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France’s fake-news battle, Britain’s most expensive divorce and Spain’s new government. Here’s the latest:
• France takes aim at “fake news.”
France’s Parliament is set to begin debating a bill aimed at repressing phony news items amid criticism that they pose a threat to democracy.
The legislation would give judges 48 hours to decide whether to block content they deem false during a three-month period preceding an election. Journalists fear the measure undermines press freedom, while the political opposition views it as a power grab by President Emmanuel Macron, above.
“The potential risk in this law is if it winds up in the hands of a government with the wrong motives,” said one Socialist member of Parliament.
Meanwhile, European leaders asked the Trump administration to exempt E.U. companies from American sanctions that would be imposed as a result of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
• A crisis over a mysterious ailment sickening American diplomats and their families — first reported in Cuba — is widening.
The State Department has evacuated several Americans who fell ill in Guangzhou, China, after hearing strange noises at their apartment complexes, officials said. One of the residences is pictured above.
Those stricken have reported headaches, nausea, hearing loss, cognitive issues and other problems. Last month, one worker was reported to have brain trauma. Others are being tested.
The new episode has prompted American officials to focus suspicion beyond Cuba, to perhaps China or Russia.
• This $ 500 million yacht with a spa, two heliports and room for 18 guests (and 50 crew members) is the most fought-over prize in what has been called Britain’s most expensive divorce.
The floating villa is owned by a Russian billionaire who refuses to hand over a penny to his ex-wife. Now it’s become a pricey lesson for Russian oligarchs who long thought their wealth could shield them from the British justice system. Our correspondent tells the tale.
Separately, Alexander Nix, the former chief of Cambridge Analytica, denied accusations from British lawmakers that the company misused user data pulled from Facebook or played a role in the Brexit referendum.
• “Nazis don’t need bathing fun!”
Those were the parting words of a man who stole the clothes of a prominent far-right politician while he was swimming in a lake. The politician had previously dismissed the Nazi era as mere “bird poop” on Germany’s 1,000-year history.
The episode unleashed plenty of schadenfreude and some criticism, largely prompted by a photo of a dripping Alexander Gauland, a leader of the Alternative for Germany party, as he was escorted home seminaked by the police. Above, Mr. Gauland in Berlin on Wednesday.
• In the U.S., some of the dust has settled after a bustling Primary Day in eight states.
Democratic candidates are poised to advance to the midterms in key districts in California, which may be crucial for the party’s hopes of taking control of the House.
Elections in the Midwest and the South underscored President Trump’s power in the Republican Party and the different ways Democrats hope to loosen his hold on red states. Here are our takeaways.
Voters in San Francisco resoundingly supported a ban on sales of flavored tobacco products, including some vaping products and menthol cigarettes.
• Our tech columnist wanted to hate electric scooters and the craze that has sprung up around them. (“Tech hubris on wheels,” he writes, “what’s not to loathe?”). But then this happened.
In the News
• Spain’s newly formed government has more women than men and includes a Catalan foreign minister who has led the fight against the region’s independence drive. Above, Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo in Madrid on Wednesday. [The New York Times]
• Over 200 survivors of Ireland’s infamous Magdalene Laundries gathered in Dublin for a state-funded conference aimed at redressing the mistreatment of women confined to the Catholic-run workhouses. [The New York Times]
• The Trump administration’s practice of separating children from migrant families entering the country is a “serious violation” of the rights of children and international law, the United Nations human rights office said. [The New York Times]
• Former President Bill Clinton is on a book tour, but, given the #MeToo movement, there seems to be a lot more interest in his responses to questions about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. [The New York Times]
• Alain Robert, known as the French Spiderman, was arrested before he could finish a barehanded free-climb of a 123-story building in South Korea. (He made it about 75 stories.) [Agence France-Presse]
• The executive director of the E.U.’s asylum agency resigned over allegations of staff harassment amid an investigation by the bloc’s anti-fraud office. [Politico]
Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.
• On the last day of school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., our reporter listened as students in one of the classes hit hardest in the Feb. 14 massacre recalled that day. Samantha Grady, above, was grazed by a bullet.
• In Israel, a special tour lets Jews experience the nocturnal rituals and tastes of Ramadan, and introduces them to a Bedouin city known for poverty, polygamy and lawlessness.
• Stick insects often become food for birds. Japanese researchers believe this may not be a failure of their disguise, but design. The birds poop out the insects’ intact eggs as if they were seeds, spreading them far and wide.
In a recent reference to the volcanic eruption in Hawaii, the U.S. version of our Morning Briefing confused tea leaves with ti leaves. (A special mahalo to our readers in Hawaii and elsewhere who alerted us.)
After correcting our mistake, we wanted to learn more.
The ti plant, or lau-ki, is known scientifically as Cordyline fruticosa. It was taken to Hawaii by ancient Polynesian settlers, who believed that it had protective power. But it has been used in just about every way imaginable.
Its narrow leaves grow up to two feet long and can be green, red, purple and other colors — attractive additions to leis, table settings and floral arrangements.
Water runs off their waxy surfaces, so the leaves are useful for thatched roofs, footwear and hula skirts.
The plant serves both as a food wrapper and as food itself: The roots can be turned into liquor or a sweet. It has medicinal uses as well.
Ti leaves are also used as offerings to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, in the hope of halting lava flows. Plants are placed around homes to dispel evil.
Both Pele and ti leaves also play a role in a traditional sport: lava sledding.
Jennifer Jett wrote today’s Back Story.
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