Everything Was Canceled in 2020. What About 2021?

Early last year, as international lockdowns upended daily life, they took with them, one by one, many of the major cultural and sporting events that dot the calendar each year. The N.B.A. suspended its season, the French Open was postponed for several months and the Tokyo Olympics were delayed a year. The future of the Glastonbury Festival and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival were in doubt. It was a bleak time.

Recently, as conditions in many places around the world have slowly begun to improve, and as countries have begun mass vaccination campaigns, some events and cultural staples have made plans to return, albeit with modifications. While few events, if any, have plans to go ahead free of restrictions this year, some are taking a hybrid approach. Others remain postponed or canceled.

Here’s the status of some of the major events around the world.

scheduled to begin on July 23 with an opening ceremony. The bulk of the athletic events will begin the next day. The first round of Wimbledon begins on June 28 and will run through mid-July. Officials said they were working toward a spectator capacity of at least 25 percent.

scheduled for Oct. 11, and the 50th New York City Marathon is set for Nov. 7.

The 105th Indianapolis 500 will go on as planned on May 30. Officials will allow about 135,000 spectators in — 40 percent of the venue’s capacity. The event was organized with state and local health officials and was approved by the Marion County Public Health Department, race officials said.

The French Open, one of the premier tennis competitions, has been postponed one week to a new start date of May 24. The decision was made in agreement with the authorities in France and the governing bodies of international tennis, said officials, who want the tournament played in front of the largest possible number of fans.

is canceled again this year.

it would not take place this summer.

The Essence Festival of Culture, which usually draws more than a half million people to New Orleans over the Fourth of July weekend every year, will host a hybrid experience this year over two weekends: June 25-27 and July 2-4.

Headliners like Billie Eilish, Post Malone and ASAP Rocky will take the stage at the Governors Ball Music Festival, which is scheduled for Sept. 24-26 at Citi Field in Queens. Organizers say the event will return to its typical June dates in 2022.

Burning Man, the annual countercultural arts event that typically draws tens of thousands of people to Black Rock Desert in Nevada, has been canceled again this year because of the pandemic. It will return in 2022, organizers said.

After being canceled last year, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the event in the capital of Texas, is scheduled to return to Zilker Park on Oct. 1-3 and Oct. 8-10.

on Sept. 13. A second event is scheduled for May 2022.

NYC Pride 2021 will move forward in June with virtual and in-person events. The Pride March, which was canceled last year, will be virtual this time. (San Francisco Pride, also in June, is planning similar adjustments, while Atlanta Pride is planning to hold an in-person event in October.)

from Aug. 10. In order to keep concertgoers safe, organizers said events will not have intermissions and its venue will have a limited number of available seats. Similarly, the Salzburg Festival in Austria kicks off in mid July with modifications.

The Edinburgh International Festival, a showcase for world theater, dance and music in the Scottish city since 1947, will run Aug. 7-29. Performances will take place in temporary outdoor pavilions with covered stages and socially distanced seating.

E3, one of the video game industry’s most popular conventions where developers showcase the latest news and games, will be virtual this year from June 12-15.

The New York International Auto Show, which showcases the newest and latest automobiles from dozens of brands, will run Aug. 20-29. The event last year was postponed and eventually canceled because of the pandemic.

The Cannes Film Festival in the South of France, one of the movie industry’s most revered and celebrated events, has been postponed to July 6-17 from mid-May. The 2021 edition of the event, which was canceled last year, is currently scheduled to be in person.

After more than a year of no theater performances, Broadway shows will start selling tickets for full-capacity shows with some performances starting on Sept. 14. (Some West End shows will resume as early as May 17.)

After being virtual last year, New York Comic-Con will return with a physical event Oct. 7-10 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. The convention will run at reduced capacity to ensure social distancing, organizers said. This year’s Comic-Con International event, which is normally held in July in San Diego, has been postponed until summer 2022. There are plans for a smaller event called Comic-Con Special Edition however, that will be held in person in November.

View Source

The Latest News on the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown

HOUSTON — Panicked drivers scrambled to fuel their vehicles across the Southeast on Tuesday, leaving thousands of stations without gasoline as a vital fuel pipeline remained largely shut down after a ransomware attack.

The disruption to the Colonial Pipeline, which stretches 5,500 miles from Texas to New Jersey, also left airlines vulnerable, with several saying they would send jet fuel to the region by air to ensure that service would not be disrupted.

Gasoline in Georgia and a few other states rose 3 to 10 cents a gallon on Tuesday, a jump typically seen only when hurricanes interrupt refinery and pipeline operations along the Gulf Coast.

The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline rose 2 cents on Tuesday, with higher prices reported in the Southeast, according to the AAA motor club. The average increase was nearly 7 cents in South Carolina, 6 cents in North Carolina and 3 cents in Virginia.

Gas Buddy, a service that tracks gas prices, reported.

“There’s no gas, and people are getting frustrated,” said Ariyana Ward, a 19-year-old college student in Virginia Beach who waited 45 minutes to fill up. With some motorists taking time to fill cans as well as cars, she said, “people are getting into shouting matches.”

State leaders responded with measures intended to keep the flow of fuel steady and stabilize prices.

suspend some fuel transport rules. Governor DeSantis also activated the National Guard to cope with the emergency.

South Carolina’s attorney general, Alan Wilson, announced that he was ready to invoke the state’s price-gouging law, making excessive overcharging a criminal offense. “I’m urging everyone to be careful and be patient,” Mr. Wilson said.

At the White House, Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm told reporters, “We know we have gasoline; we just need to get it to the right places.” But she made no promises about when the pipeline, which was shut down to prevent the cyberattack from spreading, would resume operations, saying the company will decide on Wednesday whether it is ready to do so.

She said she expected gas station operators to act “responsibly,” adding, “We have no tolerance for price gouging.”

The administration considered other steps that might alleviate shortages, including moving gasoline, diesel and jet fuel by train, or issuing a waiver for a 1920 law known as the Jones Act, which requires that maritime shipments be on vessels owned and staffed by Americans. But it was unclear if the right kind of either rail cars or foreign-registered ships were available.

“There are no easy solutions,’’ Ms. Granholm said.

The Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Michael Regan, issued an emergency waiver for fuel air emissions on Tuesday to help alleviate fuel shortages in places affected by the pipeline shutdown, including the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The waiver will continue through next Tuesday.

Colonial Pipeline, the company that operates the pipeline, has said it hopes to restore most operations by the end of the week. The attack, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation said had been carried out by an organized-crime group called DarkSide, has highlighted the vulnerability of the American energy system. The pipeline provides the Eastern United States with nearly half its transportation fuel.

Colonial has remained largely silent, answering no questions about the kind of protections it had in place on both its computer networks and the industrial controls that run the pipeline.

In a statement late in the day on Tuesday, Colonial said it had manually started one part of the pipeline and delivered about 41 million gallons of fuel to various locations on its system, from Atlanta, through the Carolinas and to Linden, N.J.

But the company said nothing about what factors will play into its decision on when to restart the pipeline. And it has not explained whether it found any evidence that the malware placed in its data systems could migrate to the operations of the pipeline.

Several experts noted that while the two networks are described as separate entities, they have considerable crossover. For example, one of the systems the ransomware group tied up tracks how much fuel each customer uses. Without that running, Colonial would not know how much fuel any of its customers were receiving — or how to get paid for it.

Industry analysts said the impact of the hacking would remain relatively minor as long as the artery was fully restored soon. “With a resolution to the shutdown in sight, the cyberattack is now treated as a small disturbance by the market, and prices are trimming Monday’s panic-gains,” said Louise Dickson, an oil markets analyst for Rystad Energy.

a 2018 report, the group argued that the interstate pipeline system used to supply jet fuel to airports had grown increasingly vulnerable to costly disruptions. And when disruptions occur, airlines have few good options beyond flying in extra fuel, adding stops to flights, or canceling and rerouting flights.

After the disruption last weekend, American Airlines said it had added stops to two daily flights out of Charlotte, N.C. One, to Honolulu, will stop in Dallas, where customers will change planes. The other, to London, will stop in Boston to refuel. The flights are expected to return to their original schedules on Saturday.

