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We’re covering the impacts of a viral epidemic in China, the Democratic strategy at President Trump’s impeachment trial and a landmark ruling on violence in Myanmar.
Outbreak disrupts China and spooks markets
In China, the all-important Lunar New Year holiday begins today, but the outbreak of a deadly virus is overwhelming hospitals and raising fears of a pandemic akin to one fueled by SARS, a similar disease that originated in China in 2002 and killed more than 800 people worldwide.
Experts from the World Health Organization said on Thursday that it was too early to declare the outbreak an international health emergency, even as China took the apparently unprecedented move of keeping millions of people in Wuhan and nearby cities on a travel lockdown.
Looking ahead: The outbreak has dampened growth prospects for the world’s second-largest economy during what is normally a busy spending season. Financial markets fell across Asia on Thursday, led by a sharp drop in stocks in China.
Details: Many of the first 18 victims were men who skewed older and had underlying health issues. But the 18th was the first to die outside the city of Wuhan, the virus’s epicenter.
Solemnity, and politics, in Jerusalem
Prince Charles of Britain is due to meet in Bethlehem today with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, on the heels of an event in Jerusalem that marked the coming 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.
Speaking days before the anniversary on Monday, world leaders at the event discussed the importance of remembering the Holocaust and speaking out against anti-Semitism. Some also used the opportunity to score political points on Iran.
Why this matters: The presence of several global leaders at Israel’s biggest-ever political gathering was a public relations boon for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who is campaigning ahead of a March election even as he awaits trial on corruption charges.
The Democrats’ strategy on impeachment
House Democrats are expected today to wrap up their opening arguments at the impeachment trial of President Trump by arguing that he obstructed Congress by concealing his behavior and withholding documents and witnesses. Here’s a roundup of our latest impeachment coverage.
On Thursday, the Democrats tried to disprove Mr. Trump’s claims that he was merely trying to root out corruption in Ukraine when he sought to enlist officials in that country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Analysis: Bringing up the Bidens is risky for Democrats, our congressional correspondent writes, because some Republicans are threatening to call them as witnesses.
Related: No witnesses have been allowed at the trial yet, but Democrats are essentially using Mr. Trump as one — by quoting from his astonishingly unfiltered public remarks on Ukraine and other subjects.
What’s next: Mr. Trump’s lawyers are scheduled to begin delivering their opening arguments on Saturday, and the trial could be over before the president’s State of the Union speech on Feb. 4. But if senators vote to subpoena witnesses and documents, it could go deep into February.
Climate change and the banking sector
Climate change is expected to figure prominently in a strategic review that the European Central Bank began on Thursday — on the same day that an umbrella organization for the world’s central banks warned that the issue could lead to the next global financial crisis.
Christine Lagarde, the E.C.B. president, acknowledged on Thursday that some members of its governing council questioned whether fighting climate change was a central bank’s job. Still, she added, “I’m also aware of the danger of doing nothing.”
Why this matters: Global gross domestic product could plunge by nearly a quarter by the end of the century because of the effects of climate change, according to some estimates.
Analysis: “Think the subprime crisis in 2008 was bad?” our business correspondent writes. “Imagine a real estate crisis caused by rising sea levels and coastal flooding that renders thousands of square miles of land uninhabitable or useless for farming.”
Related: Business and political leaders made a flurry of commitments on carbon emissions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week. But few provided details on how companies could rapidly transition away from an economy based on fossil fuels.
If you have 45 minutes, this is worth it
9/11, the F.B.I. and the Saudi connection
In a case that divided the F.B.I., agents spent years trying to understand Saudi Arabia’s connections to the worst terror attack in America’s history.
Now a joint investigation by The Times Magazine and ProPublica explores what some agents discovered: A series of missed opportunities by the agency to resolve questions about the link between one of Washington’s closest allies and the attack.
Here’s what else is happening
Ruling for Rohingya: The International Court of Justice at The Hague said on Thursday that Myanmar must take action to protect Rohingya Muslims after what many experts have called a campaign of genocide by the country’s security forces along the border with Bangladesh.
Storm moves north: A huge storm that has killed 10 people in Spain and left hundreds of thousands of residents temporarily without electricity was moving north on Thursday, setting off weather alerts for parts of France.
Poisoning charges: Bulgarian prosecutors on Thursday announced charges against three Russian spies, accusing them of using poison in a failed attempt “to deliberately kill” a prominent arms dealer, his son and an executive in 2015. A Times investigation last month identified the suspects as operatives of an elite military unit involved in the 2018 poisoning of a Russian spy in Britain.
Angola: Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the country’s former president, is set to face charges after an investigation into the embezzlement of millions from the state oil company, which she once led. A banker who managed the company’s account was found dead at his Lisbon home in what was most likely a suicide, a police source said.
Subway chief quits: Andy Byford, a self-described subway nerd from Britain who has worked on the London, Sydney and Toronto transit networks, resigned as chief of the state agency that runs New York City’s subways. He had quarreled with the state’s governor over plans to fix a major line between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Snapshot: Above, a display of Benin Bronzes at the British Museum in London. The artifacts were looted by British troops in the 19th century, but two British police officers have made it their mission to return them.
What we’re reading: This profile of Lizzo in Rolling Stone “reveals how hard the Grammy-nominated singer fought to become a new kind of superstar,” writes Remy Tumin on the Briefings team, and the photos alone make it worth reading.
Now, a break from the news
Cook: Pasta alla vodka is a 30-minute dinner that leaves enough time to make a salad and pour a glass of wine. Skip the pancetta to make it vegetarian.
Watch: “The Gentlemen,” the latest movie from the British director Guy Ritchie, features villains and supervillains, crime and punishment, winks and splatter-happy schtick, our film critic writes.
Smarter Living: Our Climate Fwd: newsletter usually brings us a weekly tip on one thing you can do for the environment, but this week its team is looking at the bigger picture.
And now for the Back Story on …
The impeachment diet
Of the many rules that govern the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, there is none more incongruous than the food and drink allowed on the floor during the marathon proceedings: water, milk and candy. That’s it.
The candy is thanks to the “candy desk,” a historical relic that is now assigned to Senator Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania. It’s on the Republican side of the chamber, in the back row on the aisle.
The tradition of the candy desk started in 1965 with Senator George Murphy, a sweet-toothed California Republican, and in recent years has been controlled by lawmakers from Pennsylvania, which has the country’s biggest confectionary industry. It’s currently stocked with Hershey bars with almonds, Rolo caramels, Milky Ways, 3 Musketeers bars, Palmer Peanut Butter Cups and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews.
As for beverages, only water is permitted — either still or sparkling — though a legislative rule book does refer to a lawmaker who was permitted to ask for a glass of milk in 1966. Unfortunately for everyone involved in the proceedings, which have so far made for some very long days, coffee is not allowed.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
— Mike and Sofia
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Adam Pasick, on the Briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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