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C.D.C. Internal Report Calls Delta Variant as Contagious as Chickenpox

The Delta variant is much more contagious, more likely to break through protections afforded by the vaccines and may cause more severe disease than all other known versions of the virus, according to an internal presentation circulated within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the agency, acknowledged on Tuesday that vaccinated people with so-called breakthrough infections of the Delta variant carry just as much virus in the nose and throat as unvaccinated people, and may spread it just as readily, if less often.

But the internal document lays out a broader and even grimmer view of the variant.

The Delta variant is more transmissible than the viruses that cause MERS, SARS, Ebola, the common cold, the seasonal flu and smallpox, and it is as contagious as chickenpox, according to the document, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

The immediate next step for the agency is to “acknowledge the war has changed,” the document said. Its contents were first reported by The Washington Post on Thursday evening.

The document’s tone reflects alarm among C.D.C. scientists about Delta’s spread across the country, said a federal official who has seen the research described in the document. The agency is expected to publish additional data on the variant on Friday.

“The C.D.C. is very concerned with the data coming in that Delta is a very serious threat that requires action now,” the official said.

There were 71,000 new cases per day on average in the United States, as of Thursday. The new data suggest that vaccinated people are spreading the virus and contributing to those numbers — although probably to a far lesser degree than the unvaccinated.

Dr. Walensky has called transmission by vaccinated people a rare event, but other scientists have suggested it may be more common than once thought.

The agency’s new masking guidelines for vaccinated people, introduced on Tuesday, were based on the information presented in the document. The C.D.C. recommended that vaccinated people wear masks indoors in public settings in communities with high transmission of the virus.

But the internal document hints that even that recommendation may not go far enough. “Given higher transmissibility and current vaccine coverage, universal masking is essential,” the document said.

The agency’s data suggest that people with weak immune systems should wear masks even in places that do not have high transmission of the virus. So should vaccinated Americans who are in contact with young children, older adults, or otherwise vulnerable people.

There are roughly 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 162 million vaccinated Americans, according to data collected by the C.D.C. as of July 24 that was cited in the internal presentation. But the agency does not track all mild or asymptomatic infections, so the actual incidence may be higher.

Infection with the Delta variant produces virus amounts in the airways that are tenfold higher than what is seen in people infected with the Alpha variant, which is also highly contagious, the document noted.

The amount of virus in a person infected with Delta is a thousandfold more than what is seen in people infected with the original version of the virus, according to one recent study.

The C.D.C. document relies on data from multiple studies, including an analysis of a recent outbreak in Provincetown, Mass., which began after the town’s Fourth of July festivities. By Thursday, that cluster had grown to 882 cases. About 74 percent were vaccinated, local health officials have said.

Detailed analysis of the spread of cases showed that people infected with Delta carry enormous amounts of virus in their nose and throat, regardless of vaccination status, according to the C.D.C. document.

“This is one of the most impressive examples of citizen science I have seen,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. “The people involved in the Provincetown outbreak were meticulous in making lists of their contacts and exposures.”

Infection with the Delta variant may be more likely to lead to severe illness, the document noted. Studies from Canada and Scotland found that people infected with the variant are more likely to be hospitalized, while research in Singapore indicated that they are more likely to require oxygen.

Still, the C.D.C.’s figures show that the vaccines are highly effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death in vaccinated people, experts said.

“Overall, Delta is the troubling variant we already knew it was,” said John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. “But the sky isn’t falling and vaccination still protects strongly against the worse outcomes.”

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As Coronavirus Surges in Indonesia, Child Deaths Increase

Hundreds of children in Indonesia have died from the coronavirus in recent weeks, many of them under age 5, a mortality rate greater than that of any other country and one that challenges the idea that children face minimal risk from Covid-19, doctors say.

The deaths, more than 100 a week this month, have come as Indonesia confronts its biggest surge yet in coronavirus cases over all — and as its leaders face mounting criticism that they have been unprepared and slow to act.

“Our numbers are the highest in the world,” the head of the Indonesian Pediatric Society, Dr. Aman Bhakti Pulungan, said of the death rate. “Why are we not giving the best for our children?”

