My husband and I are currently planning a trip to Ireland, Portugal and Italy for August and September. We are only reserving hotels with free cancellation policies and our airline tickets can be changed to a future date. Knowing that much of Europe is closed right now to United States citizens because of the virus, is there much hope that our plans will materialize, or are we wasting our time? What should I watch for? Kathy
Although there are some signs of life — Iceland is newly open to fully vaccinated travelers and Greece will reopen to vaccinated or virus-tested visitors next month — Europe, where case counts are rising in some parts and the vaccine rollout has been disappointingly slow, is still largely closed to Americans. Ireland is open to United States citizens with a combination of testing and quarantine, but Portugal and Italy, like most of the continent, for now remain off limits. Italy, in particular, was hard-hit by the virus in the early months of the pandemic; and in March, the spread of a contagious variant from Britain pushed the country back into another lockdown.
“This environment is so challenging because there is significant pressure for countries that rely on tourism to rebound, which counterbalances much slower vaccination rates in Europe,” said Fallon Lieberman, who runs the leisure-travel division of Skylark, a travel agency affiliated with the Virtuoso travel network. “So unfortunately, those two forces are at odds with one another.”
Your question, like many related to the pandemic, involves various degrees of risk. First, let’s look at the concrete risk: If you book now for late summer, how likely are you to lose money?
flexibility with seats beyond Basic Economy, and now, especially, it’s wise to book tickets that can be easily changed. Delta Air Lines has eliminated change and cancellation fees for all flights originating from North America, and Delta eCredits set to expire this year — including for new tickets purchased this year — can be used for travel through 2022. United Airlines has also permanently eliminated change fees.
Unlike a plane ticket, which can always be changed (either for free or for a fee), a nonrefundable hotel reservation is generally exactly that: a use-it-or-lose-it investment.
The good news: “Hotels in Europe — and around the world, really — are being quite flexible,” said Ms. Lieberman, who has helped hundreds of Skylark clients cancel and rebook last year’s felled Europe trips, many to this summer and beyond. “While this is a very challenging time, many suppliers are providing maximum flexibility.”
Cancellation policies vary by property, but many of the multinational companies have made it easy, and relatively risk-free, to plan ahead. Companies like Hilton and Four Seasons are allowing cancellations up to 24 hours before check-in. Hyatt is allowing fee-free cancellations up to 24 hours in advance for arrivals through July 31 (and it’s always possible that date will be extended). For points nerds, most of the big hotel chains allow most award nights to be canceled scot-free, with the points redeposited, within a day or two of the expected check-in.
More complicated than physical refunds, though, is the larger, metaphysical risk: How likely is it that this trip is actually going to happen? What forces can help predict whether the Europe trips we book today will actually materialize in August and September?
France and Italy have just been locked down again, interest in Europe is rising, aided, no doubt, by signs that President Biden could lift the ban on European visitors to the United States as early as next month, news of the possibility of European health passes, rumors that Spain and Britain could both restart international tourism in mid May, and more.
At Hopper, a travel-booking app that analyzes and predicts flight and hotel prices, bookings for Europe-bound summer 2021 travel surged 68 percent week-over-week between the last week of February and the first week of March. Searches for round-trip flights to Europe departing this summer increased a whopping 86 percent in the 30 days following February 22.
According to TripAdvisor data of hotel searches from the United States for this summer, five of the 10 most-searched European destinations were in Greece, but Rome — and Paris, for that matter — were also on the list.
To make sense of how traveler zeal will jibe with the realities of the pandemic, analysts and travel industry experts are eyeing several factors, including flight schedules.
According to PlaneStats, the aviation-data portal from Oliver Wyman, an international consulting firm, the number of Europe-bound flights scheduled to depart the United States this month is around 26 percent of the number that departed the United States for Europe in April 2019. Next month compared to May 2019, that figure is looking even higher so far: 35 percent. (April and May 2020, by contrast, both clocked in at 5 percent.) That’s lower than normal, but it’s still a drastic uptick from any other point during the pandemic. Although many will be connecting flights (Americans can still transit through Europe) or culminate in destinations like London (Americans can visit England, though multiple testing and quarantines are required), schedules still remain a key indicator.
