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We’re covering Boris Johnson’s week of diplomatic dances, Italy’s political future and the Titanic’s decaying wreckage 14 years after its last inspection.
At Group of 7 meeting, Britain will walk a tightrope
Prime Minister Boris Johnson set off on his first foreign trip as Britain’s leader on his way to the Group of 7 meeting this weekend in France, where he faces a delicate diplomatic dance with world leaders over Brexit.
He is also keeping an eye on domestic opponents as a general election becomes a possibility.
Ahead of a potentially chaotic no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31, Mr. Johnson needs President Trump’s help to cushion the economic impact. But he can ill afford to appear too chummy, given Mr. Trump’s unpopularity among both Europeans and Britons.
Analysis: Mr. Johnson hopes that the prospective damage to European economies, especially Ireland, will force Brussels to reopen negotiations and drop the “backstop” designed to assure there is no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. European leaders, on the other hand, will be loath to make concessions with an election potentially imminent.
Germany: On Wednesday in Berlin, Mr. Johnson’s first stop, Chancellor Angela Merkel effectively challenged him to produce a detailed, practical solution within 30 days to avoid a hard Brexit.
Bewilderment in Denmark amid Trump feud
President Trump added to strained European relations, saying that the new prime minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen, had been “nasty” to him by calling his interest in buying Greenland “absurd.”
He then took to Twitter to further assail Denmark, saying that as a NATO member it did not contribute enough to military spending.
The president is interested in Greenland, a semiautonomous territory of Denmark, for strategic military purposes, as well as for its natural resources. He said he canceled his planned September visit to Denmark over its rejection of his overture.
Meet Mette Frederiksen: The 41-year-old is Denmark’s youngest prime minister ever. Two months into her term, she has prioritized fighting climate change. She dismissed speculation Wednesday that the brouhaha had damaged Danish-American relations.
Timing: The scrapped Greenland venture comes at a moment when Mr. Trump has made particularly erratic statements. In recent days, he proudly quoted a radio host declaring that Israeli Jews love him as if he were the “King of Israel” and “the second coming of God,” while Mr. Trump himself accused Jews who vote for Democrats of “great disloyalty.”
Reining in disinformation mills on Facebook
The Western Journal, a site founded by an American political provocateur, used a steady stream of misleading headlines and sensationalized stories to become one of the most popular and influential publications in America, shaping the political beliefs of more than 36 million deeply loyal readers and followers.
Now the publication is battling the very technology firms that enabled its rise. Its Facebook traffic has declined sharply, after an accumulation of “false” ratings from fact-checking websites made it less likely to appear in users’ feeds. Google News blacklisted the publication last year. Apple News followed suit in June.
Big picture: For decades, enterprises belonging to the Brown family, which owns The Western Journal, have blended political campaigns and partisan journalism, helping reshape American politics and earning tens of millions of dollars along the way. President Trump’s movement was the family’s most lucrative opportunity yet. But it could also be their undoing.
Trump moves to detain migrant families indefinitely
A new Trump administration rule would allow the U.S. to detain indefinitely families who cross the border illegally, abolishing a 20-day limit.
The regulation, which must be approved by a federal judge, would also let the White House set standards for conditions at detention centers. It is expected to be immediately challenged in court.
Legal background: The overhaul would reverse protections set under the Flores settlement in 1997. Here’s how they came to be.
If you have 6 minutes, this is worth it
In Japan, the abacus is a lifestyle
Schools across the country still teach how to calculate dizzying sums by sliding tiny beads along rods in wooden frames, and at least 43,000 students take advanced lessons. Many practitioners sit for exams, and the elite take part in national competitions, like the All-Japan Abacus Championship in Kyoto this month, pictured above.
“Unlike the computer or calculator, you have to watch the movement of the beads with your eyes, and then think with your brain and make a move with your fingers,” one expert said. “It’s a very foundational learning process.”
Here’s what else is happening
Italy’s political future: The warring enemies of Matteo Salvini, who as leader of the anti-migrant League party has been at the center of Italian politics, began the horse-trading to form a coalition government that could relegate him to the sidelines. Separately, in response to the coalition collapse, markets are not panicking (yet).
Brazil: Fires are burning in the Amazon rain forest at the fastest pace since the country’s National Institute for Space Research started keeping records on them in 2013. The center said 74,155 fires had been detected this year — an 84 percent increase from the same period in 2018.
China: The government acknowledged on Wednesday that it had detained an employee of Britain’s Hong Kong consulate, Simon Cheung, who disappeared earlier this month after visiting Shenzhen for a business conference.
Snapshot: Above, the Titanic, where a team of divers visited the world’s most famous shipwreck this month to assess its status for the first time in 14 years. All agree that the once-grand ship is rapidly falling apart. (We hope it never lets go.)
What we’re reading: This excerpt from Lyz Lenz’s new book “God Land,” in Pacific Standard, published shortly before the online magazine ceased publication. “It examines the definition of ‘rural’ and the intersection of religion, gun ownership and class,” writes Dan Saltzstein, our senior editor for special projects, “and is a great encapsulation of why I found the book so fascinating.”
Now, a break from the news
Cookbooks written by white Southerners circulated the recipes, and after the Civil War, freed black entrepreneurs, especially women, plied train stations to sell fried chicken to travelers.
The dish spread nationally during the Great Migration of black Americans from the Jim Crow South, and the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain eventually took that version around the world.
Who first sandwiched fried chicken in bread may never be known — one writer found an ad for a fried chicken sandwich in a 1936 Kansas newspaper.
That’s it for this briefing. In case you’re inspired, here’s The Times’s own guide to frying chicken.
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Andrea Kannapell, the briefings editor, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about a push by chief executives in the United States to change their business practices.
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• Gillian Wong, who manages much of The Times’s coverage of the protests in Hong Kong, discussed how we do it. (Breathing masks and goggles are involved.)