Southwest Airlines said it was flying in supplemental fuel to Nashville, and United Airlines said it was flying extra fuel to Baltimore; Nashville; Savannah, Ga.; and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina. United, Southwest and Delta Air Lines said they had not experienced any disruptions to their operations so far.

Gillian Friedman contributed reporting.

View Source

Stocks Tumble as Inflation Concerns Resurface: Live Business Updates

began on Wall Street on Monday in the tech sector.

Traders remain unsettled by rising prices and the impact that could have on inflation. In turn, this could prompt central banks to rein in monetary stimulus sooner.

The S&P 500 was 1.6 percent lower on Tuesday, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 1.2 percent after the index fell 2.6 percent on Monday.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index dropped 2.3 percent, the worst day since late December. The Nikkei 225 in Japan closed 3 percent lower.

Commodity prices have soared recently. Futures on copper, which is often seen as a barometer for the global industrial economy, reached record highs on Friday and oil prices have recently hovered near levels not seen since 2018. Even though commodities pulled back from their highs on Tuesday, the elevated prices are expected to raise costs for businesses.

It’s fuel for a debate about how temporary the increase in inflation this summer will be. Federal Reserve policymakers have said they expect it to be transitionary — because bottlenecks in supplies will be resolved, and comparisons to last year’s slowdown make inflation numbers appear worse.

Still, investors have been spooked by the prospect that the Fed might be forced to raise interest rates to rein costs in sooner than it has indicated it will. Higher interest rates discourage risk taking in the markets, and high-flying stocks can be hit hard when concern about inflation dominates. On Wednesday, the U.S. government will report its Consumer Price Index for April.

On Monday, a survey showed Americans’ year-ahead inflation expectations rose to 3.4 percent in April, the highest level since 2013, but the longer-term outlook — over the next three years — held steady at 3.1 percent.

“The recovery in demand coupled with the supply disruptions across the world are raising fears” that the jumps in inflation reported over the next few months “may not quickly reverse,” Henry Ward, an analyst at HSBC, wrote in a note. “Commodity prices from lumber to oil are rising and house prices continue to hit new highs.”

On Tuesday, oil prices fell. Futures on West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, dropped 0.5 percent to $64.63 a barrel. Last week, the price climbed above $65 to the highest since October 2018.

“We are now entering a time of year when stocks have historically found it more challenging to advance,” Mark Haefele, the chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, wrote in a note. With stock indexes already near record highs and concerns rising about coronavirus variants, “investors may be tempted to follow the old adage: Sell in May and go away,” he wrote.

But he recommended that investors stay in the market, despite expected volatility, because the government spending coupled with consumer spending as economies further unlock will lead to more economic growth, which would be good for stocks.

“What we want to see, and I certainly want to see, is more progress and broader progress,” Loretta Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said Tuesday. 
Credit…Ann Saphir/Reuters

Federal Reserve officials on Tuesday stood by their strategy of waiting to see further improvement in the labor market and broader economy before removing monetary support, even as some on Wall Street criticized their policies for being too complacent in the face of rebounding growth.

“The outlook is bright, but uncertainty remains, and employment and inflation are far from our goals,” Lael Brainard, a Fed governor, said in a speech prepared for delivery before the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. “While more balanced than earlier this year, risks remain from vaccine hesitancy, deadlier variants, and a resurgence of cases in some foreign countries.”

Ms. Brainard’s colleague Loretta Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and historically one of the Fed’s more inflation-wary members, struck a similar tone in a Yahoo! Finance interview earlier in the day. Fed officials have said they want to see “substantial further progress” toward their goals of stable inflation that averages 2 percent over time and maximum employment before dialing back their $120 billion in monthly bond purchases, and Ms. Mester reiterated that.

“What we want to see, and I certainly want to see, is more progress and broader progress,” Ms. Mester said, explaining that she wants to see more strength in the labor market, and is expecting to this year.

The comments came as economists try to parse incoming data, including a weaker-than-expected April jobs report, quickly rising inflation expectation measures, and a consumer price report set for release on Wednesday that is expected to show a substantial jump this year. Price gains are picking up as year-over-year measures lap weak data from 2020 and as supply shortages tied to reopening push prices higher.

Policymakers expect real-world price increases to be temporary. Low numbers from last year will fall out of the data, and supply chains for things like lumber and computer chips should eventually readjust, though it is not clear how quickly that will happen.

Ms. Mester said she expected supply constraints to ease next year, but noted that “there are upside risks to that forecast” and that she would be watching to make sure consumers and businesses do not come to expect much faster gains.

Likewise, Ms. Brainard said that she would “remain attentive to the risk that what seem like transitory inflationary pressures could prove persistent as I closely monitor the incoming data.”

Some critics are warning that the Fed’s rock-bottom interest rates and emergency bond purchases — policies meant to help bolster the economy in bad times — may be inappropriate, either because they risk fueling higher inflation or because they could spur instability by pushing stock prices and risk-taking higher.

“We’re still acting like we’re in a black hole, and in fact, the economy is accelerating,” Stanley Druckenmiller, chief executive of the investment manager Duquesne Family Office, said on CNBC Tuesday, after criticizing the central bank’s policies for risking asset bubbles.

Hearst Tower, in New York. The company has sold Marie Claire to the British publisher Future.
Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Hearst Magazines, the home of numerous publications aimed at women including Cosmopolitan, Redbook and Harper’s Bazaar, has sold the United States edition of Marie Claire to Future, a British publisher, the companies said on Monday.

Marie Claire U.S. had been part of Hearst since 1994 in a joint venture with French company Marie Claire Album. Future, which publishes a variety of magazines including Marie Claire U.K., said it had acquired the U.S. edition from both owners.

Future’s chief executive, Zillah Byng-Thorne, said in a statement that the addition of Marie Claire U.S. was part of the company’s plan to increase its North American audience “significantly.”

Debi Chirichella, the president of Hearst Magazines, said in an email to staff that Marie Claire U.S. employees were notified of the sale on Monday. “We will do everything we can to ensure that the transition to new ownership is a positive one,” Ms. Chirichella wrote.

Faye Galvin, the head of communications at Future, said in an email that the company hoped all existing Marie Claire U.S. employees would “accept the offer to work with us.”

Ms. Galvin singled out Sally Holmes, the editor in chief of Marie Claire U.S. since September. “In terms of Sally in particular, she is absolutely key to driving the business forward and together we will build on her success,” she said in an email.

Marie Claire was started in 1937 in France by the writer Marcelle Auclair and the industrialist and media magnate Jean Prouvost, who helped create the current-events magazine Paris Match.

In the mid-1990s, under the editor Bonnie Fuller, the U.S. version distinguished itself from its competitors by emphasizing the practical, providing readers with concrete style and beauty tips, rather than the fantasies of fashion. Its other long-term editors were Joanna Coles and Anne Fulenwider.

President Biden has called for $50 billion to encourage domestic semiconductor production as part of his infrastructure plan.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Semiconductor companies and big businesses that use chips have formed a new coalition to push for tens of billions of dollars in federal funding for semiconductor research and manufacturing in the United States.

The new group, the Semiconductors in America Coalition, announced its formation on Tuesday amid a global semiconductor shortage that has caused disruptions throughout the economy. Its members include chip makers like Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm and companies that rely on semiconductors, like Apple, Google, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Verizon and AT&T.

The coalition is calling on Congress to provide $50 billion for semiconductor research and manufacturing, which President Biden has proposed as part of his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package.

“Leaders from a broad range of critical sectors of the U.S. economy, as well as a large and bipartisan group of policymakers in Washington, recognize the essential role of semiconductors in America’s current and future strength,” said John Neuffer, the president and chief executive of the Semiconductor Industry Association, a trade group.

In a letter to congressional leaders, the new coalition noted the shortage of semiconductors and said that in the long term, federal funding “would help America build the additional capacity necessary to have more resilient supply chains to ensure critical technologies will be there when we need them.”

The shortage has been acutely felt in the auto industry, forcing carmakers to idle plants. Ford Motor expects the shortage to cause profit to be about $2.5 billion lower this year and to cut vehicle production by about 50 percent in the second quarter.

