Wednesday, August 15News That Matters

James Comey, NASA, Japan: Your Tuesday Briefing


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Good morning. A bitter feud in Washington, contradictions in Syria and another step in space exploration. Here’s what you need to know:


Ralph Alswang/ABC News

President Trump went back on the attack against James Comey, the former F.B.I. director, after Mr. Comey’s ABC News interview on Sunday.

Mr. Comey called Mr. Trump a serial liar who treated women like “meat,” and described him as a “stain” on everyone who worked for him. The broadcast was just an hour long. We read and annotated excerpts from ABC’s transcript of the full five hours of the interview.

Hours after Mr. Trump’s latest accusations against Mr. Comey, the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, appeared before a federal judge to argue over the extraordinary raids that federal agents conducted last week on his office, home and hotel room.

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Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves Japan today, heading to Florida to discuss North Korea and trade issues with President Trump.

Mr. Abe meets President Xi Jinping in China later this year and possibly even North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

But his political standing has been damaged by domestic scandals, and some have questioned whether he might resign when the current session of Parliament ends in June.

Even if Mr. Abe can claim some kind of victory in his meeting with Mr. Trump, it is unclear whether it will help him. “Even now the vultures are starting to circle,” one analyst said.

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Louai Beshara/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A fog of contradictions in Syria.

Western officials said Russia and Syria prevented inspectors from reaching Douma, where about 70 people died on April 7 in a suspected chemical attack by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Moscow blamed the United Nations for the delay.

Washington plans to impose new sanctions on Russia for enabling the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, as relations with the Kremlin continue to sour.

And U.S.-led attacks over the weekend, which hit three targets, were intended to keep the West from being dragged further into Syria’s seven-year war. But our correspondent says the airstrikes didn’t alter the overall dynamics of the conflict.

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Zephyr/Science Source

Lung cancerresearchers have made a major discovery: Patients can survive much longer if they receive immunotherapy alongside chemotherapy.

The drugs — including an immunotherapy agent made by Merck (which paid for the study) — cost more than $100,000 a year and help only some patients.

But they’re seen as a potential key in the fight against lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death globally.

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How NASA’s TESS Spacecraft Will Hunt Exoplanets

NASA’s TESS spacecraft will spend two years searching the sky for nearby alien worlds.


Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Conceptual Image Lab.
Watch in Times Video »

And the search for alien worlds and perhaps alien life will take another step outward this week when TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is launched by NASA into orbit around the Earth.

The satellite will spend at least two years scrutinizing the sky for exoplanets — planets around other stars — within about 300 light years from our own.

The launch was postponed from Monday, and rescheduled for Wednesday. It should be available on NASA’s website.

Business

• China releases quarterly G.D.P. figures today.

• Sina Weibo, the Chinese social media giant, reversed its ban on gay-themed content after intense pressure from millions of internet users.

• With Dropbox and Spotify successfully going public, tech investors are confident that a bonanza of initial public offerings lies ahead.

• Signing off: Credit card signatures are (finally) going extinct in the U.S.

• U.S. stocks were up. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

Market Snapshot View Full Overview

    In the News

    • “They eat money.” Since apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994, tens of billions of dollars in public funds have been siphoned off by leaders of the African National Congress, the organization that had promised an equal and just nation. [The New York Times]

    • Barbara Bush, 92, the wife of the 41st U.S. president and mother of the 43rd, is seriously ill and has decided to stop seeking medical treatment to prolong her life. [The New York Times]

    • “Highly suspicious.” The authorities in New South Wales said a bush fire that burned thousand of acres and threatened homes was likely caused by arson. [BBC]

    • A baffling flesh-eating bacteria has caused a “worsening epidemic” in Victoria. Researchers say they need immediate funding to study the bacteria, which causes a disease called Buruli ulcer. [SBS]

    • In eastern India, a freight train barreled into a herd of elephants, killing a calf and three adult animals. Indian wildlife experts say such accidents are increasingly common because mining and development projects are forcing elephants to forage farther from their natural habitats. [The New York Times]

    • Paris. Milan. Riyadh? Saudi Arabia had its first fashion week — with female-only audiences and no social media — but as one observer said, “Women here have been waiting for years for a time to shine.” [The New York Times]

    Smarter Living

    Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.


    Heidi Younger

    • Some empathic advice: Cut yourself some slack.

    • Recipe of the day: Salmon with sesame and herbs has an easy marinade that hits all the right notes.

    Noteworthy


    Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Coachella

    “Let’s cut to the chase, our pop music critic writes. “There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year, or any year soon, than Beyoncé’s headlining set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.” (Here are some clips.)

    • Pulitzer Prizes: Applause rang out in The Times newsroom as we celebrated three awards, including public service (shared with The New Yorker) for reporting on sexual harassment that ushered in a reckoning about the treatment of women by powerful men in the uppermost ranks of Hollywood, politics, media and technology.

    Yuki Kawauchi of Japanwon the Boston Marathon — his fourth this year — in 2:15:53. Desiree Linden became the first American woman to win the race in 33 years.

    • And friends forever. Scientists have made astonishing discoveries about the nature and evolution of friendship, getting provocative clues about what makes it so healthy and social isolation so harmful.

    Back Story

    Each week, The Times’s crossword column, Wordplay, highlights the answer to one of the most difficult clues from the previous week’s puzzles.

    This week’s word: babas.

    “Baba au rhum” are rich, rum-flavored cakes that are largely popular in France and Italy. Babas is the plural.

    The baba originated in France, and was supposedly inspired by the Polish king Stanislaw I, whose daughter, Marie, married King Louis XV. It is said that Stanislaw was partial to the Alsatian Gugelhupf cake, though he discovered that the dry dough tasted better when dipped in liquor.

    The Parisian baker Nicolas Stohrer went on to popularize this combination, and one of his descendants eventually established rum as the alcohol of choice. Stohrer’s patisserie is still around today.

    Babas have continued to be a staple of French baking, and the success of the cake has carried over to Italy and the United States. Babas are now often made with raisins in their dough, and they usually resemble Bundt cakes or doughnuts in shape. Variations may use sweet wine or liqueur in place of rum.

    Deb Amlen contributed reporting.

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