The jump in child deaths coincides with the surge of the Delta variant, which has swept through Southeast Asia, where vaccination rates are low, causing record outbreaks not only in Indonesia, but in Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam as well.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous nation, this month overtook India and Brazil in the number of daily cases, becoming the new epicenter of the pandemic. The government reported nearly 50,000 new infections and 1,566 deaths among the entire population on Friday.

Based on reports from pediatricians, children now make up 12.5 percent of the country’s confirmed cases, an increase over previous months, said Dr. Aman, executive director of the pediatric association. More than 150 children died from Covid-19 during the week of July 12 alone, he said, with half the recent deaths involving those younger than 5.

Over all, Indonesia has reported more than three million cases and 83,000 deaths, but health experts say the actual figures are many times higher because testing has been very limited. Critics say the nation’s leaders have relegated health experts to a secondary role in combating the spread of the virus, even after the Delta variant devastated India earlier this year.

“The government has never taken this pandemic seriously from the beginning,” said Alexander Raymond Arifianto, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “The voice of the actual experts in how to best handle the pandemic is simply not being heard.”

On Sunday, Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, extended some restrictions on gatherings and commerce through Aug. 2 but relaxed others, such as allowing traditional markets to resume operating as usual with strict health protocols.

Mr. Joko, a former businessman who has been reluctant to impose lockdowns that slow the economy, had said he would begin lifting restrictions if case numbers declined.

“With our hard work together, God willing, we can soon be free from Covid 19 and the socio-economic activities of the community can return to normal,” he said Sunday evening.

More than 800 children in Indonesia under the age of 18 have died from the virus since the pandemic began, Dr. Aman said, but the majority of those deaths have occurred only in the past month.

“Until now, children have been the hidden victims of this pandemic,” said Dr. Yasir Arafat, Asia health adviser to the nonprofit group Save the Children. “Not anymore.”

“Not only are countries like Indonesia seeing record numbers of children dying from the virus,” Dr. Yasir said, “but we’re also seeing an alarming rise in children missing out on routine vaccinations and nutrition services that are critical for their survival, which should ring major alarm bells.”

Health experts said a number of factors contributed to the high number of deaths among children. Some could be vulnerable to the virus because of underlying health conditions such as malnutrition, obesity, diabetes and heart disease, doctors said.

The country’s low vaccination rate is another factor. Just 16 percent of Indonesians have received one dose and only 6 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. Like other countries, Indonesia does not vaccinate children under 12 and only recently began vaccinating those between 12 and 18.

At the same time, many hospitals have been stretched beyond their limit by the recent surge in cases, with patients waiting in hallways and overflow tents for a bed in a ward to open. Few hospitals are set up to care for children with Covid.

“If the children get sick, where are we going to take them?” Dr. Aman asked. “To the emergency room? Emergency wards are overwhelmed with adults. And as you have seen for the past couple of weeks, people have to wait at the emergency room for days. How do we expect children to go through that?”

With hospitals at capacity, about two-thirds of adult patients are in isolation at home, which increases the chance that children will be infected, said Edhie Rahmat, executive director for Indonesia at the nonprofit health-care group Project HOPE.

Infants are also put at risk by the tradition of friends and neighbors visiting a newborn’s home to celebrate the birth, he said.

“These newborns are being released from hospitals with negative Covid-19 status, but later contracting Covid-19 and dying after being visited by neighbors and extended family members,” Mr. Edhie said. “It is heartbreaking.”

Dr. Aman said educating the public and getting more people to comply with health protocols would be a good start in protecting children.

“It all goes back to the adults,” he said. “The adults are the stubborn ones. They refuse to wear a mask. They bring their children to crowded places.”

Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 17,500 islands, also ranks in the bottom third among nations in testing, said Dr. Windhu Purnomo, a lecturer in epidemiology at Airlangga University in Surabaya.

The country’s health minister, Budi Gunadi Sadikin, has set a goal of 400,000 tests a day. But the country has never come close to that figure. Last week, the number dipped below 115,000.

Positive tests are averaging more than 30 percent, a sign that the virus is spreading rapidly and that not enough tests are being conducted. The World Health Organization recommends a positivity rate below 5 percent.

“If we evaluate these numbers, this means that the emergency restrictions haven’t been working,” Dr. Windhu said.

Luhut Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment and perhaps Mr. Joko’s most trusted adviser, is leading the country’s Covid-19 response. He pledged last week that the government would increase testing and tracing and provide more isolation centers, especially in densely populated neighborhoods.

