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We’re covering China’s use of DNA to map faces, global stock market disruptions and life inside a village on the DMZ.
China maps faces using DNA
It sounds like science fiction, but it isn’t.
Scientists in various countries are working on a way to create an image of a person’s face from a genetic sample. But in China, the effort uses blood collected from ethnic Uighurs swept up in mass detentions in China’s Xinjiang region.
Critics say Beijing is exploiting the openness of the international scientific community to harness research into the human genome for questionable purposes. The Chinese have said that they followed international norms that would require research subjects’ consent, but many in Xinjiang have no choice.
And Times reporters were prevented from interviewing residents of Tumxuk, the site of two internment camps, making it impossible to verify consent.
Scope: The police in China turned to Chinese scientists with connections to leading institutions in Europe, which sometimes funded their work. The process, called DNA phenotyping, is also being developed in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Quotable: The Chinese government is building “essentially technologies used for hunting people,” said one professor who tracks Chinese interest in these technologies.
Inside the reporting: Sui-Lee Wee, one of the two reporters on the story, said officials in Tumxuk went to extreme lengths to stop the reporting. “The cops deleted all the photos and videos from our phones,” she wrote on Twitter, “and asked for the passwords to our social media accounts.”
Tension at NATO’s meeting in London
The once-cordial relationship between President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France quickly turned cold at a celebration of the alliance’s 70th anniversary on Tuesday.
The leaders sparred about their approaches to terrorism, Mr. Trump’s relationship with Turkey’s president and the future of NATO, after a spat over Mr. Macron’s remarks on the Trump administration’s role in the “brain death” of the alliance.
Hours earlier, Mr. Trump called those remarks “very insulting.”
Big picture: The visit comes as European leaders struggle to combat the rising influence of countries like China, and to contain some of their unpredictable members, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
British politics: Mr. Trump heeded Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plea to avoid entering into political discussions just two weeks ahead of a crucial election. And he extended that silence to the British royal family when he said, “I don’t know Prince Andrew,” even though he has been photographed with him on several occasions.
Trump’s hint at trade-talk delay roils markets
President Trump sent stocks tumbling when he said on Tuesday that he had “no deadline” for a trade deal with China, suggesting that he would wait until after the 2020 presidential election.
In a wide-ranging talk in London, he said that Chinese officials wanted to make a deal but that “we’ll see whether or not the deal’s going to be right, it’s got to be right.”
The Trump administration has also raised the prospect of steep new tariffs on French cheese and wine, prompting Europe to threaten retaliation, and Mr. Trump has said he would impose steel and aluminum tariffs on Brazil and Argentina.
Markets: China’s currency slipped. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 was on track for its worst loss since Oct. 8.
If you have some time, this is worth it
Visualizing pollution around the world
In 2015, pollution was responsible for an estimated 4.2 million deaths worldwide, with a majority concentrated in East and South Asia. Millions more fell ill from breathing dirty air.
We compiled a graphic showing pollution in various cities around the world. New Delhi saw apocalyptic highs last month; Beijing’s air quality improved after it imposed pollution controls. Find out how your city fares.
Here’s what else is happening
The Philippines: At least one person was killed and about 500 flights were canceled as Typhoon Kammuri swept across the country.
Australia: A second person who had been missing in the outback for almost two weeks was found. The search continued for a third.
Trump’s taxes: An appeals court ruled that Deutsche Bank must comply with congressional requests for documents detailing President Trump’s finances, a ruling that is almost certain to be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Measles: The government of Samoa is shutting down all public services for two days to fight an outbreak that has killed more than 55 people and infected thousands in the South Pacific island nation.
U.S. politics: Senator Kamala Harris said she would suspend her 2020 presidential campaign after months of falling poll numbers.
Crashed spacecraft: NASA has found pieces of the spacecraft that India attempted to land on the moon in September. An Indian engineer who had scoured the lunar surface in his spare time pointed to the right spot.
Perspective: In an opinion piece for The Times, the Bollywood star Deepika Padukone discusses being diagnosed with depression and her efforts to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease in India.
Snapshot: Above, Taesung, a South Korean village on the Demilitarized Zone, the buffer between North Korea and South Korea. Residents enjoy 5G, a great school and special tax cuts — a reward for living in what many consider to be one of the most frightening places on Earth.
52 Places traveler: In his latest dispatch, our columnist eats his way across Danang, Vietnam.
Australian whiskey: The country’s distillers are pushing to develop a unique local style as they look to expand where they export the drink. And lax regulations give them the freedom to experiment, making it an exciting time to watch.
What we’re reading: This New Yorker article. “Did you know there was an Airbnb for campers?” writes the Briefings editor, Andrea Kannapell. “There is — and it has its own complications.”
Now, a break from the news
Smarter Living: If you start practicing your New Year’s resolutions now, your chances of sticking to them will be a cinch in 2020.
And now for the Back Story on …
The real James Bond
His name is Bond. James Bond. But as the trailer for the latest Bond movie comes out today, we wondered where the name came from.
The writer behind the super spy, Ian Fleming, was also an avid bird watcher. On a trip to Jamaica after World War II, he spotted a book, “Birds of the West Indies,” by an ornithologist from Philadelphia. Who happened to be named James Bond.
“It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed,” he wrote in a letter to the ornithologist’s wife.
But, as in any good spy story, there’s a twist: Last year, the BBC reported that newly released records showed an intelligence officer named James Bond had served under Fleming in a secret elite unit that led a guerrilla war against Hitler.
That Bond, a metal worker from Wales, had taken his spy past to the grave, his family said — and they suspected Fleming had used the bird-watching Bond as a “classic red herring,” to keep his identity a secret.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Tom Wright-Piersanti wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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