Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times

President Trump told his acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he did not want to go to war with Iran, according to several administration officials.

The president’s statement, made in a meeting on Wednesday in the Situation Room, was a message to his hawkish aides as a U.S. pressure campaign against Iran intensifies. Officials said he was firm in saying that he did not want a military clash and that he was confident Tehran “will want to talk soon.”

Iran dismissed any suggestion of a dialogue. “The escalation by the United States is unacceptable,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday.

Context: Here’s what to know about the long-strained relationship that poses the risk of a broader conflict.

Another angle: Israel has quietly pressed the case against Iran. But analysts say it wants to add pressure, not start a war.


Late last month, officials in Beijing and Washington thought a trade deal was imminent. That was before Chinese negotiators sent the Americans a substantially rewritten draft agreement, prompting President Trump to accuse Beijing of reneging on settled terms.

Now hopes for a breakthrough are in tatters, two of our China correspondents write.

President Xi Jinping of China apparently misjudged Mr. Trump’s willingness to accept a changed deal. And China’s leaders risk prolonging tensions by defending their decisions with combative rhetoric that could narrow the room for a compromise.

Mr. Pei, the revered Chinese-born American architect who died on Thursday, was behind some of the world’s most recognizable buildings, including the glass pyramid that serves as an entry for the Louvre in Paris.

His gracious but firm air made him equally attractive to real estate developers, corporate chieftains and art museum boards.

His museum works culminated in the call to design the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar in 2008, a challenge Mr. Pei accepted with relish. It’s among his most important works.

Philosophy: Mr. Pei maintained that he wanted not just to solve problems but also to produce “an architecture of ideas.” He worried, he added, “that ideas and professional practice do not intersect enough.”

The College Board, the company that administers the SAT exam, said it would include a measure of students’ socioeconomic background to help colleges put test scores in context.

The so-called adversity score was designed as a tool for colleges to gauge hardships that students have had to overcome — and their chances of future academic success. Critics say such approaches paper over an inherently flawed test.

The details: The rating will be calculated using 15 factors, including the crime rate and poverty level of a student’s neighborhood. It will not affect test scores, and will be reported only to college admissions officials.

The background: Colleges have raised concerns over whether the SAT, which is taken by about two million students a year, can be gamed by families who hire expensive consultants and tutors.


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The Every Woman Biennial, a festival that opens in New York this weekend, was born of a joke and came together on a shoestring. Above, the organizer, the painter C. Finley.

It now highlights the work of more than 600 female and nonbinary artists — nine times the number of people in the Whitney Biennial that it is designed to run alongside. And, for the first time, it’s expanding to Los Angeles.

Mueller report: House Democrats believe that testimony from the special counsel, Robert Mueller, would clear up ambiguities in his findings.

Same-sex marriage in Taiwan: Lawmakers for the self-ruled island voted today to legalize same-sex marriage, a first for Asia.

Chelsea Manning returns to jail: Ms. Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst who sent secret documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, had refused once again to answer questions before a grand jury. A federal judge ordered her held for 18 months or until she agreed to testify.

Theresa May’s departure: After months of ignoring calls for her resignation, the British prime minister promised to set a timetable for stepping down.

Eric Garner case: Texts and court testimony offered unsettling new details about one of the most wrenching cases of suspected police misconduct in New York.

Falling birthrate: An estimated 3,788,235 people were born in the United States last year, a 2 percent decrease from 2017 and the fewest births in any year since 1986, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

2020 race: Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York announced on Thursday — against his advisers’ counsel — that he would be running for president. He is the 23rd Democrat to enter the race.

Snapshot: Above, Thich Nhat Hanh receiving visitors in Hue, Vietnam, in March. After living in exile for more than five decades and suffering the effects of a major stroke, the Zen Buddhist monk, 92, has quietly returned to his home temple.

“Game of Thrones”: Our critic avoided the hit HBO franchise for eight years. Then he watched every episode — 70 hours — in five weeks.

No news quiz: It’s off this week, but will return next Friday.

Modern Love: In this week’s column, a college student on medical leave for compulsive behavior finds a kindred spirit in a fellow hoarder.

Late-night comedy: Jimmy Kimmel lampooned President Trump’s immigration plan. “Donald Trump doesn’t want to allow foreigners in based on family ties, even though foreigners literally make his family ties,” he said. “They are all made in China.”

What we’re reading: This book review in The Atlantic.Laura Shapiro, a respected food historian and advocate of home cooking who believes cake mixes should be treated like controlled substances, discusses a shocking idea,” writes our national food correspondent, Kim Severson. “It might be time to jettison a long-held belief that the best way to counter the food industry is to actually cook meals from scratch.”

Cook: Cheesy cauliflower toasts make a perfect vegetarian dinner.

Go: Our Frugal Traveler columnist tried to get a taste of Prague without skimping on beer or the sights.

See: London productions of classic plays — from Chekhov to Cy Coleman — feature strong female performances.


Smarter Living: There are easy ways to green your housecleaning. In the U.S., look for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice label, and other countries may have similar signals of safe ingredients and sustainable production and packaging. Or make your own cleaners. A spray bottle of vinegar and water can take care of most of the house, and for the shower, mix baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and liquid soap. And biodegradable sponges can replace disposables.

These baking tools can help perfect your culinary techniques.

In the U.S., it’s Bike to Work Day, an annual challenge to get people out of cars and onto human-powered wheels. In its honor, we’re republishing a cycle-centric Back Story from our archives.

Bicycle makers of yore — meaning in the 1800s — had yet to discover gearing. In the hunt for speed, “velocipedes” came to rely on one huge wheel, with a second wheel for stability and balance.

That was the style Britain called the penny-farthing, because it looked like a giant penny paired with the much smaller farthing coin. It offered a thrilling but forbiddingly dangerous ride.

But the 1800s were a time of invention. An Englishman named John Kemp Starley introduced a radical improvement in 1885: the “Rover safety bicycle,” with two wheels of the same size.

A few innovations later, he had the basics of what has been called “the most influential piece of product design ever” — a bike with a triangular frame, and pedals that power the wheels with a chain and gearing.

The bicycle has become the most popular personal transport in the world. Estimates of the number of bikes in use around the globe run upward of two billion.


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

— Mike


Thank you
To Mark Josephson, Eleanor Stanford and Kenneth R. Rosen for the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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