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Donald Trump, Catalonia, Nxivm: Your Thursday Briefing – New York Times

Sergeant Johnson’s mother said that Mr. Trump did, in fact, tell his widow that he “knew what he signed up for.” The president has denied this. Several families of fallen soldiers said that they had not heard from the president.

Separately, Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but refused to discuss his conversations with Mr. Trump about Russia or the firing of James Comey, the former F.B.I. director.



Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

• The Islamic State may be reeling, but it is far from vanquished.

Counterterrorism officials are bracing for the jihadist group to return to its guerrilla roots. It still has up to 10,000 fighters in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. And Al Qaeda is vying for a comeback with a charismatic leader: Osama bin Laden’s 27-year-old son, Hamza.

Separately at the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. ambassador denounced Iran’s “outlaw behavior” in the Middle East. But our correspondent in Iraq notes how Iran and the U.S. were inadvertently on the same side in the Iraqi-Kurdish dispute over control of the city of Kirkuk and its oil fields.



Santi Palacios/Associated Press

• European leaders gather today for two days of meetings. Migration and the regulation of digital services are on the agenda, but Britain’s exit from the European Union and the Catalan quest for independence from Spain are likely to feature just as prominently.

In Spain, the government has asked Catalan leaders to clarify today whether they declared the region’s independence last week. Here is our correspondent’s look at what’s at stake.

(Spanish and Catalan officials put aside their differences to lobby jointly in Brussels for the E.U.’s drug regulator to be moved to Barcelona from London after Britain’s departure from the bloc.)



Andreas Solaro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• “Fake news drips drops of poison into our daily web diet.”

That was Laura Boldrini, above, the president of Italy’s lower house of Parliament, who has spearheaded a new project to help students in 8,000 high schools across the country recognize lies online.

Students will receive a list of what amounts to a set of Ten Commandments. Among them: Thou shalt not share unverified news; thou shall ask for sources and evidence.



Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

• Our most-read story by readers in Europe today is a strange tale.

A Times investigation uncovered a secretive organization that lured in women with promises of empowerment, demanded they turn over naked photographs or other compromising material — and then held them down and branded them below the hip, searing a symbol into their skin.

The group, Nxivm (pronounced Nex-e-um), has been operating across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.



Doug Chayka

• In Silicon Valley, the clutches of the five biggest tech companies are hard to escape. “They love start-ups, but in the same way that orcas love baby seals,” our tech columnist writes.

• Recent economic growth in Romania has resonated as affirmation of a bright new era in one of Europe’s poorest countries. But economists now fear that the government’s response could lead to another crisis.

• Trump administration officials traveling to Germany next month for U.N. climate change discussions face a conundrum: how to negotiate the terms of a deal they say they’re walking away from.

• Few leaders of the U.S. Federal Reserve have achieved successes comparable to Janet Yellen’s. But that may not be enough for her to keep the job.

Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

In the News


Francisco Leong/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• Portugal’s interior minister resigned amid anger over the handling of wildfires that have killed more than a hundred people in the past four months. [Reuters]

• Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian socialite whose father was a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, declared her intention to challenge Mr. Putin in the presidential election. The main liberal opposition candidate, Aleksei Navalny, has been banned from running, but is campaigning anyway. [The New York Times]

• Kenya’s top election official warned that he was not confident that next week’s presidential vote would be credible. [The New York Times]

• At China’s Communist Party congress, President Xi Jinping revealed his worries about domestic security threats and maintaining ideological control. [The New York Times]

• A French music magazine drew criticism for featuring on its cover a rock star who had been convicted of killing his girlfriend. [The New York Times]

Smarter Living

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


Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, with this collection of recipes. Above, pickled apples.

• Don’t get too comfortable at that desk. Some offices are moving to a “palette of places.”

• Let us help you book the cheapest holiday travel.



Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

• In the Champions League: Chelsea rallied for a 3-3 draw against Roma; Lionel Messi, above, led Barcelona to a 3-1 victory against Olympiakos; and Paris St. Germain routed Anderlecht 4-0.

• Philip Pullman carries on the story of Lyra, one of literature’s most indelible heroines, in “La Belle Sauvage,” released today, his 71st birthday. We visited the English novelist at this home.

• A trove of 170,000 pages of Yiddish documents that were thought lost to the Nazis has been found in a church basement in Lithuania.

In the 1960s, when homosexuality was widely vilified in Britain, gay music managers were able to express themselves by shaping the images of some of the most influential sex symbols of the day, including the Beatles.

Back Story


Matias Costa for The New York Times

For visitors to Madrid, the starting point is often Plaza Mayor, which is 400 years old this year.

The plaza was created as a city center for the new capital, Madrid, where the Spanish royal court relocated from Toledo in the mid-16th century. Construction began in 1617, during the reign of King Philip III, who is memorialized by an equestrian statue in the center.

The square was built on the site of the market at Plaza del Arrabal, and was later called Plaza de la Constitución, Plaza Real, Plaza de la República and finally Plaza Mayor.

The plaza has seen almost as many fires as it has names. It had to be rebuilt after blazes in 1631, 1670 and 1790. It now consists of three stories, nine archways and 237 balconies.

The site of bullfights, coronations and executions during the Spanish Inquisition, the plaza is now home to shops, restaurants and an annual Christmas market.

Madrid has marked this year’s anniversary with lectures, screenings and music and dance performances. For a few days recently, the plaza was also covered with grass. “I wanted to recover the spirit of that green space,” the artist behind the project, SpY, told El País, citing the plaza’s history as earth and garden.

Jennifer Jett contributed reporting.


Your Morning Briefing is published weekday mornings and updated online.

This briefing was prepared for the European morning. Browse past briefings here.

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Donald Trump, Catalonia, Nxivm: Your Thursday Briefing – New York Times

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