LONDON — A nightmarish tale of a Senegalese soldier fighting for France in World War I, and a workplace novel set on a spaceship, are among the six titles shortlisted for this year’s International Booker Prize.
The shortlist for the prize, arguably the world’s most significant award for literature translated into English, was announced in an online news conference on Thursday.
Éric Vuillard, a past winner of the Prix Goncourt, France’s premier book award, is perhaps the highest profile author on the shortlist, nominated for “The War of the Poor.”
The book, translated by Mark Polizzotti, tells the story of Thomas Müntzer, a 16th-century itinerant priest who led popular uprisings against feudal lords in what is now Germany. “At its best, ‘The War of the Poor’ feels urgent, breathless,” Boyd Tonkin wrote in a review for The Financial Times.
review for The New York Times.
The International Booker Prize is awarded each year to the best book translated into English and published in Britain or Ireland. It is separate from the better known Booker Prize for fiction originally written in English, but has the same prize money of £50,000, or about $70,000. The author and translator split the prize equally.
The award has helped turn several non-English authors into stars. Past winners included “The Discomfort of Evening,” by the Dutch author Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated by Michele Hutchison, and“Flights,” by the Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft.
Alongside “The War of the Poor” and“At Night All Blood is Black,” the shortlisted titles are:
“The Dangers of Smoking in Bed,” by the Argentine writer Mariana Enríquez, a short story collection about death, sex and the occult, translated by Megan McDowell. “Largely it’s insatiable women, raggedy slum dwellers and dead children — those who are ordinarily powerless — who wield unholy power in this collection, and they seem uninterested in being reasonable,” Chelsea Leu wrote in a review for The New York Times.
“In Memory of Memory,” by Maria Stepanova, and translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale. In it, Stepanova digs through a dead aunt’s possessions, then uses them to reconstruct her family’s story. It is “a kaleidoscopic, time-shuffling look at one family of Russian Jews throughout a fiercely eventful century,” wrote John Williams in a review for The New York Times.
“When We Cease to Understand the World,” by Benjamín Labatut, a Dutch-born author who lives in Chile and writes in Spanish. Translated by Adrian Nathan West, the book takes the stories of real scientific and mathematical breakthroughs — such as Albert Einstein’s equation for general relativity — and uses them to muse about humanity’s destructive power. It has received mixed reviews in Britain. “Labatut’s brave experiment with form has produced an unstable compound that is a laboratory curio, not an entirely new genre,” Claire Lowdon wrote in The Times of London. But John Banville, in The Guardian, called it “ingenious, intricate and deeply disturbing.”
“The Employees,” by Olga Ravn, translated from Danish by Martin Aitken. It is a science fiction novel where the crew members of a spaceship — both human and artificial — are transformed after they encounter strange objects on a planet called New Discovery. Danish newspapers heaped praise on the book when it was released in 2018. “Olga Ravn has written a difficult and wildly original socially critical sci-fi utopia,” Alexander Vesterlund wrote in Politiken.
Several of the titles are far from straightforward novels, containing elements of memoir and historical nonfiction, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, the chair of the judges, said at the news conference. “This is a fantastically vigorous and vital aspect of the way fiction is being written at the moment — people are really pushing the boundaries,” she said.
The winner will be announced June 2 in a virtual ceremony from Coventry, England.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s police chief warned journalists they could be investigated for reporting “fake news.” A newspaper controlled by the Chinese government called for a ban on the city’s biggest pro-democracy news outlet. Masked men ransacked the offices of a publication critical of China’s Communist Party and smashed its presses.
Hong Kong’s reputation as a bastion of press freedom in Asia, home to journalism that is far more aggressive and independent than that found next door in mainland China, has been under sustained pressure for years. Now, as Beijing moves to stamp out dissent in the city, the news media is under direct assault. Traditional pressure tactics, such as advertising boycotts, have been eclipsed by the sort of bare-knuckles campaign that could leave prominent journalists silenced and their outlets transformed or closed.
Recent targets include the freewheeling pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, whose founder was sentenced to 14 months in prison last week, and RTHK, a public broadcaster known for its deep investigations. On Thursday, one of the network’s prizewinning producers, Choy Yuk-ling,was found guilty of making false statementsto obtain public records for a report that was critical of the police. She was ordered to pay a fine of 6,000 Hong Kong dollars, about $775.
