ISTANBUL — The unpredictable roller coaster that has become Turkish politics was on full display this past week after 104 retired admirals publicly challenged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an open letter — and 10 of them ended up in jail, accused of plotting a coup.
It was no accident that the episode came as Mr. Erdogan finds himself in the midst one of the most intense political passages of his career, as the worsening pandemic and economy have left the president sliding in the opinion polls even as he amasses more powers.
To inspire the party faithful, Mr. Erdogan has returned again to herald one of his favorite grand ideas: to carve a canal, through Istanbul, from the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea to open a new shipping route parallel to the narrow Bosporus.
For now, the use of those natural waterwaysis governed by the Montreux Convention, an international treaty forged in 1936, between the two World Wars, in an attempt to eliminate volatile tensions over one of the world’s most vital maritime choke points.
blog, the Yetkinreport, “shifts the current agenda from the pandemic and the economy to fields that the A.K.P. likes.”
The pandemic’s toll is now worse than ever in Turkey, with more than 50,000 new cases recorded daily. An increasingly sharp economic crunch looms, too, as the government’s pandemic support for businesses is scheduled to end and inflation and unemployment remain alarmingly high.
In the midst of the troubles, Mr. Erdogan’s party has slipped to below 30 percent in a recent opinion poll, and his political ally, the Nationalist Movement Party, has fallen as low as 6 percent, making his re-election to the presidency in 2023 seem increasingly difficult.
Even his own supporters recognize that a bruising fight lies ahead. “We have entered the long two-year election process leading to the 2023 elections,” Burhanettin Duran, the director of SETA, a pro-government research organization, wrote in a column in the Daily Sabah newspaper this past week.
“Due to the recent declaration,” he said, referring to the admirals’ letter, “now there is a possibility that the process will be painful.” He predicted a combined domestic and international campaign against Mr. Erdogan’s government.
Mr. Erdogan has promised that his multibillion-dollar canal plan would create a construction and real estate boom and bring in revenue from an increase in shipping traffic.
Investigative journalists have exposed real estate deals in which prospectors from the Middle East have bought up much of the land along where the canal will be built.
Yet Mr. Erdogan said at a regional party congress in Istanbul in February that the project would go ahead, despite opposition.
“They don’t like it, do they? They are trying to prevent it, aren’t they?” he said in his keynote speech. “Despite them, we will build the Istanbul Canal.’’
The admirals are far from the only opponents of the canal. Others include the popular mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, along with environmentalists, ecologists and urban planners.
But the admirals raised particular ire from Mr. Erdogan and his fellow Islamists by including in their letter criticism of a currently serving admiral who was caught on video attending prayers with a religious sect.
The retired admirals made a point of reaffirming their adherence to the secular ideals of the Turkish republic’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
The government machinery pounced swiftly.
Ten of the signatories were detained on Monday, and another four were ordered to report to the police but were not jailed in view of their advanced years. Mr. Erdogan accused them of plotting a coup, a toxic allegation after four years of thousands of detentions and purges since the last failed coup. Some saw that as a warning to serving officers who might have similar thoughts.
Mr. Erdogan had “got his groove back” Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, wrote in an analysis.
The admirals’ letter did not come out of the blue. A year earlier, 126 retired Turkish diplomats had penned an open letter warning against withdrawing from the convention. The debate reveals the deep divisions between secularists and Islamists that have been tearing Turkey apart since Mr. Erdogan’s rise to power in 2002.
Caught up in their own dislike of the secular republic that replaced the Ottoman Empire, the Islamists distrust the Montreux Convention, said Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations. That was an erroneous reading of history, she added, but Mr. Erdogan feels that the convention needs “to be modernized to meet Turkey’s new coveted role as a regional heavyweight.”
Secularists, as well as most Turkish diplomats and foreign policy experts, see the Montreux Convention as a win for Turkey and fundamental to Turkish independence and to stability in the region.
Russia would have most to lose from a change in the treaty, said Serhat Guvenc, a professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, although any alteration or break up of the convention seems inconceivable, since it would demand consensus from the multiple signatories.
“Russia would resent it and be provoked,” he said. The United States and China would gain, since neither currently is allowed to move large warships or aircraft carriers into the Black Sea.
Most analysts said that Mr. Erdogan and his advisers knew the impossibility of changing the Montreux Convention, but that the veteran politician is using the issue to kick up a storm.
“It is the government’s way of lobbying for the canal,” Ms. Aydintasbas said. “Erdogan is adamant about building a channel parallel to the Bosporus, and one of the government’s arguments will likely be that this new strait allows Turkey to have full sovereignty — as opposed to the free passage of Montreux.”
That interpretation is both inaccurate and dangerous, she said. “Inaccurate because as long as Montreux is there, no vessel is obliged to use the new canal. Dangerous because it could aggravate the Russians and the international community.”
The death of Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, at 99 on Friday came at the end of a year marked by mourning, with 150,000 lives lost to Covid-19 in Britain.
Buckingham Palace said that Prince Philip had died peacefully, and he was vaccinated against the coronavirus early this year, along with the queen.
Yet his death is likely to take on a new meaning in the middle of a pandemic, and to raise many questions: What will the funeral look like at a time of social distancing measures? With global travel restrictions in place, when will his grandson Prince Harry be able return from the United States with his wife, Meghan?
And with families across Britain unable to hold typical funerals for loved ones lost to Covid-19, how will the country’s most famous family mourn one of their own?
The palace said that a full outline would soon be released, and details began to emerge on Friday. The ceremony will not be a state funeral and will not be preceded by a lying-in-state, according to a statement from the College of Arms, which has created and maintained official registers of coats of arms and pedigrees since 1484.
