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Fear and Misery in an Afghan City Where Taliban Stalk the Streets

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — The Afghan way of war in 2021 comes down to this: a watermelon vendor on a sweltering city street, a government Humvee at the front line just 30 feet away, and Taliban fighters lurking unseen on the other side of the road.

When the shooting starts, the vendor makes himself scarce, leaving his melons on the table and hoping for the best. When it stops, selling resumes, to customers now all too rare.

“I don’t have a choice. I’ve got to sell the melons,” said the vendor, Abdel Alim, speaking to New York Times journalists while he kept an eye on a lane within Kunduz city from which he said Taliban had emerged. “Most people have left,” he said. “There is fighting all the time.”

374,000 in Afghanistan’s north, and several other provincial capitals as well, as the Afghan government’s war with the Taliban enters a new and dangerous phase. For weeks, the insurgents have captured vulnerable districts across the country’s north, sometimes without even firing a shot. And on Wednesday, the Taliban said they had captured an important border crossing with Pakistan, at Spin Boldak — the fourth crossing they have seized in less than a month.

taken by the insurgents in 2015 and then again in 2016. Both times, the insurgents were eventually pushed back by the Afghan forces with help from American airstrikes. It was here that an American gunship mistakenly blasted a Doctors Without Borders hospital in 2015, killing 42 people.

This time, the Americans won’t be coming. The battle for Kunduz has become an intimate fight between Afghan opponents at close range.

“Every night they come to these houses and fire on us,” said the chief of police of Kunduz’s Third Municipal District, Sayed Mansoor Hashimi, looking out at now-vacant dwellings all around his police station. “Slowly, slowly they are tightening the circle.”

The war in Kunduz is intertwined with the fabric of the city. Shopping trips are planned between bursts of war. Residents no longer pay sufficient attention, said Marzia Salam Yaftali, the medical director at Kunduz Regional Hospital. “They are wounded in the streets or in the bazaar,” she said.

At the hospital, Ezzatullah, 14, lay in one of the wards, his legs wrapped in bandages: He lost both his feet when a mortar landed as he was playing outside his house. Three members of his family, including one of his parents, were killed.

“I can’t go to school now,” he said. Asked what he saw as his future, he replied firmly: “I want to be a man, to rebuild my country.”

The war, and the enemy, are inescapable. “We have to live here. Where can we go?” asked Ezamuddin Safi, a telecommunications worker who had to flee his home inside the city in early July. He was passing the day inside a small downtown restaurant.

“My 3-year-old boy, he screams when he hears the firing. He’s tired,” said Mr. Safi, 25. “Taliban are everywhere.”

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The Tech Cold War’s ‘Most Complicated Machine’ That’s Out of China’s Reach

SAN FRANCISCO — President Biden and many lawmakers in Washington are worried these days about computer chips and China’s ambitions with the foundational technology.

But a massive machine sold by a Dutch company has emerged as a key lever for policymakers — and illustrates how any country’s hopes of building a completely self-sufficient supply chain in semiconductor technology are unrealistic.

The machine is made by ASML Holding, based in Veldhoven. Its system uses a different kind of light to define ultrasmall circuitry on chips, packing more performance into the small slices of silicon. The tool, which took decades to develop and was introduced for high-volume manufacturing in 2017, costs more than $150 million. Shipping it to customers requires 40 shipping containers, 20 trucks and three Boeing 747s.

The complex machine is widely acknowledged as necessary for making the most advanced chips, an ability with geopolitical implications. The Trump administration successfully lobbied the Dutch government to block shipments of such a machine to China in 2019, and the Biden administration has shown no signs of reversing that stance.

Congress is debating plans to spend more than $50 billion to reduce reliance on foreign chip manufacturers. Many branches of the federal government, particularly the Pentagon, have been worried about the U.S. dependence on Taiwan’s leading chip manufacturer and the island’s proximity to China.

