In early 2020, dozens of scientific teams scrambled to make a vaccine for Covid-19. Some chose tried-and-true techniques, such as making vaccines from killed viruses. But a handful of companies bet on a riskier method, one that had never produced a licensed vaccine: deploying a genetic molecule called RNA.
The bet paid off. The first two vaccines to emerge successfully out of clinical trials, made by Pfizer-BioNTech and by Moderna, were both made of RNA. They both turned out to have efficacy rates about as good as a vaccine could get.
In the months that followed, those two RNA vaccines have provided protection to tens of millions of people in some 90 countries. But many parts of the world, including those with climbing death tolls, have had little access to them, in part because they require being kept in a deep freeze.
Now a third RNA vaccine may help meet that global need. A small German company called CureVac is on the cusp of announcing the results of its late-stage clinical trial. As early as next week, the world may learn whether its vaccine is safe and effective.
Novavax, a company based in Maryland whose vaccine uses coronavirus proteins, is expected to apply for U.S. authorization in the next few weeks. In India, the pharmaceutical company Biological E is testing another protein-based vaccine that was developed by researchers in Texas. In Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam, researchers are starting trials for a Covid-19 shot that can be mass-produced in chicken eggs.
Vaccines experts are particularly curious to see CureVac’s results, because its shot has an important advantage over the other RNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. While those two vaccines have to be kept in a deep freezer, CureVac’s vaccine stays stable in a refrigerator — meaning it could more easily deliver the newly discovered power of RNA vaccines to hard-hit parts of the world.
“It’s gone largely under the radar,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C. But now, he added, “they look pretty well positioned to clean up the global market.”
For CureVac’s co-founder, the biologist Ingmar Hoerr, the company’s Covid-19 vaccine trial is the culmination of a quarter-century’s worth of work with RNA, a molecule that helps turn DNA into the proteins that do the work of our cells. As a graduate student at the University of Tübingen in the 1990s, Dr. Hoerr injected RNA into mice and found that the animals could make the protein encoded by the molecules. He was surprised to find that the mice’s immune systems made antibodies against the new proteins.
only a few scientists in the world considered an RNA vaccine a serious possibility. But proponents thought it might change medicine. You could, in theory, craft an RNA molecule to immunize people against any virus. You might even be able to create an RNA vaccine to cure cancer, if you could make an RNA molecule that encoded a tumor protein.
In 2001, Dr. Hoerr co-founded CureVac to chase the idea, but for the first few years the company struggled to survive. To keep the lights on, it took orders from other labs for custom-built RNA molecules. On the side, CureVac’s scientists tinkered with their own designs for RNA vaccines.
Over time, they found subtle tweaks to RNA vaccine molecules that caused cells to make more proteins. The more potent the RNA, the lower the dose they needed in vaccines.
CureVac’s researchers also figured out how to put the RNA molecules in fatty bubbles to protect them from destruction on their journey to cells. And perhaps most important, they used a form of RNA that could stay stable at relatively warm temperatures. Instead of requiring a deep freezer, CureVac’s vaccine could be refrigerated.
In time, other companies entered the RNA vaccine business as well: BioNTech in Germany in 2008, then Moderna in Boston in 2011. Their experiments began showing that these vaccines could protect animals against an assortment of viruses. In 2013, CureVac injected human volunteers with a rabies RNA vaccine, in the first clinical trial of the technology against an infectious disease.
For years, CureVac and other RNA vaccine companies toiled on perfecting their vaccines. CureVac’s first attempt at a rabies vaccine demonstrated it was safe, but it yielded a weak response from the immune system. The company has since retooled that vaccine, and the updated version has shown promise in early clinical studies. But other efforts ended in failure. In 2017, CureVac announced that its RNA vaccine against prostate cancer offered no benefits to patients.
$1 billion to move its operations to the United States. CureVac denied the reports, but the chief executive suddenly left, to be replaced by Dr. Haas.
