though typically too little to fully offset the amount of inflation that has occurred this year. There are notable exceptions to that, including in leisure and hospitality jobs, where pay has accelerated faster than prices.

The fact that rents and other housing costs are now climbing only compounds the concern that price gains are becoming stickier.

“You have the sticky, important and cyclical piece of inflation surprising to the upside,” said Laura Rosner-Warburton, an economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives. “It is certainly a very significant development.”

Matt Permar, a 24-year-old mail carrier from Toledo, Ohio, rents a two-bedroom apartment in a suburban area with a friend from college. The pair had paid $540 a month each for two years, which Mr. Permar called “pretty standard.” But that has changed.

“With the housing market being the way it is, they raised it about $100,” he said of his monthly rent. As a result, Mr. Permar said, he will have less cash to save or invest.

The Fed aims for 2 percent inflation on average over time, which it defines using a different but related index, the Personal Consumption Expenditures measure. That gauge is released at more of a delay, and has also jumped this year.

Central bankers have said they are willing to look past surging prices because the gains are expected to prove transitory, and they expect long-run trends that had kept inflation low for years to come to dominate. But they have grown wary as rapid price gains last.

The Fed’s September meeting minutes showed that “most participants saw inflation risks as weighted to the upside because of concerns that supply disruptions and labor shortages might last longer and might have larger or more persistent effects on prices and wages than they currently assumed.”

Fed officials’ moves toward slowing their bond purchases could leave them more nimble if they find that they need to raise rates to control inflation next year. Officials have signaled that they want to stop buying bonds before raising rates, so that their two tools are not working at odds with each other.

Wall Street is watching every inflation data point closely, because higher rates from the Fed could squeeze growth and stock prices. And climbing costs can cut into corporate profits, denting earning prospects.

White House officials and many Wall Street data watchers tend to emphasize a “core” index of inflation, which strips out volatile food and fuel prices. Core inflation climbed 4 percent in the year through last month, but the monthly gain was less pronounced, at 0.2 percent.

Some economists welcomed that moderation as good news, along with the cooling in key prices, like airfares, that had popped earlier in the economic reopening. Others emphasized that once supply chain kinks were worked out, prices could drop on products like couches, bikes and refrigerators, providing a counterweight to rising housing expenses.

Omair Sharif, founder of Inflation Insights, said he expected consumer price inflation to moderate, coming in at 2.75 percent to 3 percent on a headline basis by next July, and for core inflation to cool down even more.

“I don’t think there’s any reason to panic,” he said.

Ana Swanson and Ben Casselman contributed reporting.

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Powell Signals Fed Could Start Removing Economic Support

Eighteen months into the pandemic, Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, has offered the strongest sign yet that the Fed is prepared to soon withdraw one leg of the support it has been providing to the economy as conditions strengthen.

At the same time, Mr. Powell made clear on Friday that interest rate increases remained far away, and that the central bank was monitoring risks posed by the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The Fed has been trying to bolster economic activity by buying $120 billion in government-backed bonds each month and by leaving its policy interest rate at rock bottom. Officials have been debating when to begin slowing their bond buying, the first step in moving toward a more normal policy setting. They have said they would like to make “substantial further progress” toward stable inflation and full employment before doing so.

Mr. Powell, speaking at a closely watched conference that the Kansas City Fed holds each year, used his remarks to explain that he thinks the Fed has met that test when it comes to inflation and is making “clear progress toward maximum employment.”

six million fewer jobs than before the pandemic. And the Delta variant could cause consumers and businesses to pull back as it foils return-to-office plans and threatens to shut down schools and child care centers. That could lead to a slower jobs rebound.

Mr. Powell made clear that the Fed wants to avoid overreacting to a recent burst in inflation that it believes will most likely prove temporary, because doing so could leave workers on the sidelines and weaken growth prematurely. While the Fed could start to remove one piece of its support, he emphasized that slowing bond purchases did not indicate that the Fed was prepared to raise rates.

“We have much ground to cover to reach maximum employment, and time will tell whether we have reached 2 percent inflation on a sustainable basis,” he said in his address to the conference, which was held online instead of its usual venue — Jackson Hole in Wyoming — because of the latest coronavirus wave.

The distinction he drew — between bond buying, which keeps financial markets chugging along, and rates, which are the Fed’s more traditional and arguably more powerful tool to keep money cheap and demand strong — sent an important signal that the Fed is going to be careful to let the economy heal more fully before really putting away its monetary tools, economists said.

told CNBC on Friday that he supported winding down the purchases “as quickly as possible.”

“Let’s start the taper, and let’s do it quickly,” he said. “Let’s not have this linger.”

James Bullard, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said on Friday that the central bank should finish tapering by the end of the first quarter next year. If inflation starts to moderate then, the country will be in “great shape,” Mr. Bullard told Fox Business.

“If it doesn’t moderate, then I think the Fed is going to have to be more aggressive in 2022,” he said.

ushered in a new policy framework at last year’s Jackson Hole gathering that dictates a more patient approach, one that might guard against a similar overreaction.

But as Mr. Bullard’s comments reflected, officials may have their patience tested as inflation climbs.