A study this spring by Boston Consulting Group and the Semiconductor Industry Association estimated that creating a self-sufficient chip supply chain would take at least $1 trillion and sharply increase prices for chips and products made with them.

Moore’s Law, named after Gordon Moore, a co-founder of the chip giant Intel.

In 1997, ASML began studying a shift to using extreme ultraviolet, or EUV, light. Such light has ultrasmall wavelengths that can create much tinier circuitry than is possible with conventional lithography. The company later decided to make machines based on the technology, an effort that has cost $8 billion since the late 1990s.

The development process quickly went global. ASML now assembles the advanced machines using mirrors from Germany and hardware developed in San Diego that generates light by blasting tin droplets with a laser. Key chemicals and components come from Japan.

a final report to Congress and Mr. Biden in March, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence proposed extending export controls to some other advanced ASML machines as well. The group, funded by Congress, seeks to limit artificial intelligence advances with military applications.

Mr. Hunt and other policy experts argued that since China was already using those machines, blocking additional sales would hurt ASML without much strategic benefit. So does the company.

“I hope common sense will prevail,” Mr. van den Brink said.

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‘It’s Going to Be a Big Summer for Hard Seltzer’

The music should be pumping and the burgers and jerk chicken wings flying out of the kitchen this holiday weekend at the Rambler Kitchen and Tap in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago.

To wash it down, patrons might go with a mixed drink or one of the 20 craft beers the bar sells. But many will order a hard seltzer. The Rambler expects to sell close to 500 cans in flavors like peach, pineapple and grapefruit pomelo.

“We’ll sell a lot of buckets of White Claw and Truly seltzers,” said Sam Stone, a co-owner of the Rambler. “It’s going to be a big summer for hard seltzer.”

The Memorial Day weekend kicks off what many hope will be a more normal summer, when kids start counting down the number of days left in school, people head back to the beach and grills heat up for backyard parties that went poof last year because of the pandemic. And for the hard seltzer industry, it’s the start of a dizzying period when dozens of old and new competitors vie to be the boozy, bubbly drink of the season.

ad campaign with the British pop singer Dua Lipa. This spring, the hip-hop star Travis Scott released Cacti, a seltzer made with blue agave syrup, in a partnership with Anheuser-Busch. It quickly sold out in many locations.

“People were lining up outside of the stores to buy Cacti and share pictures of themselves with their carts full of Cacti,” said Marcel Marcondes, the chief marketing officer for Anheuser-Busch.

Also this spring, Topo Chico Hard Seltzer was released. A partnership between Coca-Cola and Molson Coors Beverage, it hit shelves in 16 markets across the country, chasing the cult following of Topo Chico’s seltzer water in the South.

“I feel like I can walk into a party saying, ‘Oh, yeah, I brought the Topo Chico,’” said Dane Cardiel, 32, who works in business development for a podcast company and lives in Esopus, N.Y., about 60 miles south of Albany.

How flavored bubbly water with alcohol became a national phenomenon is partly due to social media videos that went viral and clever marketing that sold hard seltzers as a “healthier” alcohol choice.

White Claw’s slim cans prominently state that the drinks contain only 100 calories, are gluten free and have only two grams each of carbohydrates and sugar. The brand is owned by the Canadian billionaire Anthony von Mandl, who created Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

“The health and wellness element is front and center in terms of the visual marketing,” said Vivien Azer, an analyst at the Cowen investment firm. “Every brand’s packaging features its relatively low carb and sugar data.”

On top of that, the alcohol content in most hard seltzers, about 5 percent, or the same as 12 ounces of a typical beer, is less than a glass of wine or a mixed drink. That makes it easier for people to sip at a party or while watching a game without getting intoxicated or winding up with the belly-full-of-beer feeling.

“It’s a nice drink for an afternoon on the patio,” said Shelley Majeres, the general manager of Blake Street Tavern in downtown Denver. “You can drink four or five of them in an afternoon and not have a big hangover or get really drunk.”

