Liu Xiaobo, George Pell, Dalian Wanda: Your Tuesday Briefing

Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:


Vincent Yu/Associated Press

Liu Xiaobo, China’s most famous political prisoner, is in critical condition, according to his doctors.

Their assessment appeared to contradict that of two foreign doctors, a German and an American, who a day earlier said Mr. Liu would be able to travel abroad to be treated for advanced liver cancer. Germany’s embassy sharply criticized the release of a video of their visit as propaganda, saying, “It seems that security organs are steering the process, not medical experts.”

Human rights advocates say his treatment is indicative of pattern in Chinese prisons, where denial of health care is a tool to intimidate and punish dissidents.



Arun Sankar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The navies of India, Japan and the United States have kicked off their annual Malabar series of exercises in the Bay of Bengal.

This year’s war games — the largest to date — have a specific target: detecting submarines attempting to creep into position off the Indian coast.

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As our India correspondents note, there is little doubt that the focus is on China, which has been involved in an aggressive standoff with Indian border forces in the Himalayas.

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Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

In the latest developments on Russia’s contacts with the Trump campaign last year, five White House advisers told our reporters that President Trump’s eldest son was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer during the 2016 campaign.

That is the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help. Readers have added more than 3,300 comments to the story. Donald Trump Jr. gave two different explanations for the meeting.

We examine how the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow offered the Trump family links to Russia — and to the Kremlin.



Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

Cardinal George Pell, one of the highest-ranking figures in the Roman Catholic Church and a close adviser to Pope Francis, is back in Australia to face charges of sexual assault. His first hearing is in Melbourne on July 26.

Cardinal Pell has denied the claims, about which information is limited. They appear to have occurred long ago and include multiple accusers.

In what officials said was a coincidence, an Australian commission investigating Catholic institutions’ handling of sexual abuse allegations released a new trove of documents within hours of the cardinal’s return.


• In our latest edition of The Breakdown, news and notes from Australia, more on Cardinal Pell, and the frank criticism of President Trump by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s political editor, Chris Uhlmann. Check back at 3 p.m. Sydney for a new edition.



Wu Hong/European Pressphoto Agency

• Dalian Wanda announced a plan to sell 76 hotels and a large portion of 13 tourism projects, signaling a strategic retreat for a conglomerate that epitomized China’s high-flying dealmakers. Cash from the deal — $9.3 billion — will be used to repay loans.

• Air India’s decision to serve only vegetarian meals in coach on all domestic flights was met with outrage from critics who saw another government attempt to police what Indians eat.

• AT&T’s $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner is mired in uncertainty, as critics in the White House fear political interference and business leaders watch for a regulatory precedent.

• U.S. stocks are up slightly. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

In the News


Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• Drone footage reveals the terrifying extent of recent flood damage in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s main islands. [The Asahi Shimbun]

• In London, it took 70 firefighters hours to bring a fire at Camden Lock Market, a popular tourist destination, under control. [The New York Times]

A woman in Nepal who was, in keeping with local tradition, sequestered in a crude hut during her period was killed by a snakebite. [The New York Times]

• The White House apologized for a statement that erroneously referred to President Xi Jinping as the leader of the Republic of China, the formal name for Taiwan. [The New York Times]

• The Australian Federal Police are conducting an inquiry into allegations that Australian soldiers covered up the killing of an Afghan child during an operation in 2012. [ABC]

• A new Vatican directive established that the unleavened bread used in Roman Catholics masses must contain some gluten, even if only a trace amount. [The New York Times]

Bertha, a 65-year-old hippopotamus believed to be the world’s oldest, died at a zoo in the Philippines. [South China Morning Post]

Smarter Living

Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.


Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

• Seriously: You can rewire your brain to crave better habits.

• Making a backup of your backup data can provide peace of mind, and walking your dog more can be beneficial to you and your pup.

• If you’re in the mood for grilling, try spicy lamb sausage with onions and zucchini. And if you’re feeling ambitious, aim for sea scallops drizzled with brown butter.



Elwood Smith

• Hehe. LOL. Bahaha! Textual representations of laughter go back at least to Chaucer, but texting and email have dramatically changed the way we communicate our giggles, guffaws and snorts.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was featured in a concert for world leaders at the Group of 20 summit, but the work’s meaning is far from clear — and its intended message may have been garbled.

• In today’s 360 video, visit Masdar City, in the United Arab Emirates, where plans to become the first city with a net-zero carbon footprint have stalled.

Back Story



“It was like a Roman candle,” one eyewitness said. “A shower of gold-colored sparks followed by a blue flame with flecks of green and red at its sides.”

In 1979, people across the deserts of southwestern Australia emerged from their homes to “sonic booms” and the smell of “burned earth” as fiery debris from the 77-ton Skylab, the U.S.’s first space station, rained down. It was July 11 in the U.S., and the early hours of July 12 for the witnesses.

Skylab was launched in 1973 to collect data, two years after the Soviets sent up the first space station, Salyut 1.

By 1979, Skylab’s orbit had decayed, and the world obsessed over its coming plunge. People threw parties, bought “crash helmets” and bet on where it would land.

Although no deaths or injuries were reported after the crash, President Jimmy Carter still apologized to Australia.

Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser responded: “While receiving Skylab is an honour we would have happily forgone, it is the end of a magnificent technological achievement by the United States, and the events of the past few days should not obscure this. If we find the pieces I shall happily trade them for additions to the beef quota.”

Tacey Rychter contributed reporting.


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