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Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:

Coronavirus: U.S. Fed makes emergency rate cut; two new cases in Ontario

The U.S. Federal Reserve has made its first emergency rate cut since the financial crisis more than a decade ago to help the world’s largest economy cope with mounting risks posed by the coronavirus outbreak. The U.S. central bank cut the target for the federal funds rate by 50 basis points – half of a percentage point – to a range from 1 per cent to 1.25 per cent.

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The decision followed a statement by Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers pledging to “use all appropriate policy tools” to support the global economy during the spread of the coronavirus.

Tomorrow is the Bank of Canada’s turn to make a policy announcement on interest rates, and expectations of a cut this week have rapidly moved from unlikely to imminent. Other developments:

  • Canada: Ontario and B.C. have reported new cases, bringing the country’s total to 30.
  • The Canadian government has released little information about citizens who were on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship and remain in Japan. In total, 54 tested positive for the coronavirus, and as of last week, 34 of them were in hospital, with two in critical condition.
  • Globally: Outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan are the World Health Organization’s greatest concern, its leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says.
  • Close to home: Here’s what to consider before travelling, or staying put, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Read more: What can I do about the coronavirus? A guide for Canadians of what’s helpful, and what’s not

Have a question about coronavirus? Globe columnist André Picard will take reader questions later this week. Send yours to audience@globeandmail.com.

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Ontario backs down on high-school class sizes, online courses, in bid to restart talks with teachers

The Ontario government has walked back its plans to increase high-school class sizes and make online courses mandatory as it tries to reach a deal with its teacher unions.

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Education Minister Stephen Lecce says the government’s most recent proposals should be enough for unions to cancel future strikes and continue negotiations on a new contract. He also said the government has made a commitment to maintain full-day kindergarten.

In exchange, it has asked unions to comply with its wage-cap legislation, meant to limit public-sector pay increases to 1 per cent. Union leaders have asked for 2 per cent, arguing it’s a cost-of-living increase in line with inflation.

Currently, strikes by English Catholic teachers and Toronto high-school teachers are planned for Thursday, as well as a second mass demonstration at the legislature. Meanwhile, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario has said if contract deals aren’t reached by Friday, they will begin a new phase of strikes effective Monday.

It’s Biden vs. Bernie as Democrats enter Super Tuesday showdown

The Democratic primary has narrowed to a two-way race heading into today’s crucial Super Tuesday vote that pits front-runner Bernie Sanders against a resurgent Joe Biden, and with billionaire Michael Bloomberg facing the first test of whether voters have warmed to his self-financed campaign.

With more than a third of the available delegates up for grabs, Super Tuesday is the most important day in the Democratic primary, influencing later votes in battleground states such as Michigan, Florida and Ohio.

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Opinion: From roadkill to redemption: Biden is back and can stop Sanders - Lawrence Martin

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Rights and title agreement confidential until Wet’suwet’en approve it, Trudeau says: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today highlighted the importance of the Wet’suwet’en Nation having an opportunity to internally discuss a proposed agreement on rights and title reached with the federal and B.C. governments.

Alberta closing parks, raising camping fees: The Alberta government says it is fully or partly closing 20 provincial parks and will be looking to hand over 164 others to third-party managers. Camping fees are to increase and services, such as setting cross-country ski trails in popular areas west of Calgary, are to be reduced or eliminated.

Putin proposes ban on gay marriage: Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in what political analysts suggest is an effort to raise turnout for a referendum that could keep him in power but has so far stirred little enthusiasm among citizens.

At least 19 killed by Tennessee tornadoes: Tornadoes ripped across Tennessee early today, shredding at least 40 buildings and killing at least 22 people. One of the twisters caused severe damage across downtown Nashville, leaving hundreds of people homeless.

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Informant testifies in Tess Richey murder trial: A jailhouse informant is testifying that Kalen Schlatter confessed to strangling Tess Richey with a scarf after she refused to have sex in a Toronto alley.

‘I’m done for the season,’ Lee tells Knicks: Writer-director and basketball superfan Spike Lee says he wouldn’t be attending another New York Knicks home game this season after a disagreement with Madison Square Garden officials over which elevator he could use.

MARKET WATCH

Stocks fell sharply on Wall Street today after the emergency interest-rate cut by the Federal Reserve failed to reassure markets racked by worries that a fast-spreading virus outbreak could lead to a recession.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 785.91 points, or 2.94 per cent, to 25,917.41, the S&P 500 slid 86.87 points, or 2.81 per cent, to 3,003.36 and the Nasdaq composite fell 268.07 points, or 2.99 per cent, to 8,684.09.

In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index closed down 129.64 points, or 0.78 per cent, at 16,423.62.

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Opinion: Federal Reserve’s interest rate slash provokes rather than pacifies investors’ anxiety - Ian McGugan

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TALKING POINTS

The oil boom is over. Will Alberta’s energy policy catch up?

“The private sector is beginning to realize the need for alternative strategies not based on unrealistic fossil fuel growth assumptions and Canadian governments need to do the same.” - Thomas Gunton, director of the resource and environmental planning program, Simon Fraser University

Whodunnit: CBC hits the true-crime jackpot with The Oland Murder

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“The story is both sensational and macabre, but it isn’t presented as sensationalism. It just digs deeper and deeper with impressive insider access to key players.” - John Doyle

When will women’s safety on the road matter as much as men’s?

“Crash-test dummies simply do not reflect the significantly different anatomy of women – smaller pelvises, wider hips and shorter legs. Shoulder harnesses don’t account for breasts; they are all modelled on the biomechanical structure of men’s bodies.” - Lisa Monforton

LIVING BETTER

Following the worst week for stocks since the 2008 financial crisis, and choppy trading so far this week, Rob Carrick offers eight tips on protecting your finances in uncertain times. They include:

  • Start an automated investing plan for RRSP or TFSA contributions: Fallen markets offer a perfect time to start making contributions to your investments every payday.
  • Don’t waste time trying to pick which sectors will profit and which will fall: Forget about the quick score and instead buy foundational investments that you could foresee owning over the long term.
  • Use your tax refund to reduce debt or add to savings: Those are two guaranteed ways to improve your ability to handle financial shocks.

Evening Update is presented by S.R. Slobodian. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.

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