Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, said on Sunday that its net income last year had fallen by 44 percent, to $49 billion, as lower oil prices stemming from the pandemic cut into earnings.
The company’s chief executive, Amin H. Nasser, described 2020 in a statement accompanying the earnings data as “one of the most challenging years in recent history.”
But Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, said that it would stick by a pledge to pay a $75 billion dividend. Nearly all of the payment will go to the Saudi government, which owns about 98 percent of the company.
The company was listed on the local Tadawul exchange in 2019 in the largest valuation for an initial public offering.
a price war with Russia. The surge led the company to hit a record production levels of 12.1 million barrels a day in April and also contributed to a glut of oil and a sharp fall in global prices.
More recently, Aramco has been throttling back production under an agreement with other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, as well as Russia and some other producers, a group called OPEC Plus. In January, Saudi Arabia said it would cut an additional 1 million barrels a day below the quota agreed with OPEC Plus, a policy which it is continuing. Average production for 2020 was 9.2 million barrels a day.
The data released on Sunday showed that Aramco is paying out more money in dividends than it is earning from oil activities. Free cash flow, a measure of earnings produced after expenses, was also $49 billion, meaning, in effect, the company was borrowing $26 billion to pay shareholders.
In another reflection of last year’s tumult in the oil markets, the company also cut capital spending by 18 percent compared with 2019, to $27 billion. Aramco said it expected capital expenditures in 2021 to be around $35 billion, less than its previous guidance of $40 billion to $45 billion.
Aramco in recent years has held the prize as the world’s most profitable company. But the impact of the pandemic, which briefly caused some oil futures to fall below zero, plus the appeal of tech products and services while people worked from home, has let Apple surge ahead. Apple’s net income for its fiscal year 2020, which ended Sept. 26, was $57 billion.
The earnings statement on Sunday was limited to a few highlights. Saudi Aramco is expected to provide more details during a call with financial analysts on Monday.
Israeli leaders have paid almost no public attention to the Palestinian election — even though it might conceivably produce a united Palestinian leadership that could present a joint front in peace negotiations with Israel. Conversely, if the vote gives Hamas a bigger role within Palestinian governance, that could also affect Israel’s ability to coordinate with the Palestinian Authority — since Hamas does not recognize Israel and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and much of the international community.
By contrast, many Palestinians keep a close eye on Israeli politics, said Professor Abusada, who said it was “a sad thing” to see Israeli elections stuck in such a repetitive loop. But at least Israelis had the opportunity to vote so often, he said. “We haven’t been able to for a long time,” he added. “It makes us feel cynical about our own political system that we are not able to make any change.”
Within the confines of Palestinian politics, the prospect of an election has nevertheless shaken up some of the alliances and assumptions of the previously moribund Palestinian polity. For the first time in years, Palestinians can imagine the dormant Parliament buildings in Ramallah and Gaza City coming back to life. And Fatah, long the engine of the Palestinian national movement, now faces challenges not just from Hamas but from other parts of secular Palestinian society.
Confirmed or potential challengers include Salam Fayyad, a former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority; Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah security chief who now lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates; and Nasser al-Kidwa, a former Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, and the nephew of Yasir Arafat, Mr. Abbas’s predecessor.
All three said they wanted to help found new alliances to compete against Fatah and Hamas, while allies of Marwan Barghouti, an influential Fatah militant jailed in Israel for five counts of murder, said he was considering it.
In Gaza, Hamas faces a threat from a generation of young Palestinians struggling to find work. The unemployment rate in Gaza hovers around 50 percent, largely because of the blockade that Israel has placed on the enclave in order to undermine Hamas’s military activity and rocket production. If Hamas were replaced by a unity government, some Gazans hope, the new leadership might defuse at least some of the tensions with Israel and improve living conditions.
In the coming days, a patent will finally be issued on a five-year-old invention, a feat of molecular engineering that is at the heart of at least five major Covid-19 vaccines. And the United States government will control that patent.
The new patent presents an opportunity — and some argue the last best chance — to exact leverage over the drug companies producing the vaccines and pressure them to expand access to less affluent countries.
The question is whether the government will do anything at all.
The rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines, achieved at record speed and financed by massive public funding in the United States, the European Union and Britain, represents a great triumph of the pandemic. Governments partnered with drugmakers, pouring in billions of dollars to procure raw materials, finance clinical trials and retrofit factories. Billions more were committed to buy the finished product.
But this Western success has created stark inequity. Residents of wealthy and middle-income countries have received about 90 percent of the nearly 400 million vaccines delivered so far. Under current projections, many of the rest will have to wait years.
to help an Indian company produce about 1 billion doses by the end of 2022 and his administration has donated doses to Mexico and Canada. But he has made it clear that his focus is at home.
