began a military campaign in the country’s northern Tigray region, hoping to vanquish the Tigray People’s Liberation Front — his most troublesome political foe.

In Addis Ababa, security officers have demanded that landlords identify Tigrayan tenants. In one secondary school, a teacher said four Tigrayan teachers had been taken into custody as they ate lunch after officers arrived with a letter from the intelligence service containing their names.

A merchant in Addis Ababa, 38, was picked up by security officers after he opened his mobile phone accessories shop. A nearby shop owner phoned that news to the seized merchant’s wife, who said she left their two children with a neighbor and rushed to the shop — only to find it closed and her husband gone.

After a three-day search, the wife said, she found her husband in a crowded Addis Ababa detention facility with no proper bedding or food.

In Addis Ababa, rights groups say, police stations are so full of detainees that the authorities have moved the overflow to heavily guarded makeshift facilities, among them youth recreation centers, warehouses and one major prison. With no access to lawyers, some relatives of detainees say they will not approach these facilities, fearful they could be arrested too.

whistle-blower, have long accused Facebook of failing to moderate hateful incitement speech. With pressure mounting, Facebook this month deleted a post by Mr. Abiy urging citizens to “bury” the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Twitter also disabled its Trends section in Ethiopia, citing “the risks of coordination that could incite violence or cause harm.”

Timnit Gebru, an Ethiopian-born American computer scientist who spotted and reported some of the posts on Facebook, said the measures were insufficient and amounted to “a game of whack-a-mole.”

For now, many Tigrayans worry that it’s only a matter of time before they are seized. One businessman, who paid a $400 bribe for his release, said officers had told him they would come for him again.

It’s a fate Kirubel said he worried about as his disabled uncle and cousins remained detained.

“My children worry that I will not come back when I leave the house,” he said. “Everyone is afraid.”

Employees of The New York Times contributed reporting from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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Famine Looms in Ethiopia’s War-Ravaged Tigray Region, U.N. Says

Famine is now knocking on the door of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where a civil war that erupted last year has drastically cut the food supply and prevented relief workers from helping the hungry, the top U.N. humanitarian official has warned.

In a confidential note to the United Nations Security Council, the official, Mark Lowcock, the under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said sections of Tigray, a region of more than 5 million people, are now one step from famine — in part because the government has obstructed aid shipments.

The note, seen by The New York Times, was submitted Tuesday under a Security Council resolution requiring such notification when conflicts cause famine and widespread food insecurity.

“These circumstances now arise in the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia,” Mr. Lowcock said in the note. While below-average rain, locusts and the Covid-19 pandemic have all contributed to food scarcity, he said, “the scale of the food crisis Tigray faces today is a clear result of the conflict and the behavior of the parties.”

since last November. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and neighboring Eritrea ordered their military forces into the region to crush Mr. Abiy’s political rivals and strengthen his control.

What Mr. Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, predicted would be a short operation has instead become a quagmire that threatens to destabilize the Horn of Africa. Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have been accused of ethnic cleansing, massacres and others atrocities in Tigray that amount to war crimes.

While the United Nations and international relief organizations have achieved some cooperation from the Ethiopian authorities in gaining access to deprived areas of Tigray, Mr. Lowcock said in his note, such cooperation has deteriorated in recent months. “Humanitarian operations are being attacked, obstructed or delayed in delivering lifesaving assistance,” he wrote, and at least eight aid workers have been killed.

“As a result of impediments and the effect of restrictions, not nearly enough support is being provided,” he wrote. He urged Security Council members “to take any steps possible to prevent a famine from occurring.”

His warning was echoed by Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, the main U.S. government provider of humanitarian assistance to needy countries. Ms. Power, a former American ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement that one of the aid workers killed had worked for the agency she now runs.

took the unusual step of penalizing Ethiopia over growing American exasperation with Mr. Abiy’s actions in Tigray. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced visa restrictions on officials linked to the conflict, preventing their travel to the United States.

Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry reacted angrily, calling the restrictions “extremely regrettable” and suggesting they would “seriously undermine this longstanding and important bilateral relationship.”

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How the Coming Population Bust Will Transform the World

All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history that will make first-birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore.

Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties have been razed, with the land turned into parks.

Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.

A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.

spirals exponentially. With fewer births, fewer girls grow up to have children, and if they have smaller families than their parents did — which is happening in dozens of countries — the drop starts to look like a rock thrown off a cliff.

“It becomes a cyclical mechanism,” said Stuart Gietel Basten, an expert on Asian demographics and a professor of social science and public policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “It’s demographic momentum.”

Some countries, like the United States, Australia and Canada, where birthrates hover between 1.5 and 2, have blunted the impact with immigrants. But in Eastern Europe, migration out of the region has compounded depopulation, and in large parts of Asia, the “demographic time bomb” that first became a subject of debate a few decades ago has finally gone off.

South Korea’s fertility rate dropped to a record low of 0.92 in 2019 — less than one child per woman, the lowest rate in the developed world. Every month for the past 59 months, the total number of babies born in the country has dropped to a record depth.

schools shut and abandoned, their playgrounds overgrown with weeds, because there are not enough children.

even iPhones.

To goose the birthrate, the government has handed out baby bonuses. It increased child allowances and medical subsidies for fertility treatments and pregnancy. Health officials have showered newborns with gifts of beef, baby clothes and toys. The government is also building kindergartens and day care centers by the hundreds. In Seoul, every bus and subway car has pink seats reserved for pregnant women.

But this month, Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki admitted that the government — which has spent more than $178 billion over the past 15 years encouraging women to have more babies — was not making enough progress. In many families, the shift feels cultural and permanent.

projections by an international team of scientists published last year in The Lancet, 183 countries and territories — out of 195 — will have fertility rates below replacement level by 2100.

municipalities have been consolidated as towns age and shrink. In Sweden, some cities have shifted resources from schools to elder care. And almost everywhere, older people are being asked to keep working. Germany, which previously raised its retirement age to 67, is now considering a bump to 69.

Going further than many other nations, Germany has also worked through a program of urban contraction: Demolitions have removed around 330,000 units from the housing stock since 2002.

recently increased to 1.54, up from 1.3 in 2006. Leipzig, which once was shrinking, is now growing again after reducing its housing stock and making itself more attractive with its smaller scale.

“Growth is a challenge, as is decline,” said Mr. Swiaczny, who is now a senior research fellow at the Federal Institute for Population Research in Germany.

Demographers warn against seeing population decline as simply a cause for alarm. Many women are having fewer children because that’s what they want. Smaller populations could lead to higher wages, more equal societies, lower carbon emissions and a higher quality of life for the smaller numbers of children who are born.

But, said Professor Gietel Basten, quoting Casanova: “There is no such thing as destiny. We ourselves shape our lives.”

The challenges ahead are still a cul-de-sac — no country with a serious slowdown in population growth has managed to increase its fertility rate much beyond the minor uptick that Germany accomplished. There is little sign of wage growth in shrinking countries, and there is no guarantee that a smaller population means less stress on the environment.

Many demographers argue that the current moment may look to future historians like a period of transition or gestation, when humans either did or did not figure out how to make the world more hospitable — enough for people to build the families that they want.

Surveys in many countries show that young people would like to be having more children, but face too many obstacles.

Anna Parolini tells a common story. She left her small hometown in northern Italy to find better job opportunities. Now 37, she lives with her boyfriend in Milan and has put her desire to have children on hold.

She is afraid her salary of less than 2,000 euros a month would not be enough for a family, and her parents still live where she grew up.

“I don’t have anyone here who could help me,” she said. “Thinking of having a child now would make me gasp.”

Elsie Chen, Christopher Schuetze and Benjamin Novak contributed reporting.

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Nigerian Terrorist Leader ‘Dies’ Again. Was This the End of His 9th Life?

When reports began to emerge on Wednesday night that the murderous leader of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram was dead, many Nigerians dismissed them immediately.

