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Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

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As global trade has grown, shipping companies have steadily increased ship sizes. But the Suez Canal blockage, in which a vessel longer than the Empire State Building, above, created a global shipping snarl that could take weeks or months to unravel, showed that bigger is not always better.

A question about pieces of a manuscript found in 1883 that may or may not be authentic led Jennifer Schuessler, a reporter covering intellectual life for The New York Times’s Culture Desk, into The Times’s archive. Here’s an edited excerpt.

Earlier this year, a scholar named Idan Dershowitz argued that 15 manuscript fragments that had surfaced in 1883 and that initially were said to contain an alternate version of the Book of Deuteronomy were indeed authentic ancient documents, and not the forgeries they were later denounced as.

The claim came with a wild back story involving a 19th-century Jerusalem antiquities dealer named Wilhelm Moses Shapira, who had offered them to the British Museum for 1 million pounds and then committed suicide after they were deemed fake.

As it turned out, the mysterious Shapira had made a number of fleeting appearances in The Times over the years. A skeptical 1873 column headlined “Explorations in the East,” describes a “Prof Shapira, of Jerusalem” (no first name given) as a leader in the often dubious trade. The anonymous correspondent wrote, “He sells a hundred things dug up out of the ground — tiles, pots, vases, tablets and pieces of statuary with inscriptions.”

A year later, in 1874, The Times reported that supposedly ancient Moabite pottery sold by Shapira, “the Great Showman of the East,” had been revealed as “a colossal swindle.” In 1883, after the Deuteronomy manuscripts were declared forgeries, the paper ran a scathing denunciation.



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Brussels Police Disperse April Fool’s Music Festival Crowd

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The police used water cannons and pepper spray to disperse a crowd of hundreds that had gathered in a park for a hoax April Fool’s Day music festival on Thursday, defying Covid-19 restrictions.

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Amber is a sports enthusiast who loves indulging in occasional football matches. She is a passionate journalist who flaunts a perfect hold over the English language. She currently caters his skills for the sports section of PoliticSay.



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Alabama to Open Vaccination to People 16 and Older

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“I ask, I plead with you, don’t give up the progress we have all fought so hard to achieve,” Mr. Biden said at the White House.

Alabama’s current set of restrictions, including a requirement to wear masks in public, expires on April 9, adding tension to a continuing battle between governors anxious to get their states open again, and the C.D.C. and Biden administration who continue to ask for patience. Several states have already dropped mask mandates.

“Please, this is not politics — reinstate the mandate,” Mr. Biden said Monday about the easing of restrictions nationwide, adding, “The failure to take this virus seriously is precisely what got us into this mess in the first place.”

Almost three million people are being vaccinated across the country per day, according to the seven-day average released by the C.D.C. on Friday. But only about 25 percent of Alabama’s total population has received one shot of a vaccine, below the national average of 31 percent, according to the agency.

Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi are tied as the states with the smallest percentage of people who have received at least one shot.



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As U.S. Shots Near 3 Million Daily, Experts Warn of Complacency

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As President Biden enters the homestretch of his first 100 days in office, the general declines in new virus cases, deaths and hospitalizations since January offer signs of hope for a weary nation.

But the average number of new cases has risen 19 percent over the past two weeks, and federal health officials say that complacency about the coronavirus could bring on another severe wave of infections.

“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an emotional plea to Americans this week. “But right now I’m scared.”

On the positive side, nearly a third of the people in the United States have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. As of early Saturday morning, nearly three million people on average were receiving a shot every day, up from about two million in early March.

The rising vaccination rate has prompted some state officials to accelerate their rollout schedules. This week, Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut expanded access to people 16 and older, several days ahead of schedule. And Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado opened universal eligibility about two weeks earlier than planned.

“No more having to sort out if you’re in or if you’re out,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, the deputy secretary of the Department of Health Services in Wisconsin, where anyone 16 or older will be eligible for a vaccine as of Monday. “It’s time to just move forward and get everybody with a shot in their arm.”

In another promising development, federal health officials said on Friday that Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus can travel “at low risk to themselves” within the United States and abroad.

But these days, most signs of hope are offset by peril.

Over the past week, there has been an average of 64,730 cases per day, an increase of 19 percent from two weeks earlier, according to a New York Times database. New deaths on average have declined, but they are still hovering around 900 a day. More than 960 were reported on Friday alone.

The C.D.C. predicted this week that the number of new Covid-19 cases per week in the United States would “remain stable or have an uncertain trend” over the next four weeks, and that weekly case numbers could be as high as about 700,000 even in late April.

Cases are already increasing significantly in many states, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast, as variants spread and some governors relax mask mandates and other restrictions. Dr. Walensky said this week that if states and cities continued to loosen public health restrictions, the nation could face a potential fourth wave.

Michigan, one of the worst-hit states, is reporting nearly 6,000 cases a day — up from about 1,000 a day in late February — even though half of its residents over 65 are now fully vaccinated.

And in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine said that new variants were aggravating the state’s caseload, even as vaccinations picked up.

“We have to understand that we are in a battle,” he said.

As if to underscore how fragile the nation’s recovery is, a quintessential American ritual — the start of the baseball season — has already faced a virus-related delay.

Major League Baseball officials said on Friday that the league had found only five positive cases in more than 14,000 tests of league personnel. But because four of those people were Washington Nationals players, the team’s Opening Day game against the New York Mets was postponed, and then the team’s full three-game weekend series.

“It’s one of those things that brings it to light that we’re not through it yet,” Brian Snitker, the Atlanta Braves manager, told The Associated Press. “We’re still fighting this.”

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