All these differences help us see ants as they really are: rich in diversity, earned over millions of years of evolution as they adapted to a world’s worth of habitats, ecosystems and survival strategies. Dr. Rice calls ants “the Bauhaus creations of the natural world.” Like the architectural principle that form follows function, each strange-looking adaptation represents a major commitment in creatures with “little space for extravagance” and so illustrates yet another of the multitudinous ways that there are to be an ant. “To answer the question posed by an ant’s form,” Dr. Rice writes, “is to begin to untangle the intricate relationships that scaffold our world.”
The naturalist and author Edward O. Wilson discovered this early in his scientific career, when a mentor sent him a note about a group of ants with strange, long mandibles that could spring shut like traps. (“Wilson, find out what dacetines eat,” he wrote. “What do they hunt and catch creeping around with those weird mandibles?”) A question about morphology became a clue about a food web. The ants, it turned out, were eating springtails, a kind of hexapod that can fling itself rapidly through the air to avoid predators, but not quickly enough to outrun the incredible speed of the ants’ jaws. It was a race, Dr. Wilson wrote in “Tales From the Ant World”: “each using its own explosive devices, one to capture, the other to avoid capture.” Mr. Niga’s photographs show trap-jaw ants with mandibles like scimitars or lobster claws; some can close their jaws in barely one-tenth of a millisecond, slamming shut at speeds reaching 145 miles per hour.
We also meet Cataglyphis bicolor, with its long, spidery legs — an invaluable adaptation if you live, as this ant does, in the Sahara and need speed and height to keep you cool above the blazing sand. (For Oecophylla smaragdina, or weaver ants, long legs serve a different purpose: spanning gaps in the tree canopy as they construct nests of leaves and silk.) Leaf-cutter ants look fierce, their bodies covered in spines and spikes, but all that armor is meant not for fighting but, in effect, as a gardening tool. The ants are agriculturalists, ferrying food to the fungus that they cultivate in elaborate underground chambers, and the spikes allow them to better balance their leafy loads. In the tropics, they work in such diligent numbers that you can see the ant highways that their tiny ant feet wear into forest floors.
Learning the ways of ants teaches us that their lives are very different from our own. The ants we encounter in our own lives are almost exclusively female; the males are, in Dr. Wilson’s words, “little more than flying sperm missiles” that don’t live long and are often unrecognizable as ants at all. Queens are made, not born; fertilized eggs have the potential to be queens or workers, and will develop differently based on what the youngster is fed as she grows, a diet and a future that will be dictated by the needs of the colony. Ants also have an unusually high number of odor receptors, which allow them to decode chemical trails and messages. Some species also have three simple light-detecting eyes, called ocelli, to help them fly and navigate, in addition to the standard two compound eyes.
There are many reasons to understand ants better. Whole ecosystems are built around them, and large numbers of species, from plants to beetles to birds, are “ant obligates,” meaning that they depend entirely on their relationships with ant colonies to survive. Winnow ants disperse so many herbaceous seeds in North America, Dr. Rice notes, that “removing them causes wildflower abundance to drop by 50 percent.”
MEXICO CITY — The pink paint of her stairwell is peeling, the black metal banister chipped, but Samantha Flores is as sharp-witted as ever amid a profusion of climbing plants and bursting red flowers.
At 88, the Mexican transgender icon remains elegant, funny and at times flirtatious, sitting at a small round table on the landing outside her tiny Mexico City flat where she has received callers, at a safe distance, throughout the pandemic.
After nearly nine decades as a socialite, a manager of a gay bar, an L.G.B.T.Q. advocate, and much more, Ms. Flores has a large community of longtime friends and neighbors who come knocking.
“Without my friends, I wouldn’t be who I am,” she said.
But as Ms. Flores well knows, many seniors are not so lucky. And so there is one part of her world that she’s aching to get back — the drop-in center she founded and runs to help older L.G.B.T.Q. adults combat their isolation. It was the first organization of its kind in Mexico.
Vogue Mexico last June, and was later featured in a campaign for the fashion house Gucci.
But for Ms. Flores, the glamour and attention are just new platforms to talk about what’s most important to her — Vida Alegre, and the rampant discrimination still faced by Mexican trans women, which often makes sex work their only means of making a living.
“It’s society’s fault that trans women have to work on the streets,” she said. “They aren’t given any other option.”