“We seem to have turned some sort of a corner fairly recently,” said Keith Richburg, director of the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Center. “Self-censorship is still an issue and not knowing where the red lines are, but now we see what seems to be more of a frontal assault on the media in Hong Kong.”
imposed a tough national security law last year, criminalizing many forms of antigovernment speech. Then it made changes to Hong Kong’s election system, tightening the pro-Beijing establishment’s grip on power.
removed from office. The protest movement was silenced. Activists were jailed. And journalists found themselves in the government’s cross hairs.
On Thursday, a Hong Kong court found that Ms. Choy, a freelance producer, had broken the law when she used a public database of license plate records as part of an investigation into a July 2019 mob attack at a train station, in which 45 people were injured. Activists have accused the police of turning a blind eye to the violence.
She was arrested in November and charged with making false statements about why she had used the publicly accessible database.
Ms. Choy said her case showed how the authorities were trying to crack down on the news media and restrict access to information that was once publicly available.
“I realized since my arrest it’s not my individual issue,” she said in an interview. “It’s a bigger issue of press freedom in Hong Kong.”
Press freedom groups have denounced Ms. Choy’s arrest and described it as part of a campaign of harassment. The Committee to Protect Journalists called the government’s case an “absurdly disproportionate action that amounts to an assault on press freedom.”
The case against Ms. Choy is the latest move against RTHK, Hong Kong’s leading public radio and television network, which for years offered hard-hitting reports critical of the government. The outlet’s charter grants it editorial independence, but as a government entity, it has little protection from officials who want to see it brought under stricter control. Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, said last week that the government should consider closing it altogether.
Just months after the national security law was passed, the Hong Kong government called for RTHK to be more tightly supervised by government-appointed advisers.
The head of RTHK, a veteran reporter and editor, was replaced in February by a civil servant with no journalism experience. Under that new leader, Patrick Li, two radio programs known for their lively political commentary were suspended.
International news outlets have also come under pressure in Hong Kong. An editor for the Financial Times was forced to leave the city in 2018, in apparent retaliation for his role in hosting a talk by a pro-independence activist. The New York Times has moved a number of editors from Hong Kong to Seoul, in part because of problems with securing work permits.
Epoch Times, a newspaper linked to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned in mainland China, has dealt with even blunter attacks. On April 12, four men stormed the paper’s printing plant, smashing presses and computers. The newspaper said no one was injured and it was able to resume publication soon after.
raided by the police last year, and Mr. Lai faces charges related to the national security law for allegedly calling for American sanctions against Hong Kong. Under the law, crimes “of a grave nature,” an intentionally ambiguous term, carry sentences of up to life imprisonment.
The authorities have not been shy about threatening journalists. They have made their opinions known in the pages of state media, on the floor of the local legislature and from police headquarters.
State-controlled newspapers in Hong Kong have escalated their criticism of Apple Daily, calling for it to be regulated or even closed under the national security law.
“If Apple Daily is not removed, a gap still exists in Hong Kong’s national security,” Ta Kung Pao, a newspaper owned by Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said in a commentary last week.
Ms. Ip, the pro-establishment lawmaker, made clear to RTHK journalists what she believed their role was. In a legislative session last week, she said that a reporter for the outlet should be willing “to be a government mouthpiece.”
Chris Tang, Hong Kong’s police commissioner, last week warned that publications which produce “fake news” could face investigation, and he called for new laws to help regulate the media.
Nevertheless, many reporters say they will not be cowed by the government’s efforts to stifle their reporting.
“Some are disillusioned,” said Gladys Chiu, the chairwoman of the RTHK Program Staff Union. “But some feel there is still space to fight for.”
LONDON — Long before newspapers and cable television, it was town criers, with their ringing bells and cries of “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” in village squares across Britain who let people know there was news — from plagues to wars to who had done what in the royal family.
But a clear ringing voice, an important quality for the criers of old, will be of no use to those competing in the British Town Crier Championships, which will be held silently for the first time. Entrants will be judged instead on written proclamations of no more than 140 words, known as a “cries.” Each cry must end with the words “God Save the Queen.”
