30-day comment period on to-be-drafted regulations that would make it harder to obscure who controls a company. Among the details to be worked out are what entities should report and when; how to collect, protect and update information for a database; and the criteria for sharing with law enforcement.

“We could not be more excited,” Kenneth Blanco, the director of the Treasury’s Financial Criminal Enforcement Network (FinCEN), told bankers recently. The U.S. has been under pressure to address its vulnerability to money laundering and financial crimes:

  • In 2016, the international Financial Action Task Force gave the country a failing grade on transparency of company ownership.

  • In 2018, banks and financial institutions began having to collect that information from clients to help law enforcement identify individuals.

  • In January, Congress passed the Corporate Transparency Act, which requires businesses to report ownership to the government.

New rules could make forming small businesses, special purpose vehicles and other closely held entities “significantly” more burdensome, said Steve Ganis of Mintz, an expert in anti-money laundering regulation. “FinCEN’s new regime will make things much more complicated for start-ups, where control and ownership are highly fluid,” he said. Public companies and many larger businesses would be exempt because they already face stricter scrutiny.

Deals

  • Flipkart, the Indian e-commerce company owned by Walmart, is reportedly planning to go public through an I.P.O. this year. (Bloomberg)

  • Grab, the Singaporean tech giant, is near a deal to merge with a SPAC backed by Altimeter Capital at a $35 billion valuation. It would be the biggest-ever blank check deal. (FT)

  • Fox sued the owner of FanDuel over the price of its option to buy a stake in the sports betting service. (CNBC)

Politics and policy

Tech

  • Coinbase, whose direct listing is set for next week, said it collected more revenue in the first quarter this year than in all of 2020. (CNBC)

  • The audio chat start-up Clubhouse is said to be raising funds at a $4 billion valuation. (Bloomberg)

  • The S.E.C. accused an actor of running a $690 million Ponzi scheme built around false claims of deals with Netflix and HBO. (Bloomberg)

Best of the rest

We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to dealbook@nytimes.com.

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The Georgia Voting Fight

Biden, for example, suggested that the law would close polling places at 5 p.m. It won’t. As is already the law, local governments must keep polling places open until 5 p.m. and can keep them open until 7 p.m. (CNN’s Daniel Dale and The Post’s Glenn Kessler have both laid out Biden’s incorrect assertions.)

“The entire existence of the legislation in question is premised on a pernicious lie,” The Bulwark’s Tim Miller wrote. “But for some reason Biden & many other Dems are grossly exaggerating the specifics of what it actually does.” In some cases, Democrats appear to be talking about provisions that the Georgia legislature considered but did not include.

What about the impact of the provisions that really are in the law? That’s inherently uncertain. But The Times’s Nate Cohn has argued that the effects will be smaller than many critics suggest. He thinks it will have little effect on overall turnout or on election outcomes.

He points out that the law mostly restricts early voting, not Election Day voting. Early voters tend to be more highly educated and more engaged with politics. They often vote no matter what, be it early or on Election Day. More broadly, Nate argues that modest changes to voting convenience — like those in the Georgia law — have had little to no effect when other states have adopted them.

Of course, Georgia is so closely divided that even a small effect — on, say, turnout in Atlanta — could decide an election. And the law has one other alarming aspect, as both Nate and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Patricia Murphy have noted: It could make it easier for state legislators to overturn a future election result after votes have been counted.

The new Georgia law is intended to be a partisan power grab. It is an attempt to win elections by changing the rules rather than persuading more voters. It’s inconsistent with the basic ideals of democracy. But if it’s intent is clear, its impact is less so. It may not have the profound effect that its designers hope and its critics fear.

Substack’s Matthew Yglesias offers a helpful bit of context: Georgia’s law is based on “a big lie,” he writes, which certainly is worrisome. But the impact is likely to be modest, he predicts. And for people worried about the state of American democracy, laws like Georgia’s are not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that the Electoral College, the structure of the Senate and the gerrymandering of House districts all mean that winning public opinion often isn’t enough to win elections and govern the country.

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A ‘System of Espionage’ Reigned at Ikea, a French Prosecutor Charges

VERSAILLES, France — The USB stick mysteriously appeared from an unidentified deliveryman. It held an explosive trove: a cache of startling emails detailing an intricate effort by Ikea executives in France to dig up information on employees, job applicants and even customers.

