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Huawei gets a potential boost in Europe, Saudi Arabia courts Asia and scientists try to figure out why zebras have stripes. Here’s the latest:
In addition to the president’s public criticism of the many investigations that have consumed his time in the White House, an examination by The Times found a sustained, behind-the-scenes effort by Mr. Trump to beat back the probes.
Details: The president tried to install a perceived loyalist in charge of a federal inquiry looking into hush money payments for women who, during the presidential campaign, claimed that they had sex with Mr. Trump.
How we know: Times reporters interviewed dozens of current and former government officials and others close to Mr. Trump, and reviewed confidential White House documents.
Why it matters: Mr. Trump’s public and secret efforts to undermine the investigation and unleash an unprecedented attack of his own law enforcement apparatus have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice. Here are more takeaways from our investigation.
Other White House news: The president is preparing to establish a panel to review scientific and defense warnings that climate change is a profound risk to national security. It is to include a physicist who has gained notoriety in the scientific community for suggesting that carbon dioxide — widely believed to be a damaging greenhouse gas — is beneficial to humanity.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has landed in China for meetings with President Xi Jinping and other officials — the last stop of a whirlwind tour that also included Pakistan and India.
His swing through the region is aimed at deepening economic ties. More broadly, it reflects the kingdom’s efforts to diversify its alliances after relations with Western nations soured.
Background: Western countries have been distancing themselves since the killing of a dissident writer, Jamal Khashoggi, in Turkey last year, which many suspect was directed by the prince. There has also been increasing scrutiny of the kingdom’s role in the war in Yemen, which the U.N. has called the world’s worst current humanitarian disaster.
Why it matters: Saudi Arabia’s renewed focus on Asian countries that have prioritized economic cooperation with the kingdom over human rights concerns sends a signal to the West. “The message is that there are other options out there,” said one expert.
In the U.S.: House Democrats opened an investigation this week into the Trump administration’s plans to circumvent normal policymaking process to build nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, which they say could spread nuclear weapons technology in the volatile Middle East.
Britain, it seems, isn’t too worried about using technology from the Chinese giant, despite warnings from the U.S. that Huawei is beholden to Beijing and a proxy for espionage.
The head of Britain’s National Cyber Security Center, Ciaran Martin, said at a conference in Brussels that any risks posed by using Huawei’s technology could be mitigated, citing the strict British security reviews the company has been subjected to for more than 15 years.
Why it matters: By the end of the year, Britain will decide whether or not to use Huawei’s technology in building out its 5G network.
Countries across Europe that are also considering Huawei for their 5G networks are watching closely, looking for clues on whether the White House’s claims have been exaggerated.
The U.S. position: American officials have argued that 5G networks are much more complex than existing systems, and that the many lines of constantly updating code make the systems nearly impossible to protect entirely.
The White House, while pressuring allies to block Huawei, hasn’t provided evidence to back up its accusations of espionage, and the company has always denied the claims.
A prominent scholar and intellectual, Professor Anand Teltumbde, who has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was jailed and could be charged with conspiring “to overthrow the established government.”
But human rights activists and academics around the world, including Noam Chomsky, view the case against him as part of the government’s effort to quash criticism ahead of crucial elections later this year.
Background: In a speech in 2017, Mr. Teltumbde compared Mr. Modi to Hitler, saying his policies — which are rooted in Hindu nationalism — amounted to “fascism.” He also blamed the prime minister for religious riots in Gujarat in 2002 that killed more than 1,000 people.
Reaction: Alarmed intellectuals have signed international petitions calling on the U.N. to intervene.
Islamic State: Two American women who traveled to Syria to join the terrorist group and married its fighters now regret their decisions and want to come back home. Their prospects of doing so may be limited.
The Forbidden City: For the first time since 1925, the historic Beijing landmark has opened its doors to the public at night for two days this week, allowing visitors to view its palaces and temples in ethereal lighting.
China: Hundreds of people gathered in Beijing to mourn Li Rui, 104, a former aide to Mao Zedong who later became a vocal critic of the party. The funeral followed Communist Party protocol, which his daughter said he would have not have wanted.
K-Pop: South Korea’s government, concerned about how “identical” pop stars with the same delicate features and slim figures influence the country’s youth, issued broadcast guidelines to restrict their presence on TV. The move drew widespread criticism from fans, including comparisons to censorship during the country’s military dictatorship.
Cyberattacks: Microsoft said that a group of hackers with ties to the Kremlin’s intelligence apparatus targeted research groups and nongovernmental organizations across Europe ahead of European Parliament elections in May, the latest attempt to disrupt opponents of President Vladimir Putin.
Brexit: Britain’s divorce from the E.U. is straining its political structures. Three lawmakers who represent the more pro-European wing of Britain’s governing Conservatives resigned from their party in protest of hard-liners’ influence on much of the E.U. withdrawal plan. Two days earlier, eight lawmakers quit the opposition Labour Party.
Europe: At a time when populism threatens to undermine the cohesiveness of the bloc, Germany and the Netherlands have come together to create the world’s first binational battalion, an informal test case for a European army.
The Roman Catholic Church: Pope Francis and other church leaders convene today for an unprecedented conference on clerical sexual abuse. Ahead of that gathering, our Op-Ed columnist Frank Bruni weighs in on a different problem confronting the church: its treatment of gay Catholics.
“Game of Thrones”: With just under two months to go before HBO releases the eighth and final season of its biggest-ever hit, The Times is rolling out a preseason guide to rewatching the first seven seasons, with a deep dive into plot twists and themes you might have forgotten and tributes to the characters loved and lost. Sign up here to get it by email.
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“In fortune, children, friends, or wife,
Owe all their zest to thee.”
Those grateful lines are from an ode to Sake (or Sheikh) Dean Mahomed, a Bengali who introduced the concept of shampooing to Britain.
Mahomed — who died on or around this day in 1851 — had many talents. In 1794, he became the first Indian to publish a book in English. In 1810, he opened the first Indian restaurant in England, the Hindoostane Coffee House in London.
But it was his next project that put him on the map. In 1814, he opened a Brighton bathhouse offering luxurious steam baths that ended with a signature head massage, known in India as “champi,” or “shampoo.”
He claimed the popular massage cured an assortment of ailments, including asthma and paralysis, in a book titled, aptly, “Shampooing, or, Benefits Resulting From the Use of Indian Medicated Vapor Bath.”
He was eventually given a royal warrant as the “Shampooing Surgeon” to the king.
Your briefing writer, Alisha Haridasani Gupta, wrote today’s Back Story.
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