Your Friday Briefing
We’re covering Germany’s crucial role in a global Huawei debate, Ukraine’s investigation of Trump allies and new findings about wolves’ instincts.
Germany is stuck in the middle
Germany is embroiled in a debate that could have global consequences: whether to allow Huawei to help build its 5G next generation mobile network.
Lawmakers are debating whether to exclude Huawei from 5G bids. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is opposed to a ban, is facing a rebellion from her intelligence agencies, who are worried about America’s threat to limit intelligence sharing if Huawei is allowed to participate. China is also not shy about exploiting the fact that German automakers like VW, BMW, Audi and Daimler, who work closely with Huawei, depend on the company.
Quotable: “Just because we have an American president who doesn’t like alliances, we give all that up?” said a former German foreign minister and vice chancellor. “Why would we? Especially since he does exactly what the Chinese do and threatens the German car industry.”
Related: German authorities raided the homes and offices of three people suspected of spying for the Chinese government, officials said on Thursday.
Ukraine investigates reports of surveillance
President Volodymyr Zelensky announced his country was opening a criminal inquiry into allies of President Trump, after reports that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine had been under surveillance in Kyiv.
It was a remarkable departure for the new government, which has tried to stay out of the fray amid an impeachment investigation that is focused on Mr. Trump’s pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
Also on Thursday, Ukraine said it had asked the F.B.I. for help investigating the hacking of computer systems at Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company, by Russians.
Impeachment: The U.S. Senate officially opened the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump, and senators took oaths to be impartial jurors.
Related: A nonpartisan U.S. watchdog agency found that the Trump administration violated the law in withholding aid to Ukraine.
Reducing fire with an Aboriginal tradition
The traditional Aboriginal practice of setting small fires in order to prevent more damaging ones is attracting new attention as Australia confronts a fiery future.
Over the past decade, fire-prevention programs, mainly on Aboriginal lands in northern Australia, have cut destructive wildfires in half. Those who study the techniques say that they could be applied in the more populated parts of Australia.
“Fire is our main tool,” said Violet Lawson, who lights hundreds of small fires a year. “It’s part of protecting the land.”
Another angle: Organizations that employ defensive burning have earned $80 million under Australia’s cap-and-trade system as they’ve reduced greenhouse-gas emissions from wildfires in the north by 40 percent.
The latest: Though the fires have eased in recent days amid storms and heavy rains, the tourism industry has taken a major hit.
If you have 15 minutes, this is worth it
An unexpected savior for an American mill
Last summer, Old Town, Maine, greeted the new owner of its defunct paper factory: Chinese mogul Zhang Yin, above center, who has built a $35 billion empire called Nine Dragons Paper.
For the town of 7,500, “Along with gratitude came a tinge of apprehension, a sense that unpredictable change had come to the north woods,” writes our New England bureau chief, Ellen Barry.
Her report is the start of a project that we’re calling The Great Read — meant to showcase some of the best writing at The Times.
Here’s what else is happening
Russia: Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a little-known official as the country’s new prime minister, in a reshuffling of the political system that many analysts see as an effort by President Vladimir Putin to remain in power.
Mustache mess: At a time of growing unease between the U.S. and South Korea, the American ambassador’s mustache is reminding many South Koreans of Japanese colonial rule.
Snapshot: Above, Sting, a wolf pup. Researchers now think the instinct for playing fetch is present in some wolves, meaning it was most likely present in the ancient ancestors of dogs, rather than a result of domestication.
What we’re listening to: This podcast episode from “Song Exploder,” about the ’90s song “Closing Time” by Semisonic. “You may have listened to this at the end of a night out as the bar lights started to flicker,” writes Remy Tumin, on the Briefings team, “but the back story will make you hear it in a whole new way.”
Now, a break from the news
Cook: Spend some time this weekend making the ultimate comfort food: classic lasagna.
Watch: With “Star Trek: Picard,” a spinoff following Patrick Stewart’s Starfleet officer, the franchise is trying to rediscover its place in a universe that it effectively invented.
Smarter Living: Here are tips for finding an apartment when you’re moving far away.
And now for the Back Story on …
At least six passengers on a bus in Xining, China, died this week when the pavement collapsed under them.
Sinkholes, both natural and human-caused, are rare, and even more rarely deadly. But they fascinate us because they seem to appear out of nowhere, and in unusual places.
A sinkhole opened up in 2013 under a home in Florida — where much of the ground base is limestone, a soluble rock — killing a man in his bedroom. Another in 2014 swallowed eight cars at the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky. A sinkhole also engulfed an entire building complex in Shenzhen, China, in 2013.
Natural sinkholes occur when underground water has insufficient drainage and begins to corrode the rock under the top layer of soil. Human causes include leaking or crumbling underground water pipes.
The damage takes place under the surface gradually, but when the layer at the top can no longer support itself, it can suddenly and violently give way.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Victoria Shannon, on the Briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about President Trump’s impeachment trial.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Macaroni shape (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• An exhibition of climate photography from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Times photographer Josh Haner goes on display in Hong Kong today through Feb. 16.
Source : Link