Goldbelly Raises $100 Million During Pandemic-Driven Boom

When the pandemic started last spring, Di Fara, one of New York City’s storied pizza joints, had the same question as countless restaurants nationwide: How would it make any money when customers weren’t allowed through its doors?

One answer quickly emerged: Ship frozen (and slightly smaller) versions of its classic pies across the country in partnership with the eight-year-old e-commerce platform Goldbelly.

Sales picked up so much that Di Fara converted its two-year-old second location, in a food hall, to essentially be a Goldbelly production line. Margaret Mieles, the daughter of Di Fara’s founder, who had already struck an agreement with Goldbelly in December 2019, credits the platform with helping the pizzeria avoid layoffs.

It isn’t just iconic pizzerias that have relied on Goldbelly to survive lockdown orders. More than 400 of the 850 restaurants that sell food on Goldbelly’s platform have joined since the start of the pandemic, an influx that the company says has more than quadrupled sales over the past 12 months.

Parkway Bakery & Tavern in New Orleans, recalled dodging calls from Goldbelly representatives pitching the platform for more than a year, before relenting in September 2019. Even then, he said in an interview, he would ship perhaps 15 boxes in any given week.

Then pandemic lockdowns devastated the restaurant industry. More than 110,000 restaurants nationwide had permanently closed by December, the National Restaurant Association estimated, and a survey it conducted found that sales in October had dropped from a year earlier for 87 percent of the full-service survivors.

Mr. Kennedy shut Parkway in March 2020. When he restarted the business several months later, he began by shipping its signature po’ boy sandwiches through Goldbelly. At the height of the pandemic, Parkway shipped around 200 orders a week, doing roughly the same business that it had done prepandemic — only now its customers included people far from New Orleans.

“We got customers from Alaska calling us, asking us what to do for leftovers,” Mr. Kennedy said. “These are customers we would never have had.”

Some restaurants seeking alternate sources of revenue during the pandemic turned to local delivery services; total orders on DoorDash’s platform in 2020, for instance, jumped roughly threefold from the previous year.

But like Mr. Kennedy, many also turned to Goldbelly to ship their pork shoulder dinners, bagel brunches and huckleberry cheesecakes to locations as far away as Hawaii. (Goldbelly doesn’t consider services like DoorDash to be rivals, since its food generally takes at least a day to arrive and requires cooking).

grilled eggplant parm — something that previously would never have been served at the Michelin-starred restaurant — in part because it would do well on Goldbelly.

Spectrum Equity, the investment firm that is leading the new financing round, reached out to Goldbelly last year as it saw how the company was able to connect local restaurants with a national audience.

“The pandemic has really accelerated trends that were already happening,” said Pete Jensen, a managing director at Spectrum, adding that Goldbelly’s growth has been “extraordinary.”

Mr. Ariel said the fresh capital — raised at an undisclosed valuation — would help Goldbelly expand further, including by hiring more staff and augmenting new offerings like livestreamed cooking classes with celebrity chefs, including Marcus Samuelsson and Daniel Boulud. The company is looking to have more than 1,000 restaurants on its platform by year-end.

The goal, Mr. Ariel said, is to make Goldbelly the biggest platform on which restaurants make money outside of in-person dining, while expanding their brands nationally.

Streetbird is on the Goldbelly platform.

But others, like Ms. Mieles of Di Fara, said they remained committed to the service. “I think, honestly, Goldbelly is here to stay,” she said.

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A Police Shooting in Hawaii Has South Africans Demanding Justice

Mr. Myeni and his wife moved to the United States in January 2020.

In a lengthy telephone interview, Ms. Myeni recalled how they met in 2016 at a hostel in Durban, a city on South Africa’s east coast. A professional rugby player, he was playing an away game; she was on a three-day layover during a Christian missionary trip around the world.

Mr. Myeni liked to sing, and once auditioned for the show “Idols South Africa.” He was also a longtime member of Scouts South Africa, leading wilderness camps for children.

The couple married 18 months after they met, and spent their first few years in South Africa, living in his hometown.

Their decision to move the United States, Ms. Myeni said, was driven by her career in real estate. First, they tried Tampa, Fla., but, she said, they found the inequalities between Black and white too reminiscent of South Africa and the legacy of apartheid.

“Every house we looked at, you could either be in a really poor Black neighborhood or a snobby rich white neighborhood, and neither of those fit us,” Ms. Myeni said. “We wanted somewhere where people are progressing and doing well but also, is it safe for us as a mixed couple?”

Next they tried Denver. They had once spent six months there, and it was home to the Glendale Merlins, a rugby team Mr. Myeni could join while he waited for a work permit.

