Here’s what you need to know:
• Christopher Steele, the British ex-spy who compiled the sensational but entirely unverified dossier on President-elect Donald J. Trump’s ties to Russia, was said to have hurriedly left his home near London to avoid attention or possible retribution.
Mr. Trump discussed the dossier with James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence. They had radically different takeaways from the conversation.
And the Justice Department said it would investigate the decision by James B. Comey, the F.B.I. chief, to inform Congress about a new review in the Hillary Clinton email investigation ahead of the election.
• Serious disagreements emerged between Mr. Trump and some of his nominees in the third day of confirmation hearings.
Mr. Trump’s choice for defense secretary, Gen. James N. Mattis, above, said Russia was trying to break NATO. Mr. Mattis also said he supported the Iran nuclear agreement, which Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized.
• Russia condemned the arrival of U.S. troops in Poland, the first ever continuous deployment of a NATO ally in the region, as a threat to its interests and security.
There is concern in Warsaw and other Eastern European capitals about whether American troops will actually arrive in the numbers promised by the outgoing Obama administration as Mr. Trump seeks chummier relations with the Kremlin.
• Rescue ships saved more than 800 migrants adrift on rubber boats in the Mediterranean after smugglers took advantage of a window of milder weather to send them to sea.
Even Mount Etna, an active volcano in Sicily, is covered in snow.
• Weekend warriors, you’re fine.
A new study found that a vigorous once-a-week workout is definitely better than no workout — and maybe even as good as shorter, more frequent ones.
• The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused Fiat Chrysler of cheating on emissions tests for more than 100,000 diesel vehicles, a case with echoes of the Volkswagen scandal.
• Sweden’s government said it would drop a bill that would have imposed a gender quota for company boards.
• Google has too much power, Apple’s golden age is over and California should secede, said Peter Thiel, the Pay Pal founder and Trump fan.
• And here’s a snapshot of global markets.
In the News
• Poland’s largest opposition party ended its occupation of the country’s legislature. An analyst said there were no clear winners in the monthlong standoff. [The New York Times]
• The U.S. plans to lift trade sanctions against Sudan after nearly 20 years of hostile relations. [The New York Times]
• In the Gaza Strip, about 10,000 people took to the streets to protest crippling power cuts. It was a rare display of defiance against the Hamas authorities. [The New York Times]
• Marine Le Pen, France’s far-right presidential candidate, was seen at Trump Tower in New York on Thursday, but she did not meet the president-elect. [Bloomberg]
• John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, will attend a Middle East peace conference in Paris on Sunday. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian leaders are expected to attend. [The Times of Israel]
• A deal for the reunification of Cyprus did not materialize in Geneva on Thursday. Talks will continue next week. [Cyprus Mail]
• In Russia, a proposal would ban the sale of cigarettes to people born in 2015 and after. [The New York Times]
• President Obama will end the policy that allows Cubans who reach U.S. soil to stay legally, a move long sought by the Cuban government. [The New York Times]
• And Mr. Obama surprised Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. Mr. Biden will visit Ukraine on Sunday and attend the World Economic Forum in Davos next week. [The New York Times]
Smarter Living: Morning Edition
(In this new section, we’ll help you start your day right.)
• We’re not saying you will need this tomorrow, we’re simply presenting it for your consideration: Here’s how to nurse a hangover (and how to head one off). Have a great weekend!
• An inspiring story of weight loss and its aftermath: Brooklyn’s borough president reversed his Type 2 diabetes through diet and exercise, without taking medication.
• Recipe of the day: Give baked sweet potato “fries” a shot. They just might become your go-to snack.
• Clam-chowder pizza, probably invented in a Neapolitan pizzeria in Connecticut, is so good it’s a “a balm against the pain of the world,” our food critic writes.
• Killer whales are among the few animals that go through menopause.
• Television reviews: Scenes in HBO’s new series “The Young Pope” resemble religious paintings, but it also has serious moments that are laughable, our critic writes.
And ITV’s “Victoria” paints a picture of an isolated teenager who wakes up one day to find herself queen of England. The monarch’s story is “so modern that it still frightens people: a young woman in power,” the show’s creator said.
If you’re superstitious, today isn’t your day.
But Friday the 13th isn’t universally feared. Many countries disregard it. In Greece and some Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th is the dreaded day. It’s Friday the 17th in Italy.
The number 4 is unlucky in parts of Asia — it’s Chinese pronunciation is close to the word “death” making April 4 (4/4) a day to stay inside.
A maneki-neko, a cute charm showing a cat with a raised paw, is used to ward off the bad luck.
Other animals believed to combat bad omens include pigs. In Germany, marzipan pigs are given as gifts on New Year’s Eve.
And if a cricket is chirping in your house, don’t kill it. Across Asia, Africa and Europe, the insects are viewed as harbingers of wealth.
Magpies have great significance in Britain. Seeing a single magpie can be bad luck, it is believed, though saluting one can ward off ill fortune. But if you spot a group, you may be in luck, according to an old nursery rhyme that goes:
One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.
Des Shoe contributed reporting.
Your next Morning Briefing will publish on Jan. 17.
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