Khalid Usman, a partner and aviation expert at Oliver Wyman. “What airlines don’t want to do is put out schedules where people are not going to be traveling.”
Pandemic Navigator, which simulates day-by-day immunity growth. “That’s good news for the domestic market, but in the context of international travel, we do have to realize that it’s not just about one country — it’s a country at the other end as well.”
Factoring in the spotty vaccine rollout across the pond, Mr. Usman said it’s reasonable to assume that Europe’s herd immunity will lag several months behind the United States. Over the next several months, he added, European countries will follow in Iceland’s footsteps and open individually, complete with their own regulations about vaccinations, testing and quarantines. To spur travel across the continent this summer, the European Union is considering adopting a vaccine certificate for its own residents and their families.
“It’s not going to be a binary open-or-shut,” Mr. Usman said. “Countries are going to start getting more selective about who they’re going to start letting in.”
Italy’s numbers — plus new lockdowns and growing Covid variants — seem to be stifling optimism; Hopper flight searches from the United States to Italy have remained relatively flat.
For now, Ms. Lieberman, of Skylark, has adopted a “beyond the boot” mind-set: “Our theory is that if you’re willing to go beyond the boot — meaning, Italy — there will be fabulous, desirable summer destinations for you to take advantage of.”
Portugal surged in January but has recently eased lockdown measures as infection rates have slowed. The country is now aiming for a 70 percent vaccination rate this summer.
American interest in Portugal is spiking in response. In the first week of March, following an announcement that Portugal could welcome tourists from Britain as soon as mid-May, Hopper searches on flights from the United States to Lisbon rose 63 percent. (That’s not far behind Athens, for which travel searches shot up 75 percent in the same time period.)
will next month start nonstop service between Boston and Reykjavik — and resume its Iceland service from New York City and Minneapolis.
“Unless demand spikes rapidly enough to outpace the increase in supply, flash sales can be found as airlines attempt to entice travelers to return amid piecemeal easings of travel restrictions,” said Mr. Damodaran. Icelandair, for example, is running sales on flights and packages through April 13.
And with prices for summer flights to Europe still relatively low in general — down by more than 10 percent from 2019, according to Hopper — experts see little downside in penciling in a trip.
“If you’re willing to take some risk, plan early and lock in your preferred accommodations and ideal itineraries,” Ms. Lieberman said. “But of course we caution you to be prepared to have to move deposits and dates if it comes to that.”
Because of the pandemic, most of the auditors drew their conclusions from documents and video tours, during which Emergent workers controlled the camera angles, one former company official said.
Johnson & Johnson’s auditors said monitoring reports for bacteria or other contaminants were filed four to six months late. AstraZeneca’s said that Emergent repeatedly loosened monitoring criteria so it appeared to meet them, resorting to measures like “historical averages.” But even then it failed the tests, the report said.
In another audit, BARDA officials documented similar concerns, classifying some of them, including the risks of microbiological contamination, as “critical.” That designation is reserved for the most serious problems that pose an immediate and significant risk.
Emergent’s own internal audit in July also said the flow of workers and materials through the plant was not adequately controlled “to prevent mix-ups or contamination.”
The reports echoed quality-control shortcomings documented in an April inspection by the F.D.A., reported earlier by The Associated Press, that concluded the facility was “not ready for commercial operations.”
Multiple audits underscore how poorly the company was prepared for the huge workload it accepted.
The Covid-19 projects required significantly more testing to ensure materials remained stable, but Emergent had just one employee coordinating it all, the BARDA audit found. Emergent acknowledged at the time that its testing system was “not ideal” and pledged to train at least one more Emergent worker and hire a third. BARDA did not respond to requests for comment on its audit or any of the others, beyond saying that it had “worked with Emergent to resolve the issues” raised during the F.D.A. inspection.
Another internal investigation in August found that Emergent approved four raw materials used to produce AstraZeneca’s vaccine without first fully testing them. That type of shortcut, called a conditional release of material, occurred on average twice a week in October, internal logs show. The measure was deemed necessary because the company was working with shortened production times, testing backlogs and the needs of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s crash vaccine development program. And while a manager “knowingly deviated” from standards, the report said, the batches of vaccine would be not released without quality and safety tests.
