John Kerry, Russia, Carrie Fisher: Your Wednesday Briefing

Some officials deny that the country is experiencing an “epidemic.” But others estimate that 500,000 cases are undiagnosed, in addition to the 850,000 people known to be infected and the 220,000 who have died since the late 1980s.

Separately, Russian officials have conceded in interviews with our reporter that the country carried out one of the biggest doping conspiracies in sports history.

• Questions on America’s nuclear future.

If former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, Mr. Trump’s pick for energy secretary, is confirmed, he will oversee a department that runs the nation’s nuclear-weapons labs. He will also most likely be pressed to resume the testing of nuclear weapons.

Some experts fear that testing the U.S. arsenal for the first time since 1992 would risk an arms race. Others wonder if the weapons still work.


If confirmed as energy secretary, Rick Perry would follow two highly accomplished physicists in the role. Mr. Perry, a former governor of Texas, has no expertise in nuclear or technical matters. Credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images

• Charges in hacking of merger lawyers.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan say that three Chinese citizens made more than $4 million with information they obtained by hacking into New York law firms.

“This case of cyber meets securities fraud should serve as a wake-up call for law firms around the world,” the U.S. attorney in Manhattan said.

Death of a spiritual matriarch.

Tributes continue to pour in for Carrie Fisher, who died Tuesday morning at age 60, days after a heart attack during a flight.

Our film critic A. O. Scott remembers Ms. Fisher for changing a popular understanding of female heroism, calling her the “foremother of Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen and of countless latter-day Disney princesses.” Others pointed out that the actress had accomplished plenty outside the “Star Wars” franchise.

And many fans remembered Ms. Fisher, who was candid about her struggles with bipolar disorder, by speaking out on Twitter about their experiences with mental illness.


Carrie Fisher and the Legacy of Leia

Manohla Dargis, a film critic for The New York Times, remembers Carrie Fisher, whose career was defined — for better or for worse — by her role as Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” films.

Publish Date December 27, 2016. Photo by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »


• If Donald J. Trump makes good on his promise to impose high tariffs on companies that don’t move production to the U.S., he stands to damage his daughter Ivanka’s business.

• Clean tech companies — organizations that hope to overturn polluting industries with industrial solutions that do not damage the environment — are aiming for a comeback.

• 2016 was the biggest year in terms of volume for the sudden undoing of major deals — transactions that were withdrawn after being announced — since the depths of the financial crisis eight years ago.

• A measure of consumer confidence rose to 113.7 this month, its highest level in more than 15 years.

U.S. markets were up on Tuesday. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.


• More than just friends.

Carrie Fisher’s death, and the holiday season, have contributed to a resurgence of interest in the 1989 romantic comedy “When Harry Met Sally” (in which Ms. Fisher played a scene-stealing supporting role.) We retrace the steps of the film’s title characters.

• A grisly accusation.

A man who was involved in a tabloid scandal four years ago when he had a relationship with his high school teacher has been charged with murdering her and their 4-year-old son.

• Soul-searching brands.

At a time of concern over false and misleading news, many sites that promote such reports are motivated by the money they can make from online advertising. The dynamic that has caused a moral quandary for the marketing industry.

• Take a ride in Wales.

Hope you enjoy bagpipes in the morning! Our latest 360 video takes you on the Flying Scotsman, a steam engine that recently came out of retirement.


Take a Ride with the Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman, a beloved British steam engine, was recently renovated and came out of retirement.

By DREW GARDNER, MAUREEN TOWEY and SAMANTHA QUICK on Publish Date December 28, 2016. Photo by Alastair Grant/Associated Press. Technology by Samsung. . Watch in Times Video »

• Trailblazing astronomer.

Vera Rubin, who transformed modern physics and astronomy by showing that galaxies and stars are immersed in the gravitational grip of vast clouds of dark matter, died this week at 88.

• Recipe of the day.

If you’re craving a smashed, diner-style hamburger, look no further.

Back Story

This year has produced some momentous events, so lets take a moment and look back at some of the words they inspired.

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union started many discussions about “post-truth” politics. Its rise in use led to Oxford University Press naming it word of the year.

In Germany, the equivalent, “postfaktisch,” is the top word of 2016, according to the Society for the German Language. The state-sponsored agency bases its yearly choices on significance, rather than frequency. Third place went to “Silvesternacht,” or New Year’s Eve, which has taken an unpleasant meaning since hundreds of women in a German city were attacked as they celebrated the end of 2015.

Across the Atlantic, Merriam-Webster chose “surreal,” which it says was trending in moments of crisis this year. People who saw “The Lobster,” including our movie critic, used it in the original sense, to describe artistic expression, too.


Merriam-Webster chose “surreal” as the word of the year for 2016 based on increased interest from users. Credit Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

But a word Austria is celebrating stands out.

The yearlong campaign for presidency, which nearly gave the country its first far-right leader since World War II, was the basis for the ”postponement of the repeat runoff of the election of the federal president.”

It’s otherwise known as “Bundespräsidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung.”

Palko Karasz and Patrick Boehler contributed reporting.


Photographs may appear out of order for some readers. Viewing this version of the briefing should help.

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