Anger inside and outside Iran over downed jet
Protesters in Iran faced off with the police for a third day of angry demonstrations at the country’s leaders after the government acknowledged that it shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing 176 people.
While the extent of the protests and police presence was hard to assess because of Iran’s restrictions on social media and news, videos online showed university students in Tehran and Isfahan chanting against the country’s rulers while riot police deployed nearby.
In addition to the domestic outrage, Iran may also face demands for compensation from nations whose citizens were killed on the plane. Ukraine’s foreign minister said five countries were involved in talks: Canada (which lost 57 citizens), Ukraine, Afghanistan, Sweden and another that he did not identify.
Another angle: Kimia Alizadeh, the only female athlete to win an Olympic medal for Iran, announced over the weekend that she had defected because of “hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery.”
Australia’s fires test its economic strategy
As months of fires have devastated Australia and its leaders face growing pressure to address climate change, it’s becoming unclear how the economy there can continue to rely on coal — one of its biggest exports.
Australia’s economy, one of the world’s most successful, is already a delicate balancing act, relying on mining and strong economic ties to China.
Now, fires have hurt tourism, caused damage costing billions and could have a much broader effect if they make Australians cautious about spending.
Big picture: In addition to problems stemming from the fires, some are worried Australia has become too dependent on China, which accounts for a large share of its exports, at a time when the U.S. is pressuring allies to keep some distance. And others see China’s growing influence in the political scene as troubling.
Context: Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an interview on Sunday that he’d continue to put the country’s economy first and that he did not want to restrict mining.
The latest: See our updated interactive map of the fires.
Royals come to an agreement
Queen Elizabeth II said that the royal family would work with Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, to allow them to make a transition to being part-time royals, splitting their time between Britain and Canada and supporting themselves.
“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the royal family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family,” the queen said in a statement after a meeting at her country home, Sandringham.
The Duchess of Sussex was back in Canada on Friday, where she and Harry had also spent Christmas.
What’s next: While the queen said longer-term arrangements would take time to settle, she requested that final decisions be reached “in the coming days.”
Context: Rumors of a rift between brothers, accusations of racism against British tabloids and even the birth of the couple’s son, Archie, were part of the lead-up to this moment. We looked back at how the royal family shifted.
If you have 10 minutes, this is worth it
Textbooks tell two American stories
The Times analyzed social studies textbooks used in California and Texas and found hundreds of differences, with divergent content that reflected deep partisan divides.
In one example, an annotated Bill of Rights in a California textbook explains that rulings on the Second Amendment have allowed for some gun regulations. The Texas edition of the same textbook, above, contains only blank space.
Here’s what else is happening
Oscars: “Joker” led the contenders with 11 nominations, including best picture, and Netflix amassed 24 nods for films such as “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story.” Four very male, very white films dominated, as the Academy shut out a number of prominent women in the category for best director category.
Vulture: Some 300 vultures are roosting in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection radio tower in South Texas, coating buildings with potentially hazardous vomit and excrement.
Snapshot: Above, an apocalyptic scene in Laurel, Batangas Province, Philippines, after a volcano erupted. The perilous situation did not deter some people from returning to their homes after initially fleeing to safety.
What we’re reading: The Austin Chronicle’s profile of the Texas-born jazz trumpeter Kenny Dorham. Jesse Drucker, a Times business reporter, calls it “heartbreaking and beautifully written.”
Now, a break from the news
Smarter Living: The benefits from “confusing” your muscles with shifting, quicksilver workouts may be mostly in your head. But that’s not insignificant.
And now for the Back Story on …
A tortoise and his heirs
Diego, a giant tortoise who fathered hundreds of offspring to help save his endangered species on a Galápagos island, is retiring.
The tortoise, who is more than 100 years old, was in a captive breeding program at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on the island of Santa Cruz. Since 1976, he has been exhibiting “an exceptional sex drive,” researchers said.
The breeding program increased the tortoise population to about 2,000 from only 15. Some 40 percent trace their lineage back to Diego.
So what is it about him? James Gibbs, a professor of environmental and forest biology at the State University of New York in Syracuse, says the tortoise has “a big personality — quite aggressive, active and vocal in his mating habits and so I think he has gotten most of the attention.”
A “more reserved, less charismatic male” known as E5 has generated about 60 percent of the island’s tortoise population. As the breeding program draws to a close, Professor Gibbs said, “it clearly is the other quieter male that has had much more success.”
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Today’s Back Story was based on reporting from Aimee Ortiz. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the wildfires in Australia.
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• An analysis of global trends in climate reporting shows that, of five major U.S. newspapers, The Times published the most climate-related articles in 2019.