WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY, June 6 (Reuters) – The White House on Monday excluded Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas this week, prompting Mexico’s president to make good on a threat to skip the event because all countries in the Western Hemisphere were not invited.
The boycott by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and some other leaders could diminish the relevance of the summit in Los Angeles, where the United States aims to address regional migration and economic challenges. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, hopes to repair Latin America relations damaged under his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, reassert U.S. influence and counter China’s inroads.
The decision to cut out Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua followed weeks of intense deliberations and was due to concerns about human rights and a lack of democracy in the three nations, a senior U.S. official said.
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U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the Biden administration “understands” Mexico’s position, but “one of the key elements of this summit is democratic governance, and these countries are not exemplars, to put it mildly.”
Biden aides have been mindful of pressure from Republicans and some fellow Democrats against appearing soft on America’s three main leftist antagonists in Latin America. Miami’s large Cuban-American community, which favored Trump’s harsh policies toward Cuba and Venezuela, is seen as an important voting bloc in Florida in the November elections that will decide control of the U.S. Congress, which is now in the hands of the Democrats.
Lopez Obrador told reporters that his foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, would attend the summit in his place. The Mexican president said he would meet with Biden in Washington next month, which the White House confirmed. read more
“There can’t be a Summit of the Americas if not all countries of the American continent are taking part,” Lopez Obrador said.
Lopez Obrador’s absence from the gathering, which Biden is due to open on Wednesday, raises questions about summit discussions focused on curbing migration at the U.S. southern border, a priority for Biden, and could be a diplomatic embarrassment for the United States.
A caravan of several thousand migrants, many from Venezuela, set off from southern Mexico early Monday aiming to reach the United States. read more
But a senior administration official insisted Lopez Obrador’s no-show would not hinder Biden’s rollout of a regional migration initiative. The White House expects at least 23 heads of state and government, which the official said would be in line with past summits.
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat and chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the Mexican president, saying his “decision to stand with dictators and despots” would hurt U.S.-Mexico relations.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro shakes hands with his Cuban counterpart Miguel Diaz-Canel during the ALBA group meeting in Havana, Cuba, May 27, 2022. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist and Trump admirer who leads Latin America’s most populous country, will attend after initially flirting with staying away. read more
The exclusion of Venezuela and Nicaragua had been flagged in recent weeks. President Miguel Diaz-Canel of Communist-ruled Cuba said last month he would not go even if invited, accusing the United States of “brutal pressure” to make the summit non-inclusive.
On Monday, Cuba called the decision “discriminatory and unacceptable” and said the United States underestimated support in the region for the island nation.
The United States invited some Cuban civil society activists to attend, but several said on social media that Cuban state security had blocked them from travel to Los Angeles. read more
Having ruled out Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the Biden administration expects representatives for opposition leader Juan Guaido will attend, Price said. He declined to say whether their participation would be in person or virtually.
The senior administration official, asked whether Biden might have a call with Guaido during the summit, said there was a good chance of an “engagement,” but declined to elaborate.
Washington recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, having condemned Maduro’s 2018 re-election as a sham. But some countries in the region have stuck with Maduro.
Also barred from the summit is Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla who won a fourth consecutive term in November after jailing rivals.
Most leaders have signaled they will attend, but the pushback by leftist-led governments suggests many in Latin America are no longer willing to follow Washington’s lead as in past times.
Faced with low expectations for summit achievements, U.S. officials began previewing Biden’s coming initiatives. Those include an “Americas partnership” for pandemic recovery, which would entail investments and supply-chain strengthening, reform of the Inter-American Development Bank, and a $300 million commitment for regional food security.
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Reporting By Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Dave Graham in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Eric Beech and Patricia Zengerle in Washington, Kylie Madry and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, Jose Torres in Tapachula and Dave Sherwood in Havana; Writing by Ted Hesson; Editing by Grant McCool, Alistair Bell and Leslie Adler
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A LAPD helocopter flies near the LA Convention Center during the first day of the Ninth Americas Summit in Los Angeles, U.S., June 6, 2022. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril
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WASHINGTON, June 6 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will announce this week at the Summit of the Americas an economic partnership for the Western hemisphere focusing on promoting economic recovery by building on existing trade agreements, U.S. administration officials said on Monday.
Dubbed the “Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity”, the plan will cover five areas including mobilizing investments, reinvigorating institutions, clean energy jobs, resilient supply chains and sustainable trade.
“The overall objective is to build our economies from the bottom up and middle out by building on the foundation established by our free trade agreements with the region to better address inequality and lack of economic opportunity,” a senior administration official told reporters in a call.
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The plan would aim to offer an alternative in a region where China has been expanding its sphere of influence. It was unclear, however, how many countries in economically troubled Latin America would buy into such an arrangement.
The United States is hosting the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, a gathering where Biden aims to address regional migration and economic challenges. On Monday, the White House said it was not inviting Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, prompting Mexico’s president to skip the event.
The summit is being convened in the United States for the first time since the first such gathering in Miami in 1994, as Biden seeks to reassert U.S. leadership and counter China’s growing clout. He is due to formally open the summit on Wednesday.
Biden will put forward “an ambitious reform” of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the official said, adding that the United States would also seek an equity stake at the bank’s private sector lending arm to support the deployment of private capital.
“Because the private sector has a central role to play,” the official said.
Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas think tank, told a Senate subcommittee last week that the Biden administration should push for a regional trade initiative similar to the one for the Indo-Pacific that Biden announced during his Asia tour in May.
But the idea of creating a hemisphere-wide trade bloc has never gotten off the ground, partly because of protectionism sentiment among U.S. labor unions and some lawmakers.
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Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Los Angeles; Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Eric Beech; Editing by Chris Reese and Stephen Coates
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HAVANA, May 7 (Reuters) – Cuban rescue workers on Saturday picked through rubble for bodies and possible survivors after a Havana boutique hotel was devastated by what authorities said was a gas explosion, leaving at least 26 dead.
The blast at the Hotel Saratoga, just a block from the iconic capitol building in a renovated area of downtown Havana, seriously damaged two adjoining upscale apartment buildings and inflicted lighter damage to 17 structures within a two-block radius. Debris fell on pedestrians in the heavily traveled area and glass and debris went flying at a nearby grammar school.
Local authorities said 50 adults and 14 children were injured. Four of the dead were children, they said, providing few details. One of the dead was a Spanish tourist.
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Authorities and local media said rescuers were working to get to a passage way to the basement in hopes there were survivors. They said it was slow going as engineers had to check the stability of what remained of the building.
The hotel, housed in a more than century-old building, had been closed and only workers were inside at the time of the explosion, state-run TV said.
Emergency personnel are lifted by a crane to survey the damage of the Saratoga Hotel a day after it suffered an explosion, in Havana, Cuba May 7, 2022. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Residents of the adjoining apartment building often rented out to tourists.
The neoclassical-style hotel was remodeled by a British company after the fall of the Soviet Union and for many years was considered the place to stay by visiting government officials and celebrities.
