Huawei, Apple, Polar Vortex: Your Tuesday Briefing

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Good morning,

We start today with reaction to the possible peace deal in Afghanistan, U.S. charges against the Chinese company Huawei and an embarrassing iPhone bug.

Current and former U.S. diplomats and military officials were cautiously optimistic on Monday about the framework for a deal to end the 17-year war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. But they questioned whether a power-sharing arrangement could be found, and what the effects might be on U.S. counterterrorism priorities.

An intelligence assessment from 2017 said a complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan would lead to an attack on the U.S. within two years. Aides have used the report to try to convince President Trump that a residual American force must remain in the country.

Another angle: Afghan officials are worried the U.S. could try to reach a separate deal with the Taliban if that would allow American troops to leave.

Voices: They were children when the war started. Now, two Times reporters from Afghanistan reflect on the possibility of peace.

The Justice Department unveiled charges against the telecommunications firm Huawei and its chief financial officer on Monday, outlining a decade-long attempt to steal trade secrets, obstruct a criminal investigation and evade sanctions on Iran.

American officials said they would request the extradition of the executive, Meng Wanzhou, from Canada before a Wednesday deadline.

Why it matters: Officials have long suspected Huawei of working to advance Beijing’s global ambitions, and they have begun taking steps to curb the company’s international presence.

What’s next: Top intelligence officials are to appear in Congress today to discuss the threats posed by Chinese cyberespionage and the role Huawei has played. The indictments on Monday could also complicate U.S.-China trade talks this week.

The nine Democrats and eight Republicans working to hash out a border security plan are all members of the House or Senate appropriations committees, which are known for bipartisan work. The panel’s first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

FaceTime bug: A glitch in the Apple app allowed one iPhone user to call another and listen in on that person’s conversations through the device’s microphone — even if the recipient didn’t answer the call. The company, which is expected to report disappointing financial results today, said it had disabled the feature behind the bug.

Bankruptcy filing for California utility: Pacific Gas and Electric sought bankruptcy protection today in anticipation of billions of dollars in liability claims for two years of wildfires.

The paths to Capitol Hill: The new Congress is notably diverse, but a majority of members, even the new ones, got to Washington by way of institutions and professions out of reach for most Americans. Our Opinion team traced the pre-congressional careers of every House member.

Snapshot: Above, commuters in Chicago on Monday. A polar vortex is expected to bring dangerously cold, record-breaking temperatures to the Midwest this week. Forecasters expect a high of minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit in Chicago and Minneapolis on Wednesday. (Yes, the high.)

Late-night comedy: Stephen Colbert questioned President Trump’s strategy in negotiations over border security: “He’s making the exact same offer backed by the exact same threat, but somehow he expects different results.”

What we’re reading: This profile of Serena Williams in Allure. “If you’re having a rough day, just say any of the quotes in Ashley C. Ford’s ravenous, ravishing piece aloud and you’ll be fine,” writes Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a staff writer at The Times Magazine. For instance, Serena says: “How do people describe me? They say I’m great. I don’t look like everyone else. They still call me great. In fact, they call me the greatest. I thought, O.K., that’s it. That’s the word. It’s ‘great.’ ”

Visit: “DAU,” a much-hyped genre-hopping installation by the Russian artist Ilya Khrzhanovsky, is open in Paris through Feb. 17. Our reporter spent much of his visit waiting in line.

Watch: The directors of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” narrate the spider-bite sequence that changes everything for the animated film’s main character.

Listen:Harmony Hall,” Vampire Weekend’s first new song in six years, wraps misgivings in three-chord elation, Jon Pareles writes.

Smarter Living: Planning your travel for the year? September closely follows January as the cheapest month, on average, to fly domestically or internationally. And in general, this should be a good year to visit the Caribbean: Several airlines have increased service to the region, including to islands like St. Martin and St. Thomas that have recovered from Hurricane Irma in 2017.

We also have five cheap(ish) things to help you combat cabin fever.

As the British Parliament prepares to vote on proposed amendments to Prime Minister Theresa May’s Plan B for Brexit, retailers are warning that a no-deal withdrawal from the European Union could lead to higher prices and empty shelves.

Some entrepreneurs are offering survival-themed products, like the Brexit Box. Costing nearly 300 pounds, or about $400, it includes a water filter, fire-starting gel and 30 days of freeze-dried food.

The world didn’t end, of course. But a Times editorial from Dec. 30, 1999, offered a lesson that resonates today:

“Even those of us who have not filled the bathtub with emergency water, withdrawn extra cash from the bank and stocked up on food will be entering the new millennium sobered by the awareness that unknown problems of our own making are an enduring part of existence.”

That’s it for this briefing.

If the cold weather has you wondering about climate change, read on.

See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
To Eleanor Stanford and James K. Williamson for the break from the news, and Inyoung Kang, an editor based in London, for today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode checks back in with two Times journalists who are traveling the length of the U.S.-Mexico border.
• Here’s today’s mini crossword puzzle, and a clue: One of 163 for the Burj Khalifa (5 letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• On Dec. 31, 1999, The Times sent a reporter to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, where American and Russian military personnel sat side by side, ready to reassure one another if there were accidental missile launches when computers turned to Jan. 1, 2000, or Y2K. There were none.

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