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Wuhan, Trump, Oscars: Your Friday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering a sharp increase in cases of coronavirus, a victory lap by President Trump, and errors in the Iowa caucuses.

Health officials said that 564 people had died from the virus and that there had been more than 28,000 confirmed cases, an increase of more than 35 percent in just a few days.

Outside of China, 225 cases have been reported, and a death in the Philippines. But the World Health Organization said that no new countries had reported cases.

Here are the latest updates.

Wuhan: A 34-year-old doctor who tried to raise the alert about the coronavirus has died of it. The authorities in the city, the epicenter of the outbreak, will begin rounding up the infected into mass quarantine camps. People are scrambling to muster help in Pittsburgh, Wuhan’s “sister city” of 40 years.

Quarantines: The number of coronavirus cases aboard a cruise ship quarantined off Japan doubled to 20. And Australian evacuees taken to Christmas Island, a former detention center for asylum seekers, were given sunscreen, sandals and video games, but some complained about conditions there.

Business impact: China took a step back from the trade war. Estee Lauder, Nintendo and Qualcomm joined the list of companies expecting damage from the coronavirus. But face mask makers, business has never been brisker.

In a long, stream-of-consciousness speech at the White House on Thursday, President Trump said the Democrats who impeached him were “corrupt” and “horrible” and claimed vindication following his acquittal a day earlier in the Senate’s impeachment trial.

“It was evil,” he said. Some of his remarks veered into profanity.

While thanking his allies, Mr. Trump said “top scum” at the F.B.I. had long plotted to end his presidency.

He personally attacked top Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Adam Schiff, and mocked Senator Mitt Romney, the only Republican to vote to convict him.

Context: President Bill Clinton reacted to his own impeachment acquittal in 1999 by calling for reconciliation.


Senator Bernie Sanders drew nearly even with Pete Buttigieg after the release of almost all results in the Iowa caucuses, the crucial first contest in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The state party has been delivering results piecemeal since Monday amid delays attributed to “quality control.” But a New York Times analysis found a slew of errors and inconsistencies, raising doubts about whether there will ever be a definitive outcome. Here are live updates.

Response: With 3 percent of results still outstanding, Mr. Sanders declared victory, citing his lead in the popular vote, while Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee chairman, called for the Iowa Democratic Party to “immediately begin a recanvass” in order to “assure public confidence in the results.”


Just six weeks ago, an attack killed an U.S. contractor in Iraq. The U.S. blamed an Iranian-backed militia and, at the peak of a series of retaliatory exchanges with Iran, killed the country’s top general, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

For a time, the U.S. and Iran were at the brink of war, and Iran accidentally downed a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing 176 people.

But Iraqi military and intelligence officials now say they believe it is unlikely the militia — which denies responsibility — carried out the attack that killed the contractor. They say that circumstantial evidence points to a different culprit: the Islamic State.

Our correspondent in Iraq investigated.

Grounds for doubt: The volley of rockets that killed the contractor on Dec. 27 was fired from a truck in a Sunni Muslim part of Iraq’s Kirkuk Province. The area was notorious for attacks by the Islamic State, but would have been hostile territory for the Shiite militia the U.S. blamed, Khataib Hezbollah. That militia has not had a presence in the area since 2014.

Ahead of the Academy Awards on Sunday, our critic Wesley Morris discussed the nine films nominated for best picture, eight of which are about white people.

“Couldn’t these nine movies just be evidence of taste? Good taste? They certainly could. They are.” But after years of threatened boycotts and diversification campaigns, he writes, “the assembly of these movies feels like a body’s allergic reaction to its own efforts at rehabilitation.”

Boeing investigation: The company and U.S. safety officials are refusing to cooperate with a new inquiry by Dutch lawmakers into a crash near Amsterdam in 2009 that killed nine people and had striking parallels with two more recent accidents involving the manufacturer’s 737 Max.

Night sky: Like SpaceX, the telecommunications company OneWeb plans to build a constellation of internet satellites for beaming internet back to earth. Astronomers fear that the satellites will seriously mar their view of the universe.

China: For years, the Thousand Talents recruitment plan attracted U.S. scientists with grants. Federal prosecutors now say China used the program to purloin sensitive technology.

Smarter Living: Our advice column Culture Therapist suggests ways to solve your problems using art. Today’s question is about opening oneself to new romantic relationships.

The Oscars are just two days away, and that means it’s crunch time for Kyle Buchanan, The Times’s Carpetbagger columnist. He spoke to Sara Aridi of the Culture desk about what it’s like to cover the awards show.

What stands out about this year’s season?

After last year, where Netflix was so ascendant, people are very excited about movies in the theater. “1917” is one of those movies that you need to see in a theater, and “Parasite” became such a massive word-of-mouth hit in the theater. Those movies provide that encapsulation of what we go to the movies for.

We go to see something on a gigantic screen that moves us in a gigantic way. We go to be transported into an experience that startles and shocks us. Streaming has its virtues and its pleasure, but I think those are two unique testimonials to what the theatrical experience can be.

Do the Oscars still carry weight in pop culture?

Absolutely. If the Oscars reflect Hollywood in 2020, it says that we’re still going through growing pains about the streaming era and that we still have a lot of ground to make up when it comes to representation and whose stories we take seriously.

How have you been preparing for the big night?

I’m trying to get a full night’s sleep. In the campaigning phase, from November to the Oscar nominations, you can go to a brunch for a certain star, and then to a lunchtime screening with a Q. and A., and then to an afternoon performance of a song contender, and then a premiere and then an after-party.

What else have you seen that readers might not know?

Joaquin Phoenix [who’s up for best actor for “The Joker”] has been a fascinating figure on this circuit. He’s trying to both play the game and stay out of it at the same time. All these awards shows have bent over backward to attract him.

I never would have thought I would miss the boiled chicken breast I usually got at these shows, but they have converted to a plant-based menu in the hopes that Joaquin will attend.


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

— Penn


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 about Senator Mitt Romney’s vote to convict President Trump.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: What the Earth revolves on (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
The 1619 Project is the centerpiece of a new wave of ads from “The Truth Is Worth It,” a Times campaign. Those with access to YouTube can preview our latest TV commercial, which will air during the Oscars on Sunday, featuring the singer, actor and producer Janelle Monáe.

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