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Another government shutdown looming in the U.S., a princess’ worrying fate in Dubai and a clue to the Russia investigation. Here’s the latest:

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Members of the U.S. military installing concertina wire along the Rio Grande at the border with Mexico in Laredo, Tex., in November. CreditEric Gay/Associated Press

Bipartisan negotiations to avert a shutdown by a deadline of this Friday have broken down.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans had hoped to be finalizing an agreement by now. But they have largely stopped communicating about a compromise that would keep the government open while allocating some money for border security and barriers.

The sticking point: Talks collapsed over Democrats’ effort to force Immigration and Customs Enforcement to limit the number of beds in its detention centers to 16,500 by focusing on detaining migrants with criminal records instead of people who have overstayed their visas.

Behind the scenes: President Trump vowed to build his promised wall “one way or the other,” and officials are in what one described as a surreal scramble to map how he might declare a national emergency to do so. One proposal is to claim that the wall would be built to protect the thousands of troops now operating near the border or deploying there soon.

Yellow Vest protesters in Lyon, France, on Saturday.CreditAlex Martin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

About 51,000 people marched in Paris and southern French cities on Saturday, according to the police. Windows were smashed, a protester was severely injured when a police “sting-ball grenade” that he had tried to pick up exploded in his hand, and an antiterrorism unit’s car burned near the Eiffel Tower.

Big picture: Turnout was about one-fifth the size of the first Yellow Vest demonstration, in mid-November, and down from 84,000 in mid-January.

The Yellow Vests’ demands about the cost of living have grown more nebulous, but the movement remains popular with the public and unmoved by concessions from President Emmanuel Macron, whose popularity has somewhat risen despite their insistent calls for his resignation.

Protests in Spain: Two days before the start of a landmark trial of 12 Catalan separatist leaders, tens of thousands of right-leaning protesters gathered in Madrid on Sunday, calling for the ouster of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and denouncing his proposal for talks to ease the secessionist conflict in Catalonia.


A selfie taken by Sheikha Latifa, left, with her friend as they tried to escape Dubai last year.

Sheikha Latifa — one of 30 children of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum — tried to escape to the U.S. through India last March, informing her friends that she would soon be free.

Less than a week later, she went silent, and in December her family released photos of her back at home that heightened questions about her condition. Her case has since become a stain on Dubai’s globalized image.

Background: In a secret video she recorded before her planned departure from Dubai, Sheikha Latifa described a life spent in a gilded cage.

She said she had first tried to escape the kingdom many years ago, but was taken back and held in solitary confinement for more than three years, during which time she was frequently beaten and deprived of medical care.

When she was released at 19, she still wasn’t free to study medicine, as she wanted, or to travel.

Analysis: Like the accounts of women who have tried to escape Saudi Arabia, Sheikha Latifa’s case has punctured the glittering image of Dubai — behind which it is a repressive state — and served as a reminder of the limitations on women there, regardless of status or nationality.


An aerial view of the mud and waste after a dam spill in Brazil.CreditAntonio Lacerda/EPA, via Shutterstock

When a mining dam collapsed in the town of Brumadinho last month, it unleashed a deluge of toxic mud that stretched for five miles, killing more than 150 people and crushing homes and offices.

The tragedy was hardly a surprise, experts told us.

Analysis: Brazil has 88 mining dams built like the one that failed: enormous reservoirs of mining waste held back by little more than walls of sand and silt.

Even more alarming, at least 28 sit directly uphill from cities or towns, with more than 100,000 people living in especially risky areas if the dams failed, an estimate by The New York Times found.

How we know: Our team interviewed engineers and locals to take an expansive look at the disaster, reconstructing the mud’s deadly journey and illustrating how these dams are built and what led the one in Brumadinho to crumble.


Russia investigation: A prosecutor for the special counsel, Robert Mueller, made cryptic comments in a court hearing last week that suggest that investigators are pursuing the question of whether there was any kind of deal between Russia and the Trump campaign, centered on U.S. sanctions relief.

Romania: When Laura Codruta Kovesi was in charge of the country’s antigraft agency, she generated a furious backlash by taking on entrenched corruption. Now that she is in the running to be the first public prosecutor for the E.U., Romania’s justice minister is trying to scuttle her appointment.

Britain: A week after a London woman became the first in the country to be convicted by a jury over the genital cutting of her daughter, a bill to enhance protections for children at risk of genital cutting was blocked in the House of Commons by a single objection, that of a veteran Conservative lawmaker.

The beach of a four-year-old island, with the much older Hunga Ha’apai island in the background.CreditDan Slayback
CreditDavid Malosh for The New York Times
Michael Jackson during the performance that immortalized the moonwalk.CreditPaul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank, via Getty Images

In Jackson’s 1988 autobiography, which shares its name with the famous move, he describes the moonwalk as “a ‘popping’ type of thing that black kids had created dancing on street corners in the ghetto.”

The moonwalk had been performed for decades by a range of entertainers (albeit often by a more literal name, the backslide). But it was the King of Pop who would be remembered, as one dance critic put it, “coasting backward across the stage, step by gliding step, as if on a cushion of air.”

Chris Stanford, on the briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story.


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