The Fed’s preferred price gauge, the personal consumption expenditures index, rose 4.2 percent last month from a year earlier, according to Commerce Department data released on Friday. The increase was higher than the 4.1 percent jump that economists in a Bloomberg survey had projected, and the fastest pace since 1991. That is far above the central bank’s 2 percent target, which it tries to hit on average over time.

“The rapid reopening of the economy has brought a sharp run-up in inflation,” Mr. Powell said.

They warn that if the Fed overreacts to today’s inflationary burst, it could wind up with permanently weak inflation, much as Japan and Europe have.

White House economists sided with Mr. Powell’s interpretation in a new round of forecasts issued on Friday. In its midsession review of the administration’s budget forecasts, the Office of Management and Budget said it expected the Consumer Price Index inflation rate to hit 4.8 percent for the year. That is more than double the administration’s initial forecast of 2.1 percent.

initially expected. But they still insist that it will be short-lived and foresee inflation dropping to 2.5 percent in 2022. The White House also revised its forecast of growth for the year, to 7.1 percent from 5.2 percent.

Slow price gains sound like good news to anyone who buys oat milk and eggs, but they can set off a vicious downward cycle. Interest rates include inflation, so when it slows, Fed officials have less room to make money cheap to foster growth during times of trouble. That makes it harder for the economy to recover quickly from downturns, and long periods of weak demand drag prices even lower — creating a cycle of stagnation.

“While the underlying global disinflationary factors are likely to evolve over time, there is little reason to think that they have suddenly reversed or abated,” Mr. Powell said. “It seems more likely that they will continue to weigh on inflation as the pandemic passes into history.”

Mr. Powell offered a detailed explanation of the Fed’s scrutiny of prices, emphasizing that inflation is “so far” coming from a narrow group of goods and services. Officials are keeping an eye on data to make sure prices for durable goods like used cars — which have recently taken off — slow and even fall.

Mr. Powell said the Fed saw “little evidence” of wage increases that might threaten high and lasting inflation. And he pointed out that measures of inflation expectations had not climbed to unwanted levels, but had instead staged a “welcome reversal” of an unhealthy decline.

Still, his remarks carried a tone of watchfulness.

“We would be concerned at signs that inflationary pressures were spreading more broadly through the economy,” he said.

Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.

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Canada Heat Wave Breaks National Record

TORONTO — Vancouverites were frying eggs on pans placed on their terraces.

One man checked into an air-conditioned five-star hotel, after the five fans aimed at his bed at home and the seventh cold shower failed to bring relief.

Lettuce plants shriveled in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia’s picturesque wine region. Flowers wilted. People wilted.

The heat wave across western Canada has much of a country known for its sweater weather sweating.

Canada broke a national heat record on Sunday when the temperature in a small town in British Columbia reached almost 116 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking an 84-year-old record by nearly 3 degrees, with dangerously hot weather expected to continue for several more days.

“This is a complete shock to a Canadian — this feels like Las Vegas or India — not Vancouver,” said Chris Johnson, a criminal lawyer who on Monday was heading to an air-conditioned hotel room as temperatures inside his home reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

the northwestern United States, including 112 degrees on Sunday in Portland, Ore.

Emily Jubenvill, co-owner and manager at Enderberry Farm, a farm that produces organic vegetables in the northern Okanagan Valley, said she and her husband were planning to beat the heat by getting to the fields at 3 a.m. Tuesday to pick vegetables. “Things are maturing faster under the stress of the heat, and so we’re not able to harvest as much,” she said, noting that the flavor of vegetables like lettuce could turn extremely bitter if exposed to very hot weather.

Canada’s old national heat record was 45 degrees Celsius, or 113 Fahrenheit, but on Sunday, Lytton, a town of fewer than 300 about three hours east of Vancouver, reached 46.6 Celsius, or 115.9 Fahrenheit, according to Environment Canada.

Other towns in southern British Columbia, including Victoria, Kamloops and Kelowna, are breaking local records under the high-pressure heat dome, and temperatures well over 100 degrees are forecast through Wednesday.

Previously, Midale and Yellow Grass, both in rural Saskatchewan, held the record in Canada for the highest temperature on July 5, 1937, at 113 degrees.

National Climate Assessment, a scientific report by 13 U.S. federal agencies, heat waves have climbed from two per year in the 1960s to six per year by the 2010. The season for heat waves has also grown 45 days longer than it was in the 1960s, the report notes.

It is all part of an overall warming trend: The seven warmest years in the history of accurate worldwide record-keeping have been the last seven years, and 19 of the 20 warmest years have occurred since 2000. An analysis from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a group of European climate researchers, found that the hottest year on record was 2020, tied with 2016.

Several school districts in British Columbia were closed on Monday, given that many buildings are not fitted with air conditioning. Temperatures rarely go above 86 degrees Fahrenheit in Vancouver, Mr. Phillips said.

British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority, a state-owned utilities company, saw back-to-back record-breaking electricity use on Saturday and Sunday, with some local power outages reported across the system, the Provincial Crown corporation said in a news release Monday.

On social media, people posted photographs of their pets cooling off with ice packs, putting out water trays for birds or avoiding the sun altogether.

