SEOUL — A South Korean man was sentenced to 34 years in prison on Thursday as part of the country’s crackdown on an infamous network of online chat rooms that lured young women, including minors, with promises of high-paying jobs before forcing them into pornography.
The man, Moon Hyeong-wook, opened one of the first such sites in 2015, prosecutors said. Mr. Moon, 25, operated a clandestine members-only chat room under the nickname “GodGod” on the Telegram messenger app, offering more than 3,700 clips of illicit pornography, they said.
Mr. Moon, an architecture major who was expelled from his college after his arrest last year, was one of the most notorious of the hundreds of people the police have arrested in the course of their investigation. Another chat room operator, a man named Cho Joo-bin, was sentenced to 40 years in prison last November.
“The accused inflicted irreparable damage on his victims through his anti-society crime that undermined human dignity,” the presiding judge, Cho Soon-pyo, said of Mr. Moon in his ruling on Thursday. The trial took place in a district court in the city of Andong in central South Korea.
Mr. Moon was indicted in June on charges of forcing 21 young women, including minors, into making sexually explicit videos between 2017 and early last year.
He approached young women looking for high-paying jobs through social media platforms, then lured them into making sexually explicit videos, promising big payouts, prosecutors said. He also hacked into the online accounts of women who uploaded sexually explicit content, pretending to be a police officer investigating pornography.
Once he got hold of the images and personal data, he used them to blackmail the women, threatening to send the clips to their parents unless the victims supplied more footage, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors demanded a life sentence for Mr. Moon.
Last December, the police said they had investigated 3,500 suspects, most of them men in their 20s or teenagers, as part of their investigation of the online chat rooms that served as avenues for sexual exploitation and pornographic distribution. They arrested 245 of them.
The police also identified 1,100 victims.
The scandal, known in South Korea as “the Nth Room Case,” caused outrage over the cruel exploitation of the young women. Women’s rights groups picketed courthouses where chat room operators were on trial, accusing judges of condoning sex crimes by handing down what they considered light punishments.
On Thursday, outside the Andong courthouse, advocates held a rally demanding the maximum punishment for Mr. Moon.
In recent years, the South Korean police began cracking down on sexually explicit file-sharing websites as part of international efforts to fight child pornography. As smartphones proliferated, they soon realized that much of the illegal trade was migrating to online chat rooms on messaging services like Telegram.
The police said they had trouble tracking down customers of the online chat rooms because they often used cryptocurrency payments to avoid being caught.
SEOUL — In his last year in office, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea has seen his approval ratings in a tailspin. His trademark North Korea diplomacy remains in tatters. Citizens are fuming over his repeatedly botched attempts to arrest soaring housing prices.
And on Wednesday, voters in South Korea’s two biggest cities dealt another crushing blow to the beleaguered leader.
Mr. Moon’s Democratic Party lost the mayoral elections in Seoul and Busan to the conservative opposition, the People Power Party. Critics are calling the results of the two by-elections a referendum on Mr. Moon and his government.
“The people vented their anger at the Moon government through these elections,” said Kim Chong-in, head of the People Power Party, referring to large margins by which its candidates won.
policy of engagement toward North Korea.
Wednesday’s mayoral elections showed that the Democratic Party faces steep challenges as voters once loyal to Mr. Moon — especially those in their 20s and 30s — abandon it in droves.
Oh Se-hoon, the People Power Party candidate, won the race in Seoul, the capital city of 10 million people. He routed Park Young-sun, the Democratic Party candidate and a former member of Mr. Moon’s cabinet, by more than 18 percentage points, according to voting results announced by the National Election Commission.
The Seoul mayor is considered South Korea’s second-most powerful elected official after the president.
died by suicide last year following accusations of sexual harassment. The former mayor of Busan, Oh Keo-don, stepped down last year amid accusations of sexual misconduct from multiple female subordinates.
The former mayors were both members of Mr. Moon’s Democratic Party and the president’s close allies. Their downfall weakened the moral standing of Mr. Moon’s progressive camp, which has cast itself as a clean, transparent and equality-minded alternative to its conservative opponents. Mr. Moon’s two immediate predecessors — Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak — were both conservatives and are now in prison following convictions on corruption charges.
Mr. Moon was elected in 2017, filling the power vacuum created by Ms. Park’s impeachment. As a former human rights lawyer, he enthralled the nation by promising a “fair and just” society. He vehemently criticized an entrenched culture of privilege and corruption that he said had taken root while conservatives were in power, and vowed to create a level playing field for young voters who have grown weary of dwindling job opportunities and an ever-expanding income gap.
Mr. Moon spent much of his first two years in power struggling to quell escalating tension between North Korea and the United States, successfully mediating diplomacy between the two countries. He shifted more of his attention to domestic issues after the two summit meetings between North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and President Donald J. Trump failed to produce a deal on nuclear disarmament or the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
But things quickly turned sour on the home front as well.
In 2019, huge outdoor rallies erupted over accusations of forgery and preferential treatment in college and internship applications surrounding the daughter of Cho Kuk, Mr. Moon’s former justice minister and one of his closest allies.
The scandal flew in the face of Mr. Moon’s election promise of creating “a world without privilege,” and prompted outrage against the “gold-spoon” children of the elite, who glided into top-flight universities and cushy jobs while their “dirt-spoon” peers struggled to make ends meet in South Korea’s hobbled economy.
won by a landslide in parliamentary elections last year as Mr. Moon leveraged his surging popularity around South Korea’s largely successful battle against the coronavirus. But Mr. Moon’s virus campaign has lost its luster.
In recent months, South Koreans have grown frustrated with prolonged social-distancing restrictions, a distressed economy and the government’s failure to provide vaccines fast enough. On Wednesday, the government reported 668 new coronavirus infections, the highest one-day increase in three months.
Mr. Moon’s most devastating setback came last month when officials at the Korea Land and Housing Corporation — the state developer — were accused of using privileged insider information to cash in on government housing development programs. Kim Sang-jo, Mr. Moon’s chief economic policy adviser, stepped down last month when it was revealed that his family had significantly raised the rent on an apartment in Seoul just days before the government imposed a cap on rent increases.
“People had hoped that even if they were incompetent, the Moon government would at least be ethically superior to their conservative rivals,” said Ahn Byong-jin, a political scientist at Kyung Hee University in Seoul. “What we see in the election results is the people’s long-accumulated discontent over the ‘naeronambul’ behavior of the Moon government exploding. Moon has now become a lame duck president.”
The real-estate scandal dominated the campaign leading up to Wednesday’s election. Opposition candidates called Mr. Moon’s government a “den of thieves.” Mr. Moon’s Democratic Party called Mr. Oh, the new mayor in Seoul, an incorrigible “liar.”
resigned as Seoul mayor in 2011 after his campaign to end free lunches for all schoolchildren failed to win enough support.
Pre-election surveys this month showed that voters who planned to vote for Mr. Oh would do so not because they considered him morally superior to his Democratic Party rival. Instead, it was because they wanted to “pass judgment on the Moon Jae-in government.”
The emergence from the crisis is being led by the wealthiest countries, particularly the United States, where the economy is now projected to expand by 6.4 percent this year. The euro area is expected to expand by 4.4 percent and Japan is forecast to expand by 3.3 percent, according to the I.M.F.
Among the emerging market and developing economies, China and India are expected to lead the way. China’s economy is projected to expand by 8.4 percent and India’s is expected to expand by 12.5 percent.
Ms. Gopinath credited the robust fiscal support that the largest economies have provided for the improved outlook and pointed to the relief effort enacted by the United States. The I.M.F. estimates that the economic fallout from the pandemic could have been three times worse if not for the $16 trillion of worldwide fiscal support.
Despite the rosier outlook, Ms. Gopinath said that the global economy still faced “daunting” challenges.
Low-income countries are facing bigger losses in economic output than advanced economies, reversing gains in poverty reduction. And within advanced economies, low-skilled workers have been hit the hardest and those who lost jobs could find it difficult to replace them.
