LONDON — Over Memorial Day weekend, 135,000 people jammed the oval at the Indianapolis 500. Restaurants across the United States were thronged with customers as mask mandates were being discarded.
The formula, which gained the Biden administration’s blessing, was succinct: In essence, if you are fully vaccinated, you can do as you please.
But while the United States appears to be trying to close the curtain on the pandemic, across the ocean, in Britain and the European Union, it is quite a different story.
Despite plunging infection levels and a surging vaccine program, parts of Europe are maintaining limits on gatherings, reimposing curbs on travel and weighing local lockdowns.
Wellcome Sanger Institute, said of Delta. “It just means we have less certainty about what things will look like going forward.”
estimated on Friday that the Delta variant was roughly 60 percent more contagious than the earlier one from Britain. Health officials also warned that cases caused by the Delta variant might lead to a higher risk of hospitalization, though it was too early to say for certain.
The divergent strategies of European nations and the United States also reflect broader differences in how Western governments are thinking about their responsibility to unvaccinated people, scientists said.
in unvaccinated pockets of the United States, where the virus continues to sicken and kill people at elevated rates. The Biden administration is still searching for ways to overcome that vaccine hesitancy.
In Britain, even with more than 90 percent of people over 65 having been fully vaccinated, health officials have resisted as speedy a reopening as they seek to expand inoculation rates in lower-income and nonwhite areas.
“We know the virus predominantly hits poorer communities and people of color hardest,” said James Naismith, a structural biologist and the director of Britain’s Rosalind Franklin Institute, a medical research center. “The U.S. strategy perhaps reflects a more deep-rooted commitment to individualism. The U.K.’s vaccination campaign is highly managed and mirrors more a sense of being our brother’s keeper.”
Britain decided last year to delay second vaccine doses to give more people the partial protection of a single dose. That helped it weather the wintertime surge but also left it potentially exposed to the Delta variant. Health officials said this past week that there was strong evidence of “a reduction in vaccine effectiveness” for the new variant that was most pronounced after a single dose.
Health officials have since changed the guidance to speed up second doses, but many scientists are urging the government not to commit to reopening until the impact of the variant becomes clearer.
76 percent overall have gotten one shot. As a result, some scientists say, upticks in new infections are tolerable so long as the vast majority do not lead to serious illness or death.
“This variant is going to find it hard to spread, because it’s limited to younger people and limited to certain parts of the country,” Professor Spector said.
He said the government needed to help the neighborhoods where it was spreading and, beyond that, encourage people to keep working from home and socially distancing when possible. But delaying the easing of restrictions, he said, was not necessary.
“We need to get used to the idea there will be a few thousand cases every day and that this is a part of our life,” Professor Spector said. “Those cases will be milder.”
Germany, France and Austria all moved quickly to bar most visitors from Britain.
Like Britain, the bloc was chastened by a surge of the variant from Britain this winter that contributed to one of the world’s highest death tolls. Governments were hammered for failing to cement the gains of last summer, when lockdowns were lifted across most of Europe.
In the bloc, 47 percent of the adult population has received a first dose, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, but only 23 percent have full protection.
For those reasons, European leaders have said that vigilance is needed, even though infections have fallen about 80 percent since mid-April.
“This progress is fragile,” Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s director in Europe, warned last month. “We have been here before. Let us not make the same mistakes that were made this time last year.”
Still, now that supply bottlenecks have eased, European officials are confident that 70 percent of adults will be fully vaccinated by July.
The quandary that Europe faces over how to react to the Delta variant may recur as the virus continues to evolve, some scientists said. As long as it remains in wide circulation, even more transmissible variants could emerge, forcing countries to grapple with whether to hunker down yet again or risk the virus spreading through unprotected populations.
Poorer nations are facing far more difficult choices, though. If the same sort of lockdowns that controlled the variant from Britain prove insufficient against this new one, those countries could have to choose between even more draconian and economically damaging shutdowns or even more devastating outbreaks. The Delta variant has already taken a horrifying toll on South Asia.
“Globally, it’s a nightmare, because most of the world is still not vaccinated,” said Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport. “It raises the stakes.”
