Over 40 Dead in Tajik-Kyrgyz Border Clash as Death Toll Rises

MOSCOW — A border clash this week between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan killed more than 40 people, government officials said Friday, significantly raising the death toll for an episode that began as a dispute over irrigation water.

The outbreak of violence comes at a delicate time for the United States after the Biden administration announced a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which borders Tajikistan to the south, by September. The nations of Central Asia provide an alternative to Pakistan as an overland route to withdraw American military equipment.

The fighting around a Tajik enclave in southwestern Kyrgyzstan briefly resumed on Friday before the countries’ presidents spoke on the phone and agreed to meet next month. The sides had agreed to a cease-fire Thursday.

The office of Kyrgyzstan’s president, Sadyr Zhaparov, issued a statement saying it was “confident that mutually beneficial cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will continually and fruitfully develop on the basis of traditional and centuries-old friendship and honesty between the peoples.”

reports suggested the situation on the ground, entangled in local grievances and raw ethnic tension, remained unfriendly. Videos posted online showed Tajik-speakers rejoicing as Kyrgyz homes burned in one village.

What began with rock throwing between Tajiks and Kyrgyz in villages along the border escalated into an exchange of small-arms fire between border guards and other security forces.

Kyrgyz authorities said that the Tajik government had deployed military forces in the region before the escalation and that a helicopter attacked a border post. Still, when the fighting stopped with a cease-fire Thursday both sides reported a total of six dead.

But on Friday the Ministry of Health of Kyrgyzstan said 31 people died and 154 people were wounded on its side. The national authorities in Tajikistan have not released a death toll for their side, but local media citing regional officials said 10 people had died and 90 were wounded.

The fighting centered around Vorukh, a Tajik enclave in Kyrgyzstan that has for years been a hot spot in a long-simmering conflict over ethnic enclaves in and around the Ferghana Valley in Central Asia, a legacy of the Soviet breakup.

Another long-running security headache in Central Asia has been water politics. Tajikistan controls the headwaters of many of the region’s rivers that the four other former Soviet states, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, depend on for irrigation. The fighting this week began over control of an irrigation canal.

In the early stages of the Afghan war, the United States opened two bases in Central Asia to move troops into Afghanistan, and also transported everything from fuel to food on an overland route through the region and into the war zone.

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Biden, in Georgia to Promote Economic Agenda, Visits Carter

President Biden visited former President Jimmy Carter, an old friend, as he traveled to Georgia on Thursday to pitch his $4 trillion economic agenda.

A day after using his first address to Congress to urge swift passage of his plans to spend heavily on infrastructure, child care, paid leave and other efforts meant to bolster economic competitiveness, Mr. Biden was set to hold a drive-in car rally in Duluth, Ga., for his 100th day in office.

White House officials indicated that the president would promote the $1.9 trillion economic aid bill he signed into law in March and pitch the two-part plan for longer-term investments in the economy that he has rolled out over the past two weeks.

Mr. Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and the president’s cabinet are embarking on a post-speech tour to push the economic plans through next week. Administration officials said the focus would include celebrating the increased pace of Covid-19 vaccinations since Mr. Biden took office and the rebound in economic activity.

free community college, universal prekindergarten and expanded efforts to fight poverty.

“He and the first lady are returning to Georgia to talk about getting America back on track,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the principal deputy press secretary, told reporters as they traveled to the state.

First, though, Mr. Biden took a detour to Plains, Ga., where Mr. Carter lives with his wife, Rosalynn Carter. Mr. Carter, the longest-living former president, is 96 years old and a cancer survivor. He has remained largely out of the public view during the coronavirus pandemic, although he appeared at a parade in October for his birthday. He did not attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration in January, and the president had promised to visit him.

“This is a longstanding friendship,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “They said that they were going to try to see each other after inauguration.”

