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Treasury Puts Taiwan on Notice for Currency Practices: Live Updates

Vietnam and Switzerland as manipulators in its final report in 2020. The Biden administration’s report undid those designations, citing insufficient evidence.

Instead, the department said it would continue “enhanced engagement” with Vietnam and Switzerland and begin such talks with Taiwan, which includes urging the trading partners to address undervaluation of their currencies.

“Treasury is working tirelessly to address efforts by foreign economies to artificially manipulate their currency values that put American workers at an unfair disadvantage,” Ms. Yellen said in a statement.

Taiwan is the United States’ 10th largest trading partner in 2019, according to the United States trade representative. Vietnam is the 13th largest, and Switzerland is 16th.

The Treasury Department did not label China as a currency manipulator, instead urging it to improve transparency over its foreign exchange practices.

Treasury kept China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand on its currency monitoring list, and added Ireland and Mexico.

“Sonia” chats with coworkers — from a distance.
Credit…IBM

Millions of workers are wondering what the office will be like when they go back after a long stretch of remote work. Employers are trying to prepare them for it.

IBM has designed a “reorientation” program to help its employees adjust when they return to a familiar setting but face a host of unfamiliar new procedures, the DealBook newsletter writes.

“It’s sort of like the first day of school,” said Joanna Daly, the company’s vice president of talent. “A day early, kids go and get to see the classroom or see how things work.”

This is needed, she said, because it is “not simply returning to the workplace as it existed before or the ways of working as it existed before.”

IBM made a “day in the life” video to show employees what to expect. One version of the 11-minute-long video seen by DealBook starts with “Paul” going back to one of IBM’s offices in Britain. To start the day, he goes through a self-screening checklist to assess potential exposure. He enters the office through designated entrances and picks up his masks for the day (and disinfectant wipes if he needs them). Arrows guide him through the halls and up one-way staircases. Only one person is allowed in the bathroom at a time.

The cafeteria is closed, so Paul must bring his lunch. He can’t use the whiteboards or marker pens in conference rooms (and he shouldn’t linger there longer than necessary). If Paul sees other IBMers not following the safety protocols, “It is OK to politely remind them,” the narrator assures him.

Along with the video, IBM produced an 18-page presentation depicting “Sonia’s’’ return to the workplace, serving as a friendly, cartoon-filled back-to-work manual.

“We’re looking now at how might anxiety manifests itself differently for different employees around being back together and then how do we address that,” Ms. Daly said, “through practical understanding of health and safety and also through having enough flexibility in the environment that everyone can kind of get used to coming back.”

IBM, which has 346,000 employees, hasn’t set a timeline for when its U.S. workers will return to the office. The company’s chief executive, Arvind Krishna, has said he expects 80 percent of them will work in a hybrid fashion when they do.

Mercedes-Benz said the electric EQS can travel up to 480 miles on a single charge, a feat the company attributed to new battery technology and the car’s aerodynamic shape.
Credit…Mercedes/Associated Press

Mercedes-Benz unveiled an electric counterpart to its top-of-the-line S-Class sedan on Thursday, the latest in a series of moves by German automakers to defend their dominance of the high end of the car market against Tesla.

The EQS, which will be available in the United States in August, is the first of four electric vehicles Mercedes will introduce this year, including two S.U.V.s that will be made at the company’s factory in Alabama and a lower-priced sedan. Mercedes did not announce a price for the EQS, but it is unlikely to be lower than the S-Class, which starts at $94,000 in the United States.

The cars could be decisive for Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes, as it tries to adapt to new technology.

“It is important to us,” Ola Källenius, the chief executive of Daimler, said of the EQS during an interview. “In a way it is kind of day one of a new era.”

The EQS has a range of 770 kilometers or about 480 miles, according to Mercedes. If that figure is confirmed by independent testing, the EQS would dethrone the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus as the production electric car that can travel the farthest between charges. The Tesla currently occupies the No. 1 spot with a range of just over 400 miles, according to rankings by Kelley Blue Book.

The EQS owes its stamina to advances in battery technology and an exceptionally aerodynamic design, Mr. Källenius said. Some analysts question whether Mercedes can sell enough electric vehicles to justify the cost of development, but Mr. Källenius said, “We will make money with the EQS from the word ‘go.’”

The EQS is the latest attempt by German carmakers to show that they can apply their expertise in engineering and production efficiency to battery-powered cars. Vehicles are Germany’s biggest export, so the carmakers’ success or failure will have a significant impact on the country’s prosperity.

On Wednesday, Audi, the luxury unit of Volkswagen, unveiled the Q4 E-Tron, an electric SUV. The Q4 shares many components with the Volkswagen ID.4, an electric SUV that the company began delivering to customers in the United States in March. Though priced to compete with internal combustion models, neither vehicle offers as much range as comparable Tesla cars.

In the S-Class tradition, the EQS offers over-the-top luxury features like software that can recognize when a driver might be feeling fatigued and can offer to turn on the massage function embedded in the seat.

“You’re going to get S-Class level refinement in a very, very high performing electric car,” Mr. Källenius said. “That’s your buying argument.”

Car buyers in Wuhan in January. China is trying to get its consumers to return to their prepandemic spending levels.
Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

China on Friday reported that its economy grew by a remarkable 18.3 percent in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year. But the spike is as much a reflection of how bad matters were a year ago — when the China’s output shrank by 6.8 percent — as it is an indication of how China is doing now.

Global demand for the computer screens and video consoles that China makes is soaring as people work from home and as a pandemic recovery beckons. That demand has continued as Americans with stimulus checks look to spend money on patio furniture, electronics and other goods made in Chinese factories.