Over the years, the Nigerian military had announced the killing of that leader, Abubakar Shekau, several times before. And then he would show up online weeks later, taunting his supposed killers in video diatribes.

“If you have killed us, why are we still alive?” he asked in 2018, after the Nigerian military claimed to have “broken the heart and the soul” of Boko Haram, a group that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions.

But this time feels different. It wasn’t the military announcing they had killed him. In fact, for hours on Wednesday night and on Thursday, the military was silent.

the 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok Girls, 276 schoolgirls who were abducted from their dormitories at night and who Mr. Shekau later vowed he would “sell in the market.”

over 100 are missing or remain in captivity, along with many other less famous, but often even younger victims.

Bunu Bukar, secretary of the Hunters’ Association in Borno State, who has played a key role in demobilizing Boko Haram fighters and is in contact with past and present members of the group. He said that 200 heavily armed ISWAP members descended on Mr. Shekau’s hide-out in Sambisa forest.

“When Shekau discovered that these people are very powerful and he also realized that it’s not Nigerian army, it’s ISWAP — he just planned to use explosive devices,” Mr. Bukar said. “He wore them all and confronted them directly. When the explosion came, Shekau was in pieces. And they also lost at least 40 fighters — ISWAP fighters.”

wrote Ahmad Salkida, the Nigerian journalist often credited with — and sometimes criticized for — having stellar sources inside Boko Haram.

In Maiduguri, people gathered in small groups to talk about the news, but most assigned it no greater status than another rumor. Likely a false alarm.

How do we fight disinformation? Join Times tech reporters as they untangle the roots of disinformation and how to combat it. Plus we speak to special guest comedian Sarah Silverman. R.S.V.P. to this subscriber-exclusive event. But Mr. Shekau and his group would have an indelible effect on Mr. Hamza, who had to flee Maiduguri for two years, and his family.“I lost a brother, a cousin and an uncle killed by Boko Haram,” he said. “Thousands of innocent people killed or displaced, especially women and children. How can God forgive such a heartless person?”For many, particularly those connected with the country’s armed forces, if Mr. Shekau was dead, it was not necessarily a positive development overall. It could mean that ISWAP, already powerful, posed much more of a threat to Maiduguri and other garrison cities, some said.If it really happened, “Shekau’s death is not an end to Boko Haram. It is only the beginning of another chapter in the group,” said Audu Bulama Bukarti, an expert on extremist groups in Africa at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.Warfare between the factions has killed hundreds of their members previously, he said, and if that continued, they would be weakened.“It will be two violent groups eating up themselves and that will be positive news for Nigeria,” he said. On the other hand, if the two factions teamed up, he said: “It will open an even deadlier chapter for security forces.”It would also make it harder to win the battle of ideas, he said, as ISWAP tends to be more benign to civilians.“Where Shekau alienated civilians with his capricious and often massive and violent seizures of cattle and grain, ISWAP has substituted a fairer, cash-based taxation of trade and agricultural production,” wrote the analyst Vincent Foucher in a recent report for the International Crisis Group.

Those who have suffered at Mr. Shekau’s hands almost hoped he had not been killed in the way it was reported on Thursday, feeling it was too easy a way out for him.

“I would have wished that he was caught alive, released to the military authorities and taken round the city of Maiduguri,” Mr. Hamza said. “We would surely have skinned him alive.”

Usman Alkali contributed reporting.

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Severe Covid Is More Often Fatal in Africa Than in Other Regions

People in Africa who become critically ill from Covid-19 are more likely to die than patients in other parts of the world, according to a report published on Thursday in the medical journal The Lancet.

The report, based on data from 64 hospitals in 10 countries, is the first broad look at what happens to critically ill Covid patients in Africa, the authors say.

The increased risk of death applies only to those who become severely ill, not to everyone who catches the disease. Over all, the rates of illness and death from Covid in Africa appear lower than in the rest of the world. But if the virus begins to spread more rapidly in Africa, as it has in other regions, these findings suggest that the death toll could worsen.

