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George Bush, France, Steve Bannon: Your Wednesday Briefing

George Bush, France, Steve Bannon: Your Wednesday Briefing


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Good morning. A funeral for President George H.W. Bush, a Chinese billionaire’s unusual alliance with Steve Bannon and an extraordinary turn of events in France. Here’s the latest:

The U.S. honors 41.

Former President George H.W. Bush will be celebrated in a national funeral service in Washington today. Above, the president lying in state at the Capitol Rotunda.

President Trump designated Wednesday a national day of mourning, ordering “all executive departments and agencies” closed. The U.S. stock markets will also close, and the Supreme Court has postponed arguments.

Former President George W. Bush, Mr. Bush’s son, will deliver a eulogy at the service, which President Trump and all the other living former presidents — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — are expected to attend.

P.S.: A gathering of five presidents in the same place, at the same time, is extremely rare: There have been at least five since 1991.

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Steve Bannon and a Chinese billionaire join forces.

Since Mr. Bannon was pushed out of the White House last year, he has had dozens of meetings with a fugitive Chinese billionaire: Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok.

Mr. Guo has been accused of bribery, fraud and money laundering, which he denies, and is wanted in China. He’s also a fierce critic of Beijing who claims to have evidence of corruption at the highest levels of the Chinese government. Mr. Bannon has come to view China as a military and economic threat to the U.S.

Together, the unusual pair, pictured above, have a common, if overly grand, objective: bringing down the Chinese Communist Party.

France backs down. For now.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government announced it would suspend the fuel tax increase that set off three weekends of intense protests in Paris and around the country by the so-called Yellow Vest movement. Above, the aftermaths of a demonstration.

The tax increase, which was scheduled to start in January and has been put on hold for six months, amounted to 25 cents a gallon. It proved to be a tipping point for a country that has some of the highest taxes in Europe, particularly among people in small villages and towns who have been grappling with stagnant salaries and steep utility costs.

Anger over the tax added to wider discontent with Mr. Macron, who the working class views as a president of the rich.

The country has an increasingly wide wealth gap, with a median monthly income of $1,930 and an unemployment rate that has stubbornly hovered around nine percent for years. Here some other figures that explain why the streets of France have erupted.

P.S.: The fluorescent yellow vests that the French protestors have been wearing have become a powerful and effective symbol of revolt, our chief fashion critic writes.

• It’s not too late to cancel Brexit.

Britain could unilaterally reverse course on withdrawing from the E.U., according to a legal opinion from the advocate general for the European Court of Justice.

The news came as lawmakers were set to begin debating Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit blueprint ahead of a final vote next week. Most analysts expect her deal to fail, which could force Mrs. May, above, to renegotiate the agreement or even break up her government.

If the full European court confirms the non-binding legal opinion, Britain would have until March to rethink its divorce from the bloc — a glimmer of hope for those who want to stay in the E.U.

→ Meanwhile: In a major speech, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, criticized international institutions like the E.U. and the U.N., but embraced NATO.

• China is taking the lead in a global quantum security race. The technology could have vast strategic implications if quantum computing compromises existing encryption techniques. Above, a U.S. startup working on quantum technology.

• Canned tuna companies have found a scapegoat for a decline in overall consumption: millennials. They “don’t even own can openers,” one tuna executive said. That explanation did not go down well.

• YouTube’s highest-earning star? It’s a 7-year-old boy who reviews toys — and who made an estimated $22 million in the past year.

• The U.S. stock markets were down. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

• Coming today: The office of the special counsel Robert Mueller is expected to file a sentencing memo for Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, above. [Check nytimes.com for updates]

• U.S. senators said a closed-door meeting with the C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel, solidified their belief that the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman senators ordered the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. [The New York Times]

• Diplomats from 195 countries are in Poland to hammer out new rules to help cut fossil fuel emissions. Here are the questions they will be grappling with. [The New York Times]

• The Afghan government said it was investigating allegations that players on the women’s national soccer team were sexually and physically abused by male coaches and officials. [The New York Times]

• A 23-year-old Norwegian soccer player, Ada Hegerberg, became the first woman to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or prize. Then, after her acceptance speech, she was asked if she knew how to twerk. [The New York Times]

• Gunmen in the remote Indonesian province of Papua killed as many as 31 construction workers on a highway project. The police attributed the attack to separatists. [The New York Times]

• Denmark plans to house unwanted migrants — convicted criminals and rejected asylum seekers — on a tiny, hard-to-reach island. [The New York Times]

• Thousands of flying foxes in the northern Australian state of Queensland died because of extreme temperatures this week. [The Guardian]

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

• “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Amazon’s Emmy Award-winning comedy, returns for its second season today — and it’s just as stunning a journey of wit and humor as the first season, writes our chief television critic. Not in the mood? Here are all the best TV shows of the year, picked by our critics.

• Looking for a gift for a hard-to-please loved one? Ask our T Magazine editors — who are experts in fashion, food, beauty, home design, books and culture — for guidance.

• In Japan, our 52 Places Traveler learns to walk in wooden shoes and eat adventurously, and discovers how small the world is.

Eighty-five years ago today, America once again stepped up to the bar.

On Dec. 5, 1933, Utah, of all places, became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, enough to end national Prohibition.

Bars across the U.S. are celebrating Repeal Day. When they do, they should also honor its unlikely hero: Pierre du Pont, pictured above.

One of the wealthiest men in the world, du Pont was also among the most prominent “wets” — as opponents of Prohibition were called. He helped lead a powerful lobbying group with a not-so-hidden agenda: bring back booze, and make income taxes unnecessary with renewed levies on legal alcohol.

He succeeded, to a point. The end of Prohibition injected millions of dollars into the federal Treasury. But income and corporate taxes went up, too.

Du Pont’s folly was America’s gain — and a reminder that in politics, things rarely turn out the way you want, no matter how much money you have.

Clay Risen, a deputy Op-Ed editor and authority on spirits, wrote today’s Back Story.

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