“We’re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first,” Mr. Biden said recently. “But we’re then going to try and help the rest of the world.”
Pressuring companies to share patents could be seen as undermining innovation, sabotaging drugmakers or picking drawn-out and expensive fights with the very companies digging a way out of the pandemic.
As rich countries fight to keep things as they are, others like South Africa and India have taken the battle to the World Trade Organization, seeking a waiver on patent restrictions for Covid-19 vaccines.
as part of their vaccine diplomacy. The Gamaleya Institute in Moscow, for example, has entered into partnerships with producers from Kazakhstan to South Korea, according to data from Airfinity, a science analytics company, and UNICEF. Chinese vaccine makers have reached similar deals in the United Arab Emirates, Brazil and Indonesia.
Canada to Bangladesh say they can make vaccines — they just lack patent licensing deals. When the price is right, companies have shared secrets with new manufacturers in just months, ramping up production and retrofitting factories.
pressured Johnson & Johnson to accept the help and is using wartime procurement powers to secure supplies for the company. It will also pay to retrofit Merck’s production line, with an eye toward making vaccines available to every adult in the United States by May.
Despite the hefty government funding, drug companies control nearly all of the intellectual property and stand to make fortunes off the vaccines. A critical exception is the patent expected to be approved soon — a government-led discovery for manipulating a key coronavirus protein.
This breakthrough, at the center of the 2020 race for a vaccine, actually came years earlier in a National Institutes of Health lab, where an American scientist named Dr. Barney Graham was in pursuit of a medical moonshot.
‘We’d already done everything’
For years, Dr. Graham specialized in the kind of long, expensive research that only governments bankroll. He searched for a key to unlock universal vaccines — genetic blueprints to be used against any of the roughly two dozen viral families that infect humans. When a new virus emerged, scientists could simply tweak the code and quickly make a vaccine.
In 2016, while working on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, another coronavirus known as MERS, he and his colleagues developed a way to swap a pair of amino acids in the coronavirus spike protein. That bit of molecular engineering, they realized, could be used to develop effective vaccines against any coronavirus. The government, along with its partners at Dartmouth College and the Scripps Research Institute, filed for a patent, which will be issued this month.
another virus when the outbreak in China inspired his team to change focus. “We just flipped it to coronavirus and said, ‘How fast can we go?’” Dr. Graham recalled.
filed such a lawsuit in 2019 against the drugmaker Gilead over H.I.V. medication.
being lured to the United States.
“We funded the research, on both sides of the Atlantic,” said Udo Bullmann, a German member of the European Parliament. “You could have agreed on a paragraph that says ‘You are obliged to give it to poor countries in a way that they can afford it.’ Of course you could have.”
A People’s Vaccine
In May, the leaders of Pakistan, Ghana, South Africa and others called for governments to support a “people’s vaccine” that could be quickly manufactured and given for free.
They urged the governing body of the World Health Organization to treat vaccines as “global public goods.”
Though such a declaration would have had no teeth, the Trump administration moved swiftly to block it. Intent on protecting intellectual property, the government said calls for equitable access to vaccines and treatments sent “the wrong message to innovators.”
World leaders ultimately approved a watered-down declaration that recognized extensive immunization — not the vaccines themselves — as a global public good.
grant language requiring equitable access to vaccines. As leverage, the organization retains some right to the intellectual property.
Dr. Slaoui, who came to Warp Speed after leading research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, is sympathetic to this idea. But it would have been impractical to demand patent concessions and still deliver on the program’s primary goals of speed and volume, he said.
“I can guarantee you that the agreements with the companies would have been much more complex and taken a much longer time,” he said. The European Union, for example, haggled over price and liability provisions, which delayed the rollout.
In some ways, this was a trip down a trodden path. When the H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic broke out in 2009, the wealthiest countries cornered the global vaccine market and all but locked out the rest of the world.
Experts said at the time that this was a chance to rethink the approach. But the swine flu pandemic fizzled and governments ended up destroying the vaccines they had hoarded. They then forgot to prepare for the future.
The International View
For months, the United States and European Union have blocked a proposal at the World Trade Organization that would waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. The application, put forward by South Africa and India with support from most developing nations, has been bogged down in procedural hearings.
“Every minute we are deadlocked in the negotiating room, people are dying,” said Mustaqeem De Gama, a South African diplomat who is involved in the talks.
But in Brussels and Washington, leaders are still worried about undermining innovation.
During the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden’s team gathered top intellectual property lawyers to discuss ways to increase vaccine production.
“They were planning on taking the international view on things,” said Ana Santos Rutschman, a Saint Louis University law professor who participated in the sessions.
Most of the options were politically thorny. Among them was the use of a federal law allowing the government to seize a company’s patent and give it to another in order to increase supply. Former campaign advisers say the Biden camp was lukewarm to this proposal and others that called for a broader exercise of its powers.
