Hong Kong, Impeachment Hearings, Tom Hanks: Your Thursday Briefing

Hong Kong, Impeachment Hearings, Tom Hanks: Your Thursday Briefing

Questioning is underway in the first day of public testimony in the U.S. impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Here’s the latest:

  • In dramatic testimony, William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, said he was told that Mr. Trump was more concerned about investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival of his, than with Ukraine.

  • George Kent, a senior State Department official, testified that the president’s personal lawyer led an effort to “gin up politically motivated investigations,” and that the investigations were “infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine.”

  • Republicans and Democrats appeared starkly divided. In opening statements, the top Republican on the House Intelligence panel cast the testimony as unfounded allegations from a “politicized bureaucracy.” And his Democratic counterpart asked: “If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?”

Catch up: Find out more about the call that set off the impeachment investigation, the major players and the impeachment process.

What’s next: Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, will testify in open session on Friday. More witnesses are expected to appear next week.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong, which suffered serious damage this week amid fires and gasoline bombs thrown by protesters, also said on-campus classes would be canceled for the rest of the term. Some mainland students left by boat as the university remained barricaded by protesters.

The latest: The police said 142 people had been arrested since Tuesday, bringing the total number of arrests to more than 4,000. The hospital authority said dozens of people had been injured since Monday.

What this means: For six months of antigovernment protests, Hong Kong’s universities served as sanctuaries for the students at the movement’s core, largely excluded from the turmoil of the rest of the city. This week marks a turning point.

Two people from the sparsely populated region of Inner Mongolia were found to have pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease related to bubonic plague, at a hospital in Beijing.

Chinese health officials said that there was no need for Beijing residents to panic and that the risks of further transmission were “extremely low.”

Censors instructed online news aggregators in China to “block and control” online discussion related to news about the plague, according to a directive reviewed by The Times.

Another angle: South Korea said that it had stopped a stream filled with blood from tens of thousands of pigs possibly infected with African swine fever from reaching a river that provides drinking water for much of the population north of Seoul.

He once stopped a film shoot to escort a bride and her father to a chapel. He sends his friends heartwarming notes written on a typewriter. He wrote a weekly newsletter about cast-and-crew happenings on the set of “Forrest Gump.” He rarely plays villains because he doesn’t “get them.”

Our reporter spoke to the actor known as the Everyman of film, ahead of the release of the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” in which he stars as Mister Rogers.

Snapshot: Above, St. Mark’s Square in Venice this week. The Italian city has been submerged under “acqua alta,” an exceptionally high tide — the highest in 50 years, with damage estimated in the hundreds of millions of euros. And conditions are expected to worsen this week.

Endless flight: Would you fly nonstop for 19 hours and 16 minutes? Our reporter took a test flight of Qantas’s new direct route from New York to Sydney, equipped with whimsical pajamas and, “perhaps, too much medication.”

Carry-on: It started with a 22-pound cat named Viktor and a dream of keeping him out of an airplane’s cargo hold. The airline Aeroflot said Viktor was too heavy for the passenger cabin, so his owner, Mikhail Galin, hatched a plan to weigh an “understudy cat” and sneak Viktor in. It worked — until Mr. Galin posted on social media.

What we’re reading: This five-part series from The Seattle Times about endangered orcas, which just won an international science journalism award. “It’s hard not to remember the orca mother who carried her dead calf around for more than two weeks,” Remy Tumin on the Briefings team writes. “This explains — in breathtaking scale — the human impact of it all.”

The trade war seems never ending, signs of economic trouble are popping up around the world, there’s an impeachment inquiry in Washington. And stocks are at a record high?

Here’s why: The trade war is hurting big manufacturing-based economies, but what drives the U.S. economy is consumer spending. And thanks to a strong job market, Americans are still shopping.

To help keep U.S. growth going, the Federal Reserve has been cutting interest rates. That lifts stocks by encouraging borrowing and spending. And low interest rates make stocks more attractive than bonds.

Put it together and you get what Wall Street calls the TINA market — “there is no alternative.” If big economies outside the U.S. are in worse shape, and the usual alternatives to stocks are less attractive, then there’s not much else to do but buy American stocks.

One caution: Even as the markets hit records, stocks aren’t exactly ripping higher, and Wall Street’s happy-go-lucky mood can evaporate in an instant. In August, all it took was an angry presidential tweet about China to send the market into a tailspin.

That’s it for this briefing. We hope you have a really, really nice day.

See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Mohammed Hadi, our business news director, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is a guide to the impeachment hearings.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Homeless animal (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Three cheers for Kirk Johnson, who retired from The Times on Tuesday after 38 years as a reporter and correspondent.

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