On the Front Line: A Night With Afghan Commandos

On a recent night raid, a Times photographer captured Afghanistan’s elite forces as they disrupted Taliban operations in one of the country’s most volatile provinces.

SOMEWHERE OVER HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — As the city lights faded and the Soviet-era military helicopter banked over the fields and canals of southern Afghanistan one night in May, the Afghan commandos on board made their final checks, looking at maps and adjusting their weapons before turning on their night-vision goggles.

Their objective: to dismantle a bomb-making factory inside a squat mud-brick house in Chah Anjir, a village in Nadali, a district in Helmand Province that is completely under Taliban control.

Just days earlier, the Taliban had opened an offensive on Helmand’s capital, Lashkar Gah. Afghan government forces had lost ground. The city was under siege. Frantic to relieve some of the pressure on the capital, security officials committed their most elite of the Afghan special operations forces to the province.

21,000 Afghans in the commando forces, with hopes to greatly expand the program.

more than 20 Afghan commandos were killed when their offensive operation to retake a district in the country’s northwest was derailed by a vicious Taliban counterattack.

The outcome of the May raid, documented on the special forces team leader’s cellphone, was considered a success: bomb-making materials were seized and destroyed. Four Taliban members were killed while his men took no casualties. How much that changed the broader battle’s outcome in Lashkar Gah is questionable, but it kept one of the Taliban’s deadliest tactics — roadside bombs and homemade mines — off the battlefield for a brief time.

The commandos returned to Bost Airfield, a civilian airport. But that night it turned into a temporary command center for the unit. Officials had set up television displays and radios atop its small terminal, under a starry sky as fighting echoed in the distance.

Inside the helicopters as the city came back into view, some commandos joked among themselves, others took forceful drags from cigarettes.

Their mission was over. For now.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.

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A Self-Styled ‘Troublemaker’ Creates a Different Paris Museum

PARIS — François Pinault, the French billionaire, has never had much time for convention. “Avoid the paths already trodden,” has been his motto. Bored with acquiring Impressionist or Cubist works with surefire credentials, he said to himself four decades ago: “It’s impossible that we have become so stupid today that there are no human beings alive capable of creating tomorrow’s masterpieces.”

The fruits of that conviction are now on display in a contemporary art museum that opened in Paris on Saturday under the cupola of the Bourse de Commerce. With the Louvre to one side and the Pompidou Center to the other, this upstart in the cultural life of Paris combines tradition and modernity.

Once a grain exchange, the light-filled building has undergone a $170 million redevelopment conceived by the Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who previously worked with Pinault at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice. Ando installed a 108-foot-diameter concrete cylinder inside the central rotunda, creating a core display area while retaining the framework of the original.

“A palimpsest of French history,” as Martin Bethenod, the museum’s director, put it.

No layer of the palimpsest has been concealed. Restored 19th-century frescoes beneath the dome illustrate the global commerce of the time. Titled “Triumphal France,” they amount to a primer in the demeaning stereotypes of a Eurocentric colonized world where white traders did business with bare-chested African warriors.

The juxtaposition with the many works in the galleries below by Black American artists, including David Hammons and Kerry James Marshall, is potent. Their pieces, driven by reflection on the grotesqueness and lasting wounds of racism, seem charged by the setting.

Transience is a theme. Nothing lasts, yet nothing is entirely gone. At the center of the museum’s initial exhibition stands a wax replica of the 16th-century Giambologna statue “The Abduction of the Sabine Women,” three writhing figures intertwined. Created by the Swiss artist Urs Fischer, it was set alight at the museum’s opening on Saturday and will burn for six months, leaving nothing behind.

So a high mannerist masterpiece becomes an elaborate giant candle: Sic transit gloria mundi. The Bourse de Commerce itself has been rented from Paris City Hall on a 50-year lease — a reminder that the museum’s life span may not be eternal. Ando’s cylinder is designed so that it can be removed once the lease expires.

Pinault, 84, a self-styled “troublemaker,” has always been more interested in disruption than permanence.

Born in rural Brittany, he went on to parlay a small timber business into a $42 billion diversified luxury-goods conglomerate, including brands like Gucci and Saint Laurent. I asked him about time passing. “Well, I am like everyone: As you grow older, that issue gnaws at you a little, but I am not obsessed by the time that may be left to me,” he said in an interview. “I hope it will be as long as possible.”