Among 3,077 critically ill patients admitted to the African hospitals, 48.2 percent died within 30 days, compared with a global average of 31.5 percent, the Lancet study found.

The study was observational, meaning that the researchers followed the patients’ progress, but did not experiment with treatments. The work was done by a large team called The African Covid-19 Critical Care Outcomes Study Investigators.

For Africa as a whole, the death rate among severely ill Covid patients may be even higher than it was in the study, the researchers said, because much of their information came from relatively well-equipped hospitals, and 36 percent of those facilities were in South Africa and Egypt, which have better resources than many other African countries. In addition, the patients in the study, with an average age of 56, were younger than many other critically ill Covid patients, indicating that death rates outside the study could be higher.

The other eight countries in the study were Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Nigeria. Leaders of 16 other African nations had also agreed to participate, but ultimately did not.

Reasons for the higher death rates include a lack of resources such as surge capacity in intensive care units, equipment to measure patients’ oxygen levels, dialysis machines and so-called ECMO devices to pump oxygen into the bloodstream of patients whose lungs become so impaired that even a ventilator is not enough to keep them alive.

But there was also an apparent failure to use resources that were available, the authors of the study suggested. Proning — turning patients onto their stomachs to help them breathe — was underused, performed for only about a sixth of the patients who needed it.

Almost 16 percent of the hospitals had ECMO, but it was offered to less than 1 percent of patients. Similarly, although 68 percent of the sites had access to dialysis to treat kidney failure, which is common in severe Covid cases, only 10 percent of the critically ill patients received it. Half the patients who died were never given oxygen, but the authors of the study said they had little data to explain why.

A Lancet editorial by experts not involved in the study said, “It is common in Africa to have expensive equipment that is non-functional due to poor maintenance or lack of skilled human resources.” Some 40 percent of the medical equipment in Africa was out of service, according to a 2017 report by the Tropical Health and Education Trust, the editorial said.

Another factor is that few doctors in Africa have the training in pulmonary and critical care that is considered essential in treating Covid patients.

As in other studies, chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and diseases affecting the heart, kidney or liver increased the risk of death from Covid. This study was the first to include a large proportion of patients with H.I.V., which nearly doubled the risk of death. The report states, “Our data suggests that H.I.V./AIDS is an important risk factor for Covid-19 mortality.” But the authors also said they did not have data on how the severity of the H.I.V. infection might affect the risk.

An unexpected finding of the study was that, unlike Covid patients in the rest of the world, men in Africa were no more likely than women to die. That result suggests that African women are at higher risk than women in other regions.

The authors suggested that women in Africa might face “barriers to accessing care and limitations or biases in care when critically ill.”

The editorial asked whether new variants could be causing the high death rate found in the study, but also said, “This is a question which, in a continent with severe shortage of sequencing, could take a long time to answer.”

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South African Filmmakers Move Beyond Apartheid Stories

JOHANNESBURG — One of South Africa’s top film producers squinted at a monitor as a hush settled over the crew. Cameras zoomed in on an actress playing a dealer of fine art — chicly dressed in a pencil skirt made from bold African textiles — who offered a coy smile as an old flame stepped into her gallery.

It’s the opening scene of a new Netflix movie about high-powered Black women, wealth and modern city life in Johannesburg — one in a flood of productions from a new generation of South African filmmakers. They are bent on telling their own stories on their own terms, eager to widen the aperture on a country after a generation of films defined by apartheid, poverty and struggle.

“We call it the legacy exhaustion, the apartheid cinema, people are exhausted with it,” Bongiwe Selane, the producer, said a few days later in the editing studio. “The generation now didn’t live it, they don’t really relate to it. They want to see stories about their experiences now.”

one of the most unequal in the world, where wealth is still concentrated mostly in the hands of whites and a small Black elite.