The administration has instead promised to give $4 billion to Covax, the global vaccine alliance. The European Union has given nearly $1 billion so far. But Covax aims to vaccinate only 20 percent of people in the world’s poorest countries this year, and faces a $2 billion shortfall even to accomplish that.
Dr. Graham, the N.I.H. scientist whose team cracked the coronavirus vaccine code for Moderna, said that pandemic preparedness and vaccine development should be international collaborations, not competitions.
“A lot of this would not have happened unless there was a big infusion of government money,” he said.
But governments cannot afford to sabotage companies that need profit to survive.
Dr. Graham has largely moved on from studying the coronavirus. He is searching for a universal flu vaccine, a silver bullet that could prevent all strains of the disease without an annual tweak.
Though he was vaccinated through work, he spent the early part of the year trying to get his wife and grown children onto waiting lists — an ordeal that even one of the key inventors had to endure. “You can imagine how aggravating that is,” he said.
Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting.
ROME — If, as it’s said, all roads lead to Rome, then they intersect at Piazza Venezia, the downtown hub of the Italian capital, watched over by a traffic officer on a pedestal who choreographsstreamlined circulation out of automotive chaos.
For many Romans and tourists alike, those traffic controllers are as much a symbol of the Eternal City as the Colosseum or the Pantheon.
That may explain why the return this week of the pedestal (plus its traffic cop) after a yearlong hiatus while the piazza was being paved, set off a media frenzy — even if there was little traffic to direct given the widespread lockdown that began this week to contain an upsurge of coronavirus cases.
“In this difficult period, I think that it was seen as a sign of something returning to normal,” said Fabio Grillo, 53, who, with 16 years under his belt, is the senior member of the team of four or five municipal police officers who direct traffic from the Piazza Venezia pedestal.
white-gloved hands is something that all Italian motorists dutifully memorize for their driver’s tests. (Important note: Two hands straight out with palms facing motorists is equivalent to a red light).
“It’s been compared to conducting an orchestra,” said Mr. Grillo.
Apart from regular traffic, Piazza Venezia is also a crossroads that leads to City Hall, the Parliament, Italy’s presidential palace and a national monument where visiting heads of state routinely pay homage — which all contributes to the chaos at the hub.
a book. He retired in 2007. “He was an icon for us,” said Mr. Grillo.
film festivalunder the stage name Pierre Marchionne.
Working on Mr. Allen’s film “was a unique experience,” he said.
It’s notable that Romans in particular should feel so friendly towardsomeone paid to punish traffic infractions, which are notoriously frequent in the Italian capital.
Until the 1970s, every Jan. 6, the feast day of Epiphany, Italians would express their gratitude to the officers by covering traffic pedestals with gifts. The loot was then given to charity, Mr. Grillo said.
That unlikely affection may have had much to do with Alberto Sordi, an actor who frequently played traffic officers in movies, most notably in the 1960 classic “Il Vigile.”
in a museum opened in the actor’s home in Rome, now shut because of the pandemic.
history of municipal police forces in Italy posted on the website of one national association traces their origins to the guardians of a Roman temple in the 5th century B.C. An educational film from the early 1950s from Italy’s national archive, Istituto Luce, however, instead traces the corps’ history to the first century B.C., during the reign of the Emperor Augustus (there’s a nice touch of a chariot segueing into a convertible).
Today, Piazza Venezia has the only traffic pedestal left in the city. “It is part of the architecture of the piazza,” said Mr. Gallicchio, the kiosk owner.
At first, the pedestals were made of wood, and traffic officers would carry them into crossings.
At one point, a fixed, cement pedestal was installed in the piazza, lit up by a spotlight on a nearby building at night when no officer was on duty, Mr. Gallicchio said.
The spotlight didn’t help as “motorists kept smashing into it,” Mr. Grillo said. So in 2006 it was replaced with a mechanical pedestal that rises from the paving stones to welcome officers arriving for work.
Now, with the work done on the piazza this year, the officers say they are keen to get back to a job they love and hopefully, become a focus of tourists’ cameras again after the pandemic passes.
“Maybe we weren’t as famous as the Fountain of Trevi, but we were a tourist attraction.” Mr. Battisti said with a smile. “I bet there are even photos of us in North Korea.”
BRUSSELS — The calls began in December, as the United States prepared to administer its first batches of Covid-19 vaccine. Even then, it was clear that the European Union was a few weeks behind, and its leaders wanted to know what they could learn from their American counterparts.
The questions were the same, from President Emmanuel Macron of France, President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission, and Alexander De Croo, the prime minister of Belgium.