“His Royal Highness’s body will lie at rest in Windsor Castle ahead of the funeral in St. George’s Chapel,” the statement said.
“The funeral arrangements have been revised in view of the prevailing circumstances arising from the Covid-19 pandemic,” it added, “and it is regretfully requested that members of the public do not attempt to attend or participate in any of the events that make up the funeral.”
Philip had been hospitalized in February for a heart problem and was discharged last month. Buckingham Palace said that his hospitalization was not related to the coronavirus.
But the privileges of royalty did not grant the family immunity from the virus.
Prince Charles — Prince Philip’s and Queen Elizabeth’s elder son and the heir to the throne — tested positive for the virus last year, as did Prince William, their grandson.
The queen has encouraged people in the country to be vaccinated. “Once you’ve had the vaccine, you have a feeling of, you know, you’re protected,” she said in a public call with health officials.
Britain is slowly emerging from a stringent national lockdown of recent months, with outdoor spaces in pubs and restaurants scheduled to reopen on Monday, as well as nonessential shops, gyms and hair salons. But many bereaved families of those lost to Covid-19 have said that as the country moves to brighter days, the staggering deaths of 150,000 people should not be forgotten.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain led tributes to Prince Philip on Friday, praising his lifelong support for Queen Elizabeth II and adding that he had “earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth and around the world.”
“He was the longest-serving consort in history and one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in the Second World War,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement read in somber tones.
Referring to the prince’s hobby of driving horse-drawn carriages, Mr. Johnson added that “like the expert carriage driver that he was, he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”
The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, echoed those sentiments, saying that Britain had “lost an extraordinary public servant.”
“Prince Philip dedicated his life to our country — from a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during the Second World War to his decades of service as the Duke of Edinburgh,” Mr. Starmer added in a statement. “However, he will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to the queen.”
Scotland’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said that she was saddened by the news of Philip’s death and that she was sending her deepest condolences to the royal family.
Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, said that he was grateful for the contributions Philip had made to the city, including his charity work, and that his legacy would positively impact the city for many years to come.
Lindsay Hoyle, the House of Commons speaker, also paid tribute, saying, “His was a long life that saw so much dedication to duty.”
In prerecorded remarks broadcast on ITV News, Theresa May, Mr. Johnson’s predecessor as prime minister, reflected on Philip’s supporting role: “It must be quite difficult for a male consort. They have to recognize their life is the monarch or head of state. But throughout his life, Prince Philip provided that strength, that rock, that reliable support and played an immensely important role,” she said.
With Queen Elizabeth in residence at Windsor Castle outside London, mourning the death of her husband, Prince Philip, on Friday, crowds gathered outside the gates of the world’s largest and oldest inhabited castle to pay their respects.
They came to leave flowers, take pictures and note the death of a member of an institution that — despite periods of deep turmoil — still commands respect and fascination.
Outside Buckingham Palace in central London, crowds also formed soon after the news of his death emerged.
A small girl unfurled a British flag on the pavement before the flowers laid at the gate of the magisterial royal home.
“I just have so much respect for Prince Philip and all he’s done,” said Britta Bia, 53. “I have so much respect for the royal family. I think they’ve done so much for charitable causes, and I think they’ve been upstanding citizens of the commonwealth.”
Lottie Smith, 18, said it was a moment to reflect on what really matters in life.
Ms. Smith and two friends who live in Greenwich heard of his death while they were on the train in to London, and decided to take a detour to the palace.
Catherine Vellacott, 19, said she hoped his death would “maybe unite the nation more.”
Peter Appleby, 22, flowers in hand, said that it was one more loss in a year marked by death.
“He’s had a hard year like everybody, and it doesn’t cost much to come and show a bit of respect,” he said.
Queen Elizabeth II, already Britain’s longest-serving monarch, passed a new milestone in 2017 when she and Prince Philip became the longest-married couple of the country’s royal family.
Where and when they first met remains unclear. He was invited to dine on the royal yacht when Elizabeth was 13 or 14. He was also invited to stay at Windsor Castle around that time while on leave from the Navy, and there were reports that he visited the royal family at Balmoral, its country estate in Scotland.
After that weekend, Elizabeth told her father, King George VI, that the naval officer was “the only man I could ever love.” Her father at first cautioned her to be patient.
Whisked off on a royal tour to South Africa, Elizabeth was said to have written to Philip three times a week. By the time she returned to England, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark had renounced his foreign titles and become Lt. Philip Mountbatten, a British subject.
The engagement was announced on July 10, 1947.That year, on the eve of the wedding, Lieutenant Mountbatten was made the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron of Greenwich, and given the title His Royal Highness.
The prince, 26, married the young crown princess, who was 21, on Nov. 20, 1947, in a ceremony complete with horse-drawn coaches and a throng of adoring subjects lining the route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.
The birth of their first child, Charles Philip Arthur George, on Nov. 14, 1948, at Buckingham Palace, was followed by Princess Anne, in 1950; Prince Andrew, in 1960, after Elizabeth became queen; and Prince Edward, in 1964.
In addition to the queen and their children, he is survived by eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
After his marriage, Prince Philip took command of the frigate Magpie in Malta. But King George VI had lung cancer, and when his condition worsened, it was announced that Philip would take no more naval appointments.
In 1952, the young couple were in Kenya, their first stop on a commonwealth tour, when word arrived on Feb. 6 that the king was dead. Philip broke the news to his wife.
The same year, the new queen ordained that Philip should be “first gentleman in the land,” giving him “a place of pre-eminence and precedence next to Her Majesty.”
