Tariffs, Mars, Greece: Your Thursday Briefing

Tariffs, Mars, Greece: Your Thursday Briefing


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Good morning. The U.S.-E.U. trade war halts, scientists discover water on Mars and a new exhibition showcases Gala Dalí’s life.

Here’s the latest:

• The U.S. trade war with the E.U. appears to be off, at least for now.

At a surprise news conference, President Trump and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, above left, said they would work toward lowering tariffs and other trade barriers, temporarily defusing a battle that began with Mr. Trump’s tariffs on European steel and aluminum exports.

Given Mr. Trump’s unpredictable negotiating style, it was not clear whether the agreement was a genuine truce or merely a lull in a conflict that could flare again.

• In Greece, grief over wildfires that killed at least 81 people is being exacerbated by suspicion over their origin and criticism of the official response. The toll is expected to climb as crews search for people feared dead among as many as 2,500 burned homes.

Above, the devastation in Mati, Greece.

Residents and officials disagreed on whether an evacuation was ever ordered, and many Greeks are asking how the fires started and spread so quickly. Some speculate that arson was at play; others say illegally built homes in wooded areas may have contributed to the disaster.

An investigation won’t begin until all the fires are out.

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Wages in the eurozone are rising again, although no one knows why or whether it will last.

Europe appears to be an exception among developed economies, where wages have largely remained stagnant despite a recovery in the global economy and a decline in unemployment.

“This is one of the big economic questions of our time,” one economist said.

Above, an aeronautics factory in Portugal.

Increases in worker pay have given the European Central Bank confidence to end its main stimulus measure at the end of the year, a plan it is expected to reaffirm at its meeting today.

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• Mike Pompeo, above center, the U.S. secretary of state, defended President Trump’s actions toward Russia as the White House walked back an invitation for President Vladimir Putin to visit Washington this fall.

In a combative Senate hearing, Mr. Pompeo said that punitive actions showed the administration was tough on Moscow. But he declined to provide specifics about Mr. Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Mr. Putin in Finland last week.

Just before the hearing began, the White House said that a planned follow-up meeting between the two presidents would be delayed until next year — until “after the Russia witch hunt is over.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen released a secret recording in which Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, appears to have direct knowledge about hush money paid to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with him. Here’s how the audio clip has unraveled a web of false statements by Mr. Trump and his aides.

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• Ready to move to Mars?

Scientists have discovered a large, watery lake beneath an ice cap there, raising the possibility that the planet could have once supported life.

“It is liquid, and it’s salty, and it’s in contact with rocks,” said the scientist who oversaw the research. “There are all the ingredients for thinking that life can be there, or can be maintained there if life once existed on Mars.”

Business

Ryanair was once an icon of Europe’s budget travel boom, but decreasing profits, growing competition and increasing strikes by its staff, above, are forcing the airline to cancel hundreds of flights and hurting its bottom line.

For years, big tech companies have had a near-absolutist understanding of free speech. But that ethos, our tech columnist writes, is over. And Facebook’s stock fell in light of its efforts to improve privacy following a series of scandals.

Nestlé, which makes Kit Kat bars outside the U.S., could lose exclusive rights to the candy bar’s four-fingered shape in the E.U., meaning it could become harder for companies to get protection across the bloc for unconventional trademarks.

Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

American officials have begun an intensive campaign to secure the release of Andrew Brunson, above center, an American pastor held on espionage charges in Turkey. [The New York Times]

In Britain, a person who is unhappily married can get divorced, right? Not always, says the Supreme Court. [The New York Times]

A Swedish student delayed a flight to Istanbul for hours to stop the deportation of an Afghan man. [The New York Times]

In Laos, the death toll is climbing from the devastating flood released when a dam failed under heavy rains. [The New York Times]

Imran Khan, a former Pakistani cricket star, has an early lead in the national election, but the results have been disputed by candidates who complained of vote rigging. [The New York Times]

A Vietnamese man was found guilty by a Berlin court for helping his country’s intelligence service in kidnapping a former business executive and smuggling him back to Vietnam. [Deutsche Welle]

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

The man who has been verified by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest celebrated his 113th birthday on Wednesday.

Masazo Nonaka, above, was born on the Japanese island of Hokkaido in 1905, the same year that Albert Einstein published his theory of relativity and the Wright brothers conducted some of their early powered flights.

The problem faced by most supercentenarians — people who are more than 110 years old — is that their ages can’t be validated unless they have birth records and multiple documents from throughout their lives.

So while gerontologists say the number of documented supercentenarians, including Mr. Nonaka, is around 150, the unverified total may be closer to 1,000.

A man who died this year in Chile claimed to be 121 years old, and a man who died in Indonesia last year said he was 146. But neither man’s age was independently verified.

Although Mr. Nonaka is the oldest validated living man, he’s only the 17th oldest person, according to the Gerontology Research Group, whose listing of supercentenarians is dominated by women.



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