“Tell me if these people are known to the police,” read one executive’s message to a private investigator, seeking illicit background checks on hundreds of Ikea job applicants.

“A model worker has become a radical employee representative overnight,” read another. “We need to find out why.”

A decade after those emails surfaced, they are at the center of a criminal trial that has riveted public attention in France. Prosecutors are accusing the French arm of Ikea, the Swedish home furnishings giant, and some of its former executives of engineering a “system of espionage” from 2009 to 2012.

The alleged snooping was used to investigate employees and union organizers, check up on workers on medical leave and size up customers seeking refunds for botched orders. A former military operative was hired to execute some of the more clandestine operations.

The case stoked outrage in 2012 after the emails were leaked to the French news media, and Ikea promptly fired several executives in its French unit, including its former chief executive. There is no evidence that similar surveillance happened in any of the other 52 countries where the global retailer hones a fresh-faced image of stylish thriftiness served with Swedish meatballs.

unsuspecting customers who tangled with Ikea over big refunds. He insisted that he had never broken the law in gathering background material.

Some Ikea managers tapped police sources to gain access to government databases for job applicants at up to nine stores, seeking records on drug use, theft and other serious offenses. People whose files turned up “dirty” would not be hired, according to plaintiffs’ lawyers. As in the United States, applicants in France must consent to background checks.

The surveillance encompassed career workers. In one case, Mr. Fourès was hired to investigate whether Ikea France’s deputy director of communications and merchandising, who was on a yearlong sick leave recovering from hepatitis C, had faked the severity of her illness when managers learned she had traveled to Morocco.

He engaged a contact to pose as an airline worker and ask the 12-year Ikea employee, Virginie Paulin, to furnish copies of her passport stamps to win a free ticket offer. The passport confirmed her travel to Morocco.

“Excellent!” Mr. Baillot, the chief executive at the time, wrote in an email to Mr. Paris and Claire Héry, who was the director of human resources. “We’ll do more checks after Christmas to corner her,” he wrote. (Ms. Héry’s lawyer, Olivier Baratelli, said there was no evidence she had been aware of systemic surveillance. The charges against her were dropped.)

told The New York Times in 2012 that she had a second home in Morocco, and had flown there to recuperate from her illness. She said she had been so distraught by her dismissal that she attempted suicide.

Ikea officials paid particular attention to unions and their efforts to recruit members. In 2010, tensions erupted when Adel Amara, a union leader at an Ikea store in Franconville, northwest of Paris, rallied employees to strike for a 4 percent raise. Ikea said the strike had cost it millions of euros in lost sales.

After that, Ikea “tried to prevent more strikes by turning to a system of espionage,” said Vincent Lecourt, a lawyer for one of the store’s French unions. Ikea managers set up a surveillance net to gather information to fire Mr. Amara and curb militant union activity, plaintiffs’ lawyers said.

GSG, a French security company hired by Mr. Paris, advised Ikea to set a “legal trap” for Mr. Amara, and sent one of its agents to pose as a cashier, court documents showed. The mole infiltrated workers’ ranks, reporting conversations with Mr. Amara and his wife, also an Ikea employee, while spying on a number of other union activists.

“Their plan was to infiltrate the unions and explode them from the inside,” Mr. Lecourt said.

Mr. Paris also hired a bodyguard disguised as an administrative assistant with the goal, he testified, of protecting officials who claimed that Mr. Amara had harassed them. Mr. Amara was later found liable by a criminal judge for moral harassment after Ikea France filed a complaint.

Mr. Daoud, Ikea France’s lawyer, said there was no proof of the unions’ allegations. “There was no hunting down of union members,” he said.

That claim has not doused a sense of injustice among workers who said they were forever marked by the moment they learned their employer was spying on them.

Soon after Ikea fired Mr. Amara in 2011, he said in an interview, a USB stick was delivered to his home by a person who refused to identify himself, containing the explosive email trove that became the basis of the lawsuit.

The documents included receipts of nearly €1 million for surveillance operations, as well as a 55-page internal report on Mr. Amara’s union activities, personal situation and legal records dating to when he was a teenager. There were lists naming hundreds of job applicants and employees to undergo undisclosed checks, as well as the orders to investigate some customers.

