December 09, 2018

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Turkey, Italy, NASA: Your Monday Briefing

Turkey, Italy, NASA: Your Monday Briefing
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Good morning. Turkey faces economic turmoil, a NASA spacecraft heads to the sun and China pushes for political sway in Eastern Europe.

Here’s the latest:

• Turkey and Russia are bracing for financial chaos this week.

Increased tariffs on Turkey’s steel and aluminum exports to the U.S. have accelerated the lira’s tumble, setting in motion economic confusion that could spill over into other countries in the region. At the center of the dispute between the two NATO allies is a detained American pastor, but it doesn’t help that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, above, and President Trump are both strong-headed leaders.

Russia’s currency, the ruble, also took a beating after the Trump administration sanctioned the country for the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter.

Scorned by the U.S., the two countries are now looking to grow their economic and military ties.

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Italy’s Five Star Movement faces its first national test.

The party campaigned to block a proposed pipeline that would transport gas from the Caspian Sea to southern Italy. That won over southern Italians like Alfredo Fasiello, above, who have long been wary of the pipeline’s environmental risks.

But now that Five Star is in power, it is wavering on that promise as pressure mounts to wean the country off Russian oil and gas by finding alternative sources.

To complicate matters further, Russia and four other countries that border the Caspian Sea — Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan — have agreed to divide the oil and gas-rich seabed among them. The agreement, which comes after three decades of Russian opposition, could have consequences for the construction of the trans-Caspian pipeline to Europe.

• White nationalists, above, had organized a rally in Washington on Sunday to mark the anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year.

But it didn’t quite go as planned, with only about two dozen people showing up. They were far outnumbered by the thousands of counterprotesters denouncing their message of racism.

Barely half an hour into what was meant to be a two-hour rally, the group packed up and left.

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• Iraq had a secret weapon to fight the Islamic State: a spy widely considered the country’s greatest.

Capt. Harith al-Sudani posed as a militant jihadist in the group for over a year, foiling almost 100 planned bomb attacks, according to the director of Iraq’s little-known counterintelligence unit, the Falcons.

Our Baghdad bureau chief tells the story of Captain Sudani’s heroism and the mission that took his life. Above, pictures of the captain and his family.

• NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe, which the space agency says will “touch the sun.”

The probe will skim the sun’s atmosphere and, hopefully, fill in the many blanks in human understanding of our star. It will also study solar wind — the stream of charged particles that flows outward from the sun and into the solar system.

Solar winds were first predicted by Eugene N. Parker, a retired University of Chicago astrophysicist who is the first living person to give a NASA mission its name.

Business

Police officers in Romania used water cannons and tear gas to disperse tens of thousands of antigovernment protesters, above. More than 240 people were reported injured. [The New York Times]

Meet the man in Iceland who runs the last company in the world still hunting fin whales, which essentially makes him an international outcast. He doesn’t seem to care. [The New York Times]

The heat wave in Europe had at least one upside: It prompted rare Andean flamingos in Britain to lay eggs for the first time in 15 years. [The New York Times]

An airline employee, who had little flying experience and was thought to be suicidal, took off in an empty, stolen plane at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and crash landed about 30 miles from the airport, the authorities said. [The New York Times]

A hippopotamus in Kenya killed one Chinese tourist and injured another. A Kenyan fisherman had been killed nearby by another one of the animals hours earlier. [The Guardian]

Germany lifted a decades-old ban on the appearance of Nazi symbols in video games, allowing images of the swastika and Hitler to appear in an artistic way. [BBC]

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

In memoriam: V.S. Naipaul, 85, the Nobel laureate in literature who was often compared to Conrad, Dickens and Tolstoy for his explorations of colonialism, migration and the clash between belief and disbelief. Read our critic’s appraisal.

A German opera that tells the story of Moses brings together a cast of refugees and children of immigrants to shine a light on the refugee crisis.

The Gay Games, which ended Sunday in Paris, bills itself as the world’s “most inclusive” sporting event.

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.



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