Even before his death in Honolulu, Mr. Myeni had sometimes felt targeted by the police in his new country. In Austin, Texas, he was arrested at a nightclub while traveling with his rugby team, a teammate said, then released without charges. And in Denver, he was stopped by the police while walking to rugby practice.

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Live Updates: Jews and Arabs Clash in Israel’s Streets

more of the forces into the streets on Thursday after another night of unrest.

Credit…Ammar Awad/Reuters

In one seaside suburb south of Tel Aviv, dozens of Jewish extremists took turns beating and kicking a man presumed to be Arab, even as he lay motionless on the ground. To the north, in another coastal town, an Arab mob beat a man they thought was Jewish with sticks and rocks, leaving him in a critical condition. Nearby, an Arab mob nearly stabbed to death a man believed to be Jewish.

Tamer Nafar, a Palestinian rapper considered one of the symbols of Lod mourned the terrible rupture inside the community.

“Maybe we look at the word coexistence differently,” he said. “But so far there is only one side, the Jewish side.”

The Aqsa raid might have been the spark for the current round of hostilities, but the fuel was years of anger from Israel’s Arab minority, who make up about 20 percent of the population. They have full citizenship, but rights advocates say they are victims of dozens of discriminatory regulations.

“The way that we are treated is as though we shouldn’t be here,” said Diana Buttu, a Palestinian political analyst from Haifa, a city in northern Israel.

A burnt vehicle is seen after violent confrontations between Israeli Arab demonstrators and police in Lod, Israel, on Wednesday.
Credit…Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

LOD, Israel — The hulks of burned out cars and trucks litter the streets of the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Lod, the epicenter of three nights of violence inside Israeli cities that have fed fears the country could be careening toward a civil war.

When the violence spread on Monday from the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to Gaza, an uneasy coexistence in Lod, deep inside central Israel, abruptly ruptured.

The authorities have declared a state of emergency in the town of about 80,000 people and imposed a night curfew from Wednesday. Armed border police, brought in from the occupied West Bank, were deployed.

But the curfew did little to calm the atmosphere, and both Jews and Arabs described a terrifying night on Wednesday. Arab residents, who account for about 30 percent of the town’s population, protested while Jewish extremists came from outside Lod and burned Arab cars and property.

On Thursday morning, a Jewish man was stabbed as he walked to synagogue, but he survived.

Shirin al-Hinawi, a 33-year-old Arab resident of Lod who works for the Israeli food company Osem, said her house was charred when rioters threw a Molotov cocktail into her yard on Wednesday night. She lamented that the police did not come to protect her family.

“We ran out of the house without clothes on. It was burning,” she said. “We are not living in Gaza. I’m an Israeli citizen and we didn’t do anything,” she said with tears in her eyes.

The latest eruption of Israeli-Arab warfare bears many of the hallmarks of past conflicts: round after round of Israeli airstrikes on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and salvos of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. But this time a distinctly different type of violence has spilled over into Israeli cities, some of them with mixed Jewish and Arab populations living closely intertwined lives.

It was this unusual outburst of street clashes inside Israel that prompted the president to warn of a civil war and the prime minister to call for an end to “lynchings” by Arab and Jewish mobs that have run amok.

Ramat Eshkol, a hardscrabble neighborhood near the old city of Lod, has been one of the hottest flash points of violence in Lod. A community of young Orthodox Jews moved there in recent years with Arab neighbors in shared apartment buildings. Israeli flags flying out the windows mark some of the Jewish apartments.

Arab youths in Lod, inflamed by the clashes at the Aqsa compound in Jerusalem and by a long history of discrimination and generations-old fear of displacement, began protesting on Monday night outside a mosque in the old quarter and were dispersed by police who used stun grenades and tear gas, residents said.

That ignited a broader flare-up that then spread to other mixed Jewish-Arab towns and cities in Israel.

By the end of the night on Monday, an Arab man was fatally shot when dozens of stone-throwing protesters approached a building with Jewish residents. Since then, at least four synagogues have been burned as well a religious school and a military training academy.

Yousef Ezz, 33-year-old Arab truck driver from Lod, said his truck was burned on Wednesday night.

“People have lost all their faith. This is their last stop,” he said. “I will live and die here and my children will live or die here.”

Tahael Harris, a 27-year-old a Jewish woman who lives in a shabby building with a mix of Arab and Jewish citizens opposite the school that was burned, said that for the last three nights, she and her husband and two children have been holed up at home behind locked doors while mobs of Arabs were setting cars on fire and throwing stones.

On Wednesday night, the violence ramped up and the family heard live gunfire.

