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By Alexander Smith

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Why Bernie Sanders needs to sell himself, not just his ideas, if he's to compete in 2020, the Trump administration launches a global effort to end the criminalization of homosexuality, and an exclusive letter gives us a rare insight into North Korea’s troubles.

Here's all that and everything else we're watching today.


'He’s going to have to fight for it' — what Bernie needs for 2020

When Sen. Bernie Sanders ran for president in 2016, he wanted to make sure his progressive agenda was front and center of the Democratic debate.

On Tuesday, he entered a 2020 race where those ideals have become something of a litmus test for a party that's shifted to the left.

In some ways a victim of his own success, Sanders must now convince primary voters he's the right person for a very specific mission: beating Trump, writes NBC News’ Jonathan Allen in a news analysis.

Meanwhile, one of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Kamala Harris, addressed "the elephant in the room" at a campaign event in New Hampshire. Harris sought to reassure voters she won't ignore the first-in-the-nation primary for states like South Carolina and California, which are likely more central to her path to the nomination.


Is North Korea's plea for help all it seems?

A rare letter from a senior official in North Korea claims the country is facing dwindling food supplies and has been forced to cut rations for its people.

Written by the country's United Nations ambassador and obtained exclusively by NBC News, the letter blames natural disasters and the sanctions regime spearheaded by the United States. Some experts warn the plea could be a ploy to loosen sanctions ahead of Trump's second summit with Kim Jong Un.

North Korea suffered a devastating famine in the 1990s in which up to 3 million people died.KCNA / via Reuters file

Trump admin's pro-LGBT drive aims to corner Iran on human rights

The Trump administration is launching a global campaign to change the law in dozens of countries where its still illegal to be gay, according to U.S. officials.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-profile openly gay person in the administration, is leading the effort, which kicked off Tuesday evening in Berlin.

The drive is aimed in part at denouncing Iran — the Trump administration's top geopolitical enemy — but it could also expose U.S. allies with similar anti-gay laws, such as Saudi Arabia. It also stands in contrast to the Trump administration’s mixed record on gay rights at home.


Creative genius and fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld dies aged 85

Germany's Karl Lagerfeld was perhaps as well known for his capacity to generate a good quote as he was for being a fashion doyen. "I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that," he once said. On Tuesday, the creative director of French fashion house Chanel and the Italian luxury brand Fendi died. He was 85.

Lagerfeld was also the director of his eponymous brand.Patrick Kovarik / AFP - Getty Images file

Ukraine five years on: 'Our country was saved'

Five years ago Wednesday, at least 50 anti-government protesters were killed in demonstrations in Ukraine that would reshape Europe and arguably the geopolitical world.

The protests in Kiev signified Ukraine's struggle between Russia and Europe, and preceded Russian President Vladimir Putin's eventual annexation of Crimea. It heralded a new era of toxic relations between Moscow and the West.On Wednesday, NBC News went back to the scene of that massacre to speak with some of the demonstrators from five years ago.

Anti-government protesters clash with police in Kiev on Feb. 20, 2014. Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images file

Plus

  • A massive winter storm is expected to dump rain, snow and ice across the South, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and southern New England.

THINK about it

Paul Manafort's potential life sentence is an opportunity for the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller, writes former assistant special Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman in an opinion piece.


Science + Tech = MACH

Imagine an app or wearable tech able to forecast when an at-risk individual is about to experience suicidal thoughts, alerting them and their trusted contacts. That might soon be a reality because of the nascent field of mood forecasting.


Live BETTER

A record number of 401(k) holders at Fidelity Investments hit millionaire status in 2018. Not one of them? You’re in good company: This is the exception, not the rule. Here's the average 401(k) balance by age.


One fun thing

Awe can come from different places: standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon or even being offered a train seat by a stranger. Psychologists say it can play an important role in bolstering happiness, health and our social interactions.


Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

If you have any comments — likes, dislikes — drop me an email at: alexander.smith@nbcuni.com.

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Thanks, Alexander Smith