staggering costs of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the white-knuckle chaos of preparations for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

blue skies. High-speed railways have slashed the trip from Beijing to the most distant venues from four hours to one.

In an area perennially short of water, China built a network of pipelines to feed a phalanx of snow-making machines to dust barren slopes in white. Officials this week even claimed the entire Games would be “fully carbon neutral.”

Christophe Dubi, executive director of the upcoming Games, said in an interview that China proved to be a partner willing and able to do whatever it took to pull off the event, regardless of the challenges.

“Organizing the Games,” Mr. Dubi said, “was easy.”

The committee has deflected questions about human rights and other controversies overshadowing the Games. While the committee’s own charter calls for “improving the promotion and respect of human rights,” officials have said that it was not for them to judge the host country’s political system.

Instead, what matters most to the committee is pulling off the Games. By selecting Beijing, the committee had alighted on a “safe choice,” said Thomas Bach, the committee’s president.

unseasonably warm weather. Sochi 2014 — intended as a valedictory of Vladimir V. Putin’s rule in Russia — cost a staggering $51 billion.

Growing wariness of organizing the quadrennial event gave China an unexpected advantage. Beijing — no one’s idea of a winter sports capital — could reuse sites from the 2008 Games, including the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium for the opening ceremony. The Water Cube, which held the swimming and diving events 14 years ago, was rebranded as the Ice Cube.

Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, once a republic of the Soviet Union.

The final tally was 44 to 40 for Beijing, with one abstention. Almaty’s supporters were left to fume over a glitch in the electronic voting system that prompted a manual recount to “protect the integrity of the vote.” That Kazakhstan has plunged into political turmoil on the eve of the Games seems now, in hindsight, further validation of the choice to pick Beijing.

Xinhua, compared to 480,000 three years before.

ceremonial scepter popular in the Qing dynasty, complete with a 6,000-seat stadium at the bottom that is supposed to hold soccer matches after the Olympics.

military preparations for the Games, including the installation of 44 antiaircraft batteries around Beijing, even though the likelihood of an aerial attack on the city seemed far-fetched.

“A safe Olympics is the biggest symbol of a successful Beijing Olympic Games, and is the most important symbol of the country’s international image,” he said then.

accusation of sexual harassment rocked the sports world last fall, the committee found itself caught in the furor.

fumed in private. Without the protective cover of the international committee, they feared reprisals if they spoke out individually.

The 2008 Olympics also faced harsh criticism. A campaign led by the actress Mia Farrow called the event the “genocide games” because of China’s support for Sudan despite its brutal crackdown in the Darfur region. The traditional torch relay was hounded by protests in cities on multiple continents, including Paris, London, San Francisco and Seoul.

The accusations against China today are, arguably, even more serious. The United States and other countries have declared that China’s crackdown against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang amounts to genocide. Ms. Farrow’s biting sobriquet has resurfaced for 2022, with a Twitter hashtag.

only screened spectators of its own choosing. It will mostly be a performance for Chinese and international television audiences, offering a choreographed view of the country, the one Mr. Xi’s government has of itself.

If the coronavirus can be kept under control, Beijing could weather the Olympics with fewer problems than seemed likely when it won the rights to the Games seven years ago. Mr. Xi’s government has already effectively declared it a success. A dozen other Chinese cities are already angling for the 2036 Summer Olympics.

“The world looks forward to China,” Mr. Xi said in an New Year’s address, “and China is ready.”

Chris Buckley contributed reporting. Claire Fu, Liu Yi and Li You contributed research.

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Tivoli Lighting Offers Magic Linear Bar for Maximum Color Options

IRVINE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–With more than 50 years of innovation and linear lighting leadership, Tivoli Lighting introduces its Magic Linear Bar offering more than one million color options for architectural lighting for building facades, bridges and media display applications.

Available in 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-foot units, Magic Linear Bar provides high-color resolution with three (3) pixels per foot, delivering 44 frames per second. The linear fixture delivers dynamic resolution control ranging from the entire fixture length down to 4” segments with red, green, blue and white (4000K) LED channels. The fixture can be precisely synchronized with a standard DMX-12/Artnet system and ESD protection.