Mr. Biden was the first senator to endorse Mr. Carter’s presidential bid in 1976, when Mr. Carter was the Georgia governor and not considered the favorite for the Democratic nomination. Mr. Biden recalled that endorsement as part of a brief video message he taped this month for the film crew behind “Carterland,” a documentary on the Carter administration.

“Some of my colleagues in the Senate thought it was youthful exuberance,” Mr. Biden said in the video. “Well, I was exuberant, but as I said then, ‘Jimmy’s not just a bright smile. He can win, and he can appeal to more segments of the population than any other person.’”

In the message, the president hailed Mr. Carter’s work in office and after his defeat to Ronald Reagan in 1980, praising Mr. Carter for working to eradicate disease and house the poor while still finding time to teach Sunday school. Mr. Biden said Mr. Carter had called him the night before his inauguration to wish him well and say he would be there in spirit.

“Simply put,” Mr. Biden told Mr. Carter and Mrs. Carter at the end of the video, “we love you, and God bless you both.”

The visit between the two families on Thursday lasted less than an hour. Mr. Biden’s motorcade arrived at the Carters’ home from Jimmy Carter Regional Airport at 2:30 p.m. A pool reporter glimpsed Mrs. Carter, in a white top and using a walker, on the front porch. There was no sign of Mr. Carter.

Zach Montague contributed reporting.

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Prince Philip Is Laid to Rest in a Somber 50-Minute Ceremony

LONDON — His coffin borne on a military green Land Rover that he had helped design, Prince Philip was laid to rest on Saturday at Windsor Castle in an austere, meticulously choreographed funeral that captured his steely role in Britain’s royal family and offered a solemn glimpse of its uncertain future.

Queen Elizabeth II bade farewell to Philip, her husband, who died on April 9, two months shy of his 100th birthday, from solitude inside St. George’s Chapel. She was clad in a mask and kept at a distance from her children and grandchildren by pandemic social distancing requirements, which limited attendance to 30 people.

Her grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry were separated as well, by one of their cousins, as they walked behind Philip’s coffin. This quirk of royal protocol dramatized the rift between the brothers that opened after Harry’s marriage to an American former actress, Meghan Markle.

That wedding was held nearly three years ago in the same Gothic chapel on a similarly crystalline Saturday. It was both a joyful contrast and a poignant reminder of the turbulence that has enveloped the House of Windsor since its patriarch faded into retirement and a new generation of royals seized the limelight.

gospel choir and an African-American preacher, Philip’s funeral was a throwback to the monarchy’s traditions. There was no eulogy, despite some reports that Prince Charles would pay tribute to his father.

The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, and the dean of Windsor, the Right Rev. David Conner, recited the readings, rather than family members. A choir of four, its numbers cut by the pandemic and standing apart on a stone floor, sang hymns selected by Philip, their voices echoing in the chapel’s empty nave.

The royal family listened silently, separated into family bubbles, their faces softly lighted by lamps. Harry sat alone, his head bowed during a hymn.

drew more than 100,000 complaints last week when the BBC pre-empted popular shows to dissect every aspect of Philip’s life. Some likened the wall-to-wall approach to North Korea’s.

the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother, in 2002, which drew more than a million people to watch her cortege pass from Westminster Abbey to Windsor Castle.

“There’s an enormous, almost subconscious, feeling about the monarchy in Britain that is not appreciated by the metropolitan media,” said Vernon Bogdanor, a research professor in British politics and government at King’s College London. “It’s inarticulate, but it comes out at these crucial moments.”

Philip’s funeral, however, did not draw the crowds of other royal ceremonies. Because of the pandemic, Buckingham Palace urged people not to come to Windsor, the town west of London that the castle overlooks. On a quiet Saturday, it seemed as though most people had heeded that advice.

The restrictions meant that Philip’s converted Land Rover made a trip of only a few hundred yards, rather than the 22 miles from Buckingham Palace to Windsor. Rather than crowds lining the route, troops from the Royal Navy, Marines, the Highlanders and the knights of Windsor stood at attention as he passed.

