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Good morning. More than 10 percent of Oregon residents have evacuated their homes. Wall Street has its first major female C.E.O. And the debate continues about the U.S. virus response.
Last week’s newsletter comparing the U.S. coronavirus death toll to the global average helped spark a continuing debate: What’s the fairest expectation of how bad the pandemic should have been in this country?
Your answer to that question guides your judgment of the Trump administration’s response. Ross Douthat of The Times has argued that it was merely mediocre, while Vox’s German Lopez and The Atlantic’s David Frum consider it to have been far less effective than other countries’ responses.
One of the people who’s weighed in — via email — is Donald McNeil. By now, you may know him as the Times science reporter who has frequently appeared on “The Daily” podcast to talk about the coronavirus.
Donald makes a fascinating point: Don’t look only at snapshots, like a country’s per capita death toll. “It’s not fair to pick one point in time and say, ‘How are we doing?’” he writes. “You can only judge how well countries are doing when you add in the time factor” — that is, when the virus first exploded in a given place and what has happened since.
The pandemic, he adds, is like a marathon with staggered start times.
The virus began spreading widely in Europe earlier than in North America. Much of Europe failed to contain it at first and suffered terrible death tolls. The per capita toll in a few countries, like Britain, Italy and Spain, remains somewhat higher than in the U.S. But those countries managed to get the virus under control by the late spring. Their caseloads plummeted.
In the U.S., the virus erupted later — yet caseloads never plummeted. Almost every day for the past six months, at least 20,000 Americans have been diagnosed with the virus. “Europe learned the hard lesson and applied remedies,” as Donald says. “We did not, even though we had more warning.”
This chart makes the point:
The population-adjusted death toll in the U.S. surpassed Western Europe’s two months ago. The U.S. toll is far above those of France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Australia and many other countries — and is on pace to overtake Italy’s in the next few days and Britain’s and Spain’s not long after that.
Donald does add one important caveat. “We won’t really be able to judge until it’s over,” he says. Cases have recently begun rising again in Spain and some other parts of Europe, raising the possibility that Europe is on the verge of a new surge of deaths. In the U.S., Labor Day gatherings and the reopening of some schools may cause new outbreaks — or may not.
For now, the simplest summary seems to be this: Adjusting for time, there is no large, rich country that has suffered as much as the U.S.
THREE MORE BIG STORIES
1. Wildfires rage in the West
States usually send firefighters to help nearby states battle wildfires. But with so much of the West now on fire, there aren’t enough firefighters to go around. “California, Oregon, Washington — we are all in the same soup of cataclysmic fire,” Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington said.
Map: The Times is tracking the location of the fires along the West Coast.
2. China targets the Biden campaign
Chinese hackers have been attacking the private email accounts of Joe Biden’s campaign staff, according to a detailed assessment released by Microsoft. The findings contradict the Trump administration’s claim that China is meddling in the election to help the Biden campaign.
Security experts say Russia still poses the more serious threat: In the past few weeks, its agents have targeted the accounts of more than 6,000 politicians, staff members and consultants from both parties, Microsoft said.
3. The face of American leadership
The Times examined the racial diversity of nearly 1,000 leaders in dozens of industries. Among the most diverse: police chiefs and House members. Among the least: Trump administration officials, senators, university presidents, magazine and book editors and sports-team owners.
Related: Black police chiefs are often in a precarious position, facing skepticism from both the officers they lead and the communities they come from.
Here’s what else is happening
Today is the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The memorial services in New York and elsewhere will be different this year, because of the pandemic.
A large fire erupted in Beirut’s port on Thursday, terrifying residents who are still recovering from last month’s explosion.
Before the first game of the N.F.L. season last night, the Houston Texans remained in their locker room during the playing of both the national anthem and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is often known as the Black national anthem.
Serena Williams lost in the semifinals of the U.S. Open, meaning she remains one Grand Slam singles tennis title short of Margaret Court’s record 24.
Lives Lived: The British actress Diana Rigg enthralled London and New York theater audiences with her performances in classic roles for more than a half-century. She remained best known as the quintessential new woman of the 1960s on the television series “The Avengers” and found new fans later playing Lady Olenna Tyrell on “Game of Thrones.” She died at 82.
IDEA OF THE DAY: The value of rest
The N.B.A. playoffs — despite being played in two fan-less arenas at a Walt Disney World “bubble”— have been gloriously entertaining so far. (Tonight brings a much-anticipated deciding seventh game between the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors.)
Why has the quality of play been so high? One reason seems to be that players are less tired than they normally are for the playoffs. The pandemic forced the league to take a four-month break in the middle of the regular season. And since the league restarted, teams have not had to endure frequent airplane trips. Stuck in the bubble, players also can’t go out on the town after games.
All of which has some people wondering whether the N.B.A. should make some changes after the pandemic is over. Sopan Deb, who covers the N.B.A. for The Times, says that this experience could increase calls to shorten the regular season from its usual 82 games. And Dennis Lindsey, a Utah Jazz executive, has suggested that the league consider scheduling back-to-back games in the same city between the same teams, as baseball already does.
“The players feel better,” Lindsey said, about the current playoffs, “and frankly, we need to listen to the players.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT PASTA
Weekend cooking is easy with this one-pot dish of pasta and sausage. Cumin infuses it with earthiness, and the addition of spinach (or baby arugula, or kale) means you’re getting some greens in, too. Swap the meat for mushrooms to make it vegetarian.
End unpaid internships. Invest in a national arts program to foster local talent. Embrace online streaming of performances (even on TikTok feeds) for accessibility. Six months after most traditional venues were forced to shut down, The Times spoke with 20 figures in theater to map out next steps for changing — and improving — the industry.
A bittersweet goodbye: Ben Brantley, The Times’s chief theater critic for more than two decades, is stepping down. “This pandemic pause in the great, energizing party that is the theater seemed to me like a good moment to slip out the door,” Ben said. “But when the theater returns, I hope to be there — as a writer, an audience member and, above all, the stark raving fan I have been since I was a child.” You can revisit his work here.
The ‘Cuties’ controversy
After “Cuties,” the debut feature film by the French-Senegalese director Maïmouna Doucouré, arrived on Netflix this week, the hashtag #CancelNetflix began trending on social media.
The film follows the coming of age of an 11-year-old girl who joins a group of friends with their own dance troupe. Even before its American release, the movie was condemned online — in part by followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory — for promotional imagery that depicted the young girls posing provocatively. Its director received death threats as part of the backlash.
Many observers took the film’s marketing to “suggest that the film celebrates children’s sexualized behavior,” Richard Brody in The New Yorker writes. “In fact, the subject of the film is exactly the opposite: it dramatizes the difficulties of growing up female in a sexualized and commercialized media culture.”