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DEMOCRATS-BLACKVOTERS:LA — What's one thing Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar all have in common, other than the fact they each had a good showing in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary?

They all come from mostly white states and have little history of electoral success with black voters. They now have only a few weeks to try to change that.

With the continued decline of Joe Biden's candidacy, which endured a miserably bad night in New Hampshire, African Americans, a crucial Democratic constituency, may now be up for grabs to an extent that has not been true in a Democratic primary in many years.

BIDEN:LA — Von Miller knows that Joe Biden is counting on folks like him, a black Democratic voter in South Carolina, to help salvage his presidential campaign after crushing defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The 45-year-old middle school teacher in Columbia said he values Biden's decades of experience in Washington and thinks he has the clout to push his policies through Congress. But Miller cannot shake the feeling that Biden lacks the oomph to beat President Donald Trump and that he's coasting on the coattails of his relationship with former President Barack Obama.

STONE-JUSTICEDEPARTMENT:LA — Top Justice Department officials came under fire Wednesday for jettisoning a recommendation by career prosecutors that Roger Stone, a longtime confidante of President Donald Trump, receive a stiff prison sentence.

Democrats called for investigations into the reversal, which led four career prosecutors Tuesday to dramatically withdraw from the case. Former federal prosecutors said the department appeared to have either botched its oversight of the prosecution or abandoned decades of independence to help a friend of Trump's.

STONE-1ST-LEDE:BLO — President Donald Trump on Wednesday withdrew the nomination of a former federal prosecutor to oversee sanctions at the Treasury Department.

Jessie Liu had been the U.S. attorney in charge of the office that prosecuted Roger Stone, a political ally of Trump. The decision to pull her nomination came after the Justice Department on Tuesday reduced its recommendation for the duration of Stone's sentence, a reversal that followed a Trump tweet criticizing prosecutors' initial recommendation as too harsh.

CORONAVIRUS-1ST-LEDE:DPA — Health authorities in China's Hubei province said 242 new deaths from the coronavirus known as Covid-19 occurred Wednesday.

A total of 14,840 new cases of the Covid-19 illness were reported in a 24-hour interval, the Health Commission of Hubei Province said early Thursday.

The new figures mark a sizable jump in the number of new virus cases and casualties in the province, where the disease emerged in December.

STONE-TRIAL-1ST-LEDE:BLO — A federal judge rejected Roger Stone's claim that he deserved a new trial because a biased Internal Revenue Service employee sat on the jury that convicted him of lying to help President Donald Trump.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson's ruling on the previously sealed request was made public on Wednesday, a day after four prosecutors quit the case in response to a rare Justice Department decision to overrule their suggestion of a harsh sentence for the longtime Republican operative.

STONE-GOP:CON — Senate Republicans left it to a federal judge Wednesday to sweep away questions of improper political influence by the White House in the criminal case against Roger Stone — even as President Donald Trump tried to cast doubt on fairness ahead of his longtime adviser's sentencing.

The Stone case isn't the only recent time Republicans have pointed to the courts rather than take charge themselves when Trump and his administration have more aggressively rebuked Washington norms.

DEMOCRATS-2020:CON — After divided presidential results in Iowa and New Hampshire, Democrats in Congress said Wednesday they were bracing for a lengthy primary fight, which some worried could hurt voter enthusiasm in November.

One Democratic strategist Wednesday summed up the Democrats' views this way: "Everybody's kind of wary but it's not a full-blown panic."

USVENEZUELA-WORKERS:LA — A few days before Thanksgiving, Tomeu Vadell received a phone call summoning him to Venezuela for a hastily convened budget meeting of the Citgo oil firm that had employed him for more than 30 years. He would zip down and be back home in Lake Charles, La., in time for the holiday, his family recalls him saying.

That was more than two years ago. Vadell and five other executives for the Houston-based oil conglomerate have been held in Venezuelan prisons ever since.

WHITEHOUSE-NSC:LA — Long before national security adviser Robert O'Brien had security guards escort Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in President Donald Trump's impeachment case, and his twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an ethics lawyer, out of the White House, O'Brien had dismissed or transferred about 70 people, or about one-third of those employed by or temporarily assigned to the NSC, according to senior administration officials.

USIRAN-CONGRESS:CON — The Senate on Wednesday narrowly voted to begin debate on a resolution that would block President Donald Trump from carrying out attacks on Iran.

All Democrats present plus eight Republicans voted 51-45 in favor of beginning debate on the resolution from Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, which would require the immediate cessation of "hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran or any part of its government or military, unless explicitly authorized" by Congress.

