Facebook, ‘Joker,’ Rick Perry: Your Friday Briefing

Facebook, ‘Joker,’ Rick Perry: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering revelations in the American influence campaign in Ukraine, a government push for a loophole in Facebook’s encryption plans, and a ban on masks in Hong Kong. It’s also Friday, so there’s a new news quiz.

The texts between Mr. Trump’s top diplomats to Ukraine and an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky included a discussion about language for a proposed statement, which the Ukrainians never released. Kurt Volker, the American former special envoy to the country, is said to have told House investigators that the idea for the statement came from Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer.

Yesterday: Mr. Volker became the first witness in the impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump. He turned over text messages indicating a dispute among American diplomats about whether Mr. Trump was seeking a quid pro quo from Ukraine, the charge at the heart of the inquiry.

Go deeper: The Times has untangled the discredited conspiracy theory — involving Democrats, the 2016 election and hackers — that Mr. Trump raised in his July call with Ukraine’s leader.

Another angle: Already facing an inquiry for asking Ukraine to investigate the Biden family, Mr. Trump on Thursday publicly called on China to do the same. Here’s what we know about the Chinese business ventures of Joe Biden’s son Hunter.


Attorney General William Barr and his counterparts in Australia and Britain are asking the company to create a loophole in its plan to fully encrypt WhatsApp and other messaging services.

In a letter dated today, the law enforcement officials write, “Companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content even for preventing or investigating the most serious crimes.”

Response: A spokesman said that Facebook respected the role of law enforcement but believed that people had a right to communicate privately.

Background: In 2016, a judge ordered Apple to help the F.B.I. unlock an iPhone recovered after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. The F.B.I. ultimately cracked it without Apple’s help.


For more than a decade, New York’s taxi industry leaders have steadily seized control of the market for medallions in Chicago and other U.S. cities, a Times investigation has found.

Using tactics honed in New York, they made millions but ultimately helped gut the industry, leaving the lives of immigrant drivers on the edge of ruin.

Quotable: “They came in, they juiced up the medallion, a superficial value,” a Chicago cabdriver from Greece said. “We took out their loans, and we were wiped out.”

Background: A two-part Times investigation in May detailed the devastation of New York’s taxi industry.


The R-rated film starring Joaquin Phoenix opened last night and is expected to be a hit for Warner Bros.

But its empathetic depiction of a character with similar psychological traits to those of gunmen in real-life mass shootings has caused deep unease.

We looked at the movie’s origin story, at a studio with a history of boundary-pushing films that said something about the broader culture.

Review: The Times reviewer A.O. Scott was unimpressed, calling the film “an empty, foggy exercise in second-hand style and second-rate philosophizing.” Read his verdict.

Another angle: “Our critics have accepted the Joker’s power to corrupt the masses in real life, on a more literal level than the most addled comic-book fan ever would,” an essay in The Times Magazine argues.

The MSNBC host — who has come to be viewed as an avatar of the left — has, since President Trump’s inauguration, won the largest and most obsessive audience of her career.

She spoke to The Times Magazine about TV news in 2019: “I’m trying to explain what’s going on in the world.”

Rick Perry’s exit: The energy secretary, one of President Trump’s longest-serving cabinet members, plans to step down by December, according to two people familiar with his plans.

Snapshot: Above, Sirak Asfaw, a civil servant in the Netherlands, with a looted Ethiopian crown he found in the luggage of a guest at his home more than 20 years ago. He held onto the artifact, fearful of what might happen if it were returned to Ethiopia. After the country installed a new prime minister last year, talks are now underway to return the crown.

A record for Banksy: A painting showing Britain’s House of Commons populated by chimpanzees sold for about $12.1 million, setting an auction high for the street artist’s work.

Baseball playoffs: The Cardinals beat the Braves and the Dodgers defeated the Nationals in the opening games of the National League division series. The American League gets underway tonight. Here’s the schedule.

News quiz: Did you follow the headlines this week? Test yourself.

Modern Love: In this week’s column, a woman whose daughter had been left on a bridge in China with a note thought that finding it would provide them both with answers. The Times is also starting an email newsletter dedicated to real stories that examine the highs, lows and woes of relationships. Sign up here.

Late-night comedy: “Just when you think Trump can’t dig himself a deeper hole, he literally reaches China,” Stephen Colbert said.

What we’re reading: The poet and essayist Patricia Lockwood on the work of John Updike, in The London Review of Books. “If somehow you got through yesterday without reading this,” writes Bill Wasik, deputy editor of The Times Magazine, “you MUST read it right now.”

The Romans had harpastum, and as far back as the 14th century, Celts played caid (pronounced, roughly, cahjch). That is believed to have evolved into Gaelic football and Australian Rules football, also similar to rugby.

As for the modern game, legend has it that in 1823, William Webb Ellis, a student at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, became the first to run with the ball in his arms during a match. Though some dispute that, the World Cup trophy is named after him.

History is, however, clear on this: His school wrote rules for the game in 1845, permanently lending the name Rugby to what is now one of the world’s most popular sports.


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

— Chris


Thank you
Melina Delkic helped compile today’s briefing. Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. Wadzanai Mhute wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode looks back at the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Fancy parties (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The Times is partnering with Verizon to provide free access to millions of students and teachers at U.S. schools.

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