Your Monday Briefing

Good morning.

We’re covering a shifting dynamic between protesters and the Hong Kong government, the results of China’s crackdown on fentanyl and the lives of Filipino seafarers.

Hong Kong protesters return as tables turn

After a relative lull, thousands of pro-democracy activists returned to the streets a week after scoring a major victory in elections that were viewed as a broad endorsement of the movement’s goals.

Hundreds brought their children to a march against the use of tear gas.

Unlike recent demonstrations, the three on Sunday were granted “letters of no objection” — essentially official approval. The first two were peaceful, but the third saw several tense confrontations.

The gist: Carrie Lam, the territory’s chief executive, agreed to set up a committee to look into the crisis, but the move stopped short of addressing the main demand of setting up an independent investigation into the police’s use of force.

Recap: Elections last Sunday saw pro-democracy candidates win 87 percent of seats in local district council races, reflecting widespread discontent with the pro-Beijing stance of the government.

Details emerge of Iranian protests, and a brutal crackdown

At least 180 people — and possibly hundreds more — were killed in the government’s unbridled attempts to smother the worst unrest in the country since the Islamic Revolution 40 years ago.

The crackdown was focused on four days of intense violence set off by a gasoline price increase of at least 50 percent that was announced on Nov. 15. At least 2,000 people were injured and 7,000 detained, according to international rights organizations, opposition groups and local journalists.

Details: In many places, security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters, largely unemployed or low-income young men between the ages of 19 and 26, according to witness accounts and videos.

The interior minister said that protests had erupted in 29 out of 31 provinces and that 50 military bases had been attacked. Property damage included 731 banks, 140 public spaces, nine religious centers, 70 gasoline stations, 307 vehicles, 183 police cars, 1,076 motorcycles and 34 ambulances, he said.

Big picture: Demonstrators called for the end of the Islamic Republic’s government, revealing staggering levels of frustration with Iran’s leaders and the serious challenges facing them — from U.S. sanctions to resentment from neighbors.

Is China’s push to regulate fentanyl enough?

Until recently, much of the illicit and deadly fentanyl that fueled the U.S. opioid crisis could be ordered easily online from China.

After years of U.S. pressure, China is taking steps to rein in its poorly regulated fentanyl industry, widening its purview to all variants of the drug and increasing inspections and arrests, resulting in reduced shipments.

But a Times investigation found that many manufacturers and distributors may have simply shifted operations underground.

Context: Fentanyl is cheap, easy to synthesize and more addictive than heroin. It can be prescribed as an anesthetic and for severe pain relief, but addiction levels are epidemic in the U.S.

If you have six minutes, this is worth it

Danger and dreams for Filipino seafarers

Life aboard a cargo ship can be isolating and dangerous, with risks from machinery on board, natural disasters at sea — and loneliness. Filipinos, particularly young men from provincial villages lured by visions of accomplishment, have dominated seafaring jobs since the 1980s.

Our reporter and photographer joined the crew of a cement carrier traveling from Japan to the Philippines, to see the reality of lives spent at sea.

Here’s what else is happening

Julian Assange: The WikiLeaks founder, who is in jail in Britain and facing prosecution in the U.S., is scheduled to testify remotely this month in a criminal case accusing a Spanish security company of spying on him.

Detained Australian: Lawyers for Yan Hengjun say that Chinese officials have cut off all contact between him and his family in an effort to “break” him and force the writer and democracy activist to confess to being a spy.

U.S. impeachment inquiry: In Congress, the House Intelligence Committee delivers a written report of the findings from its hearings to members today, as the Judiciary Committee begins its own hearings on constitutional groundwork. A vote on whether to impeach President Trump could come as early as Dec. 16.

Hong Kong markets: Dramatic plunges in three stocks offer a cautionary tale about dubious practices that have gone unchecked and rules that stifle naysayers who might rein in the gullible.

Albania earthquake: The death toll of last week’s disaster, the deadliest ever in the country, reached 51, as officials focused on helping 4,000 people made homeless and remedying the country’s flawed construction industry.

British royal family: Prince Charles is moving aggressively to assert control as the family tries to mop up the mess from Prince Andrew’s catastrophic BBC interview about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein.

London stabbing: The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a stabbing attack on London Bridge on Friday, which raised questions about the assailant’s early release from prison. An assistant to The Times’s Editorial Board remembers one of the two people killed in the attack, a former Cambridge classmate.

Snapshot: Above, a snowy game between the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in New Jersey. A strong winter storm moved through the Northeastern U.S. yesterday on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, bringing heavy snow, strong winds and delays, delays, delays.

Chinese banquets: From our Opinion section, the novelist Yan Ge decodes the social structure of the “xi,” and how, as a woman, to survive them.

What we’re looking at: National Geographic’s best photos of 2019. “Just because,” writes Steven Erlanger, our chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe. “Beauty and wonder and awe and all those things.”

Now, a break from the news

Cook: Broiled salmon with chile and orange zest looks fancy, and takes 15 minutes.

Watch: “The Irishman,” starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, has arrived on Netflix. Here’s a guide to who’s who, which events are real and whether to believe its claim about Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance.

Read: “The Hidden History of Burma” by Thant Myint-U is among nine books we recommend this week.

Smarter Living: Our weekly Climate Fwd: newsletter includes tips for sustainable holiday shopping.

And now for the Back Story on …

The chess queen

File this under the category of Who Knew? The queen chess piece was not always as powerful as it is today.

I’m Katharine Seelye, a longtime reporter for The Times and a chess player. I learned about the change in the queen’s power just last week, while writing the obituary of Marilyn Yalom, a feminist author. Her 2004 book, “Birth of the Chess Queen: A History,” describes the queen’s evolution from weakest piece on the board to mistress of the universe.

When the game was first played in the sixth century in India and the Arab world, the chess queen did not exist.

But in real life, powerful queens — see Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 12th century and Isabella I of Castile in the 15th — were making their mark.

Ms. Yalom posits that these examples inspired game makers to reflect such power on the board. Initially, the queen could move only one square, on the diagonal.

In time, the queen was granted superpowers and became the mightiest of all — at least in chess.

That’s it for this briefing. Your move.

— Melina

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]

• We’re listening to “The Daily,” which features a special three-part series about a mysterious family in India.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Almost any element that ends in -ium (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Reporters and editors at The Times recently shared some examples of important local reporting from other news organizations.

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