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The deteriorating situation inside Philippine jails, the pleas of a Saudi asylum seeker in Thailand and the mysteries of whale song. Here’s the latest:
Inside the Philippines’ overcrowded jails
Since President Rodrigo Duterte launched a violent antidrug campaign in 2016, Philippine jails have become increasingly packed, ranking among the most crowded in the world.
In Manila City Jail, more than 500 men sleep in a space meant for just 170. The guards are so outnumbered — one officer for every 528 inmates on a recent shift — that gangs help maintain order.
“When you are detained in Philippine jails, you are being tortured,” said one member of the government’s Commission on Human Rights.
Go deeper: Here’s a closer look at Mr. Duterte’s drug crackdown, in which the police have killed thousands of people.
Prayers and a steel wall
At negotiations over the U.S. government shutdown on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence insisted on beginning with a prayer. So Republicans asked God to “bring us together.”
On Sunday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff members began with another prayer — noting that Jesus and Mary were both refugees.
The two prayers underscored the stalemate lawmakers find themselves in over President Trump’s demand for border wall funding. But some small advances were made, White House officials claimed. Republicans agreed that a concrete wall was a non-starter, and that any text of a bill would refer to steel instead.
What’s next: President Trump wants to deliver a prime time address about the shutdown on Tuesday night and plans to travel to the border later in the week in an effort to convince Americans of the need for a wall.
Saudi woman is allowed to remain in Thailand
An 18-year-old woman who spent 48 hours at Bangkok’s main international airport has been allowed to enter the city with officials from the U.N. refugee agency. Earlier, she was on the verge of being deported.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun said that her family was abusive and that she feared for her life if she were returned to Saudi Arabia.
“They will kill me because I fled and because I announced my atheism,” she said. “They wanted me to pray and to wear a veil, and I didn’t want to.”
Background: Women in Saudi Arabia are subject to guardianship laws and need a man’s consent for basic needs from education to travel. Ms. Alqunun managed to slip away from her family during a trip to Kuwait.
What’s next: Ms. Alqunun said she planned to continue on to Australia and request asylum there.
The best and worst of the Golden Globes
In case you missed it, Hollywood suited up yesterday for an awards ceremony that delivered many upsets. Most notably, “Bohemian Rhapsody” won best drama — beating out the favored “A Star Is Born.”
The good: Sandra Oh became the first Asian woman to host a major American awards show and made surprisingly emotional comments about representation. Glenn Close, who won best actress in a drama for “The Wife,” gave a crowd-pleasing speech. And the winners list included many artists of color.
The bad: Co-host Andy Samberg’s opening speech, “roasting” stars with aggressive niceness, fell flat, write our TV critics.
The fashion: Last year, women dressed in black to honor the Times Up movement. But this year, the red carpet retreated, writes our chief fashion critic.
Here’s what else is happening
SoftBank: The Japanese telecom company will inject another $2 billion into WeWork, the co-working start-up, according to people familiar with the deal. The latest commitment brings SoftBank’s total investment in the company to about $10.5 billion and values WeWork at $47 billion.
Silicon Valley: Some venture capitalists are rooting for a market dip this year, hoping that a downturn would calm an overheating start-up scene and make companies cheaper to invest in.
North Korea: A train possibly carrying the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, entered China, South Korean news media reported, raising speculation that he could be meeting with President Xi Jinping before a planned second summit meeting with President Trump.
Nigeria: Soldiers stormed the offices of one of the country’s largest newspapers, detaining two journalists, over an article that the military said divulged classified information. The raid came amid struggles to combat Boko Haram and less than two months before presidential elections.
Asylum seekers: As the U.S. tightens its policies at the southern border, many asylum seekers are contemplating hiring smugglers in Mexico, despite the dangers and increasing costs.
Nuclear energy: A plan to build a new nuclear power plant in northern Wales could lift the local economy while expanding Britain’s non-carbon-based fuel options. But some worry the project could damage an island’s rural charm and environment.
Whale song: Scientists have found that whales often string together repeated sound patterns to create complex tunes and jingles. Some even change up their playlists.
Pope Francis: In a major address to the Vatican, the pope lamented the rise of “nationalistic tendencies” in the U.S. and Europe. His remarks hit a nerve in Italy, where the populist government has cracked down on immigration and denied entry to ships that rescued migrants.
Tips for a more fulfilling life.
In an age of digital everything, more people are turning to the world of very modern, very wonderful fountain pens.
Does it pay to be a writer?
One used fantasy techniques to expose the “brutality inherent in society.” Another looked at the “secret life” of Mecca, depicting the Islamic holy city as rived with crime. Yet another narrated the travels of a medieval Sufi mystic.
Arabic is an ancient language and has a rich tradition of oral storytelling and poetry, but the adoption of the novel is relatively recent. Few Arabic novels are translated, and fewer still are distributed in the West.
The prize is funded by the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi. Some call it the “Arabic Booker” because the Booker Prize Foundation in London supports the award. (The administrators discourage the nickname.)
The author of the winning novel, to be announced in April, will receive $60,000, plus funding for translating the work.
Here are some previous winners available in English.
Ben Hubbard, our Beirut bureau chief, wrote today’s Back Story.
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