When coupled with machismo attitudes and widespread gang violence, discrimination can also be deadly for trans women in Mexico, which regularly ranks among the most dangerous countries in the world for transgender people. Few are lucky enough to live as long as Ms. Flores has.
But luck, it seems, has often been on Ms. Flores’ side.
Born in the city of Orizaba in Veracruz state in 1932, Ms. Flores grew up in a house with a yard full of orange, guava, lemon and avocado trees. She described her childhood as idyllic. Her family was tacitly accepting even then of what she called her effeminate nature, she said.
“I couldn’t pass by unnoticed, ” Ms. Flores recalled.
But behind her back, there were always whispers from neighbors and schoolmates, Ms. Flores said, and after graduating from high school, she couldn’t wait to leave Orizaba.
“What I wanted was to get out of that damn town and away from those damn people,” she said. “I realized that I was criticized and singled out for being queer.”
Ms. Flores moved to Mexico City, where she began dipping into the capital’s nascent gay scene of the 1950s and ’60s.
“For me, it was freedom,” she said.
One night in 1964, Ms. Flores was invited to a costume party, and together with a few friends, decided to go in drag. She chose the name Samantha for her persona after Grace Kelly’s character in the film “High Society,” which featured music by Cole Porter, her favorite singer.
“I liked Samantha because of the double meaning,” Ms. Flores said. “Bing Crosby called her Sam, which can also be short for Samuel.”
The host of the party was a friend of Ms. Flores, Xóchitl, then one of the most famous trans women in Mexico, who Ms. Flores says, had connections to the rich and powerful that allowed her the freedom to hold extravagant parties for the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
“She was the one that opened the door for trans women,” Ms. Flores recalled.
Little by little, Ms. Flores appeared in public as Samantha until, eventually, she was Samantha.
“I became myself, I found my true personality,” she said.
Soon, Samantha Flores was a staple of the Mexico City club scene.
“She was always a very, very elegant woman,” recalled Alexandra Rodríguez de Ruíz, a transgender rights activist and writer who was a teenager when she started going to gay clubs and encountered Ms. Flores. “Always wearing beautiful dresses and always accompanied by handsome young men.”
Back then, Ms. Rodríguez said, being part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Mexico was even more dangerous; the police would regularly detain trans women on the street or raid gay bars and confiscate their belongings.
“There was a lot of persecution,” she said. “Sometimes, if they were bad cops, they would take you to someplace and rape you or beat you.”
But Ms. Flores said she managed to avoid trouble. Whether it was that she could easily pass as female or because of her friendship with the well-connected Xóchitl, she was never bothered by the police.
Still, Ms. Flores said she felt uneasy being a trans woman in Mexico, and decided to move to Los Angeles. For several years in the 1970s and early ’80s, she lived between Mexico and L.A., where she worked managing a gay bar, among other ventures.
By the time she came back to Mexico full-time in the mid-’80s, the AIDS crisis was in full swing.
“My best friends, my most beloved friends, they died of H.I.V.,” Ms. Flores recalled. “I lost count — if I said 300, I wouldn’t be exaggerating.”
Seeing the crisis facing her community inspired her to become more of an activist.
“I became a fighter,” she said.
At first, Ms. Flores volunteered at an AIDS charity, and later began raising money for children with H.I.V. and women facing violence in northern Mexico, collecting funds at theater performances, including “The Vagina Monologues,” which ran in Mexico for years.
Then, a few years ago, a friend of hers suggested that she create a shelter for older L.G.B.T.Q. adults.
“That’s when the spark was lit,” Ms. Flores said.
It took years of wading through the Mexican bureaucracy and finding the right venue, but eventually she was able to secure rent on a one-room building on a busy street in the Álamos neighborhood. Vida Alegre now stands there, the building painted bright blue with a rainbow flag out the front.
The community has grown to some 40 people, about half of whom are straight and go there only for the company.
“It’s empathy and being together,” that brings people in, Ms. Flores said. “Abandonment and loneliness have fled.”
Besides reopening Vida Alegre, Ms. Flores has one other wish.
“I’m waiting for Prince Charming on his white horse and silver armor to come and serenade me,” Ms. Flores said. “I’ve been living here for 35 years, with the windows open, waiting for him. But he still hasn’t come.”
The bleak reality of a list like this is that it leaves out so many more.
There have been dozens of mass shootings in the United States in just the past five years, according to the Violence Project, which maintains a database of attacks in which at least four people were killed.
