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Your Wednesday Briefing

Good morning.

We’re covering delayed tariffs in the U.S.-China trade war, President Nicolás Maduro’s crackdown on the military in Venezuela and the booming business of apocalypse-proof bunkers.

ImageCreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York TimesDelayed tariffs in trade war

The Trump administration, facing pressure from American businesses, delayed levies on some Chinese goods that were scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 1.

Many of the planned tariffs on cellphones, laptops, toys and other consumer goods will instead kick in on Dec. 15, giving retailers time to stock up for back-to-school and holiday shopping.

Markets: U.S. stocks rebounded, but Singapore slashed its annual economic growth expectations to between zero and 1 percent. And new data indicated that the prospects for the German economy, which is heavily reliant on global trade, had worsened.

Long view: Data from the government and other sources show that Mr. Trump’s tax cuts and tariffs have not achieved one of his goals: a significant return of factory activity.

Analysis: Is American power waning in Asia? The inability or unwillingness of Washington to help defuse recent flash points — in Hong Kong, Kashmir and more — is one of the clearest signs of the erosion of power and global influence under Mr. Trump, who has stuck to his “America First” idea, analysts say.

ImageCreditAdriana Loureiro Fernandez for The New York TimesMaduro cracks down on military

Over the past two years, as the oil-rich economy crumbled and a majority of Venezuelans were left without sufficient food and medicine, factions within the security forces staged at least five attempts to overthrow or assassinate President Nicolás Maduro.

So he and his embattled government turned a brutal apparatus of repression against the military. There are now 217 active and retired officers in Venezuelan jails, including 12 generals, according to a nonprofit based in Caracas that represents several of the men.

Case in point: A retired navy captain, Rafael Acosta, died a week after being detained. His autopsy report, which was leaked, listed blunt force trauma and electrocution, and the government admitted that excessive force had been used against him.

ImageCreditJon Nazca/ReutersIran says tanker seized at Gibraltar will be returned

The British and Gibraltar authorities will soon release an Iranian oil tanker that has been held for more than a month, an Iranian official said, signaling a possible step toward de-escalating tensions between Tehran and the West that threaten world energy supplies.

Officials in Gibraltar and London would not confirm or deny the Iranian claim about the impending release of the tanker, the Grace 1, which was seized on July 4 off the coast of Gibraltar.

Jalil Eslami, the deputy head of Iran’s maritime agency, predicted the release at a news conference, and his remarks were reported by several Iranian news organizations with ties to the government.

Tense climate: The recent tanker seizures, U.S. sanctions against Iran, and recent attacks on tankers near the Strait of Hormuz that American officials have attributed to Iran have ramped up friction. About 20 percent of the world’s oil supply flows through the strait.

ImageCreditJoao Silva/The New York TimesBloodied Cape Town welcomes the army

Troops have been patrolling the city’s townships for the past month, as they did in the days of apartheid. But this time residents are welcoming them, after being terrorized by gang violence that has pushed the homicide rate to about 66 killings per 100,000 people — a rate surpassed by only the most violent places in Latin America.

The violence largely stems from escalating turf battles between gangs that traffic in drugs, weapons and illicit goods like abalone, a shellfish prized by poachers.

Reality: Experts warned that soldiers can do little about the underlying issues, like worsening corruption and rising unemployment, that have allowed gangs to reign over the townships for decades.

If you have 10 minutes, this is worth itThe business of preparing for societal collapseImageCreditChet Strange for The New York Times

In his pitch to potential buyers, Larry Hall highlights his condominium’s high ceilings and spacious living rooms. Then there are the swimming pool, saunas and movie theater. But what really sets the development apart, in his view, is its ability to survive the apocalypse.

In the U.S., personalized disaster prep has grown into a multimillion-dollar business, fueled by a seemingly endless stream of new and revamped threats. Bunker builders and brokers have emerged as key players in this field.

Here’s what else is happening

Russia: The authorities evacuated the village nearest to the site of a nuclear accident last week in the country’s north. The move suggests that the dangers are more grave than initially reported from what U.S. officials say was the explosion of a prototype of a nuclear-propelled cruise missile.

Hong Kong: Anti-government protesters clashed with riot police officers on Tuesday, crippling the airport for the second straight day.

Jeffrey Epstein: The two guards who were in the jail unit where the financier apparently killed himself fell asleep and failed to check on him for about three hours, then falsified records to cover up their mistake, a law enforcement official and a prison official said.

Malaysia: The police said that the family of a missing 15-year-old London girl who disappeared over a week ago from a nature resort had confirmed that a body found nearby was hers.

ImageCreditOwen Franken for The New York Times

Snapshot: Above, crowds at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris this week. The museum has moved the famous painting to a new room during renovations, causing a commotion.

Church of England: Some of England’s most imposing and ancient cathedrals have installed things like carnival rides, a mini golf course and a lunar landscape to try to rebuild dwindling attendance.

What we’re reading: This article from The Cut. Alexandria Symonds, a senior staff editor, recommends it for “empathetically representing the very real suffering of people with a constellation of symptoms that some label chronic Lyme disease, while also being appropriately rigorous about the uncertainties of the science behind it.”

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

Cook: This blueberry, almond and lemon cake keeps for a few days, so don’t forget to share. (Our Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter has more recommendations.)

Watch: The whimsical animated musical about the Beatles, “Yellow Submarine,” is delighting one of our writers in new ways, thanks to daily viewings with his 4-year-old.

Read: Tupelo Hassman’s novel “Gods With a Little G” pits a young girl’s self-discovery against her evangelical Christian surroundings.

Smarter Living: Addressing the problem of air pollution takes policy changes and enforcement, but you can take a few immediate steps to protect your health from bad air. For instance, moving your walking, running, biking and even driving route away from truck routes can reduce your exposure. And a HEPA air purifier can help at home — so long as it’s the right size for the room.

And we look at the ups and downs of making your residence an Instagram star.

And now for the Back Story on …Credit coins

A little-known 19th-century payment system using metal tokens paved the way for today’s credit cards, tap-to-pay and cryptocurrency, according to our friends at Wirecutter, a Times Company site that reviews products.

The tokens, called charge coins or credit coins, were embossed with an account number and given out by merchants. A customer presented the coin to a merchant, who charged the purchase to the associated account. Some coins had a specific monetary limit; others had floating ceilings.

ImageCreditAssociated Press

The first were issued just after the Civil War, and they grew increasingly popular until charge plates — metal rectangles with raised letters — took over around the Great Depression. Those gave way in the 1950s to the modern credit card.

Collectors, it turns out, are into all of them. But the coins, which are rarely worth more than $100, have the least competition. A founder of the American Credit Card Collectors Society, which was established in 1994, estimates that there are probably no more than 1,000 people worldwide who collect them.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Victoria Shannon, on the briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the Jeffrey Epstein case.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Rapper on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Artists” list (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The 1619 Project, The Times Magazine’s special report on slavery in the U.S., began with an evening of conversation and performance, featuring Nikole Hannah-Jones, Wesley Morris and others. You can watch it here.


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