Asia and Australia Edition: North Korea, Kurds, Bombardier: Your Thursday Briefing

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Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

China’s slowing economy has opened the door to “business cults” — essentially pyramid schemes that have lured in tens of millions of people with promises of riches or advancement.

Despite a crackdown that began last month, after a 23-year-old college graduate was found dead in Tianjin, the government has warned that the schemes are spreading faster and growing larger. Above, suspected members of one scheme detained in Guangxi province in June.

For the authorities, a key concern is the intense loyalty some groups inspire, which could threaten the Communist Party’s own grip on society.

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Credit David Dare Parker for The New York Times

• Western Australia is in the throes of a methamphetamine epidemic, fueled by the wages of the masses of bored, isolated men drawn to booming mineral mines.

The increasing use of stronger and more addictive crystal meth, or ice, has driven a sharp rise in deaths. The state has responded with stepped-up interdiction and increased prison terms, but also rehabilitation programs, like the one above in Perth.

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Credit Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

• Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand’s former prime minister, can appeal the five-year prison sentence the Supreme Court handed down on Wednesday. She was convicted of mismanaging a rice-subsidy program for farmers.

But she must be physically present in court to do so — and since she fled the country last month, her whereabouts remain unknown.

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Credit Atul Loke for The New York Times

• India’s tolerance for stray dogs has been on particular display in Mumbai, where the rich lavish them with attention and even the poorest spare them food.

When a few ducked into a river and came out with blue coats, residents quickly traced the reason: a business that dumped blue dye. Luckily, it rapidly fades.

Business

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Credit Thomas Samson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The planned merger of the rail business of the German industrial giant Siemens and the French train equipment maker Alstom creates a behemoth capable of competing with the expanding, state-backed China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation.

Twitter is testing a version of its service that would double the length of a tweet, to 280 characters.

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

In the News

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Credit Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

A fire at an ammunition depot in Ukraine that set off gigantic explosions and forced the evacuation of about 30,000 people may have been sabotage by an aerial drone. [The New York Times]

Bali made extensive emergency plans as Mount Agung’s tremors continued and the volcano began wisping smoke. Almost 100,000 people have now evacuated the area. [The Australian]

A U.S. court upheld a decision to grant asylum to Amos Yee, a teenage blogger who was sentenced to prison in Singapore for commentary on religion and the country’s founder. [Reuters]

In Alabama, an evangelical firebrand, Roy Moore, won a Republican Senate runoff, dealing a blow to President Trump, who backed his opponent. [The New York Times]

• Hurricane-ravaged U.S. territories in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, are facing increasingly dire conditions. [The New York Times]

The unity of Spain is at stake as Catalonia prepares to hold a referendum on independence on Sunday that the central government and the courts adamantly oppose. [The New York Times]

• Iraq’s prime minister may send troops into the country’s autonomous Kurdish region after it overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence. [The New York Times]

Afghan insurgents rained rockets on the international airport in Kabul and near the American Embassy as the top leaders of the Pentagon and NATO met with the Afghan president. [The New York Times]

Delhi’s high court set off a furor by overturning the rape conviction of a movie director on the ground that “a feeble no” could be understood as consent. [The Guardian]

The rapper Macklemore will perform his anthem “Same Love” in support of gay marriage rights in Australia. [Eikon]

Smarter Living

Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.

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Credit Lars Leetaru

• Smartphone apps can make your vacation more memorable.

• What happens to that data your new car collects about you?

• Recipe of the day: Braised halibut with potatoes and saffron involves a simple sear and simmer.

Noteworthy

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Credit NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona

Recognize home? NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft took this composite shot from 106,000 miles away, as it slingshot past Earth on its way to meet an asteroid next year. Australia is in the lower left, and the southwestern U.S. Baja California, with the vastness of the Pacific in between.

An obscure figure skating competition this week in Bavaria, Germany, offers North Korea a chance to qualify its first athletes for the Seoul Olympics — something South Korea desperately wants.

Cameron Smith, 34, cemented his status as rugby legend with accolades in Sydney.

Bruce Springsteen calls “Springsteen on Broadway,” which opens in previews next week, “my first real job.” (He said a lot more, too.)

Back Story

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Credit Chen Ning/Associated Press

Early this morning at Confucius temples across Taiwan, robed officials performed elaborate ceremonies. The reason: Teacher’s Day, a day of honors for those who impart knowledge on what is believed to be the 2,567th birthday of Confucius, the ancient Chinese sage.

Many other countries designate a special day to celebrate the teaching profession. India’s commemorates the birthday of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a philosopher and the country’s president in the 1960s.

The U.S. celebrates National Teacher Appreciation Week in May.

Many countries have their Teacher’s Day next Thursday, thanks to a global effort started in 1994 by Unesco, the United Nations cultural organization, meant to spread respect for the profession.

The world body says that teachers remain underappreciated: “Strangely one of the most central, vital professionals to society does not receive the respect it deserves in some parts of the world.”

So here’s a timeless essay by an American teacher with tips on how to thank a teacher. The gesture won’t be forgotten, she wrote.

To her, her student’s cards and letters are “tangible evidence that the work we do truly matters.”

Patrick Boehler contributed reporting.

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Source: New York Times

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