Myanmar’s Bloodshed Reveals a World That Has Changed, and Hasn’t

Government-sponsored massacres became less frequent too. But a wave in the 1990s were mostly in countries that, like Myanmar, had histories of civil war, weak institutions, high poverty rates and politically powerful militaries — Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others.

Though they largely failing to stop those killings as they happened, world leaders and institutions like the United Nations built systems to encourage democracy and avert future atrocities.

Myanmar, a pariah state that had sealed itself off from the world until reopening in 2011, didn’t much benefit from those efforts.

The country also missed out on a global change in how dictatorship works.

A growing number of countries have shifted toward systems where a strongman rises democratically but then consolidates power. These countries still hold elections and call themselves democracies, but heavily restrict freedoms and political rivals. Think Russia, Turkey or Venezuela.

“Repression in the last couple of years has actually gotten worse in dictatorships,” Dr. Frantz said. But large-scale crackdowns are rarer, she added, in part because “today’s dictators are getting savvier in how they oppress.”

Only 20 years ago, 70 percent of protest movements demanding democracy or systemic change succeeded. But that number has since plummeted to a historic low of 30 percent, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth of Harvard University.

Much of the change, Dr. Chenoweth wrote, came through something called “authoritarian learning.”

New-style dictators were wary of calling in the military, which might turn against them. And mass violence would shatter their democratic pretensions. So they developed practices to frustrate or fracture citizen movements: jailing protest leaders, stirring up nationalism, flooding social media with disinformation.

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The C.D.C. and N.I.H. launch a rapid, at-home testing initiative in Tennessee and North Carolina.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health announced a new initiative on Wednesday to help determine whether frequent, widespread use of rapid coronavirus tests slows the spread of the virus.

The program will make rapid at-home antigen tests freely available to every resident of two communities, Pitt County, N.C., and Hamilton County, Tenn., enough for a total of 160,000 people to test themselves for the coronavirus three times a week for a month.

“This effort is precisely what I and others have been calling for nearly a year — widespread, accessible rapid tests to help curb transmission,” said Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at Harvard University who has been a vocal proponent of rapid, at-home testing programs.

He added, “Taking 30 seconds out of your day three times a week to perform the test is something any person can do.”

testing remains essential, public health experts say.

“We have all hypothesized that testing at home, at scale could stop the chain of transmission of the virus and allow communities to discover many more cases,” said Bruce Tromberg, who directs the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and leads its rapid acceleration of diagnostics program, which is supplying the tests for the initiative. “All the mathematical models predict that. But this is a real world, real life example.”

Residents who decide to participate in the program can have the tests delivered to their homes or pick them up at local distribution sites. An online tool will guide participants through the testing process and help them interpret their results. Residents can also volunteer to complete surveys that will assess whether frequent testing has changed their behavior, knowledge about Covid-19, or opinions on vaccination.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina and Duke University will compare the test positivity, case and hospitalization rates in these two communities to those in other similar communities that are not participating in the program.

A. David Paltiel, a professor of health policy and management at Yale School of Public Health, called the launching of a real-world study of the effectiveness of rapid, at-home screening “just great news.” But he cautioned that the results will need to be interpreted carefully, especially if the residents who choose to participate in the initiative are not representative of the community at large.

“We know that self-selection tends to bring out the worried well and a disproportionate number of people who are already Covid-conscious or Covid-conscientious,” he said.

“It’ll be great to see how it works when in the hands of people who really care,” he added. But, he said, the results may not be widely generally applicable to screening programs in which participation is mandatory, as may be the case with some workplace and school programs.

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Another Class of Covid Faces Curtailed Commencements

Yale plans to hold a version of in-person graduation for the class of 2021 in May — with no guests allowed. Harvard is not even calling its commencement a “commencement.” It plans to hold virtual degree-granting ceremonies and, for the second year in a row, will postpone traditional festivities.

The universities of South Florida, Southern California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt, Rochester and Kentucky, among others, are holding in-person commencements, but with differing rules about guests.