And before that, many more were seared into memories: San Bernardino, Calif., and Charleston, S.C., in 2015; Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., in 2012; Virginia Tech in 2007, among them.
Each new attack is a reminder of all of the others that came before it, as the nation has been unable to curb an epidemic of gun violence that far outpaces other countries. These are just some of the horrors that have traumatized the nation.
March 22, 2021: A grocery store in Boulder, Colo.
A gunman inside a grocery store killed 10 people, including Eric Talley, the first police officer to arrive at the scene. The gunman was injured and taken into custody.
were killed at three spas, at least two of which had been frequented by the gunman. It was the country’s first mass shooting to command nationwide attention in a year and caused particular alarm among many Asian-Americans.
March 16, 2020: A gas station in Springfield, Mo.
A shooting spree across five miles left five people dead, including a police officer and the gunman. It ended with a car crash at a gas station and the gunman’s death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Aug. 31, 2019: Drive-by shootings in Midland and Odessa, Texas
a rampage across the two cities in which eight people, including the gunman, were killed, and 25 others were injured. The gunman hijacked a postal truck and opened fire on residents, motorists and shoppers before he was fatally shot by the police. Three officers and a toddler were among the injured.
Aug. 4, 2019: An entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio
Armed with an AR-15-style rifle and body armor, a gunman killed nine people and wounded 27 others in 32 seconds in a bustling entertainment district before he was fatally shot by a police officer. The gunman’s sister was among the first people he shot.
prowled the aisles of a Walmart in El Paso, a majority-Hispanic border city, killing 23 people and wounding about two dozen others. The back-to-back combination of the two attacks left the nation shaken.
July 28, 2019: A festival in Gilroy, Calif.
An annual garlic festival in an agricultural community south of San Jose turned deadly when a 19-year-old man opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle. The gunman killed three people in the attack, including a 13-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, and wounded more than a dozen others.
May 31, 2019: An office in Virginia Beach, Va.
attacked the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, killing 12 people.
Nov. 7, 2018: A bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
A gunman entered the Borderline Bar & Grill, a country music bar, and shot a security guard at the entrance with a .45-caliber handgun before opening fire into the crowd, killing 12 people. The gunman was found dead at the scene after being confronted by officers who had stormed the bar.
killing 11 congregants and wounding six others. The gunman shot indiscriminately at worshipers for several minutes.
June 28, 2018: A newsroom in Annapolis, Md.
A man armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades assaulted the newsroom of a community newspaper chain in Annapolis, Md., killing five staff members, injuring two others. The gunman had previously sued journalists at the chain, the Capital Gazette, for defamation and had waged a social media campaign against them.
May 18, 2018: A high School in Santa Fe, Texas
Armed with a shotgun and a .38 revolver hidden under his coat, a 17-year-old student opened fire on his high school campus, Santa Fe High School, killing 10 people, many of them his fellow students, and wounding 10 more, the authorities said. Witnesses said that the gunman first entered an art classroom, said “Surprise!” and started shooting.
Feb. 14, 2018: A high School in Parkland, Fla.
a wave of nationwide, student-led protests calling on lawmakers to tighten gun laws.
Nov. 5, 2017: A church in Sutherland Springs, Texas
A gunman with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands stormed into a Sunday church service at a small Baptist church in rural Texas and sprayed bullets into its pews. He killed 26 people, including nine members of a single family, and left 20 people wounded, many of them severely. The gunman later shot himself.
Oct. 1, 2017: A concert in Las Vegas
deadliest mass shootings in American history, a gunman perched on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, smashed the windows of his suite with a hammer and shot at a crowd of 22,000 people at an outdoor country music festival. Fifty-eight people were killed and 887 sustained documented injuries, either from gunfire or while running to safety.
Jan. 6, 2017: An airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
As an airline passenger retrieved his checked luggage, he pulled a 9-millimeter handgun out of his suitcase and used it to kill five people and wound six others at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida. When he ran out of ammunition, he lay on the floor, waiting to be arrested.
July 7, 2016: Downtown Dallas
A heavily armed sniper targeted police officers in downtown Dallas, leaving five of them dead. The gunman turned a demonstration against fatal police shootings of Black men in Minnesota and Louisiana from a peaceful march focused on violence committed by officers into a scene of chaos and bloodshed.