“Believe me that we are doing our best, but this Delta variant is a difficult situation and that is the reality of it,” Mr. Luhut told reporters. “No country in the world can claim they have overcome it.”

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Opinion | What’s Ripping American Families Apart?

At least 27 percent of Americans are estranged from a member of their own family, and research suggests about 40 percent of Americans have experienced estrangement at some point.

The most common form of estrangement is between adult children and one or both parents — a cut usually initiated by the child. A study published in 2010 found that parents in the U.S. are about twice as likely to be in a contentious relationship with their adult children as parents in Israel, Germany, England and Spain.

The Cornell sociologist Karl Pillemer, author of “Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them,” writes that the children in these cases often cite harsh parenting, parental favoritism, divorce and poor and increasingly hostile communication often culminating in a volcanic event. As one woman told Salon: “I have someone out to get me, and it’s my mother. My part of being a good mom has been getting my son away from mine.”

The parents in these cases are often completely bewildered by the accusations. They often remember a totally different childhood home and accuse their children of rewriting what happened. As one cutoff couple told the psychologist Joshua Coleman: “Emotional abuse? We gave our child everything. We read every parenting book under the sun, took her on wonderful vacations, went to all of her sporting events.”

Part of the misunderstanding derives from the truth that we all construct our own realities, but part of the problem, as Nick Haslam of the University of Melbourne has suggested, is there seems to be a generational shift in what constitutes abuse. Practices that seemed like normal parenting to one generation are conceptualized as abusive, overbearing and traumatizing to another.

There’s a lot of real emotional abuse out there, but as Coleman put it in an essay in The Atlantic, “My recent research — and my clinical work over the past four decades — has shown me that you can be a conscientious parent and your kid may still want nothing to do with you when they’re older.”

Either way, there’s a lot of agony for all concerned. The children feel they have to live with the legacy of an abusive childhood. The parents feel rejected by the person they love most in the world, their own child, and they are powerless to do anything about it. There’s anger, grief and depression on all sides — painful holidays and birthdays — plus, the next generation often grows up without knowing their grandparents.

No one even thought to measure family estrangement until relatively recently. Coleman, the author of “Rules of Estrangement,” argues that a more individualistic culture has meant that the function of family has changed. Once it was seen as a bond of mutual duty and obligation, and now it is often seen as a launchpad for personal fulfillment. There’s more permission to cut off people who seem toxic in your life.

Becca Bland, founder of the British support and advocacy group Stand Alone, told the BBC: “Now I can put my needs first rather than trying to fix things beyond my control. But, yes, I’m angry I didn’t get the mother I wanted.”

The meritocracy and high-pressure parenting are also implicated here. Parents, especially among the upper-educated set, are investing more time and effort in their kids. A 2012 survey from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture found that almost three-quarters of parents of school-age kids said they eventually want to become their children’s best friend.

Some kids seem to think they need to cut off their parents just to have their own life. “My mom is really needy and I just don’t need that in my life,” one Ivy League grad told Coleman. In other cases, children may be blaming their parents for the fact that they are not succeeding as they had hoped — it’s Mom and Dad who screwed me up.

I write about this phenomenon here because it feels like a piece of what seems to be the psychological unraveling of America, which has become an emerging theme of this column. Terrible trends are everywhere. Major depression rates among youths aged 12 to 17 rose by almost 63 percent between 2013 and 2016. American suicide rates increased by 33 percent between 1999 and 2019. The percentage of Americans who say they have no close friends has quadrupled since 1990, according to the Survey Center on American Life. Fifty-four percent of Americans report sometimes or always feeling that no one knows them well, according to a 2018 Ipsos survey.

I confess, I don’t understand what’s causing this. But social pain and vulnerability are affecting everything: our families, schools, politics and even our sports.

A friend notes that politics has begun to feel like an arena where many people can process and regulate their emotional turmoil indirectly. Anxiety, depression and anger are hard to deal with within the tangled intimacy of family life. But political tribalism becomes a mechanism with which people can shore themselves up, vanquish shame, fight for righteousness and find a sense of belonging.

