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Impeachment, Deval Patrick, Venice Flooding: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the first public testimony in the impeachment investigation, the deadly rise of drug-resistant infections, and a threat to Australia’s koalas.

William Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official, were the first of what is expected to be a parade of witnesses over the next 10 days. Some takeaways from Wednesday’s hearing:

  • In a new detail, Mr. Taylor testified that one of his aides had overheard a phone call involving Mr. Trump and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, in which the president asked about “the investigations.” When the aide asked about Mr. Trump’s thoughts on Ukraine, Mr. Sondland said the president cared more about “investigations of Biden.”

  • Mr. Kent said that efforts to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine, leveraging President Zelensky’s desire for a White House meeting.”

  • Republicans dismissed Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kent, both veteran diplomats, as representatives of a “politicized bureaucracy” without firsthand knowledge of Mr. Trump’s actions.

Catch up: Our video covers the highlights of the five-hour hearing in about four minutes.

Quotable: “I am not here to take one side or another or to advocate for any particular outcome,” Mr. Taylor said. “My sole purpose is to provide facts.”

Closer look: Mr. Taylor, who did most of the talking, and the bow-tied Mr. Kent embodied the traditional Washington that Mr. Trump has rejected. Read more about the scene on Capitol Hill.

News analysis: “It was not clear that minds were changed,” our chief White House correspondent writes. “But whether or not voters were watching, history certainly was.”

Reaction: Mr. Trump said he had been too busy to watch the hearing but dismissed it as “a hoax.” He welcomed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to the White House, a month after the country’s incursion into Syria scrambled U.S. policy in the Middle East.

“The Daily”: Today’s episode is about the hearing.

Another angle: The drama in Washington is weakening Mr. Zelensky’s position as he seeks to end his country’s conflict with Russian-backed separatists.

Nearly 35,000 people in the U.S. die each year from drug-resistant infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

“A lot of progress has been made, but the bottom line is that antimicrobial resistance is worse than we previously thought,” a C.D.C. official said. “Every 11 seconds someone in the United States gets a resistant infection and someone dies every 15 minutes.”

Related: Also on Wednesday, New York identified medical facilities that have treated patients with Candida auris, a fungus resistant to major medicines that has been spreading globally. It’s the first state to release such details.

Go deeper: Read our series about drug-resistant infections.


The campus newspaper at Northwestern University set off a firestorm for how it covered student protests — and then for apologizing. Student groups have boycotted The Harvard Crimson over how it handled a demonstration calling for the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The flare-ups illustrate a growing tension at American universities between traditional journalistic practices and the demands of student activists. Student journalists are often caught in the middle.

Background: At most large colleges, students manage, write and publish newspapers independently. Some publications have faculty advisers, but students generally make the final decisions.

Quotable: “Everybody’s trying to figure out a solution and still be good journalists along the way,” said a Northwestern sophomore who covered the protest.

Another angle: The student body president at the University of Florida is under fire for using student fees to pay Donald Trump Jr. to speak on campus.

He once stopped a film shoot to escort a bride and her father to a chapel. He sends his friends heartwarming typewritten notes. He rarely plays villains because he doesn’t “get them.”

Our reporter spoke to the actor before the release of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” in which he stars as Mister Rogers.

Castaway cattle: Three cows thought to have been swept to sea when Hurricane Dorian hit North Carolina in September have been found alive on the Outer Banks.

Spirits salvaged: Hundreds of bottles of cognac and liqueur were discovered in the wreck of a Swedish steamship sunk by a German submarine during World War I. (No word on whether they’re drinkable.)

Late-night comedy: The hosts were all watching the impeachment hearings. “Every bombshell will just be confirming things we already know,” Samantha Bee said. “It will be like if, instead of a secret taping operation, Nixon had a TikTok.”

What we’re reading: This five-part series from The Seattle Times about endangered orcas, which just won an international science journalism award. “It’s hard not to remember the orca mother who carried her dead calf around for more than two weeks,” writes Remy Tumin of the briefings team. “This explains — in breathtaking scale — the human impact.”

Smarter Living: Creating habits isn’t easy. As we approach resolution season, Arianna Huffington, founder of HuffPost, shared her 10 favorite microsteps for changing your life.

The trade war seems never-ending, signs of economic trouble are popping up around the world, there’s an impeachment inquiry in Washington. And stocks are at a record high?

Here’s why: The trade war has hurt manufacturing, but the U.S. economy is driven by consumer spending. And thanks to a strong job market, Americans are still shopping.

To maintain U.S. growth, the Federal Reserve has been cutting interest rates. That lifts stocks by encouraging borrowing and spending, and by making bonds less attractive.

Put it together and you get what Wall Street calls a TINA market — “there is no alternative.” If big economies outside the U.S. are in worse shape, and bonds don’t appeal, then there’s not much to invest in except American stocks.

One caution: Even as markets hit records, stocks aren’t exactly ripping higher, and Wall Street’s happy-go-lucky mood could evaporate in an instant. In August, all it took was an angry presidential tweet about China to send the market into a tailspin.


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

— Chris and Anna


Thank you
Mark Josephson, Eleanor Stanford and Chris Harcum provided the break from the news. Mohammed Hadi, our director of business news, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about the impeachment hearing.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “German food puns are the ___!” (5 letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Three cheers for Kirk Johnson, who retired from The Times on Tuesday after 38 years as a reporter and correspondent.

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