Your Wednesday Briefing
Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak, center, has exhausted his avenues of appeal.Credit…Ahmad Luqman Ismail/EPA, via Shutterstock
Malaysia’s former prime minister heads to prison
Two years ago, Najib Razak, Malaysia’s former prime minister, was convicted of corruption for participating in a multibillion-dollar scandal. On Tuesday, the nation’s highest court rejected his final appeal, and now the former leader is headed to prison to serve a 12-year sentence.
It has been a stunning fall for the British-educated son of one prime minister and nephew of another, who spent nearly his entire adult life in politics and held numerous cabinet posts. With its decision, the high court clearly established its independence from politics after some analysts predicted that Najib retained enough influence to have his conviction overturned or his charges dismissed.
“This is a historic moment in Malaysian politics,” said James Chin, a professor of Asian studies at the University of Tasmania. “This is the first time a prime minister, or an ex-prime minister, has been found guilty of corruption and is actually going to jail.”
The background: Nicknamed the Man of Steal by critics, Najib was convicted on seven counts for illegally receiving transfers of $9.8 million from a government investment fund known as 1MDB. Stolen money was traced to the purchases of a huge yacht and a Picasso painting, as well as an investment in the Hollywood blockbuster “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which was produced by Najib’s stepson.
Up next: Najib faces dozens more charges involving $4.5 billion that disappeared from the fund, which he oversaw as both prime minister and finance minister.
A Ukrainian nuclear plant under threat
The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting on Tuesday afternoon at the request of Russia to discuss the fighting near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine and the specter of a nuclear accident.
Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for attacks in and around the Zaporizhzhia complex, Europe’s largest nuclear plant, including recent shelling that fell dangerously close to the reactors. The Russian military took control of the site in March, but Ukrainian technicians still operate the plant under the eyes of Russian snipers.
Hours before the U.N. meeting was to start, Ukrainian military intelligence said Russia had been shelling ash pits near the plant, raising clouds of toxic dust and causing radiation levels in the area to rise. It did not offer details on how much the levels had spiked, or whether the dust presented a health threat.
What’s next: The International Atomic Energy Agency issued a statement cataloging damage Ukraine has reported to the agency, saying it demonstrated the urgent need for inspectors to visit. Its director general said a visit could take place “within the next few days” if negotiations succeeded.
Context: Survivors of the Chernobyl disaster have been following the news of the Zaporizhzhia fighting with dread.
Up ahead: U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Russia could redouble attacks today to coincide with Ukraine’s Independence Day, which also marks six months since the invasion began.
Trump kept 700 pages of classified documents
Donald Trump took more than 700 pages of classified documents, including some related to the nation’s most covert intelligence operations, to his private residence in Florida when he left the White House, according to a recently disclosed letter that the National Archives sent to his lawyers this year.
The letter, released on Monday night by John Solomon, one of Trump’s allies, described the state of alarm in the Justice Department as officials began to realize the sensitive nature of the documents kept at the president’s residence.
It also suggested that top prosecutors and members of the intelligence community were delayed in assessing the damage from the removal of the documents from the White House while Trump’s lawyers argued that some of them were protected by executive privilege.
Analysis: The letter could further implicate Trump in a potential crime. It confirmed, for example, that Trump had kept at his residence documents related to Special Access Programs, some of the nation’s most closely held secrets, before the F.B.I. searched the property.
THE LATEST NEWS
Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, was asked to appear in court next week as prosecutors considered charging him with contempt on top of recent antiterrorism charges, Reuters reports.
The Indian Air Force fired three officers for accidentally launching a missile into Pakistan in March, Reuters reports.
In Nicaragua, a wave of government attacks on Catholic church leaders has extinguished the last independent voice in the country.
Soaring needs and wealthy countries’ focus on Ukraine have left U.N. aid agencies with too little money to address other crises, forcing them to cut programs.
Twitter’s former head of security accused the company of “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in its spam- and hacker-fighting practices.
What Else Is Happening
The Canadian government has returned land to Indigenous communities in Vancouver after decades of court battles, making them huge players in the real estate market.
Europe’s rivers, starved by drought, have revealed shipwrecks, relics and bombs.
Hungary fired its top weather officials after an inaccurate forecast.
A Morning Read
Doppelgängers are people who look strikingly similar but are not related. However, when scientists compared the genomes of look-alikes from a photographer’s project, they found a lot in common.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Inapt names for diseases can have real-world implications.
Case in point: Recently in Brazil, the unfounded fear that monkeys transmit the monkeypox virus has spurred an outbreak of violence against marmosets and capuchin monkeys, leading to the stoning and poisoning deaths of at least seven animals.
(In fact, rodents are the most likely animal reservoir for the virus, but in 1958, when Danish scientists first identified the virus in a colony of lab monkeys, they decided to name it for their captive primates.)
But monkeypox is more than just a misnomer. Many experts say that the word evokes racist stereotypes — Western literature is replete with ugly comparisons of Black people to primates — and tropes about Africa as a pestilence-filled continent, and that it abets stigmatization that can prevent people from seeking medical care. Stigmatization could have other repercussions: Governments worried about the impacts on tourism or foreign investment could conceal outbreaks, and African exchange students living abroad could be shunned.
The W.H.O. has acknowledged the problem. In June, the director general said the organization would work with experts to find a new name. Last week, the W.H.O. issued a public call for suggestions, but many experts say the process has been too slow, with the disease having reached 92 countries.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Kay Chun’s latest recipe is tofu with sizzling scallion oil that comes together in less than 15 minutes.
Am I depressed or just burned out?
Play safe: Pickleball injuries are on the rise.
Now Time to Play
Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Nebraska city (five letters).
Here are today’s Wordle and today’s Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Jonathan
P.S. Emily Baumgaertner, who led The Los Angeles Times’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, is joining The New York Times’s Science desk.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the efforts to punish women for having abortions.
You can reach Jonathan and the team at [email protected].