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Your Wednesday Briefing

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President Xi Jinping of China traveled to Wuhan on Tuesday for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began, in an effort to show his government’s success against the virus.

Wearing a blue mask, Mr. Xi stopped short of declaring victory, but his visit clearly intended to send a powerful signal that the government believed the worst of the national emergency could soon be over in China — just as other countries were being struck by their own outbreaks.

Reminder: Hundreds of millions of Chinese people are still living under quarantine-like restrictions. Big factories are barely operational, and small businesses have been crushed.

By the numbers: The National Health Commission of China on Tuesday reported only 19 new coronavirus infections in the previous 24 hours, and 17 deaths. All but two of the new infections occurred in Wuhan.

Across the world from Wuhan, the battle against the coronavirus was underway in New York State. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a one-mile containment zone in New Rochelle, a suburb of New York City that has been at the center of the region’s outbreaks.

The containment zone, which would limit major gathering spaces to curb the spread of the virus and close schools for two weeks, was part of a growing number of attempts by American cities to bring the epidemic under control. There are now more than 800 cases in the U.S.

Universities like Harvard, M.I.T. and Ohio State either sent students packing or moved classes online; nursing homes were told to halt most visits; Ivy League basketball tournaments were canceled; and the organizers of the Coachella music festival were in talks to postpone it.

At the urging of the Russian president, the lower house of Parliament passed legislation that would allow him to run for a fifth term as president in 2024, joining a host of authoritarian leaders who have sought to extend their reigns.

The proposal was floated unexpectedly by a lawmaker in the State Duma, triggering a quick cascade of developments that seemed to be carefully planned to look spontaneous.

After lawmakers voiced their support for the idea, Mr. Putin arrived in person to a standing ovation, in what he claimed was an unscheduled visit.

“I’m sure the time will come when the highest, presidential authority in Russia will not be, as they say, so personified — not so bound up in a single person,” he said. “But that is how all of our past history came together and we cannot, of course, disregard this.”

Context: If he serves two additional terms, Mr. Putin 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.

It has been a year since a malfunctioning Boeing 737 Max crashed in Ethiopia, killing 157 people.

Since then, victims’ families have called for more scrutiny of the airplane, pressed for an overhaul of aviation laws and confronted Boeing executives. Many of them will gather today at a memorial service in Ethiopia.

On Monday, Ethiopian investigators said design flaws in the plane caused the crash. A Boeing spokesman said the company continued “to extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.”

U.S. presidential race: The first results of six Democratic nominating contests will arrive in a few hours, with Michigan awarding the most delegates, followed by Washington State, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho and North Dakota. Here’s what to expect.

Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seemed to be living down his reputation for dangerous aggression. But recent events, including an oil price war with Russia, are reviving debates in Western capitals about whether he is too rash to trust as a partner.

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.”

Watch: Max von Sydow, who starred in “The Seventh Seal” and “The Exorcist,” died on Sunday at age 90. Here’s where to stream 13 of his best films.

Listen: A fictitious Kevin Bacon (played by the real one), an improvised space opera and a Midwestern gothic horror story are among the new podcasts we recommend.

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.

— Melina


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 [email protected].

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about what happened to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Air Jordans, e.g. (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Stephanie Preiss, who has been helping lead our efforts to imagine a bigger audio business, has been named Vice President, Audio and TV.


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