But in recent years, the country has also undergone major demographic and economic shifts. The first South Africans who grew up after apartheid are now adults, asserting their voices on social media and in professional workplaces. And a growing Black middle class has been eager to see itself reflected onscreen — and showing it with their wallets.

box office expectations for locally made romantic comedies.

A year later, “Happiness is a Four Letter Word” — the prequel to Ms. Selane’s latest film that opens with the art gallery scene — outperformed several Hollywood releases in South African movie theaters on its opening weekend.

The movie revolves around three bold women navigating a new South Africa. There is Princess, a serial dater and owner of a trendy art gallery; Zaza, a glamorous housewife having an illicit love affair; and Nandi, a high-powered lawyer who gets cold feet on the cusp of her wedding.

“Audiences would come up to me to tell me how they also had a guy who broke their heart and they want to see that, to watch something where apartheid is not in the foreground,” said Renate Stuurman, who plays Princess. “It can be in the background, surely, it’s what brought us here, but people were happy to be distracted.”

according to Digital TV Research, an industry forecaster. For Netflix, the investment is part of a larger push to acquire a generation of Black content.

Nollywood. Nigerian filmmakers have churned out thousands of movies — many produced with just a few thousand dollars and one digital camera — since the late 1990s.

Nollywood films won fans across English-speaking Africa, but South Africa is chipping away at its dominance, industry leaders say.

For the past two decades, South Africa has hosted major Hollywood studios drawn to its highly skilled workers and government-issued rebate on all production costs spent in the country.

Cape Town’s streets were transformed into Islamabad for the fourth season of Homeland; studios constructed models of Robben Island for “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom;” and crews flew helicopters, crashed cars and set off massive explosions in downtown Johannesburg for “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Of the roughly 400 films made in South Africa between 2008 and 2014, nearly 40 percent were foreign productions, according to the National Film and Video Foundation, a government agency.

“Blood Psalms,” a series for Showmax, employs massive sets reminiscent of “Game of Thrones,” green screens to concoct magical powers, and elaborate costumes of armor and golden crowns.

Inside an editing suite in Johannesburg one recent morning, Mr. Qubeka chatted with an editor slicing together shots for the show, about a queen battling a world-ending prophecy — a plot drawn from African mythology.

“The true revolution,” Mr. Qubeka said, “is that we as South Africans are being sought out for our perspective and our ideas.”

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Germany Sets Out Plans to Return Benin Bronzes

Germany will begin returning a “substantial” number of the priceless artifacts known as the Benin Bronzes from its museums to Nigeria next year, its culture ministry said on Thursday night.

The artifacts, which the British army looted in an 1897 raid on Benin City in what is now Nigeria, are scattered through museums and private collections around the world. Germany’s announcement, the first by a national government with a timetable attached, comes as momentum is growing on both sides of the Atlantic to return the stolen objects.

An online meeting of government officials, regional legislators and museum administrators reached an agreement that German institutions — which own hundreds of the bronzes — would step up talks with Nigerian partners and strive to make the first returns next year.

“We are facing the historical and moral responsibility to bring Germany’s colonial past to light and to come to terms with it,” Monika Grütters, Germany’s culture minister, said in a news release. “Dealing with the Benin Bronzes is a touchstone,” she added.

the architect David Adjaye is designing on behalf of the Legacy Restoration Trust — a group that represents Nigeria’s government, regional authorities and the royal court of Benin.

The trust hopes to open the museum in 2025, although the timeline has already been pushed back several times.

Victor Ehikhamenor, a trustee, welcomed the German announcement. “If this works, it will create a blueprint for others,” he said in a telephone interview.

Germany will publish an inventory of all the Benin Bronzes in its museums by June 15, according to a declaration signed at Thursday’s meeting. Details of those items’ provenance, including if they were looted, will be made available by the end of the year. The declaration stresses, however, that Germany hopes some bronzes will remain in the country.

