New York Times

Asia and Australia Edition: Thailand, NATO, World Cup: Your Wednesday Briefing

Asia and Australia Edition

Thailand, NATO, World Cup: Your Wednesday Briefing

(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good morning. Safety for the Thai soccer team, a tense meeting in Belgium and another look at a Chinese empress. Here’s what you need to know:

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CreditLauren Decicca/Getty Images

• A sigh of relief around the world.

After an 18-day ordeal in Thailand that captured the world’s attention, all 12 boys and their soccer coach have been rescued from the flooded cave where they were trapped.

The men who had stayed with them for eight days underground — four Thai divers, an army doctor and three Navy SEALs — also emerged. Here's the latest.

The team is in good condition, though two boys might have pneumonia. They’ll all remain in quarantine and hospitalized for a week because of the risk of rare infections.

Several of the boys had entered Thailand as stateless children from Myanmar, including Adul, who was able to interpret for the foreign divers.

A Times reporter, a former U.S. Navy diver, explained the difficulties of the rescue operation.

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CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

• “NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS.”

President Trump renewed his criticism of NATO allies ahead of what is certain to be a tense summit meeting in Brussels today.

Mr. Trump’s tweets prompted a tart retort from Donald Tusk, the European Council president, who posted that the “US doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than EU.”

Our correspondent took in the view from Latvia, nestled alongside Russia and the Baltic Sea, where NATO is no abstraction.

The first lady, Melania Trump, will also be re-entering the spotlight, traveling alongside her husband for a trip that culminates on Monday with Mr. Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

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CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

• A committed conservative.

President Trump selected Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a politically connected member of Washington’s conservative legal establishment, for the Supreme Court.

The nomination will set off a furious partisan confirmation battle. If Mr. Kavanaugh goes through, he would fundamentally alter the balance of the United States’ highest court and put dozens of precedents at risk.

On a lighter note, we analyzed Mr. Trump’s rollout of his Supreme Court nomination: The president used “Seacrestian” tactics to ramp up suspense.

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• China re-examines Empress Cixi.

She entered the male-dominated Chinese royal court as a teenage concubine, swirling through a world of intrigue, forced suicides and poisonings. She left as the de facto ruler of China, having rebuilt the Summer Palace.

This Beijing Dispatch looks at revisionist interpretations of Cixi as an early feminist — at least, as our correspondent writes, “in the context of the late 19th century, when women in China were treated little better than spittoons.”

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• World Cup nears crescendo.

France defeated Belgium, 1-0, in a tough semifinal game in St. Petersburg. Refresh here for live World Cup updates and analysis from Russia.

Our full coverage continues with a look at Croatia, a team that’s often been in disarray but now finds itself facing England in the next — and last — semifinal.

Fan or not, you may have wondered why all soccer players do this. And here’s a composer who puts World Cup matches to music.

Business

• Sun Yian, a tech guru, once looked like Canada’s way into the Chinese market. But he abandoned his company, Istuary Innovation Group, and fled to China, leaving behind angry investors and Canadian employees wondering whether their work might end up helping China build out its surveillance.

• As tech moguls gather in Sun Valley, Idaho, here’s who might be in a deal-making mood. (For one, Masa Son, the SoftBank founder, could be interested in a media company.)

• Frozen vegetables are being recalled across Australia over fears of contamination by the listeria bacteria, which killed six people in New South Wales and Victoria this year.

• U.S. stocks were mixed. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

In the News

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CreditNg Han Guan/Associated Press

• Liu Xia, the widow of Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died of cancer last year under police guard, left China for Europe after a campaign by the German government. [The New York Times]

• The death toll from torrential rains in western Japan reached at least 150. And dozens are still missing. [The Asahi Shimbun]

• Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist for President Trump, said that Australia was “at the forefront” of the geopolitical battle against Chinese intrusion. [The Sydney Morning Herald]

• A U.N. official called for an investigation into whether 12 North Korean waitresses who arrived in South Korea in 2016 were taken against their will. Their manager has said he transported them across the border at the behest of the South’s National Intelligence Service. [The New York Times]

• In New Zealand, a planned walkout by nurses and teachers on Thursday is testing the center-left Labour government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. [The New York Times]

• India’s Supreme Court began hearing a case on whether to decriminalize gay sex. [The New York Times]

• Australian scientists discovered what they say are the world’s oldest surviving biological colors in ancient rocks beneath the Sahara. The 1.1-billion-year-old pigments, if you’re wondering, are bright pink. [BBC]

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

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CreditGentl and Hyers for The New York Times

• Recipe of the day: If you like sponge cake, you’ll love Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for a Roman breakfast cake.

• Where to find bridesmaid dresses for less.

• Chilly at work? That office formula was devised for men.

Noteworthy

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CreditJoel Rogers, via Getty Images

• The number of killer whales off the Pacific Northwest has dwindled to just 75, a 30-year low. Endangered since 2005, the orcas are essentially starving, as their primary prey, the king salmon, are dying off.

• Dying organs restored to life: An unusual transplant may revive tissues thought to be hopelessly damaged, including in the heart and brain.

• And maybe there is accounting for taste. The field of “experimental aesthetics” boils down to efforts to solve two age-old enigmas: What is art, and why do we like what we like?

Back Story

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CreditAssociated Press

“It’s coming home.”

Those words can often be heard chanted in an increasingly giddy England as the country’s national soccer team exceeds expectations at the World Cup. The team plays a semifinal against Croatia today.

The phrase comes from “Three Lions,” a song released in 1996 to celebrate England’s hosting of that year’s European Championship, the first major soccer tournament to be played in the country since the 1966 World Cup (the only time England has won the trophy). It’s also a reference to England’s claim to be the birthplace of modern soccer, in the 1800s.

Despite its rich soccer tradition, England didn’t participate in the earliest World Cups, including the inaugural tournament in 1930. A dispute in the 1920s had prompted the Football Association, the sport’s governing body in England, to resign from FIFA, the organization that runs the World Cup.

For the English, “international soccer” at that time meant playing against Ireland, Scotland and Wales. England made its first appearance in the World Cup in 1950 in Brazil.

Sixty-eight years later, England’s team is tempting fans to dream.

As the manager, Gareth Southgate, said after his side beat Sweden in the quarterfinal: “None of us fancied going home.”

At least, not without the trophy.

Chris Stanford wrote today’s Back Story.

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Correction: Tuesday’s Morning Briefing misspelled the surname of the lead guitarist of The Who. He is Pete Townshend, not Townsend.

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