People who feel betrayed will lash out at someone if there is no one there to help them process their underlying hurt. As the Franciscan friar Richard Rohr wisely wrote, if we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

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Opinion | How Covid Became a Red-State Crisis

Less than a month ago President Biden promised a “summer of joy,” a return to normal life made possible by the rapid progress of vaccinations against Covid-19. Since then, however, vaccination has largely stalled — America, which had pulled ahead of many other advanced countries, has fallen behind. And the rise of the Delta variant has caused a surge in cases all too reminiscent of the repeated Covid waves of last year.

That said, 2021 isn’t 2020 redux. As Aaron Carroll pointed out Tuesday in The Times, Covid is now a crisis for the unvaccinated. Risks for vaccinated Americans aren’t zero, but they’re vastly lower than for those who haven’t gotten a vaccine.

What Carroll didn’t say, but is also true, is that Covid is now a crisis largely for red states. And it’s important to make that point both to understand where we are and as a reminder of the political roots of America’s pandemic failures.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that only Republicans are failing to get vaccinated. It’s true that there are stark differences in attitudes toward the vaccines, with one poll showing 47 percent of Republicans saying they are unlikely to get a shot, compared with only 6 percent of Democrats. It’s also true that if we compare U.S. counties, there’s a strong negative correlation between Donald Trump’s share of the 2020 vote and the current vaccination rate.

That said, vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic Americans remain persistently lower than among the non-Hispanic white population, an indication that issues like lack of information and trust are also inhibiting our response.

But simply looking at who remains unvaccinated misses what may soon become a crucial point: The danger from Covid’s resurgence depends not just on the number of cases nationwide but also on how concentrated those cases are geographically.

To see why, it may help to remember all the talk about “flattening the curve” early in the pandemic.

At that point effective vaccines seemed a distant prospect. This in turn made it seem likely that a large fraction of the population would eventually contract the virus whatever we did. Prevaccine, it seemed as if the only way to avoid long-run mass infection was the New Zealand strategy: a severe lockdown to reduce cases to a very low level, followed by a test-trace-isolate regime to quickly put a lid on any flare-ups. And it seemed all too clear that the U.S. lacked the political will to pursue such a strategy.

Yet there was still good reason to impose social distancing rules and mask requirements. Even if most people would eventually get the virus, it was important that they not all get sick at once, because that would overload the health care system. This would cause many preventable deaths, not just from Covid-19 but also because other ailments couldn’t be treated if the hospitals, and especially intensive care units, were already full.

This logic, by the way, was why claims that mask mandates and distancing guidelines were attacks on “freedom” were always nonsense. Do we think people should be free to drive drunk? No, not just because in so doing they endanger themselves, but even more because they endanger others. The same was true for refusing to wear masks last year — and for refusing to get vaccinated now.

As it turned out, masks and social distancing were even better ideas than we realized: They bought time until the arrival of vaccines, so that a great majority of those who managed to avoid Covid in 2020, and have since been vaccinated, may never get it.

But there are regions in America where large numbers of people have refused vaccination. Those regions appear to be approaching the point we feared in the early stages of the pandemic, with hospitalizations overwhelming the health care system. And the divide between places that are in crisis and those that aren’t is starkly political. New York has five Covid patients hospitalized per 100,000 people; Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis barred businesses from requiring that their patrons show proof of vaccination, has 34.

So, will Covid’s resurgence stop America’s much-awaited return to normalcy? In much of the country, no. Yes, vaccination has stalled far too soon even in blue states, and residents of those states should be a bit more cautious, for example by resuming mask-wearing when indoors (which many people in the Northeast never stopped). But so far it doesn’t look as if the Delta variant will prevent continuing recovery, social and economic.

There are, however, places that really should put strong measures into effect — mask mandates for sure, and maybe even partial lockdowns — to buy time while they catch up on vaccinations.

Unfortunately, these are precisely the places that will almost surely do no such thing. Missouri is experiencing one of the worst current Covid outbreaks, yet on Tuesday the St. Louis County Council voted to end a mask mandate introduced by the county executive.

In any case, it’s crucial to understand that we aren’t facing a national crisis; we’re facing a red-state crisis, with nakedly political roots.

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Fourth Suicide at the Vessel Leads to Calls for Higher Barriers

After closing the structure in January, Related Companies consulted for months with suicide-prevention experts, security experts and local elected officials about ways to limit further suicides at the site, a spokesman told The New York Times in May.

