BJ’s Wholesale Club, died unexpectedly on Thursday of “presumed natural causes,” according to a statement released Friday by the company. He was 49.
“We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the passing of Lee Delaney,” said Christopher J. Baldwin, the company’s executive chairman, said in a statement. “Lee was a brilliant and humble leader who cared deeply for his colleagues, his family and his community.”
Mr. Delaney joined BJ’s in 2016 as executive vice president and chief growth officer. He was promoted to president in 2019 and became chief executive last year. Before joining BJ’s, he was a partner in the Boston office of Bain & Company from 1996 to 2016. Mr. Delaney earned a master’s in business administration from Carnegie Mellon University, and attended the University of Massachusetts, where he pursued a double major in computer science and mathematics.
Mr. Delaney led the company through the unexpected changes in consumer demand spurred by the pandemic, with many customers stockpiling wholesale goods as they hunkered down at home. “2020 was a remarkable, transformative and challenging year that structurally changed our business for the better,” Mr. Delaney said in the company’s last quarterly earnings report.
The BJ’s board appointed Bob Eddy, the chief administrative and financial officer, to serve as the company’s interim chief executive. Mr. Eddy joined the company in 2007 and became the chief financial officer in 2011, adding the job of chief administrative officer in 2018.
“Bob partnered closely with Lee and has played an integral role in transforming and growing BJ’s Wholesale Club,” Mr. Baldwin said. He said that the company would announce decisions about its permanent executive leadership in a “reasonably short timeframe.”
BJ’s, based in Westborough, Mass., operates 221 clubs and 151 BJ’s Gas locations in 17 states.
Before the pandemic, companies used to lure top talent with lavish perks like subsidized massages, Pilates classes and free gourmet meals. Now, the hottest enticement is permission to work not just from home, but from anywhere — even, say, from the French Alps or a Caribbean island.
Revolut, a banking start-up based in London, said Thursday that it would allow its more than 2,000 employees to work abroad for up to two months a year in response to requests to visit overseas family for longer periods.
“Our employees asked for flexibility, and that’s what we’re giving them as part of our ongoing focus on employee experience and choice,” said Jim MacDougall, Revolut’s vice president of human resources.
Georgia Pacquette-Bramble, a communications manager for Revolut, said she was planning to trade the winter in London for Spain or somewhere in the Caribbean. Other colleagues have talked about spending time with family abroad.
Revolut has been valued at $5.5 billion, making it one of Europe’s most valuable financial technology firms. It joins a number of companies that will allow more flexible working arrangements to continue after the pandemic ends. JPMorgan Chase, Salesforce, Ford Motor and Target have said they are giving up office space as they expect workers to spend less time in the office, and Spotify has told employees they can work from anywhere.
Not all companies, however, are shifting away from the office. Tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, have added office space in New York over the last year. Amazon told employees it would “return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.”
Dr. Dan Wang, an associate professor at Columbia Business School, said he did not expect office-centric companies to lose top talent to companies that allow flexible working, in part because many employees prefer to work from the office.
Furthermore, when employees are not in the same space, there are fewer spontaneous interactions, and spontaneity is critical for developing ideas and collaborating, Dr. Wang said.
“There is a cost,” he said. “Yes, we can interact via email, via Slack, via Zoom — we’ve all gotten used to that. But part of it is that we’ve lowered our expectations for what social interaction actually entails.”
Revolut said it studied tax laws and regulations before introducing its policy, and that each request to work from abroad was subject to an internal review and approval process. But for some companies looking to put a similar policy in place, a hefty tax bill, or at least a complicated tax return, could be a drawback.
After weeks of wading into the debate over how to regulate SPACS, the popular blank-check deals that provide companies a back door to public markets, the Securities and Exchange Commission is sending its first shot across the bow.
John Coates, the acting director of the corporate finance division at the S.E.C., issued a lengthy statement on Thursday about how securities laws apply to blank-check firms, the DealBook newsletter reports.
“With the unprecedented surge has come unprecedented scrutiny,” Mr. Coates wrote of the recent boom in blank-check deals.
In particular, he is interested in a crucial (and controversial) difference between SPACs and traditional initial public offerings: blank-check firms are allowed to publish often-rosy financial forecasts when merging with an acquisition target, while companies going public in an I.P.O. are not. Regulators consider such forecasts too risky for firms as yet untested by the public markets.
Investors raise money for SPACs via an I.P.O. of a shell company, and those funds are used within two years to merge with an unspecified company, which then also becomes a publicly traded company. Because the deal is technically a merger, it’s given the same “safe harbor” legal protections for its financial forecasts as a typical M.& A. deal. And that’s why there are flying-taxi companies with little revenue going public via a SPAC while promising billions in sales far in the future.
The S.E.C. thinks allowing financial forecasts for these deals might be a problem. They can be “untested, speculative, misleading or even fraudulent,” Mr. Coates wrote. And he concludes his statement by suggesting a major rethink of how the “full panoply” of securities laws applies to SPACs, which could upend the blank-check business model.
If the S.E.C. does not treat SPAC deals as the I.P.Os they effectively are, he writes, “potentially problematic forward-looking information may be disseminated without appropriate safeguards.”
The letter serves as a warning, but perhaps not much else — yet. Unless the S.E.C. issues new rules (as it did for penny stocks) or Congress passes legislation, SPAC projections will continue. But this strongly worded statement could moderate or even mute them.
“The S.E.C. has now put them on notice,” Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant of the agency, said.
Amazon Warehouse Unionization Votes
Either side needed 1,521 votes to win.
A total of 505 ballots were challenged; 76 were void.·Source: National Labor Relations Board
Amazon beat back the unionization drive at its warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., the counting of ballots in the closely watched effort showed on Friday.
A total of 738 workers voted “Yes” to unionize and 1,798 voted “No.” There were 76 ballots marked as void and 505 votes were challenged, according to the National Labor Relations Board. The union leading the drive to organize, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said most of the challenges were from Amazon.
About 50 percent of the 5,805 eligible voters at the warehouse cast ballots in the election. Either side needed to receive more than 50 percent of all cast ballots to prevail.