“How did you do it?” Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the United States vaccine czar, recalled them asking on the calls. “And what do you think we missed?”
Since then, the rollout gap between Europe and the United States has only widened, and some of the countries hardest hit early in the pandemic are facing a deadly third wave of infections. France, large parts of Italy, and other regions are back in lockdown. Roughly 20,000 Europeans die of Covid-19 each week.
temporarily halt the distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Most of them resumed using it on Friday, after Europe’s top drug regulator vouched for its safety, but public confidence in the shot has been badly shaken.
Vaccine salvation remains, for now, still tantalizingly out of reach. Only about 10 percent of Europeans have received a first dose, compared with 23 percent in the United States and 39 percent in Britain.
There is no single culprit. Rather, a cascade of small decisions have led to increasingly long delays. The bloc was comparatively slow to negotiate contracts with drugmakers. Its regulators were cautious and deliberative in approving some vaccines. Europe also bet on vaccines that did not pan out or, significantly, had supply disruptions. And national governments snarled local efforts in red tape.
leaders pointing fingers over why some of the world’s richest countries, home to factories that churn out vast quantities of vaccine, cannot keep pace with other wealthy nations in injecting its people.
Compared with nearly all the rest of the world, the European Union is in an admirable position. Its leaders say it remains feasible to vaccinate 70 percent of the Continent by this summer. The bloc has ordered enough doses to fully vaccinate its population at least three times, to the consternation of countries that will wait years for full coverage.
But Europeans are stung, especially, to see Britain’s rollout going so well after the country exited the bloc. Everyone wants to know why the E.U. has not triumphed.
‘Not Equipped for a Gunfight’
The European Union trailed the United States and Britain from the start.
Washington had already spent billions on clinical trials and manufacturing by the time Europe decided to pool its resources and negotiate as a bloc. In mid-June, the European Commission, the bloc’s executive branch, announced a joint vaccine purchase with a $3.2 billion pot.
$10 billion budget. European officials say it’s unfair to compare the two figures because neither amount is a complete picture of all the money spent on vaccines. But there is no dispute that in Washington, officials had decided that money was no object if vaccines could avert the economic cost of a lockdown. Europe, on the other hand, was on a tight budget, so its negotiators chased cheaper doses.
“Pricing has been important since the beginning,” Sandra Gallina, the E.U.’s main vaccine negotiator, told lawmakers in February. “We are talking about taxpayers’ money.”
AstraZeneca has slashed its delivery plans, telling European leaders that it would hand over 100 million fewer doses by the middle of the year, according to the commission’s president, Ms. von der Leyen.
Only one in five French people now trust the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to a poll by the Elabe Institute published Tuesday.
Now Europe is striking a more aggressive tone about protecting its interests. Italy blocked a small shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia earlier this month. Ms. von der Leyen upped the ante this week, threatening to use an emergency mechanism, last used during the 1970s oil crisis, that would allow the bloc to seize production of vaccines.
“It is hard to explain to our citizens why vaccines produced in the E.U. are going to other countries,” Ms. von der Leyen said.
‘A Minor Communication Problem’
Early this month, Toon Vanagt, a Belgian tech entrepreneur, accompanied his 77-year-old father to a vaccination center north of Brussels. Mr. Vanagt, 47, was not eligible for the vaccine himself, but a worker there offered him a leftover shot, which he gladly accepted.
software companies have rushed to link patients with doses that would otherwise expire. But in Belgium, when Mr. Vanagt tweeted that he had been vaccinated, it became a mini scandal. Health officials rebuked the vaccine center, which quickly apologized: “A minor communication problem, very quickly rectified.”
Belgium’s rollout is one example of the Continent’s rigid approach to following vaccination guidelines. In a country where nursing home infections led to one of the highest per capita death tolls, the policy was intended to strictly prioritize the neediest residents.
Many European countries are also stockpiling doses to guarantee that everyone who receives a first injection will receive the second dose on time. The United States and Britain have been more flexible, erring on the side of giving more first injections.
“In the U.S., there is a much more flexible, liberal system and you just vaccinate people who come along. Same in the U.K. And it can go quicker. Here it is quite regulated,’’ said Steven Van Gucht, the Belgian government’s top virologist, who said it was too soon to know which system is better.
Administrative hiccups have exacerbated the problems. In Frankfurt, Elke Morgenstern was escorted out of a vaccine center because she enrolled using the wrong online application. “It was embarrassing,” said Ms. Morgenstern, adding that she qualified for a vaccine because of a pre-existing condition.
Because of the AstraZeneca shortages, she cannot book another appointment before May.
“It is a catastrophe how they are handling things here,” she said.
In the Lombardy region of Italy, once the epicenter of the pandemic, the vaccination campaign got off to a slow start in part because the top health care official refused to marshal medical workers over the Christmas holidays. Technical difficulties worsened the problems at the region’s vaccination centers.