The new coalition does not include any automakers, which have their own ideas for how the government should encourage domestic semiconductor manufacturing. In a letter to congressional leaders last week, groups representing automakers, automotive suppliers and autoworkers expressed support for Mr. Biden’s $50 billion proposal but emphasized the need to increase production capacity for automotive grade chips as part of the effort.

The letter — from the American Automotive Policy Council, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association and the United Automobile Workers union — suggested providing “specific funding for semiconductor facilities that commit to dedicating a portion of their capacity to motor vehicle-grade chip production.”

In a letter to congressional leaders last month, technology trade groups argued against setting aside new production capacity for a specific industry, saying that such a move would amount to “unprecedented market interference.”

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, declared a state of emergency, allowing fuel transportation waivers.
Credit…Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

The vital fuel pipeline stretching 5,500 miles from Texas to New Jersey remained largely shut down on Tuesday after last week’s ransomware attack.

Colonial Pipeline, the company that operates the pipeline, said Monday that it hoped to restore most operations by the end of the week. The attack, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation said was carried out by an organized crime group called DarkSide, has highlighted the vulnerability of the American energy system. The pipeline provides the Eastern United States about half its energy.

Industry analysts said the impact would remain relatively minor as long as the artery was fully restored soon. “With a resolution to the shutdown in sight, the cyberattack is now treated as a small disturbance by the market and prices are trimming Monday’s panic-gains,” said Louise Dickson, an oil markets analyst for Rystad Energy.

Here are some of the latest developments:

Gillian Friedman contributed reporting.

Travelers at Salt Lake City International Airport in March. OPEC is projecting growing demand for oil and petroleum products — including airplane fuel — as global economies expand through the year.
Credit…Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

OPEC forecast on Tuesday that demand for its oil, which collapsed during the pandemic last year, would continue to roar back in 2021.

In its Monthly Oil Report, the 13-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries depicted favorable market conditions for the cartel that could potentially lead to higher prices for consumers.

The world economy will continue to recover, the OPEC analysts said, thanks to stimulus measures and vaccination programs in the United States and Europe, and accelerating growth in most Asian economies. Economic recovery will translate into a substantial rise in demand for oil.

At the same time, OPEC’s economists expect production from the cartel’s rival, the United States, to remain flat this year as the shale oil producers, who seized market share from OPEC in the years before the pandemic, rein in spending on drilling.

Over all, output from producers outside the cartel will increase by less than one million barrels a day for 2021 from 2020’s depressed levels, OPEC forecast.

OPEC said that the need for the organization’s crude would surge in 2021 by an overall 5.2 million barrels a day, or more than 20 percent, after a drop by about the same amount in the previous year. OPEC defines demand for its crude as the gap between world oil demand and the output of other producers.

Prompted by Saudi Arabia, OPEC and its allies, including Russia, have been only gradually opening up their spigots as world demand returns from the pandemic, creating a tight market that has contributed to prices for Brent crude approaching $70 a barrel. OPEC, for instance, estimated that in the first quarter of 2021 demand for its crude outstripped supply by about 700,000 barrels a day.

In April, the group known as OPEC Plus agreed to a program of gradual increases through July. The group reaffirmed these plans on April 27. Analysts say that these adjustments are still likely to add up to a market where supplies are tight.

OPEC and Russia are, however, by agreement not producing several million barrels of oil a day, and pressures will grow to open the taps if demand continues to increase. In addition, a breakthrough in ongoing indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran could lead to large volumes of Iranian oil coming into the market later this year.

The company said last year it was considering separating Victoria’s Secret from the rest of its business.
Credit…Ted Shaffrey/Associated Press

L Brands has decided to spin off Victoria’s Secret rather than sell it, the DealBook newsletter was the first to report.

The company said last year it was considering separating Victoria’s Secret from the rest of its business, and it tested the interest of private equity. Ultimately, L Brands decided to split itself into two independent, publicly listed companies: Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. The deal is expected to close in August.

L Brands received several bids north of $3 billion, sources familiar with the situation said, requesting anonymity because the information is confidential. It turned the offers down, because it expects to be valued at $5 billion to $7 billion in a spinoff to L Brands shareholders. Analysts at Citi and JPMorgan recently valued Victoria’s Secret as a stand-alone company at $5 billion.

“In the last 10 months, we have made significant progress in the turnaround of the Victoria’s Secret business, implementing merchandise and marketing initiatives to drive top line growth, as well as executing on a series of cost reduction actions, which together have dramatically increased profitability,” Sarah Nash, chair of the company’s board, said in a statement.

“The board believes that this path forward will return the highest value to shareholders and that the separation will allow each business to achieve its best opportunities for growth.”

The pandemic torpedoed a sale last year for much less. That agreement, announced in February 2020 with the investment firm Sycamore Partners, valued Victoria’s Secret at $1.1 billion.

Apart from a pandemic that upended the retail industry, Victoria’s Secret was dealing with a series of challenges: a brand that had fallen out of touch, accusations of misogyny and sexual harassment in the workplace and revelations about the ties between Les Wexner, the company’s founder and former chairman, and Jeffrey Epstein. (Mr. Wexner stepped down as chief executive last year and said in March that he and his wife were not running for re-election on the company’s board.)

As the pandemic shuttered stores and battered sales, Sycamore sued L Brands to get out of the deal, and L Brands countersued to enforce it, heralding a spate of similar battles between buyers and sellers. Eventually, in May 2020, the sides agreed to call off the deal.

A lot has changed since then. The retailer has overhauled its brand, de-emphasizing the overtly sexy image and products that customers saw as exclusionary. It has become “less focused on a specific demographic target and more focused on being broadly inclusive of all women of all shapes and sizes and colors and ethnicities and genders and areas of interest,” Martin Waters, the retailer’s chief executive, said on a recent earnings call.

The company also closed more than 200 stores and focused on improving profitability, which rose sharply at the end of last year, surpassing its prepandemic results.

Victoria’s Secret operating income

Victoria’s Secret is one of the retailers transformed by the pandemic, along with others like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Michaels, accelerating digital overhauls that may have otherwise taken years. Direct sales at Victoria’s Secret in North America rose to 44 percent of the total last year, from 25 percent the year before.

It’s unclear whether pandemic shopping trends will stick, and “it would be reasonable to expect some reversion,” Stuart Burgdoerfer, the L Brands chief financial officer, said at a March event. “But I also think that people have very much enjoyed some of the benefits that were forced on us or triggered through the pandemic.”

Amazon’s two-year bond has a yield just 0.1 percentage points above the equivalent in Treasuries.
Credit…Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Amazon sold $18.5 billion worth of bonds Monday, joining other corporate giants taking advantage of ultralow interest rates to raise money because … well, why not? The e-commerce titan was able to sell some of its debt at a record-low interest rate for a corporate issuer — barely above what the U.S. government pays.

Amazon’s two-year bond has a yield just 0.1 percentage points above the equivalent in Treasuries. That’s a big vote of confidence in Amazon, which has emerged as a winner during the pandemic. Over all, investors placed $50 billion worth of orders, according to The Financial Times, underscoring enthusiasm for debt that yields next to nothing.

Amazon raised $1 billion in the form of a sustainability bond, which is meant to finance investments in environmentally minded projects like zero-carbon infrastructure and cleaner transportation. Amazon is the latest company to sell bonds aimed at so-called E.S.G. investors (short for environmental, social and governance), a market that reached $270 billion last year.

To be sure, the bulk of Amazon’s offering will finance typical corporate actions like share buybacks, acquisitions and capital expenditures, according to the bond prospectus. It will add to the nearly $34 billion in cash that Amazon had on hand at the end of March — as will profits that are growing at extraordinary rates for a company of its size.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is struggling to hire manufacturing workers for its beer factory and staff members for its restaurants.
Credit…Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

As employers race to hire before an expected summertime economic boom, they are voicing a complaint that is echoing all the way to the White House: They cannot find enough workers to fill their open positions and meet the rising customer demand.

Many managers are unwilling to raise wages and prices enough to keep up, as they worry that demand will ebb in a few months and leave them with permanently higher payroll costs. They are instead resorting to short-term fixes, like cutting hours, instituting sales quotas and offering signing bonuses to get people in the door, Jeanna Smialek and Jim Tankersley report for The New York Times.

