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Iran, Democrats, Carlos Ghosn: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the death of a top Iranian commander in a U.S. drone strike, the Trump administration’s ban on certain flavors of e-cigarettes, and a debate about the best seat on a New York subway train.


The State Department urged Americans to leave Iraq after the U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed a top Iranian general. Here are the latest updates.

Iran’s top security and intelligence commander was killed early today in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that was authorized by President Trump, American officials said. It was Mr. Trump’s most significant use of military force to date.

The death of the commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, was a major blow to Iran and a sharp escalation in Mr. Trump’s campaign against Tehran. Several officials from Iraqi militias backed by Iran were also killed in the attack.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for three days of public mourning and then retaliation. U.S. officials were preparing for the possibility of cyberattacks and terrorism.

Go deeper: General Suleimani, who was seen as a potential leader of Iran, designed nearly every significant operation by the country’s intelligence and military forces over the past two decades. The U.S. accuses him of having caused the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq.

Fund-raising numbers for the fourth quarter of last year show an unusually large number of presidential candidates with the resources to battle deep into the primary calendar.

Led by Bernie Sanders, the five strongest Democratic fund-raisers are expected to report more than $115 million raised in the last three months of 2019.

The party’s eventual candidate will face President Trump, who shattered his previous fund-raising records by collecting $46 million in the fourth quarter, his campaign said on Thursday.

Another angle: The Times spoke with Mark Galli, the editor in chief of Christianity Today, after an editorial in the evangelical magazine said that Mr. Trump should be removed from office. “I’ve been surprised by the ethical naïveté of the response I’m receiving to the editorial,” he said.

Before fleeing Japan for Lebanon this week, the former chairman of Nissan and Renault held preliminary talks with a film producer, describing what he saw as his unjust imprisonment and his fight to prove his innocence.

The talks didn’t get far, according to people familiar with the discussions, but Mr. Ghosn delivered his own plot twist this week, involving a private plane, multiple passports, rumors of shadowy forces at work and people in power denying they knew anything about it. Read the latest from our correspondent in Japan.

Related: A Turkish charter jet company said today that its planes were used illegally in Mr. Ghosn’s escape. The Japanese news media also reported that surveillance camera footage showed Mr. Ghosn leaving his Tokyo home on Sunday by himself.

Background: Mr. Ghosn, who was accused in Japan of financial wrongdoing, became convinced that he could never get a fair trial in a country with a 99 percent conviction rate, people who know him say.

In 2015, The Times began following six people age 85 and up, documenting their journeys through a stage of life that is often invisible. Ruth Willig, above, is the only one remaining, at 96.

We spoke to her and the families of the other elders about their emotional preparations for death. None were what anyone had hoped.

“I’m ready, I am,” Ruth said. “But I worry about my children. They’re so devoted to me. It scares me.”

Ban on e-cigarette flavors: In an effort to combat teenage vaping, the Trump administration said it would forbid the sale of most flavored e-cigarette cartridges. Menthol and tobacco flavors are being exempted after a lobbying push by the tobacco and vaping industries.

Australian wildfires: The weekend is expected be one of the worst yet during a fire season in which at least 18 people have already died. Here are the latest updates.

Turkey’s expanding footprint: The Turkish Parliament approved a plan favored by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to send troops to oil-rich Libya. The move will escalate a chaotic proxy war there involving multiple powers.

Anti-Semitic attack: The police are investigating whether the suspect in a mass stabbing at a Hanukkah celebration near New York City was also involved in a stabbing near a synagogue a month earlier, officials said.

Snapshot: Above, a tank destroying stills and other moonshining equipment in Newport, Ky., circa 1922. With the help of The Times’s photo archive, we revisited Prohibition — the 13-year period when the U.S. outlawed alcohol — which began 100 years ago this month.

Spirited subway debate: New Yorkers had opinions after a tweet featuring a photo of five seats on a subway train asked which one was best. (It’s No. 5, clearly.)

News quiz: Did you follow the headlines this week? Test yourself.

Modern Love: In this week’s column, a man writes about his grandmother, who was getting married for the third time — to her former brother-in-law.

What we’re reading: This essay in The New Yorker about the highs and lows of raising a toddler. “Love this so much,” says Emma G. Fitzsimmons, our new City Hall bureau chief. “We need more writing on parenting by fathers. It shouldn’t be viewed as (more) women’s work.”

Cook: Pancakes with crisp, fritter-like edges could improve your weekend.

Watch: With movie awards season getting underway, our chief film critics looked back at a year of nostalgia, uneasy gender relations and Quentin Tarantino’s alt-history.

Read: A collection of essays about the “Peanuts” comic strip is among nine books we recommend this week.

Smarter Living: Ready to take the Christmas tree down? Here’s a guide to recycling it.

The Times has been reporting on how your smartphone can cost you privacy.

Most recently, our Opinion desk published “One Nation, Tracked,” an investigation into the location data industry that shows how companies profit from quietly collecting the precise movements of smartphone users.

But there’s a new vulnerability coming.

It’s a short-range technology that promises a host of conveniences: unlocking your car or front door as you approach and relocking when you exit, increasing the speed of phone-to-phone transfers, and more.

But it could also let observers track your location even more precisely. In stores, retailers could “see” where you paused in the aisle, and deduce what you were tempted by but didn’t buy.

If past experience is a guide, law enforcement could also draw on the data.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. Andrea Kannapell, the briefings editor, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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