Queen Elizabeth, who turns 95 next week, followed the procession in her gleaming aubergine Bentley, not at the head of it, which would have been customary for a sovereign. Charles, her heir, headed the procession, joined by his sister, Princess Anne.

erupted after an interview that Andrew gave to the BBC in 2019, set off a tumultuous period for the royal family. Two months later, Harry and Meghan announced their plans to step back from official duties and leave Britain.

They settled in Southern California, resurfacing last month for an extraordinary interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which Meghan said that a member or members of the royal family had raised qualms about the skin color of the couple’s unborn baby.

Philip retired from his duties in 2017, moving to a cottage on the grounds of one of the queen’s estates, Sandringham, where he painted in oils and pursued his hobby of driving carriages.

There was a quiet nod to Philip’s hobby at the funeral: As his coffin traveled through the quadrangle at Windsor, it passed a polished dark-green carriage with his two beloved ponies, Balmoral Nevis and Notlaw Storm.

Stephen Castle contributed reporting.

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Bernie Madoff, Architect of Largest Ponzi Scheme in History, Dead at 82

More than money was lost. At least two people, in despair over their losses, committed suicide. A major Madoff investor suffered a fatal heart attack after months of contentious litigation over his role in the scheme. Some investors lost their homes. Others lost the trust and friendship of relatives and friends they had inadvertently steered into harm’s way.

Mr. Madoff was not spared in these tragic aftershocks. His older son, Mark, committed suicide in his Manhattan apartment early on the morning of Dec. 11, 2010, the second anniversary of his father’s arrest. He was characterized by his lawyer, Martin Flumenbaum, as “an innocent victim of his father’s monstrous crime who succumbed to two years of unrelenting pressure from false accusations and innuendo.” One of Mark Madoff’s last messages before his death was to Mr. Flumenbaum: “Nobody wants to believe the truth. Please take care of my family.”

In June 2012, Bernard Madoff’s brother, Peter, a lawyer by training, pleaded guilty to federal tax and securities fraud charges related to his role as the chief compliance officer at his older brother’s firm, but he was not accused of knowingly participating in the Ponzi scheme. In December 2012, he forfeited all his personal property to the government to compensate his brother’s victims and was sentenced to a 10-year prison term. And on Sept. 3, 2014, Mr. Madoff’s younger son, Andrew, died of cancer at the age of 48. He had blamed the stress of the scandal for the return of the cancer he had fought off in 2003.

Besides the human toll, professional reputations were destroyed. More than a dozen prominent hedge funds and money managers, including J. Ezra Merkin and the Fairfield Greenwich Group, had to admit that they had forwarded their clients’ money to Mr. Madoff and lost it all. Swiss private bankers, global commercial banks and major accounting firms were dragged into court by clients who had relied on them to monitor their Madoff investments.

The Securities Investor Protection Corporation, the industry-financed organization set up in 1970 to provide limited protection to brokerage customers, spent more on the Madoff bankruptcy than on all its earlier liquidations combined — and was fiercely attacked by victims who felt they had been wrongly denied compensation.

And for the Securities and Exchange Commission, which unsuccessfully investigated more than a half-dozen credible tips about Mr. Madoff’s fraud scheme since at least 1992, it was the most humiliating failure in its 75-year history.

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Need New Skills? How About a Hug? The Women’s Shed Welcomes You.

DAVOREN PARK, Australia — No one really knows when backyard sheds became meaningful to men, as a retreat and a place to tinker. But in the late 1990s, Australia made them communal. Hundreds of men’s sheds, as they came to be known, popped up across the country — where retirees or the out of work could stave off loneliness and depression by working on creative projects, gaining new skills and socializing.

All of which got Raelene Wlochowicz thinking: What about the women? It was the end of 2019, and she was about to retire after 28 years of working in Australia’s juvenile justice system. People kept asking her what she was going to do with her time.

