Coronavirus, Syria, Afghanistan: Your Friday Briefing


(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good morning.

We’re covering economic turbulence from the new coronavirus, an airstrike against Turkish forces in Syria and a breakthrough for peace in Afghanistan.

[embedded content]

Coronavirus cases soar around globe as markets recoil

ImageSouth Korean soldiers disinfected a street Thursday in Daegu, the site of most of the country’s coronavirus cases.
Credit…Lee Moo-Ryul/Yonhap, via Associated Press

A global stock market meltdown entered its sixth day on Thursday as the coronavirus gained footholds around the world. Experts said a pandemic could push the world economy into recession.

Here are the latest updates and maps of where the virus has spread.

As the outbreak swept through Europe and the Middle East, Germany was scrambling to retrace the steps of a man whose infection had an unknown origin. Britain linked a new case back to the Canary Islands, where a luxury resort is under a loose lockdown, and New York City was investigating a possible coronavirus case from Italy, where officials were trading blame over soaring cases and Milan remained near a standstill. An Iranian vice president said she was infected, and Japan moved to close all schools. In China, shipping is largely frozen, with many small businesses verging on ruin.

In the U.S.: A patient in California was not tested for the virus for days despite a doctor’s request. And a whistle-blower said that federal health employees who had interacted with Americans quarantined for possible exposure to the virus lacked proper medical training or protective gear.

Science: Researchers are worried about asymptomatic carriers — people who spread the virus but show no symptoms. And beyond the asymptomatic cases, 80 percent of those with coronavirus have only mild symptoms, according to a study in China.

Major casualties in airstrike on Turkish forces in Syria

An airstrike killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers in Syria, creating fears of a war between Turkey, a NATO member, and Russia, which may have been behind the airstrike.

The Turkish military presence in northwest Syria is under skies dominated by Russian warplanes. Turkish officials have avoided blaming the Russian government for aggression, and Turkey retaliated against Syrian forces on Thursday.

Looking ahead: President Trump could be forced to pick between Russia and Turkey, whose strongman leaders have enjoyed warm relations with him.

The beginning of the end of the Afghan war?

The signing of a deal between the Taliban and the U.S. is expected to go ahead on Saturday, a major step toward peace for a country scarred by more than four decades of conflict.

A weeklong partial cease-fire was a prerequisite for the signing, and it has appeared to work, leading to as much as an 80 percent drop in major attacks, officials said. That will probably enable American negotiators to sign a deal on Saturday in Qatar that would forge a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Have we been here before? “Yes and no,” said Mujib Mashal, our Afghanistan correspondent. “We had never come this close to a negotiated partial cease-fire that’s been in effect for the past four or five days.” See more from our interview with him in the Back Story.

Divide emerges between Britain and the E.U.

British and E.U. trade talks were set for a rocky start on Monday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain introduced Brexit parameters that would meet serious resistance on the Continent. London was once again talking about a no-deal exit. But these are still early days.

Another angle: As Mr. Johnson seeks to position Britain for a wider role in global commerce, a court issued a landmark ruling halting plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport in London.

If you have 4 minutes, this is worth it

Australia confronts C.T.E.

For years, leaders of Australian rules football — the country’s national sport, as well as one of the most violent games in the world — have tried to play down the risks of long-term brain damage from the sport while seeking to prevent traumatic brain injuries. Above, a match in June.

But now that one of the game’s legends, Graham Farmer, was found to have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., it could change the way the game is played.

Here’s what else is happening

India: Witnesses say the police stood aside as Hindu mobs attacked Muslims in deadly riots in New Delhi during a visit by President Trump.

Royal family: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are huge attractions on Instagram, but they haven’t surpassed Prince William and Kate Middleton in followers. Is a secret popularity war to blame?

Snapshot: Above, an eerily quiet St. Mark’s Square in Venice. One of the world’s most popular tourist destinations is a virtual ghost town after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy led to lockdowns and canceled vacations. “It feels like one of those zombie movies,” one hotel receptionist said.

U.K. parliament: A secret passage once used by royalty was rediscovered.

What we’re reading: This essay in The Atlantic by a novelist who was quarantined on the Diamond Princess, the coronavirus-stricken cruise ship, and who happened to publish a thriller set on a cruise last year. Lara Takenaga, a staff editor, recommends it for “the quirky details about locked-down life at sea.”

Now, a break from the news

Cook this: Alison Roman’s salmon with whole lemon dressing. “The fish is cooked slowly in a low oven so that the fat eases out of the flesh to combine with the tart brightness of the lemon juice,” says Sam Sifton, The Times’s Food editor. “It’s really great.”

Listen: The Atlanta rapper Lil Baby discusses how he has remained so low-key while earning more than 11 billion streams worldwide for songs like “Woah.”

Smarter Living: Do you know the difference between worry, stress and anxiety? Learn how to identify and cope with all three.

And now for the Back Story on …

Imagining peace in Afghanistan

This weekend could bring the beginning of an end to decades of conflict between the U.S., the Taliban and Afghan forces. Melina Delkic, on the Briefings team, talked to our Afghanistan correspondent Mujib Mashal, who has been covering the fighting for years, about what peace might look like.

Your latest article focuses on young soldiers whose lives have been shaped by war and who now get to imagine peace. What did they tell you?

The question I posed was: Listen, peace means that, eventually, tens of thousands of Taliban fighters that are out there either lay down their arms or integrate into the United Afghan security force. That means you, a 21-year-old who has fought as a child soldier since you were 14 against these Taliban, will be sitting with them around the same dinner table. Are you ready for that?

They were like, “I hate their guts.” And a lot of them hadn’t digested that question.

What’s the big question looming about the way forward?

This war started largely as an American war. But in the second decade of it, this increasingly became a very localized Afghan-on-Afghan war — this became relatives on two different sides, on the government side and on the insurgent side.

The big question is, What is the process for undoing this hatred, this animosity that’s been so localized? The fear is there’s not going to be enough time and patience for that process. That’s going to require a lot of hand-holding and attention and time. Does the U.S. have the patience to stick around for that to complete in a proper way?

You were born in Kabul and have covered this war for the past seven years. As a reporter, what is it like to imagine peace?

The whole past year of focusing on the potential for a resolution to the conflict has been refreshing in a lot of ways. The past seven years, a good chunk of it, I was reporting on a story that was a bleeding stalemate.

Every day, every week, we were reporting on death after death after death. It was frustratingly, heartbreakingly hopeless. It’s almost felt as though I’ve been an obituary writer; we were finding human stories to remind people that, hey, these 50 dead all had hopes and dreams and lives.

The past year, there was this opening that finally this conversation could turn. As a reporter, part of me almost feels as if it’s returning to a normal reporting job: politics, diplomacy, deals. The past week gave me an idea of what reporting on Afghanistan would be like if it were a more normal place.

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

— Penn

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected].


• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Thunderstorm shower (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• “How do you compare yourself to Lady Gaga?” Lindsay Crouse, an Opinion editor, explains what it’s like to see your ex-boyfriend date a superstar.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here