Asia and Australia Edition: China, North Korea, Nafta: Your Thursday Briefing
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Good morning. A power shift in the Pacific, political themes in the U.S. and a debate on euthanasia in Australia. Here’s what you need to know:
• China’s ascent at sea.
After a modernization program, the Chinese Navy has become the world’s largest. Its new capabilities — including an arsenal of high-speed ballistic missiles designed to strike moving ships — have tilted the balance of power in the Pacific. Above, the aircraft carrier Liaoning.
While China lags in projecting firepower on a global scale, it can now challenge American military supremacy in the places that matter most to it: the waters around Taiwan and in the disputed South China Sea.
“Competition is the American way of seeing it,” one Chinese naval analyst said. “China is simply protecting its rights and its interests in the Pacific.”
• U.S. election messages.
Primaries in two states on Tuesday, Florida and Arizona, threw the themes of the coming midterms into stark relief.
It’s a good year for many (though not all) female officeseekers, and a breakthrough year for black candidates: Andrew Gillum, above, a 39-year-old liberal Democrat, became Florida’s first black nominee for governor.
And Trump loyalists are proving resilient — and sometimes controversial. One, Ron DeSantis, the Republican chosen to face Mr. Gillum, was accused of using a racist dog whistle after warning voters not to “monkey this up” by electing his rival.
• Australia debates.
Mary White was a highly regarded scientist whose mind was ravaged by dementia. When her daughter was accused of murdering her this month, the country was faced again with deliberations over euthanasia, and more delicate discussions over the toll of aging and illness.
And, on the political front, Crikey looks at the work the incoming foreign minister, Marise Payne, has ahead to meet Australia’s obligations in Asia-Pacific, arguing that her predecessor largely ignored the country’s nearer neighbors. (The article is paywall-free for Times readers.)
• Bird news.
First, the bad news: Puffins have been in precipitous decline in many of their Atlantic habitats.
Overfishing, hunting and pollution are putting pressure on the birds, but climate change may prove to be the biggest challenge. We followed a scientist in Iceland digging deep for clues — deep into their burrows.
Now, from digging to rigging.
In China, two men tried to cheat in a pigeon race to claim the $160,000 prize. They got some of their birds to fly to a stopover soon after taking off from the race’s starting point, Shangqiu in Henan Province.
Then they took the birds on a bullet train to Shanghai, 462 miles away, and released them to flutter to the finish. But the time was too fast to be believed. The men were convicted by a Shanghai court this week.
In the News
• Western powers called for accountability after a U.N. panel found that Myanmar’s generals should be punished for atrocities against Rohingya Muslims. But no steps were offered for how to do that. [The New York Times]
• Myanmar rejected the U.N. report that called for its military leaders to be investigated. China also denounced it, and said that pressuring Myanmar was “not helpful.” [BBC]
• 300,000 troops, 900 tanks: Russia is preparing for its biggest military drills since the Cold War, and China will now be a partner, not a potential foe. And in a separate display of military power, Russia was reported to have assembled a large flotilla of warships off the coast of Syria. [The New York Times]
• Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò wrote a letter that called for the resignation of Pope Francis, accusing him of covering up sexual abuse. When the letter was finished, the prelate “disappeared.” [The New York Times]
• In Hong Kong, a professor was arrested after his wife’s body was found in suitcase. The case comes as another professor in Hong Kong faces a high-profile trial in the deaths of his wife and daughter involving a gas-filled yoga ball. [The New York Times]
• Official farewells to Senator John McCain began in Arizona and will move to Washington on Friday. [The New York Times]
• A Cambodian court will hand down a verdict on Friday in the trial of an Australian filmmaker, James Ricketson, 69, who is charged with being a spy for a country prosecutors have never named. [ABC]
• In Australia, posters suggesting that women can drink during pregnancy were changed after an outcry. [The New York Times]
Tips for a more fulfilling life.
• Eggs, and hopes, on ice. Egg-freezing clinics are aggressively courting a new generation. Some clinics are even holding “lets chill” egg-freezing parties, inviting guests to take in facts and figures along with Champagne and canapés.
• What is identity? Francis Fukuyama’s “Identity” and Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “The Lies That Bind” examine the role of personal identity in our modern age.
• Smog on the brain? A new study in China suggest pollution may dim thinking skills, with the impact especially stark in older men, a worrying sign for aging countries.
In 1916, a young British officer who was hospitalized during World War I began writing a tale about the struggle between good and evil, set in a hidden city called Gondolin and featuring gnomes, spirits and orcs.
A century later the story, called “The Fall of Gondolin,” is being published today in Britain and the U.S. as a stand-alone book. (Earlier versions appeared in posthumous collections of Tolkien’s writings).
Edited by Tolkien’s son Christopher, 93, “The Fall of Gondolin” foreshadowed “The Lord of the Rings.” Its combat scenes and portrayal of encroaching evil seem to reflect its author’s experience of the “animal horror” of war, down to the armaments. Tanks, for instance, were first used in the brutal Battle of the Somme; Tolkien describes Gondolin being overwhelmed by impenetrable “dragons of fire” and “serpents of bronze.”
Fans of the best-selling author have waited anxiously, to say the least.
“We never dared to dream that we would see this published,” said Shaun Gunner, the chairman of The Tolkien Society. “‘The Fall of Gondolin’ is, to many in the Tolkien community, the Holy Grail of Tolkien texts.”
Nancy Wartik wrote today’s Back Story.
Featured Crikey articles, usually behind a paywall, are free each day for New York Times readers.
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