Asia and Australia Edition

Vladimir Putin, India, Myanmar: Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning. A Trump U-turn, troubling climate trends in South Asia and the danger of Myanmar’s jade trade. Here’s what you need to know:

CreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

• About face.

A day after stunning many in the U.S. and much of the world with his unequivocal embrace of Vladimir Putin, President Trump said he “accepts” the conclusion of his own intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump also said his administration would work to prevent any such interference in November’s midterm elections.

But will his shift quell the howls of protest from within the U.S.? Or alter the outcome for Mr. Putin, who got what he wanted most: a welcome back into the club of global leaders?

Among Mr. Trump’s critics, even the word “treason” is not too strong. As our chief White House correspondent put it: “Never in anyone’s lifetime has a president engendered such a wave of discussion about whether his real loyalty was to a foreign power over his own country.”

In South Africa, former President Barack Obama delivered his highest-profile speech since leaving office. He did not mention Mr. Trump by name, but denounced “strongman politics” and warned of growing nationalism, xenophobia and bigotry in the U.S. and around the world.



CreditSaumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

• Heat, a “silent killer.”

Many of the biggest, fastest-growing cities in India are already scorching hot in the summer. And they’re getting hotter.

Soon, according to researchers, some of them could approach temperatures that are literally unbearable for people who live and work without air conditioning.

In India, a country of more than 1.3 billion, that’s tens of millions of people, mostly the poor. Scientists and economists warn that extreme heat is already making them sicker and poorer.



CreditShahzaib Akber/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

• Violent extremist? Terror watch list?

In Pakistan, an election tribunal ruled that unattractive associations won’t keep certain candidates from running in this month’s national elections.

Indeed, despite public campaigns against religious extremism, it appears that extremists are being encouraged rather than curbed.

Critics point to military pressure and a compliant Election Commission. Above, Aurangzeb Farooqi, a leader of a group accused of having ties to militants, was cleared to run for office.




• Myanmar’s jade mines are extraordinarily lucrative — especially for the country’s military, which hoards the profits. They are also among the world’s deadliest places.

On Saturday, monsoon rains caused a landslide at the one above, in Hpakant Township in Kachin State. Dozens of jade miners are believed to have died — though the official toll is just 18.

One survivor’s voice shook as he talked about his work. “Risky is better than dying of hunger,” he said.



CreditCameron Spencer/Getty Images

• Good news for Australia.

Home prices in Sydney, above, and Melbourne — which one survey ranked as more expensive than New York and London — are finally dropping.

The decline has a number of causes, including new restrictions on foreign buyers, which hindered wealthy émigrés and investors from China.

That news might put a spring in the step of the world’s fastest man. Usain Bolt, an eight-time Olympic champion, is trying out for a professional soccer team outside Sydney.



CreditMartin Bureau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• The European Union signed its largest trade deal ever, a pact with Japan that will slash customs duties on European products, while reducing tariffs on cars. The E.U. is hunting for more free-trade deals in Asia, including with Australia, Vietnam and China, to compensate for lost U.S. business.

• Epic flop: “Asura,” a fantasy film billed as the most expensive Chinese movie ever made at $112 million, was pulled from theaters after a disastrous opening weekend. It brought in only $7.3 million.

• Tokyo’s huge stockpile of plutonium is causing global anxiety. Japan has enough weapons-grade material to make 6,000 atomic bombs — and it must convince the world it won’t.

• U.S. stocks were up. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

In the News


CreditAnthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hong Kong is considering banning a small political group, the Hong Kong National Party, that advocates independence from China. It would be the first such ban since the territory returned to Chinese control in 1997. [The New York Times]

Extremely enraged.” North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, blasted officials over delays in a construction project, state media reported. He issued a similar rebuke during visits to two textile factories this month. [A.P.]

• The U.N. criticized Australia’s decision to “actively and indefinitely separate” the family of a recognized refugee by deporting her husband to Sri Lanka, leaving her alone with their 11-month-old daughter. [AFP]

• Two Australian divers — Craig Challen of Perth and Dr. Richard Harris of Adelaide — will be awarded honors for their roles in the Thai cave rescue. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called their actions “an example to all of us.” [ABC]

• Live From Beijing: Less than a month after “Saturday Night Live China” debuted — with no overtly political content — its future looks doubtful. Episodes can no longer be seen on Youku, its video-streaming platform. [The New York Times]

• Himalayan Viagra? Yarsagumba, a caterpillar fungus, is only found in the Himalayas above 10,000 feet. But its purported power to heal asthma, cancer and impotence make it more valuable than gold. [BBC]

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.


CreditAndy Isaacson for The New York Times

• Take a walk in the woods. Doctor’s orders.

• At these hotels and spas, cancer is no obstacle to quality care.

• Recipe of the day: Make swordfish piccata in a buttery pan sauce whenever you need a quick, tasty dinner.



Creditvia Wikimedia Commons

• “Sea monster” or whale? Archaeological remains show that two whale species once swam in the Mediterranean, suggesting that the Romans conducted industrial-scale whaling. (They certainly had plenty of poems and paintings of big sea creatures.)

• Success in sight: After a 20-year campaign, trachoma, a bacterial infection that causes blindness, has been eliminated as a menace in at least seven poor countries, including Cambodia, Laos and Nepal.

And a billionaire’s risk: The philanthropist George Soros bet big on liberal democracy. Now he says his political legacy has never been in greater jeopardy. Save some time for our interview in the Times Magazine.

Back Story


CreditMichal Okla, CTK via AP Images

The riders on the Tour de France entered the 11th stage today, having already suffered some spectacular crashes.

Imagine if they tried it with the bikes of the past.

Bicycle makers of yore — meaning those of the 1800s — had yet to discover gearing. In the hunt for speed, “velocipedes” came to rely on one huge wheel, with a second wheel for whatever stability and balance they could claim.

That was the style Britain dubbed the Penny-Farthing, because it looked like a giant penny paired with the much smaller farthing coin. They offered a thrilling, but forbiddingly dangerous, ride.

But the 1800s were a time of invention. An Englishman named John Kemp Starley introduced a radical improvement in 1885: the “Rover safety bicycle,” with two same-size wheels.

A few innovations later, he had the basics of what has been called “the most influential piece of product design ever” — a bike with a triangular frame, pedals that power the even-sized wheels with a chain and gearing.

The bicycle has become the most popular personal transport in the world. Estimates of bikes in use around the globe run upward of two billion.

Andrea Kannapell wrote today’s Back Story.


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