(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)
Good evening. Here’s the latest.
1. The conflict between the U.S. and Iran seems to be easing — for now.
Iran said it was done with “proportional measures” for the U.S. strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. Iran’s 22 missiles caused no casualties at their targets, two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.
In a news conference, above, President Trump avoided new threats. “Iran appears to be standing down,” he said, “which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”
Still, Tehran is focused on getting U.S. troops out of the region. And some cyber experts see the possibility of a coming battle cloaked in computer systems.
In any case, Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to hold a vote Thursday to require Mr. Trump to cease all military action against Iran within 30 days unless approved by Congress.
2. What brought down a flight out of Tehran, killing all 176 people on board, remains murky.
Experts said that details so far indicated that the plane, a Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800, could have been attacked. Investigators should have that possibility “at the top of their agenda,” said one former top transportation safety official in the U.S.
Ukraine’s president ordered an investigation. Iranian officials said they would work with Ukraine, but would not hand over the black boxes containing flight data to American investigators or to Boeing.
Victims of the crash came from at least seven countries. Canada alone lost at least 63 people, many of them apparently dual citizens with Iran.
3. Impeachment stalemate.
Senator Mitch McConnell said he had no intention of negotiating with Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the terms of the trial, and he accused the speaker of playing politics with a solemn process at a time of possible war.
And he may not be alone: Democrats in the upper chamber are becoming increasingly impatient, and a growing number signaled that they, too, were ready to set the process moving again.
4. “I was left no other choice.”
Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan executive, spoke out publicly for the first time since his escape from Japan, where he faces an arrest warrant. At a news conference in Lebanon, he portrayed himself as the victim of a rigged justice system and a corporate coup by disloyal underlings.
Mr. Ghosn accused Nissan of working with prosecutors, motivated by its declining performance. He has also said Nissan and Japanese officials were trying to prevent a merger with Renault, a claim Japanese officials deny.
On the question of his escape, Mr. Ghosn was mum on the details, except to say that “there is a lot of imagination” in some media accounts of his brazen flight.
5. Two-thirds of Puerto Rico is without electricity after Tuesday’s 6.4-magnitude earthquake.
On Tuesday night, 97 percent of the island was in the dark. Thousands of residents slept outside, fearing new tremors. The chief executive of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said he hoped to get everyone’s power back on in the next day or so.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez said Puerto Ricans had not experienced in modern times earthquakes like those that struck the island in recent days. “There is no way to prepare for this. It hit us hard, hard, hard.”
6. First Brexit, now Megxit: Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, said they would step back from the British royal family and split their time between Britain and North America.
In their announcement, made on the couple’s Instagram account, the Duke and Duchess said they had decided to “carve out a progressive new role” within the institution, and would “work to become financially independent” as well as begin a new charity.
They did not say where in North America they would live, but speculation quickly grew that they would go either to Canada, a commonwealth country that they recently visited, or Los Angeles, where Meghan is from.
7. 2019 was the second hottest year on record.
The finding, by the Copernicus Climate Change Service, an intergovernmental agency supported by the E.U., is the latest unrelenting upward trend in a warming climate. Only 2016 was hotter, and not by much — less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit.
The evidence mounted all year, including record heat in Germany, above, and concluding with broiling temperatures contributing to Australia’s devastating wildfires.
Our Australia bureau chief looked at how Rupert Murdoch, the conservative media tycoon, is influencing the climate change debate by spreading disinformation.
8. It’s shaping up to be a bad flu season.
As of the last week of December, “widespread” flu activity was reported by health departments in 46 states. And the percentage of patients with flu symptoms visiting medical clinics nearly met the numbers at the height of the 2017-18 season, which was the most severe in a decade.
Experts said that this season’s flu vaccine might not be particularly effective, but that it’s still worth getting the shot as it can limit the flu’s severity.
In other health news, the cancer death rate fell 2.2 percent, the largest single-year decline in cancer mortality ever reported. Thank reduced smoking and new treatments for lung cancer and metastatic cancer.
9. Florence Pugh is living the Hollywood fairy tale — with the talent to prove it.
The star of “Little Women” and “Midsommar” went from a virtual unknown to one of the most acclaimed actresses of her generation. We sat down with the 24-year-old actress to talk about her breakout year.
And it may be awards season, but our Carpetbagger columnist is in no mood to celebrate: As the field continues to narrow ahead of the Oscar nominations next week, female filmmakers and actors of color appear increasingly sidelined.
10. And finally, your daily animal content.
Scientists knew octopuses and squid don’t have any depth perception, but they had a hunch their cuttlefish cousins might. They tested it by getting (some) to wear 3-D glasses and showing them a 3-D video of shrimp. The cuttlefish bit.
How were the glasses placed, you might wonder? Scientists gently lifted the cephalopods from an aquarium, dabbed them between the eyes with a bit of glue and some Velcro and stuck on the specs.
We also have a graphics editor’s story of tagging along on a squirrel census in New York’s Central Park. It wasn’t easy.
Have a multidimensional night.
Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.
And don’t miss Your Morning Briefing. Sign up here to get it by email in the Australian, Asian, European, African or American morning.
Want to catch up on past briefings? You can browse them here.
What did you like? What do you want to see here? Let us know at [email protected].