CureVac’s researchers moved ahead with their limited resources, designing an RNA molecule encoding a protein found on the surface of the coronavirus, called spike. Experiments on hamsters showed that it could protect the animals from the virus.
Phase 3 trial, recruiting 40,000 volunteers in Europe and Latin America. The company will get its first look at the data when 56 volunteers develop Covid-19. If most of them are in the placebo group, and few in the vaccinated group, it will be proof that the vaccine works.
with a lawsuit.
In April, the European Union finally fixed this shortfall, negotiating with Pfizer and BioNTech to get 1.8 billion doses of their vaccine between now and 2023. That arrangement has left analysts wondering how much demand will be left for CureVac.
“They’re going to miss the boat on the major, advanced-economy markets,” said Dr. Kirkegaard. “The U.S., Europe and Japan are going to be largely vaccinated using these Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.”
Dr. Haas countered that most of the bloc’s doses from Pfizer-BioNTech won’t come until next year. “CureVac sees itself as a major player in ending the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe and elsewhere,” he said.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said that if the CureVac vaccine worked, it would be in the mix, thanks to two advantages: It is an mRNA vaccine, and it was created in Europe. It is also possible that individual European nations will make side deals with the company.
Billions of other people in low- and middle-income countries have yet to receive a vaccine, and experts say that CureVac may meet some of their demand. “We still need a lot of vaccine globally,” said Florian Krammer, a virologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “I think a lot of people can benefit from it.”
The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are challenging to distribute in the developing world because of the equipment and power supply required to freeze these vaccines. CureVac’s RNA vaccine can stay stable for at least three months at 41 degrees Fahrenheit, and it can sit for 24 hours at room temperature before it is used.
“The stability is a real advantage,” Dr. Jackson said. C.E.P.I. is “in very active discussions” with CureVac, he said, about distributing the company’s vaccine through Covax, an initiative to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
But CureVac is also designing a new generation of vaccines with a goal of eventually moving into markets in the United States and other wealthy nations. Because its potent RNA requires only a small dose, the company could potentially create vaccines for different variants and mix them in a single shot.
But such possibilities are meaningless until CureVac can prove that its vaccine works. Mary Warrell, a vaccine researcher at the University of Oxford, is reluctant to speculate about the fate of the vaccine before that milestone.
“Prediction during this pandemic has rarely been profitable,” she warned.
When Mr. Merida started at The Undefeated, it was a stalled digital project with an unhappy staff — a would-be publication that, even after a nearly two-year development period, existed only as a web page with links to 19 articles.
He got The Undefeated up and running, quickly establishing its editorial identity. The site’s relevance grew as prominent Black athletes embraced activism amid the rise of the social justice movement after the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.
In his first editor’s letter at The Undefeated, Mr. Merida held up the example of his father, Jesse Merida, as someone who refused to be defeated by pervasive racism and the limited opportunities that went with it.
His father, he wrote, had gotten a degree in geology at what is now Wichita State University and did not listen to those who advised him to go into teaching rather than trying for a career in the more closed-off world of science. He ended up “earning his living as a janitor at one point while waiting for his opportunity,” Mr. Merida wrote, and was finally hired as a technician with the U.S. Geological Survey, a job that led to a long career, among mostly white researchers, with the Smithsonian Institution.
Today in Business
At the Disney-owned ESPN, Mr. Merida became a close adviser to Jimmy Pitaro, the network’s chairman, and served as the chair of ESPN’s editorial board. He also played integral roles in its newsroom, helping oversee its investigative coverage and the television shows “E:60” and “Outside the Lines,” while also managing its standards team.
Mr. Merida, who was born in Wichita, Kan., grew up in the Washington area, where he still lives. He is married to the author Donna Britt, who has worked as a reporter and columnist at The Washington Post, USA Today and The Detroit Free Press.
He studied journalism at Boston University and started his career as a reporter for The Milwaukee Journal. After a decade at The Dallas Morning News, he joined The Post in 1993 as a congressional reporter.