“There is a feeling it’s only getting worse,” she said. “Before, it was quiet, not perfect, but we were good neighbors. I don’t know where they were last night. I don’t want to ask because I’m scared to hear the answer,” she said, fearing her own neighbors were among the attackers.

Palestinian Muslims performing Eid al-Fitr prayers in the Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on Thursday.
Credit…Mahmoud Illean/Associated Press

Muslims around the world marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Thursday, a day typically filled with prayer, celebration and feasting. But for many Palestinians, the moment was a somber one amid escalating clashes with Israel that have killed scores in just a few days.

Tens of thousands of worshipers gathered at the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem at dawn to mark Eid al-Fitr, days after Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians there in one of the triggers to the current round of violence. That episode quickly spiraled into a deadly conflict as Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets and Israel carried out airstrikes on the territory.

The Aqsa Mosque is one of the holiest sites in Islam, located in a complex in the Old City of Jerusalem that is revered by Muslims, Jews and Christians. On Wednesday, tens of thousands of worshipers stood in lines and then bowed in prayer.

Some waved Palestinian flags and a banner showing an image of Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip. Across the region, in prayers in Jordan and Turkey, some of those gathered to mark Eid waved Palestinian flags in solidarity.

In Gaza, days of Israeli airstrikes had killed more than 80 people by Thursday morning, according to Palestinian health officials. At least six Israelis have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza into Israel by Hamas militants and their allies.

In one photo from Gaza on Thursday, three Palestinian men laid their mats alongside buildings that had been destroyed by recent airstrikes and bowed in prayer as the sun rose over the crumbling heap of concrete and tangled metal.

Elsewhere in Gaza, funerals were held throughout the morning for those killed in the strikes.

The nearly deserted Ben Gurion airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, on Thursday.
Credit…Gil Cohen-Magen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Airlines in Europe canceled flights to Israel on Thursday as violence in the Middle Eastern nation escalated, and arriving flights were being diverted to Ramon International Airport in southern Israel.

Airlines in the United States had begun canceling flights on Wednesday.

British Airways said it had canceled its flights between London and Israel on Thursday. “The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority​, and we continue to monitor the situation closely,” the airline said in a statement.

Lufthansa, the German airline, said it was suspending flights to Israel until Friday. Virgin Atlantic said it had canceled its service between London and Tel Aviv on Thursday morning. And the Spanish airline Iberia canceled its flight to the city on Thursday from Madrid, Reuters reported.

Flights arriving in Israel that would typically land at Ben-Gurion Airport, about 12 miles southeast of Tel Aviv, were being diverted to Ramon Airport, Israel’s second-largest international airport, the Jerusalem Post said.

El Al Airlines, the Israeli national airline, confirmed on its website that most of its incoming flights would land at Ramon airport, in the south of Israel, instead of Ben-Gurion. Outgoing flights were still due to leave from Ben-Gurion, El Al said on its website. It said on Wednesday that customers with travel booked before May 19 would be able to reschedule without being subject to fees.

United Airlines, American Airlines Delta Air Lines canceled flights to and from Tel Aviv on Wednesday, and in some cases waived change fees for customers with planned trips through May 25.

Deadly violence between Palestinians and Israel continued to take a toll on Thursday, including clashes in city streets, in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as “anarchy.”

A damaged house in Ashkelon, Israel, on Wednesday.
Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

As the United States and Egyptian mediators head to Israel to begin de-escalation talks, the antagonists are weighing delicate internal considerations before agreeing to discussions on ending the violence.

Both Israel and Hamas first have to find ways to spin a narrative of victory for their publics, analysts say, but the task will be easier for Hamas than for Israel.

Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has to calculate the impact of the fighting on his own political fortunes, made more complicated by the internal unrest between Jews and Israeli Arabs in numerous cities inside Israel. The crucial decision for Israel is whether “victory” requires sending ground troops into Gaza, which would extend the conflict and significantly increase the number of dead and wounded on both sides.

For the Palestinians, the indefinite postponement of elections last month by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, created a vacuum that Hamas is more than willing to fill. Hamas argues that it is the only Palestinian faction that, with its large stockpile of improved missiles, is defending the holy places of Jerusalem, turning Mr. Abbas into a spectator.

President Biden has spoken to Mr. Netanyahu and repeated the usual formula about Israel’s right to self-defense, and he has dispatched an experienced diplomat, the deputy assistant secretary of state Hady Amr, to urge de-escalation on both sides.

The aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Thursday.
Credit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times

GAZA CITY — On Tuesday evening, Gazans celebrated as they heard the whoosh of rockets sent toward Israel.

But by Wednesday morning the cheers had stopped, as Gazans saw the aftermath of what some described as the most intense airstrikes since cross-border Israeli-Palestinian hostilities flared again this week.