When the structure reopened, visitors were no longer permitted to enter it alone and had to travel in pairs or groups. Tickets went from free to $10, and signs were posted with messages discouraging suicides.

Stephen M. Ross, the billionaire real estate developer who founded Related Companies, said in an interview with The Daily Beast on Thursday that the Vessel would be closed indefinitely while the developers assess how to move forward.

“I want to see every possibility we can do. I mean, we thought we had covered everything,” Mr. Ross said.

Lowell D. Kern, the chairman of Community Board 4, which covers the area, had called on the developers to make design changes after the first suicide occurred in February of last year.

“I’m very sad. This was entirely preventable,” he said in an interview.

“The community board has advised Related that the only surefire way to prevent this from happening is to raise the height of the barriers on the Vessel,” he added. “We sincerely hope that this time Related will take all this to heart.”

Mr. Kern said that community board members had met with a suicide prevention expert, who suggested installing netting or raising the height of the glass barriers. Raising the barriers by seven or eight feet would be enough, Mr. Kern said, and would still allow people to have a clear view of the city.

“Yes, technically it is a work of architecture, and I’m messing with the architect’s vision. But we are dealing with life-and-death issues,” Mr. Kern said. “Art and architecture have to take a back seat.”

Chelsia Rose Marcius contributed reporting.

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Mitchell Button Accused of Sexual Assault in Lawsuit

A pair of professional dancers filed a lawsuit on Wednesday accusing a former dance teacher of sexually assaulting and abusing them, and accusing his wife — an internet-famous ballerina who has danced with the Boston Ballet — of participating in some of that abuse.

The former teacher — who has been known by several names, but is called Mitchell Taylor Button in the suit — is married to Dusty Button, who was a principal dancer with the Boston Ballet and who has amassed more than 300,000 Instagram followers and several corporate sponsorships with viral photos and videos of her dancing.

The suit, filed in United States District Court in Nevada, claims that “the Buttons abuse their positions of power and prestige in the dance community to garner the loyalty and trust of young dancers” and said that the couple would “exploit those relationships to coerce sexual acts by means of force and fraud.” Mr. Button is a defendant in the lawsuit; Ms. Button is not, but is described as a “non-party co-conspirator.” A lawyer for the couple said that they denied the charges.

The suit asserts that one of the plaintiffs, Sage Humphries, now a dancer with the Boston Ballet, met the Buttons in 2016 when she was in the company’s apprenticeship program and that the couple sexually and verbally abused her, forced her to live with them and isolated her from her family.

“They had control over my phone and passwords to my Instagram, my email,” Ms. Humphries, now 23, said in an interview. “They had complete control over me. If I wanted to do anything, I had to ask them first.”

A second plaintiff in the lawsuit, Gina Menichino, alleges that several years earlier, Mr. Button sexually assaulted her when she was 13 years old and he was her 25-year-old dance instructor in Florida.

The lawsuit says that Mr. Button used several names, including Mitchell Moore, Taylor Moore and Mitchell Button.

A statement sent through a lawyer who is speaking for the couple, Ken Swartz, said, “Taylor and Dusty Button categorically deny these baseless claims and they look forward to the opportunity through court proceedings to disprove all of the plaintiffs’ false and fraudulent allegations.”

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Menichino, now 25, said that she met Mr. Button when she was a student at a Centerstage Dance Academy in Tampa, Fla., where she knew him as Taylor Moore. On two occasions in 2010, the suit says, she and Mr. Button were sharing a blanket while watching a movie with other dancers from the studio when Mr. Button sexually assaulted her.

Mr. Button regularly sent sexually explicit text messages, photos and videos to Ms. Menichino, the lawsuit said, and solicited the same from her. Ms. Menichino had aspirations of becoming a professional dancer, it said, and Mr. Button would reward her “compliance” with special dance opportunities, such as assistant teaching at a dance convention.

“The whole game was to keep him happy,” she said in an interview. “Don’t get him angry, or I was unworthy and I would lose my dance career.”

