The Best View for the Supermoon May Be on This Plane

Australians will have some of the best views of the “super blood moon” this week, but passengers on a one-time flight departing from Sydney will have an even better one.

The Australian airline Qantas will operate a three-hour flight on Wednesday (Tuesday evening in the United States) for about 100 passengers to see the moon enter the Earth’s shadow and turn a blood red color during a total lunar eclipse.

An astronomer from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia’s national science and research agency, worked with the flight’s pilots to “design the optimal flight path,” a statement from the airline said. The astronomer, Vanessa Moss, will also be aboard the plane to educate passengers on the lunar event.

The flight will climb to a cruising altitude of 43,000 feet, “above any potential cloud cover and atmosphere pollution,” the statement said — the maximum altitude for the plane, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. “Cosmic cocktails and supermoon cakes” will be served.

sold out in less than half an hour.

The flight will depart from and return to Sydney Airport, beginning with a scenic route over Sydney Harbour. Australia’s travel restrictions have been among the world’s harshest, with the government largely prohibiting international travel into or out of the country, even for its own citizens.

Other “flights to nowhere” have departed throughout the pandemic as airlines scrambled to manage the sharp decline in travel. In October, a Qantas flight flew over Australia’s Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales, departing from and landing in Sydney. Tickets for the flight sold out in 10 minutes.

Climate activists have criticized the flights as unnecessary and harmful to the environment. Qantas noted that it would offset carbon emissions for its supermoon flight to a net zero.

For those who won’t be on the supermoon flight, the lunar event will be visible mostly from Australia, East Asia, islands in the Pacific and the Western Americas.

The moon will be closest to Earth at 11:50 a.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time, but on the West Coast of the United States, the views will start at 1:47 a.m. Pacific time on Wednesday.

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Virus Deaths Likely Higher Than Official Toll, W.H.O. Says

GENEVA — Deaths from Covid-19 and Covid-related causes are likely to be two to three times the number that countries have recorded in their official data, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Some six to eight million people may have now died from Covid-19 or its effects since the start of the pandemic, compared with 3.4 million deaths recorded in countries’ official reporting, Dr. Samira Asma, assistant director of the W.H.O.’s data division, told reporters.

The W.H.O. also estimates that at least three million people may have died from Covid-19 in 2020, compared with 1.8 million recorded in official data, the W.H.O. reported in annual statistics released on Friday.

The W.H.O. based its assessment on a statistical model that estimates the excess deaths attributable to Covid-19. The technique involves taking the total number of officially recorded deaths and then subtracting the number of deaths that would have been expected on the basis of previous mortality trends if the pandemic had not occurred.

On that basis, the W.H.O. said it estimated that 1.1 million to 1.3 million people in 53 European countries died from Covid-19 in 2020, roughly double the number recorded in official data. The organization also calculates that, over the same period, 1.3 million to 1.5 million people died in 35 countries in the Americas, compared with the 900,000 deaths officially recorded.

The huge discrepancy between the W.H.O.’s estimates and official data underscores the limited capacity of many countries to test their populations for the coronavirus and other weaknesses in official health data. For example, some Covid victims had died before being tested and their deaths did not appear in official reporting, William Msemburi, a W.H.O. data analyst said.

The W.H.O. will present its statistics to the annual meeting of its policymaking assembly in Geneva next week. The numbers will help make the case for countries to invest urgently in bolstering data systems and their capacity to monitor and report health developments.

“We can only be better prepared with better data,” Dr. Asma said.

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A New $260 Million Park Floats on the Hudson. It’s a Charmer.

CRITIC’s Notebook

Little Island, developed by Barry Diller, with an amphitheater and dramatic views, opens on Hudson River Park. Opponents battled it for years.

Hudson Yards.

I won’t dawdle over the mess that followed the island’s announcement. A real estate titan who had bones to pick with the Hudson River Park Trust supported a series of legal challenges. At one point, seeing no end in sight to the court fights, Diller backed out. A deal brokered by New York’s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, ultimately rescued the project and also delivered public commitments to enhance protections for wildlife habitats and improve other parts of the four-mile-long, 550-acre Hudson River Park.

English garden follies — not least because Little Island can remind you more of a private estate than a city park. It’s clearly going to cost a king’s ransom to maintain, a burden the Hudson River Park Trust (which is to say the public) would have to bear absent other arrangements.

