Russia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia: Your Friday Briefing

The majority of South African farmland remains under white ownership more than 25 years after apartheid ended.



Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• Tensions are growing more volatile between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a rivalry that has fueled sectarianism and war across the Middle East.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, above, compared Iran’s supreme leader to Adolf Hitler, and said that his country would acquire a nuclear bomb “as soon as possible” if Iran developed nuclear weapons.

Separately, experts believe an cyberattack last year on a petrochemical company in Saudi Arabia was intended to cause a catastrophic explosion. They fear the next one might succeed.



Diana López for The New York Times

Disaster has swallowed the country sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves.

That’s Venezuela. A chain of political, economic, food and medical crises have set off the largest exodus of refugees in the history of the Americas.

For months, our reporter recorded interviews over encrypted channels with Leopoldo López, above, an opposition leader under house arrest. After our article published, his house was raided and his security chief detained. He anticipates being returned to prison.

Listen to some of the interviews with Mr. Lopez, with our reporter’s commentary, in Part One and Part Two of a special episode of “The Daily” podcast.



Bryan Denton for The New York Times

• In the world’s coldest capital, survival can require burning raw coal.

That means smoke worsens the misery of winter in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. The city’s dirty air has surpassed notoriously polluted megacities, like Beijing and New Delhi.

Locals are skeptical of a government-proposed ban on coal. “People will burn anything,” one said. “The tires on their cars, their neighbors’ fences. It’s hard to survive in minus 30 degrees.”


China’s spreading wealth and influence is prompting pushback on national security concerns around the world, not just in the U.S. Australia, Europe and Canada have also increasing scrutiny of Beijing’s investments.

• Ye Jianming was a hard-charging Chinese energy tycoon whose company surprised the world last year with a $9 billion purchase. Now he seems to be the latest member of the corporate elite to fall from President Xi Jinping’s graces.

• Amazon Japan’s Tokyo offices were raided by the country’s fair-trade watchdog, on suspicion of antitrust violations related to having suppliers take on some costs of retailer discounts.

• The Pentagon wants to enlist Silicon Valley’s help on artificial intelligence, as it once collaborated with older tech companies.

• Most U.S. stocks were lower. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

In the News


Josh Haner/The New York Times

Easter Island is critically vulnerable to rising sea levels. Two Times journalists traveled 2,200 miles off the coast of Chile to see how the ocean is erasing the island’s famous ancient monuments. [The New York Times]

• An Australian military adviser and a Cambodian soldier were killed by a blast at a shooting range on a Cambodian military base. [Phnom Penh Post]

• North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, flew to Sweden, amid speculation that the country could be a venue for planning potential talks between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. [The New York Times]

“A celebration of indecency”: That’s how a semiofficial Iranian news agency described a recent girls’ dance recital in Tehran. It may have cost the city’s mayor his job. [The New York Times]

Rescuing Qatari royals who were taken hostage in Iraq cost the tiny emirate $360 million, our reporter found. The payments fueled the Middle East’s spiraling civil wars. [The New York Times Magazine]

• The eastern quoll, a spotted cat-sized marsupial, was reintroduced into the wilds of mainland Australia this week or the first time since the species was decimated by foxes about half a century ago. [BBC]

Smarter Living

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


Damien Cave/The New York Times

• Protect children from danger? Our Australia bureau chief learned a better way from the Nippers: Teach kids how to manage risk.

• How to enjoy fine dining on a fast food budget

• Recipe of the day: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with these recipes.




• In memoriam: Here’s our obituary of Alison Hargreaves, above, who died in 1995 on the world’s second tallest mountain after conquering Everest solo and without bottled oxygen. (Assessing how the gender breakdown of our obituaries changed over time for our Overlooked obits project was a project in itself.)

Our lone reporter at the Pyeongchang Paralympics in South Korea reflected on his assignment: Focus on athletes, not impairments. The games conclude on Sunday.

• The latest World Happiness Report’s top 10 countries: Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. The report finds that a country’s overall happiness is almost identical to that of its immigrants.

Back Story


Paulo Nunes dos Santos for The New York Times

St. Patrick’s Day, which is Saturday, is all the more enjoyable for a number of intriguing myths and misconceptions — and not just about leprechauns.

Scientists say there were never any snakes in Ireland, for one thing, which contradicts the tale of St. Patrick driving them into the sea. It’s not even airtight to maintain, as scholars do, that the snake story is an allegory for St.Patrick’s eradication of pagan religions. (Christianity may have already arrived.)

The real Patrick, who became a patron saint of Ireland, wasn’t even Irish: He was believed to have been a Roman born in England who was enslaved by Irish marauders. He escaped after six years and returned to Ireland to spread Christianity.

Corned beef, a mainstay of St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S., was introduced by Irish immigrants who bought it from Jewish neighbors in New York City. And there’s the color: It was once St. Patrick’s blue. (Green dates to 18th Century Irish independence movements.)

And for a celebration of Irish culture, St. Patrick’s Day is remarkably global. In Sydney, where the Opera House is tinted green each year, the celebrations date to 1810. In Singapore, as the Irish Times writes, “the Singapore River transforms into a sea of green as part of its own two-day street festival.”


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