In one neighborhood, near Zeitoun and Sabra, residents inspected their homes and neighborhoods for damage, and desperately sought information about where the missiles might strike next.

“I felt that the hits were random,” said Nadal Issa, 27, the owner of a bridal shop.

Hamas and other militants have been exchanging fire with Israel since Monday. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 16 children as of Wednesday night, officials said. In Israel, at least six civilians have been killed, including one child.

In Gaza, some said they had never felt anything as harrowing as the surge of Israeli strikes that came Wednesday morning.

Some said it felt as if blast waves were hitting their face and body, as if their block were under attack. Disoriented, they staggered to windows to look outside.

“My two children woke up, and they asked me, ‘What’s going on?’” Mr. Issa said. Thinking quickly, he reminded them that the holiday marking the end of Ramadan was near. “I told them these are celebrations for Eid.”

Mohammed Sabtie, a 30-year-old motorcycle mechanic, was among the Gazans who left their homes after the airstrikes subsided on Wednesday morning to see the damage.

“The sound was very, very horrific,” Mr. Sabtie said. “It was like a state of war. It was the first time I ever heard anything like this.”

Was he scared? Yes, he said, but also glad to see Palestinians fighting back.

“Our ambitions are not war,” Mr. Sabtie said. “Our ambitions are security and peace. We have to do this. We don’t want to be hit and insulted. We want to hit back.”

Israeli forces patrolling Acre, a mixed Arab-Jewish town in northwest Israel, on Thursday.
Credit…Jalaa Marey/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Violence in Israel could have “significant economic repercussions” if it leads to sustained conflict between Jewish and Arab citizens, the Fitch credit ratings agency said Thursday.

The warning from Fitch, whose views influence the interest rates paid by the Israeli government and Israeli corporations, was an indication of how rioting and mob attacks in cities like Lod could undercut the country’s recovery from the economic effects of the pandemic.

Fitch, noting that the Israeli economy has withstood past conflicts, said damage to the government’s creditworthiness would be limited “unless there is a substantial and sustained escalation in violence.”

If persistent strife prompts bond investors to demand higher interest rates on Israeli government debt, borrowing costs for businesses and consumers would also rise and act as a brake on growth.

Fitch and other ratings agencies consider Israeli government bonds to be a relatively safe investment, but the country already pays a premium because of what Fitch called its “hostile geopolitical environment.”

Fitch said that violence involving Arab Israelis, who make up about one-fifth of the population, represents a particular risk. In recent days Jewish and Arab citizens have clashed in the worst violence in decades in Israeli cities, in some cases dragging people from their vehicles and beating them severely.

The violence will make it more difficult for the leading political parties to form a stable government following elections in March that produced a stalemate. And the fighting will hurt the Israeli tourism industry, Fitch said.

The fighting will also hinder Israel from benefiting from better relations with other countries in the region, Fitch said. “The prospect of improved regional relations has receded further with the latest clashes,” Fitch said.

The United States Embassy in Jerusalem in 2018.
Credit…Valery SharifulinTASS, via Getty Images

The United States Embassy in Jerusalem has warned its staff members and their families to stay close to home or near bomb shelters because of the heightened threat of rocket attacks from Palestinian militants in Gaza, barely 40 miles away.

The warning, issued on Wednesday and posted on the embassy’s website, came as the crisis engulfing Israel and the Palestinian territories escalated to the most violent in years.

“Rockets continue to impact the Gaza periphery and areas across Southern and Central Israel,” read the alert. It advised diplomats and their relatives to remain in safe surroundings at least until May 17.

The embassy itself is contentious, having been moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv by President Donald J. Trump three years ago over the strenuous objections of the Palestinians, who saw the change as an endorsement of Israel’s claim to the entire city as its capital. Israel captured the eastern part of the city in the 1967 war, and its occupation is not internationally recognized.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their capital under a long-proposed two-state solution to the conflict. Most foreign embassies in Israel remain in Tel Aviv, partly because of Jerusalem’s disputed status.

While the Biden administration has pledged a more evenhanded approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than that of its predecessor, which heavily favored the Israeli side, there is no expectation the embassy will be moved back to Tel Aviv.

The embassy was part of a jarring juxtaposition when it held a celebratory opening on May 14, 2018. While Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and other American officials were toasting the relocation, Israeli soldiers and snipers were using tear gas and live gunfire to drive back hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators on the Gaza side of the border.

Several Islamist terror organizations take their name from Al-Aqsa, a holy site in Jerusalem., 
Credit…Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Instagram removed some posts and restricted access to other content that used hashtags related to the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem after mistakenly associating the name with a terrorist organization, according to an internal company message.