In a weather alert for Metro Vancouver on Monday, Environment Canada warned that temperatures could reach as high as 44 degrees Celsius, or 111 degrees Fahrenheit, during the day.

“The duration of this heat wave is concerning as there is little relief at night with elevated overnight temperatures,” it wrote, advising local residents to navigate the “record-breaking heat” by drinking plenty of water and avoiding leaving people and pets in a parked vehicle.

It also advised residents to watch out for the symptoms of heat illness such as dizziness, fainting, nausea and decreased urination.

Henry Fountain contributed reporting.

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Scrounging for Hits, Hollywood Goes Back to the Video Game Well

LOS ANGELES — For 28 years, ever since “Super Mario Bros.” arrived in cinemas with the tagline “This Ain’t No Game,” Hollywood has been trying and mostly failing — epically, famously — to turn hit video games into hit movies. For every “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” (2001), which turned Angelina Jolie into an A-list action star, there has been a nonsensical “Max Payne” (2008), an abominable “Prince of Persia” (2010) and a wince-inducing “Warcraft” (2016).

If video games are the comic books of our time, why can’t Hollywood figure out how to mine them accordingly?

It may finally be happening, powered in part by the proliferation of streaming services and their need for intellectual property to exploit. “The need for established, globally appealing I.P. has naturally led to gaming,” Matthew Ball, a venture investor and the former head of strategy for Amazon Studios, wrote last year in an essay titled “7 Reasons Why Gaming I.P. Is Finally Taking Off in Film/TV.”

Sony Pictures Entertainment and its PlayStation-powered sibling, Sony Interactive, are finally working together to turn PlayStation games into mass-appeal movies and television shows. There are 10 game adaptations in the Sony Pictures pipeline, a big leap from practically none in 2018. They include “Uncharted,” a $120 million adventure based on a 14-year-old PlayStation property (more than 40 million copies sold). “Uncharted” stars Tom Holland, the reigning Spider-Man, as Nathan Drake, the treasure hunter at the center of the game franchise. It is scheduled for release in theaters on Feb. 18.

post-apocalyptic game of the same title. Pedro Pascal, “The Mandalorian” himself, is the star, and Craig Mazin, who created the Emmy-winning mini-series “Chernobyl,” is the showrunner. Executive producers include Carolyn Strauss, one of the forces behind “Game of Thrones,” and Neil Druckmann, who led the creation of the Last of Us game.

Sony games like Twisted Metal and Ghost of Tsushima are also getting the TV and film treatment. (Contrary to speculation, one that is not, at least not anytime soon, according to a Sony spokesman: God of War.)

In the past, Sony Pictures and Sony Interactive operated as fiefs, with creative control — it’s mine; no, it’s mine — impeding adaptation efforts. When he took over as Sony’s chief executive in 2018, Kenichiro Yoshida demanded cooperation. The ultimate goal is to make better use of Sony’s online PlayStation Network to bring Sony movies, shows and music directly to consumers. PlayStation Network, introduced in 2006, has more than 114 million monthly active users.

“I have witnessed a radical shift in the nature of cooperation between different parts of the company,” said Sanford Panitch, Sony’s movie president.

Halo,” a series based on the Xbox franchise about a war between humans and an alliance of aliens (more than 80 million copies sold), will arrive on the Paramount+ streaming service early next year; Steven Spielberg is an executive producer. Lionsgate is adapting the Borderlands games (roughly 60 million sold) into a science fiction film starring Cate Blanchett, Kevin Hart and Jamie Lee Curtis.

Buoyed by its success with “The Witcher,” a fantasy series adapted from games and novels, Netflix has shows based on the “Assassin’s Creed,” “Resident Evil,” “Splinter Cell” and “Cuphead” games on the way. Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, the duo behind HBO’s “Westworld,” are developing a science-fiction show for Amazon that is based on the Fallout video game franchise.

And Nintendo and Illumination Entertainment, the Universal Pictures studio responsible for the “Despicable Me” franchise, have an animated Mario movie headed to theaters next year — another new collaboration between a game publisher and a film company.

Still, Hollywood’s game adaptation track record is terrible. Why should the coming projects be any different?

For a start, the games themselves have evolved, becoming more intricate and cinematic. “Games have stories that are so much more developed and advanced than they used to be,” Mr. Panitch said.

first major game adaptation in three decades to receive a “fresh” designation on Rotten Tomatoes, the review-aggregation site. Since then, two more adaptations, “Sonic the Hedgehog” (Paramount) and “The Angry Birds Movie 2” (Sony) have been critical and commercial successes.

“Quality has definitely been improving,” said Geoff Keighley, creator of the Game Awards, an Oscars-like ceremony for the industry.

The most recent game-to-film entry, “Mortal Kombat” (Warner Bros.), received mixed reviews but has taken in $41.2 million in the United States since its release last month, a surprisingly large total considering it was released simultaneously on HBO Max and theaters were still operating with strict coronavirus safety protocols.

Mr. Panitch acknowledged that “video game movies have a checkered history.” But he added, “Failure is the mother of invention.”