Recently, it had lost some of its shine with the opening of new hotels in Havana, but was still a five-star venue just a minute away from various historic sites such as the renovated, century-old Marti Theater, which sustained moderate damage.
“Well, its just more bad news. There was Trump, Biden, the pandemic, shortages, and I could go on and on,” Michael Serano, a nurse who doubles as a handyman,” said, shrugging his shoulders and looking to the sky.
The Cuban tourism industry was largely shuttered for the last two years and is in the process of reopening now that locally developed vaccines appear to have tamed the new coronavirus, though arrivals remain at around 30% of pre-pandemic levels.
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Reporting by Marc Frank
Editing by Alistair Bell
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BRUSSELS — Western nations on Thursday escalated their pressure on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, with the European Union approving a ban on Russian coal and the United States moving to strip Russia’s trading privileges and prohibit its energy sales in the American market.
The new punishments came as the United Nations General Assembly took a symbolically important vote to penalize Russia by suspending it from the Human Rights Council, the 47-member U.N. body that can investigate rights abuses. Western diplomats called the suspension a barometer of global outrage over the war and the growing evidence of atrocities committed by Russian forces.
That evidence includes newly revealed radio transmissions intercepted by German intelligence in which Russian forces discussed carrying out indiscriminate killings north of Kyiv, the capital, according to two officials briefed on an intelligence report. Russia has denied any responsibility for atrocities.
Together, the steps announced Thursday represented a significant increase in efforts led by Western nations to isolate and inflict greater economic pain on Russia as its troops regroup for a wave of attacks in eastern Ukraine, prompting urgent calls by Ukrainian officials for civilians there to flee.
“These next few days may be your last chance to leave!” the regional governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, declared in a video on Facebook. “The enemy is trying to cut off all possible ways to leave. Do not delay — evacuate.”
But the Western penalties were unlikely to persuade Russia to stop the war, and they revealed how the allies were trying to minimize their own economic pain and prevent themselves from becoming entangled in a direct armed conflict with Moscow.
In some ways, the efforts underscored internal tensions among Russia’s critics over how best to manage the next stage of the conflict, which has created the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. The war is also indirectly worsening humanitarian and economic problems far from Ukraine, including rising food and energy prices that are exacerbating hunger and inflation, particularly in developing nations.
It took two days of protracted talks in Brussels for the European Union to approve a fifth round of sanctions against Russia that included its first ban on a Russian energy source, coal. But the measures were softened by several caveats, highlighting Europe’s diminishing appetite to absorb further economic fallout from the war.
The ban would be phased in over four months, instead of three as originally proposed, according to E.U. diplomats. Germany had been pushing for a longer transition period to wind down existing contracts, even though Russian coal is easier to replace with purchases from other suppliers, compared with oil and gas.
European diplomats also agreed to ban Russian-flagged vessels from E.U. ports, block trucks from Russia and its ally, Belarus, from E.U. roads, and stop the import of Russian seafood, cement, wood and liquor and the export to Russia of quantum computers and advanced semiconductors.
Ukrainian officials had urged Western nations to go further and completely cut off purchases of Russian oil and gas, contending that existing sanctions would not cripple Russia’s economy quickly or severely enough to affect President Vladimir V. Putin’s campaign to subjugate Ukraine by force.
“As long as the West continues buying Russian gas and oil, it is supporting Ukraine with one hand while supporting the Russian war machine with the other hand,” Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Thursday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where he urged members of the alliance to accelerate promised help to Ukraine’s outgunned military.
The NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the alliance would “further strengthen and sustain our support to Ukraine, so that Ukraine prevails in the face of Russia’s invasion.” But he did not offer details.
At the United Nations, the General Assembly’s resolution suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council,a step advocated by the United States and its allies, was the strongest measure the organization has taken to castigate the Kremlin.
Although the decision carries little practical impact, Russia’s suspension, approved on a 93 to 24 vote, with 58 countries abstaining, was still a diplomatic slap that Russia, one of the United Nations’ founding members, had hoped to avoid.
“The country that’s perpetrating gross and systematic violations of human rights should not sit on a body whose job it is to protect those rights,” Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, said at NATO headquarters.
Russia, which resigned its seat on the Human Rights Council in protest, denounced the vote as “an attempt by the U.S. to maintain its domination and total control” and to “use human rights colonialism in international relations.”
China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria and Vietnam were among the countries that joined Russia in opposing the measure, while India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico were among those that abstained. Some of those countries argued the move could worsen the war, and called for further investigation of reports of Russian atrocities.
The last country to lose its seat on the panel was Libya in 2011, after President Moammar al-Qaddafi launched a ferocious crackdown on antigovernment protesters.
Russia remains one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with a veto power that it has already used to block a resolution calling on it to stop the war and withdraw its forces.
As U.N. members were deliberating, the United States Senate voted unanimously to strip Moscow of its preferential trade status and to ban the import of Russian energy into the United States. The legislation would allow the United States to impose higher tariffs on Russian goods. Russian energy, however, represents only a small fraction of American imports, and Moscow is already having trouble exporting its oil.
The House approved the bills later on Thursday, sending them to President Biden, who was expected to sign them.
The latest efforts to punish Russia over the Feb. 24 invasion were energized partly by international outrage over the discovery of many dead civilians by Ukrainian soldiers who reclaimed areas north of Kyiv that had been vacated by retreating Russian forces.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has said hundreds of bodies including children were found, many of them in the suburb of Bucha, and that many victims had been bound, tortured and shot in the head.
Mr. Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, was asked at NATO headquarters about reports of atrocities that may have been committed by Ukrainian troops.
He said he had heard about, but not seen, a video showing a group of Ukrainian soldiers killing captured Russian troops outside a village west of Kyiv. The video has been verified by The New York Times.
Mr. Kuleba said his country’s military observes the rules of warfare and would investigate any “isolated incidents” of atrocities.
“You don’t understand how it feels that Russian soldiers rape children,” he said. “This is not an excuse to those who violate the rules of warfare on either side of the front line. But there are some things which you simply can’t understand. I’m sorry.”
Mr. Blinken spoke with disgust about the atrocities attributed to Russian soldiers, saying “the sickening images and accounts coming out of Bucha and other parts of Ukraine have only strengthened our collective resolve.”
“The revulsion against what the Russian government is doing is palpable,” he said.
Russia has described evidence of the Bucha killings by Russian forces — including satellite images verified by The New York Times that show bodies on streets while still under Russian occupation — as fabricated.
Mr. Kuleba said the expected Russian assaults on the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk made it more urgent that NATO members expedite delivery of weapons to help Ukraine defend itself.
“The discussion is not about the list of weapons,” Mr. Kuleba said. “The discussion is about the timeline. When do we get them?”
Mr. Blinken did not offer any new details on military assistance.
