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The White House event to celebrate the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett – a gathering that appears to have spread the coronavirus – would have broken the law in Sweden.

It was too big. More than 200 people attended the Barrett celebration. In Sweden, no more than 50 people can attend public events. Anyone who organizes a large gathering is punished with a fine or up to six months in prison.

If you have been following the virus news from Sweden, this fact may surprise you. Sweden is notorious for its laissez-faire response. The leaders refused to impose a lockdown in the spring, insisting that it was akin to using a hammer to kill a fly. They also actively advised against wearing masks.

Since then, people in other countries who prefer a more casual approach have looked to Sweden as a role model. More recently, with new cases emerging in other European countries, some of the Swedish defense lawyers have sought justification.

How should you understand all of this? Several readers have asked me this question and the answers point to some lessons on how to fight the virus. I think there are three keys from Sweden:

1. It’s not a success story. Overall, Sweden’s decision to continue many activities unabated and hopes that increasing immunity to the virus would protect people does not look good. The country has suffered more than five times as many deaths per capita as neighboring Denmark and around ten times as many as Finland or Norway.

“It was a terrible idea to do what they did,” said Janet Baseman, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington.

With that in mind, it’s less of a surprise that Sweden’s recent viral performance looks mediocre rather than terrible.

3. Swedish officials have rightly been concerned about “sustainability”. Severe lockdowns have their own high costs to society. With a vaccine at least months away, societies likely have to grapple with how to resume activities while minimizing the risk.

The Swedish heads of state and government do not seem to have found the ideal strategy, but they are asking a reasonable question. “We are seeing a disease that we will have to deal with for a long time,” Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s leading epidemiologist, told the Financial Times, “and we have to build systems for it.”

The fact that Sweden is no longer an extreme outlier in new virus cases – even if life there looks more normal than in most other places – offers a new way of assessing the risk.


  • QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. Maureen Dowd interviews and profiling James Murdoch, who left his father’s company, partly because of political differences.

  • Lived life: In 1979, Carol Paumgarten opened Steps on Broadway, a dingy one-room dance studio in Manhattan. She trained three generations of New York dancers, and her studio welcomed stars like Misty Copeland, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Madonna. Paumgarten died at the age of 76.

The 1619 Project – a series of articles, podcast episodes, and more on the role of slavery in American history – sparked a passionate debate when Times Magazine published it last year. It has been argued that when enslaved Africans first landed in Virginia, 1619 was a founding date for the United States, as was 1776.

The series received widespread acclaim, and its creator, Nikole Hannah-Jones, won a Pulitzer Prize for her “comprehensive, provocative, and personal essay” at the heart of the project. The series has also been criticized by prominent historians, who argued that it contained inaccuracies such as the claim that the American Revolution was largely an attempt to protect slavery from Britain.

If you’ve heard of this debate but haven’t looked into it, now is a good time to do so. Bret Stephens, a columnist for the Times Opinion, published a column explaining why he agrees with the critics. You can also read a letter from five historians, followed by a response from Jake Silverstein, the magazine’s editor-in-chief. Jake later followed up with a second note and made a change. And last month, Nikole gave a talk about the project in Iowa, where she grew up.

Adam Serwer of The Atlantic wrote an overview that includes interviews with people on both sides of the debate.

Start the week off with a versatile coleslaw that breaks the monotony of your usual greens. Any type of chicken will work here, be it poached or grilled, or rotisserie leftovers from the night before. The miso sesame vinaigrette brightens the green. And you can use something other than cabbage; Any type of crispy, crunchy salad will work.

Few television programs are as comforting (and popular) as The Great British Baking Show. Since its premiere in 2010, it has remained one of the UK’s most popular shows, inspiring countless imitations and even a coloring book. Almost 11 million people saw the new season premiere last month.

“It’s a television series, but we always try to think of it as an event, much like a Wimbledon or an Olympics,” said the show’s executive producer. The Times reports how the status of the show has reached new heights in terms of viewing convenience.

How is the new generation reacting to the current climate in America? The Times featured 10 talented young black poets to answer this question through their work. They write about fire season, protests, civil rights, girl age and more. “The smoke in Oakland has hands,” writes 18-year-old Leila Mottley, describing dangerous streets full of smoke and ashes. Read the rest of her words here.

For more poetry, the Los Angeles Times put together a guide for American poet Louise Glück, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature last week.

Here’s today’s mini crossword and a clue: Oolong and so on (four letters).

You can find all of our puzzles here.


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