Boeing, New Zealand, Utrecht: Your Wednesday Briefing


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Good morning.

A U.S. inquiry into the Boeing 737 Max 8, the lives stolen in New Zealand, and a clue in the deadly shooting in Utrecht. Here’s the latest:

The U.S. transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, asked her agency’s internal watchdog to conduct an audit of how the Federal Aviation Administration cleared the Boeing 737 Max 8, bringing official scrutiny to the rollout of Boeing’s high-selling jet. The inquiry is set to start soon, and a Boeing spokesman said the company would cooperate with it.

In the past five months, two Max 8s have crashed — last week in Ethiopia, killing 157 people, and in October in Indonesia, killing 189 people — under similar circumstances. The F.A.A. was slow to join the rest of the world in grounding the model. And it may face the coming scrutiny under a new leader: a former airline executive whom President Trump on Tuesday nominated to head the agency.

Controversy: The F.A.A. certified the Max 8 as safe to fly in 2017. One concern is the role Boeing employees played in the process. And there are doubts about the F.A.A.’s decision that pilots who had flown the plane’s previous version would not need training on the automated flight-control system, which in both crashes may have forced the jetliners into dives.

As victims’ families prepare for funeral services in Christchurch, we take a look at their stories.

Among the 50 people killed at the two mosques were students, engineers, a dairy farmer, a new father, an aspiring pilot and a 3-year-old boy who his family said “was full of energy, love and happiness.”

Developments: Today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is returning to Christchurch to offer solace. In an impassioned speech to Parliament on Tuesday, she demanded that internet platforms like Facebook do a better job controlling hateful content. And she said she would do everything she could to deny the gunman attention. “He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist,” she said. “But he will, when I speak, be nameless.”

Though uncertainty remains, the Dutch police said they were “strongly” considering terrorism as a motive for a deadly shooting on a tram that locked down the city of Utrecht on Monday. Without giving details, they said they had discovered a note that lent itself to that motive.

Three people were killed and five injured, several seriously, and an ensuing manhunt rattled a nation where gun violence is rare. Gokmen Tanis, a 37-year-old immigrant from Turkey, was arrested, and although a domestic dispute was one possible theory, the police said they had found no links between the suspect and those killed on the tram.

The suspect: Mr. Tanis had been arrested several times before and was facing a rape charge. He was erratic, troubled and aggressive, people who knew him said. Two other men have been arrested, but little has been made public about them.

Washington has been pushing Iraq to confront and sideline its neighbor, a move that has increased tensions not just with Baghdad but also within the Trump administration.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been leading the effort. Under his proposed plans, the State Department would designate Iran’s military Islamic Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization — a first for a unit of another government’s military.

The plan would also expose Iraqi Shiite militias — some of which were trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and several of which are legitimate players in Iraqi politics — to economic sanctions and travel restrictions.

Pushback: American officials said the plan would put U.S. troops and intelligence officers at risk of similar actions from foreign governments.

ISIS: The spokesman of the terrorist group broke his monthslong silence to mock America’s assertion it had defeated the group, and to call for retaliation over the mosque attacks in New Zealand. Separately, Iraqi truffle hunters have become the latest victims of Islamic State kidnappings and killings.

Cyclone Idai: The widespread destruction from the huge storm was being called the worst disaster in southern Africa in two decades as rescuers and aid agencies tried to reach countless people marooned. A U.N. official described some of the flooding as an inland ocean, and President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique said the death toll there could exceed 1,000.

Kazakhstan: The oil-rich former Soviet republic was jolted — and some saw hope for a new era — as its aging and autocratic president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, 78, said he was resigning after 30 years in power.

Vatican: Pope Francis rejected the offered resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, a French cardinal convicted this month of covering up decades-old allegations of sexual abuse by a priest in his diocese. Cardinal Barbarin is appealing his conviction.

We recently asked readers to send us their favorite odd facts. Mark Stewart, from Maryland, mentioned that the distinctive shape of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City could be seen in an earlier design for a Maryland tourist attraction.

When the museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opened in 1959, it was both praised (“Mr. Wright’s greatest building. New York’s greatest building”) and scorned (an “inverted oatmeal dish”).

The museum took its cues from a design Wright had experimented with before, initially for a project that was never built.

In 1924, at the dawn of America’s love affair with automobiles, a businessman named Gordon Strong worked with Wright on an attraction at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland that would “serve as an objective for short motor trips” from nearby Washington and Baltimore.

Wright designed a circular building with drivable ramps that wound around the outside like a ribbon. Strong hated it, likening the design to the Tower of Babel, and the project was later abandoned.

But Wright believed in his vision enough to return to it decades later, in an inverted form, when the Guggenheim asked him to design a “temple of the spirit, a monument.”

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