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Brexit, U.S. Shutdown, Chinese Economy: Your Tuesday Briefing

Brexit, U.S. Shutdown, Chinese Economy: Your Tuesday Briefing


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Good morning.

Brexit remains in limbo, the U.S. government shutdown grinds on and China’s economy slows down. Here’s the latest:

Prime Minister Theresa May returned to Parliament with an alternative blueprint for Britain’s withdrawal from the E.U.

Infuriating some lawmakers, it looked a lot like her initial plan, which was voted down last week in the most resounding parliamentary defeat in British history.

Why it matters: The face off could become another epic political showdown that leaves the Brexit process where it has been for months — stuck in limbo with no obvious path forward.

Go deeper: The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercrow, has emerged as the surprise star of Brexit after he broke with precedent to wrest some control over the decision-making process.

President Trump, faced with increasing backlash over the longest shutdown in U.S. history, made an offer over the weekend: temporary protections for roughly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” in exchange for $5.7 billion in funding for his border wall.

Democrats called it “hostage taking” and refused to negotiate until the government reopens.

Some of the 800,000 furloughed federal employees are turning to pawnshops and brokers for short-term loans.

Go deeper: People who have done business with Mr. Trump over the years say his uncompromising fixation on a southern border wall is consistent with the negotiating tactics he used for decades in the private sector, focused foremost on claiming victory.

In other U.S. news: In a rare public statement, the office of the special counsel running the Russia investigation disputed a BuzzFeed News report that claimed Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, had told prosecutors the president directed him to lie in Congress.


The Chinese economy grew by 6.6 percent in 2018, according to official numbers released on Monday — the slowest pace of growth since 1990.

But many economists, citing detailed data, see more slowing than government figures show.

Retail figures slowed markedly in the second half of the year, weighed down by a steep tumble in car and smartphone sales. Activity at factories has slowed as the trade war with the U.S. begins to bite. And the real estate market has stagnated.

Why it matters: China’s economy has always been a major driver for growth around the world and a slowdown there is one of the many reasons the global economy is decelerating.

What’s next? The Chinese government is already trying to help the economy reverse course. It has green lighted big-ticket projects, like new subway lines in many cities, to move forward, and pumped more money into the financial system. China’s leaders have also pledged to cut taxes to shore up sagging business sentiment.


A just-published study warns that the ice sheet covering the massive island, which lies mainly above the Arctic Circle, is melting at such an accelerated rate that it may become “a major contributor to sea level rise” around the world within two decades.

The study’s authors found that ice loss in 2012 was nearly four times the rate in 2003, adding to research showing that the melting is speeding up as the warming increases. Another study has found Greenland’s ice loss had reached its fastest rate in at least 350 years.

Why it matters: The study is the latest in a series of papers published this month suggesting that scientific estimates of the effects of a warming planet have been, if anything, too conservative. Researchers say they collectively underline the need for a sharp reduction in emissions.

Crackdown on young communists: Chinese activists say the authorities have been forcing them to watch taped confessions from fellow student activists who say they spread false information and violated the law. It’s the government’s latest effort to quell a resilient pro-labor movement fed by the ideas of Mao, Marx and Lenin, which are required subjects at China’s universities.

Genetically edited babies: He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who said in November that he had used the Crispr gene-editing technique to alter human embryos, “seriously violated” state regulations, according to an initial government report. The findings indicate that he and his collaborators are likely to face criminal charges.

Carlos Ghosn: The former chairman of Nissan, who has been charged with financial misconduct, offered a higher bail amount and pledged to hire private security guards in a bid to be freed from jail. A Tokyo court is expected to rule this week.

Google: French authorities fined Google about $57 million for not properly telling users how it collects data across its services, including its search engine, Google Maps and YouTube, to present personalized advertisements. It is the largest penalty to date under the E.U.’s privacy law known as G.D.P.R.

Kamala Harris: The Democratic senator from California who became the second black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate declared that she’ll be running for president in the 2020 race in an increasingly crowded field. (Here’s our candidate tracker.)

Meng Hongwei: Nearly four months after the Interpol president was detained in China on corruption charges, his wife, Grace Meng, applied for asylum in France. “I cannot go back to China; such strange things happen there, and fundamental rights are not respected,” Ms. Meng told a French newspaper.

North Korea: Kim Jong-un and President Trump will meet again next month, the White House announced last week, despite a lack of progress in eliminating Mr. Kim’s nuclear arsenal. Here’s why Vietnam could be the leading contender for the summit location.

India: Bindu Ammini, who this month became one of the first women to enter a Hindu shrine in south India that for centuries had barred women of childbearing age, has been bouncing from one safe house to the next fleeing angry mobs.

Recipe of the day: Pan-seared chicken comes alive with a lemon-anchovy sauce. (Our Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter has more recommendations.)

Classic bow shoes are back in style. Here are eight options.

Meaningful relationships with robots? Here’s a deeper look at “digisexuals.”

The Australian Open, once the least grand of tennis’s four Grand Slam events, has fully caught up.

When the tournament began in the early 20th century, travel time for Americans and Europeans could be more than a month, so play was largely limited to Australians and New Zealanders.

Jet travel made the trip easier. But for decades, low prize money and dates around the Christmas holidays kept many players above the Equator. Chris Evert played the Australian Open just six times; John McEnroe five; Bjorn Borg once.

Over time, the prize money and ranking points increased, and the tournament shifted to the third and fourth weeks of January. In 1988, its home moved to the brand-new Melbourne Park. Today, the “Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific” lures business support and fans from across the region.

And now the stars line up. Serena Williams is seeking her eighth title and Novak Djokovic is vying for his seventh. Catch up with our latest coverage here.

Ben Rothenberg, who’s covering the Australian Open for The Times, wrote today’s Back Story.


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