How, he asked, can anyone take himself for important, confronted by the sweep of history? “Humility must be worked on with a pumice stone every day,” he said. “The ego is something that grows if you don’t apply weed killer.”

Behind him in his office at the Bourse de Commerce hangs “SEPT.13, 2001,” a work in black and white by the Japanese artist On Kawara. It is a reminder that the unimaginable can happen — that as Victor Hugo put it, “Nothing is more imminent than the impossible.” Yet life continues nonetheless.

For Pinault, the project represents a long-held ambition to house some of his more than 10,000 works by artists including Cy Twombly, Cindy Sherman, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Marlene Dumas in a Paris museum. That effort began about 20 years ago with plans, later aborted, to take over a disused Renault car factory in the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt.

Although Sherman’s work is on prominent display — including a haunting photograph of a platinum-blonde woman, back turned, standing on a deserted American highway with her suitcase beside her in a shadowy half-light — the exhibition does not dwell on the giants of the Pinault Collection, as if the main aim were to jolt Parisians emerging from months of coronavirus lockdown with an injection of the new and little known in France.

Pinault said he had met David Hammons, a generally reclusive artist who came of age in the 1960s and ’70s, more than 30 years ago. Hammons learned that Pinault was the uneducated son of a peasant from a small Breton village. “He said we were alike, and I burst out laughing and told him, ‘Well, not exactly!’”

So was an unlikely friendship born. Its fruit is the more than 25 Hammons works on show at the Bourse de Commerce.

But what of those murals glorifying European colonization, with Christopher Columbus sweeping down from the sky in a caravel to find half-naked Native Americans? “We were convinced for a long time that we constituted civilization, the most evolved people,” Pinault said. “I never accepted that.” In the frescoes, he added, was “the beginning of global commerce, but dominated by Europe and France” — in short, “everything that a David Hammons detests.”

When the artist was shown a video of the frescoes, and giant antique maps tracing post-slavery trade routes dominated by European navies, he asked that his “Minimum Security” installation, inspired by a visit to death row at San Quentin State Prison, be placed against this backdrop. The squeaking and clanging of a cell door seems to carry the echo of centuries of oppression.

“Some will criticize us and say it’s shameful,” Pinault said. “We could have hidden the fresco — you can always hide something, that is cancel culture. And here, a great African-American artist said, ‘Don’t hide it.’”

Jean-Jacques Aillagon, the Pinault Collection’s chief executive, said: “When you show it, that does not mean you approve it. This was the image of trade at that moment, and you can’t think yesterday with the mind of today.”

Art is provocation. With almost Duchamp-like playfulness, Hammons challenges the viewer to think again, as with “Rubber Dread,” deflated inner tubes woven into dreadlocks. He reimagines detritus.

Kerry James Marshall, another Black artist whom Pinault has collected for years, seems to upend a whole Western tradition — Goya’s “Maya” or Manet’s “Olympia,” — with an untitled painting of a Black man, naked but for his socks, lying on a bed with a sidelong gaze, a Pan-African flag coyly covering his genitals.

Pinault said that his museum would not add much to Paris, but perhaps as a private institution it could move faster while the committees at state-owned museums pondered. “So perhaps you have a collection of things that would not otherwise be here.” Perhaps, yes. He was being modest.

He described himself as a restless nonconformist: “My roots are under the soles of my shoes.” When life presents something important enough to entice you into a journey, he suggested, “you have to take your suitcase, like that woman beside the road in the Cindy Sherman photograph — my favorite.”

He was 19 when he left Brittany for the first time and came to Paris. He enlisted in the army and went to Algeria, where war was raging. It was 1956. A parachutist, he was ordered to comb through villages looking for Algerian rebels fighting French colonial dominion. But the rebels were long gone; all that was left were houses full of women, children and older people. Pinault said he confronted his officer: “What the hell are we doing here? This war is already lost.”

“Shut up, Pinault,” he recalled the officer saying.

But he never has shut up. Instead, Pinault has made a fortune, a unique collection of contemporary art and a life out of anticipation. “Only anticipate” could be another of his mottos. As a result, Paris, sometimes a little set in its ways, has something different, disruptive and challenging on offer at the Bourse de Commerce.