Fortunately, Diller has promised that his family foundation will pick up the tab for the next 20 years. That’s not forever, but it includes programming costs, Diller told me — until the programming (mostly free, not a moneymaker) can find nonprofit funding to “stand on its own.” He estimates he may end up spending $380 million all in — no doubt the largest private gift to a public park in the city’s history, maybe in the planet’s.

The other day I climbed to the topmost point on the island, a grassy crow’s nest with a 360 panorama. A lovely path shaded by dogwoods and redbuds, perfumed by woodland azaleas, snaked up the hillside. The views shifted from city to river, garden to grassland.

Heatherwick’s columns peek through a hill here or there, but you don’t really focus on them once you’re on the island, save for the great arch of giant tulip bulbs at the entrance, which required a year of tweaking to get the curves just right and to accommodate soil for Nielsen’s trees on top.

concerts, dance and children’s programs are planned to get underway this summer. Trish Santini, Little Island’s executive director, told me that her staff has been working closely with community organizations to ensure free and inexpensive tickets get into the hands of underserved groups and neighborhood schoolchildren. A second stage, called the Glade, at the base of a sloping lawn, tucked into the southeast corner of the park and framed by crape myrtle and birch trees, is custom made for kids and educational events. The main plaza, where you can grab a bite to eat and sit at cafe tables under canvas umbrellas, doubles as a third venue.

It’s on the route between the two gangways that link the island to Manhattan — and a stone’s throw from the High Line — so it’s sure to be mobbed. Santini also said the island will do timed reservations to prevent overcrowding. Little Island will need it, I expect. Two-plus acres is half the size of a city block.

sculpture by David Hammons, donated by the Whitney Museum of American Art to Hudson River Park, which traces in steel the outlines of bygone Pier 52.

North of Little Island, Pier 57 — where Google is leasing new quarters — will soon open community spaces, a food court and its roof deck to the public (City Winery is already up and running there). Piers 76 and 97 are also getting makeovers.

agreed with opponents who challenged reports by authorities over whether the project would inhibit the mating habits of juvenile striped bass.

This time environmental agencies determined that Little Island would cause no harm to fish, and the strategy didn’t work.

requirements for wheelchair accessibility are a design opportunity not a burden. I climbed back up the hill to the crow’s nest, and there she still was.

Huddled against a sunny morning gale, the mother duck was tending her eggs.

The ducklings, I learned, just hatched this week. They’ve started paddling in the river.

Maps by Scott Reinhard. Produced by Alicia DeSantis, Jolie Ruben and Tala Safie.

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How mercury sneaks into the most vulnerable communities in US and Canada

1 Dolton-Thornton, Nathaniel. “The Elem Tribe’s Last Stand.” Earth Island Journal, 2019.

2 “National Lake Fish Tissue Study – Results and Data.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 7 Nov. 2018.

3 Liu, Guangliang, et al. Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology of Mercury. Wiley, 2012.

4 Gibson, Shelby. “’My Ears Keep Ringing All the Time’: Mercury Poisoning Among Grassy Narrows First Nation.” Pulitzer Center, 29 July 2019.

5 Kirkup, Kristy. “Ottawa Pressed to Make Good on Promise to End All Long-Term Drinking-Water Advisories for First Nations.” The Globe and Mail, 1 Mar. 2021.

6 Mercury in the Environment : Pattern and Process, edited by Michael S. Bank, University of California Press, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central.

7 E. C. Merem, J. Wesley, P. Isokpehi, E. Nwagboso, S. Fageir, S. Nichols, M. Crisler, M. Shenge, C. Romorno, G. Hirse, The Growing Issue of Mercury Exposure and the Threats in the African American Community, Frontiers in Science, Vol. 6 No. 1, 2016, pp. 1-16. doi: 10.5923/j.fs.20160601.01.

8 United States, Congress, National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP), and Peggy Shepard. Fish Consumption and Environmental Justice A Report Developed from the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Meeting of December 3-6, 2001, EPA, 2002, p. 185.

9 Janssen, Sarah E., et al. “Examining Historical Mercury Sources in the Saint Louis River Estuary: How Legacy Contamination Influences Biological Mercury Levels in Great Lakes Coastal Regions.” Science of The Total Environment, vol. 779, 2021, p. 146284., doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.146284.