In and around Rehoboth Beach, Del., at least 10 people, managers and workers alike, cited expanded payments as a key driver of the labor shortage, though only two of them personally knew someone who was declining to work to claim the benefit.

In Delaware, Wawa gas stations sport huge periwinkle blue signs advertising $500 signing bonuses, plus free “shorti” hoagies each shift for new associates. A local country club is offering referral bonuses and opening up jobs to members’ children and grandchildren. A regional home builder has instituted a cap on the number of houses it can sell each month as everything — open lots, available materials, building crews — comes up short.

Scott Kammerer oversees a local hospitality company that includes a brewery and restaurants. He has been able to staff adequately by offering benefits and taking advantage of the fact that he retained some workers because his restaurants did not close fully or for very long during the pandemic.

But he has also raised wages. The company’s starting non-tip pay rates have climbed to $12 from $9 two years ago. Mr. Kammerer has not been forced to raise prices to cover increasing costs, because business volume has picked up so much — up 40 percent this year compared with a typical winter — that profits remain solid.

Video

Cinemagraph
CreditCredit…By Brenna Murphy

Today in the On Tech newsletter, Shira Ovide explains why fights over money, power and our personal information are popping up all over streaming entertainment, and how we’re caught in the middle.

View Source

The Power of Pre-K

In the late 1990s, Boston expanded its public pre-K program, but it did not have nearly enough spots for every 4-year-old in the city. So it used a lottery to help determine which children could enroll.

That lottery created an opportunity for academic researchers. It meant that thousands of otherwise similar children would have different life experiences based on random chance. And random chance is a powerful way for social scientists to study cause and effect. It may be the closest thing to a laboratory experiment in the real world.

Pre-K was a particularly good subject to study, because there has been a long-running debate about how much it matters. In the 1960s and ’70s, studies of two small preschool programs — known as the Perry and Abecedarian programs — showed major benefits for the children who attended them. But some experts pointed out the two programs were of a higher quality than most pre-K programs. For that reason, a community that enacted universal pre-K could not expect to replicate the benefits of Perry and Abecedarian.

The evidence about larger pre-K programs — like the federal Head Start program — was more mixed. Graduates of Head Start seemed to do better on math and reading tests during the early years of elementary school. As they got older, though, the positive effects often faded, leaving the value of universal pre-K unclear.

calling for the federal government to subsidize state pre-K programs. About two-thirds of 4-year-olds and half of 3-year-olds now attend such programs. Biden wants to make them universally available, at an additional cost of about $20 billion a year (or less than 1/30th of what the federal government spends on Medicare). He would pay for it by raising taxes on the wealthy.

In today’s newsletter, I want to tell you about the results from the Boston pre-K study. They are being released this morning by three economists, from the University of Chicago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley.

mixed evidence on Head Start.

But test scores are mostly a means, not an end. More important than the scores are concrete measures of a student’s well-being. And by those measures, the students who won the lottery fared substantially better than those who lost it.

also found that early education had a bigger effect on long-term outcomes than short-term metrics.

How could pre-K have these positive effects without lifting test scores? It seems to improve children’s social and emotional skills and help them mature more than it helps in a narrow academic sense, the researchers told me.

The findings are a reminder of how complex a process schooling is. We can’t simply give up on test scores. Measurement and accountability are vital parts of education, just as they are with most human endeavors. Without them, society ends up tolerating a lot of mediocrity and failure. But measurement often needs to be nuanced to be accurate.

“An important implication of our study,” Walters, a Berkeley economist, said, “is that modern large-scale public preschool programs can improve educational attainment.”

For more: How child care became a top issue in Biden’s Washington, by The Times’s Emily Peck; and why Republicans are abandoning their past support for universal child care, by Elliot Haspel, in The Washington Post.

recipe that lets time do most of the work, no kneading necessary.

The technique led to an explosion in amateur baking and changed professional baking as well, the chef J. Kenji López-Alt writes. It changed his life, too. “Learning how time can do the work for you turned me from someone who baked perhaps one or two loaves a year into someone who throws together dough on a whim before bedtime several times a month,” he writes.

updated recipe for no-knead bread.

View Source

Pipeline Shutdown Has Had Little Impact on Supplies So Far

HOUSTON — The shutdown on Friday of the largest petroleum pipeline between Texas and New York after a ransomware attack has had little immediate impact on supplies of gasoline, diesel or jet fuel. But some energy analysts warned that a prolonged suspension could raise prices at the pump along the East Coast.

Nationwide, the AAA motor club reported that the average price of regular gasoline did not budge from $2.96 a gallon from Saturday to Sunday. New York State prices remained stable at $3, and in some Southeastern states like Georgia, which are considered particularly vulnerable if the pipeline does not reopen quickly, prices moved up a fraction of a penny a gallon.

There’s been no sign that drivers are panic buying or that gasoline stations are gouging their customers at the beginning of the summer driving season, when gasoline prices traditionally rise.

But gasoline shortages could appear if the pipeline, operated by Colonial Pipeline, is still shut into the week, some analysts said.

“Even a temporary shutdown will likely drive already rising national retail gas prices over $3 per gallon for the first time since 2014,” said Jay Hatfield, chief executive of Infrastructure Capital Management and an investor in natural gas and oil pipelines and storage.

The shutdown of the 5,500-mile pipeline that carries nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supplies was a troubling sign that the nation’s energy infrastructure is vulnerable to cyberattacks from criminal groups or nations.

Colonial Pipeline acknowledged on Saturday that it had been the victim of a ransomware attack by a criminal group, meaning that the hacker may hold the company’s data hostage until it pays a ransom. The company, which is privately held, would not say whether it had paid a ransom. It did say it was working to start up operations as soon as possible.

One reason that prices have not surged so far is that the East Coast generally has ample supplies of fuel in storage. And fuel consumption, while growing, remains depressed from prepandemic levels.

Still, there are some vulnerabilities in the supply system. Stockpiles in the Southeast are slightly lower than normal for this time of year. Refinery capacity in the Northeast is limited, and the Northeast Gasoline Supply Reserve, a supply held for emergency interruptions, contains only a total of one million barrels of gasoline in New York, Boston and South Portland, Maine.

That is not even enough for a single day of average regional consumption, according to a report published on Saturday by Clearview Energy Partners, a research firm based in Washington. “Much depends on the duration of the outage,” the report said.

When Hurricane Harvey crippled several refineries on the Gulf Coast in 2017, suspending Colonial Pipeline flows of petroleum products to the Northeast for nearly two weeks, spot gasoline prices at New York Harbor rose more than 25 percent and took nearly a month to ease.

Regional refineries can add to their supplies from Kinder Morgan’s Plantation Pipeline, which operates between Louisiana and Northern Virginia, but its capacity is limited and it does not reach major metropolitan areas north of Washington, D.C.

The East Coast has ample harbors to import petroleum products from Europe, Canada and South America, but that can take time. Tankers sailing from the port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, at speeds of up to 14 knots can take as long as two weeks to make the trip to New York Harbor.

Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service, said the Biden administration could suspend the Jones Act, which requires that goods shipped between American ports be transported on American-built and -operated vessels. That would allow foreign-flagged tankers to move additional barrels of fuel from Gulf ports to Atlantic Coast harbors. The Jones Act is typically suspended during emergencies like hurricanes.

“One could make the case that the Biden administration might consider such a move sooner rather than later if Colonial software issues persist,” Mr. Kloza said.

View Source

Covid-19 Live Updates: Vaccines Protect Against Some Variants, Studies Show

vaccine was extraordinarily effective against severe disease caused by two variants, including the dominant one in the United States. And the results of an early-stage trial of the Moderna vaccine — though not published or vetted by scientists — suggested that a single dose given as a booster was effective against variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil, the company said.

The emergence of new variants, and whether vaccines are effective against them, is a subject of continued concern as a variant first detected in India, called B.1.617, spreads across the country. There is also a risk that further variants will arise there as the country’s outbreak grows, experts say. Another worrisome variant, P.1, is wreaking havoc across South America.

In the Pfizer studies, which were based on real-world use of the vaccine in Qatar and Israel, the two variants of focus were B.1.1.7, first identified in Britain and now detected in over 100 countries, and B.1.351, first identified in South Africa. The studies showed that the vaccine can prevent some of the most severe outcomes from Covid-19, such as pneumonia and death, caused by those variants.

