June 15, 2019

Indonesia, Brett Kavanaugh, Iran: Your Thursday Briefing

Indonesia, Brett Kavanaugh, Iran: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning. Blame in Indonesia, a nerve-racking wait in Washington, an arrest in France. Here’s the latest:

• Awaiting the F.B.I. report on Kavanaugh.

Senate Republicans moved to schedule a confirmation vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee, even before seeing the results of an F.B.I. investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him. In the meantime, more than 1,000 law professors signed a letter to the Senate saying that Judge Kavanaugh did not have the “judicial temperament” for the court. It was published by Times Opinion.

Republicans are also stepping up efforts to challenge the veracity of Christine Blasey Ford, Judge Kavanaugh’s main accuser, confronting her with a sworn statement from a former boyfriend who questioned some of her testimony last week.

But those attacks, along with President Trump’s mockery of Dr. Blasey at a campaign rally, could complicate the party’s efforts to confirm Judge Kavanaugh by alienating three key Republican senators, Jeff Flake, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. All three condemned the president’s remarks, using phrases like “wholly inappropriate,” “kind of appalling” and “just plain wrong.”


• A U.N. court rebukes the U.S. over its Iran sanctions.

The International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s highest court, ordered the U.S. to ease sanctions against Iran. Rulings by the court are legally binding, but it has no way of enforcing them.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wasted no time responding, announcing in a largely symbolic move that the U.S. was canceling a 1955 treaty that was the basis for friendly diplomatic exchanges and economic relations with Iran, long before its Islamic revolution turned the two nations into enemies.

Above, the Grand Bazaar in Tehran.


• A French “escape king” is captured.

The escape scene unfolded like a top-notch thriller. Armed men hijacked a helicopter and swept into a French prison yard in July, scooping up Rédoine Faïd, a notorious inmate serving a 25-year sentence for a robbery that left a female police officer dead.

But now, after an intensive manhunt, Mr. Faïd is back in custody. Above, the apartment building outside Paris where he was arrested.

Although no one disputed he had done bad things — this was Mr. Faïd’s second prison break — he has gained a somewhat mythical status. Even detectives admit that he is far from an ordinary criminal.

The actress Priyanka Chopra, above center, is also a tech investor, one of the few female celebrities wading into Silicon Valley. Her focus is on companies trying to make a social impact and founded by women.

Entrepreneurs in China worry that the country may be stepping back from the free-market policies that transformed it into the world’s No. 2 economy, our Asia technology columnist writes.

• Fitness devices have found their way into the tech toolbox used by law enforcement experts to solve crimes. Here’s a representative case, from California.

Here’s a snapshot of global markets. The Shanghai stock exchange is closed.

China’s actions against Fan Bingbing, above, the country’s most famous actress, suggest officials are stepping up enforcement of laws against tax evasion. [The New York Times]

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was shared by three scientists — Gregory Winter of Britain and Frances Arnold and George Smith of the U.S. — who tapped the power of evolutionary biology to design molecules with a range of practical uses, including in new drugs. (Dr. Arnold was the fifth woman to receive the chemistry prize.) No Nobels are expected today, but the Peace Prize comes Friday. [The New York Times]

• What a difference a year makes. Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, closed her Conservative Party’s annual conference with an effective speech that used humor and a dance routine to call for unity over the country’s exit from the E.U. Last year, her conference speech was wrecked by a persistent cough and letters falling from the backdrop. [The New York Times]

Gérard Collomb, the French interior minister and President Emmanuel Macron’s most senior government ally, resigned after an unusual public standoff, humiliating the embattled French leader. [The New York Times]

For the first time, a three-week Synod of Bishops will include young Catholics. But critics wonder if Pope Francis is ready to more forcefully confront sexual abuse by priests. [The New York Times]

• Australia is on track to eliminate cervical cancer in the next two decades, thanks to a government program to vaccinate children against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus, or HPV. [The New York Times]

In Scotland, a 750-milliliter bottle of single malt whisky described as the liquor’s “Holy Grail” sold for a record $1.1 million. [The New York Times]

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

Recipe of the day: Trying to eat more fish? Pair it with shiitakes and garlic, ginger and scallions.

Little is known about the tennis umpire who got into a heated exchange with Serena Williams at the U.S. Open last month. We pieced together the rise of Carlos Ramos, above, from being an average player in Portugal to sitting eight feet above Grand Slam finals.

London’s radio pirates changed music by fostering styles from rave to grime. But competition means pirate radio is dying out.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which will get closer to the sun than any other spacecraft, is named after Eugene Parker, 91, whose ideas about the sun 60 years ago were wrongly dismissed.

Dan Rather, a longtime American television news anchor, above, was returning from dinner at a friend’s Manhattan apartment on this day in 1986 when a man demanded, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?”

Told he had the wrong person, the man punched and kicked Mr. Rather, still yelling the question. Mr. Rather dashed into a building and was rescued by a doorman and building superintendent.

The police chalked it up to mistaken identity. Some people wondered if Mr. Rather had imagined it. It was unclear if one or two men had attacked.

Meanwhile, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” became a U.S. pop catchphrase. The band R.E.M. wrote a song by that name.

In 1997, it emerged that William Tager, a North Carolina man in prison by then, was Mr. Rather’s assailant. In 1994, Mr. Tager had shot and killed a television stagehand, saying the media was beaming messages into his brain. Shown photos, Mr. Rather recognized him.

Mr. Tager was released from prison in 2010. His whereabouts is unknown.

Nancy Wartik wrote today’s Back Story.


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