“Because the crisis has accelerated the transformative forces of digitalization and automation, many of the jobs lost are unlikely to return, requiring worker reallocation across sectors — which often comes with severe earnings penalties,” Ms. Gopinath said.
The I.M.F. cautioned that its projections hinged on the deployment of vaccines and the spread of variants of the virus, which could pose both a public health and economic threat. The fund is also keeping a close eye on interest rates in the United States, which remain at rock-bottom levels but could pose financial risks if the Federal Reserve raises them unexpectedly.
The global economy is on firmer ground one year into the pandemic thanks to the rollout of vaccines, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday. But the recovery will be uneven around the world because of persistent inequality and income gaps.
“Emerging market and developing economies are expected to suffer more scarring than advanced economies,” the I.M.F. said in its World Economic Outlook report, which projected 6 percent global growth in 2021. Here are projections for the growth of some individual countries:
The United States economy will expand 6.4 percent this year, after contracting 3.5 percent the year before, while Britain will grow 5.3 percent this year, after shrinking 9.9 percent in 2020.
China, the world’s second-largest economy after the United States, is expected to grow 8.4 percent this year, after expanding 2.3 percent in 2020.
India’s economy is expected to see the biggest jump among major economies and climb 12.5 percent this year, after contracting 8 percent last year.
Topps, known for its trading cards and Bazooka gum, is going public by merging with a blank-check firm in a deal that values the company at $1.3 billion, the DealBook newsletter was the first to report.
The transaction includes an investment of $250 million led by Mudrick Capital, the sponsor of the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, along with investors including Gamco and Wells Capital. Michael Eisner, the chairman of Topps and former chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, will roll his entire stake into the new company and stay on.
“Everybody has a story about Topps,” Mr. Eisner said. That’s what initially attracted him to the trading card company, which he acquired in 2007 via his investment firm, Tornante, and Madison Dearborn for $385 million. Buying Topps was a bet on a brand that elicits an “emotional connection” as strong as Disney, the company Mr. Eisner ran for 21 years.
In the years since Mr. Eisner’s initial purchase, Topps has focused on a shift to digital, starting online apps for users to trade collectibles and play games. It also created “Topps Now,” which makes of-the-moment cards to capture a defining play or a pop culture meme. (It sold nearly 100,000 cards featuring Bernie Sanders at the presidential inauguration in his mittens.) And it has moved into blockchain, too, via the craze for nonfungible tokens, or NFTs.
The pandemic has driven new interest in memorabilia, especially trading cards. Topps generated record sales of $567 million in 2020, a 23 percent jump over the previous year.
The secondhand market is particularly hot, with a Mickey Mantle card recently selling for more than $5 million. “Topps probably made something like a nickel on it, 70 years ago,” said Jason Mudrick, the founder of Mudrick Capital. NFT mania will allow Topps to take advantage of the secondhand market by linking collectibles to digital tokens. Topps is also growing beyond sports, like its partnerships with Marvel and “Star Wars.”
It continues to see value in its core baseball-card business, as athletes come up from the minor leagues more quickly. “The trading card business has been growing for the last several years,” Michael Brandstaedter, the chief executive of Topps, said. “While it definitely grew through the pandemic — and perhaps accelerated — it did not arrive with the pandemic.”
That resilience is part of the bet that Mudrick Capital is making on the 80-year old Topps. It’s a surer gamble, Mr. Mudrick said, than buying one of the many unprofitable start-ups currently courting SPAC deals. “Our core business is value investing,” he said.
United Airlines said on Tuesday that it had started accepting applications to its new pilot school, promising to use scholarships, loans and partnerships to help diversify a profession that is overwhelmingly white and male.
The airline said it planned to train 5,000 pilots at the school by 2030, with a goal of half of those students being women or people of color. The school, United Aviate Academy in Phoenix, expects to enroll 100 students this year, and United and its credit card partner, JPMorgan Chase, are each committing $1.2 million in scholarships.
About 94 percent of aircraft pilots and flight engineers are white and about as many are male, according to federal data. United said 7 percent of its pilots were women and 13 percent were not white.
Airlines have had more employees than they needed during the pandemic, when demand for tickets fell sharply, and they have encouraged thousands, including many pilots, to retire early or take voluntary leaves. Since September, nearly 1,000 United pilots had retired or taken leave. Last week, the airline said it would start hiring pilots again after stopping last year.
But the industry is facing a long-term shortage of pilots because many are nearing retirement age and many potential candidates are daunted by the cost of training, which can reach almost $100,000 after accounting for the cost of flight lessons.
United is the first major U.S. carrier to run its own pilot academy, although many foreign airlines have run such programs for years. The company said it hoped the guarantee of a job after graduation would be a draw. In addition to the 5,000 pilots it plans to train, United said it would hire just as many who learned to fly elsewhere.
United Aviate is meant for people with a wide range of experience, from novices who have never flown to pilots who are already flying for one of United’s regional partners. A student with no flying experience could become a licensed pilot within two months and be flying planes for a living after receiving a commercial pilot license within a year, the airline said. Within five years, that person could fly for United after a stint at a smaller airline affiliate to gain experience.
The airline said it was also working with three historically Black colleges and universities — Delaware State University, Elizabeth City State University and Hampton University — for recruitment. The first class of 20 students is expected to start this summer.
Air France on Tuesday said it would receivea new bailout from the French government worth 4 billion euros ($4.7 billion) to help the beleaguered airline cope with mounting debts as a third wave of pandemic lockdowns around Europe prolong a slump in continental air travel.
The support comes on top of €10.4 billion ($12.3 billion) in loans and guarantees that Air France and its partner, the Netherlands-based KLM, received from the French and Dutch governments last year.
Air France-KLM chief executive, Benjamin Smith, citing an “exceptionally challenging period,” said the funds would “provide Air France-KLM with greater stability to move forward when recovery starts, as large-scale vaccination progresses around the world and borders reopen.”
Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister, said Tuesday that the new aid is taking the form of a state-backed recapitalization, which involves converting €3 billion in loans the government granted the airline last year into bonds with no maturity, as well as €1 billion in fresh capital through the issuance of new shares.
The French government is the airline’s largest shareholder, at 14.3 percent. The agreement could allow the government to raise its stake as high as 30 percent, Mr. Le Maire and Air France said,by buying some of the new shares. China Eastern Airlines, also a large shareholder, will also participate, Air France said.
Air France-KLM lost two-thirds of its customers last year, and its debt has nearly doubled to €11 billion. It expects an operating loss of €1.3 billion in the first quarter.
As vaccinations speed ahead in the United States, air travel has started to recover, fueling a return of ticket sales. Delta Air Lines announced it would add more passengers and start selling middle seats for flights starting May 1.
By contrast, Europe’s vaccine rollout has faltered and variants of the virus have gained ground, prompting renewed travel restrictions. That has left major flagship air carriers, including Air France-KLM, Lufthansa of Germany, and Alitalia of Italy, struggling.
The French government recently cut its economic growth forecast for 2021 to 5 percent, down from 6 percent.
Air France’s board approved the deal on Tuesday after the French government and European regulators agreed on the terms.
The Dutch government is holding separate talks with European regulators over converting a €1 billion loan to KLM into hybrid debt in return for slot concessions at the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.
Air France employs tens of thousands of workers in France and is considered too big to fail. Still, Mr. Le Maire said the aid was not a “blank check,” adding that the company would have to “make efforts on competitiveness” in exchange for the support and must continue to reduce its carbon emissions.
To conform to European competition rules, Air France was forced to relinquish 18 slots per day, representing nine round-trips, to competing airlines at Orly, Paris’ second-largest airport after Charles de Gaulle.
Credit Suisse said Tuesday it would replace the head of its investment bank and the chief of risk and compliance after losses from its involvement with Archegos Capital Management, the collapsed hedge fund, totaled nearly $5 billion.
