Missing Russian ballerina may have been dismembered, dissolved in acid

A ballerina from the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre who disappeared six years ago may have been chopped up and dissolved in sulfuric acid by a man who had sexually compromising images of her, according to reports. Russian investigators are reportedly pursuing a new lead in the case of 25-year-old Olga Demina, 25, who went missing in...
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Experts say Covid-19 cases are likely about to surge
Health care professionals prepare to screen people for the coronavirus at a parking lot in Landover, Maryland, on March 30, 2020. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images America keeps making the same mistakes over and over. So another surge of coronavirus cases seems likely. The surge of Covid-19 cases and deaths in America over the summer resulted from a toxic mix of factors: states reopening, lockdown fatigue, and a season typically filled with vacations and holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. People gathered and celebrated indoors — at bars, restaurants, and friends and family’s homes. Millions of people got sick, and tens of thousands died. This fall, experts worry it will all happen again: States are rolling back restrictions, people are eager to get back to normal, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. America may be on the verge of repeating the same mistakes, which would risk yet another surge in the Covid-19 epidemic. Coronavirus cases have already trended up since mid-September. On September 12, the US hit a recent low in its seven-day case average of around 35,000. As of September 26, it was back up to almost 45,000. The surge doesn’t seem to be driven by any one particular state — although some, like the Dakotas, are doing quite badly — but rather upticks across much of the country all at once. (Increased testing capacity is likely detecting more cases, too.) Part of the problem is America never really suppressed its Covid-19 cases to begin with. Think of a disease epidemic like a forest fire: It’s going to be really difficult to contain the virus when there are still flames raging in parts of the forest and small embers practically everywhere. The country always risks a full blaze with each step toward reopening and with each failure to take precautions seriously. Consider Florida. This month, the state reopened bars and, more recently, restaurants, despite the high risk of these indoor spaces. The last time Florida opened bars, in June, experts said the establishments were largely to blame for the state’s massive Covid-19 outbreak in the summer. As Florida reopens now, it has roughly two to three times the number of Covid-19 cases that it had in early June, and its test positivity rate suggests it’s still likely missing a lot of cases. The state is fanning its flames while its most recent fire is nowhere near extinguished. This is, in effect, what much of the country is doing now as it rushes to reopens schools, particularly colleges and universities, and risky indoor spaces. Coupled with recent Labor Day celebrations, experts worry that’s already leading to a new surge in Covid-19 cases. President Donald Trump, for his part, has encouraged rapid reopenings. From his “LIBERATE” tweets in the spring to his recent demands that schools reopen, Trump has pushed forward with his efforts to return society to normal even as the coronavirus keeps spreading and killing people in the US. The fall and winter threaten to make things much worse. Schools will continue to reopen. The cold in northern parts of America will push people back inside, where the virus has a much easier time spreading than the outdoors. Families and friends will come together for the holidays. A flu season could strain the health care system further. States are once again starting to reopen more widely, as officials face pressure from businesses to reopen indoor dining before colder temperatures make outdoor activities less feasible. Experts worry that Americans as a whole will get even more fatigued with social distancing, now that the country is more than six months into its battle against Covid-19. “It’s less excusable this time,” Crystal Watson, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told me. “We have an example of what happens when we reopen these types of businesses for indoor activities.” The good news is there’s still time to act. Cities, states, and the country as a whole could take social distancing seriously again. They could require masks where they aren’t already mandated. They could close bars and restaurants, supporting these businesses with a bailout, to prioritize keeping K-12 schools open while reducing other risks. Colleges and universities could ease demands for in-person teaching or at least embrace aggressive testing-and-tracing measures to mitigate the risks of causing further Covid-19 outbreaks. Without these steps, the fall and winter outbreaks could end up worse than the summer and potentially even the spring. That could mean not just more infections and deaths but yet another setback in America’s hopes of getting parts of life closer back to normal. “If you do things the right way, you can do them,” Cedric Dark, an emergency medicine physician at the Baylor College of Medicine, told me. “If you do them the wrong way, then you’re going to get cases.” We keep making the same mistakes After the spring outbreaks hit the Northeast of the US, much of the country, led by conservative states like Arizona, Florida, and Texas, moved forward with aggressive reopenings. The problem, experts said, is many of these places never suppressed their Covid-19 outbreaks. As epidemiologist Pia MacDonald at RTI International told me at the time, many states “never got to flat.” Case counts continued to climb, and states continued to reopen anyway. This created an