SAMARA, Russia — She burst into the hospital morgue and the bodies were everywhere, about a dozen of them in black bags on stretchers. She headed straight for the autopsy room, pleading with the guard in a black jacket: “Can I speak to the doctor who opened up my father?”
Olga Kagarlitskaya’s father had been hospitalized weeks earlier in a coronavirus ward. Now he was gone, cause of death: “viral pneumonia, unspecified.” Ms. Kagarlitskaya, recording the scene on her smartphone, wanted to know the truth. But the guard, hands in pockets, sent her away.
There were thousands of similar cases across Russia last year, the government’s own statistics show. At least 300,000 more people died last year during the coronavirus pandemic than were reported in Russia’s most widely cited official statistics.
Russian scientists had developed a Covid vaccine widely seen as one of the best in the world — but the Kremlin has put a greater emphasis on using the Sputnik V shot to score geopolitical points rather than on immunizing its own population.
Perhaps the starkest sign, though, of the state’s priorities is its minimization of the coronavirus death toll — a move that, many critics say, kept much of the public in the dark about the disease’s dangers and about the importance of getting a vaccine.
to the World Health Organization — is far lower, when adjusted for the population, than that of United States and most of Western Europe.
However, a far different story is told by the official statistics agency Rosstat, which tallies deaths from all causes. Russia saw a jump of 360,000 deaths above normal from last April through December, according to a Times analysis of historical data. Rosstat figures for January and February of this year show that the number is now well above 400,000.
In the United States, with more than twice the population of Russia, such “excess deaths” since the start of the pandemic have numbered about 574,000. By that measure, which many demographers see as the most accurate way to assess the virus’s overall toll, the pandemic killed about one in every 400 people in Russia, compared with one in every 600 in the United States.
another poll found that 60 percent of Russians said they were not planning to get Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, and that most believed the coronavirus to be a biological weapon.
In the Samara region, Inna Pogozheva’s mother, an obstetrician-gynecologist, died in November after being hospitalized with a Covid-19 referral based on a CT scan. The undertakers, clad in rubber boots and hazmat suits, carried her mother from the morgue into their hearse in a sealed coffin, then doused each other in disinfectant.
But there was no word about Covid-19 on the death certificate.
Ms. Pogozheva said she did not know what to believe about the pandemic — including whether, as the widely circulating and false conspiracy theories go, the Gates Foundation might be behind it. But one thing was certain, she said: She will not get vaccinated, even after seeing Covid’s devastation up close. After all, if she cannot trust her mother’s state-issued death certificate, why should she trust the Russian government about the safety of the vaccine?
“Who the heck knows what they mixed in there?” Ms. Pogozheva said. “You can’t trust anyone, especially when it comes to this situation.”
Ms. Pogozheva is appealing to have her mother’s cause of death reinvestigated. The next of kin of a medical worker shown to have died from Covid-19 caught on the job are entitled to a special payout from the state. Ms. Kagarlitskaya, whose father was a paramedic, succeeded in having his cause of death changed to Covid-19 after her outrage went viral on Instagram and Samara’s governor personally intervened.
For all the death, there has been minimal opposition in Russia — even among Mr. Putin’s critics — to the government’s decision to keep businesses open last winter and fall. Some liken it to a Russian stoicism, or fatalism, or the lack of an alternative to keeping the economy running given minimal aid from the state.
Mr. Raksha, the demographer, noted that the elevated mortality that accompanied the chaos and poverty of the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was deadlier than the overall toll of the pandemic.
“This nation has seen so many traumas,” Mr. Raksha said. “A people that has been through so much develops a very different relationship to death.”
In the Samara region, according to the excess death statistics, the pandemic took the life of as many as one in every 250 people. Viktor Dolonko, the editor of a culture newspaper in the city of Samara, says that about 50 people he knew — many of them part of the region’s thriving arts scene — lost their lives during the pandemic. But he does not believe that Samara should have closed its theaters — currently, they are allowed to be filled to 50 percent of capacity — in order to slow the spread of the disease.
The deaths during the pandemic have been tragic, he said, but he believes they have mostly occurred in people who were of a very advanced age or had other health problems, and were not all related to the virus. Mr. Dolonko, 62, says he wears a mask in crowded places and frequently washes his hands — and regularly goes to gallery openings and shows.
“You can choose between continuing to live your life, carefully, or to wall yourself up and stop living,” Mr. Dolonko said. “Unlike you” — Westerners — “Russians know what it means to live in extreme conditions.”
At a Samara church service on a recent Sunday, the Rev. Sergiy Rybakov preached, “Let us love one another,” and the congregants hugged and kissed. One 59-year-old woman, leaving the service, explained why she did not fear catching the virus there: “I trust God.”
A website tracking coronavirus deaths in the Orthodox Church lists seven members of the clergy in the Samara region; Father Sergiy knew several of them well. He said he figured Russia had lifted its coronavirus restrictions because there was no end in sight to the pandemic. He quoted Dostoyevsky: “Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel!”
“We are growing used to living in a pandemic,” Father Sergiy said. “We are growing used to the deaths.”
Allison McCann and Oleg Matsnev contributed research.
The stock market’s rally during the pandemic has been nothing short of amazing. But rising interest rates are raising the question of how long this bull market can last.
In the 12 months through March, the average general stock mutual fund tracked by Morningstar returned nearly 66 percent — a remarkable rebound after a three-month loss of nearly 22 percent at the start of last year.
The turnaround came after the Federal Reserve stepped in with support for financial markets and the economy, fueling much of the stock market’s exuberance with low interest rates.
But with the economy taking off, rates have begun to rise. At the start of a new quarter, it is a propitious moment to ask, how long can these strangely prosperous times last?
My crystal ball is no clearer now than it has ever been, alas, and I can’t time the market’s movements any better than anyone else. But this certainly a good time to assess whether you are well positioned for a possible downward shift.
