Wuhan Coronavirus, Impeachment, Climate Change: Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the global push to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, the beginning of President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate and what made people throw their hands up and say, “I quit.”

As fatalities doubled to at least six with hundreds more people infected, airports around the world, including in Australia and the U.S., were checking passengers on flights from Wuhan, where the virus began in a seafood and poultry market. North Korea temporarily closed borders to tours from China. Here’s what else we know.

The World Health Organization called a meeting to decide whether to declare the outbreak an international health emergency as evidence mounted that the virus spreads from person to person. In one case, a patient appeared to have infected 14 medical workers.

Fears: Many in China recalled the government’s slow response to the 2003 outbreak of the SARS virus, which killed more than 800 people and infected more than 8,000.

Under procedures proposed by the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, each side would have three days to present its case, and the House’s evidence from its inquiry would be admitted into the Senate record.

Mr. McConnell said he had enough votes to defeat any Democratic changes, and he warned Democrats that the chamber would stay into the wee hours if they offered a long string of proposed changes.

In the room: Senators have to give up their cellphones and remain silent at their desks at virtually all times “on pain of imprisonment.”

As the yearly meeting of global business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, opened with a focus on global warming, many watched for the dynamic between two seemingly opposing figures on the topic: President Trump and Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old climate activist.

Though Mr. Trump spoke mostly about the economy — proclaiming “the American dream is back” — and said that it was “not a time for pessimism,” Ms. Thunberg gave a characteristically cutting speech to those who had not taken action on climate change.

“Our house is still on fire,” she said, referring to her address at the same conference a year earlier. “Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour.”

Context: The Davos forum has for some become a symbol of all that is wrong with the world, our reporter writes, but its proponents say it makes businesses more responsible.

Related: Australia’s biggest mining company announced that coal output was down over the last six months because of smoke from wildfires, a crisis exacerbated by climate change, which is caused in no small part by the burning of coal. The irony was not lost on many Australians.

Is there a more exciting and complicated phrase than “I quit”?

Our collection of 21 first-person narratives discusses quitting all sorts of things, including jobs, sex, the presidential campaign and even the task of writing about quitting.

Interpol: A former senior Chinese police official who served as head of the international crime-fighting body was sentenced to 13½ years in prison for bribery. His wife says he is the victim of a political vendetta.

Royals in Canada: As Prince Harry reportedly landed on Vancouver Island to join his wife, Meghan, and their son, a survey showed that about half of Canadians say they “don’t care” if the couple moves in. But an overwhelming 73 percent said they do not want Canada to pay royal security costs.

Ancient climate changer: The planet’s oldest asteroid impact, from 2.2 billion years ago, was found in Western Australia — and researchers suggested the cataclysm might have catapulted the planet out of an ice age.

Snapshot: Above, people in pajamas. Officials in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou apologized after publishing surveillance-camera photos to shame residents who sport their sleepwear in public. Their attempt to curb “uncivilized behavior” sparked a backlash nationwide.

What we’re reading: This article in The New Yorker. Brent Staples, a Pulitzer Prize winner, calls it “a vivid new history” of “how slave rebellions (not white abolitionists) defeated slavery in the hell that was the Caribbean.”

Cook: If you’re looking for comfort food, make a batch of sopa de albóndigas, a Mexican meatball soup.

Read: Kyle Chayka’s new book, “The Longing for Less,” explores minimalism as a manifestation of civilization’s discontents, among other things.

Watch: Ruth Negga, an Ethiopian-Irish actress, is set to play Hamlet in Brooklyn. She spoke to The Times about the role and her part in an upcoming film adaptation of a 1920s novel about passing for white.

Smarter Living: Organize your fridge the way pros do. It saves both food and time.

One of the reasons Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, cited in their decision to step back from their royal duties is the need for a more private life.

The desire is understandable. Paparazzi hound celebrities of all kinds, and the prince’s mother, Diana, died in Paris as her car raced away from chasing photographers.

Fifty-one years ago, another hounded Brit took a very different approach.

John Lennon had become a global star as the Beatles rose to extravagant heights of popularity, but in 1969, the band was inexorably breaking up. The other Beatles’ lack of enthusiasm for Lennon’s devotion to the conceptual artist Yoko Ono added to the tension — and further whetted the public appetite for gossipy details.

After the two married in March of that year, in a hastily arranged ceremony in Gibraltar, they knew there was no way to avoid being set upon by reporters and photographers.

So they invited them in. They took up residence for days at a hotel in Amsterdam, holding open hours from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and later did the same in Montreal, using the “bed-ins” to promote global peace.

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. Chris Stanford and Andrea Kannapell, on the Briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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