Game adaptations, for instance, have often faltered by trying to rigidly replicate the action and story lines that fans know and love. That approach invites comparison, and movies (even with sophisticated visual effects) almost always fail to measure up. At the same time, such “fan service” turns off nongamers, resulting in films that don’t connect with any particular audience.

“It’s not just about adapting the story,” said Michael Jonathan Smith, who is leading Sony’s effort to turn Twisted Metal, a 1995 vehicular combat game, into a television series. “It’s about adapting how you feel when you play the game. It has to be about characters you care about. And then you can slide in the Easter eggs and story points that get fans absolutely pumped.”

“Uncharted” is a prequel that, for the first time, creates origin stories for the characters in the game. With any luck, such storytelling will satisfy fans by giving them something new — while also inviting nongamers, who may otherwise worry about not knowing what is going on, to buy tickets. (The producers of “Uncharted” include Charles Roven, who is known for the “Dark Knight” trilogy.)

“It’s a question of balance,” said Asad Qizilbash, a senior Sony Interactive executive who also runs PlayStation Productions, an entity started in 2019 and based on Sony’s movie lot in Culver City, Calif.

Unlike in the past, when Sony Pictures and Sony Interactive pledged to work together and ultimately did not, the current collaboration “has weight because there is a win for everyone,” Mr. Qizilbash added. “We have three objectives. Grow audience size for games. Bring product to Sony Pictures. Showcase collaboration.”

The stakes are high. A cinematic flop could hurt the game franchise.

“It’s risky,” Mr. Qizilbash allowed. “But I think we can do it.”

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A Glimpse of a Future With True Shareholder Democracy

In the near future, giant index funds, those low-cost investments that have helped millions of people to build nest eggs, will gain “practical power over the majority of U.S. public companies.”

That nightmarish vision originated in a prescient 2018 paper by John Coates.

Mr. Coates was a professor of Harvard Law School when he laid out his argument — one that I share. Now, he is a policymaker. In February, he became acting director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s division of corporation finance. Under the new reform-minded S.E.C. chairman, Gary Gensler, Mr. Coates is in a position to address the problems he has analyzed so painstakingly.

Neither Mr. Coates nor Mr. Gensler was available for an interview, but in that paper, Mr. Coates laid out his views. Index funds, which simply track the market and make no attempt to outperform it, are so effective and cheap, he said, that they have become the investment vehicle of choice for trillions of dollars of assets. Yet under current rules, it is the index fund executives, not the millions of people who invest in them, who have the power to cast proxy votes.

Those votes are the heart of a system intended to give investors a voice on crucial matters like how much the chief executive is paid or whether a company is damaging the environment.

wrote in December 2019, that lack of proxy voting capability leaves vast numbers of investors out of the equation, and gives corporations inordinate power. Consider that roughly half of all American households, comprising tens of millions of people, have a stake in the stock market. But most own equities indirectly through funds — mainly index funds.

That leaves fund managers with the decisive power over corporate governance, and the biggest fund companies have sided with management roughly 90 percent of the time.

As Mr. Coates wrote in 2018, “Control of most public companies — that is, the wealthiest organizations in the world, with more revenue than most states — will soon be concentrated in the hands of a dozen or fewer people.” The title of his paper was “The Problem of Twelve,” referring to the unelected leaders of index fund operations.

What’s worse, mutual fund companies are frequently conflicted. Many receive revenue from public traded corporations for providing financial services connected to retirement plans, yet have the responsibility of casting critical votes on how those companies are run. Scholars like Mr. Coates have worried about these conflicts for years.

study, “Uncovering Conflict of Interests: Proxy Voting Data Reveals Bias for Asset Managers to Favor Clients,” was done by the group As You Sow, which files for shareholder proposals on issues such as the environment, gender and racial diversity, and executive pay.

The group based its finding on an analysis of 9.6 million proxy votes by fund companies, along with Labor Department records that show how much fund companies were paid for retirement plan services.

“The big fund companies have a massive aggregation of power that comes from the investments of their shareholders,” said Andrew Behar, chief executive of As You Sow. “At the very least, the fund companies shouldn’t be allowed to vote if they have conflicts of interest.”

Such apparent conflicts are permitted under current rules, as Mr. Coates noted in his 2018 paper. There are many possible regulatory solutions, but the fundamental cure would be to take proxy voting power away from the fund companies and put it in the hands of millions of fund shareholders. That change would be especially important for investors in broad-based index funds, which mirror the stock market and cannot divest shares of individual companies.

Say you don’t want to put money into Exxon Mobil because you disagree with its approach to climate change. If you own shares in an S&P 500 index fund, you will have an indirect stake in Exxon nonetheless. And if you hold the fund in a workplace retirement account, you may be stuck. Only 3 percent of 401(k) plans include investment options based on what are known in the industry as environmental, social and governance (E.S.G.) principles, according to the research firm Morningstar, a research firm that rates funds.

Reflecting widespread concern about climate change, fund companies appear to be shifting some of their proxy votes, Morningstar said. BlackRock, headed by Larry Fink, has called for a speedy transition to a “net zero economy” and Vanguard in April adopted guidelines that may lead to more “E.S.G.-friendly” votes, said Jackie Cook, director of investment stewardship research at Morningstar.

