MEXICO CITY — At 49 years old and under five feet tall, Martha Izquierdo doesn’t exactly fit the mold of a TikTok influencer. But having survived sexual abuse, kidnapping, two bouts with cancer and two heart attacks, conquering social media was practically a cinch for this Mexican journalist.
Ms. Izquierdo, who lives in a small town in southern Oaxaca state, has amassed more than 600,000 followers on the social media platform, with her videos accumulating some 24 million likes.
What’s the message that has made her so popular in a time of pandemic and in a country experiencing record levels of violence?
“I started talking about issues that had to do with seeing life in a positive way,” Ms. Izquierdo said. “Confronting your fears, making people understand that each one of us is unique, irreplaceable.”
award-winning journalist with decades of reporting experience, Ms. Izquierdo is relatively new to social media stardom. As the pandemic began its assault on Mexico in 2020, she decided to open a TikTok account, where she goes by @marthaizquierdooficial.
a devastating toll on public health and the economy, Ms. Izquierdo offers her fans a dose of pure delight. And in a digital era where everything is photoshopped glamour, Ms. Izquierdo’s very ordinariness, whether exercising, driving to work or dancing to cumbiamusic in her back yard, has made her extraordinary.
Her colorful outfits are part of her appeal, from traditional Oaxacan dresses to bikinis for the beach — the long scar from cancer surgery that slices across her belly proudly on display. But Ms. Izquierdo’s brand isn’t so much couture as confidence.
“If you have to start over, start over,” she said in one clip. “That’s what life is all about — never giving up.”
the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, reporting the news came with immense risks: Often, her work involved covering the cartel-fueled violence that has terrorized the country for decades.
In 2007, three newspaper sellers in a city near where she lived were killed, she recounted, by the violent Zetas cartel, whose assassins had mistaken their victims for journalists. When Ms. Izquierdo went to cover the killings, she received an ominous phone call saying she was next.
surrounded and detained by armed men. It was only when the army arrived that Ms. Izquierdo was released.
Still, despite continually confronting danger on the job, Ms. Izquierdo said her greatest challenge in life came when her partner of 18 years, who had been battling cancer and kidney problems, finally succumbed.
“I wanted to kill myself because I loved him so much that I stopped loving myself,” she said.
Then, in 2015, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and given eight months to live. Again, she thought about giving up.
But her friends and family convinced her to keep fighting. She underwent chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, leaving her body scarred.
“I would cry in front of the mirror when I looked at myself because my body looked mutilated,” Ms. Izquierdo said. “I felt like Frankenstein.”
Eventually she defeated the cancer — but in 2017 it returned, this time in her stomach. In February of that year she had a heart attack.
After surviving a second heart attack months later, Ms. Izquierdo said everything changed. While unconscious, Ms. Izquierdo said she had a vision during which she heard her deceased partner’s voice telling her to go on living.
“If I came back to life it was for one purpose,” she said. “To keep living, to be happy, and to help other people with my life experience.”
It was that positive attitude that catapulted her to TikTok fame. But along with all the followers came the trolls, who called her overweight or unattractive. At first, the negative comments started getting to her; then, she decided to stop caring.
“When I was allowing myself to be affected by unfounded negative comments, I said to myself, ‘No — I love myself.’”
Before long, the number of negative comments started dropping, even as her followers increased. Watching haters change their attitude toward her, Ms. Izquierdo said, is what she considers one of the greatest achievements of her TikTok presence. That, and the messages she receives from fans telling her the effect she’s had on their lives.
A few weeks ago, one of those fans, Ms. Méndez, summoned the courage to contact her idol. The resulting phone conversation, she said, has turned her life around: She’s gone to see a specialist about losing weight and plans to start working out.
“I want to wake up dancing every morning like she does,” Ms. Méndez said. “She’s a woman worth her weight in gold.”
For Ms. Izquierdo, this kind of impact is the point of all her efforts.
