Your Monday Briefing

The territory’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, is set to meet President Xi Jinping of China in Beijing today, amid speculation of a possible reshuffle of Hong Kong’s cabinet.

Ms. Lam has played down the possibility, as protesters have kept up pressure on her, marching on Sunday through malls during the peak Christmas shopping season. In the evening, several hundred held a vigil for a protester who fell to his death exactly six months ago outside a luxury mall.

They hummed an anthem of their movement, the hymn “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,” and laid white flowers.

But at a waterfront park, thousands of people showered love on the 30,000-strong police force, which protesters have accused of brutality. “I’m not against the protesters,” said one participant. “It’s O.K. for them to speak, but in a peaceful way.”

Details are emerging about the toll after a magnitude 6.9 quake on Sunday, which was quickly followed by another, measured at 5.7.

At least one person was killed — a 6-year-old girl — and 15 others were injured, and shoppers and employees were reportedly still trapped inside a store that had collapsed.

The quake’s epicenter was near the town of Magsaysay in the province of Davao del Sur on Mindanao island. It was the third earthquake of magnitude 6.5 or higher to hit the area, southwest of Davao City, since late October.

Geology: Because of its location on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions caused by the movement of tectonic plates.


Adventurous travelers who dream of thrills abroad — bungee jumping, helicopter snowboarding, white-water rafting and the like — have been a boon for New Zealand’s economy and part of a famed marketing campaign.

But all that could change, as New Zealanders debate whether enough precautions are being taken and whether nature is being wrongly exploited, in the wake of a devastating volcano eruption last week that killed at least 16 people.

The country’s legal system currently makes it difficult to sue when things go wrong, and some worry that changing it would turn the country into a nanny state.

Context: Tourism is nearly 6 percent of New Zealand’s economic output, roughly double the share of the economies of Australia and the U.S.

Scope: The debate over the consequences of adventure tourism is global — as Nepal weighs safety measures following Mount Everest’s deadliest climbing season in years, and as visitors flock to sites of nuclear disasters like Chernobyl in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan.

By his early 20s, he had become one of Mexico’s deadliest assassins, or sicarios, an instrument of the cartels tearing the nation apart. When the police caught him, they saw a chance to pick apart the cartel from the inside.

With little trust in the country’s limited witness protection program, though, a police chief had to create one of his own, working around the edges of the law. Our reporters traced the making of the sicario, the miracle of his survival and the challenges of shaping a new life.

North Korea: The U.S. envoy to North Korea arrived in South Korea as Pyongyang stepped up pressure on Washington to make concessions for a nuclear deal ahead of a year-end deadline. The visit comes after the North confirmed a second missile test was part of the nuclear weapons program it had promised to shut down.

Chinese expelled: For what may be the first time in more than 30 years, the U.S. expelled two Chinese Embassy officials on suspicion of espionage, according to people with knowledge of the episode. They said the two had driven onto a sensitive military base in Virginia.

Twitch: Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and other tech giants are spending millions of dollars in the race to compete with Amazon’s video-game streaming service, which has by far the most powerful hold on an increasingly coveted market.

Xinjiang criticisms: Chinese soccer fans and officials were allowed to express outrage on China’s heavily censored internet when Mesut Özil, a star Arsenal player, criticized the detention of Uighurs.

U.S. impeachment: The House of Representatives is expected to take a historic vote on Wednesday to give final approval to two articles of impeachment against President Trump, requiring the Senate try him.

Snapshot: Above, a Bangkok vendor last month. The city’s iconic street food vendors have become the target of some of the Thai capital’s planners, who prefer a more manicured city of air-conditioning, malls and Instagrammable dessert cafes.

The case for cards: “There’s something about it that may never get old.” An Opinion contributor writes that the popularity of letters and cards, despite texting, email, WhatsApp and social media, is “somewhat of a marvel.”

What we’re watching: This Polish ad for an online marketplace, which our climate reporter John Schwartz just ran across. “I am sappy,” he writes. “Commercials can make me cry. This one did. Enjoy.”

Smarter Living: If you feel like you regress when you go home for the holidays, you’re not alone. (Psychologists deal with it as “family systems theory.”) We have tips for how to manage the stress.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Shazam as “a ‘magic’ word” that introduces “an extraordinary deed or story.”

You may know it from slang, or because of the Shazam app, which identifies music after “listening” to a snippet. But the O.E.D. credits the first use to a comic book 80 years ago.

It told the story of Billy Batson, an orphan who transforms into the superhero Captain Marvel by saying a word made up of the first letters of six powerful names: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury.

So Billy’s alter ego is now named Shazam, and fighting for market share. His Warner Brothers movie came out this year, and his arch enemy Black Adam’s spinoff, starring Dwayne Johnson, is due in December 2021.


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

— Melina


Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. George Gustines, an editor who covers the comic book industry for The Times, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at [email protected].

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode includes an interview with the U.S. senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Cut into cubes (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Greg Winter, who was just named our international managing editor, began his career with The Times as a summer intern.