He noted that the United States had supplied Ukraine with arms for months, totaling more than $1.7 billion since Russia’s invasion began. That aid includes an additional $100 million worth of Javelin anti-tank missiles that the Biden administration approved for shipment this week.
Mr. Blinken expressed skepticism about the peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, saying he had “heard nothing from the Russians suggesting that they’re serious” about a negotiated settlement.
The mayor of the eastern city of Sloviansk, Vadim Lyakh, said it was “preparing for the worst” and stocking bomb shelters and hospitals with medical supplies and food.
“We have been watching closely how the Russians have encircled and seized nearby cities like Mariupol and Izium,” he said referring to two Ukrainian cities devastated by Russian attacks. “It’s clear that these cities were not evacuated in time, but in Sloviansk we have some notice, and that’s why we are actively pushing people to leave.”
Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels and Michael Levenson from New York. Reporting was contributed by Jane Arraf from Lviv, Ukraine, Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv, Ukraine, Cora Engelbrecht and Megan Specia from Krakow, Poland, Ivan Nechepurenko from Istanbul, Catie Edmondson from Washington, Michael Crowley from Brussels, Farnaz Fassihi from New York and Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva.
The prison at the center of the fighting in northeastern Syria was never meant to be a prison.
Built years ago as a training institute, the complex was taken over by the Kurdish-led militia that partnered with the United States and other nations to fight the Islamic State.
As the jihadists’ so-called caliphate collapsed several years ago and its fighters were captured, that militia, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, fortified the Sinaa prison in the city of Hasaka with higher walls, heavy metal doors and bars and put its captives there.
They have been there, and in other makeshift lockups in the area, ever since because nobody knows what to do with them.
Many of the approximately 3,500 men at the prison were fighters and some have lingering injuries. Reflecting the international draw of the Islamic State, they hail from all over the world, and most of their countries have refused to take them back. A separate part of the compound holds about 700 boys, who are the children of suspected members of ISIS and were also taken captive as the caliphate collapsed.
The Kurdish-led officials who govern the area have said it is not their job to put the men on trial, and since no one else will either, the prisoners have been stuck in limbo — that is until Islamic State fighters attacked the compound on Thursday to try to break them out. They used suicide bombers to blow open the gates and seized control of about a quarter of the facility.
Terrorism experts and U.S. officials have warned of the dangers of keeping so many former ISIS fighters in an unstable region under the control of an ad hoc administration that lacks the resources to keep the place secure.
This week’s fighting only amplified those concerns.
As of Tuesday, at least 30 S.D.F. fighters had been killed in battles in and around the prison along with about 200 ISIS attackers and detainees, said Farhad Shami, an S.D.F. spokesman.
It is unclear how many prisoners have managed to escape. And S.D.F. officials have said the ISIS fighters holed up in part of the prison are using the boys as human shields.
During a visit to the prison in 2019, reporters for The New York Times saw hundreds of men, many of them emaciated and injured, dressed in orange jumpsuits and crammed into crowded cells. Those interviewed either denied they had been with the Islamic State or claimed to have had nonviolent jobs as teachers or cooks.
Human rights organizations have criticized Western governments for not repatriating their citizens from northeastern Syria, comparing their indefinite detention without trial to the plight of men held in the U.S. detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
In addition to the men held in prisons, tens of thousands of others, mostly women and children, who were detained as the caliphate collapsed, are held in camps nearby that aid groups have warned are unsanitary and serve as jihadist recruitment centers.
HAVANA — The line starts during the day and stretches into the night. In the dark before dawn, there are hundreds of people waiting. Four women sleep on cardboard boxes, sharing a thin blanket. Others chat to stay awake. A nurse arrives after a 24-hour shift and takes her place.
They each hold a ticket to enter a Cuban government supermarket, which is the only place to find basics like chicken, ground beef and toiletries. At 5:27 a.m. on Wednesday, a man in a fraying baseball cap hands out ticket number 302.
“If you don’t get in line, you don’t buy anything,” said a 35-year-old cook who arrived at 6 p.m. the previous evening and who did not want her name published for fear of retribution.
Even in a country long accustomed to shortages of everything from food to freedom, it has been a remarkably bleak year in Cuba, with Covid-19 restrictions making life under tough new U.S. sanctions even harder.
Now a young generation of dissidents, many of them artists and intellectuals who rely on the internet to spread their ideas, are calling for a protest on Monday, a bold move with little precedent in Cuba. They hope to reignite the marches that filled the streets last summer to demand food, medicine and liberty — and to take on a government that for the first time is not made up of the veterans of 1959’s communist revolution.
Just days before the “Civic March for Change” was set to begin, the organizers appeared to be toning down the protests for fear of violence. Organizers have encouraged people to hang white sheets outside their homes, applaud at 3 p.m., and find other creative ways to demonstrate if they do not feel comfortable taking to the streets.
Despite Cuba’s one-step-forward-two steps-back dance toward openness, experts agree that Cuba is on the cusp of something important, even if the movement behind the protests is unlikely to bring down a Communist Party that has been in power for more than 60 years.
“We are witnessing an unprecedented counterrevolutionary movement in Cuba,” said Carlos Alzugaray, a former Cuban ambassador to the European Union and an academic who considers himself a “critical” supporter of the government.
It is a crucial moment for the Cuban government. A generation of young people who grew up under Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl are now facing Miguel Díaz-Canel, a longtime party stalwart who became president in 2018. At 61, he represents a younger generation of Cuba’s Communist Party, and the person tasked with seeing it into the future.
Mr. Díaz-Canel blames Cuba’s economic ills on the longstanding U.S. embargo, which has been ramped up in recent years. The Trump administration restricted travel to the island, cut off remittances and further locked the island out of the international financial system, pummeling its foreign exchange inflows.
He has proved himself just as willing as his predecessors to crack down on dissent. When protesters took to the streets on July 11, Mr. Díaz-Canel encouraged party members to rush after them. Government supporters pursued the demonstrators with batons.
Some 1,000 people were arrested and 659 remain jailed, according to a count by the civil rights group, Cubalex.
After Monday’s planned demonstration was announced, the Cuban government launched a massive media campaign against it, insisting that its leaders are pawns of the United States.
Yunior García, a playwright, has emerged as one of the movement’s leaders. He was among the founders of Archipiélago, a Facebook group of about 35,000 members that promotes discussion and debate. The group is the main promoter of rallies scheduled to take place in cities around the country on Monday.
“I believe that the role of art is to awaken,” he said. “We have to shake things up so that people with dignity that make up society decide to change things.”
The Cuban government has publicly criticized Mr. García, saying that workshops he attended abroad, such as one that was about how dissidents could forge alliances with the Cuban military, amounted to planning a popular uprising. Mr. García said he was doing research for a script.
Mr. García acknowledges meeting with American officials in Havana, but said he went to record a podcast and discuss the effects of the trade embargo.
His internet and phone services are routinely cut, he said, and he recently found a decapitated chicken outside his front door, a religious hex, which he saw as a political threat. State security has even visited his mother-in-law three times at work, he added.
