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Good morning.

The U.S. partial government shutdown is over (for now), Venezuela faces an international ultimatum, and the Afghan war could be near its end. Here’s the latest:

Analysis: The shutdown and the Stone indictment may have hurt the president’s leverage. According to some estimates, the American economy lost at least $6 billion during the 35-day stalemate. And Mr. Trump’s poll numbers were down, stirring concerns among Republican leaders about his ability to navigate the next two years.


European countries including Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain urged President Nicolás Maduro to schedule new elections within eight days.

If Mr. Maduro doesn’t commit to fresh elections, the European governments say they will recognize the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as interim president.

Analysis: The ultimatum presents a new layer of uncertainty in a deepening crisis. Mr. Guaidó has urged protesters to keep the pressure on the government “if they dare to kidnap me.”

Mr. Maduro, appearing to be striking a conciliatory tone, backed down from demanding that all American diplomats leave the country.

Over the past year, the Trump administration has embarked on a global campaign to pressure allies to prevent Huawei and other Chinese companies from helping build out 5G networks.

The U.S. has suggested to Poland that future deployments of American troops could hinge on whether the country works with Huawei. And in Germany, American officials warned that working with Huawei could pose a security risk to NATO.

Why: The U.S. believes that whoever controls the high-speed 5G internet networks will have an economic, military and intelligence edge for much of this century. The Trump administration therefore calculates that Beijing — and companies perceived to be working for the Chinese government — must be shut out.

What’s next? The U.S. campaign may complicate the round of trade talks with China that begin in Washington this week, particularly as Beijing seeks to free Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Canada at America’s request.


The U.S. and the Taliban wrapped up six days of negotiations to end the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan. Both sides reported progress — a first in nine years of intermittent peace efforts.

Details: Though much remains to be ironed out, the deal would kick off a phased withdrawal of American troops in exchange for a Taliban cease-fire. The Taliban would also have to pledge not to allow international terrorist groups to use Afghanistan as a planning hub. How the Taliban would share power with the Afghan government remains to be resolved.

Caution: Most observers don’t believe Afghan forces can stand up against the Taliban without American support.

Singapore: The city-state has landmarks of Brutalist architecture — built by a 1970s movement partly influenced by a similar one in postwar Britain — and they are incubating gritty, artsy subcultures that belie the image of tidy streets and often-authoritarian governance. Some of the landmarks are on the verge of being sold, prompting calls to save them.

Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg plans to merge the social media platform’s messaging services — WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger — at a time when the company has been scarred by scandal. The services will continue to operate as stand-alone apps but will allow users to communicate across the platforms.

You can silence notifications on your phone without missing the important ones.

Intense exercise could reduce your interest in food, some studies suggest.

Happy Data Privacy Day!

Or maybe not so happy. In the years since the celebration was born in Europe and then adopted in the U.S. and Canada, digital privacy has become a mainstream concern.

As someone who covers personal tech for a living, I’ve lost count of how many times hackers have breached companies’ computer systems and stolen customers’ credit card numbers, and worse. (Thanks, Equifax, Marriott and Facebook.)

Digital privacy is no joke. If you do one thing to protect your data today — or this week, or this year — set aside a few hours to beef up the strength of your passwords.

Make sure every password you use for logging in to a site or an app is unique and complex. Password management apps like 1Password or LastPass make it easy, by letting you use one master password to reach a vault of all of your passwords.

Trust me, you’ll feel a lot better.

Brian X. Chen, the lead consumer technology writer at The Times, wrote today’s Back Story.


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