Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Impeachment, California, Halloween: Your Weekend Briefing

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Here are the week’s top stories, and a look ahead.

1. The leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed during a raid in Syria by U.S. Special Operations commandos, President Trump said. Above, Mr. al-Baghdadi in 2014.

“Last night, the United States brought the world’s No. 1 terrorist to justice,” Mr. Trump said in an unusual nationally televised address from the White House on Sunday morning. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”

Mr. Trump provided graphic detail of the moments leading up to Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death, when he detonated a suicide vest, blowing up himself and three children, Mr. Trump said.

A Defense Department official said there was a strong belief — “near certainty” — that Mr. al-Baghdadi was dead, but that DNA analysis on the body was not complete.

The claim of significant victory comes as American forces are pulling out of the area. Earlier this week, Mr. Trump heralded an agreement between Turkey and Russia to police northeast Syria, cementing Russia’s strategic advantage in the region.

3. Pacific Gas and Electric, California’s largest utility, will cut power to almost 1 million customers. Officials told 180,000 Sonoma County residents to evacuate as the Kincade Fire, above, threatened to grow.

The intentional power shut-off by PG&E, an attempt to avoid more fires, would be the largest for a wildfire prevention measure in California history. It could affect as many as 2.7 million people. The Kincade blaze has consumed more than 30,000 acres since it began on Wednesday, one of 1,300 wildfires to ignite in California over the past two weeks.

In a fire-scarred state, these days, “if you’re told to go, you go,” one resident said.

And a new trend is emerging: A small but growing number of wealthy people are hiring their own teams of firefighters.

4. Joe Biden’s team is racing to address a cash crunch as his campaign spends more money than it takes in, unlike top rivals.

In a confidential memo to top donors this week, the former vice president’s campaign manager sought to allay growing concerns that his candidate wouldn’t be able to stay competitive with his rivals on the airwaves and on the ground.

5. Nearly 900 children in a small Pakistani city tested positive for H.I.V. Health workers pointed to the reuse of syringes.

The real scope of the outbreak is likely larger. Fewer than a quarter of the residents of the city of Ratodero, above, have been tested. Officials say one doctor is behind many of the cases.

Separately, a U.S. government research program was charged with identifying animal viruses that might infect humans and heading off new pandemics. Now the U.S. has cut off funding.

6. 1.5 million packages a day.

That’s how many parcels are delivered in New York City, where, like other urban areas around the world, the internet economy has made life convenient. But it has also created enormous challenges, and has had a stark impact on gridlock, roadway safety and pollution.

“There is just not enough room for all the trucks that need to make deliveries, the cars that need to get past them and the people who live here,” a City Council member said.

Calling Washington a fun-loving city might be a stretch, but with the prospect of a World Series title, fans have painted the town red, our sports columnist writes.

8. A multiyear restoration project aims to protect Pompeii. But with a record number of tourists headed there, some worry that the ancient Roman site could slide back into disrepair.

The Great Pompeii Project, scheduled to wrap up at the end of this year, has secured many of the site’s threatened buildings, led to important discoveries and significantly improved the experience for tourists. Yet challenges — high costs and troublesome visitor behavior — remain.

Also from our Travel desk: There’s no place like home for the holidays — or is there? Here are five ideas for bucking tradition.

10. And finally, dig into one of our Best Weekend Reads.

This week we went inside ISIS prisons, taste-tested plant-based burgers, and spoke with a slew of celebrities, including Robert De Niro and Al Pacino; Alyssa Milano, above; and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers.

For more ideas on what to read, watch and listen to, may we suggest these 10 new books our editors liked, a glance at the latest small-screen recommendations from Watching, and our music critics’ latest playlist. Kanye West also dropped a new gospel album, which he promoted via a roving purple bus in Manhattan.

Foliage is lovely this time of year, but so is the odor of the katsura, also known as the “caramel tree.” Have a sweet week.

Your Weekend Briefing is published Sundays at 6 a.m. Eastern.

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