10 Stefanovich, Olivia. “Indigenous Services Minister to Acknowledge Liberals Won’t Meet Promised Drinking Water Targets | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 2 Dec. 2020.

11 “Defining Waters of the United States / Clean Water Rule – Environmental & Energy Law Program.” Harvard Law School, 3 Mar. 2021.

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From Colombia to U.S., Police Violence Pushes Protests Into Mass Movements

When the history of this global moment is written, there will need to be an entire chapter on police forces’ spectacular own goals as force for change.

Around the world, the police have cracked down violently on protests — only to discover that their attacks, captured on camera and shared across social and conventional media, have been the catalyst that helped turn issue-based campaigns into mass movements.

Movements like Black Lives Matter in the United States, the 2019 uprising in Chile that led to a new constitution, and, now, Colombia’s protests grew out of political wounds unique to each society. But each was transformed into a broad, potentially generation-defining cause once protesters were confronted with police violence.

shaped the culture and training of Colombian police, who amid the protests have often appeared to draw little distinction between peaceful protesters who object to the government’s policies and violent guerrillas who wanted to overthrow the state.

In Chile in 2019, protests initially began as opposition to an increase in transit fares. It was the government’s fateful decision to restore order by calling out the army — for the first time since Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship ended in 1990 — that transformed the protests into a national movement with widespread political support.

Army tanks rolling through the streets sent a message that the country’s transition to democracy was incomplete, and at risk of collapse. Protesters carried placards printed with the face of Victor Jara, a folk singer murdered in the early days of the Pinochet regime, drawing a direct connection between the modern protests and the tanks that brought General Pinochet to power.

Just a year after the protests exploded, Chileans voted to scrap the constitution drafted during the Pinochet years and replace it with a new one.

In Colombia, the violence against protesters, and the heavy militarization of the streets in cities like Bogotá, has likewise sent a message that the country’s democratic project is not just unfinished, but is perhaps in jeopardy.

The 2016 peace agreement was supposed to end the armed conflict between the government and the FARC. But the actions of the state security forces over the past two weeks have many questioning whether peacetime democracy ever began at all.

“I think that the story of this country is about the armed conflict,” said Erika Rodríguez Gómez, 30, a lawyer and feminist activist from Bogotá. “We signed a peace agreement in 2016. And maybe at that moment we felt like, OK, we are going to move on.”

“But actually we have all of the military forces on the streets. And we have these attacks against us, the civil society,” she said. “So we think now that actually, they were never gone.”

It is too soon to say whether the protests will lead to lasting change. The attacks on protesters have made state violence visible to more people, said Dr. González, the Harvard researcher, but she believes that they are still considering it through the lens of “their usual scripts about understanding society, and understanding the police, and understanding everything. So it hasn’t quite come to the point of people converging.”

But Leydy Diossa-Jimenez, a Colombian researcher and Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that she sees this moment as a turning point for change across generations. “Gen Z, they are now rethinking their country, and thinking about what has been left by prior generations,” she said in an interview. “They are saying ‘No, this is not what we want.’ ”

“And I think for the first time now, the older generations in Colombia are allying with that idea, that this is not the country we want,” she said.

“I don’t know if the politicians are up to the challenge, and up to the historical moment,” she added. “I just hope they are.”

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Why Are Colombians Protesting?

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Protests have rocked Colombia for three weeks, with thousands of people pouring into the streets of its major cities — and facing a crackdown by government security forces. More than 40 people, many of them protesters, are dead.

On Monday, Colombia’s president, Iván Duque, ordered the “maximum deployment” of the country’s military and police forces to clear roads blocked by protesters, a move he said would “allow all Colombians to regain mobility,” but that some feared would lead to more violence.

The fuse for the protests was a tax overhaul proposed by Mr. Duque, which many Colombians felt would have made getting by in an economy squeezed by the pandemic even harder.

But the outpouring quickly morphed into a widespread expression of anger over poverty and inequality — which have risen as the virus has spread — and over the violence with which the police have confronted the movement.

calls for the government to guarantee a minimum income, to prevent police violence and to withdraw a health reform plan that critics say does not do enough to fix systemic problems.

Mr. Duque’s popularity had dropped before the pandemic, and is now near its lowest point since his election in 2018, according to the polling firm Invamer.

ravaged populations and economies in the region.

many Colombians viewed the plan as an attack on their already difficult existences.