MEXICO CITY — Someone in a Charlie Brown costume frantically waves hello. A person dressed as a monkey pretends to take photos with a stuffed camera. An elderly man who just got his second shot of the Pfizer vaccine grabs a microphone and starts singing very loudly.
“I’m 78, but they tell me I look 75 and a half,” the man said gleefully, the assessment supported by his apparent lung strength as he belted out a ranchera song with abandon.
In a bid to improve their customer service, vaccination centers in Mexico’s capital now come with a slate of entertainment options, including dancing, yoga, live operatic performances and the chance to watch large, bare-chested Lucha Libre wrestlers do the limbo.
The goal is to make the process as appealing as possible, said a woman leading a singing and dancing performance for people waiting for a shot at a military parade ground in Mexico City on a recent Wednesday.
virus in Latin America and the sputtering vaccination efforts in many of its countries. Concerns have been compounded recently by the rapid spread of a virus variant first discovered in Brazil.
At the vaccination center in Mexico City, women in white shirts led the crowd in various yoga poses that could be done in wheelchairs. Men performed tricks with a surprising number of soccer balls. A professional opera singer congratulated everyone.
the third highest coronavirus death toll worldwide, where the government resisted imposing strict lockdowns, fearing damage to the economy, and which has not tested widely, arguing it is a waste of money.
Many believe that the only escape from this nightmare is mass vaccination, but the campaign had been moving glacially. By mid-April, though, the pace has picked up nationally — and after some messiness in the beginning, the nation’s capital has gotten better at efficiently getting shots into arms.
“We quickly realized that with the strategy we had in place, we couldn’t attend to seniors with the level of service they deserved,” said Eduardo Clark, who helps coordinate the city’s vaccination program.
Lucha Libre wrestlers, named Gravity, Bandido, Guerrero Olímpico, Hijo de Pirata Morgan and Ciclón Ramírez Jr.
“It’s a little bit of joy,” Ms. Silva shouted over the live band playing a few feet away, nodding to the beat. “It reanimates what you have inside.”
With the pandemic closing wrestling arenas, the government has put the Lucha Libre fighters to creative use, enlisting them to enforce mask wearing by pretending to accost people and now this.
“I’m glad they are here cooperating, in solidarity with people,” said Francisca Rodríguez, whose husband’s wheelchair had momentarily been commandeered by a sweating Ciclón Ramírez Jr.
Ms. Rodríguez said Mr. López Obrador, had done an “excellent” job of managing the pandemic, though she acknowledged that the president had taken a beating for refusing to vaccinate some workers in private hospitals, who say they’re being made to wait longer than those at public hospitals.
“There is a media war against President López Obrador right now,” she said, pointedly. “Even American newspapers are attacking the president.”
As people were vaccinated and filed into the area where they would be observed for adverse reactions, the Lucha Libre wrestlers broke out into a “yes you could!” chant.
“My children are going to ask me how it was, so I’m going to bring them evidence,” said Luis González, 68, recording the performance on his cellphone.
When Mr. González’s wife got the coronavirus four months ago, he sat by her side, fanning her with a piece of cardboard to try to make more air available to breathe. After 38 years of marriage, he watched her die in their home, waiting for an ambulance.
Mr. González sat in the front row long after his observation period had passed, alone, watching the wrestlers dance.
“You feel the emptiness, especially at night,” he said. “During the days, it’s easier to distract myself.”
With time running out, Stewart W. Bainum Jr. is making a renewed effort to buy Tribune Publishing, the newspaper chain that agreed in February to sell itself to its largest shareholder, the hedge fund Alden Global Capital.
Mr. Bainum, a Maryland hotel mogul, notified Tribune Publishing on Wednesday that he planned to have $300 million in financing that would go toward a revised offer valuing the company at roughly $680 million, according to three people with knowledge of the proposal. As part of the would-be arrangement, $200 million would come from his own fortune, the people said. The additional $100 million would come from new debt, the people said.