China’s recovery has also been powered by big infrastructure. Cranes dot city skylines. Construction projects for highways and railroads have provided short-term jobs. Property sales have also helped strengthen economic activity.

Exports and property investment can carry China’s growth only so far. Now China is trying to get its consumers to return to their prepandemic ways.

Unlike much of the developed world, China doesn’t subsidize its consumers. Instead of handing out checks to jump-start the economy last year, China ordered state-owned banks to lend to businesses and offered tax rebates.

Travel restrictions over the Lunar New Year holiday dampened consumer appetite and slowed the momentum of Chinese shoppers. But retail data on Friday showed that March sales were better than expected, raising hopes that consumers might be starting to feel confident.


By: Ella Koeze·Data delayed at least 15 minutes·Source: FactSet

Global stocks rose on Friday after a string of strong economic reports and company earnings.

The S&P 500 rose 0.2 percent, set for its fourth straight week of gains and another record. The benchmark had gained 1 percent in the week through Thursday and is up nearly 5 percent so far this month.

The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.6 percent on Friday, also climbing to a record, while the FTSE 100 in Britain climbed above 7,000 points for the first time since February 2020. Stock indexes in Japan, Hong Kong and China all closed higher.

China reported on Friday that its economy grew by 18.3 percent in the first three months of the year compared with the same period last year, when swathes of the country had been shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, data showed U.S. retail sales in March leapt past expectations, increasing by nearly 10 percent, and initial state jobless claims fell last week to their lowest level of the pandemic.

This week, banks including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase reported better-than-expected earnings, and their chief executives delivered upbeat economic forecasts.

The yield on 10-year Treasury notes slipped to 1.57 percent on Friday. Last month, concerns that government spending would overheat the economy and lead to higher inflation sent bond yields shooting higher, to 1.74 percent on March 31. But those worries appear to have been soothed by central bank officials, who have repeatedly said they expect increases in inflation to be temporary.

Earlier this week, data showed that prices in the United States rose 2.6 percent in March from a year earlier, a larger-than-normal increase partly because prices of some items fell in March 2020 as the pandemic took hold.

Another reason yields have drifted lower is a “remarkable” demand for bonds, ING, a Dutch bank, said. Recent Treasury bond auctions have received more bids than normal, and JPMorgan Chase sold $13 billion of bonds on Thursday, the biggest sale ever by a bank, according to Bloomberg.

“Cash has to go somewhere, and it can’t all go into equities,” the ING analysts wrote in a note to clients.

James O’Keefe, the founder of the conservative group Project Veritas, in 2015.
Credit…Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Twitter said on Thursday that it had blocked the account of James O’Keefe, the founder of the conservative group Project Veritas.

Mr. O’Keefe’s account, @JamesOKeefeIII, was “permanently suspended for violating the Twitter Rules on platform manipulation and spam,” specifically that users cannot mislead others with fake accounts or “artificially amplify or disrupt conversations” through the use of multiple accounts, a Twitter spokesman said.

In a statement on his website, Mr. O’Keefe said he will file a defamation lawsuit against Twitter on Monday over its claim that he had operated fake accounts.

“This is false, this is defamatory, and they will pay,” the statement said.

“Section 230 may have protected them before, but it will not protect them from me,” Mr. O’Keefe said, referring to a legal liability shield for social media. That shield, part of the federal Communications Decency Act, has become a favorite target of lawmakers in both parties.

In February, Twitter permanently suspended the Project Veritas account, saying it had posted private information. It also temporarily locked Mr. O’Keefe’s account.

“We were trying to find the most incendiary way of making them mad,” Caolan Robertson said of the videos he used to make.
Credit…Alexander Ingram for The New York Times

To keep you watching, YouTube serves up videos similar to those you have watched before. But the longer someone watches, the more extreme the videos can become.

Caolan Robertson learned how making clever edits and focusing on confrontation could help draw millions of views on YouTube and other services. He also learned how YouTube’s recommendation algorithm often nudged people toward extreme videos.

Over more than two years, he helped produce and publish videos for right-wing Youtube personalities including Lauren Southern, Cade Metz reports for The New York Times.

Knowing what garnered the most attention on YouTube, Mr. Robertson said, he and Ms. Southern would devise public appearances meant to generate conflict. They attended a women’s march in London and, with Ms. Southern playing the part of a television reporter, approached each woman with the same four-word question: “Women’s rights or Islam?”

They often received a confused, measured or polite response, according to Mr. Robertson. They continued to ask the question and sharpened it. Ms. Southern, for example, said it would be difficult for Muslim women to answer the question because their husbands wouldn’t let them attend the march. That caused anger to build in the crowd.

“It appears in the videos that we are just trying to figure out what is going on, gather information, understand people,” Mr. Robertson said. “But really, we were trying to find the most incendiary way of making them mad.”

Ms. Southern described the situation differently. “We asked the question because we knew it was going to force people to question their own political views and realize the contradiction in being a hard-core feminist but also supporting a religion that, quite frankly, has questionable practices around women,” she said. And, she added, they used video techniques that any media company would use.

Attendees of the disastrous Fyre Festival in the Bahamas won $2 million in a class-action settlement that is subject to final approval.
Credit…Jake Strang, via Associated Press
  • A court has awarded attendees of the infamous Fyre Festival approximately $7,220 apiece, nearly four years after they were left scrounging for makeshift shelter on a dark beach. The $2 million class-action settlement, reached Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York between organizers and 277 ticket holders from the 2017 event, is still subject to final approval, and the amount could ultimately be lower depending on the outcome of Fyre’s bankruptcy case with other creditors.