“At this point in time, we can confidently say that we can use this vaccine, even in the presence of circulating variants of concern,” said Dr. Annelies Wilder-Smith, a researcher in infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

One of the Pfizer studies showed that the vaccine was 87 to 89.5 percent effective at preventing infection with B.1.1.7 among people who were at least two weeks past their second shot. It was 72.1 percent to 75 percent effective at preventing infection with B.1.351. The study was based on information about more than 200,000 people that was pulled from Qatar’s national Covid-19 databases from Feb. 1 to March 31.

Another study, conducted by researchers at Pfizer and at Israel’s Health Ministry, found that the vaccine was more than 95 percent effective at protecting against a coronavirus infection, hospitalization and death among fully vaccinated people 16 and older.

In the United States, experts now believe that attaining herd immunity is unlikely because of the spread of variants and hesitancy among some people in the country to be vaccinated. The variant that has caused the most alarm is B.1.1.7, which is about 60 percent more transmissible than original versions of the virus.

Moderna’s announcement was greeted cautiously, because the results of an early-stage trial have not been published or peer-reviewed. But the company said it was encouraged by results that suggested that a single booster shot of its vaccine would rapidly increase antibodies in vaccinated people, and that those antibodies were effective against the original form of the virus as well as the variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil.

A second booster specifically designed to counter the variant identified in South Africa produced an even stronger immune response, the company said.

A vaccination center at a school in New Delhi on Wednesday. 
Credit…Tauseef Mustafa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As India recorded a single-day high in new coronavirus cases on Thursday, its vaccination campaign has been marred by shortages and states are competing against one another to get doses, limiting the government’s hope that the country can soon emerge from a devastating outbreak.

The Indian health ministry recorded about 410,000 cases in 24 hours, a new global high, and 3,980 deaths, the highest daily death toll in any country outside the United States. Experts believe the number of actual infections and deaths is much higher.

A second wave of infections exploded last month, and some Indian states reintroduced partial lockdowns, but daily vaccination numbers have fallen. The government said it had administered nearly two million vaccine doses on Thursday, far lower than the 3.5 million doses a day it reached in March. Over the past week, 1.6 million people on average were vaccinated daily in the country of 1.4 billion.

India’s pace of vaccinations has become a source of global concern as its outbreak devastates the nation and spreads into neighboring countries, and as a variant first identified there begins to be found around the world. The outbreak has prompted India to keep vaccine doses produced by its large drug manufacturing industry at home instead of exporting them, slowing down vaccination campaigns elsewhere.

In an effort to make doses more widely available within India, the authorities have allowed states and private health care providers to buy vaccines directly from manufacturers. But that has left state governments competing with one another for doses, and experts say it has added more troubles to a sluggish rollout. The authorities in Delhi, the capital, and several states have said they had to delay the expansion of vaccine access to younger age groups because of shortages.

India also lacks enough doses to meet the growing demand. Two domestic drug companies — the Serum Institute of India, which is manufacturing the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, and Bharat Biotech, which is making its own vaccine — are producing fewer than 100 million doses per month.

About 3 percent of India’s population has been fully vaccinated, and 9.2 percent of people have received at least one dose. Experts say that at the current rate the country is unlikely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s target of inoculating 300 million people by August.

India has recorded 20.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 226,000 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

India’s government has said it will fast-track approvals of foreign-made vaccines, and on Wednesday the Biden administration said it would support waiving intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines to increase supplies for lower-income countries.

But a waiver would need to win unanimous support at the World Trade Organization — and even then, experts say, India’s drug companies would need extensive technological and other support to produced doses.

“The drop in I.P. protections is only one element,” Anant Bhan, a health researcher at Melaka Manipal Medical College in southern India, said of intellectual property. Because of the additional steps required to begin making a vaccine on a huge scale, he said, “it is not going to mean increased access to vaccines in the near future.”

As Mr. Modi has declined to impose a nationwide lockdown like the one he brought in last year, states have adopted their own measures. On Thursday, the southern state of Kerala, which has one of the highest caseloads, announced a near-total lockdown until May 16.

Experts also worry that a crisis may be unfolding in India’s rural areas, where testing capacities are even more limited.

“My main concern is nonavailability of testing and the logistics of not getting people tested in rural areas,” said Gautam Menon, a professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University in northern India. “So we will never get the real numbers for either infection rates or deaths from many such quarters of India.”

The U.S. State Department has approved the departure of family members of U.S. government employees in India and is urging American citizens to take advantage of commercial flights out of the country. It said on Wednesday that it would approve the voluntary departure of nonemergency U.S. government employees.

On Thursday, Sri Lanka became the latest country to bar travelers from India, joining the United States, Britain, Australia and others.

The European Union is one of the world’s largest producers, exporters and consumers of vaccines.
Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

The European Union is considering whether to follow the Biden administration’s decision to support a waiver of patent rights for Covid-19 vaccines as many poor and middle-income nations struggle to secure lifesaving doses.

The European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, stopped short of outright supporting President Biden in a speech on Thursday morning, but said the European Union was “also ready to discuss any proposals that address the crisis in an effective and pragmatic manner.”

“That is why we are ready to discuss how the U.S. proposal for a waiver on intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines could help achieve that objective,” she said, speaking at the Florence European University Institute.

The United States had been a major holdout at the World Trade Organization over a proposal to suspend some intellectual property protections, a move that could allow drugmakers access to the trade secrets of how the viable vaccines have been made. But President Biden had come under increasing pressure to support the proposal, which was drafted by India and South Africa.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said on Thursday that he welcomed the Biden administration’s support for waiving intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines, but that the short-term priority was to donate existing doses to poorer countries rather than helping them produce the vaccines themselves.

“You can transfer the intellectual property to pharmaceutical manufacturers in Africa,” he said while visiting a vaccination center in southern Paris, but “they don’t have the platforms to produce mRNA vaccines.”

The European Union is one of the world’s largest producers, exporters and consumers of vaccines and has so far opposed activism at the W.T.O. level to recognize the pandemic as a huge emergency and remove protections on the vaccines. Doing so would allow them to ultimately be produced in larger volumes by manufacturers around the world.

Shares of some pharmaceutical companies fell on Wednesday after Mr. Biden’s announcement and continued dropping on Thursday. BioNTech shares in Germany were down about 15 percent since news of the administration’s decision. Novavax, which fell 5 percent Wednesday, fell another 3 percent in premarket trading on Wall Street.

The International Olympic Committee is moving to help athletes and officials get vaccinated before traveling to the Summer Games in Tokyo.
Credit…Hiro Komae/Associated Press

Athletes and officials traveling to the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer will be offered doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine before arriving in Japan, the International Olympic Committee said on Thursday, in an effort to reassure the Japanese public about the safety of hosting the event.

The committee said it had struck a deal with the drug makers to send the doses to Olympic and Paralympic Games participants’ home countries, where they will be administered through domestic inoculation programs.

The effort is the latest attempt by Olympic officials and Japanese organizers to assuage the concerns of Japanese people who do not want their country to host the Games during the pandemic. Less than 1 percent of people in Japan have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to a New York Times database, and restaurants, bars and nonessential businesses are closed in several areas, including Tokyo.

The initiative was developed “not only to contribute to the safe environment of the Games, but also out of respect for the residents of Japan,” the committee said in a statement.

Despite the move and an earlier announcement that the committee would buy doses of a Chinese-made vaccine, there is no requirement for athletes, coaches, officials and others attending the Games to be vaccinated.

In March, China said it would provide vaccines for Olympic participants. But China’s vaccines have not been approved in many countries, and several — including Japan — said they would decline the offer.

The I.O.C. president, Thomas Bach, acknowledged that accepting the vaccine was voluntary, even as he urged competitors to be inoculated. “We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible,” he said.

Dining at a restaurant in San Diego last week.
Credit…Ariana Drehsler for The New York Times

After weeks of coronavirus patients flooding emergency rooms in Michigan, hospitalizations are falling. On some recent days, entire states have reported zero new coronavirus deaths. And in New York and Chicago, officials have vowed to fully reopen in the coming weeks, conjuring images of a vibrant summer of concerts, sporting events and packed restaurants.

