Shinzo Abe, Catalonia, Jimmy Carter: Your Monday Briefing


But Mr. Xi’s global ambition has worried some nations. Australia is vexed by what it sees as Beijing’s meddling in domestic politics, and in Southeast Asia and Africa, there are complaints about a new era of Chinese colonialism.

And in China’s hinterlands, locals complain of a stark disconnect between Mr. Xi’s bright promises and their own hardscrabble reality.

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Pool photo by Alex Brandon

President Trump greets Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, at the White House today, with much to discuss. Mr. Lee is set to take over as the chair of Asean, and Mr. Trump makes his first trip to Asia as president next month.

Mr. Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, started a tour of the Middle East in Saudi Arabia, urging Europe to limit dealings with Iran and pressing for a solution to a regional feud with Qatar. In our podcast “The New Washington,” Mr. Tillerson discusses Mr. Trump and the state of the State Department.

There was also an unexpected offer from a former president: Jimmy Carter, 93, said he would help the White House reach out to North Korea.

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Pool photo by Juan Carlos Hidalgo

The standoff over Catalonia reached a crucial moment for Spain with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s announcement that he would throw out the region’s secessionist leaders, made after he presided over an emergency cabinet meeting, above, on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis denied that the move to amounted to a “coup,” as Catalan leaders charge.

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Lauryn Ishak for The New York Times

Alibaba dominates online sales in China, as Amazon does in the U.S. Now, they’re in a billion-dollar competition for other markets, particularly in Southeast Asia and India. Above, Alibaba’s Redmart warehouse in Singapore.

The challenges are countless. “It’s a mix of urban, semi-urban and rural areas, separated by large distances and — in the Philippines and Indonesia — by water,” said one analyst. “Cash on delivery is still prevalent, and other local players are in the fray.”

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Reuters

President Trump decided to release thousands of classified government documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy experts don’t expect any bombshells that significantly alter the official narrative — that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in Dallas — but they said the documents were likely to “help fuel a new generation of conspiracy theories.”

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Business

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Robert Wright for The New York Times

• Fox News gave Bill O’Reilly a new anchoring contract early this year even after it emerged that he had recently settled a previously undisclosed $32 million sexual harassment case, a Times investigation found.

Silicon Valley’s giants are placing huge bets on artificial intelligence — and offering A.I. specialists startlingly high compensation.

• The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, established by the Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, is one of the new megadonor initiatives upending the staid world of big philanthropy.

Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

In the News

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Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• The World Health Organization dropped Zimbabwe’s authoritarian leader, Robert Mugabe, as a “good-will ambassador” after days of widespread, bitter criticism. [The New York Times]

• In Malaysia, anger is mounting after 11 people, mostly foreign workers, were killed in a landslide at a construction site that residents considered too dangerous. [Agence France-Presse]

The Times mapped 30 videos in an attempt to draw a complete picture of what happened during the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. [The New York Times]

• The C.I.A., newly assertive under the Trump administration, is expanding covert operations against Taliban militants in Afghanistan. [The New York Times]

• Indonesia asked for clarification from Washington after its military chief was denied entry to the U.S. [Jakarta Globe]

Ryota Murata became Japan’s first middleweight boxing champion in 22 years. [ESPN]

• Scientists are racing to counter threats from poaching and land-clearing to save the Tasmanian giant freshwater lobster. The world’s largest freshwater invertebrate, it can live 60 years and reach the size of a small dog. [ABC]

Smarter Living

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

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Gentl and Hyers for The New York Times

• Recipe of the day: Find perfection at the bottom of a perfectly cooked katsudon, Japan’s pork-cutlet rice bowl.

• Exercise isn’t just good for your body, a new study suggests. It also protects your brain against dementia.

• Get a jump on next season’s fashion trends.

Noteworthy

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Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

• Hiroyuki Ito, a Tokyo-raised photographer, captured the way people live in the rest of Japan — the faces, architecture and, sometimes, what’s in the trash can.

To revamp Thor for the “Ragnarok” movie, Marvel turned to Taika Waititi, an eccentric indie filmmaker from New Zealand.

• And our behavioral science reporter explains why so many of us are vulnerable to fake news on social media.

Back Story

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Jeff Christensen/Associated Press

“They’re two inches tall and very German. They’re blue and live deep in the forest.”

That’s how The Times eventually introduced its readers to the Smurfs, a cartoon and merchandising series that first appeared in a European comic magazine on this day in 1958.

The Smurfs were the work of the Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford, who penned his work under the pseudonym Peyo.

At first, the uniform gnomelike characters played a secondary role as “Schtroumpfs” in another comic series, but they soon had their own albums and movies. (Here’s a detailed history.)

In the U.S., they gained popularity under their Dutch name, the “Smurfs,” becoming a perennial pop culture reference after a Saturday morning TV show began airing in 1981.

Now, there’s the concept of “smurfing” among computer gamers, referring to skilled gamers who play anonymously. In the banking industry, “smurfing” is a form of money laundering carried out by a multitude of couriers. There’s the 1980s break-dance style and there are Smurf conspiracy theories.

Six years ago, a village in Spain agreed to have all of its buildings painted in blue to mark the premiere of a Smurf movie. The publicity stunt worked and turned the sleepy settlement into a tourist attraction.

Patrick Boehler contributed reporting.

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