Ehikhamenor said he had no problem with items being on display in Germany, as long as their legal ownership was transferred to the museum in Benin City. “We want to have a global conversation, but it has to be an equitable one,” Ehikhamenor said. “We can no longer be in a colonial hierarchy anymore.”

published a policy document that said it would consider the “possible return” of any item in its collection that was taken by force or theft. Days later, the University of Aberdeen in Scotland said it would return a sculpture of an oba, or ruler, of the Kingdom of Benin, which was stolen in the 1897 raid.

Yet some of the country’s largest museums — such as the British Museum, which owns more than 900 of the items, including arguably some of the finest — are regulated by Parliament and cannot permanently return items from their collections without a change in the law. Britain’s culture ministry did not reply to a request for comment on Friday.

The British Museum is a member of the Benin Dialogue Group, a network of European Museums which has been meeting with Nigerian representatives for more than a decade to discuss what to do about the bronzes. The group is also helping to develop the Edo Museum of West African Art, and to finance and staff archaeological work on the museum site, scheduled to start this fall.

Ehikhamenor likened the British Museum’s involvement in restitution talks to a McDonald’s worker who refuses to make burgers. “Their presence there has not led to the kind of conversations we are hearing from other museums in Europe,” he said. But he added that he hoped Germany’s announcement would change things. “If Germany is finding ways to have this conversation with us, I think the British should begin to find a way,” he said.

renowned ivory mask, has not made any announcements about restitution. Those works “were largely given to the institution in the 1970s and 1990s by individuals who acquired them on the art market,” a spokesman said in a statement on Thursday, adding that the museum was aware of Germany’s new plan.

Ehikhamenor said the Met was “dancing around these objects,” much like the British Museum. But, he added, “American institutions’ time will come.”

Philip Ihenacho, a financier who is leading the fund-raising drive for the Edo Museum of West African Art, said in a telephone interview that the newfound willingness of some governments and museums to talk about returning the Benin Bronzes was a game changer. “With the momentum that seems to be behind some of the discussions, we feel more and more confident that the challenge is no longer going to be persuading people to give objects back.”

“The challenge,” he added, “is going to be how to build an institution that is worthy of receiving the objects.”

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.

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How Politics Saves Lives

On a Sunday in July 2014, a man boarded a plane in Monrovia, Liberia, and flew to Lagos, Nigeria. He felt sick with a fever when the trip began and was in worse shape by the time he landed. The Nigerian authorities took him to a hospital, where doctors eventually diagnosed Ebola.

From that first patient, infections soon began to spread in Lagos, which is Africa’s most densely populated city. It was the most terrifying period during any Ebola outbreak, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said.

But two months later, the crisis was over. Nigeria had no more Ebola cases, and fewer than 10 people, including the man from Liberia, had died. How did Nigeria prevent an epidemic? It wasn’t science, or at least not science as people typically define it. It was more basic than that.

Nigeria succeeded through a combination of good governance and organizational competence. Officials conducted roughly 18,500 in-person interviews with people potentially exposed to the Ebola virus and then moved those who seemed to be at risk into isolation wards. They were released if they tested negative and moved to a different isolation ward if they tested positive.

only 37 percent as many deaths per capita as the U.S., thanks partly to tighter travel restrictions. Vietnam and some other Asian countries benefited from intense early contact tracing. Britain and Israel are now doing better than continental Europe not because of laboratory discoveries but because of more effective vaccine distribution.

The pattern extends far beyond infectious diseases like Covid and Ebola. The greatest human accomplishment of the last century is the near doubling of life spans, as Steven Johnson argues in the cover story in this weekend’s Times Magazine. Johnson refers to it as “Our Extra Life.” It is all the more remarkable when you consider that average longevity barely budged — around 35 years — for most of recorded history, into the 18th century.