CARACAS, Venezuela — From within his presidential palace, President Nicolás Maduro regularly commandeers the airwaves, delivering speeches intended to project stability to his crumbling nation.
But as the Venezuelan state disintegrates under the weight of Mr. Maduro’s corrupt leadership and American sanctions, his government is losing control of segments of the country, even within his stronghold: the capital, Caracas.
Nowhere is his weakening grip on territory more evident than in Cota 905, a shantytown that clings to a steep mountainside overlooking the gilded halls from which Mr. Maduro addresses the nation.
policing, road maintenance, health care and public utilities, to pour dwindling resources into Caracas, home of the political, business and military elites who form his support base.
Hunkered down in his fortified Caracas residences, Mr. Maduro crushed the opposition, purged the security forces of dissent and enriched his cronies in an effort to eliminate challenges to his authoritarian rule.
In remote areas, swathes of national territory fell to criminals and insurgents. But gang control of Cota 905 and the surrounding shantytowns, which lie just two miles from the presidential palace, is evidence that his government is losing its grip even on the center of the capital.
Across the city, other armed groups have also asserted territorial control over working-class neighborhoods.
“Maduro is often seen as a traditional strongman controlling every aspect of Venezuelans’ lives,” said Rebecca Hanson, a sociologist at the University of Florida who studies violence in Venezuela. “In reality, the state has become very fragmented, very chaotic and in many areas very weak.”
As the government’s reach in Caracas’s shantytowns withered, organized crime grew, forcing Mr. Maduro’s officials to negotiate with the largest gangs to limit violence and maintain political control, according to interviews with a dozen residents, as well as police officers, officials and academics studying violence.
In the process, the most organized gangs began supplanting the state in their communities, taking over policing, social services and even the enforcement of pandemic measures.
Police officers say the gang that controls Cota 905 now has around 400 men armed with the proceeds from drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion, and that it exerts complete control over at least eight square miles in the heart of the capital.
Gang members with automatic weapons openly patrol the shantytown’s streets and those of the surrounding communities, and guard entry points from rooftop watchtowers. The first checkpoint appears just a few minutes’ drive from the headquarters of Mr. Maduro’s secret police.
As the Venezuelan economy went into a tailspin, the Cota gang began offering financial support to the community, supplanting Mr. Maduro’s bankrupt social programs, which once offered free food, housing and school supplies for the poor.
After monopolizing the local drug trade, the Cota 905 gang imposed strict rules on the residents in return for stopping the once endemic violence and petty crime. And many residents welcome its hard line on crime.
“Before, the thugs robbed,” said Mr. Ojeda, a Cota 905 resident who, like others in the community, asked that his full name not be published for fear of crossing the gangsters. “Now, they are the ones who come to you, without fail, with anything that goes missing.”
During his tenure, Mr. Maduro has veered from brutal suppression of organized crime groups to accommodation in an attempt to check rising crime.
In 2013, he withdrew security forces from about a dozen troubled spots, including Cota 905, naming them “Peace Zones,” as he tried to placate the gangs. Two years later, when the policy failed to check crime, he unleashed a wave of brutal police assaults on the shantytowns.
The police operations resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings, according to the United Nations, earning Mr. Maduro charges of committing crimes against humanity and the hatred of many shantytown residents. Faced with the onslaught, the gangs closed ranks, creating ever larger and more complex organizations, according to Ms. Hanson and her colleague, the researcher Verónica Zubillaga.
Unable to defeat the Cota gang, Mr. Maduro’s government returned to negotiations with its leaders, according to a police commander and two government officials who held talks with the gang and worked to put the agreements in place.
Security forces are once again banned from entering the community, according to the police commander, who is not authorized to discuss state policy and did so on condition of anonymity.
Under the deal with the government, the Cota gang has reduced kidnappings and murders, and began carrying out some state policies. During the pandemic, gang members strictly enforced lockdown rules and mask wearing, local residents said. And the gang is working with the government to distribute the scant remaining food and school supplies to the residents, residents and the two officials said.
“The gang is focused on the community,” said Antonio Garcia, a shantytown resident. “They make sure we get our bag of food.”
