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Apple, China, John Bolton: Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the latest personnel change in the Trump administration and the worrying price of pork in China. We’ve also got two juicy interviews with Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Aniston.

President Trump abruptly fired John Bolton, his third national security adviser, with whom he had fundamental disagreements over Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan.

Mr. Bolton objected to Mr. Trump’s attempts to pursue diplomatic avenues with players long considered American enemies. And he angered Mr. Trump with a last-minute battle against a peace agreement with the Taliban, which the president dropped for other reasons.

Mr. Trump said he would appoint a replacement in the “next week.”

Mr. Bolton handed in his resignation letter on Tuesday. A Fox reporter tweeted it.

Related: The Trump administration’s decision to pull the plug on negotiations with the Taliban at Camp David inadvertently provided the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, with a lifeline, bringing his re-election bid back into the spotlight.


The higher grocery bills have frustrated Chinese consumers already burdened by the trade war with the U.S.

Officials have announced a raft of creative measures to tamp down anxiety, from tapping strategic pork reserves — yes, that is a thing — to emphasizing the virtues of a diet with less pork.

Supply constraints: One of the main factors that has affected pork supply is African swine fever, which first broke out in August 2018 and has since spread to all of the country’s provinces.

And China’s most recent round of tariffs, which came into effect on Sept. 1, made U.S. pork more expensive, along with U.S. soybeans to fatten Chinese pigs.


The tech giant dropped its annual goody bag of new gadgets and updates on old standbys, including three new iPhones aimed at drumming up sagging enthusiasm for its flagship moneymaker.

Apple rebranded its iPhone line to make the entry-level option the iPhone 11 (priced at $700), while adding a “Pro” label to its pricier models that will include a triple-lens main camera.

The company’s much anticipated streaming service will start rolling out original shows and movies on Nov. 1 for $5 per month. Find more updates here.

Beyond the messaging: Apple’s event earns lots of free publicity every year. But our reporters dig a lot deeper than that. In case you missed it, here’s how Apple’s apps topped rivals in the App store.


For decades, America’s spy agency had an informant in the Russian government who eventually gained access to the highest level of the Kremlin.

The source, who became one of the Central Intelligence Agency’s most important and highly protected assets, was instrumental to its conclusion that President Vladimir Putin personally orchestrated Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and favored Donald Trump.

But when intelligence officials revealed details about the election interference, the C.I.A. grew concerned about the informant’s safety and decided to extract the source from Russia. That effectively blinded U.S. intelligence officials about Moscow’s further interference.

How we know: Our reporters interviewed current and former officials, who agreed to discuss classified information if their names were not used. They did not disclose the identity or location of the informant, whose life remains in danger.

Two years ago, a pioneering state government effort in Central India to recruit transgender police officers seemed like a rare opportunity for some in the community to climb out of poverty and protect themselves from harassment and exclusion.

But steep competition for limited openings, infighting and mismanagement has resulted only in disappointment.

Iran: A woman who was arrested after sneaking into a stadium in Tehran to watch a soccer match, defying the government’s ban, died this week from severe burns. She had set herself on fire on Sept. 2, after being sentenced to six months in prison.

Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing a tough election battle, pledged to annex much of the occupied West Bank if voters return him to power next week. Doing so would significantly reshape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Britain: The House of Commons is now suspended until mid-October, but lawmakers didn’t go quietly into the night. The chamber descended into a spectacular fracas early Tuesday, with some lawmakers dramatically trying to keep the speaker, John Bercow, seated and the opposition shouting “Shame on you!” as Conservative members filed out.

Alibaba: Jack Ma, the chief executive of the Chinese e-commerce giant and one of the world’s richest men, formally retired on Tuesday with an elaborate farewell celebration, but he’ll remain in considerable control of several key elements of the company.

Turkey: After years of welcoming millions of migrants fleeing the war in Syria, the Turkish government is now trying to resettle them in Syrian territory controlled by the U.S. and its Kurdish allies.

North Korea: The country launched two projectiles, hours after proposing to reopen denuclearization talks with the U.S. This is its eighth weapons test since late July.

Snapshot: Above, one of the many tributes and personal artifacts left by visitors at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in Lower Manhattan and preserved in the museum’s official collection. On Wednesday, the memorial will commemorate the 18th anniversary of the attack.

‘Joker’: Why did Joaquin Phoenix, known for playing emotionally wrung-out loners or killers, decide to take on a cackling, comic-book criminal in a high-profile blockbuster movie? “It’s so stupid to talk about,” he said in an interview. “I’m not going to talk about it.”

Jennifer Aniston: In the 15 years since “Friends” ended, the actor has tried to escape from the shadow of Rachel Green with independent films, mainstream movies, product endorsements and some outright flops. Now, as she turns 50, she’s returning to the medium that made her famous: TV.

52 Places traveler: In his latest dispatch, our columnist visits the Azores — beautiful, remote islands that have become increasingly popular with tourists.

What we’re watching: This viral video (in case you missed it). “Because,” writes the briefings editor, Andrea Kannapell, “sometimes you just need a good hug — or to see one.”

Smarter Living: The costs of preschool and day care are a significant financial strain for most parents. But studies have found that a majority keep child-related debt a secret. Why do the difficulties feel so unspeakable? Experts say the reasons include the fear of burdening the children and the stigma that continues to surround working mothers.

Readers shared their own stories about the costs of raising children.

With the Bahamas struggling back from a devastating hurricane and Tokyo recovering from a record-setting typhoon, we found ourselves asking why dangerous storms were likelier to erupt at predictable times of the year.

The answer emerges from global phenomena. Radiation from the sun falls unequally on our tilted, spinning planet, hitting with most impact at the Equator. There, the hot air rises into the atmosphere and power tropical cyclones through evaporation and the Coriolis effect, the spin created by the Earth’s curvature.

Tropical cyclones in the Atlantic — hurricanes — are most likely to occur after surface temperatures peak and large amounts of moisture are already in the atmosphere. That season lasts from June to November, with the most perilous period from mid-August to mid-October.

Tropical cyclones in the northwestern Pacific — typhoons — can form year-round because of warmer waters, but they most commonly occur from May to October.

And global warming has increased the amount of energy absorbed by oceans, which scientists believe has resulted in stronger storms.


That’s it for this briefing. And sorry, another correction. Tuesday’s Back Story misspelled the surname of Alan Siegel, the brand consultant who devised the N.B.A.’s logo.

— Alisha


Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Will Dudding, an assistant in the Standards Department, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at [email protected].

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the collapse of talks between the U.S. and the Taliban.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Music genre characterized by guitar on the offbeat (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• On Thursday, our columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin will interview the president of Microsoft, Brad Smith, and the U.S. Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, in Washington D.C. The interviews will be livestreamed on DealBook’s Twitter page.


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