The proposal is not quite firm. Mr. Bainum hopes that his willingness to put in $200 million of his own money, along with the debt financing, will attract others to join his effort, the people said.
His offer is contingent on his finding a backer who will take on Tribune’s flagship paper, The Chicago Tribune, and fill the remaining gap of $380 million, the people added. After discussions with possible investors, Mr. Bainum has yet to find one willing to assume responsibility for the Chicago daily, the people said.
he agreed to buy The Baltimore Sun and two smaller Tribune papers in Maryland for $65 million, a deal that would have been completed after Alden had taken full ownership of the company. That plan went awry over details of operating agreements that would be in effect as the Maryland papers transitioned from one owner to another, prompting Mr. Bainum to set his sights on all of Tribune.
He made a solo offer for the entire company on March 16 that valued it at roughly $680 million, or $50 million more than Alden had bid under its February proposal. But Tribune was unswayed, saying it wanted proof that Mr. Bainum had the financing to back his proposal.
At the end of March, he got the company’s attention by joining with the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss to add weight to the offer. Under the plan, Mr. Bainum would have spent $100 million of his own money and Mr. Wyss would have come through with the rest.
Tribune announced on April 5 that the offer from Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum was likely to lead to a “superior proposal.” But less than two weeks later, Mr. Wyss abruptly backed out, forcing Mr. Bainum to revise his bid and seek new deal partners.
The failure of the Bainum-Wyss plan came as a disappointment to journalists at Tribune newspapers across the country, many of whom had been publicly critical of Alden for its strategy of making deep cuts at the roughly 60 daily newspapers it controls through MediaNews Group.
Mr. Bainum declined to comment. Tribune did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Since Mr. Wyss stepped away, the hedge fund has re-emerged as the most likely future owner of the newspaper chain. Tribune has scheduled a shareholder vote for May 21 to approve the bid by Alden, which has a 32 percent stake in the company.
Mr. Bainum, 75, remains committed to his quest to buy Tribune, the people said, largely because he is passionate about keeping his hometown paper, The Sun, out of Alden’s control.
“He loved writing but grew to love editing and supporting reporters,” Ms. Strum said by phone. “He was at a place with many giant egos, and he didn’t have one.”
Mr. Strum collaborated with five Times reporters on the book “Outrage: The Story Behind the Tawana Brawley Hoax” (1990), about the 1987 case in which a Black teenager claimed to have been kidnapped, gang-raped and further defiled by white racists. Mr. Strum acted as the internal editor for the book, which was reported by Robert D. McFadden, Ralph Blumenthal, E.R. Shipp, M.A. Farber and Craig Wolff and written by Mr. McFadden.
After his stint as New Jersey bureau chief, Mr. Strum continued to write for The Times occasionally, often flashing his characteristic wit. One article, in 2000, was about taking a French immersion class.
“Mercifully, this was not like high school, where teenagers wince from embarrassment,” he wrote. “I felt no trace of the angst of my sophomore year, when my teacher — a humorless woman who looked like Howdy Doody with a gray wig and spoke French with an Indiana twang — aimed her intolerance up and down the rows like a machine-gunner.”
In addition to his wife, who is known as Becky, he is survived by their daughter, Kate Strum, and their son, Alec, as well as twin daughters, Sara and Mary Lee Kenney, from a relationship with Nancy Kenney.
After retiring from The Times in 2014, Mr. Strum worked for three years as an editor at The Marshall Project, the nonprofit journalism site that covers criminal justice.
“Some editors edited stories; Chuck edited writers,” said Bill Keller, the former executive editor of The Times who was The Marshall Project’s founding editor in chief. “He made them better. At the start, being a start-up, we had some writers who had more promise than practice. Chuck didn’t just fix their stories, he helped them grow.”
LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson has long had a weakness for a funny line, even in the face of an unfunny problem like the pandemic. When coronavirus cases first spiked last spring, he promised that a lockdown would “squash the sombrero.” When he spoke to businesspeople about an emergency plan to manufacture ventilators, he joked that it could be called “Operation Last Gasp.”