“That’s when I understood that Ikea was spying this whole time, and that it was a regular practice,” Mr. Amara said. “It was absolutely surreal.”

Mr. Amara said he took the USB stick to French news outlets, he said, unleashing the media firestorm around Ikea France that led to police investigations and the current trial.

“Ikea acted as if it was all powerful over its employees,” he said.

“If Ikea hadn’t been exposed,” he added, “it would have just kept going.”

Gaëlle Fournier contributed reporting.

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With a Big Tax Break, Hong Kong Tries to Soothe the Rich

HONG KONG — Political opposition has been quashed. Free speech has been stifled. The independent court system may be next.

But while Hong Kong’s top leaders take a tougher line on the city of more than seven million people, they are courting a crucial constituency: the rich. Top officials are preparing a new tax break and other sweeteners to portray Hong Kong as the premier place in Asia to make money, despite the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly autocratic rule.

So far, the pitch is working. Cambridge Associates, a $30 billion investment fund, said in March it planned to open an office in the city. Investment managers have set up more than a hundred new companies in recent months. The Wall Street banks Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley are increasing their Hong Kong staffing.

“Hong Kong is second only to New York as the world’s billionaire city,” said Paul Chan, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, at an online gathering of finance executives this year.

erupted two years ago. At the same time, it is trying to charm the city’s financial class to keep it from moving to another business-friendly place like Singapore.

“It is a one-party state, but they are pragmatic and they don’t want to hurt business,” Fred Hu, a former chairman of Goldman’s Greater China business, said of Chinese officials.

For apolitical financial types, the changes will have little impact, said Mr. Hu, who is also the founder of the private equity firm Primavera Capital Group. “If you’re a banker or a trader, you may have political views, but you’re not a political activist,” he said.

flowed out of local Hong Kong bank accounts and into jurisdictions like Singapore.

Tensions run taut inside Hong Kong’s gleaming office towers. Even executives who are sympathetic to the government have declined to speak publicly for fear of getting caught in the political crossfire between Beijing and world capitals like Washington and London. Hong Kong’s tough rules on movement in the pandemic may also spark some expatriates to leave in the summer once school ends.

For now, however, financial firms are doubling down on Hong Kong. Neal Horwitz, an executive recruiter in Singapore, said finance was likely to remain in Hong Kong “until the ship goes down.”

carried interest, which is typically earned by private equity investors and hedge funds. Officials had discussed the plan for years but didn’t introduce a bill until February, and it could pass in the coming months through the city’s Beijing-dominated legislature.

sparked criticism elsewhere, including in the United States. But Hong Kong fears a financial exodus without such benefits, said Maurice Tse, a finance professor at Hong Kong University’s business school.

“To keep these people around we have to give a tax benefit,” he said.

Hong Kong has also proposed a program, Wealth Management Connect, that would give mainland residents in the southern region known as the Greater Bay Area the ability to invest in Hong Kong-based hedge funds and investment firms. Officials have boasted that it would give foreign firms access to 72 million people. Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials signed an agreement in February to start a pilot program at an unspecified time.

Pandemic travel restrictions have slowed the proposal’s momentum, said King Au, the executive director of Hong Kong’s Financial Services Development Council, but it remains a top priority.

“I want to highlight how important the China market is to global investors,” Mr. Au said.

Mainland money has already helped Hong Kong look more attractive. Chinese firms largely fueled a record $52 billion haul for companies that sold new shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last year, according to Dealogic, a data provider. New offerings this year have already raised $16 billion, including $5.4 billion for Kuaishou, which operates a Chinese video app. The record start has been helped in part by Chinese companies that have been pressured by Washington to avoid raising money in the United States.

triple its hires across China, and a spokeswoman said a Hong Kong staff increase was part of that. Bank of America is adding more people in Hong Kong, while Citi has said it will hire as many as 1,700 people in Hong Kong this year alone.

hew to the party line. Still, it is considering moving some of its top executives to Hong Kong, because it will be “important to be closer to growth opportunities,” Noel Quinn, HSBC’s chief executive, said in February.