Even before the pandemic, many Colombians with full-time jobs struggled to make even the minimum wage of about $275 a month.

Helena Osorio, 24, for example, is a nurse who works nights and earns $13 per shift caring for Covid patients, barely enough for her and her younger brother to survive. This pushed her to attend recent protests.

The president’s tax proposal also came as coronavirus cases and deaths were rising in the country, leaving hundreds of desperate Colombians to wait for a bed at overloaded hospitals even as the vaccination campaign rollout has been slow.

longstanding frustrations to a boil.

Colombia is among the most unequal countries in the world. A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2018 said that it would take 11 generations for a poor Colombian to approach the mean income in his or her society — the highest number of 30 countries examined.

Despite reductions in poverty in the decades before the pandemic, many Colombians, particularly the young, feel the engines of upward mobility are beyond their reach.

violence continues in many rural areas, fueling frustration.

As the protests have escalated, resulting in clashes between demonstrators and police, Mr. Duque’s government has frequently blamed the violence on armed groups it says have infiltrated the protests.

responded with force, sometimes firing bullets at peaceful protesters, according to New York Times interviews with witnesses. This has exacerbated anger.

At least 42 people are dead, according to Colombia’s Defensoría del Pueblo, a government agency that tracks alleged human rights violations. But Human Rights Watch and other organizations say that the death toll is likely higher.

The Defensoría says that it has received 168 reports of people who have disappeared amid the protests, and only some of them have been found.

In an interview, Mr. Duque recognized that some officers had been violent, but attributed the violence to a few bad actors, saying major change in the police force was not needed.

“There have been acts of abuse of force,” he said. But “just saying that there could be any possibility that the Colombian police will be seen as a systematic abuser of human rights — well, that will be not only unfair, unjust, but without any base, any ground.”

Protesters have also blocked major roads, preventing food and other essential goods from getting through. Officials say this has hampered efforts to fight the coronavirus at a time when new cases and virus deaths are at near record highs.

The defense department says that hundreds of officers have been hurt, and one has been killed, while people associated with the protests have vandalized police stations and buses.

While tens of thousands have marched in the streets, not everyone supports the protests.

Jhon Henry Morales, 51, a taxi driver in Cali, said his city had been nearly paralyzed in recent days, with some protesters blocking the roads with tires.

He had not been able to work, he said, putting him behind on his bills. “Protest is legal,” he said. But, he said, “I also have rights as a Colombian citizen.”

Reporting was contributed by Sofía Villamil and Steven Grattan in Bogotá.

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The Lithium Gold Rush: Inside the Race to Power Electric Vehicles

Atop a long-dormant volcano in northern Nevada, workers are preparing to start blasting and digging out a giant pit that will serve as the first new large-scale lithium mine in the United States in more than a decade — a new domestic supply of an essential ingredient in electric car batteries and renewable energy.

The mine, constructed on leased federal lands, could help address the near total reliance by the United States on foreign sources of lithium.

But the project, known as Lithium Americas, has drawn protests from members of a Native American tribe, ranchers and environmental groups because it is expected to use billions of gallons of precious ground water, potentially contaminating some of it for 300 years, while leaving behind a giant mound of waste.

“Blowing up a mountain isn’t green, no matter how much marketing spin people put on it,” said Max Wilbert, who has been living in a tent on the proposed mine site while two lawsuits seeking to block the project wend their way through federal courts.

Electric cars and renewable energy may not be as green as they appear. Production of raw materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel that are essential to these technologies are often ruinous to land, water, wildlife and people.

That environmental toll has often been overlooked in part because there is a race underway among the United States, China, Europe and other major powers. Echoing past contests and wars over gold and oil, governments are fighting for supremacy over minerals that could help countries achieve economic and technological dominance for decades to come.

Developers and lawmakers see this Nevada project, given final approval in the last days of the Trump administration, as part of the opportunity for the United States to become a leader in producing some of these raw materials as President Biden moves aggressively to fight climate change. In addition to Nevada, businesses have proposed lithium production sites in California, Oregon, Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina.

But traditional mining is one of the dirtiest businesses out there. That reality is not lost on automakers and renewable-energy businesses.

“Our new clean-energy demands could be creating greater harm, even though its intention is to do good,” said Aimee Boulanger, executive director for the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, a group that vets mines for companies like BMW and Ford Motor. “We can’t allow that to happen.”

assembled by Bloomberg, and a hint of the frenzy underway.