“We can’t have a normal competition,” said Paul Gough, the current champion who is helping to organize the event and is the town crier for the borough of Nuneaton and Bedworth, adding that coronavirus lockdowns made proclaiming to crowds impossible. (Last year the competition was simply canceled.) This year’s format, he said, will give those without the strongest voices, “an opportunity for them to compete on a very level playing field.” Entrants submitted their written cries early this month. A winner is to be announced in mid-May.
In years past, town criers traveled from across the country to whatever town had been selected to host the championship. Wearing flamboyant 18th-century costumes, they represented their respective boroughs and towns by extolling their virtues delivering cries on a particular theme. This year’s theme is nature and the environment.
judged on their delivery — sustained volume, clarity, diction, accuracy — and on the content of the cry and their presentation.
But this year, silence — and the written word — are golden. Mr. Gough said the event will be a fund-raiser for Shout, a mental health help line that also depends on writing — it helps people through texting.
Competitors have taken to the new rules with good humor, and a bit of disappointment.
“What happens if I’m not chosen because they don’t like the way it reads?” said Michael Wood, a three-time national champion and the town crier for the county of East Riding of Yorkshire. “It’s a pity because I don’t have a chance to sell it.” Much of the skill in town crying, he explained, is using the physicality of body movements along with voice to hold an audience’s attention.
Still, this year’s revised competition will make people work to write better cries, Mr. Wood said. And it preserves one thing that helped distinguish a winner in the past: “Always, humor,” he said, which is perhaps a prerequisite for becoming a town crier. “You would have to have a sense of humor to be stood up there in the first place in modern times in period costume.”
Though the silent contest is a solid Plan B, Alistair Chisholm, a national champion from Dorchester, said he was disappointed to miss the competition’s social aspect. “We use this expression, ‘We’re going to return to normality,’” he said. “I’m not sure there’s too much normality about the world of town crier. We’re all slightly oddball and eccentric, but we are very social people and we do like to gather.”
the role was first recognized here as early as 1066, with the appearance of two bellmen in the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts events leading up to the Norman Conquest. Men were also directed to proclaim the authority of William the Conqueror after he invaded England.
“We were the original newscasters,” said Mr. Gough. For many people who could not read and write, criers were the only way of knowing what was going on.
Mr. Wood said, “As long as there as been a rock to stand on or a pair of shoulders or a tree to climb, there’s always been somebody to shout an announcement in a village or town square.”
Other groups, like the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers, have also tried to adapt competitions during Covid times — hosting a virtual Zoom competition last June. An entrant from Australia participated at night, though he was spared from ringing the bell for fear of waking the household, said Jane Smith, the group’s secretary.
“You just shout at your computer screen in your garden,” Ms. Smith, a town crier for Bognor Regis, said. “It was an interesting exercise for sure.”
But the spirit of the competition remains the verbal delivery of proclamations: something Ms. Smith said she was sure would return once the pandemic ended. “There’s going to be lots of people shouting and ringing bells and proclaiming that everything is coming to an end, and we’re able to go out and meet people again.”
Dr. Geschke had a way of “looking around the corner,” said Shantanu Narayen, Adobe’s current chief executive. “Civilization is all about written material,” he said. “Chuck and John brought that into the modern era.”
Charles Matthew Geschke was born in Cleveland, on Sept. 11, 1939. His mother, Sophia (Krisch) Geschke, worked for the Cleveland bankruptcy court as a paralegal. His father, Matthew, was a photoengraver, helping to prepare the plates needed to print newspapers and magazines.
Matthew Geschke often told his son that there were two things he should avoid: the printing business and the stock market. For a time, Chuck Geschke followed his father’s advice.
Raised Roman Catholic, he attended a Jesuit high school in Cleveland and joined a Jesuit seminary after graduation. But he dropped out before the end of his fourth year. He often said that he and the Jesuits had come to the mutual decision that the priesthood was not for him.
Building on the years he spent studying Latin in high school and at the seminary, he enrolled at Xavier University in Cincinnati and graduated with a degree in classics. Then he stayed on for a master’s degree in mathematics, before working as a math professor at John Carroll University, a small Catholic university in Cleveland.
