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National Rifle Association, Greenland, Migrants: Your Wednesday Briefing



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Good morning.

We’re covering the Trump administration’s campaign to promote oil exploration in Alaska, a rare look inside war-torn Syria, and the shutdown of what was believed to be the longest-running webcam.

The White House predicted in 2017 that lease sales in the refuge would generate $1.8 billion over a decade, but revenue estimates ever since, including the government’s, have been substantially lower. The first oil and gas leases could be sold within months.

Officials also played down evidence that the refuge might not have much oil, and pushed scientists to provide studies and other information so quickly that some expressed concern.

Background: The debate over drilling in the refuge, which opponents say could damage one of the largest expanses of pristine land in the U.S., goes back decades. Government studies in the 1990s suggested as much as 11 billion barrels of oil could be recovered, but findings from the area’s only exploratory well have been kept confidential.

After speaking with the chief executive of the National Rifle Association on Tuesday, President Trump said, “A lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment, and I am also.”

After eight years of civil war, the Syrian government now controls much of the country.

Three Times journalists were given tightly controlled access, and they found ruin, generosity and many images of President Bashar al-Assad. They also discovered that the war had diminished the country’s middle class and its population of young men. The United Nations estimates that more than eight in 10 Syrians are living in poverty.

How we know: It took almost six months for our Beirut-based correspondent, a Lebanese interpreter and an American photographer to obtain entry to Syria, which has barred many Times journalists and other news outlets for what it considers overly critical reporting.

Closer look: “At best, we got a narrow, loyalist’s-eye view of Syria,” our correspondent Vivian Yee writes. “No one we spoke to blamed the Assad government for the catastrophe that had consumed Syria. Economic collapse was always the fault of American sanctions, not the war or corruption.”

Yesterday: Syrian troops drew closer to seizing control of Idlib, the last rebel-held province, witnesses and monitors said.

Twenty years after vaulting to fame, the British chef, TV star and cookbook author has lost his restaurant empire — but not his taste for hard work.

“I have probably been pushed to the edge of my capacity” he told our correspondent.

New rules for migrant children: Under a regulatory overhaul that could be issued today, the federal government could detain children and families for longer, revise the standards of care and end longstanding protections.

Detention in China: Beijing acknowledged today that it was holding an employee of Britain’s consulate in Hong Kong who had disappeared this month. The case has added to fears that the police in mainland China were arresting people in an effort to dampen support for antigovernment protests.

Snapshot: Above, the All-Japan Abacus Championship in Kyoto this month. Calculating with an abacus was a staple of Japanese elementary schools until the 1970s, and tens of thousands of children still take private lessons.

Online pioneer bids goodbye: After 25 years, the San Francisco FogCam, which many contend is the world’s oldest webcam, will be turned off.

50 states photo quiz: We scoured The Times’s archive to find one striking picture from each state. How many can you guess?

Late-night comedy: Most shows are in reruns, so our column is on hiatus.

What we’re reading: Alisha Haridasani Gupta, on the briefings team, recommends this article in Foreign Policy, which argues that British colonialism paved the way for the political crises in Kashmir and Hong Kong.

Smarter Living: Thinking about renting out your home? Feeling nervous? We collected some helpful strategies. One priority: Move valuable items to a safe space, like a locked closet. Sentimental items can go there, too, or you can leave a note explaining their importance.

And the keto diet is popular. But is it good for you?

Concerns have been building that the U.S. economy might be nearing a recession.

And a downturn could seem due for the stock market, which has been on a bull run for more than 10 years.

How did the bull become associated with rising stock prices? Some say it’s because the bull attacks by swinging its horns upward. But richer accounts delve into peculiar areas of history.

The association of bears with falling prices came first, thanks to a practice in 17th-century fur trading. Middlemen sometimes sold bearskins they had not yet bought from hunters, betting that the price would drop. It seems to be an early form of what is now known as naked short selling.

And the bull was once an obvious partner to the bear, because of the enormous popularity of “baiting” them with trained dogs or beatings.

Britain’s Parliament banned the practice in 1835, but the bull and bear are still battling it out on the stock market.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Andrea Kannapell, the briefings editor, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

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