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North Korea, Jair Bolsonaro, Martha McSally: Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times

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By Penn Bullock

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Good morning.

Knife crime on the rise in Britain, a new strategy at Facebook and the sordid market for Hitler paintings. Here’s the latest:

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An emergency response center in Birmingham, England. The British police endured cutbacks under austerity.CreditAndrew Testa for The New York Times

Knife crime is rising for the fourth straight year in Britain — there were 43,000 such offenses in the year ending Sept. 30, 2018 — though over all it has declined markedly since the mid-1990s. Two recent fatal stabbings of 17-year-olds have refocused national attention on the problem and created a political crisis for Prime Minister Theresa May.

The opposition Labour Party is blaming austerity for the rise in knife crime, and Mrs. May’s own home secretary, Sajid Javid, has clashed with her, demanding emergency increases in police funding.

Analysis: There are more than 20,000 fewer police officers today than in 2010, and many now spend hours doing the work once done by mental health agencies that have been cut back or eliminated. But analysts largely agree that the data does not connect rising crime to diminished police presence. Instead, they point to austerity cuts to social services, like youth centers and interventions for children who are expelled from school.

Looking ahead: Mrs. May said she would hold a summit in the coming days and meet with victims.


A ship carrying four Chinese-built container cranes sailed into port in Tacoma, Wash., on Tuesday.CreditTed S. Warren/Associated Press

President Trump has long been fixated on narrowing the trade deficit, which he believes is a measure of whether other countries 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 imported goods 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 U.S. imported a record amount of goods from China, despite Mr. Trump’s tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods. American exports to China fell nearly 50 percent in December.

U.S.-Europe trade talks: Negotiators are deeply at odds. The Trump administration has insisted that any deal must address American farmers’ access to the European market, but the E.U. says agriculture had always been off the table by agreement. The competing narratives have made it difficult to even begin talks, with Mr. Trump dangling the possibility of further tariffs in mid-May.


Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, has laid out a vision for a new kind of social media centered on more private interactions. CreditMarcio Jose Sanchez/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. He was vague on how long that would take or how private, encrypted communications would affect Facebook’s bottom line.

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.


A 1914 watercolor painting, left, of the old city hall in Munich that sold at Weidler’s auction house for $161,000 in 2014, and documents that Weidler’s said proved it was by Hitler.CreditDaniel Karmann/DPA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the last 10 years, experts say, a seedy niche market has grown around rising demand for art by Hitler. With experts in no rush to offer authentication, and his undistinguished style easy to copy, fraud appears to have flourished.

Now German prosecutors are stepping in. Last month, they searched Weidler’s auction house in Nuremberg and confiscated scores of paintings as part of an investigation into forgery and fraud, and there was an earlier raid at the Kloss auction house in Berlin. An auction by Weidler’s of a few works recently went ahead anyway, and our reporter attended.

Background: With 63 works impounded and an estimated 100 already sold, Weidler’s has handled a curiously large number of “A. Hitler” works, experts say, especially given how few are likely to exist. Hitler did most of his painting before World War I, after he was rejected from art school. Once in power, he ordered the works collected, and he may have destroyed some of the worst misfires.


North Korea: The country’s deepening economic trouble may propel it to return to the negotiating table, experts say — or resume weapons tests to force a deal.

Sexual assault: Senator Martha McSally, Republican of Arizona and the first woman in the Air Force to fly in combat, told a hushed Senate hearing room that she had been sexually assaulted multiple times while serving her country.

Brazil: As millions of Brazilians enjoyed the last few hours of Carnival, Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right president, posted a video on Twitter of one man urinating on another in public, which he called evidence of the festivities’ increasing debauchery.

A grounded cargo ship has been leaking fuel for weeks on one of the Solomon Islands.CreditDepartment of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Solomon Islands: An oil spill in the South Pacific is spreading just outside a World Heritage site, threatening the coral reef ecosystems there.

Iran: The lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh had defended women arrested for defying Iran’s head-covering rule. Now Ms. Sotudeh, 55, has been convicted of security-related crimes in a secret trial and could face a “very lengthy sentence,” a human rights group reported.

Italy: To the frustration of U.S. and E.U. officials, the country appears poised to accept Chinese infrastructure investment that is part of a drive to advance China’s global interests and influence.

Carlos Ghosn: The former Nissan chairman has been released on bail, a relatively rare feat in Japan, but he faces steep odds in his trial on charges of financial misconduct: Japanese prosecutors have a 99 percent conviction rate with indicted defendants.

Virgin Atlantic: The British airline said that female flight attendants would no longer have to wear makeup or skirts.

Ireland: Thanks to a tip, the police in Dublin recovered a mummified head believed to belong to an 800-year-old Crusader knight. A week earlier, it had been stolen from a medieval church crypt in the city.

Switzerland: The star of the Geneva International Motor Show this week is a one-of-a-kind Bugatti supercar that has already sold for $19 million, reputedly the highest price ever paid for a new automobile.


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 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. And the British.

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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