Coronavirus, Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin: Your Wednesday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering the surging coronavirus caseload in Europe and the United States, Joe Biden’s victories in the latest Democratic primaries, and how to score goals in the Champions League.

Coronavirus infections in Italy have topped 10,000, the British health minister has tested positive and the epidemic has reached every country in the European Union.

Here is our map of where the virus has spread globally and our daily live briefing on the latest news.

A few highlights:

  • Asian stocks faltered this morning, after appearing to recover in Tuesday trading. Shares in Europe ended lower Tuesday and U.S. stocks rebounded after their biggest drop in over a decade on Monday.

  • Even as many Italians adapt to a nationwide restriction of movement, officials in the country’s north, the front line of the outbreak, want to essentially shut down all commercial activity and public transportation.

  • The British health minister, Nadine Dorries, attended a reception on Sunday at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official residence. Health officials are now rushing to trace her contacts, and news of her infection has prompted discussion about whether to suspend Parliament.

  • Democratic lawmakers in Washington could move as early as today to introduce an economic rescue package for the coronavirus crisis.

  • With the number of infections in the United States now topping 1,000, the authorities have established a “containment zone” in a New York City suburb with a large outbreak. Here’s how early delays in testing set back the American response to the virus.

Former Vice President Joe Biden took command of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday by beating Senator Bernie Sanders in at least three of the six states that voted, including the key battleground of Michigan.

Here are the latest developments and a breakdown of the votes.

Mr. Biden, a centrist, struck a more sober than celebratory tone after early results were announced, as he moved to unify a fractured Democratic Party with an appeal to the Vermont senator’s liberal supporters. “We share a common goal,” he said, “and together we’ll defeat Donald Trump.”

What’s next: Both candidates canceled big primary-night campaign events, citing concerns about the coronavirus, as CNN and Democratic officials said there would be no live audience on Sunday for the next presidential debate.

The lower house of Russia’s Parliament passed legislation on Tuesday that would allow President Vladimir Putin to run for a fifth term as president in 2024.

“No one is saying” that Mr. Putin will indeed do that, one lawmaker said in a televised interview. “But the possibility of doing so must exist for the head of state in order to maintain stability in society.”

The legislation is a more direct maneuver than the surreptitious ones many analysts had expected after Mr. Putin proposed sweeping constitutional changes in January. It’s also the clearest sign yet that Mr. Putin, a former spy who has already been president or prime minister for 20 years, plans to stay in office at least until 2036 — and possibly for the rest of his life.

Choreography: After the proposal was floated unexpectedly, Mr. Putin made a rare (and, he said, unscheduled) visit to Parliament, where he received a standing ovation.

Context: If Mr. Putin serves two additional terms, he will have held the nation’s highest office for 32 years — longer than Joseph Stalin but still short of Peter the Great, who reigned for 43 years until 1725.

Our reporters used on-the-ground reporting and forensic analysis of satellite imagery to confirm the existence of a secret detention center near Greece’s border with Turkey.

The center is part of a Greek effort to stop a redux of the 2015 migration crisis, in which more than 850,000 undocumented people passed relatively easily through Greece to other parts of Europe. The Greek government, which did not comment directly on the center, told The Times that its actions on the border are a legitimate response to Turkey’s recent provocations.

But a former U.N. human rights official called the center a domestic “black site” that violates European Union law, and a Syrian refugee who was detained there said that Greek officials ignored his requests to claim asylum.

Afghanistan: After months of resisting an American proposal that his government release as many as 5,000 imprisoned Taliban fighters, President Ashraf Ghani reversed course early this morning, saying that the bulk of the releases would depend on whether the group dials back its violence. The question now is whether the Taliban will agree to continue peace talks with the United States.

Universal health care: Apropos of a common Bernie Sanders refrain — about the United States being the only developed country that does not provide health coverage to all residents — we looked at the battles that Britain, Canada and Australia went through to establish single-payer systems.

Silk Road: A Berlin-based writer spent 12 days following the ancient trade route, starting in the holy city of Bukhara, Uzbekistan, and ending in a national park in Kyrgyzstan.

Champions League: Here’s how Europe’s best soccer teams score goals. (Hint: More speed, less haste.)

What we’re reading: This Tampa Bay Times investigation of GardaWorld, a company that took shortcuts while building an armored truck empire. It “reveals, with one jaw-dropping and horrifying detail after another, the wreckage and carnage left behind,” says Matt Apuzzo, our investigative correspondent in Brussels. “Brilliant investigative journalism.”

Cook: Pastelón, a lasagna-like dish of plantains, cheese and picadillo from Puerto Rico, is “a dish to dream about,” says our Food editor Sam Sifton, “and to make as soon as you can.”

Listen: Nazira Kassenova, a 28-year-old Kazakh D.J. who performs as Nazira, is a hit on Europe’s dance floors.

Smarter Living: Sweat at the gym can’t transmit the coronavirus, but there are still some risks, like high-touch surfaces. Here’s what experts say.

Melissa Clark, a Food columnist, wrote last week about stocking up on food in a time of uncertainty and fear. We talked to her about how meal planning and cooking can be calming in stressful times.

The U.S. government recommends storing a two-week supply of water and food. How should people be thinking about buying food right now?

It’s always a good idea to have a stocked pantry, whether you feel anxiety about the world or just about the fridge being empty. There’s an extra layer of security and control — whatever happens, you’ll eat well.

What should be first on the list?

Start with your favorite starch — it could be pasta, or rice. Next: protein. Beans are great — if you’re going to be home for a long time, you might as well simmer up some dried beans, which have the best flavor, though canned beans are among my favorite convenience foods. That’s the sort of skeleton of the meal, then you need flavor: so stock up on aromatics like garlic and onions, and spices. If you like to bake, buy butter, yeast, sugar, salt.

Should we think about food as more than just calories and nutrition at a time like this? Your boss, Sam Sifton, noted that a well-stocked pantry is about maintaining a good and sensible life, regardless of viral pathogens. Next time it might be a storm. Or maybe you just wanna stay home!

People stress eat, that’s a real thing. So you might as well eat really well. But feeding yourself, your family and your neighbors is going to give you a great sense of calmness and joy. That’s how we get through hard times.

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

— Mike

Thank you
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

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Source : Nytimes