In the Russian Arctic, the First Stirrings of a Very Cold War

>>> Check Out Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

FRANZ JOSEF LAND, Russia — Chunky green trucks carry Bastion anti-ship missiles that can be prepared for launch in just five minutes. A barracks building, sealed off from the elements like a space station, accommodates 150 or so soldiers. And a new runway can handle fighter jets, two of which recently buzzed the North Pole.

Franz Josef Land, a jumble of glacier-covered islands in the Arctic Ocean named after a Austro-Hungarian emperor, was until a few years ago mostly uninhabited, home to polar bears, walruses, sea birds and little else. But thanks to a warming climate, all that is changing, and quickly.

Nowhere on Earth has climate change been so pronounced as in the polar regions. The warming has led to drastic reductions in sea ice, opening up the Arctic to ships during the summer months and exposing Russia to new security threats.

Arctic Council, a diplomatic club of nations, including the United States, that share interests in the region.

National Snow and Ice Data Center said last year. The ocean has lost nearly a million square miles of ice and is expected to be mostly ice-free in the summertime, including at the North Pole, by around the middle of the century.

wrote of Russia’s problem of disappearing ice.

Lt. Col. Balabeg A. Eminov is the commander of the anti-ship battery and other facilities on Franz Josef Land, called the Trefoil Base. “The main question in the Arctic is the limited accessibility for ships, because of ice,” he said. “Now the area of open water is increasing, and with it the area for ship activity.”

published last year. The latest U.S. military strategy for the Arctic, published in 2019, refers euphemistically to vanishing ice as the “changing physical environment.”

father of the Russian Navy, and oil paintings of sailing ships in battle.

Moored at its base in Murmansk Fjord, the Peter the Great was also visited by flocks of sea gulls, which flapped around its gray-painted radar masts and over the 20 launch tubes for anti-ship missiles. Sailors with side arms stood watch by the gangplank, seemingly oblivious to the cold rain lashing their faces.

Elsewhere in Murmansk Fjord, and not shown to reporters, is another dimension of the Russian military buildup: a secretive program to train seals and beluga whales for as-yet unknown missions. Satellite images have revealed their sea pens at a special operations site. Two years ago, a trained beluga wearing a mysterious harness, possibly an escapee, turned up in Norway and was nicknamed Whaldimir.

posted the footage online. The United States this month sailed the U.S.S. New Mexico, a Virginia-class submarine, into Tromso, Norway, for a rare call at a civilian port.

In the same vein, the tour for foreign journalists to some of Russia’s most remote and secretive military facilities in the Arctic Ocean seemed intended to highlight the country’s capabilities.

“Inviting journalists to come look at these modernized, reinvigorated Cold War sites is all about signaling,” said Marisol Maddox, an Arctic analyst at the Polar Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center, a research organization in Washington.

Russia, she said, wants to keep up its “strongman persona” in an era of climate change.

View Source

>>> Check Out Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

Oregon and other states link reopening measures to vaccine targets.

While some states are offering residents incentives like savings bonds or sports tickets to encourage them to be vaccinated, a few are making a very different pitch: The sooner you get a shot, the sooner the state will fully reopen.

The latest is Oregon, where the governor said on Tuesday that the state’s remaining restrictions would stay in place until at least 70 percent of eligible residents 16 and older had had at least one shot.

“We still have some work to do to reach our 70 percent goal, but I am confident we can get there in June and return Oregon to a sense of normalcy,” said Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat.

Oregon, where 49 percent of residents have had at least one dose, is one of the few states that is explicitly tying lifting its indoor mask requirement to the adult vaccination rate. Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania also are awaiting the 70 percent threshold before moving forward with reopening plans.

said on Wednesday.

at least 80 percent.

President Biden has called for 70 percent of adults to have at least one dose by July 4. Jeffrey Zients, Mr. Biden’s Covid response coordinator, said that the goal should be to achieve some sense of normality by hitting that target. Reaching 70 percent will create “a pattern of decreasing cases, hospitalizations and deaths and take us down to a sustainable low level,” he said this week.