The bank, which is based in Zurich, is in turmoil after a series of disasters that have battered its reputation and are likely to diminish its global clout. Credit Suisse also serves as a warning of the risks that may lurk in the financial system, as bankers and investors try to earn returns when interest rates are at rock bottom and stock values are already frothy.
Credit Suisse detailed the financial impact of its dealings with Archegos for the first time on Tuesday, saying it would report a loss for the first quarter of 900 million Swiss francs after booking a charge of 4.4 billion francs, or $4.7 billion, related to the hedge fund. The losses were higher than some estimates.
Brian Chin, the chief executive of Credit Suisse’s investment bank, will leave on April 30. Lara Warner, the chief risk and compliance officer, will step down immediately, the bank said.
Members of Credit Suisse’s executive board will forgo their bonuses for 2020 and 2021, the bank said. Credit Suisse will also cancel plans to buy back its own shares, a way of pushing up the stock price. But the bank, seeking to dispel any questions about its overall health, said its capital was still at levels considered acceptable.
Credit Suisse shares were down more than 2 percent in Zurich trading early Tuesday. They have lost one-quarter of their value since the beginning of March.
Thomas Gottstein, the chief executive of Credit Suisse since last year, said the bank would hire outside experts to investigate what led to the “unacceptable” loss from Archegos as well as the bank’s involvement with Greensill Capital, which collapsed last month.
Credit Suisse’s asset management unit oversaw $10 billion in funds that Greensill packaged based on financing it provided to companies, many of which had low credit ratings.
“Serious lessons will be learned,” Mr. Gottstein said.
Some midsize cities — like Austin, Texas; Boise, Idaho; and Portland, Ore. — may be poised to rebound faster than others because they have developed strong relationships with their local economic development groups.
These partnerships have established comeback plans that incorporate a number of common goals, like access to affordable loans, relief for small businesses and a focus on downtown areas, Keith Schneider reports for The New York Times.
In Tucson, the revitalization plan, which goes into effect this month, calls for assessing the effect of the pandemic on important business sectors, including biotech and logistics. Other provisions advocate recruiting talented workers and preparing so-called shovel-ready building sites of 50 acres or more.
City leaders are building on a five-year, $23 billion growth plan in industrial and logistics development in the Tucson region that resulted in 16,000 new jobs before the pandemic, according to Sun Corridor, the regional economic development agency that sponsored the recovery plan. Caterpillar and Amazon moved into the region, while Raytheon, Bombardier and GEICO were among the many prominent companies that expanded operations there.
Other cities are struggling to recover after pandemic restrictions emptied their central business districts. The question is how much these downtowns will bounce back when the pandemic ends.
“The number of square feet per worker has declined really dramatically since 1990,” said Tracy Hadden Loh, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. Couple that with recent announcements from companies like Google, Microsoft, Target and Twitter about remote work, and some cities could see less office construction activity.
Starbucks says it plans to eliminate all single-use cups from its South Korean stores by 2025, the chain’s first move of this sort as it seeks to reduce its carbon footprint.
The coffeehouse chain plans to introduce a “cup circularity program” in some stores beginning this summer, in which customers would pay a deposit for reusable cups that would be refunded when the containers are returned and scanned at contactless kiosks, the company said in a statement on Monday. The arrangement will be expanded to cafes across the country over the next four years.
“Starbucks Coffee Korea is a leader in sustainability for the company globally, and we are excited to leverage the learnings from this initiative to drive meaningful change in our stores and inform future innovation on a regional and global scale,” Sara Trilling, the president of Starbucks Asia Pacific, said in the statement.
South Korea has in recent years tried to cut back on disposable waste in cafes, banning the use of plastic cups for dine-in customers in 2018. Legislation introduced last year would require fast food and coffee chains to charge refundable deposits for disposable cups to encourage returns and recycling. Last year, the environmental ministry said it planned to reduce the country’s plastic waste by one-fifth by 2025.
The increased use of plastic packaging and containers amid the coronavirus pandemic has been a setback for initiatives aimed at reducing single-use plastic waste. In March 2020, Starbucks and other chains said they would no longer offer drinks in washable mugs or customer-owned cups to help prevent the spread of the virus.
U.S. stocks dipped on Tuesday, a day after Wall Street’s major benchmarks climbed to records.
The S&P 500 climbed above 4,000 points last week for the first time amid signs that the economic recovery was strengthening, with manufacturing activity quickening and the biggest jump in jobs since the summer. The United States is administering three million vaccines per day on average, but the number of coronavirus cases has started to tick up again because of the spread of new variants.
That said, many investors have focused on the vaccine rollout and the potential impact of the Biden administration’s large spending plans, including the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, intended to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and speed up the shift to a green economy.
“Investors should not fear entering the market at all-time highs,” strategists at UBS Global Wealth Management said in a note on Tuesday, recommending stocks in the financial, industrial and energy sectors. The reopening of economies because of the vaccine rollout also favored small and medium-size companies, they wrote.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.7 percent to a record in its first day of trading since Thursday because of the long Easter weekend. In Britain, mining companies led the FTSE 100 higher, which was up 1.2 percent. The DAX in Germany rose 0.9 percent
Asian stock indexes were mixed. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 2 percent and the Nikkei 225 fell 1.3 percent.
The yield on 10-year Treasury notes slipped to about 1.69 percent.
Oil prices rose. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, rose 2 percent to just below $60 a barrel.
Disney Cruise Line will suspend departures through June after reviewing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the company said Tuesday on its website. The C.D.C. recommends that people avoid travel on cruises worldwide because of the high risk of contracting the coronavirus aboard ship. The cruise line also canceled sailings in Europe through Sept. 18. Guests who have paid their reservations in full can choose either a credit with Disney Cruise Line for a future sailing or a full refund.
three million doses are being given on average each day, compared with well under one million when Mr. Biden took office in January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every state has now given at least one dose to a quarter or more of its population. About 62.4 million people — 19 percent of Americans — have been fully vaccinated.
“Today, we are pleased to announce another acceleration of the vaccine eligibility phases to earlier than anticipated,” Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said on Monday, announcing that all Maryland residents 16 or older would be eligible from Tuesday for a vaccine at the state’s mass vaccination sites, and from April 19 at any vaccine provider in the state.
Also on Monday, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said residents 16 or older in his state would be eligible on April 19. Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington said later on Monday that city residents 16 or older would also be eligible on April 19.
That leaves two states, Oregon and Hawaii, keeping to Mr. Biden’s original deadline of May 1. Their governors did not immediately respond to requests for comment about whether they would broaden eligibility sooner, but Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon announced on Monday that all frontline workers and their families, as well as those 16 or older with underlying health conditions, would be eligible immediately.
In Hawaii, 34 percent of residents have received at least one dose; in Oregon, the figure is 31 percent. Alabama has vaccinated the lowest proportion of its residents, at 25 percent.
But as Ms. Brown noted in her announcement about eligibility — and as experts have warned for weeks — “we’re in a race between vaccines and variants.”
Along with dangerous coronavirus variants that were identified in Britain, South Africa and Brazil, new mutations have continued to pop up in the United States, from California to New York to Oregon.
The shots will eventually win, scientists say, but because each infection gives the coronavirus a chance to evolve further, vaccinations must proceed as fast as possible.
As that race continues, the optimism sown by the steady pace of vaccinations may be threatening to undermine the progress the nation has made. Scientists also fear Americans could let their guard down too soon as warmer weather draws them outside and case levels drop far below the devastating surge this winter.
Cases are now rising sharply in parts of the country, with some states offering a stark reminder that the pandemic is far from over: New cases in Michigan have increased 112 percent and hospitalizations have increased 108 percent over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database.
The United States is averaging more than 64,000 new cases each day, an 18 percent increase from two weeks earlier. That’s well below the peak of more than 250,000 new cases daily in January, but on par with last summer’s surge after reopenings in some states, like Arizona, where patrons packed into clubs as hospital beds filled up. The United States is averaging more than 800 Covid-19 deaths each day, the lowest level since November.
