Syria, Russia, Facebook: Your Thursday Briefing

The close relationship between oligarchs and President Vladimir Putin has played out beyond financial ties. A “special highway,” above, between the Kremlin and Mr. Putin’s home is reserved for emergencies by law, but it is mostly used by Russia’s privileged to bypass traffic. It has one other special quality: no safety barriers, resulting in at least seven deaths over the past year.

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Lawrence Jackson for The New York Times

Mark Zuckerberg faced a much tougher crowd on the House side of Capitol Hill in his second day of congressional testimony.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle grilled the Facebook chief executive over the company’s handling of user data, with a focus on privacy settings.

“While Facebook has certainly grown, I worry it has not matured,” Representative Greg Walden said. “I think it is time to ask whether Facebook may have moved too fast and broken too many things.”

Privacy advocates say Facebook continues to test the boundaries of permissible data-mining. Our columnist used a tool that Facebook offers its users to download his data. He found out more than he wanted to know.

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Ryad Kramdi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Algeria is coping with its worst-ever air disaster.

Investigators are trying to learn why a Russian-built Algerian military plane crashed shortly after takeoff near Algiers, the capital, killing at least 257 people.

Algeria should loom large over the region: it is the largest country in Africa by size and is rich in gas and oil. But falling oil prices have driven up unemployment, and the president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 80, is rarely seen in public.

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Experts say that Mr. Bouteflika is a front for military rule, one reason there is skepticism over whether a government investigation will provide any answers about the crash.

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Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

In April 2014, more than 200 girls were abducted from a school in Nigeria by the militant group Boko Haram. Four years later, more than 100 have been released.

The Times interviewed and photographed dozens of the kidnapped students. Above is Yana Bukar, one of the freed girls.

“I’m happy. But I’m thinking about my sisters who are still in the back,” said one 20-year-old, referring to those who had still not been freed.

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Business

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Toby Melville/Reuters

• Trade war considerations. The European Union is trying its own response to frustrations with China’s closed markets: negotiation. Trade experts think President Trump is right about China’s offenses, but they feel his response is unlikely to work and favor a multilateral approach.

• Bank of America will no longer lend money to manufacturers of military-style firearms like the AR-15, which have been used in multiple mass shootings.

China’s censors cracked down on Bytedance, a start-up that earned a $30 billion valuation on GIFs, buzzy news and humor. It’s been ordered to close its app for sharing jokes and silly videos.

• U.S. stocks were lower. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

In the News

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Vincenzo Pinto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• Pope Francis admitted “grave errors” in the handling of sexual abuse cases in Chile, where the pontiff had previously defended a bishop accused of a cover-up. In an extraordinary apology letter, he invited victims to meet with him in Rome. [The New York Times]

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• As the F.B.I. examines the relationship between President Trump and his lawyer Michael D. Cohen, investigators are focusing on another Trump ally: The National Enquirer. [The New York Times]

• The U.S. and North Korea are in active, detailed discussions about the date, venue and agenda for discussions between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, according to South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in. [The New York Times]

• A demonstration against a proposed airfield in western France came to a head this week when riot police officers removed a nearly decade-old squatters’ camp. The camp began as a demonstration, but it turned into a utopian experiment that challenged the French government. [The New York Times]

A scientist in Norway found evidence of chemical damage in trees from a Nazi battleship, which the Germans hid in fjords during the war and screened with a fog to conceal it. [BBC]

Smarter Living

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Gentl and Hyers for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Rebecca Bartoshesky.

Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.

• Recipe of the day: If you like baklava, you may love this sweet pastry from the American cookbook author Dorie Greenspan.

More and more apps promise to help you sleep while you travel.

And here are some tips on traveling light while still dressing well.

Noteworthy

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Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

“First, they need music. Second, they want to be treated not as common guests, but as special guests — as a star.” That’s the idea behind Casa Verdi, a retirement home in Milan for musicians, who get to spend their twilight years surrounded by instruments in a neo-Gothic mansion.

When Brassaï arrived in Paris in 1924, he was so attracted to Parisian life that he refused to confine himself “to the four walls of an atelier all alone.” A new book looks at the photographer’s adoration for the city.

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• And your briefing writer’s award for headline of the day goes to this story from The Guardian: “Green-haired turtle that breathes through its genitals added to endangered list.”

Back Story

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Oregon Public Broadcasting

Today is the 102nd birthday of Beverly Cleary, the prolific and celebrated American author.

Her children’s books have been translated into many languages and have sold tens of millions of copies around the world. She was declared a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress in 2000.

Her birthday is honored in the U.S. as National D.E.A.R. Day (Drop Everything and Read).

But she struggled with reading as a child, according to her official biography. She grew up in an Oregon town so small it lacked a library, and when her family moved to the much larger city of Portland, her reading skills were lagging.

Portland’s libraries allowed her to quickly catch up. In fact, her school librarian suggested she start writing herself.

She liked the idea, but found no model for the types of stories she wanted to read: funny tales about the sort of children she knew. Years later, after working as a librarian herself, she changed that.

Her first book, “Henry Huggins” (1950), introduced contemporary characters like Henry, Ramona Quimby and other residents of the fictional Klickitat Street. She dramatized everyday problems in a humorous style, without condescension.

She lives in Northern California and gave this zinging interview for her 100th birthday.

Karen Zraick contributed reporting.

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