Meng Wanzhou, North Korea, Tesla: Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times


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Meng Wanzhou heads to court, Tesla and Facebook rethink their strategies and Virgin Atlantic makes lipstick optional. Here’s the latest:

Meng Wanzhou arriving at court in Vancouver.CreditLindsey Wasson/Reuters

The Supreme Court of British Columbia will decide whether the Huawei executive, who has been detained since December, should be extradited to the United States, where she faces fraud charges. The proceedings began on Wednesday, with the court setting a date for the hearing.

What to expect: Canada approves about 90 percent of the extradition requests it receives, so it is likely that Ms. Meng will be sent to the U.S., though it could take months.

The judge will determine whether the fraud that Ms. Meng is charged with in the United States is also a crime in Canada.

Her lawyers, however, will argue that the charges are politically motivated, which could potentially help her case.

In other Canada news: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former top adviser and close friend, Gerald Butts, testified before a parliamentary committee, trying to defuse a political scandal that has threatened Mr. Trudeau’s job.

Shipping containers in California.CreditMark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The United States imported more goods than ever last year, bringing its trade deficit with the rest of the world to $891.3 billion.

President Trump has long been fixated on narrowing the trade deficit, which he believes is a measure of whether countries around the world are taking advantage of the U.S. Though few economists share that view, the new figures suggest that by his own metric, Mr. Trump is failing.

Reasons: The increase in the amount of goods imported was driven, in part, by a broader economic slowdown and the strength of the U.S. dollar, both of which weakened global demand for American exports.

The Trump administration’s trade war and tax cuts exacerbated the trend. In fact, the U.S. imported a record amount of goods from China, despite Mr. Trump’s tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods, and American exports to China fell by nearly 50 percent in December. And money from the tax cuts helped Americans buy more imported goods.

Made in America: Four companies in the U.S. were found to have falsely advertised that their products were American-made when in fact they were manufactured in China.

An image of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, provided by a research institute that says reconstruction work there has begun.CreditCsis/Beyond Parallel, via DigitalGlobe 2019, via Reuters

After the North Korean leader returned from his meeting with President Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, without any sanctions relief, experts around the world wondered what he would do next.

American and South Korean analysts announced on Tuesday that the country was rebuilding key missile-testing facilities, raising concerns that it was preparing to resume testing its weapons.

The reasoning: North Korea may have wanted to rebuild the sites in order to make their dismantling more dramatic if the Hanoi summit meeting produced a deal, the intelligence officials were quoted as saying, or it may have wanted the option to resume rocket tests if talks broke down.

The flip side: Other experts believe that a weak economy may force Mr. Kim back to the negotiating table.

North Korea’s economy contracted by 3.5 percent in 2017 because of sanctions, according to South Korea’s central bank. And United Nations officials estimate that food production last year fell to its lowest level in more than a decade.

Mark Zuckerberg said he planned to build systems and products that create a type of private “digital living room.”CreditEliot Blondet/SIPA, via Associated Press

After years of scandals surrounding user privacy, the world’s largest social network will prioritize private and encrypted communication between users, shifting away from its founding principles of public sharing and an open platform.

“I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms,” Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, said in a blog post.

Details: Mr. Zuckerberg said he planned to spend the years ahead building systems and products that create a type of “digital living room” where people can communicate privately across all of the company’s networks — Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

In other business news: Tesla is shutting down most of its stores — just three months after a sprint to open new locations — in an effort to cut costs at a time when investor confidence in the company and its founder, Elon Musk, is wavering.

Grab: The Singapore-based ride-hailing giant, which serves eight countries in Southeast Asia, secured a $1.5 billion investment from SoftBank, bringing its current valuation to about $14 billion, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Carlos Ghosn: The former Nissan chairman may have gotten out on bail before his trial — a relatively rare feat in Japan — but he faces steep odds: Japanese prosecutors have a 99 percent conviction rate with indicted defendants.

Michael Cohen: Six checks from President Trump to his former personal lawyer that were obtained by The Times show how he paid to keep secrets private while in the White House.

The oil spill along the coastline of Rennell Island, near a World Heritage site.CreditDepartment of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Solomon Islands: An oil spill from a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship that ran aground last month is spreading toward a World Heritage site, East Rennell, alarming environmentalists and government officials. Officials in Australia, which has a close relationship with the Solomon Islands, said they would send vessels, equipment and experts to help contain the damage.

Italy: The Benetton family, known widely for its clothing brand, also owns Autostrade per l’Italia, or Highways for Italy, a private company that managed the bridge that collapsed in Genoa last year, killing 43 people. The calamity is now the subject of a criminal inquiry.

Virgin Atlantic: The British airline sent a note to its female flight attendants, instantly recognizable in their sleek red skirts and crimson lipstick, that they no longer have to wear any makeup and can choose to wear pants.

Goldman Sachs: Executives at the Wall Street giant told employees in an internal memo that the company would be adopting a more “flexible” dress code in an attempt to lure younger workers who might be considering careers in Silicon Valley, where jeans and sneakers are the norm.

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

CreditPaola & Murray for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Angharad Bailey.

Recipe of the day: Match sweet, tangy citrus with peanuts and avocado for a satisfying salad.

Tours by and for women have grown in popularity, from bonding on a polar bear cruise in Norway to a cultural retreat in Calgary. Here are four destinations to consider.

Lighting, textiles, throw pillows and smells: There are ways to style a room on a budget; all you really need is a bit of imagination and patience.

If you’re about to open a can of something tasty, thank the French.

In the late 1700s, Napoleon was on the move, invading Italy, Austria and Egypt. Feeding his enormous armies was a problem — he needed a way to keep food from spoiling.

An undated portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor, statesman and military leader of France.CreditAssociated Press

A confectioner, Nicolas Appert, spent years coming up with a successful process. He placed fruits, vegetables and meats in glass bottles, corked and wired them, then boiled the bottles for hours. He didn’t know he was killing microbes — he just knew that the more heat and less air, the better.

By 1810, Napoleon’s government handed him a 12,000-franc prize and required him to publish a book, with the catchy title, “The Art of Preserving Animal and Vegetable Substances for Many Years.”

Glass, unfortunately, breaks. It was the British who soon developed the tin can.

James K. Williamson wrote today’s Back Story.

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Alisha Haridasani Gupta writes the Morning Briefing. @alisha__g

Melina Delkic is a senior staff editor. @MelinaDelkic

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