“Some sessions were empty,” said Paola Pedrini, the regional secretary general for Italy’s family doctors federation. “For some others, they called 900 people when they could only vaccinate 600.”
For all the problems, Dr. Slaoui said Europeans are in an admirable position. By the numbers, the Continent is about five weeks behind the United States, with vaccine supply expected to increase steadily. “It’s too late to have taken the first bite,” he said. “But they’re in a good place.”
Dr. Van Gucht, of Belgium, agreed. But he said European leaders will likely take nationalistic lessons from the past months.
“I think we relied a little bit too much on the free markets,” he said. “What you really need to do from the beginning is really make sure you produce the vaccines on your territory and that they’re destined for your own population.”
Jason Horowitz and Emma Bubola contributed reporting from Italy and Melissa Eddy from Berlin.
To many Canadians, it seemed decidedly unneighborly. Canada’s initial coronavirus vaccination program moved at a stately pace over the winter, while inoculations in the United States raced ahead. But Washington was unwilling to share any of its stockpile of tens of millions of doses of a vaccine it had yet to approve for use by Americans.
U.S. to Send Millions of Vaccine Doses to Mexico and Canada]
The White House announcement seemed to catch Ottawa officials off guard. Hours passed before Anita Anand, the cabinet minister responsible for buying vaccines, issued a statement that read more like an insurance policy than a note of thanks.
The U.S. Is Sitting on Tens of Millions of Vaccine Doses the World Needs]
Though Canada and more than 70 other countries have approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, the manufacturer hasn’t even applied to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. Things have now reached the point, Noah and Rebecca write, that the “United States may only briefly, or never, need the AstraZeneca doses.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine was also the subject of attention this week for another reason. Several European countries suspended its use over a possible connection to blood clots. Canadian officials didn’t share those worries, and late this week the European Medicines Agency declared the vaccine safe.
Aside from a possible new source of supply, the AstraZeneca inoculation received another boost in Canada this week when the federal advisory panel on immunization lifted its previous recommendation that it not be given to people 65 and older.
“a sham and a flagrant display of hostage diplomacy.”
One of the more prominent woman in the Canadian Armed Forces quit this week and issued a stinging resignation letter in which she said she had been “sickened by ongoing investigations of sexual misconduct among our key leaders.” I spoke with two veterans about their constant struggles with sexual harassment and even sexual assault while in the military and what they want to see emerge from the investigations into the current chief of the defense staff and his predecessor.
From a makeshift studio in the basement of his Toronto home, Matt Granite, the Deal Guy, “now streams daily on Amazon Live, sometimes multiple times a day, covering everything from kitchen gadgets to snowblowers,” Jackie Snow writes. “Under each video is a carousel display of the products he’s discussing. When a viewer clicks that item and buys it, Mr. Granite gets a cut.”
The stealthy F-35 fighter remains in contention as the Canadian Forces’ replacement for its CF-18 jets, despite Mr. Trudeau’s killing of a Conservative purchase proposal and restarting of the selection process. The Times’s editorial board argues that the military in the United States should sharply cut down its purchases of the high-tech, and highly expensive, aircraft.
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
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Bank tellers’ windows are gathering dust. Cargo at the port sits uncollected. And in grand government ministries in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, stacks of documents are curling in the humidity. There are few people to process all the paperwork.
Since the military seized power in a coup last month, an entire nation has come to a standstill. From hospitals, railways and dockyards to schools, shops and trading houses, much of society has stopped showing up for work in an attempt to stymie the military regime and force it to return authority to a civilian government.
While demonstrators continue to brave bullets — at least 220 people have been killed since the Feb. 1 coup, according to a local group that monitors political imprisonments and deaths — the quiet persistence of this mass civil disobedience movement has grown into a potent weapon against the military. For all the planning that went into the putsch, the generals seem to have been utterly unprepared for the breadth and depth of resistance against them.
“They robbed the power of the people from our elected government,” said Daw Cho Cho Naing, a clerk at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who has refused to work along with most of her colleagues. “Our country’s democracy journey has just started, and we can’t lose it again.”
The effect of millions of people refusing to do their jobs has been dramatic, even if the military is built to withstand pressure. Up to 90 percent of national government activity has ceased, according to officials from four ministries. Factories are idled. In February, the national business registry recorded fewer than 190 new registrations, compared with nearly 1,300 the year before.
In a country where at least a third of the population was already living below the poverty line, civil disobedience is bringing tremendous self-imposed hardship to the people. But the striking class hopes that just a few more weeks or months of financial coercion will starve the military of the work force and resources it needs to run the country.
