February 14, 2020

Rudy Giuliani has a fresh crop of claims about Democrats' dealings in Ukraine — an iPad full of "proof" he won't let anyone else see.

The former New York City mayor made a Fox Business appearance on Thursday night to push any corruption in Ukraine on Democrats' shoulders. "They're going to be very surprised when they see the report that I have" apparently revealing an "unaccounted for" $5.3 billion in Ukraine aid during the Obama administration, Giuliani said, not exactly specifying who "they" are. That aid gap apparently explains "how all those oligarchs become oligarchs," Giuliani said, making some chomping noises and motions to imitate his interpretation of how money is laundered.

Giuliani goes on to mention this mysterious report over and over, which apparently shows how "not just" the Bidens engaged in a "huge Democratic scam" in Ukraine. "That's why they're so crazy on the subject of Ukraine, and why they want to literally kill me," Giuliani said of Democrats, without any proof of this murderous plot. "I don't think it. I can prove it," Giuliani claimed again before breaking out a tablet containing a "document" that does just that — not that he actually shows it to the audience.

Giuliani hasn't publicized any proof for his claims, and more than 12 hours after claiming "we're gonna reveal the whole thing," still hasn't done so. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:22 a.m.

After nearly 20 years of war, "we are tired, and the Taliban is tired," Lt. Gen. Wali Mohammed Ahmadzai, the top Afghan army commander in Helmand province, told The Washington Post. "This war is just destroying everything." Friday is the final day of a week-long "reduction in violence" between the Taliban and U.S-backed Afghan forces designed to build trust before the U.S. and Taliban likely sign a peace deal Saturday.

There were no "significant" breach of the violence-reduction pact as of Thursday, Ahmadzai said. But at one of the government army bases in Helmand, 2nd Lt. Aghagul Afghan said he doesn't really "know what this term 'reduction in violence' means," telling the Post: "We didn't receive very detailed orders, just a call on the radio. My commander told me we are not allowed to attack the Taliban, otherwise we will be prosecuted. All they told me is, 'Don't make problems for us.'"

The details of the peace plan aren't publicly available. President Trump said the 13,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan would but cut to 8,600, and the Taliban, which would vow not to host extremists planning to attack the U.S., tells The Associated Press all U.S. forces could be out of the country in 14 months. If the U.S. and Taliban sign the agreement, representatives from the Taliban and Afghan government are supposed to sit down within 15 days and try to negotiate the contours of Afghanistan's future. That's not a sure thing, as the Post's Susannah George explains.

"Many Afghans view Saturday's expected signing of a U.S.-Taliban peace deal with a heavy dose of well-earned skepticism," AP reports. "They’ve spent decades living in a country at war — some their whole lives." But the week of reduced violence is important in itself, says Andrew Watkins at the International Crisis Group. "If these Afghans can live through a week's respite of fighting, that might begin to change wider perceptions of whether or not a lasting peace is possible." Peter Weber

2:26 a.m.

Wall Street is panicking over the coronavirus epidemic, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "In the first three days of this week, the Dow lost 2,000 points. But last night, Donald Trump held a press conference to reassure nervous investors — and today it bounced back by plunging almost 1,200 points, the largest single-day drop in U.S. history."

"Trump said he didn't think the stock market death spiral has anything to do with the coronavirus," instead blaming Democrats, Colbert said. But "Trump's biggest announcement" was that Vice President Mike Pence will spearhead the coronavirus response effort. Pence "does have experience with outbreaks, specifically making them worse" while Indiana governor, he said, "but you know what they say: If at first you don't succeed, welcome to the Trump administration!"

"The point of that press convergence was not public health, by the way," Colbert said. "Officials at Trump's coronavirus briefing focused on preventing the spread of criticism of Trump," which makes it "so disturbing" that "from now on, Mike Pence will control all coronavirus messaging from health officials. Yes, and his first order is renaming the National Institutes of Health 'Pray Away the Plague.'"

Here's what that might sound like in song:

Pence's appointment is "a total joke," according to 2014 Trump, Jimmy Kimmel noted at Kimmel Live, but maybe Trump will get more serious about the outbreak now because it's endangering supplies of his favorite drink, Diet Coke. In the meantime, he said, "the stock market is down and the coronavirus is up — this planet is going to Purell in a handbasket."

"Now that it's spread to six continents and 52 countries, drastic action is being taken around the globe." Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. For instance, "Japan has canceled school for a month — quick, America, now's your chance to catch up in math!" Putting Pence in charge of the coronavirus response "seems ludicrous, but maybe the plan is to just have Mike Pence bore the virus to death," he joked.