View Source

Venezuela Releases 6 U.S. Oil Executives to House Arrest

HOUSTON — The Venezuelan government released a group of American refinery executives from prison to house arrest in Caracas on Friday, in a possible sign that President Nicolás Maduro would like to improve relations with the Biden administration.

The six executives of Houston-based Citgo Petroleum, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company, have been held on corruption charges since 2017, after they were ordered to attend a budget meeting in Venezuela. When they arrived, they were arrested.

The group — known as the “Citgo 6” — was previously allowed to return to private homes from prison only to be sent back to prison.

Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, who has been attempting to negotiate the release of the six — five of whom are naturalized American citizens and the other an American resident — said he viewed the transfer as a sign of progress.

negotiating pawns as the relationship between the United States and Venezuela has worsened in recent years.

When the executives were last released from prison two years ago, they were quickly returned to prison after then-President Donald J. Trump invited Juan Guaidó, a top opposition leader, to the White House.

Mr. Guaidó is formally recognized as the president of Venezuela by the United States and other Western countries, but the likelihood that he will ever take control of the government appears dim. Mr. Maduro has held on to power with a tight grip and aid from Cuba, Russia and China.

Citgo operates three major refineries, a major pipeline network and scores of gasoline stations around the United States. It is currently blocked from doing business with Venezuela under U.S. sanctions.

View Source

Can Policing Change?

Since George Floyd’s death last May, dozens of states and local governments have changed their laws about police behavior. And yet police officers continue to kill about three Americans each day on average, nearly identical to the rate of police killings for as long as statistics exist.

Which raises the question: Are the latest efforts to change policing — to make it less violent, especially for Black and Latino Americans — destined to fail?

Not necessarily, many experts say. They believe the recent changes are meaningful. They will probably fall well short of solving the country’s problem with needlessly violent police behavior. But the changes still appear to be substantial, even if they will take some time to have a noticeable effect.

“You actually can get a lot of common ground between police critics and police themselves,” Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor and former reserve police officer in Washington, told us. “There are plenty of places where those conversations seem to be occurring in a preliminary way.”

wrote last week on Twitter: “No more policing, incarceration, and militarization. It can’t be reformed.”) Recent polls show that most Americans say they generally trust the police, and few if any mayors, governors, congressional leaders or top members of the Biden administration share Tlaib’s view.

But many politicians and most voters do favor changes to policing, like banning chokeholds and racial profiling or mandating police body cameras. “Americans — both Democrats and Republicans — want some sort of reform,” Alex Samuels of FiveThirtyEight wrote.

21 additional cities now require officers to intervene when they think another officer is using excessive force.

The changes have mostly been in Democratic-leaning states, but not entirely: Kentucky has limited no-knock warrants, which played a role in Breonna Taylor’s death, while Indiana, Iowa and Utah have restricted neck restraints. (Republican legislators in some states are pushing bills that go in the other direction, by strengthening penalties for people who injure officers, for instance, or by preventing cities from cutting police budgets.)

Moon told The Washington Post.

One significant part of the policy changes: States are enacting them, forcing local police departments to abide by them. “States had given great leeway to local jurisdictions to decide how to police themselves,” The Times’s Michael Keller told us. “Now, states are starting to take more control.”

It’s too early to know whether all of the attention on policing after Floyd’s death will amount to widespread changes. “Police organizations have an amazing ability to resist change when there’s no real buy-in from the rank and file,” Brooks said. But there does seem to be a greater recognition of what policing has in common with virtually every other human endeavor: It works better when it includes clear standards and outside accountability.

“What we’ve seen since George Floyd’s death — and really since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 — is a widespread acknowledgment that law enforcement needs new rules and policies,” my colleague John Eligon, who has covered policing extensively, said. “But there is still a great frustration among many activists and community members I talk to who say that the changes do not go nearly far enough.”