So it goes in this second graduation season of the pandemic. Day by day, another university announces commencement plans, and given the uncertainty created by the coronavirus, the decisions are breaking in opposite ways.

Prairie View A&M in Texas plans to hold live commencements, even as, somewhat surreally, the president of the college, Ruth Simmons, will be delivering the principal address at Harvard’s virtual commencement.

New York Times database. Vaccinations have also picked up, averaging about 2.5 million shots a day, as eligibility expands in several states.

Experts warn, however, that dangerous variants could lead to a spike in cases and states that lift restrictions could be acting prematurely.

Many universities are stipulating that in order to participate in graduation, students must have tested negative for the coronavirus before the ceremony and have a good record of adhering to campus policies created to guard against infection.

Peter Salovey, the president of Yale, said in a statement last week that the university would be recognizing graduation by holding in-person gatherings “on or around May 24, if public health conditions permit.” Students studying both on campus and remotely are invited, but not their guests. Mr. Salovey said Yale was excluding families because it seemed unlikely that everybody would be vaccinated by graduation day.

Harvard was one of the first universities to evacuate its campus in mid-March last year, and it is still in caution mode. In an email to students on Feb. 26, its president, Lawrence Bacow, said that postponing live commencement for two years running was “deeply disappointing, but public health and safety must continue to take precedence.”

80,000 people. The university will hold two ceremonies on May 8, but graduates cannot bring guests.

Princeton plans to hold an outdoor commencement at its stadium for students who have taken part in the testing program and who live on or near campus. It is also considering extending the invitation to students learning virtually.

New York University and Stanford University have also announced plans to hold virtual celebrations.

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Navalny’s Path From Russian Gadfly to Heroic Symbol

MOSCOW — While waiting out the coronavirus lockdown in his two-bedroom apartment last spring, the Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny seemed uncharacteristically idle, with his most potent weapon against the Kremlin — street protests — off the table.

And yet, Mr. Navalny felt that President Vladimir V. Putin’s grip on power might be slipping. Operating from his living room, rather than the slick Moscow studio he had used before, he cranked out videos haranguing Mr. Putin for failing to manage the coronavirus crisis and leaving Russians struggling as the economy suffered. Confirming his hunch that the pandemic could become a political catalyst, the audience for Mr. Navalny’s YouTube videos tripled, to 10 million viewers per month.

“Putin can’t handle all this madness, and you can see that he is totally out of his depth,” Mr. Navalny said in an interview by Zoom in May. “We are continuing to hit them where it hurts.”

Methodical and uncompromising, Mr. Navalny, 44, has spent almost half his life trying to unseat Mr. Putin. Often deemed rude, brusque and power hungry, even by other Kremlin critics, he persisted while other opposition activists retreated, emigrated, switched sides, went to prison or were killed. It increasingly became a deeply personal fight, with the stakes — for Mr. Navalny and his family, as well as for Mr. Putin and all of Russia — rising year by year.

sentenced this month to more than two years in prison for violating parole on a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Europe’s top human rights court ruled was politically motivated.

Even in custody, though, he has seized the moment. Two days after his arrest at a Moscow airport last month, his team released a report about a purported secret palace built for Mr. Putin that was viewed more than 100 million times on YouTube. Two weeks later, from his glassed-in prisoner’s box at Moscow City Court, Mr. Navalny predicted that Russians would eventually rise up and prevail against Mr. Putin, a “thieving little man,” because “you can’t lock up the whole country.”

An independent poll found that while 80 percent of Russians had heard of the protests that swept the country last month calling for his release only 22 percent approved of them.

“Putin and his regime spend millions of man hours on strengthening their power,” Mr. Navalny wrote last year, criticizing some of his fellow opposition figures as insufficiently hard-working. “We will only take them down if we spend tens of millions of man hours.”