Magic Linear operates on a 24 VDC and has a 145°x 105° beam angle. The energy efficient fixture delivers up to 106 lumens per foot, while consuming only three (3) watts. With an IP67 rating, Magic Linear Bar will perform in wet conditions. The slim 1.12” W x 2.48” D x 39.37” L fixture comes with two mounting brackets per fixture.

Designed for a long performance life, Magic Linear Bar is 3G rated. It operates in temperatures from -4°F to 122°F, maintains 70% of its lumens at 60,000 hours and comes with a 3-year warranty. The fixture is cETLus, CE, RoHS certified to comply with North American safety standards. For more information about the Magic Linear, contact Tivoli Lighting at 714-957-6101 or visit (https://tivolilighting.com/tivoli-product/magic-linear-bar/) and (https://youtu.be/lFGXb-cE3LA).

About Tivoli

With more than 50 years of innovation and experience, Tivoli continues to lead the linear lighting industry with its award-winning architectural and theater LED-based products that offer improved appearance, quality, performance and energy saving advantages. Tivoli’s team continues to strive to incorporate innovation, color quality, and longevity of life into every product it manufactures and engineers for high quality performance and extended service life.

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For Retail Workers, Omicron’s Impact Isn’t Just About Health

Long checkout lines. Closed fitting rooms. Empty shelves. Shortened store hours.

Plus the dread of contracting the coronavirus and yet another season of skirmishes with customers who refuse to wear masks.

A weary retail work force is experiencing the fallout from the latest wave of the pandemic, with a rapidly spreading variant cutting into staffing.

While data shows that people infected with the Omicron variant are far less likely to be hospitalized than those with the Delta variant, especially if they are vaccinated, many store workers are dealing with a new jump in illness and exposures, grappling with shifting guidelines around isolation and juggling child care. At the same time, retailers are generally not extending hazard pay as they did earlier in the pandemic and have been loath to adopt vaccine or testing mandates.

“We had gotten to a point here where we were comfortable, it wasn’t too bad, and then all of a sudden this new variant came and everybody got sick,” said Artavia Milliam, who works at H&M in Hudson Yards in Manhattan, which is popular with tourists. “It’s been overwhelming, just having to deal with not having enough staff and then twice as many people in the store.”

said last week that it would shorten store hours nationally on Mondays through Thursdays for the rest of the month. At least 20 Apple Stores have had to close in recent weeks because so many employees had contracted Covid-19 or been exposed to someone who had, and others have curtailed hours or limited in-store access.

At a Macy’s in Lynnwood, Wash., Liisa Luick, a longtime sales associate in the men’s department, said, “Every day, we have call-outs, and we have a lot of them.” She said the store had already reduced staff to cut costs in 2020. Now, she is often unable to take breaks and has fielded complaints from customers about a lack of sales help and unstaffed registers.

“Morale could not be lower,” said Ms. Luick, who is a steward for the local unit of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. Even though Washington has a mask mandate for indoor public spaces, “we get a lot of pushback, so morale is even lower because there’s so many people who, there’s no easy way to say this, just don’t believe in masking,” she added.

Store workers are navigating the changing nature of the virus and trying their best to gauge new risks. Many say that with vaccinations and boosters, they are less fearful for their lives than they were in 2020 — the United Food and Commercial Workers union has tracked more than 200 retail worker deaths since the start of the pandemic — but they remain nervous about catching and spreading the virus.

local legislation.

More broadly, the staffing shortages have put a new spotlight on a potential vaccine-or-testing mandate from the Biden administration, which major retailers have been resisting. The fear of losing workers appears to be looming large, especially now.

While the retail industry initially cited the holiday season rush for its resistance to such rules, it has more recently pointed to the burden of testing unvaccinated workers. After oral arguments in the case on Friday, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority expressed skepticism about whether the Biden administration had legal authority to mandate that large employers require workers to be vaccinated.

The National Retail Federation, a major industry lobbying group, said in a statement last week that it “continues to believe that OSHA exceeded its authority in promulgating its vaccine mandate.” The group estimated that the order would require 20 million tests a week nationally, based on external data on unvaccinated workers, and that “such testing capacity currently does not exist.”