“We just believe we’ve got more embedded growth, we’ve also got lower costs, and we believe we’ve got a great brand that positions us well in the low-fare space,” Mr. Biffle said.
The airline claims it is unique among low-cost airlines. While Spirit tends to serve more-crowded markets and Allegiant Air less-crowded ones, Frontier is more evenly distributed. The airline said it kept planes moving for more hours every day than most other major airlines and offers some flights only a few days a week, allowing it to serve smaller cities. In addition to Denver, Frontier has a big presence in Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas.
Frontier also claims to be more fuel-efficient than its peers, which it hopes will appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.
The airline earned $251 million in 2019 before losing nearly as much last year. It has about $1 billion in cash or cash equivalents and employs about 5,000 people.
Deregulation of the U.S. airline industry in 1978 paved the way for the growth of low-cost carriers, which tend to operate direct, point-to-point flights, often to secondary airports in major cities — an approach pioneered by Southwest. That strategy makes it easier to put planes and crews to efficient use, allowing the airlines to offer relatively low fares. The more traditional hub-and-spoke model used by American, United and Delta is more expensive to maintain but easier to grow once established.
The ultra-low-cost model is a more recent creation, one that Europe’s Ryanair is often credited with popularizing. Companies that use it are much more aggressive about keeping costs low and maximizing revenue. These airlines tend to use their planes an hour or two more each day than other airlines and tend to cram more and smaller seats into planes. They also charge for lots of services that even many conventional discount airlines include in the ticket price, such as seat selection or printed boarding passes.
But larger airlines are unlikely to easily cede ground to Frontier and its ilk. In March, for example, United, which operates the most flights at the Denver airport, announced plans to add dozens of nonstop flights between small Midwestern cities and a handful of tourist destinations. Even before the pandemic, United and other large airlines were copying ultra-low-cost companies by offering lower fares and charging for more services.
LONDON — The initial public offering for Deliveroo, the Amazon-backed food delivery service, is set to be Britain’s biggest this year, giving the company an initial market value of 7.6 billion pounds, or $10.4 billion. But the listing, whose announcement was quickly heralded as a post-Brexit victory for London’s financial sector, has since been rocked by accusations of poor pay for Deliveroo riders.
Major investors, meanwhile, said they would sit out the offering.
Trading is set to begin on Wednesday, with shares priced at £3.90 a share, the bottom of the target range that originally was as high as £4.60. Earlier this week the company said that it wanted to price the shares “responsibly” and that it had received “very significant demand” from investors.
Deliveroo, which is based in London and was founded in 2013, is now in 12 countries and has over 100,000 riders, recognizable on the streets by their teal jackets and food bags. Last year, Amazon became its biggest shareholder with a 16 percent stake, which will drop to 11.5 percent after the I.P.O. The Deliveroo listing is the latest test for gig economy companies, whose business model is increasingly under threat in Europe as legal challenges mount.
Two weeks ago, Uber reclassified more than 70,000 drivers in Britain as workers who will receive a minimum wage, vacation pay and access to a pension plan, after a Supreme Court ruling. Analysts said the move could set a precedent for other companies and increase costs. In mainland Europe, where Deliveroo also operates, the European Commission is reviewing the legal status of gig economy workers.
a joint investigation by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism was published based on invoices of hundreds of Deliveroo riders. It found that a third of the riders made less than £8.72 an hour, the national minimum wage for people over 25.
Deliveroo dismissed the report, calling the union a “fringe organization” that didn’t represent a significant number of Deliveroo riders. The company said that riders were paid for each delivery and earn “£13 per hour on average at our busiest times.” In Britain, Deliveroo has 50,000 riders.
“Our way of working is designed around what riders tell us matters to them most — flexibility,” Deliveroo said in response to the investigation.
DoorDash, the American food delivery company, went public in December to much fanfare. Its share price jumped 86 percent on the first day of trading, closing at $189.51. On Monday, DoorDash stock closed at $129.98.
Some of Britain’s largest asset managers, including Legal & General Investment Management, which manages more than £1.2 trillion in assets, have said they will sit out the I.P.O. amid concerns about shareholder voting rights and worker rights. Like many start-up companies, Deliveroo will have two classes of shares, which for as long as three years will give William Shu, a co-founder and the chief executive, 57 percent of the voting rights.