Yet again, governors across the country have lifted precautions like mask mandates and capacity limits on businesses. Medical experts have warned that these moves are premature, and Mr. Biden has urged governors to reinstate the restrictions.
Travel is up again, too, with more than one million people passing through airport security each day in the United States since March 11, according to the Transportation Security Administration. On Sunday, more than 1.5 million people passed through T.S.A. checkpoints. The C.D.C. said last week that fully vaccinated Americans could travel domestically with low risk, but should still follow precautions like wearing masks.
In Beijing, the vaccinated qualify for buy-one-get-one-free ice cream cones. In the northern province of Gansu, a county government published a 20-stanza poem extolling the virtues of the jab. In the southern town of Wancheng, officials warned parents that if they refused to get vaccinated, their children’s schooling and future employment and housing were all at risk.
China is deploying a medley of tactics, some tantalizing and some threatening, to achieve mass vaccination on a staggering scale: a goal of 560 million people, or 40 percent of its population, by the end of June.
China has already proven how effectively it can mobilize against the coronavirus. And other countries have achieved widespread vaccination, albeit in much smaller populations.
But China faces a number of challenges. The country’s near-total control over the coronavirus has left many residents feeling little urgency to get vaccinated. Some are wary of China’s history of vaccine-related scandals, a fear that the lack of transparency around Chinese coronavirus vaccines has done little to assuage. Then there is the sheer size of the population to be inoculated.
To get it done, the government has turned to a familiar tool kit: a sprawling, quickly mobilized bureaucracy and its sometimes heavy-handed approach. This top-down, all-out response helped tame the virus early on, and now the authorities hope to replicate that success with vaccinations.
Already, uptake has skyrocketed. Over the past week, China has administered an average of about 4.8 million doses a day, up from about one million a day for much of last month. Experts have said they hope to reach 10 million a day to meet the June goal.
“They say it’s voluntary, but if you don’t get the vaccine, they’ll just keep calling you,” said Annie Chen, a university student in Beijing who received two such entreaties from a school counselor in about a week.
A top vaccines official at the European Medicines Agency said on Tuesday that AstraZeneca’s vaccine was linked to blood clots in a small number of recipients, the first indication from a leading regulatory body that the clots may be a real, if extremely rare, side effect of the shot.
The agency itself has not formally changed its guidance, issued last week, that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks, but any further ruling from regulators would be a setback for a shot that Europe and much of the world are relying on to save lives amid a global surge in coronavirus cases.
The medicines agency said last week that no causal link between the vaccine and rare blood clots had been proven. Only a few dozen cases of blood clots have been recorded among the many millions of people who have received the vaccine across Europe.
But the vaccines official, Marco Cavaleri, told an Italian newspaper that “it is clear there is an association with the vaccine,” and that the medicines agency would announce “in the next hours” that it had determined there was a link. The medicines agency did not immediately respond to questions about its plans.
Those comments represented the first indication by a leading regulatory body that the blood clots could be a genuine, if extremely rare, side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Previously, health officials in several European countries temporarily restricted the use of the shot in certain age groups, despite the European Medicines Agency’s recommendation to keep administering it.
Regulators in Britain and at the World Health Organization have also said that, while they were investigating any rare side effects, the shot was safe to use and would save many lives.
Mr. Cavaleri told the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero that European regulators had not determined why the vaccine might be causing the rare blood clots, which generated concern because the cases were so unusual. They involved blood clots combined with unusually low levels of platelets, a disorder that can lead to heavy bleeding.
The most worrisome of the conditions, known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, involves clots in the veins that drain blood from the brain, a condition that can lead to a rare type of stroke.
The clots are, by all accounts, extremely rare. European regulators were analyzing 44 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, 14 of them fatal, among 9.2 million people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine across the continent. Emer Cooke, the European Medicines Agency’s director, said that the clotting cases in younger people translated to a risk for one in every 100,000 people under 60 given the vaccine. Younger people, and especially younger women, are at higher risk from the brain clots, scientists have said.
In Britain, regulators last week reported 30 cases of the rare blood clots combined with low platelets among 18 million people given the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed with the University of Oxford. No such cases were reported in people who had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Britain.
Regulators in Britain have said that people should get the vaccine “when invited to do so.” But British news reports indicated Monday night that regulators were considering updating that guidance for certain age groups.
Monika Pronczuk and Emma Bubola contributed reporting.
North Korea said on Tuesday that it had decided not to participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The North’s national Olympic Committee decided at a March 25 meeting that its delegation would skip the Olympics “in order to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection,” according to Sports in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a government-run website.
It is the first Summer Olympics that the North has missed since 1988, when they were held in Seoul, the South Korean capital.
North Korea, which has a decrepit public health system, has taken stringent measures against the virus since early last year, including shutting its borders. The country officially maintains that it has no virus cases, but outside health experts are skeptical.
North Korea’s decision deprives South Korea and other nations of a rare opportunity to establish official contact with the isolated country. Officials in the South had hoped that the Olympics — to be held from July 23 to Aug. 8 — might provide a venue for senior delegates from both Koreas to discuss issues beyond sports.
The 2018 Winter Olympics, held in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang, offered similar hope for easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Kim Yo-jong, the only sister of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, grabbed global attention when she attended the opening ceremony, becoming the first member of the Kim family to cross the border into South Korea.
Mr. Kim used the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics as a signal to start diplomacy after a series of nuclear and long-range missile tests. Inter-Korean dialogue soon followed, leading to three summit meetings between Mr. Kim and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. Mr. Kim also met three times with President Donald J. Trump.
But since the collapse of Mr. Kim’s diplomacy with Mr. Trump in 2019, North Korea has shunned official contact with South Korea or the United States. The pandemic has deepened the North’s diplomatic isolation and economic difficulties amid concerns over its nuclear ambitions. North Korea launched two ballistic missiles on March 25 in its first such test in a year, in a challenge to President Biden.
Since North Korea’s first Olympic appearance in 1972, it has participated in every Summer Games except for the Los Angeles event in 1984, when it joined a Soviet-led boycott, and in 1988, when South Korea played host. North Korean athletes have won 16 gold medals, mostly in weight lifting, wrestling, gymnastics, boxing and judo, consistently citing the ruling Kim family as inspiration.
The Tokyo Games were originally scheduled for 2020 but were delayed by a year because of the pandemic. The organizing committee has been scrambling to develop safety protocols to protect both participants and local residents. But as a series of health, economic and political challenges have arisen, large majorities in Japan now say in polls that the Games should not be held this summer.
Even though organizers have barred international spectators,epidemiologists warn the Olympics could still become a superspreader event. Thousands of athletes and other participants will descend on Tokyo from more than 200 countries while much of the Japanese public remains unvaccinated.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand announced on Tuesday that her nation would establish a travel bubble with Australia, allowing travelers to move between the countries without needing to quarantine for the first time since the pandemic began.
The bubble, which will open just before midnight on April 19, is expected to deliver a boost to tourism and to families that have been separated since both countries enacted strict border closures and lockdown measures that have all but eliminated local transmission of the coronavirus.
The announcement came after months of negotiations and setbacks, as Australia battled small outbreaks and officials in both countries weighed testing requirements and other safety protocols.
“The director general of health considers the risk of transmission of Covid-19 from Australia to New Zealand is low and that quarantine-free travel is safe to commence,” Ms. Ardern said at a news conference.
Since last year, Australia has permitted travelers from New Zealand to bypass its hotel quarantine requirements. New Zealand’s decision to reciprocate makes the two countries among the first places in the world to set up such a bubble, following a similar announcement last week by Taiwan and the Pacific island nation of Palau.
Australians flying to New Zealand will be required to have spent the previous 14 days in Australia, to wear a mask on the plane and, if possible, to use New Zealand’s Covid-19 contact tracing app. In the event of an outbreak in Australia, New Zealand could impose additional restrictions, including shutting down travel to a particular Australian state or imposing quarantine requirements, Ms. Ardern said.
