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Your Thursday Briefing - The New York Times

Coronavirus cases had seemed to be leveling off, but then new numbers showed the largest one-day increase recorded so far. There were nearly 15,000 new cases in Hubei Province alone, with 242 additional deaths. A change in diagnostic criteria could be part of the reason. Here’s the latest.

Political fallout: China’s Communist Party fired the leader of Hubei, the province at the center of the outbreak. He’ll be replaced by the mayor of Shanghai, who rose through the political ranks in the same province as Xi Jinping, China’s top leader.

Economic fallout: One of the world’s biggest technology trade shows, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, was canceled because of the outbreak, and the Chinese Grand Prix, a Formula One race set for April, was postponed. Students have faced difficult decisions about their programs. And the cruise industry has a big challenge.

A decision by Pope Francis to reject a proposal to allow the ordination of married men in remote areas delighted conservatives but devastated many who had hoped it would bring momentous change to the church.

The arguments: Conservatives warned the change would set the Roman Catholic Church on a slippery slope toward lifting priestly celibacy and weakening traditions. Liberals worried about the church’s future with a shortage of priests and increasing competition from evangelicals in many countries.

The fallout: Francis had in the past expressed openness on the subject. Coming seven years into his papacy, the decision raised the question of whether his promotion of discussing once-taboo issues was largely talk.

As the dust settles after the Irish election, it’s clear that after votes to legalize same-sex marriage and to repeal an abortion ban, the next target for voters was the ossified political hierarchy itself. “We’re showing again that we’re not afraid to have our voices heard,” one new voter said.

The shake-up: Sinn Fein won a seat at the table with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, the two main parties, which are both center-right. “For the first time in 100 years, it’s possible you’ll have a party that calls itself left-wing leading a government,” said Eoin O’Malley, an associate professor of political science at Dublin City University.

What’s next: Coalition negotiations lie ahead. And Sinn Fein will have to balance the desires of a traditional base that is hungry for Irish unity with newer voters who have flocked to it because of issues like housing and homelessness.

The bottom line: The country had long defied the usual left-right divisions across Europe. But for all of the disruption, what emerged was a normal-looking European system.

So-called pseudo-brands, many with unpronounceable names and short lives, represent a large and growing part of Amazon’s business.

Snapshot: Above, objects from London’s past recovered from the River Thames by so-called mudlarks, who scour the river edge at low tide. (The term originally referred to the Victorian-era poor who scrounged for items to sell.)

What we’re reading: This piece in The Atlantic about invasive earthworms. “Who knew that they’re not native to the Northeast or Midwest of the U.S.?” says Albert Sun, an assistant editor for news platforms. “And that many actually do little good for soil.”

Cook: You probably already have everything you need to make creamy braised white beans.

Go: Tom Stoppard’s “Leopoldstadt,” which opened last night at Wyndham’s Theater in London, feels like an act of personal reckoning for its creator and a declaration of identity as a Jew, our critic writes.

Read: We review Joshua Hammer’s “Falcon Thief,” about the nefarious career of “the Pablo Escobar of the falcon egg trade.”

Smarter Living: If you’re spending more for fancy craft chocolate, then learn how to really taste it.

For days now, one of the most-read Times articles has been our Paris correspondent Norimitsu Onishi’s look at how France’s elites have long protected a confessed pedophile, the writer Gabriel Matzneff. Norimitsu broke off from the follow-up news story — the filing of criminal charges — to talk about his reporting.

How did this begin for you?

The first time I wrote about him was in January, a few days after a woman whom he had written about having a sexual relationship with when she was 14 published a book about it.

But that story didn’t answer a simple question. This is a guy who wrote diaries full of details of sex with girls in France and with much younger boys in the Philippines. How is he not in jail?

How did you find him?

There was a French TV station that found him first and did a three- or four-minute interview. And then a scholar I had interviewed pointed me to this town on the Italian Riviera. In his most recent book, published just a few months ago, he mentions the town, and he mentions going to this particular cafe. I went there literally 30 minutes after I arrived in town. And five minutes later he walks in.

I waited for him to finish his espresso. Outside, I introduced myself. Initially he didn’t respond, then he got angry and said I should go through his lawyer. I said, “I’ve been trying, but he hasn’t been returning messages and phone calls.”

Eventually he started talking. He might have thought, “Why isn’t my lawyer defending me?”

And he was happy someone had read his work. I could say, “Well, in this book you said …” That got him talking a lot.

How much of his work did you end up reading?

He wrote almost 50 books, and I read about a dozen. None of them have been translated into English, but I grew up in Montreal and went to French schools. And two colleagues in the bureau read books that I didn’t read. Many were out of circulation.

So one of my colleagues spent days at the Bibliothèque Nationale scanning books and diaries from the ’70s and ’80s, and then we printed out the scans.

What was he like in person?

His reputation has always been that he’s extremely charming, and he was. He’s 83, but he speaks perfectly, in elegant, full sentences.

Was that what protected him?

I think that partly it is. And people thought he was a good writer. I don’t think a manual laborer would get away with what he did.

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

— Sarah

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Kathleen Massara for the break from the news. Andrea Kannapell, the Briefings editor, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the New Hampshire primary.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Freeloader (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The Times Magazine and T, our style magazine, were nominated for a total of 12 awards from the American Society of Magazine Editors.

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