Ms. Menichino, now a dancer, teacher and choreographer, said in an interview that she had reported her experiences to the police in 2018 but that they told her they had found insufficient evidence to pursue a criminal case. According to police records provided by the plaintiffs’ lawyer, another dancer from the same Tampa studio reported to police in 2012 that Mr. Button had sexually assaulted her numerous times, some of them at her home; that case did not result in criminal charges, either, in part because of a lack of supporting physical evidence, the records said.

Ms. Menichino’s mother said in an interview that her daughter told her there had been “inappropriate interactions” involving her and Mr. Button after he had left the studio job.

In Ms. Humphries’s case, her mother and father said in an interview that they had sensed something was wrong with their daughter’s living situation and had flown to Boston to “rescue” her.

Ms. Humphries said in an interview that she had been in awe of Ms. Button, who was a principal dancer with Boston Ballet, and started spending concentrated amounts of time with her and her husband in 2017. But their behavior toward her became increasingly controlling, the lawsuit said.

According to the court filing, the couple insisted that Ms. Humphries sleep at their apartment regularly and eventually forced her to live there full-time and paid for her meals and personal expenses; Mr. Button told her that if he had access to her social media account, he could “make her famous like Dusty.”

“If Sage ever attempted to distance herself or disobey the Buttons,” the lawsuit said, “they would threaten to revoke their financial support and sabotage her career.”

One evening, Mr. Button sexually assaulted Ms. Humphries in his apartment, the lawsuit said, starting a pattern of sexual abuse that sometimes included violent sex acts that she did not consent to. The filing said that on several occasions Ms. Button held her down to immobilize her while Mr. Button had sex with her. And at one point, the suit says, the husband and wife got into a physical altercation that ended with him “striking Dusty across the face” because he was angry that she had had sex with Ms. Humphries.

In August 2017, Ms. Humphries, then 19, received abuse protection orders against both Ms. Button and Mr. Button, the lawsuit said.

The Boston Ballet said in a statement on Thursday that Ms. Button’s employment had been terminated in May of 2017 but declined to say why.

“Boston Ballet supports Sage Humphries who is bravely coming forward, sharing her experience to protect others, and seeking accountability and justice,” the company said in a statement.

Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer representing the two plaintiffs, said that there is a trend of predation in the dance world because of ingrained power dynamics and the desire on the part of dancers to gain approval from authority figures.

“Grooming in that environment is particularly easy for a perpetrator,” she said, “because he has full access to very young victims for long periods of time.”

Kitty Bennett contributed reporting.

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Review: ‘The Pursuit of Love’ Against All Odds

Mortimer generally follows the novel’s plot and incorporates a lot of its words directly into Fanny’s narration, and her “Pursuit of Love” is better the closer it sticks to the book. Unfortunately, when she strays from it, expanding on Mitford’s story, she has mostly bad ideas.

Her changes, particularly her elaboration of Fanny and Linda’s relationship, push the show in more literal, more lugubrious and, fatally, more melodramatic directions. The tragedy of Linda’s misbegotten attempts at love no longer slips in through the seams of the narrative. Things that were implicit and largely unjudged in the book, filtered through layers of stiff-upper-lip irony — Fanny’s self-pity, Linda’s obliviousness — are now foregrounded and, for the most part, rendered banal, with “Beaches”-level platitudes and sentimentality. Mortimer casts herself as the Bolter, in a role whose expansion has no obvious point beyond increasing our sympathy for Fanny.

Other additions to the story seem designed to make the male characters more odious — Uncle Matthew more of a violent ogre, Fanny’s husband, Alfred, more of a domineering prig. Allied with these is an exaggerated sense of the childhood country home, Alconleigh, as a prison to be escaped.

You could see these changes as part of a more contemporary, feminist reading. But they just contribute to a moralism that misses the tone of the book. Mitford could be absolutely judgmental when it came to taste and manners, but she was forgiving, if a bit sad, when it came to her characters’ life choices.

Along with James and Beecham, those who fare well in the production include Dominic West, who makes Uncle Matthew’s vein-popping tirades amusing, and Freddie Fox, who in a few scenes as Linda’s first husband, Tony, justifies her instant, ill-fated attraction to him.

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Opinion | Florida Condominium Laws Need Reform

Because there aren’t enough inspectors or regulators, some buildings have delayed recertification for years. But things can also go wrong before recertification, and at some buildings, owners merely patch and paint and ignore long-term maintenance repairs or otherwise cut corners to avoid the conflict and chaos that large special assessments cause with their neighbors.

