Asia and Australia Edition: Russia, Syria, Bill O’Reilly: Your Morning Briefing

Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

• Syria’s deadliest chemical attack in years.

Dozens of people were killed, including women and children. Graphic photographs and videos posted online showed people struggling to breathe or lying motionless in mud.

The White House blamed President Bashar al-Assad's government and said the “reprehensible act” could not “be ignored by the civilized world.”

What President Trump will do is not clear. A few days ago, administration officials said regime change was not a priority.


• The storm at Fox News is intensifying.

BMW, Allstate and at least five other companies joined Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai in an advertising revolt against the channel over the sexual harassment allegations against its superstar host, Bill O’Reilly.


• The rush for skilled-worker visas to the U.S., known as H-1B visas, has escalated to an all-out scramble this year.

So many foreign workers have applied for the 85,000 three-year visas that officials could set the cutoff within days. In recent years, Indians have received more than 70 percent of the total.

A computer randomly chooses the winners.


A potential wrinkle emerged amid the meticulous planning for Mr. Trump’s meeting at his Mar-a-Lago resort this week with President Xi Jinping of China.

One of the resort’s members is Guo Wengui, above, a Chinese billionaire who has recently taken up criticizing the Communist Party from abroad, mostly over its fight against corruption.


Meet Duop. He was one of the 10,000-plus boys who've been toting rifles in South Sudan, some forced to fight as young as 10.

Duop is 16 now, give or take, and what he suffered seems to have robbed him of the ability to speak. Our correspondent went with him to see his mother for the first time in six years.


And here lies Bukit Brown, one of the world’s largest Chinese cemeteries.

It’s just a few miles from central Singapore. Built in 1922, and now neglected, the 213-acre site packed with tombstones, statues and shrines has become a pilgrimage point for Singaporeans trying to reconnect with their country’s vanishing past.


• Silicon Valley scored one on Detroit as Tesla, the electric car company, hit a market valuation of $48.7 billion, surpassing Ford ($45.6 billion) and edging nearer to General Motors ($51.2 billion).

• A heavy metal band? Verizon’s announcement that legacy brands AOL and Yahoo would operate as Oath was met with bewilderment online.

• Coca-Cola is putting a picture of its largest investor, Warren Buffett, on Cherry Coke cans in China, where he has legions of fans.

• America’s trade deficitdeclined 9.6 percent to $43.6 billion in February, as exports increased to a two-year high.

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

In the News

• The suspect in the St. Petersburg subway bombing was identified as a 22-year-old from Kyrgyzstan who had been living in the city, but his motive remained unclear. The toll rose to 14 dead and 64 injured. [The New York Times]

• Russia is moving to outlaw the pacifist Jehovah’s Witnesses for “extremist activities,” likening members to Islamic militants. [The New York Times]

• The Trump administration axed U.S. funding of the U.N. Population Fund, the world’s leading provider of family planning services, including contraception. [The New York Times]

• The World Health Organization will name a new director general in May, and for the first time the selection will be made by vote rather than horse-trading. The top candidates are from Ethiopia, Britain and Pakistan. [The New York Times]

• To save their land, the Goolarabooloo people of Australia revealed the location of dinosaur footprints that they had kept secret for thousands of years. [Popular Science]

• Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia raised the donation required to receive the honorific title “oknha,” which roughly translates to “tycoon,” from $100,000 to $500,000. [The Phnom Penh Post]

• Our Vietnam ’67 series looks at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s blistering attack on the government’s conduct of the Vietnam War that, among other things, compared American tactics to those of the Nazis during World War II. [The New York Times]

Smarter Living

The best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less.

Beginning a new exercise regimen, but gaining weight? Starting to exercise often means we eat more and move less than we did before.

This recipe for flounder with mustard greens puts bold tastes front and center.


• Brando’s style on Taipei’s streets:An Rong Xu, the photographer, spent a month in Taiwan and captured looks influenced by street style, Parisian cafes, the American West and 1990s Hong Kong cinema.

• Steve Lillywhite, the producer of multiplatinum records by U2 and the Rolling Stones, now runs a company that bundles CDs with fast food at Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Indonesia. “My job is basically like running a record label, except this record label also happens to sell chicken.”

Finally, our new food writer, the Israeli-born British chef Yotam Ottolenghi, invited the Easter bunny to his Seder. So to speak.

In his latest column, he offers recipes for each holiday, and reflects on how a meal can be “the bridge between generations and the signifier of a story” that allows us to connect personally with history, and make our own.

Back Story

Even a schoolchild can tell you that matter can exist as a solid, liquid or gas. But humanity’s hope for near-limitless, clean energy may hinge on a fourth state: plasma.

A giant plant now under construction in the south of France will be the testing ground, if the project’s partners — which include the European Union, the U.S., Russia and China — stay on course for billions of dollars of investment and a couple of decades of painstaking work.

The kind of plasma we’re talking about was named by an American scientist, Irving Langmuir, who saw a resemblance to blood plasma.

It emerges when energy is added to gas, leaving a cloud of positively charged ions and negatively charged electrons zipping around. That’s what makes up the sun and other stars.

Under the right conditions, some superheated ions can fuse. And as they join, they shed a tiny amount of mass that translates into vast amounts of energy. Hence all that heat and light from the sun.

The French plant aims to create the right conditions by using magnetic fields to contain the plasma and radio waves and microwaves to make it unimaginably hot — and then see if human-created fusion will work.

Andrea Kannapell contributed reporting.


This briefing was prepared for the Asian morning. We also have briefings timed for the Australian, European and American mornings. You can sign up for these and other Times newsletters here.

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