Blake Street, an 18,000-square-foot sports bar, started selling hard seltzers two years ago. Today, they make up about 20 percent of its can and bottle sales.

The industry has also neatly sidestepped the gender issue that plagued earlier, lighter alcoholic alternatives like Zima, which became popular with women but struggled to be adopted by men.

“I’ve got just as many men as women drinking it,” said Nick Zeto, the owner of Boston Beer Garden in Naples, Fla. “And it started with the millennials, but now I have people in their 40s, 50s and 60s ordering it.”

That kind of broad appeal is attractive to beer, wine and spirits companies.

“We view ourselves as the challenger brand,” said Michelle St. Jacques, the chief marketing officer of Molson Coors, which has been making beer since the late 1700s but hopes to end this year with 10 percent of the hard seltzer market.

Last spring, the company released Vizzy, a hard seltzer that contains vitamin C. Top Chico came this spring. “We feel like we’re making great progress in seltzer by not trying to bring me-too products, but rather products and brands that have a clear difference,” Ms. St. Jacques said.

While grocery and liquor stores have made plenty of space available to the hard seltzer brands that people drink at home, the competition to get into restaurants and bars is fierce. Most want to offer only two or three brands to their customers.

“Oh, my god, I get presented with new hard seltzer whenever they can get my attention,” said Mr. Stone, who sells six brands at the Rambler. The crowd favorite, he said, is the vodka-based High Noon Sun Sips peach, made by E.&J. Gallo Winery. “Everybody, from the big brands to small, new ones, are getting into the hard seltzer game.”

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Hong Kong Has a New Type of Prisoner: Pro-Democracy Activists

HONG KONG — A half year after he got out of prison, Daniel Tang has made a habit of going back. He waits in spare, crowded corridors. He greets familiar faces among the fellow visitors and guards. He brings books, postage stamps, writing paper and packets of M&Ms.

Mr. Tang is visiting people like him who were imprisoned for their role in the pro-democracy street protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019. He travels three hours, round-trip, for a 15-minute chat through a thick plate of glass, sometimes with a total stranger. He summons a cheery, chatty demeanor, when he feels anything but.

“You owe them your best face,” he said. “If you’re not feeling right, don’t even bother going.”

Mr. Tang and many of those he meets with represent a new breed of convict in Hong Kong: activists who opposed the Chinese Communist Party’s growing power in the city. This group — often including college students or white-collar professionals — rose up two years ago in a historic campaign of public disobedience that led to clashes with police on the streets and focused the world’s attention on the future of the Asian financial capital.

tough new laws imposed by Beijing, mass arrests and the hazards of the coronavirus. Now, with dim job prospects, a fraught political future and the unending threat of another arrest, those protesters are emblematic of the uncertainties facing the city’s stricken democracy movement.

about 7,000 people. Beijing’s imposition last year of a national security law gives prosecutors greater powers to target even more.

Many of the activists are contemplating a future in exile. Others struggle to stay committed to the cause for which they sit behind bars.

“Being sentenced to jail fractures people,” said Alex Chow, a 30-year-old activist who spent a brief time in jail for his role as a leader of protests in 2014, a precursor to the 2019 demonstrations. He now lives in exile in the United States.

as well as veterans. Those sentenced to prison so far include Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam, young leaders of the 2014 protests. Wong Ji-yuet, 23, and Owen Chow, 24, activists who participated in a primary election that was organized by the pro-democracy camp, are awaiting trial in solitary confinement after they were charged with endangering national security.

For many young people in jail, the sentences have redrawn their lives.

Jackie Yeung, a 23-year-old university student serving a three-year prison sentence, said she had abandoned the “typical ambitions” she used to harbor — getting a good job and an apartment in a family-friendly district.

statement ahead of her sentencing. “And I have no way of comforting them through the glass in the visitation room in prison.”

She dreams of opening up a small business importing Taiwanese pineapples after she and a Taiwanese cellmate are released. With the profits, she would support other young people by helping to pay their legal fees and living expenses. “To do anything, you need money,” she said.