“They have used every tool at their disposal to intimidate us,” Mr. García said.
Mr. García said on Thursday that he would march alone, in silence, on Sunday. He also urged others to take whatever peaceful measures they could on Monday to avoid provoking a reaction from the police.
His announcement, posted on Facebook, left unclear whether the rallies would still take place. Raúl Prado, a cinematographer and one of the platform’s coordinators, said demonstrators would protest “to the extent that the circumstances allow.”
If no police car is parked outside his house preventing him from leaving on the 15th, he will march to insist on the liberation of political prisoners and to demand human rights, Mr. Prado said.
“There is no other way to achieve change,” Mr. Prado said. “If it’s not us, then the responsibility will fall on our children.”
At least two coordinators of Archipiélago have been fired from their state jobs because of their involvement with the group, which Mr. Díaz-Canel has denounced as a Trojan horse for U.S.-backed regime change.
“Their embassy in Cuba has been taking an active role in efforts to subvert the internal order of our country,” Mr. Díaz-Canel said in a recent speech.
The U.S. government spends $20 million a year on projects designed to promote democracy in Cuba — money the Cuban government sees as illegal attacks on its sovereignty.
But Archipiélago members interviewed by the Times denied receiving any money from the U.S. government, and emphasized that Cuban problems are for Cubans alone to solve.
“Archipiélago is not a movement, a political party, or an opposition group,” Mr. Prado said. “It does not have a particular political line.”
The young and hip group of Cubans behind the Facebook group contrast with classic dissidents on the island, who were often older, unknown to most Cubans and deeply divided in factions.
The arrival of the internet, which came to Cuban telephones three years ago after diplomatic deals cut with the Obama administration, was a game-changer. With internet now widely available, ordinary citizens are abreast of anti-government activities, and are quick to post their own complaints as well.
Hal Klepak, professor emeritus of history and strategy at the Royal Military College of Canada, said the scale of opposition the government has faced this year is unparalleled in Cuba’s history since the revolution.
“No one had ever imagined tens of thousands of people in the streets,” he said. “It is visible and by Cuban standards it is loud. It’s something we’ve never seen before.”
But the question remains whether ordinary Cubans will attend Monday’s protest, considering the government declared it illegal, and its organizers have toned down their calls.
The protest was scheduled on the very day that quarantine rules are being lifted, tourists are being welcomed back and children are set to return to school. The wave of Covid-19 fatalities that helped fuel the July protest has largely subsided, and 70 percent of the nation is now fully vaccinated.
Abraham Alfonso Moreno, a gym teacher who at 5 a.m. held ticket number 215 outside the government store, said he did not protest in July and would not on Monday either. “In the end, it’s not going to solve anything,” he said.
He was more fixated on finding allergy pills.
Marta María Ramírez, a feminist, pro-democracy and gay rights activist in Havana, said the people who rushed to protest in July were more concerned about food than democracy, but that could be changing.
“The first cries were not for freedom. The first cries were more urgent: food, medicine, electricity,” she said. “Freedom came afterward.”
Even as the United States finalizes its departure from Afghanistan, it faces a dilemma there as wrenching as any during the 20-year war: how to deal with the new Taliban government.
The question is already manifest in the debate over how deeply to cooperate against a mutual enemy, the Islamic State branch in the region, known as ISIS-K.
Another: Whether to release $9.4 billion in Afghan government currency reserves that are frozen in the United States. Handing the Taliban billions would mean funding the machinery of its ultraconservative rule. But withholding the money would all but ensure a sudden currency crisis and halt on imports, including food and fuel, starving Afghan civilians whom the United States had promised to protect.
These are only the beginning. Washington and the Taliban may spend years, even decades, pulled between cooperation and conflict, compromise and competition, as they manage a relationship in which neither can fully tolerate nor live without the other.
already seeking from the United States.
Washington, for its part, sees Afghanistan as a potential haven for international terrorists, a center of geopolitical competition against its greatest adversaries and the site of two looming catastrophes — Taliban rule and economic collapse — that could each ripple far beyond the country’s borders.
At home, President Biden already faces a backlash over Afghanistan that would be likely to intensify if he were seen as enabling Taliban rule. But he may find that securing even the most modest American aims in the country requires tolerating the group that now controls it.
His administration got a taste of this new reality last week, when American forces evacuating Kabul relied on Taliban fighters to help secure the city’s airport.
testing quiet, mostly tacit coordination.
The United States has a long history of working with unsavory governments against terrorist groups.
But such governments have routinely exploited this to win American acquiescence, and even assistance, in suppressing domestic opponents they have labeled extremists.
This dynamic has long enabled dictators to disregard American demands on human rights and democracy, confident that Washington would tolerate their abuses as long as they delivered on terrorism matters.
less extreme opposition groups.
It may ultimately be a question of whether Washington prefers an Afghanistan divided by civil war — the very conditions that produced the Taliban and now ISIS-K — or one unified under the control of a Taliban that may or may not moderate itself in power.
A Diplomatic Dance
The Taliban, desperate for foreign support, have emphasized a desire to build ties with Washington.
The longer the United States holds out recognition, formal or informal, the more incentive the Taliban have to chase American approval. But if Washington waits too long, other powers may fill the diplomatic vacuum first.
Iran and China, which border Afghanistan, are both signaling that they may embrace the Taliban government in exchange for promises related mostly to terrorism. Both are eager to avoid an economic collapse or return to war on their borders. And they are especially eager to keep American influence from returning.
“Beijing will want to extend recognition to the Taliban government, likely after or at the same time that Pakistan does so but before any Western country does,” Amanda Hsiao, a China analyst for the International Crisis Group, wrote in a recent policy brief.
Iran has already begun referring to the “Islamic Emirate,” the Taliban’s preferred name for its government. Iranian missions remain open.
eased. But the former enemies have drawn much closer over one issue that is not likely to apply in Afghanistan, extensive trade, and another that is — opposition to China.
Many Afghans fear that American recognition, even indirect, could be taken as a blank check for the group to rule however it wants.
Still, some who are fiercely opposed to both the Taliban and the American withdrawal have urged international engagement.
“Everyone with a stake in the stability of Afghanistan needs to come together,” Saad Mohseni, an Afghan-Australian businessmen behind much of the country’s media sector, wrote in a Financial Times essay.
their origin story and their record as rulers.
Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who have spent years on the run, in hiding, in jail and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they claim to be. One spokesman told The Times that the group wanted to forget its past, but that there would be some restrictions.
Neither engagement nor hostility is likely to transform the group’s underlying nature. And even when engagement works, it can be slow and frustrating, with many breakdowns and reversals on a road to rapprochement that might take decades to travel.
The Other Looming Catastrophe
Perhaps the only scenario as dire as a Taliban takeover is one that is all but assured without American intervention: economic collapse, even famine.
