Friday, November 30, 2018

Your Friday Evening Briefing

G-20, Marriott, Immigration |
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Friday, November 30, 2018

Your Friday Evening Briefing
Good evening. Here's the latest.
Tom Brenner for The New York Times
1. President Trump is with world leaders in Buenos Aires for a two-day meeting of the Group of 20 industrialized countries. Above, the president with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.
At the top of Mr. Trump's agenda: signing a new North American trade pact this morning with the leaders of Canada and Mexico, after 14 months of acrimonious negotiations. The president called it a victory, but back in Washington, newly empowered House Democrats — along with business leaders and free-trade Republicans — say the new deal faces long odds in Congress without significant changes.
Mr. Trump is scheduled to have dinner with President Xi Jinping of China on Saturday. Tensions over the trade war have made this a particularly fraught time, our reporters say as they assess whether the two nations are destined to enter a new era of Cold War-like confrontation.
Another question hanging over the meeting is how leaders there will deal with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who has been accused of orchestrating the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
2. Personal information of hundreds of millions of hotel guests may have been compromised in a major data breach.
The Marriott International hotel chain said its Starwood reservation system had been hacked, exposing the names, addresses, passport numbers, emails and phone numbers of up to 500 million customers, going as far back as 2014. Above, a Marriott-owned property in Chicago.
"This is an incredibly big number," a cybersecurity expert told us.
Cyberattacks happen all the time, our tech reporters say, and you may want to assume that your information has been taken. They offer some tips for protecting your identity online.
Annie Flanagan for The New York Times
3. A Times investigation found that a Louisiana school previously celebrated for getting underprivileged black students into top colleges falsified transcripts, invented student accomplishments and exploited the worst stereotypes of black America.
"I was just a small piece in a whole fathom of lies," one former student said.
Our reporters spoke to parents of former students, current and former students, former teachers and law enforcement agents — 46 people in all. They examined student records and court documents showing that the school's founder and a teacher had pleaded guilty to crimes related to violence against students. Above, the school in Breaux Bridge, La.
Here are their six takeaways, including that students say they were encouraged to lie in college application essays.
Popular online videos touting students' achievements masked deeper problems at the school.
Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
4. Seizures of heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine are up sharply over the last year.
But in districts along the U.S. border with Mexico, prosecutions of drug crimes dropped to their lowest levels in 20 years after the Justice Department imposed a "zero tolerance" policy on illegal border crossing in early April.
The decline turned around after the White House dispatched more lawyers to the border. But experts told us that the policy on illegal border crossing — a misdemeanor on the first offense — had pulled resources away from the pursuit of drug traffickers, another key administration priority. Above, at a Texas border checkpoint.
"There is a finite number of federal prosecutors, and there's only a finite number of courtrooms," a former prosecutor said.
5. John Chau spent years planning a missionary trip to North Sentinel, an island in the Indian Ocean, intent on making contact with an isolated tribe there.
It was what he felt called to do, a friend said.
But after landing, he struggled to communicate. The islanders were aggressive, as they have been with just about everyone else who had tried to make contact. They shouted at him. They shot arrows. Then they killed him.
A review of Mr. Chau's writings and interviews with fellow missionaries, family and friends provide a glimpse of a man who was a joyful adventurer — and who resisted all warnings.
Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times
6. China is aiming to be a science superpower, but at what cost?
Scientists in China and across the globe are asking whether the country's intense focus on scientific achievement has come at the expense of ethical standards.
The government is pouring millions of dollars into research and luring back Western-educated Chinese talent. The drive to succeed is so strong, many scientists in China say, that they adopt a "do first, debate later" approach. Above, a procedure at a Chinese university hospital.
Recent scientific announcements, like a report this week of the world's first genetically edited babies, have drawn criticism and rebukes.
Robert Neubecker
7. A free steak dinner.
Maybe you've received an invitation for a retirement seminar held at a fancy restaurant. Our personal finance columnist was intrigued, so he R.S.V.P.'d.
Also on the menu: a lesson on equity indexed annuities, a complicated insurance product that he's skeptical about.
The steak dinner pitch might not be a con game, he writes, but it is a bit of a psychological dance. His takeaways: Do lots of research, read the fine print, and seek a second or third opinion from an independent financial planner before making an investment.
Photograph by Shayan Asgharnia. Creative direction by Boots Riley. Styled by Carlos Nazario.
8. Literary works by black American men have gained new prominence in recent years, even as the problems of race and racial violence continue to plague the nation.
T Magazine brought together 32 black men who are writing novels, poems and plays that are essential for understanding our country and its place in the world right now.
The author of our article explores the literature they have produced over the last decade, asking: Is the attention to black male writing merely a fleeting moment, or is it a revolution?
Separately, the writers, above, discuss (and read aloud from) their favorite works by black women.
Republic Pictures
9. "I was a movie-struck kid."
Our film critic has been thinking about what movies taught her about being a woman.
Lesson 1 on her list: Women are there to be kissed. (See above: John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in "The Quiet Man.")
But she also grew up adoring performers like Cicely Tyson in "Sounder" and Shelley Winters in "The Poseidon Adventure" — very different characters who were strong in recognizably human ways.
"They felt real to me, like people, not decoration."
Gilbert Bellamy/Reuters
10. Finally, this is your periodic reminder that it's not all bad news out there.
Major airports are helping travelers to arrive by bicycle. Very young dancers are taking "The Nutcracker" very seriously. And reggae music has made it onto Unesco's list of humanity's cultural heritage, joining shrimp fishing on horseback in Belgium and oxcart traditions in Costa Rica. Above, Julian Marley performs at a tribute to his father, the reggae icon Bob Marley.
This is the Week in Good News.
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