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U.S. Shutdown, Brexit, South Korea: Your Thursday Briefing

Category: Asia,World

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Good morning.

Pressure mounts to end the U.S. government shutdown, trade talks with China wrap on an optimistic note and Brexit negotiations resume. Here’s the latest:

Cracks in Republican Party unity continued to spread after Mr. Trump’s prime-time speech on border security, with more lawmakers fretting over the costs of the partial government shutdown.

Several Republican senators indicated that they favored a solution proposed by Democrats: passing a short-term spending measure for border security while debate continued — and a package to fund the rest of the government until September.

What’s next? Some moderate Republicans are likely to join House Democrats in voting today to reopen the Treasury Department, the I.R.S. and other financial agencies. And the two sides will sit down at the White House for more negotiations.

In case you missed it: Here’s a recap of the president’s national address and a fact-check of his assertions (and the Democratic response).

Three days of negotiations between midlevel officials ended on a positive note in Beijing, helping clear the way for potential higher-level talks later this month aimed at averting a major escalation of the trade war on March 2.

Details: U.S. trade representatives said officials had discussed China’s pledge to buy more American goods as well as the country’s intellectual property protection practices. The Trump administration also said it wanted to ensure China’s compliance with any promises it makes using “ongoing verification and effective enforcement.” We expect Chinese comment today in the Commerce Ministry’s weekly news conference.

What next? There could be more talks later this month, when President Trump attends the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Vice Premier Liu He of China is expected to visit Washington shortly after that.


In the past two days, Parliament has already delivered Mrs. May two setbacks. First, lawmakers passed an amendment requiring the prime minister to return within days of a losing vote with plans for proceeding, though what kind of plans are unclear.

Parliament also passed a measure making it difficult for Britain to leave the E.U. without a deal.

What now? Mrs. May’s hope is that if Parliament remains divided, she could use the fear of a disorderly withdrawal to push through her plan.

Alternative paths: The prospect of a second public referendum on Brexit is growing, and there is also some talk of delaying the March 29 departure date.


President Moon Jae-in has raised the minimum wage and taxes in an attempt to tackle a widening wealth gap, slower growth and stagnant wages — issues facing many economies in the developed world.

But so far, the plan hasn’t worked. Unemployment has risen because of the uptick in labor costs, and economic growth has slowed.

Why it matters: The unintended consequences could inform policy choices around the world.


Asylum seekers: A group of 49 migrants who had been stranded at sea after being refused entry to European ports was finally allowed to dock in Malta. Our reporter went aboard the rescue ships, where he discovered the human impact of Europe’s hard-line migration policy shift.

Saudi Arabia: The young Saudi woman who barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to avoid deportation was granted refugee status on Wednesday by the U.N. refugee agency, Australian officials said, clearing the way for an asylum request.

Nepal: A woman and her two children died in a menstruation hut, the latest victims of a centuries-old tradition of banishing women from their homes during their periods, when they are considered impure. The practice was criminalized last year but many villages continue it.

Australia: Foreign consulates in Melbourne and Canberra were evacuated after they received suspicious packages containing what the authorities described as potentially “hazardous material.”

Rod Rosenstein: The U.S. deputy attorney general, who has been overseeing the special counsel’s Russia investigation, is expected to step down after President Trump’s choice to run the Justice Department is confirmed, according to administration officials.

Women in power: There are now more women over the age of 50 in the U.S. than at any other point in history — and they’re becoming more visible and powerful, writes our gender editor.

Norwegian Air: The low-cost airline was forced to land a flight in Iran because of a technical error. A month later, the American-made jet is still stuck because U.S. sanctions have made it difficult to get spare parts.

Iran: The E.U. penalized the country over allegations that its intelligence agency orchestrated a series of assassination plots in Europe in recent years, including the killings of two Iranians in the Netherlands who had ties to anti-government extremist groups.

The Fed: Two officials at the U.S. central bank said it should pause interest rate hikes, reinforcing the Fed chairman’s message last week. Together the signs suggest the Fed is unlikely to raise rates in the next few months.

C.E.S: Here’s a look at the highlights from this year’s consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, from TVs that can be rolled up like a yoga mat to 5G technology.

Tiffany & Company: The jewelry brand is starting a program identifying the origins of each diamond, trying to lure younger customers who are increasingly conscious of the ethics of their purchases.

In Opinion: Australians are better at hanging out, vacationing and relating to one other, our columnist found after a month there. They “have more fun,” she writes. “They just do.”

52 Places: Hampi in India, Eilat in Israel and the Setouchi Islands of Japan are among the destinations on The Times’s list of places to visit this year. We also announced the lucky traveler who gets to see them all.


Tips for a more fulfilling life.

Tintin, the natty young reporter and adventurer created by the Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (better known as Hergé), turns 90 today.

The intrepid lad made his official debut on Jan. 10, 1929, in a young readers’ supplement of the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle.

Like other comic book characters, Tintin sprang from the page into other forms: Belgian theater, cartoons and movies, including “The Adventures of Tintin,” the 2001 animated film directed by Steven Spielberg.

(A Times article about the movie suggested pronouncing Tintin the French way: “Tanh-tanh,” and not as a rhyme of “win win.”)

Neither Tintin nor his creator was without controversy. One adventure was deemed anti-Communist, while another was viewed as anti-American.

The cartoonist took it all in stride: “For years, the left has said I’m right, and the right has said I’m left. I don’t like to contradict either.”

George Gene Gustines, an editor who has covered the comics business since 2002, wrote today’s Back Story.


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