Europe Edition: Brexit, Facebook, Julian Assange: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

A woman who left France and became a prominent propagandist and recruiter for the Islamic State has asked her family, friends and country for a pardon. This is how she went from a Paris suburb to the Syrian battlefield.Published OnCreditImage by by Agnès De Féo, from “Emilie König vs Ummu Tawwab”

• Emilie König, 33, spent the past five years living in Syria, where she was a prominent propagandist and recruiter for the Islamic State. Now she wants to return home — to France.

The quandary her case poses is an increasingly common problem for European countries: What should they do when citizens, who are also militants, want to return?

Meanwhile, fighting rages in Idlib Province, the last major insurgent stronghold in Syria. The U.N. expressed alarm over assaults by Russian-backed Syrian forces, which it said had put tens of thousands of civilians at risk.

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CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

• President Trump stirred outrage when he told lawmakers that he’d like to see more immigrants from Norway, and not from “shithole countries,” including Haiti and those in Africa.

Mr. Trump is expected to stop short of reimposing strict sanctions on Iran today, but he is expected to give the U.S. Congress and European allies a deadline to improve the 2015 nuclear deal or see the U.S. withdraw.

Today, he will undergo his first comprehensive physical examination as president. What he ultimately reveals to the public about the results will be up to him.

Meanwhile, the privacy movement that emerged after the 2013 leaks by Edward Snowden suffered a major setback when the House voted against restricting a warrantless surveillance program.

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CreditAdam Ferguson for The New York Times

• The British government dismissed the idea of a second referendum on the country’s departure from the European Union.

The idea has gradually been gaining ground. Even Nigel Farage, the populist politician who prominently campaigned for Brexit, has hinted he might favor holding another vote.

While a second referendum is possible, odds are it will not happen.

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CreditNoah Berger/Associated Press

• Mark Zuckerberg spoke to us about sweeping changes being made to Facebook’s News Feed.

“We want to make sure that our products are not just fun but are good for people,” said Mr. Zuckerberg, the company’s founder. “We need to refocus the system.”

If you’re among the network’s more than two billion users, expect to see fewer viral videos and news articles in the coming weeks, and more posts that include interactions between you and the people you know.

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CreditPawel Kopczynski/Reuters

• The Winter Olympics kick off next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

That made us wonder: How is climate change affecting the Winter Games? We looked at other cities that have hosted the Games and found that by 2050, many of them may be too warm to host again. (Above, a venue for snowboarding and skiing events in Pyeongchang.)

Our travel desk compiled a roundup of some of the big sports events this year, including, of course, the soccer World Cup in Russia.

Business

CreditJustin Sullivan/Getty Images

• Garbage is piling up in Germany, Britain, Ireland and elsewhere since China banned imports of some kinds of recyclable waste.

• CES 2018: A smart refrigerator and a TV that can be rolled up like a yoga mat are among the highlights, but the real star of this year’s electronics trade show is artificial intelligence.

Kering, the French conglomerate, is spinning off its shares in Puma as part of a long-held ambition to focus on the luxury market.

• How do car companies settle on a new vehicle’s name? It’s an art mixed with science and public outreach.

Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

In the News

The newly appointed United States ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Hoekstra, was questioned about remarks he made in 2015 stating that Dutch politicians and cars had been burned by Muslims.Published OnCreditImage by John Thys/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• “This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions.”

That was a Dutch journalist’s comment during a strained exchange with the American ambassador, Peter Hoekstra. (The Trump appointee refused to answer questions about his 2015 statement that Muslims had burned Dutch politicians.) [The New York Times]

• Ecuador granted citizenship to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks co-founder who has been living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, hours after Britain said it had refused to grant him diplomatic immunity. [The New York Times]

• All married couples should be allowed to live and work across the E.U., regardless of member countries’ laws on same-sex unions, a legal expert advised the bloc’s top court. [The New York Times]

• In Russia, a historian has to undergo enforced psychiatric testing after his research on Soviet labor camps angered the authorities. [The New York Times]

• Czech voters will go to the polls today and tomorrow in the first round of presidential elections to decide whether to renew the mandate of Milos Zeman. [The Guardian]

• Luxembourg’s highest court overturned a guilty verdict against a whistle-blower who shed light on the country’s sweetheart tax deals for multinational companies. [Politico]

Smarter Living

Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.

CreditMichael Kraus for The New York Times

• Recipe of the day: Celebrate the end of the week with Sam Sifton’s oven-roasted chicken shawarma.

• Want to be happy? We asked some of New York’s most seasoned residents for advice.

• Before booking a charter airline flight, check its safety record.

Noteworthy

Creditvia Instagram

• Serena Williams opened up in the new issue of Vogue about the complications she experienced after giving birth. She’s slated to be back in action in March.

• In soccer news, Lionel Messi scored twice in three minutes to help Barcelona, the defending champion, advance to the Copa del Rey quarterfinals.

• Rome’s much-derided Christmas tree, known as Spelacchio, has been dismantled. It is going to be repurposed into a hut for baby nursing.

• In memoriam: José Molina, a Spanish-born dancer who brought flamenco to U.S. audiences, died at 81.

• Sometimes it seems as if we’re living under a constant barrage of heavy news. But it isn’t all bad out there. This week’s roundup of good news includes Winnie the Pooh, winter heroes and baby turtles.

Back Story

CreditDan Poush/Associated Press

“Hello. I’m Johnny Cash.”

With those words, Mr. Cash kicked off a concert at a state prison in California that revitalized his music career and fortified his outlaw persona. Recorded 50 years ago on Saturday, “At Folsom Prison” remains a landmark in American music.

Entertaining inmates — while taunting their guards — was tame compared with the other exploits of the Man in Black.

In 1965, Mr. Cash accidentally started a forest fire in Southern California that burned hundreds of acres and devastated a population of endangered condors. (Mr. Cash told a judge, “I don’t care about your damn yellow buzzards.”) Later in life, he was attacked by an ostrich and almost died.

In a dispute with his label in the 1980s, Mr. Cash released a parody called “Chicken in Black.” He called the track “intentionally atrocious,” but it was the most successful thing he’d done in years. (There’s even a video.)

Mr. Cash, who died in 2003, was a Morse Code expert in the Air Force who eavesdropped on Soviet chatter. He was even an ordained minister and wrote a novel, “The Man in White,” about the Apostle Paul.

As Mr. Cash told The Times in a 1969 interview, “Ain’t nothin’ too weird for me.”

Charles McDermid contributed reporting.

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This briefing was prepared for the European morning and is updated online. Browse past briefings here.

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