She warned that the new requirements would not necessarily free up many spaces in New Zealand’s overwhelmed hotel quarantine system, which has a weekslong backlog for New Zealanders wishing to book a space to return home. Of the roughly 1,000 slots that would now become available every two weeks, around half would be set aside as a contingency measure, while most of the others would not be appropriate for travelers from higher-risk countries, Ms. Ardern said.
Before New Zealand closed its borders to international visitors in March 2020, its tourism industry employed nearly 230,000 people and contributed 41.9 billion New Zealand dollars ($30.2 billion) to economic output, according to the country’s tourism board. Most of the roughly 3.8 million foreign tourists who visited New Zealand over a 12-month period between 2018 and 2019 came from Australia.
Ms. Ardern encouraged Australians to visit New Zealand’s ski areas, and said she would be conducting interviews with Australian media outlets this week to promote New Zealand as a tourism destination.
The bubble would also make it easier for the more than 500,000 New Zealanders who live in Australia to visit their families.
“It is ultimately a change of scene that so many have been looking for,” Ms. Ardern said, addressing Australians. “You may not have been in long periods of lockdown, but you haven’t had the option. Now you have the option, come and see us.”
There was no need to pipe in crowd noise at Globe Life Field on Monday, as the Texas Rangers hosted the Toronto Blue Jays in front of the largest crowd at a sporting event in the United States in more than a year.
From the long lines of fans waiting to get into the stadium to the persistent buzz of the spectators during quiet moments, the game in Arlington, Texas, was a throwback to a time before the coronavirus crippled the country.
“It felt like a real game,” Rangers Manager Chris Woodward said. “It felt like back to the old days when we had full capacity.”
The official crowd of 38,238 fans, which was announced as a sellout, represented 94.8 percent of the stadium’s 40,300-seat capacity. It topped the Daytona 500 (which allowed slightly more than 30,000 fans) and the Super Bowl (24,835), both of which were held in February, as the largest crowd at a U.S. sporting event since the pandemic began last year.
The lifting of capacity restrictions in Texas made the enormous crowd possible. And for Major League Baseball, which claims its teams collectively lost billions during a largely fanless 2020 season, it was a hopeful sign that large crowds can return to all of the league’s games before too long. The open question is whether such events can be safe as the pandemic continues.
M.L.B. requires all fans over age 2 to wear masks at games this season, but a large percentage of the fans in Arlington went maskless. That will undoubtedly raise fears of the event resulting in a spike in coronavirus cases.
Garment workers in factories producing clothes and shoes for companies like Nike, Walmart and Benetton have seen their jobs disappear in the past 12 months, as major brands in the United States and Europe canceled or refused to pay for orders after the pandemic took hold and suppliers resorted to mass layoffs or closures.
Most garment workers earn chronically low wages, and few have any savings. Which means the only thing standing between them and dire poverty are legally mandated severance benefits that are often owed upon termination, wherever the workers are in the world.
According to a new report from the Worker Rights Consortium, however, garment workers are being denied some or all of these wages.
The study identified 31 export garment factories in nine countries where, the authors concluded, a total of 37,637 workers who were laid off did not receive the full severance pay they legally earned, a collective $39.8 million.
According to Scott Nova, the group’s executive director, the report covers only about 10 percent of global garment factory closures with mass layoffs in the last year. The group is investigating an additional 210 factories in 18 countries, leading the authors to estimate that the final data set will detail 213 factories with severance pay violations affecting more than 160,000 workers owed $171.5 million.
“Severance wage theft has been a longstanding problem in the garment industry, but the scope has dramatically increased in the last year,” Mr. Nova said. He added that the figures were likely to rise as economic aftershocks related to the pandemic continued to unfold across the retail industry. He believes the lost earnings could total between $500 million and $850 million.
The report’s authors say the only realistic solution to the crisis would be the creation of a so-called severance guarantee fund. The initiative, devised in conjunction with 220 unions and other labor rights organizations, would be financed by mandatory payments from signatory brands that could then be leveraged in cases of large-scale nonpayment of severance by a factory or supplier.
Several household names implicated in the report made money during the pandemic. Amazon, for example, reported an increase in net profit of 84 percent in 2020, while Inditex, the parent company of Zara, made 11.4 billion euros, about $13.4 billion, in gross profit. Nike, Next and Walmart all also had healthy earnings.
Some industry experts believe the purchasing practices of the industry’s power players are a major contributor to the severance pay crisis. The overwhelming majority of fashion retailers do not own their own production facilities, instead contracting with factories in countries where labor is cheap. The brands dictate prices, often squeezing suppliers to offer more for less, and can shift sourcing locations at will. Factory owners in developing countries say they are forced to operate on minimal margins, with few able to afford better worker wages or investments in safety and severance.
“The onus falls on the supplier,” said Genevieve LeBaron, a professor at the University of Sheffield in England who focuses on international labor standards. “But there is a reason the spotlight keeps falling on larger actors further up the supply chain. Their behavior can impact the ability of factories to deliver on their responsibilities.”
More than a year after the pandemic brought down the curtain at theaters and concert halls around the world, the performing arts are beginning to return to the stage.
A smattering of theater and comedy shows lit up New York stages over the last few days, but next week will see one of the higher-profile arts returns. The New York Philharmonic is scheduled to give its first live performance in a concert hall since the pandemic began: “a musical musing on Goethe,” at the Shed at the Hudson Yards development on April 14.
The reopenings come at a confusing moment in the pandemic. Vaccinations are rising in the United States — Saturday was the first time the country reported more than four million doses in a single day, according to data compiled by The New York Times — but so are case counts.
While new cases, deaths and hospitalizations are far below their January peak, the average number of new reported cases has risen 19 percent over the past two weeks.
Still, performance spaces are carefully starting to welcome audiences, at a fraction of their capacity. There remains much debate over what regulations to impose on attendees. In Israel, concertgoers are required to have a Green Pass, which certifies that they have been vaccinated, though enforcement can be spotty.
In New York, as at the Daryl Roth Theater, an Off Broadway venue, temperatures were checked as a small audience streamed in for an immersive sound performance based on the José Saramago novel “Blindness” — a dystopian tale from 25 years ago whose resonances eerily align with the present. Mayor Bill de Blasio, masked and sneaker-clad, greeted some theatergoers on the sidewalk outside with wrist and elbow bumps.
But that optimism has been tinged with more halting news that underscores how fragile these reopenings are.
The Park Avenue Armory had to postpone one of the most high-profile experiments to bring indoor live performance back to New York. A sold-out run of “Afterwardsness,” a new piece that addresses the pandemic and violence against Black people, was canceled after several members of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company tested positive for the virus.
At the Comedy Cellar, a Greenwich Village club that has nursed the early careers of many comics, laughter filled the room for its first show, but reminders of reality were impossible to miss: Performers’ microphones were swapped out between each set, every fresh one covered with what looked like a miniature shower cap.
John Touhey, 27, said that his reason for coming was simple. “Just to feel something again,” he said.California officials have announced guidelines for indoor concerts, theater, sports and other events, which will be permitted beginning April 15. Capacity will be linked to a county’s health tier.
Los Angeles County, for example, on Monday moved into the orange tier, which would allow venues that hold up to 1,500 people to operate at 15 percent capacity, or 200 people. The number rises to 35 percent if all attendees are tested or show proof of vaccination.
In Minneapolis, pandemic-weary music fans may have to wait longer, but the results will be louder. First Avenue, a legendary club, last month booked its first new, non-postponed show since the pandemic began, The Star Tribune reported. The band is Dinosaur Jr., led by J. Mascis, one of the most durable indie rockers of the last 30 years. The show is scheduled for Sept. 14.
Minority communities in Britain have long felt estranged from the government and medical establishment, but their sense of alienation is suddenly proving more costly than ever amid a coronavirus vaccination campaign that depends heavily on trust.