The ballots were counted in random order in the National Labor Relations Board’s office in Birmingham, Ala., and the process was broadcast via Zoom to more than 200 journalists, lawyers and other observers.
The voting was conducted by mail from early February until the end of last month. A handful of workers from the labor board called out the results of each vote — “Yes” for a union or “No” — for nearly four hours on Thursday.
Sophia June and Miles McKinley contributed to this report.
Online stores offering counterfeit or stolen vaccine cards have mushroomed in recent weeks, according to Saoud Khalifah, the founder of FakeSpot, which offers tools to detect fake listings and reviews online.
The efforts are far from hidden, with Facebook pages named “vax-cards” and eBay listings with “blank vaccine cards” openly hawking the items, Sheera Frenkel reports for The New York Times.
Last week, 45 state attorneys general banded together to call on Twitter, Shopify and eBay to stop the sale of false and stolen vaccine cards.
Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Shopify and Etsy said that the sale of fake vaccine cards violated their rules and that they were removing posts that advertised the items.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced the vaccination cards in December, describing them as the “simplest” way to keep track of Covid-19 shots. By January, sales of false vaccine cards started picking up, Mr. Khalifah said. Many people found the cards were easy to forge from samples available online. Authentic cards were also stolen by pharmacists from their workplaces and put up for sale, he said.
Many people who bought the cards were opposed to the Covid-19 vaccines, Mr. Khalifah said. In some anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, people have publicly boasted about getting the cards.
Other buyers want to use the cards to trick pharmacists into giving them a vaccine, Mr. Khalifah said. Because some of the vaccines are two-shot regimens, people can enter a false date for a first inoculation on the card, which makes it appear as if they need a second dose soon. Some pharmacies and state vaccination sites have prioritized people due for their second shots.
In only a year, the market value of office towers in Manhattan has plummeted 25 percent, according to city projections released on Wednesday.
Across the country, the vacancy rate for office buildings in city centers has steadily climbed over the past year to reach 16.4 percent, according to Cushman & Wakefield, the highest in about a decade. That number could climb further if companies keep giving up office space because of hybrid or fully remote work, Peter Eavis and Matthew Haag report for The New York Times.
So far, landlords like Boston Properties and SL Green have not suffered huge financial losses, having survived the past year by collecting rent from tenants locked into long leases — the average contract for office space runs about seven years.
But as leases come up for renewal, property owners could be left with scores of empty floors. At the same time, many new office buildings are under construction — 124 million square feet nationwide, or enough for roughly 700,000 workers. Those changes could drive down rents, which were touching new highs before the pandemic. And rents help determine assessments that are the basis for property tax bills.
Many big employers have already given notice to the owners of some prestigious buildings that they are leaving when their leases end. JPMorgan Chase, Ford Motor, Salesforce, Target and more are giving up expensive office space and others are considering doing so.
The stock prices of the big landlords, which are often structured as real estate investment trusts that pass almost all of their profit to investors, trade well below their previous highs. Shares of Boston Properties, one of the largest office landlords, are down 29 percent from the prepandemic high. SL Green, a major New York landlord, is 26 percent lower.
President Biden proposed a vast expansion of federal spending on Friday, calling for a 16 percent increase in domestic programs as he tries to harness the government’s power to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment in the nation’s most pressing issues.
The proposed $1.52 trillion in spending on discretionary programs would significantly bolster education, health research and fighting climate change. It comes on top of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and a separate plan to spend $2.3 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure.
Mr. Biden’s first spending request to Congress showcases his belief that expanding, not shrinking, the federal government is crucial to economic growth and prosperity. It would direct billions of dollars toward reducing inequities in housing and education, as well as making sure every government agency puts climate change at the front of its agenda.
It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, which will all be included in a formal budget request the White House will release this spring.
Among its major new spending initiatives, the plan would dedicate an additional $20 billion to help schools that serve low-income children and provide more money to students who have experienced racial or economic barriers to higher education. It would create a multi-billion-dollar program for researching diseases like cancer and add $14 billion to fight and adapt to the damages of climate change.
It would also seek to lift the economies of Central American countries, where rampant poverty, corruption and devastating hurricanes have fueled migration toward the southwestern border and a variety of initiatives to address homelessness and housing affordability, including on tribal lands. And it asks for an increase of about 2 percent in spending on national defense.
The request represents a sharp break with the policies of President Donald J. Trump, whose budget proposals prioritized military spending and border security, while seeking to cut funding in areas like environmental protection.
All told, the proposal calls for a $118 billion increase in discretionary spending in the 2022 fiscal year, when compared with the base spending allocations this year. It seeks to capitalize on the expiration of a decade of caps on spending growth, which lawmakers agreed to in 2010 but frequently breached in subsequent years.
Administration officials would not specify on Friday whether that increase would result in higher federal deficits in their coming budget proposal, but promised its full budget would “address the overlapping challenges we face in a fiscally and economically responsible way.”
As part of that effort, the request seeks $1 billion in new funding for the Internal Revenue Service to enforce tax laws, including “increased oversight of high-income and corporate tax returns.” That is clearly aimed at raising tax receipts by cracking down on tax avoidance by companies and the wealthy.
Officials said the proposals did not reflect the spending called for in Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan, which he introduced last week, or for a second plan he has yet to roll out, which will focus on what officials call “human infrastructure” like education and child care.
Congress, which is responsible for approving government spending, is under no requirement to adhere to White House requests. In recent years, lawmakers rejected many of the Trump administration’s efforts to gut domestic programs.
But Mr. Biden’s plan, while incomplete as a budget, could provide a blueprint for Democrats who narrowly control the House and Senate and are anxious to reassert their spending priorities after four years of a Republican White House.
Stocks on Wall Street climbed further into record territory on Friday: The S&P 500 index rose 0.8 percent, bringing its gain for the week to 2.7 percent.
Shares of Amazon rose 2.2 percent after the company prevailed against a unionization drive at a warehouse in Alabama.
