(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)
Britain’s Parliament rejects exiting the E.U. without a deal, U.S. intelligence chiefs contradict their president, and a dramatic escalation in Venezuela raises fear of anarchy. Here’s the latest:
British Parliament rejects a ‘hard’ Brexit
British lawmakers, voting on a broad spectrum of amendments to Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal plan, embraced a measure that, in principle, rules out withdrawing from the E.U. without a deal.
Parliament also rejected delaying Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline.
Surprise move: Hours before the session, Mrs. May raised the stakes by promising to reopen negotiations on the agreement — a 585-page text that was painstakingly crafted over more than two years — with the E.U., which has always ruled that out.
The upshot: Mrs. May’s main hope remains that a Parliament that cannot agree on any other course will ultimately come around to a modestly altered version of her deal for fear of a disastrous no-deal Brexit. Critics say she is trying to run down the clock so that Parliament is left with two bad options.
Implications: The report challenges two top tenets of President Trump’s foreign policy: that North Korea can be persuaded to abandon its nuclear weapons capability, and that Iran is bent on acquiring such a capability. Meanwhile, a growing chorus of Republicans is denouncing Mr. Trump’s foreign policy as it accelerates away from party orthodoxy.
Details: The annual report to Congress also belies Mr. Trump’s insistence that the Islamic State has been defeated. The group “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” and maintains eight branches and a dozen networks around the world, the report says.
Another angle: The report concludes that China is now capable of disabling U.S. infrastructure with cyberattacks, and warns that Russia is positioning itself to be able to do the same.
French report on restitution of tribal art has dealers nervous
Belgium and France — two of the largest former colonial powers in Africa — are central trading hubs for artworks from sub-Saharan Africa. And dealers are alarmed by a November report commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron of France that recommends French museums permanently return artworks removed from Africa without consent, if their countries of origin ask for them back.
Effects: The impact of the report so far is unclear, but dealers are grousing about possible implications for their bottom lines and insisting their trade is moral. They also wonder what the report means for collections like that of the Africa Museum in Belgium, many of whose 120,000 items were acquired during a brutal campaign by Belgian colonial leaders that killed millions of Congolese.
One take: Didier Claes, a tribal art trader in Brussels of Congolese ancestry, was critical of the report and said that, as a member of the African diaspora, he appreciated being able to see his heritage in European museums. “I’m so proud to go to an important museum and see my culture next to a Modigliani,” he said.
Looking ahead: Mr. Macron has called for an international conference to be held in Paris this year to develop a policy based on exchanges of artifacts. Sharing, rather than restitution, could prove to be the preferred solution for problematic objects.
Apple earnings indicate difficult road ahead
After years of expansion and record-setting profits, Apple appears to be entering a period of vulnerability.
The technology giant reported that profits in the most recent quarter were flat from a year earlier, citing an economic slump in China. Demand for iPhones there has slowed, particularly with the rise of cheaper, local alternatives.
The company is also uniquely vulnerable to tariffs against China, where most of its products are assembled, and it has yet to find another product with the global impact of the iPhone, which was introduced more than a decade ago.
Security bug: Reports surfaced that Apple’s FaceTime app could eavesdrop on people, even if recipients didn’t answer calls. Apple said it would release a software fix later this week. Until then, here’s how to disable FaceTime.
Here’s what else is happening
Venezuela: After the Trump administration said that it had handed control of Venezuela’s assets in the U.S. to the opposition leader Juan Guaidó, President Nicolás Maduro’s government struck back, opening an investigation into Mr. Guaidó and barring him from leaving the country.
2020 U.S. election: Senator Kamala Harris of California, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, has appeal for black voters. But some are skeptical of her background as a prosecutor, and she also faces sexism and a crowded field.
Tips for a more fulfilling life.
Off-the-record conversations are generally understood to be confidential. We can’t use anything for publication.
(Then there are background and deep background, where it gets complicated.)
“Sources come to reporters for all sorts of reasons,” Mr. Flegenheimer writes, “many of them less than pure.”
But, he adds: “These exchanges can have tremendous value. Many of our best scoops are the fruit of such encounters. And you can quote me on that.”
Blake Wilson and Jennifer Krauss helped with today’s Back Story.
Your Morning Briefing is published weekday mornings.
Check out this page to find a Morning Briefing for your region. (In addition to our European edition, we have Australian, Asian and U.S. editions.)
What would you like to see here? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.