INDEX, has taken a small step that could have revolutionary implications: This year, it has begun asking shareholders how they want to vote.

Index Proxy Polling,” an easy way for shareholders to convey their preferences on proxy votes for S&P 500 companies. The aim is to demonstrate how shareholders in an index fund could express their opinions.

So far, only about 100 investors have participated, said Mike Willis, the fund manager, and current S.E.C. regulations require him to make the final voting decisions on behalf of the fund. But he said he hoped the S.E.C. would eventually allow him “to move to real shareholder democracy and go to pass-through voting, in which the shareholders say what they want and we just cast the vote for them.”

I commend Mr. Willis for his innovative approach, but note that this is not a typical index fund. It is an equal-weighted version of the S&P 500: It gives equal emphasis to big and small companies, so it may underperform the market when giants like Apple boom, and do better than the standard index when smaller companies excel. Its expense ratio of 0.25 percent is reasonable but not as low as some of the giant funds.

If experiments like this catch on, they could help to move the markets closer to something resembling shareholder democracy. But legislators and regulators — people like Mr. Coates and Mr. Gensler — will need to weigh in, too, if we are to avert a future in which the voices of investors are muffled and giant corporations are dominated by even more powerful index funds.

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A New $260 Million Park Floats on the Hudson. It’s a Charmer.

CRITIC’s Notebook

Little Island, developed by Barry Diller, with an amphitheater and dramatic views, opens on Hudson River Park. Opponents battled it for years.

Hudson Yards.

I won’t dawdle over the mess that followed the island’s announcement. A real estate titan who had bones to pick with the Hudson River Park Trust supported a series of legal challenges. At one point, seeing no end in sight to the court fights, Diller backed out. A deal brokered by New York’s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, ultimately rescued the project and also delivered public commitments to enhance protections for wildlife habitats and improve other parts of the four-mile-long, 550-acre Hudson River Park.

English garden follies — not least because Little Island can remind you more of a private estate than a city park. It’s clearly going to cost a king’s ransom to maintain, a burden the Hudson River Park Trust (which is to say the public) would have to bear absent other arrangements.

Fortunately, Diller has promised that his family foundation will pick up the tab for the next 20 years. That’s not forever, but it includes programming costs, Diller told me — until the programming (mostly free, not a moneymaker) can find nonprofit funding to “stand on its own.” He estimates he may end up spending $380 million all in — no doubt the largest private gift to a public park in the city’s history, maybe in the planet’s.

The other day I climbed to the topmost point on the island, a grassy crow’s nest with a 360 panorama. A lovely path shaded by dogwoods and redbuds, perfumed by woodland azaleas, snaked up the hillside. The views shifted from city to river, garden to grassland.

Heatherwick’s columns peek through a hill here or there, but you don’t really focus on them once you’re on the island, save for the great arch of giant tulip bulbs at the entrance, which required a year of tweaking to get the curves just right and to accommodate soil for Nielsen’s trees on top.

concerts, dance and children’s programs are planned to get underway this summer. Trish Santini, Little Island’s executive director, told me that her staff has been working closely with community organizations to ensure free and inexpensive tickets get into the hands of underserved groups and neighborhood schoolchildren. A second stage, called the Glade, at the base of a sloping lawn, tucked into the southeast corner of the park and framed by crape myrtle and birch trees, is custom made for kids and educational events. The main plaza, where you can grab a bite to eat and sit at cafe tables under canvas umbrellas, doubles as a third venue.

It’s on the route between the two gangways that link the island to Manhattan — and a stone’s throw from the High Line — so it’s sure to be mobbed. Santini also said the island will do timed reservations to prevent overcrowding. Little Island will need it, I expect. Two-plus acres is half the size of a city block.

sculpture by David Hammons, donated by the Whitney Museum of American Art to Hudson River Park, which traces in steel the outlines of bygone Pier 52.

North of Little Island, Pier 57 — where Google is leasing new quarters — will soon open community spaces, a food court and its roof deck to the public (City Winery is already up and running there). Piers 76 and 97 are also getting makeovers.

agreed with opponents who challenged reports by authorities over whether the project would inhibit the mating habits of juvenile striped bass.

This time environmental agencies determined that Little Island would cause no harm to fish, and the strategy didn’t work.

requirements for wheelchair accessibility are a design opportunity not a burden. I climbed back up the hill to the crow’s nest, and there she still was.

Huddled against a sunny morning gale, the mother duck was tending her eggs.

The ducklings, I learned, just hatched this week. They’ve started paddling in the river.

Maps by Scott Reinhard. Produced by Alicia DeSantis, Jolie Ruben and Tala Safie.

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Healthcare Start-Up Ro to Acquire Modern Fertility

Ro, the parent company of Roman, the brand that is best known for delivering erectile dysfunction and hair loss medication to consumers, announced on Wednesday that it would acquire Modern Fertility, a start-up that offers at-home fertility tests for women.

The deal is priced at more than $225 million, according to people with knowledge of the acquisition who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not public. It is one of the largest investments in the women’s health care technology space, known as femtech, which attracted $592 million in venture capital in 2019, according to an analysis by PitchBook.