The relatively steady gains in the stock market have sent the VIX index, a measure of volatility, to its lowest level since February 2020. The index was below 17 points on Friday. In mid-March, as the pandemic shut down parts of the global economy, the VIX had spiked above 80.
The yield on 10-year Treasury notes jumped 4 basis points, or 0.04 percentage point, to 1.66 percent. The yield on 10-year government bonds rose across Europe, too.
On Thursday, Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, reiterated his intention to keep supporting the economic recovery The rollout of vaccinations meant the United States economy could probably reopen soon, but the recovery was still “uneven and incomplete,” Mr. Powell said at the International Monetary Fund annual conference.
European stock indexes were mixed on Friday, though the Stoxx Europe 600 notched its sixth straight week of gains. The DAX index in Germany rose 0.2 percent after data showed an unexpected drop in industrial production. The FTSE 100 in London fell 0.4 percent.
Oil prices fell slightly with futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, 0.4 percent lower to $59.38 a barrel.
Just months after returning to the skies, Boeing’s troubled 737 Max jet is facing another setback. Boeing said Friday that it had notified 16 airlines and other customers of a potential electrical problem with the Max and recommended that they temporarily stop flying some planes. The company refused to say how many planes were affected, but four U.S. airlines said they would stop using nearly 70 Max jets. Boeing would not say how long the planes would be sidelined. The statement comes just months after companies resumed flying the jet, which had been grounded for nearly two years because of a pair of accidents that killed nearly 350 people.
Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, has reached a deal to raise $12.4 billion from the sale of a 49 percent stake in a pipeline-rights company.
The money will come from a consortium led by EIG Global Energy Partners, a Washington-based investor in pipelines and other energy infrastructure.
Under the arrangement announced on Friday, the investor group will buy 49 percent of a new company called Aramco Oil Pipelines, which will have the rights to 25 years of payments from Aramco for transporting oil through Saudi Arabia’s pipeline networks.
Aramco is under pressure from its main owner, the Saudi government, to generate cash to finance state operations as well as investments like new cities to diversify the economy away from oil.
The company has pledged to pay $75 billion in annual dividends, nearly all to the government, as well as other taxes.
Last year, the dividends came to well in excess of the company’s net income of $49 billion. Recently, Aramco was tapped by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s main policymaker, to lead a new domestic investment drive to build up the Saudi economy.
The pipeline sale “reinforces Aramco’s role as a catalyst for attracting significant foreign investment into the Kingdom,” Aramco said in a statement.
From Saudi Arabia’s perspective, the deal has the virtue of raising money up front without giving up control. Aramco will own a 51 percent majority share in the pipeline company and “retain full ownership and operational control” of the pipes the company said.
Aramco said Saudi Arabia would retain control over how much oil the company produces.
Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich neighbor, has struck similar oil and gas deals with outside investors.
WASHINGTON — President Biden outlined a vast expansion of federal spending on Friday, calling for a 16 percent increase in domestic programs as he tries to harness the government’s power to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment in the nation’s most pressing issues.
The proposed $1.52 trillion in spending on discretionary programs would significantly bolster education, health research and fighting climate change. It comes on top of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and a separate plan to spend $2.3 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure.
Mr. Biden’s first spending proposal to Congress showcases his belief that expanding, not shrinking, the federal government is crucial to economic growth and prosperity. It would direct billions of dollars toward reducing inequities in housing and education, as well as making sure every government agency puts climate change at the front of its agenda.
It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, which will all be included in a formal budget document the White House will release this spring. And it does not reflect the spending called for in Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan or other efforts he has yet to roll out, which are aimed at workers and families.
Trump administration’s efforts to gut domestic programs.
But Mr. Biden’s plan, while incomplete as a budget, could provide a blueprint for Democrats who narrowly control the House and Senate and are anxious to reassert their spending priorities after four years of a Republican White House.
Democratic leaders in Congress hailed the plan on Friday and suggested they would incorporate it into government spending bills for the 2022 fiscal year. The plan “proposes long overdue and historic investments in jobs, worker training, schools, food security, infrastructure and housing,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Shalanda D. Young, who is serving as Mr. Biden’s acting budget director, told congressional leaders that the discretionary spending process would be an “important opportunity to continue laying a stronger foundation for the future and reversing a legacy of chronic disinvestment in crucial priorities.”
The administration is focusing on education spending in particular, seeing that as a way to help children escape poverty. Mr. Biden asked Congress to bolster funding to high-poverty schools by $20 billion, which it describes as the largest year-over-year increase to the Title I program since its inception under President Lyndon B. Johnson. The program provides funding for schools that have high numbers of students from low-income families, most often by providing remedial programs and support staff.
The plan also seeks billions of dollars in increases to early-childhood education, to programs serving students with disabilities and to efforts to staff schools with nurses, counselors and mental health professionals — described as an attempt to help children recover from the pandemic, but also a longstanding priority for teachers’ unions.
Mr. Biden heralded the education funding in remarks to reporters at the White House. “The data shows that it puts a child from a household that is a lower-income household in a position if they start school — not day care — but school at 3 and 4 years old, there’s overwhelming evidence that they will compete all the way through high school and beyond,” he said.
There is no talk in the plans of tying federal dollars to accountability measures for teachers and schools, as they often were under President Barack Obama.
his vision of having every cabinet chief, whether they are military leaders, diplomats, fiscal regulators or federal housing planners, charged with incorporating climate change into their missions.
The proposal aims to embed climate programs into agencies that are not usually seen as at the forefront of tackling global warming, like the Agriculture and Labor Departments. That money would be in addition to clean energy spending in Mr. Biden’s proposed infrastructure legislation, which would pour about $500 billion on programs such as increasing electric vehicle production and building climate-resilient roads and bridges.
Strategic National Stockpile, the country’s emergency medical reserve, for supplies and efforts to restructure it that began last year. Nearly $7 billion would create an agency meant to research diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Reporting was contributed by Coral Davenport, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Lisa Friedman, Brad Plumer, Christopher Flavelle, Mark Walker, Dana Goldstein, Mark Walker, Noah Weiland, Margot Sanger-Katz, Lara Jakes, Noam Scheiber, Katie Benner and Emily Cochrane.