Philip occupied a peculiar place on the world stage as the husband of a queen whose powers were largely ceremonial. He was essentially a second-fiddle figurehead, accompanying her on royal visits and sometimes standing in for her.
By royal warrant, the queen gave Philip the title Prince of the United Kingdom, bringing her husband’s name into the royal line.
While at times there were rumors of trouble in the marriage, their children’s marital difficulties overshadowed any discord between the parents.
Philip was born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921, the fifth child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, who was the brother of King Constantine of Greece. His mother was the former Princess Alice, the oldest daughter of the former Prince Louis of Battenberg, the first Marquess of Milford Haven, who changed the family name to Mountbatten during World War I.
Philip’s family was not Greek but rather descended from a royal Danish house that the European powers had put on the throne of Greece at the end of the 19th century. Philip, who never learned the Greek language, was sixth in line to the Greek throne.
Through his mother, Philip was a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria, just as Elizabeth is Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter. Both were great-great-great-grandchildren of George III, who presided over Britain’s loss of the American colonies.
A year after Philip was born, the army of King Constantine was overwhelmed by the Turks in Asia Minor. Prince Andrew, Philip’s father, who had commanded an army corps in the routed Greek forces, was banished by a revolutionary Greek junta.
In “Prince Philip: The Turbulent Early Life of the Man Who Married Queen Elizabeth II” (2011), the British writer Philip Eade reported that as an infant Philip was smuggled out of Greece in a fruit crate as his father, eluding execution, found refuge for his family in Paris, where they lived in straitened circumstances.
Philip’s father was said to have been an Anglophile. The boy’s first language was English, taught to him by a British nanny. He grew to 6-foot-1, his blue eyes and blond hair reflecting his Nordic ancestry.
When his parents separated, Philip was sent to live with his mother’s mother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. He spent four years at the Cheam School in England, an institution bent on toughening privileged children, and then went to Gordonstoun School in Scotland, which was even more austere, promoting a regimen of hard work, cold showers and hard beds. In five years, he said, no one from his family came to visit him.
Even so, Philip sent his son Charles to both schools, to have him follow in his footsteps.
At Gordonstoun, Philip developed a love of the sea, learning seamanship and boatbuilding as a volunteer coast guardsman at the school. He seemed destined to follow his Mountbatten uncles into the British Navy.
Brusque, avuncular and with a reputation for being overly plain-speaking, Prince Philip over the years produced a collection of offensive, tone deaf and, on occasion, outrageous one-liners that were recorded by generations of British journalists.
His propensity to embarrass Buckingham Palace waxed and waned over the years, but never entirely faded even after decades of dinners, ceremonies and other engagements alongside Queen Elizabeth II. Some examples:
On a trip to Canada in 1969: “I declare this thing open, whatever it is.”
On another tour of Canada in 1976: “We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”
During a recession in Britain in 1981: “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed.”
When accepting a figurine from a woman during a visit to Kenya in 1984: “You are a woman, aren’t you?”
Speaking to British students in China during a 1986 state visit: “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”
To a driving instructor in Oban, Scotland, in 1995: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”
Suggesting to a British student in 1998 who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea that people there were still cannibals: “You managed not to get eaten, then?”
Visiting a factory in Edinburgh in 1999, pointing to an old-fashioned fuse box: “It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.”
Speaking to young deaf people in Cardiff, Wales, in 1999, referring to a school’s steel band: “Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf.”
Meeting the president of Nigeria, who was dressed in traditional robes: “You look like you’re ready for bed!”
To a group of female Labour Party lawmakers at a party at Buckingham Palace in 2000: “Ah, so this is feminist corner then.”
As British leaders offered tributes and condolences, members of the royal family also offered personal recollections about Prince Philip.
His youngest son, Prince Edward, said in comments pre-recorded for ITV News that his parents had been “such a fantastic support to each other during all those years and all those events and all those tours and events overseas.”
“To have someone that you confide in and smile about things that you perhaps could not in public,” Edward said, “to be able to share that is immensely important.”
As for Philip’s occasionally abrasive interactions with the news media over the decades, Edward said that his father “used to give them as good as he got, and always in a very entertaining way.”
Edward, 57, added: “Anyone who had the privilege to hear him speak said it was his humor which always came through and the twinkle in his eye.”
Prince Philip’s daughter, Princess Anne, said that her father’s decision to give up his naval career demonstrated his level of commitment to Queen Elizabeth.
“It shows a real understanding of the pressure the queen was going through, and that the best way he could support her was on giving up on his career,” added Anne, 70.
“Without him,” she said, “life will be completely different.”
Leaders from around the world offered tributes to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died on Friday, recalling his decades of service, his career in the Royal Navy and his role in Britain’s royal family.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said in a statement that the prince had “embodied a generation that we will never see again.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India said Philip “had a distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said the prince would be “remembered as a decorated naval officer, a dedicated philanthropist and a constant in the life of Queen Elizabeth II.”
“A man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others, Prince Philip contributed so much to the social fabric of our country — and the world,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called Philip “the consummate public servant” and said he would be “much missed in Israel and across the world.”
Others to offer condolences included Prime Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand; Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission; Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan; President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey; Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s leader; and Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister.
The White House had not responded as of Friday morning, but other former American officials, including former Vice President Mike Pence and President George W. Bush, offered their condolences.
“He represented the United Kingdom with dignity and brought boundless strength and support to the sovereign,” President Bush said in a statement. He added that he and his wife, Laura Bush, were “fortunate to have enjoyed the charm and wit of his company, and we know how much he will be missed.”
