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Chad Kalepa Baybayan, Seafarer Who Sailed Using the Stars, Dies at 64

Chad Kalepa Baybayan, a revered Hawaiian seafarer who was a torchbearer for the art of “wayfinding,” which ancestral Polynesian sailors used to navigate the Pacific Ocean by studying the stars, trade winds and flight patterns of birds, died on April 8 at a friend’s home in Seattle. He was 64.

His daughter Kala Tanaka said the cause was a heart attack. He suffered from diabetes and had had a quadruple bypass over a year ago.

Many centuries ago, oceanic tribes sailed the waters between the islands and atolls of Polynesia in double-hulled canoes. They plotted their course by consulting the directions concealed within sunrises and sunsets, ocean swells, the behaviors of fish and the reflections of land in clouds. As Polynesia was colonized and modernized, the secrets of celestial navigation were nearly forgotten.

Mr. Baybayan (pronounced “bay-BAY-an”) was a teenager when he joined the crew of the fabled Hokule’a (“Star of Gladness”), a voyaging canoe in which he learned to become a wayfinder under the tutelage of the Micronesian master navigator Mau Piailug.

At the time, traditional Hawaiian culture was in peril. Usage of the native language was declining, sacred lands were being desecrated and fewer ceremonies were being held. In 1973 the Polynesian Voyaging Society was formed in hopes of preserving the region’s seafaring heritage, and it built Hokule’a, a replica of an ancient deep-sea voyaging canoe.

In 1976, the vessel embarked on a historic trip from Hawaii to Tahiti without the aid of navigational tools, in what was intended as a display of wayfinding’s technical sophistication. The trip, which was led by Mr. Piailug and documented by National Geographic, also sought to disprove theories that Polynesia was settled accidentally by hapless sailors lost in an aimless drift. (Mr. Baybayan was too young to go on that famous voyage, although he served ceremonial drinks made from awa root to his crewmates before their departure.)

When Hokule’a finally made landfall in Tahiti, thousands of people had gathered on shore to greet the canoe, and the occasion was declared an island-wide celebration. The voyage’s success galvanized a revival of native culture, known as the Hawaiian renaissance, that included a celebration of slack-key guitar music and the hula.

told National Geographic in 2014, “I will never be a ‘master’ because there will always be more to learn.”

“What it truly does is sharpen the human mind, intellect and ability to decipher codes in the environment,” he added. “It’s also incredibly rewarding to navigate and make a distant landfall. For me, it’s the most euphoric feeling that I have ever felt.”

Pwo. The ritual commenced with the blowing of a conch shell, and Mr. Baybayan was given a bracelet of stinging coral to mark his new status. In 2014, he helped lead Hokule’a on a three-year circumnavigation of the globe.

In his late 30s, while raising a family and juggling jobs as a hotel porter and a ramp agent for United Airlines, Mr. Baybayan decided to pursue a higher education. He graduated with a B.A. in Hawaiian studies from the University of Hawaii at Hilo in 1997. He then earned a master’s degree in education from Heritage University in Toppenish, Wash.

Mr. Baybayan became an educator at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, using its planetarium to teach visitors about celestial navigation. He also traveled to classrooms across the country to talk about wayfinding with the aid of an interactive star compass floor mat. In 2013, he gave a TEDx Talk that recounted the history of Hokule’a.

“There are only a few people in the world who can really navigate properly, and Kalepa was one of them,” Nainoa Thompson, a fellow Hokule’a master navigator, said in a phone interview. “But where Kalepa separates himself is how far he took things with education. He broke the rules.

said in an interview in 2000. “I knew that if there was anything in my life that I wanted to do it was sail on her.”

His daughter elaborated: “For him, seeing Hokule’a was like seeing this thing he’d only heard about in stories and history books, but then there it was and it was real. It wasn’t just a story anymore.”

