Sri Lanka, Google, Philippines: Your Tuesday Briefing

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Good morning,

We’re covering the latest from Sri Lanka, the withdrawal of Herman Cain for a seat on the Federal Reserve’s board, and a second earthquake in two days in the Philippines.

The bombings on Easter Sunday that killed at least 310 people were carried out by a radical Islamist group that was intent on avenging last month’s attacks at two mosques in New Zealand, Sri Lanka’s defense minister said today. The official, Ruwan Wijewardene, didn’t say what had led investigators to that conclusion. Here are the latest updates.

Ten days before the attack, Sri Lanka’s security services were warned that the little-known organization, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, was targeting churches. But no action was taken against the group, which is now blamed for the attacks. The government’s history of infighting appears to have contributed to the communication breakdown.

The details: Here’s what we know and don’t know about the attacks, which wounded about 500 people.

The victims: Funerals began on Monday. One woman, whose 11-year-old granddaughter was killed, cried: “There are so many bad people in the world. Why kill the innocents?” Read profiles of those who died.

Perspective: In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the Sri Lankan government temporarily blocked access to social media sites. That was a good thing, our columnist writes in an Op-Ed.

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would decide whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which outlawed discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and, notably, sex — guarantees protections for gay and transgender workers.

The court agreed to hear three cases that are expected to provide the first indication of how its new conservative majority will approach L.G.B.T. rights. The Trump administration has argued that the Civil Rights Act cannot fairly be read to apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.

Today: The justices are to hear arguments on adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. The Trump administration has said that such data would help it enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but critics say that both legal and unauthorized immigrants might refuse to participate.

The speaker tried to convince House Democrats on Monday that they have the ability to hold President Trump accountable without impeaching him, even as she denounced what she called the president’s “highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior.”

For now, Ms. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders appear to have enough support to pursue investigations without formally convening impeachment proceedings. Mr. Trump said on Monday that there were no grounds to impeach him and told reporters he was “not even a little bit” concerned.

What’s next: Attorney General William Barr is scheduled to testify in Congress next week, and Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has been asked to do so. The House Judiciary Committee has also subpoenaed Donald McGahn, the former White House counsel and one of the central figures in the report by Mr. Mueller.

The 2020 race: Five Democratic presidential candidates — Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — participated in a series of town halls on CNN on Monday. Here are the highlights.

African swine fever affects pigs but is harmless to humans. The disease, for which no vaccine exists, has spread across China, the world’s largest producer and consumer of pork.

Some farmers and livestock analysts say they assume that the highly contagious disease is more widespread than officials have acknowledged, and the government’s hushing up of the problem fits a pattern from previous public health crises, including an AIDS epidemic in the 1990s and a widespread tainting of baby formula in 2008.

Why it matters: The Chinese economy, already slowing, is starting to feel the effects of the pork crisis. Higher prices for the meat helped push inflation to a five-month high in March, and hog futures in the U.S. have rallied as traders bet that China will buy more American meat.

The parent company of Sterling Jewelers Inc. is the largest jewelry retailer in the U.S., with brands like Kay, Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, Osterman, J.B. Robinson, Zales and a dozen others.

Sworn statements, arbitration proceedings and interviews revealed that, for thousands of women, working for the stores meant unequal pay, harassment — and sometimes worse. Read our report in The Times Magazine.

Embattled picks for Fed Board: Herman Cain has withdrawn his name from consideration for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board in the face of past sexual harassment allegations. A second possible nominee, Stephen Moore, has come under new scrutiny over his attitudes toward women.

Retaliation accusation at Google: Two employees who helped organize a walkout last year over the company’s treatment of sexual harassment said they were demoted or told their role would change. “We prohibit retaliation in the workplace, and investigate all allegations,” a Google spokeswoman said.

Second quake in the Philippines: A powerful earthquake hit the island nation today, a day after one that killed at least 16 people.

Late-night comedy: Conan O’Brien was intrigued by the comedian who was just elected president of Ukraine: “I looked up their Constitution: The order of succession in Ukraine goes comedian, juggler, magician, then secretary of defense. That’s how it works. After hearing about it, Elizabeth Warren signed up for improv classes.”

What we’re looking at: This photo essay of the judging of the Pulitzer Prizes. The briefings editor, Andrea Kannapell, writes: “This year, the photojournalist Jose R. Lopez (who happens to be a veteran of the briefings team) was given unique access to the process by which jurors decide on the premier awards in journalism. Their faces record utter seriousness of purpose.”

And if you’re off on a solo trip, we have guidance on how to connect safely with people you meet.

In 1995, the United Nations’ cultural and educational agency, Unesco, designated April 23 as the day to honor reading, as well as publishing and intellectual property rights.

The date is one on which several prominent writers are traditionally thought to have died — notably William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, both in 1616. (Some records show that Cervantes died on April 22.)

But at the time, the same date didn’t necessarily mean the same day.

At the time Cervantes died, his home country, Spain, operated under the Gregorian calendar, the one that most of the world uses today. It was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.

But Shakespeare’s England, a Protestant country, still followed the Julian calendar. It didn’t adopt the Gregorian version until 1752.

So April 23 in Shakespeare’s day would have been May 3 in ours.

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

— Chris

Thank you
To Mark Josephson, Eleanor Stanford, John Dorman and Kenneth R. Rosen for the break from the news. Chris wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

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