Since then, science has played a crucial role in progress, including the development of antibiotics, vaccines and drugs to treat cancer and heart disease. Yet scientific discoveries often take decades to affect most people’s lives. And basic health measures, like hand washing, are sometimes even more important. Johnson writes:

Those breakthroughs might have been initiated by scientists, but it took the work of activists and public intellectuals and legal reformers to bring their benefits to everyday people. From this perspective, the doubling of human life span is an achievement that is closer to something like universal suffrage or the abolition of slavery: progress that required new social movements, new forms of persuasion and new kinds of public institutions to take root.

amazing Covid vaccines; the question is how quickly the world can produce and dispense them. Scientists have also developed technologies that produce energy with relatively little pollution. Yes, further technical progress is important, but the bigger question is when political leaders and voters will decide to prioritize the fight against climate change.

which are historically low, and devoting the money to everyone else would make a real difference. But that doesn’t mean it will happen.

Americans sometimes like to dismiss politics as a grubby business that is disconnected from the things that really matter — science, health and everyday life. And while politics certainly can be grubby, it also remains the most powerful mechanism for human progress.

For more:

Chicago, Houston, San Diego and other cities. In New York, several venues — including the Shed, the Guggenheim Museum and some Off Broadway theaters — are welcoming audiences, and Shakespeare in the Park will return this summer. “There’s a little more every week,” Michael says.

Last week, the soprano Renée Fleming gave a performance in Manhattan that The Times’s Julia Jacobs called a success and an example of challenges that live performances face: Organizers spent $2,500 on Covid tests.

“Wow, applause!” Fleming said after her opening number. “Very exciting.”

Uncertainty still abounds. The early shows will sell only limited tickets, which means the economics won’t add up for many venues. But audiences seem to want to return, Michael told us: “People are hungry to go out.” — Claire Moses, Morning writer

play online.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Tomato type (four letters).

If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.


Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you Monday. — David

P.S. Zolan Kanno-Youngs, a Times White House reporter, has for years been getting calls meant for Roller World, a beloved Massachusetts rink with a similar phone number. “I kind of have a script,” he told Boston magazine.

You can see today’s print front page here.

There’s no new episode of “The Daily.” Instead, listen to the final episode of “Odessa.” On “Still Processing,” Cathy Park Hong discusses finding healing in rage.

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In Nigeria, Traffic on a Bridge Stifles Economic Progress

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ON THE RIVER NIGER BRIDGE, Nigeria — After two hours spent in gridlocked traffic trying to cross a bridge spanning the mighty Niger River, despair kicks in. We’ve not moved an inch. I fidget in the back seat. Will we ever make it to the other side?

After being stuck three hours — time mostly spent pondering why in Nigeria, the giant of Africa, this narrow bridge is the only major connection between two economically vital southern regions — acceptance arrives: This is where we’re spending the night.

People emerge from their cars and trucks to stretch, accepting it too. Half a dozen men drift to the curbside, to sit and joke. Women lean on the trunks of their cars and chat.

merchants of false hope who promise, for a fee, to help families find loved ones who disappeared in police custody, all we’ve eaten today are a few bananas and peanuts.

But suddenly, we’re moving. Everyone races back to their vehicles. An enormous truck bristling with baskets zooms off as fast as possible, almost grazing the wheelbarrow grill. We’re off! But only for a minute. We get about 50 yards before grinding to a halt.

For all its 56 years, this 4,600-foot steel-truss bridge over the Niger has borne a heavy load, connecting the twin cities of Onitsha, a commercial hub, and calmer Asaba, where many commuters to Onitsha live despite the daily crossing ordeal.

said in 2016. It was home to Onitsha Market Literature, Nigeria’s pulp fiction industry, and key to the success of Nollywood, Nigeria’s multibillion-dollar movie business: 51 Iweka Road, one of the three biggest movie distributor networks, is in the Onitsha market.

dearth of bridges — and the dilapidated or incomplete state of much of Nigeria’s infrastructure — is a broad problem holding the entire country back, analysts say.

Second Niger Bridge was originally proposed in 1978, and ever since has been used as a campaign promise by national politicians seeking the support of voters in the southeast. It took more than three decades for the work to begin, but finally the company building the six-lane bridge says it will be ready by 2022.