HOUSE-ERA:CON — The House will attempt to revive the Equal Rights Amendment later this week, with a vote to remove the 1982 deadline for state ratification and reopen the process for amending the Constitution to prohibit discrimination based on sex. But removing the deadline won't clear a path for the 28th Amendment. Hurdles, including the Republican-led Senate, a lawsuit from GOP state attorneys general and opposition from the current Justice Department, remain.

HOUSE-DEMOCRATS-BUDGET:CON — House Democrats do not plan to draft a budget resolution this year, so how do they communicate their fiscal priorities with voters ahead of a crucial 2020 campaign?

The answer depends on whom you ask, but it boils down to this: Democrats have shown through the appropriations process which programs they think taxpayer dollars should be spent on and through their legislative agenda where they think additional investments are needed. But when it comes to addressing the trajectory of $1 trillion annual deficits, Democrats point the blame at Republicans' 2017 tax law and have largely opted against offering their own solutions.

FEDBUDGET-MNUCHIN:CON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin found himself parrying allegations that his department's regulations carrying out the 2017 tax code overhaul added more than $100 billion in corporate tax benefits Wednesday at his first Capitol Hill appearance defending President Donald Trump's new budget request.

FEDBUDGET-RAISES:WA — President Donald Trump has proposed a 1% raise for civilian federal workers next year — an increase that's less than half of what was scheduled.

The White House said in a message to Congress this week that Trump views the planned 2.5% pay increase for federal workers as "inappropriate," noting that presidents can put in place alternate pay adjustment plans in case of "national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare."

INVESTORS-ABORTION:CON — Shareholder groups that have won corporate boardroom concessions on climate change and diversity are beginning to press corporations on women's reproductive health issues, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in a case that could fundamentally alter abortion rights in the United States.

A group of 36 investors managing $236 billion in assets sent a letter to CEOs of more than 30 companies asking them to discuss their positions related to sexual and reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by CQ Roll Call.

HOUSE-DEMOCRATS-RULES:CON — House Democratic Caucus rules are not publicly available online, leaving the public in the dark on how those lawmakers assume power within the party and the procedures that members follow as part of that collective group.

It has been over a year since the progressive group Demand Progress, joined by others, originally wrote to House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York asking him to publish the rules governing the caucus online. Last year, Jeffries said he would present the issue to the caucus, but nothing has come of it.

IOWA-CAUCUS-DEMOCRATIC-CHAIRMAN:NY — The chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party announced Wednesday he's resigning so his constituents can "begin looking forward" — starting with a recanvass this weekend of results from the state's botched caucus.

Troy Price, who has apologized for the embarrassing fallout from Iowa's still-undecided Feb. 3 caucus, said in a statement it's untenable for him to remain in his position as the party scrambles to figure out who won the first-in-the-nation presidential contest.

NH-PRIMARY-TURNOUT:LA — Voters in New Hampshire's Democratic presidential primary Tuesday set a state party record, following lower-than-expected turnout in Iowa.

The total of 300,622 ballots surpassed the state's previous record from the 2008 primary, when 288,672 ballots were cast, according to the New Hampshire secretary of state.

For Democrats trying to gauge interest in the race, that was a welcome contrast to turnout in the Iowa caucuses Feb. 3.

^STEYER:RH—<Tom Steyer, who has sunk millions into his South Carolina campaign ahead of the state's Feb. 29 primary, has climbed to the top three slots in recent state polls. And he has started to encroach on Joe Biden's lead among black voters in the state, who are expected to cast a majority of the primary vote.

BLOOMBERG-AUDIO:BLO — Michael Bloomberg sought Wednesday to move past a controversy about comments he made in 2015 that crime in minority communities justified stop-and-frisk policing when he was New York mayor. He predicted black voters will still support him.

"Those words don't reflect the way that I've governed, or the way that I run my company or the way that I live," Bloomberg told reporters after a campaign stop Wednesday in Chattanooga, Tenn. He said he was reelected twice in one of the most diverse U.S. cities. "I think we're going to do very well in the African American community."

PATRICK:BLO — Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick dropped his presidential bid on Wednesday, just three months after entering the Democratic race.

Patrick, who resigned his post as a managing director at Bain Capital LP to join the race, left the 2020 campaign trail after failing to secure 1% of the vote in the primary in New Hampshire, which borders Massachusetts.

HOUSE-MEADOWS-BACKING:CON — There's just one woman in the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus, but there could soon be another if the group's political arm gets it way.

Eighteen candidates are running to replace Republican Mark Meadows, the former chairman of the Freedom Caucus, in North Carolina's 11th District. The House Freedom Fund and Meadows are backing real estate agent and GOP activist Lynda Bennett, the only woman in the 11-person Republican field.