On Sunday, dozens were killed in factory districts in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, when security forces cracked down on striking protesters with lethal force. The area is now under martial law, but many workers have vowed not to give up.
“We might be poor in terms of money, but we are rich with the value of loving our country,” said Ma Thuzar Lwin, whose husband, Ko Chan Thar, a construction worker, was shot in the neck during a recent attack.
Early this week, as her husband struggled for his life, Ms. Thuzar Lwin voiced her aspirations for him. “I want him to see with his own eyes the day the junta steps down,” she said.
Mr. Chan Thar died on Wednesday.
The Myanmar military, which has ruled the country for most of the past 60 years, is adept at killing. It is less practiced in running an economy that began integrating into the global financial system during a decade of reform.
In raids following the coup, soldiers rounded up hundreds of officials considered faithful to the civilian government led by the National League for Democracy party. An Australian economic adviser to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation’s de facto civilian leader, was also locked up. More than 200 employees of the central bank, including five deputy directors, have been fired for their civil disobedience.
As a result, taxes aren’t being collected in Myanmar. The bulk of licenses for imports, exports and much else are no longer being granted. With employees of private banks joining the strike, most money flows in and out of the country have stopped. Many companies have been unable to pay employees. Military banks have limited withdrawals for fear of runs on cash.
Last week, the military ordered private banks to transfer funds deposited by agricultural traders to state or military banks so the money could be withdrawn for the upcoming harvest. The order has gone unheeded.
“They are the king now, but we are not their servants,” said Daw Phyu Phyu Cho, a loan officer for a private bank who has joined the strike. “If we all unite, they can’t do anything.”
Myanmar is now short of many things at once: gasoline for cars, imported grains and legumes, foreign toothpaste. In the Yangon area, retail prices for palm oil have increased 20 percent since the coup, according to the World Food Program.
People have gotten used to long lines, for A.T.M. withdrawals, for pension collection, for handouts of rice and curry. Striking factory workers are having to choose between clamping on hard hats and goggles to join a protest or waiting in the hot sun for whatever basic necessity might be on offer that day.
For now, informal financing networks are helping to ease some of the pain of lost wages. In Mandalay, the second-largest city in Myanmar, a single Facebook group run by ordinary citizens has raised funds to support nearly 5,000 people who are participating in the civil disobedience movement, which is known by the abbreviation C.D.M.
“Myanmar people are so generous in their donations to people in need,” said U Aung Htay Myint, one of the organizers of the Mandalay effort.
Myanmar’s economy, one of the least developed in Asia after decades of military mismanagement, was already reeling from the coronavirus, which hit the garment and tourism industries particularly hard. With the coup, foreign investors are feeling skittish. Toyota has delayed plans for a factory opening. The World Bank has paused disbursements in the country.
Sanctions by Western governments on military officers and companies have piled up. Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department banned American dealings with, among other businesses, a gym and a restaurant owned by the children of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the military chief who led the coup. The United States government has frozen about $1 billion in assets held by Myanmar in an American financial institution.
But the military still has plenty of income streams, most notably the country’s oil and gas fields. U Ye Kyaw Thu worked as an offshore platform technician for the Shwe gas project for a decade. Most of his colleagues are foreigners, and he knows that other Myanmar workers will be brought in to replace him. Still, Mr. Ye Kyaw Thu said participating in the strike was the right choice for him
“It’s all I can do,” he said.
A group of legislators that says it represents the ousted Parliament has written to foreign oil and gas companies requesting that they cease payments to the regime lest it “sustain the current military junta’s violent rule and enrich its leaders.”
But extraction of Shwe natural gas, which is sent to China, hasn’t decreased since the coup. Such oil and gas earnings add up to $90 million a month to the regime’s coffers, according to estimates from the disbanded Parliament.
Beyond oil and gas, the military and its vast business holdings profit from the illegal collection of natural resources, such as jade and timber, which brings in income rivaling the country’s official revenues.
“So many of their funds come from black markets,” said Dr. Sasa, a special envoy to the United Nations for the ousted civilian authority.
The civil disobedience movement won’t halt such illicit activity. In some cases, as with the production of methamphetamine and other drugs, production may boom in the shadowy spaces of political conflict.
In the meantime, Myanmar’s citizens are paying the greatest price. A township administrator in Shan State, who asked not to have his name published because of the danger of speaking out, described how he was hauled in for interrogation after participating in the civil servant strike. After escaping through the jungle, he is now in hiding.
In Yangon, Ko Soe Naing, a garment factory worker, said he recently watched as a fellow striking worker was shot in the head and killed. Mr. Soe Naing earned about $115 per month for his job, barely a living wage.
“We have nothing to lose,” he said. “As a basic laborer, we only have one choice. It’s to fight back against the junta.”
