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Boris Johnson, Afghanistan, Iran: Your Monday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering a test to Boris Johnson’s scorched-earth Brexit approach (and the man behind it), expectations of violence in Afghanistan after peace talks broke down and a relentless Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open.

The British government is looking at another disappointing week as it gets ready to hold a second parliamentary vote on a general election today, on the same day a bill averting a no-deal Brexit is set to become law.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s backup plan — holding a mid-October election — is looking like a nonstarter after opposition parties came together on Friday to say they would not support it. It is another test of his scorched-earth, “come what may” Brexit philosophy, and a blow to Dominic Cummings, his chief aide and the architect of that approach.

Piling on: One of Mr. Johnson’s biggest remaining moderate allies, Amber Rudd, resigned over the weekend, saying that leaving the European Union with a deal was no longer “the government’s main objective.”

Big picture: Britain’s path to leaving the bloc is looking more inscrutable than ever.


President Trump’s halting of Afghan peace talks — and the possibility that the U.S. could withdraw troops even without an agreement — heightened anxiety in the war-torn country, as national elections opposed by the Taliban were set to take place this month.

By blowing up a diplomatic process that appeared to be inching forward, despite continued attacks by both sides, it was unclear where Mr. Trump would go from here.

Behind the scenes: At a heated meeting in the White House Situation Room a week ago, the secretary of state and the national security adviser battled for the president’s instincts. The agreement seemed almost a done deal. But things rapidly imploded.

What’s next: Both sides blamed the other. But they also left open the door to continuing talks, which would most likely be months away.


Protesters appeared unsatisfied by the withdrawal of the contentious extradition bill that initially pulled them out into the streets.

Since Friday night, they have held singing sit-ins in malls and demonstrated at rail stations, saying they will stop only if Hong Kong’s government, led by Carrie Lam, agrees to meet their demands for greater democratic representation.

For three years, the European Union has been paying other countries to house and screen asylum seekers. But the network is overwhelmed.

The bloc is now preparing to finish another such deal, this time in Rwanda, expanding an outsourcing system that is already under criticism.

Details: The offshore centers, some in North Africa and Niger, are promoted by Brussels as a way to dismantle smuggler networks and to prevent dangerous Mediterranean crossings — but they are often small and in poor condition, refugee-rights groups say.

Analysis: The system is faltering, but few seem to be paying much attention, which critics say is part of the goal — to keep a key issue in European politics on the other side of Mediterranean waters, out of sight and out of mind.

Tate Modern: A 6-year-old boy who was thrown from a balcony at the museum in London last month, sustaining fractures and bleeding on the brain, is making “amazing progress,” his family says.

Norway: For five years, geologists repeatedly warned that a mountain top called “Little Man” could collapse and destroy huge parts of a nearby town. Last week, after the 16th warning and yet another evacuation, about 50,000 cubic meters of rock collapsed.

Snapshot: Above, Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open tennis tournament. He won his 19th Grand Slam title on Sunday, after a harrowing five-set final. On Saturday, Bianca Andreescu, a 19-year-old Canadian, won her first.

Food-waste solutions: As part of a two-year campaign to reduce food waste, S-market, a chain of 900 grocery stores across Finland, is trying a “happy hour” with steeply discounted foods after 9 p.m.

What we’re reading: Cathy Horyn’s introduction to “Bill Cunningham: On the Street.” “Ms. Horyn, who for many years was The Times’s fashion critic, offers a revealing context for a new collection of images from the archives of our beloved fashion photographer, three years after his death,” writes Andrea Kannapell, the Briefings editor.

Cook: This hearty, 20-minute recipe for eggplant and zucchini pasta packs in two pounds of vegetables.

Watch: “The Joker,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, won top honors at the Venice Film Festival — an unusual victory for a comic-book film.

Go: Built almost 150 years ago, Palais Garnier, the over-the-top opera house, is part of Paris’s identity.

Listen: Camilo Sesto, the popular Spanish songwriter, singer and producer, died on Sunday in Madrid at the age of 72. Last year, he released this retrospective album, “Camilo Sinfónico,” which transformed his hits with new orchestral arrangements.


Smarter Living: It’s important to discuss cyberbullying with children. If it happens to them, take screenshots of the comments (include the website or app name in the image, and a picture of the commenter’s profile) and report it to school or other authorities. Also talk to children about what to do if they witness the bullying: Don’t participate, do post a positive comment to offset the abuse and tell a trusted adult.

And a new study suggests that aerobic activity affects metabolism substantially more than weight training does.

Britain is heaving over Brexit, and the pound is bouncing around near its historic low.

To make matters worse, The Guardian reported in July that the British-Dutch food giant Unilever might be considering off-loading the country’s much-loved (and much-hated) condiment, Marmite.

In 1902, a German scientist, Justus von Liebig, accidentally discovered that a spread could be made from yeast extract, a byproduct of brewing beer. Marmite has been made in England ever since. (New Zealand makes its own version, and Australia makes a similar product, Vegemite.)

The salty dark paste is an acquired taste, often spread on buttered toast. Aficionados use it in everything — even desserts.

Its popularity was confirmed in 2016, when there was a run on stores by panicked Marmite lovers during a brief tiff between Unilever and the supermarket chain Tesco.

The new concerns over Marmite arose after Unilever’s chief executive said in June that the company would retain only brands that “have a purpose” — meaning, he said, those that “take action and demonstrate their commitment to making a difference” on social or environmental issues.

Marmite lovers now have more than Brexit on their minds.


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

— Melina


Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Wadzanai Mhute 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 on the secret push to strike Iran.
“The Birth of American Music” is the third episode in our 1619 Project’s audio series.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: What many a pointless meeting really should have been (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The New York Times released a new ad for the U.S. Open focused on women’s quest for pay equity in sports.


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