Brexit, China, Bangladesh: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering a call for a general election in Britain, the detention of a #MeToo activist in China and a race in Italy without wind in its sails.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday challenged lawmakers to approve a general election on Dec. 12 in a bid to break through the political paralysis and throw Brexit back to voters.

He is expected to present his proposal to Parliament on Monday, and it would still require the backing of two-thirds of lawmakers. That would be difficult without support from the opposition Labour party, which so far has reacted coolly to the prospect of a general election.

Calculations: Polls show Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party with a comfortable lead over Labour, which helps explain Mr. Johnson’s enthusiasm for a vote. One expert summed it up: “Even if the U.K. doesn’t leave the E.U., they can position themselves as the only party that wants to put an end to Brexit.”

Related: Unionists in Northern Ireland are furious with Mr. Johnson’s withdrawal plan, describing his proposal to effectively put a border in the Irish Sea as a betrayal.

Eight of the dead are women and 31 are men, the police said. Each body will undergo a full coroner’s examination to identify the victim and establish the cause of death. The driver of the truck, identified as Morris Robinson, has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Context: The case increasingly appears to be linked to human trafficking and bears resemblance to another case in 2000, when 58 Chinese migrants were found dead.

Takeaway: “The world’s 2nd biggest economy, all the bridges, railways, skyscrapers, the carefully manicured parks, the military parade, one of the biggest markets for many luxury brands,” Li Yuan, a Times columnist, noted on Twitter. “Yet for some Chinese it’s still worth the risks to be smuggled to a foreign land.”

Huang Xueqin, a leading figure in China’s #MeToo movement who recently wrote in support of the antigovernment protests in Hong Kong, was detained last week in the southern city of Guangzhou, according to friends who asked not to be identified by name.

The authorities accused Ms. Huang of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a vague accusation that is often used to silence activists who challenge the status quo.

Background: Ms. Huang helped dozens of women report cases of sexual assault and abuse online, battling censors and a male-dominated culture. The movement took on professors, television anchors, religious leaders and others.

In June, she wrote an essay about her experience attending the first massive demonstration in Hong Kong. Two months later, the police on the mainland confiscated her passport and harassed her relatives, her friends said.

Nusrat Jahan Rafi accused a teacher of touching her inappropriately, then faced intense pressure to withdraw the accusations.

When she refused, she was doused with kerosene and set on fire. On the way to the hospital her brother recorded her naming her attackers. She died four days later, and her killing sent a shock wave across the country.

On Thursday, a Bangladeshi court sentenced 16 people, including the teacher she had accused of touching her, to death for her murder.

Context: Bangladesh, a somewhat conservative Muslim nation, is an especially difficult place to be a woman. Thousands of Bangladeshi women have had acid thrown in their faces for spurning men.

In May, the World Health Organization officially recognized “gaming disorder” as an addictive behavior, a classification that has been disputed by scientists and, predictably, the video game industry.

The Times Magazine examined the debate, at the center of which is a shifting scientific understanding of addiction itself.

Indonesia: A prominent environmental lawyer who battled oil plantations, sand miners and a China-funded hydropower dam died this month, supposedly in a motorcycle crash. But his friends and family have doubts, and activists are calling for an investigation.

India: The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who critics argue has stoked Hindu nationalism that has contributed to a surge in violence against minorities, released its annual crime report. Certain figures were conspicuously missing, particularly religious-based crimes and violence against journalists.

FIFA: The international soccer body, which has criticized the U.S. and Canada for a lack of specific commitments to human rights, overlooked China’s troubling record and awarded the country a flashy new tournament in 2021.

Nissan: Japan’s top court is set to rule on whether Carlos Ghosn’s defense lawyers can have access to prosecutors’ files. The request has so far been rejected by other judges, leaving the former Nissan leader’s legal team in the dark about the evidence against him.

Forever 21: The Chang family immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea in 1981 and built the multibillion-dollar fast fashion retailer. Now they’re being blamed for its recent bankruptcy, with former employees and industry experts citing their insular management style, disastrous real estate deals and bungled merchandising strategy.

Snapshot: Above, sailboats in the Gulf of Trieste preparing at the start line ahead of the Barcelona regatta — the largest in the world. This year, however, there has been no wind.

A Chinese Lafite: A Shandong Province estate owned by Domaines Barons de Rothschild has produced a world-class wine made entirely in China. The 2017 vintage, 10 years in the making, is priced at 2,388 renminbi, or about $335.

Overlooked no more: The writer Sanmao, whose book, “Stories of the Sahara,” has endured for generations of young Chinese and Taiwanese women seeking independence from conservative social norms. She died in 1991, and didn’t receive a Times obituary — until now.

What we’re reading: This story about the “Hamilton” bathroom line in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Choire Sicha, our Styles editor, writes: “Tanya Heath is a multi-instrumentalist, soprano and actor whose greatest role — just for now! — is running the 20-minute panic for 200 women to pee during the intermission at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia. Has any story about a bathroom ever made you want to stand up and cheer before?”

Cook: When you’re in a cooking funk, fall back on a simple pasta dish like spaghetti carbonara.

Watch: Few figures in American history have been as shrouded in myth and misperceptions as Harriet Tubman. To make “Harriet,” a new biopic, filmmakers drew on a whole mosaic of sources.

Go: Mumbai has the world’s second-largest collection of Art Deco buildings, second only to Miami. But even as they gain attention, they are threatened.

Smarter Living: Is your next vacation going to destroy the environment? Probably not, if you’re an average traveler. But for frequent fliers — those who make more than six round trips by air a year — there are ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Find routes that use more efficient planes, like the Airbus A320neo. And ask yourself: Could this meeting be digital?

Our Climate Fwd: newsletter has advice on shopping for more environmentally friendly appliances.

The release of the trailer for the new Star Wars movie, “The Rise of Skywalker,” was met with predictable fanfare: a frenzy on social media, blog posts cataloging the hidden secrets, and deep dives poring over every detail.

Movie trailers have come a long way since their introduction in the 1910s. Back then, according to a history by, the trailer would generally be shown after a film, as its name suggests, often promoting the next entry in a series.

For decades after, most trailers were produced by the same company — the National Screen Service — giving them a fairly uniform style. But in the 1960s, auteurs like Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick began to produce their own trailers, applying their unique artistic sensibilities to the promotional clips.

In the modern era, trailers have become known for the deep-voiced narration made popular by Don LaFontaine. By the time he died in 2008, Mr. LaFontaine had recorded more than 5,000 trailer voice-overs. He was perhaps best known for the phrase that often started them: “In a world …”

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

— Alisha

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Tom Wright-Piersanti, on the Briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

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