Afghanistan imports much of its food and fuel, and most of its electricity. Because it runs a deep trade deficit, it pays for imports mostly through foreign aid, which amounts to nearly half of the country’s economy — and has now been suspended.
The country holds enough currency reserves to finance about 18 months of imports. Or it did, until the U.S. froze the accounts.
As a result, Afghanistan may soon run out of food and fuel with no way to replenish either.
“Acute famines generally result from shortages of food triggering a scramble for necessities, speculation and spikes in food prices, which kill the poorest,” a Columbia University economist, Adam Tooze, wrote last week. “Those are the elements we can already see at work in Afghanistan.”
As the United States learned in 1990s Somalia, flying in food does not solve the problem and may even worsen it by putting local farmers out of business.
according to Save the Children, a charity. The group also surveyed some of the thousands of families displaced from rural areas to Kabul and found that many already lack the means to buy food.
It is difficult to imagine a harder sell in Washington than offering diplomatic outreach and billions of dollars to the group that once harbored Al Qaeda, barred women from public life and staged public executions.
Republicans are already seizing on the chaos of the withdrawal to criticize Mr. Biden as soft on adversaries abroad.
He may also face pressure from Afghan émigrés, a number of whom already live in the United States. Diasporas, like those from Vietnam or Cuba, tend to be vocally hawkish toward the governments they fled.
The administration, which is pursuing an ambitious domestic agenda in a narrowly divided Congress, may be hesitant to divert more political capital to a country that it sees as peripheral.
Still, Mr. Biden has seemed to relish rejecting political pressure on Afghanistan. Whether he chooses to privilege geopolitical rivalry, humanitarian welfare or counterterrorism in Afghanistan, he may find himself doing so again.
saying local officials expected “the possibility of flooding and even spinoff tornadoes in portions of Alabama.” In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves also issued a state of emergency on Saturday, allowing for the use of state resources for response and recovery.
Research over the past decade has found that, on average, such rapid intensification of hurricanes is increasing, in part because the oceans, which provide the energy for hurricanes, are getting warmer as a result of human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases.But Ida will also strengthen quickly because the Gulf, as is usual at the end of the summer, is very warm.
The hurricane center defines rapid intensification as at least a 35-m.p.h. increase in sustained winds over 24 hours. In the extremely active 2020 season, Hurricane Laura intensified by 45 m.p.h. in the 24 hours before making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 storm in late August.
The National Hurricane Center said Ida was likely to produce heavy rainfall late Sunday into Monday from southeast Louisiana to coastal Mississippi and Alabama. Tropical storm force winds will arrive along the coast as early as Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service, before the storm makes landfall on Sunday afternoon or evening. After moving inland, the storm could contribute to flooding in Tennessee, where flash flooding killed 20 people last weekend.
“Based upon current track and strength of Ida, this storm will test our hurricane protection systems in a way they haven’t been tested before,” Chip Kline, executive assistant to the governor of Louisiana for coastal activities, said on Twitter. “It’s times like these that remind us of the importance of continuing to protect south Louisiana.”
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misidentified the location of Tropical Storm Ida. It was in the Caribbean Sea early Friday, not the Gulf of Mexico.
Hurricane Ida will produce “life-threatening” weather conditions in Louisiana and batter parts of Mississippi, the National Weather Service said, urging people to evacuate inland.
Here is a breakdown of how various parts of the region could be affected when the hurricane makes landfall on Sunday afternoon or evening , according to the Weather Service.
Baton Rouge, La.
River Parishes and Northshore in Louisiana
Residents in the metro area can expect winds of 110 m.p.h. and, potentially, more than 20 inches of rain.
Inundation could reach as high as 11 feet. Residents can also expect winds of 74 m.p.h. and up to 12 inches of rain.
Tornadoes are possible in all of these areas, the Weather Service said.
Hurricane Ida is expected to make landfall Sunday, threatening to bring dangerous wind, storm surge and rain to the Gulf Coast exactly 16 years after the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, one of the most costly natural disasters in American history, which left more than 1,800 dead and produced more than $100 billion in damages.
The overall impact of storm surge from Ida is predicted to be less severe than during Katrina. Because that storm began as a Category 5 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico before weakening as it approached landfall, it generated enormous storm surge, which brought over 20 feet of water to parts of the Mississippi coast. Current projections put the storm surge of Ida at 10 to 15 feet.
“Fifteen-foot sure can do a lot of damage,” said Barry Keim, a professor at Louisiana State University and Louisiana State Climatologist. “But it’s going to be nothing in comparison with Katrina’s surge.”
Improvements to the levee system following Katrina have better prepared the New Orleans metro area for the storm surge.
However, the areas likely to receive the most severe surge from Ida may be less equipped to handle it than the area hit by Katrina, said Dr. Keim.
Ida is expected to make landfall to the west of where Katrina struck, bringing the most severe storm surge impacts to the Louisiana coast west of the Mississippi River rather thaneast of the river along coastal Mississippi, as Katrina did.
“We are testing a different part of the flood protection in and around southeast Louisiana than we did in Katrina,” said Dr. Keim. “Some of the weak links in this area maybe haven’t been quite as exposed.”
While the impacts of Ida’s storm surge are expected to be less severe than Katrina’s, Ida’s winds and rain are predicted to exceed those that pummeled the Gulf Coast in 2005.
Ida is expected to make landfall on the Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm with peak winds of 130 mph, while Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 with peak winds of 125 mph.
“It could be quite devastating — especially some of those high rise buildings are just not rated to sustain that wind load,” said Jamie Rhome, acting deputy director of the National Hurricane Center.
The severe damage from Hurricane Laura, which struck southwest Louisiana last year as a Category 4 storm, was caused primarily by high winds peaking at 150 mph. The storm caused 42 deaths and damage costing more than $19 billion.
Ida’s rainfall also threatens to exceed Katrina’s highs.
The National Hurricane Center estimates that Ida will drench the Gulf Coast with 8 to 16 inches of rain and perhaps as much as 20 inches in some places. Katrina brought 5-10 inches of rain with more than 12 inches in the most impacted areas.
“That is a lot of rainfall,” said Mr. Rhome. “Absolutely the flash flood potential in this case is high, very high.” Especially combined with storm surge, he said, such intense levels of rainfall could have a “huge and devastating impact to those local communities.”
NEW ORLEANS — When a hurricane comes roaring toward New Orleans out of the Gulf of Mexico, there is a discernible mood shift on Bourbon Street, the city’s famed strip of iniquity and conspicuous alcohol consumption.
It goes from tawdry to tawdry with a hint of apocalypse. On Friday afternoon, the street was half alive. Daiquiri bars were open and daiquiri bars were boarded up. The doors to Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club were locked. Nearby, a man lay on his back on the sidewalk, a plastic bag at his side, yelling the name “Laura.” Or maybe “Lord.”
Six happy women from New York ambled toward Canal Street in matching black T-shirts that said, “Birthday, beignets and booze.” The birthday girl declined to give her name. They went past the club called The Famous Door, where a listless bar band played “Fat Bottomed Girls.”
