protests did devolve into widespread violence.

in a letter this week to his colleagues at Apple Daily, told them to be careful because “freedom of speech is dangerous work now.”

“The situation in Hong Kong is becoming more and more chilling,” he wrote. “The era is falling apart before us, and it is therefore time for us to stand with our heads high.”

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Drought and Abundance in the Mesopotamian Marshes

On my most recent visit to the Mesopotamian marshes, in March, I arrived at Sayeed Hitham’s for breakfast. The pandemic had kept me away for more than a year.

The sun was just rising, the sky pink and golden. Hana, Hitham’s wife, stood smiling near the door to their reed house. “Tea is ready, bread is ready,” she said. “Come on in.”

We sat on the worn-out carpet around a glowing kerosene heater, sipping tea and dipping the flat naan Hana had just baked into hot buffalo milk. “What took you so long, Emi?” Sayeed asked with a tone of reproach. “We haven’t seen you in forever.”

battle for Mosul was raging, I took the opposite path and headed south. I was in search of another view of the country, something different from the war I’d been covering for the previous year and a half.

It was a moment of real discovery for me — one of those few times when you connect with a place, with a people.

The Mesopotamian marshes, a series of wetlands that sit near Iraq’s southeast border, feel like an oasis in the middle of the desert — which they are. The ruins of the ancient Sumerian cities of Ur, Uruk and Eridu are close at hand. The broader region, known as the cradle of civilization, saw early developments in writing, architecture and complex society.

The marshes are home to a people called the Ma’dan, also known as the Marsh Arabs, who live deep in the wetlands, mostly as buffalo breeders in isolated settlements, a majority of which are reachable only by boat. Others live in small cities on the banks of the Tigris or Euphrates rivers, which feed the marshes.

Many of the Ma’dan left decades ago, when the marshes were ravaged by war, famine and repression.

During the Iran-Iraq war, waged between 1980 and 1988, the wetland’s proximity to the Iranian border turned the area into a conflict zone, a theater for bloody battles. Later, in the early 1990s, in the aftermath of a Shiite uprising against his Baath Party, Saddam Hussein intentionally drained the region — where many of the Shiite rebels had fled — as a punishment and a way to stifle the insurrection.

The marshes turned into a desert for more than a decade, until the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

By then, damage had already been done. By the early 2000s, less than 10 percent of the area’s original wetland existed as a functioning marshland.

Today, after being re-flooded and partially restored, the marshes are once again endangered — by climate change, lack of ecological awareness on a local level and, perhaps most dramatically, by the construction of dams in Turkey and Syria and upriver in Iraq.

In 2018, an extremely hot summer followed by a lack of rain caused a serious drought. In some areas, the water level fell by more than three feet.

“That’s it,” I remember thinking, as the small boat crossed the marsh where corpses of young buffaloes floated in the water. Buffalo breeders like Sayeed Hitham lost about a third of their livestock, and many had to leave when areas turned into a desert. They migrated to neighboring cities — or farther still, to the poor suburbs of Karbala, Basra or Baghdad.

But then, a few months later, the water began to rise. People returned. I photographed the renewal, just as I’d photographed drought the year before. But it felt then — it still feels now — like a sword of Damocles hung over the region.

The stakes are high, both ecologically and for the people who live here. If the already-depleted marshes dry up again, the Ma’dan may have no choice but to leave, to cast away from a peaceful enclave into a troubled land.

Still, I’ve kept coming back. Over the years, I’ve seen drought and abundance, freezing winters and burning summers. I’ve seen children born, and watched them grow up. I’ve followed Sayeed Hitham and his family as they moved around the marsh, the location of their new home dependent on the water level — and each time built out of reeds.

I’ve even gotten used to the huge water buffaloes, known locally as jamous, which represent the main source of income for most of the Ma’dan.

The buffaloes scared me at the beginning. But I’ve learned to walk through a herd of horns, to let them smell me, to pet the fluffy, friendly calves — the ones that try to lick my hand like oversized dogs.