A Green Pass allows us, the vaccinated, to go to concerts, restaurants and sporting events. But Israel’s real-time experiment in post-lockdown living leaves many questions unanswered.
TEL AVIV — As the lights dimmed and the music started up, an audible wave of excitement rippled through the crowd. Somebody a few rows above me ululated with joy, as if at a Middle Eastern wedding.
I had come to Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield soccer stadium for a concert by Dikla, an Israeli singer of Iraqi and Egyptian origins, which was hailed by the city as a celebration of the “comeback of culture.” It was the first live performance I had attended in over a year. There were only 500 vaccinated Israelis in a stadium that ordinarily holds nearly 30,000 people but it felt strange and exhilarating to be in a crowd of any size after a year of intermittent lockdowns.
The audience was confined to their socially distanced seats, dancing in place and singing along through their masks. But the atmosphere was exuberant and it confirmed my status as a member of a new privileged class: the fully vaccinated.
We, a group that includes more than half of Israel’s nine million people, are getting a taste of a post-pandemic future.
new cases of Covid-19 have dropped dramatically, from a peak of 10,000 a day in January to a few hundred by late March. The economy has almost fully reopened. Just as Israel became a real-world laboratory for the efficacy of the vaccine, it is now becoming a test case for a post-lockdown, post-vaccinated society.
The Green Pass is your entry ticket.
Green Pass holders may dine indoors in restaurants, stay in hotels and attend indoor and outdoor cultural, sports and religious gatherings in the thousands. We can go to gyms, swimming pools and the theater. We can get married in wedding halls.
celebrated the spring holidays of Passover and Easter in the company of family and friends.
Local newspapers and television stations are advertising summer getaways for the fully vaccinated in countries prepared to take them, including Greece, Georgia and the Seychelles.
And when you book a table at a restaurant, they ask, Do you have a Green Pass? Are you vaccinated?
The system is imperfect, and, beyond the Green Pass, in many ways “system” may be an overstatement. Enforcement has been patchy. There are troubling questions about those who are not vaccinated and noisy debates playing out in real time — some landing in court — about the rules and responsibilities of the return to near normalcy.
Moreover, there’s no guarantee that this really is the start of a post-pandemic future. Any number of factors — delays in vaccine production, the emergence of a new vaccine-resistant variant and the huge numbers of Israelis who remain unvaccinated — could rip the rug out from under it.
post that getting vaccinated was for the common good, balancing public health against personal liberty, part of the social contract and a civic duty just like stopping at a red light.
“We have an issue here,” she said in an interview. “The world is paralyzed, people have lost their livelihoods, their health, their hope. When you put all those things on the scale, come on, just get inoculated! And if you really don’t want to, stay home.”
To solve the conundrum, and cater to under 16s, the government has allowed venues to offer rapid testing as an alternative to the Green Pass. But many business owners, responsible for ordering and financing the testing stations, have found the logistics impractical.
Unlike concerts and soccer matches, however, going to work is not a luxury for most people.
A teaching assistant at a school for children with special needs in central Israel refused to be vaccinated or, as her employer, the town of Kochav Yair-Tzur Yigal, demanded instead, present a negative Covid test on a weekly basis.
The school barred her from coming into work, with backing from the town council.
The teaching assistant, Sigal Avishai, appealed to the Labor Court in Tel Aviv. She argued that the council’s demands “impinged on her privacy” and were “without legal basis,” and that the requirement of a weekly test “was intended to pressure her into getting vaccinated contrary to her beliefs,” according to court documents.
Last month,the court ruled against her, saying her rights had to be balanced against those of the teaching staff, the children and their parents to “life, education and health,” citing the particular vulnerability of the children in question.
In a country with plenty of doses to go around, access to the vaccine is not an issue, said Gil Gan-Mor, director of the civil and social rights unit at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
In Israel, he said, “Anybody who is complaining can get the vaccine tomorrow morning.”
But in the absence of legislation, employers have been making up their own policies. At least one college of higher education was relying on the Labor Court precedent to require all staff and students to obtain a Green Pass in order to attend classes on campus.
In another case that went to court, the Health Ministry wanted to distribute lists of unvaccinated people to the local authorities so the authorities could, for example, identify unvaccinated teachers who have returned to school and try to persuade them to get vaccinated.
Citizens rights groups sued to prevent the ministry from distributing the lists, arguing that it was an invasion of privacy and that the medical information could not be adequately safeguarded. The case is before the Supreme Court.
Even where there are rules, enforcement is spotty.
The concert in Tel Aviv was the first time I was asked to show my Green Pass — and the last. My family has since spent a weekend at a B&B in the Galilee where breakfast was served in a closed room for all the guests, including unvaccinated children. A crowded Italian restaurant in the area made it clear that it was not sticking to the regulations, offering us indoor seating with a 7-year-old.
Back in Jerusalem, when I phoned to make a reservation for two at my favorite restaurant, serving pricey fresh market cuisine from a lively open kitchen, I was asked if we both had Green Passes. But when we arrived, nobody asked to see them.
The tables were placed as cozily as ever. Strangers sat shoulder to shoulder at the bar. Our young waitress was unmasked. A diner at the next table questioned how Covid-safe it all was, then shrugged and carried on with her dessert.
Some restaurant owners and managers complained that the pandemic has left them chronically short staffed and that they could not be expected to police the customers as well.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Eran Avishai, a part-owner of a Jerusalem restaurant. “I have to ask people all sorts of personal questions.” Some customers have come up with excuses and notes explaining why they have not been vaccinated, he said, and “all sorts of things that I don’t want to have to hear about.”
However, some restaurants are strictly observing the regulations, even checking the Green Pass against customers’ identity cards. Based on experience, friends are swapping tips and recommendations on Facebook regarding the entry policies of local eateries and watering holes. And at least one hipster pub in Jerusalem is asking only unfamiliar clientele to show Green Passes and using the system to keep out undesirables.