Americans have entered a new, hopeful phase of the pandemic as the outlook has improved across the nation. The country is recording about 49,000 new cases a day, the lowest number since early October, and hospitalizations have plateaued at about 40,000, a similar level as the early fall.

“We’re in a really good spell and we can act accordingly,” said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Irvine, who said it made sense to loosen restrictions now, when the risk is lower than it might be this winter.

Yet even as a sense of hope spreads, there remain strong reasons for caution. Deaths are hovering around 700 a day — down from a peak of more than 3,000 in January. The pace of vaccinations in the country is slowing, and experts now believe that herd immunity in the United States may not be attainable. More transmissible variants of the virus are also spreading.

That could leave the coronavirus infecting tens of thousands of Americans and killing hundreds more each day for some time.

Although more than half of adults in the country have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a new national poll suggests that the American public’s willingness to get a Covid-19 vaccine is reaching a saturation point.

Nine percent of unvaccinated respondents said they intended to get a shot, according to the survey, published in the April edition of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Vaccine Monitor. And with federal authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for people age 12 to 15 expected imminently, parents’ eagerness to have their children vaccinated is also limited, the poll found.

Among the parents surveyed, three in 10 said they would have their children vaccinated immediately, and 26 percent said they wanted to wait and see how the vaccines were working. Eighteen percent said they would have their children vaccinated only if a child’s school required it, and 23 percent said they would not have their children vaccinated.

“We’re in a new stage of talking about vaccine demand,” said Mollyann Brodie, the executive vice president of Kaiser’s Public Opinion and Survey Research Program. “There’s not going to be a single strategy to increase demand across everyone who is left.”

Even so, public health experts say that while they still expect significant local and regional surges in the coming weeks, they do not think they will be as widespread or reach past peaks.

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, the health officer in Seattle and King County, said there was no playbook for an endgame to this pandemic, but he urged people to get vaccinated.

“I’m sure all of us want to avoid a long game of Whac-a-Mole with imposing and easing restrictions,” he said. “Vaccination is the cure.”

Global Roundup

A checkpoint in Suva, Fiji, last week, after the Fijian capital entered a 14-day lockdown.
Credit…Leon Lord/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The police and the military in Fiji locked down a major hospital on the island of Viti Levu on Wednesday night, aiming to contain the country’s second coronavirus outbreak.

More than 400 patients and employees are inside the hospital, said Dr. James Fong, the health ministry’s permanent secretary. The lockdown was precipitated by the death of a patient in the intensive-care unit, the third known person to have died from the virus in Fiji. The virus is believed to have passed from the patient to at least two doctors.

Health workers hope to use the lockdown to determine which patients and workers might have come into contact with those infected. Officials said that those inside the hospital would be provided with food and other supplies. Sections of the hospital have been converted into intensive-care units in case other severe infections arise.

With a population of around one million, Fiji has about 50 active cases of the virus, out of 125 total cases reported since the start of the pandemic. Many of the active cases are thought to be of a coronavirus variant first discovered in India.

Recent social restrictions have often been ignored in the South Pacific island nation: The Fijian police have arrested more than 100 people for breaches, with many infractions said to be connected to alcohol or kava, a local intoxicant.

Dr. Fong said at a news conference this week that the country’s containment strategy could take months. “Every Fijian must be ready,” he said.

“We are not up against an identical enemy this time around,” Dr. Fong added. “The chains of transmission are more widespread, and the variant is more transmissible.”

In other news around the world:

A giant squid statue, made at a cost of nearly $230,000, in the town of Noto, Japan.
Credit…Noto Town, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A coastal town in Japan has provoked debate after spending nearly $230,000 in federal Covid-19 relief money on a 43-foot statue of a flying squid.

Noto, a fishing town where the squid is a delicacy, erected the statue in March in a bid to promote tourism after the pandemic subsides. The five-and-a-half-ton pink sea creature sits outside a squid-themed restaurant and tourist center.

Tetsuji Shimoyachi, a town official, said he hoped the statue would be “a driving-force attraction in the post-Covid period.”

But the giant squid’s unveiling provoked questions among some of the 16,000 residents of the town, roughly 180 miles northwest of Tokyo, who wondered whether there weren’t better uses of its emergency relief funds.

One Twitter user asked how the world would view the installation of a giant squid “in a country where vaccines were not provided, P.C.R. testing isn’t increased and the medical system has collapsed.”

Mr. Shimoyachi acknowledged that residents had raised concerns about whether the money should have been spent elsewhere.

He said that of the $6.2 million in coronavirus relief that the town received from the Japanese government last year, it had spent about $2.5 million on infection control measures and $1.3 million to promote local businesses and employment, and still had money left over after purchasing the squid statue. The town has recorded fewer than 30 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

In all, Japan allocated $41 billion in emergency subsidies to municipalities last year to address the pandemic and its economic impact.

Mr. Shimoyachi said that Noto was historically a center of squid fishing in Japan, but that catches had significantly declined because of competition from Chinese and North Korean boats. Tourism has also fallen, which led the town to build the tourist center in a bid to attract visitors — although Mr. Shimoyachi said that it was too soon to start a marketing campaign.

Japan has controlled the virus better than many countries but has faced a recent spike in cases in Tokyo and other municipalities. The surge has prompted a new round of economic restrictions, criticism of Japan’s slow vaccine rollout and questions over whether the country should proceed with the Tokyo Olympics, which are scheduled to begin in July.

The pandemic has caused some Americans to become more spartan when it comes to bathing.
Credit…Elizabeth Cecil for The New York Times

Robin Harper, an administrative assistant at a preschool in Martha’s Vineyard, grew up showering every day. “It’s what you did,” she said.

But when the pandemic forced her indoors and away from the public, she started showering once a week. The new practice felt environmentally virtuous, practical and freeing — and it has stuck.

“Don’t get me wrong — I like showers,” said Ms. Harper, 43, who has returned to work. “But it’s one thing off my plate. I’m a mom, I work full-time, and it’s one less thing I have to do.”

The pandemic has upended the use of zippered pants and changed many people’s eating and drinking habits. And there are now indications that it has caused some Americans to become more spartan when it comes to ablutions.

Parents say that their teenage children are forgoing daily showers. After the British news media reported on a YouGov survey showing that 17 percent of people in Britain had abandoned daily showers during the pandemic, many on Twitter said they had done the same.

Heather Whaley, 49, a writer in Reading, Conn., said that her shower use had dropped 20 percent in the past year. After the pandemic forced her into lockdown, she said, she began considering why she was showering every day.

“Do I need to? Do I want to?” she said. “The act of taking a shower became less a matter of function and more of a matter of doing something for myself that I enjoyed.”

A Covid-19 patient at a hospital in Moradabad, India, on Wednesday.
Credit…Prakash Singh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The calls come at all hours, sometimes 15 a day, from some of India’s most oppressed and severely ill people, buzzing a cellphone that belongs to Dolly Arjun, an Indian-American physician assistant in Boston.

A few years ago, Ms. Arjun founded a telehealth program to provide free health care to members of India’s Indigenous tribes and to Dalits, who are at the lowest rungs of India’s entrenched caste system and have long faced discrimination. Dalits are typically the last to receive assistance in humanitarian disasters and often live in impoverished rural villages with no hospitals, medical care or schools.

Now, with a devastating wave of coronavirus infections surging across India, Dalits are facing a new peril, Ms. Arjun said. She said she was desperate to help, even though she is emotionally exhausted after a year of working with Covid-19 patients in Massachusetts.

“Tons of people are dying,” Ms. Arjun said. “This is just a human to human need.”

Her focus is not just Hippocratic. She is Dalit herself, a rarity among Indian medical professionals in the United States, most of whom come from upper-caste urban families. “The only reason they might know a Dalit person is because it’s their servant at home,” Ms. Arjun said.

Her telemedicine program has health workers in India who can translate for patients in local languages, but finding medical professionals in the United States to join the effort has not been easy, she said. Still, Ms. Arjun has recruited two physicians.

Patients contact the group through WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube, and the medical professionals call back on video. Often their first task is to reassure patients who have little understanding of the coronavirus or the appropriate medical treatments, Ms. Arjun said.