Mr. Ojeda said he received $300 from the gang the last Carnival season to buy toys and sweets for his family, a fortune in a country where the minimum monthly wage has collapsed to about $2. Residents said young people in the community are offered jobs as lookouts or safe house guards for between $50 and $100 a week, more than most doctors and engineers make in Venezuela.
Taking these jobs is easier than leaving them. Soon after the oldest son of Ms. Ramírez — who did not want to give her full name out of fear of the gang — began serving as a lookout in Cota 905, he discovered that his life now belonged to the gang.
“He had new clothes, new shoes, but he couldn’t stop crying,” Ms. Ramírez said. “He wanted to go back and couldn’t.”
Anti-government protests are banned in the shantytown, and gang members summon residents to the polling stations on elections, said the residents.
The members “tell us that if the government is toppled, we would be affected too, because the police would return,” said Ana Castro, a Cota resident. “The ‘Peace Zone’ would end, and we would all suffer.”
In private, some government officials defend the nonaggression pacts with the biggest gangs, saying the policy has drastically reduced violence.
Violent deaths in Caracas shantytowns have halved since the mid-2010s, when the Venezuelan capital was one of the world’s deadliest cities, according to figures from a local nonprofit, Mi Convive.
But academics and analysts studying crime in the city say the drop in homicides points to the growing power of Caracas’s gangs against an increasingly weak government. The imbalance, experts said, puts the government and the population in an increasingly dangerous and vulnerable position.
The power shift was evident in April, when the Cota gang shot up a police patrol car and took over a section of highway running through Caracas. The area was a five-minute drive from the presidential palace, and the blockade paralyzed the capital for several hours.
But the government stayed silent through it all. The security forces never came to retake the highway. Once the gang left, officers quietly cleared out the blasted patrol car.
GAZA CITY — As the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas took effect at 2 a.m. local time on Friday, thousands of Palestinians gathered in the streets of Gaza City to celebrate what Hamas supporters were calling a defeat of the Israeli forces.
With the skies free from the threat of Israeli bombardment for the first time since May 10, loudspeakers at mosques blared “God is great,” a chant that is more often heard during Islamic holidays such as Eid. Voices on the speakers called on residents to come out “to celebrate the victory,” while some Hamas supporters passed out sweets and others toted weapons on their shoulders, occasionally firing into the air.
“I feel we won,” said Ibrahim Hamdan, 26, adding that barrages of rocket attacks by Hamas had forced Israel to accept the cease-fire.
“It’s the first time that the resistance has hurt the enemy,” he said.
Ibrahim al Najjar, a 26-year-old who joined the rally with two friends, said Hamas had achieved a milestone when its rockets reached Tel Aviv, the bustling Israeli coastal city that for the first time last week found itself in the militants’ firing line, with Israeli beachgoers forced to scurry to safety.
said they had been trying to kill, so far without success.
But the celebratory mood belied the devastation in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes killed more than 200 Palestinians, destroyed buildings, left huge swaths of the territory without electricity or water, and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. Some in the crowd questioned what the conflict had accomplished.
Ramadan Smama came out not to celebrate, he said, but to take in the destruction. The 53-year-old said that he admired the growing capabilities of Hamas’s arsenal of rockets, but said it was too soon to tell whether the fighting would improve life for the two million people of Gaza.
“I don’t see achievements,” he said, “but I hope there will be achievements.”
ROME — As Dr. Mario Sorlini sits patients down in a vaccination center near the badly affected Italian town of Bergamo, he explains a potential complication of the coronavirus vaccine.
The second dose, he tells patients with terror-stricken faces, will fall on a date during the summer holidays.
“‘But I’ll be in Sardinia then,’” he said that some had responded with distress. Others moan about hotel rooms they’ve already booked. Some, he said, get up and leave.
For months, Italians have hungered for the vaccines that would give them safety, freedom from lockdown and a taste of normal life. After initial pitfalls and hurdles, the vaccination campaign is finally speeding up, but it is heading smack into the summer holidays that are sacred for many Italians and prompting fears among officials that a significant number would rather get away than get vaccinated.
recent vacation anthem. That could create a significant danger next autumn, Ms. Tosi wrote in an open letter to the region’s president.