I feel a personal sense of lightness and relief as I go about my new, vaccinated life. I even caught myself the other day in the supermarket without my mask on, which is still required in public places.
We are living in splendid isolation. Virus restrictions still make most travel a daunting proposition and non-Israelis generally cannot enter the country. I miss my family overseas. Until the rest of the world catches up, we are a nation living in a bubble.
PARIS — A powerful government minister recently condemned it as an organization whose activities are racist and could lead to “fascism.” Lawmakers accused it of promoting “separatism” and of aligning with “Islamo-leftism” before demanding its dissolution.
France’s 114-year-old university student union, Unef, has a long history of drawing the ire of the political establishment — most notably over the years when it lobbied for the independence of the country’s most important colony, Algeria, or took to the streets against employment contracts for youths.
But the recent harsh attacks zeroed in on something that resonates just as deeply in a France struggling to adapt to social change: its practice of limiting some meetings to racial minorities to discuss discrimination.
In recent days, the controversy over Unef — its French acronym standing for the National Union of Students of France — spilled into a third week, melding with larger explosive debates roiling the country.
endorsed banning the group and others that organize restricted meetings, attaching a “Unef amendment” to President Emmanuel Macron’s law against Islamism, a political ideology the government blames for inspiring recent terrorist attacks. The National Assembly, controlled by Mr. Macron’s party, still needs to ratify the bill, expected to be one of the defining pieces of legislation of his presidency.
French Academy or literary prize juries, are structured in ways that stifle change.
The union’s transformation has reflected widespread changes among French youths who have much more relaxed attitudes toward gender, race, sexual orientation and, as recent polls have shown, religion and France’s strict secularism, known as laïcité.
Unef’s change — some hope and others fear — may portend larger social change.
“We scare people because we represent the future,’’ said Mélanie Luce, 24, Unef’s president and the daughter of a Black woman from Guadeloupe and a Jewish man from southern France.
In an organization dominated by white men until just a few years ago, Unef’s current leadership shows a diversity rarely seen in France. Ms. Luce is only its fifth female president and the first who is not white. Its four other top leaders include two white men, a woman whose parents converted to Islam, and a Muslim man whose parents immigrated from Tunisia.
interview about Unef’s practice of holding meetings limited to racial minorities.
In a subsequent radio interview of his own, the national education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, agreed with the host’s characterization of the restricted meetings as racist.
“People who claim to be progressive and who, in claiming to be progressive, distinguish people by the color of their skin are leading us to things that resemble fascism,” Mr. Blanquer said.
Mr. Blanquer has led the government’s broader pushback against what he and conservative intellectuals describe as the threat from progressive American ideas on race, gender and postcolonialism.
France’s culture wars have heated up as Mr. Macron shifts to the right to fend off a looming challenge from the far right before elections next year. His government recently announced that it would investigate universities for “Islamo-leftist” tendencies that “corrupt society.”
interview with a French newspaper.
Mr. Blanquer declined interview requests, as did Frédérique Vidal, the minister of higher education.
Aurore Bergé, a lawmaker from Mr. Macron’s party, said that Unef’s actions lead to identity politics that, instead of uniting people in a common cause, excludes all but “those who suffer from discrimination.”
“We’re driving out the others as if they don’t have the right of expression,” said Ms. Bergé, who recently unsuccessfully submitted an amendment that would have barred Muslim minors from wearing the veil in public.
Unef’s current top leaders say that in focusing on discrimination, they are fighting for France’s ideals of liberty, equality and human rights.
They view the recent attacks as rear-guard moves by an establishment that refuses to squarely face deep-rooted discrimination in France, cannot come to terms with the growing diversity of its society, and brandishes universalism to silence new ideas and voices, out of fear.
youth employment contract in 2006. Back then, the union was more concerned with issues like tuition and access to jobs, said Mr. Julliard, the first openly gay president of the union.
Mr. Julliard said that the union’s restricted meetings and its opposition to the Aeschylus play left him uncomfortable, but that young people were now “much more sensitive, in the good sense of the word,” to all forms of discrimination.
“We have to let each generation lead its battles and respect the way it does it, though it doesn’t prevent me from having an opinion,” he said.
William Martinet, a former president, said that the focus on gender eventually led to an examination of racism. While Unef’s top leaders tended to be economically comfortable white men from France’s “grandes écoles,” or prestigious universities, many of its grass-roots activists were of working-class, immigrant and nonwhite backgrounds.
Maryam Pougetoux, now one of the union’s two vice presidents.
“I don’t think that if I’d arrived 10 years earlier, I would have been felt as welcome as in 2017,” Ms. Pougetoux said.
But the reception was far different on the outside.
Last fall, when a hijab-wearing Ms. Pougetoux appeared in the National Assembly to testify on the Covid epidemic’s impact on students, four lawmakers, including one from Mr. Macron’s party, walked out in protest.
The wearing of the Muslim veil has fueled divisions in France for more than a generation. But for Unef, the issue was now settled.
Its leaders had long considered the veil a symbol of female oppression. Now they saw it simply as a choice left to women.
“To really defend the condition of women,” said Adrien Liénard, the other vice president, “is, in fact, giving them the right to do what they want.”
WASHINGTON — America’s most celebrated infrastructure initiative, the interstate highway system, rammed an elevated freeway through the center of Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans in the late 1960s.
It claimed dozens of Black-owned businesses, along with oak trees and azalea bushes that had shaded Black children playing in the large neutral ground in the middle of the street, eviscerating a vibrant neighborhood whose residents fought in vain to stop the construction.
More than a half-century later, President Biden’s $2 trillion plan to rebuild aging roads, bridges, rail lines and other foundations of the economy comes with a new twist: hundreds of billions of dollars that administration officials say will help reverse long-running racial disparities in how the government builds, repairs and locates a wide range of physical infrastructure.
That includes $20 billion to “reconnect” communities of color to economic opportunity, like the Black residents still living in the interstate’s shadow along Claiborne.
unveiled on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, is the first step in a two-part agenda to remake the American economy. The president and his advisers have pitched that agenda — whose total cost could reach $4 trillion — in the grand terms of economic competitiveness and the granular language of shortened commute times.