When the top managers at Mr. Waugh’s Stop & Shop store began asking employees whether they were vaccinated in preparation for the federal vaccine mandates that could soon take effect, he said, a large number expressed concern to him about being asked to disclose that information.

“It was concerning to see that so many people were distressed,” he said, though all of the employees complied.

Ms. Luick of Macy’s near Seattle said that she worked with several vocal opponents of the Covid-19 vaccines and that she anticipated that at least some of her colleagues would resign if they were asked to provide vaccination status or proof of negative tests.

Still, Macy’s was among major employers that started asking employees for their vaccination status last week ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on Friday and said it might require proof of negative tests beginning on Feb. 16.

“Our primary focus at this stage is preparing our members for an eventual mandate to ensure they have the information and tools they need to manage their work force and meet the needs of their customers,” said Brian Dodge, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which includes companies like Macy’s, Target, Home Depot, Gap and Walmart.

As seasonal Covid-19 surges become the norm, unions and companies are looking for consistent policies. Jim Araby, director of strategic campaigns for the food and commercial workers union in Northern California, said the retail industry needed to put in place more sustainable supports for workers who got ill.

For example, he said, a trust fund jointly administered by the union and several employers could no longer offer Covid-related sick days for union members.

“We have to start treating this as endemic,” Mr. Araby said. “And figuring out what are the structural issues we have to put forward to deal with this.”

Kellen Browning contributed reporting.

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Why Tesla Soared as Other Automakers Struggled to Make Cars

For much of last year, established automakers like General Motors and Ford Motor operated in a different reality from Tesla, the electric car company.

G.M. and Ford closed one factory after another — sometimes for months on end — because of a shortage of computer chips, leaving dealer lots bare and sending car prices zooming. Yet Tesla racked up record sales quarter after quarter and ended the year having sold nearly twice as many vehicles as it did in 2020 unhindered by an industrywide crisis.

Tesla’s ability to conjure up critical components has a greater significance than one year’s car sales. It suggests that the company, and possibly other young electric car businesses, could threaten the dominance of giants like Volkswagen and G.M. sooner and more forcefully than most industry executives and policymakers realize. That would help the effort to reduce the emissions that are causing climate change by displacing more gasoline-powered cars sooner. But it could hurt the millions of workers, thousands of suppliers and numerous local and national governments that rely on traditional auto production for jobs, business and tax revenue.

Tesla and its enigmatic chief executive, Elon Musk, have said little about how the carmaker ran circles around the rest of the auto industry. Now it’s becoming clear that the company simply had a superior command of technology and its own supply chain. Tesla appeared to better forecast demand than businesses that produce many more cars than it does. Other automakers were surprised by how quickly the car market recovered from a steep drop early in the pandemic and had simply not ordered enough chips and parts fast enough.

G.M. and Stellantis, the company formed from the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot, all sold fewer cars in 2021 than they did in 2020.

Tesla’s production and supply problems made it an industry laughingstock. Many of the manufacturing snafus stemmed from Mr. Musk’s insistence that the company make many parts itself.

Other car companies have realized that they need to do some of what Mr. Musk and Tesla have been doing all along and are in the process of taking control of their onboard computer systems.

Mercedes, for example, plans to use fewer specialized chips in coming models and more standardized semiconductors, and to write its own software, said Markus Schäfer, a member of the German carmaker’s management board who oversees procurement.

traced to the outbreak of Covid-19, which triggered an economic slowdown, mass layoffs and a halt to production. Here’s what happened next:

It also helps that Tesla is a much smaller company than Volkswagen and Toyota, which in a good year produce more than 10 million vehicles each. “It’s just a smaller supply chain to begin with,” said Mr. Melsert, who is now chief executive of American Battery Technology Company, a recycling and mining firm.

recall more than 475,000 cars for two separate defects. One could cause the rearview camera to fail, and the other could cause the front hood to open unexpectedly. And federal regulators are investigating the safety of Tesla’s Autopilot system, which can accelerate, brake and steer a car on its own.

“Tesla will continue to grow,” said Stephen Beck, managing partner at cg42, a management consulting firm in New York. “But they are facing more competition than they ever have, and the competition is getting stronger.”