“It’s all worth it if I can change someone who is facing a problem,” she said. “If I can make them smile.”
Once a relatively small criminal operation that operated in the countryside and trafficked in stolen cars, the gang expand its criminal activities in the chaotic months following the president’s assassination, said Mr. Jean, the human rights group director. By forging alliances with other armed groups, it was able to control an area stretching from the east of Port-au-Prince to the border with the Dominican Republic — a territory so vast that the police are unable to pursue gang members.
Three Recent Crises Gripping Haiti
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The abduction of U.S. missionaries. Seventeen people, including five children, associated with an American Christian aid group were kidnapped on Oct. 16 by a Haitian gang as they visited an orphanage. The brazenness of the abductions has shocked officials. The whereabouts and identities of the hostages remain unknown.
The aftermath of a deadly earthquake. On Aug. 14, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 2,100 people and leaving thousands injured. A severe storm — Grace, then a tropical depression — drenched the nation with heavy rain days later, delaying the recovery. Many survivors said they expected no help from officials.
The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. A group of assailants stormed Mr. Moïse’s residence on July 7, killing him and wounding his wife in what officials called a well-planned operation. The plot left a political void that has deepened the nation’s turmoil as the investigation continues. Elections that were planned for this year are likely to be delayed until 2022.
“The police are in a situation of powerlessness,” Mr. Jean said.
The 400 Mawozo gang accounted for 60 percent of the kidnappings from July to September, Mr. Jean said. They are held responsible for kidnapping five priests and two nuns this year, and are also believed to have killed Anderson Belony, a well-known sculptor who had worked to improve his community, according to local news reports.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the State Department was working with the F.B.I., the Haitian national police, churches and other groups to get the hostages released. But he noted that the kidnappings were “also indicative of a larger problem, and that is a security situation that is, quite simply, unsustainable.”
Mr. Blinken said the United States would continue to support the Haitian police and community programs in their efforts to stem gang violence. “But it’s a very challenging, and long-term process,” he said.
Gangs have gained so much power that they have taken on a nearly institutional role in some communities, said Mr. Vorbe, the political party leader, substituting for the police or providing basic services like road cleaning.
“They have stepped in for the state,” he said.
The growing gang presence, and now the attack on a group of missionaries, have cast a pall over other aid organizations and projects in the country.
In Fond Parisien, about 20 minutes from where the kidnapping took place, is another mission project called Redeemed Vocational School, which teaches trades like auto mechanics, sewing, and computer skills. The group had been planning to build a larger school building, but the violence has made it harder to travel and get supplies, said Kenlyn Miller, 46, the chairman of the school’s board in Gambier, Ohio.
The share of people living in poverty in the United States fell to a record low last year as an enormous government relief effort helped offset the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression.
In the latest and most conclusive evidence that poverty fell because of the aid, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday that 9.1 percent of Americans were living below the poverty line last year, down from 11.8 percent in 2019. That figure — the lowest since records began in 1967, according to calculations from researchers at Columbia University — is based on a measure that accounts for the impact of government programs. The official measure of poverty, which leaves out some major aid programs, rose to 11.4 percent of the population.
The new data will almost surely feed into a debate in Washington about efforts by President Biden and congressional leaders to enact a more lasting expansion of the safety net that would extend well beyond the pandemic. Democrats’ $3.5 trillion plan, which is still taking shape, could include paid family and medical leave, government-supported child care and a permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit.
Liberals cited the success of relief programs, which were also highlighted in an Agriculture Department report last week that showed that hunger did not rise in 2020, to argue that such policies ought to be expanded. But conservatives argue that higher federal spending is not needed and would increase the federal debt while discouraging people from working.
difficult to assess changes in health coverage last year. Census estimates conflicted with other government counts, and officials acknowledged problems with data collection during the pandemic.
federal supplement to state unemployment benefits lapsed. She fell behind on bills, setting in motion events that ultimately left her family homeless for two months this year.