His life took another turn in the mid-1960s, when he told a struggling student to leave the university. The next year, the student returned, telling him, “The best thing you ever did was kick me out.” The student had found a high-paying job selling computers for General Electric, and he soon taught his former professor how to write a computer program on the massive mainframe machines of the day.
Among the simple programs Chuck Geschke wrote that summer was a way of printing envelopes for the announcement of his daughter’s birth. Not long after, he enrolled as a Ph.D. student in the new computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, one of the first in the country.
Tribune Publishing said on Monday that it had ended talks to sell itself to Newslight, a company set up last month by the Maryland hotel executive Stewart W. Bainum Jr. and the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, after Mr. Wyss withdrew from a planned offer on Friday.
Tribune Publishing’s special committee, which evaluates bids, said in a news release on Monday that the Newslight plan could no longer “reasonably be expected to lead to a ‘superior proposal’” than the binding agreement the company had reached in February with Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund. (An earlier version of this item misstated that the agreement was nonbinding.)
Mr. Bainum and Mr. Wyss had swooped in last month with a proposal of $18.50 per Tribune share, beating out the bid from Alden, which was for $17.25 a share.
The pathway to a deal involving Mr. Bainum, the chief executive of Choice Hotels, one of the world’s largest hotel chains, is not completely blocked.
In a letter on Saturday, Mr. Bainum informed the Tribune board of Mr. Wyss’s exit from a potential deal, adding that he remained committed to a proposal at $18.50 a share, after examining the company’s finances and discussing a possible agreement with other potential backers.
“I remain confident that there is significant interest in joining this effort and expect the necessary arrangements among one or more additional equity financing sources can be completed expeditiously,” Mr. Bainum wrote in the letter. He declined to comment for this article.
Tribune’s special committee said in its statement on Monday that it would “carefully consider any further developments in order to determine the course of action that is in the best interest of Tribune and its stockholders, subject to the terms of the Alden merger agreement.”
The committee added that, in keeping with a previous recommendation, its board would advise company stockholders to vote in favor of the Alden deal.
Tribune, the publisher of The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Daily News and other metropolitan newspapers across the country, has been the target of Alden, its largest shareholder, since last year.
Because Alden is known for slashing costs at the roughly 60 daily newspapers it controls through its MediaNews Group subsidiary, journalists at Tribune publications cheered the surprise entry of Mr. Bainum and Mr. Wyss into the bidding. Alden has said it allows newspapers that might otherwise fold in a struggling industry to remain in business.
Tribune shareholders are expected to vote on a buyer this summer, after the board formally approves an offer.
New Yorkers may have noticed something strange in the last few days: copies of The Village Voice, fresh off the press and still free, on newsstands and in street boxes.
“It all makes sense,” said the longtime Voice columnist Michael Musto, who has a byline in the return issue. “New York is back, The Voice is back, I’m back.”
The new issue, which came out on Saturday, is the first print incarnation of the storied independent publication since August 2017, when its previous owner, Peter D. Barbey, took it digital-only a year before shutting it down. Brian Calle, the publisher of LA Weekly, bought The Voice in December and revived its dormant website in January.
“For us, putting a print issue out was a stake in the ground,” Mr. Calle said. “It really makes the relaunch of The Village Voice real in a way it wasn’t before.”
boycotts led by former writers for the publication and a lawsuit filed by an investor.
Mr. Musto said Mr. Calle was a fan of the paper’s old spirit. “He wants The Village Voice in all of its old, spunky, lefty history,” he said. “The new issue, to me, looks very Village Voice-y.”
Mr. Calle said anyone concerned about the latest iteration should read it and “judge for themselves.”
EXETER, Ontario — The mayor of the largely rural community of South Huron, Ontario, was looking forward to an employment boom when a marijuana producer used its soaring stock value to buy an enormous greenhouse on the edge of the municipality’s largest town.
The purchase three years ago, in Exeter, promised to make his sprawling community a major hub for what seemed like Canada’s next big growth industry: legal pot and the high-paying jobs it would bring.
But before any of the 200 or so anticipated jobs in the greenhouse were filled — or before a single marijuana seed was even sown there — it became apparent that Canada was already growing far more marijuana than the market wanted.