When done, it will be “a huge sigh of relief to all Easterners in this country,” says Newman Nwankwo, 33, a businessman based in Onitsha who often plans his whole day around bridge traffic. Either he tries to cross at the lunchtime lull between noon and 2 p.m., or he waits until Sunday.

He won’t even attempt the crossing unless he has at least half a tank of gas.

“If I don’t plan well and I meet traffic, I just relax here in the queue, putting my A.C. and music on,” he said.

Stalled on the bridge, I look around and imagine what all these people could be doing if their time weren’t being sucked away by these daily snarl-ups and the four-decade wait for another option across the river. Bridges cause traffic all over the world, but this one’s aging steel rivets seem to be under more pressure than any I have ever crossed.

Another hour ticks by. We move a few inches.

People pass by, selling cold water and Coke. Where there is a go-slow, as traffic jams are known in Nigeria, vendor business blossoms.

Any movement is an on-again, off-again process. At one point when traffic starts forward, the driver in front of us is asleep. No amount of honking wakes him. Someone rushes over to shake him awake.

We go for 30 seconds. We stop for 30 minutes.

At midnight we make it across. It’s taken almost six hours to do three miles.

Leaving the bridge, we pass under a large sign on the Asaba side.

“Welcome,” it reads, optimistically, “to the land of progress.”

Ruth Maclean is the West Africa bureau chief of The New York Times.


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After His Heart Attack, a British Man’s Rules for Living Take Off on LinkedIn

As he sat at his computer on a recent Sunday afternoon preparing for the workweek ahead, Jonathan Frostick, a program manager at an investment bank in London, said he could not breathe. His chest tightened and his ears started to pop. He was having a heart attack.

His first thoughts were of how this would disrupt his work life.

“I needed to meet with my manager tomorrow,” Mr. Frostick, who works for HSBC, wrote in a post on LinkedIn. “This isn’t convenient.”

Later, as he convalesced in a hospital bed, Mr. Frostick began to examine his life, he wrote. Beneath a photo of himself in his hospital bed, he posted new vows for his life going forward:

“I’m not spending all day on Zoom anymore.”

“I’m restructuring my approach to work.”

He would no longer put up with workplace drama. “Life is too short,” he wrote.

Lastly: “I want to spend more time with my family.”

Since he described his epiphany a week ago, his post has been liked over 200,000 times. It has received more than 10,000 comments from readers describing how their own brushes with death had led them to step back from work and take stock of the way they had been living their lives.

ennui, dread and more work-related stress during the coronavirus pandemic.

Even those who have been lucky enough to keep their jobs have questioned their purpose in life as they spend long hours on Zoom calls and answer emails into the night.

At the same time, employees who have managed to strike a better balance between their jobs and their personal lives during the pandemic are now reckoning with a return to the office, causing them to re-evaluate how much time they want to dedicate to work.

“I know countless people in the last few years who have suffered life-threatening illnesses just simply because there is no downtime — always on call,” a management consultant from Alberta, Canada, wrote in reply to Mr. Frostick’s post. “It’s absolutely detrimental to our health, but we’re built on the existence that we always have to keep pushing.”

Another person described how she had became so burned out at work that she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

interview with Bloomberg News, Mr. Frostick, a father of three young children, said that during the pandemic he and his colleagues had spent a “disproportionate amount of time on Zoom calls.”

Before the heart attack, Mr. Frostick had been working 12-hour days, he said, missing his colleagues and suffering from the isolation of working from home.

“We’re not able to have those other conversations off the side of a desk or by the coffee machine, or take a walk and go and have that chat,” Mr. Frostick told Bloomberg. “That has been quite profound, not just in my work, but across the professional-services industry.”

HSBC did not immediately respond to a message for comment.

On Wednesday, Mr. Frostick thanked the thousands of people who had written him and wrote that he was now able to move around his house for two to three hours at a time.

Later, he wrote another post that indicated he had moved from soul-searching to trying to answer profound philosophical questions.

“Who am I? It’s like a riddle my mind cannot solve,” he wrote. “I have no idea who I am anymore. This is going to take some time … Can you answer who you are?”

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