As always, the best approach for long-term investors is to set up a portfolio with a reasonable, diversified asset allocation of stocks and bonds and then live with it, come what may.
Our quarterly report on investing is intended to help. If you haven’t been an investor before, we’ve included tips on how to get started. Here you will find broad coverage of recent trends, guidance for the future and reflections on personal finance in a challenging era.
It’s been a long, fine run for the stock market but a great deal of the upswing has depended on low interest rates, and in the bond market rates have been rising. Investment strategists are taking a wide array of approaches to deal with this difficult problem. For now, the bull market rides on.
Bonds provide ballast in diversified portfolios, damping the swings of the stock market and sometimes providing solid returns. Because bond yields have been rising — and yields and prices move in opposite directions — bond returns have been suffering lately. But adding a diversified selection of international bonds to domestic holdings can reduce the risk in the bond side of your investments.
Yes, the markets and the economy are complicated. That often puts people off, and stops them from taking action that can help them and their families immeasurably: investing.
But investing need not be complicated. A succinct article gives pointers on how to get started, and on how to navigate the markets for the long haul.
After a piece of virtual art known as a nonfungible token — an NFT — sold at auction for $70 million recently, NFTs have suddenly became an asset that you can invest in. Our columnist prefers real dollars.
Short-term demand for oil and gas is rising, but if climate change is to be reversed, consumption of fossil fuels will have to diminish. This leaves investors in a tough spot.
For other perspectives on finance, take a deeper look at our report:
LONDON — While the world was waiting for Oprah Winfrey’s interview last month with Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, the eyes of many Britons were on someone else: Prince Philip, Harry’s grandfather, who had been hospitalized several weeks earlier with a heart condition.
On the front pages of British newspapers in February, Prince Charles had been pictured leaving the bedside of Philip, his father — the son’s eyes bloodshot as he was driven away. The Daily Mail castigated Harry and Meghan for comments about their departure from their royal roles, which the tabloid cast as disrespectful in light of Philip’s illness. “Have They No Respect?” a headline screamed.
That period of national concern over Philip’s health lent the royal family sympathy during an unusual dust-up within the institution, one that pitted brother against brother as Harry, in the interview with Ms. Winfrey, accused his family of racism and emotional abandonment.
Philip’s death on Friday at age 99 opened a new and uncertain chapter in the turbulent life of the House of Windsor. It has the potential to mend fences, or to sow deeper discord.
private funeral being planned for Philip. Will Harry reunite with his brother, Prince William, after a monthslong feud? Will Meghan attend?
“Harry will come home, and a meeting between the brothers and perhaps, with luck, a reconciliation over their dead grandfather could be a possibility,” said Penny Junor, a royal historian.
“It’s going to go one way or the other,” Ms. Junor said. “There’s a sort of war going on within the family, and being played out in public. It’s been everything the family doesn’t want.”
The heating up of those tensions during Philip’s hospitalization created an awkward split screen, which defenders of Buckingham Palace used to attack Harry and Meghan for doing anything that could detract attention from the patriarch’s health.
“the Firm,” the family institution that Philip spent much of his life trying to preserve.
They said members of the family had expressed concern about how dark the skin of the couple’s then-unborn child, Archie, would be. Meghan said her efforts to seek mental health treatment had been rebuffed by palace officials, who worried about potential damage to the monarchy. And Harry said that his own relatives were “trapped,” speculating aloud about whether they, too, were wrestling with painful thoughts.
frank conversations about racism and the country’s colonial legacy. Philip’s own history of bigoted remarks was often cited as an example of anachronistic attitudes that were said to prevail within the family.
So concerned was Harry about how the interview would affect Philip and Queen Elizabeth II that he got in touch with Ms. Winfrey shortly after it aired.
“He wanted to make sure I knew, and if I had an opportunity to share it, that it was not his grandmother or grandfather that were part of those conversations,” she told CBS News, referring to the comments about Archie’s skin color.
Philip stepped back from his busy public schedule in recent years, he continued to play an active role in big issues facing the family, Harry and Meghan’s departure among them.
The queen is Britain’s head of state, but analysts say that Philip long acted as head of the royal household. He was credited with giving television cameras an early peek at the family’s private life in the 1960s and introducing efficiencies at Buckingham Palace.
Yet his stewardship of the royal household was not without difficulties. Known for cracking the whip and delivering confrontational messages, he also wounded Charles, his oldest son, with frequent belittlements.
He was also partly blamed for the family’s seemingly grudging response to the country’s outpouring of grief over the death of Charles’s wife, Diana, Princess of Wales, in a car crash in Paris in 1997.
Britons took a forgiving view of him on Friday, though.
Beverley Pilkington, a self-described royalist from Crystal Palace in south London, traveled to Buckingham Palace to pay her respects — though without her two daughters, who she said had resisted joining her. Palace attendants had placed a notice of Philip’s death on the gates, only to take it away a short time later as a precaution against a crowd forming.
“He’s had a turbulent past,” Ms. Pilkington said of Philip. “But in death, you just have to forgive.”
In recent years, Prince Hamzah has spoken out against high-level corruption, an issue the public associates with privatization. And he has visited tribal leaders and attended tribal events, perceived as a provocative attempt to foment tribal frustration and social discontent.
“He didn’t create these grievances,” said Mr. Ramadan, the former lawmaker. “He tapped into them.”
But before Prince Hamzah reinvented himself as a government critic, he was the epitome of a palace insider. After King Abdullah inherited the crown in 1999 from their father, King Hussein, he appointed Prince Hamzah as his own crown prince and successor.
King Abdullah, 59, is the eldest son of Hussein’s British-born second wife, Princess Muna. Prince Hamzah, 41, is the eldest son of Hussein’s American-born fourth wife, Queen Noor.
