The Surging Virus

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The autumn wave of the coronavirus has reached a dangerous new stage. The number of new daily cases has risen almost 50 percent in the U.S. over the past month. The situation is even worse in Europe.

For the first time since late March, the per capita number of new cases in Europe exceeds the number in the U.S.:

“The virus is everywhere in France,” the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said yesterday, while imposing a nighttime curfew in major cities.

The onset of cooler weather, which is driving more people indoors, seems to be playing a big role. And many people seem to have grown tired of pandemic restrictions, leading politicians — in both Europe and the U.S. — to lift restrictions prematurely.

In late June, as The Times’s Mark Landler writes from Europe, residents in Prague held a dinner party stretching across the Charles Bridge to celebrate what they called — wrongly — the end of the outbreak. Italy and Spain welcomed summer tourists.

But the pandemic hasn’t gone away. While treatments are getting better, many people are still dying — including almost 6,000 in India over the past week, 5,000 in the U.S., 1,700 in Iran, 850 in Spain and about 600 in both Britain and France. A widely available vaccine is still months away, even if the current research trials go well.

Amid all of this bad news, it’s worth keeping in mind that some countries continue to fight the virus successfully. The per capita rate of new cases in Canada is less than half as high as it is in the U.S. In Australia and much of Africa and Asia, the rate remains near zero.

In many places where case counts are rising, political leaders are reluctant to impose new lockdowns, because the public is tired of them. But that creates something of a Catch-22: The most reliable way to reverse big outbreaks of this virus has been through strict crackdowns.

In the U.S.: The virus is spreading in every region, with the highest case counts in the South and Midwest, as you can see in these charts.

  • Judge Amy Coney Barrett signaled that an upcoming Supreme Court case on the Affordable Care Act might not threaten the entire law. Barrett said that a legal doctrine known as “severability” (it’s the legal equivalent of a game of Jenga: If you pull out one plank, will the entire tower topple?) could let the court strike down parts of the law without invalidating all of it.

  • Barrett declined to answer several questions related to Trump, including whether a president has a right to pardon himself. Legal experts are divided on the issue.

  • Yesterday was Barrett’s last scheduled day of questioning from senators. She is on track for confirmation on a near party-line vote.

other big stories

  • Houthi fighters in Yemen released two American hostages after the U.S. brokered a deal to return scores of Houthi fighters being held in Oman.

  • Half the coral that makes up Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has died since 1995. Researchers said the decline would continue if no drastic action is taken on climate change.

  • A Morning read: “Like a lot of men, in pursuit of novelty and amusement during these months of isolation, I grew a mustache,” Wesley Morris writes. In an essay, he explores how a lark led to a better understanding of his Blackness.

  • Lives Lived: In 1985, Herbert Kretzmer, by then a lyricist and a song writer, was asked to reimagine an obscure French musical, “Les Misérables.” He wrote the English lyrics and turned it into one of the most successful and longest-running theater productions. Kretzmer was 95.

Times journalists are reporting on this election from all angles. They’re examining candidates, uncovering hidden stories, explaining polls, showing how to vote during a pandemic and more. Our subscribers make this coverage possible. Please consider subscribing today.

In February 2017, an audio reporter named Madeleine Baran received an email encouraging her to look into the case of Curtis Flowers, a Black man in Mississippi on death row. That email started her journey to what my late colleague Jim Dwyer called the “greatest journalism of our age.”

Flowers was the victim of a campaign by Doug Evans, a white local prosecutor, to convict him for a 1996 quadruple murder, despite no good evidence tying Flowers to the crime. Along the way, Evans committed multiple instances of prosecutorial misconduct, like barring Black jurors. After appeals courts threw out some of Flowers’s convictions, Evans kept trying him — over six different trials, keeping Flowers behind bars the entire time.

Baran and her colleagues at APM Reports told this story in the second season of their podcast, “In the Dark,” and brought national attention to it. Last year, the Supreme Court overturned Flowers’ conviction. On Sept. 4, Mississippi dropped the charges against Flowers.

If you haven’t yet listened to the podcast, I recommend starting with the first episode. If you have, you can listen to the final episode, released yesterday, in which Baran is finally able to interview Flowers.

So far, there is no sign that Evans will face any penalties for his misconduct.

For more: See this explainer, by APM’s Parker Yesko, on the broader lack of accountability of prosecutors. The podcast team also included Will Craft, Samara Freemark, Natalie Jablonski, Rehman Tungekar and Catherine Winter.

Fried chicken biscuits. Hot honey butter. This sandwich will give you something to look forward to come dinner time. Prep both components on the day you want to eat them for optimal crispness.

Radicalization often happens online. In her new book “Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy,” Talia Lavin infiltrates far-right online communities with fake identities — a socially awkward 21-year-old man, a gun-toting Iowan woman.

It “isn’t one of those books in which an intrepid author journeys behind enemy lines in order to write plaintively of our shared humanity,” Jennifer Szalai writes in a review. “One of the marvels of this furious book is how insolent and funny Lavin is; she refuses to soft-pedal the monstrous views she encounters.”

Buy local: Independent bookstores are asking for support from readers. “If you want Amazon to be the world’s only retailer, keep shopping there,” one ad says.

In June, staff members at the food publication Bon Appétit called out a discriminatory work environment that paid people of color less than white employees in similar jobs. Several Bon Appétit stars have since announced they will no longer appear in the brand’s popular YouTube videos.

Among the departures was Sohla El-Waylly, whose fans have created video montages dedicated to her skills. Through the controversy, she became a “symbol for the overqualified and underpaid,” E. Alex Jung writes in a profile of the chef in Vulture. El-Waylly, who is writing a cookbook and filming her own web show, said, “It became increasingly frustrating to become a sidekick to people with significantly less experience than me.”

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Many modern meetings (five letters).

You can find all of our puzzles here.

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