New aid programs adopted this year, including the expanded Child Tax Credit, helped Ms. Long, who moved into a new home last month. She said she had noticed improvements in her children, particularly her 5-year-old son.
“It was bad, but it could have been so much worse, and we have come out the other side once again unbroken,” Ms. Long said.
By the government’s official definition, the number of people living in poverty jumped by 3.3 million in 2020, to 37.2 million, among the biggest annual increases on record. But economists have long criticized that definition, which dates to the 1960s, and said it did a particularly poor job of reflecting reality last year.
7.5 million people lost unemployment benefits this month after Congress allowed expansions of the program to lapse.
Jen Dessinger, a photographer who lives in New York City and Los Angeles, said work dried up abruptly at the start of the pandemic. A freelancer, she didn’t qualify for traditional unemployment benefits but eventually received help under a federal program created last year to help people who fell outside the regular system.
Now that program has ended in the middle of another surge in coronavirus cases. Ms. Dessinger said a single positive coronavirus case could shut down a photo shoot. “It’s made it a more desperate situation,” she said.
Democrats on Tuesday said experiences like Ms. Dessinger’s showed both the potential for government aid to protect people from financial ruin, and the need for a more expansive, permanent safety net that can support people in bad and good times.
A White House economist, Jared Bernstein, said on Tuesday that the new poverty data should encourage lawmakers to enact the $3.5 trillion Democratic measure that includes much of Mr. Biden’s economic agenda, which the administration argues will create more and better-paying jobs.
“It’s one thing to temporarily lift people out of poverty — hugely important — but you can’t stop there,” said Mr. Bernstein, a member of Mr. Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers. “We have to make sure that people don’t fall back into poverty after these temporary measures abate.”
“reckless taxing and spending spree.”
Conservative policy experts said that although some expansion of government aid was appropriate during the pandemic, those programs should be wound down, not expanded, as the economy healed.
“Policymakers did a remarkable job last March enacting CARES and other legislation, lending to businesses, providing loan forbearance, expanding the safety net,” Scott Winship, a senior fellow and the director of poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative group, wrote in reaction to the data, referring to an early pandemic aid bill, which included around $2 trillion in spending. “But we should have pivoted to other priorities thereafter.”
Jason DeParle and Margot Sanger-Katz contributed reporting.
Andrea Jones hadn’t yet settled on a date to retire from her customer service job at United Airlines when Newark airport started looking like a ghost town in March 2020. After 28 years with the carrier, she still loved her work. But by the end of that month, she had hung up her blue uniform for the last time. She is still struggling with a sense of loss.
“I wasn’t at all ready to leave,” she said. “It hit me right between the eyes.”
Ms. Jones, 68, of East Windsor, N.J., retired to protect the health of her husband, George, who has multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. Fortunately, the Joneses had a nest egg, and United offered a retirement package that enabled her to keep their health insurance.
Patricia Scott has not been so lucky. Ms. Scott, a special-education teacher in Stockton, Calif., retired in January to preserve her own health. A grandmother of 10, she survived breast cancer in 2016; her oncologist told her she couldn’t risk catching Covid-19 by returning to the classroom. Now, at age 66, she is on financial quicksand. “My income is half what it was,” she said. She is single and in debt. “I’m stressed, I’m depressed and I’m terrified.”
For many of the nearly three million workers ages 55 to 70 who have left their jobs since March 2020, retiring during the pandemic has inflicted two traumas. Like Ms. Jones and Ms. Scott, most felt they were forced out of work before they wanted to go, said Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor of economics and policy analysis at the New School for Social Research. Among that subset, the majority, like Ms. Scott, were financially unprepared, Ms. Ghilarducci said.
research from the New School, far more older workers retired during the pandemic than during other recessions. After the 2008 financial crisis, for example, 1.9 million older workers left the labor force in the first three months of the recession. In the first three months of the pandemic last year, 2.9 million left the work force. The latest data shows that 1.7 million of the newer wave of retirees left despite financial uncertainty, Ms. Ghilarducci said.