The offering has prompted a debate over whether companies with dual-class shares should be allowed to join the “premium listings” section of the London Stock Exchange, which would permit them to be part of indexes like the FTSE 100, forcing many index funds to buy them.
While the New York Stock Exchange and other major exchanges allow this kind of privilege to dual-class companies (consider Google or Facebook), the London exchange does not — although some would like it to.
Legal & General said it was urging Britain’s financial regulator to preserve the rule keeping dual-class companies out of the premium listings.
This would protect smaller investors “against potential poor management behavior, that could lead to value destruction and avoidable investor loss,” the asset manager said. This year has also brought “increasing signs of countries and governments reviewing the gig economy status.”
But a recent review of Britain’s listings rules that has been embraced by the government recommended that companies with dual-class shares be allowed into the premium listings, with some restrictions. The review is part of a series of efforts by the Treasury to find ways to enhance London’s appeal as a global financial center, after Britain’s divorce from the European Union sent some trading activity to cities like New York and Amsterdam. One of the Treasury’s goals is to make the London stock market more appealing to tech companies after a dearth of major listings in recent years.
Rishi Sunak, said that it was a “fantastic” decision and that Deliveroo was a “true British tech success story.”
“The U.K. is one of the best places in the world to start, grow and list a business — and we’re determined to build on this reputation now we’ve left the E.U.,” Mr. Sunak said.
The so-called bond vigilantes may be back, 30 years after they led a sell-off in Treasury securities over the prospect of higher government spending by a new Democratic administration.
The Federal Reserve has downplayed the risk of inflation, and many experts discount the danger of a sustained rise in prices. But there is an intense debate underway on Wall Street about the prospects for higher inflation and rising interest rates.
Yields on 10-year Treasury notes have risen sharply in recent weeks, a sign that traders are taking the inflation threat more seriously. If the trend continues, it will put bond investors on a collision course with the Biden administration, which recently won passage of a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill and wants to spend trillions more on infrastructure, education and other programs.
recall the 1990s, when yields on Treasury securities lurched higher as the Clinton administration considered plans to increase spending. As a result, officials soon turned to deficit reduction as a priority.
coined the term bond vigilante in the 1980s to describe investors who sell bonds amid signs that fiscal deficits are getting out of hand, especially if central bankers and others don’t act as a counterweight.
As bond prices fall and yields rise, borrowing becomes more expensive, which can force lawmakers to spend less.
“They seem to mount up and form a posse every time inflation is making a comeback,” Mr. Yardeni said. “Clearly, they’re back in the U.S. So while it’s fine for the Fed to argue inflation will be transitory, the bond vigilantes won’t believe it till they see it.”
Yields on the 10-year Treasury note hit 1.75 percent last week before falling back this week, a sharp rise from less than 1 percent at the start of the year.
plenty of slack in the economy.
That’s how Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton economist who was an economic adviser to President Bill Clinton and is a former top Fed official, sees it. Even if inflation goes up slightly, Mr. Blinder believes the Fed’s target for inflation, set at 2 percent, is appropriate.
“Bond traders are an excitable lot, and they go to extremes,” he said. “If they are true to form, they will overreact.”
Indeed, there have been rumors of the bond vigilantes’ return before, like in 2009 as the economy began to creep out of the deep hole of the last recession and rates inched higher. But in the ensuing decade, both yields and inflation remained muted. If anything, deflation was a greater concern than rising prices.
It is not just bond traders who are concerned. Some of Mr. Blinder’s colleagues from the Clinton administration are warning that the conventional economic wisdom hasn’t fully accepted the possibility of higher rates or an uptick in prices.
Frequently Asked Questions About the New Stimulus Package
The stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.
Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more
This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.
There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.
The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.
Robert E. Rubin, Mr. Clinton’s second Treasury secretary, echoed that concern but took pains to support the stimulus package.
“There is a deep uncertainty,” Mr. Rubin said in an interview. “We needed this relief bill, and it served a lot of useful purposes. But we now have an enormous amount of stimulus, and the risks of inflation have increased materially.”
relatively loose for the foreseeable future. If higher prices do materialize, the Fed could halt asset purchases and raise rates sooner.
