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The British economy slows as Brexit looms, the U.S. Congress is close to avoiding a shutdown and a mind-clearing look at the northern lights. Here’s the latest:
Europe braces for Brexit as the British economy cools
Britain’s economy expanded just 1.4 percent last year — the slowest pace since 2012 — and actually contracted in December, data showed, amid gnawing fear of crashing out of the E.U. without a deal.
Effects: Cities on the Continent are showing a mixture of opportunism and dread. From Amsterdam to Paris to Frankfurt, officials have been wooing companies from an increasingly tumultuous Britain, yet bracing for Brexit-related chaos at ports.
Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe, could see ruinous bottlenecks in a “no-deal” Brexit, a scenario in which Britain would have to construct a functional border and customs system with the E.U. virtually overnight. That may be impossible, creating uncertainty for the countless businesses dependent on trade.
Looking ahead: British leaders could still conceivably call off Brexit before the March 29 deadline or pass a Brexit plan, or they could opt for another referendum. But jobs and businesses that have already left appear irretrievable.
Tentative deal to avert a U.S. government shutdown
House and Senate negotiators said they had reached an “agreement in principle” on border security to avoid a second partial government shutdown that would begin this weekend.
Details: The deal appears to be a victory for Democrats. It is said to give $1.375 billion for physical barriers at the southwestern border, far less than the $5.7 billion demanded by President Trump. And the number of migrants and undocumented immigrants who can be held in detention would be reduced.
Propects: The House and Senate must still pass the bill, and Mr. Trump would have to sign it. Whether he would do so is unclear, but lawmakers seemed confident.
Dueling rallies: Mr. Trump headed to the border city of El Paso, a Democratic stronghold in Texas, to again champion his wall. Many in the city marched against him. Not far away, Beto O’Rourke, a potential presidential candidate and former Democratic congressman from the city, held a counterrally.
U.S. pressures Iraq to stop buying energy from Iran
The White House is demanding that Iraq end purchases of energy from Iran, as it has been cajoling the E.U., China and others to do — with limited success — after pulling out of the Iran nuclear accord and reapplying sanctions.
Iraq has refused. Perpetually energy-starved and reliant on Iranian natural gas and electricity for much of its needs, the government calls the demand impossible.
Another angle: Last October, in another intervention in Iraq’s affairs, the Trump administration pushed Iraqi officials to sign multibillion-dollar power generation deals with General Electric, an American company, after Siemens, a rival German giant, had been on the verge of landing a $15 billion deal with Baghdad. Iraqi officials ended up signing nonbinding agreements with both companies.
In Iran: A huge state-backed rally commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on Monday, and anti-U.S. sentiment was the order of the day. Our correspondent writes that Iran has come a long way in 40 years, from revolutionary theocracy to something like normality.
Stone Age tombs said to emanate from France
They are called megaliths, and there are about 35,000 such monuments in Europe. The tombs of ancient Europeans, they began to appear thousands of years ago, ranging from single stones to complexes like Stonehenge.
For a century, archaeologists have debated how the knowledge to build them spread.
Analysis: Bettina Schulz Paulsson, a prehistoric archaeologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, says she has traced the first such tombs to northwestern France, about 6,500 years ago. (Stonehenge, by comparison, dates to around 2500 B.C.) The form then spread along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, as well as to England, Ireland and Scandinavia. Other researchers said they found the analysis persuasive.
Here’s what else is happening
Spain: Leaders of the Catalan independence movement will go on trial starting today at the Supreme Court. They face criminal charges including rebellion and violating court orders, and other European countries are watching closely. Here’s what to expect.
U.S. politics: Representative Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, apologized for implying that American support for Israel is fueled by money from a pro-Israel lobbying group. Her comment was swiftly denounced by fellow Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as playing on anti-Semitic tropes.
Bulgaria: The authorities have reopened a criminal investigation into the poisoning in 2015 of a prominent arms dealer. They were prompted by questions about a possible connection with the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, the former Russian spy poisoned in Britain last year.
Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the subject of an ethics investigation based on allegations that he improperly pressured his former attorney general to call off a criminal case against an engineering company based in Montreal.
Northern lights: The colorful aurora borealis has turned into an international tourist attraction for thousands of camera-toting travelers, supporting remote towns and local businesses from Alaska to Greenland to Scandinavia.
Hungary: Refusing immigrants, Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced one of his biggest plans yet to ameliorate a plummeting population, rising labor shortages and widespread emigration: Any Hungarian woman with four or more children will no longer pay income tax.
#MeToo: At least nine women have accused Óscar Arias Sánchez, a Nobel laureate and former president of Costa Rica, of sexual assault or misconduct. The case is emerging as the most significant of the #MeToo era in Latin America, but also reveals the obstacles women in the region face in acting against powerful men. And our Interpreter columnist examines why the movement has made little headway in curbing abuses by ordinary men.
2020 campaign: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is the latest Democratic candidate to enter the presidential race, joining four other women in Congress including Senator Kamala Harris. Research shows they can expect to face a minefield of sexist attitudes and double standards.
Thailand: After an unusual lobbying effort by diplomats and prominent sports figures, prosecutors dropped an extradition case against a soccer player from Bahrain, Hakeem al-Araibi, who said he would be tortured if he were returned. He is now back in Australia, where he has refugee status.
In memoriam: Tomi Ungerer, a French illustrator and author who was a major influence on children’s books and ventured into advertising, protest art and erotica, died at 87.
Polar bears: A 2,000-person military settlement deep in the Russian Arctic declared a state of emergency as dozens of polar bears came ashore and attacked people, broke into homes, menaced schools and gorged at a local dump.
Tips for a more fulfilling life.
Recipe of the day: Any long noodle works for pasta with brown butter and Parmesan.
Everyone has regrets. You can use yours for motivation.
Some travel agencies will take fitness enthusiasts anywhere they want to go — and provide fun workouts when they get there.
Born on this day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln had a mythic impact far beyond the U.S.
With his craggy face, his eloquence about democracy, his freeing of the slaves and his martyr’s death as U.S. president, he has been embraced by fledgling republics, antislavery societies worldwide and countries trying to recover from civil war.