He added: “They see tinkering around the edges that does not really change the culture of police departments or solve the big problem: that police in America are still killing people every day.”

News from the Chauvin trial:

ancient archaeological sites.

Lives Lived: LaDonna Allard helped kick off the movement opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline by donating her land to be used as the site of a resistance camp. She died at 64.

to form a breakaway Super League. It’s an attempt to earn even bigger profits without worrying about failing to qualify for the Champions League every year. The organizers hope to add three more permanent members to the new league, which will feature 20 teams, including five rotating ones.

“The proposal is the most seismic challenge to the European football model since its inception,” The Atlantic’s Tom McTague writes. Without 12 of the most glamorous teams, the Champions League will lose much of its luster and revenue. And although the 12 teams have said that they want to remain in their domestic leagues, the executives of those leagues are so angry about the Super League that they may try to bar the teams. Politicians, like Boris Johnson of Britain, are angry, too.

an explainer with more details, and you can follow the story by reading Rory’s newsletter.

play online.

View Source

The Success of Top-Down Simplicity

In the early weeks of Covid-19 vaccinations, the shining examples of success were all places with politically conservative leaders. Globally, the countries with the largest share of vaccinated people were Britain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. In the U.S., the states that got off to the fastest starts were Alaska and West Virginia.

This pattern made me wonder whether many progressive-led governments were spending so much effort designing fair-seeming processes that they were failing at the most basic goal of a mass vaccination program: getting shots into arms. That error has held down vaccination rates across much of continental Europe. And it appeared to be an early problem in California and New York.

But it has not turned out to be much of an issue in the U.S. Instead, the states with the highest vaccination rates are now mostly Democratic-leaning, and the states with the lowest rates are deeply conservative.

Russ Bynum of The Associated Press wrote this week.

the chaos of the Trump administration’s virus response to the Biden administration’s. Democrats’ belief in the power of government certainly doesn’t ensure they will manage it competently, but it may improve the odds.

In the most successful state programs, one theme is what you might call centralized simplicity. In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont gave priority to older residents, including people in their 50s, rather than creating an intricate list of medical conditions and job categories that qualified people for shots (and that more privileged families often figure out how to game).

In New Mexico — which has the country’s highest rate of fully vaccinated people, despite also having a high poverty rate — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has overseen the creation of a centralized sign-up system. The state has one vaccine portal that all residents can use to sign up for shots, rather than the piecemeal, confusing systems in many other states, my colleague Simon Romero reports from Albuquerque.

South Dakota, the red state with the highest share of vaccinated residents, has also taken a centralized approach, NPR’s Ailsa Chang points out.

polls show. But it is still notably high among registered Republicans.

CNN’s Harry Enten writes, “while the reverse is true in the states with high vaccination rates.”

Dr. Vernon Rayford, an internal medicine doctor in Tupelo, Miss., told The Times that he had noticed a difference in the sources of skepticism. White skeptics often express a general distrust of government. Black skeptics are particularly mistrustful of the medical system, which has a long history of giving them substandard care — and even outright harmful treatments.

Across much of Mississippi — the state with the smallest share of residents to have received a shot — vaccine appointments are going unfilled largely because of a lack of demand. Two big reasons for the skepticism, Dr. Brian Castrucci, a public health expert, told The Times’s Andrew Jacobs, are misinformation on social media and mixed messages from Republican governors about the urgency of vaccination.

“It’s time to do the heavy lifting needed to overcome the hesitancy we’re encountering,” said Dr. Obie McNair, an internal medicine physician in Jackson.

Vaccine rates still are not high enough — in any state — to have ended the pandemic. In Connecticut and New Mexico, combined, about 11 people have died on a typical recent day. But that toll has fallen more than 80 percent since mid-January, even more than in the rest of the country.

declined to testify in his trial over the killing of George Floyd. Both sides will make closing arguments on Monday.