To make things easier on prisoners, Mr. Tang and some other activists have banded together to provide support. They write letters and gazettes to catch people up with protest news and raise funds to pay for better meals in jail while protesters await trials.

Mr. Tang frequently sees Ms. Yeung. During one visit to her prison near the border with the mainland city of Shenzhen, he brought pens and stamps. He left the stamps, but was unable to give her the pens, as it would have exceeded her monthly allowance of two.

For all of his dedication, Mr. Tang, who spent more than a half-year imprisoned after pleading guilty to arson charges, says it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.

“Many Hong Kongers have moved on and moved away and don’t think about how there is a group of people sitting behind bars for the movement we all fought for,” said Mr. Tang, who is in his late 30s. “It seems many have forgotten.”

Far from radicalizing during his time on the inside, Mr. Tang now struggles with cynicism and meaning in a city that suddenly seems unfamiliar. He has been disheartened by the protest movement’s stagnation and by the waves of migration out of the city. The camaraderie of protest has been replaced by dread of ever more targeted arrests. He sees it all as an abandonment of values and believes that escape is a privilege unavailable to many.

Mr. Tang’s protester friends from prison also seem to be moving on. A group chat they kept, called the “Lai Chi Kok Prisoners,” after the facility where they were detained, still lights up occasionally with holiday greetings and vague laments. But few want to talk politics. Sometimes those in prison that do speak out seem to be exaggerating their place in the movement. He rolls his eyes at one prisoner, who has taken to calling himself Mandela 2.0.

“All that we have left is our relationships with one another,” he said. “Some seem ready to let that go.”

Yet, for Mr. Tang, there is no road back — not that he’d take it. His former employer was understanding, but let him go when his absence stretched on. He has been unable to access his life savings, he said, after his bank account was frozen over automated donations he made in 2019 to a protester bail fund that police placed under investigation.

He has applied to managerial jobs like those he had worked in the past, only to be turned away because of his criminal record. Now, he’s mulling applying for a taxi license or working in construction.

He still faces four charges related to the protests that were filed just days before his release from prison. The thought of officers at his door has kept him away from the apartment he shares with his mother. He tells her he now works a night shift, and she doesn’t press him.

“I’m really tired,” Mr. Tang said. “The government has left us no room to resist and nowhere to go.”

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Cable-Car Tragedy Shakes a Town Already Wounded by the Pandemic

STRESA, Italy — The sun shone brightly Sunday on Lago Maggiore, a spectacular alpine lake that traverses the Italian-Swiss border. Fabrizio Bertoletti, the owner of a small hotel with a restaurant perched atop Mottarone mountain, was feeling upbeat.

After months of off-and-on coronavirus restrictions, restaurants and hotels here were finally starting to open. Indoor dining is still banned but, he said, “it was a beautiful day and people weren’t going to complain even if they had to eat outside.”

On a terrace with breathtaking views of the lake and the mountains that cradle it, Mr. Bertoletti’s restaurant can seat about 70, and it was completely booked. The hotel and restaurant, aptly named “Eden,” sit just a few feet from the upper station of a cable car that links the summit to the lakeside town of Stresa, a popular vacation destination almost 5,000 feet below.

“We were feeling relieved, there was a sense of re-beginning. And then … ” Mr. Bertoletti’s voice trailed off.

a cable car carrying 15 passengers plunged to the ground. All but one died. The sole survivor, 5-year-old Eitan Biran, lost both of his parents, his 2-year-old brother and two great-grandparents.

“All the seasons of life were in that cabin,” said the Reverend Gian Luca Villa, Stresa’s parish priest.

It is an incomprehensible loss for the victims’ families, but people here cannot help noting that it is also another in a series of blows, stretching back more than a year, for a tourism-dependent area that has suffered greatly from the pandemic.

Borromeo family, and an annual music festival in the fall.