With Britons enjoying one of the fastest vaccination rollouts in the world, skepticism about the shots remains high in many of the communities where Covid-19 has taken the heaviest toll.
“The government’s response to the Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities has been rather limited,” said Dr. Raja Amjid Riaz, 52, a surgeon who is also a leader at the Central Mosque of Brent, an ethnically diverse area of North London. “Those people have not been catered for.”
As a result, communities like Brent offer fertile ground for the most outlandish of vaccine rumors, from unfounded claims that they affect fertility to the outright fabrication that shots are being used to inject microchips.
With the government seen as still disengaged in Black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities even as they have been hit disproportionately hard both by the virus itself and by the lockdowns imposed to stop its spread, many local leaders like Dr. Riaz have taken it upon themselves to act.
Some are well-known and trusted figures like religious leaders. Others are local health care workers. And still others are ordinary community members like Umit Jani, a 46-year-old Brent resident.
Mr. Jani’s face is one of many featured on 150 posters across the borough encouraging residents to get tested for the virus and vaccinated, part of a local government initiative.
The goal is to reframe the community’s relationship with the power structure, and perhaps establish some trust.
“In Brent, things have been done to communities and not in partnership,” said Mr. Jani, who said he had seen the toll the virus has taken on the area’s Gujarati and Somali communities.
For most Americans, the third stimulus payment, like the first two, arrived as if by magic, landing unprompted in the bank or in the mail.
But it’s not as straightforward for people without a bank account or a mailing address. Or a phone. Or identification.
Just about anyone with a Social Security number who is not someone else’s dependent and who earns less than $75,000 is entitled to the stimulus. But some of the people who would benefit most from the money are having the hardest time getting their hands on it.
“There’s this great intention to lift people out of poverty more and give them support, and all of that’s wonderful,” said Beth Hofmeister, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society’s Homeless Rights Project. “But the way people have to access it doesn’t really fit with how most really low-income people are interacting with the government.”
Interviews with homeless people in New York City over the last couple of weeks found that some mistakenly assumed they were ineligible for the stimulus. Others said that bureaucratic hurdles, complicated by limited phone or internet access, were insurmountable.
Paradoxically, the very poor are the most likely to pump stimulus money right back into devastated local economies, rather than sock it away in the bank or use it to play the stock market.
“I’d find a permanent place to stay, some food, clothing, a nice shower, a nice bed,” said Richard Rodriguez, 43, waiting for lunch outside the Bowery Mission last month. “I haven’t had a nice bed for a year.”
Mr. Rodriguez said he had made several attempts to file taxes — a necessary step for those not yet in the system — but had given up.
“I went to H&R Block and I told them I was homeless,” he said. “They said they couldn’t help me.”
U.S. coronavirus cases have increased again after hitting a low late last month, and some of the states driving the upward trend have also been hit hardest by variants, according to an analysis of data from Helix, a lab testing company.
The country’s vaccine rollout has sped up since the first doses were administered in December, recently reaching a rolling average of more than three million doses per day. And new U.S. cases trended steeply downward in the first quarter of the year, falling almost 80 percent from mid-January through the end of March.
But during that period, states also rolled back virus control measures, and now mobility data shows a rise in people socializing and traveling. Amid all this, more contagious variants have been gaining a foothold, and new cases are almost 20 percent higher than they were at the lowest point in March.
“It is a pretty complex situation, because behavior is changing, but you’ve also got this change in the virus itself at the same time,” said Emily Martin, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
Michigan has seen the sharpest rise in cases in the last few weeks. B.1.1.7 — the more transmissible and more deadly variant of the coronavirus that was first discovered in Britain — may now make up around 70 percent of all of the state’s new cases, according to the Helix data.
Higher vaccination rates among the country’s older adults — those prioritized first in the vaccination rollout — mean that some of those at highest risk of complications are protected as cases rise again.
But almost 70 percent of the U.S. population has still not received a first dose, and only about half of those ages 65 and older are fully vaccinated. And in many states, those with high-risk conditions or in their 50s and 60s had not yet or had only just become eligible for the vaccine when cases began to rise again, leaving them vulnerable.
The tiny German state of Saarland, home to around 990,000 people, is making a cautious return to a new kind of normal in a pilot project that state officials hope could show how to keep the local economy open while controlling infections. From Tuesday, residents who test negative for the coronavirus will be able to use outdoor dining areas, gyms and movie theaters and even attend live theater performances.
Even as cases have continued to rise in Germany, prompting calls for a harsher national lockdown to halt a third wave of the pandemic — which has already shut down many of its European neighbors.
“More vaccinating, more testing, more mindfulness, more options: That’s the formula we want to use as Saarland break new ground in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic,” Tobias Hans, the governor of the state in southwestern Germany, said last week as he announced the reopening plans.
Under the guidelines, as many as 10 people can meet outdoors, and anyone with a negative test result within the previous 24 hours can visit stores, gyms, theaters and beer gardens — places that have largely been closed across Germany since the country announced a “lockdown light” in November.
(Many stores have been open since March, when a court overturned the rules.)
The Saarland project begins the same day that new regulations require travelers from the Netherlands to present a negative coronavirus test to cross the border into Germany. Travelers from the Czech Republic, France and Poland face similar measures.
North Korea said on Tuesday that it had decided not to participate in the 32nd Tokyo Summer Olympics because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The decision was made when the North’s national Olympic Committee met on March 25 in Pyongyang, where it decided a delegation would skip the Tokyo Olympics, to be held on July 23 to Aug. 8, “in order to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection,” the Sports in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a government-run website, said.
North Korea, which has a decrepit public health system, has taken stringent measures against the virus since early last year, including shutting its borders. The country officially maintains that it has no Covid-19 cases, but outside health experts remain skeptical.
North Korea’s decision deprives South Korea and other nations of a rare opportunity to establish official contact with the isolated country. Officials in the South had hoped that the Olympics might provide a venue for senior delegates from both Koreas to meet to discuss issues beyond sports.
attend the opening ceremony.
Mr. Kim used the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics as the signal to start diplomacy after a series of nuclear and long-range missile tests. Soon, inter-Korean dialogue followed, leading to three summit meetings between Mr. Kim and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. Mr. Kim also met with President Donald J. Trump three times.
But since the collapse of Mr. Kim’s diplomacy with Mr. Trump in 2019, North Korea has shunned official contact with South Korea or the United States. The pandemic has deepened its diplomatic isolation and economic difficulties amid concerns over its nuclear ambitions. North Korea launched two ballistic missiles on March 25 in its first such test in a year, in a challenge to President Biden.
Good morning and happy Easter. Here are the top stories in business and tech to know for the week ahead. — Charlotte Cowles
What’s Up? (March 28-April 3)
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Employers added a whopping 916,000 jobs in March, more than doubling February’s employment growth. Many hires were in hospitality and construction, spurred on by the surging pace of vaccinations and a new round of federal aid. (The spring weather didn’t hurt, either.)In other good news, Wall Street hit a record high last week, with the S&P 500 index closing above 4,000 for the first time.
President Biden pitched his proposal for a giant infrastructure package, which he called “the largest American jobs investment since World War II.” It also has a large price tag, costing about $2 trillion over eight years. The plan aims to repair thousands of old bridges, roads and plumbing systems, improving commute times and drinking water. It also includes $100 billion to deliver broadband internet to rural areas that struggle with spotty Wi-Fi. And it will invest heavily in green initiatives like electric cars and more efficient energy grids. But the proposal faces a tricky path through Congress, as Republicans oppose the corporate tax increases that Mr. Biden says would pay for it.
will temporarily stop collecting payments on roughly six million loans that were made through the Federal Family Education Loan program and are now privately held. There’s a catch: Only borrowers who have defaulted will get a reprieve. The move will also temporarily prevent those in default from having their wages garnished or tax refunds seized by collectors, and will return any seized refunds or wages that had been taken since March 2020.
