Asia and Australia Edition: John McCain, North Korea, Russia: Your Tuesday Briefing

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Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

South Korea reached out to North Korea, offering to hold military and humanitarian talks at their heavily armed border this Friday and even to arrange reunions for families divided decades ago by the Korean War.

How the North responds will offer a gauge of the pro-dialogue policy of South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in.

The overture comes as the U.N. Security Council is discussing a new set of sanctions against the North over its recent ICBM test, and as a South Korean-born American peace activist, Christine Ahn, was denied entry by the South on the grounds that she might “hurt the national interests and public safety.”

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The U.S. government’s top ethics watchdog, who is stepping down today, said the country is “pretty close to a laughingstock at this point.” President Trump’s repeated trips to his family’s business properties — including 40 to a family golf course — “creates the appearance of profiting from the presidency,” he said.

Mr. Trump continued to defend his eldest son, though revelations continued to grow about his meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer last year.

The Republicans health-care bill appears stalled for at least a week or two because of the absence of Senator John McCain, above. The cranial surgery he had on Friday may be more serious than initial descriptions implied.

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In China, the cat-and-mouse game between the government and internet users reached a new level as a vast army of censors tried to scrub away the outpouring of grief on social media for the Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo last week.

It appears that even an image of Winnie-the-Pooh was censored, and some commenters a reason: the warmhearted bear of A.A. Milne’s children’s books shows a resemblance to President Xi Jinping.

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Beijing is in the midst of a reconstruction project as sweeping as any since the 2008 Olympics — and as with most government decisions in China, there was no public debate. Those affected or evicted said there was little they could do to challenge it.

Our correspondent says the old neighborhoods of picturesque, if not always pristine, alleyways known as hutongs have been hardest hit.

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• A sly retort by Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, to President Trump’s vocal appreciation for the fit appearance of the first lady of France (“I wonder if she could say the same of him”) is still reverberating.

The police in Minneapolis, Minn., are investigating why the officer who fatally shot an Australian woman on Saturday did not have his body camera turned on.

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Business

In urban China, an audacious economic transition is underway: Smartphone payments are taking over. One analyst said, “Literally every business and brand in China is plugged into this ecosystem.”

• Another blow for Dalian Wanda. A document circulating on Chinese social media suggested that regulators had warned banks against financing several of the company’s overseas deals.

• In big business: An activist shareholder, Nelson Peltz, wants a board seat at Procter & Gamble, setting up a showdown with the corporate titan. And BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, received $94 billion from investors in what it called “one of our best quarters ever.” Most of it went to iShares, the company’s passive exchange traded funds.

Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

Graphic | What the Markets Are Doing

In the News

The Netherlands unveiled a national monument to the 298 people killed in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner in 2014 above territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. (Reuters)

• Some South Asian social castes, after millenniums of marriages within their subgroups, offer living labs for genetic disease. [The New York Times]

• In India, an electoral college of parliamentarians and state assembly members are electing a new president. Results are expected Thursday. [BBC]

• Civilian deaths in Afghanistan reached 1,662 in the first half of 2017, according to the United Nations, a new high. [The New York Times]

• The Indonesian government mediated a $44,000 settlement for a woman who worked as a maid in Saudi Arabia for 22 years without being paid — about $166 per month. [Coconuts Jakarta]

• The golfer Sung Hyun Park won the U.S. Women’s Open. The 23-year-old South Korean surpassed Hye-Jin Choi, a 17-year-old countrywoman, as well as Feng Shanshan of China, 27, who had led for most of the tournament. [The New York Times]

• Professors at the University of Tokyo developed a technology that makes the bodies of mice transparent, allowing researchers to watch cancer metastasize. [The Asahi Shimbun]

Smarter Living

Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.

• Better to be prepared than stuck in an emergency without the right gear.

• The best way to offset high college costs is to save. But doing that is easier said than done.

• If you’ve yet to master roast chicken, we have you covered.

Noteworthy

• “Shall we begin?” asked the Dragon Queen as “Game of Thrones” came roaring back. Read our review of the season premiere, and sign up here for exclusive interviews and explainers.

• In memoriam: George Romero, who created the modern zombie genre with his 1968 cult film, “Night of the Living Dead,” died at 77. William Theodore de Bary, an esteemed scholar of China whose specialty was Confucius, died at 97.

Today is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. Test your knowledge of her life — and afterlife — with our quiz.

Back Story

Some images are so striking that they stay with you. The photo that has entered online lore as the first to be posted on the World Wide Web is on the quirkier side.

What many associate as the internet, the web was in its infancy 25 years ago when its creator, Tim Berners-Lee, asked a colleague at the European Organization for Nuclear Research for a photo he could use.

The picture he was given was of Les Horribles Cernettes, an all-woman doo-wop musical group that took its name from CERN, the acronym for the organization on the French-Swiss border with which the members were all associated.

With a fan base of physicists, the group’s songs tended toward the scientific: “Strong Interaction,” “Surfing on the Web” and “Microwave Love.”

Although it’s impossible to say for sure if their photo was, in fact, the very first to be posted online, it was an early step in the transformation of a communication system used by scientists into the internet we know today.

Britain’s Telegraph interviewed some of the group’s members 20 years after the picture was taken. “It is quite funny that now with Facebook and blogging that sort of picture is common place on the Web,” one said. “It was just girls being girls. We were asked to ‘strike a pose’ and we did.”

Lauren Hard contributed reporting.

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