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Your Tuesday Briefing – The New York Times




Russian military hackers have infiltrated Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company that has been at the center of the impeachment investigation against President Trump, security experts told The Times.

The hacking attempts against the company, whose board once included Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, began in early November.

It’s unclear what the hackers found, but the timing and scale of the attacks suggest a search for material that could embarrass the Bidens. Mr. Trump’s push for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens set off the chain of events that led to his impeachment.

Response: Joe Biden’s presidential campaign sought to cast the Russian effort as an indication of his political strength. Neither the Russian government nor Burisma responded to requests for comment.

Another angle: Senate Republicans indicated on Monday that they would not seek to summarily dismiss the impeachment charges against Mr. Trump, proceeding instead to a trial that could begin as soon as Wednesday.

Elizabeth Warren said on Monday that Bernie Sanders told her in 2018 that he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency, a remark he has vehemently denied making.

It happened during a meeting about the 2020 election, according to Ms. Warren: “Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.”

Ms. Warren also said she and Mr. Sanders were “friends and allies.”

Response: Mr. Sanders said, “It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened.”

Sanctions imposed by the Trump administration have decimated Iran’s economy. And the fear of even worse damage to national fortunes may temper the escalation of tensions with the U.S.

Public unrest over the economy has built up for months. That anger was redirected in the past week after the killing of a top general by the U.S., but it refocused on the Iranian authorities after they admitted accidentally shooting down a passenger jet. Widespread protests continued on Monday.

Some experts suggest that hard-liners may come to embrace hostilities with the U.S. as a means of stimulating the economy, or at least excusing its weakness.

Quotable: “For the Iranian government, living in crisis is good,” said a political economist at the University of Oxford. “It’s always been good, because you can blame all the economic problems on sanctions, or on the foreign threat of war.”

Closer look: The Times interviewed U.S. troops stationed at a base in Iraq that was struck by Iranian missiles. “It was like a scene from an action movie,” one said.

Related: President Trump made light of shifting justifications for the attack that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. “It doesn’t really matter,” he tweeted, “because of his horrible past.”

Attorney General William Barr said on Monday that a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Florida was an act of terrorism, and he asked Apple to unlock two phones used by the gunman.

It was the latest salvo in a long-running fight between the government and technology companies.

After the Dec. 6 shooting in Pensacola, which left three sailors dead, Apple said it had given investigators access to the gunman’s iCloud account and transaction data for several accounts.

Background: The confrontation echoed the standoff over an iPhone used by a gunman in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015. Apple defied a court order to assist the F.B.I., but another company bypassed the phone’s encryption.


Humans were exposed to airborne toxins millions of years before the first cigarette was lit or the first car hit the road. As a result, new research argues, our ancestors evolved at least some defenses.

Millions of people still die from indoor air pollution. But as one scientist noted, “All that matters from an evolutionary standpoint is that you reproduce.”

(At today’s qualifying matches for next week’s Australian Open tennis tournament, one player had to withdraw and others complained of the hazardous air conditions caused by wildfires.)

Border wall funding: President Trump plans to divert $7.2 billion from the military for the construction of a wall on the southern border, two people familiar with the plans told The Times. Congress set aside $1.375 billion for it last month.

“Megxit” approval: Queen Elizabeth II said she was “entirely supportive” of the plan by Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, to step back from royal life.

Snapshot: Above, Joe Burrow, Louisiana State’s quarterback, lifted college football’s championship trophy on Monday after his team defeated Clemson, 42-25. It was L.S.U.’s fourth national title.

Oscar nominees: Most Academy Award nominations on Monday went to four very male, very white movies: “Joker,” “The Irishman,” “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and “1917.” Here are some snubs and surprises.

Late-night comedy: “The nominees are so white, this year’s Oscars are being held at Pottery Barn,” Jimmy Fallon said.

What we’re reading: The Austin Chronicle’s profile of Kenny Dorham, a trumpeter whose talent even Miles Davis envied. Jesse Drucker, a Times business reporter, calls it “heartbreaking and beautifully written.”

When breeding program began, there were 15 tortoises. Now there are about 2,000 — about 800 of them descended from Diego.

So what is it about Diego? James Gibbs, a professor of environmental and forest biology at the State University of New York in Syracuse, says he has “a big personality — quite aggressive, active and vocal in his mating habits — and so I think he has gotten most of the attention.”

But almost all the other 1,200 or so tortoises also share a male ancestor: a “more reserved, less charismatic” tortoise known as E5. As the breeding program ends, Professor Gibbs said, “It clearly is the other, quieter male that has had much more success.”

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

— Chris

Thank you
Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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