The lake, more than 30 miles long, lies on the boundary between the regions of Piedmont and Lombardy, making it a favorite getaway for people from Milan and Turin, and it also draws many foreigners. The tourist season normally begins at Easter and lasts well into autumn, luring visitors with mild temperatures and colors of leaf-turning brilliance.

But last year, in March and April, Lombardy became the first part of Europe to be hit in full force by the new virus, which killed tens of thousands of people here.

The pandemic put a halt to most vacation plans, and several hotels around the lake never opened their doors. Proximity to Switzerland, which had less stringent coronavirus rules, penalized towns on the Italian side, said Gian Maria Vincenzi, the president of the local hoteliers’ association.

The cable car accident “is a tragedy within the tragedy of Covid, which nearly wiped out work,” he said.

Antonio Zacchera, whose family owns four hotels on Lago Maggiore, said that last year, two remained shuttered.

“About a quarter of our clients are Americans, and the fact that we were dependent on foreigners used to be an advantage,” he said. But with pandemic-induced travel restrictions, “it was a disadvantage this round.”

Like other hoteliers in the area, Mr. Zacchera made rooms available to the families of the cable-car victims. “Our first thoughts are with them,” he said.

The cable car was popular with tourists, but also with locals, who would ride to the top to get to the ski schools in winter, or just for the view. “You never thought anything bad could happen, until it does, and it’s a disaster,” said Alberto De Martini, the owner of the Enoteca Da Giannino in Stresa’s central square, as he sanitized his restaurant’s tables and chairs.

On Monday, the city commemorated the dead, ringing bells and shuttering stores for 14 minutes, one for each victim. Massimo Colla, the owner of the wine bar and bistro Al Buscion, said he kept it closed for the entire day. “When tragedy happens close to home, you feel it intensely,” he said. “It’s going to take time for the city to get over this.”

Father Villa, the priest, said that he had gathered the faithful in prayer soon after the crash and held other services on Monday. With the city, he has planned a commemorative mass on Wednesday, for the emergency workers and others who combed the mountainside searching, mostly in vain, for survivors among the dead. He said that 14 candles would be lit during the service and the victims would be named and remembered, one by one.

Marcella Severino, Stresa’s mayor of just eight months, said she was looking for a permanent way to commemorate the victims. “May 23 will be our September 11,” she said in an emotional interview in her office.

“Though citizens were in shock,” she said that locals had stepped up as best they could. Civil protection volunteers immediately arrived on the scene, along with the emergency workers. Hotel owners took in victims’ families, taxi drivers transported people without charge and local health authorities had provided psychologists.

“People come to Stresa because they feel safe,” Ms. Severino said — the town is small and tight-knit, with little crime. “Obviously, for the families of the victims, Stresa will become a nefarious name,” she said. “But I hope that they will remember how the city tried to be close to them.”

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Italian Cable Car Tragedy Shakes a Town Already Wounded by the Pandemic

STRESA, Italy — The sun shone brightly Sunday on Lago Maggiore, a spectacular alpine lake that traverses the Italian-Swiss border. Fabrizio Bertoletti, the owner of a small hotel with a restaurant perched atop Mottarone mountain, was feeling upbeat.

After months of off-and-on coronavirus restrictions, restaurants and hotels here were finally starting to open. Indoor dining is still banned but, he said, “it was a beautiful day and people weren’t going to complain even if they had to eat outside.”

On a terrace with breathtaking views of the lake and the mountains that cradle it, Mr. Bertoletti’s restaurant can seat about 70, and it was completely booked. The hotel and restaurant, aptly named “Eden,” sit just a few feet from the upper station of a cable car that links the summit to the lakeside town of Stresa, a popular vacation destination almost 5,000 feet below.

“We were feeling relieved, there was a sense of re-beginning. And then … ” Mr. Bertoletti’s voice trailed off.

a cable car carrying 15 passengers plunged to the ground. All but one died. The sole survivor, 5-year-old Eitan Biran, lost both of his parents, his 2-year-old brother and two great-grandparents.

