William Langewiesche, “American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center” (part two, excerpts); Charles C. Mann, “Homeland Insecurity”; P. J. O'Rourke, “Letter From Egypt”; Witold Rybczynski, “The Bilbao Effect”; Caitlin Flanagan on Martha Stewart; Christopher Hitchens on Martin Amis; fiction by Roxana Robinson; and much more.
"There is a question," our correspondent writes, "that less-sophisticated Americans ask (and more-sophisticated Americans would like to): Why are people in the Middle East so crazy? Here, at the pyramids, was an answer from the earliest days of civilization: People have always been crazy."
Yes, all of the COVID-19 vaccines are very good. No, they’re not all the same.
Public-health officials are enthusiastic about the new, single-shot COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, despite its having a somewhat lower efficacy at preventing symptomatic illness than other available options. Although clinical-trial data peg that rate at 72 percent in the United States, compared with 94 and 95 percent for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, many experts say we shouldn’t fixate on those numbers. Much more germane, they say, is the fact that the Johnson & Johnson shot, like the other two, is essentially perfect when it comes to preventing the gravest outcomes. “I’m super-pumped about this,” Virginia’s vaccine coordinator told The New York Times last weekend. “A hundred percent efficacy against deaths and hospitalizations? That’s all I need to hear.”
We have been doing this so long, we’re forgetting how to be normal.
I first became aware that I was losing my mind in late December. It was a Friday night, the start of my 40-somethingth pandemic weekend: Hours and hours with no work to distract me, and outside temperatures prohibitive of anything other than staying in. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to fill the time. “What did I used to … do on weekends?” I asked my boyfriend, like a soap-opera amnesiac. He couldn’t really remember either.
Since then, I can’t stop noticing all the things I’m forgetting. Sometimes I grasp at a word or a name. Sometimes I walk into the kitchen and find myself bewildered as to why I am there. (At one point during the writing of this article, I absentmindedly cleaned my glasses with nail-polish remover.) Other times, the forgetting feels like someone is taking a chisel to the bedrock of my brain, prying everything loose. I’ve started keeping a list of questions, remnants of a past life that I now need a beat or two to remember, if I can remember at all: What time do parties end? How tall is my boss? What does a bar smell like? Are babies heavy? Does my dentist have a mustache? On what street was the good sandwich place near work, the one that toasted its bread? How much does a movie popcorn cost? What do people talk about when they don’t have a global disaster to talk about all the time? You have to wear high heels the whole night? It’s more baffling than distressing, most of the time.
The Oprah interview proved that the duchess has escaped royal control. But can she change the subject?
After the trial separation, here comes the messy divorce. And a vital question: Who gets custody of the narrative?
It has been less than a month since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle finalized their split from the British Royal Family, renouncing their patronages and honorary appointments as well as their income. The fallout between the couple and Buckingham Palace has been painful and public. “There is a lot that has been lost already,” Meghan told Oprah Winfrey in a two-hour interview broadcast last night on CBS—her relationship with her father, the baby she miscarried last year, even her surname. Halfway through, she compared herself to the Little Mermaid, who falls in love with a prince and loses her voice.
Your weird pandemic eating habits are probably fine.
For the first 34 years of my life, I always ate three meals a day. I never thought much about it—the routine was satisfying, it fit easily into my life, and eating three meals a day is just what Americans generally do. By the end of last summer, though, those decades of habit had begun to erode. The time-blindness of working from home and having no social plans left me with no real reason to plod over to my refrigerator at any specific hour of the day. To cope, I did what many Americans have done over the past year: I quasi-purposefully fumbled around for a new routine, and eventually I came up with some weird but workable results—and with Big Meal.
Big Meal is exactly what it sounds like: a meal that is large. It’s also untethered from linear time. Big Meal is not breakfast, lunch, or dinner—social constructs that no longer exist as such in my home—although it could theoretically occur at the traditional time for any of them. Big Meal comes when you’re ready to have it, which is a moment that only you can identify. For me, this is typically in the late afternoon, but sometimes it’s at breakfast. Generally, Big Meal happens once a day.
A growing number of clinicians are on an urgent quest to find treatments for a frighteningly pervasive problem. They’ve had surprising early success.
Photographs by Jonno Rattman
Image above: Nearly a year after she was infected with the coronavirus, Caitlin Barber still uses a wheelchair outside.
This article was published online on March 8, 2021.
The quest at Mount Sinai began with a mystery. During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in New York City, Zijian Chen, an endocrinologist, had been appointed medical director of the hospital’s new Center for Post-COVID Care, dedicated both to research and to helping recovering patients “transition from hospital to home,” as Mount Sinai put it. One day last spring, he turned to an online survey of COVID‑19 patients who were more than a month past their initial infection but still experiencing symptoms. Because COVID‑19 was thought to be a two-week respiratory illness, Chen anticipated that he would find only a small number of people who were still sick. That’s not what he saw.