British Election, China Trade Deal, New Zealand: Your Friday Briefing

By Melina Delkic

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Good morning.

We’re covering Britain’s crucial election, a phase one U.S.-China trade deal and a dangerous mission to the White Island volcano in New Zealand.

ImageA polling station in North London on Thursday. 
A polling station in North London on Thursday. Credit...Andrew Testa for The New York Times

A victory would cement Mr. Johnson’s claim to 10 Downing Street and push forward his plan for an aggressive exit from the European Union by the end of January. According to the exit poll, the Conservatives are projected to win 368 seats in the House of Commons, versus 191 for the Labour Party.

Reminder: The exit poll, conducted by three major British broadcasters, is not a definitive result; the numbers could shift, particularly in closely fought districts.

The arrangement would include Chinese commitments to purchase U.S. agricultural products and other concessions. President Trump is expected to delay or cancel new tariffs scheduled to go into effect on $160 billion of consumer goods as of Sunday.

Though Mr. Trump has yet to make an official announcement, he had expressed excitement on Twitter hours before the news emerged, saying that China and the U.S. were “VERY close to a BIG DEAL.” U.S. markets rallied.

Backdrop in U.S.: Impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump are expected to hit another milestone today with a congressional committee’s likely vote to send two articles of impeachment to the full House for approval next week, the final step before a Senate trial.

Backdrop in China: A growing number of Chinese companies can’t pay the bills they racked up as they expanded, as the world’s No. 2 economy struggles to weather its worst slowdown in nearly three decades.

The police have confirmed the location of six bodies using drones and monitoring equipment, but two others have not been found. And the rescue team travels with the knowledge that there is a high chance that the volcano, New Zealand’s most active, will erupt again. It’s the main reason the rescue missions have been repeatedly delayed.

Quotable: “There is a growing sense of desperation to bring home those we love,” said Judy Turner, the mayor of Whakatane, a coastal community close to the volcanic island. “No news is not good for people in this situation.”

Medical angle: New Zealand ordered over 1,000 square feet of human skin from the U.S. to aid burn victims, a story that has shed light on the procurement process for human skin tissue.

Responsibility: Police officers and workplace safety officials have started investigations into the deaths of the tourists and at least two employees from the tour operating agency, while many volcanologists say it was unclear why people were allowed to visit it in the first place.

The government shut down the internet, deployed hundreds of troops and, in one state, banned groups of more than four people from assembling.

The moves came after tens of thousands of people rioted in three states, defying troops and in Assam State a curfew, following the approval of a bill by Parliament making it easier for some non-Muslim migrants to become citizens.

At least two people died after security forces clashed with protesters. TV channels were directed to refrain from broadcasting protests.

Context: While India’s Muslims object to the bill for not giving Muslim migrants a path to citizenship, the protesters in the majority Hindu northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura are concerned about safeguarding their ethnic and linguistic heritage from the influence of migrants from Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh or Christian communities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas that is helping to warm the planet. It’s also loosely regulated and difficult to detect.

Armed with a powerful infrared camera, two Times journalists flew over oil and gas fields in West Texas, and in just a few hours found six sites with unusually high methane emissions. Their report shows how the U.S. energy industry is seeking and winning looser federal regulations on methane.

China: Rising bond defaults raise new questions about whether Beijing can effectively address its huge debt problem.

North Korea: The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations responded to North Korean signals that it could resume long-range missile tests, saying that such a move would be “deeply counterproductive.”

South Korea: Mark Lippert, the U.S. ambassador to the country, underwent two and a half hours of surgery after he was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist at a forum in Seoul.

Algeria: The police beat back protesters at voting stations, as the authorities continued on with an election that was broadly rejected by much of the population. Protesters have for months called for an overhaul of what they call “the system” associated with the ousted president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Croatia: Two Nigerian students who traveled to Zagreb for a table-tennis tournament say they were mistaken for undocumented migrants, robbed of their money and clothes and expelled to Bosnia.

Afghanistan: Abdullah Abdullah, a three-time contender for the presidency, is again at the center of an electoral crisis. This time, he insists, he won’t compromise.

Myanmar: Judges at the U.N. are deciding whether to issue an emergency order protecting the Rohingya Muslims in the country who have not fled from what the U.N. says is a genocidal campaign. I am just waiting to die,” a man in its epicenter, Rakhine State, told our reporter by phone.

Snapshot: Above, part of a painting found in a cave in Indonesia that is at least 43,900 years old. In a new paper, scientists said it’s “the oldest pictorial record of storytelling and the earliest figurative artwork in the world.”

Space mission: After a year of mapping boulder-strewn Bennu, an asteroid as wide as the Empire State Building is tall, a NASA spacecraft found a landing spot. It is to touch down in July to collect surface samples to bring back to Earth. Scientists hope the material will reveal more about the early days of our solar system and the dawn of life on our own planet.

What we’re reading: The Space Explorer Mike Twitter feed. “We can’t all be astronauts, but there are no limits on the travels our minds can take,” writes the Briefings editor, Andrea Kannapell. “And this account always has a launch pad.”

Cook: This weekend, set up a batch of slow cooker salsa verde chicken and let it simmer all day.

Watch: A creative shake-up, last-minute rewrites and a director not known for great endings: J.J. Abrams and company discuss the making of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

Read: “The Serious Goose,” written and illustrated by the American late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel, is a No. 1 debut on our children’s picture book best-seller list.

Smarter Living: Brow and lash serums make a lot of promises, but many do little — and the ones that actually stimulate growth have notable potential side effects.

The horror novelist Stephen King is a triskie. He’s also a friggatriskaidekaphobe. Or, if you prefer, a paraskavedekatriaphobe.

While a triskie — a triskaidekaphobe, that is — is creeped out by the number 13, the other two are terrified of Friday the 13th. Like today.

“It’s neurotic, sure. But it’s also … safer,” Mr. King wrote in an article for The Times in 1984, listing some unlucky Friday the 13ths in history. (When he reads a book, he won’t stop on page 94, page 193 — or any page whose digits add up to 13.)

Other friggatriskies:

  • Franklin Roosevelt (He was acutely afraid of the number 13 and would avoid traveling on Friday).

  • Sholom Aleichem, the Yiddish author and playwright who created the character Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof.” (His manuscripts never had a page 13; he numbered them 12a.)

  • And the Austrian-American composer Arnold Schoenberg, who was so panicked by his superstition that he died on a Friday the 13th in 1951.

That’s it for this briefing. Best of luck.

— Melina

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Victoria Shannon, on the Briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

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