Kashmir officially loses special status
In August, the Indian government revoked the limited autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, splitting it into two territories and bringing them under federal control. That move officially takes effect today.
I spoke with our correspondent in the South Asia bureau, Suhasini Raj, about what that means.
You’re one of the few journalists who has been to Kashmir since the August decision. On your visits, what has it been like?
A gray sky and worried faces as I walked out of the airport when I visited Srinagar in the first week of August.
Nobody was smiling or laughing. It was hard to find people who looked at ease. The plane was half empty on its way to Srinagar, while there were hourlong queues at the departure area.
As I drove into town, armed paramilitary personnel, some wearing bandannas and others with their faces covered with black masks, dotted both sides of the road. The only movement was of ambulances, riot control vehicles and locals ferrying the sick to hospitals.
People are angry and feel betrayed. The air in the valley is still uneasy, eerie, as locals put it. And prayers are still not allowed in the largest mosque in Srinagar.
What exactly is happening today?
The state will lose its autonomy, an idea Kashmiris hold dearly but which India says was only a temporary provision.
Kashmiris will no longer have their own flag or constitution. Now the Union of India’s constitution will take its place. The state of Jammu and Kashmir will be bifurcated and people from anywhere in India will be eligible to buy property there.
Public order and policing will be directly monitored by the federal government.
Kashmiri militants are attacking civilians. Why?
In the past two weeks alone, militants have killed at least 11 traders, laborers and truck drivers. They seem to be doing so to keep up the resistance to India’s move.
Since almost all of the political leadership is in detention, there is no control over who is running the narrative.
Vietnam’s misery, played out in Britain
As investigators work to identify the bodies of 39 people found dead in a truck near London last week, a number of families in Vietnam say they believe their relatives may be among the victims.
A Times correspondent visited one Vietnamese village where human smuggling offers a chance at a better life outside of a region that has been stricken by poverty and environmental disaster.
Context: The country’s economy has one of the world’s fastest growth rates, and poverty has dropped sharply. But workers earn only a small fraction of what the average person in the U.S. or even China makes, leading some to hitch dangerous rides in shipping cargo containers.
Those who flee are sometimes called “box people,” in an echo of the “boat people” who fled the country after the Vietnam War.
Quotable: “We have a saying,” said a local priest. “‘If an electrical pole had legs, it would go too.’”
A new Syria takes shape
The U.S. military withdrawal and Turkey’s subsequent incursion into northeastern Syria have reordered the country, helping four American adversaries in particular:
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who has expanded his control.
Iran, which could gain a supply route to Hezbollah, its proxy in Lebanon.
The Islamic State, which has an opening to regroup.
Russia, which has been cemented as the main power in Syria.
Related: The past three weeks have also reshaped diplomatic efforts to end Syria’s eight-year civil war. Peace talks led by the United Nations are to start on Thursday in Geneva.
Another angle: The U.S. House voted overwhelmingly to designate the 1915 killings of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as a genocide. The vote reflected bipartisan anger at Turkey for its assault in Syria.
If you have 11 minutes, this is worth it
The midnight gardeners of Mumbai
Mumbai, a city that for Indians is a gateway to the world, is also a world within itself, bursting with life and holding the dreams of millions. But many who keep the city running work late into the night, their efforts unseen and unnoticed.
Our Op-Doc team followed the man above and his fellow gardener, who spend their evenings watering small municipal gardens and median strips as part of a project to profile Mumbai’s night-shift workers.
Here’s what else is happening
The Federal Reserve: The American central bank lowered interest rates — to a range of 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent — for the third, and perhaps last, time this year. Despite a global manufacturing slowdown and uncertainty over trade, the Fed hinted that it is now shifting into a more patient mode.
Pakistan: A pediatrician accused of reusing syringes and infecting scores of children with H.I.V. is now practicing in a government-run hospital after his private clinic was shuttered. The case has raised concerns about the integrity of the country’s health care system.
1MDB: Jho Low, the Malaysian financier at the center of the fund’s international money laundering scandal, has a tentative deal with U.S. prosecutors to give up his claim to $900 million in luxury apartments, yachts, jets and other assets that they say were bought with stolen money.
Snapshot: Above, striped hyenas being released in a preserve in Lebanon. The country’s national animal is often shot on sight or hunted for sport, but Dr. Mounir Abi-Said, a conservation biologist, is trying to calm frightened Lebanese and challenge dated myths.
A $40 million diamond: A 34.65-carat pink diamond, cut from the Golconda mines in India and said to have been a part of the collection of the Nizam of Hyderabad, was auctioned by Christie’s in 2013 to members of the Qatari royal family. A trial begins this week over whether Christie’s sold it despite accusations that it was stolen from a prominent Italian family.
Bong Joon Ho: Our chief film critic A.O. Scott examines the full body of work by the South Korean filmmaker, whose new movie, “Parasite,” he considers the film of the year. He finds Mr. Bong’s films all funny yet dark, suspenseful yet subtle, “burrowing deep into sticky ethical problems and hot zones of social dysfunction.”
In memoriam: Sadako Ogata, 92. In 1991, she became the first woman and first Japanese national to be named U.N. high commissioner for refugees, overseeing operations at a time of ravaging conflicts around the world.
What we’re listening to: The new podcast “Dolly Parton’s America,” from WNYC Studios. “I’ve only listened to the first episode,” Dan Saltzstein, senior editor for Special Projects, writes, “but it’s already grabbed me in a deep way. Dolly is a national treasure, and also a brilliant prism through which to see where we are as a country and where we’ve been.”
Now, a break from the news
Smarter Living: Wedding thank-you notes need not be a chore. Just think of them as a chance to relive your special day. Etiquette experts suggest that spouses share the writing, and complete them within two months of the wedding. But you don’t have to wait to start — writing notes when gifts arrive before the wedding captures more of your real gratitude and spreads the work out.
Plus: New research suggests that walking a few more steps during the day may improve your sleep.
And now for the Back Story on …
Pearls of great (and lesser) price
For more than 3,000 years, archaeologists believed, Arab treasuries were filled with profits from pearls from the rich oyster beds of the Persian Gulf.
Cleopatra of Egypt, vying with the Roman Mark Antony over who could provide the most expensive dinner in history, dissolved a nearly priceless pearl in vinegar and drank it.
But now we know Gulf pearl-diving goes back even further. A pearl uncovered near Abu Dhabi in 2017 was carbon-dated back 8,000 years. The faintly pink pearl, now the oldest known, is being shown in an exhibition that opened this week at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
By the 1800s, the small supply of pearls, large demand and astronomical prices led to a search for ways to easily cultivate them in live oysters.
Today’s cultured-pearl formulas were patented by three Japanese men around 1900. These new pearls hit the market in the 1920s, shrinking prices — and decimating the market for natural ones from the Gulf.
Don’t cry for the Arab treasuries, though. The 1920s was coincidentally about the time they started profiting from their oil riches.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Victoria Shannon, on the briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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