“We’re committed to giving the economy the support that it needs to return as quickly as possible to a state of maximum employment and price stability,” Mr. Powell said at a news conference last week. That help will continue “for as long as it takes.”
While most policymakers expect faster growth, falling unemployment and a rise in inflation to above 2 percent, they nonetheless expect short-term rates to stay near zero through 2023.
But the Fed’s ability to control longer-term rates is more limited, said Steven Rattner, a veteran Wall Street banker and former New York Times reporter who served in the Obama administration.
“At some point, if this economy takes off bigger than any one of us expect, the Fed will have to raise rates, but it’s not this year’s issue and probably not next year’s issue,” he said. “But we are in uncharted waters, and we are to some extent playing with fire.”
The concerns about inflation expressed by Mr. Rattner, Mr. Rubin and others has at least a little to do with a generational angst, Mr. Rattner, 68, points out. They all vividly remember the soaring inflation of the 1970s and early 1980s that prompted the Fed to raise rates into the double digits under the leadership of Paul Volcker.
The tightening brought inflation under control but caused a deep economic downturn.
“People my age remember well the late 1970s and 1980s,” Mr. Rattner said. “I was there, I covered it for The Times, and lived through it. Younger people treat it like it was the Civil War.”
Some younger economists, like Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics, who is 36, think these veterans of past inflation scares are indeed fighting old wars. Any rise in inflation above 2 percent is likely to be transitory, Mr. Daco said. Bond yields are up, but they are only returning to normal after the distortions caused by the pandemic.
“If you have memories of high inflation and low growth in the 1970s, you may be more concerned with it popping up now,” he said. “But these are very different circumstances today.”
Foundation makes minting an NFT easy, but adding it to the Ethereum blockchain can be expensive. It requires paying a “gas fee” — a kind of congestion tax that is based on how busy the network is — and listing my token required two transactions: one to mint the token and another to generate the code that runs the auction. These days, gas fees to create a single NFT can exceed $100, although many are closer to $50.
The next step was to list my new NFT for sale. I set the minimum acceptable price of the auction at 0.5 Ether, or about $850 at today’s exchange rate. The auction will run for 24 hours after the reserve price is met, though more time gets added if people bid in the last 15 minutes. After a winner is named, the token will be automatically transferred to that person’s Ethereum wallet. I will transfer the proceeds to the Neediest Cases Fund (minus the 15 percent cut that Foundation takes and any costs associated with the donation).
In addition to selling the token, many NFT sellers add perks. Kings of Leon, for example, are sending a limited-edition vinyl album to people who buy their NFTs, and giving buyers of a special “golden ticket” NFT free concert tickets for life.
I don’t have concert tickets to offer, but I did want to sweeten the deal. So here’s what you’ll get if you win this NFT auction:
As with all NFT sales, you’ll get the token itself — a unique digital collectible that corresponds to an image of this column in PNG format. (Our lawyers want me to note that the NFT does not include the copyright to the article or any reproduction or syndication rights.)
You’ll also be featured in a follow-up article about the sale, along with your name, your affiliation and a family-friendly image of your choice. (NFT sales don’t require identifying yourself by anything other than your Ethereum address, so you can stay anonymous if you’d prefer. Also, my bosses want me to note that The Times retains editorial control over the follow-up column, and reserves the right to decline submissions that don’t meet our editorial standards.)
And as a bonus perk, Michael Barbaro, the host of “The Daily,” will send you a short, personalized voice memo congratulating you on your purchase.
The biggest perk of all, of course, is owning a piece of history. This is the first article in the almost 170-year history of The Times to be distributed as an NFT, and if this technology proves to be as transformational as its fans predict, owning it might be tantamount to owning NBC’s first TV broadcast or AOL’s first email address.
Of course, that’s far from a guarantee. NFTs could turn out to be a passing fad that is feeding a speculative bubble — the digital equivalent of Beanie Babies — and your investment could turn out to be worthless.
But if they stick around, NFTs could transform the way digital goods are created, consumed and traded online. Some news organizations, including Quartz and The Associated Press, have already experimented with selling NFTs, and YouTubers and other online influencers have begun creating their own lines of cryptomerchandise.
