Khashoggi, Harvard, Russia: Your Monday Briefing

Khashoggi, Harvard, Russia: Your Monday Briefing


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Good morning. Narratives conflict on a Saudi dissident, Uighurs speak out in the U.S., Harvard divulges closely held secrets. Here’s what you need to know:

The shifting sands of the Khashoggi case.

There was a flurry of developments surrounding the Saudi journalist over the weekend. Let’s break it down:

Saudi Arabia — after more than two weeks of denials — admitted that Jamal Khashoggi died, saying he had gotten into a fistfight that got out of control inside its consulate in Istanbul, pictured above.

That narrative has been widely dismissed. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, promised to reveal intelligence and evidence in the case this week. “We are searching for justice and it will be revealed in full nakedness,” he said.

The global crisis has rattled Saudi royalty and brought Saudi Arabia’s disastrous war in Yemen into sharp focus.

In the U.S.: President Trump, with an eye on Saudi arms deals, has changed his position day by day on whether the royal court might have ordered the killing. But his treasury secretary will travel to Riyadh this week for a terrorism conference.

What we still don’t know: where Mr. Khashoggi’s body is and whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was directly involved in the killing. His father, King Salman, signaled continuing support, putting the prince in charge of overhauling of Saudi intelligence services.

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The U.S. puts Russia on notice.

The U.S. Justice Department accused Russians with close connections to President Vladimir Putin of interfering with the midterm elections next month.

And the Trump administration is looking to withdraw from a decades-old nuclear arms control deal with Russia. The move that will allow the U.S. more leeway to build new weapons to counter China’s build-up of intermediate range missiles.

What treaty? The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or I.N.F., defused Cold War tensions in 1987 by barring both Russia and the U.S. from producing, testing or possessing certain missiles. Russia has been in violation since 2014, leaving many European countries on edge.

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Uighurs abroad feel a threat.

Rushan Abbas, a Uighur-American, spoke out recently against China’s mass detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Less than a week later, her relatives in China, pictured above, disappeared. She believes they are being held by Chinese authorities.

A growing number of Uighurs in the U.S. have seen their families locked up, but in some cases that has intensified rather than quashed their public criticism of Beijing over China’s “re-education” camps.

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What does Harvard look for?

“Effervescent” and “fun” personalities. Athletic ability. Being from a rural area might help. As would being the offspring of a big donor.

As the lawsuit against Harvard unfolds in court, the university, pictured above, has been forced to divulge its secretive application deliberations.

“You’re learning a lot about the admissions process that would never have been made public otherwise,” said Harvard’s lead counsel.

An increasing number of U.S. universities are playing down the importance of SAT scores, which may present a problem for Chinese students looking to study in America.

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• In India, protesters clashed with security forces over the weekend and officials traded blame after at least 61 people gathered on railway tracks to watch fireworks for the Hindu festival of Dussehra were killed by a train they could not hear coming. Above, relatatives of victims. [NDTV]

• And in Taiwan, at least 22 people were killed and 171 were injured after a passenger train derailed. Investigators are seeking a cause. [The New York Times]

• Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in London calling for a referendum on the final Brexit deal. [BBC]

The Trump administration is considering narrowing a legal definition of gender as an immutable condition assigned at birth, which could roll back protections for transgender people. [The New York Times]

• A European-Japanese spacecraft, BepiColombo, set off on a mission to Mercury and will take seven years to enter the planet’s orbit. [The New York Times]

The lights Shanghai embedded in some major crosswalks to guide pedestrians glued to their smartphones are part of a system that also includes cameras to track jaywalkers. [Abacus News]

• The Sagrada Familia, one of Barcelona’s most iconic churches, received a building permit … 136 years after construction first began. [The Guardian]

• In the latest Australia Letter, our bureau chief recaps the passions and concerns of Times readers, after catching up with a handful of them in Sydney. [The New York Times]

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

• The Dhimurru Rangers, above, a group of mostly Indigenous Australians who for thousands of years shared a deep connection to nature, have taken on the Sisyphean task of cleaning up trash that washes up from the ocean. For them, it’s a matter of protecting their culture.

• We asked men whether they had ever treated girls or women in ways they now regret. We heard from hundreds of them. Here are some stories of intimidation and coercion — and regret.

• Modern Love in miniature: five love stories in just 100 words each, from life-changing burritos to unconventional triangles.

“Je refuse le prix,” Jean-Paul Sartre said on this day in 1964.

With these words, the French writer and philosopher, above, became the first person to freely decline the Nobel Prize.

But the Swedish Academy wasn’t the first to hear them.

A young journalist landed the scoop after tracking down Sartre at a Paris bistro. The 59-year-old “pope of existentialism” was lunching with Simone de Beauvoir, his longtime partner.

Interrupted before the cheese course, Sartre was stunned to hear that he had just been named the academy’s literary laureate. (A week earlier, after learning that he had been nominated for the honor, he wrote to the jury asking not be chosen. His letter didn’t arrive in time.)

That evening, Sartre read a statement to the Swedish press to explain why he refused the prize — and the $53,000 that came with it.

Official honors, he said, exposed his readers “to a pressure I do not consider desirable.”

The jury did not change its decision.

More than a decade later, Sartre, or someone related to him, allegedly asked for the money that he had turned down, according to the Swedish Academy’s former secretary.

This time, it was the academy that declined.

Lara Takenaga wrote today’s Back Story.

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