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We’re covering the Democratic debate in Las Vegas, a deadly attack in Germany, and a new poll showing growing enthusiasm among Americans for addressing climate change.
After eight relatively cordial debates, Wednesday night’s event in Las Vegas was a two-hour battle in which every candidate was put on the defensive, especially Michael Bloomberg.
The personal ties behind President Trump’s pardons
The clemency orders that Mr. Trump issued this week were the result of a process that bypassed the formal procedures used by past presidents and was driven instead by friendship, fame and a shared sense of persecution.
All 11 recipients had an inside connection or were promoted on Fox News. Mr. Trump’s advisers acknowledged that the process was unique, but stressed that he was committed to countering what he saw as the excesses of the criminal justice system.
What’s next: Roger Stone, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump, is scheduled to be sentenced this morning for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect the president.
Another angle: Mr. Trump named Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, to be the acting director of national intelligence overseeing the 17 U.S. spy agencies. Mr. Grenell has little experience in intelligence, but he has been a fierce advocate for the president.
China again alters coronavirus methodology
For the second time in about a week, China has changed its criteria for confirming cases of the virus, making it increasingly difficult for public health experts to track the outbreak.
The government said today that it would now differentiate between “suspected” and “confirmed” cases. Cases would be considered confirmed only after genetic testing, which is difficult to conduct and whose results are often wrong.
Here are the latest updates and maps of where the virus has spread.
Related: Two people aboard a contaminated cruise ship in Japan have died, the authorities said today. As hundreds of passengers began leaving the ship after a two-week quarantine, health experts feared Japan had mismanaged the situation.
Another angle: President Trump has commended President Xi Jinping’s handling of the crisis, but hard-liners within the Trump administration say Beijing can’t be trusted to disclose what it knows or properly handle the outbreak.
If you have 12 minutes, this is worth it
The fight for Libya
In a nation where warlords and militias battle for control and migrants pack the Mediterranean coast, a 76-year-old commander, Khalifa Hifter, says he can resolve the turmoil. His forces have been attacking Tripoli, the capital, for 10 months.
Journalists from The Times made a rare visit to Mr. Hifter’s eastern stronghold, Benghazi. What “the Marshal” has created there, their report shows, is not the secular stability he promises, but “an unwieldy authoritarianism that in many ways is both more puritanical and more lawless” than that of Libya’s last dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Snapshot: Above, Staples Center in Los Angeles, the home of the N.B.A.’s Lakers and Clippers. Both teams are contenders for the league’s championship this season, but the city’s heart belongs to only one.
What we’re listening to: “Public Official A,” a podcast from WBEZ last year. “This is a Robert Caro-like dissection of political corruption in the U.S., and of Rod Blagojevich, a political star who turned into a black hole,” says Adeel Hassan, on our National desk. “It still resonates.”
Now, a break from the news
Cook: A squeeze of lime brightens braised chicken with coconut milk, tomato and ginger.
Watch: Ben Affleck has four movies coming out this year, starting with “The Way Back,” a poignant sports drama. He spoke to The Times about getting sober and trying to recalibrate his career.
Read: Douglas W. Tallamy’s “Nature’s Best Hope” examines grass-roots solutions for reversing wildlife decline. It’s new this week on our hardcover nonfiction best-seller list.
Smarter Living: Our “Scam or Not” feature looks at whether coffee is good for you. Spoiler: Often yes (to the delight of your well-caffeinated briefing writer).
And now for the Back Story on …
The original Renegade
A new dance called the Renegade is suddenly everywhere, from teenagers’ phone screens to the N.B.A. All-Star Game. Shira Ovide, a technology reporter, and Taylor Lorenz, a Styles reporter, talked about the apps that helped the dance go viral — Dubsmash and TikTok — and about finding its 14-year-old creator, Jalaiah Harmon.
Taylor: I heard about Jalaiah Harmon from a friend in the Dubsmash community right around Christmas. People had cited her Instagram post, and it was clear she had created the dance.
No one online knew her full name or identity, and it took weeks to hunt her and her family down and get in touch with her mother directly. Her mom didn’t even fully realize what Jalaiah had created until I called her at work.
Shira: How would you explain these dance performance apps like Dubsmash to an alien new to our planet? (Or, say, a writer whose musical tastes are stuck in early-2000s ska bands?)
Taylor: Apps like Dubsmash, TikTok and Funimate let you post videos set to music or with special effects. Dance challenges — short 15-second pieces of choreography — are very popular on these apps.
Shira: How do Jalaiah and her family feel now about her very online kind of fame?
Taylor: They’re very excited and overwhelmed. Jalaiah was in Chicago this weekend to perform at halftime at the N.B.A. All-Star Game. She got to meet and collaborate with Charli D’Amelio, a TikTok star who helped popularize the dance. Jalaiah and Charli hit it off immediately. Kim Kardashian posted a video of Jalaiah doing the dance to Instagram. It’s been a whirlwind!
Shira: Taylor, can you do the Renegade? Can you show us?
Taylor: I’m in my 30s and so I don’t think my joints can move like that anymore. For anyone interested, Jalaiah posted a slow-motion tutorial on Instagram.
(This conversation has been edited and originally appeared in “Wait…,” a Times newsletter about how technology and celebrity are changing our lives.)
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
Mark Josephson and Chris Harcum provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is the second of a two-part series about a digital underworld of child sexual abuse imagery.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Unpaid bill at the bar (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The Times received four George Polk Awards, one of journalism’s most prestigious honors, on Wednesday, the most of any news organization.