Some of the NFT buzz is shallow hype, no doubt. The cryptocurrency world is full of scammers and get-rich-quick hustlers whose projects often end in failure. (Remember the initial coin offering boom?) And critics point out that NFTs and other cryptocurrency-related projects require enormous amounts of energy and computing power, making them a growing environmental hazard. There are also legitimate questions about what, exactly, NFT buyers are getting for their money, and whether these tokens will turn into broken links if the marketplaces and hosting services that store the underlying files disappear.
BHAGWANPURA, India — The farmer sat in the house his grandfather built, contemplating economic ruin.
Jaswinder Singh Gill had plowed 20 years of savings from an earlier career as a mechanical engineer into his family’s nearly 40-acre plot in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab, just a dozen miles from the border with Pakistan. He has eked rice out of the sandy, loamy soil with the help of generous government subsidies for 15 years, in hopes that his son and daughter may someday become the sixth generation to work the land.
Then India suddenly transformed the way it farms. Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year pushed through new laws that would reduce the government’s role in agriculture, aimed at fixing a system that has led to huge rice surpluses in a country that still grapples with malnutrition.
But the laws could make Mr. Gill’s farm and many others like it unsustainable. They would reduce the role of government-run markets for grain, which the farmers fear would eventually undermine the price subsidies that make their work possible. If that happens, the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on the land could be in jeopardy.
in a matter of days — could devastate vast swaths of the country where farming remains a way of life.
60 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people make a living from agriculture, though the sector accounts for only about 11 percent of economic output. For many, getting another job isn’t an option. The manufacturing sector has shrunk slightly since 2012, government figures show, while the work force has swelled.
“Our potential nonagricultural work force is growing very fast,” said Jayan Jose Thomas, an economist and professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi. “They’re all looking for jobs.”
Officials in the ministry of agriculture in New Delhi did not respond to requests for comment.
Unquestionably, India’s current system is outdated. It was introduced in the 1960s to stave off a famine by encouraging farmers to grow wheat and rice. It included minimum prices set by the government, helping farmers sell what they grow for a profit.
according to the Global Hunger Index. India’s surpluses are grown in the wrong places, and the public food rations system can’t transport all of the grain to the needy before it rots. The government doesn’t buy enough nutritious crops like green leafy vegetables, lentils, chickpeas and sorghum to incentivize farmers to grow them.
leading to crushing debt and suicides.
The subsidies encourage farmers in Punjab, a relatively dry area, to grow conventional rice, which requires a lot of water. Rice and wheat irrigation is depleting the area’s water table, according to India’s Central Groundwater Board.
Mr. Gill once tried to grow basmati rice instead. More flavorful and nutritious than conventional rice, it also consumes less water, grows faster and sells at a premium on the international market. But government price rules don’t cover basmati rice. When he sold the basmati rice, Mr. Gill said, a private buyer shortchanged him.
Under Mr. Modi’s plan, corporate buyers would take a much greater role in Indian agriculture because farmers would have greater power to sell their crops to private buyers outside the mandi system, which he said would lift farmer incomes and increase exports.
it spurred growth, but some economists and farmers in Punjab consider it a failure. Some farms in Bihar ship their harvests to Punjab’s mandis for the guaranteed prices, while many of those who lost their farms became migrant laborers in Punjab.
The change in the farm laws is an example of how Mr. Modi has a penchant for quick, dramatic moves that have roiled the country. Punjab’s farmers and local officials want slower change and a shift in subsidies to support different crops. In interviews, the farmers of Bhagwanpura, population 1,620, said they feared losing their farms and having no other work.
“I’m not scared of hard work,” said Rajwinder Kaur, 28. “I will do any job, but there are none.”
average of about two and a half.
With revenue from her grain sales, Ms. Kaur said, she and her two children can barely eat. A relative pays one child’s tuition at a local Catholic school. She is negotiating with the school to waive fees for the other.
joined the protests have left family members to tend the land. Others pool their money to support the protests.
“We feel that the struggle of Punjab is everyone’s struggle,” said Gurjant Singh, the village head, “and unless everyone contributes to that cause, the protest will not be successful.”
