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January 7, 2019

Diplomats stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Havana who said they suffered from headaches and nausea after hearing high-pitched sounds may have actually been subjected to the loud droning of the Indies short-tailed cricket, The Guardian reports.

In 2017, the U.S. government ordered several diplomats to leave Cuba, fearful that a sonic attack targeting them inside their homes and offices caused their illnesses. Scientists in the U.S. and U.K. now say crickets may be the culprit, as the mating call of the Caribbean species of the cricket is "about 7 kHz, and is delivered at an unusually high rate, which gives humans the sensation of a continuous sharp trill," Fernando Montealegre-Zapata, professor of sensory biology at the University of Lincoln, told The Guardian.

Scientists analyzed an audio recording of the noise released by The Associated Press. Montealegre-Zapata said males looking for mates make a similar noise, and he's "not surprised that this call could disturb people who are not familiar with insect sounds." This does not mean that a sonic attack never took place, scientists stress, and doctors are still trying to determine what exactly caused all of the diplomats to become ill. Catherine Garcia

5:01 a.m.

While President Trump "waits for someone to convert the Mueller report into a finger-puppet show, he is keeping his thumbs occupied" tweeting about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "Sanders did a town hall on Monday night on Fox News, which left Trump feeling burned." He read Trump's tweet complaining about Bret Baier being too "smiley and nice" with "Crazy Bernie" and asking Fox News, "now we have Donna Brazile?" "We?" Colbert asked. "Mr. President, on behalf of the American people everywhere, let me remind you: You don't work for Fox News. They work for you."

"Trump wasn't done stewing about Bernie," suggesting Fox News "stuffed" the town hall with "Bernie supporters," Colbert noted. Trump also predicted he will face either "Crazy Bernie Sanders" or "Sleepy Joe Biden" in the 2020 election, adding: "May God Rest Their Soul!" "Is he going to campaign them to death?" he asked. "I mean, sir, we'll let you get away with 'Lock her up!' but I draw the line at 'Dig the grave! Dig the grave!'"

Jimmy Kimmel took issue with Trump's nicknames. "Is Joe Biden sleepy?" he asked on Kimmel Live. "I don't know, to me he always looks like he's been up for two days eating cigarettes." Besides, he's already nicknamed at least four other people "sleepy," Kimmel noted. "This is lazy, though, this recycling of the nicknames. I think Trump might be losing his touch." "Crazy Bernie" and "Sleepy Joe" sound less like slurs than characters in a Bruce Springsteen song, he said, turning to an expert to find out what's going on with Trump's name game.

At Conan, Conan O'Brien actually thought Trump may have had a point about the Fox News town hall being "stuffed" with Bernie bros. Peter Weber

3:49 a.m.

At a House Financial Services Committee hearing on March 26, Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) invited Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez "to come to Eastern Kentucky, where thousands of coal miners no longer have paychecks," and listen as they "tell you what the Green New Deal would mean for their families, their paychecks." Ocasio-Cortez, one of the leading proponents of the Green New Deal, said she'd be "happy" to go.

Last Friday, Barr added some conditions to the invitation, asking Ocasio-Cortez "to apologize for her comments to our colleague" Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) "before she plans her trip to Kentucky." He cited her criticism of Crenshaw's criticism of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), explaining, "We need to treat all of our colleagues with respect and dignity." Not everyone is convinced civility concerns prompted Barr to effectively disinvite Ocasio-Cortez. Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), for example, told a local Kentucky news station he didn't "see any upside" to bringing Ocasio-Cortez to Kentucky, explaining that she is very smart and "I think a lot of Republicans are making a mistake picking on her."

Ocasio-Cortez may go to Kentucky anyway, with or without Barr's permission, communications director Corbin Trent told The Courier-Journal. "Luckily, we still have open borders with Kentucky. We don't need Congressman Barr to meet with coal miners and have a town hall, though we'd love his participation if we do." Trent, a Kentucky native, elaborated Wednesday night to MSNBC's Chris Hayes. They both appeared to think Barr lost his nerve.

Barr's district doesn't actually have any active coal mines, though he "has consistently been among the top recipients of the coal industry's campaign cash since first running for Congress in 2010," The Courier-Journal notes. On Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, "Surprise! I know more about West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky & Appalachian communities than they think I do," thanks in part to staffers like Trent, adding: "I suspect underestimating women is the GOP's kryptonite." Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

After two years, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report will be made public Thursday, Stephen Colbert half-celebrated on Wednesday's Late Show. Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein will discuss the report at 9:30 a.m., before releasing it hours later, and it "will undoubtedly blow the lid off Donald Trump's corruption," Colbert deadpanned, holding up a dozen eggs. "Until then, I will pass the time counting my chickens, which I will safely place in one basket."