The riffs poured out into the street. A member of the birthday team raised a glass of something alcoholic and sugary and shouted out the chorus.
Another of the New York women, Jessika Edouard of Long Island, said that most of her group had been trying to get out of town before the storm’s arrival, to no avail. It was all cancellations and unresponsive airline customer service. “The flights are terrible,” she said.
What choice did they have but to keep the party going? Ms Edouard thought she and some of the others might be able to leave on Monday, after Ida hit.
In the meantime, she said, they had bought a ton of booze in the French Quarter. In the morning they had beignets. They had just met a crew from the Weather Channel. They seemed more excited than scared.
Ms. Edouard even had words for the storm, which she delivered like a threat from one pro wrestler to another.
“If Hurricane Ida thinks she is going to ruin my friend’s 30th birthday, then Ida has another thing coming,” she said.
NEW ORLEANS — With Hurricane Ida likely to bring powerful winds and heavy rain to their city, residents of New Orleans faced a familiar choice: flee or hunker down for the duration.
The storm was expected to make landfall by Sunday afternoon or evening and officials urged people who intended to evacuate to do so by Saturday. Residents came to a variety of decisions on the matter.
Lacy Duhe, 39, and Jeremy Housely, 42, opted to hunker down in their second-story apartment on Deslonde Street in New Orlean’s Lower Ninth Ward. If they evacuated and ended up in a shelter, they said, they worried about the risk of their unvaccinated children contracting Covid-19. They also had just paid their monthly bills and could not afford to go anywhere.
“It feels serious,” said the couple’s 11-year-old daughter, Ja-nyi. “I wasn’t born during Katrina time. But I know it knocked down a lot of places.”
Mary Picot, 71, walked out the door on Saturday afternoon carrying bags of snacks and medicine. She wasn’t worried about flooding and believed the levees would hold. It was the threat of power outages that convinced her to leave.
“My husband is diabetic,” she said. “We have to keep his medicine cold.”
Donald Lyons, 38, was packing up a silver Nissan sedan Saturday afternoon under a cloud-filled sky in Hollygrove, one of the traditionally Black working class neighborhoods that flooded badly when Katrina hit. The car, carrying his wife, three children and mother-in-law, was full of bags and bedding. They were heading to Sugar Land, Texas, 27 miles southwest of Houston, where they had family that had left after Katrina, 16 years ago, and never come back.
“I’m just trying to get somewhere safe,” Mr. Lyons said.
Down the block, Barbara Butler, 65, a housekeeper, said she thought the city was safer now with all of the new flood protection. She intended to ride out the storm at home.
“It gave us some relief,” she said. “It’s better than no relief.”
She was sitting on the porch with her husband, Curtis Duck, 63, and her brother, Ray Thomas, in a house that Ms. Butler said was flooded with eight feet of water after Katrina.
Mr. Duck said he was sick of evacuating time and again.
“We listen to the news,” he said. “People telling us to go, go, go.”
Victor Pizarro, a health advocate, and his husband decided to ride out the storm in their home in the Gentilly Terrace neighborhood, although they said they would leave town if they lost power for an extended period.
“It’s definitely triggering to even have to think about this and make these decisions,” Mr. Pizarro said in a telephone interview while he drove across town in search of a spare part for his generator. “It’s exhausting to be a New Orleanian and a Louisianian at this point.”
Andy Horowitz and his familydecided to vacate their home in the Algiers Point neighborhood, which sits directly across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter. Mr. Horowitz is the author of“Katrina: A History, 1915-2015,” and he is among those scholars and Louisiana residents who fear that the city’s new flood protection system, as massive as it is, may prove to be inadequate for a sinking city in the likely path of more frequent and powerful storms in the age of climate change.
“Every summer, New Orleans plays a game of Russian roulette, and every summer we pull the trigger,” Mr. Horowitz said.
NEW ORLEANS — With tracking maps for Hurricane Ida consistently showing an expected pathway toward southeast Louisiana, Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans issued a stern warning on Saturday that city residents who intend to leave should do so immediately.
“In no way will this storm be weakening, and there’s always an opportunity for the storm to strengthen,” Ms. Cantrell said at a news briefing. “Time is not on our side. It’s rapidly growing, it’s intensifying.”
City officials are asking that residents who plan to stay in the city prepare for extended power outages, limited emergency services and several days of high temperatures after the storm passes.
“The first 72 is on you,” said Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. “The first three days of this will be difficult for responders to get to you.”
Forecasters are predicting that Hurricane Ida will be a Category 4 storm upon landfall on Sunday, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which left more than 1,800 dead.
“What we learned during Hurricane Katrina is we are all first-responders,” Ms. Cantrell said. “It’s about taking care of one another.”
— Chelsea Brasted
NEW ORLEANS — On Saturday afternoon, the Rev. Willie L. Calhoun Jr., a 71-year-old resident of the Lower Ninth Ward, was in his Lincoln Continental on the brink of getting out of town. He was not quite sure where. Somewhere in Alabama, he figured.
Rev. Calhoun remembers his father smashing a hole in the roof of his family’s home in the Lower Ninth in 1965, when Hurricane Betsy put 10 feet of water in his house. When Katrina came, he and his family made sure to get out of the neighborhood before the storm destroyed their homes — unlike many of his neighbors, some of whom perished when the levees failed.
The pain from Katrina was now an indelible fact of life in the neighborhood. He had hoped to take part in a 16th anniversary commemoration on Sunday, with a high school marching band and a theme, he said, of “healing, unifying and strengthening our communities.”
“The trauma, and the hurt that’s there,” he said. “I have one friend who lost his mother and his granddaughter in Katrina. For that trauma to be revisited every year is a tough thing.”
But his perspective on the neighborhood 16 years on was somewhat nuanced. He felt confident that the improvements to the city’s storm protection system — with its mammoth flood walls and new gates and levees — would keep the Ninth Ward safe. His worry, he said, was the damage from the wind that comes with a Category 4 hurricane.
And yet it was difficult not to be disappointed. The jobs for Black men seemed to have dried up in the city. A revamped post-Katrina educational system, heavily reliant on charter schools, did not seem, in Rev. Calhoun’s opinion, to have done much good. The neighborhood was in need of economic stimulus. Still full of empty lots, and ghostly foundations of homes, many of them owned by Black families, long washed away.
After $20 billion in infrastructure improvements, it felt, at best, like partial progress, and like survival with an asterisk.
LAKE CHARLES, La. — Not again. That was the widespread sentiment among residents of Lake Charles, a city of about 76,000 residents some 200 miles from New Orleans, on Saturday.
A year after Hurricane Laura left many here without power — and some without homes — for long periods of time, residents were preparing for perhaps yet another weather catastrophe.
When Laura, a powerful Category 4 storm, barreled through Lake Charles last August, it shattered the windows of the home that Juan Jose Galdames, 55, a construction worker, shared with his five children. On Saturday, he was at Home Depot, buying plywood to protect the windows and other vulnerable parts of his house ahead of the storm.