“The Second Shot Blocks Vacation,” read a headline in Messaggero Veneto, a newspaper in northeastern Italy, echoing concerns in papers, websites and social media accounts across the country.
An estimated 20 million Italians — mostly 40- and 50-somethings — face the prospect of getting their second shots in the middle of July or worse, in the riptide that is the Italian August, which pulls people out of cities and into swelling seaside towns.
To avoid a potentially disastrous summer freeze in the vaccination campaign, and more economic pain, Italy’s regions are urging the government to meet vacationers where they are and offer shots on the beach.
led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi, prides itself on pragmatism and is desperate to get the tourism economy moving. Mr. Draghi recently announced that Italy would lift quarantines and restrictions on vaccinated international tourists and told them “it’s time to book your holidays in Italy.”
Island paradises like Capri, favored by many foreigners, have accelerated their vaccination campaigns and are now considered Covid free. But when it comes to Italians, who are themselves still in the process of getting vaccinated during the summer months, the government has sought to strike a balance between openness to innovative ideas and scolding Italians for their spring and summer fever.
“If we do flights of fancy and inventions, I’m not in,” Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, an army general who has been put in charge of Italy’s vaccination effort, said on Tuesday, seeking to throw cold water on plans floated by governors to inoculate vacationing Italians wherever they might go.
told reporters. “And that it is technically impossible.”
He suggested leaving vacations for a day and then heading back.
Bergamo, said that for now, most of his patients were accepting the summer date for follow-up shots but that many asked, “‘Can I do it at the beach?’”
He said he expected at least 10 people a day to give up on their August appointments for second shots, which means he will struggle to keep those doses from going to waste.
Ciro Mautone, 58, a security guard at Camponeschi, a cafe popular with the vacation set in Rome, said that he had selected the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which does not require a second shot, in part not to interrupt a potential holiday.
But he said that after the brutal year, with his work hit by the closing of businesses, he was focused on making up lost income rather than fretting about cutting short a vacation.
“I wish I had that problem,” he said.
Emma Bubola and Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting.
CAPRI, Italy — The ferry docked next to the blue “Capri a Covid Free Island” billboard and the residents and workers disembarked, carrying luggage and antibodies.
Among them was Mario Petraroli, 37, freshly vaccinated and ready for the grand reopening of the luxurious hotel where he works as director of marketing.
“The big day,” he said as he rode a funicular up above turquoise waters, terraced gardens dripping with lemons and winding cliff-side footpaths.
He reached the summit and stepped out onto a glamorous town famous for its Jackie O and J Lo sightings, exorbitantly priced Caprese salads, and reputation as a billionaire’s playground. Everyone around him — the shopkeepers unpacking the Pucci, Gucci and Missoni garments from plastic bags, the bartenders sliding ice into Spritzes, the carpenters hammering finishing touches on the underground Anema e Core Taverna dance club — had been vaccinated.
Mr. De Luca came to Capri’s famous piazzetta in the center of town to declare Mission Accomplished and to urge tourists to book their vacations on the islands.
Mr. Petraroli, the hotel marketing director, now crossed the same square, past copper-toned Capri enthusiasts who sipped and smoked, their faces pointed at the sun. He entered a warren of narrow streets, lined with Rolex outlets, brand name boutiques and Hangout, a popular pub in town owned by Simone Aversa.
Capri Tiberio Palace, which Kylie Jenner repaired to in a recent summer after, workers at the port told him, she felt unwell on her yacht.
The hotel is named for Tiberius, who ran the Roman Empire from Capri, throwing people off cliffs and training Caligula how to have a good time. Many here call him Capri’s first tourist.
Mr. Petraroli said modern hedonists were already calling, sending scouts to make sure that the vaccine situation, and vibe, is what they want.
“The real issue for them is once they are here, do they have something to do,” he said as workers carried an espresso machine and dusted the blinds.
Upstairs, Mr. Petraroli opened the Suite Bellevue, booked mostly by “sheikhs and sultans and very famous guys.” It leads to a terrace tiled with hand-painted ceramics, topped with a Jacuzzi plunge pool. Mr. Petraroli said the late basketball star Kobe Bryant had such a “special bond with our top suite” that he named his daughter Capri after staying there.
