(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)
We’ll be off on Monday for the American holiday of Martin Luther King Day.
Now back to the news: America’s expanded antimissile efforts, China’s shrinking population, and the economic costs of climate change.
U.S. plans to expand missile defenses
President Trump announced new investments in missile defenses aimed at shielding the nation against growing threats from North Korea, China, Russia and Iran.
“Our goal is simple: to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, any time, any place,” Mr. Trump said at the Pentagon.
Background: Antimissile systems are extremely costly — the U.S. has spent over $300 billion on them to date — and also extremely difficult to get right. It has proved challenging to intercept speeding targets in the sky: 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.
China’s looming demographic crisis
Chinese academics recently issued a stark warning: The country is facing its most precipitous population decline in decades, a trend that could have far-reaching economic and political consequences.
Details: Preliminary numbers suggest the total number of births in China in 2018 could fall to 15 million, down from 17.2 million in 2017. Women need to have 2.1 children to maintain population levels — but the official fertility rate is currently 1.6 children per women, and even that number is disputed.
Given this trajectory, the academics estimated that the country’s population could start shrinking in 2027. And some experts believe that could come sooner or has already begun.
One of the main reasons for the trend was long-term consequences from China’s “one child” policy to slow population growth, experts said. The policy also created gender imbalances.
Why it matters: With fewer workers in the future, the government could struggle to pay for a population that is growing older and living longer.
Britain awaits Theresa May’s Brexit Plan B
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 then scheduled to go to a vote on Jan. 29.
Days after Parliament resoundingly rejected her initial Brexit plan, she invited opposition party leaders 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 Europe: E.U. officials initially saw Britain’s growing political crisis as a win, standing strong and united in the face of confusion and chaos in London. But now that it looks increasingly likely that Britain could leave the bloc without a deal, the E.U. is starting to worry.
Analysis: Mrs. May, who has remained “indestructible” in “the bizarro world that is British politics,” might go down in history books for her resilience. The prime minister “awakes every day to discover herself in a dire political crisis,” writes our London correspondent. “And every day survives, in her grim, implacable way.”
Wariness of China could decide the fate of a Philippines shipyard
The country’s largest shipyard, about 50 miles from the capital city of Manila, has been dragged into a geopolitical tangle with China.
Background: The site was a major American naval base during the Cold War. In 2006, a local unit of a South Korean company leased it and employed 20,000 people to build cargo ships. Then earlier this month, the company filed for bankruptcy, putting the site up for grabs.
What now? Officials said two Chinese companies were among the several foreign firms expressing interest in the site. But the country’s defense secretary is now suggesting keeping the shipyard under government control to keep it out of Beijing’s hands.
Why it matters: The shipyard is changing hands amid growing concern about Chinese companies, even those that aren’t government controlled, acting as proxies for Beijing’s influence and espionage efforts. At the same time, China continues to occupy and build military bases on islands in the South China Sea, near the Philippines.
Here’s what else is happening
Hitachi: The company said it was suspending work on a $19.3 billion nuclear power plant in North Wales, which had been expected to provide hundreds of new local jobs, after the British and Japanese governments failed to agree on financial terms.
1MDB: Goldman Sachs, in an attempt to minimize its own role in the multibillion dollar fraud scheme involving a Malaysian investment fund, has started a smear campaign against a former partner, depicting him as a master con man.
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.
BlackRock: Larry Fink, the investment firm’s chief executive, urged companies around the world to take leadership on social issues, especially where governments “fail to do so effectively.”
Climate change: In the coming decades, many of the world’s biggest economic questions will be, at their core, climate questions. Here are some of the big ones.
Perspective: “The malign incompetence of the Brexiteers,” the Op-Ed contributor Pankaj Mishra argues, has parallels in the British Empire’s ruinous departure from India.
Australian Open: Simona Halep, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic advanced to the third round. Follow along here for more updates from Melbourne.
The Oscars: It looks as if this year’s awards ceremony won’t have a host to steer the ship. Here’s why that might not be such a bad thing for the show.
Tiny Love Stories: Our column of reader-submitted romantic tales of no more than 100 words is going global, starting with Australia. If you’ve got a short personal story about the ties that bind (and sometimes break), go to nytimes.com/tinylovestories and write “AUSTRALIA” at the start of your entry.
Tips for a more fulfilling life.
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.
Your Morning Briefing is published weekday mornings and updated online. Sign up here to get it by email in the Australian, Asian, European or American morning. You can also receive an Evening Briefing on U.S. weeknights.
And our Australia bureau chief offers a weekly letter adding analysis and conversations with readers.
Browse our full range of Times newsletters here.
What would you like to see here? Contact us at [email protected].
Source: Read Full Article