After sitting idle for two years, the one-million-square-foot greenhouse was sold last year for about one-third of its original purchase price of 26 million Canadian dollars, or $20.75 million.
Like plastics in the film “The Graduate,” marijuana seemed destined to become Canada’s next big thing.
The investment craze produced a strong echo of the dot-com stock boom of the late 1990s. And it ended with the same collapse.
Even with a slight recovery propelled by the spreading legalization in the United States — New York legalized marijuana last month, and voters in four states backed legalization in November — one marijuana stock index is still down about 70 percent from its peak in 2018.
Two and a half years after legalization, most marijuana producers in Canada are still reporting staggering losses.
And a major new competitor is looming: Mexico’s lawmakers legalized recreational pot use last month. So the business climate for Canada’s growers could become even more challenging.
“There’s probably going to be a series of shakeouts,” said Kyle B. Murray, the vice dean at the University of Alberta School of Business in Edmonton. “Things were way overblown. It’s very similar to the dot-com boom and then bust.”
previously the heart of Canada’s illegal marijuana industry. There, sales in legal stores grew 24 percent from June to October 2020.
lost nearly 5 million Canadian dollars during its first fiscal year, it has since become profitable.
Largely disappointed at home, some of the larger growers in Canada have pointed to foreign markets, particularly for medical marijuana, as their next great hope. But many analysts are skeptical.
Mexico’s recent move toward creating the world’s largest legal market could doom most marijuana growing in Canada, said Brent McKnight, a professor at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Trade agreements will likely make it impossible for Canada to stop imports from Mexico while Mexico’s significantly lower labor costs and warmer climate potentially give it a competitive advantage.
“That would certainly put some downward pricing pressure on local growers,” he said.
And as Canada’s industry is forced to consolidate to survive, some worry about who will lose out as large, publicly traded companies come to dominate the space.
Long before legalization, many of the first shops to defy Canadian marijuana laws were nonprofit “compassion clubs” selling to people who used cannabis for medicinal purposes.
The current system’s emphasis on large corporate growers and profits has squeezed many people from minority communities out of the business, said Dr. Daniel Werb, an epidemiologist and drug policy analyst at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Dr. Werb is part of a research group whose preliminary findings have shown that “there is a marked lack of diversity” in the leadership of the new, legal suppliers, he said.
Sellers in Indigenous communities, too, have been left in limbo, generally not subjected to police raids but also outside the legal system, although Ontario has began licensing shops in some of those communities.
“I get more and more concerned about, on the one hand, the lack of ethno-racial diversity and, on the other hand, a lack of imagination around the fact that this didn’t have to be a wholly for-profit industry,” Dr. Werb said. “It seems like there was a missed opportunity to think creatively.”
The Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, who seemingly came out of nowhere last month to make a serious offer for Tribune Publishing, a major newspaper chain, has decided to take himself out of the bidding, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
Two of the people said the decision came about in recent days, after Mr. Wyss’s associates examined the Tribune’s finances as part of a due diligence process.
The two people added that Mr. Wyss had come to believe it would be difficult for him to realize his ambition of transforming The Chicago Tribune — the company’s flagship paper and the one he was most interested in — into a national publication. The three people with knowledge of the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the deal publicly.
Mr. Wyss, who made his fortune as a medical device manufacturer, had joined the Maryland hotel executive Stewart Bainum Jr. in a bid that seemed as if it had a chance of preventing Tribune from becoming fully owned by its largest shareholder, the New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital.
In late March, Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum had put together an offer of $18.50 a share, which valued the chain at $680 million. It came more than a month after Tribune had reached a nonbinding agreement to sell itself to Alden at $17.25 a share. On April 5, Tribune Publishing said that its special committee had determined that the bid from Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum would be reasonably expected to lead to a “superior proposal,” when compared with the Alden bid.
Because Alden is known for slashing costs at the roughly 60 daily newspapers it controls through its MediaNews Group subsidiary, journalists at Tribune publications cheered the surprise entry of Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum into the bidding.
Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum declined to comment. Tribune’s special committee also declined to comment.
Mr. Bainum, who had taken a special interest in another Tribune paper, The Baltimore Sun, remains committed to pursuing ownership of Tribune Publishing. With Mr. Wyss no longer at his side, he is seeking new financing, the three people said. Mr. Bainum told the Tribune’s special committee of Mr. Wyss’s departure on Friday, two of the people said, and confirmed his exit from the deal in writing on Saturday.