Both men were educated at Harrow, an elite British school, and Sandhurst, the British officer-training academy.
But their paths diverged in 2004, when King Abdullah removed his half brother as crown prince — later replacing him with his own son, Prince Hussein, now 26.
The decision devastated Prince Hamzah, according to Jordanian officials. He had been considered a favorite of King Hussein’s, a more polished orator with a more academic mind than King Abdullah, and had been groomed as a teenager for the throne. Suddenly he was ejected from the circle of influence, and cast around for a new role.
At one point he asked his half brother to be commander in chief of the armed forces, a request that King Abdullah declined, according to a person briefed on the conversation.
Long before the coronavirus hit, nutrition programs that served the nation’s older adults struggled to keep up with a growing demand. Often, they could not.
In Charlotte, N.C., and nine surrounding counties, for example, the waiting list for Meals on Wheels averaged about 1,200 people. But Linda Miller, director of the Centralina Area Agency on Aging, which coordinates the program, always assumed the actual need was higher.
She knew some clients skipped meals because they couldn’t travel to a senior center for a hot lunch every weekday; some divided a single home-delivered meal to serve as both lunch and dinner.
Some never applied for help. “Just like with food stamps, which are underused,” Ms. Miller said, “people are embarrassed: ‘I worked hard all my life; I don’t want charity.’”
5.4 million older recipients.
For years, advocates for older adults have lobbied Congress for more significant federal help. Although the Older Americans Act has enjoyed bipartisan support, small annual upticks in appropriations left 5,000 local organizations constantly lagging in their ability to feed seniors.
From 2001 to 2019, funding for the Older Americans Act rose an average of 1.1 percent annually — a 22 percent increase over almost two decades, according to an analysis by the AARP Public Policy Institute. But adjusted for inflation, the funding for nutrition services actually fell 8 percent. State and local matching funds, foundation grants and private donations helped keep kitchens open and drivers delivering, but many programs still could not bridge their budget gaps.
food insecure,” meaning they had limited or uncertain access to adequate food.
And that shortfall was before the pandemic. Once programs hastily closed congregant settings last spring, a Meals on Wheels America survey found that nearly 80 percent of the programs reported that new requests for home-delivered meals had at least doubled; waiting lists grew by 26 percent.
Along with money, the Covid relief legislation gave these local programs needed flexibility. Normally, to qualify for Meals on Wheels, homebound clients must require assistance with activities of daily living. The emergency appropriations allowed administrators to serve less frail seniors who were following stay-at-home orders, and to transfer money freely from congregant centers to home delivery.
Even so, the increased caseloads, with people who had never applied before seeking meals, left some administrators facing dire decisions.
In Northern Arizona, about 800 clients were receiving home-delivered meals in February 2020. By June, that number had ballooned to 1,265, including new applicants as well as those who had previously eaten at the program’s 18 now-shuttered senior centers. Clients were receiving 14 meals each week.
By summer, despite federal relief funds, “I was out of money,” Ms. Beals-Luedtka said. She faced the grim task of telling 342 seniors, who had been added to the rolls for three emergency months, that she had to remove them. “People were crying on the phone,” she recalled. “I literally had a man say he was going to commit suicide.” (She reinstated him.) Even those who remained started receiving five meals a week instead of 14.
diminish loneliness and help keep seniors out of expensive nursing homes. They also may help reduce falls, although those findings were based on a small sample and did not achieve statistical significance.
Interestingly, Dr. Thomas’s research found daily meal deliveries had greater effects than weekly or twice-monthly drop-offs of frozen meals, a practice many local organizations have adopted to save money.
Frail or forgetful clients may have trouble storing, preparing and remembering to eat frozen meals. But the primary reason daily deliveries pay off, her study shows, is the regular chats with drivers.
“They build relationships with their clients,” Dr. Thomas said. “They might come back later to fix a rickety handrail. If they’re worried about a client’s health, they let the program know. The drivers are often the only people they see all day, so these relationships are very important.”
a prepandemic evaluation found.
So while program administrators relish a rare opportunity to expand their reach, they worry that if Congress doesn’t sustain this higher level of appropriations, the relief money will be spent and waiting lists will reappear.
“There’s going to be a cliff,” Ms. Beals-Luedtka said. “What’s going to happen next time? I don’t want to have to call people and say, ‘We’re done with you now.’ These are our grandparents.”
Billionaires have had a pretty good pandemic. There are more of them than there were a year ago, even as the crisis has exacerbated inequality. But scrutiny has followed these ballooning fortunes. Policymakers are debating new taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals. Even their philanthropy has come under increasing criticism as an exercise of power as much as generosity.
One arena in which the billionaires can still win plaudits as civic-minded saviors is buying the metropolitan daily newspaper.
The local business leader might not have seemed like such a salvation a quarter century ago, before Craigslist, Google and Facebook began divvying up newspapers’ fat ad revenues. Generally, the neighborhood billionaires are considered worth a careful look by the paper’s investigative unit. But a lot of papers don’t even have an investigative unit anymore, and the priority is survival.
This media landscape nudged newspaper ownership from the vanity column toward the philanthropy side of the ledger. Paying for a few more reporters and to fix the coffee machine can earn you acclaim for a lot less effort than, say, spending two decades building the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
$680 million bid by Hansjörg Wyss, a little-known Swiss billionaire, and Stewart W. Bainum Jr., a Maryland hotel magnate, for Tribune Publishing and its roster of storied broadsheets and tabloids like The Chicago Tribune, The Daily News and The Baltimore Sun.
Should Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum succeed in snatching Tribune away from Alden Global Capital, whose bid for the company had already won the backing of Tribune’s board, the purchase will represent the latest example of a more than decade-long quest by some of America’s ultrawealthy to prop up a crumbling pillar of democracy.