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Censorship, Surveillance and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China

On Chinese iPhones, Apple forbids apps about the Dalai Lama while hosting those from the Chinese paramilitary group accused of detaining and abusing Uyghurs, an ethnic minority group in China.

The company has also helped China spread its view of the world. Chinese iPhones censor the emoji of the Taiwanese flag, and their maps suggest Taiwan is part of China. For a time, simply typing the word “Taiwan” could make an iPhone crash, according to Patrick Wardle, a former hacker at the National Security Agency.

Sometimes, Mr. Shoemaker said, he was awakened in the middle of the night with demands from the Chinese government to remove an app. If the app appeared to mention the banned topics, he would remove it, but he would send more complicated cases to senior executives, including Mr. Cue and Mr. Schiller.

Apple resisted an order from the Chinese government in 2012 to remove The Times’s apps. But five years later, it ultimately did. Mr. Cook approved the decision, according to two people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Apple recently began disclosing how often governments demand that it remove apps. In the two years ending June 2020, the most recent data available, Apple said it approved 91 percent of the Chinese government’s app-takedown requests, removing 1,217 apps.

In every other country combined over that period, Apple approved 40 percent of requests, removing 253 apps. Apple said that most of the apps it removed for the Chinese government were related to gambling or pornography or were operating without a government license, such as loan services and livestreaming apps.

Yet a Times analysis of Chinese app data suggests those disclosures represent a fraction of the apps that Apple has blocked in China. Since 2017, roughly 55,000 active apps have disappeared from Apple’s App Store in China, according to a Times analysis of data compiled by Sensor Tower, an app data firm. Most of those apps have remained available in other countries.

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Geoff Crowther, 77, Dies; Guided Travelers Looking to Get Lost

After all, Lonely Planet, which was founded by Tony Wheeler with his wife, Maureen, was itself named by mistake. Mr. Wheeler thought he was adopting the name from the lyrics to “Space Captain,” sung by Joe Cocker and written by Matthew Moore — until his wife corrected him. (The actual line is “Once while traveling across the sky, this lovely planet caught my eye.”)

A 1986 article by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times anointed Mr. Crowther “the patron saint of travelers in the third world,” although Mr. Kristof acknowledged that even saints aren’t perfect. He mentioned a jungle hike in North Borneo that had been included in “Southeast Asia on a Shoestring” at the suggestion of an earlier reader.

“Then, a couple of years later,” Mr. Kristof wrote, “a man came into Mr. Wheeler’s office and said: ‘You know that hike that you said would take a day and a half? It took me six weeks. Halfway through I was cursing your name, but later I realized it was the greatest adventure I’d ever had.’”

Not every traveler read Lonely Planet’s guides for pleasure. After Ethiopian rebels used the guidebook’s maps of Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital, to seize it from the dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991, Mr. Wheeler marveled, “As far as I know it’s the only time we’ve directly helped to overthrow a government.”

Mr. Crowther’s uncompromising candor was not always welcome. He and his guidebook (“along with ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ and a select list of other highly subversive titles,” Mr. Wheeler wrote) were banned from Malawi after he gently badmouthed the country’s autocratic president, Dr. Hastings Banda, in passing.

Declaring that Mr. Crowther “had an incalculable impact on a unique generation of travelers,” Richard Everist, a former publisher of Lonely Planet, described him as “a true explorer and adventurer who went beyond boundaries and borders” and “defined Lonely Planet’s ethos and style.”

Geoff Crowther was born on March 15, 1944, in Yorkshire, England, to George and Susie (Halstead) Crowther. His parents were both cotton mill workers.

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Judge presses Epic on the impact of its antitrust suit against Apple.

Last May, Epic Games was making plans to circumvent Apple’s and Google’s app store rules and ultimately sue them in cases that could reshape the entire app economy and have profound ripple effects on antitrust investigations around the world.

Epic’s chief operating officer, Daniel Vogel, sent other executives an email raising a concern: Epic must persuade Apple and Google to give in to its demands for looser rules, he wrote, “without us looking like the baddies.”

Apple and Google, Mr. Vogel warned, “will treat this as an existential threat.” To prepare, Epic formed a public relations and marketing plan to get the public behind its campaign against the tech giants.

