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Facebook, Yellow Vests, Sri Lanka: Your Thursday Briefing

Facebook, Yellow Vests, Sri Lanka: Your Thursday Briefing


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Good morning. Facebook faces more troubling news, Sri Lanka reckons with postwar mental health issues and Sesame Street reaches out to refugee children. Here’s the latest:

More revelations about Facebook.

The social media giant gave companies like Airbnb, Lyft and Netflix special access to user data, according to emails and internal papers released by the British Parliament.

A parliamentary committee said the documents showed the data-sharing agreements came after Facebook made policy changes restricting data access for other companies. The emails also showed the company discussing whether to give app developers that spent advertising money on the platform more access to data.

The release of the documents comes at a testing time for Facebook in Britain, where policymakers from nine countries grilled one of its executives last week about the company’s data practices and the spread of misinformation.

In Opinion: A historian of Silicon Valley argues that the end of privacy began in the 1960s, when the U.S. Congress made choices that allowed tech giants to become as powerful as they are.

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The Yellow Vests are populists, but not nationalists.

The protesters who have thrown France into turmoil and postponed a fuel tax increase have deeper demands: lower taxes, higher salaries, freedom from financial fear and a better life.

Their rejection of government institutions echoes other populist uprisings in the West, including in Britain, Italy and the U.S.

But France’s current revolt is different: The Yellow Vests, pictured above, aren’t tied to a political party, they don’t have a single leader — and they aren’t focused on race or immigration. The movement is organic and self-determined, and centered on economic class discrepancies.

Sri Lanka’s long struggle to patch invisible wounds.

Nine years after the end of the island nation’s 26-year civil war, which killed more than 100,000 civilians, it’s still reckoning with the trauma and heartache.

The government estimates that about 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s roughly 22 million people suffer from some sort of mental disorder, with nearly 800,000 suffering from depression. Studies in the northeast, where much of the fighting was concentrated, found as many as 30 percent of children suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder around the end of the war.

For many, the trauma has been refreshed by the latest political crisis. Mahinda Rajapaksa, a former president who led a brutal offensive against the rebel Tamil Tigers, is back at the center of power, his face looming from posters on the street.

Our reporter followed a government psychiatrist, pictured above, who travels to villages around the country to help people piece their lives back together.

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• Mourning President George H.W. Bush’s world order.

With the death of Mr. Bush, who is being commemorated in a state funeral in Washington, a generation of Cold War-era leaders has receded into the background. Only Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last leader, is still alive — but he was too ill to attend the funeral.

With them, the world order they helped build is also fading. “Now here we are, as the system these leaders created is drifting into great jeopardy,” said one of Mr. Bush’s political advisers.

In addition to winding down the Cold War, historians credit the former president with helping in the reunification of Germany and Europe and the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union, even in laying the groundwork for the World Trade Organization.

But for all his foreign policy achievements, critics argue that Mr. Bush didn’t do enough to address the AIDS epidemic that was raging during his time in office.

Above, the former president’s remains being transported to the National Cathedral.

• Les Moonves, the former chief executive of CBS, above, destroyed evidence and misled investigators looking into sexual misconduct allegations against him, in an attempt to salvage his reputation and save his $120 million severance deal, according to a draft report for the company’s board.

• OPEC will meet today in Vienna, amid volatile oil prices. Here’s why the oil cartel has so much power, and how it works.

• President Trump has repeatedly accused Amazon of ripping off the U.S. Postal Service. But his administration, in a report this week, concluded that commercial package delivery for the e-commerce giant and other online retailers was actually profitable for the service.

• U.S. markets were closed in remembrance of former President George Bush. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

• Turkish prosecutors filed arrest warrants for two senior Saudi officials close to the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, above, accusing them of masterminding the killing of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi. [The New York Times]

• Yemen peace talks will begin today in Sweden, according to the U.N., the biggest step toward peace in the country’s civil war since 2016. [The New York Times]

• Two top Chinese education officials have been fired and two others are under investigation following protests last month where students and parents questioned grading methods in college entrance exams, known as gaokao. [The South China Morning Post]

• Chanel, the iconic French fashion house, announced it would ban fur and exotic skins from its collections, following pressure from animal rights activists. [CNN]

• Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, cooperated substantially with the special counsel’s Russia investigation, sitting for 19 interviews and handing over documents, prosecutors said. They recommended that he receive little to no prison time for lying to federal investigators. [The New York Times]

• The U.S. said that if Russia didn’t return to complying with the terms of a nuclear arms control treaty within 60 days, it would begin the formal process of scrapping the deal. [The New York Times]

• A woman who received a uterus transplant from a deceased donor has given birth to a healthy child, the first such birth reported. [The New York Times]

• After the Western Australian Labor government lifted a fracking moratorium, Indigenous people worry that developers will turn to strong-arm tactics to use their land. [Crikey, article is paywall free for Times readers]

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

• Can play help refugee children heal? That’s the belief behind Lego’s new partnership with the makers of “Sesame Street,” providing them with $100 million over the next five years to help create play-based learning programs for Syrian and Rohingya refugees. Above, a Sesame workshop at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.

• Eritrea is one of the world’s closely controlled nations, where citizens aren’t allowed to leave and foreign journalists are rarely allowed in. But now, after a 20-year war with its neighbor Ethiopia ended, the country is slowly opening up. Our reporter, whose father was born in the reclusive nation, found signs of new beginnings.

• The southern Australian town of Elliston wanted to erect a monument commemorating a spot where a group of Indigenous people were killed. But the effort gave way to a bitter fight over its messaging, reflecting the grip the country’s past still has on its present.

NASA’s InSight spacecraft landed on Mars last week to study the planet’s deep interior. One way it’s going to do that is with the planetary equivalent of a sonogram.

Seismology is a well-developed field. It’s the source of much of our knowledge about the Earth’s own innards.

An earthquake’s vibrations run around and through the planet, speeding up, slowing down, bending — all depending on the properties of the material they pass through.

Data from seismic monitors around the world are the foundation for the understanding we have now of the earth’s structure: a solid inner core, surrounded by a liquid outer core, inside a thick viscous layer known as the mantle, under a thin rocky crust.

InSight will monitor marsquakes from just one location. The instrument should be able to identify a vibration that has circled Mars multiple times, and clever analysis should yield the equivalent of data from multiple stations.

Kenneth Chang, who covers NASA for The Times, wrote today’s Back Story.

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