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Stormy Daniels, India, North Korea: Your Friday Briefing


Here’s what you need to know to start your day.
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Good morning. Contradictions in Washington, a deadly dust storm in India and high-level trade talks in China. Here’s what you need to know:
• President Trump contradicted his earlier statements that he knew nothing of a payment to Stormy Daniels, the pornographic film actress who says she had an affair with him.
Now, Mr. Trump suggested that the payment from his lawyer, Michael Cohen, came from a monthly retainer he paid and could not be considered a campaign contribution.
The comments came after one of his attorneys, Rudolph Giuliani, appeared to veer off-script on the episode .
The string of factual distortions that came to light suggest the president is losing control of his narrative, and it could come back to haunt him, writes our correspondent.
• A devastating dust storm struck northern India, killing at least 94 people and leaving hundreds more hurt or homeless.
Houses, trees and electricity poles were felled by lightning strikes and 100-mile-an-hour winds in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. A disaster official said the storm was the worst in nearly three decades.
Witnesses were shocked by the storm’s speed and destruction, as this video shows . “There was the clanking sound of tin roofs being blown away and motorcycles getting dragged,” one said. “The whooshing sound of the wind made our children howl.”
• China’s message to North Korea: Remember who your real friend is.
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, delivered that reminder to the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in a recent visit. Mr. Wang also met Ri Yong-ho, the North’s foreign Minister, in Pyongyang, above, on Wednesday.
The effort comes as Beijing worries that North Korea is using China’s growing tensions with the U. S. to reduce its dependence on its longtime benefactor.
South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, has witnessed firsthand the ups and downs of dealing with the North, and is keen not to repeat past failures .
• Our Shanghai bureau chief has the latest on the high-level trade talks taking place between the U. S. and China .
After a series of shake-ups, he writes, many of China’s top trade negotiators are now economists and bankers with little practical experience in trade matters.
Not so on the U. S. side, which includes Steven Mnuchin, the secretary of the Treasury; Robert Lighthizer, the U. S. trade representative; and Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary.
Both countries have played down the chance that the negotiations will resolve simmering trade disputes. Still, Chinese officials’ lack of experience could make it even harder to find common ground.
• For years, the U. S. military has sought to distance itself from the brutal conflict in Yemen, where Saudi-led forces are battling Houthi rebels.
But a Times investigation has learned that late last year a team of Green Berets arrived on Saudi Arabia’s border to help destroy caches of ballistic missiles and launch sites that the rebels in Yemen are using to attack Saudi cities. Above, a damaged home in Riyadh.
The operation appears to contradict Pentagon statements that U. S. military assistance to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen is limited to aircraft refueling, logistics and intelligence sharing.
• Tariffs on solar products, the first salvo in President Trump’s trade offensive against China, are already reshaping the industry. Above, a solar panel factory in Jiangxi province.
• Tesla posted a loss for the sixth quarter in a row, and investors seemed to take it in stride, until the chief executive, Elon Musk, started talking .
• Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone giant, picked Hong Kong for its much anticipated initial public offering .
• From The Times to The Economist to Rappler, in the Philippines, 36 news outlets joined forces for World Press Freedom Day, encouraging people to read or watch their rivals.
• U. S. stocks were weaker. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.
• The ghosts of Benghazi: Americans associate the Libyan city with the attack in 2012 that killed an ambassador. But two years later the city was in all-out war. Our correspondent toured what’s left of it. [ The New York Times]
• “Iran will not renegotiate.” Tehran’s foreign minister said that U. S. demands to change the 2015 nuclear agreement were unacceptable. [ Reuters]
• “I’ve no complaints. I’ve lived quite a good life until recently.” David Goodall, 104, believed to be Australia’s oldest scientist, flew to Switzerland to die, reigniting a debate in Australia about the right to end one’s life. [ The New York Times]
• In Iran, a mummy was discovered last month that many believe to be the remains of Reza Shah Pahlavi, installed as shah in 1925. Many see it as an omen. [ The New York Times]
• Hawaii became the first U. S. state to ban the sale of sunscreen containing chemicals believed to harm coral reefs. [ The New York Times]
• The table tennis teams of North and South Korea joined forces in a tournament, rather than compete against each other. The unified team will today face either Japan or Ukraine in the final four. [ BBC]
• China’s latest celebrity is Xiongxiong, an elderly dog that waits 12 hours outside a Chongqing subway station for its owner to return each day. [ South China Morning Post]
Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.
• Recipe of the day: Keep it simple with this fettuccine Alfredo .
• Some runners use marijuana to provide a mental or physical boost .
• How to sell your phone safely .
• The strategic mind of Ali Wong. With a new special, a rom-com and a memoir in the works, Ms. Wong is about to join the comedy A-list, a club with few women or Asian-Americans. It’s a lot to juggle.
• N.F.L. cheerleaders gave another example of the demands teams put on them. Washington Redskins cheerleaders say they were flown to Costa Rica for a calendar shoot in 2013, where men were granted access to topless shoots on the beach.
• And di d you know The Times publishes close to 30 film reviews each week? Every month, we’ll curate the most relevant and interesting reviews specifically for our Australian audience, based on local release dates. This week’s tips: “ Chappaquiddick ” and “ Avengers: Infinity War.”
Saturday is Cinco de Mayo, a day that is often mistaken in the U. S. as Mexico’s Independence Day.
In fact, Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain on Sept. 16, which is now a national holiday. On that day in 1810, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo implored the nation to revolt, leading to Mexico’s war for independence.

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