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February 3, 2016

Many Americans — and journalists — were puzzled to learn that Iowa Democrats sometimes award presidential candidates county-level delegates based on a coin toss. The popular narrative that emerged from Monday's caucuses is that luck was with Hillary Clinton, and that her team's winning coin-flip picks swayed the election results. Take, for example, this caucus-night report from MSNBC:

Coin tosses aren't reported in the official tallies, so it's not clear how many county delegates were awarded by heads versus tails. But Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Sam Lau tells The Des Moines Register that seven coin flips were reported statewide, and that Bernie Sanders won six of them. The Register, looking at social media and one first-person report, also identified seven coin tosses at Democratic caucuses, with Clinton winning six. The newspaper has requested an official tally of precinct coin tosses and their outcomes to clear up the confusion.

But regardless, it's unlikely that the coin tosses affected the outcome — the official results are 700.59 state delegate equivalents for Clinton (49.8 percent), 696.82 SDEs for Sanders (49.6 percent). That's because, unlike MSNBC's report, the coin tosses don't decide statewide delegates but county delegates, of which there are about 11,000 across Iowa, versus 1,400 state delegate equivalents. The county-level delegates are used in a formula to determine the SDEs, but each one has only a tiny impact on the SDE count.

"The data we have suggest the game of chance was a rare occurrence and of the data we have, Sanders won the majority of those delegates that were chosen through the game of chance," former Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, a Clinton supporter, tells The Des Moines Register. Coin tosses may seem like an arcane way to resolve ties or delegate disputes, he said, but the party has used them for a long time, including in the 2008 caucuses that propelled Barack Obama to victory. You can read more about the coin tosses, and the chaos at Monday's caucuses, at The Des Moines Register. Peter Weber

8:26 a.m.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn heads to court on Tuesday with best wishes from President Trump.

Ahead of Flynn's sentencing for lying to the FBI, Trump wrote on Twitter, "Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn." Trump added that it will be "interesting to see what he has to say" about Russian collusion and "our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign." He also contended that Flynn has had "tremendous pressure" put on him.

Flynn last year pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016. His lawyers have recently put forth the argument that he was not given adequate warning about the consequences of lying during his FBI interview, while prosecutors have responded that lying to the FBI is not something Flynn should need to be warned not to do, per The Associated Press. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Monday released notes from Flynn's FBI interview showing that he made false statements about his conversations with Kislyak.

Mueller has recommended a light sentence for Flynn due to his cooperation, and according to CNN, he may walk away with no jail time at all. Brendan Morrow

8:19 a.m.

How does President Trump plan on avoiding a partial government shutdown this Friday? Your guess, it seems, is as good as the rest of the GOP's.

Republican lawmakers are "in the dark" with three days left to go before the government would partially shut down if the president and Democratic leaders cannot agree on new funding, per The Washington Post. "If there is a plan ... I'm not aware of it," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Monday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Republicans that "we're waiting for" the White House.

But Republicans are "concerned" about this apparent "lack of strategy," CNN reports. "If the White House has a plan, they're keeping it to themselves," Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) noted.

The Washington Post reports the White House's legislative affairs team has come up with a plan to avoid a shutdown. It's unclear what this might be, but CNN notes that Trump seems to think he can "exert maximum pressure on Democrats" and compel them to agree to the $5 billion he has demanded for border wall funding; Democrats have said they will not agree to more than $1.6 billion for border security.

Republicans fear they would suffer the political consequences if a shutdown happens, especially after Trump explicitly stated in a meeting last week he'd be "proud" to see it happen and would "take the blame." Brendan Morrow

1:30 a.m.

When visiting the toy factory run by Tiny Tim's Foundation for Kids, you can leave your wallet at home.

The West Jordan, Utah, toy factory makes small wooden cars, but doesn't charge a penny for them. In 2002, retired barber Alton Thacker and his wife, Cheryl Thacker, decided to open the factory after making several trips to small villages in Mexico to donate eyeglasses and medical equipment. Together, they saw "the important role toys played in helping little minds to grow," Alton Thacker told The Washington Post.

The toy cars are distributed free of charges to charities, churches, shelters, and children's hospitals, with some being delivered to kids as far away as Iraq, Russia, Brazil, and Ghana. More than 30 people regularly volunteer to carve and sand the wooden cars, with inmates at the Central Utah Correctional Facility painting them. Because lumber yards and cabinetmakers donate the wood, it only costs around $2 to build each car, and in 2018, the factory's one millionth wooden toy was made. "We have a small army of volunteers who want to get every one of our cars into the hands of a child," Thacker said. Catherine Garcia

12:38 a.m.