Apple seized on that plan in a federal courtroom in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, the second day of what is expected to be a three-week trial stemming from Epic’s claims that Apple relies on its control of its App Store to unfairly squeeze money out of other companies.

must use Apple’s App Store to reach consumers.

“Our contention in this case is that all apps are at issue,” said Katherine Forrest, a lawyer at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Epic is not asking for a payout if it wins the trial; it is seeking relief in the form of changes to App Store rules. Epic has asked Apple to allow app developers to use other methods to collect payments and open their own app stores within their apps.

Apple has countered that these demands would raise a world of new issues, including making iPhones less secure.

On Tuesday afternoon, Benjamin Simon, founder of Yoga Buddhi, which makes the Down Dog Yoga app, testified about his company’s problems with Apple’s policies. Mr. Simon said that he had to charge more for subscriptions on the App Store to make up for the 30 percent fee that Apple charged him, and that Apple’s rules prevented him from promoting inside his app a cheaper price that is available on the web.

Mr. Simon said Apple warned app developers against speaking out about its policies in guidelines for getting their apps approved. “‘If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps,’” he said. “That was in the guidelines.”

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Over 6 Years and 211 Spots, a British Man Conquers a Parking Lot

Michelangelo spent four years painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Tolstoy devoted six to “War and Peace,” and the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan took more than twice that to erect the Taj Mahal.

But did any of them park in every single spot of their local grocery store?

Maybe they would have, given the chance and the existence of a Publix or Tesco. Instead the feat was achieved by Gareth Wild, a 39-year-old production director who assiduously took up space, in one spot after another at the local Sainsbury’s of his London suburb, until he had used 211 parking spots over six years.

“If you do anything small, or a little thing over a long period of time, it doesn’t feel like too much,” Mr. Wild said. “Then you put it together and suddenly you’re being interviewed by people for your car parking exploits.”

Mr. Wild finished his unusual project this week, drawing notice from the BBC, The Guardian and other news organizations after he wrote about his “magnum opus” on Twitter.

three prime ministers, a royal wedding, Brexit, “Megxit” and a pandemic, Mr. Wild closed in on Spot 211 this week. “I don’t want to call it an anticlimax because it was still great to finish, but by the last 20 or 30 it was inevitable,” he said. “I was getting one each week, it was pretty easy.”

Leisure Studies Association, said that while he had encountered many quirky hobbies and pet projects over the years, “I’ve never heard of any thing like this, to be brutally honest.”

He said the project likely resonated with people because Mr. Wild had taken something so mundane so seriously; because the pandemic had so constrained many people’s own hobbies; and because it took six years.

“It’s completely bonkers, isn’t it,” Mr. Fletcher said. But he said there was also a lesson about the value of personal projects in the story. “Our leisure is our time — it’s what we make of it,” he said. However trivial or strange a project may appear to other people, he said, “there’s the meaning we invest within them for ourselves.”

Mr. Wild does not know yet what form, or meaning, his next project will take. “Maybe some other kind of spreadsheet adventure, because spreadsheets are great,” he said. “But I’m probably done with car parks.”

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Three Electric S.U.V.s With Tesla in Their Sights

An electric trickle is turning into a flood: As many as 100 new E.V. models are coming to showrooms by 2025. Heavyweights including Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford are floating promises of all-electric lineups within a decade.

The end times of gasoline can almost seem a fait accompli, except for one pesky issue: Even given Tesla’s strides, we’re still waiting for the first genuine E.V. sales hit, let alone a mass exodus from unleaded.

In 2014, Nissan sold a mere 30,200 Leafs, and that’s still the American record for any non-Tesla model. Ford routinely sells more than 800,000 F-Series pickups. A single gasoline sport utility vehicle, the Toyota RAV4, finds well over 400,000 annual buyers, compared with roughly 250,000 sales last year for all E.V.s combined — 200,000 of which were Teslas.

Automakers insist we’re “this close” to a tipping point. E.V. market share is expected to grow to as much as 50 percent by 2032, from just 1.7 percent last year, said Scott Keogh, president and chief executive of Volkswagen of America. While Tesla captured 80 percent of the U.S. market for electric vehicles in 2020, VW and other global giants — with war chests built on internal-combustion engines and unmatched scale and manufacturing know-how — are well positioned to take a piece of Tesla’s pie.

prices and charging times of E.V.s, while bolstering driving range, until consumers see no reason to stick with polluting gasoline models whose energy-and-operating costs exceed the plug-in alternatives.

