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We’re covering plans for a new U.S. defense strategy and Boeing’s change in leadership. And, in a break from the news, we have an exclusive video interview with Taylor Swift.
It would be the first phase of a review of global deployments that could reshuffle thousands of troops. About 200,000 U.S. forces are stationed abroad, about the same number as when President Trump took office with a vow to end America’s “endless wars.”
The details: The discussions of a pullback in Africa include abandoning a new $110 million drone base in Niger and ending assistance to France, which is fighting militants in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
Go deeper: The initiative under Mr. Esper, which is also said to include an overhaul of Latin America deployments, reflects a shift from 18 years of counterterrorism efforts to focus on confronting powers including China and Russia.
A new leader to temper Boeing’s crisis
David Calhoun, who was named on Monday as the chief executive of the troubled airplane manufacturer, has been described as a “turnaround specialist.” Colleagues called him an experienced and decisive operator.
He will replace Dennis Muilenburg, who was fired in the midst of one of the company’s worst crises in its 103-year history. Boeing has faced a series of delays in fixing its best-selling jet, the 737 Max, after two deadly crashes, and it’s uncertain when the model will return to the air.
Background: Mr. Calhoun, who is also Boeing’s chairman, has faced corporate turmoil before. He started his career at General Electric and ran its airplane-engine business in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Unpersuasive verdicts in Saudi Arabia
The sentences given to eight men on Monday over the killing last year of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi were widely dismissed as punishing low-level agents while protecting their leaders. A United Nations expert who investigated Mr. Khashoggi’s death called the verdicts “a mockery.”
The kingdom has denied any involvement by its crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, and his top aides, but a C.I.A. assessment found that he had probably ordered the operation.
Five men were sentenced to death on Monday, and three to prison. The sentences are subject to appeal.
Background: The kingdom has long said that the death of Mr. Khashoggi in its consulate in Istanbul was a last-minute decision by rogue agents. But there is ample evidence — documented in a Times video investigation — that Saudi agents arrived in Turkey with the intent, and tools, to kill.
If you have some time, this is worth it
The lives they lived
This week’s Times Magazine is dedicated to 23 of the artists, innovators and thinkers who died in 2019.
They include, above, clockwise from top left, the writer Toni Morrison, NASA’s Opportunity Rover, the photographer Robert Frank and the designer Karl Lagerfeld.
Here’s what else is happening
Bid for impeachment evidence: Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader, called for the release of more records before President Trump’s trial. Separately, the House pressed for testimony from Donald McGahn, the former White House counsel.
Syrian government offensive: As many as 100,000 people have fled their homes in the country’s northwest as President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Russia, has intensified a military offensive there in recent days, aid groups said.
Visions of an alternative government: A Washington State lawmaker was accused last week of engaging in domestic terrorism by supporting an armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge. Behind the scenes, he and right-wing activists were preparing for civil conflict.
Ending punishment for bird deaths: In one of its first environmental acts, the Trump administration decided that businesses would no longer be held responsible for “incidental” bird deaths. The Times examined the effects.
New charges for driver: An Iowa woman who said she ran over a girl because she thought she was “a Mexican” was charged in another hit-and-run involving a child, as well as a separate hate crime. The police said all three attacks happened in a little over an hour.
Germs in the Ganges: The sacred river offers clues to the spread of one of the world’s most daunting health problems: antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Snapshot: Above, Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, which will not hold Christmas services for the first time in over two centuries, as reconstruction continues after April’s devastating fire.
The afterlife of lost luggage: About 250,000 items are lost each year on the trains or platforms of Germany’s rail operator. After three months, the objects are sold at auction. The Times tagged along to see what happens.
N.B.A.’s Christmas schedule: A five-game slate on Wednesday will showcase the league’s best (and some of its worst).
Late-night comedy: The hosts are off this week, so we looked back at a year of monologues focused on politics. “I don’t want to talk about Donald Trump every night,” Jimmy Kimmel said in March. “None of us do. But he gives us no choice.”
What we’re reading: FiveThirtyEight’s data-driven look at good movies that are slightly about Christmas. Melina Delkic, on the briefings team, writes: “Sure, ‘Noel’ and ‘Fred Claus’ are on there — but did you expect ‘Die Hard 2’? You can tell the writer had fun with this one, and so will you.”
Now, a break from the news
And now for the Back Story on …
The song ‘Blue Christmas’
Mariah Carey’s song “All I Want for Christmas Is You” reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 this month for the first time since its 1994 release.
It’s not the only yuletide oldie that hit the charts this year.
“Blue Christmas,” as recorded by Elvis Presley in 1957, landed on Billboard’s Top 40 in January, Presley’s first appearance there since 1981.
Written by two New York-area men, Billy Hayes and Jay Johnson, “Blue Christmas” was popularized in the early 1950s by the country singer Ernest Tubb. But it was the later version that became a perennial hit.
Presley, who died in 1977, apparently recorded the song with reluctance. “Let’s just get this over with,” he told his band, and urged them to “do something silly” on the recording, according to a 2012 interview with Millie Kirkham, one of his backup singers.
Ms. Kirkham took the King at his word — by singing “woo-we-woo” throughout the song.
“When we got through, we all laughed and said, ‘Well, that’s one record that the record company will never release.’”
That’s it for this briefing.
We’re off tomorrow for Christmas, but we’ll return on Thursday with a special edition. See you then.
Mark Josephson and Raillan Brooks provided the break from the news. Mike Ives, of the briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today we revisit one of our favorite episodes of the year, about Rachel Held Evans, a best-selling author who challenged conservative Christianity.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Milk and cookies recipient on Christmas Eve (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The editor of the International Edition of The Times, Suzanne Daley, explained how the process of selecting the articles for the front page has changed drastically over the decades.