Outside the room, Alessandro De Simone, 23, dusted crystal decanters filled with cognac and whiskey. Mr. De Simone, who is also vaccinated, said none of his friends back home in Naples had been.
oldest cooperative of motorboat owners (“All our skippers and staff have been completely vaccinated!” reads their website) sped uninhibited around the island. He navigated through the island’s trademark Faraglione rock formations (“This is where Heidi Klum got married on a yacht”) and by La Fontelina beach club where three sunbathers, their knees bent and gleaming, laid under the cliff.
He lamented the “hysterical polemics about us getting vaccinated,” arguing that without a hospital, “if there was a cluster here, we had nothing to save our lives.”
He moored the boat back at the dock where more ferries brought a trickle of tourists, but also returning residents. Dario Portale, a local greengrocer, and his family, were among them.
The day after getting their shot, the couple left for Milan, in the country’s hard hit region of Lombardy, to introduce their 10-month-old son to his mother. She is 62, works in a post office and is not vaccinated.
When Fan Jianhua had her third daughter last April, she was afraid that she would be fined for violating China’s birth limits.
Ms. Fan was already heavily in debt paying for treatment for her 6-year-old, who has leukemia. To her relief, when she registered her new baby with the police, she didn’t have to pay the $7,500 fine.
“I was really happy and could finally relax,” said Ms. Fan, 34, a stay-at-home mother in the central city of Danjiangkou, in Hubei Province.
Slowly, in fits and starts, China’s ruling Communist Party is loosening its long-held restrictions over childbirth and women’s bodies. Some local governments have tacitly allowed couples to have more than two children. Beijing has said civil servants will no longer be fired for such infringements. Party leaders have pledged to make population policies more inclusive, a signal that some have taken to mean the rules will be eased further.
decline in birthrates. A once-a-decade population census, released on Tuesday, showed that the number of births last year fell to the lowest since the Mao era. Low fertility translates to fewer workers and weaker demand, which could stunt growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
But the party is wary of giving up control and has resisted scrapping birth restrictions wholesale. Instead, Beijing has been taking a piecemeal approach by slowly dismantling the once-powerful family-planning bureaucracy and carving out exemptions. In many places, police officers, employers and city officials are deciding how strictly, or loosely, to enforce the rules.
That can mean more freedom for some, like Ms. Fan, to have more children. But it also creates uncertainty about the risks, adding to a reluctance about having more children.
The strategy could also founder amid broad cultural changes. Anxiety over the rising cost of education, housing and health care is now deeply ingrained in society. Many Chinese simply prefer smaller families, and the government’s efforts to boost the birthrate, including introducing a two-child policy in 2016, have largely fizzled.
“If the restrictions on family planning are not lifted, and they are encouraging births at the same time, this is self-contradictory,” said Huang Wenzheng, a demography expert with the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based research center. He said that removing all birth limits would convey an important message. “I think such a step has to be taken.”
official murmurs about a reconsideration of the one-child policy surfaced but were quickly dismissed. It took years before the government moved to allow all couples to have two children.
Now, the population is aging more rapidly than those of many developed countries, including the United States, and some argue that the government cannot afford to keep any restrictions on procreation.
“We have to take advantage of the fact that a certain number of residents now are willing to give birth but aren’t allowed to,” China’s central bank said in a working paper it published on April 14. “If we wait to lift it when no one wants to give birth, it will be useless.”
harshly enforced family-planning rules in what Beijing has depicted as a fight against religious extremism. The campaign has led in recent years to a rise in sterilizations and contraceptive procedures — forcibly imposed in some cases — in the region’s Muslim-dominated areas.
China’s family-planning policy has long given local officials a powerful weapon of control — one that may be hard, or costly, to wrest back. Before they were unwound, family-planning agencies hired around eight million people, down to the village level, who corralled women to be fitted with intrauterine devices or coerced them into abortions.
The officials also collected large fines from couples who broke the rules. One senior researcher at the Central Party School estimated in 2015 that the fees amounted to between $3 billion and $5 billion annually.
In recent years, the government has been reassigning family-planning employees to roles including in population research and tackling Covid-19. But local governments retain the power to enforce birth limits as they see fit, which has led to inconsistencies.
