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Turkey, Google, Brexit: Your Thursday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering developments in a tentative Turkey-Syria cease-fire, a quantum mechanics breakthrough and a ski slope made of...fake grass.

President Trump claimed credit for a permanent cease-fire in northeast Syria, after a tentative deal that Turkey and Russia signed Tuesday, and lifted sanctions against Turkey that were imposed in recent weeks.

The president cast the announcement as a triumph of diplomacy, saying: “Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand.” But even many leading Republicans have denounced the American retreat from Syria — which allowed the Turkish invasion into northeast Syria earlier this month — as a foreign policy debacle.

On the ground: In the second of a two-part look inside Kurdish-run ISIS prisons in northern Syria, our journalist found more than 150 children — aged roughly 9 to 14 — who were jammed into two cells with little sunlight for months.

“What is going to happen to us? Are the kids going to come out?” one boy asked.


At a research lab in California, Google’s quantum computer needed just over 3 minutes to perform a mathematical calculation that would take a supercomputer at least 10,000 years, the company said in a paper in the science journal Nature.

Scientists likened the announcement to the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903 — proof that a technological breakthrough is possible, though it may be years before it can fulfill its potential.

Explainer: “Ordinary computers store data and perform computations as a series of bits that are either 1 or 0. By contrast, a quantum computer uses qubits, which can be 1 and 0 at the same time, at least until they are measured,” writes our reporter Dennis Overbye.

Impact: Both China and the U.S. have made quantum computing a national priority, in part because it has the potential to make crucial encryption schemes obsolete.

European leaders, increasingly exhausted by the Brexit process, were confronted with the task of deciding on a third extension.

They were expected to settle on Jan. 31, the date set in British legislation that was passed recently. The bloc could announce its decision by the end of the week. As with previous extensions, this would likely be a “flextension,” meaning Britain could potentially depart sooner.

There was growing concern that even a three-month delay may not be enough to iron out problems.

Context: Despite the E.U.’s mounting frustration with the divorce negotiations, officials wanted to leave no opportunities for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to blame Brussels for the holdup.

Small pocketbook items — like onions and subway fares — have in recent weeks set off mass demonstrations in Chile, above, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and India.

These protests may seem unrelated. But experts have spotted a pattern: a louder-than-usual howl against elites in countries where democracy is a source of disappointment, corruption is seen as brazen, and a tiny political class lives large while the younger generation struggles to get by.

Britain: Thirty-nine bodies were found in a truck in east London. The driver of the vehicle was arrested on suspicion of murder, in a case that has all the hallmarks of human trafficking.

Lion Air: Indonesian investigators put the bulk of the blame for the fatal Lion Air Flight 610 crash last year on systemic design flaws in the 737 Max. That puts more pressure on Boeing, the aircraft’s maker, which also reported a sharp decline in profit.

Hong Kong: The suspect in a murder case that prompted the government to propose a controversial extradition bill was released from prison on Wednesday.

Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg defended his company’s cryptocurrency project in a hearing before a House committee.

Snapshot: Above, the Amager Bakke power plant, a first-of-its-kind public utility topped with an artificial ski slope in Copenhagen. The mountain top is covered in synthetic bristles designed to simulate a freshly groomed slope.

What we’re reading: This Man Repeller profile of Claire Saffitz, star of Bon Appétit’s viral “Gourmet Makes” YouTube videos and an occasional Times contributor. “If you’ve been anywhere near the internet lately, there’s a good chance you already know Claire,” Kasia Pilat on the Reader Center team writes. “She’s everywhere, and this story chronicles the how and why.”

Cook: Toasted walnuts, maple syrup and a splash of bourbon give these blondies something extra.

Watch: Jenny Slate’s “Stage Fright” and Nikki Glaser’s “Bangin’” made it to our list of the best comedy specials on Netflix right now.

Read: “Edison,” a new biography of the prolific inventor by Edmund Morris, whose “ability to set a scene, the words aligned in sweet rhythmic cadence, is damn near intoxicating,” writes our critic.


Smarter Living: Some advice on giving people advice: For starters, make sure the person is actually looking for guidance, and not just to vent. If they are, do your best to relate your own experience. People tend to be more receptive when you can say, “I’ve been there and here’s what I did.”

And, while we have nothing against date night, keeping intimacy alive with your parenting partner is a bit more complicated.

Naruhito, Japan’s 126th emperor, formally declared his ascension to the world’s oldest monarchy on Tuesday.

The enthronement ceremony is followed a month later by a mysterious ritual known as the daijosai, in which he enters an inner sanctuary with a bed inside. Nobody knows for sure what happens next. Some say that he lies down with his ancestors and enters into spiritual communion with the gods; another theory is that he has a conjugal visit with the sun goddess.


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