The carmaker’s fundamental advantage, which allowed it to sail through the chip crisis, will remain, however. Tesla builds nothing but electric vehicles and is unencumbered by habits and procedures that have been rendered obsolete by new technology. “Tesla started from a clean sheet of paper,” Mr. Amsrud said.

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South Africa Parliament Fire Still Burning After Hours

CAPE TOWN — A large fire at South Africa’s Houses of Parliament on Sunday sent flames and smoke billowing from rooftops and fire crews racing to save the historic structures.

Officials said the fire spread from an office space on the third floor of a building adjacent to the old National Assembly building toward a gym and to rooftops. The scale of the destruction was not immediately clear, they said, but there were fires burning in “two very distinct areas,” and they warned that it was likely to be extensive.

“The entire parliamentary complex is severely damaged — waterlogged and smoke damaged,” JP Smith, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, said, adding that “the roof above the old assembly hall is completely gone.”

“The second point of fire is the National Assembly building, which is gutted,” Mr. Smith said, referring to the building where the Parliament meets. “The structural ceiling has collapsed. The fire staff had to be momentarily withdrawn.”

In March, the older building caught fire, but that blaze was quickly extinguished.

“It’s tragic that we’re starting the New Year on this basis, with a fire in the old assembly that seems to be spreading to the new assembly,” Steven Swart, the chief whip of the African Christian Democratic Party, said on Sunday.

The fire was still burning hours after it was first reported. At least six fire trucks and about 70 firefighters and police officers were sent to the scene, Mr. Smith said, and the streets around the complex were closed off.

The blaze broke out a day after the funeral of Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who helped lead the fight against apartheid in South Africa. It was held at St. George’s Cathedral, which is a few minutes’ walk from the Houses of Parliament. The archbishop’s ashes were interred in the cathedral on Sunday morning, in a private ceremony for his family at the same time the fire was first spotted.

Cape Town is no stranger to fires, and wildfires on the slopes of its famed Table Mountain have had a devastating impact in recent years. Last year, a wildfire spread to the University of Cape Town, where it devoured the special collections library — home to one of the most expansive collections of first-edition books, films, photographs and other primary sources documenting the history of Southern Africa.

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Are Apple AirTags Being Used to Track People and Steal Cars?

On a Sunday night in September, Ashley Estrada was at a friend’s home in Los Angeles when she received a strange notification on her iPhone: “AirTag Detected Near You.”

An AirTag is a 1.26-inch disc with location-tracking capabilities that Apple started selling earlier this year as a way “to keep track of your stuff.” Ms. Estrada, 24, didn’t own one, nor did the friends she was with. The notification on her phone said the AirTag had first been spotted with her four hours earlier. A map of the AirTag’s history showed the zigzag path Ms. Estrada had driven across the city while running errands.

“I felt so violated,” she said. “I just felt like, who’s tracking me? What was their intent with me? It was scary.”

posted on TikTok, Reddit and Twitter about finding AirTags on their cars and in their belongings. There is growing concern that the devices may be abetting a new form of stalking, which privacy groups predicted could happen when Apple introduced the devices in April.

warned its community of the tracking potential of the devices after an AirTag was found on a car bumper. Apple complied with a subpoena for information about the AirTag in the case, which may lead to charges, West Seneca police said.

And in Canada, a local police department said that it had investigated five incidents of thieves placing AirTags on “high-end vehicles so they can later locate and steal them.”

Researchers now believe AirTags, which are equipped with Bluetooth technology, could be revealing a more widespread problem of tech-enabled tracking. They emit a digital signal that can be detected by devices running Apple’s mobile operating system. Those devices then report where an AirTag has last been seen. Unlike similar tracking products from competitors such as Tile, Apple added features to prevent abuse, including notifications like the one Ms. Estrada received and automatic beeping. (Tile plans to release a feature to prevent the tracking of people next year, a spokeswoman for that company said.)

stalkerware.

“Apple automatically turned every iOS device into part of the network that AirTags use to report the location of an AirTag,” Ms. Galperin said. “The network that Apple has access to is larger and more powerful than that used by the other trackers. It’s more powerful for tracking and more dangerous for stalking.”

