Your Thursday Briefing

Posted Thursday, 16 May 2019 ‐ The New York Times


Good morning,
We start today with new intelligence on Iran, another abortion ban in the U.S. and a defining moment for UEFA.

Tensions rise over Iran
The White House’s escalated warnings about a threat from Iran, which some government officials and foreign allies are skeptical about, were prompted by photos of missiles on small boats in the Persian Gulf, some of which were loaded by Iranian paramilitary forces.
The photos raised fears that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps would fire the missiles at U.S. naval ships. It is a different kind of threat than the U.S. has previously seen from Iran, according to three American officials.
Reaction: The State Department ordered a partial evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which some considered an overreaction.
Big picture: Some believe the recent developments, combined with additional intelligence about threats against commercial shipping and attacks by Iranian proxy forces, could indicate that Iran is preparing to attack the U.S. or its allies. But other officials said the moves could be defensive.
Another blow to legal abortion in the U.S.
Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, which bans almost all abortions, with no exception in cases of rape or incest.
The law will go into effect in six months at the earliest. Lower courts will almost certainly block it, so attention is turning to the Supreme Court. Activists hope the law will force a challenge to the nationwide right to an abortion.
The measure threatens doctors with nearly a century in prison for terminating a pregnancy unless the woman’s life is in serious danger.
Supreme Court: There is no guarantee that justices would hear a case involving the Alabama law, even though it was designed as a direct challenge to the court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, which guarantees a woman’s right to end her pregnancy.
Big picture: Alabama is the seventh U.S. state to pass abortion restrictions this year.
Shifting U.S. trade priorities
The White House is delaying for six months a decision on whether to impose levies on foreign cars and car parts, people familiar with the situation said. The move would have taken aim at Japan and Europe.
The Treasury secretary also announced that the U.S., Mexico and Canada were nearing a deal on metal tariffs. The developments reflect the administration’s reassessment of aspects of its tariff strategy as it focuses on the all-encompassing trade war with China.
Trade friction with China continues to rise. President Trump moved to essentially block sales by Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, to U.S. firms, in an executive order on Wednesday.
Go deeper: With the U.S. and China openly contemplating how to inflict pain on each other, the rest of the world is fretting about becoming collateral damage, our economics correspondent writes. One casualty in China: The Alibaba Group, the country’s largest e-commerce company, reported its second-slowest pace of revenue expansion since early 2016.
Theresa May’s last gasp?
The week of June 3 could be an important one for Brexit.
It’s when a fourth — and almost certainly final — vote on a plan to leave the European Union is scheduled to take place. Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to step down if Parliament approves her unpopular plan, but she may face an exit anyway if Parliament rejects it a fourth time.
She is promising to bring Parliament an improved piece of legislation that she hopes will be more attractive to opposition lawmakers.
That week is also when President Trump is set to make a state visit to Britain.
Progress: Talks with the opposition Labour Party have made little headway. On Thursday, Mrs. May is scheduled to meet with a committee that’s threatening to change the rules about challenges to her, which could open the way to an imminent ouster.
If you have a block of time, this is worth it ...
Can CBD do all that?
Cannabidiol is a molecule derived from the cannabis plant, and CBD-infused products that promise vague but powerful benefits seem to be everywhere in the U.S.
Plenty of legitimate research is being done on CBD, and many scientists are excited about its possibilities. The Times Magazine looks at how, in this unusual moment, it has come to be seen as a cure-all.
Here’s what else is happening
Greece: Anarchists vandalized the Athens home of the U.S. ambassador with black paint on Wednesday, according to the police. It’s the latest protest against the authorities’ rejection of a convicted terrorist’s furlough request.
Germany: Theauthorities raided homes and banks around the country in a tax evasion investigation that started with Deutsche Bank but has widened. Deutsche Bank said its offices had not been searched on Wednesday.
Venezuela: The U.S. banned all air transport to and from Venezuela on Wednesday over security concerns, further isolating the South American nation by severing one of its last links to the world’s largest economy.
Britain: One of the country’s most popular daytime television programs, “The Jeremy Kyle Show,” was canceled after the death of a guest who failed a lie-detector test trying to prove he’d been faithful to his wife.
U.S.: The Trump administration is set to announce an immigration plan that would vastly scale back family-based immigration, while raising education and skill requirements for moving to the U.S. But officials said it was a long way from becoming legislative reality.
Denmark: Joachim Olsen, a former Olympic shot-putter and current member of the Danish Parliament, tried to reach voters “where they are,” he said — by paying $450 to have his face and a lowbrow slogan plastered across Pornhub, a Canadian website.
Snapshot: The new Paris Cafe at the former T.W.A. terminal at Kennedy International Airport in New York. The swooping Eero Saarinen landmark has opened as a hotel.
UEFA: “At the very apex of European soccer, a moment of reckoning is coming,” writes our soccer correspondent, Rory Smith. It’s about a struggle for control between UEFA and the globe-straddling, extravagantly wealthy superclubs that provide much of its revenue.
Opioid crisis: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has announced it will no longer accept donations from members of the Sackler family linked to OxyContin. It was the latest in a slew of art institutions worldwide to do so.
What we’re reading: This two-part series in The Washington Post. Erik Wemple, the Post’s media critic, scours the Mueller report for mentions of the news media and tells us that the reporting was validated. (Spoiler: The Times tended to get it right.)
Now, a break from the news
Cook: Looking for a filling, meatless dinner? Herby noodles, chile oil and crisp tofu will satisfy.
Watch: Season 2 of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s horribly funny show “Fleabag” returns on Friday. Here’s where we left off.
Go: Merciless comedy shades to delicate tragedy in “BLKS,” a terrific playwriting debut from the poet and performer Aziza Barnes.
Read: Danielle Steel returns to our hardcover fiction and combined print and e-book fiction best-seller lists with “Blessing in Disguise.”
Smarter Living: The term “emotional labor” refers to the invisible, often undervalued work involved in keeping other people comfortable and happy. It’s most often used to describe labor that keeps a household running smoothly — and the division of that labor often corresponds to traditional gender roles. Talking about that imbalance is the first step to overcoming it.
And we have guidance to help you make your home a calming, relaxing oasis.
And now for the Back Story on …
Spoilers
This Sunday, HBO will show the final episode of “Game of Thrones” to audiences in more than 170 countries.
While some viewers live in fear of running across a spoiler, others embrace the idea of getting a jump on the plot twists. They may be on to something.
In a 2011 study, psychologists at the University of California, San Diego, found that spoilers could enhance enjoyment. They gave people various short stories with one of three presentations: a spoiler paragraph before the story, a spoiler edited into the beginning of the story, or unspoiled.
Subjects preferred the advance spoilers. A later study found that they help people better understand the plot.
However, another study found that the medium mattered: People enjoyed spoiled episodes of “The Twilight Zone” less.
Then there’s anecdotal evidence. The Times’s Jenna Wortham got over having the “Game of Thrones” episode known as “The Red Wedding” ruined, and now relies on spoilers as “virtual Xanax.” She doesn’t, however, dish them out.

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

Thank you
To Mark Josephson, Eleanor Stanford and Kenneth R. Rosen for the break from the news. Jake Lucas wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.
P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about the U.S.-China trade war.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Color of honey (5 letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• “The Weekly,” The New York Times’s first major foray into TV news, will premiere on Sunday, June 2, at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on FX, and will be streamable on Hulu on June 3.

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