Modern Fertility was founded in 2017 with its flagship product: a $159 finger prick test that can estimate how many eggs a woman may have left, which can help determine which fertility method might be best.

“We essentially took the same laboratory tests that women would take in an infertility clinic and made them available to women at a fraction of the cost,” said Afton Vechery, a founder and chief executive of Modern Fertility, noting that her own test at a clinic set her back $1,500.

valued in March at about $5 billion, has in recent years expanded into telehealth, including delivering generic drugs by mail. In December, Ro acquired Workpath, which connects patients with in-home care providers, like nurses.

The global digital health market, which includes telemedicine, online pharmacies and wearable devices, could reach $600 billion by 2024, according to the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. And yet, by one estimate, only 1.4 percent of the money that flows into health care goes to the femtech industry, mirroring a pattern in the medical industry, which has historically overlooked women’s health research.

“Gender bias in health care research methods and funding has really contributed to sexism in medicine and health care,” said Sonya Borrero, director of the Center for Women’s Health Research and Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh. “I think we’re seeing again — gender bias in the venture capital sector is going to exactly shape what gets developed.”

That underinvestment was part of the reasoning behind the acquisition, said Zachariah Reitano, Ro’s chief executive. The company developed a female-focused online service in 2019 called Rory.

“We’re going to continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years into women’s health,” Mr. Reitano said, “because ultimately I think women’s health has the potential to be much larger than men’s health.”

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Tel Aviv, Israel’s Bustling Financial Hub, Shaken as Rockets Rain Down

TEL AVIV — Tel Aviv’s city hall launched a playful social media campaign this month declaring itself a vaccinated city eager to welcome back international travelers on their first post-coronavirus trips abroad.

That was before the rockets began to strike.

During the past week of fighting between Israel and militant groups in Gaza, Tel Aviv has been the target of at least 160 rockets fired out of the Palestinian coastal enclave about 40 miles to the south.

The bombardment of Tel Aviv has been a devastating turn of events for a bustling metropolis that brands itself as Israel’s nonstop party city on the Mediterranean and the financial hub of the country. Over the weekend, incoming alerts and rocket salvos sent crowds of beachgoers running for cover and closed down many of the city’s famed restaurants and bars.

Tel Aviv has been the target of rocket fire in past rounds of fighting, but not with anything like the intensity of the past few days. And while the military says its Iron Dome antimissile defense system intercepts about 90 percent of rockets heading for populated areas, when large barrages are fired, some slip through.

Shahar Elal, 30, an Israeli who was back for a family visit from her current home in Zurich, said she and her mother had rushed to shelter in a protected space behind the kitchen of a beachside cafe as a siren sounded on Saturday afternoon, frightened after being caught off guard.

“Beer in hand, sun lotion on face, we ran,” she said, dropping a wallet along the way. When they emerged, they saw the white smoke trail of a rocket that had fallen into the sea in front of them.

One day last week, during business hours, militants fired about 100 rockets in the direction of Tel Aviv and its environs, saying they were retaliating for Israeli airstrikes against what they described as civilian buildings.

The incoming fire sent close to a million Israelis into bomb shelters and protected spaces. On Saturday, one man, Gershon Franko, 55, was killed by shrapnel after a rocket slammed into the middle of the road outside his apartment in the leafy Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan.

Often referred to as the “State of Tel Aviv,” this largely liberal, secular beachside city and its metropolitan area have long had a reputation for being somewhat detached from the dangers of the less affluent, more peripheral parts of the country that are close to its volatile borders. Many residents of this city of skateboards, surfing and electric scooters are said to live in a hedonistic bubble.

“It’s a kind of an escape,” said Sagi Assaraf, 31, a medical engineer, explaining the Tel Aviv state of mind while sitting on the beach with a beer and some friends on Sunday, a day after they all had to run from the same stretch of sand looking for cover.

“In the end they are people who just want to live in peace and quiet,” he said, adding, “The explosions shook them out of it.”

He and his friend Ben Levy, 32, a graphic designer who was strumming a guitar, had both performed their obligatory military service in combat units and said they were unfazed by the rocket fire.

Maj. Gen. Uri Gordin, the chief of the military’s Homefront Command, said he believed that more rockets had been fired at the Tel Aviv area on Saturday night than during the 50-day Gaza war in the summer of 2014.

Many residents spoke in sanguine terms of resilience and defiance, saying that showing weakness and fear would hand a victory to the enemy.

“We must remain optimistic and carry on with our routines,” Mr. Levy said.

Even in Ramat Gan, on the block where the deadly rocket struck, shopkeepers and local residents displayed a similar sang-froid.

Menachem Horovitz, who owns a small cafe and bakery on the street and lives just around the corner, was home in the afternoon when he heard the siren followed by a boom that shook the whole house.

He came out to inspect the damage to the bakery. “The police came,” he said matter-of-factly. “I cleaned up and put everything back in place.”

Saturday was Nakba Day, when Palestinians commemorate the flight and expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees during the hostilities surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.

By Sunday morning, Mr. Horovitz had replaced the shattered glass in his storefront and was almost sold out of cakes for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot starting at sundown.

A handwritten sign in the window read: “Thank you to the residents of Ramat Gan for your support. The people of Israel live,” punctuated with a Star of David instead of a period or an exclamation mark.