Like the Rolling Stones pushing the Beatles, Mr. Keogh said, healthy competition will ultimately benefit all E.V. fans and creators. And when consumers sees E.V.s proliferate in their neighbors’ driveways, and take their first test drive, there will be no going back.

Mach-E seems the most straight-up rival yet to Tesla’s Model Y, in not only price and performance but also the Ford’s maximum 300-mile driving range.

Consumers have noticed: Ford sold 3,729 Mach-Es in February, the first full month of sales, almost single-handedly chopping Tesla’s dominant E.V. share to 69 percent, from 80 percent. If Ford could maintain that pace for a full year, the Mach-E would easily set a sales record for an E.V. not built by Tesla.

Tesla’s 326-mile Model Y Long Range still squeezes a few more miles from each onboard kilowatt-hour, owing to the carmaker’s expertise in aerodynamics, motor and battery efficiency, and to “simple” stuff that’s anything but: Its 4,416-pound curb weight undercuts the Ford by about 400 pounds. And Tesla rules the public charging space, with its Supercharger network that has rivals — now with a potential infrastructure lift from the Biden administration — racing to catch up.

The Ford fires back with a sculpted exterior versus the dad-bod Model Y, a tech-savvy interior with superior materials and craftsmanship, and winning performance of its own. With 346 horsepower from dual motors, the Mach-E Premium A.W.D. that I drove shot to 60 miles an hour in 4.8 seconds. Even the new Shelby GT500 — history’s mightiest Mustang, with 760 horsepower — won’t equal the 3.5-second 0-to-60 m.p.h. blast of this summer’s Mach-E GT Performance version.

Voltswagen, as the company briefly convinced some media and car fans in a marketing stunt gone bad. Regarding historic names, VW calls the ID.4 its most significant model since the original Beetle. But where the Beetle was a revolutionary leader, the ID.4 feels like a follower.

Based on my drive, the VW can easily top its 250-mile range rating, with 275 miles within reach. A rear-drive, 201-horsepower model rolls to 60 m.p.h. in 7.6 seconds. That’s on a par with gasoline sport utilities like the Honda CR-V, but pokey by E.V. standards. Dual-motor, all-wheel-drive models arrive later this year, promising 60 m.p.h. in under six seconds.

From a company famed for fun-to-drive German cars, the ID.4’s generic performance and styling are letdowns. Its infotainment system is even more disappointing: The clunky, vexing touch screen can’t touch the onscreen wizardry of the Ford, Volvo or Tesla.

The VW’s snappiest performance came during a fast-charging session at a Target in New Jersey, replenishing its 77 kilowatt-hour battery from 20 to 80 percent in an impressive 31 minutes. That growing network of Electrify America chargers is funded by VW’s $2 billion, court-ordered penance for its diesel emissions scandal. And VW is offering indulgences to ID.4 buyers, with three years of free public charging.

Thrifty virtues include a $41,190 base price, or $33,690 after the $7,500 federal tax break. That’s $2,800 less than the most-affordable Mach-E. It’s also less money, after credits, than a smaller Chevrolet Bolt. The more powerful ID.4 with all-wheel drive will start at $37,370, postcredit.

Still, as Tesla’s triumph and Chevy’s lukewarm Bolt have proved, there’s more to electric success than an attractive price. VW is aggressively investing $80 billion to develop E.V.s, but the ID.4 feels less like a market splash and more like a toe in the water. We’ll see if VW erred by not kicking off with a recognizable design that truly connects its nostalgic, weed-hazed past to today’s green virtues: the electric ID.Buzz Microbus, due in 2023.

Volvo seems such a natural fit for E.V.s. And the progressive-minded brand brings us the XC40 Recharge, an electrified take on its gasoline XC40.

The Recharge is like that perfect dining table in a shelter magazine: You’re not sure why it costs so much, but you want it anyway.

The Recharge’s wedgy Scandinavian styling tops every S.U.V. in this group, as does its lovely interior. That includes soft Nappa leather, versus the ascetic “vegan” materials of many E.V.s.