Some of those investors are backing alternatives including a plan to extract lithium from briny water beneath California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, about 600 miles south of the Lithium Americas site.

At the Salton Sea, investors plan to use specially coated beads to extract lithium salt from the hot liquid pumped up from an aquifer more than 4,000 feet below the surface. The self-contained systems will be connected to geothermal power plants generating emission-free electricity. And in the process, they hope to generate the revenue needed to restore the lake, which has been fouled by toxic runoff from area farms for decades.

Businesses are also hoping to extract lithium from brine in Arkansas, Nevada, North Dakota and at least one more location in the United States.

The United States needs to quickly find new supplies of lithium as automakers ramp up manufacturing of electric vehicles. Lithium is used in electric car batteries because it is lightweight, can store lots of energy and can be repeatedly recharged. Analysts estimate that lithium demand is going to increase tenfold before the end of this decade as Tesla, Volkswagen, General Motors and other automakers introduce dozens of electric models. Other ingredients like cobalt are needed to keep the battery stable.

Even though the United States has some of the world’s largest reserves, the country today has only one large-scale lithium mine, Silver Peak in Nevada, which first opened in the 1960s and is producing just 5,000 tons a year — less than 2 percent of the world’s annual supply. Most of the raw lithium used domestically comes from Latin America or Australia, and most of it is processed and turned into battery cells in China and other Asian countries.

In March, she announced grants to increase production of crucial minerals. “This is a race to the future that America is going to win,” she said.

So far, the Biden administration has not moved to help push more environmentally friendly options — like lithium brine extraction, instead of open pit mines. The Interior Department declined to say whether it would shift its stand on the Lithium Americas permit, which it is defending in court.

Mining companies and related businesses want to accelerate domestic production of lithium and are pressing the administration and key lawmakers to insert a $10 billion grant program into Mr. Biden’s infrastructure bill, arguing that it is a matter of national security.

“Right now, if China decided to cut off the U.S. for a variety of reasons we’re in trouble,” said Ben Steinberg, an Obama administration official turned lobbyist. He was hired in January by ​Piedmont Lithium, which is working to build an open-pit mine in North Carolina and is one of several companies that have created a trade association for the industry.

Investors are rushing to get permits for new mines and begin production to secure contracts with battery companies and automakers.

Ultimately, federal and state officials will decide which of the two methods — traditional mining or brine extraction — is approved. Both could take hold. Much will depend on how successful environmentalists, tribes and local groups are in blocking projects.

370 feet.

Mr. Bartell’s biggest fear is that the mine will consume the water that keeps his cattle alive. The company has said the mine will consume 3,224 gallons per minute. That could cause the water table to drop on land Mr. Bartell owns by an estimated 12 feet, according to a Lithium Americas consultant.

While producing 66,000 tons a year of battery-grade lithium carbonate, the mine may cause groundwater contamination with metals including antimony and arsenic, according to federal documents.

The lithium will be extracted by mixing clay dug out from the mountainside with as much as 5,800 tons a day of sulfuric acid. This whole process will also create 354 million cubic yards of mining waste that will be loaded with discharge from the sulfuric acid treatment, and may contain modestly radioactive uranium, permit documents disclose.

A December assessment by the Interior Department found that over its 41-year life, the mine would degrade nearly 5,000 acres of winter range used by pronghorn antelope and hurt the habitat of the sage grouse. It would probably also destroy a nesting area for a pair of golden eagles whose feathers are vital to the local tribe’s religious ceremonies.

a lawsuit to try to block the mine.

At the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation, anger over the project has boiled over, even causing some fights between members as Lithium Americas has offered to hire tribal members in jobs that will pay an average annual wage of $62,675 — twice the county’s per capita income — but that will come with a big trade-off.

“Tell me, what water am I going to drink for 300 years?” Deland Hinkey, a member of the tribe, yelled as a federal official arrived at the reservation in March to brief tribal leaders on the mining plan. “Anybody, answer my question. After you contaminate my water, what I am going to drink for 300 years? You are lying!”

The reservation is nearly 50 miles from the mine site — and far beyond the area where groundwater may be contaminated — but tribe members fear the pollution could spread.

hiring a lobbying team that includes a former Trump White House aide, Jonathan Slemrod.