When Mr. Baybayan first joined the crew, he was charged with tasks like washing and scrubbing the vessel. He began learning the techniques of wayfinding in his 20s, and he went on to guide voyages that took the canoe to Cape Town, Nova Scotia, Cuba and New York.

supporter of the construction of a $1.4 billion telescope on the dormant volcano Mauna Kea, a sacred site considered the resting place of gods. Called the Thirty Meter Telescope, it is expected to be one of the most powerful telescopes ever made, but activists have protested its construction for years.

“I’ve heard the comment that the protesters want to be on the right side of history,” Mr. Baybayan told The Associated Press in 2019. “I want to be on the right side of humanity. I want to be on the right side of enlightenment.”

In addition to his daughter Kala, Mr. Baybayan is survived by his wife, Audrey (Kaide) Baybayan; another daughter, Pukanala Llanes; a son, Aukai Baybayan; his mother, Lillian Suter; two brothers, Clayton and Lyle Baybayan; a sister, Lisa Baybayan, who now goes by Sister Ann Marie; a half brother, Theodore Suter; and six grandchildren.

Last month, Mr. Baybayan was in Seattle with his wife to visit some of his grandchildren when he collapsed suddenly one evening.

The night after he died, a group of his crewmates, including Mr. Thompson, gathered aboard Hokule’a for a moonlight passage in his memory. Mr. Thompson, who had studied celestial navigation alongside Mr. Baybayan as a young man, looked toward the stars as he honored his fellow wayfinder.

“I think Kalepa has gone to where the spirits go,” Mr. Thompson said. “Now he is up there with our ancestors who dwell in the black of the night.”

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White House to Investigate Brain Injuries Within C.I.A.

WASHINGTON — Mysterious episodes that caused brain injuries in spies, diplomats, soldiers and other U.S. personnel overseas starting five years ago now number more than 130 people, far more than previously known, according to current and former officials.

The number of cases within the C.I.A., the State Department, the Defense Department and elsewhere spurred broad concern in the Biden administration. The initial publicly confirmed cases were concentrated in China and Cuba and numbered about 60, not including a group of injured C.I.A. officers whose total is not public.

The new total adds cases from Europe and elsewhere in Asia and reflects efforts by the administration to more thoroughly review other incidents amid concern over a spate of them in recent months.

Since December, at least three C.I.A. officers have reported serious health effects from episodes overseas. One occurred within the past two weeks, and all have required the officers to undergo outpatient treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or other facilities.

a report released in December, the National Academy of Sciences said a microwave weapon probably caused the injuries. Some officials believe a microwave or directed-energy device is the most likely cause.

The severity of the brain injuries has ranged widely. But some victims have chronic, potentially irreversible symptoms and pain, suggesting potentially permanent brain injury. Physicians at Walter Reed have warned government officials that some victims are at risk for suicide.

one in 2020 that affected a National Security Council official near the Ellipse south of the White House and another in 2019 involving a woman walking her dog in Northern Virginia, have no known connection to an earlier overseas event. While many officials expressed skepticism that Russia or another power would conduct an attack in the United States, agencies are investigating.

Congress has demanded more from the C.I.A. In a closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, senators accused the C.I.A. of doing too little to investigate the mysterious episodes and until recently showing skepticism about them, according to people briefed on the meeting.

During the Trump administration, some in the agency said there was little intelligence showing a foreign power was responsible and argued that it made little sense analytically for Russia or another foreign intelligence service to make unprovoked attacks on Americans. Others doubted the cause of the brain injuries.

The new C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, has tried to move aggressively to improve the agency’s response, current and former officials said. Mr. Burns has met with victims, visited doctors who have treated injured agency officers and briefed lawmakers.

He has also assigned his deputy, David Cohen, to oversee the investigation and the health care response. Mr. Cohen will meet monthly with victims and will lead regular briefings for Congress. The agency has also doubled the number of medical personnel conducting treatment and managing cases of injured officers.

In addition, the chief medical officer, who had been criticized by some former officers as too skeptical of the incidents and dismissive of some symptoms, announced his retirement. He was replaced with another doctor seen inside the C.I.A. as more focused on patient care.

another cohort of C.I.A. officers traveling in a variety of countries, including Russia, had said they were the likely victims of attacks and reported similar symptoms.