Their departures generally were not a bid for a few extra years of bird-watching. “A lot of people were pushed out of their jobs,” Ms. Ghilarducci said; she attributed that push partly to age discrimination. “It used to be that employers would let the ones they just hired go first in a recession, but this time older people who have been in their jobs the longest have been hit hardest.”
Lack of enforcement of anti-discrimination laws was a factor, she said. So was what some employers saw as a rare opportunity created by the pandemic to get rid of older workers, who are perceived to be less productive and more expensive.
Regardless of the reason, the new army of reluctant retirees, disproportionately made up of Black workers and those who lack a college degree, according to June data from the New School, is in trouble. One key reason: Debt rates among Americans 65 and older are the highest they’ve ever been, Ms. Ghilarducci said. And they are likely to rise as more people are forced to draw down their assets to make ends meet. Collecting Social Security earlier than anticipated will add to their vulnerability, since claiming earlier will permanently reduce their benefits.
Even for people with a financial safety net, the hurdles can be significant. “There’s a lot of stress that comes with having retirement forced on you,” said Malcolm Ethridge, a financial adviser in Washington who has several newly out-of-work older clients. “It takes time to get past the disruption.”
Jovan Johnson, a certified financial planner in Atlanta, said Ms. Scott and others in her situation should start looking for a pro bono financial adviser who can help make sense of their money. “There are a lot of us out there who will help people out for free during a crisis,” he said. He recommends searching sites like the XY Planning Network.
The primary benefit of sitting down with a professional may be relief from panic, he said. But the 15 new retirees who have contacted him for pro bono help since the pandemic started, among them nurses and teachers, have also gained a better understanding of how to manage limited funds. “Everybody deserves to have a plan,” he said.
Pen and Brush after 23 years as executive director, the stress started last year, when she contracted Covid-19 and spent several weeks in an intensive care unit. She was not psychologically ready to retire, but because she has still not fully recovered, she felt she had to. “I was one of those people who was going to have to be wheeled out of there, I loved it so much,” she said.
Now she is adjusting to what she said was a more limited routine. Sunday nights and Mondays flummox her the most. “It’s like when you have that dream where you have a final exam and you’ve never been to class, or you forget your locker combination. I keep thinking, I have to go to work.” Instead, she takes walks with her husband, Wallace Munro, a retired actor, and visits the grocery store more than she thought she would ever want to.
“It’s something to do,” she said. “You have to restructure your life when something like this happens to you. It’s so easy to get depressed.”
Managing money in a sudden retirement
Mr. Johnson, the financial planner, offered tips on juggling your income and expenses when you’re thrust into joblessness with little warning.
Make sure that you do not have any old pension or 401(k) money out there from previous employers. People who have rolled over retirement accounts from previous employers often forget about them.
Don’t feel guilty for taking Social Security early — especially if you have no other option. You can begin claiming your benefits as early as age 62. However, the downside to claiming before your full retirement age (you can look it up on the Social Security website) is that your total monthly payments will be permanently reduced. If your income is below a certain threshold, your full Social Security payments might be tax-free.
Use Social Security payments for your nondiscretionary, fixed expenses and retirement assets for discretionary expenses, such as travel and entertainment.
Bridge the gap to Medicare, because the age of eligibility is 65. Consider plans under the Affordable Care Act. Typically, if your income is low enough, you may receive premium tax credits and other benefits if you choose a plan on the marketplace.
If Social Security and retirement savings cannot sustain your lifestyle, it’s time to consider Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income and similar programs.
TRIPOLI, Lebanon — Rania Mustafa’s living room recalls a not-so-distant past, when the modest salary of a security guard in Lebanon could buy an air-conditioner, plush furniture and a flat-screen TV.