NEW DELHI — When the coronavirus first struck India last year, the country enforced one of the world’s strictest national lockdowns. The warning was clear: A fast spread in a population of 1.3 billion would be devastating.
Though damaging and ultimately flawed, the lockdown and other efforts appeared to work. Infections dropped and deaths remained low. Officials and the public dropped their guard. Experts warned fruitlessly that the government’s haphazard approach would bring a crisis when a new wave appeared.
Now the crisis is here.
India on Friday reported a daily record of 131,878 new infections as Covid-19 races out of control. Deaths, while still relatively low, are rising. Vaccinations, a mammoth task in such a large nation, are dangerously behind schedule. Hospital beds are running short.
Parts of the country are reinforcing lockdowns. Scientists are rushing to track new strains, including the more hazardous variants found in Britain and South Africa, that may be hastening the spread. But the authorities have declared contact tracing in some places to be simply impossible.
now behind the United States and Brazil.) The economic blowback of the resulting lockdown was devastating.
But the numbers at the time actually understated the first wave, scientists now say, and deaths in India never matched levels of the United States or Britain. Leaders began acting as if the problem had been solved.
Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, boasted of a major stockpile of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which makes up the bulk of the country’s drive. The government even launched a “vaccine diplomacy” campaign that sent doses to other countries.
But the initial rollout within India was slowed by complacency and plagued with public skepticism, including questions about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and lack of disclosure about an Indian-developed dose. Now the vaccination program is not matching the spread. The Serum Institute has said that practically all of its daily production of about two million doses will over the next two months go to the government, delaying commitments to other countries.
Several Indian states now worry that their vaccines stocks will run out. Mumbai, India’s largest city, had shut more than half of its vaccination centers, local media reported on Friday. The central government’s health minister lashed out at the states, reassuring that there would be no shortage and that more supplies were in the pipeline.
hit the campaign trail for state elections. Prime Minister Modi has addressed more than 20 rallies, each with thousands of often-unmasked people.
On Wednesday, Delhi officials said that even a solo car driver would be punished for not wearing a mask properly. The same day, Amit Shah, the country’s de facto No. 2 leader, drove through a campaign crowd in the state of West Bengal, waving without a mask and throwing rose petals.
The government also gave the go ahead for a long Hindu religious festival called Kumbh Mela, which runs through the end of April. Between one million to five million people attend the festival each day in the city of Hardiwar, on the banks of the river Ganges in the state of Uttarakhand.
no one would face restrictions as “the faith in God will overcome the fear of Covid-19.” Days later, Mr. Rawat tested positive for Covid.
The positivity rate of random tests is rising at the festival, and more than 300 participants have tested positive, said Dr. Arjun Singh Senger, a health officer at the festival.
The sheer speed of new infections has surprised health officials, who wonder whether variants might be a factor. Answering that question will be difficult. India has put only about 1 percent of its cases through genome sequencing tests, according to Dr. Reddy, of the Public Health Foundation of India, but researchers require a minimum of 5 percent to determine what is circulating.
So far, the government has found variants from the U.K. and South Africa as well as a local mutation. Limited information suggests that more infectious variants are circulating in India, as well, Dr. Reddy said.
Even if the variants have not yet been a major part of the new wave of infections, they have cast a shadow over India’s crucial vaccination drive. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been rejected by South Africa ineffective against that variant.
“This time, the speed is much faster than the last time,” said Dr. Vinod K. Paul, the head of India’s Covid response task force. “The next four weeks are very, very crucial for us.”
The prospect of a fourth wave of the coronavirus, with new cases climbing sharply in the Upper Midwest, has reignited a debate among vaccine experts over how long to wait between the first and second doses. Extending that period would swiftly increase the number of people with the partial protection of a single shot, but some experts fear it could also give rise to dangerous new variants.
In the United States, two-dose vaccines are spaced three to four weeks apart, matching what was tested in clinical trials. But in Britain, health authorities have delayed doses by up to 12 weeks in order to reach more people more quickly. And in Canada, which has precious few vaccines to go around, a government advisory committee recommended on Wednesday that second doses be delayed even longer, up to four months.
Some health experts think the United States should follow suit. Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a co-director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, has proposed that for the next few weeks, all U.S. vaccines should go to people receiving their first dose.
“That should be enough to quell the fourth surge, especially in places like Michigan, like Minnesota,” he said in an interview. Dr. Emanuel and his colleagues published the proposal in an op-ed on Thursday in USA Today.
10 days after the first dose, researchers could see that the volunteers were getting sick less often than those who got the placebo.
In the same month, Britain experienced a surge of cases caused by a new, highly transmissible variant called B.1.1.7. Once the British government authorized two vaccines — from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca — it decided to fight the variant by delaying the second doses of both formulations by 12 weeks.
said on Jan. 31 on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
But the government stayed the course, arguing that it would be unwise to veer off into the unknown in the middle of a pandemic. Although the clinical trials did show some early protection from the first dose, no one knew how well that partial protection would last.
“When you’re talking about doing something that may have real harm, you need empirical data to back that,” said Dr. Céline R. Gounder, an infectious-disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center and a member of Mr. Biden’s coronavirus advisory board. “I don’t think you can logic your way out of this.”
But in recent weeks, proponents of delaying doses have been able to point to mounting evidence suggesting that a first dose can provide potent protection that lasts for a number of weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that two weeks after a single dose of either the Moderna or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a person’s risk of coronavirus infection dropped by 80 percent. And researchers in Britain have found that first-dose protection is persistent for at least 12 weeks.