If there was a signal year in this development, it came in 2013. That is when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post and the Red Sox’ owner, John Henry, bought The Boston Globe.
“I invested in The Globe because I believe deeply in the future of this great community, and The Globe should play a vital role in determining that future,” Mr. Henry wrote at the time.
led a revival of the paper to its former glory. And after a somewhat rockier start, experts said that Mr. Henry and his wife, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the chief executive officer of Boston Globe Media Partners, have gone a long way toward restoring that paper as well.
Norman Pearlstine, who served as executive editor for two years after Dr. Soon-Shiong’s purchase and still serves as a senior adviser. “I don’t think that’s open to debate or dispute.”
From Utah to Minnesota and from Long Island to the Berkshires, local grandees have decided that a newspaper is an essential part of the civic fabric. Their track records as owners are somewhat mixed, but mixed in this case is better than the alternative.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released a report last year showing that in the previous 15 years, more than a quarter of American newspapers disappeared, leaving behind what they called “news deserts.” The 2020 report was an update of a similar one from 2018, but just in those two years another 300 newspapers died, taking 6,000 journalism jobs with them.
“I don’t think anybody in the news business even has rose colored glasses anymore,” said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, a nonprofit journalism advocacy group. “They took them off a few years ago, and they don’t know where they are.”
“The advantage of a local owner who cares about the community is that they in theory can give you runway and also say, ‘Operate at break-even on a cash-flow basis and you’re good,’” said Mr. Rosenstiel.
won a prestigious Polk Award for its coverage of the killing of George Floyd and the aftermath.
“The communities that have papers owned by very wealthy people in general have fared much better because they stayed the course with large newsrooms,” said Ken Doctor, on hiatus as a media industry analyst to work as C.E.O. and founder of Lookout Local, which is trying to revive the local news business in smaller markets, starting in Santa Cruz, Calif. Hedge funds, by contrast, have expected as much as 20 percent of revenue a year from their properties, which can often be achieved only by stripping papers of reporters and editors for short-term gain.
Alden has made deep cuts at many of its MediaNews Group publications, including The Denver Post and The San Jose Mercury News. Alden argues that it is rescuing papers that might otherwise have gone out of business in the past two decades.
And a billionaire buyer is far from a panacea for the industry’s ills. “It’s not just, go find yourself a rich guy. It’s the right rich person. There are lots of people with lots of money. A lot of them shouldn’t run newspaper companies,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and the former editor of The Chicago Tribune. “Sam Zell is Exhibit A. So be careful who you ask.”
beaten a retreat from the industry. And there have even been reports that Dr. Soon-Shiong has explored a sale of The Los Angeles Times (which he has denied).
“The great fear of every billionaire is that by owning a newspaper they will become a millionaire,” said Mr. Rosenstiel.
Elizabeth Green, co-founder and chief executive at Chalkbeat, a nonprofit education news organization with 30 reporters in eight cities around the country, said that rescuing a dozen metro dailies that are “obviously shells of their former selves” was never going to be enough to turn around the local news business.
“Even these attempts are still preserving institutions that were always flawed and not leaning into the new information economy and how we all consume and learn and pay for things,” said Ms. Green, who also co-founded the American Journalism Project, which is working to create a network of nonprofit outlets.
Ms. Green is not alone in her belief that the future of American journalism lies in new forms of journalism, often as nonprofits. The American Journalism Project received funding from the Houston philanthropists Laura and John Arnold, the Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective, which also bought The Atlantic. Herbert and Marion Sandler, who built one of the country’s largest savings and loans, gave money to start ProPublica.
“We’re seeing a lot of growth of relatively small nonprofits that are now part of what I would call the philanthropic journalistic complex,” said Mr. Doctor. “The question really isn’t corporate structure, nonprofit or profit, the question is money and time.”
operating as a nonprofit.
After the cable television entrepreneur H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest bought The Philadelphia Inquirer, he set up a hybrid structure. The paper is run as a for-profit, public benefit corporation, but it belongs to a nonprofit called the Lenfest Institute. The complex structure is meant to maintain editorial independence and maximum flexibility to run as a business while also encouraging philanthropic support.
Of the $7 million that Lenfest gave to supplement The Inquirer’s revenue from subscribers and advertisers in 2020, only $2 million of it came from the institute, while the remaining $5 million came from a broad array of national, local, institutional and independent donors, said Jim Friedlich, executive director and chief executive of Lenfest.
“I think philosophically, we’ve long accepted that we have no museums or opera houses without philanthropic support,” said Ms. Lipinski. “I think journalism deserves the same consideration.”
Mr. Bainum has said he plans to establish a nonprofit group that would buy The Sun and two other Tribune-owned Maryland newspapers if he and Mr. Wyss succeed in their bid.
“These buyers range across the political spectrum, and on the surface have little in common except their wealth,” said Mr. Friedlich. “Each seems to feel that American democracy is sailing through choppy waters, and they’ve decided to buy a newspaper instead of a yacht.”
The Content Review has not been formally shared with the newsroom and its recommendations have not been put into effect, but it is influencing how people work: An impasse over the report has led to a divided newsroom, according to interviews with 25 current and former staff members. The company, they say, has avoided making the proposed changes because a brewing power struggle between Mr. Murray and the newpublisher, Almar Latour, has contributed to a stalemate that threatens the future of The Journal.
Mr. Murray and Mr. Latour, 50, represent two extremes of the model Murdoch employee. Mr. Murray is the tactful editor; Mr. Latour is the brash entrepreneur. The two rose within the organization at roughly the same time. When the moment came to replace Gerry Baker as the top editor in 2018, both were seen ascontenders.
The two men have never gotten along, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Or as an executive who knows both well put it, “They hate each other.” The digital strategy report has only heightened the strain in their relationship — and, with it, the direction of the crown jewel in the Murdoch news empire.
