, “We have a pen-pal relationship with libraries, museums, record keepers of all sorts in about 150 countries.”

In 1974, Guinness set a world record of its own, becoming the best-selling copyrighted book. It has sold more than 140 million copies and been translated into more than 20 languages.

Aodhan Beirne wrote today’s Back Story.

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