Australian Banks, the Himalayas, Lunar New Year: Your Tuesday Briefing


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Good morning.

Pressure increases on Venezuela’s president, climate change threatens the ice in the Himalaya region and the wandering north magnetic pole is remapped. Here’s the latest:

Seven E.U. countries recognized Juan Guaidó, who is leading an audacious effort to topple Venezuela’s authoritarian government, as the legitimate leader, turning against President Nicolás Maduro, who was re-elected last year in a vote largely viewed as rigged.

Austria, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden joined the growing chorus of support for Mr. Guaidó, which already included the U.S., Canada, Australia and much of Latin America. Canada offered $40.4 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.

Inside Venezuela: Pressure on Mr. Maduro is increasing. Over the weekend, in one of the highest-level defections, a top air force official pledged his allegiance to Mr. Guaidó, and hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters poured into the streets for peaceful protests.

Go deeper: Mr. Guaidó, who declared himself the interim president on Jan. 10, has been working tirelessly to get more government insiders, particularly military leaders who have stood by Mr. Maduro, to flip sides.

A new report has found that rising temperatures could melt at least one-third of the ice in the mountain range by the end of the century, even if the most ambitious climate change targets are met.

The number would double if global warming and greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rates.

Details: The report — put together by 210 authors, with input from 350 researchers and policymakers from more than 20 countries — estimates that if global warming and greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rates, the Himalayas could heat up by about 4.4 degrees Celsius by 2100.

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 radical 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.

“Saying sorry and promising not to do it again has not prevented recurrence,” said Kenneth Hayne, the head of the investigation.

How the government responds could have an impact on the country’s softening economy.

Details: The report cited examples of companies collecting fees and premiums from customers after they had died. Some banks charged customers for financial advice they never received. And some insurers refused to pay out claims to heart attack or breast cancer survivors, even when their plans covered those conditions.

What’s next? Josh Frydenberg, the finance minister, said he was “taking action on all 76 recommendations” in the report. They include greater scrutiny of internal operations and culture, as well as of relationships between financial institutions and brokers — but not breaking up the banking industry.

Rights groups — including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International — urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to formally investigate China’s mass detention of Muslims in the western region.

Background: Investigations by journalists and academics have exposed the Chinese government’s crackdown in Xinjiang, where around a million people, mostly Uighur Muslims, have been forced into re-education camps. Their customs have also been targeted, with bans on beards or even giving children names with religious connotations.

What is the Human Rights Council? It’s a body within the U.N. made up of 47 states tasked with promoting human rights around the world. It meets three times a year to examine rights issues around the world and can pass resolutions, though they aren’t legally binding.

The body has been widely criticized for allowing countries with poor human rights track records to sit at the table, including China. This call for an investigation could end up being a test of the body’s credibility and ratchet up pressure on member states to take action.

Australia: After weeks of unrelenting heat, record-breaking rain and catastrophic floods in the northern part of the country have forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. The downpour forced open the floodgates of a nearby dam and some residents reported seeing snakes and crocodiles roaming the streets.

Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi: In exceptionally candid remarks on the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, Francis lamented the fateful consequences of war in Yemen and urged the Persian Gulf region to extend citizenship rights to religious minorities, a group that includes Christians.

State of the Union: As President Trump prepares to deliver his second address on Tuesday night in Washington, our fact check looks at his progress on the promises he made last year.

Missing plane found: Video footage of the aircraft, which was carrying the Argentine soccer star Emiliano Sala before it crashed in the English Channel, showed the body of one of the victims and the plane’s registration number.

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.

“The Wandering Earth”: A new movie that opens today is the first of China’s foray into the science fiction space genre. Preliminary reviews have been positive.

Prabal Gurung: The New York-based designer was born in Singapore and raised in Nepal. In a Q. and A. ahead of Fashion Week, he spoke about drawing inspiration from his roots and all his travels.

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 creative in London, Chris Godfrey. “An egg is an egg,” he told The Times. “It’s universal.”

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

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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Source : Nytimes