But as the country’s economic crisis worsened, she lost her job and watched her savings evaporate. Now, she plans to sell her furniture to pay the rent and struggles to afford food, much less electricity or a dentist to fix her 10-year-old daughter’s broken molar.
For dinner on a recent night, lit by a single cellphone, the family shared thin potato sandwiches donated by a neighbor. The girl chewed gingerly on one side of her mouth to avoid her damaged tooth.
“I have no idea how we’ll continue,” said Ms. Mustafa, 40, at home in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city, after Beirut.
The huge explosion one year ago in the port of Beirut, which killed more than 200 people and left a large swath of the capital in shambles, only added to the desperation.
and the central bank unable to keep propping up the currency, as it had for decades, because of a drop in foreign cash flows into the country. Now, the bottom has fallen out of the economy, leaving shortages of food, fuel and medicine.
All but the wealthiest Lebanese have cut meat from their diets and wait in long lines to fuel their cars, sweating through sweltering summer nights because of extended power cuts.
long lines at gas stations, where drivers wait for hours to buy only a few gallons, or none at all if the station runs out.
hampered the investigation into the port explosion, and a billionaire telecoms tycoon, Najib Mikati, is currently the third politician to try to form a government since the last cabinet resigned after the blast.
Mustafa Allouch, the deputy head of the Future Movement, a prominent political party, said, like many other Lebanese, that he feared that the political system, intended to share power between a range of sects, was incapable of addressing the country’s problems.
“I don’t think it will work anymore,” he said. “We have to look for another system, but I don’t know what it is.”
His greatest fear was “blind violence” born out of desperation and rage.
“Looting, shooting, assaults on homes and small shops,” he said. “Why it hasn’t happened by now, I don’t know.”
The crisis has hit the poor hardest.
Five days a week, scores of people line up for free meals from a charity kitchen in Tripoli, some equipped with cut off shampoo bottles to carry their food because they can’t afford regular containers.
Robert Ayoub, the project’s head, said demand is going up, donations from inside Lebanon are going down, and the newcomers represent a new kind of poor: soldiers, bank employees and civil servants whose salaries have lost the bulk of their value.
In line on a recent day were a laborer who had walked an hour from home because he couldn’t afford transportation; a brick layer whose work had dried up; and Dunia Shehadeh, an unemployed housekeeper who picked up a tub of pasta and lentil soup for her husband and three children.
“This will hardly be enough for them,” she said.
The country’s downward spiral has set off a new wave of migration, as Lebanese with foreign passports and marketable skills seek better fortune abroad.
“I can’t live in this place, and I don’t want to live in this place,” said Layal Azzam, 39, before catching a flight to Saudi Arabia from Beirut’s international airport.
She and her husband had returned to Lebanon from abroad a few years ago and invested $50,000 in a business. But she said that it had failed and that she worried they would struggle to find care if their children got sick.
“There’s no electricity. They could cut the water. Prices are high. Even if someone sends you money from abroad, it doesn’t last,” she said. “There are too many crises.”
Drone footage by David Enders and Bryan Denton. Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.
AFAR, Ethiopia — The road, a 300-mile strip of tarmac that passes through some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth, is the only way into a conflict-torn region where millions of Ethiopians face the threat of mass starvation.
But it is a fragile lifeline, fraught with dangers that have made the route barely passable for aid convoys trying to get humanitarian supplies into the Tigray region, where local fighters have been battling the Ethiopian army for eight months.
the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in a decade.
wrote on Twitter. “People are starving.”
Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, said last week that his government was providing “unfettered humanitarian access” and committed to “the safe delivery of critical supplies to its people in the Tigray region.”
But Mr. Abiy’s ministers have publicly accused aid workers of helping and even arming the Tigrayan fighters, drawing a robust denial from one U.N. agency. And senior aid officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing their operations, said the government’s stated commitment to enable aid deliveries was belied by its actions on the ground.