Lawmakers and the Trump administration’s National Security Council grew increasingly frustrated last year with State Department’s and the C.I.A.’s handling of the incidents.

Robert C. O’Brien, President Donald J. Trump’s last national security adviser, and Matthew Pottinger, his deputy, had already begun working in early 2020 to redouble efforts by their aides to understand the mysterious episodes and to get the Pentagon more involved.

But their staff members ran into frustration getting the C.I.A., the State Department and other agencies to share details about injured personnel, in part because of federal protections on health data. White House officials thought the investigation, in which the C.I.A. had been the lead agency, had run into a dead end.

The frustration culminated in a tense conversation Mr. Pottinger had with Vaughn Bishop, then the deputy C.I.A. director, and other officials in November. Mr. Pottinger urged the intelligence community to do more to cooperate with the Pentagon and other agencies. The next month, the National Security Council convened a deputy-level meeting across agencies to again push for further action and a broader investigation.

Mr. Pottinger declined to comment.

The Biden administration has tried to further improve coordination, including directing agencies to each name a coordinator to work on both identifying the cause of the episodes and improving health care for the injured personnel. Even some Democrats who have been briefed on the incidents called on the administration to be more aggressive.

“I don’t believe that we as a government, in general, have acted quickly enough,” said Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat and former Marine who heads the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations. “We really need to fully understand where this is coming from, what the targeting methods are and what we can do to stop them.”

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Mysterious Ailments Are Said to Be More Widespread Among U.S. Personnel

WASHINGTON — Mysterious episodes that caused brain injuries in spies, diplomats, soldiers and other U.S. personnel overseas starting five years ago now number more than 130 people, far more than previously known, according to current and former officials.

The number of cases within the C.I.A., the State Department, the Defense Department and elsewhere spurred broad concern in the Biden administration. The initial publicly confirmed cases were concentrated in China and Cuba and numbered about 60, not including a group of injured C.I.A. officers whose total is not public.

The new total adds cases from Europe and elsewhere in Asia and reflects efforts by the administration to more thoroughly review other incidents amid concern over a spate of them in recent months.

Since December, at least three C.I.A. officers have reported serious health effects from episodes overseas. One occurred within the past two weeks, and all have required the officers to undergo outpatient treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or other facilities.

a report released in December, the National Academy of Sciences said a microwave weapon probably caused the injuries. Some officials believe a microwave or directed-energy device is the most likely cause.

The severity of the brain injuries has ranged widely. But some victims have chronic, potentially irreversible symptoms and pain, suggesting potentially permanent brain injury. Physicians at Walter Reed have warned government officials that some victims are at risk for suicide.

one in 2020 that affected a National Security Council official near the Ellipse south of the White House and another in 2019 involving a woman walking her dog in Northern Virginia, have no known connection to an earlier overseas event. While many officials expressed skepticism that Russia or another power would conduct an attack in the United States, agencies are investigating.

Congress has demanded more from the C.I.A. In a closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, senators accused the C.I.A. of doing too little to investigate the mysterious episodes and until recently showing skepticism about them, according to people briefed on the meeting.

During the Trump administration, some in the agency said there was little intelligence showing a foreign power was responsible and argued that it made little sense analytically for Russia or another foreign intelligence service to make unprovoked attacks on Americans. Others doubted the cause of the brain injuries.

The new C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, has tried to move aggressively to improve the agency’s response, current and former officials said. Mr. Burns has met with victims, visited doctors who have treated injured agency officers and briefed lawmakers.

He has also assigned his deputy, David Cohen, to oversee the investigation and the health care response. Mr. Cohen will meet monthly with victims and will lead regular briefings for Congress. The agency has also doubled the number of medical personnel conducting treatment and managing cases of injured officers.