environment that made it much easier for Covid-19 to spread. If there’s already some community transmission going on, then it’s simply going to be more likely that one person will infect another. Add more spaces in which infections are very likely — particularly close indoor spaces like bars and restaurants — and that risk can be increased dramatically. Today, the US seems to be heading in the same direction. While cases have fallen overall since late July, they plateaued at — and recently started rising from — a point that was still higher than the peak of Covid-19 cases in the spring (partly, but likely not entirely, attributable to more testing). Yet many states are moving forward with reopening once again. So MacDonald is now repeating the same thing she told me this summer: “We never got to low enough levels [of Covid-19] to start with in most places.” Of particular interest is indoor dining at restaurants and bars, which are reopening at varying levels across the country. Experts characterize these settings as perhaps the worst imaginable spaces for Covid-19 spread: People are close together for long periods of time; they can’t wear masks as they eat or drink; the air can’t dilute the virus like it can outdoors; and alcohol could lead people to drop their guards further. It was a recognition of all these risks that led many states to scale back and close indoor dining and bars during their summer outbreaks. This time, though, there’s another major variable: Schools are reopening. Some places have even reopened, or set plans to reopen, schools alongside bars or indoor dining — making it hard to separate the effects of either and potentially compounding new outbreaks. Already, there have been reports of outbreaks in K-12 settings, where students and teachers can potentially transmit the coronavirus to each other in the classroom. But there’s still a lot we don’t know about how younger kids, particularly in elementary schools, spread the virus. Some experts raised graver concerns about colleges and universities. Students in these institutions aren’t just potentially spreading the coronavirus in their classrooms, although that’s likely happening to some degree. They’re also showing up at bars, clubs, and indoor restaurants, partying at dorms, and drinking a lot more than they should. “College kids are college kids,” Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean of the Emory University School of Medicine, told me. “That’s what I always tell every university president I talk to: You can make all the plans you want, but at the end of the day, it’s what happens outside your plans that matters.” The good news, for now, is that infections in colleges and universities will skew younger, and younger people are less likely to suffer major complications, including deaths, from Covid-19. That helps explain, along with general improvements in treatment, why daily Covid-19 deaths have still trended down since August (although they’re still at more than 700 a day in the US). But young people can still get seriously ill and die from the coronavirus — and if enough of them get infected, that could show up in higher death tolls eventually. Even if that doesn’t happen, young people will likely interact with their teachers, parents, and grandparents at some point, potentially infecting them. That could produce yet another outcome that would look similar to the summer: The outbreaks started among young groups first but eventually spread to older populations who were more susceptible to illness and death. After the summer surges, Brown University School of Public Health dean Ashish Jha told me, “I was like, ‘Okay, now we’ve all been through this — every part of the country: the South, the West, the Midwest, the Northeast. There’s no denialism anymore that will work, because there’s been this long denial while it’s been there but not here.’” Yet, he said, “we’re starting to see this again.” He added, “I, at this point, feel like I clearly no longer understand why our country can’t learn its lessons and why we keep repeating the same mistakes.” The fall and winter are coming For months, experts have worried that the fall and winter would lead to more outbreaks, citing, as one contributor, the reopening of schools. That seems to be happening now, as cases start to creep up nationwide, with reported outbreaks in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities around the US. But things could still get worse. People are bound to get more fatigued with social distancing and the pandemic more broadly as time drags on. As months pass since the last huge wave of Covid-19 in the US, people are more likely to convince themselves it’s safe out there. If that happens, more people could end up going out and putting themselves in dangerous settings, infecting each other along the way. At the same time, colder temperatures, particularly in the northern parts of the US, will more likely push people indoors, where the virus is much more likely to spread thanks to poor ventilation. (One upside: This could have the opposite effect in southern parts of the country, where temperatures will get less unbearably hot, so the outdoors may actually get more tolerable.) As Thanksgiving rolls around, followed by Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s, families and friends will likely come together from around the country. That includes college and university students, who could come home from Covid-19 hot spots back in their dorms or classrooms. If you put this all together, there’s a real risk of a truly nationwide Covid-19 outbreak. As people come together from all over the country and return to home and school, they risk carrying the disease across local and state borders. That could result in a much more dispersed — and perhaps larger — coronavirus epidemic than the US has seen so far. “People will bring this back during Thanksgiving, during Christmas, during winter break,” Dark said. “This is a disease that has an incubation period of up to two weeks. So it’s not really safe to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to come home, and come back.’ … By the time you develop symptoms, you’ve already exposed your parents.” On top of all that, another flu season this fall and winter could strain health care systems, hindering hospitals’ abilities to treat Covid-19 patients and potentially contributing to more deaths. There are reasons to think it won’t get so bad. Maybe since so many people have already gotten sick in the US, there will be enough community immunity, as long as there’s enough social distancing and masking, to mitigate spread. Maybe people won’t ease up on proper precautions after seeing 200,000 Covid-19 deaths in the US. Perhaps social distancing and masking for Covid-19 will hold off another flu season, as seemed to happen in the Southern Hemisphere. But there’s a risk. And the numbers are already heading in the wrong direction. “The next number in the fall is likely going to shoot way up,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told me. “Likely well beyond 65,000, 70,000,” the summer’s previous peak. “I think this fall is going to be the biggest spike of all.” We still have time to act None of this set in stone. Experts told me again and again that the US still has time to act before it sees a repeat of the summer or worse. None of the ideas to prevent all of this are shocking or new. They’re all things people have heard before: More testing and contact tracing to isolate people who are infected, get their close contacts to quarantine, and deploy broader restrictions as necessary. More masking, including mandates in the 16 states that still don’t have one. More careful, phased reopenings. This is what’s worked in other countries, from Germany to South Korea to New Zealand, to contain outbreaks. It’s what studies support: As a review of the research published in The Lancet found, “evidence shows that physical distancing of more than 1 m is highly effective and that face masks are associated with protection, even in non-health-care settings.” It’s also what’s worked in the US. After suffering huge outbreaks in the spring, states like New York and Massachusetts have suppressed the coronavirus with such policies. Cities, such as San Francisco, have avoided bad outbreaks entirely with similar efforts. Even single universities, like the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus, have seen promising early results with aggressive testing and tracing. (The federal government would ideally be in charge of all of this, but Trump has by and large punted the pandemic down to the states to resolve.) “There’s no mystery about what causes new cases,” Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious diseases physician and medical director of the Special Pathogens Unit at Boston University School of Medicine, told me. “We have to make trade-off choices.” Much of the issue comes back to a careful reopening process. For this, some experts pointed to a budget model. The goal is to keep the spread of the coronavirus low enough that each new infection doesn’t always lead to more infections, making it so over time the country slides to zero cases. In other words, the goal is to keep the effective reproduction number, or R0 or Rt in scientific parlance, below one. Within that limited budget of an R0 or Rt lower than one, states can try to fit some places to reopen but not everything. Everything that reopens will add to the infection rate. Some places may have tiny, even negligible effects, such as parks. Some are bigger threats, like bars and indoor dining. And some may carry potentially high risk but still seem worth it to the community for their social benefits, like schools. The goal, then, is to balance out a reopening — doing it slowly, making it possible to see the effects of each extra step — to make sure outbreaks don’t get out of control. Ultimately, it may require not opening bars or indoor dining, perhaps ever, so schools and other more socially crucial places can open. At the same time, the government could offer shuttered businesses a bailout or other financial supports. “For us, as a society, to be able to send children to school, we have to make tough decisions and sacrifices in other areas,” Jorge Salinas, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa, told me. “We can’t have it all.” Other steps, too, could help build a bigger budget. More testing, tracing, and masking, for example, could reduce the infection rate in a community further, regardless of what else is going on. By striking this balance, the country can not only avoid more infections and deaths but potentially an outbreak from getting so bad that it necessitates another lockdown. While experts all agreed that there’s zero political appetite for a lockdown right now, a massive surge in the fall and winter could leave the US with no other option. Israel, for example, has shut down until early October at the earliest after suffering a massive increase in cases. The reality is that the US will likely not go back to normal until it vanquishes the virus through a vaccine or similar treatment — a process that could take months or years, even after a vaccine is proven safe and effective, as the country and world scale up distribution to actually reach sufficient levels of immunity within the population. But maybe the US will continue muddling along, or worse. The country has already shown a much higher tolerance for Covid-19 cases and deaths than the rest of the developed world. Trump, for his part, seems content with that — recently stating that the coronavirus “affects virtually nobody” and showing no interest in changing his hands-off approach. If that holds, America could suffer tens of thousands more predictable, preventable deaths, on top of the 200,000 Covid-19 deaths it’s already seen.