BALTIMORE-SHOOTING-2ND-LEDE:BZ — Two police officers assigned to the U.S. Marshals task force were shot and wounded Wednesday in Northeast Baltimore while trying to arrest a former corrections officer wanted for attempted murder in Pennsylvania.

MARALAGO-INCIDENT:FL — In a Mar-a-Lago trespassing case, a jury Wednesday acquitted a woman from China who claimed she was innocently sightseeing on President Donald Trump's property two months ago.

But Lu Jing was found guilty of a second misdemeanor charge, resisting a police officer without violence during her arrest on Worth Avenue.

SNOOPDOGG-KING:NY — One week after blasting "CBS This Morning" co-anchor Gayle King over her Kobe Bryant interview with WNBA legend Lisa Leslie, Snoop Dogg has had a change of heart.

The rap legend apologized Wednesday for previous profanity-laced statements that many perceived to be a threat directed towards King after she probed Leslie on the subject of the late Kobe Bryant's rape allegations from 2003.

FLYNN-PROSECUTION:BLO — Federal prosecutors denied former national security adviser Michael Flynn's claim that "egregious misconduct" by the government warranted dismissal of a charge that he lied to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

CONN-TRANSGENDER-ATHLETES-1ST-LEDE:HC — The families of three female high school runners have taken another step toward trying to prevent transgender athletes from participating in girls sports in Connecticut. Months after filing a federal Title IX discrimination complaint, the families filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday.

The lawsuit seeks to reverse a Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference rule that allows high school athletes to compete in sports corresponding with their gender identity. If successful, the lawsuit would require athletes to compete based on their birth sex and could result in changes to state record books.

CHICAGO-OFFICERSHOT-LAWSUIT:TB — A federal lawsuit has been filed against the online gun dealer Armslist for facilitating the sale of a handgun that was used in the 2018 fatal shooting of on-duty Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer.

The lawsuit was filed in Milwaukee federal court on behalf of the family of Bauer, who was allegedly shot and killed by a convicted felon in February 2018.

IMMIGRATION-HOTLINE:LA — A federal judge this week demanded that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement temporarily restore a national toll-free hotline for detained immigrants that was shut down two weeks after being featured on the television show "Orange Is the New Black."

Freedom for Immigrants, which ran the confidential hotline, sued the Department of Homeland Security in January, contending that the termination was an act of retaliation and a violation of free speech.

REFINERY-FIRE:BLO — A fire broke out overnight at Exxon Mobil Corp.'s Baton Rouge oil refinery in Louisiana, halting production at the fifth-biggest fuel-making plant in the U.S.

The outage at the massive complex — which supplies fuel products across the southeast U.S. and all the way to New York Harbor — means the refinery needs fewer barrels of crude oil, depressing a market already reeling from the coronavirus crisis in China. But it could help ease a gasoline glut in the Gulf Coast, where stockpiles hit a record in late January.

CMP-UNC-STATUE:RA — A judge on Wednesday voided the settlement that requires UNC Chapel Hill to pay $2.5 million and give the Silent Sam Confederate monument to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The ruling came at a hearing held to determine whether the Sons of Confederate Veterans had the legal standing to bring the lawsuit against the UNC System over the statue in the first place. Orange County Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour said the group didn't have standing.

CMP-KU-SEXSTUDY:KC — More than 200 severely disabled patients at a state-run home in Iowa were used as subjects in research of sexual arousal that was led by a former University of Kansas assistant professor, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

Jerry Rea, who had been a researcher at KU for 16 years, is accused in the suit of using "highly vulnerable" Glenwood Resource Center patients "as the subjects or 'guinea pigs' in research experiments."

JUUL-LAWSUIT-ADS:NY — Juul Labs used Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Seventeen magazine to hawk its vaping products, despite the company's insistence that it never marketed to kids, a new lawsuit claims.

The suit filed Wednesday by the Massachusetts attorney general presents some of the most blunt evidence yet that the company was targeting kids in 2015 and early 2016 as it rolled out its tobacco-based electronic cigarettes.

NY-GLOBALENTRY:NY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo will meet with President Donald Trump on Thursday to discuss the Department of Homeland Security's decision to ban New Yorkers from enrolling in programs that expedite border crossings.

DHS last week prohibited New York residents from signing up for four Trusted Traveler programs that allow low-risk travelers such as truckers to quickly cross borders in response to the state's "Green Light Law" that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

CORONAVIRUS-VACCINE-LAB:PH — Faraz Zaidi and Daniel Park peered at a series of small, black blots that appeared on a clear sheet of plastic — confirming they had created a type of protein that, until January, was unknown to science.

