Jeffrey Epstein, Russian Explosion, Hong Kong: Your Tuesday Briefing
- by NewYorkTimes
- Aug. 13, 2019
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We’re covering irregularities at the prison where Jeffrey Epstein died in an apparent suicide, migrants stranded in the Mediterranean and a potential peace deal in Afghanistan.
Attorney General William Barr criticized the management of the federal jail in Manhattan where the financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of sexually abusing girls, apparently hanged himself.
“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation,” Mr. Barr said. “There will be accountability.”
Mr. Epstein’s death came just two weeks after he was taken off suicide watch and was left unsupervised long enough to have apparently taken his own life, security lapses that have prompted a public outcry. And only one of the two people guarding Jeffrey Epstein normally worked as a correctional officer, according to three prison officials.
Business dealings: Lawyers, bankers and accountants have been trying to understand the sources of Mr. Epstein’s wealth and how he used it. Tens of millions of dollars flowed through his bank accounts, shell companies and, at times, charities.
Conspiracy theories: Shortly after his death, it seemed that anyone with 10 fingers and a Twitter account was providing, promoting or questioning a conspiracy theory. Among them: President Trump, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough.
Perspective: Our reporter spoke to Mr. Epstein at his cavernous Manhattan home a year ago. The financier said, among other things, that sex with teenage girls should be acceptable, and that he had dirt on powerful people.
Two rescue vessels carrying more than 500 migrants were in limbo on Monday, without a safe port willing to let them dock.
The impasse came days after Italy announced fines of up to €1 million — more than $1.1 million — for ships carrying unauthorized migrants that try to dock in Italian ports without permission. The country has ordered the seizure of such ships, and arrested the captain of one.
Since Friday, 251 people have been rescued from three boats in distress by the vessel Ocean Viking, operated by the international aid group Doctors Without Borders.
Reminder: Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, has been the main architect of policies that seek to close the country off to further migration from the Middle East and Africa. His ministry warned the Ocean Viking on Friday that it would not be allowed to dock in Italy.
Context: While the numbers of migrants taking the journey across the sea has decreased significantly since mid-2017, the central Mediterranean route has remained deadly, with at least 578 people drowning there so far this year, according to the United Nations’ migration agency.
In online posts and calls to local officials, Russians expressed anger that the explosion of a small nuclear reactor at a military test site last week had gone unacknowledged for days by their government.
Some Moscow television broadcasts were mysteriously interrupted for as long as 53 minutes on the night of the accident. A government broadcast agency later described the disruption as a malfunction of a storm warning system. Screens went blue. A text urged people to stay at home because of a storm with strong winds, but it never arrived.
Recap: The explosion took place on Thursday at the Nenoska naval weapons range on the coast of the White Sea in northern Russia, and it apparently involved a test of a new type of cruise missile propelled by nuclear power, American analysts say. It killed at least seven people, releasing radiation that briefly elevated readings in a city 25 miles away.
Only on Sunday did Russian scientists explain that a small nuclear reactor had malfunctioned.
A flood of protesters at one of the world’s busiest airports caused more than 150 flights to be canceled on Monday, and the protests and travel disruptions were continuing today.
The sit-ins began Friday and escalated on Monday in response to police actions at protest sites in other parts of the city.
On Sunday night, officers fired tear gas inside a subway station — apparently the police force’s first use of the weapon in an enclosed area — and charged at demonstrators with batons. Some protesters wore eye patches in sympathy with a woman whose right eye had been injured during the clashes.
Big picture: Some observers say that the protests have put Hong Kong on a collision course with the Communist Party — and that the territory is at a crossroads. On the mainland, pundits have warned that Hong Kong is on the brink of disaster, and there is deepening concern within the Communist Party that it is facing a secessionist threat that could undermine Xi Jinping’s hard-line image.
