Asia and Australia Edition: Jared Kushner, Russia, White House: Your Morning Briefing

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Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

A long-anticipated shake up in White House appears to have started with the resignation of the director of communications.

President Trump was back on Twitter to criticize Germany for what he said were underpayments to NATO, and dismissed the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — and the possibility that Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, sought a back channel with the Kremlin — as “fake news.”

Russian state media chimed in with a tweet that may not help Mr. Trump’s denials, saying that the foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, does want an open channel.

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North Korea said that the ballistic missile it tested this week could be rapidly launched and could strike with great precision. It is the latest in a series of advances in missile technology claimed by Pyongyang.

Separately, the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, ordered an investigation into why he was not informed that four additional launchers for Thaad, a contentious American missile-defense battery, had been brought into his country.


Bangladesh is grappling with the damage from Cyclone Mora.

The storm killed four people, destroyed the homes of thousands of Rohingya refugees who had fled Myanmar, and forced the evacuation of 450,000 people in affected areas.

“There isn’t a single refugee home that hasn’t had its roof blown off,” a Rohingya said.


In Myanmar, rights groups are demanding action after another video surfaced that appears to show security forces abusing detainees, this time in Shan State where rebels are fighting government forces.

In the video, interrogators kick and strike prisoners and threaten them if they do not comply. “I will cut your throat and kill you,” one soldier says.


“They claim they are holy warriors — what is holy with killing people?”

A young man in Marawi, a city in the southern Philippines, told our reporter about bodies in the streets and the sheer terror that has been unleashed by militants loyal to the Islamic State.

As the fighting entered its second week, the death toll stood at 65 fighters, 24 civilians and 20 government troops.

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• Wall Street is in a bidding war for Fairfax Media, an Australian company that publishes The Sydney Morning Herald and other newspapers, and operates Domain, the lucrative real estate website.

• Vietnam’s VNG Corp., a game developer, plans to go public in America. It will be the country’s first foreign tech I.P.O.

• India’s new bankruptcy law and its efforts to tackle bad debt are providing exciting incentives for investors to reconsider delving into the nation’s distressed market.

• Many hotels, under pressure from home-sharing sites like Airbnb, are seeking to offer more than a place to sleep.

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

Graphic | What the Markets Are Doing

In the News

A pair of attacks shook Baghdad, in one instance killing three children, ages 4, 6 and 8, who were out for ice cream with their families — creating a wrenching scene like the one in Manchester last week.

The bombings killed a total of 31 people, and injured at least 66. [The New York Times]

• Australia plans to ban convicted pedophiles from traveling overseas in what the government called a move to protect children in Southeast Asia. [Associated Press]

• Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, demanded to know why a legal rights group told Muslims to delete violent images on their phones. It turned out the advice came from his department. [The New York Times]

• In Indonesia, the hard-line leader of the Islamic Defenders Front faces pornography charges stemming from a sexually explicit dalliance online. [The New York Times]

• An Australian male choir from the town of Mullumbimby is a sensation in Russia for performing classic Russian folk songs — though none of its members speak Russian. [Sputnik International]

• A “faceless fish” has been found at depths of over 13,000 feet in the first exploration of Australia’s’s deep-sea abyss. [ABC]

Smarter Living

• We’ve all been stuck in bad meetings. Here’s how to run an effective meeting.

• Research on Russian cosmonauts suggests that salt makes you hungry but not thirsty, and may help burn calories.

• If you’re craving an old-school recipe, tuna-macaroni salad is an excellent option.


• Why is there beauty, and so much of it? A scientist ponders whether aesthetic judgments about mates are tied to traits we see as adaptive and worth passing on. Or, does beauty just “happen”?

In memoriam: Manuel Noriega, the brash former dictator of Panama and sometime ally of the United States, died at 83. His ties to drug trafficking prompted his ouster in 1989, in what was then the largest American military action since the Vietnam War.

• A high-proof tribute. A liquor bottle that was smuggled out of China last year, with a label commemorating the 1989 crackdown on demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, has made a trip around the world arriving in Hong Kong just days before the 28th anniversary of the massacre.

• And we review “Anatomy of Terror,” a former F.B.I. agent’s book about terrorism since the death of Osama bin Laden. It’s a cancer, the author writes, that has “metastasized across the Middle East and North Africa and beyond.”

Back Story

In a speech to graduates of Rhode Island College (now Brown University) in 1774, Barnabas Binney made a plea for an “infant” America to uphold religious freedom. The Revolutionary War surgeon was an early voice in American history to offer words of wisdom to graduating students.

It is unclear when universities and military schools started to invite sitting presidents to address the outgoing class. The American Presidency Project’s first commencement speech on record dates to 1914, when Woodrow Wilson addressed the U.S. Naval Academy.

But it wasn’t until the 1940s that presidents began to make regular appearances at graduations, where they took on noble ideals and offered inspiration into the next generation. Topics ranged from education and civil rights to technological achievement and courage.

Harry S. Truman spoke about the importance of public service in 1947 at Princeton University. John F. Kennedy tackled the topic of world peace under a growing nuclear threat at American University in 1963.

Notre Dame holds the record of nonmilitary schools for hosting the most sitting presidents (6), while Barack Obama holds the record for giving the most commencement speeches (24). Donald J. Trump has already given two.

Is it a uniquely American tradition for sitting presidents to address college graduates? Share your graduation traditions with us at

Danielle Belopotosky contributed reporting.


This briefing was prepared for the Australian morning. We also have briefings timed for the Asian, European and American mornings. You can sign up for these and other Times newsletters here.

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