“Yes, I am a little afraid,” Mr. Galdames said. “I don’t want a repeat of that day. It was scary. I want my children to feel safe. I’m trying to get everything ready before nightfall.”
Water and bread were in short supply at an area Target store, and traffic stretched for miles as residents sought safety elsewhere.
Tracy Guillory, 57, a carpenter, tried to prepare by stocking up on supplies and staying on top of weather reports. She said she and her family were weary after a long year of weather crises that included Hurricane Delta and a winter storm that caused pipes to burst and knocked out water systems throughout the region.
Ms. Guillory said her neighborhood was still recovering from flooding in May, which left her SUV beyond repair. She plans to hunker down with her 83-year-old father and 21-year-old daughter.
Josue Espinal, 34, who also works in construction, was trying to reassure his 4-year-old son, Anderson, that everything would be all right. The boy sat on top of a generator box as his father loaded a cart with bottles of water at a Home Depot. Truth was, Mr. Espinal admitted, he too was worried. He and his family live in a mobile home near a lake, and he was looking for a better option to spend the next two nights.
In Louisiana, where daily deaths from Covid reached their highest levels this week, stretched hospitals are having to modify the intense preparations they would normally make ahead of an expected strike from Hurricane Ida.
Louisiana’s medical director, Dr. Joseph Kanter, asked residents on Friday to avoid unnecessary emergency room visits to preserve the state’s hospital capacity, which has been vastly diminished by its most severe Covid surge of the pandemic.
And while plans exist to transfer patients away from coastal areas to inland hospitals ahead of a hurricane, this time “evacuations are just not possible,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a news conference.
“The hospitals don’t have room,” he said. “We don’t have any place to bring those patients — not in state, not out of state.”
The governor said officials had asked hospitals to check generators and stockpile more water, oxygen and personal protective supplies than usual for a storm. The implications of a strike from a Category 4 hurricane while hospitals were full were “beyond what our normal plans are,” he added.
Mr. Edwards said he had told President Biden and Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to expect Covid-related emergency requests, including oxygen.
The state’s recent wave of Covid hospitalizations has exceeded its previous three peaks, and staffing shortages have necessitated support from federal and military medical teams. On Friday, 2,684 Covid patients were hospitalized in the state. This week Louisiana reported its highest ever single-day death toll from Covid — 139 people.
Oschner Health, one of the largest local medical systems, informed the state that it had limited capacity to accept storm-related transfers, especially from nursing homes, the group’s chief executive, Warner L. Thomas, said. Many of Oschner’s hospitals, which were caring for 836 Covid patients on Friday, had invested in backup power and water systems to reduce the need to evacuate, he said.
The pandemic also complicated efforts to discharge more patients than usual before the storm hits. For many Covid patients who require oxygen, “going home isn’t really an option,” said Stephanie Manson, chief operating officer of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, which had 190 Covid inpatients on Friday, 79 of them in intensive care units.
The governor said he feared that the movement of tens or hundreds of thousands of evacuees in the state could cause it to lose gains made in recent days as the number of new coronavirus cases began to drop. Dr. Kanter urged residents who were on the move to wear masks and observe social distancing. Many of the state’s testing and vaccination sites were slated to close temporarily.
NEW ORLEANS — As Hurricane Ida heads toward a possible Sunday landfall on Louisiana’s coastline, the National Weather Service’s storm surge forecast has local officials warning about the potential for water to overtop some of the levees that protect parts of New Orleans.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans noted at a news briefing on Friday evening that water overtopping the levees “is as it was structured to do.” That reflects the updates to the local system of earthen and reinforced levees that protects much of southeast Louisiana in the years after Hurricane Katrina stretched it to a breaking point.
The system, officials said, was rebuilt to defend against a so-called “100-year-storm,” or a storm that has a 1 percent chance in happening every year, but to remain reinforced up to a 500-year-event. It includes armoring, splash pads — concrete areas designed to keep the ground behind an overtopped wall from being washed away — and pumps with backup generators, officials said.
Heath Jones, an emergency operation manager with the Army Corps of Engineers, said that some levees protecting New Orleans on the western side of the Mississippi River were at risk of overtopping in line with the Weather Service’s forecast calling for between 10 and 15 feet of storm surge. A federal levee database shows sections of levee there as low as 10 feet.
Levees in this part of the state have rarely been challenged since they were shored up in the years after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“The previous big tests were (hurricanes) Isaac and Gustav,” said Matt Roe, a public affairs specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers, which occurred in 2012 and 2008, “but it’s important to note that each storm is different.”
Ida’s strength, according to Chip Cline, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, “will test our hurricane protection system in a way they haven’t been tested before.”
— Chelsea Brasted
Hurricane Ida threatens to be the first major storm to strike the Gulf Coast during the 2021 season, hitting a region in many ways still grappling with the physical and emotional toll of a punishing run of hurricanes last year.
The Atlantic hurricane season of 2020 was the busiest on record, with 30 named storms, 13 of which reached hurricane strength. There were so many storms that forecasters ran through the alphabet and had to take the rare step of calling storms by Greek letters.
Louisiana was dealt the harshest blow, barraged repeatedly by storms, including Hurricane Laura, which was one of the most powerful to hit the state, trailed six weeks later by Delta, which was weaker than Laura but followed a nearly identical path, inflicting considerable pain on communities still gripped by the devastation from the earlier storm.
The state is still struggling to claw its way back. Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said the state had $3 billion in unmet recovery needs. In Lake Charles, which was ravaged by direct hits from both hurricanes followed by a deadly winter storm and flooding in May, local officials recently renewed a plea for federal aid as the city has failed to regain its footing; much of it has yet to recover and many residents, unable to find adequate or affordable housing, have fled.
The looming impact of Ida underscores the persisting danger imperiling coastal communities as a changing climate stands to intensify the destructive force of the storms that have always been a seasonal part of life.
President Biden cited the growing danger in May when he announced a significant increase in funding to build and bolster infrastructure in communities most likely to face the wrath of extreme weather.
Hurricane Nora formed in the eastern Pacific on Saturday morning, threatening much of Mexico’s western coastline as the storm strengthens and barrels its way toward Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco and the tip of the Baja California Peninsula, forecasters said.
As of 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nora was about 425 miles from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and had maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour as it moved north, according to the National Hurricane Center.
A hurricane warning was in effect for parts of western Mexico.
Forecasters said the storm was expected to cause flooding, mudslides and perilous surf along much of Mexico’s central and northern Pacific Coast.
The remnants of the storm are expected to produce heavy rainfall in parts of the southwestern U.S. and central Rockies toward the middle of next week, forecasters said.
A forecast track from the National Hurricane Center showed Nora skirting close to Mexico’s coastline by Sunday morning before moving toward the Gulf of California a day later.