When I outlined my progress to Sayeed, as we wrapped up breakfast, he burst into his wonderful, exuberant laughter. “You still know nothing, Emi,” he said. “You can’t even tell the mean jamous in the herd.”

Then, serious, and still smiling, he said: “It’s OK. You have time to learn.”

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Possible Side Effects of AstraZeneca Vaccine Come Into Sharper Focus

LONDON — For months, European countries have seesawed between craving and rebuffing AstraZeneca’s vaccine, with the shot’s fortunes rising and falling on spats over supply and on questions over the efficacy of the vaccine itself.

But few concerns have proved as disruptive to the rollout of the world’s workhorse vaccine in Europe as reports of very rare blood clots in some recipients. Many countries responded by halting the shot’s use, only to start giving it again after an all-clear from regulators at the European Medicines Agency, and then stopped inoculations a second time in certain age groups after doctors became more concerned about the clots.

On Tuesday, those concerns were reinforced yet again when a top vaccines official at the European Medicines Agency said that the vaccine was linked to extremely rare, though sometimes fatal, blood clots in a small number of recipients. It was the first indication from an international regulatory body that the clots may be a real, if very unusual, side effect of the shot.

Regulators now appear to be considering issuing their first formal warnings about the potential side effects — not only in continental Europe, which has long been wary of the shot for political and scientific reasons, but also in Britain, the birthplace of the AstraZeneca vaccine and long its biggest champion, where new data have sown concerns as well.

speedy inoculation program, have also insisted that the vaccine’s benefits far outweighed the risks. They and the company cited a lack of evidence in Britain that the clotting events were any more common than would be expected among people who had never been given AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

But the evidence changed last week when Britain reported 30 cases of the rare blood clots, 25 more than previously. This week, a prominent scientific adviser to the British government said there was “increasing evidence” of the clots being associated with the vaccine.

regulators reported 30 cases of the rare blood clots combined with low platelets among 18 million people given the AstraZeneca vaccine. That translated to roughly one case in 600,000 recipients of the vaccine.

European countries’ divergent approaches to the vaccine stem from a number of factors, including the supply of vaccines and severity of the pandemic. Marco Cavaleri, the official at the European Medicines Agency who spoke about the link between the vaccine and blood clots, said on Tuesday that those factors would likely continue to dictate how countries used the shot.

Beyond those factors, countries also took very different approaches to managing risk, scientists said. Countries that have continued using the shot were more focused on securing the overall health of their citizens. Others were more preoccupied with minimizing the risk to any single person.

“The attitude here is more, ‘Get me out of the pandemic,’” said Penny Ward, a visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London, referring to the British approach. In continental Europe, she said, “There seems to be a much higher emphasis on individual safety in the population.”

Adriano Mannino, a philosopher at the University of Munich and director of the Solon Center for Policy Innovation in Germany, said that the collective benefits of the vaccine dominated thinking in Britain, while Germans were more concerned with the risk of an injection going wrong in individual cases. That reflected, partly, Germany’s history with the Nazis, who conducted lethal experiments on people.

“In many areas where law has to regulate ethically delicate and potentially dangerous things,” he said, “the German state has tended to go for tough restrictions.”

Nevertheless, Germans over 60 — the age group still being given AstraZeneca’s vaccine — flooded hotlines to book appointments and stood in line for hours in recent days as eligibility restrictions for their age group were relaxed.

In the northeastern city of Wismar, several hundred people waited for up to five hours on Tuesday in a driving wind and mix of rain and snow to receive the shot.

“I wish there had been better weather,” Kerstin Weiss, the head of the district authority in the northeastern region, told public broadcaster NDR. “But honestly, this is a sign that people are willing to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca.”

Benjamin Mueller reported from London and Melissa Eddy from Berlin. Monika Pronczuk and Emma Bubola contributed reporting.