But they have also stressed its potential to advance racial equity and bridge gaps in economic outcomes.
In addition to dedicated funding for neighborhoods split or splintered by past infrastructure projects, the proposal also includes money for the replacement of lead water pipes that have harmed Black children in cities like Flint, Mich.; the cleanup of environmental hazards that have plagued Hispanic neighborhoods and tribal communities; worker training that would target underserved groups; and funds for home health aides, who are largely women of color.
More traditional efforts to close racial opportunity gaps, like universal pre-K and more affordable higher education, are coming in the next phase of Mr. Biden’s plans. The exact mix of components is likely to change as Mr. Biden tries to push the plans through Congress.
Given the thin Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate, the legislative battle is likely to be intense and highly partisan, with no assurance the White House will prevail.
corporate tax increases Mr. Biden has proposed to fund this phase of his agenda, and they have accused the president of using the popular banner of “infrastructure” to sell what they call unrelated liberal priorities — including many of the programs White House officials say will advance economic opportunity for disadvantaged people and areas.
But liberal economists say the spending on transportation, housing and other areas of Mr. Biden’s initial plan could help advance racial equity, if done correctly.
“This is a promising start,” said Trevon Logan, an economist at Ohio State University whose work includes studies of how government spending projects, like the one that built the interstate highway system, have excluded or hurt Americans who are not white.
The biggest single piece of the plan’s racial equity efforts is not a transportation or environmental project, but a $400 billion investment in in-home care for older and disabled Americans. It would lift the wages of care workers, who are predominantly low-paid, female and not white.
that was partially bulldozed to make way for Interstate 81, and the Claiborne Expressway in New Orleans.
Government infrastructure spending is meant to make the economy work more efficiently. Freeways and rail lines speed goods from factories to market. Roads and transit systems carry workers from their homes to their jobs.
But for some communities of color, those projects devastated existing economies, leveling commercial corridors, cutting Black neighborhoods off from downtowns and accelerating suburbanization trends that exacerbated segregation.
“A lot of previous government investment in infrastructure purposely excluded these communities,” said Bharat Ramamurti, a deputy director of Mr. Biden’s National Economic Council. “So if you look at where we need to invest in infrastructure now, a lot of it is concentrated in these communities.”
Past projects were often built in communities that did not have the political capital or resources to successfully protest.
“When it comes time to build an interstate through a city, a pattern emerges: The areas that are displaced by that interstate will overwhelmingly be the areas occupied by African-Americans,” Dr. Logan said. Often, he added, lawmakers choose to build “in the places that have the least political power to make sure this doesn’t happen in their neighborhood.”
Eric Avila, an urban historian at the University of California, Los Angeles, said a consensus during the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration on the need to invest in highways that would connect neighborhoods to cities led to the exclusion of minority communities.
The federal government also used “urban renewal” or “slum clearance” redevelopment programs that often led to the clearing of the way for giant infrastructure projects like highways.
“These highways were essentially built as conduits for wealth,” Mr. Avila said. “Primarily white wealth, jobs, people, markets. The highways were built to promote the connectivity between suburbs and cities. The people that were left out were urban minorities. African-Americans, immigrants, Latinos.”
Mr. Avila pointed to how plans for the Inner Belt highway in Cambridge, Mass., were halted after protests by faculty members at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
And in New Orleans, Mr. Avila said, plans for a highway called the Riverfront Expressway were canceled after officials faced pressure from protesters in the French Quarter. But Black protesters were not able to spare Treme, one of the nation’s oldest communities of free Black residents, from the construction of an elevated six-lane stretch of Interstate 10 along Claiborne Avenue.
Amy Stelly is reminded of that freeway each morning when the truck traffic causes her home to shudder. The emissions from the interstate a block away have turned jewelry that she placed near her window jet black.
“Anyone who lives near an urban highway knows what we’re breathing in every day,” said Ms. Stelly, an urban designer and activist against the project. “There’s a layer of silt that sticks on our properties and houses.”
It is unclear from the Mr. Biden’s plan, and conversations with White House officials, what the administration envisions for Claiborne Avenue. If the funding survives in any bill Mr. Biden might sign into law, those details will matter, said Deborah Archer, a director of the Center on Race, Inequality and the Law at New York University School of Law.
“I think it’s wonderful to be able to say and have the goal that this historic investment will advance racial equity,” Ms. Archer said. “It’s another thing to distribute these funds in a way that has impact.”
“It would be easy for schools to label such internships ‘related to education,’ even if a star athlete was given, say, a six-month ‘internship’ at a sneaker company or auto dealership that paid $500,000,” a brief filed in February said. “But fans, student-athletes and everyone else would recognize the reality: that student-athletes were being paid large sums in cash for their athletic play — with the ‘internships’ a thinly disguised vehicle for funneling them quintessentially professional salaries.”
The Supreme Court last considered how antitrust laws applied to the association in 1984, ruling that its restrictions on television coverage of college football games were unlawful. But the decision, National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, included an influential passage on student-athletes.
“The N.C.A.A. plays a critical role in the maintenance of a revered tradition of amateurism in college sports,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. “There can be no question but that it needs ample latitude to play that role, or that the preservation of the student-athlete in higher education adds richness and diversity to intercollegiate athletics and is entirely consistent with the goals of” the antitrust laws.
The Biden administration filed a brief supporting the athletes in the new case, National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, No. 20-512, saying that the Ninth Circuit had struck the right balance.
“Promoting amateurism widens consumer choice, and thereby enhances competition, by maintaining a distinction between college and professional athletics,” the brief said. But “some of the challenged rules did not actually foster consumer demand.”
Besides the coronavirus pandemic, no issue has recently demanded more of the N.C.A.A.’s attention than the rights of student-athletes, especially whether they should be able to profit from their fame. College sports executives have long feared that loosening age-old rules would effectively professionalize students and open a different array of challenges, but they have faced mounting pressure over the past few years from Congress and many of the nation’s statehouses. Most crucially, a Florida law that directly challenges the N.C.A.A.’s policies is scheduled to take effect this summer, and California legislators are considering a proposal to speed up a similar measure there.