What should be done? Recertifications of all life-safety matters concerning structural and electrical building elements should be mandated statewide. The initial building recertification time frame should be reduced from 40 years to 10 or 20 years, and then every five years thereafter, with the inspections performed by licensed engineers or architects with a minimum of five or 10 years of experience. More governmental oversight should be required of remediation work on buildings, ensuring its timely start and completion. Steeper monetary or even criminal penalties should be imposed for noncompliance with the recertification process and required life-safety repairs.

Owners also should be required to provide adequate reserves for all life-safety repairs, and a loophole allowing owners to waive the full funding of reserves should be closed. These funds should always be segregated from other association reserve funds (such as those set aside for decorative purposes in lobbies and hallways).

And building codes, like the Florida Building Code, should require proper waterproofing by competent installers with a minimum warranty of 15 to 20 years. With sea-level rise and the corrosive salt air along the coasts, waterproofing of concrete is as important as brakes are to cars. Concrete is porous, and when water penetrates it, deterioration can occur. If not remediated in the short term, the damage becomes exponentially worse. And huge maintenance fees or special assessments anger residents and hurt market values.

The Surfside collapse was an alarm sounding. Local building officials in South Florida have stepped up emergency structural inspections. Building associations have been frantically trying to hire engineers to provide them with letters attesting to the soundness of their structures. Some older buildings have even been evacuated because of safety concerns.

A recent inspection of a condominium building in Coral Gables, for instance, found potentially serious structural problems. In a statement, the city said that the building’s condo association had “provided a report dating back four years that identified issues. Unfortunately, no action had been taken as prescribed by the report.” The statement added, “Residents of this three story structure were advised that if steps were not taken immediately, the building would need to be evacuated.”

Condominium board members merely have to certify that they have taken a brief course or that they have read the statutes and their association’s governing documents before serving. At a minimum, there should be consideration given to requiring board members to take a more detailed course, which includes the topic of preventive maintenance.

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‘The Green Knight’ Review: Monty Python and the Seventh Seal

From Wagner to “Game of Thrones” and back again, pop-cultural medievalism has a habit of leavening sublimity and solemnity with heavy doses of intended or inadvertent silliness. The most sincere compliment I can pay “The Green Knight” is that it often feels like a tribute to “The Seventh Seal” by way of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Or maybe vice versa, with some Led Zeppelin deep cuts thrown in. (The metal-acquainted score is by Daniel Hart.) It’s a movie about death, honor and the desire to take control of fate that is also a knowing exploration of the preposterousness of such notions. It has haunting, heartbreaking, erotically unsettling moments, as well as monsters, fools and a magical fox so cute it could be a Disney sidekick.

Like “Die Hard,” this is a Christmas movie, which is to say a religious allegory in sometimes hokey holiday dress. At a Yuletide gathering, the melancholy king asks his nephew for a story of real-life adventure, and Gawain, who has spent the morning in the arms of Essel (Alicia Vikander), has nothing to share. The party is interrupted by a somber green giant (voiced by Ralph Ineson), who offers a challenge that only Gawain is foolish enough to accept. He can smite the Green Knight on the condition that, the next Christmas, he allows the knight to smite him back.

This playground challenge results in a beheading and sends Gawain on a hallucinatory journey toward, around and through the inevitability of death. He encounters treacherous thieves (led by Barry Keoghan), a reanimated Saint Winifred (Erin Kellyman), a lord (Joel Edgerton) and his lady and other figures conjured from the mists of time by Lowery, his cinematographer (Andrew Droz Palermo) and the special-effects artists.

Sometimes the going is murky, both visually and thematically. England in wintertime has rarely been gloomier, and when the wan daylight fades you have to squint and crane your neck to see what’s going on. Similarly, you may stroke your chin, emoji-style, as you ponder the shaggy-dog plot and its layers of significance. Part of the persistent charm of old texts like “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” lies in their stubborn unknowability. They come to us from a sensibility — and a language, in this case the Middle English of the English Midlands — that lies tantalizingly beyond our reach, even though many of the words, ideas and tropes are uncanny in their familiarity.

