Asia and Australia Edition: Istanbul, Donald Trump, Syria: Your Morning Briefing


Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

The first day of business for the new American Congress turned into a showdown between President-elect Donald J. Trump and members of his own party.

Mr. Trump won, securing the reversal of a plan to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics and undercutting the unity Republicans had hoped to project as they set out to repeal the policies of the Obama administration.

Mr. Trump named his choice for U.S. trade representative: Robert E. Lighthizer, an international trade lawyer who has argued in favor of protectionist policies and has been harshly critical of China. Here is the latest on the transition.


• Syria’s main rebel groups accused government forces of violating a five-day-old cease-fire and threatened to pull out of peace talks this month that had been brokered by Russia and Turkey.

The rebels told news media outlets that say fighter jets have continued to hammer rebel-held areas across the country.


Turkey remains on high alert and police raids continue as the authorities hunt for the gunman who killed 39 people at a nightclub in Istanbul on New Year’s Day.

Turkish officials arrested two foreign nationals they described as suspects, and released a “selfie” video of the suspect.


India is grappling with a new wave of furor over the abuse of women after a government official blamed the victims of a “mass molestation” in Bangalore on New Year’s Eve for their dress and behavior.

“They tried to copy the Westerner, not only in their mind-set but even in their dressing,” the official said. “So some disturbance, some girls are harassed, these kind of things do happen.”


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• India’s wealth of computer-savvy English-speakers, its vast call-center culture and super-efficient technology have combined to fuel a growing rash of cyberfraud against Americans.

• Tech excitement is high as the Consumer Electronics Show, an annual “gadget bacchanalia,” prepares to open Thursday in Las Vegas.

• Canada’s trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, said talks with China on a free-trade agreement are set for February.

• Ford Motor, under fire from Mr. Trump, canceled plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico and said it would instead invest $700 million to increase production in Michigan.

• Panasonic reintroduced the Technics SL-1200, long prized by hip-hop D.J.s, but with a $2,800 price tag the new marketing theme is connoisseurship, not sweaty nightclubs.

• A new French law gives employees the “right to disconnect.” Critics call it a ban on work-related email, but the bill allows workers to occasionally draw the line when employers intrude on free time.

Increased demand in China pushed the digital currency bitcoin over $1,000, its highest price in more than three years.

• The dollar index hit a 14-year high after construction spending rose to it level not seen in more than a decade. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

Graphic | What the Markets Are Doing

In the News

Russia sent two ships and a rear admiral to Manila for military exercises with the Philippine Navy, moving to expand ties as President Rodrigo Duterte continues to shift allegiance away from the U.S. [CBS]

• A video of smog rolling across Beijing that was picked up by news organizations around the world drives home the extent of the smothering pollution afflicting China’s capital. [The New York Times]

• China inaugurated freight-rail service to Britain, sending a train loaded with garments and other goods on an 18-day route through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France to reach London later this month. [Bloomberg]

• President Park Geun-hye of South Korea was a no-show at her impeachment trial and is unlikely to attend when oral arguments begin on Thursday — or indeed, at any point during what could be months of proceedings. [The New York Times]

• Myanmar detained four policemen after a video surfaced that shows them beating two unarmed, cowering men in Rakhine State, adding more criticism to the government’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims. [The New York Times]

• Fans are mourning the passing of Alfonso Wong Kar Hei, the cartoonist who created the beloved comic strip “Lao Fu Zi,” or Old Master Q, and its characters Big Potato, Mr. Chin and Miss Chan. [The Straits Times]

• In Rome, a McDonald’s opened in a Vatican-owned building within eyeshot of St. Peter’s Square, over the objections of senior Roman Catholic leaders. One cardinal called it a “disgrace.” [The New York Times]


• China’s latest propaganda push uses quirky videos to promote President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party to the country’s growing ranks of digitally savvy millennials.

• New findings have shattered the theory that because dinosaurs and modern birds are related, the incubation rates of their eggs would be similar. In fact, some dinosaur eggs took at least six months to hatch.

Want to be a superager? A psychologist studying older people who have the memory and attention of healthy 25-year-olds offers this advice: make your brain work hard at something.

Back Story

This month, Melania Trump — born Melanija Knavs in Slovenia — will become the second foreign-born first lady in U.S. history.

Louisa Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams (president from 1825-29), was the first.

She was born in London in 1775. Her mother was English, her father the American consul. Their home became an essential stop for American visitors, including John Quincy, who met Louisa in 1795 and married her in 1797.

Louisa arrived in the U.S. in 1801 when President John Adams brought his diplomat son home for a time. Wherever the couple was posted, her engaging personality stood out. Louisa dazzled imperial courts overseas, and her soirees were the heart of Washington’s social life when he was secretary of state, proving critical to his ascension to the presidency.

The question of her “Americanness” became an issue during his tumultuous term in office. Her efforts to refute rumors that she was British only drew more attention to her background.

Louisa continued to be John Quincy’s political partner as he served in Congress after leaving the White House, supporting his antislavery efforts.

When she died in 1852, both Houses adjourned. A Washington publication wrote that hers was one of the “longest funeral processions ever witnessed in this city.”

Adeel Hassan contributed reporting.


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