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Your Wednesday Briefing


The World Health Organization expressed hope on Tuesday that coronavirus outbreaks were stabilizing in Europe’s hardest-hit countries. But the daily pain continues.

Spain, which has the second-highest death toll in the world after Italy, reported a daily record of 849 deaths, bringing the total to over 8,000. And an alliance of major European hospitals warned that they “may no longer be able to provide adequate intensive care” in a week or two unless they receive infusions of essential drugs.

Lockdowns are still in force, too. A particularly harsh one in and around Igualada, a town northwest of Barcelona, has sealed off about 65,000 people. “We are in a cage, and we are learning how to stop trying to control everything,” one of them said.

In other news:

Cities and countries that seemed to have brought their outbreaks under control are tightening their borders after a recent uptick of infections.

A surge in cases tied to international travelers led China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan to close their borders to foreigners in recent days. They also imposed measures like steep fines for leaving one’s home and are using tracking bracelets to monitor quarantines.

It’s a troubling sign for the United States, Europe and other places still battling their first wave of outbreaks — and an indication that the world could remain on a kind of indefinite lockdown until a vaccine or treatment is found.

North Korea: Many observers doubt North Korea’s claim of having zero cases of the coronavirus. Some accuse Pyongyang of hiding an outbreak to preserve order.

Bangladesh: Garment workers face potential ruin as stores around the world abruptly close and cancel orders.

At 15, Francesca Gee began a traumatic relationship with Gabriel Matzneff, a 37-year-old French writer whose glorified descriptions of pedophilia were celebrated by France’s literary elite.

Ms. Gee, above, said nothing about it in public for decades — even as Mr. Matzneff used her likeness on book covers and published her letters without her permission. And in 2004, French publishers rejected a manuscript that she wrote about the affair.

But she recently broke her silence of 44 years to speak with our reporter.

2020 presidential campaign: Advisers for former Vice President Joe Biden are scrambling to find new ways to raise funds, amid worries that the coronavirus outbreak could prompt more layoffs and choke off small online donations.

South China Sea: Chinese fleets, backed by armed Coast Guard ships, are illegally fishing in rich waters that are recognized as belonging to Indonesia. Local officials play down the incursions because they want to avoid conflict with Beijing over China’s sprawling claims.

Marine life: Scientists in the U.S. recently raced to explore an underwater forest (before it disappears) that could hold untold treasures in the form of new pharmaceuticals.

What we’re reading: This Vice interview with the writer Barbara Ehrenreich. “I can’t say it’s uplifting, but Ehrenreich is one of our best thinkers about exactly the issues we’re facing, like the economy, inequality and health,” says Dan Saltzstein, a special projects editor.

Cook: A sardine and celery salad from our pantry cooking series. Melissa Clark calls it a “perfect pairing,” and suggests bulking it up with an egg.

Listen: Some are using their time at home to debate the best wideouts in N.F.L. history, or to address the relative merits of fast-food fries. Our classical music critics have taken on the task of ranking recordings of Beethoven’s symphonies. (Also with the earphones: There’s something heart-swelling about this Modern Love podcast.)

Watch: Not ready to commit to a multiseason series? It’s a jittery time. Here are the best one-season wonders you can stream in a single day, if you take the task seriously. And Kyle Turner will introduce you to the dreamy, mystical animation of the filmmaker Jodie Mack — short film, big smiles.

As home cooking takes on new meaning, Margaux Laskey, an editor for NYT Cooking, talked to Times Insider about her go-to recipes, dealing with erratic grocery deliveries, using up all those half boxes of pasta and focusing on comfort foods like rice and beans. And ice cream. Here’s what she had to say:

What kind of recipes have you gravitated toward?

Using things that I have, and that’s a lot of frozen or pantry items. So, canned beans or dried beans. I always have an extra jar of Rao’s spaghetti sauce on my shelf. I was just having a conversation with somebody about how this is the time to use up all of those weird half boxes of pasta you have. Basically, I’m just trying to use what I have and what’s in the freezer. And, if I have any leftovers, pulling those out.

What’s in your grocery cart these days?

I get fresh fruit and vegetables for sure, because we have to stay healthy. Also, I’m leaning toward comforting foods that I know my kids will eat, things that I know they like. This is not the time, for my family anyway, to try a crazy dish. There’s enough uncertainty and enough weirdness about all of this.

So I get my go-tos that I get every week, and then more rice and beans. And ice cream. For sure, ice cream.

What’s been difficult about cooking lately?

Normally, I plan my menu on Friday for the next week, and I put my grocery order in — and maybe I won’t get one or two items, but I get nearly everything that I ordered. Now, first of all, you’re not even sure you’re going to get a slot. Then, you’re not even sure you’re going to get everything.

A correction: Tuesday’s briefing misstated the surname of a writer whose essay about adult friendship appeared in The Cut. She is Samantha Irby, not Kirby.

It’s April Fools’ Day, and we don’t feel like joking around. But if you need a laugh, our comedy critic surveyed some escapist entertainment.

— Isabella and Mike

Thank you
Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided 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 shortage of medical supplies in the U.S.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: cherry discard (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• For a limited time, our Games team has made Spelling Bee free and offered more daily free plays for Tiles.


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