Jeffrey Epstein, Hurricane Dorian, Popeyes: Your Thursday Briefing


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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. The Times is reporting on disturbing new accusations that Jeffrey Epstein relied on a ring of women close to him to feed his insatiable appetite for girls.

Mr. Epstein’s accusers contend in court papers that his longtime partner Ghislaine Maxwell, along with a small cadre of other women — including several assistants and one known as Ms. Maxwell’s “lieutenant” — helped Mr. Epstein lure girls into his orbit and managed the logistics of his encounters with them. Above, Mr. Epstein and Ms. Maxwell in 1995.

Experts also told The Times that prosecutors may face a thorny legal dilemma in deciding whether to charge the women, because some may have initially been victims themselves.

2. Hurricane Dorian is on course to hit Florida as a Category 4 storm.

The storm’s powerful winds could begin bashing the Atlantic Coast as early as Saturday night, with winds up to 130 miles per hour. Forecasters predict that the hurricane will drop 4 to 8 inches of rain, with up to a foot expected in some isolated areas.

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency and warned all coastal residents to prepare for the storm by gathering seven days’ worth of food, medicine and other supplies. Above, Lake Worth, Fla. Here’s how to read a hurricane tracking map properly.

Airlines are waiving fees and cruise lines are changing itineraries for the busy Labor Day weekend. If you’re traveling in the region, here’s what you need to know.

3. The Trump administration’s rollback of environmental protections continues, this time with methane, a major contributor to climate change.

The White House plans to end a requirement that oil and gas companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks, one of the main sources of U.S. methane emissions. It will also reopen the question of whether the E.P.A. even has the legal authority to regulate methane as a pollutant. Above, oil fields near Watford City, N.D.

Notably, major oil and gas companies oppose the rollback, one of 80 environmental rules the administration is trying to reverse. Here are six of the biggest.

4. The latest news from the Middle East reads like a military thriller: covert airstrikes, drone blasts and paramilitary assassinations across three Arab countries.

It’s all part of a weekend-long spate of violence that broke the so-called rules of the game and escalated the multifaceted conflict between Israel and Iran. Above, the remnants of one of the strikes in Beirut.

But the shadow war isn’t always secret — after one strike, Israel’s military taunted an Iranian general on Twitter.

4. The Space Force may be coming.

President Trump authorized the re-establishment of a U.S. Space Command, a unit to protect American interests in outer space and a precursor to the force, his promised sixth branch of the military.

The organization of the unit has sparked a larger debate about how the U.S. should expand its influence in an increasingly competitive dangerous frontier. Above, a test from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

In other space news, a California lab sent clusters of brain cells to the International Space Station. Now, they’re making brain waves similar to those seen in preterm infants.

5. The Democratic race is entering a new, field-culling phase.

The qualifying rules for September’s debate created a few final hours of uncertainty over who would make it and whether the debate would be held over multiple nights. There was plenty of complaining.

In the end, 10 candidates made the cut, and the debate will be just one night — but three hours long (!).

Back on the campaign trail, we talked with female voters who were looking past criticism of Joe Biden’s physical contact with women — and standing in line for a hug.

7. There is no “gay gene,” but an ambitious new study found that many genes play a role in sexual behavior.

The study in the journal Science found that genes account for perhaps a third of the influence on whether someone has same-sex sex, along with social and environmental factors.

“I hope that the science can be used to educate people a little bit more about how natural and normal same-sex behavior is,” said one of the lead researchers. “It’s written into our genes and it’s part of our environment. This is part of our species and it’s part of who we are.”

Perspective: One of the study’s researchers and a colleague, both gay men, parse the implications and limitations of the work in an Op-Ed.

8. It began with a jab back at a competitor. Fifteen minutes later, it was (chicken sandwich) war.

A viral social media debate between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A has captivated the internet for a week and a half.

As the fast-food brands traded barbs on Twitter over whose chicken sandwich tasted best, customers flocked to Popeyes restaurants across the country, and location after location sold out of the new menu item. Above, a Popeyes in Greenville, Tex., this week.

Here’s how it became a logistical nightmare.

9. “A bit Lord of the Flies.”

La Guardia Airport is hell these days. The New York airport is finally getting an $8 billion makeover after years of being derided by travelers.

But the massive construction project has caused equally massive gridlock, all while the travel hub has logged some of the busiest days on record. You tweeted your tales, we rounded them up.

For a different kind of gridlock: Across the globe, travel providers and government agencies are responding to “overtourism” with suggestions for less-crowded places and quieter seasons.

10. And finally, new books for fall.

September is one of the biggest months for publishing houses, and this year is no exception. On the horizon: a sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Ta-Nehisi Coates’s first novel and two new books by Times journalists about the #MeToo movement.

Here are 17 new titles to watch for next month (and everything to read and watch before you get your hands on Margaret Atwood’s much-anticipated book).

Ann Patchett’s new novel, “The Dutch House,” is on the list. Your briefing writer’s mother finished it in two days.

Here’s hoping a book carries you away tonight.

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