What’s Next? (April 4-10)
Blue Skies Ahead
The airline industry showed some promising signs of life last week. After a year of near-dormancy, domestic vacation bookings are bouncing back. United Airlines is hiring pilots again, starting with those who had conditional job offers before the pandemic or whose start dates were pushed off once travel restrictions set in. Delta Air Lines, the last major holdout in blocking middle seats to ensure space between passengers, will resume middle-seat bookings in May. And finally, the budget carrier Frontier Airlines went public, a sign that it’s anticipating a rebound.
Out of the Mud
After six days of digging and tugging, plus a boost from a full moon, the huge container ship that was lodged in the Suez Canal has been freed, and the waterway is open for business again. But the ripple effect of its blockage will be felt for weeks. The stuck boat prevented as much as $10 billion of cargo a day from moving through the canal, and cost the Egyptian government up to $90 million in lost toll revenue. Who will pay for the damage? A fleet of insurers, government authorities and lawyers are all sorting out who’s financially responsible (probably the stuck ship’s Japanese owner) and how much they’re on the hook for.
Supply, Meet Demand
As the global economy shudders back into gear, demand for fuel is rising. And there was some question of whether oil producers would increase their supply to meet it. If they chose not to, gas could be up to $4 a gallon by this summer — not exactly welcome news for anyone trying to drive to work. But OPEC and its allies put those fears to rest last week when they agreed to gradually increase production over the next three months, which should keep prices steady.
speaking out against the state’s new law that restricts voting access. New York prosecutors have subpoenaed the personal bank records of the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, as part of their investigation into the business practices of former President Donald J. Trump and his family company. And a group of doctors has sued the insurance giant UnitedHealthcare and accused it of stifling competition and hurting their business.
After almost a week of dredging, drigging and tugging — and with some help from the moon — salvage teams yesterday freed the giant container ship that had been stuck in the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes.
As a result, traffic has resumed for the hundreds of ships waiting on both ends of the canal. And while estimates have varied wildly, the delay is also expensive. “The disruption has caused the canal authorities in Egypt losses of $95 million in revenue,” The Times’s Peter Goodman told me.
And even though the ship is free, the disruption isn’t over.
“It’s not just like flipping a switch,” Vivian Yee, the Times’s Cairo bureau chief, told me. Now that the ship is out of the way, the backlog will take at least a few days, maybe even weeks, to resolve.
High winds from a sandstorm caused the ship, the Ever Given, to turn sideways in the canal and get stuck, its operators said. But shipping experts have suggested that while the wind probably had a role in the crisis, human error might have, too.
few extra inches of tidal flow and gave workers the boost they needed to set the ship free.
Not a normal ship
It’s rare that a maritime disruption makes international news. But this was not your average mishap. For one, the Suez Canal isn’t like other waterways. “It is a vital channel linking the factories of Asia to the affluent customers of Europe, as well as a major conduit for oil,” Peter writes.
And the Ever Given is one of the world’s biggest container ships. “From a distance, it’s hard to comprehend how big it is,” Vivian told us. “From land, all the containers on top look like Legos — and then you realize each one of those Legos is 20 or 40 feet long.”
a backlog of goods sitting in factories, waiting to be put in boxes, Vivian says.
It took 10 years of hard labor — during which tens of thousands of Egyptian workers died — to build the canal in the 19th century.
For more: This is how giant container ships are built.
THE LATEST NEWS
The prosecution argued that Chauvin acted with excessive force, and played a video that showed him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. “You can believe your eyes that it’s homicide,” a prosecutor told the jury.
The defense argued that Floyd’s death was caused by underlying medical conditions and a drug overdose, and urged jurors to consider evidence beyond the video.
This two-minute video shows key moments from the first day of the trial.
Other Big Stories
After the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, does the U.S. need a domestic terrorism law?
Yes: Making domestic terrorism a federal crime would help law enforcement punish violent extremists, says Elizabeth Neumann, a former Trump administration official. It would also deter future violence, Mary McCord and Jason Blazakis write in Lawfare.
No: “The problem is not lack of laws. It is a lack of will” to pursue extremists using existing law, the A.C.L.U.’s Hina Shamsi argues. And some progressives fear that the government could exploit the law to limit Americans’ rights or target minority communities, Vox’s Nicole Narea explains.
Makeover: The beauty industry has entered a phase of total pop-culture domination. Celebrities, social media stars and lifestyle influencers are changing the way the sell works.
Lives Lived: A fierce advocate for New York’s disabled, Edith Prentiss fought to make the city she loved more navigable for everyone. She died at 69.
suffered more during the pandemic than most other U.S. restaurants.
Their business began declining sooner — in January of last year, when news broke that a new virus was circulating in Wuhan, China. The restaurants have also had to cope with a rise in anti-Asian racism — “vandalized, robbed, attacked online in racist Yelp reviews,” as The Washington Post reported. Xi’an Famous Foods in New York began closing early after two employees were punched in the face while commuting to and from work.
Grace Young, a decorated author of cookbooks, is worried that traditional Chinatowns, like New York’s and San Francisco’s, will never recover from the pandemic, and she has spent months trying to call attention to the problem. “When you step into those restaurants, you are stepping back in time, and it’s a privilege,” Young said on a recent episode of “The Splendid Table,” a food podcast.
For anyone who wants to help Chinese restaurants, Francis Lam, the host of “The Splendid Table,” offered a suggestion: “If you can, order yourself some Chinese takeout. Get extra. Leftovers are your friend.” In The Times, Bonnie Tsui has more tips for supporting restaurants. — David Leonhardt
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
creamy asparagus pasta to the next level.
What to Watch
See a short opera film starring the drag queen Sasha Velour, a “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner and lip-syncing legend.
Meanwhile, on TikTok
Young artists are bypassing art schools and student loans, quitting their day jobs and pursuing careers as full-time artists on TikTok. But what happens when viewership plummets and copycats arrive?
SUEZ, Egypt — For six days, billions of dollars’ worth of international commerce sat paralyzed at either end of the Suez Canal, stalled thanks to a single giant container ship apparently knocked sideways by a powerful southerly wind.
The ship’s insurers and the canal authorities summoned the largest tugboats in the canal, then two even larger ones from further afield. They deployed diggers, front-end loaders and specialized dredgers to guzzle sand and mud from where the ship was lodged at both ends. They called in eight of the world’s most respected salvage experts from the Netherlands.
Day and night, with international pressure bearing down, the dredgers dredged and the tugboats tugged.
But not until the seventh day, after the confluence of the full moon and the sun conjured an unusually high tide, did the ship wriggle free with one last heave shortly after 3 p.m., allowing the first of the nearly 400 ships waiting to resume their journeys by Monday evening.
reconstruction of the ship’s movements through the narrow section of the canal north of the port of Suez shows the Ever Given weaving back and forth from one side of the canal to the other almost as soon as it entered the channel, gathering speed until the 224,000-ton ship tops 13 knots, or about 15 miles per hour.
internet memes about the epic traffic jam piled up, the Suez Canal Authority and the ship’s owner and insurer scrambled tugboats and dredging equipment to the scene. By the day after the grounding, they had called in a highly regarded team of salvage experts from Smit Salvage, a Dutch company.
“The time pressure to complete this operation was evident and unprecedented,” Peter Berdowski, chief executive of Royal Boskalis Westminster, Smit’s parent company, said in a statement on Monday.
images emerged on social media of the ship, for so long diagonal, once again parallel with the canal.
celebrated the moment on Twitter, writing that “Egyptians have succeeded today in ending the crisis of the stuck ship in the Suez Canal despite the great complexities surrounding this situation in every aspect.”
Ms. Stausboll said that the authorities’ often overly rosy projections during the past week left many shipowners confused about what to believe. “A lot in the shipping community would wish there had been more clarity about what was going on in Egypt from the authorities,” she said. “It does harm your reputation.”
In the absence of a faster, cheaper option, however, the Suez Canal will remain a key artery for shippers, she said. And she pointed out that most ships, including large ones, have navigated the canal without incident in the past.
