Government Shutdown, Roger Stone, Ironman: Your Friday Evening Briefing


(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. President Trump agreed to reopen the federal government for three weeks while negotiations continued over border security, backing down after a monthlong standoff with Democrats over funding for his border wall.

The decision paved the way for Congress to pass spending bills as soon as Friday. The stopgap measure will restore normal operations at a series of federal agencies until Feb. 15 and begin paying the 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed or forced to work for free for 35 days.

The plan includes no money for the wall and was essentially the same approach Mr. Trump rejected at the end of December. But he cautioned that the cease-fire might be only temporary.

“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Mr. Trump said in the Rose Garden. “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”

Airport delays this morning added to the urgency of a solution. La Guardia Airport in New York was closed to arriving flights, and a shortage of air traffic controllers triggered significant delays across the Northeast.


2. The special counsel, Robert Mueller, revealed the most direct link yet between the parallel efforts of the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

In a seven-count indictment against Roger Stone, above, an informal adviser to President Trump, the special counsel disclosed evidence that a top campaign official had instructed Mr. Stone to get information from WikiLeaks about thousands of hacked Democratic emails. That effort began well after it was widely reported that Russian intelligence operatives were behind the hack.

The indictment makes no mention of whether Mr. Trump played a role, though Mr. Mueller did leave a curious clue about how high in the campaign the effort reached: A senior campaign official “was directed” by an unnamed person to contact Mr. Stone about additional WikiLeaks releases that might hurt the Clinton campaign, according to the court document.

Who is Roger Stone, anyway? Here’s what we know about him and his colorful career.


The rally was peaceful and there was no indication Juan Guaidó would be arrested, as many feared.

At the same time, President Nicolás Maduro took a more conciliatory approach than before and called for dialogue. The request appeared to signal that the standoff between the government and Mr. Guaidó may be shifting.

Opposition talks with the military may be a factor. Venezuela’s top brass swore allegiance to Mr. Maduro, but an opposition lawmaker said her colleagues were holding discreet talks with military leaders in hopes that they could build enough support to get large factions to switch sides.


4. Jennifer Glover was assaulted by her fellow guards at a nuclear site in Nevada, she said.

And instead of responding to her complaints, the government contractor she worked for eventually fired her.

The encounter followed months of sexual harassment that she said began soon after she was hired. Even after reporting the abuse, she continued to face harassment and intimidation. She was reprimanded for calling out sick — to avoid her attackers, she said — and ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluations.

“Work went from being so exciting to being a nightmare,” she said.


5. Mark Zuckerberg once vowed to keep WhatsApp and Instagram independent. Now he’s changing course to keep their users inside Facebook’s ecosystem.

Facebook’s chief executive has mandated that the social network’s three messaging services — the third is Facebook Messenger — be knitted together. The three services will continue operating as stand-alone apps, but their underlying messaging infrastructure will be unified.

The changes also raise questions of data privacy because of how user information may be shared among the services. Today, WhatsApp allows people to sign up with only a phone number. By contrast, Facebook and Facebook Messenger ask for users’ real names.

Separately, Amazon’s new facial recognition technology had more difficulty identifying the gender of female and darker-skinned faces than similar services from IBM and Microsoft.

6. Can paid parental leave be too much of a good thing?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is cutting its unusually generous paid leave in half — to six months — because yearlong leaves were impairing its work, it said. It is also adding a $20,000 stipend for new parents to spend on child care costs.

The Gates Foundation’s experience highlights the challenges of devising effective family policies, especially in the U.S. — the only industrialized country not to offer paid leave.

On top of questions about whether leave should be mandatory and who should pay for it, there has been little agreement on the right length of time. International evidence points to some answers: Around six months seems to be the magic number. And paid leave is not enough: Financial assistance for child care has a bigger effect on women’s ability to keep working.


7. It was nothing but a box of paperwork.

In 1979, a Navy man credited with starting the quirky Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon was reassigned to the mainland. He was looking for someone to run the third edition of the race — and handed off some papers to a couple who said they would do it.

They went on to make the Ironman into an iconic test of endurance and one of the world’s premier sports brands. A Chinese conglomerate paid $650 million for it in 2015. Above, bikes awaiting their riders at the 2018 Ironman World Championship Triathlon.

And because of that box, all these years later, the fight over who rightfully owns the race endures.

Separately, have you noticed the N.B.A.’s scoring explosion this season? It has to do with the league’s emphasis on pace and 3-pointers, combined with an edict to make defenders back off.

8. Roy Wood Jr. is best known as a correspondent on “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.”

But he has made a niche for himself as one of the country’s foremost comic voices on social issues — especially those affecting African-Americans.

He almost didn’t make it this far: He grew up among gang members in Birmingham, Ala., and was arrested in his junior year of college for stolen credit cards. His probation officer encouraged him to keep doing comedy. Tonight, his first Comedy Central special premieres.

In the special, Mr. Wood jokes that the national anthem controversy is especially absurd because the tune is based on a British song: “Now, you’re running around telling stolen people in a stolen land that they should stand for a stolen song?”

And no matter how much time you have this weekend, we have TV recommendations for you.


9. Ninety-nine percent of the U.S. population lives under light-polluted skies.

After one math teacher from Washington, D.C., visited the country’s first International Dark Sky Reserve, 1,400 square miles in Idaho, he wondered how to make sure people know places like it existed.

“A lot of people who live in an urban setting and who look like me will never get to see the beauty of our world in its natural state,” he told our graphic journalist.

“There is no lock on the door. Nobody is trying to keep people of color out. But not having the opportunity to know about it, that’s a lock.”

10. Finally, let’s play catch-up.

Do you know which country’s economy grew 6.6 percent last year, its slowest pace of growth since 1990? What the Brexit “backstop” is all about?

Test your knowledge of the week’s headlines.

Have a relaxing weekend.


Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

And don’t miss Your Morning Briefing. Sign up here to get it by email in the Australian, Asian, European or American morning.

Want to catch up on past briefings? You can browse them here.

What did you like? What do you want to see here? Let us know at

Source : Nytimes