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Michael Cohen reveals a dark picture of President Trump, Pakistan shoots down Indian jets and the Vatican investigates Cardinal Pell. Here’s the latest:
‘He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat.’
That was Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, describing the president during his testimony before a House committee that painted a scathing picture of the president’s motivations and inner workings. Read his full opening statement here.
Republican lawmakers spent much of their time in the hearing assailing Mr. Cohen’s credibility, noting that he is going to prison for previously lying to Congress.
Mr. Cohen said that Mr. Trump lied about the Trump Tower project in Moscow, saying that he personally monitored and directed negotiations to build the tower.
Mr. Cohen said he also suspected that Mr. Trump knew of the June 2016 meeting in which his son, son-in-law and campaign chairman met with Russians who said they had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Evidence: Mr. Cohen provided documents to back up parts of his testimony, including copies of checks to pay Stormy Daniels for her silence and financial statements that he said showed how Mr. Trump inflated and deflated his worth.
Case studies: We broke down two episodes that have drawn the scrutiny of investigators, in which Mr. Cohen has undermined Mr. Trump’s narrative.
History: Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump shared a unique, 10-year long relationship, a mix of the bond between a father and son, the professional distance of an attorney and client, and the blind loyalty of a mafia henchmen to a crime boss.
Cohen testimony casts shadow on Trump-Kim talks in Hanoi
The political drama on Capitol Hill was in President Trump’s thoughts as he arrived in Vietnam for meetings with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
Michael Cohen, the president tweeted, was “lying in order to reduce his prison time!”
Mr. Trump then had a one-on-one exchange with Mr. Kim in downtown Hanoi before sitting down for dinner with top aides from both sides. Formal talks between the two sides take place today, with Mr. Cohen’s excoriating characterizations of Mr. Trump echoing from the other side of the world.
One goal: For decades, the U.S. has been monitoring a remote site in North Korea called Yongbyon, where it is believed the country produces nuclear fuel. If Mr. Trump can stop fuel production there, he would effectively have “frozen” the North’s nuclear program. If not, North Korea could keep up its weapons program while talks drag on.
Media: Four American journalists were barred from covering Mr. Trump’s dinner with Mr. Kim after two of them called out questions in an earlier appearance of the two leaders — a highly unusual retaliatory move at a closely watched foreign event.
Go deeper: Thae Yong-ho, a member of North Korea’s political elite who in 2016 became the highest-ranking diplomat to defect in years, said in an interview with our Beijing bureau chief that Mr. Kim has no intention of giving up his weapons and is just buying time.
Pakistan retaliates against India on a second day of airstrikes
Pakistan’s military said it shot down two Indian fighter jets that had entered its airspace and captured a pilot, escalating the conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbors and raising concerns that they could be veering toward another war.
Indian officials confirmed that one Air Force pilot was in Pakistani custody. Three videos of the pilot emerged on social media. One showed him struggling to fend off a mob in plainclothes in the middle of a forest, another showed him answering questions from Pakistani security forces. He was identified as Wing Commander Abhi Nandan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now faced with a political crisis ahead of coming elections. Lawmakers from 21 opposition parties issued a statement condemning how he handled the current “Pakistani misadventure.”
On the ground: In the Kashmir region, hundreds of residents fled and volunteers painted red crosses on the roofs of hospitals to protect them in any future airstrikes. In Pakistan, dozens of tanks were deployed to the border in broad daylight.
Background: A day earlier, Indian warplanes crossed the disputed Kashmir region for the first time since 1971 to strike a target inside Pakistan, a response to a suicide attack on Feb. 14 by Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist organization that American and Indian officials say operates in Pakistan.
Perspective: In an Op-Ed essay, a Pakistani novelist argues that warmongers in the nuclear-armed neighbors are using social media to fan hostilities. “My generation of Pakistanis have fought for the right to speak,” she writes. “We are not afraid to lend our voices to that most righteous cause: peace.”
Jailed, Cardinal George Pell awaits his sentence
The judge presiding over the cardinal’s sexual abuse case set the sentencing on March 13. The crimes, which include sexual penetration of a minor, could technically draw up to 50 years in prison.
Judge Peter Kidd told the Melbourne courtroom that Cardinal Pell’s “brazen, callous offending” deserved commensurate punishment.
“He engaged in some shocking conduct against two boys,” the judge said, “and he had the capacity to reason and did it in such brazen circumstances that he obviously felt some degree of impunity.”
The Vatican: Church authorities demoted the 77-year-old Roman Catholic cleric, a former adviser to the pope, and opened an investigation that could lead to the second defrocking of a cardinal over sexual abuse, after that of Theodore McCarrick.
Here’s what else is happening
Indonesia: A landslide at an illegal gold mine on the island of Sulawesi killed at least two people and may have buried dozens more, officials said. An estimated one million miners work at illegal gold mines where safety standards are barely enforced and collapses are common.
Egypt: A speeding train crashed into a platform at Cairo’s main railway station, setting off a fireball that swept through the crowds, killing 25 people and injuring dozens more. It was the latest in a series of accidents on the country’s dilapidated rail network.
Northern Ireland: More than two dozen women dragged suitcases across Westminster bridge in London this week to protest Belfast’s restrictive abortion rights and demand reform. “Northern Ireland is now isolated as the only part of the U.K. and Ireland with a near total abortion ban,” said one activist.
Britain: On the warmest February day since 1910, wildfires broke out at some of the country’s beloved nature spots, including a forest made famous by A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” books.
Nepal: A helicopter crashed in a mountainous area of the country’s eastern region, killing seven people, including the minister of tourism, officials said. The helicopter was on its way to the inauguration of a new paragliding project to promote local tourism and was most likely brought down by bad weather.
China: American automakers, including Ford, General Motors and Fiat, that set up vast production facilities across China to capitalize on local demand and cheaper labor are the latest companies to feel the pinch of its slowing economy and Beijing’s trade stand-off with Washington.
Tiny love stories: In the Australia edition of our popular series, readers told us about airport proposals, adventures on a farm and the significance of a white dress. Up next, we’re looking for miniature, personal love stories from India. Submit your entry here.
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Recipe of the day: Bake a Nutella banana bread for a friend, and one for yourself.
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If you’re planning a wedding, include a hashtag to enable your guests to share their photos of your special day in real time.
This week is the start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, one of the largest such events in the world. It draws 2.4 million visitors, hundreds of competitors and big-name musicians like Kacey Musgraves and Cardi B.
But what is a rodeo? A sometimes dangerous showcase based on skills traditionally used by cattle herders in Spain, Latin America, the U.S. and elsewhere.
In Wyoming, South Dakota and Texas, it’s the official state sport, and students in Tucson, Ariz., where your Back Story writer grew up, get a two-day “rodeo vacation” each year. Other places, like Britain and the Netherlands, have banned rodeos over animal cruelty concerns.
Professional American rodeo has timed events like steer roping and barrel racing, and “roughstock” events — bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and, perhaps best known, bull riding. That requires staying on an intensively bred bucking bull for an exhausting eight seconds.
“It’s like the 100-meter race in the Olympics,” one rider said.
Jennifer Jett, an editor based in Hong Kong, wrote today’s Back Story.
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