Shippers have, in any case, a more pressing concern: how to resolve the chain reaction of delays that may ripple out for weeks or months even after the Suez backlog clears, as it was beginning to do by Monday night.
The first ship to pass through the canal after the Ever Given got out of the way was the YM Wish, a 1,207-foot-long Hong Kong-flagged container ship that exited the canal at about 9:15 p.m.
If there is schadenfreude among ships, the YM Wish was perhaps not feeling it. VesselFinder.com reported the YM Wish ran aground in the Elbe River in Germany only six years ago. In its case, however, it took less than a day to float again.
Marc Santora contributed reporting from London, Nada Rashwan from Ismailia, Egypt, and Thomas Erdbrink from Amsterdam.
SUEZ, Egypt—To get the giant container ship blocking the Suez Canal unstuck, engineers needed the stars to align. Actually, the sun, Earth and moon.
After several days trying to dislodge the Ever Given cargo ship, which had veered off course and embedded itself in the side of the canal, the salvage team pinned their hopes on this week’s full moon, when, beginning Sunday, water levels were set to rise a foot-and-a-half higher than normal high tides. That would make it easier to pull the 1,300-foot vessel out from the side of the canal without unloading a large number of the 18,000 or so containers it was carrying.
The engineers would have to work fast to make the most of this narrow window. The effect would only last a few days. But it would be their best shot at freeing up the canal—and with it, billions of dollars’ worth of global trade flows in the process.
Tides are higher whenever there is a full or new moon, which occurs when the moon is in direct alignment with the sun, with either the Earth or moon in the middle of the three. This causes a greater gravitational pull on the Earth. As a result, high tides are higher, and low tides are lower. They are known as spring tides and occur twice a month.
This time the effect was amplified by the first supermoon of the year, when a full moon coincides with the closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit. Supermoons occur several times a year, and this one is known as the worm moon, for the earthworms that begin to appear in the soil in the Northern Hemisphere at this time of year.
When it became clear that tugboats alone wouldn’t be able to dislodge the Ever Given, the rescue effort began looking to the supermoon’s pull on the tides and how it might help free the stranded vessel.
According to people involved in the operation, much of the work to dredge hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of sand was undertaken with the higher water levels in mind. Dredgers were assigned to the area and worked around the clock.
Lars Mikael Jensen, head of A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S’s global ocean network, said Monday was a particularly important day, when water levels began to peak.
“In the last couple of days all the available tug power has been allocated,” he said. Higher tides could give the salvage team the lift it needed to refloat the Ever Given.
Missing the deadline would be costly. Vessels waiting in the Mediterranean and Red Seas to traverse the 120-mile canal would face the prospect of a far longer journey around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa to reach their destinations in Europe and Asia. Others that hadn’t yet reached the area would also have had to make similar decisions.
Sea-Intelligence, a Copenhagen-based data group, estimated that the knock-on effect of rerouting ships around Africa or through the Panama Canal would effectively cut the world’s container shipping capacity by about 6% over the long term because vessels would spend more time sailing on longer voyages.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, facing arguably one of the biggest tests of his seven-year rule, ordered the Suez Canal Authority that runs the waterway to begin working on a contingency plan for the laborious process of unloading the containers if the refloat effort failed. The U.S., China, Greece and the United Arab Emirates all had offered to help.
The rescue team wanted to avoid that outcome at any cost.
“It’s really a last resort,” said Nick Sloane, a maritime salvage expert who led the high-profile effort to float the stricken cruise ship Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy in 2012.
Raising the stakes further, seven days after a spring tide, the sun and moon are at right angles to each other in relation to the earth. At that point, the bulge in the ocean caused by the gravitational pull of the sun partially cancels out the influence of the moon, meaning that tides are lower. It would take significantly longer to pull loose the Ever Given in those conditions, salvage experts said.
It wasn’t initially clear to authorities how serious the situation was when the ship, operated by Taiwan-based Evergreen Group, hit the eastern side of the Suez Canal during a seasonal sandstorm known as a khamsin at around 7.30 a.m. on March 23, burying its nose 16 feet into the rocky soil.
Egyptian investigators have indicated that high winds were likely a factor, but were also looking at the possibility of human error or a mechanical failure. They also highlighted the danger of what are known as bank effects, which can pull or push a large ship close to shore when it is navigating in a shallow, narrow channel.
Based on an assessment by a team of divers, the Suez Canal Authority allowed additional vessels into the waterway, thinking the Ever Given would soon be freed by tugboats and earthmovers.
An image of a solitary mechanical digger attempting to unstick the hulking carrier quickly spread on the internet, where people used it to depict such monumental challenges as holding back threats such as the Covid-19 pandemic or climate change, or even just stacking a dishwasher correctly.
“I’m quite aware that this picture went viral and people thought this was our only procedure,” Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, said at a press conference Saturday.
When the initial effort failed, Mr. Rabie deployed dredgers to dig out sand from around the vessel and help tugboats move it a little bit further out each day at high tide.
Dutch salvage operator Smit Internationale N.V. flew in a team early Thursday morning to help with the new strategy. By Friday, the authority had completed about 87% of the dredging work it thought was needed to free the ship, removing close to 600,000 cubic feet, or roughly equivalent to seven Olympic-sized swimming pools of sand and mud.
“We got to dig deep to get it loose…Nothing else will happen until it’s done,” a person participating in the salvage operation said last week as the pressure started to build.
Their progress helped the salvagers turn on the ship’s propeller and rudder for the first time, raising the possibility on Friday evening that the ship might be pulled free by tugboats. But hopes were dashed when the daily tide receded and the ship’s bow remained wedged in the side of the canal, the authority said.
On Saturday, the team was using 12 tugboats—two at the front, six pushing the back and four pulling the stern—to try to dislodge the Ever Given. The dredgers by then had removed 950,000 cubic feet of sand and dug to a depth of 60 feet around the ship.
By Sunday night, the supermoon had caused tidal levels to exceed 6½ feet, some 19 inches above the high tide March 23 when the Ever Given ran aground. The salvage team’s best chance of success was approaching.
At 2 a.m. local time, the operation was aided by the arrival of a Dutch-flagged tugboat, the Alp Guard, with a pulling power of 285 metric tons, a major boost compared with the other tugboats working on the vessel, such as the Suez-based Baraka 1 that pulled at 160 tons.
“ ‘When this big tug came, immediately the stern of the ship was released from the bank.’ ”
— Captain Wessam Hafez, veteran chief pilot on the canal
Then, the days of dredging and digging began to pay off as the tugboats revved up their engines and began maneuvering the Ever Given in the higher tide, a person on another tugboat said.
The effort managed to dislodge the ship’s bow from the eastern side of the canal at about 5 a.m. and shift its stern 3,500 feet from the western side into the waterway, compared with 140-feet when it stuck, the authority said.
“We were working four days with our tugs,” said Captain Wessam Hafez, a veteran chief pilot on the canal. “When this big tug came, immediately the stern of the ship was released from the bank.”
A pair of tugboats pulled from the right side of the stern while others pushed from the opposite side. Others slowly pulled the front-left side of the ship out toward the center of the canal, slowly levering its bow out of the hole it had gouged in the side of the channel.
As the tide fell, moving out south toward the Red Sea, the ship slowly began to break clear. Video footage from the scene recorded some of the crews cheering “Allahu akbar,” or God is great, as dawn broke.
When water levels rose again toward midday, work began on finishing the job. Hopes for a swift end to the drama were initially dashed by currents and high winds working against the salvage team. But then, in the bright afternoon sunshine, the ship gently drifted toward the center of the canal, harnessed by an array of tugboats.
Mr. Sloane, the maritime salvage expert, said the few additional inches brought by the spring tides made a critical difference, adding thousands of tons of buoyancy to float the Ever Given.
“On a big ship like that, the impact is quite a lot,” he said.
—Stephen Kalin and Costas Paris contributed to this article.