“I don’t know,” she’d say. “I’m ready to finish my work life, but I’m not finished with my life.”

Always active, a working-class grandmother with bright red hair and a nose ring, she couldn’t stand the idea of playing cards in a senior center or sitting around gossiping over $4 coffee.

She knew that the first men’s shed had opened not far away, on the fancier side of Adelaide, the most industrial of Australia’s major cities and the capital of South Australia.

building coffins.

Women’s sheds are a newer development, and they often take on a broader mandate, in terms of whom they serve and the skills they aim to develop. Barry Golding, an adult education professor at Federation University Australia in Ballarat who wrote a book about men’s sheds, said women’s sheds were just starting to take off, with around 100 worldwide.

protests against sexual harassment are appearing outside Australia’s Parliament, the women’s shed has become another way to channel outrage and energy.

In Davoren Park, some of the women are survivors of domestic violence; others are widows or out of work. They come for protection, progress and fellowship.

Leanne Jenkins, 46, was one of the first members. A mother of two with a tightly pulled ponytail, she said she had been struggling with severe anxiety and depression when her therapist suggested that the shed might be a good place to make friends and develop new skills. At first, showing up brought panic attacks. Now, she’s at the shed almost every day.

“They treat me like family, and if I’m not here or not around for a week, they come get me,” she said. “I feel like I’m relied on. If I don’t make it to the shed, I actually feel guilty.”

Their first project was just getting the shed up to code. The water didn’t work, glass covered the floors, the bathrooms were foul.

They pulled in a small local grant, and the rest came from donations of time or goods. One day, Ms. Wlochowicz received a call from a woman whose sister had died, leaving a garage of arts and crafts supplies. Others offered more clothing and home supplies than they could ever need.

Some of it can now be found in a “room of love.” To get there requires walking down a long school hallway, past a wall of photos with women of all ages smiling and squeezed together. Inside, Ms. Wlochowicz snapped on the light to reveal a classroom made into an ad hoc store, with beauty supplies, dresses, jeans, towels and linens — all of it free for women fleeing domestic violence.

“When they run, they run with nothing,” she said.

It was one of many signs that this particular shed, in a forgotten corner of a wealthy and often sexist country, has never been just about socializing.

On a recent Tuesday, a dozen of the shed’s members, along with a few daughters and granddaughters, sat together in the arts and crafts room to practice for choir with a song they wrote about the shed that plays to the tune of “The House of the Rising Sun.”

Ms. Wlochowicz watched as their teacher, Katie Pomery, 23, a local singer-songwriter, conducted with her hands and smiled more with every verse.

“It is a place where friendship grows, and you can get free bread,” they sang. “The garden’s full of possums and beasts, the kitchen’s full of food. If you come here with a heavy heart, we’ll lighten up your mood.”

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Without Parties, There’s No Place to Show Off That Expensive Watch

With so many people awash in content streaming into their homes in the pandemic, brands are struggling to figure out a way to connect.

That has been particularly true in the marketing of expensive luxury goods — the type of items people like to be seen wearing and using. For the last year, the parties and the cultural and charitable events, where the wealthy can see and be seen, have not been happening.

“Why do I put on a $200,000 timepiece if I have a clock on my microwave and haven’t left my house in four months?” said Chris Olshan, global chief executive of the Luxury Marketing Council, an organization that promotes luxury brands. “What’s the value of a $10,000 Brioni suit when I’m not going out and no one is seeing it?”

He said brands were being forced to explain why a new product was worth their interest and their money. “It’s, ‘Hey, you can dive in this watch, and it has this button that if you press it we’ll come rescue you off of an island,’” he said. “It has to be more than another Swiss watch. It has to have something more to justify the value.”

dates to the 1870s, has been the leading maker of golf shoes since 1945, with a classic image akin to Audemars Piguet. But that image has been challenged with social media influencers promoting more athletic-looking golf shoes.