In an apartment block nearby, all the front-facing windows had been blown out. Shrapnel had pierced the fridge at the back of one apartment, like a bullet. The residents had fled, leaving their half-eaten lunch on the table. City officials provided all the inhabitants with temporary accommodation in hotels.

Ms. Elal, the visitor from Zurich, was staying with her family from northern Israel in a holiday rental by the sea, and was back at the beach on Sunday.

“It doesn’t make any sense to stop our lives,” she said. But she added that she had never seen the streets or beaches of Tel Aviv so quiet and empty on a holiday weekend. She said most of her childhood friends who now lived in Tel Aviv had gone back to their parents in the north — an area that used to suffer most from rocket attacks from Lebanon.

Josh Corcos, 30, Shai Asraf, 29, and Yuval Mengistu, an Israeli friend visiting from Mexico, were sitting Sunday at the same beach cafe where Ms. Elal had sheltered the day before. Mr. Asraf had come from Netivot, a town in the south that was the frequent target of rocket attacks from Gaza.

They had been eating French toast and eggs Benedict at an all-day breakfast restaurant when the sirens went off Saturday afternoon. They took cover, came out 20 minutes later and resumed eating, they said.

Some people were panicking more than others, they said.

“We were all in the army, so it doesn’t bother us so much,” Mr. Corcos said of the rocket fire. “But still, you don’t expect it in the middle of breakfast in Tel Aviv.”

That night, Hamas sent a warning that Tel Aviv residents should be back in their homes by midnight. The three men came back to their rented holiday apartment at 11:30 p.m. to wait. At 11 minutes past midnight, the sirens wailed and more salvos of rockets headed for the Tel Aviv area.

“Four days ago, the city was normal and hopping,” Mr. Asraf said. “There’s been a change since the rockets fell. Most people are staying home.”

City officials said they were confident that tourism would bounce back in due course.

But as the sun began to sink into the Mediterranean, the streets of Tel Aviv, usually thronged with revelers, were eerily deserted. The nonstop city had come, at least temporarily, to a stop.

Irit Pazner Garshowitz contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

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In Xinjiang, China Targets Muslim Women in Push to Suppress Births

When the government ordered women in her mostly Muslim community to be fitted with contraceptive devices, Qelbinur Sedik pleaded for an exemption. She was nearly 50 years old, she told officials in Xinjiang. She had obeyed the government’s birth limits and had only one child.

It was no use. The workers threatened to take her to the police if she continued resisting, she said. She gave in and went to a government clinic where a doctor, using metal forceps, inserted an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy. She wept through the procedure.

“I felt like I was no longer a normal woman,” Ms. Sedik said, choking up as she described the 2017 ordeal. “Like I was missing something.”

Across much of China, the authorities are encouraging women to have more children, as they try to stave off a demographic crisis from a declining birthrate. But in the far western region of Xinjiang, they are forcing them to have fewer, as they tighten their grip on Muslim ethnic minorities.

internment camps and prisons. The authorities have placed the region under tight surveillance, sent residents to work in factories and placed children in boarding schools.

By targeting Muslim women, the authorities are going even further, attempting to orchestrate a demographic shift that will affect the population for generations. Birthrates in the region have already plunged in recent years, as the use of invasive birth control procedures has risen, findings that were previously documented by a researcher, Adrian Zenz, with The Associated Press.

crimes against humanity and genocide, in large part because of the efforts to stem the population growth of Muslim minorities. The Trump administration in January was the first government to declare the crackdown a genocide, with reproductive oppression as a leading reason; the Biden administration affirmed the label in March.

Ms. Sedik’s experience, reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, helped form the basis for the decision by the United States government. “It was one of the most detailed and compelling first-person accounts we had,” Kelley E. Currie, a former United States ambassador who was involved in the government’s discussions. “It helped to put a face on the horrifying statistics we were seeing.”

Beijing has accused its critics of pushing an anti-China agenda.

in March. “No one nor any agency shall interfere.”

To women in Xinjiang, the orders from the government were clear: They didn’t have a choice.

Last year, a community worker in Urumqi, the regional capital, where Ms. Sedik had lived, sent messages saying women between 18 and 59 had to submit to pregnancy and birth control inspections.

“If you fight with us at the door and if you refuse to cooperate with us, you will be taken to the police station,” the worker wrote, according to screenshots of the WeChat messages that Ms. Sedik shared with The Times.

encourage births, including by providing tax subsidies and free IUD removals. But from 2015 to 2018, Xinjiang’s share of the country’s total new IUD insertions increased, even as use of the devices fell nationwide.

The contraception campaign appeared to work.

report by a Xinjiang government research center read. “They have avoided the pain of being trapped by extremism and being turned into reproductive tools.”

Women like Ms. Sedik, who had obeyed the rules, were not spared. After the IUD procedure, Ms. Sedik suffered from heavy bleeding and headaches. She later had the device secretly removed, then reinserted. In 2019, she decided to be sterilized.

