Asia and Australia Edition: Russia, the Obamas, Donald Trump: Your Tuesday Briefing



Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

From the Winter Olympics: The Dutch team swept the first women’s speed skating event and Mikael Kingsbury of Canada won gold in moguls skiing. Here’s our full coverage from Pyeongchang.

Russian nationalist fervor is very present, despite the official ban for the country’s state-backed doping scheme. (Our “Daily” podcast has the best account yet of how that unfolded.)

And one of our most popular stories today is a throwback: In 1982, the Norwegian cross-country skier Oddvar Bra collided with a skier from the Soviet Union. Somehow, a national myth was born. So far, Norway is leading the medal count.



Credit Ted Aljibe/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Philippines barred its citizens from traveling to Kuwait for employment and began flying workers home after reports that the body of an abused Filipino domestic worker was found in a Kuwaiti apartment freezer.

About half a million Filipinos live in Kuwait, most employed as domestic workers, and President Rodrigo Duterte said they were subject to a “repugnant” level of abuse.

Separately, Mr. Duterte was criticized for having boasted of ordering soldiers to shoot female communist guerrillas in the genitals.



Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times

• President Trump is unveiling a $1.5 trillion plan for what he’s called “gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways all across our land.”

The White House also announced its budget request, including large increases for the military, deep cuts in domestic programs and entitlements, and money for a return to the moon.

Our Washington correspondent says the budget has “little to no chance of being enacted as written.”



Credit Sony Pictures, via Associated Press

Crime or misdemeanor?

Sony’s animated “Peter Rabbit” has been doing fairly well at the box offices (though a distant second to the far less family-friendly “Fifty Shades Freed”).

But Sony felt compelled to apologize after parents in the U.S. and Australia complained about the scene where the young rabbits fire a blackberry into Mr. McGregor’s mouth, sending him into anaphylactic shock.

For the record, our critic preferred “Shaun the Sheep Movie.”



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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be joined by more than 20 business leaders from Australia on a trip to Washington next week. The group includes the billionaire packaging magnate Anthony Pratt, a friend of President Trump’s who is building factories in the U.S.

• The old American Stock Exchange building in New York briefly took on a new life — as a fashion runway. Our chief fashion critic took the opportunity to meditate on finance and style.

Funds that track financial indexes, now a dominant force on Wall Street, acted as accelerants in recent turmoil.

• Many markets in Asia and Europe rose Monday, but Australia’s benchmark index fell again. U.S. stocks were up sharply. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

In the News


Credit Anuwar Hazarika/Reuters

• In northeast India, a speeding train plowed into a herd of elephants, killing five and adding to building criticism of the railways over the painful number of such collisions. [The New York Times].

Prime Minister Turnbull’s office said Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce did not breach government policy when the staff member he was dating was employed by fellow lawmakers, saying she could not be considered his “partner” at the time. [The Sydney Morning Herald]

• Mr. Turnbull highlighted improvements in education and reductions in infant mortality for Indigenous communities, but said that future policies should focus more closely on the communities, not broad policy targets. [ABC]

• The police in Israel arrested a woman who fled Australia in 2008 after she was charged with sexual abuse of three girls at an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school she headed in Melbourne. [Haaretz]

Cyclone Gita battered Tonga, and kept New Zealand on alert. [Radio New Zealand]

• “Half-paradise, half-hell”: The Maldives is in a power struggle that could pull India and China into conflict. [The New York Times Editorial Board]

• The Catholic Church in Victoria, Australia, appears to be far wealthier than it lets on, raising new scrutiny of its efforts to avoid or minimize compensation payments over child sexual abuse. [The Age]

• Good news: Two drugs have been found to stave off the spread of prostate cancer for as much as two years. The highest rates of the disease are found in Australia and New Zealand. [The New York Times]

Smarter Living

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


Credit Josh Cochran

• Want a more perfect union? Act (within limits) like you’re single.

• Studies on saturated fats often failed to consider what people ate in their place.

• For Mardi Gras, you can’t go wrong with a chicken and sausage gumbo.



Credit Jada Yuan/The New York Times

• She’s off! Our 52 places travel columnist — who beat out more than 13,000 other applicants for the job — has started her whirlwind world tour in the Big Easy. She found plenty to celebrate in New Orleans.

• Portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama were unveiled, mixing paint and politics.

• In memoriam: Asma Jahangir, 66, a rights activist in Pakistan who defended the rule of law and criticized the military’s interference in politics.

Back Story


Credit Getty Images

As the end of a particularly bad flu season approaches in many parts of the world, you’re probably accustomed to hearing “achoo!”

But there’s not actually a global consensus on how to react to a sneeze or the derivation of customary responses.

While it’s unnecessary in Japan and parts of China to comment, many countries use a version of “(God) bless you.”

The sneezer’s welfare is the main concern. Germans say “gesundheit” (health), while Turks say “çok yaşa” (may you live long).

Sometimes the response is dictated by the number of sneezes. In parts of Latin America, the first sneeze is met with “health,” the second with “money,” and the third with “love.” The Dutch wish you “health” for your first two sneezes before the third time turns into “good weather tomorrow.”

Health-based wishes seem self-explanatory, but the origin of “God bless you” is uncertain.

The most popular theory is that Pope Gregory I started it by blessing a person infected with the plague. But it’s probably not true.

Academics believe saying “bless you” to a sneezer can be traced back even earlier — some say to 77 A.D., others to Greek mythology.

Anna Schaverien contributed reporting.


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