Trust Me, Sports Without Fans Is Not Sports

Remember what sports was like with crowds? Listen. Recorded as Nick Kyrgios took on Dominic Thiem in Melbourne on Friday night. MELBOURNE, Australia — For roughly the past two decades, the analytics crowd has peddled the idea that sports is essentially math, that what unfolds on the field of play is predictable and intelligible if viewed through a proper algorithm. Occasionally that crowd has even been right. And in many ways the pandemic sports environment was an analytics aficionado’s dream, a chance for games to unfold in a laboratory, free of the noise, both literal and figurative, that can turn an expected outcome into a beautiful mess. Now, nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, we really do know the

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A Decade After the Arab Spring, Autocrats Still Rule the Mideast

A decade ago, crowds massed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand the ouster of Egypt’s American-backed strongman, President Hosni Mubarak. In Washington, President Barack Obama made a fateful decision, calling on him to leave power. The backlash from other Arab potentates was swift, Mr. Obama recalled in his recent memoir. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates — a tiny country with an outsized military built on American weapons and training — told the president that he no longer saw the United States as a reliable partner. It was a “warning,” Mr. Obama wrote, that “the old order had no intention of conceding power without a fight.” Ten years later, the collisions between that

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‘Likely a Death Sentence’: Officials Fear Cold Weather Is Greater Risk for Homeless than Virus

Cities and community groups are wrestling with how to shelter a vulnerable population without exposing it to an airborne virus that spreads most easily indoors. KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For weeks after he opened a daytime shelter for the homeless, Jae Bennett was fairly rigid about the building’s 37-person capacity. The last thing he wanted was for a lapse in social distancing to cause the deadly coronavirus to spread among a population in which many people were in frail health. But then temperatures in Kansas City, Mo., plunged into the single digits a little more than a week ago and stayed there, the coldest arctic blast of the season. And Mr. Bennett looked into the eyes of people waiting outside

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China’s Crackdown on Muslims Extends to a Resort Island

The Utsuls of Hainan island were once celebrated by the government for their links to the larger Muslim world. Not anymore. SANYA, China — The call to prayer still echoes through the alleys of Sanya’s nearly 1,000-year-old Muslim neighborhood, where crescent-topped minarets rise above the rooftops. The government’s crackdown on the tiny, deeply pious community in this southern Chinese city has been subtle. Signs on shops and homes that read “Allahu akbar” — “God is greatest” in Arabic — have been covered with foot-wide stickers promoting the “China Dream,” a nationalistic official slogan. The Chinese characters for halal, meaning permissible under Islam, have been removed from restaurant signs and menus. The authorities have closed two Islamic schools and have twice

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W.H.O. Researcher Seeking Coronavirus Origins on His Trip to China

An interview with Peter Daszak, an animal disease specialist, just after his return from an investigative research mission to Wuhan, the site of the original Covid outbreak, and surrounding areas. A team of experts selected by the World Health Organization to investigate the origins of the virus that caused the Covid-19 pandemic returned last week from Wuhan, site of the world’s first outbreak. The team, having broken the ice with Chinese scientists, plans to produce a joint report on the possible origins of the virus. The two groups of scientists, from China and the W.H.O., agreed to pursue some ideas that the Chinese government has been promoting, like the possibility that the virus was transported on frozen food. But the

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New York Was the 1st Big School District to Reopen. Here’s What Happened.

Elementary schools have been open for months. As the city prepares to reopen middle schools, problems remain, but there is also cause for optimism. For Julie Zuckerman, an elementary school principal in Manhattan, last summer felt like one never-ending day filled with fear and confusion about New York City’s plan to resume in-person teaching. But in the months since classrooms opened in September, something has shifted. Teachers at the school, Public School 513 in Washington Heights, appear more at ease, and some say they would like to be in their classrooms even when the building closes because of coronavirus cases. Parents, too, seem more confident: About half of the students are in the building most days, up from less than

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‘S.N.L.’ Imagines a Victory Lap After Trump’s Acquittal

The opening sketch on “Saturday Night Live” presented satirical remarks from Republican allies like Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell. Within hours of the Senate’s vote to acquit former President Donald J. Trump on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, “Saturday Night Live” was imagining how some of Trump’s Republican allies in the Senate might be celebrating in a parody episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Alex Moffat played that Fox News host, who compared himself to a human White Claw and started his broadcast with what he called “a loose collection of scaremongering non sequiturs.” Among them, “Is AOC hiding in your house right now?” and “Pixar: Is it making our kids depressed or

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How a ‘Hard Quarantine’ Benefited a Player at the Australian Open

While some players blamed strict virus measures for their troubles at the event, Jennifer Brady of the United States thinks it might have helped her advance. The talk of the Australian Open is not just who made the arduous journey to the second week, but whether a so-called “hard quarantine” has taken a toll on players who did not. Several had to remain in their hotel rooms around the clock — deprived of a five-hour break for training and treatment afforded to everyone else — for 14 days after arriving if a passenger on their flight had tested positive for the coronavirus. Though Tennis Australia has not released a complete list of the players who were in hard quarantine, at

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U.K. Virus Variant Is Probably Deadlier, Scientists Say

New research finds that the British variant is “likely” to be linked to a higher risk of hospitalization and death, laying bare the danger facing countries that ease restrictions. LONDON — British government scientists are increasingly finding the coronavirus variant first detected in Britain to be linked to a higher risk of death than other versions of the virus, a devastating trend that highlights the serious risks and considerable uncertainties of this new phase of the pandemic. The scientists said last month that there was a “realistic possibility” that the variant was not only more contagious than others, but also more lethal. Now, they say in a new document that it is “likely” that the variant is linked to an

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Two People Are Fatally Stabbed in Subway in Possibly Related Attacks

Four people believed to be homeless were stabbed, and two of them killed, in overnight attacks that the New York police said could be related. A man and a woman were stabbed to death on New York City subway trains on Friday night, the police said, and two other people were stabbed but survived. Law enforcement officials said that all the attacks may have been committed by the same person and that they believed that all four victims were homeless. The fatal stabbings, miles apart but both on the A line, come amid a recent spate of violence in the subways, with an apparent rash of people getting pushed onto tracks, slashed and beaten. The first killing was reported shortly

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