  • CBS is turning to a pair of outsiders to restore the fortunes of a news operation that trails its rivals at ABC and NBC. CBS said on Thursday that Neeraj Khemlani, a vice president at the publishing powerhouse Hearst, and Wendy McMahon, a former ABC executive, would succeed Ms. Zirinsky. The two will serve as presidents and co-heads of CBS News, a division that will be expanded to include local stations owned by the network.

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Myanmar Coup Puts the Seal on Autocracy’s Rise in Southeast Asia

Late last month, foreign officials in army regalia toasted their hosts in Naypyidaw, the bunkered capital built by Myanmar’s military. Ice clinked in frosted glasses. A lavish spread had been laid out for the foreign dignitaries in honor of Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day.

That very day, the military, which had seized power on Feb. 1, gunned down more than 100 of its own citizens. Far from publicly condemning the brutality, the military representatives from neighboring countries — India, China, Thailand and Vietnam among them — posed grinning with the generals, legitimizing their putsch.

The coup in Myanmar feels like a relic of a Southeast Asian past, when men in uniform roamed a vast dictators’ playground. But it also brings home how a region once celebrated for its transformative “people power” revolutions — against Suharto of Indonesia and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines — has been sliding back into autocracy.

From Cambodia and the Philippines to Malaysia and Thailand, democracy is languishing. Electoral politics and civil liberties have eroded. Obedient judiciaries have hobbled opposition forces. Entire political classes are in exile or in prison. Independent media are being silenced by leaders who want only one voice heard: their own.

alliance of democracies.” With China and Russia involved, the United Nations Security Council has done nothing to punish Myanmar’s generals.

Covid-19 with them.

A scheduled special meeting on Myanmar by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations offers little hope of action. That consensus-driven group avoids delving into members’ internal affairs. Earlier negotiations among regional foreign ministers didn’t result in a single policy that would deter Myanmar’s coup-makers.

Besides, many of the region’s leaders have no wish to uphold democratic ideals. They have used the courts to silence their critics and met protest movements with force.

But if authoritarians are looking out for one another, so, too, are protesters. In Thailand, students have stood up to a government born of a coup, using a three-fingered salute from the “Hunger Games” films to express defiance. The same gesture was adopted after the putsch in Myanmar, the leitmotif of a protest movement millions strong.

its first commoner president, and Malaysia would shunt aside a governing party bloated by decades of graft and patronage. Thailand’s generals had managed to go years without a coup. Even in Vietnam, the Communist leadership was pushing forward with liberalization.

The most significant transformation seemed to be in Myanmar. The military had led the country since a 1962 coup, driving it into penury. In 2015, the generals struck a power-sharing agreement with a civilian leadership fronted by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who spent 15 years under house arrest. President Barack Obama went to Myanmar to sanctify the start of a peaceful political transition.

Now Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is again locked in her villa, facing possible life imprisonment. Her supporters have been arrested and tormented. Soldiers picked up one of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s followers and burned a tattoo of her face off his arm.

Much of the rest of Southeast Asia is in full-fledged democratic retreat. The leader of Thailand’s last coup, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is still the prime minister. His government has charged dozens of student protesters, some in their teens, with obscure crimes that can carry long sentences. Thai dissidents in exile have turned up dead.

After a brief interlude out of government, Malaysia’s old establishment is back in power, including people associated with one of the largest heists of state funds the world has seen in a generation. Vietnam’s crackdown on dissent is in high gear. In Cambodia, Hun Sen, Asia’s longest-ruling leader, has dismantled all opposition and set in place the makings of a family political dynasty.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines may enjoy enduring popularity, but he has presided over thousands of extrajudicial killings. He has also cozied up to China, presenting it as a more constant friend than the United States, which once colonized the Philippines.

Protesters in Thailand, who gathered by the hundreds of thousands last year, have resumed their rallies, even though most of their young leaders are now in prison.

As the riot police fired rubber bullets near the Grand Palace in Bangkok last month, Thip Tarranitikul said she wanted to erase the military from politics.

army chief, appears to have underestimated the people’s commitment to democratic change. Millions have marched against him. Millions have also joined nationwide strikes meant to stop his government from functioning.

There is little reason to believe the military will back down, given its decades in power. Over the past two months, it has killed more than 700 civilians, according to a monitoring group. Thousands have been arrested, including medics, reporters, a model, a comedian and a beauty blogger.

But the resistance has demographics on its side.

Southeast Asia may be ruled by old men, but more than half its population is under 30. Myanmar’s reforms over the past decade benefited young people who eagerly connected to the world. In Thailand, this same cohort is confronting the old hierarchies of military and monarchy.

Regional defenders of democracy, including the besieged dissidents of nearby Hong Kong, have formed what they call the Milk Tea Alliance online, referring to a shared affinity for the sweet brew. (Twitter recently gave the movement its own emoji.) On encrypted apps, they trade tips for protecting themselves from tear gas and bullets. They have also bonded over the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on young workers, in countries where income inequality is growing wider.

“The youth of Southeast Asia, these young digital natives, they inherently despise authoritarianism because it doesn’t jibe with their democratic lifestyle. They aren’t going to give up fighting back,” said Mr. Thitinan of Chulalongkorn University. “That’s why, as bad as things may seem now, authoritarianism in the region is not a permanent condition.”

In Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, protesters have faced the military’s rifles with a sense of an existential mission.

“I’m not afraid to die,” said Ko Nay Myo Htet, a high school student manning one of the barricades built to defend neighborhoods. “I want a better life for the future generation.”

Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

intensifying confrontation between China and the United States.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tropical Forest Destruction Accelerated in 2020

Tropical forests around the world were destroyed at an increasing rate in 2020 compared with the year before, despite the global economic downturn caused by the pandemic, which reduced demand for some commodities that have spurred deforestation in the past.