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Imagining the Timeless Childhood of Beverly Cleary’s Portland

Fifteen months ago I traveled to Portland, Ore., to visit the childhood haunts and homes of Beverly Cleary, the beloved and award-winning author of more than 40 books for children and young adults. I was accompanied by my husband and our daughter, all three of us aficionados of Ramona Quimby, us parents having read all the books as children, before rereading them aloud to our kid.

With an overseas move on the horizon, we had decided to visit the city that plays its own subtle but essential role in the author’s most popular novels: Portland, with its moody rain and splashy puddles, its streets named after regional Native American tribes, its welcoming libraries and worm-filled parks. The Oregon of Ms. Cleary’s childhood clearly inspired her imagination — among her books, close to half of them are set in Portland.

So in the last days of December 2019, we took a trip to the City of Roses, visiting the northeastern Grant Park and Hollywood neighborhoods of Ms. Cleary’s childhood. I didn’t know then that it would be our last family vacation before the coronavirus pandemic — and I couldn’t have imagined how often I would return to those memories during the months of our confinement.

Credit…Alamy

When Ms. Cleary died on March 25 at the age of 104, my sorrow at the loss of an adored author who was declared a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress in 2000 was coupled with memories of our journey. Scrolling through the photos of our trip, the simple scenes of Craftsman homes, verdant parks, and crowded children’s libraries evoked a lost innocence.

As a child, I loved Ms. Cleary’s books because they didn’t condescend. Her characters are ordinary kids succumbing to ordinary temptations, such as squeezing an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink, or taking the first, juicy bite out of every apple in the crate.

As an adult, rereading the books aloud to my daughter, I was struck by their sense of timelessness — sisters struggling with sibling rivalry, parents grappling with financial worries and job loss. The author’s own father lost his Yamhill farm when she was 6, moving the family of three about 40 miles northeast to Portland — the “city of regular paychecks, concrete sidewalks instead of boardwalks, parks with lawns and flower beds, streetcars instead of a hack from the livery stable, a library with a children’s room that seemed as big as a Masonic hall,” she wrote in her 1988 memoir, “A Girl From Yamhill.”

I thought of that when I saw one of Ms. Cleary’s cherished childhood homes, a modest, bungalow near Grant Park, on a block lined with closely set houses. She romped with a gang of “children the right age to play with,” and their escapades made her yearn for stories about the neighborhood kids. “I longed for books about the children of Hancock Street,” she wrote in “A Girl from Yamhill.” In her stories, she changed Hancock Street to Klickitat Street “because I had always liked the sound of the name when I had lived nearby.”

We found the Klickitat Street of the books nearby, along with Tillamook Street, both named after Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest. As my 6-year-old daughter raced along, searching for vintage hitching rings, I pictured Ramona — or even a young Beverly — on these same sidewalks, stumping on stilts made from two-pound coffee cans and twine, or perching on the curb to watch the Rose Festival parade.

Over the next few days, we found the author’s former elementary school, a brick building now named the Beverly Cleary School, Fernwood Campus. We stopped by the Multnomah County Central Library, a stately brick structure downtown where she did summer “practice work” as a student librarian (and where the children’s section also bears her name). We ate doughnuts and pizza. We visited Grant Park, where the local artist Lee Hunt created a trio of bronze sculptures depicting three of Ms. Cleary’s cherished characters: Henry Huggins, his dog, Ribsy, and Ramona, posed, as if in motion.

Credit…Ann Mah

Though it was a typical Portland winter day — wet — nothing could dampen my daughter’s joy when she saw her favorite characters rendered slightly larger than life. She ran to hold Ramona’s hand, beaming, and the picture I snapped will be forever burned on my heart.

For my daughter, the best part of the trip was our visit to the Willamette Valley town of Yamhill, where we glimpsed the turreted Victorian house in which Ms. Cleary spent the first six years of her life. We spent the night in a vintage trailer park nearby, sleeping in a 1963 Airstream Overlander, as I imagined the author might have done with her own young family. For dinner, we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, a meal that my daughter still describes as one of the best of her life.

