Shutdown, New York Sky, ‘Bandersnatch’: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning,

We start today with the continuing government shutdown and an inside look at how Facebook monitors its users’ posts. And it’s Friday, so there’s also a new news quiz.

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Sunrise at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. Parts of the federal government remain dark.CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

Government shutdown will extend into 2019

The spending impasse over President Trump’s border wall will await Democrats as soon as they assume control of the House next week, after hopes for resolving the partial government shutdown by the new year ended on Thursday.

The Democrats and their likely speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi, are considering three options to end the shutdown, which has affected about a quarter of the federal government. None of those options include the $5 billion that Mr. Trump has demanded for the wall.

What’s next: About 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay, and the effects of the shutdown, which have been muted by the holidays, will grow.


U.S. withdrawals defer a debate on military goals

President Trump’s decision last week to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria and half of those in Afghanistan has “short-circuited what many say is a much-needed national debate about the future of America’s wars,” one of our White House correspondents writes in a news analysis.

Military analysts, former officials and diplomats say there are arguments for withdrawing from both conflicts. But the abrupt announcement “seemed unlikely to provoke a serious debate over difficult questions like how best to combat terrorist threats in distant lands or the proper limits of America’s role as a global guarantor of security.”

Another angle: Mr. Trump’s jabs at Democrats during a surprise visit with U.S. troops abroad this week were criticized as politicizing the military. One Fox News contributor said the president used the visit “as a campaign rally.”

Yesterday: Iraqi politicians also criticized Mr. Trump’s visit, with some calling for a parliamentary debate on whether American forces should leave.


An inside look at Facebook’s deletion rules

The social network says it’s doing everything it can to get rid of posts that sow division and violence, but it’s also determined to keep growing worldwide.

There are billions of posts a day on Facebook, in more than 100 languages. To monitor them, the company has a network of moderators who use PowerPoint slides detailing what’s forbidden. Those rules make Facebook a far more powerful arbiter of speech than has been publicly recognized or acknowledged by the company, a Times investigation has found.

The details: Our review of the company’s rule books revealed gaps, biases and outright errors, allowing extremist language to flourish in some countries while censoring mainstream speech in others. Here are five takeaways from our investigation.

How we know: The Times received more than 1,400 pages from the rule books from an employee who said he feared the company had too much power, with too little oversight, and was making too many mistakes.


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Visitors at a Christmas market in Halle, Germany, hosted by Generation Identity, a far-right group.CreditLena Mucha for The New York Times

Germany’s far right rebrands

Generation Identity is a far-right German youth movement being watched by several European intelligence agencies. The group aims to bring down liberalism and build a “fortress Europe” without non-European immigrants.

Better dressed, better educated and less angry than the skinheads of old, the “new right” has sought to distance itself from the “old right,” which in Germany means neo-Nazis.

Although the number of committed Generation Identity followers is estimated at only 400 to 500, officials say the number of sympathizers is far greater. There are worries that the group could act as a conduit between conservatism and extremism.

Voices: “The utopia of multiculturalism was an experiment, but it has failed,” said Martin Sellner, the 29-year-old Austrian leader of the movement. “Like communism, cosmopolitanism has failed.”

If you have 20 minutes, this is worth it

The price of a haircut

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CreditScott Morgan for The New York Times

For-profit schools dominate cosmetology training. They reap money from taxpayers, students and salon customers, while miring students in debt.

In Iowa in particular, the companies charge steep prices — nearly $20,000, on average, for a cosmetology certificate, twice the cost of a two-year community-college degree.

Here’s what else is happening

Market swings: Global investors today followed positive signs from Wall Street on Thursday, despite new warning signals about global growth.

Shake-up in Saudi Arabia: King Salman has named new ministers and security chiefs to the kingdom’s cabinet but kept the levers of power in the hands of his son and designated heir, Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Unrest in Congo: Protesters stormed an Ebola triage center in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, as election delays aggravated violent demonstrations.

California manhunt: The police in the state’s Central Valley are hunting for a man they suspect killed a police officer and who is in the country illegally.

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CreditMichael Friedl

Snapshot: Above, the sky over New York City turned an otherworldly blue Thursday night after an electrical transformer exploded in Queens. “No injuries, no fire, no evidence of extraterrestrial activity,” the New York Police Department reported on Twitter.

The lives they lived: In an annual remembrance, we look back at some of the artists, innovators and thinkers we lost this year.

Journeys’ end: Our columnist Jada Yuan visited each destination on our 52 Places to Go in 2018 list. She has filed her final dispatch, from Laos and Cambodia. (You can also meet some of the top applicants for next year’s assignment.)

News quiz: Did you follow the headlines this week? Test yourself.

Late-night comedy: The hosts are either off or in reruns this week. Our roundup will return.

What we’re reading: This New Yorker excavation of the origins of “The Apprentice.” “It’s everywhere,” writes our briefings editor, Andrea Kannapell. Widely shared, the piece examines how a former British paratrooper named Mark Burnett turned a struggling businessman named Donald Trump into a television star.

Now, a break from the news

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CreditMichael Kraus for The New York Times

Cook: Polenta with mushrooms. The recipe, from the founding editor of NYT Cooking, features a pleasing mix of butter and soy sauce.

Watch: “Bandersnatch,” a new episode of the dystopian technology series “Black Mirror,” arrives today on Netflix. In a twist, the show will let the viewer decide what happens next.

See: The Alvin Ailey troupe’s final performances of the season, featuring Solomon Dumas, the first dancer to go from AileyCamp to the main company. If you’re not in New York, stream a few highlights of the year.

Read: These eight books recommended by our editors this week, including “Nothing Is Lost: Selected Essays,” by Ingrid Sischy.


Smarter Living: One of our reporters combined two popular methods — from the books “The Bullet Journal Method” and “Getting Things Done” — to organize her to-do list. She ended up keeping several sublists, and breaking down projects into tasks to add to groupings like “Calls” or “Errands.”

We also have tips on working smarter, not harder, and a caution about medical illiteracy.

And now for the Back Story on …

Understanding anonymous sources in The Times

We often hear from readers asking why we use unidentified sources.

The reason is straightforward: Some people in sensitive positions will speak candidly only if their names aren’t published.

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CreditKeegan Grandbois

But we know our credibility is on the line. So we make sure to get the story right.

“Under our guidelines, anonymous sources should be used only for information that we think is newsworthy and credible, and that we are not able to report any other way,” our standards editor, Phil Corbett, explains in our series Understanding The Times.

“We have to be skeptical,” he adds. “How does the source know this information? Can we corroborate it? What’s the source’s motivation for telling us?”

And the reporter must tell an editor who the source is.

“Use of anonymous sourcing in any story must be approved by a high-ranking editor, usually a department head,” Mr. Corbett writes. “When it’s central to the story, it generally must be approved by an even higher-ranking editor.”


That’s it for this briefing. Have a good weekend.

— Chris


Thank you
To Aisha Harris for the cultural highlights, and Alan Henry and Kenneth R. Rosen for the tips on Smarter Living. Jennifer Krauss, from the Times Insider team, helped with today’s Back Story. You can reach us at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode revisits a mother who asked her sons about their reactions to the accusations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
• Here’s today’s mini crossword puzzle, and a clue: Italian inventor of the battery (5 letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The Times has more than 200 journalists (including your Morning Briefing team) outside the U.S., in 31 bureaus.

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