Covid deaths devastate India
India is experiencing a terrible outbreak of the coronavirus, with more than 300,000 new infections and 2,000 deaths per day, up from fewer than 100 deaths per day in February. Experts warn the true death toll is far higher than officially reported.
A sluggish vaccination campaign and an insidious new virus variant discovered in India may be behind the surge, which has kept crematories burning nonstop and left hospitals running out of oxygen. One crematory worker told The Times that he had never seen such an endless assembly line of death.
The Biden administration said last night that it had partially lifted a ban on the export of raw materials for vaccines and would also supply India with therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and personal protective gear.
Background: Many officials and ordinary citizens stopped taking precautions against the virus after India initially avoided the death tolls seen by other big countries. Some believed that India’s low levels of obesity and low median age meant that the country was not simply on a delayed Covid timetable.
In other developments:
American tourists who have been fully vaccinated against the virus will be able to visit the E.U. over the summer, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said in an interview.
Three months before the Olympics, Japan declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and Osaka as cases continue to rise.
The U.S. lifted its pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a one-shot dose essential to the global inoculation effort.
The Moroccan-born Israeli fashion designer Alber Elbaz, who rejuvenated the French fashion house Lanvin, died at 59 on Saturday from the virus.
The Academy Awards
Held almost two month later than usual, the Academy Awards last night took place at a scaled down, in-person event, split between the Dolby Theater in Hollywood and Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. You can follow our coverage here and see the full list of winners.
Though the academy remains overwhelmingly white and male, the organization has invited more women and people of color into its ranks following #OscarsSoWhite protests in 2015 and 2016, when the acting nominees were all white. This year, nine of the 20 acting nominations went to people of color.
“It has been quite a year, and we are still smack dab in the middle of it,” said Regina King, the evening’s host, referencing the pandemic and the George Floyd murder trial. “Our love of movies helped to get us through.”
Among the evening’s victors:
Anthony Hopkins won best actor for “The Father,” a scalding drama about a man stricken by dementia.
The supporting actress award went to Yuh-Jung Youn for playing a comically cantankerous grandmother in “Minari.”
Chloé Zhao won best director for “Nomadland,” a bittersweet meditation on grief and the damaged American dream. The movie was also named best picture.
Daniel Kaluuya was named best supporting actor for playing the Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Emerald Fennell, a first-time nominee, won best original screenplay for “Promising Young Woman,” a startling revenge drama.
Dozens killed in Iraq hospital fire
A fire sparked by an exploding oxygen cylinder killed at least 82 people, most of them Covid-19 patients and their relatives, at a Baghdad hospital late on Saturday.
Officials said that the hospital, which is in one of the city’s poorer neighborhoods, had no smoke detectors, sprinkler system or fire hoses, and that flammable material used in the ward’s false ceilings allowed the fire to spread quickly.
Doctors and rescuers described a hospital crowded with relatives of patients despite what was supposed to be a ban on most visitors to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. Because of a lack of nursing staff, Iraqi hospitals, even in Covid wards, require a relative to help look after a patient.
Troubling trend: A European Commission report from early this year warned of the dangers of potential fires in hospitals because of increased oxygen use during the pandemic. Last year, almost 70 people were killed in hospital fires around the world related to supplemental oxygen.
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Sister Teresa Forcades, above, is a Catholic nun, a doctor, a staunch leftist — and a longstanding vaccine skeptic, who believes that profit-driven corporations cannot be trusted to deliver safe vaccines. Her views put her at odds with governments, medical experts and even Pope Francis.
“I never doubted her good intentions,” said José Martín-Moreno, a professor of preventive medicine and public health in Spain. “But the most dangerous people are those who have half-truths, because they have an element of truth somewhere.”
ARTS AND IDEAS
Behind ‘Strange Fruit’
The anthem “Strange Fruit” has garnered renewed attention after the release of “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” which chronicles the government’s efforts to suppress the song, writes my colleague Bryan Pietsch, in this lightly edited excerpt.
When Billie Holiday first performed “Strange Fruit” in 1939, the song was so bold for the time that she could sing it only in certain places where it was safe to do so.
The song likened the lynched bodies of Black people to “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.” Its message — conveyed with lines like “Pastoral scene of the gallant South, the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth” — was immensely controversial.
Ahmet Ertegun, the legendary music executive, hailed it as “a declaration of war” and “the beginning of the civil rights movement.”
But though many believed Holliday was responsible for the song’s chilling lyrics, it was in fact written by Abel Meeropol, a white Jewish schoolteacher in the Bronx, after he saw a photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Ind., in 1930. It was first published as a poem in the New York teachers’ union magazine in 1937.
In the 21st century, “Strange Fruit” has lived on, sampled in the 2000 song “What’s Really Going On,” in which the singer Dwayne Wiggins recounts an episode of racial profiling at the hands of the police in Oakland, Calif.
And as the nation continues to reckon with a series of killings of unarmed Black people by the police, “Strange Fruit” has maintained its place in the national conversation about racism.