Nancy Pelosi, Chicago, Mary Oliver: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. A few members of Congress were on a bus, heading to Andrews Air Force Base for their first leg of an unannounced trip to Afghanistan, when President Trump sent a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed,” Mr. Trump wrote. “We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the shutdown is over.”

The point was clear. A day earlier, Ms. Pelosi said Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address should be delayed — or delivered only in writing — because of security concerns raised by the government shutdown. She has continued to push her case for a delay, and also hinted that Democrats would begin promoting their own proposals for border security.

2. At the Pentagon, President Trump called for new investments in missile defenses aimed at shielding the U.S. from the increasingly sophisticated weaponry in North Korea, China, Russia and Iran.

Antimissile systems are extremely costly — the U.S. has spent over $300 billion on them to date — and also extremely difficult to get right. It has proved challenging to intercept speeding targets in the sky: A system introduced in 2004 has failed in 50 percent of its tests.

On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to meet with North Korea’s lead nuclear program negotiator in Washington. Mr. Pence said this week that the U.S. was still waiting for “concrete steps from North Korea” toward denuclearization — a demand that has stalled dialogue between the two countries.


3. Thousands more migrant children were likely separated from their families than officially reported.

As of December, nearly 3,000 children were known to have been forcibly separated from their parents under last year’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, in which nearly all adults entering the U.S. illegally were prosecuted and any children with them were put into shelters or foster care. Above, a father and daughter reunited in Phoenix this summer.

But a new report from a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services notes that thousands more children may have been separated during an influx that began in 2017, before a federal court order required them to be tracked.


4. A car bomb exploded at a police academy in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, killing at least 10 people and wounding 72.

The attack sent shock waves across the city, where bombings were once common as drug traffickers and leftist guerrillas waged aggressive terror campaigns. But it has been years since there was an attack of this kind in Bogotá.

No group immediately claimed responsibility.


5. Three Chicago police officers were acquitted of charges that they covered up for the officer who fatally shot Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, in 2014.

The officers’ accounts of the encounter — including saying Laquan tried to stab officers — were contradicted by video from a police dashboard camera. But the judge said the state had failed to prove its case.

The verdict was a blow to those who saw an opportunity to exact accountability in a city where the police have been accused for decades of a maintaining a “code of silence” regarding misconduct.

Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot Laquan 16 times, was convicted of second-degree murder in October and is to be sentenced on Friday.

6. The environmental risks of climate change are clear and tangible. But what about its impact on the economy?

On Thursday, some of the world’s most influential economists called for a tax on carbon emissions in the United States, saying climate change demands “immediate national action.” Proceeds from the tax, they suggested, would be distributed to consumers as “carbon dividends.”

Above, sorting coffee beans in Ethiopia. The plant is seeing the negative impact of global warming.

The proposal comes on the heels of a government report that raised the prospect that a warmer planet could mean a big hit to G.D.P. in the coming decades. Much of it comes down to how to value the future versus the present, our senior economics correspondent explains.

7. What can genes tell us about who we are?

In a handful of elite labs around the world, geneticists have begun using old bones to try to answer fundamental questions about the human past.

In an extensive report, The Times Magazine looks at whether these “paleogenomics” studies are revealing new truths or falling into old traps — like reviving the kind of grand narratives once exploited by extreme nationalists like the Nazis to tell stories about their people’s glorious pasts.

We also have five takeaways from our long read.


8. When it’s over, I want to say all my life/

I was a bride married to amazement./

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms./

Mary Oliver, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, died at her home in Hobe Sound, Fla. She was 83.

9. The National Parks may be affected by the government shutdown, but the American wilderness shines in a new photography show.

“Ansel Adams in Our Time,” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, is a far-ranging exhibition that connects the legendary conservationist to 23 contemporary photographers. Above, “The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming,” by Mr. Adams in 1942.

By including newer works, our critic writes, the show “highlights how Adams, who carried the 19th century’s hymn to America into the 20th century, has remained an inescapable force.”


10. Finally, it’s a garage sale like no other.

Many people might struggle to imagine liking an airline so much they’d want to buy its old silverware and service carts. But at a monthly sale, lovers of Delta Air Lines snap up decommissioned items.

Buyers line up at the airline’s flight museum in Atlanta to get their hands on bottles of cocktail syrup and slippers — even old airplane parts. At a recent sale, a set of first-class seats sold for $300 (economy was available for $250).

Many return again and again. “It’s never the same sale twice,” one shopper said.

Have a thrifty night.


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