  • Officials in Chicago released video of the fatal police shooting of Adam Toledo, 13, last month. Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the footage “excruciating.”

  • A Hong Kong court sentenced several opposition leaders to prison for holding an unauthorized protest. The sentences send a clear message that activism carries severe risks, The Times’s Austin Ramzy writes.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Afghanistan to reassure its leaders that the U.S. would continue its support after withdrawing troops.

  • The Dallas Wings selected Charli Collier, a center from the University of Texas, as the No. 1 pick in the W.N.B.A. draft.

  • Can Biden be as transformative as Franklin Roosevelt?

    And it did.

    Lives Lived: Carol Prisant was a 51-year-old former antiques dealer with no journalism experience when she decided she wanted to work for the magazine The World of Interiors. She went on to an illustrious three-decade career. Prisant died at 82.

    will be buried tomorrow in England. The ceremony will be limited to 30 people and will have “minimal fuss,” according to the BBC, which will televise the funeral.

    View Source

    More Contagious Covid Variant Is Now Dominant in U.S., C.D.C. Says

    WASHINGTON — A highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in Britain has become the most common source of new infections in the United States, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday. The worrisome development comes as officials and scientists warn of a possible fourth surge of infections.

    Federal health officials said in January that the B.1.1.7 variant, which began surging in Britain in December and has since slammed Europe, could become the dominant source of coronavirus infections in the United States, leading to a huge increase in cases and deaths.

    At that point, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths were at an all-time high. From that peak, the numbers all declined until late February, according to a New York Times database. After several weeks at a plateau, new cases and hospitalizations are increasing again. The average number of new cases in the country has reached nearly 65,000 a day as of Tuesday, concentrated mostly in metro areas in Michigan as well as in the New York City region. That is an increase of 19 percent compared with the figure two weeks ago.

    Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. director, who warned last week that she felt a recurring sense of “impending doom,” said on Wednesday that 52 of the agency’s 64 jurisdictions — which include states, some major cities and territories — are now reporting cases of these so-called “variants of concern,” including B.1.1.7.

    60 percent more contagious and 67 percent more deadly than the original form of the coronavirus, according to the most recent estimates. The C.D.C. has also been tracking the spread of other variants, such as B.1.351, first found in South Africa, and P.1, which was first identified in Brazil.

    The percentage of cases caused by variants is clearly increasing. Helix, a lab testing company, has tracked the relentless increase of B.1.1.7 since the beginning of the year. As of April 3, it estimated that the variant made up 58.9 percent of all new tests.

    That variant has been found to be most prevalent in Michigan, Florida, Colorado, California, Minnesota and Massachusetts, according to the C.D.C. Until recently, the variant’s rise was somewhat camouflaged by falling infection rates over all, leading some political leaders to relax restrictions on indoor dining, social distancing and other measures.

    against the warnings of some scientists.

    Federal health officials are tracking reports of increasing cases associated with day care centers and youth sports, and hospitals are seeing more younger adults — people in their 30s and 40s who are admitted with “severe disease,” Dr. Walensky said.

    It is difficult for scientists to say exactly how much of the current patterns of infection are because of the growing frequency of B.1.1.7.

    “It’s muddled by the reopening that’s going on and changes in behavior,” said Dr. Adam Lauring, a virologist at the University of Michigan.

    But he noted that people were becoming less cautious at a time when they should be raising their guard against a more contagious variant. “It’s worrisome,” he said.

    At the same time, the United States is currently vaccinating an average of about three million people a day, and states have rushed to make all adults eligible. The C.D.C. reported on Tuesday that about 108.3 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 64.4 million people who have been fully vaccinated. New Mexico, South Dakota, Rhode Island and Alaska are leading the states, with about 25 percent of their total populations fully vaccinated.

    Scientists hope that vaccination will blunt any potential fourth surge.