“All the seasons of life were in that cabin,” said the Reverend Gian Luca Villa, Stresa’s parish priest.

It is an incomprehensible loss for the victims’ families, but people here cannot help noting that it is also another in a series of blows, stretching back more than a year, for a tourism-dependent area that has suffered greatly from the pandemic.

Borromeo family, and an annual music festival in the fall.

The lake, more than 30 miles long, lies on the boundary between the regions of Piedmont and Lombardy, making it a favorite getaway for people from Milan and Turin, and it also draws many foreigners. The tourist season normally begins at Easter and lasts well into autumn, luring visitors with mild temperatures and colors of leaf-turning brilliance.

But last year, in March and April, Lombardy became the first part of Europe to be hit in full force by the new virus, which killed tens of thousands of people here.

The pandemic put a halt to most vacation plans, and several hotels around the lake never opened their doors. Proximity to Switzerland, which had less stringent coronavirus rules, penalized towns on the Italian side, said Gian Maria Vincenzi, the president of the local hoteliers’ association.

The cable car accident “is a tragedy within the tragedy of Covid, which nearly wiped out work,” he said.

Antonio Zacchera, whose family owns four hotels on Lago Maggiore, said that last year, two remained shuttered.

“About a quarter of our clients are Americans, and the fact that we were dependent on foreigners used to be an advantage,” he said. But with pandemic-induced travel restrictions, “it was a disadvantage this round.”

Like other hoteliers in the area, Mr. Zacchera made rooms available to the families of the cable-car victims. “Our first thoughts are with them,” he said.

The cable car was popular with tourists, but also with locals, who would ride to the top to get to the ski schools in winter, or just for the view. “You never thought anything bad could happen, until it does, and it’s a disaster,” said Alberto De Martini, the owner of the Enoteca Da Giannino in Stresa’s central square, as he sanitized his restaurant’s tables and chairs.

On Monday, the city commemorated the dead, ringing bells and shuttering stores for 14 minutes, one for each victim. Massimo Colla, the owner of the wine bar and bistro Al Buscion, said he kept it closed for the entire day. “When tragedy happens close to home, you feel it intensely,” he said. “It’s going to take time for the city to get over this.”

Father Villa, the priest, said that he had gathered the faithful in prayer soon after the crash and held other services on Monday. With the city, he has planned a commemorative mass on Wednesday, for the emergency workers and others who combed the mountainside searching, mostly in vain, for survivors among the dead. He said that 14 candles would be lit during the service and the victims would be named and remembered, one by one.

Marcella Severino, Stresa’s mayor of just eight months, said she was looking for a permanent way to commemorate the victims. “May 23 will be our September 11,” she said in an emotional interview in her office.

“Though citizens were in shock,” she said that locals had stepped up as best they could. Civil protection volunteers immediately arrived on the scene, along with the emergency workers. Hotel owners took in victims’ families, taxi drivers transported people without charge and local health authorities had provided psychologists.

“People come to Stresa because they feel safe,” Ms. Severino said — the town is small and tight-knit, with little crime. “Obviously, for the families of the victims, Stresa will become a nefarious name,” she said. “But I hope that they will remember how the city tried to be close to them.”

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Eurovision-Winning Damiano David Did Not Use Drugs, Broadcaster Says

“Online, people are suggesting that you were taking cocaine,” the reporter said. “What was it?”

Mr. David denied the speculation, saying that he bent down because another band member had broken a glass.

“I don’t use drugs, please, guys,” he said. “No, please don’t say that. Don’t say that, really. No cocaine. Please, don’t say that.”

A moderator of the news conference quickly tried to cut off the line of questioning.

“Let’s keep the questions about the artists and the music for tonight,” she said.

The European Broadcasting Union said in a statement on Sunday that a broken glass had been found after a check of the site.

Barbara Pravi, the French singer, finished second at Eurovision.

