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Afghanistan, Syria, Beslan: Your Morning Briefing

Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

Vice President Mike Pence is preparing for a 10-day tour of Asia beginning in South Korea amid signs that North Korea is readying another underground nuclear test — possibly the most powerful yet.

Concerns are focused on national celebrations on Saturday to honor the nation’s founder, Kim Il-sung. Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, warned of another danger: that the North might be able to attack using missiles carrying the nerve gas sarin.

Japanese and American warships are converging near the Korean coast.

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The U.S. military is investigating a case of friendly fire in Syria that killed 18 allied fighters — the third time in a month that American-led airstrikes may have killed civilians or allies as operations ratchet up against the Islamic State.

And the U.S. used the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal for the first time, dropping it on an Islamic State tunnel complex in Afghanistan. Above, one of the bombs, a GBU-43 or Massive Ordnance Air Blast, at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

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The past restraint of American air power helped Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, cling to power.

But the U.S. approach has changed since a chemical weapons attack on his people. Mr. Assad has begun a counterpropaganda campaign, asserting that videos of victims, including dead and convulsing children, had been faked.

Our analyst looks at the forces prompting Mr. Assad to use chemical weapons.

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President Trump’s reversals are reverberating in Washington.

This week, he’s made an about-face on Russia over Syria, and shifted on NATO: “I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”

He also determined that China is not a currency manipulator after all, embraced the formerly unnecessary Export-Import Bank and suggested he might not replace Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve chairwoman.

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Two front teeth lost, a concussion and a broken nose.

Those were the injuries to Dr. David Dao, the 69-year-old passenger who was dragged off a United Airlines plane in Chicago last weekend. His lawyer said Dr. Dao is suing the airline and the city.

Above, Dr. Dao’s daughter, Crystal Dao Pepper, at a news conference.

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“Mere scapegoats.

That was a defense lawyer, describing the two women accused in the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korea’s leader, using a poison chemical at an airport. Above, one of the women arriving for a court hearing.

He argued that Malaysia’s release of three North Korean suspects ended any chance of bringing the real culprits to justice.

On Wall Street, it’s “Charging Bull” versus “Fearless Girl.” The sculptor who made the bull nearly 30 years ago says the statue of the defiant girl — meant to represent “the power of women in leadership” — is an insult to his work. Her supporters are standing firm.

Damage control: Bill O’Reilly left Fox News on vacation while Rupert Murdoch and his sons reckon with the fallout from sexual harassment accusations against their star.

Baidu, China’s internet giant, bought xPerception, a U.S. company that provides visual perception technology.

Global demand for oil is close to outstripping supply after nearly three years of surpluses, while low gas prices are pushing carmakers to add to their lines of S.U.V.s.

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

• A reconnaissance team will examine the inside of the salvaged South Korean ferry Sewol on Sunday, the third anniversary of the disaster that killed more than 300 people, most of them teenagers on a school trip. [Korea Herald]

The European Court of Human Rights faulted the Russian authorities for storming a school in 2004 in the North Caucasus town of Beslan to try and seize it back from Chechen militants, resulting in the deaths of some 330 hostages. The Kremlin rejected the findings. [The New York Times]

• Cyclone Cook hit New Zealand, largely sparing Auckland as it tracked south toward the capital, Wellington. Hundreds of people have been evacuated and thousands of homes have lost power. [New Zealand Herald]

Officials in China seized more than a ton of woolly mammoth tusks, part of a booming trade in ivory from Russia that comes from skeletons of the long-extinct creatures emerging from warming Siberian tundra. [BBC]

Meet DJ Sumirock, an 82-year-old Japanese mix master. [Mashable]

How the grain in your cereal is processed makes a big difference in your body’s performance throughout the day.

Save time at the gym by learning all about really, really short workouts.

Recipe of the day: Roast a whole head of cauliflower and serve it with a rich romesco sauce.

Russell Westbrook, the N.B.A. star, just had what must be considered one of the single greatest season by any athlete ever, right? No? Here are some other contenders.

A 245-million-year-old fossil of a Teleocrater, a close cousin of early dinosaurs, was found to have crocodile-like ankles. The discovery may help our understanding of how dinosaurs evolved, and walked.

• Happy birthday. Now resign. Today’s 360 video visits Pretoria, South Africa, where tens of thousands of people protested at the office of President Jacob Zuma on his birthday, asking him to quit.

Over a dinner of crayfish in Stockholm in 1924, two men decided that Sweden needed its own car manufacturer, one that made vehicles suitable for the harsh local climate and whose guiding principle was safety.

From their idea came Volvo — a Latin translation of “I roll” — which rolled its first car off the assembly line 90 years ago today. The car, an ÖV 4, was affectionately called “Jakob.”

The Swedes were hardly the first to produce automobiles; names like Karl Benz and Henry Ford had already been at it for decades.

In 1999, Ford Motor bought Volvo, which was then sold in 2010 to Geely, a Chinese automaker, for $1.3 billion.

For the new owner, buying Volvo was momentous: “We are like a poor farm boy pursuing a famous movie star,” Li Shufu, Geely’s chairman, said.

By the end of next year, a company that is still based in Sweden and owned by a Chinese conglomerate says it will be producing up to 100,000 cars a year in South Carolina.

It’s a head-spinning tale of globalization that started over a humble meal almost a century ago.

Patrick Boehler contributed reporting.

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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.

Your Morning Briefing is published weekday mornings and updated online.

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