Worldwide, loss of primary old-growth tropical forest, which plays a critical role in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere and in maintaining biodiversity, increased by 12 percent in 2020 from 2019, according to the World Resources Institute, a research group based in Washington that reports annually on the subject.

Overall, more than 10 million acres of primary tropical forest was lost in 2020, an area roughly the size of Switzerland. The institute’s analysis said loss of that much forest added more than two and a half billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, or about twice as much as is spewed into the air by cars in the United States every year.

pro-development policies of the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, led to continued widespread clear-cutting. Surging forest losses were also reported in Cameroon in West Africa. And in Colombia, losses soared again last year after a promising drop in 2019.

a severe fire season, with 16 times more forest loss in 2020 than the year before.

anecdotal reports from Brazil and other countries suggested that deforestation was rising because of the pandemic, as the health crisis hampered governments’ efforts to enforce bans on clear-cutting, and as workers who lost their jobs because of the downturn migrated out of cities to rural areas to farm. But Mr. Taylor said the analysis showed “no obvious systemic shift” in forest loss as a result of the pandemic.

If anything, the crisis and the resulting global economic downturn should have led to less overall forest loss, as demand, and prices, for palm oil and other commodities fell. While falling demand may have helped improve the situation in Indonesia and a few other countries, Ms. Seymour said that globally it was “astonishing that in a year that the global economy contracted somewhere between 3 and 4 percent, primary forest loss increased by 12 percent.”

Global Land Analysis and Discovery laboratory at the University of Maryland, who have devised methods for analyzing satellite imagery to determine forest cover. The World Resources Institute refers to their findings as “forest cover loss” rather than “deforestation” because the analysis includes trees lost from plantations and does not distinguish between trees lost to human activities and those lost to natural causes.

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U.S. to Seize Gloves After Finding ‘Sufficient’ Evidence of Forced Labor: Live Updates

A worker inspecting disposable gloves at a Top Glove factory near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in August.
Credit…Mohd Rasfan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

United States Customs and Border Protection has ordered port officials to seize disposable gloves made by the world’s largest rubber glove maker, a Malaysian company that the agency says uses forced labor in its factories.

Customs and Border Protection said in a statement on Monday that it had “sufficient information to believe” that the company, Top Glove, “uses forced labor in the production of disposable gloves.”

Last July, the agency issued an import ban on products from two Top Glove subsidiaries because they were suspected of using forced labor. On Monday, it said it had determined that rubber gloves produced by the company with forced, convict or indentured labor “are being, or are likely to be, imported into the United States.”

Based on that determination, the agency said in a notice, it had authorized U.S. port directors to seize the gloves and start forfeiture proceedings unless importers can produce evidence showing that the gloves were not produced with prohibited labor.

The notice was the result of a monthslong investigation “aimed at preventing goods made by modern slavery from entering U.S. commerce,” Troy Miller, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement.

The agency, he said, “will not tolerate foreign companies’ exploitation of vulnerable workers to sell cheap, unethically made goods to American consumers.” He added that the agency had “taken steps to ensure” that the enforcement action would not significantly affect total imports of disposable gloves into the United States.

After the import ban on Top Glove subsidiaries last summer, officials at the company said they were upgrading their worker dormitories and paying restitution to affected workers.

The company said in a statement on Tuesday that it was in touch with the U.S. agency and hoped to “resolve any ongoing areas of concern immediately.”

Top Glove also said it had engaged a independent labor consultancy from Britain since last July. That consultancy, Impactt Limited, said in a statement this month that its latest investigations had not turned up any “systemic forced labor” among the company’s direct employees.

But Andy Hall, a labor rights campaigner based in Nepal, said on Tuesday that Top Glove “remains an unethical company whose factories and supply chain continue to utilize forced labor,” and one that prioritizes profits and production efficiency over its workers’ basic rights.

Mr. Hall said he welcomed the Customs and Border Protection notice, and that the next step would be holding the company’s owners and investors to account.

Top Glove controls roughly a quarter of the global rubber glove market and has 21,000 employees. Many of them come from some of Asia’s poorest countries — including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal — and live and work in crowded conditions.

The company has enjoyed record profits during the pandemic, even though thousands of its low-paid workers in Malaysia suffered from a large coronavirus outbreak last year.

A mobile touch screen doubles as a digital whiteboard while a cellphone on a tripod makes a recording that can be used later in a presentation.
Credit…John Muggenborg for The New York Times

As company heads are once again planning for a return to the office, it is not only safety measures but also the new work arrangements that are driving discussions about the post-pandemic workplace. More than 80 percent of companies are embracing a hybrid model whereby employees will be in the office three days a week, according to a new survey by KayoCloud, a real estate technology platform.

Workplaces are being reimagined for activities benefiting from face-to-face interaction, including collaboration on projects, Jane Margolies reports for The New York Times.

Common areas will be increased and equipped with furniture that can be moved as needs change. Steelcase and Knoll, suppliers of office furniture, report strong interest in mobile tables, carts and partitions.

As the amount of space devoted to gathering expands, the fate of one’s own personal turf at the office — a desk decorated with family photos, a couple of file cabinets — hangs in the balance. In some cases, personal desks are being replaced with “hoteling” workstations, also called hot desks, which can be used by whoever needs a place to touch down for a day.

Conference rooms, too, are getting a reboot. Companies are puzzling over how to give remote workers the same ability to participate as those who are physically present. There are even early discussions about using artificial intelligence to conjure up holographic representations of employees who are off-site but could still take a seat at the table. And digital whiteboards are likely to become more popular, so workers at home can see what’s being written in real time.