    On Tuesday, President Biden moved up his vaccination timetable by two weeks, calling states to make every American adult eligible by April 19. All states have already met or expect to beat this goal after he initially asked that they do so by May 1.

    hundreds of genomes predicted that this variant could become predominant in the country in a month. At that time, the C.D.C. was struggling to sequence the new variants, which made it difficult to track them.

    But those efforts have substantially improved in recent weeks and will continue to grow, in large part because of $1.75 billion in funds for genomic sequencing in the stimulus package that Mr. Biden signed into law last month. By contrast, Britain, which has a more centralized health care system, began a highly promoted sequencing program last year that allowed it to track the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant.

    “We knew this was going to happen: This variant is a lot more transmissible, much more infectious than the parent strain, and that obviously has implications,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine and an infectious disease expert at Emory University. In addition to spreading more efficiently, he said, the B.1.1.7 strain appears to cause more severe disease, “so that gives you a double whammy.”

    Perhaps even more troubling is the emergence of the virulent P.1 variant in North America. First identified in Brazil, it has become the dominant variant in that country, helping to drive its hospitals to the breaking point. In Canada, the P.1 variant emerged as a cluster in Ontario, then shut down the Whistler ski resort in British Columbia. On Wednesday, the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks said at least 21 players and four staff members had been infected with the coronavirus.

    “This is a stark reminder of how quickly the virus can spread and its serious impact, even among healthy, young athletes,” the team’s doctor, Jim Bovard, said in a statement.

    View Source

    Restaurant Workers Are in a Race to Get Vaccines

    Over the course of the pandemic, some of the most dangerous activities were those many Americans dearly missed: scarfing up nachos, canoodling with a date or yelling sports scores at a group of friends at a crowded, sticky bar inside a restaurant.

    Now, as more states loosen restrictions on indoor dining and expand access to vaccines, restaurant employees — who have morphed from cheerful facilitators of everyone’s fun to embattled frontline workers — are scrambling to protect themselves against the new slosh of business.

    “It’s been really stressful,” said Julia Piscioniere, a server at Butcher & Bee in Charleston. “People are OK with masks, but it is not like it was before. I think people take restaurants and their workers for granted. It’s taken a toll.”

    The return to economic vitality in the United States is led by places to eat and drink, which also suffered among the highest losses in the last year. Balancing the financial benefits of a return to regular hours with worker safety, particularly in states where theoretical vaccine access outstrips actual supply, is the industry’s latest hurdle.

    priority groups this spring. Immigrants, who make up a large segment of the restaurant work force, are often fearful of signing up, worrying that the process will legally entangle them.

    Some states have dropped mask mandates and capacity limits inside establishments — which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still deem a potentially risky setting — further endangering employees.

    “It is critical for food and beverage workers to have access to the vaccine, especially as patrons who come have no guarantee that they will be vaccinated and obviously will not be masked when eating or drinking,” said Dr. Alex Jahangir, the chairman of a coronavirus task force in Nashville. “This has been a major concern for me as we balance the competing interests of vaccinating everyone as soon as possible before more and more restrictions are lifted.”

    Servers in Texas are dealing with all of the above. The state strictly limited early eligibility for shots, but last week opened access to all residents 16 and over, creating an overwhelming demand for slots. The governor recently dropped the state’s loosely enforced mask mandate, and allowed restaurants to go forth and serve all comers, with zero limitations.

    require their workers be vaccinated in the future.

    Many business sectors were battered by the coronavirus pandemic, but there is broad agreement that hospitality was hardest hit and that low wage workers sustained some of the biggest blows. In February 2020, for instance, restaurant worker hours were up 2 percent over a previously strong period the year before; two months later those hours were cut by more than half.

    While hours and wages have recovered somewhat, the industry remains hobbled by rules that most other businesses — including airlines and retail stores — have not had to face. The reasons point to a sadly unfortunate reality that never changed: indoor dining, by nature of its actual existence, helped spread the virus.

    report by the C.D.C. found that after mask and other restrictions were lifted, on-premise restaurants led to daily increase in cases and death rates between 40 and 100 days later. Although other settings have turned into super-spreading events — funerals, wedding and large indoor events — many community outbreaks have found their roots in restaurants and bars.

