Iran and Xinjiang Documents, Hong Kong, Prince Andrew: Your Monday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering an escalation of the Hong Kong protests, Western Europe’s new Islamic State problem and revelatory leaks about Iran’s role in Iraq and ethnic detentions in China.

Early today, the occupiers and the police were still locked in the standoff at Hong Kong Polytechnic University that began Saturday night, and smoke billowed from the grounds.

The clashes were the culmination of the most disruptive week of the monthslong protests, a period that has focused a global spotlight on the growing desperation of the pro-democracy activists and the aggressive efforts by the police to suppress them.

Looking ahead: Schools across Hong Kong were canceled today, and the unrest showed no signs of abating ahead of local elections scheduled for Nov. 24.

Go deeper: We went inside the territory’s battle-ready campuses last week, where some protesters prepared Molotov cocktails on assembly lines.

An unprecedented leak of hundreds of secret Iranian intelligence reports and cables reveals the country’s shadow war for influence in Iraq — and the battle within Iran’s own spy divisions.

Working with The Intercept, The Times reviewed hundreds of reports and cables sent by M.O.I.S., Iran’s version of the C.I.A., from 2014 to 2015 that detail work by Iranian spies to co-opt Iraq’s leaders, pay Iraqi agents working for the U.S. to switch sides and infiltrate every aspect of political, economic and religious life.

Inside Iran: The Iranian government, which has faced protests in Iraq and Lebanon over its outsized influence, is now being challenged from within over a price increase for gasoline. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has imposed an almost complete internet blackout.

More than 400 pages of internal Chinese government documents obtained by The Times show in officials’ words how China divided families and forced as many as a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others into internment camps and prisons over the past three years.

The documents, which include internal speeches by President Xi Jinping and directives on surveillance, reveal how the demands of top officials led to the creation of the camps in Xinjiang where inmates sometimes undergo years of indoctrination and interrogation.

The papers were brought to light by a member of the Chinese political establishment who requested anonymity and expressed hope that their disclosure would prevent party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping culpability for the mass detentions.

Takeaways: The Communist Party boss in Xinjiang played a major role in expanding the internment camps rapidly and purged officials who resisted the campaign. Here are the main insights from the files. You can read the article in Chinese.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to send back foreign citizens who supported the Islamic State is handing Western Europe a problem it had hoped to avoid: the return of radicalized Europeans to countries that absolutely do not want them.

Last week, Turkey sent a dozen former Islamic State members and relatives to Britain, Denmark, Germany and the U.S. Turkish officials say that they hold 2,280 Islamic State members from 30 countries, and that all will be deported.

Mr. Erdogan’s real intent remains unclear: Does he really plan to send them all back? Or is he trying to wring concessions from Europe?

Context: The sudden problem is a consequence of President Trump’s decision last month to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey to take control of many of the Islamic State members held there.

Europe already pays Turkey billions of dollars to stem the flow of asylum seekers from conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan

Fertility rates have been dropping precipitously around the world for decades in countries of all income levels. It can be a sign that women have more career opportunities and a rising standard of living.

But the economic, social and environmental conditions of modern life can also push fertility rates below the level needed to maintain a stable population, according to an exploration of the issue in our Opinion section. Denmark is a case in point.

Saudi Aramco: The world’s largest oil company set its market value at up to $1.7 trillion, short of the $2 trillion initially estimated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Trading in its initial public offering is expected to start next month.

Prince Andrew: Britons were incredulous about the Duke of York’s interview with the BBC about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the financier and convicted sex offender. In the interview, the prince could not explain a photo taken of him with a woman who later accused him of sexual misconduct,.

Boris Johnson: Jennifer Arcuri, the U.S. businesswoman whose ties to the British prime minister while he was London’s mayor prompted a government inquiry, said that Mr. Johnson cast her aside like “some gremlin” after their relationship became public.

WeWork: The company is said to be planning to cut at least 4,000 people from its work force as it tries to stabilize itself after heavy losses led it to the brink of collapse.

U.S. primary race: A new poll in Iowa shows that Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., holds a commanding lead over former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and other Democratic presidential candidates.

Child genius: Laurent Simons, 9, of Belgium is about to become one of the youngest people in the world to graduate from a university. He says, “I’m quite lazy” (because he’s not into sports).

In memoriam: Bogaletch Gebre, 66, an Ethiopian women’s rights activist and scientist who helped lead a successful campaign in her homeland against female genital mutilation, a practice she herself endured. She died on Nov. 2 in Los Angeles.

What we’re reading: This essay in The Atlantic. “Tom Junod’s remembrance of his friend and subject Mister Rogers was filled with all kinds of revelations that brought me to my knees a little,” says our Magazine writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner.

Cook: Make a buttery cranberry crumb cake, and enjoy it all week. (Don’t forget to share.)

Watch: Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in the new film “Ford v Ferrari,” James Mangold’s look back at the golden age of auto racing. It’s a Critic’s Pick.

Smarter Living: Having trouble with Europcar? You’re not alone.

Treasure hunters in Scandinavia have recovered dozens of cases of cognac and liqueur from wreckage 250 feet under the surface of the Baltic Sea, a rare find. The burning question: Is it drinkable?

The liquor sank with the S.S. Kyros, a Swedish steamship that was attacked by a German submarine in 1917, during World War I. The haul included 50 cases of cognac and 15 cases of Benedictine, an herbal liqueur.

The cocktail expert Amanda Schuster said it was unlikely that the spirits would be safe to drink.

But David Wondrich, a senior drinks columnist at the Daily Beast, said the cold water might have preserved them, and that water pressure could have kept corks in place and bottles sealed. Spirits, he said, “tend to keep far better than most wines over very long periods. I’ve tasted numerous not just drinkable, but delicious bottles from the 1910s and before.”

The world’s oldest known booze is in the Speyer wine bottle, which dates back nearly 1,700 years and is in a German museum. Scientists say drinking it probably wouldn’t kill you — but it would taste terrible.

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

— Melina and Victoria

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. The Back Story is based on a report by Mihir Zaveri, on our Express desk. You can reach the team at

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