Aid workers have been harassed at airports or, in the case of a World Food Program official last weekend, have died inside Tigray for want of immediate medical care.
Tigrayan fighters had marched into the regional capital, Mekelle, hours after beleaguered Ethiopian soldiers quit the city. The city airport was shut, so the only way out of Tigray was on a slow-moving U.N. convoy that took the same desolate route out as the fleeing Ethiopian soldiers.
We drove down a rocky escarpment on a road scarred by tank tracks. As we descended into the plains of Afar, the temperature quickly rose.
publicized the flight but made no mention of the delays or harassment — an omission that privately angered several U.N. officials and other aid workers who said it followed a pattern of U.N. agencies being unwilling to publicly criticize the Ethiopian authorities.
Further complicating the aid effort: The war is now spilling into Afar.
In the past week Tigrayan forces have pushed into the region. In response Mr. Abiy mobilized ethnic militias from other regions to counter the offensive.
Mr. Abiy has also resorted to increasingly inflammatory language — referring to Tigrayan leaders as “cancer” and “weeds” in need of removal — that foreign officials view as a possible tinder for a new wave of ethnic violence across the country.
Ms. Billene, his spokeswoman, dismissed those fears as “alarmist.” The Ethiopian leader had “clearly been referring to a terrorist organization and not the people of Tigray,” she said.
Inside Tigray, the most pressing priority is to reopen the road to Afar.
“This is a desperate, desperate situation,” said Lorraine Sweeney of Support Africa Foundation, a charity that shelters about 100 pregnant women displaced by fighting in the Tigrayan city of Adigrat.
Ms. Sweeney, who is based in Ireland, said she had fielded calls from panicked staff members appealing for help to feed the women, all of whom are at least eight months pregnant.
“It brings me back to famine times in Ireland,” Ms. Sweeney said. “This is crazy stuff in this day and age.”
Ms. Whittome, whose father is of Punjabi heritage, has been an outspoken advocate for many causes, from social justice to women’s rights, a role that has sometimes drawn criticism from those on the other end of the political spectrum. After activism during widespread protests against a controversial policing bill earlier this year and the Black Lives Matter protests last year, she detailed a torrent of abuse.
In an interview with the news outlet The Independent last year, she spoke of the hate mail and racist abuse on social media that had become the norm, and of having to report a series of death threats to the police.
The abuse she detailed, particularly on social media, has become typical for many women in Parliament. Female lawmakers, and in particular women of color in Parliament, have long faced abuse, both online and in person, at a disproportionately higher rate than their male counterparts, reports have shown. Before the last general election in 2019, in which Ms. Whittome won her seat, some women chose not to stand in the election, citing the abuse.
Her office is still open and staff are still working while she takes leave.
And while the details behind Ms. Whittome’s trauma were not given, her frank discussion of her mental health struggle also highlights a broader issue, mental health experts said.
David Crepaz-Keay, the head of applied learning at Britain’s Mental Health Foundation, a charity that has been carrying out a nationwide study of the pandemic’s impact on mental health since early last year, said it was also indicative of a shift in public discourse.
“We’ve noticed a huge change in the kind of broader public willingness to engage in talking about mental health, even over the last five years,” he said, pointing to society’s long history associating shame and disgrace with mental illness.
But more recently, public acknowledgment of mental illness — including by other members of the British Parliament and lawmakers elsewhere like Kjell Magne Bondevik, who took a leave of absence as prime minister of Norway in 1998 and spoke openly about his depression — has helped to normalize the struggle.
MOSCOW — The tray tables were being raised and the seat backs returned to their upright positions as passengers on Ryanair Flight 4978 prepared for the scheduled landing in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. Then the plane made an abrupt U-turn.
For many passengers, it initially seemed like one of those unexpected delays in airline travel. But after the pilot announced the plane had been diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, one passenger — Roman Protasevich, a prominent Belarusian opposition journalist who had been living in exile since 2019 — grew terrified, certain that he faced arrest.