“Some additional strengthening is forecast through tonight if Nora’s center does not make landfall,” the National Hurricane Center said in an update. “Some gradual weakening is expected to begin by Sunday night or Monday, but Nora is forecast to remain as a hurricane through Tuesday.”
Nora is expected to produce rainfall totals of up to 12 inches this weekend along Mexico’s western coast.
It has been a dizzying few weeks for meteorologists who are monitoring Hurricane Ida this weekend after having monitored three named storms that formed in quick succession in the Atlantic, bringing stormy weather, flooding and damaging winds to different parts of the United States and the Caribbean.
The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect to see stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms could drop because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.
Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because of more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested that storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without the human effects on climate. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surges — the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.
George Brian McGee, a finance executive in Florida, was driving home in a Tesla Model S operating on Autopilot, a system that can steer, brake and accelerate a car on its own, when he dropped his phone during a call and bent down to look for it.
Neither he nor Autopilot noticed that the road was ending and the Model S drove past a stop sign and a flashing red light. The car smashed into a parked Chevrolet Tahoe, killing a 22-year-old college student, Naibel Benavides.
One of a growing number of fatal accidents involving Tesla cars operating on Autopilot, Mr. McGee’s case is unusual because he survived and told investigators what had happened: He got distracted and put his trust in a system that did not see and brake for a parked car in front of it. Tesla drivers using Autopilot in other fatal accidents have often been killed, leaving investigators to piece together the details from data stored and videos recorded by the cars.
“I was driving and dropped my phone,” Mr. McGee told an officer who responded to the accident, according to a recording from a police body camera. “I looked down, and I ran the stop sign and hit the guy’s car.”
Distracted driving can be deadly in any car. But safety experts say Autopilot may encourage distraction by lulling people into thinking that their cars are more capable than they are. And the system does not include safeguards to make sure drivers are paying attention to the road and can retake control if something goes wrong.
Mr. McGee, who declined to comment through his lawyer, told investigators that he was on the phone with American Airlines making reservations to fly out for a funeral. He called the airline at 9:05 p.m. on April 25, 2019. The call lasted a little more than five minutes and ended two seconds after his Model S crashed into the Tahoe, according to a Florida Highway Patrol investigation. Florida law makes it illegal to text while driving, but the state does not prohibit drivers from talking on a hand-held cellphone except in school or work zones.
no vehicle on sale today is close to achieving.
Tesla’s critics contend that Autopilot has several weaknesses, including the ability for drivers like Mr. McGee to use it on local roads. With the help of GPS and software, G.M., Ford Motor and other automakers restrict their systems to divided highways where there are no stop signs, traffic lights or pedestrians.
Tesla owners’ manuals warn customers not to use Autopilot on city streets. “Failure to follow these instructions could cause damage, serious injury or death,” the manual for 2019 models says.
a California couple sued Tesla in connection with a 2019 crash that killed their 15-year-old son.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating more than two dozen crashes that occurred when Autopilot was in use. The agency said it was aware of at least 10 deaths in those accidents.
A Commute Ends in Tragedy
posted videos on YouTube showing that the camera sometimes fails to notice when drivers look away from the road and that it can be fooled if they cover the lens. When the camera notices a Tesla driver looking away from the road, it sounds a warning chime but does not turn Autopilot off.
G.M. and Ford systems use infrared cameras to monitor drivers’ eyes. If drivers look away for more than two or three seconds, warnings remind them to look straight ahead. If drivers fail to comply, the G.M. and Ford systems will shut off and tell drivers to take control of the car.
Ms. Benavides emigrated from Cuba in 2016 and lived with her mother in Miami. She worked at a Walgreens pharmacy and a clothing store while attending community college. An older sister, Neima, 34, who is executor of the estate, said Naibel had been working to improve her English in hopes of getting a college degree.
“She was always laughing and making people laugh,” Neima Benavides said. “Her favorite thing was to go to the beach. She would go almost every day and hang out with friends or just sit by herself and read.”
Neima Benavides said she hoped the lawsuit would prod Tesla into making Autopilot safer. “Maybe something can change so other people don’t have to go through this.”
Ms. Benavides had just started dating Mr. Angulo when they went fishing on Key Largo. That afternoon, she sent her sister a text message indicating she was having a good time. At 9 p.m., Ms. Benavides called her mother from Mr. Angulo’s phone to say she was on the way home. She had lost her phone that day.
On the 911 call, Mr. McGee reported that a man was on the ground, unconscious and bleeding from the mouth. Several times Mr. McGee said, “Oh, my God,” and shouted “Help!” When an emergency operator asked if the man was the only injured person, Mr. McGee replied, “Yes, he’s the only passenger.”
Mr. Angulo was airlifted to a hospital. He later told investigators that he had no recollection of the accident or why they had stopped at the intersection.
An emergency medical technician spotted a woman’s sandal under the Tahoe and called on others to start searching the area for another victim. “Please tell me no,” Mr. McGee can be heard saying in the police video. “Please tell me no.”
Ms. Benavides’s body was found about 25 yards away.
A centuries-old tradition in which women declared themselves men so they could enjoy male privilege is dying out as young women have more options available to them to live their own lives.
Text by Andrew Higgins
Photographs by Laura Boushnak
LEPUSHE, Albania — As a teenager locked in a patriarchal and tradition-bound mountain village in the far north of Albania, Gjystina Grishaj made a drastic decision: She would live the rest of her life as a man.
She did not want to be married off at a young age, nor did she like cooking, ironing clothes or “doing any of the things that women do,” so she joined a gender-bending Albanian fraternity of what are known as “burrneshat,” or “female-men.” She adopted a male nickname — Duni.
“I took a personal decision and told them: I am a man and don’t want to get married,” Duni recalled telling her family.
Few women today want to become what anthropologists call Albania’s “sworn virgins,” a tradition that goes back centuries. They take an oath of lifelong celibacy and enjoy male privileges, like the right to make family decisions, smoke, drink and go out alone.
Ms. Rakipi snorted with contempt when asked about people who undergo transition surgery. “It is not normal,” she said. “If God made you a woman, you are a woman.”
Duni, from Lepushe village, also has strong views on the subject, saying that altering the body goes “against God’s will,” and that people “should be put in jail” for doing so.
“I have not lived as a burrnesha because I want to be a man in any physical way. I have done this because I want to take on the role played by men and to get the respect of a man,” she said. “I am a man in my spirit, but having male genitals is not what makes you a man.”
Locals in Lepushe, including Manushaqe Shkoza, a server at a cafe in the village, said Duni’s decision to become a man initially came as a surprise, but it was accepted long ago. “Everyone sees it as normal,” Ms. Shkoza said.
Duni said she was sad that the tradition of sworn virgins would soon die out, but noted that her niece in Tirana had shown that there were now less drastic ways for a woman to live a full and respected life.
“Society is changing, but I think I made the right decision for my time,” Duni said. “I can’t resign from the role I have chosen. I took an oath to my family. This is a path you cannot go back on.”