Last week, before dawn, soldiers descended on a housing complex for railway staff in Yangon. According to eyewitnesses, the soldiers demanded that strikers who had shut down the country’s rail system leave their homes immediately. All 700 or so residents left, grabbing armfuls of possessions at gunpoint.
U Ko Ko Zaw, one of the residents, scrambled out of his house with all that he owned: a suitcase of personal effects, a jug of cooking oil and a live chicken. Later that day, he sold the bird for money.
“It’s OK to die of hunger under military rule, it’s OK if they fire me,” Mr. Ko Ko Zaw said. “I will keep joining the C.D.M. because I believe it can bring down their economy.”
The case against Disney remains in the discovery phase, where both sides exchange information about the witnesses and evidence they plan to use. There have been early victories and defeats for both sides.
Judge Daniel J. Buckley, for instance, granted a plaintiff request to widen the case to include claims under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. A more recent ruling, however, went in Disney’s favor: Citing attorney-client privilege, the judge rebuffed an attempt by Ms. Andrus to obtain access to an analysis that Disney lawyers commissioned in 2017 on pay equity at the company.
Still to be decided is the crucial matter of class action. Certifying the case as such would allow the plaintiffs to represent women employed by Disney in California in full-time positions (excluding those represented by a union) from April 1, 2015, onward — tens of thousands of women.
Felicia A. Davis, the lawyer leading Disney’s defense, has argued that the plaintiffs’ “anecdotal” claims cannot form the basis of a class action, in part because it would unfairly lump together women who work (or worked) in “markedly different jobs, requiring markedly different skills, effort and responsibility,” across “markedly different lines of business.”
In a previous statement, Disney said, “We look forward to presenting our response to the individual claims in court at the appropriate time.”
The 10 women are suing for back pay, lost benefits and other compensation. They also want a judge to force Disney to create internal programs to “remedy the effects of Disney’s past and present unlawful employment policies,” including adjusting salaries and benefits for other women and creating a task force that reports on the progress.
In addition to Ms. Rasmussen, Ms. Moore and Ms. Hanke, the women are Ginia Eady-Marshall, a senior manager at Disney Music Publishing; Enny Joo, a marketing executive at Hollywood Records; Becky Train, a media producer at Disney Imagineering; Amy Hutchins, a former production supervisor in a division that is now Direct-to-Consumer & International; Anabel Pareja Sinn, a former art designer at Hollywood Records; Dawn Wisner-Johnson, a former music coordinator at ABC; and Nancy Dolan, a senior manager of creative music marketing.
LONDON — Britain’s speedy Covid-19 vaccination program has been dealt a blow by a delivery delay of millions of doses ordered from India, a setback that illustrates the fragility of global supplies and underscores fears that an exit from the pandemic could be hampered by vaccine nationalism.
News of a shortfall that will slow the British vaccine roll out came amid a bitter dispute over supplies between London and the European Union, and a veiled threat from the bloc to use “whatever tool” is necessary to make sure Europe gets its “fair share of vaccines.”
Although the death toll from Covid-19 in Britain now exceeds 125,000, the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outpaced the rest of Europe with a vaccination program that has already provided first doses to more than 25 million people.
But that giddying pace is set to slow as a result of the delay in the delivery of about 4 million doses from India, underscoring the extent to which even successful vaccination programs are at the mercy of supply chains.
for Europe’s sluggish vaccination campaign, said that in the last six weeks, the bloc exported 41 million doses of vaccines to 33 countries. “But open roads run in both directions,” she said in what was a clear warning to Britain, asking for “reciprocity.”
To complicate the picture, 20 European nations have paused partially or completely use of the AstraZeneca vaccine — some supplies of which are produced in Britain — over safety fears.
Doubts about the AstraZeneca vaccine have proved a headache for the authorities since they emerged in Norway after a small number of those who received the vaccine experienced blood clots.
aid Thursday that the AstraZeneca vaccine was “safe and effective,” and that its benefits far outweigh its risks.
European nations will decide individually whether to resume AstraZeneca shots, and at the news conference Mr. Johnson said he expected to be given the jab on Friday.
Jonathan Ashworth, who speaks for the opposition Labour Party on health issues, said in Parliament that he supported the vaccine but that worries about it must be addressed. He said he had heard that “hundreds of people failed to show for appointments” in London “and we think that is because of concerns and misinformation circulating online.”
Professor Farrar said it was important that every unusual event after a vaccination was investigated transparently, but added that he had seen “no evidence to date that would cause me to pause the vaccination program,” a step that he called “a bigger risk.”
He also warned that, despite the success of Britain’s vaccination efforts so far, the pandemic was far from over and that the country faced significant threats later this year.
“The big concern for me is the autumn and winter,” he said, with one looming question being whether children would be vaccinated to prevent a new wave of transmission in the fall.