The central government said in May last year that civil servants did not have to lose their jobs for violating birth limits, yet months later, a village committee in the eastern city of Hangzhou fired a woman after she had a third child — prompting a public outcry.
Ultimately, the fate of China’s family-planning policies may change little. A generation of highly educated women are putting off marriage and childbirth for other reasons, including a rejection of traditional attitudes that dictate women should bear most of the responsibility of raising children and doing housework.
Liu Qing, a 38-year-old editor of children’s books in Beijing, said getting married and having children were never in her future because they would come at too great a personal cost.
“All the things that you want — your ideals and your ambitions — have to be sacrificed,” Ms. Liu said.
Ms. Liu said Chinese society imposed a motherhood penalty on women, pointing to the discrimination that mothers often faced in hiring.
“I’m furious about this environment,” she said. “I’m not the kind of person who would accept this reality and compromise. I just won’t.”
For other Chinese, having fewer children is a matter of necessity when holes in the country’s social safety net mean that a major illness can lead to financial ruin.
Ms. Fan, the woman in Hubei who was spared a fine, said that she and her husband, a laborer, were getting increasingly desperate. Public health insurance had covered half the cost of her daughter’s treatment for leukemia, but they were on the hook for $76,000.
She had a third child only because she heard that a sibling’s cord blood could help in the treatment of leukemia. But she later learned that such treatment would cost more than $100,000.
“I don’t dare think about the future,” Ms. Fan said. She added that if her daughter’s condition deteriorated or they went broke, they would have to give up treatment.
“We can only leave it up to her fate,” she said.
Research was contributed by Claire Fu, Liu Yi, Albee Zhang and Elsie Chen.
The violent confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem this month reflect its significance as part of one of the most contested pieces of religious territory in the Holy Land.
Here are some basics on the mosque compound, from its importance over the centuries for three major religions to why it is such a flash point today.
What is the Aqsa Mosque?
World Heritage Site, meaning it is regarded as “being of outstanding international importance and therefore as deserving special protection.”
the Waqf, funded and controlled by Jordan, continued to administer the Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, as it had done for decades, a special role reaffirmed in Israel’s 1994 peace treaty with Jordan.
Israeli security forces maintain a presence on the site and they coordinate with the Waqf. Jews and Christians are allowed to visit, but unlike Muslims, are prohibited from praying on the grounds under the status quo arrangement. (Jews pray just below the sacred plateau at the Western Wall, the remnants of a retaining wall that once surrounded the Temple Mount.)
Tensions over what critics call the arrangement’sdiscrimination against non-Muslims have periodically boiled over into violence.
Adding to the tensions is Israel’s annual celebration of Jerusalem Day, an official holiday to commemorate its capture of the entire city. The celebration, most recently held Monday, is a provocationfor many Palestinians, including residents of the eastern part of Jerusalem. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state — a prospect that seems increasingly remote.
Does Israel want to take full control of the site?
Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have said they do not intend to change the status quo.
But some Israeli religious groups have long pressed for the right to pray at the site. In April, Jordan’s Foreign Ministry formally complained about large numbers of Jewish visitors to the site, calling it a violation of the status quo.
eviction of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoodto make way for Israeli settlement construction.
The clashes have come as the Israeli government is in political limbo, after four indecisive elections over the past two years, and after President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority indefinitely postponed Palestinian legislative elections scheduled for later this month. It would have been the first such ballot since 2006.
How have previous clashes shaped the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Bitter recriminations and hardened attitudes have reverberated from all of the confrontations over the religious shrines in Jerusalem’s Old City, but some especially stand out as having helped shape Israeli policy.
including by the United States.
In 2000, a visit to the site to assert Jewish claims there, led by the right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon — then Israel’s opposition leader — was the catalyst for an explosive bout of Israeli-Palestinian violence that led to the Palestinian uprising known as the second Intifada.
In 2017, a crisis erupted after three Arab-Israeli citizens at the compound shot and killed two Israeli Druze police officers. That led the Israeli authorities to restrict access to the site and install metal detectors and cameras.
Arab outrage over those security measures led to more violence and tensions with Jordan that required American diplomatic mediation. The metal detectors were removed.