Now, Mr. Johnson stands accused of something darker: declaring at a tense meeting last fall that he would not bow to pressure to impose yet another lockdown, even if it meant letting “the bodies pile high in their thousands.”
He has denied the claim, made by anonymous sources to multiple British newspapers. But the papers, as well as the BBC, are not backing down from their reporting. The dispute has called into question not just Mr. Johnson’s credibility, which is regularly in doubt, but also his humanity, which is usually not.
pay for the costly refurbishment of his Downing Street home, and of trying to shut down an investigation of who leaked plans for a lockdown when it became clear that the probable leaker was a friend of his fiancée, Carrie Symonds.
“Boris Johnson has a serious problem with Cummings going rogue because everything we know about Dominic Cummings is that he is a loose cannon,” said Matthew Goodwin, a professor of politics at the University of Kent and an expert on the British right. “You don’t want him in the opposition camp.”
While the backbiting and knife fighting have riveted Britain’s political class, some analysts question whether it resonates much beyond the hothouse precincts of Westminster. Britons, they say, are more swayed by their country’s robust vaccine rollout and their ability to buy a pint at the pub after a year of grinding lockdowns. Plus, after decades on the political stage, Mr. Johnson’s foibles are hardly new.
As Mr. Goodwin put it, “The fact that he is seen as a bit of a clown and a bit of a buffoon is priced in.”
when he and his family violated proscriptions against leaving home during the first lockdown and traveled hundreds of miles from London to Durham, an incident that corroded the public’s faith in the coronavirus rules.
Mr. Johnson stood by his adviser, but Mr. Cummings was forced out several months later after losing an internal struggle, and the rift between the two men now seems bitterly personal. Mr. Johnson is reported to have called newspaper editors himself last week to accuse his former aide of leaks about the government.
build a narrative of sleazy dealings, cronyism and lying that inflicts real damage on a government that has overcome its succession of mistakes in its handling of the pandemic, largely thanks to the vaccine rollout.
Though Mr. Johnson became prime minister less than two years ago, his Conservative Party has been in power since 2010. Analysts pointed to an earlier era when, having been in power for more than a decade, the Conservative government of Prime Minister John Major was ground down by scandals and crises.
“There is a warning from history, from the 1990s, when the government failed to contain repeated allegations of sleaze,” Mr. Goodwin said, noting that it set up the Labour Party for its largest victory in recent history.
Some analysts predicted the public would be forgiving of Mr. Johnson’s outburst about the lockdown because they, too, found the repeated restrictions burdensome and because no one believes he would actually welcome thousands of deaths. They would also take into account his own ordeal with the virus and his decision to order another severe lockdown after Christmas.
“People can be cross because they are tired,” said Andrew Gimson, one of Mr. Johnson’s biographers. “He was exhausted and he’d been through a near-fatal illness, from which he had not fully recovered when he made that remark.”
Others, however, predicted that the flap over Mr. Johnson’s refurbishment of his apartment would throw a harsh spotlight on his sense of impunity, lack of transparency and unwillingness to make do with the perks offered a prime minister.
Mr. Johnson already has access to an annual public grant of £30,000 ($41,600) to upgrade his quarters. Newspaper reports say he augmented that with funds from a Conservative Party donor because Ms. Symonds wanted to get rid of the furniture used by his predecessor, Theresa May, which had been described as being in the style of the British department store, John Lewis.
The government insists Mr. Johnson paid for the upgrade out of his own pocket, though it is unclear whether he repaid money from the donor. However it was financed, the couple’s apparent disdain for John Lewis-style décor may sit badly with ordinary people, for whom the store is a symbol of bourgeois prosperity.
“Johnson has always stayed one step ahead of the sheriff,” Mr. Powell said. “But at some stage in No. 10, you can’t get away with lies that can be proven to be lies.”
If we had a choice, would any of us want to be tracked online for the sake of seeing more relevant digital ads?
We are about to find out.