    “Masks would normally help to protect people in indoor settings but because people remove masks when dining,” said Christine K. Johnson, professor of epidemiology and ecosystem health at the University of California, Davis, “there are no barriers to prevent transmission.”

    Not all governments have viewed restaurant workers as “essential,” even as restaurants have been a very active part of the American food chains — from half-open sites to takeout operations to cooking for those in need — during the entire pandemic. The National Restaurant Association helped push the C.D.C. to recommend that food service workers be included in priority groups of workers to get vaccines although not all states followed the guidelines.

    Almost every state in the nation has accelerated its vaccination program, targeting nearly all adult populations.

    “Most people in our government have considered restaurants nonessential luxuries,” said Rick Bayless, the well-known Chicago restaurateur, whose staff scoured all vaccines sites for weeks to get workers shots. “I think that’s shortsighted. The human race is at its core social and when we deny that aspect of our nature, we do harm to ourselves. Restaurants provide that very essential service. It can be done safely, but to minimize the risk for our staff, we should be prioritized for vaccination.”

    Texas did not designate as early vaccine recipients any workers beyond those in the health care and education sectors, but is now open to all.

    the Breadfruit and Rum Bar, declined unemployment insurance, and have shied from signing up for a shot. “Before you can even make an appointment you have to put in your name and date of birth and email,” Ms. Leoni said. “Those are questions that are deterrents for people trying to keep a low profile.”

    In Charleston, Mr. Shemtov was inspired by accounts of the immunization program in Israel, which was considered successful in part because the government took vaccines to job sites. “If people can’t get appointments, let’s bring them to them.”

    Other restaurants are devoting hours to making sure workers know how to sign up, locating leftover shots and networking with their peers. Some offer time off for a shot and the recovery period for side effects.

    Katie Button, the owner of Curate and La Bodega in Asheville, N.C.

    Still, some owners are not taking chances. “If we go out of business because we are one of the few restaurants in Arizona that won’t reopen, so be it,” Ms. Leoni said. “Nothing is more important than someone else’s health or safety.”

    View Source

    Governors across the political spectrum push to expand in-person learning.

    A bipartisan group of governors have decided it is time to get students back into classrooms, despite union resistance and bureaucratic hesitancy.

    Democratic governors in Oregon, California, New Mexico and North Carolina, and Republicans in Arizona, Iowa, West Virginia and New Hampshire, among other states, have all taken steps to prod, and sometimes force, school districts to open.

    The result has been a major increase in the number of students who now have the option of attending school in-person, or will in the next month.

    According to a school reopening tracker created by the American Enterprise Institute, 7 percent of the more than 8,000 districts being tracked were operating fully remotely on March 22, the lowest percentage since the tracker was started in November. Forty-one percent of districts were offering full-time in-person instruction, the highest percentage in that time. Those findings have been echoed by other surveys.

    like Michigan, some schools have had to revert to remote learning temporarily because so many students were in quarantine.

    But for the time being, at least, the moves by these governors have yielded significant results.

    In Washington, before Mr. Inslee issued his proclamation, the state’s largest district, Seattle Public Schools, was locked in a standoff with its teachers’ union over a reopening plan. Days after Mr. Inslee announced he would require districts to bring students back at least part time, the two sides reached an agreement for all preschool and elementary school students and some older students with disabilities to return by April 5.

    In Ohio, nearly half of all students were in districts that were fully remote at the beginning of 2021. By March 1, that number was down to 4 percent, and it has shrunk further in the weeks since.

    “It’s worked exceedingly well,” Mike DeWine, the Republican governor of Ohio, said of his decision to offer vaccines to Ohio districts that pledged to reopen. “We’ve got these kids back in school.”

    View Source