Apple does not disclose sales figures, but the tiny $29 AirTags have proved popular, selling out consistently since their unveiling.

An Apple spokesman, Alex Kirschner, said in a statement that the company takes customer safety “very seriously” and is “committed to AirTag’s privacy and security.” He said the small devices have features that inform users if an unknown AirTag might be with them and that deter bad actors from using an AirTag for nefarious purposes.

“If users ever feel their safety is at risk, they are encouraged to contact local law enforcement who can work with Apple to provide any available information about the unknown AirTag,” Mr. Kirschner said.

Police could ask Apple to provide information about the owner of the AirTag, potentially identifying the culprit. But some of the people who spoke with The Times were unable to find the associated AirTags they were notified of and said the police do not always take reports of the notifications on their phones seriously.

After a Friday night out with her boyfriend this month, Erika Torres, a graduate music student in New Orleans, was notified by her iPhone that an “unknown accessory” had been detected near her over a two-hour period, moving with her from a bar to her home.

other devices could set off the alert, including AirPods. When Ms. Torres posted a video about her experience to YouTube, a dozen people commented about it happening to them. “The number of reports makes me think there must be some sort of glitch that is causing all these people to experience this,” Ms. Torres said. “I hope they’re not all being stalked.”

posted a video of her ordeal on TikTok, which went viral.

“Apple probably released this product with the intent to do good, but this shows that the technology can be used for good and bad purposes,” Ms. Estrada said.

Ms. Estrada said she was told by a Los Angeles police dispatcher that her situation was a nonemergency and that if she wanted to file a report she’d have to bring the device with her to the station in the morning. She didn’t want to wait and disposed of it after taking several photos.

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles police told The Times that the department had not heard of cases in which an AirTag had been used to track a person or a vehicle. But Ms. Estrada said that after she posted her TikTok video, an Apple employee, acting on their own, contacted her. The employee was able to connect the AirTag to a woman whose address was in Central Los Angeles.

Another woman was notified by her iPhone that she was being tracked by an “unknown accessory” after leaving her gym in November. When she got home, she called the police.

pushed an update to AirTags to cause them to start beeping within a day of being away from their linked devices, down from three days. Still, “they don’t beep very loudly,” Ms. Galperin said.

A person who doesn’t own an iPhone might have a harder time detecting an unwanted AirTag. AirTags aren’t compatible with Android smartphones. Earlier this month, Apple released an Android app that can scan for AirTags — but you have to be vigilant enough to download it and proactively use it.

Apple declined to say if it was working with Google on technology that would allow Android phones to automatically detect its trackers.

People who said they have been tracked have called Apple’s safeguards insufficient. Ms. Estrada said she was notified four hours after her phone first noticed the rogue gadget. Others said it took days before they were made aware of an unknown AirTag. According to Apple, the timing of the alerts can vary depending on the iPhone’s operating system and location settings.

The devices’ inconsistencies have caused confusion for people who weren’t necessarily being tracked nefariously. Mary Ford, a 17-year-old high school student from Cary, N.C., received a notification in late October that she was being tracked by an unknown AirTag after driving to an appointment. She panicked as she searched her car.

Ms. Ford only realized it wasn’t a threat when her mother revealed she had put the tracker in the vehicle about two weeks earlier to follow her daughter’s whereabouts.

“I was nervous about Mary being out and not being able to find her,” said her mother, Wendy Ford. She said she hadn’t intended to keep the knowledge of the AirTag from her daughter, “but if I knew she would have been notified, I probably would have told her.”

Jahna Maramba rented a vehicle from the car-sharing service Turo last month in Los Angeles, then received a notification about an unknown AirTag near her on a Saturday night with her girlfriends.

She took the vehicle to her friend’s parking garage where she searched the outside of the car for an hour before its owner notified her that he had placed the device inside the vehicle. Ms. Maramba had been driving the car for two days.

A spokesperson for Turo said in a statement that the company has no control over the technology car owners use on the vehicles they rent out.

“Imagine finding out via a notification that you’re being tracked,” Ms. Maramba said. “And you can’t do anything about it.”