“He panicked because we were about to land in Minsk,” Marius Rutkauskas, who was sitting one row ahead of Mr. Protasevich, told the Lithuanian broadcaster LRT upon arrival in Vilnius.
Sunday’s ordeal — described by many European officials as an extraordinary, state-sponsored hijacking by Belarus to seize Mr. Protasevich — quickly led to one of the most severe East-West flare-ups in recent years.
report rejecting the idea there were K.G.B. agents on the plane, instead showing three people who said on camera that they had decided to stay in Minsk by their own choosing. They included a Greek man who said he had been traveling to Vilnius on his way to visit his wife in Minsk.
In Lithuania, the police launched an investigation on suspicion of hijacking and kidnapping, and interviewed passengers and crew. They were told that the fighter jet dispatched by Mr. Lukashenko to escort the flight had not forced the Ryanair plane to land, according to people with knowledge of the investigation who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Instead, these people said, the pilot had decided to land the plane in Minsk after Belarusian air traffic control had requested that he do so because of a bomb threat on board.
other confessional videos that critics of Mr. Lukashenko have been forced to record while in jail.
an urgent meeting for Thursday to discuss it.
In recent years, Mr. Lukashenko had profited by playing the interests of Russia and the West off against one another. But amid last summer’s popular uprising against him over his disputed re-election, Mr. Lukashenko threw in his lot with Mr. Putin — and has relied on his support ever since.
Last year, the European Union sanctioned Belarus officials — including Mr. Lukashenko — over human rights abuses, to little apparent effect. The flight bans could have a greater impact, at least on regular people; the summer 2021 timetable of Belavia, Belarus’s national carrier, includes flights to 20 E.U. cities.
And some analysts said the restrictions could require costly rerouting for European airlines, which are already avoiding parts of Ukraine, Belarus’s southern neighbor, because of conflict with Russia.
The flight bans could cause new problems for Mr. Lukashenko inside his country, where the ease of travel to the neighboring European Union had long softened the strictures of living inside an authoritarian state. Ukraine, which is not a member of the E.U., also said it would ban flights to and from Belarus. The growing isolation means that Belarusians will increasingly need to travel east to Russia in order to get out of the country.
Yevgeny Lipkovich, a popular Minsk-based blogger and commentator critical of Mr. Lukashenko, said that his own travels abroad had allowed him to “remain an optimist, despite the regime’s best efforts to force me into depression.”
“If they close down the air loophole, there’s no question that the pressure inside the country will increase,” Mr. Lipkovich said. “And it’s disgusting to live in a pariah state.”
Reporting was contributed by Ivan Nechepurenko from Moscow; Tomas Dapkus from Vilnius, Lithuania; Stanley Reed from London; and Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Monika Pronczuk from Brussels.
NEW DELHI — Joefred and Ralfred Gregory moved through life as one.
They went to the same college. They studied the same thing. They wore matching clothes. They trimmed their beards the exact same way.
Identical twins, they were two handsome young men in northern India who above all else really loved each other. And when they both were struck by Covid-19 last month and hospitalized, it was like they shared one sick body.
Hours after Joefred died, Ralfred’s mother told him that his brother was still alive, to keep his spirits up.
has suffered so much and keeps suffering. Though India’s overall case numbers have dropped this past week, the deaths keep going up.
On Wednesday, India broke a world record for the most reported Covid deaths in a single day: 4,529. However alarming that number is — three Indians dying every minute because of the coronavirus — experts say that it is just a small fraction of the true toll and that the real numbers are far higher.
Joefred and Ralfred, 24, had a special bond. Though their parents gave them similar names, they said they didn’t raise the twins to copy each other. Still, neighbors said that where you saw one, you saw the other, even after they reached adulthood.
the worst surge of infections that any country had seen since the pandemic began.
