Donald Trump, Venezuela, Eclipse: Your Wednesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. Following a tit-for-tat between President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the State of the Union address, the president said he would look for alternative sites for the speech on Tuesday.

This morning, Mr. Trump told Ms. Pelosi that he would deliver the speech in the Capitol next week as scheduled. But Ms. Pelosi fired back and told Mr. Trump he wasn’t welcome to give the address in the House until the government reopened.

By late afternoon, Mr. Trump declared, “The State of the Union has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn’t want to hear the truth.”

In another development, House Democratic leaders said they were prepared to offer President Trump $5.7 billion for border security — but not for a wall, and not until he agreed to end the government shutdown.

2. The opposition leader of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, above, declared himself the country’s interim president as tens of thousands backed him in anti-government protests — the most direct challenge yet to President Nicolás Maduro.

President Trump — along with Canada, Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay — quickly recognized Mr. Guaidó as the country’s leader. In response, President Maduro cut diplomatic ties with the United States and gave American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country, saying the Trump administration had orchestrated a plot to overthrow him.

Mr. Maduro’s presidency is teetering after his disputed re-election last year. Under his leadership, the country’s economy has spiraled downward, and food, water and medicine supplies are running low.


3. President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer backed out of congressional testimony set for next month, citing Mr. Trump’s verbal attacks on his family.

Michael Cohen was set to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7. It is not clear when he might reschedule; his three-year prison sentence for lying to Congress, financial crimes and campaign finance violations begins March 6. Above, Mr. Cohen in December.

His testimony before Congress would have been the first public questioning about any possible involvement by Mr. Trump in those crimes.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly suggested that Mr. Cohen’s family members should be investigated, but denied that he was making threats. He told reporters that Mr. Cohen has “only been threatened by the truth.”


4. Three weeks before the midterm elections, former Vice President Joseph Biden collected $200,000 for a speech in which he praised Representative Fred Upton, a vulnerable Republican congressman from Michigan who went on to narrowly win a tough race against a Democratic challenger.

The speech was made before a civic organization supported in part by an Upton family foundation. And as Mr. Biden considers a bid for the presidency in 2020, the episode sets his lucrative personal activities at odds with what some Democrats saw as his duty to the party.

Separately, members of Generation Z — those born between 1995 and 2010 — are more open to social change than older generations, according to a new study, a shift that could substantially reshape the nation’s political landscape.


5. So what exactly happened with the students from Covington, Ky., in Washington last week?

Today’s episode of “The Daily” breaks down how an encounter between Catholic high school students and a Native American man at the Lincoln Memorial, above, became an explosive political moment.

Video clips were posted online and went viral — and didn’t tell the full story.

We also looked at a third group in the encounter, the Hebrew Israelites, whose provocative tactics preceded the other confrontation.

6. Two months ago, a Chinese researcher shocked the scientific world by announcing he had created the first genetically edited babies — twins, born in November.

Some U.S. researchers knew about his project, but said they weren’t able to stop him. Now scientific institutions are trying to devise global safeguards to keep such experiments from happening again. While scientists differ on the best approach, they do agree they should act quickly.

Scientists fear that genetically edited babies could develop unintended health problems that could be inherited by subsequent generations. They also worry about attempts to produce designer babies, genetically altered for physical features, intelligence or athletic prowess.

The World Economic Forum in Davos has scheduled a discussion of the issue on Thursday.


7. Digital junk can stack up as quickly as the clutter in your closet.

With many finding inspiration from Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show on tidying up, we put together a guide to organizing your technology, physically and digitally.

Here’s some tough love on decluttering cables, from a professional organizer: “If you don’t know what it goes to, get rid of it.”

And our colleagues in Opinion dug deep on tidying up. It turns out Socrates had some tips.

8. “Green Book.” “The Help.” “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Why do the Academy Awards keep falling for racial reconciliation fantasies?

In many Oscar bait movies, interracial friendships come with a paycheck and follow the white character’s journey to enlightenment. Wesley Morris, our critic-at-large, examines the history of these relationships onscreen — and how they haven’t really changed in 2019.

“They romanticize their workplaces and treat their black characters as the ideal crowbar for closed white minds and insulated lives,” he writes.


9. When Serena Williams left tennis for 13 months, she allowed younger players to dig further into their game and grow their confidence.

That was evident when Karolina Pliskova, 26, defeated Ms. Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. Ms. Pliskova was already on the rise when a pregnant Ms. Williams took her leave. And the way she pulled out the victory was telling: She played the big points as fearlessly as Williams, 37, once did.

“In spotting the rest of the women’s game a full year, she simply gave everybody else a chance to catch up to her level of intensity and fight,” our columnist writes.

Next up, Rafael Nadal plays Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinals. Check back here for all of our coverage from Melbourne.


10. Finally, a flash before your very eyes.

When the total lunar eclipse appeared over the Western Hemisphere late Sunday, livestreams caught a brief flash of light from the moon’s surface. Astronomers and citizen scientists were puzzled — was it a glitch in the video feed, or something more?

The most likely explanation, experts say, is that a tiny meteoroid slammed into the moon’s surface. Scientists estimated the velocity of the object was in the range of 38,000 miles per hour. Whatever it was, it was small. One scientist said it was “probably somewhere between the size of an acorn and tennis ball.”

Have a stellar night.


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