Investment funds are flocking to Hong Kong, too, after officials in August lowered regulatory barriers to setting up legal structures similar to those used in low-tax, opaque jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Government data shows that 154 funds have been registered since then.

Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, and Li Zhanshu, the Communist Party’s No. 3 official, at one point owned Hong Kong property, according to a trail that can be traced partly through public records.

While officials have welcomed business, they have made clear to the financial and business worlds that they will brook no dissent. In March, Han Zheng, a Chinese vice premier, praised the stock market’s performance and the finance sector in a meeting with a political advisory group but made its limits clear.

“The signal to the business community is very simple,” said Michael Tien, a former Hong Kong lawmaker and businessman who attended the closed-door session. “Stay out of politics.”

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Possible Side Effects of AstraZeneca Vaccine Come Into Sharper Focus

LONDON — For months, European countries have seesawed between craving and rebuffing AstraZeneca’s vaccine, with the shot’s fortunes rising and falling on spats over supply and on questions over the efficacy of the vaccine itself.

But few concerns have proved as disruptive to the rollout of the world’s workhorse vaccine in Europe as reports of very rare blood clots in some recipients. Many countries responded by halting the shot’s use, only to start giving it again after an all-clear from regulators at the European Medicines Agency, and then stopped inoculations a second time in certain age groups after doctors became more concerned about the clots.

On Tuesday, those concerns were reinforced yet again when a top vaccines official at the European Medicines Agency said that the vaccine was linked to extremely rare, though sometimes fatal, blood clots in a small number of recipients. It was the first indication from an international regulatory body that the clots may be a real, if very unusual, side effect of the shot.

Regulators now appear to be considering issuing their first formal warnings about the potential side effects — not only in continental Europe, which has long been wary of the shot for political and scientific reasons, but also in Britain, the birthplace of the AstraZeneca vaccine and long its biggest champion, where new data have sown concerns as well.

speedy inoculation program, have also insisted that the vaccine’s benefits far outweighed the risks. They and the company cited a lack of evidence in Britain that the clotting events were any more common than would be expected among people who had never been given AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

But the evidence changed last week when Britain reported 30 cases of the rare blood clots, 25 more than previously. This week, a prominent scientific adviser to the British government said there was “increasing evidence” of the clots being associated with the vaccine.

regulators reported 30 cases of the rare blood clots combined with low platelets among 18 million people given the AstraZeneca vaccine. That translated to roughly one case in 600,000 recipients of the vaccine.

European countries’ divergent approaches to the vaccine stem from a number of factors, including the supply of vaccines and severity of the pandemic. Marco Cavaleri, the official at the European Medicines Agency who spoke about the link between the vaccine and blood clots, said on Tuesday that those factors would likely continue to dictate how countries used the shot.

Beyond those factors, countries also took very different approaches to managing risk, scientists said. Countries that have continued using the shot were more focused on securing the overall health of their citizens. Others were more preoccupied with minimizing the risk to any single person.

“The attitude here is more, ‘Get me out of the pandemic,’” said Penny Ward, a visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London, referring to the British approach. In continental Europe, she said, “There seems to be a much higher emphasis on individual safety in the population.”

Adriano Mannino, a philosopher at the University of Munich and director of the Solon Center for Policy Innovation in Germany, said that the collective benefits of the vaccine dominated thinking in Britain, while Germans were more concerned with the risk of an injection going wrong in individual cases. That reflected, partly, Germany’s history with the Nazis, who conducted lethal experiments on people.

“In many areas where law has to regulate ethically delicate and potentially dangerous things,” he said, “the German state has tended to go for tough restrictions.”

Nevertheless, Germans over 60 — the age group still being given AstraZeneca’s vaccine — flooded hotlines to book appointments and stood in line for hours in recent days as eligibility restrictions for their age group were relaxed.

In the northeastern city of Wismar, several hundred people waited for up to five hours on Tuesday in a driving wind and mix of rain and snow to receive the shot.

“I wish there had been better weather,” Kerstin Weiss, the head of the district authority in the northeastern region, told public broadcaster NDR. “But honestly, this is a sign that people are willing to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca.”

Benjamin Mueller reported from London and Melissa Eddy from Berlin. Monika Pronczuk and Emma Bubola contributed reporting.

