Virus Variants, Capitol Hill, N.C.A.A.: Your Weekend Briefing
Here’s what you need to know about the week’s top stories.,
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Here are the week’s top stories, and a look ahead.
1. The next few months may be a painful chapter in America’s fight against the pandemic.
Declining infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus have masked an increase in more contagious forms of the coronavirus, scientists say. As of March 13, the B.1.1.7 variant, which walloped Britain and is wreaking havoc on Europe, accounted for about 27 percent of new cases nationwide, up from just 1 percent in early February.
“The best way to think about B.1.1.7 and other variants is to treat them as separate epidemics,” one expert said.
At the moment, most vaccines appear to be effective against the variants. But public health officials are deeply worried that future iterations may require Americans to get regular rounds of booster shots or even new vaccines. Above, a vaccination site in Los Angeles.
More than three million people in the U.S. are now receiving Covid vaccines each day. We answered the most common questions about vaccination side effects.
2. We’re still learning more about the driver who rammed his car into two Capitol Police officers on Friday, leaving one dead and the other injured. He was fatally shot after emerging from the vehicle with a knife.
Noah Green had recently told friends that he had left his job and had “afflictions.” On his Facebook page, he described himself as a supporter of the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and said he had been struggling through the last few months of the pandemic. He had no history of violence.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the officer who was killed, William Evans, an 18-year veteran, would be remembered as a “martyr for our democracy.”
The shocking attack will complicate the security review of the Capitol begun after the Jan. 6 riot and will deepen debates over how Congress should balance security and public access.
3. Supporters of Donald Trump who thought they were sending a single donation were charged over and over by his campaign operation.
A Times investigation found that the charges were part of an intentional scheme to boost revenue to Mr. Trump’s struggling presidential campaign. Recurring online donations were set up by default, and a fine-print disclaimer and opt-out language became increasingly hard to find.
Demands for refunds spiked, and complaints to banks and credit card companies soared. The magnitude of the money involved is staggering for politics: All told, the Trump campaign and the Republican Party raised $1.2 billion with WinRed, a for-profit donation processing service, and refunded roughly 10 percent of it.
In effect, the overcharges were an interest-free loan — eventually paid off with some of the tens of millions of dollars Mr. Trump raised after the election under the guise of pursuing his unfounded claims of election fraud.
4. Major League Baseball became the latest American sports league to flex its activist muscles.
On Friday, Rob Manfred, the M.L.B. commissioner, pulled the 2021 All-Star Game out of suburban Atlanta in a rebuke over a new Georgia voting law that critics say will disenfranchise Black voters. Gov. Brian Kemp said the league had “caved to fear” as he tried to rally Republicans around the new voting limits.
Relocating the game — a move that players did not universally support — was a watershed moment for risk-averse baseball, and it showed once again that sports isn’t simply entertainment in a vacuum, our baseball reporter writes.
5. Ten bystanders who witnessed George Floyd’s death, ranging in age from 9 to 61, took the stand this week in Derek Chauvin’s trial, united by their anger, sadness and guilt.
Together they painted a picture of what transpired at a Minneapolis corner that went beyond the gruesome, widely circulated video of Mr. Floyd crying out that he couldn’t breathe as Mr. Chauvin knelt on his neck. The often tearful testimony highlighted the trauma of May 25, 2020, and the burden of witnessing a violent, slow-motion death.
“The more that the knee was on his neck and shimmies were going on, the more you saw Floyd fade away,” Donald Williams, a 33-year-old mixed martial arts fighter who works as a security guard, testified.
The trial will resume on Monday. Catch up on key takeaways so far.
6. Religious life in Jerusalem is edging back to normal thanks to Israel’s world-leading vaccine rollout.
On Friday, crowds returned to the Old City’s streets, along with one of Christianity’s most solemn commemorations — the Good Friday procession, above, as Christians made their way down the Via Dolorosa, along which they believe Jesus hauled the cross on which he was crucified.
Elsewhere, Easter still looks very different. In New York, churches are hoping increased attendance for services will bring back the donations whose absence has led to financial hardship during the pandemic.
And in Europe, Brexit has ruined Easter for Britain’s fine chocolate makers, turning exports to Europe into a logistical nightmare.
7. We have all hit a wall.
Do you often ask yourself, what time is it? What day is it? Why am I standing in front of the refrigerator staring at an old clove of garlic? You’re not alone. A year of uncertainty and loss has left many people in kind of a fog.
One expert said that state could lead to anhedonia, or the loss of the ability to take pleasure in activities. Another said the pandemic’s longevity had contributed to the sense that time is moving differently and had dulled our ability to form meaningful new memories. Resilience seems in short supply.
Nearly 700 people responded to a Times question about work burnout. Maybe some of your fellow readers’ feelings will ring true for you.
8. Gonzaga, the undefeated top seed in the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament, will face Baylor for the championship on Monday night.
But first, the women’s championship game. Arizona, the disruptive and defensive-minded newcomer, ousted Connecticut, the most decorated program in women’s college basketball, on Friday night to advance to the finals. The Wildcats will play Stanford, the tournament’s top seed over all. Tipoff is tonight at 6 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
9. Big Bird is going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Alex Da Corte, known for provocative, brightly colored installations, will showcase the beloved “Sesame Street” character on top of the New York museum this spring. But his version of the 8-foot-2 model of empathy and earnestness comes with a twist: The metal and fiberglass bird, now blue instead of yellow, will appear perched on a crescent moon and suspended on a mobile that sways in response to air currents.
Also at the Met: A miniature portrait commissioned by the 17th-century Mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal. Our critic Jason Farago explains how the stunning details of the eight-inch painting reveal “a master class in the political uses of cultural hybridity” and “dumbfounding, superhuman beauty.”
10. And finally, catch up on some great journalism.
Photographing ocean’s youngest monsters. Revisiting Guantanamo’s first detainees. Skiing in the Himalayas despite conflict and coronavirus. These and more await you in The Weekender.
Have an eye-opening week.
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