Patrick Kingsley and Isabel Kershner contributed reporting.
In Taiwan, one of the few places in the world to offer marriage leave to couples heading to the altar, a bank employee married his partner on April 6, 2020.
They got divorced days later, on April 16.
Then they remarried the following day.
Another divorce and a third marriage followed on April 28 and April 29.
After a third divorce, on May 11, they got married for the fourth time, on May 12.
It was all a plot to take advantage of the self-governing island’s time-off policy for couples who get married — eight days of leave — the man’s employer, a bank in Taipei, said in public records.
The bank refused to approve the man’s application for paid time off beyond the mandated eight days for his first marriage. That prompted him to lodge a complaint with the Labor Department for violations of leave entitlements. The bank was fined $700 last October, but appealed the penalty in February, claiming that the employee had abused his rights.
Facebook last week. “The law exists for the people and not for exploitation, profit or harm. Of course it is important to enforce the law, but not knowing when to be flexible is the real disaster!” she added.
The case has also thrown the labor authorities in Taipei, the capital, into disarray and raised questions about how easy it is to exploit the marriage leave policy. In a statement, Ms. Chen, the labor official, called on public servants not to lose sight of common sense.
“Even though my colleagues had seriously studied the labor laws, they had not reached a breakthrough as to whether the bank employee abused his rights.” Ms. Chen added, “Instead, they had been digging into the black hole of ‘whether the marriage was real.’”
Marriage leave was introduced in Taiwan as part of other employment benefits, such as public holidays and paid time off for illness and bereavement, when the island’s labor laws were established in 1984, according to Chiou Jiunn-yann, a professor specializing in labor law at the Chinese Culture University in Taiwan.
Malta provides two working days. Vietnam allows three days for one’s own marriage and one day for the wedding of a child. In China, the duration of leave varies by region: Most offer at least three days, but Shanxi Province allows 30 days.
The Taiwanese marriage leave does not impose quotas on those who claim it, nor does it restrict how frequently employees could take the leave. The entitlement is simply renewed for each marriage, even for those marrying each other repeatedly. (In comparison to the marriage leave, workers get five days of parental leave.)
“The worker is entitled to leave if he remarries,” said Chen Kun-Hung, the chief labor standards official in the Taipei City government.
The penalty slapped on the bank was revoked after the case was covered by local news outlets, spurring public debate, he added. “The public thought there was concern over the abuse of labor rights, and the abuse hasn’t been regulated in laws or discussed by the central government to clarify the situation,” he said in a phone interview on Thursday.
Professor Chiou added that the government should consider appropriate measures to ensure fairness to both employers and employees.
“If there’s no plan to resolve this, there’s no guarantee that there wouldn’t be someone who plays this kind of game with you 365 days a year,” he said.
As the government prepared on Thursday to start taking applications for a $16 billion relief fund for music clubs, theaters and other live event businesses, thousands of desperate applicants waited eagerly to submit their paperwork right at noon, when the system was scheduled to open.
And then they waited. And waited. Nearly four hours later, the system was still not working at all, sending applicants into spasms of anxiety.
“This is an absolute disaster,” Eric Sosa, the owner of C’mon Everybody, a club in Brooklyn, tweeted at the agency. In social media forums and Zoom calls, frustrated applicants banded together to vent and share their anger.
The Small Business Administration, which runs the initiative, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, attributed the problems to “a technical issue” that it said it was working to address.
the same thing happened again, weeks later, when a new round of funding became available.
Applicants for the grant program were incredulous that the agency was not better prepared — especially because the funds are to be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Those who get their applications in early have the best chance of getting aid before the money runs out.
“It pits venues against each other because we’re all mad-dashing for this,” Mr. Sosa said in an interview. “And it shouldn’t be that way. We’re all a community.”
For businesses like Crowbar, a music club in Tampa, Fla., getting a grant is a matter of survival. Tom DeGeorge, Crowbar’s primary owner, took out more than $200,000 in personal loans to keep the business afloat after it shut down last year, including one using its liquor license as collateral.
More than a year later, the club has reopened with a smattering of events at reduced capacities, but the business still operates in the red, Mr. DeGeorge said in an interview.
months of lobbying by an ad hoc coalition of music venues and other groups that warned of the loss of an entire sector of the arts economy.