Lithium Americas, which estimates there is $3.9 billion worth of recoverable lithium at the site, hopes to start mining operations next year. Its largest shareholder is the Chinese company Ganfeng Lithium.

CalEnergy, and another business, Energy Source, have tapped the Buttes’ geothermal heat to produce electricity. The systems use naturally occurring underground steam. This same water is loaded with lithium.

Now, Berkshire Hathaway and two other companies — Controlled Thermal Resources and Materials Research — want to install equipment that will extract lithium after the water passes through the geothermal plants, in a process that will take only about two hours.

Rod Colwell, a burly Australian, has spent much of the last decade pitching investors and lawmakers on putting the brine to use. In February, a backhoe plowed dirt on a 7,000-acre site being developed by his company, Controlled Thermal Resources.

“This is the sweet spot,” Mr. Colwell said. “This is the most sustainable lithium in the world, made in America. Who would have thought it? We’ve got this massive opportunity.”

unemployment rate of nearly 16 percent.

“Our region is very rich in natural resources and mineral resources,” said Luis Olmedo, executive director of Comite Civico del Valle, which represents area farm workers. “However, they’re very poorly distributed. The population has not been afforded a seat at the table.”

The state has given millions in grants to lithium extraction companies, and the Legislature is considering requiring carmakers by 2035 to use California sources for some of the lithium in vehicles they sell in the state, the country’s largest electric-car market.

But even these projects have raised some questions.

Geothermal plants produce energy without emissions, but they can require tens of billions of gallons of water annually for cooling. And lithium extraction from brine dredges up minerals like iron and salt that need to be removed before the brine is injected back into the ground.

Similar extraction efforts at the Salton Sea have previously failed. In 2000, CalEnergy proposed spending $200 million to extract zinc and to help restore the Salton Sea. The company gave up on the effort in 2004.

opened demonstration projects using the brine extraction technology, with Standard Lithium tapping into a brine source already being extracted from the ground by an Arkansas chemical plant, meaning it did not need to take additional water from the ground.

“This green aspect is incredibly important,” said Robert Mintak, chief executive of Standard Lithium, who hopes the company will produce 21,000 tons a year of lithium in Arkansas within five years if it can raise $440 million in financing. “The Fred Flintstone approach is not the solution to the lithium challenge.”

Lilac Solutions, whose clients include Controlled Thermal Resources, is also working on direct lithium extraction in Nevada, North Dakota and at least one other U.S. location that it would not disclose. The company predicts that within five years, these projects could produce about 100,000 tons of lithium annually, or 20 times current domestic production.

Executives from companies like Lithium Americans question if these more innovative approaches can deliver all the lithium the world needs.

But automakers are keen to pursue approaches that have a much smaller impact on the environment.

“Indigenous tribes being pushed out or their water being poisoned or any of those types of issues, we just don’t want to be party to that,” said Sue Slaughter, Ford’s purchasing director for supply chain sustainability. “We really want to force the industries that we’re buying materials from to make sure that they’re doing it in a responsible way. As an industry, we are going to be buying so much of these materials that we do have significant power to leverage that situation very strongly. And we intend to do that.”

Gabriella Angotti-Jones contributed reporting.

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Years of Unheeded Warnings. Then the Subway Crash Mexico City Had Feared.

MEXICO CITY — The capital had been bracing for the disaster for years.

Ever since it opened nearly a decade ago, the newest Mexico City subway line — a heralded expansion of the second largest subway system in the Americas — had been plagued with structural weaknesses that led engineers to warn of potential accidents. Yet other than a brief, partial shutdown of the line in 2014, the warnings went unheeded by successive governments.

On Monday night, the mounting problems turned fatal: A subway train on the Golden Line plunged about 50 feet after an overpass collapsed underneath it, killing at least 24 people and injuring dozens more.

The accident — and the government’s failure to act sooner to fix known problems with the line — immediately set off a political firestorm for three of the most powerful people in Mexico: the president and the two people widely believed to be front-runners to succeed him as leaders of the governing party and possibly, the country.

told reporters through sobs. “I can’t find him anywhere.”

Hours later, her 13-year-old son, Brandon Giovani Hernández Tapia, was still missing.

told reporters gathered at the crash site on Tuesday. “The metro wasn’t built on its own — this flaw has been there for a long time and no one did anything.”

A total of 79 injured people had been taken to hospitals, three of whom later died, according to Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City. Among those hospitalized were three minors.