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Testing an Opaque Security Power, Michigan Man Challenges ‘No-Fly List’

“For over two years, I’ve tried to get off the no-fly list, but the government won’t even give me its reason for putting me on the list or a fair process to clear my name and regain my rights,” Mr. Chebli said in a statement released by the A.C.L.U. “No one should suffer what my family and I have had to suffer.”

The Justice Department had no immediate response to the lawsuit. But it has defended the legality of the government’s terrorism watch lists and its related practices in litigation over the past decade, arguing that the procedures are lawful and reasonable given the national security interests at stake.

Mr. Chebli’s case is a sequel to a major lawsuit by the A.C.L.U. during the Obama administration that challenged government procedures for reviewing whether it was appropriate to put someone’s name on the no-fly list. In 2014, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that those regulations were inadequate and violated Americans’ Fifth Amendment right to due process.

In response, the government promised to overhaul the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program to ensure that Americans would be told if they were on the list and given a meaningful opportunity to challenge the decision. (It also removed seven of the 13 original plaintiffs in that case from the no-fly list. Several remaining plaintiffs pressed on, but that judge, and later the appeals court in San Francisco, upheld the revised procedures as applied to them.)

Citing Mr. Chebli’s inability to obtain information about the government’s evidence about him or to challenge it in a hearing before a neutral decision maker, the new lawsuit said that the revised procedures are both unconstitutional and that they violate statutory law, including a federal law that protects religious liberty, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, because he is unable to travel to Mecca for the required Muslim pilgrimage.

“More than two years ago, Mr. Chebli filed an administrative petition for redress, but the government has failed to provide any reason for placing him on the no-fly list or a fair process to challenge that placement,” it said. “As a result, Mr. Chebli has been subjected to unreasonable and lengthy delays and an opaque redress process that has prevented him from clearing his name.”

Beyond the Oregon case, the new lawsuit takes its place among a constellation of related litigation that has tested the limits of the government’s terrorism watch-listing powers and individual rights.

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Are Democrats Friends with Big Business Now?

Still, statements by companies about their social priorities deserve a healthy dose of skepticism.

Indeed, some of the same companies taking part in the stampede of statements critiquing voting laws, like Facebook, Google and AT&T, also recently donated money to the Republican State Leadership Committee, a group that supports many of the voting initiatives. Judd Legum, a journalist, pointed out this hypocrisy in his Popular Information newsletter, noting that Republicans have introduced bills to restrict voting in 47 states.

In the case of businesses like Coca-Cola and Delta, their more forceful, specific statements against the voting law in Georgia came only after the bill passed and 72 senior Black executives had spoken out, giving them cover.

And statements — even moving an All-Star Game — are not expensive. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, made this point in a letter to M.L.B.’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, calling its move “an easy way to signal virtues without significant financial fallout.”

Mr. Rubio also told Mr. Manfred, “I am under no illusion you intend to resign as a member from Augusta National Golf Club,” which is in Georgia. “To do so would require a personal sacrifice, as opposed to the woke corporate virtue signaling of moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta.”

The decision to move the game will impact “countless small and minority-owned businesses in and around Atlanta,” Mr. Rubio wrote.

On that last point Mr. Rubio has an ally of sorts in Stacey Abrams, the Democratic organizer in Georgia, but not because they agree on the underlying issue. Ms. Abrams said: “I am disappointed that the M.L.B. is relocating the All-Star Game; however, I commend the players, owners and league commissioner for speaking out. I urge others in positions of leadership to do so as well.”

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Texas Bans Agencies and Some Businesses From Requiring Covid Vaccine Proof

Under a new executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas this week, government agencies, private businesses and institutions that receive state funding cannot require people to show proof that they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Mr. Abbott said that vaccination status is private health information, and that no one should have to disclose it as a condition of engaging in normal activities. His order includes an exception allowing nursing homes and similar care facilities to require documentation of vaccination status for their residents.

A wide range of businesses, including cruise lines and airlines, are eager for people to be issued some kind of credential, often called a vaccine passport, that they can present to show they are immunized so that the businesses can more safely reopen, especially as the number of new virus cases rises across the country.