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The Fox News Powder Keg
Was it really happening? Even Fox News couldn’t decide. Just after 8:30 p.m. on November 8, 2016, Fox’s Chris Wallace tried to articulate what the world was seeing. “We’re all … at least, I’m coming to the conclusion tonight—conclusion’s the wrong word—open to the possibility …” Wallace began: “Donald Trump could be the next president of the United States.” Megyn Kelly erupted in laughter beside him. It was an alien sentence, a string of words that didn’t belong together. Wallace laughed too. “I said it’s just a possibility!”Most people use the word chaos to describe the night of Trump’s election. But every major network—including Fox News—was extremely cautious before declaring him the winner. It wasn’t until 2:40 a.m. Wednesday morning when Fox anchor Bret Baier squared to the camera for his sweep-of-history monologue. Pennsylvania, a blue state in every presidential contest since 1992, had flipped red. Fox cut to a sea of bobbing MAGA hats inside the Midtown Manhattan Hilton, just up the street from the studio. Shock snuck through Baier’s delivery: “What started off as unlikely, impossible, is now … reality.”This year, with an expected surge of mail-in ballots due to the pandemic, we may not know anything definitive for days. As my colleague Barton Gellman wrote, there is a blueprint for Trump to never concede should any shred of doubt remain about the outcome. Television executives have no “gentleman’s agreement” about how to handle this scenario. And at no network is the absence of a playbook more consequential than at Fox News. It doesn’t matter how CNN and MSNBC play this election: Fox will control the narrative.Fox News’s influence over American politics remains unmatched. (People don’t write best-selling books about the inner workings of PBS.) Its nightly audience is one and a half times that of MSNBC and nearly twice that of CNN. After four years of “fake news” slurs by the president and others, Fox enjoys a unique space: In the eyes of millions of Americans, and particularly Trump voters, if you see it on Fox News, it has to be true. On November 3, the network’s framing of the story may help alleviate nationwide chaos—or sow it.[Read: Do you speak Fox?]In lieu of its usual prime-time block of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, Fox turns to its nonpartisan anchors on election nights to project objectivity. Baier and Wallace will be back behind the desk this year, and Martha MacCallum will be in Kelly’s seat. There is no reason to believe that one of these hosts will go rogue and preemptively yell “TRUMP WINS!” at 9 o’clock. But it is crucial that they level with their audience about what is really happening with the numbers. Wallace has challenged Trump at various stages of his presidency, and will be the one to watch, tonally, as state projections trickle in. In July, Wallace asked the president whether he would accept the results of the election. “Look, you—I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no,” Trump replied. Speaking with reporters at the White House Wednesday night, Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and other swing states could be too close to call before midnight. Pennsylvania’s results may not be available for days. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that mail-in votes will be accepted through 5 p.m. on November 6, three days after polls close. Mail-in voting appears to be the biggest variable this year, and when the Fox anchors periodically pass the mic to conservative commentators, viewers are likely to be pummeled with anti-vote-by-mail propaganda.On Thursday, Carlson seized the alleged voter-fraud narrative. “If all the votes are counted in one night, no one will have time to issue rulings that throw out ballots they don’t like. That’s why judges in Pennsylvania and Michigan want poll workers to count votes for WEEKS after election day,” Carlson said on his show. “It’ll be a disaster, we know that for certain.” Later that night, Trump tweeted, “Democrats are Rigging our 2020 election!” alongside a clip from Carlson’s broadcast.According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 61 percent of Republicans who only consume talk radio and/or Fox News say mail-in-ballot fraud “is a major problem.” (Trump voted by mail last month.) Baier, Wallace, and MacCallum might play it straight, but other voices on Fox are not held to the same standards. As the hours tick by, Fox guests will be free to interpret whatever election data happen to be available, then frame the information as favorable to Trump. Millions of Americans will hear these arguments, as will the president. The Trump campaign may also influence talking points that make it directly to air. This has happened before, on Election Night, on Fox News.On November 6, 2012, the Fox contributor Karl Rove, a former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, refused to believe that Barack Obama had actually won Ohio. Around 11:40 p.m., nothing could change Rove’s mind. At one point, Megyn Kelly theatrically left the set and walked with a cameraperson backstage to the network’s “decision desk” to show Rove—and the audience—how the sausage is made: a roomful of guys in rumpled suits crunching numbers on desktop computers. Rove wasn’t sold. He spoke of the votes yet to come in from Hamilton County, Delaware County, and other corners of Ohio. Just before midnight, the Fox chyron below Rove read: Barack Obama re-elected president. Rove still wasn’t convinced.