The error, acknowledged by Facebook, which owns Instagram, added a new irritant to the crisis roiling Jerusalem and spreading elsewhere in Israel and the occupied territories. The crisis began over an Israeli police crackdown around the mosque, which is built atop a site holy to Muslims and Jews.

Facebook said in the message that while “Al-Aqsa” often refers to the mosque, “it is also unfortunately included in the names of several restricted organizations.” Although the company did not identify those groups, the State Department has designated the Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as a foreign terrorist organization, and several other groups with “Al-Aqsa” in their names have had sanctions imposed on them by the United States.

As a result, the company said, some content related to the Aqsa Mosque was mistakenly removed or restricted.

“I want to apologize for the frustration these mistakes have caused,” a Facebook employee who works on the issue of “dangerous organizations” wrote to employees in an internal message that Facebook shared with The New York Times. “I want to reaffirm that these removals are strictly enforcement errors. We understand the vital importance of the Al-Aqsa mosque to Palestinians and the Muslim community around the world.”

The restrictions, previously reported by BuzzFeed News, had fueled criticism that Instagram and other social media platforms were censoring Palestinian voices after a raid by the Israeli police on the mosque left hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers wounded.

Facebook’s internal message said the company was making changes to ensure that the term “Al-Aqsa” by itself does not prompt restrictions or removals.

“These mistakes are painful, erode the trust of our community and there is no easy fix for that,” the Facebook employee wrote. “While I cannot promise that future errors will not occur — I can promise that we are working earnestly to ensure that we are not censoring salient political and social voices in Jerusalem and around the world.”

Twitter, which had also been accused of unfairly blocking Palestinian content, said in a statement that it used a combination of technology and people to enforce its rules.

“In certain cases, our automated systems took enforcement action on a small number of accounts in error through an automated spam filter,” Twitter said in a statement. “We expeditiously reversed these actions to reinstate access to the affected accounts.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel declared a state of emergency in the city of Lod on Wednesday. His political opponents blame him for the rising violence.
Credit…Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JERUSALEM — When it’s guns doing the talking, Israel’s usual political clamor typically shushes up.

This time? It’s different.

As the conflict with Gaza inflicted more death on Wednesday, a political rival of Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the prime minister for the escalating violence and said he was working to replace him.

Yair Lapid, the centrist leader of the opposition, said the conflict “can be no excuse for keeping Netanyahu and his government in place,” He added, “They are exactly the reason why he should be replaced as soon as possible.”

The crisis, in which dozens have been killed, has occurred at a key moment in Israeli politics.

After Mr. Netanyahu failed to form a government following the fourth elections in two years, Mr. Lapid was given his chance. Yet the bloodshed makes Mr. Lapid’s efforts to forge a coalition government both simpler and more difficult.

On one hand, Mr. Netanyahu’s detractors have even more incentive to oust him. But the violence has highlighted the profound differences between the parties of the anti-Netanyahu camp, which span the political spectrum from left to right.

“If the opposing ideologies meant they had one hand tied behind their back,” said Reuven Hazan, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “now they have both hands tied behind their back.”

President Biden condemned the rocket attacks on Israel and said the United States’ position was that Jerusalem should be “a place of peace.”
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden said that he had spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel “for a while” on Wednesday amid escalating fighting between Israelis and Palestinians, and asserted his “unwavering support” for Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

“My hope is that we will see this coming to a conclusion sooner than later,” Mr. Biden said in response to questions from reporters.

According to a readout of the call released by the White House, Mr. Biden “condemned” the rocket attacks on Israel and added that the United States’ position is that Jerusalem be “a place of peace.”

Mr. Biden also said that his administration’s national security and defense officials had been and would stay “in constant contact” with their counterparts in the Middle East.

The White House added that during the phone call Mr. Biden had updated Mr. Netanyahu on the United States’ diplomatic engagement with Palestinian officials and other nations in the Middle East.

The call between the two leaders came on the same day that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke over the phone with Mr. Netanyahu.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Wednesday offered “ironclad support” for Israel’s self-defense in a phone conversation with Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister.

Andrew Yang, a candidate for New York City mayor, said early this week that he was “standing with the people of Israel.”
Credit…Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for The New York Times

New York City has the largest Jewish population in the world outside Israel. And while the city’s mayor has no formal foreign-policy powers, the position often affords opportunities to showcase New York’s posture toward Israel.

But wholehearted, uncritical support for Israel is no longer automatic among officials or candidates — a dynamic that has been brought to the fore amid the latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Andrew Yang, a leading candidate to be the city’s next mayor, issued a statement early this week saying that he was “standing with the people of Israel who are coming under bombardment attacks, and condemn the Hamas terrorists,” and adding, “The people of N.Y.C. will always stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere.”