Dr. Emanuel argued that Britain’s campaign to get first doses into more people had played a role in the 95 percent drop in cases since their peak in January. “It’s been pretty stunning,” Dr. Emanuel said.
studies that show that a single dose of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech does not work as well against certain variants, such as B.1.351, which was first found in South Africa.
“Relying on one dose of Moderna or Pfizer to stop variants like B.1.351 is like using a BB gun to stop a charging rhino,” said John P. Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Dr. Moore said he also worried that delaying doses could promote the spread of new variants that can better resist vaccines. As coronaviruses replicate inside the bodies of some vaccinated people, they may acquire mutations that allow them to evade the antibodies generated by the vaccine.
But Dr. Cobey, who studies the evolution of viruses, said she wasn’t worried about delayed doses breeding more variants. “I would put my money on it having the opposite effect,” she said.
Last week, she and her colleagues published a commentary in Nature Reviews Immunology in defense of delaying doses. Getting more people vaccinated — even with moderately less protection — could translate into a bigger brake on the spread of the virus in a community than if fewer people had stronger protection, they said. And that decline wouldn’t just mean more lives were saved. Variants would also have a lower chance of emerging and spreading.
“There are fewer infected people in which variants can arise,” she said.
Dr. Adam S. Lauring, a virologist at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the commentary, said he felt that Dr. Cobey and her colleagues had made a compelling case. “The arguments in that piece really resonate with me,” he said.
Although it seems unlikely that the United States will shift course, its neighbor to the north has embraced a delayed strategy to cope with a booming pandemic and a short supply of vaccines.
Dr. Catherine Hankins, a public health specialist at McGill University in Montreal and a member of Canada’s Covid-19 Immunity Task Force, endorsed that decision, based on the emerging evidence about single doses. And she said she thought that other countries facing even worse shortfalls should consider it as well.
“I will be advocating at the global level that countries take a close look at Canada’s strategy and think seriously about it,” Dr. Haskins said.
The Hong Kong government said last month that it would allow hundreds of residents who have been stranded in Britain by virus-related travel restrictions to return on two special flights.
But when those residents went to book seats on flights, the website for Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s flag carrier, crashed. The snafu on Thursday was the latest chapter in a bureaucratic saga that has left them feeling angry, confused and exasperated.
The Hong Kong government suspended flights from Britain in December as a coronavirus variant spread through that country. It also barred anyone who had spent more than two hours there or in other “extremely high-risk” places in the previous 21 days from boarding a direct flight to the Chinese territory.
Those measures, which remain in effect, also apply to inbound travelers who have recently been to Brazil, Ireland or South Africa. But last week Hong Kong said that it would arrange two special return flights from London on Cathay Pacific in late April. It cited Britain’s declining caseload and “satisfactory vaccination progress” as reasons for the policy shift.
reported last week that the travel ban had stranded more than 600 Hong Kong residents in Britain. Mr. Bux said on Friday that some of them had been unable to book seats on the special flights.
It was unclear whether additional flights would be offered, or why officials in Hong Kong, where the borders have been closed to nonresidents for more than a year, waited more than three months to schedule the two flights. A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department referred questions on Friday to the Food and Health Bureau, which declined to comment.
Mr. Bux said he could sympathize with the stranded travelers because he, too, had been stranded by the December ban while visiting family in Liverpool. He said he was among the 200 to 300 Hong Kong residents who had managed to make it home from Britain after spending a 21-day “wash out” period in a third country like Thailand, Egypt or the United Arab Emirates.
mandatory three-week hotel quarantine, one of the world’s longest. Some scientists have questioned whether that policy is too strict because the coronavirus is widely considered to have a 14-day incubation period.
“After my departure from the U.K., I needed 42 days to resume my normal life in Hong Kong,” he said. “It’s a really long period.”
The 2017 film “Bitter Harvest” would not, by many definitions, be considered a success.
“It’s a bad sign when even the prayers in this movie are crappy,” observed one reviewer, who contributed to the film’s 15 percent critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
It pulled in less than $600,000 in the United States. But that did not mean it did not still have moneymaking potential abroad. All investors needed to do was help buy the rights to distribute it and a number of other films in Latin America, Africa and New Zealand. Major distribution deals with HBO and Netflix were on the cusp of being formalized, they were told. Once those fell into place, the investors would get returns of at least 35 percent.
That is the essence of what the Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors are calling a Ponzi scheme run by Zachary J. Horwitz, a not particularly famous actor with a rather extravagant home. Mr. Horwitz, who went by the stage name Zach Avery, was arrested on Tuesday on wire fraud charges. He is accused of defrauding investors of at least $227 million and fabricating his company’s business relationship with HBO and Netflix.
“We allege that Horwitz promised extremely high returns and made them seem plausible by invoking the names of two well-known entertainment companies and fabricating documents,” Michele Wein Layne, director of the S.E.C.’s Los Angeles regional office, said in a news release on Tuesday.
most recent film, the horror movie “The Devil Below” (Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 0 percent). Mr. Horwitz did not star in any of the 50 or so films he promised could make investors millions, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.
Mr. Horwitz was in jail on Wednesday, Mr. Mrozek said. Attempts to reach other employees of One in a Million Productions, whose website features the tag line “When Odds Are One in a Million. Be That One,” were unsuccessful. (Later Wednesday afternoon, the site had been taken down.)
Mr. Horwitz’s lawyer, Anthony Pacheco, did not respond to a request for comment.
The Ponzi scheme began to unravel when an investor wanted money refunded in 2019 and could not get it, Mr. Mrozek said.