On Monday, Apple plans to release iOS 14.5, one of its most anticipated software updates for iPhones and iPads in years. It includes a new privacy tool, called App Tracking Transparency, which could give us more control over how our data is shared.
Here’s how it works: When an app wants to follow our activities to share information with third parties such as advertisers, a window will show up on our Apple device to ask for our permission to do so. If we say no, the app must stop monitoring and sharing our data.
harmful to small businesses.
fingerprinting. This involves looking at seemingly innocuous characteristics of your device — like the screen resolution, operating system version and model — and combining them to determine your identity and track you across different apps.
studied user experience design and data privacy. In the past, iPhone owners could restrict advertisers from tracking them, but the tools to do so were buried in settings where most people wouldn’t look.
“The option was available before, but really, was it?” Ms. Nguyen said. “That’s a big shift — making it visible.”
As of this week, all apps with tracking behavior must include the App Tracking Transparency pop-up in their next software updates. That means we initially will probably see a small number of apps requesting permission to track us, with the number growing over time as more apps get updated.
Apple’s new software also includes two other interesting new features: the ability to use Siri to play audio with a third-party app like Spotify and the option to quickly unlock an iPhone while wearing a mask.
favoring its own apps.
To make Siri work with other audio services, you won’t have to change any settings. If you normally listen to music with a third-party app, such as Spotify, Siri will simply learn over time that you prefer that app and react accordingly. (Audio app developers need to program their apps to support Siri, so if they haven’t done so yet, this won’t work.) That means if you always use Spotify to play music, you will be able to say “Hey Siri, play The Beatles” to start playing a Beatles playlist on Spotify.
The other new feature helps solve a pandemic issue. For more than a year, wearing a mask has been extra annoying for owners of newer iPhones that have face scanners to unlock the device. That’s because the iPhone camera has not been able to recognize our covered mugs. Apple’s iOS 14.5 finally delivers a mechanism to unlock the phone while masked, though it requires wearing an Apple Watch.
Here’s how that works: When you scan your face and the phone determines it can’t recognize you because your mouth and nose are obstructed, it will check to see if your Apple Watch is unlocked and nearby. The Apple Watch, in effect, acts as proof to verify that you are the one trying to unlock your phone.
To make this work, update the software on your iPhone and Apple Watch, then open the Settings app on your iPhone. Scroll down to “Face ID & Passcode.” In this menu, go to “Unlock with Apple Watch” and toggle on the option to use your Apple Watch to unlock when the image scanner detects your face with a mask.
Next time you are at the grocery store and look at your phone, your watch will vibrate once and unlock your phone. Sweet relief.
Fatalities have been overlooked or downplayed, understating the human toll of the country’s outbreak, which accounts for nearly half of all new cases in a global surge.
NEW DELHI — India’s coronavirus second wave is rapidly sliding into a devastating crisis, with hospitals unbearably full, oxygen supplies running low, desperate people dying in line waiting to see doctors — and mounting evidence that the actual death toll is far higher than officially reported.
Each day, the government reports more than 300,000 new infections, a world record, and India is now seeing more new infections than any other country by far, almost half of all new cases in a global surge.
But experts say those numbers, however staggering, represent just a fraction of the real reach of the virus’s spread, which has thrown this country into emergency mode. Millions of people refuse to even step outside — their fear of catching the virus is that extreme. Accounts from around the country tell of the sick being left to gasp for air as they wait at chaotic hospitals that are running out of lifesaving oxygen.
The sudden surge in recent weeks, with an insidious newer variant possibly playing a role, is casting increasing doubt on India’s official Covid-19 death toll of nearly 200,000, with more than 2,000 people dying every day.
stopped taking precautions, acting as if the worst days were over.
Now, countless Indians are turning to social media to send out heartbreaking S.O.S. messages for a hospital bed, medicine, some oxygen to breathe. “‘National Emergency,’” blared a banner headline in one of India’s leading papers, The Hindustan Times. Across India, mass cremations are now taking place. Sometimes dozens of fires go up at once.