“The government had become so strict, and I could no longer take the IUD,’” said Ms. Sedik, who now lives in the Netherlands after fleeing China in 2019. “I lost all hope in myself.”

leaked last year from Karakax County, in southwestern Xinjiang, which revealed that one of the most common reasons cited for detention was violating birth planning policies.

government notice from a county in Ili, unearthed by Mr. Zenz, the researcher.

operated under secrecy — many were subjected to interrogations. For some, the ordeal was worse.

Tursunay Ziyawudun was detained in a camp in Ili Prefecture for 10 months for traveling to Kazakhstan. She said that on three occasions, she was taken to a dark cell where two to three masked men raped her and used electric batons to forcibly penetrate her.

“You become their toy,” Ms. Ziyawudun said in a telephone interview from the United States, where she now lives, as she broke down sobbing. “You just want to die at the time, but unfortunately you don’t.”

Gulbahar Jalilova, the third former detainee, said in an interview that she had been beaten in a camp and that a guard exposed himself during an interrogation and wanted her to perform oral sex.

The three former detainees, along with two others who spoke to The Times, also described being regularly forced to take unidentified pills or receive injections of medication that caused nausea and fatigue. Eventually, a few of them said, they stopped menstruating.

The former detainees’ accounts could not be independently verified because tight restrictions in Xinjiang make unfettered access to the camps impossible. The Chinese government has forcefully denied all allegations of abuse in the facilities.

in February.

Beijing has sought to undermine the credibility of the women who have spoken out, accusing them of lying and of poor morals, all while claiming to be a champion of women’s rights.

Even in their homes, the women did not feel safe. Uninvited Chinese Communist Party cadres would show up and had to be let in.

The party sends out more than a million workers to regularly visit, and sometimes stay in, the homes of Muslims, as part of a campaign called “Pair Up and Become Family.” To many Uyghurs, the cadres were little different from spies.

The cadres were tasked with reporting on whether the families they visited showed signs of “extremist behavior.” For women, this included any resentment they might have felt about state-mandated contraceptive procedures.

When the party cadres came to stay in 2018, Zumret Dawut had just been forcibly sterilized.

Four Han cadres visited her in Urumqi, bringing yogurt and eggs to help with the recovery, she recalled. They were also armed with questions: Did she have any issues with the sterilization operation? Was she dissatisfied with the government’s policy?

“I was so scared that if I said the wrong thing they would send me back to the camps,” said Ms. Dawut, a mother of three. “So I just told them, ‘We are all Chinese people and we have to do what the Chinese law says.’”

But the officials’ unwelcome gaze settled also on Ms. Dawut’s 11-year-old daughter, she said. One cadre, a 19-year-old man who was assigned to watch the child, would sometimes call Ms. Dawut and suggest taking her daughter to his home. She was able to rebuff him with excuses that the child was sick, she said.

Other women reported having to fend off advances even in the company of their husbands.

Ms. Sedik, the Uzbek teacher, was still recovering from a sterilization procedure when her “relative” — her husband’s boss — showed up.

She was expected to cook, clean and entertain him even though she was in pain from the operation. Worse, he would ask to hold her hand or to kiss and hug her, she said.

Mostly, Ms. Sedik agreed to his requests, terrified that if she refused, he would tell the government that she was an extremist. She rejected him only once: when he asked to sleep with her.

It went on like this every month or so for two years — until she left the country.

“He would say, ‘Don’t you like me? Don’t you love me?’” she recalled. “‘If you refuse me, you are refusing the government.’”

“I felt so humiliated, oppressed and angry,” she said. “But there was nothing I could do.”

Amy Chang Chien and Fatima Er contributed reporting.

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A Giant Wood Moth Surfaced at an Australian School

Children and staff members at the Mount Cotton State School, an elementary school near a rainforest in Queensland, Australia, have spotted wallabies, koalas and snakes over the years.

But recently, builders who were adding new classrooms to the school made a discovery that stood out even among the famously diverse fauna of Australia, a continent where spiny mammals lay eggs, flightless birds kick with daggerlike claws and platypuses glow in the dark. The builders found a giant wood moth, which can have a wingspan of up to nine inches.

The moth — fuzzy-looking and mottled gray, with a passing resemblance to a well-loved stuffed animal — was found on the side of the new building.

“It was an amazing find,” said Meagan Steward, the school principal, in an interview with ABC Radio Brisbane that was broadcast on Sunday. “This moth was something that we had not seen before.”

white witch moth, which is found in Mexico and South America, does, with a wingspan of up to 12 inches.

The giant wood moth’s large thorax — about the width of a finger — is what helps make it the heaviest moth, Dr. Shockley said. A female can carry up to 20,000 eggs in her abdomen.

Dr. Shockley said he was fascinated by the animal because it spends a majority of its life as an “immature” rather than as an adult, in contrast to humans and other animals; he said he was also impressed by the status of larval wood moths as a source of food for some Indigenous Australians.

“You can eat them raw or you can cook them,” Dr. Shockley said. “The flavor has basically been said to be something like almonds.”

The discovery of the moth at the school could help entomologists gather more data about the species’ distribution, which remains something of a mystery, he said.

“I think any entomologist would be really excited by finding these things,” Dr. Shockley said. “I’m a beetle person, and this would still be superexciting to me.”

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