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A battalion provides a prototype for a European army, nuclear saber-rattling from Russia, and an actor accused of staging an assault on himself. Here’s the latest:
On a base in Lohheide, Germany, German and Dutch soldiers serve together in a tank battalion. It’s a prototype for a European army that remains a distant vision of proponents like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France.
There are many obstacles to such an army — language barriers, for starters. Germany’s military is also badly outmoded and short of even thermal underwear, and militarization remains a touchy subject. The Dutch have joined forces with Germany because the Netherlands has no tank program.
Populist forces are rising across Europe, emphasizing nationalism over supranational loyalties, even as a European army feels to some more urgent than ever, with America pressuring allies to increase military spending and the U.S. security umbrella increasingly in doubt.
A possible future: Efforts like this unit, Battalion 414, are “islands” that need to proliferate and then coalesce into a continental defense structure, said Hans-Peter Bartels, Germany’s parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces.
Three lawmakers abandoned Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party, condemning the government’s handling of Brexit as “disastrous,” and labeling pro-Brexit hard-liners as “a party within a party.”
They joined eight rebels from the opposition Labour Party in an attempt to upend Britain’s entrenched two-party system for the first time in a generation.
Brexit has become a defining issue for party loyalty. And as the Labour Party moves further to the left and the Conservatives rightward, centrists find themselves adrift.
Looking ahead: The 11 newly independent lawmakers number the same as the centrist Liberal Democrats, but as yet have no policy platform, political organization or leader. And the country’s electoral system makes it exceptionally difficult for new parties to break through. Still, an expert told us that British politics might be at its most fluid since the 1920s.
President Vladimir Putin used his state-of-the-nation address to make some of his most explicit threats yet to start a nuclear arms race with the U.S. after the Trump administration said this month that America was withdrawing from a landmark arms control treaty.
Mr. Putin, whose popularity has fallen sharply in the past year, also promised increased social spending. He did not criticize President Trump, instead suggesting, as he has in the past, that a secretive “deep state” was hobbling the American president.
Analysis: Any arms race would be costly, and the Russian leader’s aggressive tone appeared to be intended, in part, to persuade Washington not to abandon the treaty. His promises of increased social spending came without an explanation of how a troubled Russian economy would pay for it all.
Other Russia news: Microsoft said that a group of hackers associated with Russian intelligence had targeted civil society groups across Europe.
Britain, it seems, isn’t overly worried about using technology from the Chinese giant, despite warnings from the U.S. that Huawei is beholden to Beijing and is a proxy for espionage.
The head of Britain’s National Cyber Security Center, Ciaran Martin, said at a conference in Brussels that any risks posed by using Huawei’s technology could be mitigated, citing the strict British security reviews the company has been subjected to for more than 15 years.
Why it matters: By the end of the year, Britain will decide whether to use Huawei’s technology in building out its 5G network. Other European countries that are considering Huawei for their 5G networks are watching closely for clues to whether the White House’s claims have been exaggerated.
The U.S. position: American officials have argued that 5G networks are much more complex than existing systems, and that the many lines of constantly updating code make the systems nearly impossible to protect entirely.
The White House, while pressuring allies to block Huawei, hasn’t provided evidence to back up its accusations of espionage, and the company has consistently denied the claims.
Climate change: A panel that the White House is preparing to establish, to examine whether climate change affects national security, is set to include a climate change denier who argues that carbon emissions are beneficial to humanity.
UBS: French judges ordered the Swiss financial giant to pay a fine of 3.7 billion euros, about $4.2 billion, for orchestrating what prosecutors said was a long-running scheme to help French clients hide huge sums of money from the authorities.
U.S. domestic terrorism: A Coast Guard lieutenant and self-described white nationalist who was arrested in Maryland last week was plotting to kill prominent journalists and Democratic politicians as well as “leftists in general,” federal prosecutors said in a court filing. He is said to have amassed a huge arms cache and studied the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the far-right Norwegian who killed 77 people in 2011.
Venezuela: Ahead of a Saturday deadline set by the U.S. and the Venezuelan opposition for allowing in aid shipments, the government of President Nicolás Maduro announced that it was closing its border to air and sea traffic from three Caribbean islands. About three million Venezuelans have fled their collapsing country in recent years, most of them on a 125-mile trek over a 12,000-foot mountain pass.
Jussie Smollett: The actor from the hit show “Empire” reported to the Chicago police in January that he had been attacked by masked men hurling homophobic and racial slurs. On Wednesday night, he was charged with staging the assault.
The Vatican: Pope Francis and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church convene today for a conference on clerical sexual abuse. Victims’ advocates are demanding urgent and uniform church laws to impose zero tolerance, but Vatican officials say one world standard is virtually impossible. In interviews, some church leaders even played down the problem of church sexual abuse.
Michael Cohen: President Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer, who faces prison time, has agreed to testify in public before Congress next Wednesday, setting up a political fireworks show.
Zebra science: Researchers dressed horses in patterned “coats” — and now think they understand why zebra stripes protect against flies.
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In fortune, children, friends, or wife,
Owe all their zest to thee.
Those grateful lines are from an ode to Sake (or Sheikh) Dean Mahomed, a Bengali who introduced the concept of shampooing to Britain.
Mahomed, who died on or around this day in 1851, had many talents. In 1794, he became the first Indian to publish a book in English. In 1810, he opened the first Indian restaurant in England, the Hindoostane Coffee House in London.
But it was his next project that put him on the map. In 1814, he opened a Brighton bathhouse offering luxurious steam baths that ended with a signature head massage, known in India as “champi,” or “shampoo.”
He claimed that the popular massage cured an assortment of ailments, including asthma and paralysis, in a book titled, aptly, “Shampooing: Or, Benefits Resulting From the Use of Indian Medicated Vapor Bath.”
He was eventually given a royal warrant as the “Shampooing Surgeon” to the king.
Alisha Haridasani Gupta wrote today’s Back Story.
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