Lowery respects this weirdness, adding eccentric flourishes of his own. This is hardly a faithful cinematic rendering of the Gawain poem, if such a thing were even possible. Lowery layers in ambiguities peculiar to his chosen medium, casting some performers in more than one role and allowing the linear movement of the story to stop, reverse and come unraveled. The question of whether Gawain is dreaming or awake — alive or dead, one self or another — is at times urgent, at times moot. Similarly indeterminate is the puzzle of his free will. Is he acting out a preordained script, or writing the story of his life? Is he learning anything of value, or just stumbling along in search of the next adventure? Is this a concept album or a jam session?

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My Sister Owes Me a Lot of Money. How Do I Get Her to Pay?

My sister separated from her husband and moved across the country. Her teenage son did not want to go with her or live with his father, so she asked me to convert an unused floor of my house into a place for him to stay. I explained that I couldn’t afford to do that. So, she agreed to reimburse me for the renovations, which cost $10,000. I charged the full amount to my credit cards, and her son moved in. Now, my sister refuses to repay me — claiming she never made the agreement! She even got our elderly father involved and called me a liar. I am broke from the pandemic and need the money. She is wealthy. What can I do?

SISTER

Let’s put to one side your underlying issues with your sister. We’re unlikely to fix them here. And it seems doubtful to me that further discussion with her will resolve the renovation conflict. The real issue here is this: You spent money you don’t have for your nephew’s, and your sister’s, benefit.

As for her claim that you’re lying: Is there any chance you have proof, in your emails, text messages and other writings, of the deal your sister agreed to? If not, let this be a lesson: Material agreements should be put in writing — even those with immediate family members!

Go to your sister’s ex and your father and tell them you spent $10,000, at your sister’s request, on a bedroom suite for your nephew and that you desperately need repayment. Maybe they will pony up. If not, notify your sister and her ex that their son will be evicted immediately unless you are repaid in full. I don’t see an easy solution to your family problems, but a lodger may help with your money troubles.

I live with my family in a small town that includes many people with weekend homes. The weekenders tend to use their places mostly in the summer. We have one right next door, and I thought we had a good relationship. But recently, he began listing his house on Airbnb as a great place for parties. We’ve had a succession of weekend renters next door, giving loud parties that often last until 2 or 3 in the morning and keep us (and our children) awake. Our town has no ordinance preventing short-term rentals, and I don’t like calling the police every weekend about the noise. What would you do?

HELENA

The saddest thing (to me) about innovations like Airbnb is how often they destroy our belief that our neighbors care about us. (Or that they care about us only until someone is willing to pay them a few hundred bucks.) Then there’s the noise!

Call your neighbor and explain calmly what his Airbnb renters are putting your family through. Ask him to stop it, or at least to edit his listing to cater to quieter tenants. I know it seems unlikely to you, but he may not have given much thought to what his new income stream is costing others.

I get that it’s no fun to call the police about noisy parties. But I don’t see an alternative here unless you’re willing to walk next door every weekend to ask strangers (who probably care little about your quality of life) to turn down their music.

I have an extra ticket to an outdoor concert, and I invited a friend who I assumed was vaccinated against Covid-19. He recently told me that he’s not. Even though we will be outdoors, I don’t feel comfortable sitting next to someone who is unvaccinated for three hours. How can I politely disinvite him?

ANONYMOUS

Be direct: “Even though the concert is outdoors, I don’t feel safe sitting next to you for such a long stretch. I don’t want to risk a breakthrough infection. I hope you’ll understand that I am going to invite someone else to come with me.”

Remember, though, you know nothing about the person who will be sitting on the other side of you for several hours. He or she may be unvaccinated too! This is one of the worst knock-on effects of irrational vaccine hesitancy: It is chilling the resumption of normal activities that would be safer for everyone if people (who are medically able) simply got themselves vaccinated.

I am tired of going to birthday parties where the host has requested “no gifts, please,” just to be the only person who doesn’t bring a gift. How do you handle this?

MICHELE

Simple: I don’t bring gifts! And neither should you. If hosts are willing to flout the old-time etiquette taboo of mentioning gifts on invitations, the least we can do, as guests, is to respect their wishes.

Try not to compare your choice to what other people are doing. Comparison, as the wise saying goes, is the thief of joy. (It is also responsible for millions of last-minute purchases of undistinguished wine and smelly candles.)


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.