Carrie Lam: At a news conference on Tuesday, Hong Kong’s embattled leader pleaded for order after days of escalating chaos. “The stability and well-being of seven million people are in jeopardy,” Mrs. Lam said, her voice breaking slightly.
Logistics: Here’s what you need to know if you’re flying in or out of Hong Kong.
As lawmakers and regulators investigate Facebook’s market power, the social network has started to modify its behavior in both pre-emptive and defensive ways.
The company has halted acquisitions that could incite antitrust concerns and combined the systems behind its Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp platforms. The chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has said the changes will help build a more “private” Facebook — but critics note that they may also make it harder to break up.
Ebola: In a development that transforms the fight against the disease, two experimental treatments are working so well that they will now be offered to all patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo, scientists announced. The therapies saved roughly 90 percent of the patients who were newly infected.
Afghanistan: An agreement with the Taliban on pulling U.S. troops out of the country could come as early as Tuesday — or could be delayed, perhaps for weeks.
Endangered species: The Trump administration announced that it would change the way the Endangered Species Act is applied, significantly weakening the nation’s bedrock conservation law and making it harder to protect wildlife from the multiple threats posed by climate change.
U.S. immigration: The Trump administration announced a new policy, set to take effect in 60 days, that would penalize legal immigrants who rely on public programs like food stamps, in an attempt to narrow the number of people who are granted permanent legal status. Immigration advocates have pledged to sue the administration.
Snapshot: Above, the western capercaillie, an endangered bird in Germany. The police are looking into why one was killed by two drunk men who said they were defending themselves.
Amelia Earhart: A new clue has persuaded the explorer who located the remains of the Titanic in 1985 to turn his attention to the aviator’s disappearance in 1937, one of the enduring mysteries of the 20th century. He is focused on a remote atoll in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati.
What we’re reading: This Grub Street article. “The secret history of ‘nutcrackers’ — illegal flavored cocktails sold under the counter in New York City — suggests that legalization isn’t the end of the story for mind-altering substances.”
Cook: Sam Sifton’s freestyle roasted chicken parm breaks a few rules.
Listen: In our monthly roundup of the best new podcasts, you’ll find “The Secret Lives of Black Women,” a 10-part series on incels (short for involuntary celibates) and “Tabloid: The Making of Ivanka Trump.”
Go: At Sadler’s Wells in London, Matthew Bourne has reimagined “Romeo and Juliet” for a resonant tale of trauma and mental illness.
Watch: Kia Stevens, the wrestler turned actor, portrays a bizarro version of her own life in Netflix’s “GLOW.”
Smarter Living: Feeling a little uninspired at work? Our Smarter Living newsletter suggests getting through it by reminding yourself that you make an impact. Try dividing your big goals into smaller ones, where achievement will be easier to see. Or take a timeout and write down a few ways your work has helped your colleagues. If all else fails, take a break from work to do something you love.
(Every week, the Smarter Living editor, Tim Herrera, emails readers with tips and advice for living a better, more fulfilling life. Here’s the sign-up.)
The history of roller derby is one of booms and busts — and it’s currently booming once again: Some 463 leagues have started in 33 countries over the last 15 years.
Roller derby was born at the Chicago Coliseum on Aug. 13, 1935, when an event promoter named Leo Seltzer created the Transcontinental Derby, a monthlong event with coed teams skating a total of 57,000 laps — the equivalent of the 2,700-mile width of North America.
The sport got another lift in the 1960s, when Mr. Seltzer’s son, Jerry, started airing the games on local TV stations. That’s when the real drama began, as spectators flocked to the collisions and feuds that took place as the “jammer” for each team tried to score points by passing opponents, and the “blockers” tried to hold them back.
The most recent revival began in 2001, when a group of women in Austin, Tex., restarted the sport with a decidedly feminist bent, along with a bevy of complicated tactics and terms. This year’s championship playoffs for the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association start next month.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
Alisha Haridasani Gupta helped compile today’s briefing. Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford wrote the break from the news. Victoria Shannon, on the briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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