Indonesia, Nobel, Aznavour: Your Tuesday Briefing

Indonesia, Nobel, Aznavour: Your Tuesday Briefing


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Good morning. Rescue efforts consume Indonesia, the Brett Kavanaugh inquiry expands, train companies show contrition in Britain. Here’s the latest:

Chaos in Indonesia.

President Joko Widodo declared a national emergency three days after an earthquake and tsunami devastated the island of Sulawesi. Rescue workers continue to dig out people trapped under the wreckage, but they have been hindered by a lack of heavy equipment.

At least 844 people were killed, with the death toll widely expected to rise as rescuers make their way to more remote parts of the island. As many as 1,200 convicts escaped from local jails, and violent confrontations with looters have occurred.

A word you might hear in the wake of this disaster is “liquefaction”: when the ground, shaken by an earthquake, behaves like a liquid. Thousands of homes on Sulawesi have been swallowed. Here’s a map of the damage.

• Spy story.

A new book says that Sergei Skripal, the former Russian spy targeted in a nerve agent attack this spring, fed Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service information about a 1990s-era corruption scheme that reached the top levels of the Kremlin.

Above, Mr. Skripal at a Russian court hearing in 2016.

The plot involved a leading Russian intelligence chief who is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, the book contends.

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• Green light on Kavanaugh inquiry.

The White House authorized the F.B.I. to expand its abbreviated investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee, by interviewing anyone it thinks is necessary as long as the review is finished by the end of the week.

• We’re so very sorry.

With rail passengers across Britain outraged by delays, train companies are mastering the fine art of apologizing. Since the start of the year, they have said “sorry” on Twitter 417,000 times.

• The U.S., Canada and Mexico signed a revised version of the Nafta trade deal, now called the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement. Among the changes: Canada will reduce import barriers for American dairy products, Canada and Mexico will be exempted from future auto tariffs, and Mexico will adopt more worker protections.

• General Electric replaced its chief executive, John Flannery, who was brought on just over a year ago to turn the company around. He will be succeeded by H. Lawrence Culp Jr., former head of the Danaher Corporation. G.E.’s suffering stock rose on the news.

• Elon Musk’s settlement of a securities fraud case has removed one cloud over the company and its leader. But another remains: how its electric car production is measuring up against Mr. Musk’s ambitious forecasts. Groups of new Teslas are being detected in unexplained locations across the U.S., and a federal regulator is looking into the matter.

Here’s a snapshot of global markets. Stock exchanges are closed in India and Shanghai.

• Nobel laureates: Dr. James Allison of the U.S. and Dr. Tasuku Honjo of Japan, above, shared the prize for medicine for their research and work on immunotherapy, which uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. The winners of the physics, chemistry and peace prizes will be announced later this week. [The New York Times]

• Nobel scandal: Jean-Claude Arnault, a French photographer married to a member of the Swedish Academy, was found guilty of raping a woman in 2011 and sentenced to two years in prison. The scandal forced the academy to cancel this year’s literature prize. [The New York Times]

• “The process will not be frozen, we have to move forward.” Macedonia’s prime minister, Zoran Zaev, insisted on support from opposing members of Parliament on renaming the country, at the cost of early elections. [The Guardian]

• The image of the United States around the world has fallen substantially since Donald Trump became president, according to a poll in 25 countries by the Pew Research Center. Attitudes toward the U.S. have improved in only three countries: Russia, Israel and Kenya. [The New York Times]

• Seven Germans have been arrested on suspicion of building a far-right terrorist organization called Revolution Chemnitz. The group appeared to be planning an action for Wednesday, a German national holiday, officials said. [The New York Times]

A year after the Catalan secession vote, protests in the Spanish region showed how raw tensions remain. [The New York Times]

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

The identity of the subject in Gustave Courbet’s “The Origin of the World,” a meticulous close-up of a woman’s genitals, was unknown for more than 150 years. No longer.

In memoriam: Charles Aznavour, 94, one of France’s most celebrated singers of popular songs and a lifelong champion of the Armenian people.

Mai Khoi, once a mainstream Vietnamese pop star, is now a protest singer who uses her music to challenge the country’s restrictive government. “Raise our voice, speak, sing, scream,” she shouts in one song.

There are good little bunnies like Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail. And then there’s Peter Rabbit.

The first book in the classic series by the English writer Beatrix Potter, above, was published on this day in 1902.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit” began as a letter Potter wrote in 1893 to a sick 5-year-old, with illustrations. Publishers turned it down but reversed themselves after Potter’s self-published version proved enchanting.

It has sold more than 45 million copies, been translated into 36 languages and recently became a film. First editions have sold for more than $50,000.

With her earnings from the series, Potter bought Hill Top Farm in England’s scenic Lake District, where, as a child, she had nurtured her love of nature drawings. (You can still visit.)

Over the years, Potter turned her attention to farming and conservation, buying land and winning prizes for sheep breeding. She also worked closely with Britain’s National Trust, which received 4,000 acres of land and 14 farms upon her death in 1943.

A 1979 Times article cited a Potter biographer who wrote that she “loved the lakes and saw only too clearly how hideously they were threatened by the exploiter and the jerrybuilder.”

Jennifer Jett wrote today’s Back Story.

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