Mr. Wyss, who was born in Bern, Switzerland, and has a home in Wyoming, first visited the United States as an exchange student in 1958 and worked as a journalist as a young man. A decade ago, as the chief executive of the Swiss-based medical device maker Synthes, he oversaw its sale to Johnson & Johnson for roughly $20 billion.
Scott Cohen was on a ventilator struggling for his life with Covid-19 last April when his brothers pleaded with Plainview Hospital on Long Island to infuse him with the blood plasma of a recovered patient.
The experimental treatment was hard to get but was gaining attention at a time when doctors had little else. After an online petition drew 18,000 signatures, the hospital gave Mr. Cohen, a retired Nassau County medic, an infusion of the pale yellow stuff that some called “liquid gold.”
In those terrifying early months of the pandemic, the idea that antibody-rich plasma could save lives took on a life of its own before there was evidence that it worked. The Trump administration, buoyed by proponents at elite medical institutions, seized on plasma as a good-news story at a time when there weren’t many others. It awarded more than $800 million to entities involved in its collection and administration, and put Dr. Anthony S. Fauci’s face on billboards promoting the treatment.
A coalition of companies and nonprofit groups, including the Mayo Clinic, Red Cross and Microsoft, mobilized to urge donations from people who had recovered from Covid-19, enlisting celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, the actor known as the Rock. Volunteers, some dressed in superhero capes, showed up to blood banks in droves.
took a long time to measure its effectiveness. Eventually, studies did emerge to suggest that under the right conditions, plasma might help. But enough evidence has now accumulated to show that the country’s broad, costly plasma campaign had little effect, especially in people whose disease was advanced enough to land them in the hospital.
N.I.H. recently halted an outpatient trial of plasma because of a lack of benefit.
Doctors have used the antibodies of recovered patients as treatments for more than a century, for diseases including diphtheria, the 1918 flu and Ebola.
So when patients began falling ill with the new coronavirus last year, doctors around the world turned to the old standby.
In the United States, two hospitals — Mount Sinai in New York City and Houston Methodist in Texas — administered the first plasma units to Covid-19 patients within hours of each other on March 28.
Dr. Nicole M. Bouvier, an infectious-disease doctor who helped set up Mount Sinai’s plasma program, said the hospital had tried the experimental treatment because blood transfusions carry a relatively low risk of harm. With a new virus spreading quickly, and no approved treatments, “nature is a much better manufacturer than we are,” she said.
As Mount Sinai prepared to infuse patients with plasma, Diana Berrent, a photographer, was recovering from Covid-19 at her home in Port Washington, N.Y. Friends began sending her Mount Sinai’s call for donors.
thousands of Orthodox Jewish people were getting tested for coronavirus antibodies and showing up to donate. Coordinating it all was exhausting.
“April,” Mr. Lebovits recalled with a laugh, “was like 20 decades.”
Two developments that month further accelerated plasma’s use. With the help of $66 million in federal funding, the F.D.A. tapped the Mayo Clinic to run an expanded access program for hospitals across the country. And the government agreed to cover the administrative costs of collecting plasma, signing deals with the American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers.
news releases announcing those deals got none of the flashy media attention that the billion-dollar contracts for Covid-19 vaccines did when they arrived later in the summer. And the government did not disclose how much it would be investing.
American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers since last April.
“The convalescent plasma program was intended to meet an urgent need for a potential therapy early in the pandemic,” a health department spokeswoman said in a statement. “When these contracts began, treatments weren’t available for hospitalized Covid-19 patients.”
As spring turned to summer, the Trump administration seized on plasma — as it had with the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine — as a promising solution. In July, the administration announced an $8 million advertising campaign “imploring Americans to donate their plasma and help save lives.” The blitz included promotional radio spots and billboards featuring Dr. Fauci and Dr. Hahn, the F.D.A. commissioner.
provided access to its advertising agency, which created the look and feel for the Fight Is In Us campaign, which included video testimonials from celebrities.
although he later corrected his remarks following criticism from the scientific community.
the Infectious Diseases Society of America recommended that plasma not be used in hospitalized patients outside of a clinical trial. (On Wednesday, the society restricted its advice further, saying plasma should not be used at all in hospitalized patients.) In January, a highly anticipated trial in Britain was halted early because there was not strong evidence of a benefit in hospitalized patients.
narrowed the authorization for plasma so that it applied only to people who were early in the course of their disease or who couldn’t make their own antibodies.
