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China builds a database of Uighurs’ DNA, an ex-spy chief turns on Venezuela’s president and a fire in Bangladesh fits a disturbing pattern. Here’s the latest:
China uses DNA to track Uighurs, aided by U.S. expertise
China is collecting genetic material as part of a vast campaign of oppression against Muslim minority groups. Human rights groups and Uighur activists say the DNA could be used to chase down anyone who resists conforming.
To help build out the DNA database, China used equipment from a U.S. company, Thermo Fisher, and got material from a prominent Yale geneticist for comparing Uighur DNA with genetic material from people around the world.
How it unfolded: Under the guise of free medical checkups in the western region of Xinjiang, where much of the population is Uighur, the government collected DNA samples, images of irises and other personal data of tens of millions of people.
In some cases, people were told the checkups were mandatory.
Background: In 2016, the government set out to make Uighurs and other minority groups more subservient to the Communist Party, detaining up to a million people in what it calls “re-education” camps.
The response: Thermo Fisher said it would stop selling equipment in Xinjiang. And the Yale researcher said he had believed that the Chinese authorities were operating within scientific norms that require the informed consent of DNA donors.
U.K. Labour Party grapples with accusations of anti-Semitism
Wavertree — a tiny, multiethnic, mostly working-class constituency in Liverpool, England — is at the center of a national row over whether anti-Semitism is rife in the Labour Party. Luciana Berger, the member of Parliament for the area, resigned this week after local Labour activists called her a “disruptive Zionist” and a supporter of a “murdering” Israeli government.
She is one of eight Labour defectors who quit in protest of their left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn, criticizing his ambiguity over Britain’s exit from the European Union and accusing him of tolerating anti-Semitism in the party.
Details: Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, has said that the party is investigating the Wavertree branch.
Bigger picture: Mr. Corbyn’s supporters, many of them Jewish, deny that he has brooked prejudice, arguing that instances of anti-Semitism in the party have fallen since he became leader and that criticizing the Israeli government, as Mr. Corbyn does unapologetically, does not equate to a hatred of Jews. Critics say there is anti-Semitism under the surface, as when a Labour lawmaker suggested that the defectors might have had financial backing from Israel.
A former Venezuelan official turns on Maduro
A former Venezuelan intelligence chief called President Nicolás Maduro a dictator with a corrupt inner circle, one of the most public rejections to date.
In interviews with The Times, the former spy chief, Hugo Carvajal, urged the military to break with Mr. Maduro ahead of a showdown with the opposition on Saturday, when tons of aid from the U.S. and other countries is slated to arrive.
U.S. investigators have accused Mr. Carvajal of drug trafficking. In interviews, he denied those claims, but depicted other senior Venezuelan officials as a criminal claque in league with drug traffickers.
Other developments: To thwart aid shipments, Mr. Maduro ordered the closing of Venezuela’s border with Brazil, having already blocked air and sea traffic from three Caribbean islands.
Vatican begins conference on clerical sexual abuse
Pope Francis, his moral authority in question and his papal legacy in the balance, opened a historic four-day conference at the Vatican to address child sexual abuse in the church.
“We hear the cry of the little ones,” he said.
Before 190 church leaders, he called for “concrete and effective measures” to address clerical sexual abuse. Victims are putting enormous pressure on the Vatican to take action on an issue that in some parts of the world has eroded trust in the Roman Catholic Church while being ignored and denied in others.
Other issues: The conference is shadowed by a series of fresh scandals: the sexual abuse of nuns, the shaming and closeting of gay priests, and revelations that the church has secret guidelines for dealing with priests who father children.
Here’s what else is happening
Mueller investigation: The special counsel is expected to submit his report to the attorney general within weeks. In an Op-Ed, the acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama argues that it will probably act as a “road map” for more investigations, rather than the beginning of their end.
Syria: The White House said it would keep 200 U.S. troops in the country, reversing a vow of a full withdrawal.
India: The country appears determined to follow through on a threat to cut back Pakistan’s water supply after two recent attacks on Indian troops in Kashmir. A top official said the Indus River, which provides water for hundreds of millions of people across the subcontinent, could be diverted.
Bangladesh: An inferno on Wednesday night claimed at least 110 lives in a historic neighborhood in Dhaka, adding to the toll of hundreds who have died in the country in recent years in fires that tore through crowded, unsafe structures. A promised crackdown on building violations, which are abetted by greed and corruption, has fallen short.
Johnson & Johnson: The U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating concerns about possible asbestos contamination of the company’s popular baby powder and other talc-based products. The company faces about 13,000 lawsuits around the world in which its body powders are blamed for causing ovarian cancer or mesothelioma.
Green New Deal: A proposal by congressional Democrats for a “10-year national mobilization” to make the U.S. carbon-neutral would cost trillions of dollars and probably take longer than that — but it would be feasible and a major victory against global warming, experts and economists told us.
Jussie Smollett: After his arrest in Chicago on Wednesday over accusations that he staged a homophobic and racist attack on himself, the actor was said to be back at work on the Fox show “Empire,” raising awkward questions for Fox about the future of his character and the show itself. Prosecutors have said he was upset by his salary and seeking publicity.
A reader recently asked us about a trader pictured at the New York Stock Exchange who looked familiar. The reader was right: Peter Tuchman, below, is one of the most photographed traders on the floor.
“I think about Tuchman more than any other person when I think about the stock market,” said Jeenah Moon, a photographer who shoots the exchange, and Mr. Tuchman, on occasion.
There are currently 233 active traders licensed with the exchange, but Ms. Moon usually sees a far smaller number at work. Among them, Mr. Tuchman, a broker since 1988, stands out.
In an email, Mr. Tuchman said that he “wears his emotions on his face” and that a resemblance to Albert Einstein “surely brings a lot to the table.”
“I thrive off the adrenaline,” he wrote.
“I’m like a hurricane whirling its way through the floor,” he added. “And I love it, it’s the greatest job on earth.”
Remy Tumin, on the briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story.
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