Thursday Briefing: U.S. Soldier Is Out of North Korea

Pvt. Travis King on a news broadcast in Seoul last month.Credit…Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

American soldier who fled to North Korea is in U.S. custody

Pvt. Travis King, the American soldier who crossed into North Korea on July 18, was released into U.S. custody yesterday after weeks of diplomacy mediated by the Swedish government, U.S. officials said.

King’s first stop after leaving North Korea was China, where American officials were waiting for him. The private was then put on a plane and flown to a U.S. military facility. King was to be reunited with his family in the U.S. and given physical and mental health support.

Officials said the U.S. learned from Sweden — which serves as the diplomatic go-between for the U.S. in North Korea — several weeks ago that the North Koreans had decided to expel King. That kicked off indirect negotiations between Washington and North Korea, and direct discussions with China, including talks between Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China during high-level discussions in Malta this month, a senior White House official said.

U.S. officials praised the Chinese government for its assistance in facilitating King’s departure from the country, but insisted that China did not participate in mediating the talks with North Korea. A senior administration official said President Biden made no concessions to North Korea.

The aftermath of the fire late Tuesday at Al Haithem wedding hall in Iraq.Credit…Khalid Al-Mousily/Reuters

A deadly fire at a wedding hall in Iraq

A fire swept through a wedding hall late Tuesday in the village of Qaraqoshin in Hamdaniya, an area about 20 miles southeast of Mosul. At least 100 people were killed and more than 150 others were injured, according to Iraqi officials.

Witnesses said that the fire started while the bride and the groom began the traditional “slow dance.” As they danced, flares — much larger versions of the sparklers sometimes used on birthday cakes — were lit. Flames and sparks leaped upward and set decorations alight, igniting a blaze that spread with astonishing speed.

There was speculation that flammable building materials in the hall had contributed to the fire’s rapid spread. The Iraqi prime minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, called for an investigation.

Donald Trump in South Carolina yesterdayCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Judge rules that Trump committed fraud

A judge in New York ruled on Tuesday that Donald Trump had persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets, and stripped the former president of control over some of his signature New York properties. A lawyer for Trump indicated that he was likely to appeal the decision.

The ruling granted Attorney General Letitia James one of the biggest punishments she has sought in a civil case which accuses Trump of overvaluing his holdings by as much as $2.2 billion. She is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin as early as Monday.


Around the World

Slovakia has been inundated with disinformation on social media ahead of an election on Saturday.Credit…Jakub Gavlak/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • An E.U. law years in the making is intended to force social media giants to adopt new policies to curb disinformation, setting the stage for a clash with Elon Musk.

  • German authorities banned a relatively small far-right group yesterday in the second such action in just over a week.

  • Analysts raised their forecasts for oil prices toward $100 a barrel as they tried to understand the intentions behind Saudi Arabia’s recent production cuts.

  • Britain said it would allow a long-delayed $9.4 billion North Sea drilling project despite objections from environmental groups.

  • President Biden’s dog Commander bit another Secret Service agent.

Other Big Stories

  • After decades of wars and stalemates, Azerbaijan seized Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian control so quickly that residents had only minutes to pack before abandoning their homes.

  • An antitrust lawsuit filed by the U.S. government against Amazon could completely change how big tech firms do business.

  • Years of graft doomed the two Libyan dams that failed and led to flooding that killed thousands.

  • Travelers with passports from the Global South are struggling to obtain European visas.

  • Members of Gen Z are poised to spend more on debt than previous generations. It could derail their retirements.

A Morning Read

A researcher stands in a fairy circle in the Namib Desert, Namibia, in 2015.Credit…Jen Guyton/Nature Picture Library, via Alamy

For decades, scientists have debated the origin of fairy circles, the strange, polka-dot-like patterns of barren earth that have been found in the Namib Desert from Angola to parts of South Africa.

New research suggests they may occur in up to 263 sites, in 15 countries, across three continents, adding to an already heated scientific debate.


Credit…Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

The new ChatGPT can ‘see’ and ‘speak’

On Monday, OpenAI announced that ChatGPT will be able to “see, hear and speak” through two new features that will be offered first to paying customers over the next few weeks.

ChatGPT users can snap a photo of their refrigerator’s contents and receive recipe ideas, for example. Users will also be able to speak and get responses delivered in a synthetic voice. Kevin Roose, our tech columnist, found this feature to be the most intriguing.

He tested it by chatting about work-related stress and asking ChatGPT to help analyze a recent dream. Talking to Siri and Alexa, even at their best, he writes, can be wooden and flat. But after a few hours of voice conversations, he began to feel something new: warmth. Listen to the advice ChatGPT gave our columnist.


Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times

Cook this gooey and lovable skillet chicken with tomatoes, pancetta and mozzarella.

Drink another cup of coffee. It’s mostly fine.

Watch Wes Anderson’s new film, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” on Netflix.

Relax with a chill video game this fall? Wirecutter has seven suggestions.

Play Spelling Bee, the Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku. Find all our games here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Justin

P.S. Can you connect these famous characters with their novels? Take our quiz.

We welcome your feedback. Send us your suggestions at [email protected].

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