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We start with a look at the Trump administration’s Mideast policies, the growing political fight confronting the president, and a teachers’ strike in Los Angeles today.
The administration’s evolving strategy in the Middle East
Senior Pentagon officials are voicing concern that President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, could precipitate a conflict with Iran at a time when the U.S. is losing leverage in the Middle East.
At Mr. Bolton’s request, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year to offer military options to strike Iran, Defense Department and senior American officials said on Sunday.
The background: The request came after Iranian-backed militants fired three mortars or rockets onto the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Military officials at the time chose not to retaliate.
Another angle: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, today to discuss several issues that have weakened the U.S.-Saudi alliance, including the war in Yemen.
News analysis: The void left by America’s growing disengagement in the Middle East is being filled by Russia and Iran, our bureau chief in Beirut, Lebanon, writes.
President Trump faces a growing political fight
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, is scheduled to testify publicly in Congress next month about his work for Mr. Trump. Democratic leaders of House committees warned the president on Sunday against trying to influence witnesses’ testimony.
The Democrats’ warning capped a busy weekend: The Times learned that the F.B.I. investigated whether the president was secretly working on Russia’s behalf, and The Washington Post reported that the president tried to hide details of his conversations with President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Trump was asked in an interview on Fox News on Saturday whether he was working for Russia. “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” he answered.
News analysis: “Mr. Trump faces the prospect of an all-out political war for survival,” our chief White House correspondent writes.
What’s next: Confirmation hearings are set to begin on Tuesday for Bob Barr, Mr. Trump’s nominee for attorney general, who has a broad view of presidential power. Democrats have demanded that Mr. Barr protect the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference.
Decoding hospital prices
Hospitals began complying this month with a federal requirement to post prices for their services, theoretically offering consumers transparency and forcing health care providers into price competition.
But the information, posted online in spreadsheets for thousands of procedures, is incomprehensible to most patients. Many hospitals have posted disclaimers warning consumers not to rely on the data.
Reaction: “To 99 percent of the consuming public, these data will be of limited utility — meaningless,” said the president of the Greater New York Hospital Association.
Wave of violence puts Puerto Rico on edge
A series of daytime killings, some of which were captured on video and shared on social media, has shaken the island, which has long had one of the highest murder rates in the U.S.
Twenty-two people have been killed so far this year, making crime another major challenge on an island already hurt by bankruptcy and hurricane devastation.
Catch up: Kevin Fret, a musician and social media star, was fatally shot in San Juan last week.
If you have 9 minutes, this is worth it
Charities step in to help migrants
While the political battle over migration drags on, thousands of undocumented migrants are granted entry to the U.S. every month while their asylum cases are processed. But there is little federal support for them.
An expanding network of churches and other nongovernmental organizations is trying to get migrants fed, housed and possibly reunited with relatives in the U.S. “People are working 24 hours a day trying to make this happen,” said the leader of a San Diego aid network. “Everyone is strapped.”
Here’s what else is happening
Budget impasse sets a record: The partial government shutdown is now the longest in history. We looked at how it has underscored the federal government’s connection to everyday life in many parts of the U.S.
Los Angeles teachers’ strike: More than 30,000 public schoolteachers are expected to walk out today, calling for higher pay, smaller classes and more support staff. The strike in the nation’s second-largest school system will affect about 500,000 students.
Democrats running in 2020: Julián Castro, the former housing secretary and onetime mayor of San Antonio, plans to campaign in Puerto Rico today after saying he would run for president. He joins a growing field of candidates, including Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who announced her campaign on Friday.
Asylum for Saudi teen: Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, who fled what she said was an abusive family in Saudi Arabia, arrived in Toronto, where she was granted asylum by the Canadian government.
Black box is found: The cockpit voice recorder of the Lion Air flight that crashed in Indonesia in October has been located, officials announced today. All 189 people on board were killed.
Snapshot: Above, a snowball fight in Washington on Sunday. A winter storm hit parts of the Midwest and moved to the Atlantic coast.
Cook: Start the week with a comforting bowl of Tuscan farro soup.
Read: The actor Russell Hornsby spoke to us about “The Hate U Give” and complex black masculinity.
Go: Our critics’ selection of arts events this week includes a PBS program on Victoria and Albert’s royal wedding, and Japanese Breakfast in concert.
Smarter Living: Escaping the frenetic digital world might seem impossible, but Farhad Manjoo, a tech columnist who just joined our Opinion desk, says he manages thanks to meditation. “I started with 10 minutes a day, then built up to 15, 20, then 30,” he writes. The benefits went from noticeable to remarkable, something he likens to “a software upgrade for my brain.” (We have a guide.)
If you’re organizing your external space, too, we have ideas on selling, donating and recycling.
And now for the Back Story on …
What market watchers are watching
On Wall Street, it’s “earnings season.”
Before your eyes glaze over, here’s what that means — and why it’s more interesting than usual.
We’re about to see how corporate America did in the past three months.
It’s the first chance for investors to hear from chief executives since the market went haywire in December. A big reason for that sell-off was concern about the economy and corporate profits.
In the “preseason,” Apple warned that fewer people in China were buying iPhones than it had expected, and American Airlines said it wasn’t getting as much revenue from every passenger as it wanted.
Such details help gauge the health of the economy, and that’s where the trouble can begin. If too many companies warn about problems ahead, investors could see their worst fears confirmed — and stocks could start to fall again.
Maybe don’t check your 401(k) until this is over.
That’s it for this briefing.
I leave you with this: Last night, a photo of an egg unseated Kylie Jenner’s birth announcement as the most-liked Instagram post ever. Just a regular egg.
See you next time.
To Eleanor Stanford for the cultural tips and James K. Williamson for Smarter Living ideas. Mohammed Hadi, our business news director, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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