Kroger requires employees and customers to wear masks.
Credit…Eze Amos for The New York Times

Retail and fast-food workers feel newly vulnerable in states like Mississippi and Texas, where governments have removed mask mandates before a majority of people have been vaccinated and while troubling new variants of the coronavirus are appearing.

It feels like a return to the early days of the pandemic, when businesses said customers must wear masks but there was no legal requirement and numerous shoppers simply refused, Sapna Maheshwari reports for The New York Times. Many workers say that their stores do not enforce the requirement, and that if they do approach customers, they risk verbal or physical altercations.

For many people who work in retail, especially grocery stores and big-box chains, the repeals of the mask mandates are another example of how little protection and appreciation they have received during the pandemic. They were praised as essential workers, but that rarely translated into extra pay on top of their low wages. Grocery employees were not initially given priority for vaccinations in most states, even as health experts cautioned the public to limit time in grocery stores because of the risk posed by new coronavirus variants. (Texas opened availability to everyone 16 and older on Monday.)

The differing state and business mandates have some workers worried about more confrontations. Refusing service to people without masks, or asking them to leave, has led to incidents in the past year like a cashier’s being punched in the face, a Target employee getting his arm broken and the fatal shooting of a Family Dollar security guard.

Emily Francois, a sales associate at a Walmart in Port Arthur, Texas, said that customers had been ignoring signs to wear masks and that Walmart had not been enforcing the policy.

“I see customers coming in without a mask and they’re coughing, sneezing, they’re not covering their mouths,” said Ms. Francois, who has worked at Walmart for 14 years and is a member of United for Respect, an advocacy group. “Customers coming in the store without masks make us feel like we aren’t worthy, we aren’t safe.”

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Alleged North Korean Operative Makes First U.S. Court Appearance

WASHINGTON—An alleged North Korean intelligence operative appeared in federal court in Washington on Monday to face charges of laundering funds to evade U.S. and United Nations sanctions, in the first such prosecution of its kind as relations between the Biden administration and North Korea have had a rocky start.

Mun Chol Myong was extradited from Malaysia last week after waging a nearly two-year legal battle against the U.S. request. Mr. Mun is the first North Korean national to be brought to the U.S. from overseas to face criminal charges, U.S. authorities said. The move prompted Pyongyang to cut off ties with Kuala Lumpur.

According to an indictment unsealed Monday, Mr. Mun worked for a Singapore-based company and was affiliated with North Korea’s intelligence organization, the Reconnaissance General Bureau. He relocated to Malaysia after Singapore expelled him in 2017 for violating U.N. sanctions on North Korea, the indictment said. Between 2013 to 2018, Mr. Mun conspired with others to process some $1.5 million in transactions that violated U.S. and U.N. sanctions, prosecutors said.

As part of the scheme, according to the indictment, Mr. Mun’s company procured sensitive technology, agricultural commodities and luxury goods including liquor and tobacco for North Korean customers. The company used another hair-and-beauty-products front company to make payments in U.S. dollars and hide any connections to North Korea, the indictment said.

North Korea has denied the accusations against Mr. Mun, saying he was engaged in legal business activities. At a brief court hearing on Monday, Mr. Mun appeared via videoconference from a U.S. jail and spoke through a translator. He said he was 55 years old and asked the court to appoint a federal public defender as his attorney, because he had no access to his assets in North Korea. A prosecutor said the U.S. government would seek to detain Mr. Mun before his trial, and he is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in the coming weeks.

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Covid-19 Live Updates: AstraZeneca Vaccine Is 79% Effective in U.S. Study

provided strong protection against Covid-19 in a large clinical trial in the United States, completely preventing the worst outcomes from the disease while causing no serious side effects, according to results announced on Monday.

The findings, announced in a news release from AstraZeneca, may help shore up global confidence in the vaccine, which was shaken this month when more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, temporarily suspended the use of the shot over concerns about possible rare side effects.

The trial, involving more than 32,000 participants, was the largest test of its kind for the shot. The vaccine was 79 percent effective overall in preventing symptomatic infections, higher than observed in previous clinical trials. The trial also showed that the vaccine offered strong protection for older people, who had not been as well-represented in earlier studies.

But the fresh data may not make much difference in the United States, where the vaccine is not yet authorized and may not be needed.

If AstraZeneca wins authorization for emergency use in the United States based on the new results, the vaccine is unlikely to become available before May, when federal officials predict that three manufacturers that already have authorization will be producing enough doses for all the nation’s adults.

AstraZeneca said on Monday that it would continue to analyze the new data and prepare to apply “in the coming weeks” for emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. It already has approval in more than 70 countries, but clearance from American regulators, if the company can secure it, would bolster the vaccine’s reputation globally.

The interim results announced on Monday were based on 141 Covid-19 cases that had turned up in volunteers. Two-thirds of participants were given the vaccine, with doses spaced four weeks apart, and the rest received a saline placebo. Volunteers were recruited from Chile and Peru as well as the United States.

None of the volunteers who got the vaccine developed severe symptoms or had to be hospitalized, a major selling point for the shot. Five participants who were given the placebo developed severe Covid-19, Ruud Dobber, an executive vice president at AstraZeneca, told CNBC on Monday.

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Police Break Up Spring Break Crowds in Miami Beach

The police fired pepper balls to disperse crowds after an 8 p.m. curfew went into effect on Saturday. Local Miami officials said people had flocked to the city because of its relatively few coronavirus restrictions.

