Feb 20, 2020
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Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times

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Though the coronavirus continues to spread in China, its growth appears to be slowing: On Wednesday, for the second straight day, the authorities reported fewer than 2,000 new cases. Still, public health officials have warned against excessive optimism. Here are the latest updates from around the world and maps of where the virus has spread.

Shortly after reporting its first two coronavirus cases, Iran reported two deaths. Deaths in mainland China reached 2,004, while Hong Kong reported a second death.

Also today, Japan is preparing to let more passengers leave the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship, after hundreds of passengers already were evacuated. There are questions about how safe that is; more than 540 people aboard the ship had tested positive for the virus.

Quotable: “It could be unwise for anybody in China, or outside China, to be complacent that this is coming under control at this point in time,” said the chief of virology at the University of Hong Kong.

Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane than previously known.

Fossil-fuel emissions from human activity have been underestimated by 25 to 40 percent, researchers reported in the journal Nature. The findings add urgency to the need to rein in emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or releases methane into the air intentionally.

The extent to which these emissions cause rising methane levels has long been debated among scientists — livestock, landfills and other sources linked to human activity also emit methane. To figure it out, researchers at Rochester University examined ice cores from Greenland and data from Antarctica dating before the industrial revolution.

Effect on the climate: Methane, the main component of natural gas, can warm the planet more than 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

In case you missed it: Last year, using a special infrared camera, we investigated “super emitter” sites, where vast quantities of methane were being released from oil wells and other energy facilities rather than captured.

In a collision of technology and culture, of new habits and very old ones, we are beginning to photograph our dead again. Such images may feel jarring on social media, but they have a long history. Above, the late Robert Alexander and his sister Kary Manzanares.

For families like Mr. Alexander’s who are choosing home funerals and eschewing the services of conventional funeral parlors, photography is a celebration of that choice.

U.S.-China relations: China announced it would revoke the credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters, after officials objected to what they called a derogatory headline this month in the newspaper’s opinion pages: “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”

Europe and tech: The European Union outlined a plan to restore what officials called “technological sovereignty,” hoping to strengthen its digital economy amid concerns that the region is overly dependent on foreign companies like Apple and Huawei.

Pakistan: Officials offered conflicting explanations after 14 people died and hundreds were sickened in the southern port city of Karachi. Some said the cause was a gas leak.

Snapshot: Above, people fleeing toward Turkey last week from Idlib, the last opposition-controlled province in Syria. About 900,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled their homes since December as the Syrian government has tried to seize the area. “It’s like the end of the world,” one relief worker said.

What we’re listening to: “Public Official A,” a podcast from WBEZ last year about the former Illinois governor whose prison sentence President Trump just commuted. “This is a Robert Caro-like dissection of political corruption in the U.S., and of Rod Blagojevich, a political star who turned into a black hole,” says Adeel Hassan, on our National desk. “It still resonates.”

Listen: The Angolan-Portuguese star Pongo puts a global pop spin on African music. “Canto” is from her new EP, “Uwa.”

Smarter Living: Our “Scam or Not” feature looks at whether coffee is good for you. (Spoiler: It can be.)

A new dance called the Renegade is suddenly everywhere, from teenagers’ phone screens to the N.B.A. All-Star Game. Shira Ovide, a technology reporter, chatted with Taylor Lorenz, a Styles reporter, about a new generation of apps that helped the dance go viral, and how its 14-year-old creator, Jalaiah Harmon, finally found fame.

Taylor: I heard about Jalaiah Harmon from a friend in the Dubsmash community right around Christmas. People had cited her Instagram post, and it was clear she had created the dance.

No one online knew her full name or identity, and it took weeks to hunt her and her family down and get in touch with her mother directly. Her mom didn’t even fully realize what Jalaiah had created until I called her at work.

Shira: How would you explain these dance performance apps like Dubsmash to an alien new to our planet? (Or, say, a writer whose musical tastes are stuck in early 2000s ska bands?)

Taylor: Apps like Dubsmash, TikTok and Funimate let you post videos set to music or with special effects. Dance challenges, short 15-second pieces of choreography, are very popular on these apps.

Shira: How do Jalaiah and her family feel now about her very online kind of fame?

Taylor: They’re very excited and overwhelmed! Jalaiah was in Chicago this weekend to perform at halftime at the N.B.A. All-Star Game. She got to meet and collaborate with Charli D’Amelio, a TikTok star who helped popularize the dance. Jalaiah and Charli hit it off immediately. Kim Kardashian posted a video of Jalaiah doing the dance to Instagram. It’s been a whirlwind!

Shira: Taylor, can you do the Renegade? Can you show us?

Taylor: I’m so bad at the Renegade! I’m in my 30s and so I don’t think my joints can move like that anymore. For anyone interested, Jalaiah posted a slow-motion tutorial on Instagram.

(This conversation has been edited and originally appeared in “Wait…,” a Times newsletter about how technology and celebrity are changing our lives.)


That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina


Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is the first of a two-part series about a digital underworld of child sexual abuse imagery that is hiding in plain sight.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Things actors memorize (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• On Wednesday, The New York Times won four George Polk Awards, among the most prestigious honors in journalism. Among the winners: Mark Scheffler, Malachy Browne and others at the Times’s visual investigations desk, for their open-source reporting on the bombing of hospitals, a refugee camp and a busy street in Syria by Russian pilots.

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