Mr. Gill lent his 17-foot tractor-trailer and donated money and grain to those taking turns. For him, defending the farm is a family matter.
His grandfather built the farmhouse after the bloody partition of Pakistan from India in 1947 forced him to flee Pakistan. The subsidies of the 1960s brought the farm prosperity, making it the largest landholding in this corner of Punjab.
Since he took over the farm in 2005, Mr. Gill has plowed his savings into a smart irrigation system, built a machine to clear crop residue and invested in a pair of John Deere tractors.
As he spoke, prayers from a Sikh gurdwara, or temple, bellowed through a loudspeaker across Mr. Gill’s wheat fields.
“Work hard, worship the Almighty, and share the benefits with all mankind,” Mr. Gill said. “That is what is taught to us at the gurdwara every day.”
His fears for the future, he said, should not hinder his work.
“What’s going on here is within me,” he added, touching his heart. “I should keep it in myself.”
BEIRUT, Lebanon — In normal times, Ziad Hassan, a grocery store manager in Beirut, would get a daily email from his chain’s management telling him which prices needed to be adjusted and by how much.
But as Lebanon’s currency has collapsed, sending the economy into a tailspin, the emails have come as often as three times a day, ordering price increases across the store.
“We have to change everything,” an exasperated Mr. Hassan said, adding that his employees often weren’t even able to finish marking one price increase before the next one arrived. “It’s crazy.”
The country’s economic distress grew more acute last week as the Lebanese pound sank to 15,000 to the dollar on the black market — its lowest level ever — sucking value from people’s salaries as prices for once affordable goods soared out of reach. It has since rebounded to about 12,000.
A catastrophic explosion in Beirut’s port in August, which killed 190 people and left a large swath of the capital in ruins, only deepened the misery.
In a country where most products are imported, the currency collapse has left no sector unaffected.
the United Nations said that more than 55 percent of Lebanon’s population had become poor, nearly double the number from the year before. Extreme poverty had increased threefold to 23 percent. And the situation has worsened since.
said in November that food prices in Lebanon had increased 423 percent since October 2019, the largest jump since monitoring began in 2007. Prices have continued to rise since, putting acute pressure on the poor.
designated in October to form a new government. But he has made little progress, despite 17 meetings to discuss political horse trading with President Michel Aoun. LastThursday, they agreed to meet again on Monday.
Jihad Sabat, 48, has watched the decline from the window of the Beirut butcher shop he has run since 1997. Over the last year, he said, the price of meat has kept rising while the number of customers has dwindled.
A pound of beef now costs more than three times what it would have before the crisis, he said — more than three times what it cost before the crisis. He has also seen a rise in people wanting to buy on credit and interested in taking bones to boil for soup.
“Meat has become a luxury,” he said.
He accused the country’s politicians of stealing the state’s money through corrupt schemes and criticized them for failing to stabilize the economy.
A friend hanging out in the shop interjected, “The problem is the people.” Mr. Sabat nodded.
“That’s an essential point,” he said. “If there were elections tomorrow, the same people would be back.”
In the grocery store, Mr. Hassan, the manager, said his branch sold less meat every month and more lentils, even though they, too, are imported and cost five times more than before the crisis.
Fights have broken out in the aisles over staples like rice, sugar and cooking oil subsidized by the government, he said. And it is common for customers to get sticker shock in the checkout lane when they realize they can afford only a few essentials.
“I don’t know how people keep going,” he said. “But it will eventually cause an explosion.”
Want to watch “The Queen’s Gambit” or “Lupin”? If you’ve been borrowing a Netflix password from a family member or friend, you may now have to pay up.
Netflix has started testing a feature that could prod users who are borrowing a password from someone outside their household to buy a subscription.
The company said the feature was being tested with a limited number of users. It may signal a broader clampdown on the common practice of sharing passwords among relatives and friends to avoid paying for the popular streaming service.
“The test is designed to help ensure that people using Netflix accounts are authorized to do so,” the company said in a statement.
began to notice the feature recently when they logged onto a shared Netflix account and saw a message on their screen that read, “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.”
To continue watching, these users were asked to either verify that it was their account by entering a code that was sent to them by text or email, or join with their own account to Netflix. They also had the option to complete the verification process later.
