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European support for Venezuela’s opposition, global warming’s threat to the Himalayas, and a blunt speech by Pope Francis. Here’s the latest:
A group of European countries ally with Venezuela’s opposition
Seven E.U. countries recognized the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela until new elections can be held, cranking up global pressure on President Nicolás Maduro.
How we got here: Mr. Maduro was re-elected last year in a vote that international observers viewed as heavily rigged. Last month, the country’s National Assembly branded him an illegitimate “usurper.” Mr. Guaidó, the leader of the assembly, had himself sworn in as interim president on Jan. 23.
Developments: As a result of a refusal by Mr. Maduro to schedule new elections, Austria, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden on Monday joined a wave of support for Mr. Guaidó, which already included the U.S., Canada, Australia and much of Latin America.
Canada offered $40 million to help Venezuela’s people and also hosted a meeting of the Lima Group, a regional bloc formed to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. But such outside aid will have to arrive contra Mr. Maduro, raising the prospect of violent confrontations.
Ahead of the State of the Union, a wall looks more unlikely
In his State of the Union address tonight, President Trump is expected to double down on his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall on the U.S. southern border, even as such a plan looks like a losing bet.
House and Senate negotiators have been moving toward a bipartisan agreement to keep the government funded after Feb. 15, when Mr. Trump has threatened to resume a partial government shutdown without a wall. A united Congress could force his hand.
And many Senate Republicans are uneasy about the White House’s notion of bypassing Congress and building the wall under the aegis of a state of emergency on the border.
Behind the scenes: Mr. Trump has told people close to him that he views the threat of declaring such an emergency as his last remaining leverage in the wall fight. But during a White House meeting last week, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, warned him that doing so would almost certainly prompt a rebellion within the Republican Party — and very possibly a successful vote in Congress to overrule him.
Analysis: Mr. Trump has tried to intimidate foreign allies and Democrats. But few outside the Republican Party are still afraid, our reporters write. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has indicated to people that she does not consider Mr. Trump a serious person.
Other Washington news: Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee was ordered on Monday to turn over documents about its donors, finances and activities to federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
Himalayan glaciers will feel the heat
A new report has found that rising temperatures could melt at least one-third of the ice in the Himalayas by the end of the century, even if the most ambitious climate change targets are met.
The ratio could double to two-thirds of the ice if global warming and greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rates.
Why it matters: The iconic Hindu Kush Himalayan Region — home to most of the world’s tallest peaks — hems all or part of eight countries in Asia, including India, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan. Water from its glaciers and the food it helps grow are valuable resources for about a quarter of the world’s population. Melting could translate into significant disruptions to food and water supplies and mass population displacement.
Go deeper: In parts of Central Asia, the effects of retreating glaciers can already be seen.
At Checkpoint Charlie, history faces off against commercialism
During the Berlin Crisis of 1961, Soviet and American tanks stood muzzle to muzzle at a U.S. Army post better known as Checkpoint Charlie. After six days of standoff, the globe didn’t tip off its axis into nuclear war, but the crossing point remained a symbolic ground zero of the Cold War and seam of a divided city.
Today, Checkpoint Charlie, popular with tourists, is a replica of the U.S. post, a wooden shack situated behind a row of sandbags — and in front of a McDonald’s — at a busy intersection in the heart of Berlin’s downtown. Facing fierce opposition, developers are looking to carve up the site.
The fight: In 2017, Berlin approved plans that would have kept the shack but erected commercial and residential buildings on the last two undeveloped plots while enfolding a museum, mostly underground, in a commercial space. Critics called it a “theme park.”
What happens next: Outrage over the project grew so intense that in December the authorities suddenly ditched it. The city’s development office now says it is working on a Plan B.
Here’s what else is happening
China: Rights groups urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to formally investigate the country’s mass detention of about one million people, mostly Uighur Muslims, in re-education camps in the western region of Xinjiang.
Pope Francis: He used the keynote address of his stay in the United Arab Emirates to breach delicate taboos, specifically mentioning Yemen, where his hosts are engaged in a brutal war, and calling on countries throughout the Gulf region to extend citizenship rights to religious minorities.
Liam Neeson: The actor described a racist revenge fantasy to a British newspaper last month, saying that he once spent a week walking the streets with a club looking for a black man to kill after a woman close to him was raped by someone she said was black.
The north magnetic pole: The point on Earth that helps compasses determine direction is constantly shifting, thanks to the liquid iron sloshing within our planet’s outer core. Its accelerating movement toward Siberia has rendered navigation systems incorrect, but a new World Magnetic Model should fix the problem.
Greece: Depression and suicide rates rose alarmingly during the debt crisis, health experts and studies say, as the country’s creditors imposed strict austerity measures. For those fighting the problems on the ground, the trend does not seem to be abating.
Britain: Students in up to 370 English schools will start to practice mindfulness as part of a study to improve youth mental health, the British government announced.
Potato or hand grenade? A World War I bomb was found in a crate of potatoes from France that was shipped to a potato chip factory in Hong Kong and was then defused successfully by the local police. (Watch the video.)
The egg that broke Instagram: The creator of the Instagram post that beat Kylie Jenner’s record for most likes (over 52 million) is an advertising worker in London, Chris Godfrey. “An egg is an egg,” he told The Times. “It’s universal.”
Tips for a more fulfilling life.
Celebrate the Lunar New Year with a bowl of longevity noodles with chicken, ginger and mushrooms.
It’s a great time for a data “cleanse.”
A failure résumé tracks all the lessons you learned when things didn’t go to plan.
Peppa Pig’s feature-length movie “Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year” debuts on Tuesday for the start of the Year of the Pig. But, as illustrated in a heartwarming short film promoting the movie, most Chinese still don’t know “What is Peppa.”
China’s most famous pig is Zhu Bajie (猪八戒), frequently called Pigsy in English. In the classic novel “Journey to the West,” he is one of three disciples protecting a monk on a quest to retrieve Buddhist scripture. He is bighearted, but his appetites get him into trouble.
The 1958 animated short “Pigsy Eats Watermelon,” a landmark hit in a rapidly growing Chinese animation industry, tells the story of one episode from the novel in which he finds a watermelon and divides it into four pieces intending to bring it to share with his comrades. Much to his embarrassment, however, he can’t stop himself from eating it all.
Albert Sun, an assistant editor who helped redesign the Morning Briefing, wrote today’s Back Story.
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