The drive is similarly breezy, with 402 horses and a quicksilver, 4.7-second flight to 60 m.p.h. The biggest tech talking point may be Android Automotive OS: The Recharge (and Volvo’s electric Polestar 2) introduces a cloud-based Google operating system that works like a dream, with Google Maps, search, an ultra-capable voice assistant and more. (Don’t confuse this with the ubiquitous Android Auto, which simply mirrors phone apps on a car’s screen.)

Several major automakers, including G.M. and Ford, plan to make Android Automotive the nerve centers of coming cars. If only the Volvo itself were as efficient.

The Recharge is an electron guzzler, with a 208-mile range that seems optimistic in real-world use. I drove the Recharge in frigid New York weather, which explained some but not all of its hunger for power: No matter how I babied the throttle, the Volvo stayed on a pace for 190 miles, at best, covering about 2.4 miles for each kilowatt-hour in the batteries. I can achieve 3.6 miles per kilowatt-hour with little effort in the Tesla Model Y and above 3.2 in the Ford.

Environmental Protection Agency numbers bear that out: Despite having virtually the same-size battery, the Tesla brings 326 miles of maximum range, 118 more than the Volvo. The Recharge is also expensive for its intimate size: $54,985 to start, and nearly $60,000 for the model I drove. That $7,500 federal tax break softens the blow. Yet if the Volvo indulges bourgeois buyers, they’ll also need to indulge its profligate ways.

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Irrational Covid Fears

Guido Calabresi, a federal judge and Yale law professor, invented a little fable that he has been telling law students for more than three decades.

He tells the students to imagine a god coming forth to offer society a wondrous invention that would improve everyday life in almost every way. It would allow people to spend more time with friends and family, see new places and do jobs they otherwise could not do. But it would also come with a high cost. In exchange for bestowing this invention on society, the god would choose 1,000 young men and women and strike them dead.

Calabresi then asks: Would you take the deal? Almost invariably, the students say no. The professor then delivers the fable’s lesson: “What’s the difference between this and the automobile?”

In truth, automobiles kill many more than 1,000 young Americans each year; the total U.S. death toll hovers at about 40,000 annually. We accept this toll, almost unthinkingly, because vehicle crashes have always been part of our lives. We can’t fathom a world without them.

Calabresi’s fable. He asks students to consider whether they would accept the cost of vehicle travel if it did not already exist. That they say no underscores the very different ways we treat new risks and enduring ones.

I have been thinking about the fable recently because of Covid-19. Covid certainly presents a salient risk: It’s a global pandemic that has upended daily life for more than a year. It has changed how we live, where we work, even what we wear on our faces. Covid feels ubiquitous.

Fortunately, it is also curable. The vaccines have nearly eliminated death, hospitalization and other serious Covid illness among people who have received shots. The vaccines have also radically reduced the chances that people contract even a mild version of Covid or can pass it on to others.

major media outlets trumpeted new government data last week showing that 5,800 fully vaccinated Americans had contracted Covid. That may sound like a big number, but it indicates that a vaccinated person’s chances of getting Covid are about one in 11,000. The chances of a getting a version any worse than a common cold are even more remote.

But they are not zero. And they will not be zero anytime in the foreseeable future. Victory over Covid will not involve its elimination. Victory will instead mean turning it into the sort of danger that plane crashes or shark attacks present — too small to be worth reordering our lives.

That is what the vaccines do. If you’re vaccinated, Covid presents a minuscule risk to you, and you present a minuscule Covid risk to anyone else. A car trip is a bigger threat, to you and others. About 100 Americans are likely to die in car crashes today. The new federal data suggests that either zero or one vaccinated person will die today from Covid.

It’s true that experts believe vaccinated people should still sometimes wear a mask, partly because it’s a modest inconvenience that further reduces a tiny risk — and mostly because it contributes to a culture of mask wearing. It is the decent thing to do when most people still aren’t vaccinated. If you’re vaccinated, a mask is more of a symbol of solidarity than anything else.

Coming to grips with the comforting realities of post-vaccination life is going to take some time for most of us. It’s only natural that so many vaccinated people continue to harbor irrational fears. Yet slowly recognizing that irrationality will be a vital part of overcoming Covid.

