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We’re covering air pollution in your city, an explosive video from Russia and the French chef who popularized grilled duck breast.
Macron puts Trump on the back foot
European leaders once stoically bore President Trump’s attacks, and labored to adjust to his preferences and prejudices. But two developments on Tuesday highlight how they are forcing him to change his approach, our London bureau chief writes.
At a summit to celebrate NATO’s 70th anniversary, President Emmanuel Macron of France gave Mr. Trump a televised tongue lashing on terrorism. He also stood by earlier remarks about the Trump administration’s role in NATO’s “brain death.”
Separately, Mr. Trump, who is deeply unpopular in Britain, heeded a plea from Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to barge into the country’s Dec. 12 election. Mr. Johnson’s advisers fear that an association with the American president would hurt his electoral chances.
Go deeper: President Trump has a history of falling out with his friends.
Yesterday: Mr. Trump said he did not know Prince Andrew, a son of Queen Elizabeth II who has become entangled in the sexual abuse accusations against the convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Photographs say otherwise.
Today: The U.S. president is scheduled to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
When Ukraine knew about frozen aid
How could Ukrainian officials have felt the pressure of a freeze in military aid if they did not know about it when the White House was pushing for political favors? That’s how President Trump and his allies have defended his administration in the impeachment inquiry.
But Olena Zerkal, who recently resigned her post as Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, told our reporter that senior figures in Kyiv knew about the aid freeze as the Trump administration lobbied them to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his son and a discredited theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“We had this information,” she said. “It was definitely mentioned there were some issues.”
Why this matters: Democrats are trying to build a case that President Trump pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine by withholding the aid and a White House meeting — at the same time he was pressing for a public announcement that Ukraine would investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals.
Yesterday: House Democrats released a report saying that by pressuring Ukraine to help him in the 2020 presidential election, Mr. Trump sought to undermine American democracy and placed his own interests above those of the nation.
Rudy Giuliani: Call records show that as the president’s personal lawyer developed an irregular foreign policy channel on Ukraine, he was in touch with top-ranking American officials.
Is China building a tool for discrimination?
Chinese scientists are working with their government on a way to create an image of a person’s face from a genetic sample, using blood collected from ethnic Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim minority whose members have been swept up in mass detentions in China’s western frontier.
For help with the project in the Xinjiang region, the Chinese police have turned to scientists with connections to two leading European institutions: The Max Planck Society, a top research group in Germany; and Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands.
The Chinese scientists say in papers that they followed international norms that would require research subjects’ consent. But many people detained in Xinjiang would have no choice.
Details: Critics of the DNA project say Beijing is exploiting the openness of the international scientific community to build a tool that could be used to justify — and intensify — racial profiling and other state discrimination against ethnic Uighurs.
What’s next: In the long term, it may be possible to add DNA-produced images into the mass surveillance systems that China is already building.
Carbon emissions hit a record high
As climate delegates from more than 190 countries gather in Madrid this week to finalize rules governing the 2015 Paris accord, new data adds urgency to their task: Carbon dioxide emissions hit a record high this year.
The new figures, reported by a nonprofit and published simultaneously in three scientific journals, put the world even further off course from halting global warming. They also show that natural gas — which is less polluting than coal but still a fossil fuel — has recently emerged as the biggest driver of emissions growth.
Silver lining: The United States and the European Union both cut their carbon dioxide output this year, and industrial emissions are on track to rise at a slower place than they did in 2017 and 2018.
Air pollution: We compiled a graphic showing pollution in various cities around the world. Find out how your city fares.
If you have a few minutes, this is worth it
One country’s trash
Lebanon is drowning in garbage that its government can’t collect. The dysfunction is rooted in history: A deal to end a civil war nearly 30 years ago divided power between 18 recognized religious sects, enriching political elites and effectively institutionalizing corruption.
“Garbage,” said one Lebanese lawmaker, “is like a gold mine for the political caste.” But ordinary people are fed up, and the nation’s perpetual trash crisis is in part what’s driving widespread protests that have already forced out the prime minister.
Now, a break from the news
Cook: For a dazzling appetizer, try crisp feta with lemon over toast.
Read: We picked six cookbooks for you to take on the road.
Smarter Living: If you start practicing your New Year’s resolutions now, your chances of sticking to them will be a cinch in 2020.
And now for the Back Story on …
The real James Bond
His name is Bond. James Bond. But as the trailer for the latest Bond movie comes out today, we wondered where the name came from.
The writer behind the super spy, Ian Fleming, was also an avid bird watcher. On a trip to Jamaica after World War II, he spotted a book, “Birds of the West Indies,” by an ornithologist from Philadelphia. Who happened to be named James Bond.
But, as in any good spy story, there’s a twist: Last year, the BBC reported that newly released records showed an intelligence officer named James Bond had served under Fleming in a secret elite unit that led a guerrilla war against Hitler.
That Bond, a metal worker from Wales, had taken his spy past to the grave, his family said — and they suspected Fleming had used the bird-watching Bond as a “classic red herring,” to keep his identity a secret.
That’s it for this briefing. See you on the subway platform.
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Tom Wright-Piersanti 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 the deadly crackdown in Iran.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: “Gross!” (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Pamela Paul, the editor of our Book Review, discussed how her staff decides the 10 best books of the year.