Then came the backlash.

At a campaign stop, Mr. Yang was confronted about his statement and its failure to mention the Palestinians, including children, who were killed in Israeli airstrikes. He was uninvited from an event to distribute food to families at the end of Ramadan.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat who has condemned the “occupation of Palestine,” called Mr. Yang’s statement “utterly shameful” and noted that it had come during the Muslim holy month.

Mr. Yang acknowledged that volunteers with his campaign had been upset by his statement. And on Wednesday he released a new one, admitting that his first was “overly simplistic” and “failed to acknowledge the pain and suffering on both sides.”

“I mourn for every Palestinian life taken before its time, as I do for every Israeli,” he said.

His clarification reflects a reality that what was once a given in New York City politics — unquestioning support for Israel — has become a much more complicated proposition for Democratic candidates.

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Biden Speaks to Netanyahu, Asserting Israel’s ‘Right to Defend Itself’

President Biden said that he had spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel “for a while” amid escalating fighting between Israelis and Palestinians on Wednesday and asserted his “unwavering support” for Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

“My hope is that we will see this coming to a conclusion sooner than later,” Mr. Biden said in response to questions from reporters.

According to a readout of the call released by the White House, Mr. Biden “condemned” the rocket attacks on Israel and added that the United States’ position is that Jerusalem be “a place of peace.”

Mr. Biden also said that his administration’s national security and defense officials have been and would stay “in constant contact” with their counterparts in the Middle East. The White House added that, during the phone call, Mr. Biden updated Mr. Netanyahu on the United States’ diplomatic engagement with Palestinian officials and other nations in the Middle East.

The call between the two leaders came on the same day that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke over the phone with Mr. Netanyahu. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Wednesday offered “ironclad support” for Israel’s self-defense in a phone conversation with Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister.

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A US Envoy is Heading to the Middle East to Urge Calm Between Israel and Palestinians

A senior American diplomat is headed to the Middle East to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders “to urge de-escalation and to bring calm,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Wednesday amid mounting violence.

Speaking at the State Department in Washington, Mr. Blinken repeatedly affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks from Hamas, the Islamist militant group that runs the Gaza Strip.

“There is, first, a very clear and absolute distinction between a terrorist organization, Hamas, that is indiscriminately raining down rockets, in fact, targeting civilians, and Israel’s response, defending itself,” Mr. Blinken said.

But he also said Israel “has an extra burden” to try to prevent civilian deaths, noting that Palestinian children have been killed in Israeli strikes.

Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, to meet with leaders from both sides in coming days. Mr. Amr was expected to depart Washington later Wednesday for the region.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III also offered “ironclad support” for Israel’s right to self-defense during a conversation earlier Wednesday with Israel’s defense chief, Benny Gantz.

A readout of their talk, issued by John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said Mr. Austin had condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas, and urged calm among all parties, but did not mention the matter of casualties among Palestinian civilians.

President Biden took office this year with little interest in pursuing an Israel-Palestinian peace agreement, given the failure by previous presidents from both parties to foster a lasting accord. But the latest outbreak of violence has prompted growing calls from within the Democratic Party for Mr. Biden to play a more active role.

later said he had spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to reinforce his message. “It’s vital now to de-escalate,” Mr. Blinken said on Twitter.

Michael Crowley contributed reporting.

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Diet Companies See Gains as Americans Try to Drop Pandemic Pounds

Maybe it was the frozen pizza. Or the cheesy snack crackers she mindlessly nibbled on as she worked from home over the past year. Or those darn cookies.

Whatever the cause, Jessica Short stepped onto the scale this spring and found she was 25 pounds heavier than before the pandemic.

“I had to leave the house for several days in a row and realized then that none of my pants fit,” said Ms. Short, a 39-year-old conservation program assistant in Lansing, Mich. Determined not to buy a whole new wardrobe, Ms. Short signed up for her first weight-loss program in early April. In three weeks, she was down five pounds using the Noom app. “My goal is to lose the whole 25 pounds,” she added.

While some spent the year of the pandemic creating healthy meals or riding their Pelotons for hours, many others managed their anxiety and boredom through less healthy means. They spent the pandemic sitting on their couches, wearing baggy sweatsuits, drinking chardonnay and munching on Cheetos.

according to the analysis firm Research and Markets.

Many of these companies shy away from using the dreaded four letter word — diet — to describe what they sell, instead leaning into updated phrases like “health” and “wellness” to promote their programs.

“We see Covid as accelerating trends around health and wellness that already existed and will persist long after, and we believe that the desire to live a healthier lifestyle and placing a prioritization on one’s health is permanent,” a spokeswoman for Noom said in a statement.