"One person who's likely to appear in the report is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange," dragged out of Ecuador's London embassy last week "looking like Gandalf the Douche," Colbert said. Why did Ecuador revoke his asylum after seven years? "Well for one, Ecuador's government accused him of spying on other countries from their embassy and of hacking the phone of their president, Lenín Moreno, then posting this picture of Moreno eating lobster in bed," he said. "Also, Assange, it turns out, is the worst roommate on Planet Earth."

According to embassy staff, Assange rode a skateboard in the halls, played loud music at all hours, walked around in his underwear, refused to care for his cat, stunk up the embassy with his lack of personal hygiene, smeared feces on the wall, and he'd "always take what was clearly marked as 'Ecuador's Yogurt — Do Not Eat,'" Colbert joked. "To back up their point, Ecuador leaked this security camera footage" skateboarding badly.

"Now, a lot of people have been worried about the cat — remember the cat that he's not feeding?" Colbert said, and he used Embassy Cat's outfits to pivot back to the Mueller report and Russian collusion.

The "known tie to Russian intelligence" is the one holding the cat. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:30 a.m.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has spent the last few weeks seriously considering leaving the Trump administration, and is coming up with a final exit plan, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg on Wednesday.

Perry, a former governor of Texas and Dancing with the Stars contestant, has been preparing Dan Brouillette, the department's deputy secretary, for the transition, two people said. His possible departure has nothing to do with President Trump, Bloomberg reports; Perry, 69, wants to leave so he can "build his income before retiring."

Trump and Perry get along well, and prior to pushing out former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump asked Perry if he would take over for her, people familiar with the matter said. Perry declined the offer.

Not everyone believes Perry is ready to go — one person close to him told Bloomberg that the secretary has not made up his mind yet. An Energy Department spokeswoman did not confirm or deny the report, instead saying Perry is "happy where he is, serving President Trump and leading the Department of Energy." Catherine Garcia

12:54 a.m.

An exhausted and frail polar bear wandered into a village in Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula this week, more than 430 miles away from where it should be, environmental activists said Wednesday.

"Due to climate change, the Arctic is getting warmer, hunting environment gets smaller and less convenient," Greenpeace's Vladimir Chuprov told The Guardian. "The ice is receding, and polar bears look for new ways to survive. And the easiest way is coming to people."

Residents of Tilichiki have been feeding the bear fish, and say it hasn't shown any signs of aggression, Russian media reports. Authorities on the peninsula are working on a plan to get the bear back to the village of Chukotka, and will likely attempt the rescue later this week. As of now, the plan is to sedate the polar bear, and use a helicopter to airlift it back up north. Catherine Garcia

12:45 a.m.

The New York Police Department said Wednesday night that a 37-year-old man from New Jersey had been detained after a security guard at St. Patrick's Cathedral stopped him inside the historic Catholic church's doors with two cans of gasoline, lighter fluid, and two lighters.

The security guard called the police, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said at a press conference outside St. Patrick's, and police officiers found and confronted him a few blocks away. The man had parked his minivan on Fifth Avenue and walked around a bit before returning to the vehicle to get the flammable paraphernalia and head into the cathedral, Miller said. When confronted by police, "his basic story was that he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue, that his car had run out of gas. We took a look at the vehicle. It was not out of gas."

The man is known to the police and may be mentally unstable, the New York Daily News reports. Miller would not speculate on whether the man was inspired by the fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris just two nights earlier. "It's hard exactly to say what his intentions were," Miller said. "But I think the totality of circumstances, of an individual walking into an iconic location like St. Patrick's Cathedral, carrying over four gallons of gasoline, two bottles of lighter fluid, and lighters, is something that we would have great concern over." Peter Weber

12:01 a.m.

Some information on Roger Stone, President Trump's longtime friend and adviser who was indicted in January on charges of obstruction, lying to Congress, and witness tampering, will be redacted from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report when it is released on Thursday, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Stone is accused of lying about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. When the Mueller investigation ended in March, Stone's case was transferred to the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C. His trial is scheduled to begin in November.

Prosecutors also said that the Justice Department will "make available for review" to "a limited number of members of Congress and their staff" a version of the report without "certain redactions" pertaining to the Stone investigation. Catherine Garcia

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