In addition, the chief medical officer, who had been criticized by some former officers as too skeptical of the incidents and dismissive of some symptoms, announced his retirement. He was replaced with another doctor seen inside the C.I.A. as more focused on patient care.

another cohort of C.I.A. officers traveling in a variety of countries, including Russia, had said they were the likely victims of attacks and reported similar symptoms.

Lawmakers and the Trump administration’s National Security Council grew increasingly frustrated last year with State Department’s and the C.I.A.’s handling of the incidents.

Robert C. O’Brien, President Donald J. Trump’s last national security adviser, and Matthew Pottinger, his deputy, had already begun working in early 2020 to redouble efforts by their aides to understand the mysterious episodes and to get the Pentagon more involved.

But their staff members ran into frustration getting the C.I.A., the State Department and other agencies to share details about injured personnel, in part because of federal protections on health data. White House officials thought the investigation, in which the C.I.A. had been the lead agency, had run into a dead end.

The frustration culminated in a tense conversation Mr. Pottinger had with Vaughn Bishop, then the deputy C.I.A. director, and other officials in November. Mr. Pottinger urged the intelligence community to do more to cooperate with the Pentagon and other agencies. The next month, the National Security Council convened a deputy-level meeting across agencies to again push for further action and a broader investigation.

Mr. Pottinger declined to comment.

The Biden administration has tried to further improve coordination, including directing agencies to each name a coordinator to work on both identifying the cause of the episodes and improving health care for the injured personnel. Even some Democrats who have been briefed on the incidents called on the administration to be more aggressive.

“I don’t believe that we as a government, in general, have acted quickly enough,” said Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat and former Marine who heads the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations. “We really need to fully understand where this is coming from, what the targeting methods are and what we can do to stop them.”

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Cuba Starts Using Its Covid Vaccines Before Completing Trials

HAVANA — Cuba began a mass vaccination campaign on Wednesday in the capital, Havana, where authorities aim to eventually vaccinate 1.7 million people. The campaign is using homegrown vaccines that have not yet been shown to work, an emergency step intended to blunt the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

The country’s decision to deploy unproven vaccines mirrors the early introduction of vaccines in Russia, China and India, where regulators permitted mass vaccination campaigns to begin before the completion of Phase 3 clinical trials, which assess the vaccines’ effectiveness and safety.

In Florida, news reports critical of the Cuban government accused it of jumping the gun and endangering public health. American and European health regulators do not allow vaccines to be introduced, even for emergency use, until Phase 3 clinical trials are completed.

Though Cuba’s daily coronavirus case counts remain low by Latin American standards, they have spiked alarmingly in recent months. The island, which reported 12,225 confirmed cases in all of 2020, saw 31,465 confirmed cases in April 2021 alone.

hard for Cuba to do business with foreign suppliers and complicating international humanitarian initiatives to donate syringes to the island, which needs about 20 million more to vaccinate the whole country.

Of the 90 coronavirus vaccines around the world currently in clinical trials, five were developed in Cuba, the smallest country to develop and produce its own vaccines.

“We will probably be the first country to immunize its whole population with its own vaccine,” said Dr. Eduardo Martínez, president of BioCubaFarma, the state conglomerate overseeing vaccine development and production.

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The State of the Pandemic

A few months ago, there was widespread talk about the possibility of a “fourth wave” of Covid-19 in the U.S. this spring. Many states were relaxing restrictions, and many Americans, tired of sitting at home, were beginning to expose themselves to greater Covid risk even though they weren’t yet vaccinated.

Fortunately, however, the fourth wave has not arrived.

Cases and hospitalizations rose only modestly in late March and early April, and they have since begun falling again. Deaths have not risen in months.

natural immunity by already having had Covid. The vaccination program expanded rapidly. And even as some Americans behaved recklessly, others continued to wear masks indoors. (Outdoor masks, as regular Morning readers know by now, seem to make little difference in most circumstances).

by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 13 percent of adults said they would definitely not get a shot; 6 percent said they would do so only if required by their employer, their school or another group; and 15 percent said they were waiting to see how the vaccines affected others.