Max Homa, a younger professional who rose to social media prominence in the pandemic with his gently sarcastic Twitter takes on people’s golf swings.

“My brand is to take the seriousness out of golf but also play at a high level,” said Mr. Homa, 30, who won his second PGA Tour event in February at the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles. “I want people to understand there are a lot of ways to go about it.”

The shoemaker announced on Thursday that it was also teaming with Todd Snyder, a men’s wear designer who favors camouflage and doesn’t golf but has a large social media following and can bring in different types of consumers.

“We’re contrasting Adam Scott, who’s out of central casting, and layering on someone like Max Homa,” said Ken LaRose, senior vice president of brand and consumer experience at FootJoy. “But we’re also looking for style influencers outside of the world of golf.”

cost more than $1,000, is looking at an affluent demographic of young mothers who live in cities and will be doing a lot of walking with their stroller.

“People want to see real people using our product,” said Schafer Stewart, head of marketing in the United States for Bugaboo. “We’re looking for those people who marry up with our aesthetic. We’re never paying for it.”

(Influencers, like Bruna Tenório, a Brazilian model who just had her first baby, do get free products.)

“We’ve been talking a lot about ways to market without spending one red cent,” Mr. Olshan said. “A lot of brands are panicked about doing anything. How do you engage inexpensively?”

Brands have also been helping one another, with Le Creuset, the French cookware company, promoting General Electric’s high-end appliance brand, Café, and vice versa.

“Look, if you’re buying pots and pans from me, you’re buying the oven from someone else,” Mr. Olshan said. “We’re seeing a lot of partnerships of noncompeting brands.”

In tough times, even luxury brands need to rethink their age-old strategies.

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With Swarms of Ships, Beijing Tightens Its Grip on the South China Sea

The Chinese ships settled in like unwanted guests who wouldn’t leave.

As the days passed, more appeared. They were simply fishing boats, China said, though they did not appear to be fishing. Dozens even lashed themselves together in neat rows, seeking shelter, it was claimed, from storms that never came.

Not long ago, China asserted its claims on the South China Sea by building and fortifying artificial islands in waters also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. Its strategy now is to reinforce those outposts by swarming the disputed waters with vessels, effectively defying the other countries to expel them.

The goal is to accomplish by overwhelming presence what it has been unable to do through diplomacy or international law. And to an extent, it appears to be working.

“Beijing pretty clearly thinks that if it uses enough coercion and pressure over a long enough period of time, it will squeeze the Southeast Asians out,” said Greg Poling, the director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, which tracks developments in the South China Sea. “It’s insidious.”

called their presence “a clear provocation.” Vietnam’s foreign ministry accused China of violating the country’s sovereignty and demanded that the ships leave.

By this week, some had left but many remained, according to satellite photographs taken by Maxar Technologies, a company based in Colorado. Others moved to another reef only a few miles away, while a new swarm of 45 Chinese ships was spotted 100 miles northeast at another island controlled by the Philippines, Thitu, according to the satellite photos and Philippine officials.

intensifying confrontation between China and the United States.

Although the United States has not taken a position on disputes in the South China Sea, it has criticized China’s aggressive tactics there, including the militarization of its bases. For years, the United States has sent Navy warships on routine patrols to challenge China’s asserted right to restrict any military activity there — three times just since President Biden took office in January.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken expressed support for the Philippines over the presence of the Chinese vessels. “We will always stand by our allies and stand up for the rules-based international order,” he wrote on Twitter.

The buildup has highlighted the further erosion of the Philippines’ control of the disputed waters, which could become a problem for the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte.