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Ethiopian Airlines to resume using Boeing 737 MAX planes in Feb

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ADDIS ABABA, Dec 27 (Reuters) – Ethiopian Airlines plans to resume flying Boeing 737 MAX planes on its fleet in February 2022, saying it was satisfied with their safety, its chief executive said on Monday.

In 2019, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, a Boeing (BA.N) 737 MAX bound for Kenya, crashed six minutes after takeoff from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, killing all 157 passengers and crew.

“Safety is our topmost priority …. and it guides every decision we make and all actions we take,” Tewolde Gebremariam said in a statement.

“We have taken enough time to monitor the design modification work and the more than 20 months of rigorous rectification process…our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians, cabin crew are confident on the safety of the fleet.”

The best-selling, single-aisle airplane, which was grounded worldwide after two crashes killed 346 people in the space of five months, returned to service in late 2020. read more

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Reporting by Addis Ababa Newsrooom; editing by James Macharia Chege and Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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For third day, COVID-19 crimps Americans’ holiday travels

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Dec 26 (Reuters) – U.S. airlines canceled more than 1,300 flights on Sunday as COVID-19 thinned out the number of available crews, while several cruise ships had to cancel stops after outbreaks on board, upending the plans of thousands of Christmas travelers.

Commercial airlines had canceled 1,318 flights within, into or out of the United States by mid-afternoon, according to a tally on flight-tracking website FlightAware.com.

At least three cruise ships were also forced to return to port without making scheduled port calls after COVID-19 cases were detected on board, according to multiple media reports.

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It was the third straight day of pain for some Americans traveling over the weekend as the Christmas holidays, typically a peak time for travel, coincided with a rapid spread of the Omicron variant nationwide.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, warned of rising U.S. cases in coming days and potentially “overrun…hospitals, particularly in those regions in which you have a larger proportion of unvaccinated individuals.”

“It likely will go much higher,” he said of the Omicron-driven surge even as President Joe Biden last week unveiled new actions aimed at containing the latest wave and continued urging vaccinations and other prevention strategies.

With rising infections, airlines have been forced to cancel flights with pilots and cabin crew needing to quarantine while poor weather in some areas added to travelers woes.

Enjoli Rodriguez, 25, whose Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) flight from Los Angeles to Lexington, Kentucky, was canceled on Christmas Eve, was one of thousands still stranded on Sunday.

Delta rebooked Rodriguez through Detroit, but that flight was delayed so she missed the connection.

Speaking from the Detroit airport on Sunday, Rodriguez said she was surrounded by angry passengers, flustered airline representatives and families with young children in limbo.

“I’ve run into a lot of people sharing their horror stories here. We’re all just stuck in Michigan, Detroit, heading different places,” Rodriguez, who was rebooked on a later flight to Kentucky, told Reuters.

A total of 997 flights were scrapped on Christmas Day and nearly 700 on Christmas Eve. Thousands more were delayed on all three days.

A Delta Airlines spokesperson said “winter weather in portions of the U.S. and the Omicron variant continued to impact” its holiday weekend flight schedule but that it was working to “reroute and substitute aircraft and crews.”

United Airlines also said it was working to rebook impacted passengers, while a Southwest Airlines spokesperson said its cancellations were all weather related.

Passengers line up at John F. Kennedy International Airport during the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Queens, New York City, U.S., December 26, 2021. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

Overall, U.S. airports most heavily impacted were in Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and JFK International in New York.

A White House official, who asked not to be named, said the administration was monitoring the delays closely but noted that while they can disrupt plans “only a small percentage of flights are affected.”

Delta on Sunday canceled 167 flights or 6%; United canceled 115 flights or 5% and American canceled 83 flights or 2%, according to FlightAware.

Globally, 3,023 flights were called off and more than 13,742 were delayed, as of 8:15 p.m. EST on Sunday (0015 GMT Monday), FlightAware data showed.

COVID HITS CRUISES

Meanwhile, a Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCL.N) cruise ship turned back to Ft. Lauderdale, CNN reported, and on Sunday a Carnival Corp (CCL.N) ship returned to Miami after COVID was detected onboard, although it was unclear if the cases were Omicron.

