Wuhan Coronavirus, Iran Cover-Up, Kobe Bryant: Your Monday Briefing

Wuhan Coronavirus, Iran Cover-Up, Kobe Bryant: Your Monday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering a new stage in the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, developments in the impeachment trial and the death of the basketball legend Kobe Bryant.

The outbreak that has spread to several continents has killed at least 56 and sickened more than 2,000. And Wuhan, the virus’s epicenter, may have about 1,000 more confirmed cases of the mysterious illness, the city’s mayor said. Here’s the latest.

The head of China’s National Health Commission said that people carrying the virus but not showing symptoms could still infect others and warned that the “epidemic is now entering a more serious and complex period.”

Measures taken: Hong Kong barred residents from the center of the outbreak and closed major tourist attractions. China banned the wildlife trade nationwide, deployed hundreds of medical workers and assigned dozens of hospitals to focus on treating the virus alone.

Scope: Cases have been confirmed in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Nepal, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, France, Australia and the U.S.

Perspective from Beijing: The Chinese government has stepped up its response to the Wuhan crisis, but the effort has been plagued by bureaucracy and a lack of transparency.

For three days, Iranian military officials knew they had shot down a Ukrainian jetliner while the government issued false statements, denying any responsibility.

When they finally told President Hassan Rouhani, he told them to come clean or he would resign. Only then did Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, step in and order the government to acknowledge its fatal mistake.

The Times pieced together a chronology of those three days by interviewing Iranian officials, members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and people close to the supreme leader’s inner circle and by examining official public statements and state media reports.

Takeaway: There was a behind-the-scenes debate over covering up Iran’s responsibility for the crash, as the Revolutionary Guards effectively sidelined the elected government.

Perspective: Since August, at least 16 Iranian students have been turned away at airports, losing their chances to study at prestigious universities. They told us their stories.


In a Saturday session, President Trump’s legal team began its aggressive defense in the Senate impeachment trial.

They dismissed the House impeachment inquiry as a partisan ploy that ignored the facts to cast Mr. Trump’s actions in the worst possible light. Democrats, they argued, were “asking you to tear up all of the ballots” by convicting Mr. Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors.

The president’s legal team used only two of the 24 hours allotted to them to present their defense. Arguments will resume Monday afternoon.

Another angle: New evidence became public this weekend: a 2018 recording of Mr. Trump ordering the firing of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.


The basketball legend, 41, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., on Sunday. He was among five people traveling in the helicopter.

The National Basketball Association sent a confirmation of Bryant’s and his daughter Gianna’s, 13, deaths to all teams and league employees Sunday afternoon, according to two people familiar with the document.

The 18-time All-Star and five-time champion retired in 2016, having won Olympic gold medals as a member of Team U.S.A. He was scheduled to headline the 2020 N.B.A. Hall of Fame nominees.

Legacy: The crash came a day after the former Los Angeles Lakers superstar congratulated LeBron James, currently on the team, for moving past him on the N.B.A.’s career scoring list.

“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644,” Bryant tweeted.

Fans: People were already gathering to pay their respects near the site of the crash. “He’s a figure. He’s a legend. He brought L.A. back. He’s an L.A. icon. He was a competitor. His drive, shooting in the gym at 4 in the morning. He’s what everyone wants to be,” one man said.

Snapshot: Above, Novak Djokovic, who beat Diego Schwartzman this weekend. In a rare interview, the reigning champion said he was no longer playing tennis to prove himself but rather to improve himself and the lives of those around him.

What we’re reading: This Boston Globe investigation of the government’s inaction on E. coli outbreaks. The story of a 2-year-old boy who ate some of his father’s salad and developed the illness is “heartbreaking, terrifying and riveting,” writes our Times Insider editor, Jennifer Krauss.

Cook: Slow cooker red beans and rice takes only about 20 minutes to set up in the morning.

Watch: This trailer of “Miss Americana,” a Netflix documentary about Taylor Swift.

Read: In her latest comic book endeavor, Roxane Gay adapts a short story, “The Sacrifice of Darkness,” from her 2017 collection “Difficult Women.”

Smarter Living: Wirecutter recommends five cheap(ish) things to radically make over your cluttered closet.

We asked Peter Baker, our chief White House correspondent, to reflect on a major moment in the lead-up to the last presidential impeachment and compare it to the current trial. He has covered both.

Twenty-two years ago this week came a milestone moment in the last presidential impeachment drama. President Bill Clinton was on the defensive after The Washington Post, where I was working then, broke the news that Ken Starr was investigating whether he committed perjury to cover up an affair with a onetime White House intern.

Mr. Clinton took to the microphone at the end of an event, glared angrily at the reporters in the room, wagged his finger and, with Hillary Clinton standing behind him, forcefully said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

We were struck by two things: One, that he seemed to briefly blank on her name, referring to her as “that woman,” before summoning it. But the second was the intensity of his denial. He was white-hot mad. At that time, before the DNA and the grand jury testimony, we didn’t know if the story we were pursuing was bogus or if the president of the United States was lying to us and to the country. Of course, later we found out which it was.

Now, as Ken Starr re-emerges as a lawyer for President Trump in the current impeachment trial and the administration’s explanations of what happened continue to fluctuate, it’s hard not to feel déjà vu.


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. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about how the issue of fracking natural gas could win the swing state of Pennsylvania in the 2020 election.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Reads but doesn’t comment, in internet lingo (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Monica Mark is our next Johannesburg bureau chief. She has covered some of the biggest stories in Africa for Bloomberg News, The Guardian and BuzzFeed News.



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