Their longstanding professional rivalry comes down to both personality and approach. Mr. Murray is more deliberative, while Mr. Latour is quick to act. But the core of their friction is still a mystery, according to people familiar with them.
Dow Jones, in a statement, disputed that characterization, saying there was no friction between the editor and publisher. It also cited “record profits and record subscriptions,” which it attributed to “the wisdom of its current strategy.” Both Mr. Murray and Mr. Latour declined to be interviewed for this article.
About a month after the report was submitted, Ms. Story’s strategy team was concerned that its work might never see the light of day, three people with knowledge of the matter said, and a draft was leaked to one of The Journal’s own media reporters, Jeffrey Trachtenberg. He filed a detailed article on it late last summer.
But the first glimpse that outside readers, and most of the staff, got of the document wasn’t in The Journal. In October, a pared-down version of The Content Review was leaked to BuzzFeed News, which included a link to the document as a sideways scan. (Staffers, eager to read the report, had to turn their heads 90 degrees.)
Additional attention in this area is a notion with bipartisan support, in an era that lacks much of that. In June, Representatives Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, and Abigail Spanberger, Democrat of Virginia, introduced what they called the Trust Act.
The bill would require their colleagues, spouses and dependent children to use a qualified blind trust, as Mr. Ossoff and Mr. Kelly are doing. With such vehicles, a third party would control individual stocks, if any, and some other investment assets and keep the beneficiary from knowing much about the contents or from trading on specialized knowledge of coming legislation. (Owning and trading common investments like mutual funds would be fine.)
“This is about making it easier for members of Congress to do their job,” Mr. Roy said at the time.
And let us not forget what I outlined in detail in a November column: They’ll all end up with more money in the end, on average, if they (or their stockbrokers) stop believing that they’re smart enough to beat the market. The studies on this are legion, and a particularly fun one showed how badly people in Congress did, on average, when they tried to outsmart the market between 2004 and 2008.
It is perhaps not surprising that those who would be elected officials would not be passive investors. The same enhanced sense of self that propels many of them to run for office may well make them think they have some kind of stock-picking superpower. They almost certainly don’t — and neither do the financial advisers who are charging them handsomely. Perhaps they’ll come to their senses eventually.
Others may own stock or trade it to blow off steam, as a form of gambling. If they can afford to lose the money, and are truly not using any inside information or in a position to influence the policies that affect the companies they bet on, then there is no real harm.
But do they wish to lose elections over it?
Certainly, stock trading wasn’t the only issue at play in Georgia. But in purple parts of the country or districts where upstarts in their own party would try to make a case of it, these newly elected officials could be vulnerable. If they avoid individual stocks for political reasons rather than more principled reasons, so be it. It’s all to the good.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court late Friday night lifted California’s restrictions on religious gatherings in private homes, saying they could not be enforced to bar prayer meetings, Bible study classes and the like. The court’s brief, unsigned order followed earlier ones striking down limits on attendance at houses of worship meant to combat the coronavirus.
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s three liberal members in dissent.
The unsigned majority opinion expressed impatience with the federal appeals court in California, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, saying it had repeatedly disregarded the Supreme Court’s instructions. “This is the fifth time the court has summarily rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s Covid restrictions on religious exercise,” the opinion said.
The majority said California had violated the Constitution by disfavoring prayer meetings. “California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise, permitting hair salons, retail stores, personal care services, movie theaters, private suites at sporting events and concerts and indoor restaurants,” the opinion said.
ruled against them, reasoning that the law imposed limits on all private gatherings, defined as “social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place,” and did not single out religious services.
A divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, refused to block that ruling while an appeal moved forward. It did not matter, the majority reasoned, that some commercial activities were arguably treated more favorably than private gatherings in homes.
“The state reasonably concluded that when people gather in social settings, their interactions are likely to be longer than they would be in a commercial setting; that participants in a social gathering are more likely to be involved in prolonged conversations; that private houses are typically smaller and less ventilated than commercial establishments; and that social distancing and mask-wearing are less likely in private settings and enforcement is more difficult,” Judges Milan D. Smith Jr. and Bridget S. Bade wrote, summarizing the trial court’s findings.
In dissent, Judge Patrick J. Bumatay wrote that the state was not free to impose harsher restrictions on religious study than on “barbershops, tattoo and nail parlors, and other personal care businesses.”
“The one thing California cannot do is privilege tattoo parlors over Bible studies when loosening household limitations,” he wrote.
“The Constitution shields churches, synagogues and mosques not because of their magnificent architecture or superlative acoustics, but because they are a sanctuary for religious observers to practice their faith,” Judge Bumatay wrote. “And that religious practice is worthy of protection no matter where it happens.”
have often divided federal judges along partisan lines. But all three judges on the Ninth Circuit panel were appointed by Republican presidents.
In asking the Supreme Court to intervene, the challengers called the majority’s reasoning “head-scratching.” The question was not, they said, whether “in-home birthday parties or Super Bowl gatherings” were limited along with religious services in private homes. It was whether such services were treated worse than activities like shopping, travel on public transportation and personal care.
“There is zero evidence,” they told the justices, “that an indoor Bible study is riskier than a trip to the movies, dinner in a restaurant, a workout in a gym or a gathering with dozens of friends at a winery, brewery, distillery or bowling alley.”
Lawyers for the state responded that its policy “is entirely neutral toward religion; it applies to gatherings for any purpose — secular or religious.”
They added that the restrictions would be significantly modified on April 15, allowing the challengers to conduct services for as many as 25 people. The new policy, they wrote, “fully accommodates the gatherings that plaintiffs wish to host.”
Last year, before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court allowed the governors of California and Nevada to restrict attendance at religious services. In a pair of 5-to-4 orders, Chief Justice Roberts joined what was then the court’s four-member liberal wing to form majorities.