Mexico City’s water problems and its subway system, a key mode of transportation for the sprawling capital’s population of nearly 22 million.

In the aftermath of Monday’s disaster, two of Mr. López Obrador’s closest allies came under immediate scrutiny: Ms. Sheinbaum, the capital’s mayor, and Marcelo Ebrard, the foreign minister who was mayor when the new subway line opened. Both are presumed to be top contenders to run for the presidency when Mr. López Obrador, limited to one term, steps down in 2024.

The new line, which serves the working-class neighborhoods in the capital’s southeast, was built by Mr. Ebrard, who was mayor of Mexico from 2006 to 2012. He was accused by critics of rushing to finish construction before his term concluded in an effort to bolster his political legacy. Troubles emerged immediately.

In just the first month after the line was inaugurated, there were 60 mechanical failures on trains or on tracks, according to local media. Trains had to slow down over elevated stretches of track, because engineers feared derailments. About a year later, the city was forced to temporarily shut down part of the $2 billion line for repairs.

transport authorities reported “a structural fault” in one of the metro line’s supporting columns, which had affected its ability to support heavy weight.

In 2018, senators from the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party called for Mexico City authorities to inform Congress about irregularities in the funding of the subway line’s expansion. In an official party document, the opposition lawmakers called the Golden Line a “symbol of corruption and the misuse of public resources that prevailed during that administration.”

The lawmakers cited a congressional inquiry into the faulty line which found that “the modifications to the basic engineering, to the original layout with the change of underground stations to elevated stations, severely affected the technical operating conditions” of the subway line.

Residents living near the scene of the accident said government workers had fixed the column shortly after the earthquake. But they expressed doubt about the quality of the reconstruction, after seeing how many shutdowns and maintenance issues the line had over the years.

Hernando Manon, 42, was walking home from work Monday night when he felt a tremor and heard a loud crash a few hundred yards up the street.

“There was a rumbling and then sparks. The lights went out, and we didn’t know what happened. Then we heard the sirens,” Mr. Manon said, standing just a few hundred yards from the site of the accident. “As we approached, we realized that the subway had collapsed.”

Families rushed to the scene, he said, hoping to find their loved ones and yelling at the police demanding to be let through the cordon they had erected around the wreckage.

2018-2030 Master Plan for the subway system detailed major backlogs to the maintenance of tracks and trains and warned that trains could be derailed on the Golden Line unless major repairs were undertaken. It is unclear whether those needed repairs were ever carried out.

Since becoming mayor of the capital in 2018, Ms. Sheinbaum, who is closely aligned with the president’s pursuit of austerity, has presided over cuts to spending on the subway system.

For a year, the city did not appoint a director of infrastructure maintenance for the subway system. Ms. Sheinbaum only filled the role last week.

two subway trains collided in Mexico City. Then in January, a fire ripped through the subway’s headquarters in downtown Mexico City, killing a police officer and sending 30 others to hospital.

At a news conference on Tuesday, both Ms. Sheinbaum and Mr. Ebrard faced harsh questioning from reporters. Publicly, at least, the two political heavyweights presented a united front.

“We are in agreement to get to the bottom of this and work together to find the truth and know what caused this incident,” Ms. Sheinbaum said.

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” Mr. Ebrard said. “Like anyone else, I am subject to whatever the authorities determine, but even more so as a high-level official, as someone who promoted the construction of the line.”

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Subway Train Derails in Mexico City, Killing at Least 13

A subway train derailed on Monday night in Mexico City after a concrete overpass partially collapsed, the government said, leading to reports of scores of injuries and scenes of tangled wires, twisted metal and tilted train cars that had fallen off an overpass.

The derailment occurred on Line 12 of the subway system at the Olivos Station in southeast Mexico City, Mexico’s civil protection agency said in a post on Twitter. The accident sent emergency teams scrambling to the scene and prompted a warning on Twitter from the Mexico City Metro, officially called Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, to avoid the area.

Videos of the derailment released by the government showed at least one orange-and-yellow one subway car hanging from an overpass.

reported that the crash occurred about 10:25 p.m. and left at least 50 people injured. Officials did not immediately release any reports of casualties.

said on Twitter that she was rushing to the scene.

The subway system in Mexico City, the country’s sprawling capital, handles more than four million passengers a day. It is the second-largest in the Americas, after the one in New York City.

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