It is clear that numerous people put on weight during the pandemic. A small study of individuals under shelter-in-place orders found that they gained more than a half a pound every 10 days. If they continued to live as if they were in lockdown conditions, they could have put on 20 pounds over the year, concluded the authors of the study, which was published in March in the peer-reviewed JAMA Network Open.

Still, critics of many of the popular weight-loss programs note that while people are likely to lose weight if they follow the strict guidelines of meal-replacement plans, for many that weight will eventually come back.

“If you have a wedding to go to in two weeks, a meal-replacement program, for instance, can be helpful,” said Dr. Susan Roberts, a professor of nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and a professor of psychiatry at the university’s School of Medicine. “The problem is, it doesn’t train people how to eat when the program ends, so weight regain is pretty common.”

Dr. Roberts developed her own weight loss diet, called the Instinct diet, that aims to retrain people’s brains around food. She claims participants on her plan achieve weight loss by reducing hunger and unhealthy cravings.

Despite the criticism, many people coming out of the pandemic and preparing to re-enter the world are turning to the diet industry for help.

After spending much of the past year holed up in her apartment in Austin, Texas, studying for her Ph.D. in nursing from the University of Oklahoma, Brenda Olmos, 31, realized the steady stream of takeout food and snacks she’d been eating had resulted in an additional 15 pounds. In early April, she signed up for the Optavia plan and quickly lost 4.5 pounds.

“I had tried intermittent fasting, and I couldn’t stop thinking about food because I couldn’t have it,” Ms. Olmos said. “I tried keto, but I couldn’t stop thinking about carbs. I’m giving myself six months to lose 30 pounds.”

Likewise, Stacey Moskowitz, a 57-year-old retired elementary schoolteacher from New City, N.Y., said she had tried many other diets over the years.

“I would lose the weight, and then it would inch back,” she said. “I exercised a lot and lost some weight, but not as much for the amount of effort I was putting in.”

She became concerned about her overall health after she contracted Covid-19 in late February 2020. When she began seeing her weight creep back up last fall, Ms. Moskowitz decided to try Optavia. She has since lost 37 pounds and hopes to drop an additional 20 to 25 pounds.

“This is not about me looking a certain way or wearing a certain outfit,” she said. “I’m not going to put on a bikini. It’s about my health.”

Ms. Moskowitz said there was one problem with the Optavia program: It has gotten so popular the company has struggled to fulfill orders.

“I had a particular shake, the Tropical Fruit Smoothie, that I liked. I had it for a month, and now it’s gone,” Ms. Moskowitz said, noting that she has become dependent on the program, which costs $400 a month and provides five of her daily six meals. “You order every month, and it’s taking them two weeks to get the order to you. And I know some people are ordering extra food and hoarding because they’re worried they won’t get their next order in time.”

Last week, executives at Medifast told Wall Street analysts that they hoped to have expanded manufacturing by the end of the second quarter and distribution by the end of the third to meet demand.

“I’m very happy with the program,” Ms. Moskowitz said. “But I’m very nervous about whether I’ll get my next order in time.”

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Ed Ward, Rock Critic and Historian, Is Dead at 72

Following his years in Austin, Mr. Ward went to Berlin in the mid-1990s to work for a planned magazine that died before its publication, and then to Montpellier, France. During his years in Europe he wrote freelance articles, continued to contribute to “Fresh Air” (where he had been since 1987) and worked as a bartender.

He returned to Austin in 2013 and set to work on “The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1963,” which was published in 2016. A second volume, taking the music’s history up to 1977, was published in 2019. But his publisher declined to publish a third one because the second book’s sales had not been as good the first one’s.

Although familiar names like Elvis and the Beatles are in the first book, so are those of Black artists like Earl Palmer, the drummer on Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” and many other classic New Orleans records, and Lowman Pauling, the guitarist and principal songwriter of the R&B group the “5” Royales.

“There is this misconception that on some day in 1954, Elvis invented everything all at once, and not only is that wrong, it’s really simplistic and unfair.,” he told The American-Stateman in 2016. “There’s almost no knowledge of the Black music of the ’30s, ’40s and early ’50s and the degree to which that shaped the sound out of which Elvis came.”

The book was, in a way, an outgrowth of Mr. Ward’s “Fresh Air” work. In segments lasting just seven or eight minutes, he would tell compelling, detailed stories about musicians and groups, both famous and obscure.

“I think that’s Ed’s most distinguished work,” Mr. Marcus said in a phone interview. “They were so interesting and well produced and so sharp. I’m not ignorant in this field, but every so often he’d present a segment about something I’d never heard of. He was a great explorer, a great excavator.”