Although the N.C.A.A. has vowed to rewrite its rules, it delayed final approval over the winter after the Trump administration’s Justice Department raised misgivings. And Congress has not rushed to give the association the kind of political and legal cover it craves.
KABUL, Afghanistan — Two and a half years ago, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest during an algebra class at the Mawoud Academy tutoring center. At least 40 students, most from Afghanistan’s Hazara ethnic minority, died as they studied for college entrance exams.
Najibullah Yousefi, a teacher who survived the August 2018 blast, moved with his students to a new location. He has a plan for the next suicide bomber.
“I’m in front of the class and will get killed anyway,” Mr. Yousefi, 38, said. “So to protect my students, I will go and hug the attacker” to absorb the blast.
Perhaps no other minority group faces a more harrowing future if the Taliban return to power as a result of negotiations with the Afghan government — especially if they don’t honor a pledge under a February 2020 agreement with the United States to cut ties with terror organizations such as the Islamic State.
mosques, hospitals, voting sites and even a wrestling club. More than 80 people perished in a double suicide bombing at a Hazara protest in Kabul in 2016. At least 31 died in a suicide bombing in a Hazara area during a 2018 celebration for Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Most of these attacks have been claimed by Sunni Muslim extremists of the Islamic State, who consider Shiites apostates and heretics.
What progress has been made by the ethnic minority is threatened by such attacks, and now a possible return of the Taliban to government. As recently as 2018, Hazara civilians were killed and forced from their homes during a Taliban offensive in Hazarajat.
Taliban negotiators have said the rights of minorities, including Hazaras, would be protected under Islamic law. In some Hazara areas, local militias have formed to protect communities from attacks.
Marzia Mohseni, 18, a Hazara student, said she feared losing her rights to education and to the workplace if the Taliban returned to power. She said she wants to be a lawyer “and provide equal rights to all people in this country.”
But a Taliban return could mean that “all my gains and all my hard work would be wasted,” she said.
suicide bombing at the Kawsar e Danish tutoring academy in Kabul. At least 44 students and teachers died in the attack.
Ms. Mohseni said she had experienced insomnia and extreme anxiety after the bombing, yet she is back at her studies at the same academy. Her fear is a burden she carries into class each morning with her pens and books.
“Every minute in the class, I think about a suicide attack, an explosion,” she said. “But I will try my best, for the blood of all those killed and wounded and for the sake of their dreams and my own dreams.”
Ms. Mohseni said her father works in a restaurant and her brother, as a barber, to pay her tuition and board. She pleaded with them to allow her to return after the academy was bombed.
highest score among 200,000 students who took the entrance exam in September. The daughter of a coal miner, Ms. Alizada said her father broke down in tears when he heard the news.
The Kawsar e Danish academy and other Hazara centers have hardened their security. Students pass through several checkpoints manned by armed guards. They undergo body searches. No backpacks are allowed.
targeted assassinations. Government workers, journalists, human rights activists, judges, religious scholars, students — all have been killed by gunmen or by small bombs attached to their vehicles.
On March 14, five civilians were killed and 13 wounded in simultaneous attacks when two cars with magnetic bombs attached exploded in two Hazara neighborhoods in Kabul, police said. One car exploded near the Mawoud Academy but caused no damage.
Ahmad Rahimi, 26, a teacher at the Kawsar e Danish academy, said the unrelenting violence can be debilitating. “I see the fear on the faces of my students,” he said.
Mr. Rahimi said he and his students survived a failed suicide attack inside an academy classroom in 2017, when a potential bomber’s suicide vest failed to detonate. Several students dropped out afterward, he said.
“Because of these threats, they have given up on their dreams,” Mr. Rahimi said.
Khaliqyar Mohammadi, 20, a Hazara student at a tutoring center, said he felt enormous pressure to pass the exam. He is the oldest son and the first in his family to attend a tutoring center.
He said his father was serving an eight-year prison term for carrying a Taliban-issued document required to commute to and from work in Taliban-controlled areas, a crime under an Afghan law that prohibits acknowledging the Taliban’s shadow governments.
Forced to raise his own tuition money, Mr. Mohammadi took a break from school and worked on construction sites for two years.
“The whole family is expecting me to study and change the fate of my family,” he said. “I’ll either be killed, or I’ll reach my goal.”
In part because of security fears, the number of students at the Mawoud Academy dropped by nearly half this year — to 2,000 from about 4,000 last year, said Mr. Yousefi, the teacher. But for those who have overcome their fears, studying to pass the exam has become “a matter of honor,” he said.
Sometimes, his mathematics class is transformed into a motivational lesson, Mr. Yousefi said. His students sometimes must be reminded of what they have overcome, and the high stakes involved.
“We remind them of their poverty, the risk they take to attend this class,” he said. “We tell them these classes belong to those who want to get something out of their life — and their fate.”
PARIS — Amandine Chéreau hurried from her cramped student apartment in suburban Paris to catch a train for an hourlong trip into the city. Her stomach rumbled with hunger, she said, as she headed for a student-run food bank near the Bastille, where she joined a snaking line with 500 young people waiting for handouts.
Ms. Chéreau, 19, a university student, ran out of savings in September after the pandemic ended the babysitting and restaurant jobs she had relied on. By October, she had resorted to eating one meal a day, and said she had lost 20 pounds.
“I have no money for food,” said Ms. Chéreau, whose father helps pay her tuition and rent, but couldn’t send more after he was laid off from his job of 20 years in August. “It’s frightening,” she added, as students around her reached for vegetables, pasta and milk. “And it’s all happening so fast.”
As the pandemic begins its second year, humanitarian organizations in Europe are warning of an alarming rise in food insecurity among young people, following a steady stream of campus closings, job cuts and layoffs in their families. A growing share are facing hunger and mounting financial and psychological strain, deepening disparities for the most vulnerable populations.
intensifying crisis over how to meet their basic dietary needs. As the global economy struggles to rebound from the worst recession since World War II, hunger is on the rise.