The court changed course in November, after the arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, in a case from New York. The majority barred restrictions on religious services in New York that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had imposed to combat the coronavirus.
America’s prisons, jails and detention centers have been among the nation’s most dangerous places when it comes to infections from the coronavirus. Over the past year, more than 1,400 new inmate infections and seven deaths, on average, have been reported inside those facilities each day.
This article is by Eddie Burkhalter, Izzy Colón, Brendon Derr, Lazaro Gamio, Rebecca Griesbach, Ann Hinga Klein, Danya Issawi, K.B. Mensah, Derek M. Norman, Savannah Redl, Chloe Reynolds, Emily Schwing, Libby Seline, Rachel Sherman, Maura Turcotte and Timothy Williams.
The cramped, often unsanitary settings of correctional institutions have been ideal for incubating and transmitting disease. Social distancing is not an option. Testing was not a priority inside prisons early in the pandemic. With little public pressure, political leaders have been slow to confront the spread.
The virus shot through many institutions, leaving inmates desperate for ways to avoid getting sick. At Pickaway Correctional Institution in Ohio, which housed about 1,900 inmates, they tried to turn bed sheets into tents to separate themselves; four in five inmates were infected anyway.
At an immigration detention center in Farmville, Va., nearly every detainee — 339 in all — was infected. And at the Fresno County Jail in California, where most inmates are held on charges for which they have not yet been convicted, more than 3,800 were sickened.
Starting in March of last year, New York Times reporters tracked every known coronavirus case in every correctional setting in the United States, including state and federal prisons, immigrant detention centers, juvenile detention facilities, and county and regional jails.
We measured the pandemic’s excruciating impact on prisoners using records requests and interviews with people from all corners of the system. We spoke with incarcerated people and their families, prison wardens, jailers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and civil rights groups.
A year later, one in three inmates in state prisons are known to have had the virus, the data shows. In federal facilities, at least 39 percent of prisoners are known to have been infected. The true count is most likely higher because of a dearth of testing, but the findings align with reports from The Marshall Project and the Associated Press, U.C.L.A. Law and The COVID Prison Project that track Covid-19 in prisons.
The virus has caused misery and loss in many places, but its destructive power has been felt intensely among the incarcerated, who have been infected at rates several times higher than those of their surrounding communities.
Infection rates in state prison systems compared with infection rates in state populations
Number of cases reported per 100 people and the estimated gap between rates in each state.
Case rate in entire state
Case rate in state prisons
8 in 100
76 in 100
9.4x as many cases in prisons
Early in the pandemic, the coronavirus hit the Black population in the U.S. particularly hard, with disproportionate rates of deaths, which health experts attributed in part to disparities in care. While racial data is not available for Covid-19 prison cases, African-Americans are overrepresented in the system, accounting for 33 percent of inmates but making up just 13 percent of the nation’s population. For that reason, public health officials say, they are more likely to be among those infected in prisons.
The virus has killed prisoners at higher rates than the general population, the data shows, and at least 2,700 have died in custody, where access to quality health care is poor.
A month after a parole board approved the commutation request on his life sentence, Bruce Norris, 69, was still in custody, awaiting the Pennsylvania governor’s signature, when he died from the coronavirus. In a crowded Texas federal prison, Andrea Circle Bear, 30, was serving a two-year drug sentence. She died from the virus shortly after giving birth while on a ventilator.
Alan Hurwitz, 79, had lung and throat cancers. He was denied compassionate release several times from the North Carolina federal prison where he was serving for a series of bank robberies. When he was finally freed, he fell ill on the flight home. A medical examiner determined that he died of the coronavirus.
These deaths, and many of the more than 525,000 infections so far among the incarcerated, could have been prevented, public health and criminal justice experts say.
Prisons and jails are sometimes so crowded that three inmates sleep in cells designed for one person. Prisons have not adequately quarantined sick inmates, and have often not required testing for correctional officers. Inmates have also been given low priority to receive vaccinations, even as cases have continued to rise.
“Corrections institutions have continuously failed to take even the most basic life-saving measures to protect incarcerated people from Covid-19,” said Maria Morris, a senior staff attorney for the A.C.L.U.’s National Prison Project.
A year into the pandemic, prison officials around the country have acknowledged that their early approach was muddled and based on trial and error. The novelty of the virus, some said, made early decisive action nearly impossible because so little was known about how it spread. In some states, the disorganized response lasted well into the pandemic.
“It feels like we’re holding this together with bubble gum and packaging tape,” Todd Ishee, the state commissioner of prisons in North Carolina, said in an interview in December.
In addition to inmates, more than 138,000 prison and jail correctional officers were sickened, and 261 died, according to the Times data.
There were many reasons for the rapid spread of the virus in prisons, but several common problems drove outbreaks at every type of facility. The challenges remain steep even now, and infections among the incarcerated continue to climb.
Despite warnings, many prisons were unprepared to handle the virus.
Alvin MurrayAlvin Murray, 71, was relieved when he learned last February that he would be transferred to the Duncan prison, a state facility for older inmates about 100 miles north of Houston. The salt and pepper in the chow hall was a sign that conditions were better there than in his previous prisons. At one facility, Mr. Murray, who was convicted of arson and property theft and was serving a 20-year sentence, had nearly died of pneumonia, his relatives said.
“We were hoping that when he moved to Duncan he would be safe,” said Nelda Cramer, Mr. Murray’s sister.
Rufus H. Duncan Geriatric Facility prison
By then, public health officials were warning wardens that prisons needed to take precautionary measures against the virus, especially for older inmates. Health officials said that without basic steps, including social distancing, better sanitation, and less crowding, correctional institutions had the potential to become incubators for the virus.
