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Good morning. Honoring a soul music legend, protesting at Google and hiding a river of trash in Indonesia. Here’s what you need to know:
• One word: respect.
Tributes are pouring in for Aretha Franklin, the universally acclaimed “Queen of Soul” and one of the greatest vocalists of all time, who died at her home in Detroit. She was 76.
In her classic late-1960s hits, including “Respect,” “Think” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” Ms. Franklin defined a female archetype: sensual and strong, long-suffering but ultimately indomitable. Read our full obituary.
“Aretha is a gift from God,” the singer Mary J. Blige once said. “When it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her. She is the reason why women want to sing.”
• A worried work force.
About 1,000 Google employees signed a letter protesting the company’s decision to secretly build a censored version of its search engine for China.
They wrote that the project and Google’s apparent willingness to abide by Beijing’s censorship requirements “raise urgent moral and ethical issues.”
The protest presents another obstacle for Google’s potential return to China. The company publicly withdrew from the country eight years ago in protest of censorship and government hacking.
• Not Asian enough?
This week we’ve been bringing you the buzz surrounding “Crazy Rich Asians,” a romantic comedy that has been celebrated for its all Asian and Asian-American cast.
But ahead of the film’s release next week in Singapore, where the film was largely shot, detractors say the cast is unrepresentative of diversity in the city-state.
A concern is that the film focuses on Singapore’s Chinese, the dominant ethnic majority, at the expense of Malays, Indians and other ethnic minorities.
As “Crazy Rich Asians” hits theaters, the book on which it’s based, as well as the rest of the trilogy, appear on our paperback trade fiction best-seller list.
• What to do with a stinky river?
With Asia’s top athletes set to arrive in Jakarta for the 2018 Asian Games this weekend, city officials were scrambling to hide an embarrassing eyesore: the Black River.
That’s a local nickname for an urban waterway that’s clogged with decades of garbage, looks more like a tar pit, and releases a gag-inducing smell — and it’s right behind the athletes’ village.
After a dredging project was deemed infeasible, officials came up with a plan to fix their river problem that would impress David Copperfield: They hid it, above.
• 44 small graves: An airstrike by a Saudi-led coalition on a bus carrying children casts new light on the United States’ role in the war in Yemen. [The New York Times]
• “We are tired of crying for the dead.” At a morgue in Genoa, Italy, people looking for the missing after a catastrophic bridge collapse dreaded what they might find. [The New York Times]
• An Islamic State member wanted for murder in Iraq was arrested in California. Omar Ameen, who is also a longtime member of Al Qaeda, lied to obtain refugee status in 2014. [The New York Times]
• In India, flooding caused by monsoon rains in the southern state of Kerala has killed at least 73 people, shut down an airport and displaced more than 85,000 people. [BBC]
• An 11-year-old bride to a Malaysian man 30 years her senior has returned to her native Thailand. The case highlighted the prevalence of child brides in Malaysia, which belies the country’s modern outlook. [The New York Times]
• “Right now it’s really hard to be a Catholic.” We spoke with Catholics across the U.S., who are grappling with new revelations about the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 young people by hundreds of priests in Pennsylvania. [The New York Times]
Tips for a more fulfilling life.
• The Super Bowl of beekeeping: California’s $7.6 billion almond industry wouldn’t be possible without 30 billion bees (and hundreds of human beekeepers). But the bees’ existence is in peril. The Times Magazine explores their future.
• In memoriam: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, 93, the prime minister of India from 1998 to 2004 who ended a long moratorium on nuclear tests but also eased tensions with Pakistan and built closer ties with the U.S., died Thursday.
• And he’s happy to offend in any language: Meet Samir Khullar, otherwise known as the comedian Sugar Sammy, who recounts how being a minority in Canada provided the fuel for his trenchant comedy.
On Aug. 18, 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward, a Chicago businessman, launched an idea that seemed humble at the time but would go on to shape the entire retail industry.
On a sheet of paper, he listed about 150 items for sale. That one page turned into hundreds, and by 1888 annual sales from the catalog reached $1 million.
The catalog was popular with the largely rural population of the U.S., which suddenly gained access to everything from fur coats to washing machines. The success of Ward’s creation was driven, in part, by a more efficient postal service that had started delivering packages door-to-door.
The earliest reported catalogs appeared in Venice in the 1400s. In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin used the mail order concept to sell books.
Catalogs from Montgomery Ward and another mail-order pioneer, Sears, Roebuck, started an industry that vied for a spot in mailboxes for decades to come.
The rise of shopping malls and the internet eventually spelled the demise of the mail order catalog. In 1985, Montgomery Ward discontinued its catalog because of persistent losses.
But what’s old is new again: Amazon is reportedly working on its own holiday catalog this year.
Alisha Haridasani Gupta wrote today’s Back Story.
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