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The Saudi crown prince is caught on a U.S. intercept, Jeff Bezos accuses a tabloid company of blackmail and France pulls its ambassador from Italy. Here’s the latest:
Saudi crown prince said he’d use ‘a bullet’ on Khashoggi
A U.S. intelligence intercept indicates that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman considered killing Jamal Khashoggi more than a year before Saudi operatives strangled the dissident journalist at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October, then dismembered his body.
In 2017, the crown prince told a top aide that he would use “a bullet” on Mr. Khashoggi if he did not return to the kingdom and stop criticizing it, according to current and former American officials.
Details: The conversation appears to have been recently transcribed as part of an effort to find proof of who was responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s death. The crown prince tells the aide that Mr. Khashoggi, who became a Washington Post columnist around the same time, should be lured back to Saudi Arabia or returned by force, and if that failed, he would go after him “with a bullet.” The C.I.A. has concluded that the crown prince ordered the killing, but President Trump has downplayed the evidence of his role.
Another angle: A U.N. human rights investigator has concluded that Saudi Arabia deliberately impeded an investigation of the killing.
Jeff Bezos accuses largest U.S. tabloid publisher of blackmail
Mr. Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive and the world’s richest man, said the owner of The National Enquirer had tried “extortion and blackmail” to stop Mr. Bezos from investigating how text messages and photos exposing his extramarital affair were leaked to the tabloid.
The allegations: Mr. Bezos said intermediaries for David Pecker, chairman of American Media Inc., which owns The Enquirer, said that if Mr. Bezos did not cease his inquiries, the company would publish explicit photos it had obtained. Mr. Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post and a critic of President Trump, asserted A.M.I. had wanted him to stop looking into the matter for political reasons. He pointed to the publisher’s past cooperation with Mr. Trump and its connections to the Saudi government.
The evidence: Mr. Bezos released email correspondence in which A.M.I. said it would hold back the compromising photos if Mr. Bezos stopped his investigation and publicly said that he did not think the exposure of his affair had been “influenced by political forces.”
Quote: Rather than give in to blackmail, “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over and see what crawls out,” Mr. Bezos wrote in an extraordinary blog post.
49 days to Brexit, and still no final plan
Prime Minister Theresa May’s talks in Brussels, aimed at reopening the 585-page withdrawal agreement with the E.U., were predictably inconclusive. But the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, agreed to meet again by the end of the month.
Of note: A new report from the Bank of England said that Britain faces its slowest growth in 10 years in 2019, warning of tensions caused by “the fog of Brexit.”
Go deeper: If no agreement is reached by March 29, Britain will crash out of the E.U., which experts have said would have disastrous consequences not just for its own economy but for other members of the bloc.
Another angle: One talk radio host has taken it on himself to fight Brexit supporters every day. He might not have changed many minds, but his show has made him famous.
The long-overlooked sexual abuse of nuns
In the 1990s, a series of private reports and studies found that Roman Catholic nuns were being sexually abused by priests or bishops. But only now is the issue seeing the light of day, after Pope Francis acknowledged the problem this week.
Details: In 1994, a multiyear, 23-nation survey found that the sexual abuse of nuns by priests or bishops was rampant in some African countries. In 1998, another report confirmed those findings and said that “even rape of sisters” was common. And the problem has persisted around the world.
Why did a reckoning take so long? The abuse of nuns has been overshadowed by other scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, and there have been systematic efforts to silence accusers, Laurie Goodstein, who has covered the church for decades for The Times, said on our podcast “The Daily.”
Here’s what else is happening
France: In an extraordinary rupture between two increasingly antagonistic founding members of the E.U., France recalled its ambassador to Italy after the Italian deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, a populist leader, met near Paris with a Yellow Vest organizer who has called for French civil war.
Carlos Ghosn: Renault, the French automaker, said that its former chairman and chief executive, jailed in Tokyo since November, may have used company funds to finance a Marie Antoinette-themed personal party at the Palace of Versailles, and that it had notified France’s judicial authorities.
U.S. Supreme Court: The justices blocked, by 5-4, a law that could have left the state of Louisiana with only one abortion provider.
Racism: Gucci and Adidas apologized and pulled products that were widely criticized as racist, amid a scandal over blackface that now threatens both Republicans and Democrats in the state of Virginia. We examined the long, disturbing history of blackface in America, which goes back to the dawn of the country’s popular culture.
Venezuela: The military blockaded a major highway to prevent opposition leaders from trucking in food and medicine via Colombia.
“Green New Deal”: In the U.S., House Democrats introduced a resolution calling for an enormous stimulus package around climate change, which includes a proposal to generate 100 percent of America’s electricity from renewable sources within the next decade. Democrats also made moves to obtain President Trump’s tax returns.
Russia: Scorn for former President Boris Yeltsin and his era from the current Kremlin’s cheerleaders has brought edgy appeal to the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center, a shimmering, contrarian shrine on the border of Siberia.
Racing against climate change: A Dutch speedskating race has survived by relocating to Austria, where thick ice still beckons, for now.
Children’s screen time: Doctors in Britain advised parents to keep children’s bedrooms and meals screen-free to reduce the negative effects of social media and technology exposure.
Tips for a more fulfilling life.
Recipe of the day: Give cauliflower the Buffalo wing treatment.
A drugstore, free Wi-Fi and an A.T.M. are essentials when you set foot in a new city.
You can reject an online suitor without ghosting. Just assert your disinterest.
On Saturday, Boeing’s 747, arguably the most iconic jet ever, celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first flight. Commercial service started within a year.
While the jumbo jets are slowly being retired by many airlines in favor of more fuel-efficient planes, the 747 still has at least a few years left in regular passenger service with many international carriers.
Nowadays, cost-conscious airlines try to cram as many passengers onto their planes as they can, but competition was different in the heyday of the 747. The goal then was to give passengers space and luxury. American Airlines even put a piano bar in coach.
Pilots love to fly “the Queen of the Skies,” and crews feel a special connection to it, according to Joe Kannapell, a retired 747 captain (who happens to be the briefings editor’s brother).
“There’s an intimacy and a fraternity aspect that no other fleet ever had,” he said.
Zach Wichter wrote today’s Back Story.
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