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Pakistan, Rohingya, Hong Kong: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the uncertain fate of the Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh, an electric rickshaw revolution in India and the musical legacy of “Sesame Street.”

ImageCreditAdam Dean for The New York TimesBroken promises for displaced Rohingya Muslims

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar for Bangladesh two years ago, and governments from both countries have vowed to get them home.

But a Times investigation found that only a few dozen have been repatriated — and maintaining the fiction that refugees are about to return is politically useful for both sides.

The vast majority of Rohingya are still crammed into squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh, fearing what might await them if they were to return. Much of the land in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that was emptied by ethnic cleansing, now holds power stations, government buildings and, most of all, military and border guard bases.

Promises made: This report by our Southeast Asia bureau chief, Hannah Beech, is part of a series by The Times that investigates the vows made by those in power when things go wrong.

YouTube cracks down on disinformation about Hong Kong protests

The company said it had disabled 210 channels that were behaving “in a coordinated way” to spread disinformation about the mass demonstrations, days after Facebook and Twitter took similar steps.

“We found use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations,” the company said in a blog post, without elaborating further.

Related: City authorities said they had charged two men with rioting over last month’s mob attack in Yuen Long apparently against protesters, which led to widespread criticism of the police for failing to stop the violence.

Meet the protesters: Young students on summer break, many under the age of 18, have been at the front lines of the widening protests in the semiautonomous city. They spoke to The Times about how they’re hoping to sustain the movement when they go back to school.

Related: President Trump has started to show greater solidarity with the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, recognizing that the issue could be used as leverage in trade negotiations with Beijing.

ImageCreditChang W. Lee/The New York TimesTensions between South Korea and Japan escalate

South Korea said on Thursday it would abandon a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, drastically widening the rift between the two countries.

The South’s move underscores the U.S.’s diminishing leadership in the region as North Korea continues conducting missile tests.

Background: The intelligence agreement, which was signed in late 2016, was part of a broader American effort to track North Korea’s missile activity and ensure the three countries could respond more quickly to threats.

But ties between Japan and South Korea have reached their lowest point in years as they continue to spar over Japan’s colonization of the country before World War II.

Pakistan intensifies criticism of India over Kashmir

Prime Minister Imran Khan complained about India’s crackdown in Kashmir, saying he would no longer seek dialogue with New Delhi and warning of the dangers of a military escalation between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

“There is no point in talking to them,” Mr. Khan said in an interview with The Times, adding that his repeated attempts to reach out to the Indian government had been rebuffed. “The most important thing is that eight million people’s lives are at risk. We are all worried that there is ethnic cleansing and genocide about to happen.”

India’s response: India’s ambassador to the U.S., who was visiting the Times editorial board, rejected the criticism and disputed the severity of India’s actions inside Kashmir.

On the ground: Indian soldiers and police officers have been accused of using excessive force against civilians and have detained political leaders in the region. It is difficult to ascertain the full extent of the crackdown.

If you have 6 minutes, this is worth itInside India’s e-rickshaw revolutionImageCreditSaumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

A million electric rickshaws sprang up seemingly out of nowhere, and they now transport an estimated 60 million passengers a day for as little as 14 cents a ride — far cheaper than diesel- or gas-guzzling competitors.

But government officials are scrambling to keep up, and accidents are common.

Here’s what else is happening

Qantas: The Australian airline is preparing test runs of what could become the world’s longest flights: 19 hours nonstop to Sydney from New York and London.

Indonesia: Thousands of people in the provinces of Papua and West Papua torched a government building and clashed with police officers, over reports that students were harassed by the police and insulted with racist slurs in the East Java city of Surabaya.

Madrid: A man accused of surreptitiously taking videos up the skirts of more than 500 women in the city’s transit systems and supermarkets has been arrested.

Sperm donors: Scores of people born through artificial insemination have learned that the fertility doctors who performed the procedures secretly used their own sperm.

ImageCreditGiulia Marchi for The New York Times

Snapshot: Above, the waters at the beach in Beidaihe, China, which was popularized by the founder of the Communist Party, Mao Zedong, who made several fateful policy decisions there in the late 1950s. Today, party cadres and top officials still visit the beach, separated from the public by walls and fences.

From The Times: We’re introducing a special audio companion series to The 1619 Project, our exploration about the legacy of American slavery. It debuts today on “The Daily” — you can listen to the trailer here.

Sesame Street”: Since its inception in 1969, the children’s TV show has had a fascinating relationship with the world of music, uniting pop stars and fluffy puppets to educate children.

Overlooked no more: Lau Sing Kee, an American war hero who helped Chinese migrants move to the U.S., was later convicted of skirting the discriminatory immigration laws of the time. He never received an obituary in The Times, until now.

What we’re reading: Adam Pasick, on the briefings team, writes: Jeff Bezos has been criticized as a micromanager. But Recode reports that the Amazon founder is quietly giving a fraction of his enormous wealth to a few dozen charities with virtually no oversight or supervision. What gives?

Now, a break from the newsImageCreditRyan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Cook: An imperfect blueberry pie is a thing of beauty.

Watch: The documentary “American Factory” looks at what happened when a Chinese company took over a closed General Motors factory in Ohio. It’s a Critic’s Pick.

Visit: A writer went in search of the “big bang” of country music in Southern Appalachia.

Read: “How to Be an Antiracist,” Ibram X. Kendi’s primer for creating a more just and equitable society, debuts this week on our hardcover nonfiction and combined print and e-book nonfiction best-seller lists.

Smarter Living: How do you stop your smart speaker’s human helpers from eavesdropping? Actual people may be listening to what you tell Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa. But most tech companies offer the ability to disable human vetting for their virtual assistants, and there are other steps to minimize the information shared.

Plus: Going with the flow may help you overcome the fear of flying in bumpy skies.

And now for the Back Story on …“The Wizard of Oz”

ImageCreditMGM Studios, via Getty Images

The legendary film is celebrating its 80th anniversary on Saturday, but it very nearly ended up a disastrous footnote in the history of Hollywood.

The production was a mess, cycling through multiple screenwriters and directors, including the director Richard Thorpe, who was let go less than two weeks into shooting because of creative differences; Victor Fleming, the sole credited director, stepped in, shooting most scenes before sprinting off to save “Gone With the Wind” from its own on-set problems. King Vidor finished the job.

Multiple cast members were also injured during filming: Margaret Hamilton, who played the terrifying Wicked Witch of the West, suffered severe burns; and Buddy Ebsen, the Tin Man, was poisoned by the makeup. (The role was recast with Jack Haley.)

The movie went over budget and was initially a box office bomb. Today, it endures as a cultural icon, thanks in large part to TV syndication beginning in the late 1950s, Judy Garland’s signature performance of “Over the Rainbow” — and those highly coveted ruby slippers.

That’s it for this briefing. Close your eyes and tap your heels together three times.

— Alisha

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Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Aisha Harris, assistant TV editor, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

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