October 17, 2019

Climate Strike, YouTube, Saudi Arabia: Your Friday Briefing

Climate Strike, YouTube, Saudi Arabia: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering a day of massive climate protests around the world, blind spots in Saudi Arabia’s military strategy and Syrian refugees who changed the minds of their skeptics.

Thousands of cities, from Manila to Berlin to Los Angeles, are expected to hold mass climate-change strikes today in what may be the biggest climate action in modern history.

Marches are already underway in Asia and Australia.

At the helm of the movement are young activists, who increasingly want action on stopping global warming. We will have coverage at nytimes.com today.

On the ground: One of the largest protests is happening in New York, where students’ plans to attend massive field trips to the event are being complicated now that teachers, expected to chaperone, are banned from attending.

Related: In climate news, the number of birds in the U.S. and Canada has declined by 3 billion, or 29 percent, over the past half-century — by all accounts a shocking drop. In addition to habitat loss, pesticides may have taken a toll. Separately, air travel emissions vastly outpaced already dire predictions, putting pressure on airline regulators to take action.

The oil-rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf have relied for decades on the promise of protection by the U.S. military.

Now — after an attack last Saturday by a swarm of at least 17 missiles and drones that temporarily knocked out 5 percent of the world’s oil supply — America’s hesitation to take military action may signal a weaker commitment and embolden Tehran.

Tehran could feel empowered to continue a string of attacks with little or no cost to Iran.

Exposed blind spots: The attack also showed that Saudi Arabia’s expensive military has left its critical oil industry vulnerable. Its advanced weapons are deployed near military installations, not near oil infrastructure.

From Iran: The country’s foreign minister vowed that a military strike from the U.S. or Saudi Arabia would lead to “an all-out war,” repeating his government’s denial of responsibility for the attack.

Recent revelations that Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, dressed up in racist makeup have cast a shadow over his carefully calibrated image as a champion of racial equality.

At least three instances became public, on video and in photos, of the prime minister dressing up in blackface and brownface in the early 1990s and in 2001. It threw his re-election into doubt, just weeks before Canadian voters head to the polls.

Recap: After Time magazine published an image showing Mr. Trudeau in brownface at a school party, Mr. Trudeau apologized and then admitted to dressing up in blackface while performing a Jamaican folk song in high school. Then, on Thursday, the Canada-based GlobalNews posted a video showing him in the early 1990s dressed in blackface and an Afro wig.

Reaction: Canadian readers wrote in about how they were grappling with the episodes. “Words won’t be enough,” Chris Martin wrote. “I think it’s very racist. But it has not changed my view of him,” Balaji Sridharan wrote.

The most ambitious climate-change research expedition the Arctic has ever seen is about to get underway.

Today, the German icebreaker Polarstern will leave Norway for the Laptev Sea, north of Central Siberia. There, it will churn through the ice and sidle up to an ice floe, cut its engine and allow itself to fully freeze into place for the next 12 to 14 months.

The studies — of the atmosphere, ocean, ice and snow, and the interactions among them — are all focused on one goal: a better understanding of how warming will affect the region, now and into the future.

Locals of the remote village of Golzow in eastern Germany, where the anti-immigrant far right is popular, were skeptical when the mayor wanted to bring in Syrian refugees to fill spots in the village school. Now, many believe the 16 Syrians have had a hugely positive impact on the village of 820 people.

Signs of successful refugee settlement are everywhere — empty apartments filled; Middle Eastern pastries sold in local shops. The friends of two young refugees, Bourhan, 11, and Hamza, 6, can now count to 10 in Arabic, and the boys are fluent enough in German that they know how to swear. “That’s when you know they have arrived,” their head teacher said.

Intelligence whistle-blower: A complaint to the U.S. government’s spy agency watchdog — said to involve a discussion between President Trump and a foreign leader — triggered a standoff after the White House refused to disclose the contents to lawmakers.

Dow Chemical: Thousands of workers who were mass sterilized by a pesticide used on banana plantations around Central America were awarded $805 million by Nicaraguan courts. The companies that made the pesticide refused to pay, so workers are suing them again — this time in France.

Afghanistan: At least 50 Afghan civilians were killed in two attacks Thursday, including at least 30 in a drone strike that local officials blamed on the U.S.

Snapshot: Above, cleaner shrimp. These industrious crustaceans set up cleaning stations — grooves in rocks in which they can retreat — in tropical coral reefs, where they pick parasites and dead skin off the fish, eels and turtles that seek them out for this purpose.

What we’re watching: This music video from Playing for Change, with Rolling Stone’s explanation of how the group went to five continents to lay down the tracks for its version of Robbie Robertson’s “The Weight.” Mark Mazzetti, our Washington-based investigative correspondent, wrote on Twitter, “This is terrific!”

Cook: Try Indian-influenced vegetarian nachos, with Cheddar, black beans and chutney.

Go: The long-awaited spectacle that relaunched the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris was cheerful, but disappointing.

Read, then watch: With “Little Women,” “Watchmen,” “Catch-22” and other book adaptations heading to screens big and small, we rounded up nine titles worth curling up with first.

Smarter Living: What happens when you switch to a green energy provider? Well, there’s no way to guarantee the electrons charging your phone came from a wind farm — you’re really buying generic “renewable energy certificates,” which ensure that all the energy is produced in a sustainable manner. But don’t despair: Our Climate Fwd: newsletter reports the certificates are a “totally legit” way to reduce the carbon footprint.

And if you’re looking to spend a weekend outdoors without going broke, our Frugal Traveler column recommends a camping gear rental service.

Do you remember … the 21st night of September?

If you find yourself shaking your hips on Sunday night, thank Earth, Wind & Fire. Their funk classic “September,” which name-checks the date in its first line, is a staple of weddings and dance floors around the world.

The song’s unstoppable groove made it a hit when it was released in 1978. More recently, annual Twitter videos made it a viral sensation.

Why the 21st? “We went through all the dates: ‘Do you remember the first, the second, the third, the fourth …’ and the one that just felt the best was the 21st,” Allee Willis, one of the song’s writers, told NPR. “There is no significance beyond it just sang better than any of the other dates.”

Oh, and what does “ba-dee-ya” really mean? It was a placeholder lyric that the band’s leader, Maurice Wright, opted to keep in the song: a lesson to Ms. Willis to “never let the lyric get in the way of the groove.”

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is the second of a two-part series about a new book on Harvey Weinstein by two Times reporters.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Lyft competitor (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Farhad Manjoo, an opinion columnist for The Times, will answer questions about his column at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Friday on Twitter (@fmanjoo).

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