For several years, 1inMM — as the company styles its name — found ways to pay investors, according to the S.E.C. Court documents do not list all of the films investors thought they had helped buy rights to, but the complaint features an image from 1inMM’s “library”; the 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme movie “The Kickboxer” and the 2013 romantic comedy “The Spectacular Now” are included.
The way that money can be made in the movie distribution world is to say, “I’ll give you $100,000 for Latin America rights,” for example, Mr. Mrozek said, adding, “I go to HBO or whomever and say, ‘Give me $200,000 to show the movie.’”
according to the S.E.C.
Since December 2019, 1inMM has defaulted on more than 160 payments, according to court documents. One investor in Chicago, who was owed more than $160 million in principal and $59 million in profits, wanted his returns and could not get them, Mr. Mrozek said. That investor contacted the authorities.
WASHINGTON — A highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in Britain has become the most common source of new infections in the United States, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday. The worrisome development comes as officials and scientists warn of a possible fourth surge of infections.
Federal health officials said in January that the B.1.1.7 variant, which began surging in Britain in December and has since slammed Europe, could become the dominant source of coronavirus infections in the United States, leading to a huge increase in cases and deaths.
At that point, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths were at an all-time high. From that peak, the numbers all declined until late February, according to a New York Times database. After several weeks at a plateau, new cases and hospitalizations are increasing again. The average number of new cases in the country has reached nearly 65,000 a day as of Tuesday, concentrated mostly in metro areas in Michigan as well as in the New York City region. That is an increase of 19 percent compared with the figure two weeks ago.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. director, who warned last week that she felt a recurring sense of “impending doom,” said on Wednesday that 52 of the agency’s 64 jurisdictions — which include states, some major cities and territories — are now reporting cases of these so-called “variants of concern,” including B.1.1.7.
60 percent more contagious and 67 percent more deadly than the original form of the coronavirus, according to the most recent estimates. The C.D.C. has also been tracking the spread of other variants, such as B.1.351, first found in South Africa, and P.1, which was first identified in Brazil.
The percentage of cases caused by variants is clearly increasing. Helix, a lab testing company, has tracked the relentless increase of B.1.1.7 since the beginning of the year. As of April 3, it estimated that the variant made up 58.9 percent of all new tests.
That variant has been found to be most prevalent in Michigan, Florida, Colorado, California, Minnesota and Massachusetts, according to the C.D.C. Until recently, the variant’s rise was somewhat camouflaged by falling infection rates over all, leading some political leaders to relax restrictions on indoor dining, social distancing and other measures.
against the warnings of some scientists.
Federal health officials are tracking reports of increasing cases associated with day care centers and youth sports, and hospitals are seeing more younger adults — people in their 30s and 40s who are admitted with “severe disease,” Dr. Walensky said.
It is difficult for scientists to say exactly how much of the current patterns of infection are because of the growing frequency of B.1.1.7.
“It’s muddled by the reopening that’s going on and changes in behavior,” said Dr. Adam Lauring, a virologist at the University of Michigan.
But he noted that people were becoming less cautious at a time when they should be raising their guard against a more contagious variant. “It’s worrisome,” he said.
At the same time, the United States is currently vaccinating an average of about three million people a day, and states have rushed to make all adults eligible. The C.D.C. reported on Tuesday that about 108.3 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 64.4 million people who have been fully vaccinated. New Mexico, South Dakota, Rhode Island and Alaska are leading the states, with about 25 percent of their total populations fully vaccinated.
Scientists hope that vaccination will blunt any potential fourth surge.
On Tuesday, President Biden moved up his vaccination timetable by two weeks, calling states to make every American adult eligible by April 19. All states have already met or expect to beat this goal after he initially asked that they do so by May 1.
hundreds of genomes predicted that this variant could become predominant in the country in a month. At that time, the C.D.C. was struggling to sequence the new variants, which made it difficult to track them.
But those efforts have substantially improved in recent weeks and will continue to grow, in large part because of $1.75 billion in funds for genomic sequencing in the stimulus package that Mr. Biden signed into law last month. By contrast, Britain, which has a more centralized health care system, began a highly promoted sequencing program last year that allowed it to track the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant.
“We knew this was going to happen: This variant is a lot more transmissible, much more infectious than the parent strain, and that obviously has implications,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine and an infectious disease expert at Emory University. In addition to spreading more efficiently, he said, the B.1.1.7 strain appears to cause more severe disease, “so that gives you a double whammy.”
Perhaps even more troubling is the emergence of the virulent P.1 variant in North America. First identified in Brazil, it has become the dominant variant in that country, helping to drive its hospitals to the breaking point. In Canada, the P.1 variant emerged as a cluster in Ontario, then shut down the Whistler ski resort in British Columbia. On Wednesday, the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks said at least 21 players and four staff members had been infected with the coronavirus.
“This is a stark reminder of how quickly the virus can spread and its serious impact, even among healthy, young athletes,” the team’s doctor, Jim Bovard, said in a statement.
In some places like northeast Nigeria, the Islamic State effectively controls its local affiliate, the Islamic State in West Africa, and has provided it with trainers, expertise and financing, according to research by the International Crisis Group. But researchers say the Islamic State maintains much looser ties to other militant groups like the insurgency in Mozambique, which remains a largely homegrown movement born of local grievances.
For decades there, impoverished locals had watched as elites in the capital plundered the resource-rich region of Cabo Delgado, along the Indian Ocean, which has served as a hub for illegal timber as well as drug and ivory smuggling.
Then in 2009, one of the world’s largest known ruby deposits was discovered in the province, and two years later, oil companies uncovered a natural gas deposit worth tens of billions of dollars. In a sudden — and often violent — stroke, speculators flocked to the area, locals were forced off their land and some small-scale miners were beaten and killed.