(Related: A new Times story focuses on the millions of Americans who say they are open to getting the vaccine but have not yet managed to do so.)

politically conservative communities, for the most part — are also hesitant about the vaccine. So long as a large number of Americans over 40 remain unvaccinated, Covid deaths are unlikely to fall near zero anytime soon.

The second major Covid problem is outside the U.S.: Vaccination rates remain extremely low in most of the world, especially in poorer countries.

Worldwide, there are still some encouraging signs. Global cases have been falling over the past two weeks. Africa and much of Asia continue to report low levels of Covid, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Even in India, the site of a dire outbreak, caseloads have declined slightly in the past few days.

has been horrific. Cases have also been rising in Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand. Brazil and much of South America are struggling, too. All of these countries serve as reminders that the world remains vulnerable to new waves.

The biggest Covid issue for the rest of 2021 is probably the speed of vaccinations in lower-income countries. It will determine both the future death toll and the likelihood that dangerous new variants take hold, in all countries. Roughly 90 percent of the world’s population has not yet received a shot.

Peggy Noonan argues. It will also hurt Republican electoral prospects, says Commentary’s Noah Rothman.

  • Cheney’s focus on Trump’s flaws, rather than on Democrats, puts her out of step with the rest of her party’s leadership, Eliana Johnson counters in Politico.

  • “It is because she is such a partisan, conservative Republican that her dissent is so significant,” New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait has written. But Maureen Dowd argues that Cheney deserves some blame for Republicans’ comfort with lies.

  • where you can find “bulk bins of fish balls, live lobsters brooding in blue tanks, a library of tofu.”

    Dunbar’s number: Can you have more than 150 friends?

    A Times classic: Why songs of the summer sound the same (and you may want to turn up the volume).

    Lives Lived: Pat Bond was a foundational figure in the B.D.S.M. community. Two people showed up for the first meeting of the Eulenspiegel Society, which Bond started in the early 1970s; membership eventually grew to more than a thousand. He died at 94.

    letter-of-recommendation feature. And he explains why you might like them, too. “The check mark is more important than whatever comes of the daily work whose completion you’re marking,” he argues. “The first represents actual living; the second, merely a life.”

    Related: Atul Gawande’s 2007 piece in The New Yorker on the power of checklists. — Claire Moses, a Morning writer

    Here are recipes, including namoura, a syrup-soaked Lebanese cake.

    play online.

    Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Pack of cards (four letters).

    If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.


    Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

    P.S. Nineteen years ago today, Jimmy Carter became the first U.S. president, in or out of office, to visit Cuba since the 1959 revolution. He delivered part of his address in Spanish, The Times reported.

    You can see today’s print front page here.

    Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about Liz Cheney. On “The Argument,” a debate over D.C. statehood.

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    US Defends Detention of Afghan at Guantánamo Despite Pullout

    WASHINGTON — A Justice Department lawyer said in federal court on Monday that, even as the Pentagon is withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan, the United States has the authority to continue to detain a former Afghan militia member at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, because of his past association with members of Al Qaeda.

    “We remain at war with Al Qaeda,” the lawyer, Stephen M. Elliott, said at the start of hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington in a case brought by Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan citizen who has been held by the U.S. military since 2007.

    The hearing was the first in a Guantánamo habeas corpus case since the Biden administration took office, and its defense of his detention appeared identical to the positions taken by previous administrations, despite President Biden’s order to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and his stated ambition to close the Guantánamo detention operation.

    Mr. Elliott said Al Qaeda is “morphing and evolving” and that the U.S. “war on terrorism” continues.

    when the militia made peace with the U.S.-allied Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani. The foreign ministry of Afghanistan has filed a brief in the case seeking his return.

    Most of the hearing, expected to last five to eight days, is closed to both the public and the detainee because the substance is considered classified. Mr. Haroon was permitted to listen in on the opening arguments via a phone line from Guantánamo that broke at least once, requiring a lengthy recess.