Dr. Marks, the F.D.A. regulator, said that in retrospect, scientists had been too slow to adapt to those recommendations. They had known from previous disease outbreaks that plasma treatment is likely to work best when given early, and when it contained high levels of antibodies, he said.
“Somehow we didn’t really take that as seriously as perhaps we should have,” he said. “If there was a lesson in this, it’s that history actually can teach you something.”
pandemic exceptionalism” — had drained valuable time and attention from discovering other treatments.
“Pandemic exceptionalism is something we learned from prior emergencies that leads to serious unintended consequences,” she said, referring to the ways countries leaned on inadequate studies during the Ebola outbreak. With plasma, she said, “the agency forgot lessons from past emergencies.”
While scant evidence shows that plasma will help curb the pandemic, a dedicated clutch of researchers at prominent medical institutions continue to focus on the narrow circumstances in which it might work.
Dr. Arturo Casadevall, an immunologist at Johns Hopkins University, said many of the trials had not succeeded because they tested plasma on very sick patients. “If they’re treated early, the results of the trials are all consistent,” he said.
found that giving plasma early to older people reduced the progression of Covid-19. And an analysis of the Mayo Clinic program found that patients who were given plasma with a high concentration of antibodies fared better than those who did not receive the treatment. Still, in March, the N.I.H. halted a trial of plasma in people who were not yet severely ill with Covid-19 because the agency said it was unlikely to help.
With most of the medical community acknowledging plasma’s limited benefit, even the Fight Is In Us has begun to shift its focus. For months, a “clinical research” page about convalescent plasma was dominated by favorable studies and news releases, omitting major articles concluding that plasma showed little benefit.
the website has been redesigned to more broadly promote not only plasma, but also testing, vaccines and other treatments like monoclonal antibodies, which are synthesized in a lab and thought to be a more potent version of plasma. Its clinical research page also includes more negative studies about plasma.
Nevertheless, the Fight Is In Us is still running Facebook ads, paid for by the federal government, telling Covid-19 survivors that “There’s a hero inside you” and “Keep up the fight.” The ads urge them to donate their plasma, even though most blood banks have stopped collecting it.
Two of plasma’s early boosters, Mr. Lebovits and Ms. Berrent, have also turned their attention to monoclonal antibodies. As he had done with plasma last spring, Mr. Lebovits helped increase acceptance of monoclonals in the Orthodox Jewish community, setting up an informational hotline, running ads in Orthodox newspapers, and creating rapid testing sites that doubled as infusion centers. Coordinating with federal officials, Mr. Lebovits has since shared his strategies with leaders in the Hispanic community in El Paso and San Diego.
And Ms. Berrent has been working with a division of the insurer UnitedHealth to match the right patients — people with underlying health conditions or who are over 65— to that treatment.
“I’m a believer in plasma for a lot of substantive reasons, but if word came back tomorrow that jelly beans worked better, we’d be promoting jelly beans,” she said. “We are here to save lives.”’
When Graham Brooks received his ballot in early February, asking whether he wanted to form a union at the Amazon warehouse in Alabama where he works, he did not hesitate. He marked the NO box, and mailed the ballot in.
After almost six years of working as a reporter at nearby newspapers, Mr. Brooks, 29, makes about $1.55 more an hour at Amazon, and is optimistic he can move up.
“I personally didn’t see the need for a union,” he said. “If I was being treated differently, I may have voted differently.”
Mr. Brooks is one of almost 1,800 employees who handed Amazon a runaway victory in the company’s hardest-fought battle to keep unions out of its warehouses. The result — announced last week, with 738 workers voting to form a union — dealt a crushing blow to labor and Democrats when conditions appeared ripe for them to make advances.
annual letter to investors that the outcome in Bessemer did not bring him “comfort.”
“It’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees — a vision for their success,” he wrote.