Carnival said “a small number on board were isolated due to a positive COVID test” on board its Carnival Freedom ship, which again left Miami later on Sunday for its next trip with another round of passengers.

“The rapid spread of the Omicron variant may shape how some destination authorities with limited medical resources may view even a small number of cases, even when they are being managed with our vigorous protocols. Should it be necessary to cancel a port, we will do our best to find an alternative destination,” it said in a statement.

A Holland America ship also returned to San Diego on Sunday after Mexican authorities banned it from docking in Puerto Vallarta citing onboard cases, NBC News and Fox News reported. Carnival, which owns Holland America, did not address that reported incident in its statement.

Representatives for Royal Caribbean did not respond to a request for comment.

Overall, COVID-19 outbreaks altered at least six sailings in the past week, the Washington Post reported, echoing the turmoil facing the industry after COVID erupted in early 2020.

Testing woes have compounded the travel angst, as many Americans scrambled for their status amid long lines and lack of at-home test kits amid the holiday travels.

“We’ve obviously got to do better. I mean, I think things will improve greatly as we get into January, but that doesn’t help us today and tomorrow,” Fauci told ABC’s “This Week.”

Meanwhile, some states are already bracing for the upcoming New Year’s holiday weekend, warning residents to reduce potential exposure to the virus.

“Omicron is surging statewide,” Louisiana’s health department tweeted on Sunday, noting Omicron-related hospitalizations had doubled in the past week. “We are urging everyone to take safety precautions ahead of New Year’s Eve.”

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Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Gabriella Borter; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh, Diane Bartz and Karen Brettell; additional writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Kieran Murray, Daniel Wallis, Mark Porter and Diane Craft

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Hollywood Turns Up Star Power in Search of Audiences

“Stars matter more than ever,” said Bryan Lourd, the Creative Artists superagent who orchestrated the “Knives Out” deal. “When stars meet material that is their fastball, it cuts through all the noise.”

There are other explanations for the barrage. In a severely disrupted marketplace, stars are seeking safety in numbers; no one person can be held responsible for failing to deliver an audience, as with “Nightmare Alley.” Movie marketing has also changed, becoming less about carpet-bombing prime-time TV with ads and more about tapping into social media fan bases. Ms. Grande has 284 million Instagram followers. (Pity Mr. DiCaprio and Mr. Holland, with only about 50 million apiece.)

Ms. Basinger, who founded Wesleyan University’s film studies department, noted that individual star power has faded. Studios have become fixated on intellectual property — pre-existing franchises and characters. As a result, there has been less of a need to manufacture new stars and keep the older ones burning hot; Iron Man, Dominic Toretto, Wonder Woman and Baby Yoda are the stars now.

“In the old days, movie stars were the brands,” she said. “They reached the whole audience. Not a slice of the audience. Everybody. But that all fell apart. Now, it’s about adding up niches.”

In other words, few stars remain bankable in and of themselves, requiring Hollywood to stack casts with an almost absurd number of celebrities. Flood the zone.

And don’t forget Hollywood’s favorite game: Follow the leader. “The Avengers: Endgame,” which packed its cast with Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Chadwick Boseman, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen and a dozen other boldface names, became one of the highest-grossing movies of all time in 2019. On a much different scale, an all-star remake of “Murder on the Orient Express” in 2017 was also a box office winner.

“It’s trendy at the moment,” Tim Palen, a producer and former studio marketing chief, said of what he called an “all skate” approach to casting. “Not new but certainly symptomatic of the battle for attention that’s raging.”

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Voting for President, Chile Faces Stark Choice, With Constitution at Stake

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chileans faced a stark choice between left and right on Sunday as they began voting in a presidential election that has the potential to make or break the effort to draft a new constitution.

The race was the nation’s most polarizing and acrimonious in recent history, presenting Chileans with sharply different visions on a range of issues, including the role of the state in the economy, pension reform, the rights of historically marginalized groups and public safety.

José Antonio Kast, 55, a far-right former lawmaker who has promised to crack down on crime and civil unrest, faces Gabriel Boric, 35, a leftist legislator who proposes raising taxes to combat entrenched inequality.