It was a signal alerting them to the presence of the microscopic "spikes" on a coronavirus — the infectious microbe that, at last count, had killed more than 1,000 people in China.

Health officials worldwide have attempted to quell the outbreak by restricting travel, isolating infected people and quarantining others who were exposed to someone with the infection. But from the moment the Chinese government published the genetic code for the new virus in January, scientists such as Zaidi and Park have been racing to develop a more potent safeguard: a vaccine.

CMP-WHITENATIONALISTS:KC — The white nationalist movement, tarnished in the aftermath of Charlottesville, is repackaging its bigotry through a new mainstreaming strategy that focuses on college campuses and Trump supporters, according to a report released Tuesday by a national watchdog organization.

Its first test case: a new group at Kansas State University launched by a student whose former organization was the subject of protests on campus.

^EPSTEIN-ESTATE:WA—<Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George ratcheted up pressure on the executors of Jeffrey Epstein's estate, amending the civil enforcement action she brought last month to name the disgraced financier's lawyers as co-defendants.

George filed the court documents Monday and Tuesday, and made them public Tuesday night, also telling Epstein's lawyers she intends to fight his estate's involvement in creating a compensation fund for victims.

FBC-OHIOSTATE-PLAYERS-CHARGED:OH — Two defensive players for the Ohio State University football team have been charged with rape, accusing them of participating in the sexual assault of a woman.

MINN-DRUGSEIZURES:MS — Minnesota law enforcement saw surges in meth, cocaine and heroin seizures last year, more evidence that drug cartels are operating a thriving network from Mexico to the Midwest.

The state's task forces, called the Violent Crime Enforcement Teams, impounded 1,706 pounds of meth last year, a 49% increase from 2018 and 625% rise over the past five years, according to data released by the Department of Public Safety this week.

^The fight over Fotis Dulos' assets — from his cat to his bank accounts — heads to probate court<

MISSINGMOTHER:HC — Seven attorneys haggling over the estate of Fotis Dulos attended a probate court hearing Tuesday in search of what the accused killer left behind, including his motorcycle, a crepe maker and the $194,000 left in a Fidelity account.

After about 30 minutes, about all that appeared to be settled was the fate of Dulos' 16-year-old cat, Madonna, who was rescued from his Jefferson Crossing home last weekend and may end up with Anna Curry — the woman who paid $147,000 to post a bond for Dulos weeks before he tried to kill himself.

LA-AIRPORT-FUELDUMP:LA — Three students from Pioneer High School in Whittier have filed a lawsuit against Delta Air Lines after one of its planes dumped jet fuel over their campus and other suburbs of Los Angeles County.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the students by two law firms, is the second filed against the airline since Jan. 14, when Delta Flight 89 released up to 15,000 gallons of jet fuel over cities and schools across the county.

CAR-NASCAR-DAYTONA500-TRUMP:OS — President Donald Trump could be attending the Daytona 500 on Sunday, the DeLand Municipal Airport announced.

A notice to airmen, or NOTAM, released by the DeLand airport stated that the Federal Aviation Administration's Daytona Beach Tower "has advised us that there is a strong possibility that President Trump will attend the Daytona 500 Sunday arriving about 13:30 (1:30 p.m.) and sticking around for a couple of hours."

The notice said such a visit would make flying over the Volusia County area difficult for a period of time on Sunday.

^A 6-year-old with Down syndrome pointed a finger gun at her teacher and said 'I shoot you.' Her school called the cops<

PHILLY-STUDENT-FINGERGUN:PH — Maggie Gaines understands why her daughter's teacher at Valley Forge Elementary School went to the principal after the 6-year-old pointed her finger at the teacher like a gun and said, "I shoot you."

What she doesn't understand is why she and her husband had to end up on a conference call with the Tredyffrin Township police the next day, giving their names and ages to an officer.

Gaines was told that her daughter, Margot, who has Down syndrome, had triggered a threat assessment by the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District — and that, under district policy, school officials had to call police.

TRUMPSIGN-SWASTIKA-CORRECTION:HC — Ledyard police said they are trying to find out who vandalized a sign supportive of President Donald Trump by spray-painting a swastika over it.

The homemade, plywood sign — which was put up by the property owner — read, "Go Trump, Shif liar" in blue paint

ALASKA-LOTTERY:AC — In a sweeping new plan for Alaska's first statewide lottery, Gov. Mike Dunleavy is proposing the legalization of video lottery as well as keno, scratch-off tickets and sports betting.