But in 2017, when “Fresh Air” declined to interview him about his book, he quit.

“To leave ‘Fresh Air’ was a dangerous thing to do,” Mr. Patoski said, “and it hurt him because that’s how people knew him.”

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The Robot Surgeon Will See You Now

Sitting on a stool several feet from a long-armed robot, Dr. Danyal Fer wrapped his fingers around two metal handles near his chest.

As he moved the handles — up and down, left and right — the robot mimicked each small motion with its own two arms. Then, when he pinched his thumb and forefinger together, one of the robot’s tiny claws did much the same. This is how surgeons like Dr. Fer have long used robots when operating on patients. They can remove a prostate from a patient while sitting at a computer console across the room.

But after this brief demonstration, Dr. Fer and his fellow researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, showed how they hope to advance the state of the art. Dr. Fer let go of the handles, and a new kind of computer software took over. As he and the other researchers looked on, the robot started to move entirely on its own.

With one claw, the machine lifted a tiny plastic ring from an equally tiny peg on the table, passed the ring from one claw to the other, moved it across the table and gingerly hooked it onto a new peg. Then the robot did the same with several more rings, completing the task as quickly as it had when guided by Dr. Fer.

how surgeons learn to operate robots like the one in Berkeley. Now, an automated robot performing the test can match or even exceed a human in dexterity, precision and speed, according to a new research paper from the Berkeley team.

The project is a part of a much wider effort to bring artificial intelligence into the operating room. Using many of the same technologies that underpin self-driving cars, autonomous drones and warehouse robots, researchers are working to automate surgical robots too. These methods are still a long way from everyday use, but progress is accelerating.

where there is room for improvement — by automating particular phases of surgery.

significantly improved the power of computer vision, which could allow robots to perform surgical tasks on their own, without such markers.

The change is driven by what are called neural networks, mathematical systems that can learn skills by analyzing vast amounts of data. By analyzing thousands of cat photos, for instance, a neural network can learn to recognize a cat. In much the same way, a neural network can learn from images captured by surgical robots.

inserting a needle for a cancer biopsy or burning into the brain to remove a tumor.

“It is like a car where the lane-following is autonomous but you still control the gas and the brake,” said Greg Fischer, one of the Worcester researchers.

Many obstacles lie ahead, scientists note. Moving plastic pegs is one thing; cutting, moving and suturing flesh is another. “What happens when the camera angle changes?” said Ann Majewicz Fey, an associate professor at the University of Texas, Austin. “What happens when smoke gets in the way?”

For the foreseeable future, automation will be something that works alongside surgeons rather than replaces them. But even that could have profound effects, Dr. Fer said. For instance, doctors could perform surgery across distances far greater than the width of the operating room — from miles or more away, perhaps, helping wounded soldiers on distant battlefields.

The signal lag is too great to make that possible currently. But if a robot could handle at least some of the tasks on its own, long-distance surgery could become viable, Dr. Fer said: “You could send a high-level plan and then the robot could carry it out.”

The same technology would be essential to remote surgery across even longer distances. “When we start operating on people on the moon,” he said, “surgeons will need entirely new tools.”

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‘The Traveling Zoo’: Life on the Road, With Pets at Their Side

It can get lonely on the road, but Rebecca Washington, a long-distance trucker who is sometimes away from home for months on end, has Ziggy, Polly, Junior and Tucker along for the ride: her “rig dogs.”

“People call me the traveling zoo,” she said.

“We’re away from our families a lot of the time,” added Ms. Washington, 53, whose home base is Springfield, Mo., and whose children are grown with children of their own. “Animals are good companions, and walking the dogs at truck stops is a good way to lose weight and stay healthy. I take them out two at a time. It’s a routine.”

Long-haul trucking companies mostly don’t complain about on-the-road pets, and some even encourage them, because happier drivers are more likely to stick around. The nationwide driver shortage is acute, and the coronavirus only made matters worse.

The Trucker, a newspaper and website.

“Of the drivers I’ve interviewed,” she said, “I would say that the vast majority of them own pets, and many take them on the road.” Drivers who own their trucks have more leeway to take along a best friend, Ms. Miller said.

Asked if there were any regulations regarding pets on board interstate trucks, Duane DeBruyne, a spokesman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, had a simple reply: “No.” But some trucking companies impose weight limits on the pets or bar certain breeds, and others require a deposit against damage to company-owned trucks.

Adopters Welcome site to help change adoption policies.

Given the driver shortage, it’s likely the trends will continue to favor allowing rig pets. According to William B. Cassidy, a senior editor who covers trucking for The Journal of Commerce, “A lot of companies are trying to become more driver-centric, and allowing pet ownership is part of that.”

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