It's a movie that's been bringing audiences to tears since 1942, and now, a Missouri man convicted of illegally killing hundreds of deer has to watch it once a month while sitting in his jail cell.

Earlier this month, a judge in Lawrence County, Missouri, sentenced David Berry Jr. to one year in jail for illegally killing hundreds of deer over the course of several years. While serving his time, he must also watch Bambi — the Disney tear-jerker about a deer whose mother is killed by a hunter — once a month. "If Bambi gets the point across to him, I don't have a problem with it," Lawrence County Prosecutor Don Trotter told BuzzFeed News.

The Missouri Department of Conservation said David Berry Jr., David Berry Sr., and other members of their family killed hundreds of deer, took their heads for taxidermy purposes, and left the bodies behind to rot. Anyone who tried to stop them was threatened, Trotter said. The investigation into one of the state's largest poaching cases took several years, with Berry Jr. and Berry Sr. arrested in August. Defense attorneys asked the judge for a light sentence because Berry Jr. has a new baby, but he was unmoved. "You can watch Bambi and think about your own child when you do that," Trotter said. Catherine Garcia

December 17, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller became a target of Russian disinformation teams not long after he was appointed in May 2017 to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, researchers from Clemson University said.

The team found that Russians working for the Internet Research Agency troll farm posted false claims about Mueller on several social media platforms, tweeting about him more than 5,000 times; they claimed his investigation was "fake," that he should be fired, and that he had once worked with "radical Islamic groups."

Two reports prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee released Monday show that Russians launched disinformation campaigns to help get President Trump elected, with their efforts starting earlier and lasting longer than previously thought. After analyzing more than 10 million posts, researchers found that Instagram was used more than any other platform. The report compiled by New Knowledge, Columbia University, and Canfield Research states that Russians posted 116,000 times on Instagram, more than Twitter and Facebook combined, and generated 187 million comments, likes, and other reactions.

"We hope that these reports provide clarity for the American people and policymakers alike, and make clear the sweeping scope of the operation and the long game being played," New Knowledge research director Renee DiResta told The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

December 17, 2018

Clashes broke out in the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah just minutes after a ceasefire took effect at midnight Tuesday.

Hudaydah is a port city 90 miles east of the capital of Sanaa. Houthi rebels took control of Hudaydah in late 2014, and since June, the city has been under assault by the Saudi-led coalition that supports the government, BBC News reports. The ceasefire was agreed to last Thursday in Sweden during talks sponsored by the United Nations, but was delayed when fighting broke out on Friday.

Yemen's civil war has been raging for almost four years. More than 22 million Yemenis need aid, and Hudaydah is a crucial entrance point for food, medicine, and other supplies. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 16 million Yemenis do not have safe water to drink, 25 percent of children are not attending school, and two million people have been displaced from their homes. Catherine Garcia

December 17, 2018

Roger Stone, one of President Trump's longtime friends and a campaign adviser, settled a defamation suit on Monday filed by an exiled Chinese businessman who said Stone made false and misleading statements about him on Infowars, a website that peddles right-wing conspiracy theories.

Guo Wengui filed the suit in Florida this March, seeking $100 million in damages. Guo is a critic of Beijing, and has accused several politicians and businessmen in China of being corrupt. In his suit, Guo said Stone called him a "turncoat criminal who is convicted of crimes here and in China," and claimed he violated election laws by donating to Hillary Clinton. During an interview last month, Guo said Bruno Wu, a Chinese-American media tycoon, paid Stone to talk about him on InfoWars. Wu, who has been accused of being a Chinese spy by Guo, has since filed a defamation lawsuit against Guo.

As part of the settlement, Stone has to publish a retraction on social media and take out ads in several major newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, apologizing for his remarks about Guo. By doing this, Stone does not have to pay damages. The settlement describes Wu as being "the apparent source of the information" about Guo, which was passed along to Stone by Sam Nunberg, a former member of the Trump campaign.

In a text to the Journal, Stone said he was "irresponsible" and "solely responsible for fulfilling the terms of the settlement." It's been reported that Stone is being looked at as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and this defamation suit is a completely separate issue. Catherine Garcia

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