“Part of what’s happening now is patients are being told Covid is going to kill you, so they are panicked,” Ms. Arjun said.

She noted that in one Indian state the government has been broadly distributing packets of medications — including 25 days-worth of antibiotics, which cannot treat viruses — to residents, regardless of whether they have tested positive for Covid-19 or show symptoms.

Sometimes, however, the telehealth calls detect life-or-death emergencies. In late April, Ms. Arjun logged onto a WhatsApp video call with a young Dalit man and his 60-year-old father, who was at home with breathing problems in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where it was around midnight.

“They didn’t know what to do,” she said. “They told us there were no hospitals or oxygen available, and they hadn’t seen a doctor.”

After assessing the man, Ms. Arjun urged the family to check to see whether any hospital beds were available instead of assuming that they were full. “It took a lot of convincing,” she said.

The next day, he was admitted and began to improve, but the hospital was running out of oxygen. Ms. Arjun put out a call on several WhatsApp groups for an oxygen cylinder, though the family did not know the name of the hospital and then fell out of contact.

Days later, she learned that the man had died.

There were road blocks, fires and riots in southern Bogotá on Tuesday after a week of protests and strikes over tax reforms proposed by the Colombian government.
Credit…Federico Rios for The New York Times

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — A teenager shot to death after kicking a police officer. A young man bleeding out on the street as protesters shout for help. Police officers firing on unarmed demonstrators. Helicopters swarming overhead, tanks rolling through neighborhoods, explosions echoing in the streets. A mother crying for her son.

“We are destroyed,” said Milena Meneses, 39, whose only son, Santiago, 19, was killed in a protest over the weekend.

Colombians demonstrating over the past week against the poverty and inequality that have worsened the lives of millions since the pandemic began have been met with a powerful crackdown by their government, which has responded to the protests with the same militarized police force it often uses against rebel fighters and organized crime.

The clashes have left at least 24 people dead, most of them demonstrators, and at least 87 missing. They have also exacerbated the anger with officials in the capital, Bogotá. Protesters say the government is increasingly out of touch with people’s lives.

Experts say this explosion of frustration could presage unrest across Latin America, where several countries face the combustible mix of an unrelenting pandemic, growing hardship and plummeting government revenue.

“We are all connected,” said León Valencia, a political analyst, noting that past protests had jumped from country to country. “This could spread across the region.”

The marches began last week after Mr. Duque proposed a tax overhaul meant to close a pandemic-related economic shortfall, and since then the crowds have grown. Demonstrators now include teachers, doctors, students, members of major unions, longtime activists and Colombians who have never before taken to the streets.

Latin America was one of the regions hardest hit by the virus last year, with cemeteries filling past capacity, the sick dying while awaiting care in hospital hallways, and family members spending the night in lines to buy medical oxygen in an attempt to keep loved ones alive.

The region’s economies shrank an average of 7 percent. In many places, unemployment, particularly among the young, spiked. And in the first few months of 2021, the Covid-19 situation has worsened.

Travelers at Chicago O’Hare airport last week. With more people vaccinated against Covid, travel is increasing.
Credit…Spencer Platt/Getty Images

More than 106 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated. Airlines are resuming overseas flights. Come summer, fully vaccinated people traveling from America will once again be welcome across Europe.

But the reality is more sobering.

Globally, more new coronavirus cases were reported in recent weeks than at any point since the onset of the pandemic. The numbers are being driven by an uncontrolled outbreak in India, but also account for troubling trends among European destinations popular with Americans, from France and Germany to Italy and Spain.

“My doomsday scenario is a mixing of vaccinated and unvaccinated populations in a setting where there is high viral load and high viral transmission,” said Dr. Sarah Fortune, the chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Even if international tourists could travel safely, securely and without risking the well-being of their hosts, visitors may face yet another impediment: The destinations may lack many of their usual draws. In Paris, bars and restaurants have been closed since the end of October, as are museums.

Jordyn Coleman, 11, attending math class from his apartment in Clarksdale, Miss., during a virtual learning day.
Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Until the pandemic, Jordyn and his mother, Precious Coleman, lived in Battle Creek, Mich., where he was known among his teachers as a bright but easily distracted student, capable of soaring when he was engaged.

On the day of a standardized test, Jordyn sat in front of his computer, humming to himself and spinning around in his chair. His teacher thought he was goofing off — until the results came in.

When his mother came to pick him up, a school administrator was waiting for her, and she worried Jordyn had gotten into trouble. “That’s when they told me that he had gotten not just the best score in his class but the best score in the entire grade,” she said.

After the pandemic hit, Ms. Coleman struggled to make ends meet. She and her two sons ended up moving to Clarksdale, Miss., one of the poorest corners of the United States. Ms. Coleman works an overnight shift at a casino. Jordyn waits for her to return home in the morning so he can log in to school with her cellphone, and she struggles to stay awake to help him.

Now Jordyn is at risk of becoming one of the lost students of the coronavirus pandemic in the most disrupted American school year since World War II.

View Source

Why an Estimated 100,000 Americans Abroad Face Passport Problems

Yona Shemesh, 24, was born in Los Angeles, but he moved to Israel with his family at age 9. In July 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic was raging, he booked a ticket to Los Angeles to visit his grandparents in June 2021, knowing that he would have nearly an entire year to renew his American passport, which had long since expired.

Eight months later, he was still trying to get an appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem to do just that.

About 9 million U.S. citizens currently live abroad, and as the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel finally appears, immigration lawyers estimate more than 100,000 can’t get travel documents to return to the United States.

Despite the State Department making headway on a massive backlog of passport applications in the early months of the pandemic, many consulates and embassies abroad, plagued by Covid-19 restrictions and staffing reductions, remain closed for all but emergency services. Travel is restarting, but for American expats who had a baby abroad in the past year or saw their passport expire during the pandemic, elusive appointments for documents are keeping them grounded.

The Jerusalem Post. American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy organization for U.S. expats, sent an official request to the State Department in October 2020 to prioritize Americans’ access to consular services abroad, “but people are still experiencing delays,” said the organization’s executive director, Marylouise Serrato.

In Mexico, which is believed to have more American expats than any other country, a recent search on the appointment database for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City showed zero available appointments for passport services, even with emergency circumstances (appointments from July onward have not yet been released).

ItsEasy Passport & Visa, a passport-and-visa-expediting service, said that many of them are so small that they’re nearly impossible to track.

“Since there is an online appointment system, anybody can log on, stockpile these appointments and resell them,” he said. “In the United States, they can be sold for $200 or $250, but out of the country they can charge much more.”

Mr. Shemesh got the broker’s phone number and transferred the money, and in one day, he had a confirmed appointment.

“I tried for eight months to get an appointment, and it was really a bummer because my money is something I have to work hard for. I paid more to renew my passport than I did on the ticket to Los Angeles. It felt like blackmail.”

Desperate Americans in other countries have considered paying for other services, as well.

Conner Gorry, 51, an American journalist who lives in Cuba, spent several frantic weeks trying to renew her expiring passport earlier this year. The U.S. Embassy in Havana is closed for all but emergency services. For six weeks, she tried to book an appointment, and received no response. Ms. Gorry grew so stressed that she developed gastritis, and at one point, she contemplated spending more than $13,000 to charter a plane from Havana to Miami, where she knew she would be able to renew her passport by mail.

She eventually found a flight out of Havana, and flew to the U.S. with one week left on her passport. She is unsure of when she will return to Cuba. The situation, she said, made her furious.

“The Covid thing is one thing. But the U.S. has citizens all over the world, and a diplomatic corps all over the world. What are they doing to protect and attend to us?”

Documents for American citizens within the United States are also getting stuck in the backlog. When Dayna and Brian Lee, who are Tony Award-winning producers of “Angels in America,” had twin baby girls in early April, the bureaucratic headaches started before they even brought their newborn daughters from the hospital to their home in New York City, where they have lived for several years.

The couple is originally from Toronto and their daughters, Emmy and Ella, are eligible for dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship but are currently without passports from either country. The infants must have American passports first so their parents can travel with them to Canada, where the girls will be able to also receive their Canadian passports. But for weeks after the girls were born, Mr. and Mrs. Lee were unable to book appointments at any U.S. passport office within a three-hour drive of New York City. They ended up turning to an immigration lawyer for help.