But a growing number of Republicans are politicizing the issue and framing proof-of-vaccination requirements and vaccine passports as government overreach. Last year many Republican governors rejected mask mandates for similar reasons, often calling the requirement to wear masks in public settings a violation of a citizen’s personal liberties, despite overwhelming evidence that masks stem the spread of the virus.

Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi said he opposes the idea of vaccine passports, and last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, issued an executive order banning policies that would require that customers provide any proof of vaccination. Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska has said his state would not participate in any vaccine passport program. Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri has said that he would not require vaccine passports in the state but was also not opposed to private companies adopting them.

Vaccine passports, including digital ones, raise daunting political, ethical and privilege questions. The Biden administration has made clear that it will neither issue nor require the passports.

Legal experts said there may be questions, depending on state law, about whether governors are authorized to bar requests for vaccination status by executive decree. But they said State Legislatures are most likely free to enact statutes to do so.

In 1905, the Supreme Court ruled that states can enforce compulsory vaccination laws. For more than a century, that ruling has let public schools require proof of vaccinations of its students, with some exceptions for religious objections.

Private companies, moreover, are free to refuse to employ or do business with whomever they want, subject to just a few exceptions that do not include vaccination status. But states can probably override that freedom by enacting a law barring discrimination based on vaccination status.

Adam Liptak and Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.

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Syrian Refugees in Rebel Controlled Idlib Are Stuck in Limbo

IDLIB, Syria — Among the millions of Syrians who fled as the government bombed their towns, destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones are 150 families squatting in a soccer stadium in the northwestern city of Idlib, sheltering in rickety tents under the stands or in the rocky courtyard.

Work is scarce and terror grips them whenever jets buzz overhead: New airstrikes could come at any time. But the fear of government retribution keeps them from returning home. More than 1,300 similar camps dot Syria’s last bastions under rebel control, eating up farmland, stretching along irrigation canals and filling lots next to apartment buildings where refugee families squat in damaged units with no windows.

“People will stay in these places with all the catastrophes before they go live under the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” said Okba al-Rahoum, the manager of the camp in the soccer stadium.

On a rare visit to Idlib Province, examples abounded of shocked and impoverished people trapped in a murky and often violent limbo. Stuck between a wall to prevent them from fleeing across the nearby border with Turkey and a hostile government that could attack at any moment, they struggle to secure basic needs in a territory controlled by a militant group formerly linked to Al Qaeda.

bused them here after conquering their towns. They drove in with trucks piled high with blankets, mattresses and children. Some arrived on foot, with few possession besides the clothes they wore.

Last year, an offensive by the Syrian government, backed by its Russia and Iran, pushed nearly a million more people into the area.

About 2.7 million of the 4.2 million people in the northwest, one of the last of two strips of territory held by a rebel movement that once controlled much of Syria, have fled from other parts of the country. That influx has transformed a pastoral strip of farming villages into a dense conglomeration of makeshift settlements with strained infrastructure and displaced families crammed into every available space.

SHINE, an education organization, urged a group of women at an event in Idlib to refuse polygamous marriages, which are permitted under Islamic law.

The next day, gunmen closed SHINE’s office and threatened to jail its manager, Ms. Kisar said.

a cease-fire between Russia and Turkey has stopped outright combat in Idlib, but on one day last month there were three attacks. A shell hit a refugee camp; an airstrike ignited a fuel depot on the Turkish border; and three artillery shells struck a village hospital in Al Atarib, killing seven patients, including an orphan boy who had gone for a vaccination, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the facility.

While the area’s displaced struggle to survive, others try to provide simple pleasures.

In the city of Idlib, the Disneyland restaurant entices visitors to dine on salads and grilled meat, and to forget their woes with video games, bumper cars, air hockey and stuffed animal claw machines.

The basement storeroom doubles as a shelter when the government shells nearby, and the terrace is enclosed with plastic sheeting instead of glass so it doesn’t shatter on diners if something explodes nearby.

The manager, Ahmed Abu Kheir, lost his job at a tourist restaurant that shut down when the war began, he said, so he opened a smaller place that was later destroyed by government shelling.

He opened another restaurant, but left it behind when the government seized the area last year and he fled to Idlib.

Like all of Idlib’s displaced, he longed to take his family home, but was glad to work in a place that spread a little joy in the meantime.

“We are convinced that normal life has to continue,” he said. “We want to live.”

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