The country’s defense department dispatched two aircraft and one ship to Whitsun Reef to document the buildup but did not otherwise intervene. It is not known whether Vietnamese forces responded.

ruled in 2016 that China’s expansive claim to almost all of the South China Sea had no legal basis, though it stopped short of dividing the territory among its various claimants. China has based its claims on a “nine-dash line” drawn on maps before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

A Philippine patrol first reported the large number of ships at Whitsun Reef on March 7. According to Mr. Poling, satellite photographs have shown a regular, though smaller, Chinese presence over the past year at the reef.

civilian force that has become an integral instrument of China’s new maritime strategy. Many of these boats, while unarmed, are operated by reservists or others who carry out the orders of the Coast Guard and People’s Liberation Army.

“They may be doing illicit activities at night and their lingering (swarming) presence may cause irreparable damage to the marine environment,” the task force’s statement said.

The presence of so many Chinese ships is meant to intimidate. “By having them there, and spreading them out across these expanses of water around the reefs the others occupy, or around oil and gas fields or fishing grounds, you are steadily pushing the Filipinos and the Vietnamese out,” Mr. Poling said.

“If you’re a Filipino fisherman, you’re always getting harassed by these guys,” he said. “They’re always maneuvering a little too close, blowing horns at you. At some point you just give up and stop fishing there.”

Patrols and statements aside, Mr. Duterte’s government does not seem eager to confront China. His spokesman, Harry Roque, echoed the Chinese claims that the ships were merely sheltering temporarily.

“We hope the weather clears up,” he said, “and in the spirit of friendship we are hoping that their vessels will leave the area.”

The Philippines has become increasingly dependent on Chinese trade and, as it fights the pandemic, largess.

On Monday, the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Manila from China with great fanfare. As many as four million doses are scheduled to arrive by May, some of them donations. China’s ambassador, Huang Xilian, attended the vaccines’ arrival and later met with Mr. Duterte.

“China is encroaching on our maritime zone, but softening it by sending us vaccines,” said Antonio Carpio, an outspoken retired Supreme Court justice who is expert in the maritime dispute. “It’s part of their P.R. effort to soften the blow, but we should not fall for that.”

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‘They Have No One’: At 88, a Transgender Icon Combats Loneliness Among Seniors

MEXICO CITY — The pink paint of her stairwell is peeling, the black metal banister chipped, but Samantha Flores is as sharp-witted as ever amid a profusion of climbing plants and bursting red flowers.

At 88, the Mexican transgender icon remains elegant, funny and at times flirtatious, sitting at a small round table on the landing outside her tiny Mexico City flat where she has received callers, at a safe distance, throughout the pandemic.

After nearly nine decades as a socialite, a manager of a gay bar, an L.G.B.T.Q. advocate, and much more, Ms. Flores has a large community of longtime friends and neighbors who come knocking.

“Without my friends, I wouldn’t be who I am,” she said.

But as Ms. Flores well knows, many seniors are not so lucky. And so there is one part of her world that she’s aching to get back — the drop-in center she founded and runs to help older L.G.B.T.Q. adults combat their isolation. It was the first organization of its kind in Mexico.

Vogue Mexico last June, and was later featured in a campaign for the fashion house Gucci.

But for Ms. Flores, the glamour and attention are just new platforms to talk about what’s most important to her — Vida Alegre, and the rampant discrimination still faced by Mexican trans women, which often makes sex work their only means of making a living.

“It’s society’s fault that trans women have to work on the streets,” she said. “They aren’t given any other option.”

When coupled with machismo attitudes and widespread gang violence, discrimination can also be deadly for trans women in Mexico, which regularly ranks among the most dangerous countries in the world for transgender people. Few are lucky enough to live as long as Ms. Flores has.

But luck, it seems, has often been on Ms. Flores’ side.

Born in the city of Orizaba in Veracruz state in 1932, Ms. Flores grew up in a house with a yard full of orange, guava, lemon and avocado trees. She described her childhood as idyllic. Her family was tacitly accepting even then of what she called her effeminate nature, she said.

“I couldn’t pass by unnoticed, ” Ms. Flores recalled.

But behind her back, there were always whispers from neighbors and schoolmates, Ms. Flores said, and after graduating from high school, she couldn’t wait to leave Orizaba.

