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Good evening. Here’s the latest.
1. Attorney General William Barr is tightening control over politically sensitive investigations.
A day after declaring his department’s independence from President Trump, Mr. Barr, above in September, has assigned outside prosecutors to scrutinize the handling of national security cases — including a review of the case against Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.
Federal prosecutors have recommended that Mr. Flynn be sentenced to up to six months in prison for lying to investigators in the Russia inquiry; Mr. Flynn has in turn sought to withdraw his guilty plea.
In a move that appeared to cut the other way, the Justice Department said it would not charge Andrew McCabe, a former senior F.B.I. official who has been a target of Mr. Trump, with lying to investigators.
The conflicting signals came at the end of a week of furor over the potential politicization of the Justice Department, even as Mr. Trump once again claimed “a legal right” to interfere in federal criminal cases.
2. Medical workers at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak are facing dire shortages of protective wear.
One doctor in Wuhan, China, resorted to making a video plea for masks that was deleted by government censors. The Chinese government now says six medical workers have died during the outbreak, and more than 1,700 are infected.
As the total number of reported cases in China rose to around 64,000, Beijing said it would begin requiring all who enter the city to isolate themselves for 14 days. Here’s the latest.
3. 10 percent.
That’s how many precincts made mistakes in the Iowa Democratic caucuses this month. The vote counting was so riddled with problems we may never know what really happened, and no winner has been declared.
Our journalists dove into the errors in the convoluted process, and found clear mistakes in the number of delegates awarded to the candidates.
The Democratic race now moves to Nevada, which holds its caucuses on Feb. 22, with early caucusing starting this weekend. Despite assurances from the state party, campaigns are worried about a repeat of the Iowa fiasco.
4. An intensifying immigration crackdown.
Border Patrol is set to deploy tactical units from the southern border to conduct supercharged raids in nearly a dozen sanctuary cities across the country, according to two officials familiar with the plans.
Drawn from an elite force that’s essentially a SWAT team within the agency, the new officers will join local Immigration and Customs Enforcement teams in cities including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, which have refused to cooperate with federal authorities to hand over immigrants targeted for deportation.
The goal of the new joint operation, one official said, was to increase arrests by at least 35 percent in the sanctuary jurisdictions, a persistent target of President Trump.
5. Russia is pressuring the U.S. in Syria.
Russian military personnel have increasingly had run-ins with U.S. troops on highways in the region, despite agreements between the two countries to steer clear of each other. Russian helicopters are flying closer to American ones, and a recent tangle at a checkpoint produced a brief firefight, above.
About 500 U.S. soldiers remain in the country’s northeast to fight the Islamic State and guard oil fields, after President Trump withdrew the bulk of troops ahead of a cross-border Turkish offensive last fall.
The human toll in the region continues to deepen. In just three months, 800,000 Syrians have fled their home in the country’s civil war. This is what the refugee crisis looks like.
6. The underwater damage from Hurricane Dorian is becoming clear.
The storm, which wiped out communities in the Bahamas and killed 67 people in September, also destroyed about 30 percent of the islands’ coral reefs, according to a new study.
The reef’s rich ecosystem, which powers the Bahamas’ tourism, was already threatened, and regrowth in the rubble will take years. But there was some good news: Many reefs escaped unscathed.
7. Can you be a superstar, and also in hiding?
That’s what Justin Bieber is attempting on “Changes,” his “sinuous, meditative and largely impressive” new album, our music critic writes. He is, at the moment, “the last of a certain kind of white male R&B-adjacent pop star — a mania-inducing hurricane whose power is far greater than the art he makes.”
And what happens when you get famous off one song? We talked to one British teen whose delightful ode to life in small-town Britain has left him wanting more.
8. If you must use a public restroom in New York City, go here.
A curbside kiosk in Midtown Manhattan has black-and-white photos of old New York, rotating toilet seat covers, classical music and an attendant. One user went as far as calling the experience “very elegant.”
While New York City is still a long way from being bathroom friendly, other comfort stations around the city are also improving: Amtrak installed luxury-brand urinals in the men’s room at Pennsylvania Station, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is overhauling 200 bathrooms in airports and transit centers.
9. It’s amore!
African-American women are traveling to Italy for love — and finding it — thanks to a new crop of travel companies providing dating advice and services, along with sightseeing.
“As black women, we are told in the U.S. that we are too aggressive and too bossy and too loud and all these negative stereotypes we hear all the time,” said Fleacé Weaver, the founder of Black Girl Travel. “But you put us in Italy and we’re perfect because you know who else is bossy and loud and aggressive? Italian mothers.”
Perhaps you’re staying a little closer to home tonight. Here’s what to stream on Valentine’s Day, according to our culture writers.
10. And finally, a different kind of ritual.
There are many ways to find a mate. When you read this story about how four species seal the deal, you might just rather be your own valentine.
Snails, for example, which are hermaphroditic, begin with hours of what scientists call “foreplay,” in which snail pairs get close and sniff each other before launching a sharp calcium spear that pierces their mate.
Male octopuses, on the other hand, have been known to park themselves near a female and insert a tentacle into her body; then, as the mating ritual nears its end, the female sneaks closer to the male and promptly eats him.
Happy Valentine’s Day, however you celebrate.
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