In the United States, nearly one in eight households doesn’t have enough to eat. People in already food-starved countries face a greater crisis, with food insecurity in the developing world expected to nearly double to 265 million people, according to the United Nations World Food Program.
In France, Europe’s second-largest economy, half of young adults now have limited or uncertain access to food. Nearly a quarter are routinely skipping at least one meal a day, according to le Cercle des Économistes, a French economic think tank that advises the government.
acknowledged a growing crisis after undergraduate and graduate students demonstrated in cities across France, where higher education is seen as a right and the state finances most costs. He announced a rapid relief plan, including 1-euro meals daily at university cafeterias, psychological support and a review of financial aid for those facing a “lasting and notable decline in family income.”
Linkee, a nationwide food bank that set up new services dedicated to students who cannot get enough food. “Students have become the new face of this precariousness,” he said.
Food insecurity among students was not uncommon before the pandemic. But the problem has ballooned since European countries imposed national lockdowns last spring to contain the coronavirus.
Aid organizations that mainly fed refugees, the homeless and people below the poverty line have refocused operations to also meet a surge in demand among youth. At the Restos du Coeur, one of France’s largest food banks, with 1,900 outlets, the number of young adults under 25 lining up for meals has risen to become nearly 40 percent of the total.
Over eight million people in France visited a food bank last year, compared with 5.5 million in 2019. Food aid demand across Europe has surged by 30 percent, according to the European Food Banks Federation.
While the government subsidizes campus meals, it doesn’t provide food pantries. As the cost of staying fed grows insurmountable for students with little or no income, university administrators have turned to aid groups for help fighting hunger.
The pandemic has wiped out jobs in restaurants, tourism and other hard-hit sectors that were once easily accessible to young people. Two-thirds have lost work that helped them make ends meet, according to the National Observatory of Student Life.
limit mass layoffs and prevent bankruptcies. But that hasn’t shielded parents from the recession’s widening toll.
Co’p1/Solidarités Étudiantes, the food bank Ms. Chéreau visited, opened near the Bastille in October when six students from Paris Sorbonne University banded together after seeing more of their peers go hungry.
Aided by the Paris mayor’s office and the Red Cross, they negotiated donations from supermarkets and food companies like Danone. Now, 250 student volunteers organize pasta, cereal, baguettes, milk, soda, vegetables and sanitary items to give to 1,000 students a week — though the need is five times greater, said Ulysse Guttmann-Faure, a law student and a founder of the group. Students go online to reserve a place in the line.
“At first, it took three days for these slots to fill up,” he said. “Now, they’re booked in three hours.”
Food banks like these, run by student volunteers for other students, have become a rare bright spot for thousands who have been struggling silently to confront the psychological toll of living with the pandemic.
Thomas Naves, 23,a philosophy major on a scholarship at Nanterre University, said he felt abandoned and isolated taking online classes for months at a time in a tiny studio.
When his student jobs were cut, he began seeking out food banks that set up at his campus twice a week. There, he found not only desperately needed meals, but a way to escape loneliness and cope with his growing distress. His parents were both ill, and were themselves barely making ends meet.
Mr. Naves settled behind a small table in his student lodging one recent afternoon to eat a microwaved curry he had gotten from the campus food pantry. In his closet was a small stock of donated pasta and canned goods — enough to eat several more meals.
“Going to the food bank is the only option to feed myself,” he said.
“But meeting other students in my situation made me realize that we are all sharing this suffering together.”
Gunmen kidnapped dozens of female students from a college in northwestern Nigeria late Thursday, state officials said, the fourth mass abduction in as many months in a region that is suffering from a worsening security breakdown.
Officials in the state of Kaduna said the attack took place at the Federal College of Forestry, a higher education establishment in the town of Mando, close to Kaduna’s international airport and a military academy.
“They were abducted last night—we have no details of the number of students,” sad Kaduna police spokesman Mohammed Jalige.
Shehu Sani, a former senator of Kaduna, said he had been briefed by security officials that the kidnappers separated the girls from the boys and only took the girls.
“Young women are easier to handle—they don’t try to escape,” Mr. Sani said. “And there’s a possibility for the kidnappers to get a higher price…This is the world we are living in now.”
The abduction is the fourth mass school kidnapping since December in Nigeria’s northwest, where a surge in armed militancy has led to a worsening breakdown of security and where kidnap for ransom has become a lucrative industry.
It comes less than two weeks after 279 girls were abducted from a boarding school in neighboring Zamfara state and then freed days later after a ransom was paid, according to former hostages and people familiar with the negotiations.
President Muhammadu Buhari, a former general who has been criticized for the deteriorating security situation across Nigeria’s north, has said his government is “working hard to bring an end to these grim and heartbreaking incidents of kidnapping.”
Government officials this week announced a deployment of 6,000 troops to Zamfara, seen as the epicenter of the banditry. But the latest abduction shows the spread and scale of the problem.
A Bowling Green State University student has died after an alleged hazing incident involving alcohol, his family’s attorney said.
The death of Stone Foltz, 20, is “a tragedy”, attorney Sean Alto said in a statement released on Sunday night. Alto said Foltz’s family was “gathering all of the facts leading to his untimely death”.
The university placed the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity on interim suspension and was working with law enforcement investigating what the fraternity’s parent organization called “an alleged incident of alcohol-related hazing at an off-campus event” that left officials “horrified and outraged”.
Folz, a business major, was found by roommates or friends after the event late on Thursday night and was taken to a hospital. His family will donate his organs, according to Alto.
In an email to students and faculty, university president Rodney Rodgers wrote the school mourned the sophomore’s loss and shared in his family’s sorrow.
“This tragic incident has certainly impacted our students and community,” the university said on Twitter, adding that officials were meeting with student leaders “to decide the short- and long-term future of fraternity and sorority life” at the school.
“In the days to come, we will also be reviewing all other student organizations,” the university said.