At the same time, India’s Covid vaccine campaign is struggling: Less than 10 percent of Indians have gotten even one dose, despite India being the world’s leading vaccine manufacturer. India’s dire needs are already having ripple effects across the world, especially for poorer countries. It had planned to ship out millions of doses; now, given the country’s stark vaccination shortfall, exports have essentially been shut down, leaving other nations with far fewer doses than they had expected.
Doctors worry that the runaway surge is being at least partly driven by the emergence of a virus variant known as the “double mutant,” B.1.617, because it contains genetic mutations found in two other difficult-to-control versions of the coronavirus. One of the mutations is present in the highly contagious variant that ripped through California earlier this year. The other mutation is similar to one found in the South African variant and believed to make the virus more resistant to vaccines.
a catastrophic gas leak in the 1980s that killed thousands, residents say the cremation grounds haven’t been as busy since that disaster.
Over 13 days in mid-April, Bhopal officials reported 41 deaths related to Covid-19. But a survey by The New York Times of the city’s main Covid-19 cremation and burial grounds, where bodies were being handled under strict protocols, revealed a total of more than 1,000 deaths during the same period.
“Many deaths are not getting recorded and they are increasing every day,” said Dr. G.C. Gautam, a cardiologist based in Bhopal. He said that officials were doing this because “they don’t want to create panic.”
The same phenomenon appeared to be happening in Lucknow and Mirzapur — major cities in Uttar Pradesh State — and across Gujarat, where, during a similar period in mid-April, the authorities reported between 73 and 121 Covid-related deaths each day.
COVID-19 deaths in Gujarat far exceed government figures,” read a recent front-page headline in The Hindu.
India’s population is, on average, much younger than in most Western nations. Experts say that is the most likely reason that deaths per million in India had seemed relatively low. But the number is quickly climbing.
According to excess mortality studies, Covid-19 deaths have been underestimated in many countries, including in the United States and Britain.
But India is a much bigger and poorer country. And its people are spread across 28 states and several federal territories in a highly decentralized system of governance, with different states counting deaths in different ways.
Even in a good year, experts say, only about one-fifth of deaths are medically investigated, meaning that the vast number of Indians die without a cause of death being certified.
should be recorded as Covid-19-related if the disease is assumed to have caused or contributed to it, even if the person had a pre-existing medical condition, such as cancer.
In many places in India, that doesn’t seem to be happening.
Rupal Thakkar tested positive for Covid-19 in mid-April. On April 16, she was admitted to Shalby Limited, a private hospital in her home city of Ahmedabad, but her oxygen levels suddenly dropped. The next day Ms. Thakkar, 48, died.
The hospital listed her cause of death as “sudden cardiac death,” which left the Thakkar family outraged.
“It was a lifetime shock,” said her younger brother, Dipan Thakkar. “Why would a private hospital connive with the government in hiding the real death numbers? It was an organized crime. It was an illegal act.”
Officials at Shalby didn’t respond to requests for comment.
very public scandal in 2019 when Mr. Modi’s government tried to suppress data showing a rise in the unemployment rate.
When it comes to Covid data, she said, “there is tremendous pressure from the central government on the state governments for projecting progress.”
Several officials from the governing party did not respond to messages seeking comment.
But manipulating death numbers seems to be happening in other places, too. One example is the state of Chhattisgarh, in central India, which is run by the leading opposition party, Congress.
Officials in Chhattisgarh’s Durg district, home to a large steel plant, reported more than 150 Covid-19 deaths from April 15 to April 21, according to messages sent to local media that were seen by The Times. The state reported less than half that number for Durg.
Chhattisgarh’s health minister, T.S. Singh Deo, denied any intentional underreporting. “We have tried to be as transparent as humanly possible,” he said. “We stand to be corrected at any point in time.”
Cremations are an important part of Hindu burial rituals, seen as a way to free the soul from the body. Those working at the burning grounds said they were utterly exhausted and could never remember so many people dying in such a short span of time.