“I’m just raising the question of our responsibility to call these things when it appears to ordinary Americans that we are not leading the pack for the sake of leading the pack,” Rove said.Eight years later, the demand at the core of Rove’s “meltdown”—patience—suddenly feels prescient. I called Rove last week and asked him about that night: What did it feel like to have everyone laughing him off?“That’s not what they were saying off camera,” Rove told me, snickering. “People were saying, ‘You’re right.’” He grew heated as we talked. “With all due respect to Megyn Kelly, she had no idea whether to call Ohio or not. If you showed her the voting patterns for Lucas County, she’d say, ‘What are those?’” (Fox News declined to make its talent available for this story. Kelly, who is no longer with the network, also declined to speak.)Obama won Ohio by more than 100,000 votes, and Rove’s on-air arguments were never vindicated. Rove told me that the Fox decision desk “had more information” than he did that night. His intel was inherently biased, coming directly from sources within the Romney campaign. What will Rove’s 2020 equivalent say on behalf of the Trump campaign? And what if this person simply refuses to back down?“Networks run hot and cold,” Rove said. “I was on the opposite side of this in 2004. We were up by, I think it was 114,000 votes in Ohio. No network would call Ohio until, like, 2:30 or 3 o’clock in the morning. I found it excruciating, but on the other hand, it was responsible.”I’ve spent the past week rewatching old Fox News election broadcasts. Rove’s 2012 tirade made for compelling TV, but embedded within his argument was a reasonable point: “All I’m saying is we have one instance where something was prematurely called.”During the 2000 election, Fox chairman Roger Ailes hired George W. Bush’s cousin, John Prescott Ellis, to run the Fox News decision desk. The network famously called the race for Bush just after 2 a.m. with incomplete data. Other networks soon followed suit. Vice President Al Gore conceded, then recanted his concession, leading to a weeks-long fight that ended with a Supreme Court ruling in Bush’s favor. Should a similar chain of events occur this year, they will almost certainly benefit the president.[Read: The Bush-Gore recount is an omen for 2020]Trump knows this. Speaking Wednesday at the White House, Trump said: “I think this will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices, and I think the system’s going to go very quickly.” GOP senators have already taken to saying they will accept the result determined “by the courts.”I asked the Biden campaign how it plans to respond if various networks are out of sync in calling the race in November. “We expect all news organizations who make determinations about election results to act responsibly based on data and their duty to tell the American people the truth, as they all have during past presidential elections,” T.J. Ducklo, Joe Biden’s national press secretary, said. I posed the same question to the Trump campaign, which offered no response.In a statement, Fox News said: “The integrity of our Decision Desk is rock solid. We have full confidence in each of the consummate professionals who run it and who are in charge of our Voter Analysis System, which made its stellar debut in the 2018 mid-term elections. We will call this presidential election carefully and accurately, relying on data and numbers.”What, I asked Rove, is the responsibility of a channel such as Fox News on an election night?“Not to make a premature call,” he said flatly.
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Democrats prepare for Trump to disrupt the election
President Donald Trump's repeated claims that the presidential election will be rigged and his refusal to commit to a peaceful transition have ratcheted up Democratic fears Trump will mobilize the federal government to help him win in November, sparking furious preparations for a post-election counterattack.
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Amazon announces Prime Day 2020 dates: How to sign up for access to deals
Jeff Bezos' Black Friday is nearly upon us.
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What will it take for Celtics to advance past the Eastern Conference Finals?
Boston has reached the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the past four years, but have nothing to show for it. What is next?       
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D.C. and Maryland have new policies allowing prisoners to vote. Making it happen is hard.
After expanding prisoner voting rights, D.C. and Maryland are finding it's not easy to get ballots to those who are incarcerated.
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