Before the show’s broadcasters announced that Mr. David had passed a drug test, Clément Beaune, the French minister of state for European affairs, suggested during an interview with the television network BFMTV on Monday that there should be sanctions against Maneskin, including the band’s possible disqualification, if Mr. David tested positive for drugs.

In an Instagram post on Monday, Ms. Pravi said that Maneskin’s win was well deserved and that the band had been chosen by the viewers. She said it was their victory and their moment.

As the band’s members hoisted the glass microphone trophy that is given to the winners of Eurovision, Mr. David declared that rock ’n’ roll was here to stay.

“We just want to say to the whole Europe, to the whole world,” he said, “rock ’n’ roll never dies.”

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Readers Respond to Australia’s Never-Ending Travel Ban

The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Sign up to get it by email.

Over the past four years, ever since we opened the Australia bureau, I’ve often been impressed with the thoughtfulness and global savvy of our regular readers. This newsletter has always drawn together a far-flung community of Australians and those who love them.

But after Besha Rodell wrote in last week’s letter about Australia’s decision to keep its international borders closed until the middle of 2022, the floodgates opened in a way I’ve rarely seen. Her heartfelt account was well read the world over, and when we asked for your take on the travel ban, we received hundreds of replies from all over the world.

Though the opinions varied, and there was some support for restricting travel, most of what we received expressed a mix of disappointment, frustration and confusion.

Yan Zhuang wrote about these feelings in a news article this week, but even that may not be enough to capture the volume of emotion. So we decided to share a few more responses below (they’ve been edited for brevity and clarity).

Thank you to everyone who contributed — and we hope you get to see your loved ones soon.

I’m like thousands of expats from all over the world; we are grief-stricken, confused, and completely exasperated by the government’s lack of communication, unwillingness to commit to metrics or a timetable, and lack of empathy. There seems to be almost no capacity for nuance, no willingness to consider the many points on the spectrum between hard closure and flinging the gates wide open, and a seeming inability to distinguish between travel for pleasure or holidaying and family reunification, vaccinated versus unvaccinated travel, and any way forward for Australia other than ‘zero cases at any cost.’

— Monica Elith

We are U.S. citizens who would typically travel once or twice a year to Perth to visit our daughter, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia. We are both in our 70s, fully vaccinated, and cannot understand why parents do not fall within the Australian definition of “immediate family” for exceptions from the travel limitations. Our son and his fiancé are planning their wedding, postponed from 2020, for April 2022. Will our daughter not be able to travel to the US to be in her only sibling’s wedding? Can a reasonable risk-based approach be considered by the Australian government for resuming international travel sooner?

— Paul Hamer

We moved to San Francisco and then to New York from Geelong/Melbourne seven years ago to pursue careers in tech and the arts. Our oldest is almost 4 and our youngest is almost 1. We have no family here. Our entire family live in Geelong/Melbourne and Canberra.

I cried reading your article, but as with so many things this past year I steeled myself against another setback. We had thought my parents might visit in October, then we might fly back together and quarantine with their help with the kiddos, maybe see my sister, her family and my darling nephew.

Now, that seems so naïve! The idea that my son will be 2 before he meets his grandparents and aunt is one of those thoughts I can’t dwell on.

— Olivia Jones

I moved here last year from the U.S. with my Australian husband (and dual citizen children), and while of course we’re extremely grateful for the normalcy here, it seems ludicrous to imagine we can freeze the country under glass for years. We feel a bit, well, trapped in paradise. I hope the government soon puts a higher priority on figuring out how to safely open its borders instead of acting like we can wall ourselves off from the world indefinitely.

— Arwen Griffith

My only son chooses to live in New York. I am quadriplegic and miss his company but we can FaceTime as often as we like or even, perish the thought, engage in meaningful correspondence — where is the hardship compared to the greater good?

— Ron Irish

My two grandsons live in Sydney, they are almost 5 and 2. Oh the hugs we have missed. I know that many people missed hugs during the pandemic but once they were vaccinated they got their hugs. Will Australia open up in 2022 like they say or will the pandemic continue for years to come? Will I be around to hug my grandchildren again? I had tucked my feelings somewhere deep inside me knowing that it is what it is and I can’t do anything about it but I saw myself in Besha Rodell’s article and it brought me to tears.

