Iran ‘appears to be standing down’
After the country launched 22 missiles at American air bases, Iran said it was done with “proportional measures” in response to the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.
President Trump, addressing the U.S., said, “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.” He announced sanctions and vowed not to let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, but otherwise avoided new threats.
No Americans have been reported killed in the strike, prompting speculation that Iran may have calibrated an attack that avoided all-out war. Still, it is expected that Tehran’s proxy forces are not done yet.
Details: Iran attacked an air base in western Iraq that Mr. Trump visited in 2018, and another base near Erbil, in the north. Here’s what we know about them.
Mood in Washington: There was a collective exhaling in the Trump administration’s national security apparatus, and officials indicated they believed things had been contained, for now. In Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to hold a vote Thursday to require Mr. Trump to cease all military action against Iran within 30 days unless approved by Congress.
What caused a fatal crash near Tehran?
The circumstances of the crash of a Ukraine International Airlines flight out of Tehran that killed all 176 people on board remained murky.
Experts said details so far indicated that the plane could have been attacked. Investigators should have that scenario “at the top of their agenda,” said one former top transportation safety official in the U.S.
Ukraine’s president ordered an investigation into the crash. Iranian officials said they would work with Ukraine on the inquiry, but would not hand over the black boxes to American investigators or to Boeing.
Details: The plane, a 737-800 (different from the 737 Max model that has had two major crashes), left at 6:12 a.m. and abruptly ceased the automatic transmission of flight data two to three minutes later, though it remained in the air a few minutes longer — a scenario experts say is extremely rare, even in a catastrophic accident.
The victims: Breakdowns of victims’ nationalities differed: Iran’s tally included 147 Iranians and two Canadians, while Ukraine said there were 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians. That may be because some passengers held dual citizenship.
Carlos Ghosn comes forward
The former Nissan executive spoke out publicly for the first time since his escape from Japan, where he faces an arrest warrant, portraying himself as the victim of a rigged justice system and a corporate coup by disloyal underlings.
Mr. Ghosn said he faced a “character assassination” and “political persecution” after his arrest in late 2018 on charges of financial wrongdoing. He accused Nissan of working with prosecutors because the company was motivated by decline in performance and wanted to prevent a merger with Renault. Japanese officials deny his claims of a conspiracy.
Mr. Ghosn, who is a citizen of France, Brazil and Lebanon, said he was happy to stay in Lebanon. In recent days, French officials have hardened their stance on him, saying he should face justice in a court of law.
Details: On Wednesday, Mr. Ghosn addressed a conference room of journalists, showing documents meant to prove his theory about the collaboration between his former employer and the authorities. There was one problem: The text was too small for anyone in the room to read.
‘Armageddon is here’
We asked our readers to describe the ways they have grappled with one of Australia’s worst fire seasons on record, which has destroyed an area larger than Denmark and killed at least 24 people.
We heard from some who said they fled to the beach, prepared to jump in the water at a moment’s notice. Some sought refuge in camps or escaped as fire rocketed toward them. Others stayed, hosing down their houses.
Mary Frost, in Darwin, described spending a night worrying she would be asphyxiated. “We survived New Year’s Eve in Mallacoota sitting in a small boat,” she said. “There were four of us and my sister’s beautiful Dalmatian puppy, and we were scared for our lives.”
Misinformation: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the largest media company in Australia, was found to be part of a wave of false claims about the fires, exaggerating the role of arson.
If you have 15 minutes, this is worth it
A Chinese lake that’s a Communist retreat
In 1921, Mao Zedong and a small group of revolutionaries held the Chinese Communist Party’s first congress on a boat in the middle of Nanhu Lake, after the police chased them from Shanghai. Since then, the lake has been a staple of communist lore.
And in the strongman era of President Xi Jinping, it has become a sacred place to declare love for the party and Mr. Xi, and even to find an emotional lift. “It’s like a faith,” said Liu Yunlai, a 20-year-old university student visiting the lake. “Others believe in Buddhism or Taoism. We believe in communism.”
Here’s what else is happening
Puerto Rico: Power losses after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake have affected two-thirds of the island’s population, and thousands slept outside in fear of new tremors. Workers were urged to stay home on Wednesday.
Royal family: Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, said they would “step back as ‘senior’ members of the royal family” and split their time between Britain and the U.S.
TikTok: The popular video app had vulnerabilities that would have let hackers manipulate user data and reveal personal information, researchers said today. TikTok said it fixed the problems last month.
Crater: A major meteorite impact that occurred roughly 800,000 years ago has baffled researchers for years. But now, hints of a crater found under a volcanic plateau in Laos have provided some important clues.
Impeachment trial: Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said that he planned to move forward with President Trump’s trial without committing to calling witnesses or hearing new evidence, setting up another divisive proceeding.
Snapshot: Above, a cuttlefish in 3-D glasses, part of researchers’ attempts to test the animals’ depth perception. The cephalopods, unlike their squid and octopus cousins, can see in three dimensions, according to research published on Wednesday.
What we’re reading: This exhaustive ranking of every Adam Sandler movie in Vulture. Tom Wright-Piersanti, a briefings editor, says: “What’s great about this list is that the comedies that made him a household name are given the same attention as his acclaimed indie roles.”
Now, a break from the news
Watch: The series “Schitt’s Creek” is wrapping up just as it achieved something like mainstream success. For its creators and stars, that’s the time to go.
Listen: Right Said Fred’s mash-up of “I’m Too Sexy” with Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” reveals why she credited the band for a cadence. Being influenced by others is common in pop music, our critic writes, so a new trend that is pulling music stars into court is a dangerous one.
Smarter Living: If you’re one of the many who went a little too far with holiday shopping, here’s how to get back on track with your finances.
And now for the Back Story on …
Reporting the crash in Iran
When the news broke that a Ukrainian jet had gone down after taking off from Tehran, Times reporters and editors around the world sprang into action — including our increasingly sophisticated visual investigations team.
The plane crashed a little after 6 a.m. Wednesday local time (shortly before 10 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday). Malachy Browne, a senior producer who previously investigated the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and the Las Vegas shooting, was at home in New York, where he quickly got to work.
On Flightradar24, which tracks aircraft by their radio signals, he surveyed the recent flights out of Tehran. One had stopped transmitting close to Tehran’s international airport, over the nearby village of Parand. On social media, he quickly began sifting through accounts of what had happened.
A native of Iran on Malachy’s team, Nilo Tabrizy, spoke with an Instagram user who had posted images of the wreckage. Other accounts and witness videos also helped our team to determine that the plane was on fire with its wings attached as it rapidly descended.
And by mapping the photos and analyzing structural damage and blood splatter on the ground, the team confirmed that the plane was turning back toward the airport when it crashed — crucial information in the still-developing account of what happened.
Now they’re mapping where debris landed and working with our reporter James Glanz and other aviation experts to analyze the clues.
When Nilo called her relatives in Iran to check on them, they told her not to be so “Western.” “Don’t worry!” they told her. They had, after all, lived through the Iran-Iraq war.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Andrea Kannapell, the Briefings editor, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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