June 12, 2016: The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
killing 50 people and wounding 53 others. After a three-hour standoff following the initial assault, law enforcement officials raided the club and fatally shot the gunman.
Two pieces of gold and silver-encrusted Italian Renaissance armor, which had been stolen from the Louvre in 1983 and found this year in a family’s private collection in France, were discovered the way stolen art often is: An expert crosschecked the items against an online database of lost and stolen art.
But museums have at times withheld information about thefts, fearing that revealing security weaknesses could make other institutions less likely to loan them art or that it could encourage other thefts, according to current and former museum officials. Art security experts say the failure to report thefts, particularly involving items stolen from storage, has prevented museums from recovering items.
Philippe Malgouyres, the curator of heritage art at the Louvre, said that when he started working in museums decades ago, he heard stories of thefts and disappearances that had not been reported.
“Our purpose is to preserve objects for the future and for the public,” Mr. Malgouyres said. “When we fail to do that somehow, when something is stolen, it’s a very painful experience, which led some museums in the past, especially, not even to go to the police sometimes, because they were feeling so embarrassed about it.”
that recovered two J.M.W. Turner paintings in 2002, eight years after they had been stolen while on loan to a museum in Germany.
On Sunday, the newspaper El País reported that the National Library of Spain had discovered in 2014 that one of its holdings, a 17th-century book by Galileo, had been replaced by a copy but did not report it to the police until four years later, when researchers had requested the work.
stole 27 pieces from the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia in Rome, the police kept quiet about the theft and, as a result, recovered most of the pieces, she said.
“Sometimes they’re very quiet, not so talkative or splashy,” Ms. Albertson said of the division of Italian police that focuses on art crime. “That discretion has been quite helpful.”
China is freeing up tens of billions of dollars for its tech industry to borrow. It is cataloging the sectors where the United States or others could cut off access to crucial technologies. And when its leaders released their most important economic plans last week, they laid out their ambitions to become an innovation superpower beholden to none.
Anticipating efforts by the Biden administration to continue to challenge China’s technological rise, the country’s leaders are accelerating plans to go it alone, seeking to address vulnerabilities in the country’s economy that could thwart its ambitions in a wide range of industries, from smartphones to jet engines.
China has made audacious and ambitious plans before — in 2015 — but is falling short of its goals. With more countries becoming wary of China’s behavior and its growing economic might, Beijing’s drive for technological independence has taken on a new urgency. The country’s new five-year plan, made public on Friday, called tech development a matter of national security, not just economic development, a break from the previous plan.
The plan pledged to increase spending on research and development by 7 percent annually, including the public and private sectors. That figure was higher than budget increases for China’s military, which is slated to grow 6.8 percent next year, raising the prospect of an era of looming Cold War-like competition with the United States.
wrote on the eve of the legislative meetings now underway in Beijing.
The road to the “global peaks of technology,” as Mr. Xi has described China’s aspirations, is decidedly uphill. The government had previously set out to spend 2.5 percent of gross domestic product on research and development in the last five years, but actual expenditures failed to reach that target.
domestic chip production met only 15.9 percent of its chip demand in 2020, barely higher than the 15.1 percent share it accounted for in 2014, according to IC Insights, an American semiconductor research firm.
China’s premier, Li Keqiang, last week detailed proposals to accelerate the development of high-end semiconductors, operating systems, computer processors, cloud computing and artificial intelligence.
“I think they’re really worried,” said Rebecca Arcesati, a tech analyst with the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin. “They know that without access to those technologies, they won’t be able to reach their targets.”
The new strategy, to a degree, rebrands the country’s previous Made in China 2025 campaign, which sought to propel it to the lead in a range of cutting-edge technologies. It broadly set out to produce 70 percent of the core components that Chinese manufacturers needed by 2025. The plan scared trade partners and contributed to a punishing trade war with the United States.
“China wants to reduce its dependency on the world — not to reduce its trade and interaction but to ensure that it is not vulnerable to the kind of strategic blackmail against China that it has historically used against others,” said Daniel Russel, a former American diplomat who is now a vice president at the Asia Society Policy Institute.
has in the past used corporate espionage to support economic interests, including in the high-tech fields that the government is now making a priority.
The latest intrusion against business and government agencies used Microsoft email systems and was discovered last weekend. Tentatively linked to Chinese hackers, it is likely to sharpen a divide that could split the tech world.