The stakes are higher than in most recent presidential contests because Chile is at a critical political crossroads. The incoming president stands to profoundly shape the effort to replace Chile’s Constitution, imposed in 1980 when the country was under military rule. Chileans voted overwhelmingly last year to draft a new one.

campaigned vigorously against establishing a constitutional convention, whose members Chileans elected in May. The body is tasked with drafting a new charter that voters will approve or reject in a direct vote next September.

Members of the convention see Mr. Kast’s rise as an existential threat to their work, fearing he could marshal the resources and the bully pulpit of the presidency to persuade voters to reject the revised constitution.

“There’s so much at stake,” said Patricia Politzer, a member of the convention from Santiago. “The president has enormous power and he could use the full backing of the state to campaign against the new constitution.”

Recent polls have suggested Mr. Boric has a slight edge, although Mr. Kast won the most votes during the first round of voting last month.

Mr. Boric has referred to his rival as a fascist and has assailed several of his plans, which include expanding the prison system and empowering the security forces to more forcefully crack down on Indigenous challenges to land rights in the south of the country.

Mr. Kast has told voters a Boric presidency would destroy the foundation that has made Chile’s economy one of the best performing in the region and would likely put the nation on a path toward becoming a failed state like Venezuela.

“This has been a campaign dominated by fear, to a degree we’ve never seen before,” said Claudia Heiss, a political science professor at the University of Chile. “That can do damage in the long run because it deteriorates the political climate.”

Mr. Boric and Mr. Kast each found traction with voters who had become fed up with the center-left and center-right political factions that have traded power in Chile in recent decades. The conservative incumbent, Sebastián Piñera, has seen his approval ratings plummet below 20 percent over the past two years.

Mr. Boric got his start in politics as a prominent organizer of the large student demonstrations in 2011 that persuaded the government to grant low-income students tuition-free education. He was first elected to congress in 2014.

A native of Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost province, Mr. Boric made taking bold steps to curb global warming a core promise of his campaign. This included a politically risky proposal to raise taxes on fuel.

Mr. Boric, who has tattoos and dislikes wearing ties, has spoken publicly about being diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, a condition for which he was briefly hospitalized in 2018.

In the wake of the sometimes violent street protests and political turmoil set off by a hike in subway fares in October 2019, he vowed to turn a litany of grievances that had been building over generations into an overhaul of public policy. Mr. Boric said it was necessary to raise taxes on corporations and the ultrarich in order to expand the social safety net and create a more egalitarian society.

“Today, many older people are working themselves to death after backbreaking labor all their lives,” he said during the race’s final debate, promising to create a system of more generous pensions. “That is unfair.”

Mr. Kast, the son of German immigrants, served as a federal lawmaker from 2002 to 2018. A father of nine, he has been a vocal opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage. His national profile rose during the 2017 presidential race, when he won nearly 8 percent of the vote.

Mr. Kast has called his rival’s proposed expansion of spending reckless, saying what Chile needs is a far leaner, more efficient state rather than an expanded support system. During his campaign’s closing speech on Thursday, Mr. Kast warned that electing his rival would deepen unrest and stoke violence.

Mr. Kast invoked the “poverty that has dragged down Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba” as a cautionary tale. “People flee from there because dictatorship, narco-dictatorship, only brings poverty and misery,” he said.

That message, a throwback to Cold War language, has found resonance among voters like Claudio Bruce, 55, who lost his job during the pandemic.

“In Chile we can’t afford to fall into those types of political regimes because it would be very difficult to bounce back from that,” he said. “We’re at a very dangerous crossroads for our children, for our future.”

Antonia Vera, a recent high school graduate who has been campaigning for Mr. Boric, said she saw electing him as the only means to turn a grass-roots movement for a fairer, more prosperous nation into reality.

“When he speaks about hope, he’s speaking about the long-term future, a movement that started brewing many years ago and exploded in 2019,” she said.

The new president will struggle to carry out sweeping changes any time soon, said Claudio Fuentes, a political science professor at Diego Portales University in Santiago, noting the evenly divided incoming congress.

“The probability of making good on their campaign plans is low,” he said. “It’s a scenario in which it will be hard to push reforms through.”

Pascale Bonnefoy reported from Santiago and Ernesto Londoño from Rio de Janeiro.

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