— Elizabeth Gundlach

This travel ban has ruined my life! I haven’t seen my fiancé in 16 months. For the past year I have lived every day depressed, angry, hopeless, irritated, lonely and confused. I feel completely abandoned by my country, the people who are completely OK with the travel ban and just see the tens of thousands of Australians suffering as a necessary sacrifice.

The level at which the Australian government has taken people like me, and our concerns, seriously is near nil. Most of us have just become accustomed to the fact that our lives will not change in the foreseeable future, that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of days just like this one waiting for us. We carry on like ghosts, our lives on hold, waiting to be with our loved ones, our children, our parents — many with few years left; we wait to be normal again.

— Luke Penman and Alba Olaya

Now here are our stories of the week.


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McDonald’s Board Faces Challenge Over C.E.O. Firing

Despite posting robust revenue and earnings during the pandemic of the past year, executives at McDonald’s are likely to face tough questions at Thursday’s annual shareholder meeting from critics who believed they mishandled the dismissal of the former chief executive Steve Easterbrook.

On Wednesday, the institutional investor Neuberger Berman became the latest investor to say it would not vote for the re-election of Richard Lenny, a former chief executive of the Hershey Company who has been on the McDonald’s board for 16 years and was chair of the compensation committee that awarded Mr. Easterbrook more than $44 million after he was terminated in 2019 for having a consensual sexual relationship with an employee.

The board, which allowed the severance to be awarded even after determining Mr. Easterbrook had violated company policy and displayed poor judgment, later discovered he had engaged in several affairs with employees during his tenure. McDonald’s has sued Mr. Easterbrook to try to claw back the money.

The Easterbrook scandal is likely to be just one of the issues about the company’s culture brought up during the virtual meeting.

minimum wage to $15 an hour. The company is also facing myriad lawsuits involving claims of racial and sexual discrimination and harassment at some of its restaurants.

McDonald’s leadership is likely to play up its strong performance during the pandemic, taking a victory lap for producing a $4.7 billion profit during a rough-and-tumble year for the restaurant industry.

McDonald’s chief executive, Chris Kempczinski, who was hired in 2015 from Kraft Foods as a strategy chief and reported directly to Mr. Easterbrook, has made several moves in recent months to address the numerous controversies.

In February, the company set new diversity goals and tied those goals to executive compensation. In April, it mandated anti-harassment training at its restaurants. And last week, it said it would raise wages at 650 company-owned restaurants, a move that does not affect the 14,000 restaurants that are independently owned.

Still, questions continue to swirl around Mr. Easterbrook’s departure in November of 2019.

In April, Scott Stringer, New York City’s comptroller who oversees its pension funds, and CtW Investment Group, which oversees union pensions, wrote a letter to McDonald’s shareholders saying they would vote against Mr. Lenny as well as Enrique Hernandez Jr., the chief executive of Inter-Con Security Systems and McDonald’s chairman. They cited their roles in the “flawed and mismanaged investigation” into Mr. Easterbrook and the determination to terminate him “without cause,” resulting in an “unnecessary and costly” lawsuit filed in an attempt to recoup the money from Mr. Easterbrook.

In an emailed statement, McDonald’s said that its board believes there should be a balance of institutional knowledge and fresh perspectives among its directors, and that it is fully investigating all allegations of misconduct by Mr. Easterbrook and “has taken swift and unprecedented actions to address them.”

Whether the movement to oust Mr. Hernandez or Mr. Lenny from their seats has enough support remains unclear.

Two of the largest proxy advisory firms split their decision about the McDonald’s directors, with Glass Lewis recommending that shareholders vote against the two directors. Institutional Shareholder Services said both directors should keep their positions, giving the board credit for taking legal action to recoup the severance pay from Mr. Easterbrook.

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