Few states heeded these early warnings, and many focused their efforts on keeping the virus out of prisons — including prohibiting family visitations — rather than preparing to handle outbreaks once the virus got inside. One Texas prison failed to supply sufficient soap, left sinks in disrepair and banned hand sanitizer, a court found.
In other states, prisons continued transferring inmates from one facility to another, often failing to test them first. Others did not enforce rules requiring guards to wear masks.
But inmates and civil rights groups say the most significant impediment to containing the virus has been the crowding that has become prevalent in U.S. prisons. Since the 1980s, the nation’s prison population has increased by more than 500 percent, and about 1.4 million people — more than half of them Black or Hispanic — are now behind bars.
States have so many inmates that gyms have been converted into housing areas, recreational yards have been shrunk or eliminated to accommodate more beds, and prisons have shifted from cells to dormitory-style housing, with inmates sleeping in double- or triple-tiered bunks that fill nearly every bit of floor space.
The changes have meant that when the virus entered a prison, it spread quickly. At Duncan, it hopped from bed to bed last summer, infecting three-quarters of inmates.
Jeremy Desel, a spokesman for the Texas prison system, said the authorities did everything possible to keep the virus at Duncan under control, including intensive cleaning of the facility, extra soap for inmates and extensive testing. He said those actions saved lives.
But in the end, 279 inmates and 66 staff members were infected, and Mr. Murray and 20 other inmates and one staff member died.
Prisons did not move quickly enough to test employees or provide contact tracing.
Prisons and jails have only sporadically traced the contacts of infected prisoners and guards to understand who was at risk of exposure. This has inhibited their ability to prevent the virus from entering facilities and to limit its transmission, public health officials said.
Oakdale federal prison complex
Early in the pandemic, one of the hardest-hit places was the Oakdale federal prison, with about 1,900 inmates in rural south Louisiana. An outbreak there infected 689 inmates and guards, and nine inmates died.
At Oakdale, an investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General found that a series of mistakes by prison officials and rules violations by staff members had allowed the virus to proliferate.
The report found the virus appeared to have been introduced by a Bureau of Prisons teacher who visited New York City in March 2020. There was no evidence that the prison had screened the teacher or tested him before he resumed teaching inmates. (The Bureau of Prisons declined comment about the Oakdale outbreak.)
On March 11, the day after the teacher resumed instruction, he reported feeling ill. Still, he kept teaching, and students who were housed in different parts of the sprawling facility mingled in his classroom.
Eight days later, inmates started complaining of symptoms. The prison did not screen inmates consistently for the virus, and staff members did not wear masks or other protective gear while transporting and guarding sick inmates at hospitals.
It was not until March 26 that protective gear was distributed. By then, hundreds were believed to have been infected, though the precise number is not known because the prison did not start testing inmates until mid-April.
A later round of contact tracing identified the prison’s Education Department as the common nexus: The first four inmates to test positive shared a class, and the first inmate to die was an assistant to the teacher who had fallen ill.
Testing was slow for inmates, even for those who showed signs of illness.
A year into the pandemic, a vast majority of states have tested all of their prison inmates for the virus at least once, though more frequent testing would be ideal for people living in such cramped quarters. And, several states, including Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi have yet to test everyone.
Note: Infection and testing rates are calculated using the maximum population for each state system since May 2020.
Alabama’s prisons have among the lowest testing rates and the second-lowest case rate of all state prison systems — but among the highest coronavirus death rates in the nation, suggesting the virus is going undetected until it is too late. In some instances, even the deaths may be undercounted.
Colony WilsonA coroner determined that Colony Wilson, a 40-year-old inmate at an Alabama women’s prison, died last May from a pulmonary embolism — a blood clot in the lung.
Neither the coroner nor the prison tested Ms. Wilson for the coronavirus, but inmates said Ms. Wilson had symptoms, including trouble breathing. At the time, about 10 virus cases had been reported at the prison.
“They say she had blood clots in her lungs — that didn’t sit well with me,” said Sylvester Wilson, Ms. Wilson’s uncle. “How did she develop that just like that?”
Birmingham Women’s Community Based Facility and Community Work Center
On May 10, 2020 — a Sunday — two days after Ms. Wilson first complained of trouble breathing, she was told to fill out a sick slip, other inmates said.
But before her appointment, she passed out twice — each time in front of prison staff members, inmates said.
The second time Ms. Wilson lost consciousness, she died, inmates and her family said. She had been serving a 20-year sentence for aggravated child abuse.
Samantha Rose, a prison system spokeswoman, said Ms. Wilson had not exhibited coronavirus symptoms, and therefore did not meet the prison’s medical rules to be tested. She declined to discuss inmates’ descriptions of Ms. Wilson’s illness, and officials did not respond to assertions about how staff members responded.
Kristi Simpson, deputy to the prison system’s chief of staff, wrote in an email that a departmental investigation had been conducted and that “foul play and suspicious circumstances were both ruled out.” Ms. Simpson added that investigators had taken witness accounts into consideration, but she declined to comment further.
In the Alabama prison system’s official data, there are just 17 infections for inmates and 28 for correctional officers — and no deaths — recorded at Ms. Wilson’s prison. A quarter of inmates have never received a test.
Outbreaks overwhelmed many facilities, infecting nearly every prisoner.
“Man down! Man down!”
Inmates say those panic-filled words rang out of the walkie-talkies of guards several times a day as the coronavirus ripped through California’s San Quentin State Prison in June, eventually killing 28 inmates and infecting more than 2,200 others — about three in every five prisoners.
Some died in their sleep. Some were too ill to stand. Some passed out and never regained consciousness.
Rahsaan Thomas “Fifteen minutes ago, a nurse came through, they had their mask on, all the way on covering their nose and their mouth because she said Covid is everywhere in San Quentin, except north block and west block,” Rahsaan Thomas, an inmate, told reporters in June. “So it’s heavy right now.”