[yelling; sirens]

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The police fired pepper balls to disperse crowds after an 8 p.m. curfew went into effect on Saturday. Local Miami officials said people had flocked to the city because of its relatively few coronavirus restrictions.CreditCredit…Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA, via Shutterstock

One day after the spring break oasis of South Beach descended into chaos, with the police struggling to control overwhelming crowds and making scores of arrests, officials in Miami Beach decided on Sunday to extend an emergency curfew for up to three weeks.

Officials went so far as to approve closing the famed Ocean Drive for four nights a week until April 12, including to pedestrians, during the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Residents, hotel guests and employees of local businesses are exempt.

The strip, frequented by celebrities and tourists alike, was the scene of a much-criticized skirmish on Saturday night in which police officers used pepper balls to disperse a large crowd of sometimes unruly and mostly unmasked revelers just hours after the curfew had been introduced.

The restrictions were a stunning concession to the city’s inability to control unwieldy crowds. The city and the state of Florida have aggressively courted visitors.



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“I believe it’s a lot of pent-up demand from the pandemic and people wanting to get out,” David Richardson, a member of the Miami Beach City Commission, said on Sunday. “And our state has been publicly advertised as being open, so that’s contributing to the issue.”

In an emergency meeting, the commission approved maintaining the curfew in the city’s South Beach entertainment district from Thursday through Sunday for three more weeks, which is when spring break typically ends. Bridges along several causeways that connect Miami Beach with the mainland will also continue to be shut during the curfew.

Law enforcement officials said many people had been drawn to the city for spring break this year because it has relatively few virus restrictions, mirroring the state at large. And hotel rooms and flights have been deeply discounted, to make up for the months of lost time.

Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami Beach, has recently endured one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, and more than 32,000 Floridians have died from the virus, an unthinkable cost that the state’s leaders rarely acknowledge. The state is also thought to have the highest concentration of B.1.1.7, the more contagious and possibly more lethal virus variant first identified in Britain.

GLOBAL ROUNDUP

A crowded market in Mumbai, India, on Friday. The surrounding state of Maharashtra is at the center of a new coronavirus outbreak.
Credit…Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

The coronavirus, once seemingly in retreat in India, is again rippling across the country. On Monday, the government reported almost 47,000 new cases, the highest number in more than four months. It also reported 212 new deaths from the virus, the most since early January.

The outbreak is centered in the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, the country’s financial hub. Entire districts of the state have gone back into lockdown. Scientists are investigating whether a new strain found there is more virulent, like variants found in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.

Officials are under pressure to aggressively ramp up testing and vaccination, especially in Mumbai, to avoid disruptions like the dramatic nationwide lockdown last year, which resulted in a recession.

But less than 3 percent of India’s population of 1.3 billion has received a jab, including about half of health care workers.

The campaign has also been plagued by public skepticism. The government approved a domestically developed vaccine, called Covaxin, before its safety and efficacy trials were even over, though preliminary findings since then have suggested it works.

The other jab available in India is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was suspended in some countries after a number of patients reported blood clots and strokes, though most have since reversed course and scientists haven’t found a link between the shots and the patients’ conditions.

In other developments around the world:

The stimulus package signed by President Biden includes billions to ramp up coronavirus vaccinations.
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

The Biden administration, with hundreds of billions of dollars to spend to end the Covid-19 crisis, has set aggressive benchmarks to determine whether the economy has fully recovered, including returning to historically low unemployment and helping more than one million Black and Hispanic women return to work within a year.

But restoring economic activity, which was central to President Biden’s pitch for his $1.9 trillion stimulus package, faces logistical and epidemiological challenges unlike any previous recovery. New variants of the virus are spreading. Strained supply chains are holding up the distribution of rapid coronavirus tests, which could be critical to safely reopen schools, workplaces, restaurants, theaters and concert venues.

Then there are questions of whether the money can reach schools and child care providers quickly enough to make a difference for parents who were forced to quit their jobs to care for their children.

Economic optimism is rising as the pace of vaccinations steadily increases. Unemployment has already fallen from its pandemic peak of 14.8 percent last April to 6.2 percent in February. Federal Reserve officials now expect the unemployment rate to slip below 4 percent by next year and for the economy to grow faster this year than in any year since the Reagan administration.

But risks remain. For the economy to fully bounce back, Americans need to feel confident in returning to shopping, traveling, entertainment and work. No matter how much cash the administration pumps into the economy, recovery could be stalled by the emergence of new variants, the reluctance of some Americans to get vaccinated and, in the coming weeks, spotty compliance with social distancing guidelines and other public health measures.

At the Union Turnpike station in Queens. Ridership on the New York subway is at about one third of its pre-pandemic levels.
Credit…Jonah Markowitz for The New York Times

A year ago the pandemic drained the New York City subway of nearly all its riders, sickened thousands of transit workers and plunged North America’s largest public transit agency into its worst financial emergency ever.

Today ridership on the subway has crept back up to about one third of its usual levels, from an all-time low of 7 percent last spring. An infusion of billions of dollars in federal aid has kept the Metropolitan Transportation Authority afloat. And the agency, which operates the subway, buses and two commuter rail lines, was further lifted by another $6 billion in President Biden’s rescue plan.

But the M.T.A.’s long-term survival depends on the return of its largest funding source: riders. Fares provide early 40 percent of the agency’s operating revenue, a higher percentage than almost any other major American transit system.

Now, as more people are vaccinated and urban life slowly rebounds, public transit officials are confronting a sobering reality: a growing consensus that ridership may never return entirely to its prepandemic levels.

