Donald Trump, British Royal Family, Cuttlefish: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the easing of hostilities between the U.S. and Iran, and the many questions surrounding the deadly plane crash outside Tehran. Our Travel section has also released its annual list of 52 Places to Go.

ImageIn a televised address from the White House on Wednesday, President Trump said, “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned.”

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Congressional Democrats plan to hold a vote today that would rein in President Trump’s war-making authority, even as nearly a week of animosity between Washington and Tehran has eased.

A classified briefing from Trump administration officials on Wednesday did little to convince Democrats that last week’s killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was justified, and some Republicans were unhappy about the White House’s failure to include lawmakers in decision-making.

In an address to the nation, Mr. Trump announced new sanctions on Tehran but called for renewed diplomacy after Iranian missile strikes that appeared intended to save face rather than inflict casualties. No one was killed or injured in the attacks, which struck two bases in Iraq where U.S. troops are stationed.

Go deeper: “As it turned out, the missile strikes might end up being a bloodless close to the latest chapter in America’s simmering, four-decade conflict with Iran.” Read our account of the tense hours surrounding Iran’s move, based on interviews with current and former American officials and military personnel in Washington and in Iraq.

News analysis: Mr. Trump’s speech reflected his conflicting instincts for belligerence and disengagement in foreign policy, our national security correspondent writes. (Read a transcript of the address here.)

The mystery over what brought down a Ukraine International Airlines flight on Wednesday might not be resolved anytime soon, as Iran said it would not send the plane’s flight data recorders to Boeing, its American manufacturer.

The crash came hours after Iran launched strikes against U.S. troops in Iraq, and a former official with the National Transportation Safety Board said investigators should put consideration of an attack “at the top of their agenda.”

A spokesman for Iran’s armed forces said the crash was not the result of any military action.

The victims: All 176 people aboard the Boeing 737-800 were killed, including at least 63 Canadians. The victims came from at least seven countries; none were from the U.S.

The potential Democratic presidential candidate and former mayor of New York took a 17-hour trip around the Midwest on Wednesday, part of his unconventional approach, skipping the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

“It’s easy for us living in big cities to forget about the rest of the world,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “You don’t see it every day.” One of our reporters went on the trip.

“I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip,” the Duchess of Sussex said in a documentary last year. “I tried, I really tried. But I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging.”

The result of that apparent unhappiness was evident on Wednesday, as she and her husband, Prince Harry, announced that they would “step back as ‘senior members’ of the royal family” and planned to divide their time between Britain and North America.

Buckingham Palace issued a terse two-line statement referring to “complicated issues that will take time to work through.” Among those issues is the couple’s plan to become financially independent, since British taxpayers now fund their security, among many other expenses.

Our Travel section has released its annual list of destinations — one for each week of the year — aiming to inspire, delight and motivate you to explore.

Among them, above from left: The Kimberley region of Australia; Sabah, Malaysia; the British Virgin Islands; and Kampot, Cambodia. Here’s how we picked them.

Not your standard fugitive: Far from lying low, the former auto executive Carlos Ghosn laid out his case against Japan’s justice system in a two-hour news conference. In an interview with The Times, he did not address the details of his escape.

Harvey Weinstein trial: Many potential jurors in the former Hollywood producer’s rape trial in Manhattan want to be excused, saying their knowledge of the accusations could affect their judgment. Today’s episode of our podcast The Daily is about the case.

Manipulating the wildfire debate: Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is accused of shifting blame for Australia’s blazes to play down climate change. Read more in a news analysis from our Sydney bureau chief.

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 a study published on Wednesday.

Overlooked no more: Margaret McFarland, a child psychologist, mentored Fred Rogers and helped shape his groundbreaking TV show. She’s the latest entry in our series about people who didn’t receive obituaries in The Times.

Late-night comedy: Jimmy Fallon said of the planned life change for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex: “I give them a lot of credit — tons of celebrities always threaten to move to Canada; they’re actually doing it.”

What we’re reading: This exhaustive ranking of every Adam Sandler movie, from 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.”

Cook: Mushrooms, pearl onions, wine and carrots make for a rich, meatless, Bourguignon-style stew.

Watch: Our pop culture reporter profiled Florence Pugh, who stars in “Little Women” and “Midsommar.”

Read: Need to unplug? Jenny Odell’s “How to Do Nothing” is new on our hardcover nonfiction best-seller list.

Smarter Living: If you went overboard with holiday shopping, here’s how to get your finances back on track.

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. On social media, he quickly began sifting through accounts of what had happened.

A Persian speaker on Malachy’s team, Nilo Tabrizy, talked 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 said. They had, after all, lived through the Iran-Iraq war.

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

— Chris

Thank you
Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. Andrea Kannapell, the briefings editor, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is the first of a two-part series about the case against Harvey Weinstein.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Capital of Oregon (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The Times Book Review has started a new column, Group Text, that offers recommendations especially geared toward book clubs.


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