For music venues in particular, the last year has been a scramble to remain afloat, with the proprietors of local clubs running crowdfunding campaigns, selling T-shirts and racking their brains for any creative way to raise funds. For the holidays, the Subterranean club in Chicago, for example, agreed to place the names of patrons on its marquee for donations of $250 or more.
“It’s been the busiest year,” Robert Gomez, the primary owner of Subterranean, said in an interview. “But it’s all been about, ‘Where am I going to get funding from?’”
sent out an alert warning of “serious concerns” with the program’s waste and fraud controls. The Small Business Administration’s current audit plan “exposes billions of dollars to potential misuse of funds,” the inspector general wrote in a report.
Successful applicants will receive a grant equal to 45 percent of their gross earned revenue from 2019, up to $10 million. Those who lost 90 percent of their revenue (compared to the prior year) after the coronavirus pandemic took hold will have a 14-day priority window for receiving the money, followed by another 14-day period for those who lost 70 percent or more. If any funds remain after that, they will then go to applicants who had a 25 percent sales loss in at least one quarter of 2020. Venues owned by large corporations, like Live Nation or AEG, are not eligible.
The application process is extensive, with detailed questions about venues’ budgets, staff and equipment.
“They want to make sure you’re not just setting up a piano in the corner of an Italian restaurant and calling yourself a music venue,” said Blayne Tucker, a lawyer for several music spaces in Texas.
many dry months before touring and live events return at anything like prepandemic levels.
The grant program also offers help for Broadway theaters, performing arts centers and even zoos, which share many of the same economic struggles.
The Pablo Center at the Confluence, in Eau Claire, Wis., for example, was able to raise about $1 million from donations and grants during the pandemic, yet is still $1.2 million short on its annual fixed operating expenses, said Jason Jon Anderson, its executive director.
“By the time we open again, October 2021 at the earliest, we will have been shuttered longer than we had been open,” he added. (The center opened in 2018, at a cost of $60 million.)
The thousands of small clubs that dot the national concert map lack access to major donors and, in many cases, have been surviving on fumes for months.
Stephen Chilton, the owner of the 300-capacity Rebel Lounge in Phoenix, said he had taken out “a few hundred thousand” in loans to keep the club afloat. In October, it reopened with a pop-up coffee shop inside, and the club hosts some events, like trivia contests and open mic shows.
“We’re losing a lot less than we were losing when we were completely closed,” Mr. Chilton said, “but it’s not making up for the lost revenue from doing events.”
The Rebel Lounge hopes that a grant will help it survive until it can bring back a full complement of concerts. And if its application is not accepted?
The Rev. Henry Torres told his parishioners, who had gathered on Palm Sunday in socially distanced rows of half-empty pews, that God had not abandoned them.
The coronavirus had killed dozens of regulars at the church, St. Sebastian Roman Catholic Church in Queens, N.Y., and the pandemic forced it to close its doors for months last year. But the parishioners were there now, he said, which was a sign of hope.
“Even through difficulties, God is at work,” Father Torres said. “Even when people are suffering, even if it may seem that God is silent, that does not mean that God is absent.”
That is a message that many Christians — and the cash-strapped churches that minister to them — are eager to believe this Easter, as the springtime celebration of hope and renewal on Sunday coincides with rising vaccination rates and the promise of a return to something resembling normal life.
Religious services during the Holy Week holidays, which began on Palm Sunday and end on Easter, are among the most well-attended of the year, and this year they offer churches a chance to begin rebuilding their flocks and regaining their financial health. But the question of whether people will return is a crucial one.
Across New York City, many churches have still not reopened despite state rules that would allow them to do so.
The Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, a nationally prominent Black church, said concerns over the virus, and its disproportionate impact on the Black community, would keep his church from reopening until at least the fall.
Nicholas Richardson, a spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of New York, said many of its churches had also not reopened. When the diocese introduced a program last fall to allow its 190 parishes to pay a reduced tithe to the diocese, roughly half of them applied.
“It varies church by church,” he said. “Pledges are not necessarily dramatically down, but donations given to the collection plate are hopelessly down.”