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America Stands Alone

2020-08-06 09:50:18
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Nearly every country has struggled to contain the coronavirus. But only one affluent nation has suffered a severe, sustained outbreak for more than four months: the United States.

Our colleague David Leonhardt — the usual writer of this newsletter — and a team of other Times journalists around the world interviewed scientists and public health experts to reconstruct America’s unique failure. Their reporting points to two central themes.

First, the United States has a tradition of prioritizing individualism over government restrictions. That aversion to collective action helped lead to inadequate state lockdowns and inconsistent adherence to mask wearing based on partisanship instead of public health.

The administration’s travel restrictions were insufficient. Health officials initially gave confusing advice around wearing masks in public. And the president’s public statements — including claiming that the virus wasn’t serious and would disappear — regularly spread misinformation. In no other high-income country have political leaders so frequently departed from expert advice.

Together, skepticism toward collective action and the administration’s scattered approach have undermined the national response to the pandemic. True, the United States has made some improvements, including on mask wearing and testing. But unlike in South Korea, Germany and other countries, the virus continues to overwhelm daily life for Americans.

The frustration for many experts is that this outcome was avoidable. As one said: “This isn’t actually rocket science. We know what to do, and we’re not doing it.”

Before the blast, corruption and financial mismanagement had caused shortages of critical imports like food and medicine, and a failed government policy led banks to limit withdrawals, costing many Lebanese their savings.

“Destroyed homes and businesses can’t get fixed if the banks won’t let people access their deposits,” Ben Hubbard, The Times’s Beirut bureau chief, told us. “And the lack of dollars will make it that much harder for the country to import all that it needs to bounce back, from glass and cement to medical equipment.”

What the videos show: Times reporters reviewed more than 70 videos of the incident and satellite images of its aftermath to better understand the blast and the devastation it left behind.

If you’re looking to help: Groups like the Lebanese Red Cross and Baytna Baytak, which is working to shelter those displaced by the blast, have mobilized in the country.


American intelligence agencies are scrutinizing efforts by Saudi Arabia, working with China, to build up its ability to produce nuclear fuel. A classified analysis has raised alarms that doing so could be a cover to process uranium and move toward development of a weapon, U.S. officials told The Times.

American officials have searched for decades for evidence that the Saudis are moving toward a nuclear weapon, and the kingdom has made no secret of its determination to keep pace with Iran. But the spy agencies have been reluctant to warn of progress, for fear of repeating the colossal intelligence mistake that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.


The United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima 75 years ago today. Three days later, a second bomb leveled Nagasaki.

The attacks killed an estimated 200,000 people. Now the survivors — known as hibakusha in Japan — are dwindling, numbering around 130,000 and averaging 83 years old. That has some envisioning ways to keep the historical memory of the bombings alive.

This heavily spiced twist on a burger is the perfect remedy to a dinnertime rut. It’s inspired by Pakistani chapli kebabs — thin, flavorful patties often served with naan. This version swaps the naan for buns, but what really sells the dish is the homemade condiments that come together in minutes: a creamy herbed yogurt sauce and a tangy ketchup spiked with tamarind paste.


Classical music tends to draw an older crowd: The average age of the audience at the Metropolitan Opera last season, for example, was 57. And for years, classical music institutions, worried about the sustainability of relying on older patrons and subscribers, have made elaborate attempts to engage younger audiences.

“Aging audiences are pointed to as an ominous indicator that this art form continues on a slow, inexorable death spiral,” writes The Times’s classical music critic Anthony Tommasini. But that shouldn’t be the case, he argues in a new essay.

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