“What I wanted was to get out of that damn town and away from those damn people,” she said. “I realized that I was criticized and singled out for being queer.”

Ms. Flores moved to Mexico City, where she began dipping into the capital’s nascent gay scene of the 1950s and ’60s.

“For me, it was freedom,” she said.

One night in 1964, Ms. Flores was invited to a costume party, and together with a few friends, decided to go in drag. She chose the name Samantha for her persona after Grace Kelly’s character in the film “High Society,” which featured music by Cole Porter, her favorite singer.

“I liked Samantha because of the double meaning,” Ms. Flores said. “Bing Crosby called her Sam, which can also be short for Samuel.”

The host of the party was a friend of Ms. Flores, Xóchitl, then one of the most famous trans women in Mexico, who Ms. Flores says, had connections to the rich and powerful that allowed her the freedom to hold extravagant parties for the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

“She was the one that opened the door for trans women,” Ms. Flores recalled.

Little by little, Ms. Flores appeared in public as Samantha until, eventually, she was Samantha.

“I became myself, I found my true personality,” she said.

Soon, Samantha Flores was a staple of the Mexico City club scene.

“She was always a very, very elegant woman,” recalled Alexandra Rodríguez de Ruíz, a transgender rights activist and writer who was a teenager when she started going to gay clubs and encountered Ms. Flores. “Always wearing beautiful dresses and always accompanied by handsome young men.”

Back then, Ms. Rodríguez said, being part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Mexico was even more dangerous; the police would regularly detain trans women on the street or raid gay bars and confiscate their belongings.

“There was a lot of persecution,” she said. “Sometimes, if they were bad cops, they would take you to someplace and rape you or beat you.”

But Ms. Flores said she managed to avoid trouble. Whether it was that she could easily pass as female or because of her friendship with the well-connected Xóchitl, she was never bothered by the police.

Still, Ms. Flores said she felt uneasy being a trans woman in Mexico, and decided to move to Los Angeles. For several years in the 1970s and early ’80s, she lived between Mexico and L.A., where she worked managing a gay bar, among other ventures.

By the time she came back to Mexico full-time in the mid-’80s, the AIDS crisis was in full swing.

“My best friends, my most beloved friends, they died of H.I.V.,” Ms. Flores recalled. “I lost count — if I said 300, I wouldn’t be exaggerating.”

Seeing the crisis facing her community inspired her to become more of an activist.

“I became a fighter,” she said.

At first, Ms. Flores volunteered at an AIDS charity, and later began raising money for children with H.I.V. and women facing violence in northern Mexico, collecting funds at theater performances, including “The Vagina Monologues,” which ran in Mexico for years.

Then, a few years ago, a friend of hers suggested that she create a shelter for older L.G.B.T.Q. adults.

“That’s when the spark was lit,” Ms. Flores said.

It took years of wading through the Mexican bureaucracy and finding the right venue, but eventually she was able to secure rent on a one-room building on a busy street in the Álamos neighborhood. Vida Alegre now stands there, the building painted bright blue with a rainbow flag out the front.

The community has grown to some 40 people, about half of whom are straight and go there only for the company.

“It’s empathy and being together,” that brings people in, Ms. Flores said. “Abandonment and loneliness have fled.”

Besides reopening Vida Alegre, Ms. Flores has one other wish.

“I’m waiting for Prince Charming on his white horse and silver armor to come and serenade me,” Ms. Flores said. “I’ve been living here for 35 years, with the windows open, waiting for him. But he still hasn’t come.”

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Shut Out on Vaccines, Tiny San Marino Turns to Old Friend: Russia

SAN MARINO — On the ground floor of the only hospital in San Marino, a tiny, independent republic perched high above the surrounding Italian countryside, nurses prepared Covid-19 vaccine doses from glass vials labeled in Cyrillic script, flicked needles and sought to put nervous residents at ease.