By the time the nascent insurgency launched its first attacks in 2017, targeting police stations and local government leaders, it had widespread appeal among petty traders at the ports and disenchanted youths, local researchers say.
The violent crackdown from the Mozambican military, which was implicated in serious abuses against civilians, may have also helped the insurgency — known locally as Al-Sunna wa Jama’a — gain more traction with locals.
But over the past year, the nature of the war has changed. The militant group has destroyed entire towns, displacing 670,000 people, killing at least 2,000 civilians and kidnapping scores of others, according to human rights and humanitarian organizations, and the U.S. State Department.
VERSAILLES, France — The USB stick mysteriously appeared from an unidentified deliveryman. It held an explosive trove: a cache of startling emails detailing an intricate effort by Ikea executives in France to dig up information on employees, job applicants and even customers.
“Tell me if these people are known to the police,” read one executive’s message to a private investigator, seeking illicit background checks on hundreds of Ikea job applicants.
“A model worker has become a radical employee representative overnight,” read another. “We need to find out why.”
A decade after those emails surfaced, they are at the center of a criminal trial that has riveted public attention in France. Prosecutors are accusing the French arm of Ikea, the Swedish home furnishings giant, and some of its former executives of engineering a “system of espionage” from 2009 to 2012.
The alleged snooping was used to investigate employees and union organizers, check up on workers on medical leave and size up customers seeking refunds for botched orders. A former military operative was hired to execute some of the more clandestine operations.
The case stoked outrage in 2012 after the emails were leaked to the French news media, and Ikea promptly fired several executives in its French unit, including its former chief executive. There is no evidence that similar surveillance happened in any of the other 52 countries where the global retailer hones a fresh-faced image of stylish thriftiness served with Swedish meatballs.
unsuspecting customers who tangled with Ikea over big refunds. He insisted that he had never broken the law in gathering background material.
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Some Ikea managers tapped police sources to gain access to government databases for job applicants at up to nine stores, seeking records on drug use, theft and other serious offenses. People whose files turned up “dirty” would not be hired, according to plaintiffs’ lawyers. As in the United States, applicants in France must consent to background checks.
The surveillance encompassed career workers. In one case, Mr. Fourès was hired to investigate whether Ikea France’s deputy director of communications and merchandising, who was on a yearlong sick leave recovering from hepatitis C, had faked the severity of her illness when managers learned she had traveled to Morocco.
He engaged a contact to pose as an airline worker and ask the 12-year Ikea employee, Virginie Paulin, to furnish copies of her passport stamps to win a free ticket offer. The passport confirmed her travel to Morocco.
“Excellent!” Mr. Baillot, the chief executive at the time, wrote in an email to Mr. Paris and Claire Héry, who was the director of human resources. “We’ll do more checks after Christmas to corner her,” he wrote. (Ms. Héry’s lawyer, Olivier Baratelli, said there was no evidence she had been aware of systemic surveillance. The charges against her were dropped.)
told The New York Times in 2012 that she had a second home in Morocco, and had flown there to recuperate from her illness. She said she had been so distraught by her dismissal that she attempted suicide.
Ikea officials paid particular attention to unions and their efforts to recruit members. In 2010, tensions erupted when Adel Amara, a union leader at an Ikea store in Franconville, northwest of Paris, rallied employees to strike for a 4 percent raise. Ikea said the strike had cost it millions of euros in lost sales.
After that, Ikea “tried to prevent more strikes by turning to a system of espionage,” said Vincent Lecourt, a lawyer for one of the store’s French unions. Ikea managers set up a surveillance net to gather information to fire Mr. Amara and curb militant union activity, plaintiffs’ lawyers said.
GSG, a French security company hired by Mr. Paris, advised Ikea to set a “legal trap” for Mr. Amara, and sent one of its agents to pose as a cashier, court documents showed. The mole infiltrated workers’ ranks, reporting conversations with Mr. Amara and his wife, also an Ikea employee, while spying on a number of other union activists.
“Their plan was to infiltrate the unions and explode them from the inside,” Mr. Lecourt said.
Mr. Paris also hired a bodyguard disguised as an administrative assistant with the goal, he testified, of protecting officials who claimed that Mr. Amara had harassed them. Mr. Amara was later found liable by a criminal judge for moral harassment after Ikea France filed a complaint.
Mr. Daoud, Ikea France’s lawyer, said there was no proof of the unions’ allegations. “There was no hunting down of union members,” he said.
That claim has not doused a sense of injustice among workers who said they were forever marked by the moment they learned their employer was spying on them.
Soon after Ikea fired Mr. Amara in 2011, he said in an interview, a USB stick was delivered to his home by a person who refused to identify himself, containing the explosive email trove that became the basis of the lawsuit.
The documents included receipts of nearly €1 million for surveillance operations, as well as a 55-page internal report on Mr. Amara’s union activities, personal situation and legal records dating to when he was a teenager. There were lists naming hundreds of job applicants and employees to undergo undisclosed checks, as well as the orders to investigate some customers.
“That’s when I understood that Ikea was spying this whole time, and that it was a regular practice,” Mr. Amara said. “It was absolutely surreal.”
Mr. Amara said he took the USB stick to French news outlets, he said, unleashing the media firestorm around Ikea France that led to police investigations and the current trial.
“Ikea acted as if it was all powerful over its employees,” he said.
“If Ikea hadn’t been exposed,” he added, “it would have just kept going.”