Older prisoners placed handwritten signs outside their cells that read “Immune Compromised” so that guards would wear masks around them. Other inmates refused to leave their cells out of fear of catching the virus.
Mr. Thomas said in June that he was primarily concerned about older inmates, who make up a large percentage of the San Quentin population. But at 49, he admitted he was also worried about himself.
“I don’t want to see them die,” Mr. Thomas said, before adding: “I don’t know if I’m tough enough to survive Covid.”
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, Calif.
The outbreak began after officials transferred more than 100 medically vulnerable inmates to San Quentin from the California Institution for Men, a Southern California prison.
The men who had been transferred used the same showers and ate in the same dining hall as other San Quentin inmates. Ninety-one of them later tested positive for the virus.
Within a few weeks, a vast majority of inmates at San Quentin were infected. Mr. Thomas was one of the few who were not. Hundreds of prison staff members also were infected, and one died.
At least 124 facilities nationwide faced outbreaks that were similar to or more severe than San Quentin’s, with at least 60 percent of inmates infected.
Ralph Diaz, secretary of the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, was questioned about the flawed transfer by a State Senate committee in late June.
“Could we have done better in many instances? Of course we can,” Mr. Diaz said. Weeks later, he announced his resignation.
Few governors granted widespread releases of inmates, leaving the most vulnerable in custody.
Clarence Givens For months, Clarence Givens, 70, stayed in his 6 by 8 foot cell at Stanley Correctional Institution in Wisconsin, isolating with his cellmate. He had asthma, relied on a breathing machine for obstructive sleep apnea and was frightened of getting sick.
Mr. Givens, in prison for heroin possession, said that he was hoping to be released early, though he had not filled out paperwork seeking compassionate release. He died from Covid, the authorities said, in December.
Only a handful of states have released more than a few thousand inmates early, despite calls from a variety of groups and some prosecutors to reduce prison populations amid the pandemic.
Stanley Correctional Institution
“We talk among each other,” Mr. Givens wrote to a reporter a few weeks before his death. “And the main thing is we are very worried because we think the guards are going to bring it in and make us sick. Who knows if we survive that?”
Ultimately, 421 inmates and 135 correctional officers at Stanley were infected, and three inmates did not survive.
Once Mr. Givens fell ill in November, other inmates said they aided him as best they could. He continued to stay in his cell.
“He wasn’t eating too much for days but I did force him to drink our juices they gave us, to eat some fruits, water and I finally got him to eat some some soup and some cereal, the whole pod donated vitamins, some Emergen-C vitamin C, teas, vitamin D, and other vitamins from canteen and I just kept having him take them and drink plenty of fluid,” an inmate wrote to Mr. Givens’s wife. “I had to assist him in it all cause he couldn’t barely sit up or even dress.”
John Beard, a prison system spokesman, cited health care privacy laws in declining to answer questions about Mr. Givens.
Tens of thousands of people awaiting trial were held in local jails where the virus was surging.
Local jails are transitory places. Most people in a typical jail will eventually be released, usually within a few days. They post bond for charges like shoplifting or public drunkenness or reckless driving and return home, waiting for their court date.
The churn of people has meant that some of the nation’s largest virus outbreaks have occurred in county jails.
Last spring, courts around the nation canceled trials and hearings to try to stop the virus’s spread. But that pause in the courts left many inmates who could not post bail languishing in jails with a heightened risk of exposure.
Nickolas Lee On Feb. 4, 2020, Nickolas Lee, 42, was transferred to the Cook County Jail in Chicago, accused of violating his parole on an armed robbery conviction. He was initially scheduled to appear in court two weeks later. Then, court dates were canceled and then suspended indefinitely.
When the virus started spreading there in late March, the jail had yet to distribute face masks to inmates. Instead, he wrapped a T-shirt over his nose and mouth, said his wife, Cassandra Greer-Lee.
Cook County Jail
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office said that it had initially not distributed face masks to inmates because the C.D.C. said at the time that hospitals were most in need of existing supplies. The jail began providing masks to inmates in April 2020. More than 2,600 inmates and guards at the jail have been infected and 14 have died.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office has followed and consistently exceeded the guidance of public health experts, including the C.D.C., with regard to Covid-19 interventions,” Matthew Walberg, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said.
Nearly 60 days after his arrest, Mr. Lee was rushed to the hospital, where he tested positive for Covid-19. He died six days later. Barred from visiting him, Ms. Greer-Lee said she was on the phone with her husband not long before he passed away.
“I will replay hearing him gasp for air the last day I talked to him — I will remember that for the remainder of my life,” she said.
Slow vaccinations and the threat of variants leave an uncertain landscape.
Prisons’ pandemic response has improved by some measures in the past year — testing, especially at intake, and mask-wearing are more widespread. But prisons were built with security in mind and not to act as hospitals or hospices. Given the age and poor health of many inmates, they remain especially vulnerable to infection and illness.
In recent weeks, more contagious variants of the virus have appeared in prisons in Colorado, Michigan and elsewhere. Public health officials say the presence of variants in prisons is likely to be more widespread than known because most facilities do not regularly screen for them.
Early in the nation’s vaccination program, incarcerated people in most states were not given priority to be innoculated, though they have an elevated risk of infection and death. By April, most states had announced plans to vaccinate prisoners in subsequent months.
Still, many inmates and correctional officers have been reluctant to get the shots, according to state prison systems and jails. All of it has left the likelihood of eliminating future outbreaks uncertain, public health experts say, even after much of the nation is vaccinated.
“It’s inevitable once that new strain gets here, it’s going to spread like wildfire,” James Moore, an inmate at G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Michigan, wrote in an email last month. “It’s inevitable. So we’re basically just sitting back and biding our time until we get sick.”