The governor's proposal shares space on the legislative docket with a more limited idea from Republican House Majority Leader Steve Thompson.

CALIF-EARTHQUAKE-APP:LA — A new earthquake early-warning app for smartphones has been released, offering users across California the ability to see a countdown before shaking arrives.

Available for iOS and Android phones, QuakeAlertUSA also offers the ability for phone owners to individually tailor when the app is triggered — for weak, light or moderate shaking.

MAILCARRIER-SENTENCED:VP — The letter carrier couldn't keep up with the mail on his route. There was just too much, he would later tell investigators.

But Jason Delacruz didn't throw it out. He rented a Virginia Beach storage locker for $49 a month and started stocking it away in the hopes he could somehow deliver it later. "This was kind of an odd situation," Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Yusi said.

RELIG-POPE-MARRIEDPRIESTS:DPA — Pope Francis did not endorse a proposal to let married men serve as priests in the Amazon region, in what would have been a special exception to a long-standing celibacy rule for clergy.

The exception, albeit limited to the Amazon region, would have likely enraged traditionalists, who already see Francis' papacy as too liberal.

In an October summit known as a synod, Amazon bishops called for admitting married men into the priesthood only in their region, to make up for an acute lack of clergy in remote rainforest areas.

CORONAVIRUS-ASIA-HOARDING:LA — On Friday evening, supermarkets in Taipei put out their usual stocks of toilet paper, stacked floor to ceiling in brick-sized packets stuffed into bags decorated with colorful cartoon characters.

In Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, shoppers are stockpiling toilet paper, hand sanitizers, rice, instant noodles, cured meats, sanitary napkins and other products as fears over the new strain of coronavirus from China continue to ripple across Asia.

VENEZUELA-MIGRANTS:LA — Countries across Latin America and the Caribbean are making it increasingly difficult for the millions of people fleeing Venezuela to find sanctuary abroad.

New visa and passport requirements have spurred unauthorized border crossings as more migrants "turn to dangerous and irregular migration channels," according to a new report by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington.

ENV-NY-POLLUTION:BLO — Roughly half of deaths related to poor air quality in the United States occur in states where the pollution did not originate, according to a study released Wednesday in the journal Nature. The study found that New York experienced the largest number of premature deaths from air pollution created outside the state — 3,800 in 2018. Wyoming most consistently produced pollution that affected the heath of those in other states. North Dakota and West Virginia were also found to be offenders.

Although it's been well known for some time that cross-state air pollution is damaging — particularly on the East Coast, where pollution travels from the Rust Belt because of air current patterns — the study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the first to quantify the premature mortality effects.

^WEA-ATMOSPHERIC-RIVERS:BLO—<Climate change is spurring a new, deep dive into a complex, little-studied weather system blamed for creating billions of dollars in flood damage across the western U.S.

Atmospheric rivers are narrow ribbons of concentrated moisture that originate in the Pacific and can flow thousands of miles before dropping rain and snow on land. Scientists are ramping up their research into the systems this winter fearful that warmer temperatures tied to climate change will boost the moisture they carry, supercharging them moving forward.

ENV-BAYAREA-SEALEVEL:LA — When Jeff Moneda first started working for Foster City, where trails wind along the town's scenic lagoons and the nicest homes perch along its picturesque canals, he received an email from federal emergency officials that jolted him into action.

"The first thing in my inbox was a letter from FEMA that said, 'You need to raise your levee or we're going to place the entire city in a flood zone,'" said Moneda, the city manager.

For a city of 34,000 that was built on filled-in marshland along San Francisco Bay, the future hinges on the strength of an eight-mile-long levee that for decades has held back the rising sea. But with every tide and storm, the water keeps trying to move back and reclaim the town. Flood maps, even in more moderate scenarios, show much of the city inundated if nothing is done.

CENSUS-NATURALDISASTERS-DISPLACED:SH — Josh Hollon was shocked when he stepped onto his porch on Memorial Day last year and saw three churning triangles of cloud closing in on his house in suburban Northridge, Ohio.

A series of tornadoes surprised the Dayton area and blew a hole right through the Hollon home, filling the backyard with wreckage. They were lucky to have insurance to make basic repairs.

Many of their neighbors are still fighting to make their homes habitable again, along an 18-mile swath of destruction that left thousands of crumpled houses and apartment buildings across the Dayton area.

Residents displaced by recent natural disasters in Dayton and elsewhere around the country raise tricky questions for this year's census count. They're getting conflicting advice from the U.S. Census Bureau on whether to count themselves at a temporary address or at the damaged homes where they plan to return.

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