    Before holding a session in open court on Monday, Judge Amit P. Mehta left his bench in Washington, D.C., to preside in a closed portion of the hearing at a secure facility in Virginia, with Mr. Haroon addressing the judge by video.

    “I am not a terrorist,” he said in a statement released by his lawyers. “I am an Afghan.”

    In the closed portion of the hearings, government lawyers intend to use U.S. intelligence accounts of Mr. Haroon’s interrogations to defend his continuing detention. Mr. Elliott said U.S. intelligence reports linked him to three Qaeda leaders now held at Guantánamo, starting with his attendance at a young age, apparently in the early 1990s, at seminars sponsored by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is accused of being the mastermind of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    Judge Mehta, an appointee of President Barack Obama. Under the current timetable, the court could reopen the hearing for unclassified closing arguments on May 28.

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    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.”


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    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.”


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    Will Schools Open in the Fall?

    With the U.S. economy growing rapidly, millions of people have returned to work. Yet there is still one large group of Americans whose employment rates remain far below their prepandemic levels — mothers of young children.

    Consider this data, which Moody’s Analytics compiled for The Morning:

    have not returned to normal operations. They are open for only a few hours a day, a few days a week or on alternating weeks, making it difficult for parents to return to a full-time job. And parenting responsibilities still fall disproportionately on women.

    This situation is unlikely to change over the final month or two of the current school year. But it raises a major question about the start of the next school year, in August and September: Will schools fully reopen — every day, Monday through Friday, and every week?

    Claire Cain Miller, who writes about gender and work, told me. “Obviously, parents can’t get back to work without that.”

    “It’s not enough to sort of open,” said Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University who studies parenting. “We are going to need to figure out how to make it possible to open normally.”

    Fortunately, the available evidence indicates that schools can safely return to normal hours in the fall. Nearly all teachers have already had the chance to be vaccinated. By August, all children who are at least 12 are also likely to have had the opportunity. (The Pfizer vaccine is now available to people 16 and up, and federal regulators appear set to approve it for 12- to 15-year-olds in coming weeks.)

    Few younger children — maybe none — will have been vaccinated by the fall. But data from both the U.S. and other countries suggests that children rarely infect each other at school. One reason is that Covid-19 tends to be mild for younger children, making them less likely to be symptomatic and contagious.

    small health risk to children that society has long accepted without closing schools. A child who’s driven to school almost certainly faces a bigger risk from that car trip than from the virus.

    Of course, the risk from Covid is not zero, which is why many school districts are still grappling with what to do in the fall. Covid has so thoroughly dominated our thinking over the past 14 months that many people continue to focus on Covid-related issues — even highly unusual or uncommon ones — to the exclusion of everything else.

    Covid does present a minuscule risk to children. And there will also be some teachers and other school employees who choose not to be vaccinated or who cannot receive a vaccine shot for health reasons; some of them may need to remain home if schools reopen.

    For these reasons, a full reopening of schools will bring real, if small, costs and complications. Communities will have to weigh those costs against the enormous damage that closed schools are doing to American women.

    For more:

    a gladiator’s view of the Colosseum.

    Love and espionage: Alina López Miyares boarded a flight to Cuba and never returned. Is she a spy?

    writes in The Times. He calls it “an elegant promotional solution: If people decide they want to listen to your song, simply give them more of it.” Lil Nas X similarly kept his breakout song, “Old Town Road,” at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-breaking 19 weeks in 2019, partly through remixes, which has helped him sustain stardom despite not having yet released a full-length album.

    Often, these remixes can be substantial, adding a new layer to the song. But sometimes they’re a slightly altered version that is more obviously a ploy to game streams. “For younger artists, especially those who catch fire on TikTok, lengthening the life of a song,” Caramanica writes, “is crucial to setting a foundation for a chance at something beyond a one-viral-smash career.” — Sanam Yar, Morning writer

    play online.

    Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Prepare for a race (five letters).

    If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.


    Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

    P.S. Television stations aired the Kentucky Derby live for the first time 69 years ago today. New Yorkers “flocked into neighborhood bars for their teleview,” The Times reported.

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