WASHINGTON — The global economy is rebounding from the coronavirus pandemic faster than previously expected, largely thanks to the strength of the United States. But the International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday that an uneven rollout of vaccines posed a threat to the recovery, as the fortunes of rich and poor countries diverge.
The global dynamic echoes the “K-shaped” recoveries that are playing out worldwide. While many wealthy nations are poised for a major economic expansion this year, other nations’ struggles could reverse decades of progress in fighting poverty. Top international economic officials warned this week that this divergence, which is being amplified by sluggish deployment of vaccines in developing countries, is a threat to stability and long-term growth.
“Economic fortunes within countries and across countries are diverging dangerously,” Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the I.M.F., said at a panel discussion on Tuesday during the annual spring meetings of the fund and the World Bank.
This week, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen emphasized that point, saying in a speech that the inability of low- and middle-income countries to invest in robust inoculation programs could result in “a deeper and longer-lasting crisis, with mounting problems of indebtedness, more entrenched poverty and growing inequality.”
upgrading its global growth forecast for the year thanks to vaccinations of hundreds of millions of people, efforts that are expected to help fuel a sharp economic rebound. It now expects the global economy to expand by 6 percent this year, up from its previous projection of 5.5 percent, after a contraction of 3.3 percent in 2020.
The wealthiest countries are leading the way out of the crisis, particularly the United States, whose economy is now projected to expand by 6.4 percent in 2021. The euro area is expected to expand by 4.4 percent and Japan is forecast to expand by 3.3 percent, according to the I.M.F.
Among emerging market and developing economies, China and India are expected to drive growth. China’s economy is projected to expand by 8.4 percent, offering its own significant boost to overall global growth, and India’s is expected to expand by 12.5 percent.
But within advanced economies, low-skilled workers have been hit the hardest and those who lost jobs could find it difficult to replace them. And low-income countries are facing bigger losses in economic output than advanced economies, reversing gains in poverty reduction and risking long-lasting pandemic-era scars.
Emerging market economies in many cases have fewer resources for fiscal stimulus, vaccine investments and labor force retraining — factors that put them at risk of falling behind and getting stuck as the world starts its rebound.
Researchers at the I.M.F. pointed out in a recent blog post that it was important that rates on U.S. debt are rising because of a strengthening economic outlook, one that will benefit many economies by stoking demand for their exports. Still, “countries that export less to the United States yet rely more on external borrowing could feel financial market stress.”
Most U.S. officials have focused on how stronger domestic growth could actually help the rest of the world as American consumers buy foreign goods and services. “This year the U.S. looks like it’s going to be a locomotive for the global economy,” Richard H. Clarida, the vice chair of the Fed, said during a recent speech.
Ms. Yellen made a similar argument on Tuesday during a panel discussion at the I.M.F., at which she urged countries not to let up on fiscal support.
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“Stronger growth in the U.S. is going to spill over positively to the entire global outlook and we are going to be careful to learn the lessons of the financial crisis, which is ‘don’t withdraw support too quickly,’” she said.
There are risks that spillovers could work the other way — slower vaccination progress abroad could come to weigh on American and global improvement. While roughly 500 doses of the vaccine have been administered per 1,000 people in the United States, based on New York Times vaccination data, that number is about 1 per 1,000 in Mali and Afghanistan.
Economist Intelligence Unit.
“There’s a race right now between these variants of concern and vaccines,” she said during a webcast event Tuesday. She urged “global cooperation and attention” to how disparities in vaccine distribution affect inequality and economic recoveries.
The I.M.F. agrees. Vitor Gaspar, the fund’s director of fiscal affairs, said that advanced economies would continue to be at risk even if the virus were raging in developing countries that are not major economic powers, noting that the virus cannot be eradicated anywhere until it is eradicated everywhere. For that reason, he said, investing in vaccinations is critical.
“Global vaccination is probably the global public investment with the highest return ever considered,” Mr. Gaspar said in an interview. “Vaccination policy is economic policy.”
While global policy bodies are warning about diverging growth and public health outcomes, some Wall Street economists have taken a more optimistic tone.
“We think market participants underestimate the likely pace of improvement in both the public health situation and economic activity in the remainder of 2021,” Jan Hatzius at Goldman Sachs wrote in an April 5 research note.
Vaccinations are high or progressing in Canada, Australia, Britain and the euro area. In emerging markets, Mr. Hatzius wrote, Goldman economists expect 60 to 70 percent of the population to have “at least some immunity” by the end of the year when counting prior coronavirus infection and vaccine proliferation.
“The laggards are China and other Asian countries, although this is mainly because Asia has been so successful in virus control,” he wrote.
How fast global recoveries proceed could be critical to the policy outlook, both in government support spending and in central bank monetary help.
From the Fed to the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan, monetary authorities have employed a mix of rock-bottom rates, huge bond purchases and other emergency settings to try to cushion the pandemic’s fallout.
Organizing bodies have echoed Ms. Yellen’s comment: They argue that it’s important to see the recovery through, rather than pulling back on economic help early.
Global policymakers “generally view the risks to financial stability associated with early withdrawal of support measures as currently greater than those associated with a late withdrawal,” Randal K. Quarles, the Federal Reserve’s vice chair for supervision and head of the global Financial Stability Board, said in a letter released Tuesday.
The I.M.F. said on Tuesday that it was keeping a close eye on interest rates in the United States, which could pose financial risks if the Fed raises them unexpectedly. It also urged countries to maintain targeted fiscal support — and to be ready to provide more if future waves of the virus emerge.
“For all countries, we’re not out of the woods, and the pandemic is not over,” said Gita Gopinath, the I.M.F.’s chief economist.