Though public health experts generally agree that riding trains and buses is not a major risk factor for exposure to the virus, transit experts say some commuters with the means to do so are still likely to stay with the alternatives — like using cars or bikes — that they turned to during the pandemic.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel takes personal credit for the country’s vaccination campaign, which has fully vaccinated about half the population of nine million.
Credit…Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JERUSALEM — Vaccinated Israelis are working out in gyms and dining in restaurants. They’re partying at nightclubs and cheering at soccer matches by the thousands.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking credit for bringing Israel “back to life,” as he calls it, and banking on the country’s giddy, post-pandemic mood of liberation to put him over the top in a close election on Tuesday.

But nothing is quite that simple in Israeli politics.

Even as most Israelis appreciate the government’s world-leading vaccination campaign, many worry that the grand social and economic reopening may prove premature and suspect that the timing is political.

Instead of a transparent reopening process led by public health professionals, “decisions are made at the last minute, at night, by the cabinet,” said Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health in Jerusalem. “The timing, right before the election, is intended to declare mission accomplished.”

The parliamentary election on Tuesday will be the country’s fourth in two years. Mr. Netanyahu is on trial on corruption charges and analysts say his best chance of avoiding conviction lies in heading a new right-wing government. He has staked everything on his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

He takes personal credit for the country’s inoculation campaign, which has fully vaccinated about half the population of nine million — outpacing the rest of the world — and he has declared victory over the virus.

“Israel is the world champion in vaccinations, the first country in the world to exit from the health corona and the economic corona,” he said at a pre-election conference last week.

The vaccination campaign has been powered by early delivery of several million doses from Pfizer, and Mr. Netanyahu has presented himself as the only candidate who could have pulled off that deal, boasting of his personal appeals to Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, who, as a son of Holocaust survivors, has great affinity for Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu even posted a clip from “South Park,” the American animated sitcom, acknowledging Israel’s vaccination supremacy.

But experts said his claim that the virus was in the rearview mirror was overly optimistic.

A seating area in the main atrium of a remodeled Microsoft office in Redmond, Washington in 2017.
Credit…Stuart Isett for The New York Times

Microsoft announced Monday that it would begin allowing more workers back into its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., starting on March 29.

In this stage of reopening, which Microsoft described as Step 4 in a six-step “dial,” the Redmond campus will give nonessential on-site employees the choice to work from the office, home or a combination of both. Microsoft will also continue to require employees to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

Microsoft plans to open its office without restrictions only once the virus acts “more like an endemic virus such as the seasonal flu,” wrote Kurt DelBene, an executive vice president at the tech giant. But even then, office life for Microsoft’s 160,000 employees is not likely to look like what it did before the pandemic.

“Once we reach a point where Covid-19 no longer presents a significant burden on our communities, and as our sites move to the open stage of the dial, we view working from home part of the time (less than 50 percent) as standard for most roles,” Mr. DelBene wrote on the company blog.

Microsoft also released on Monday the results of a survey of that it says shows the work force has changed after a year of working remotely. In the survey of more than 30,000 full-time and self-employed workers, 73 percent said they wanted flexible remote work options to continue, and 46 percent said they were planning to move this year now that they could work remotely.

“There are some companies that think we’re just going to go back to how it was,” Jared Spataro, the corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, said in an interview. “However, the data does seem to indicate that they don’t understand what has happened over the last 12 months.”

People receiving the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine in Dubai last month.
Credit…Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press

The distributor of China’s Sinopharm vaccine in the United Arab Emirates says it has started offering a “very small number” of people a third shot after these recipients reported insufficient levels of antibodies following a two-dose regimen.

The distributor, G42 Healthcare, has found that some people were “not really responsive” to the Sinopharm vaccine, Walid Zaher, the company’s chief researcher, told Dubai Eye Radio on Sunday.

Dr. Zaher’s disclosure could add to questions about the overall efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine, which has been rolled out to at least six countries. The state-owned company has not reported detailed Phase 3 clinical data for scientists to independently assess the strength of its vaccines. Sinopharm did not respond to a request for comment.

It is unclear which of Sinopharm’s two vaccines Dr. Zaher was referring to. One was developed in conjunction with the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, and the other with the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products. In December, the Emirates became the first government to approve the vaccine that was made with the Beijing Institute.

Dr. Zaher said that G42 Healthcare had approached people to be part of a study in which they were given a third shot.

“No one vaccine will be working for everyone,” he said.

Pfizer and BioNTech said last month that they planned to test a third booster shot in response to concerns over coronavirus variants. Similarly, Moderna said it had shipped doses of a newly adjusted vaccine to the National Institutes of Health for testing that would address the variant first detected in South Africa, known as B.1.351.

Dr. Farida al-Hosani, a spokeswoman for the Emirates’ health sector, has also said that residents and Emiratis inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine can get a third dose if they do not develop sufficient antibodies, telling the National newspaper this month that only a small number of people would be affected.

Dr. Zaher said he did not know the exact number of people who would require a third shot “because obviously we did not measure everyone, but it’s a very small number.” He said anyone who was concerned about their antibody levels after receiving the Sinopharm vaccine could approach their doctor about getting a third shot.

Sinopharm has said the vaccine made with the Beijing Institute has an efficacy rate of 79 percent, while the one made with the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products has an efficacy rate of 72.5 percent. Both are above the 50 percent threshold that the World Health Organization has said would make a vaccine effective for general use.

In addition to Sinopharm, the Emirates, which is inoculating its population faster than any country except Israel and the Seychelles, is also using the Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines. The government is donating some of the Sinopharm doses it purchased to countries where it has strategic or commercial interests, including the Seychelles and Egypt.

But some doctors in Egypt have been reluctant to receive the shots, citing a lack of trust in the data released by Sinopharm and the Emirates, where some of the trials were held. Malaysia, one of the Emirates’ biggest trading partners, also declined an offer of 500,000 doses, saying that regulators would have to independently approve the Sinopharm vaccine.