These are the memories I’ve turned to over the past year as the pandemic has stolen away life’s simple pleasures. A wet afternoon at the park. Warming up at the library story hour. A cup of hot chocolate sipped at a crowded cafe. The rain beating on the metal roof of our camper van, reminding me of the creative inspiration that Ms. Cleary described in “A Girl From Yamhill”: “Whenever it rains, I feel the urge to write. Most of my books are written in winter.”

Before our trip, I had wondered if my daughter was too young for a literary pilgrimage — and perhaps she was, for there were moments when searching for yet another filament of the author’s girlhood tried her patience. And yet, though it was only a few days, our trip has captured her memory. She speaks of it now with crystalline precision, reminiscing of the last days before the strangest year of our lives began.

Our last morning in Portland found us a weary group of travelers as we waited to board our pre-dawn flight. We queued at the airport coffee counter for muffins and hot drinks — but when I tried to pay, the cashier told me that an anonymous stranger had bought us breakfast.

“Mama! It’s just like in the book!” exclaimed my daughter. It took me a few minutes to realize she was talking about a scene from “Ramona Quimby, Age 8,” when the Quimby family — worn down by financial worries, family squabbles and dreary weather — try to cheer themselves up with a hamburger dinner they can barely afford, only to have a kindly gentleman anonymously pick up their check.

That moment seems like a dream now, disconnected as we are from one another, all of us existing in our bubbles. But one day soon we will meet again and touch each other’s lives, not just as friends and family, but also as strangers. In the meantime, we have Beverly Cleary’s books to remind us.


Ann Mah, the author of the novel, The Lost Vintage, lives in Hanoi, Vietnam.

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Biden’s Judge Push

President Biden last week named 11 people he plans to nominate to serve on federal courts, more than any recent president this early in his term. Nine are women, three are Black women and one would become the country’s first Muslim federal judge.

I spoke to Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent and the author of a book about Trump-era fights over the judiciary, about why Biden is rushing to shape the courts and how judges became so central to American politics. Our conversation has been condensed.

Ian: Donald Trump’s judicial appointments were a big part of his presidency, and now Biden seems to be making filling vacancies a priority. Why have the courts become so important?

Carl: Because the courts are deciding our political fights now. Climate change, voting rights, immigration, redistricting: Because the legislative branch is so stuck, the courts are getting to be the arbiters. They’ve been amplified as a political issue because of their increased importance in deciding big, cutting-edge issues.

put 220-some judges on there — many of them very conservative, most of them white males and some of them with very little legal experience — the Biden folks concluded they needed to get different kinds of people on the courts.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, has a totally white lineup of judges. So Biden picked Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, who is a Black woman and a former federal public defender. Public defenders see the federal courts from another side — from the perspective of the defendant. That’s a big change. I think Biden wanted to make a statement about the kinds of judges he wants: people with different life and legal experiences.

There are currently 68 vacancies, with another 26 scheduled to open this year. Does that limit how transformative Biden can be?

The transformation is going to be in the types of judges. Biden is going to have a hard time matching Trump’s numbers, which were over four years. And that was a concerted campaign by Mitch McConnell, to the exclusion of many other things.

a bigger point of emphasis because of Trump. Democrats watched what Senator McConnell did so successfully, and they are eager to replicate that from the other end of the ideological spectrum. Trump’s going to have people on the bench for 30 years, maybe 40. There’s still a few Reagan judges out there.

Trump appointed three justices to the Supreme Court. Many Democrats hope that Stephen Breyer, who is 82 and one of the court’s three remaining liberals, will retire soon. Does that seem like Biden’s best hope to fill a seat?

We’ll see what happens. A lot of Democrats don’t want to get caught in this Ruth Bader Ginsburg situation again. And Justice Breyer is an extremely smart guy, and also a political guy. He knows what’s going on here.