“Have you started speaking Russian since you got your first shot?” one nurse asked, coaxing a smile from Erica Stranieri, 32, as he injected Russia’s Sputnik vaccine into her arm.

San Marino, an ancient enclave within northern Italy, topped with crenelated medieval battlements on a mountain near the Adriatic coast, is best known — to the extent it is known at all — as one of the smallest countries on Earth.

the Sputnik vaccine, which has not been authorized by European or Italian drug regulators. For San Marino, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

Beslan school siege of 2004. At the national university is a bust of the first person in space, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

San Marino did not back sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Crimea. In 2019, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, visited San Marino without stopping in Italy.

“Politically there is a strong link,” said Sergio Rabini, 62, the director of the San Marino hospital, who was himself hospitalized with Covid in October. He walked past the Covid ward, still packed with patients intubated in intensive care, and down to the vaccination center.

“Here’s Sputnik,” he said, holding up one of the thawing vials. He said it wasn’t the first time his country hadn’t followed the lead of Italian or European regulatory agencies.

gain influence in Europe, exploiting rifts between the European Union, which has had a disastrously slow vaccine rollout, and some member states. This week, Slovakia’s prime minister resigned amid an uproar over his secretly arranging a delivery of Sputnik.

to 26 percent of its people, more than double the E.U. average. Officials say hundreds of Italians have tried to make vaccination appointments there, and some even showed up, hoping in vain to get vaccinated by the foreign state next door.

“We asked Italy for help and didn’t get any,” Denisa Grassi, a 42-year-old teacher, said after receiving her shot. “Now it’s the Italians who ask us.”

Some Italians see in San Marino’s embrace of Sputnik only its latest provocative pandemic behavior. In November, when Italy imposed a 6 p.m. curfew on eateries, San Marino kept its bars and restaurants open until midnight, luring Italians and their euros across the invisible border to what Italian officials worried was a hilltop viral breeding ground.

“It was mostly young people who took advantage to go out at night,” said Aldo Bacciocchi, 50, whose restaurant, Ristorante Bolognese, was recently featured on Russian television. Now, San Marino’s restaurants must close by 6 p.m., and Mr. Bacciocchi said that business was lousy and that he didn’t see a way back to normalcy unless people got vaccinated. His mother, 77, was scheduled to receive her second dose of Sputnik on Friday.

“It’s not that we prefer it,” he said. “It’s that it’s there.”

A shade of that normalcy returned to the center of San Marino on Thursday, for the biannual installation of the country’s two heads of state, known as Captains Regent.

Throughout the morning and early afternoon, military marching bands wearing helmets festooned with feathers snaked up and down the sloping stone streets, past luxury watch and jewelry shops, the “Torture Museum,” souvenir traps and a multitude of stores selling guns, crossbows and swords, a legacy of San Marino’s medieval armory industry and relaxed gun laws.

Dignitaries took advantage of pauses in the procession to sip aperitifs at sunlit cafes, until the cannons blasted again and the march resumed. Guards escorted the incoming and outgoing Captains Regent — wearing black velvet cloaks, blue-and-white ribbons, satin gloves, black tights, black velvet hats edged with white ermine fur, and lace scarves — into various grand marble and stone buildings.

Bishops and ambassadors and men in top hats joined the procession, and so did some local residents wearing ghost masks, silently protesting the coronavirus lockdown measures.

“San Marino is not Europe, and we’re not getting any help,” said Massimiliano Carlini, 58, the protest organizer, referring to the lack of funds directed to struggling businesses. Himself a vaccine skeptic, he wasn’t sure inoculations would help, though he welcomed Russia’s involvement. “Sputnik is the only one I think people should be taking.”

Among the protesters was Matteo Nardi, the nurse who had vaccinated Ms. Stranieri. An Italian by nationality, he wondered why Italy, struggling with vaccine shortages, didn’t offer Sputnik, too.

“I mean,” he said, “why not?”

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