Mr. Navalny has rarely shirked from confrontation or let himself be scared off course by the Kremlin’s security apparatus. In recent years, a pro-Putin activist threw an emerald green chemical in his face, nearly costing him the sight of one eye; his younger brother served three and a half years in prison in a case widely seen as a punishment against Mr. Navalny; and he nearly died in last year’s poisoning, spending weeks in a coma.

All the while he was building up a social media audience in the millions and a nationwide network of regional offices — an unparalleled achievement in a country dominated by security services beholden to Mr. Putin.

drawing 27 percent of the vote in the 2013 election for mayor of Moscow — Mr. Navalny grew more angry at Mr. Putin, people close to him say, and even more determined to bring him down.

covered Mr. Navalny extensively. “He was just radiating that anger.”

Mr. Navalny, the son of a Red Army officer, grew up in the 1980s in closed military towns outside Moscow, a world away from the intellectual and political ferment that gripped the capital in the last years of the Soviet Union. His father despised Soviet rule, and his mother, an accountant, became an early devotee of the liberal Yabloko party in the 1990s despite its perpetually dismal electoral results.

As a boy, he hated being told what to do. When he got in trouble with his teacher, his mother, Lyudmila I. Navalnaya, once recalled, he refused to go to school the next day, saying: “I don’t want anyone to force me to learn.”

He studied law and finance, worked as a real estate lawyer, and joined Yabloko in 2000, the year Mr. Putin was first elected president. He looked for ways to organize grass-roots opposition to the Kremlin at a time when the established opposition parties were coming to play only a theatrical role in Mr. Putin’s tightly choreographed political system known as managed democracy.

bought stock in state-owned companies, using his standing as a shareholder to force disclosures, and railed against Putin-supporting business tycoons on a blog that was widely read in Moscow’s financial circles.

a video report about the hidden wealth of Dmitri A. Medvedev, the prime minister at the time. Overruling his aides’ skepticism over whether those who watched the video would take to the streets, he called for protests, and thousands rallied in more than 100 cities.

The Kremlin tried its best to muzzle Mr. Navalny through constant harassment, but it never entirely squelched him — both to avoid making a martyr of him and to provide a way for society’s discontents to blow off some steam. That approach already seems to have been discarded in favor of greater repression; state television, which long mostly ignored Mr. Navalny, now dedicates lengthy reports to painting him as an agent of the West.

Besides the 2014 conviction for embezzlement, Mr. Navalny endured many smaller humiliations, Ms. Albats, the radio host, recalls: among them ubiquitous, privacy-destroying surveillance and the gratuitous cruelty of confiscating his daughter’s beloved iPad. She said that the support, endurance and conviction of his wife, Yulia B. Navalnaya, kept him going. And his fight against Mr. Putin became ever more personal.

“He had this choice: stay in politics, and keep creating trouble for his family, his brother’s family, his parents,” Ms. Albats said. “Of course, it leads to the hardening of your heart.”

The authorities barred him from running in the 2018 presidential election, but he still crisscrossed the country, opening more than 80 regional offices and agitating for a boycott of an election he saw as rigged to give Mr. Putin a fourth term. He organized nationwide protests and poll-watching efforts, and built up an investigative team that pored through public records and social media to document the questionable dealings of the Russian elite.

mass protests gripped neighboring Belarus as well as Russia’s Far East, pointing to growing risks for Mr. Putin.

Then, in August, Mr. Navalny collapsed on a flight over Siberia, screaming in pain. Western laboratories later determined that he had been poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent — Mr. Putin denies any involvement — and survived thanks to the pilots who made an emergency landing and the medical workers who first treated him in the city of Omsk.

He was airlifted to Germany for treatment. Soon after coming out of a coma, he re-engaged with the world’s political debates. He slammed Twitter’s decision to silence then-President Trump’s account as an “unacceptable act of censorship.”

And in recent weeks, Mr. Navalny has done his best to exude optimism.

“Everything will be OK,” Ms. Albats said he wrote to her from jail. “And even if it won’t be, we will console ourselves with the knowledge that we were honest people.”

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