The Virus

Suzanne Nossel argues in Foreign Policy.

  • “A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were elected,” John Boehner, a Republican who served as House speaker, writes in Politico Magazine about the right’s paranoid turn. (Warning: Profanity abounds.)

  • Morning Reads

    A New SoHo: It was a haven for artists. Now it’s full of luxury storefronts. What’s next? Maybe affordable housing.

    Lives Lived: Winfred Rembert survived a near-lynching in rural Georgia in 1967. He learned to carve figures into leather while in prison, and later became a renowned artist whose work told the story of the Jim Crow South. He died at 75.

    writes in The Times.

    The pandemic has left many reeling from a loss of health, of income, of loved ones or of a normal way of life. Though circumstances vary, the mood is often similar.

    “When people are under a long period of chronic, unpredictable stress, they develop behavioral anhedonia” — a reduced ability to take pleasure in activities — Margaret Wehrenberg, an expert on anxiety, said. “And so they get lethargic, and they show a lack of interest — and obviously that plays a huge role in productivity.”

    How are people trying to cope? Some are meditating, turning to alcohol or edibles, going for walks or re-engaging with a spiritual practice. Others are finding pockets of joy where they can — sending postcards, exchanging gifts with neighbors or adopting pets. And some have embraced the notion that it’s all right not to be productive during a period of major global upheaval.

    “You’re supposed to be inventing something or coming up with the next big business idea,” one person told The Times last year. “I’m trying to be more OK with just being.”

    is miso.

    What to Watch

    The Korean star Yuh-Jung Youn has had a thriving career for five decades. Now, at 73, she’s up for an Oscar for her role in “Minari.” She spoke with The Times about her career.

    Close Read

    Explore the hidden details of this stunning 17th-century portrait of the emperor who built the Taj Mahal.

    Late Night

    Daniel Kaluuya, star of “Get Out” and “Judas and the Black Messiah,” hosted “Saturday Night Live” this past weekend. Here’s a recap.

    Now Time to Play

    play online.

    And Friday’s Bee Plus answer: CHINA, CHIA, ECHINACEA

    Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Gas that comes down as rain on Jupiter (four letters).

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    Floods and Mudslides in Eastern Indonesia Leave at Least 41 Dead

    The fatal alchemy of mud, water and sheer force struck in eastern Indonesia at an hour past midnight on Sunday, killing at least 41 people, disaster-relief officials said.

    Flash flooding and landslides submerged entire neighborhoods in East Nusa Tenggara Province, which includes more than 560 islands. Seven villages were badly affected, according to Raditya Jati, a spokesman for Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency. Twenty-seven people were missing, and nine were injured, he said.

    Some of the worst damage was on the remote island of Adonara, where many residents were preparing to celebrate Easter Sunday. Torrential rain and strong winds had churned since the day before. The damage left dozens of houses under mud and water. Five bridges were severed, Mr. Raditya said.

    The rescue effort has been hampered because the only access to Adonara is by sea, and waters are choppy because of the heavy rain, he said. But the priority is to ensure that survivors are moved to areas safe from further flooding or landslides.

    plane crashes, boat accidents and other transportation lapses.

    In January, landslides killed about 40 people on Java, Indonesia’s most populous island. There, a further mudslide hit after disaster management officials had gathered to help with search and rescue efforts. The chief of a local disaster relief agency and a captain in the Indonesian Army were among those killed.

    Rampant deforestation in Indonesia has contributed to the risk of such disasters, leaving soil loose and at risk of coalescing into deadly mud flows when torrential rains come.

    Before this weekend, the national meteorology department had warned of high rain intensity, Mr. Raditya said. But many residents of small, far-flung islands like Adonara have few safe places to shelter.

    “I think the biggest challenge will be how to utilize heavy equipment,” Mr. Raditya said, referring to efforts to dig out people and homes in hopes of finding survivors.

    But given the communications challenges, Mr. Raditya said he was not sure if adequate equipment was available on Adonara.

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