“We cannot assume that we are through this pandemic, and I do have a major concern for the period September to February 2022,” he said. “We need to be preparing for that during the summer and we don’t need to get into the optimism bias of the summer of 2020.”
Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting from Brussels and Mujib Mashal from Delhi.
The European Union’s drug regulator said on Thursday that the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe and effective, but that a warning label will be added to it, a finding that officials hope will alleviate concerns about possible side effects and prompt more than a dozen countries to resume using it against the resurgent coronavirus.
A review of millions of people who received vaccine found that it does not increase the risk of blood clots, though “there are still some uncertainties,” said Dr. Sabine Straus, who heads the European Medicines Agency’s risk assessment committee. A new warning will be added so that people in the medical community can be on the lookout for a potential rare complication leading to bleeding in the brain.
But the pause in using it, however brief, threatens lingering consequences both in Europe, which is struggling to contain a new wave of infection, and around the world.
Europe is not inoculating people quickly enough to slow transmission of the virus there, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, reporting that new infections had risen for three successive weeks and that more people in the region were dying from the disease than a year ago.
AstraZeneca vaccine shot, sold without the goal of earning a profit, is a keystone of the W. H.O.’s effort to inoculate poor and middle-income countries.
“This is a safe and effective vaccine,” said Emer Cooke, the head of the European regulator.
A fearful public may not be easily reassured.
“I haven’t decided yet whether I am going to get vaccinated or not,” said Giada Pietrolillo, a kindergarten teacher in Calabria, at the southern tip of Italy. “I am not sure I trust anyone any more.”
While the vast majority of the roughly 20 million people in Europe who have received the AstraZeneca shot suffered no serious side effects, Dr. Straus said, there were a handful of troubling cases of cerebral venous thrombosis, an abnormal clot formation, leading to brain bleeds, in patients who had low platelet counts. The evidence, she said, is not conclusive as to whether it is related to the vaccine
a move intended to reassure the public that all concerns were being treated seriously, adding that they would await guidance from the regulator. Most of the countries signaled that they were likely to restart using the vaccine once the agency issued clearance.
Despite their differences, all the vaccines approved by Western regulators have shown themselves to be remarkably effective at reducing severe illness and death. And though the AstraZeneca vaccine accounts for less than 20 percent of the hundreds of millions of doses ordered by the European Union, it was a critical part of early rollout plans.
With infections again on the rise in many European countries, the cost of delay may be measured in lives.
In just one week in January, at the height of the last wave, Europe recorded nearly 40,000 deaths.
This week, more people are on ventilators in hospitals in Poland than at any time in the pandemic, leading officials to reimpose national restrictions, starting on Saturday. Italy has reimposed lockdowns in the hopes of limiting outbreaks. Across the continent, there is rising concern about the spread of variants of the virus.
struggling to find enough beds in intensive care units.
President Emmanuel Macron of France said on Wednesday: “We are living through the hardest weeks now. We know it.”
sitting on some 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Even Britain, which moved quickly to procure vaccines and has been rapidly administering doses to most people over the age of 50, has been forced to shift its strategy in part to deal with dips in supply.
Starting late last year, British regulators chose to allow an increased gap between the two doses of vaccine required for maximum protection: up to 12 weeks, rather than the three weeks used in clinical trials.
That has allowed Britain to give initial protection to about 25 million people. But many of those will soon need a second dose, putting pressure on the system and leading officials to warn that distribution in April will move slower.
restore faith in the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Concerns about it arose from reports of a small number of people who developed dangerous blood clots or abnormal bleeding after receiving the shot.
Different reports about potential side effects were conflated and a growing number of countries halted use of the shot.
The most concerning came from Norway and Germany, involving cases where blockage develops in veins that drain blood from the brain in patients who also had lowered platelets.
After several cases came to the attention of Paul Ehrlich Institute, the agency in charge of vaccine safety in Germany, the use of the vaccine was halted. A cascade of other European countries quickly followed suit. .
Klaus Cichutek, the head of the institute, said that it had acted after seven cases of cerebral venous thrombosis had occurred four to 16 days after vaccination.
An analysis by the institute suggested that only a single case would normally be expected among the 1.6 million people who received the vaccine in that time window.
The institute said that it had convened a group of experts on Monday and that they had agreed unanimously that a link to the vaccine was not implausible and should be investigated.
Ms. Cooke said that it was important to closely monitor all side effects.
“We are also launching additional investigations to understand more about these rare cases,” she said. But the regulatory agency found that it the benefits of the vaccine — at a moment when thousands are still dying around the world every day — outweighed the risk.
“If it was me,” Ms. Cooke said. “I would be vaccinated tomorrow.”
Reporting was contributed byNick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva and Gaia Pianigiani from Rome.