So many people were getting infected at the same time, especially in northern India, where Meerut is, that hospitals couldn’t cope. Sick people were being turned away. They were dying in the streets, in the back seats of cars parked in vain outside hospital gates, at home, gasping for air.
There was a deadly shortage of lifesaving oxygen and medicine. It was the Covid nightmare that all nations have feared since the pandemic began, exploding with a fury.
leading Indian newspapers ran stories, showing the two brothers side by side in identical suits. Television stations jumped in as well, with their doctor talking about how thoroughly the virus had destroyed their lungs.
Of all the thousands of deaths in recent days, these two seemed to really unsettle people, perhaps because the twins were just in their 20s and had looked so healthy, or maybe it was simply their closeness. Across social media, people exchanged messages such as “This is so heartbreaking!” and “How devastating it must be for the parents. So young …”
Their father says he feels like his heart has been torn from his body.
“I keep thinking that maybe I shouldn’t have brought them to the hospital,” he said. “Maybe I should have kept them at home. There is a parental love that the hospital can’t give.”
“But there’s no use of saying, ‘If this could have happened, or that could happened,’” he said. “My children are gone now.”
Every day, he said, he visits the graveyard.
Beneath a young neem tree, Joefred and Ralfred Gregory are buried in two coffins but one grave.
As Israel has focused its firepower on Hamas’s warren of underground tunnels and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, it has simultaneously been engaged in a parallel clandestine strategy: a targeted killing campaign against Hamas’s military leadership.
Israel has tried several times in the current fighting to kill Mohammed Deif, the commander of Hamas’s military wing, a spokesman for Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday. Mr. Deif, a shadowy figure who has been atop Israel’s most-wanted list for nearly three decades, has become a symbol of the militant group’s resilience.
“Throughout the operation, we have tried to assassinate Mohammed Deif,” said the spokesman, Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman.
Israeli commandos have come close a few times over the years, and Mr. Deif has been wounded, but he has always survived.
A senior Israeli army officer said that Mr. Deif, 55, had played a pivotal role in the latest conflict, including ordering the firing of 130 rockets at Tel Aviv last Wednesday, one of the harshest attacks on Israel’s commercial capital since the fighting began.
Mr. Deif, revered among many Palestinians for his strategic prowess and ability to evade Israeli efforts to kill him, has spent decades underground. He has survived at least eight attempts on his life, including by ambush, bombings of safe houses where he was staying and missiles fired at his car, Israeli intelligence officials said. The officials, like others quoted in this article, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss operational details of an active mission.
During those attempts, he has lost an eye and a hand, sustained neurological damage from shrapnel, suffered hearing damage and was left with a limp, according to a current and a former Israeli intelligence official.
A senior Israeli intelligence official said that since the last Israeli incursion into Gaza in 2014, Israel had several opportunities to kill him but had refrained from doing so for fear of setting off a war.
Even before Israel was founded as an independent state in 1948, those fighting for its creation had long engaged in targeted killings. But the program has raised moral quandaries internally and internationally about the ethics of such actions.
In August 2014, Israeli warplanes dropped at least five bombs on a house in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza where Israel believed Mr. Deif was staying. The house was reduced to rubble, and one of his wives, Widad, 28, and their infant son, Ali, were killed, along with another resident and her two teenage sons.
Israel thought that the strike had killed him. Although he survived — and subsequently fell into depression, according to the intelligence official — the attack fanned rumors of a security leak among Hamas’s leadership.
Security experts believe that Mr. Deif avoids detection by eschewing digital devices, using notes and couriers, and limiting his contacts to a tight, secret inner circle.
The commander, born in the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza, rose quickly through the ranks after joining the Islamist organization that became Hamas in the late 1980s. He has orchestrated numerous attacks against Israel, including a series of deadly bus bombings that derailed the peace process in the mid-1990s.
He is also credited with building Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades, into a fighting machine that can lob rockets against Israel, deploy commandos for naval missions and outmaneuver Israel in the warren of Gaza’s underground tunnels.