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John Bolton, Vaping, Mercury: Your Friday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. John Bolton, the former national security adviser, has new details on the Ukraine affair that House impeachment investigators don’t know about, his lawyer said. But he wouldn’t say what.

His lawyer did not elaborate on what “many relevant meetings and conversations” Mr. Bolton was privy to, and said his client would be willing to talk, but only if a court rules that he should ignore White House objections. Above, Mr. Bolton in April.

Separately, the Trump administration official who penned an Opinion essay in 2018 has a book out. Here’s our review.

2. House impeachment investigators released two more transcripts of closed-door depositions ahead of next week’s public hearings.

The transcripts include the testimonies of Fiona Hill, pictured above last month, President Trump’s former adviser on Russia and Europe, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council.

Both advisers said Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., implicated Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, in a quid pro quo involving Ukraine. Ms. Hill went on to describe how she and John Bolton tried multiple times to foil attempts by Mr. Sondland to use a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine into an investigation.

Our reporters analyzed key excerpts.


3. The tit-for-tat U.S.-China trade war took another swerve. Above, the port of Los Angeles.

President Trump ruled out rolling back all the tariffs he has imposed on China and indicated that he had not yet decided which levies, if any, he might eliminate as part of an initial trade agreement.

The comments added to the conflicting signals this week over resolution of the U.S.-China trade war.

4. Health officials identified a “very strong culprit” in vaping-related lung illnesses: vitamin E acetate.

The ingredient is sometimes used to dilute THC-based products to boost profits or as a thickening agent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention left open the possibility that other chemicals or toxins could also be causing the severe respiratory ailments.

The mysterious illness has sickened 2,051 people and killed 40, many from illicit marijuana-based products sold online or on the street.


5. Liliana Segre, an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor in Italy, wanted a parliamentary commission to investigate racism and hate speech. She ended up with a police escort after death threats.

Ms. Segre, who is honored as a senator for life, was 13 when she was deported to Auschwitz, where Nazis killed much of her family. The Milan police determined that anti-Semitic messages and language sent to her constituted a threat.

It’s the latest in a dark cloud of racist and hateful language that has hovered over Italy.

Also out of Europe: Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. But the question of what makes a German remains unsettled.


6. Friday night lights may never be the same.

Football has long been a fundamental part of the American identity. But it has become mired in controversy over safety, and it has to compete harder each year with the popularity of other sports.

7. No eating, no screen time, no music, no exercise. The number of things to not do on a dopamine fast — a new fad in the world of tech — is potentially endless.

The name is a bit of a misnomer: It’s more of a stimulation fast (dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in how we feel pleasure). We spent a day with a fasting group in San Francisco, including James Sinka, above.

And in other stories that might leave you scratching your head, our reporter went on a search for Keano, New York’s most mysterious psychic. It required a hunt through auras, angels and property records, but he eventually found her.


8. “Akhnaten” is coming to the Metropolitan Opera for the first time. What does it take to hold an audience’s attention for three hours of Philip Glass?

How about: a dozen jugglers, relaxed musicians and a naked lead who transforms from total nudity to layers of robes and gold.

“You become a different person,” said the countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, above.

Will beatboxing ever get the same attention? Just, maybe, if Kaila Mullady has any say. The two-time winner of the Beatbox Battle World Championship is trying to counter criticism that the art form is no more than a gimmick. Listen here.


9. Happy Friday! What if you always had it off?

Americans have been talking about a four-day workweek for more than half a century. So why isn’t it here yet? One psychologist attributes it to a lack of three things: interest, faith in employees and understanding of the benefits that a shortened week can offer.

10. And finally, Mercury is putting on a special show.

On Monday, the planet will appear as a tiny black dot at 7:35 a.m. Eastern. Because Mercury’s orbit is tipped, we only rarely see it move across the sun: Transits of Mercury happen about 13 times a century.

We mapped two centuries of past and future transits, from 1900 to 2100. Mercury’s full transit will take five and a half hours, and will be most visible in the Americas, especially along the East Coast. Mercury will already be crossing when the sun rises on the West Coast.

Have a stellar weekend.


Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

And don’t miss Your Morning Briefing. Sign up here to get it by email in the Australian, Asian, European, African or American morning.

Want to catch up on past briefings? You can browse them here.

What did you like? What do you want to see here? Let us know at briefing@nytimes.com.



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