A basic Netflix subscription, which allows customers to watch on one screen at a time, costs $8.99 a month. Customers who pay more can watch on additional screens simultaneously.
The test also appears to be more of a nudge to buy a subscription than an iron-fisted crackdown. For example, someone who was borrowing a password from a friend or family member could ask for the verification code that had been sent by Netflix.
said in January that it had added 8.5 million customers in the fourth quarter, for a total of 203.6million paying subscribers by the end of 2020. The company has about 66 million customers in the United States and anticipated adding six million total subscribers in the first three months of this year.
Netflix had earlier hinted that it was looking at ways to stop password sharing. Gregory K. Peters, the company’s chief product officer, said during a call to review the company’s earnings in October 2019 that Netflix was “looking at the situation.”
“We’ll see, again, those consumer-friendly ways to push on the edges of that,” Mr. Peters said, adding that the company had “no big plans to announce at this point.”
Professor Smith said the company clearly loses a significant amount of revenue through people using the service but not paying for it.
two-factor authentication that is used by many social media and banking apps — makes it harder for attackers to break in.
“I’m not sure it’s a huge benefit,” Professor Cranor said, “but there is some benefit.”
HOUSTON — Even as oil and gasoline prices rise, industry executives are resisting their usual impulse to pump more oil out of the ground, which could keep energy prices moving up as the economy recovers.
The oil industry is predictably cyclical: When oil prices climb, producers race to drill — until the world is swimming in petroleum and prices fall. Then, energy companies that overextended themselves tumble into bankruptcy.
That wash-rinse-repeat cycle has played out repeatedly over the last century, three times in the last 14 years alone. But, at least for the moment, oil and gas companies are not following those old stage directions.
An accelerating rollout of vaccines in the United States is expected to turbocharge the American economy this spring and summer, encouraging people to travel, shop and commute. In addition, President Biden’s coronavirus relief package will put more money in the pockets of consumers, especially those who are still out of work.
to less than zero.
That bizarre day seems to have become seared into the memories of oil executives. The industry was forced to idle hundreds of rigs and throttle many wells shut, some for good. Roughly 120,000 American oil and gas workers lost their jobs over the last year or so, and companies are expected to lay off 10,000 workers this year, according to Rystad Energy, a consulting firm.
Yet, even as they are making more money thanks to the higher prices, industry executives pledged at a recent energy conference that they would not expand production significantly. They also promised to pay down debt and hand out more of their profits to shareholders in the form of dividends.
“I think the worst thing that could happen right now is U.S. producers start growing rapidly again,” Ryan Lance, chairman and chief executive of ConocoPhillips, said at the IHS CERAweek conference, an annual gathering that was virtual this year.
several million barrels of oil off the market. OPEC’s 13 members and nine partners are pumping roughly 780,000 barrels of oil a day less than at the beginning of the year even though prices have risen by 30 percent in recent months.
rising concerns about climate change reduce the demand for fossil fuels in favor of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles. Russia has been pressing Saudi Arabia to loosen production caps, while Kazakhstan, Iraq and several other countries are exporting more. Even Iran and Venezuela, which have struggled to sell oil because of U.S. sanctions, are beginning to export more.
attacked American military forces.
Some tensions in the region could ease if the Biden administration and Iranian officials restart negotiations on a new nuclear agreement to replace the one that was negotiated by the Obama administration and abandoned by the Trump administration. Iran would then most likely export more oil.
Of course, U.S. oil executives have little control over those geopolitical matters and say they are doing what they can to avoid another abrupt reversal.
“We’re not betting on higher prices to bail us out,” Michael Wirth, Chevron’s chief executive, told investors on Tuesday.
Chevron said this week that it would spend $14 billion to $16 billion a year on capital projects and exploration through 2025. That is several billion dollars less than the company spent in the years before the pandemic, as the company focuses on producing the lowest-cost barrels.
“So far, these guys are refusing to take the bait,” said Raoul LeBlanc, a vice president at IHS Markit, a research and consulting firm. But he added that the investment decisions of American executives could change if oil prices climb much higher. “It’s far, far too early to say that this discipline will last.”