Kent Taylor, the founder and chief executive of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, died on Thursday.
Credit…Ron Bath/Texas Roadhouse

Kent Taylor, the founder and chief executive of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, died by suicide on Thursday after suffering from post-Covid-19 symptoms, the company and his family said in a statement. He was 65.

“After a battle with post-Covid-related symptoms, including severe tinnitus, Kent Taylor took his own life this week,” the statement said.

His body was found in a field on his property near Louisville, Ky., the Kentucky State Police told The Louisville Courier Journal. The State Police and the Oldham County coroner did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

Mr. Taylor, who was also the chairman of the company’s board of directors, founded Texas Roadhouse in 1993. He sought to create an “affordable, Texas-style” restaurant but was turned down more than 80 times as he tried to find investors, according to a biography provided by the company.

Eventually, he raised $300,000 from three doctors from Elizabethtown, Ky., and sketched out the design for the first Texas Roadhouse on a cocktail napkin for the investors.

The first Texas Roadhouse opened in Clarksville, Ind., in 1993. Three of the chain’s first five restaurants failed, but it went on to open 611 locations in 49 states, and 28 international locations in 10 countries.

Until his death, Mr. Taylor had been active in Texas Roadhouse’s operations, the company said. He oversaw decisions about the menu, selected the murals for the restaurants and picked songs for the jukeboxes.

Greg Moore, the lead director of the company’s board, said in a statement that Mr. Taylor gave up his compensation package during the coronavirus pandemic to support frontline workers in the company.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.

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The U.A.E. offers a third dose of Chinese vaccine to some with low immune response.

The distributor of China’s Sinopharm vaccine in the United Arab Emirates says it has started offering a “very small number” of people a third shot after these recipients reported insufficient levels of antibodies following a two-dose regimen.

The distributor, G42 Healthcare, has found that some people were “not really responsive” to the Sinopharm vaccine, Walid Zaher, the company’s chief researcher, told Dubai Eye Radio on Sunday.

Dr. Zaher’s disclosure could add to questions about the overall efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine, which has been rolled out to at least six countries. The state-owned company has not reported detailed Phase 3 clinical data for scientists to independently assess the strength of its vaccines. Sinopharm did not respond to a request for comment.

It is unclear which of Sinopharm’s two vaccines Dr. Zaher was referring to. One was developed in conjunction with the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, and the other with the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products. In December, the Emirates became the first government to approve the vaccine that was made with the Beijing Institute.

test a third booster shot in response to concerns over coronavirus variants. Similarly, Moderna said it had shipped doses of a newly adjusted vaccine to the National Institutes of Health for testing that would address the variant first detected in South Africa, known as B.1.351.

Dr. Farida al-Hosani, a spokeswoman for the Emirates’ health sector, has also said that residents and Emiratis inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine can get a third dose if they do not develop sufficient antibodies, telling the National newspaper this month that only a small number of people would be affected.

Dr. Zaher said he did not know the exact number of people who would require a third shot “because obviously we did not measure everyone, but it’s a very small number.” He said anyone who was concerned about their antibody levels after receiving the Sinopharm vaccine could approach their doctor about getting a third shot.

Sinopharm has said the vaccine made with the Beijing Institute has an efficacy rate of 79 percent, while the one made with the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products has an efficacy rate of 72.5 percent. Both are above the 50 percent threshold that the World Health Organization has said would make a vaccine effective for general use.

inoculating its population faster than any country except Israel and the Seychelles, is also using the Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines. The government is donating some of the Sinopharm doses it purchased to countries where it has strategic or commercial interests, including the Seychelles and Egypt.

But some doctors in Egypt have been reluctant to receive the shots, citing a lack of trust in the data released by Sinopharm and the Emirates, where some of the trials were held. Malaysia, one of the Emirates’ biggest trading partners, also declined an offer of 500,000 doses, saying that regulators would have to independently approve the Sinopharm vaccine.

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Najib Razak, Former Malaysian Leader, Admits Covid ‘Mistake’

Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak is appealing last year’s conviction on charges of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars. And he is fighting similar charges in four more trials. But there is one violation he freely admits: breaking a coronavirus rule in a restaurant.

“I confess,” he wrote on his Facebook page on Friday. “I accept both criticism and insight.”

Mr. Najib’s infraction occurred when he went to eat at the Chee Meng Chicken Rice Shop in Kuala Lumpur but did not register with a phone app, as required, on arrival. He called it an “accidental mistake.”

A video widely shared on social media showed him and his entourage casually strolling into the restaurant.

He encouraged the authorities to issue the appropriate fine of about $365, and said he would take advantage of an “early-bird” special offered by the government. If he pays the fine within seven days, he noted, he would get a 50 percent discount.

1Malyasia Development Berhad or 1MDB, Mr. Najib ruling coalition lost its grip on power in the 2018 elections for the first time since independence in 1957. He was ousted as prime minister but re-elected to Parliament by his district.

He has been accused of siphoning off at least $4.5 billion from the fund, which he created and oversaw. Much of the money is said to have ended up in his personal back account and in the possession of family members.

In July, he was found guilty on seven corruption counts and sentenced to up to 12 years in prison. He was also fined nearly $50 million.

In October, one of his trials recessed for two weeks because Mr. Najib was required to go into quarantine after traveling to the state of Sabah, a coronavirus hot spot at the time. He faces more than two dozen corruption charges in that trial.

Mr. Najib, who is attempting to restore his reputation, appeared to be using the incident at the chicken rice shop as a way of highlighting the special treatment received by other high-ranking officials who have violated coronavirus regulations without penalties.

“No double standard in my case,” he said. “Other people, other parties, ministers I don’t know.”

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