In recent weeks, Chinese officials have repeatedly emphasized the danger of “choke points” where the United States controls key foundational technologies. At a news conference in Beijing, Xiao Yaqing, who leads the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, announced a review of 41 sectors for “empty spots” that could cause the tech supply chain to break “during crucial times.”
Beijing is backing this effort with money and rhetoric.
China Development Bank, the country’s policy lender, said last week that it was preparing over $60 billion in loans for more than 1,000 firms key to strategic innovation and had raised $30 billion for a new government-backed microchip investment fund.
Ni Guangnan, wrote recently that the country should create a “Chinese system” that could supplant the combined systems of Intel, Microsoft, Oracle and others that have historically dominated computing. China should also increase the world’s reliance on its telecom infrastructure technology to “form a powerful deterrent” against future embargoes, he added.
The tech supply chain remains hugely complex and resolutely global, and too much meddling in the markets can have unforeseen consequences, experts have warned. Top-down jockeying by the United States and China over microchips has in part triggered a chip shortage that recently hit the auto industry.
said it had extended a contract to provide equipment to China’s largest semiconductor maker, even though Washington put the firm, known as SMIC, on a blacklist last year. The extension did not break any restrictions, but showed how there are limits to the United States’ ability to cut off supplies.
Decisions like that could continue to frustrate President Biden, who has cast China as the country’s most significant foreign policy challenge. China hopes to undercut American efforts to isolate it by entwining itself with major economies, including those politically allied with the United States.
the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan.
The phrase echoed one he had made as a candidate only two years before — to dismiss the challenge posed by China. “China’s going to eat our lunch?” he said while stumping in Iowa in 2019. “C’mon, man!”
Chris Buckley contributed reporting. Claire Fu and Lin Qiqing contributed research.
After sunset on May 31, 1983, and before dawn the next morning, a showcase at the Louvre was broken into and two pieces of 16th-century Italian armor were stolen in one of the most mysterious heists in the museum’s history.
Nearly 40 years later, the two items — a ceremonial helmet and a breastplate — were identified in the private collection of a family in Bordeaux, in western France. The police are investigating how the items ended up in the family’s estate, and who was responsible for the theft.
“The Louvre is delighted that these two pieces of Renaissance armor have been found thanks to the work of investigators,” the museum said in a statement. It added that what happened on the night of May 31, 1983, remained “an enigma,” with few details known to the general public.
The museum did not respond to requests for more information about the circumstances around the theft, the identity of the family who had the armor, or what prompted the family to have their private art collection appraised.
the French newspaper Le Figaro reported.
The two items, thought to have been made in Milan in the second half of the 16th century, will be put on display as soon as the museum reopens, the Louvre statement said. They were bequeathed to the Louvre, one of the most visited museums in the world, by the Rothschild family in 1922.
The museum said in its statement that the 1983 theft had “deeply troubled all the staff at the time.”
There have been several high-profiles heists at the Louvre. Probably the most famous occurred during the summer of 1911, when a museum employee stole the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. The employee, Vincenzo Peruggia, was arrested two years later while trying to sell the painting in Florence, Italy, and the painting was returned to the museum.
“I had only to choose an opportune moment and a mere twist would put the picture in my hands,” he said in court in 1913. He described snatching it from the wall and slipping it under his blouse. “It was all done in a few seconds.” His motivation was to return the painting to his native Italy, he said.
The thieves climbed up a metal scaffolding and smashed windows on the second floor, breaking into the museum. And in 1990, a painting by Pierre Auguste Renoir, “Portrait of a Seated Woman,” was cut from its frame and stolen from a third-floor gallery.
Erin Thompson, an associate professor of art crime, said that it was not unusual for museum curators to keep quiet about thefts. “Museum curators thought that if they admitted a theft, they would be exposing a security flaw or inspiring other people to take action,” Dr. Thompson said. “But researchers in the last couple of decades have been saying, ‘Look, guys, you’re not going to get anything back if people don’t know it’s missing.’ So museums are rather reluctantly publicizing thefts more, which has resulted in a lot more recovery of things.”
One risk to publicizing thefts is that if thieves learn the authorities are on to them, they are more likely to destroy, deconstruct or melt stolen works to avoid detection, Dr. Thompson said. A small percentage of stolen art is found, although studies show that about 40 percent of art stolen from showcases in museums is returned, as those works tend to be more recognizable and their theft is usually noticed right away. When art is stolen from storage, it can take museum officials years to notice items are missing.