“We’re not going to get to a place of zero risk,” Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, told me during a virtual Times event last week. “I don’t think that’s the right metric for feeling like things are normal.”

Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman recall visits to the country in columns that help explain Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces.

  • But removing troops will not end the fighting — or U.S. involvement — there, Eliot Cohen argues in The Atlantic. “It is not possible simply to walk away from a war one has been committed to and pay no penalty.”

  • The Media Equation: Hopes of a post-pandemic economic boom have brought back online ads, Ben Smith, The Times’s media columnist, writes.

    Lives Lived: Joye Hummel wrote the scripts for more than 70 Wonder Woman comic book adventures, but her role went unrecognized for decades. That changed when a 2014 book brought her late-life acclaim. Hummel died at 97.

    close to 800 languages, and they are threaded throughout the city’s street names and neighborhoods. There is Manhattan’s Little Brazil, Brooklyn’s Little Haiti, Queens’s Calle Colombia and the Bronx’s Cinco de Mayo Way, which is a tribute to the city of Puebla, the hometown of many Mexican immigrants.

    In a new book, “Names of New York,” the geographer Joshua Jelly-Schapiro tells the story of the city’s history through its streets and the names they carry. In some cases, residents — rather than city officials — invented the names: A Yemeni-born supervisor at Kennedy Airport petitioned Google Maps to mark several Bronx blocks as Little Yemen.

    “If landscape is history made visible, the names we call its places are the words we use to forge maps of meaning in the city,” Jelly-Schapiro writes. You can read an excerpt in The New York Review of Books, and there is a joint review of the book and a second book — Craig Taylor’s “New Yorkers” — in The Times Book Review.

    a 46-second clip.

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    How to Use Technology to Prepare for Travel During the Coronavirus Pandemic

    Once you’ve figured out the logistics to get in and get out, you will have more homework to do. Don’t expect your favorite airport restaurants or lounges to be operating normally. Before leaving home, check your airport website to see what’s open near your terminal; if your options are lacking, pack a meal. Likewise, when you arrive at your destination, make sure to check the websites for the restaurants and tourist sites that you hope to visit for their hours. The travel industry is far from returning to normal.

    To make traveling smoother, airlines may require travelers to present a vaccine passport, digital documentation proving that they have been vaccinated. Airlines have been testing mobile health apps including CommonPass, ICC AOKpass, VeriFLY and the International Air Transport Association’s travel pass app to ensure travelers can present their health data in a secure, verifiable way.

    Most of the apps will, in theory, work like this: If you get vaccinated at a medical facility, the app connects with the database of that facility to retrieve your information. The app then loads a QR code, which is a digital bar code, verifying that the vaccine was administered. You could then show that bar code at the airport check-in counter, the boarding gate or immigration control.

    Too much is still up in the air with vaccine passports for widespread use, Mr. Harteveldt said. Airlines, government agencies and cruise lines are still testing the apps to determine which products are the most reliable and easy to use. Things could get chaotic if different parties require people to download different passport apps, and many experiments may fail. Vaccine passports have also set off a fierce political debate over the legality of requiring digital credentials for a vaccine that is ostensibly voluntary. (The Biden administration has said it would not push for mandatory vaccination credentials or a federal vaccine database.)

    So the best we can do with vaccine passports right now is nothing. Don’t upload your data to any of the apps just yet — but when it comes time to travel, do check your airline’s website for updates on vaccine passports and follow the instructions.

    The rest of your travel tech prep will largely be the same as it was in pre-Covid times. Pack a spare battery pack, charging cables and a safety pin to eject your SIM card. Then do the following:

    Unlock your phone. Your phone must be unlocked to work with foreign SIM cards. Many newer smartphones come unlocked by default, but you should call your carrier to confirm that your device will work with other wireless carriers.

    Buy a foreign SIM card. If you’re traveling abroad, you can avoid paying expensive international roaming fees to your carrier by temporarily using a foreign phone plan. When you arrive at your destination, you can usually buy a SIM card at the airport or a cellphone store and insert that into your phone; you can also order a SIM card online and have it delivered to your home before you travel. (Some newer smartphones work with eSIMs, which are essentially a digital SIM card to add a separate phone plan. I’ve had mixed experiences, including eSIMs that failed to activate when I reached my destination, so I prefer physical SIMs.)

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