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Hong Kong, Kashmir, Iran: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering a plan to swarm Hong Kong’s airport, spy games in Iran’s oil industry and the crushed dreams of a Rohingya teacher.

Protesters plan to swarm Hong Kong’s airport

Antigovernment protesters are expected to kick off a three-day demonstration at one of the world’s busiest global transit and cargo hubs — an attack on the city’s closely guarded reputation for order and efficiency.

Demonstrators say they want the protest to be nonviolent, but the event is technically an illegal gathering, raising concerns about potential clashes with the police.

China’s conspiracy theory: Beijing on Thursday came up with an unlikely scapegoat for the unrest that has taken over Hong Kong — an American diplomat based at the U.S. consulate.

Talk with the Times: Our correspondents will weigh in on antigovernment demonstrations and answer your questions in a free group call. Join us at 8 a.m. Hong Kong time.

ImageCreditDivyakant Solanki/EPA, via ShutterstockModi defends the contentious Kashmir decision

The Indian prime minister, in a rare public address, said his government’s unilateral revocation of the disputed territory’s autonomy would make Kashmir more secure, bring better governance to the region and boost its economy.

But at times his speech seemed willfully disconnected from reality. He spoke about reducing Kashmir’s isolation, even as the mountainous valley’s internet, mobile service and landlines were disabled.

On the ground: Protests exploded in several parts of Kashmir, and residents in the city of Srinagar said at least three people had been killed in demonstrations, though that information couldn’t be immediately confirmed.

Human rights activists said as many as 500 people had been detained in nighttime raids and, according to Indian news outlets, some families are beginning to run out of food.

ImageCreditAli Mohammadi/BloombergSpy games in Iran’s embargoed oil industry

Information about Iran’s clandestine oil sales has become one of Tehran’s most heavily guarded state secrets — and a target of Western intelligence agencies.

Iran’s oil traders have been offered all kinds of enticements — including vacations, alcohol, prostitutes and astronomical sums of money — in exchange for coveted data. “Sometimes I feel like I am an actor playing in a thriller spy movie,” one trader said.

Backlash: Last month, Iran arrested 17 people it said were working for the C.I.A., and sentenced some to death. It now appears the accused were involved in efforts to gather intelligence on oil sales.

Bottom line: Iran’s economy depends on oil, but U.S. sanctions have reduced sales from 2.5 million barrels a day in 2018 to about 500,000 barrels today.

China’s trade war arsenal

Beijing has already allowed the renminbi to weaken twice this week, raising concerns that it would effectively weaponize its currency.

China has also stopped buying American crops and is considering more aggressive options to retaliate against President Trump’s tariffs, which could shake global supply chains and financial systems. One potential gambit: cutting off key parts of the global supply chain in rare earth minerals.

Details: A Chinese industry association representing rare earth companies issued a statement this week pledging to support any countermeasures Beijing pursues in the trade war.

If you have some time, this is worth itThe schoolteacher and the genocideImageCreditAdam Dean for The New York Times

A Rohingya teacher named Futhu, pictured above, had chronicled life in his village since he was young. His people needed government permission to marry, he noted, they couldn’t join the army or the police, and women were forced to take birth control or seek illegal abortions.

He dreamed of educating the children in his village. Then the military crackdown came.

Here’s what else is happening

Uber: The company reported its largest-ever loss, exceeding $5 billion, and its slowest-ever revenue growth, renewing questions about the company’s prospects.

Jeffrey Epstein: A senior JPMorgan executive overrode concerns about doing business with the financier because of his lucrative role recruiting new customers, sources told The Times. Prosecutors say Mr. Epstein retained crucial business connections even as he engaged in the sexual trafficking of girls as young as 14.

Food supply: A stark United Nations report said that climate change and degrading land and water resources were threatening the ability of humanity to feed itself.

The Philippines: An American aircraft carrier arrived in Manila, shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte told lawmakers he couldn’t do anything to ward off China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Russia: A fire at a weapons testing range near the city of Severodvinsk killed two people, with conflicting reports about higher radiation levels. The Russian navy, which blamed the incident on an exploding rocket engine, has now suffered two lethal accidents in just over a month.

ImageCreditDominic Lipinski/Press Association, via Associated Press

Snapshot: Above, hundreds of Beatles fans and lookalikes gathering on Abbey Road in London on Thursday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the day the band’s iconic album cover photo was taken.

Easter eggs: Technology companies are still hiding quirky surprises in their gadgets, like a dancing Tesla trick or a Mario Kart-themed Google map.

New creative talents: The Times’s T Magazine profiled 15 people — including a designer from India, a ceramic artist from Sydney and a Tokyo-born chef in Paris — who are recasting culture in their own image.

Glowing sharks: Scientists have identified the molecular magic that makes the creatures into neon beacons in the dark depths of the ocean, despite being mostly colorblind.

What we’re reading: This Guardian article about how wild boars are wreaking havoc in European cities. Our food editor, Sam Sifton, recommended it in The Times’s Cooking newsletter — and also offered a recipe for wild boar ragu.

Now, a break from the newsImageCreditLinda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

Cook: Mint chocolate chip ice cream cake is a crowd-pleasing dessert.

Listen: “All Mirrors,” the first single from Angel Olsen’s fourth album, is a sharp turn into a more theatrical, melodramatic presentation, our critic writes.

Watch: The documentary “One Child Nation” unpacks the impact of China’s decades-old family planning policy with “clarity, concision and strategically restrained outrage,” writes our critic.

Read: “Beirut Hellfire Society,” a bawdy novel by Rawi Hage that considers the tragic absurdities of Lebanon’s civil war. It features a 20-year-old undertaker and a secret association of hedonists — and also talking dogs.

Smarter Living: Before you buy household items like lamps, books, toys, furniture and clothes, think about the inevitable moment you won’t need them anymore. Martin Bourque, who directs an ecology center in Berkeley, Calif., says consumers should “be thinking about what you’re going to do with the item at the end of its life” — and whether “you really need it in the first place.” When the end comes, you can often swap, donate or sell it to someone else.

Catching up on housework this weekend? We can show you how to fold a fitted sheet.

And now for the Back Story on …The power of water

Last week, we told you about “Add oil!” — a Cantonese exhortation popular among Hong Kong’s antigovernment protesters. Next up: “Be water,” a rallying cry and protest tactic with ties to a local hero.

The phrase — a famous line from a 1971 episode of the American television series “Longstreet” — was uttered by Bruce Lee, the late actor and martial-arts icon who hails from Hong Kong. “Water can flow, or creep, or drip, or crash,” Mr. Lee’s character says in the episode. “Be water, my friend.”


In Chinese Taoism, water represents power and flexibility in the face of obstacles. Many Hong Kong protesters see “Be water” as a guiding principle of their flash mob-style civil disobedience, forsaking hierarchical leadership and fixed protests in favor of decentralized, amorphous tactics.

A bronze statue of Mr. Lee still stands on Hong Kong’s harborside “Avenue of Stars,” and a local fan club has long wanted to turn his former home into a museum. But the trust that owns the home plans to demolish it as early as this week, and replace it with a Chinese studies center.

That’s it for this briefing. Have a fluid weekend!

— Alisha

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Mike Ives, a Hong Kong-based reporter, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about President Trump’s trips to Ohio and Texas this week.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Painter of a melting clock (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The first reference to the actor Bruce Lee in The New York Times came in a 1971 review of “Longstreet,” which noted that he “emerges impressively enough to justify a series of his own.”


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