Missile Defense, Brexit, Nancy Pelosi: Your Friday Briefing


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Good morning. We’ll be off on Monday for the American holiday of Martin Luther King Day.

Now, back to the news. The U.S. made plans to expand missile defense, Britain waited for the next move from its prime minister, and President Trump hit back at Nancy Pelosi. Here’s the latest:

President Trump announced new investments in missile defenses aimed at shielding the nation from missile attacks, though he did not mention the largest U.S. nuclear adversaries, Russia or China.

“Our strategy is grounded in one overriding objective: to detect and destroy every type of missile attack against any American target, whether before or after launch,” Mr. Trump said at the Pentagon. In fact, the plans released by the Pentagon are aimed largely at destroying small numbers of missiles launched by regional powers like Iran or North Korea, rather than overwhelming strikes from Russia or China.

Background: Antimissile systems are extremely costly — the U.S. has spent more than $300 billion on them to date — and also extremely difficult to get right. Intercepting speeding targets in the sky is like hitting a bullet with a bullet, and a system introduced in 2004 has failed in 50 percent of tests.

Timing: The announcement came a day before Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to meet with North Korea’s lead nuclear program negotiator, Kim Yong-chol, in Washington. Earlier this week, Mr. Pence said the U.S. was still waiting for “concrete steps from North Korea” toward denuclearization — a demand that has so far stalled dialogue between the two countries.

The prime minister has to return to Parliament by Monday with an updated blueprint for Britain’s withdrawal from the E.U. That plan is to go to a vote on Jan. 29.

Days after Parliament resoundingly rejected her initial Brexit plan, she invited opposition politicians to discuss a compromise. But the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn asked her first to rule out a “no-deal” exit. Mrs. May rejected the demand as an “impossible condition.”

View from Brussels: E.U. officials initially saw Britain’s growing political crisis as a victory, discouraging other countries from wanting to leave the bloc and contrasting it with the E.U.’s unity. But now it looks increasingly likely that Britain could leave the bloc without a deal, and the E.U. is starting to worry.

Perspective: British leaders have come under sharp criticism over Brexit. Their failings, the Op-Ed contributor Pankaj Mishra argues, have parallels in the British Empire’s ruinous departure from India.

President Trump’s squabbling with Democrats grew more acid as the partial government shutdown continued. After Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, threatened to cancel his planned State of the Union address, Mr. Trump announced on Thursday that he was postponing an overseas trip she had planned that he called a “public relations event,” and Washington more and more came to resemble a sandbox filled with children.

Details: In a letter dripping with sarcasm, Mr. Trump denied her and her delegation military transport and suggested they might fly commercial. A spokesman for Ms. Pelosi noted that they were planning to travel to Afghanistan, a war zone, to see U.S. forces, and added that Mr. Trump had visited troops in Iraq during the shutdown.

Shutdown: A makeshift national safety net is spreading slowly and unevenly as the longest shutdown in history staggers toward its one-month mark.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia arrived on Thursday in Serbia, a historical Russian ally where his likeness is on everything from mugs to underwear. Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, welcomed him by busing in tens of thousands of people for a rally. The two announced a big new gas deal, and many who showed up for the events said they were incentivized, including with five liters of milk.

Context: Serbia is once again a fulcrum of Balkan volatility, and the visit has been a display of what a researcher calls Putin’s orchestra in the country, powered by a growing number of pro-Russia media outlets and nongovernmental groups. But the acoustics are complicated by the fact that Serbia is seeking to join E.U.

Reaction: Tens of thousands of people have been regularly protesting through the winter against Mr. Vucic’s increasingly Putin-like and authoritarian style, and the country’s opposition leader said he feared the E.U. would further overlook his autocratic tendencies in a bid to counter Russia.

Looking ahead: To join the E.U., Serbia would have to compromise on Kosovo, which Russia and Serbia refuse to recognize, and which Mr. Putin accused of ratcheting up tensions. Mr. Vucic has floated partitioning Kosovo, a risky proposition that John Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, has said he’s open to.

Jamal Khashoggi: A new book by three Turkish journalists offers the most comprehensive description of the killing of the Saudi dissident in Istanbul last year, drawing on audio recordings obtained by Turkish intelligence officials.

Hitachi: The company said it was suspending work on a $19.3 billion nuclear power plant in North Wales that had been expected to provide hundreds of new local jobs, after the British and Japanese governments failed to agree on financial terms.

Colombia: Ten people were killed and 72 wounded by a bombing at a Bogotá police academy that raised the specter of a return to the country’s violent past and came at a time when President Iván Duque, according to a rights group, has been promoting military officers accused of extrajudicial killings.

Family separations: The Trump administration most likely separated thousands more children from their parents at the Southern border than was previously believed, according to a report by government inspectors.

Facebook: The social media company said it deleted nearly 500 pages and accounts related to two disinformation campaigns originating from Russia that targeted users in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Microsoft: The company pledged $500 million to help address the affordable housing crisis in Seattle, one of a number of cities where the explosive growth of the technology industry has contributed to widening inequality.

China: The country is facing its most precipitous population decline in decades, a trend that could have far-reaching economic and political consequences.

Recipe of the day: Cauliflower rice belongs in your weekly recipe rotation.

Train your memory using systems that connect numbers to letters that can transform to sounds, sentences and images.

Escaping the frenetic digital world might seem impossible, but it’s manageable through meditation.

The North American International Auto Show in Detroit has lost of much of its cachet as the industry’s focus has shifted from horsepower to high tech.

This year’s event, which began this week, hardly resembles the glitzy spectacles of the past.

Only a handful of major new models are making debuts. Porsche, BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Mazda stayed home.

But for many years it was a can’t-miss affair.

To turn heads, Chrysler became famous for rollicking presentations worthy of halftime at the Super Bowl.

In 1992, it had its new Jeep Grand Cherokee arrive by crashing through a glass wall. (The fun begins in this video at 3:14.) It once presented the Chrysler Aspen S.U.V. by simulating a blizzard.

Most memorable was probably the cattle drive.

To promote its new Dodge Ram pickup, the company staged one outside the convention center.

The new truck emerged from a herd of 120 longhorn, led by cowboys on horseback — in the middle of downtown Detroit.

Neal E. Boudette, who is covering the Detroit Auto Show for The Times, wrote today’s Back Story.

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