“It’s so inexplicably stressful, mixed up with the overwhelming joy of having these two beautiful lives in front of you,” Mr. Lee said. “But we’ve made the decision that come hell or high water, we will be with our families this summer.”

Elizabeth Goss, an immigration attorney based in Boston, said she expects delays and scheduling headaches for both visas and U.S. passports to last another year.

“It’s like a cruise ship that needs to readjust,” she said. “It’s not a speedboat.”


View Source

Covid and Travel: Why an Estimated 100,000 Americans Abroad Face Passport Problems

Yona Shemesh, 24, was born in Los Angeles, but he moved to Israel with his family at age 9. In July 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic was raging, he booked a ticket to Los Angeles to visit his grandparents in June 2021, knowing that he would have nearly an entire year to renew his American passport, which had long since expired.

Eight months later, he was still trying to get an appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem to do just that.

About 9 million U.S. citizens currently live abroad, and as the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel finally appears, immigration lawyers estimate more than 100,000 can’t get travel documents to return to the United States.

Despite the State Department making headway on a massive backlog of passport applications in the early months of the pandemic, many consulates and embassies abroad, plagued by Covid-19 restrictions and staffing reductions, remain closed for all but emergency services. Travel is restarting, but for American expats who had a baby abroad in the past year or saw their passport expire during the pandemic, elusive appointments for documents are keeping them grounded.

The Jerusalem Post. American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy organization for U.S. expats, sent an official request to the State Department in October 2020 to prioritize Americans’ access to consular services abroad, “but people are still experiencing delays,” said the organization’s executive director, Marylouise Serrato.

In Mexico, which is believed to have more American expats than any other country, a recent search on the appointment database for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City showed zero available appointments for passport services, even with emergency circumstances (appointments from July onward have not yet been released).

ItsEasy Passport & Visa, a passport-and-visa-expediting service, said that many of them are so small that they’re nearly impossible to track.

“Since there is an online appointment system, anybody can log on, stockpile these appointments and resell them,” he said. “In the United States, they can be sold for $200 or $250, but out of the country they can charge much more.”

Mr. Shemesh got the broker’s phone number and transferred the money, and in one day, he had a confirmed appointment.

“I tried for eight months to get an appointment, and it was really a bummer because my money is something I have to work hard for. I paid more to renew my passport than I did on the ticket to Los Angeles. It felt like blackmail.”

Desperate Americans in other countries have considered paying for other services, as well.

Conner Gorry, 51, an American journalist who lives in Cuba, spent several frantic weeks trying to renew her expiring passport earlier this year. The U.S. Embassy in Havana is closed for all but emergency services. For six weeks, she tried to book an appointment, and received no response. Ms. Gorry grew so stressed that she developed gastritis, and at one point, she contemplated spending more than $13,000 to charter a plane from Havana to Miami, where she knew she would be able to renew her passport by mail.

She eventually found a flight out of Havana, and flew to the U.S. with one week left on her passport. She is unsure of when she will return to Cuba. The situation, she said, made her furious.

“The Covid thing is one thing. But the U.S. has citizens all over the world, and a diplomatic corps all over the world. What are they doing to protect and attend to us?”

Documents for American citizens within the United States are also getting stuck in the backlog. When Dayna and Brian Lee, who are Tony Award-winning producers of “Angels in America,” had twin baby girls in early April, the bureaucratic headaches started before they even brought their newborn daughters from the hospital to their home in New York City, where they have lived for several years.

The couple is originally from Toronto and their daughters, Emmy and Ella, are eligible for dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship but are currently without passports from either country. The infants must have American passports first so their parents can travel with them to Canada, where the girls will be able to also receive their Canadian passports. But for weeks after the girls were born, Mr. and Mrs. Lee were unable to book appointments at any U.S. passport office within a three-hour drive of New York City. They ended up turning to an immigration lawyer for help.

“It’s so inexplicably stressful, mixed up with the overwhelming joy of having these two beautiful lives in front of you,” Mr. Lee said. “But we’ve made the decision that come hell or high water, we will be with our families this summer.”

Elizabeth Goss, an immigration attorney based in Boston, said she expects delays and scheduling headaches for both visas and U.S. passports to last another year.

“It’s like a cruise ship that needs to readjust,” she said. “It’s not a speedboat.”


View Source

Fed Officials Tamp Down Overheating Concerns

Inflation jitters are popping up in earnings call chatter, spooking investors and dominating business television talk shows. One place they aren’t taking over, it appears, is the Federal Reserve.

America’s central bank is responsible for fostering maximum employment and stable inflation — making it the first line of defense against fast price gains. Fed officials have been clear for months that they expect prices to pop this spring and summer as the economy reopens but that they think the jump will prove temporary. By and large, they are sticking to that script.

During a volley of speeches and appearances on Wednesday, central bank policymakers made clear that they do not think incipient price pressures are going to prove painful or last long. Some suggested that they would even welcome what a hotter economy might have to offer.

“You talk about the economy overheating, you kind of go: ‘Gosh, I kind of like producing as much as we can,’” Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said during a call with reporters. “Why would you like unemployment to be higher when it can be lower? It depends on what the added cost is.”

aims for inflation at 2 percent on average over time, so it is currently angling for a period of slightly higher price gains to offset years and years of very weak gains. Price pressures are picking up a bit from very slow readings a year ago during the worst of the pandemic shutdowns, and economists think supply bottlenecks could keep them elevated for a time as producers try to ramp up for a national reopening.

But officials have been clear they do not expect that situation to force them to rapidly dial back the policies they have in place to bolster the economy — buying $120 billion in government-backed bonds per month and keeping interest rates at rock bottom.

“We’re still a long way away from our goals, and in our new framework we want to see actual progress, not just forecast progress,” Richard H. Clarida, the central bank’s vice chair, said on CNBC on Wednesday afternoon. “As we move through the year, we’ll get more data.”

The Fed’s policymakers have repeatedly said they want to see “substantial further progress” before slowing bond purchases, and full employment and 2 percent inflation with evidence that it will stay above that level for some time before lifting interest rates.

They’ve drawn a distinction between inflation that jumps in 2021 because of reopening quirks and sustainable price pressures that suggest they’ve achieved their goals.

prepared remarks released Wednesday morning. “I am encouraged by the recent pace of the economic recovery, and I remain optimistic that this strength will continue in the coming months.”

If prices take off, the Fed could dial back its buying or lift rates. Either move would make borrowing more expensive, likely slowing the economy and denting the stock market.

“Our baseline view is that we don’t overheat,” Mr. Clarida said. “If there are unforeseen, persistent upward pressures on prices,” then “we would use our tools to bring it down.”

Historically, abrupt Fed policy changes have at times set off recessions. That’s why some economists are worried. If the Fed is forced to act to choke off pesky price pressures, it entails real risks for the economy that could hurt the most vulnerable, who tend to lose jobs first in downturns.

avoid taking too defensive a position.

If the Fed signals that it may lift rates sooner and market-based financial conditions tighten in response — often the case with central bank communications — it could make borrowing more expensive and slow the economy. In that event, it might take longer for the labor market to reach full strength.

“Why do we have bottlenecks?” Ms. Daly asked on Twitter on Wednesday. “Newly vaccinated people are spending, so we have a ‘freedom-induced demand spurt.’ Producers have to catch up. So ride through the temporary pops in inflation — the economy’s in transition.”

Mr. Evans said he wished people who fretted about an overheating economy would explain precisely how high they thought inflation was about to go — and how the economy was going to get to a place where prices remained sustainably hotter.

“I really wish that people who say they’re concerned about inflation, that they would sort of fill in the dots on exactly what kinds of numbers are you talking about,” Mr. Evans said.

He also expressed comfort in the possibility that wages might rise, even if companies didn’t have the pricing power to pass that on as inflation, forcing businesses to eat higher costs and cutting into their profits.

“If wages go up, if labor share was to increase relative to capital share, I mean, I’m kind of agnostic about that,” Mr. Evans said. “We saw labor share fall over a long period of time, and if we didn’t get our nose out of joint then, why would we get our nose out of joint when labor share goes up?”

View Source