Iraq, Methodist Church, Oscars: Your Friday Evening Briefing


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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. Iranian leaders pledged a “forceful revenge” for the death of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the top military leader of Iran, who was killed by an American drone overnight in Baghdad.

On Friday, President Trump defended the airstrike. “We took action last night to stop a war, we did not take action to start a war,” he said. Here’s the latest. Above, Iranians mourned General Suleimani’s death in Tehran.

General Suleimani, the intelligence chief who led Iran’s Quds Force, was a powerful and shadowy spymaster who helped direct the Syrian civil war and had a role in hundreds of American deaths in Iraq, among other military efforts.

Still, former presidents had rejected opportunities to kill him, fearing it would lead to war. To Iranian eyes, it was akin to Tehran ordering the death of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Americans were ordered to evacuate from Iraq, and oil prices rose. The U.S. is now deploying thousands of troops to the Middle East as officials brace for potential fallout.

2. Could this lead to war between the U.S. and Iran?

In a sense, it already has, writes one of our Interpreter columnists. General Suleimani’s killing all but forces Iran to retaliate, most analysts say. But it remains uncertain where this attack, which follows weeks of tit-for-tat escalations between the two countries, will lead.

3. Back from a holiday recess, the Senate picked up right where it left off — at an impasse over the impeachment trial of President Trump.

Senators Mitch McConnell, above, and Chuck Schumer traded barbs in back-to-back speeches on the Senate floor with charges of partisanship run amok and unfair dealing by the other side.

With no meeting scheduled for Senate leaders, nor any indication of when Speaker Nancy Pelosi might send the articles of impeachment from the House, the stalemate could stretch on for weeks.

4. Australian fire officials offered a grim warning: This weekend is likely to be the most dangerous yet.

High winds and temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 38 degrees Celsius, are expected. The fire service in New South Wales, which includes Sydney and Moruya, above, drastically expanded its estimate of the amount of land at risk from spreading fires, including “ember attacks,” in which burning wood fragments are carried by wind. Here’s the latest, and a look at the wildfires in pictures.

The authorities urged tens of thousands of people, mainly along Australia’s southeastern coast, to evacuate before this weekend. But not everyone is heeding the warning to leave.

5. Leaders of the United Methodist Church announced a plan to formally split the church after years of division over same-sex marriage.

Under an agreement to be voted on in May, a new “traditionalist Methodist” denomination would continue to ban same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian clergy.

The plan, which is likely to be approved, will split the second-largest Protestant domination in the nation, with 13 million members worldwide.

6. It is one of the most vexing chapters of old age: how to navigate not just the inevitable ending, but also the days and months before it.

In 2015, our reporter began following six people age 85 and up, documenting their journeys through a stage of life that is often invisible. Four were still alive at the start of 2019. In 2020, there is only one: Ruth Willig. She and her family discuss what lies ahead.

Separately, as the nation’s older population surges, the gap between need and supply of doctors who care for the oldest and sickest patients has steadily widened.

8. And the 2020 Oscar nominees should be …

Our film critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott shared their lists of Oscar-worthy performances, and while their picks share similar titles like “Little Women,” “The Irishman” and “Us” for best picture, they’re far from identical.

People have been adapting and critiquing “Little Women” for decades, and yet Greta Gerwig’s version of the 150-year-old text “feels positively radical,” our gender reporter writes. Here’s how she did it.

And Wesley Morris ponders one mystery of the Oscars: screenwriting. How do you know good writing that, as a moviegoer, you can’t see and, as Academy voters, you’re not obligated to read?

9. The last time America entered a decade known as the ’20s, the U.S. officially became bone dry. Unofficially, though, wet spots were everywhere — if you knew how to look.

With the help of The Times’s photo archive, we revisited Prohibition, the 13-year period when the U.S. outlawed alcohol. Above, nearly 750 cases of beer was destroyed in 1923.

Maybe you’ve sworn off drinking for the month. In Opinion, a family doctor sums up how to be healthy in just 48 words. (Hint: Just stick to the basics.)

10. And finally, turn your eye to the sky.

The Quadrantids meteor shower has been active since Dec. 27, but the show peaks tonight into Saturday morning. Compared with most other meteor showers, the Quadrantids, above in Arriba, N.M., in 2013, are unusual because they are thought to have originated from an asteroid. Here’s how to watch.

The best way to watch a meteor shower is to get to a location that has a clear view of the entire night sky. No need for special equipment — it’s best to use your naked eye. Here are other meteor showers that will light up the night sky in 2020, and to make sure you won’t miss them, sync your calendar with the solar system.

Have a stellar weekend.

Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

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