In Surat, an industrial city in Gujarat, the grills used to burn bodies have been operating so relentlessly that the iron on some has actually melted. On April 14, Covid-19 crematories in Surat and another district, Gandhi Nagar, told The Times that they cremated 124 people, on a day when the authorities said 73 had died of Covid-19 in the entire state.
In Kanpur, in Uttar Pradesh State, bodies are now being burned in some of the city’s parks; the crematories are that backed up.
In Ahmedabad, at the Vadaj crematory, huge smokestacks pump out black smoke. Mr. Suresh, a clerk, sits in a tiny office, the door closed firmly shut.
When reached by telephone, he said he put “beemari,” or sickness in Hindi, on all the death certificates, and he referred questions to a sanitation official who then referred questions to another official who declined to answer calls.
Mr. Suresh said that his crematory handled 15 to 20 bodies of Covid-19 patients every day. As he spoke on Friday, three bodies burned on separate pyres, next to a large and growing stack of freshly chopped wood.
Rupert Murdoch took a top editor from his brash and conservative London tabloid, The Sun, and put him in charge of his brash and conservative New York tabloid, The New York Post.
Keith Poole, a 44-year-old Englishman who remade The Sun’s website in recent years, started as The Post’s newsroom leader on March 22. Since then, most people on staff have yet to hear from him, two Post employees said.
He had lunch with Emily Smith, the longtime editor of The Post’s gossip franchise, Page Six, but has yet to host an all-hands video call to say hello to the staff, which has been working remotely, or send an email greeting, the two people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal matters. For some staff members, the only evidence of the new boss’s presence has been the addition of his name to the newsroom’s main channel on Slack, the messaging app.
A spokeswoman for The Post said in an email that Mr. Poole was getting to know the team in his own way: “Keith has been meeting a number of Post staff in person, on video calls and on the phone (since most are working from home), and he has had lunch with other staff, not just Emily.”
Col Allan, an Australian tabloid specialist who retired in March after more than 40 years at Murdoch papers.
Mr. Poole has more experience in attracting online readers than his predecessor. Before joining The Sun as its digital editor in 2016, he helped make The Daily Mail’s U.S. website a must-read for followers of celebrity gossip.
“At The Sun, it’s all they focus on,” said Chris Spargo, a reporter who worked at both of Mr. Poole’s prior employers. Mr. Poole also sees The Daily Mail as The Post’s main rival, several people with knowledge of the Post newsroom said.
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A former colleague said Mr. Poole does not fit the stereotype of the gruff, boisterous tabloid editor.
“Keith is charming and has that British wit about him,” said David Martosko, a former U.S. political editor at The Daily Mail who is now a senior content executive at Zenger News. “More people in our business should adopt his collaborative editing style.”
His responsibilities include not only the now-profitable New York tabloid that Mr. Murdoch pulled out of bankruptcy in the 1990s but also the larger The New York Post Group. That includes the Post Digital Network, which is made up of the paper’s website, a separate website for Page Six, the entertainment site Decider.com and the ad company Post Studios, as well as other media properties.
the biggest online brand in the U.K. Last year he was named its deputy editor in chief.
In a 2018 interview, Mr. Poole said he focused on five key areas: news, celebrity, soccer, money and women’s lifestyle. While at The Sun, he met frequently with Robert Thomson, the chief executive of Mr. Murdoch’s newspaper company, News Corp, who was often in the London office before the pandemic, three people with knowledge of the relationship said.
Under Mr. Allan, The Post specialized in celebrity news and city coverage while also championing former President Trump and attacking his rivals. Under Mr. Poole, the paper has kept its focus on celebs and liberal villains, as the April 16 front page suggested. The left side showed Jennifer Lopez in a revealing costume under the headline, “Inside J-Rod’s Breakup.” On the right, a headline blasted Democrats: “PACK RATS. Backlash as Dems try to take over Supreme Court.”
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.