"Mike Pence?" Seth Meyers gawked at Late Night. "What medical experience does Mike Pence have? At best, he looks like a CPR doll that won't let you do mouth-to-mouth on it." Seriously, he added, "Trump should have picked someone with relevant experience and a proven track record, but instead he picked a political yes-man, because he doesn't have anyone else left in his White House." Watch below. Peter Weber

1:44 a.m.

Two public safety officials told the Los Angeles Times that Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies shared graphic photos from the scene of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others last month.

The Times says it's unclear how many people saw the pictures, which allegedly showed the victims' remains, and whether deputies took the photos themselves or received them from someone else. One of the officials told the Times he saw a picture on someone else's cell phone, while not working on the case. He also said that two days after the crash, first responders were discussing pictures that had been taken showing the aftermath.

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department on Thursday said "the matter is being looked into." This could be a significant breach, as sharing such photos with people who are not authorized to view them is "a cardinal sin in law enforcement," Joseph Giacalone, an instructor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the Times. Catherine Garcia

1:13 a.m.

Every day this February, Latoya McGriff entered her classroom as a different person.

One day, she donned a tutu and was ballerina Misty Copeland; on another, she wore a robe, signifying that she was the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. McGriff is a first grade teacher at Creekside Elementary School in Suffolk, Virginia, and in honor of Black History Month, she dressed up every day as a prominent African American historical figure, focusing on those with connections to Virginia.

"I just wanted to bring history alive for the kids," McGriff told Good Morning America. Most of the students at Creekside are black, and McGriff said it is "important for the children to see that people who look like them have made contributions, because it reassures them that they can, too. It's hard to believe in something you don't see."

Each outfit got the kids talking, and asking McGriff to share more information about the person. She especially enjoyed donning a 1950s style dress and cardigan and spending the day as Mary Jackson, the NASA mathematician and aerospace engineer who played a critical role in sending the first astronaut into space.

Jackson wasn't allowed in meetings because she was black and a woman, McGriff said, yet still, "she prevailed." The teacher hopes that by hearing about Jackson and other trailblazers, her students learn "no matter what the circumstances, they can make a difference in this world," she said. "No matter where they come from, how they look, they can make a difference." Catherine Garcia

February 27, 2020

Every political ad in South Carolina ahead of Saturday's Democratic presidential primary seems to feature former President Barack Obama, "so it seems a lot of white folks think standing next to a cool black person gives them legitimacy," Jordan Klepper said on Thursday's Daily Show. "But is it effective? Let's ask my good friend, Roy Wood Jr." Klepper and Wood traveled to Charleston to get the pulse of black voters, a group that gets its first real say in South Carolina's primary. And they left with one big question: "Who is Tom Steyer?!?"

The black voters they talked with were "not easily duped by the slick political advertising strategy of 'My One Black Friend,'" Klepper said. "But who was breaking through?" The surprise answer was Steyer, who has spent the most money on ads in South Carolina, even though his Obama connection is once-removed. To understand the appeal, Klepper and Wood asked Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) about Steyer, and then Steyer himself. Wood left him hanging. Watch below. Peter Weber

February 27, 2020

A senior Turkish official on Thursday said Turkey will no longer attempt to stop Syrian refugees heading to Europe.

"We have decided, effective immediately, not to stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land or sea," the unidentified official told Reuters. "All refugees, including Syrians, are now welcome to cross into the European Union."

There are 3.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, and in 2016, the European Union agreed to send the country billions of Euros in aid with the understanding that Turkey would prevent the migrants from going on to Europe. Now, as fighting has intensified in Syria's Idlib province and hundreds of thousands of Syrians are displaced, the burden of housing refugees is "too heavy for any single country to carry," the official told Reuters.

In Idlib, Turkish-backed rebels have been trying to keep control of territory they seized from the Syrian government, supported by Russia. On Thursday, a Syrian government airstrike in Idlib killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers, a Turkish official said. In response, Turkish air and land support units are firing on "all known" Syrian government targets, according to Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's communications director. Catherine Garcia

February 27, 2020

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will continue its reign as the longest-running live-action prime-time television series for at least three more years.

NBC announced on Thursday it is giving three-year renewals to all of producer Dick Wolf's shows that air on the network: Law & Order: SVU, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Med. "Dick Wolf has proven time and time again that he makes shows audiences love," NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy said in a statement, adding that the network is "delighted, excited, and proud" that the series will continue.

Starring Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU is now in its 21st season; it is the second-longest-running TV series of any kind, behind The Simpsons. Catherine Garcia

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