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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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Russian Court Orders 2nd Ban of a Major Human Rights Group in 2 Days

MOSCOW — A Moscow court ordered the closure of one of the country’s most prominent human rights groups on Wednesday, a day after its parent organization was also shut down in verdicts that, for many Russians, served as a painful coda to a year marked by the erosion of civil rights and media freedoms.

Moscow’s City Court ruled that the Memorial Human Rights Center must close, a day after the country’s Supreme Court ordered the shuttering of its parent organization, Memorial International, which was founded in 1989 by Soviet dissidents to preserve memories of Soviet repression.

Together, the shutdowns reflected President Vladimir V. Putin’s longstanding determination to control the narrative of some of the most painful and repressive chapters in Russian history. Since January, the Kremlin has accelerated a campaign to stifle dissent, clamping down on independent media, religious groups and political opponents. Hundreds of people have been harassed, jailed or forced into exile.

Memorial’s Human Rights Center has kept a tally of political prisoners that now stands at 435 names — twice as many as in the late Soviet period, by some other accounts. Prosecutors accused the group of justifying “international terrorist and extremist organizations” by including on its list imprisoned members of religious groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Prosecutors said the activities of the group “aimed at creating a negative perception of the judicial system of the Russian Federation” and accused it of “misinforming” Russian citizens. They said members of the organization had “participated in all protest movements,” and “supported all protests aimed at destabilizing the country.”

Prosecutors also accused the group of failing to comply with a 2012 “foreign agent” law, the same reason the Supreme Court gave in closing down its parent organization. The controversial law requires that all public communication carry a disclaimer that it was produced by a “foreign agent” and requires onerous financial reporting from designated organizations.

The human rights center was named a “foreign agent” in 2013, shortly after the law came into effect, while its parent group, Memorial International, was designated as such in 2016.

The targeting of the organization’s historical archive and human rights center at the same time was proof that “the goals are political,” according to Ilya Novikov, a lawyer for Memorial.

“The state does not like that the human rights center speaks about how it behaves,” he said during the proceedings.

Tuesday’s verdict was criticized by both the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles.

Outside the courtroom on Wednesday, several dozen people protested against the ruling, yelling “Shame!”

During the hearing, Alexander V. Cherkasov, the chairman of the rights center’s council, spoke to supporters, but addressed the government.

“Now you, the state, are trying to break the red flashing light which signals that something is wrong, instead of solving the problem itself,” he said.

“We may be closed,” he added, but Russians’ interest in human rights would not go away.

Ivan Nechepurenko and Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.

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India’s Toxic Air Pollution Prompts Supreme Court to Act

NEW DELHI — A thick blanket of noxious haze has settled over the Indian capital of New Delhi, burning eyes and lungs, forcing schools to close and prompting ardent calls from residents for action.

India’s leaders have responded with what has become an annual tradition: by pointing fingers at one another.

The central government, run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is accusing city officials of inaction, and vice versa. The country’s Supreme Court has stepped in to shut down factories and order farmers to stop burning fields. But the court’s other efforts, which last year included ordering the installation of a pair of air-scrubbing filter towers, have been derided as ineffectual.

The airborne murk and the towers stand as symbols of India’s deep political dysfunction. The choking pollution has become an annual phenomenon, and the country’s scientists can accurately predict the worst days. But deep partisanship and official intransigence have hindered steps that could help clear the air.

by major wildfires. It criticized officials for what it called their “don’t take any step” position.

India was home to 15 of the 20 cities with the most hazardous air globally, and health experts have detailed how such conditions can lead to brain damage, respiratory problems and early death.

Weaning the country off coal and other dirty fuels will be difficult, a reality underscored by climate negotiations that took place in Glasgow, Scotland, this month. India already struggles to meet its basic power needs. During the Scotland talks, India and China teamed up to insist upon a last-minute amendment to the language of the accord, to “phase down” coal rather than ease it out.

Mr. Modi argues that India’s increasing use of coal and other fossil fuels is helping build an economy that is lifting millions out of poverty. But emissions from burning coal make the pollution problem worse for city dwellers, particularly the poor, who cannot afford air purifier machines or the electricity to run them.

Adesh Gupta, the Delhi president of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, said that Delhi’s top elected official, Arvind Kejriwal, should resign.

“Instead of making Delhi a world-class city as he claimed, Kejriwal has made it a smog city,” Mr. Gupta said.

clearing their fields with fires.

“Farmers in neighboring states are compelled to burn stubble as their governments are doing nothing for them,” Mr. Kejriwal said.

The Supreme Court stepped in last year, too, ordering the two sides to take steps like enforcing a ban on farm fires and capturing power plant emissions. It also ordered Delhi early last year to build the two experimental smog towers, despite experts’ doubts about their impact. A study last year in the peer-reviewed journal Atmosphere called the approach unscientific.

“Can we vacuum our air pollution problem using smog towers? The short answer is no,” the researchers said.

Still, they are a tempting refuge for people desperate to escape the city’s bad air.

As a coppery sun set behind smoky skies, Jasmer Singh rested under a smog tower in central Delhi as it sucked in polluted air. A monitor measuring the levels of dangerous particulate matter showed that the air it spit out was slightly cleaner, but far from what the World Health Organization considers safe.

Still, Mr. Singh, a volunteer at a nearby Sikh temple, said, “around here, the air is good, lighter and better.”

Some members of both Mr. Modi’s party and the opposition say they want to take a serious, nonpartisan look at the problem.

“The blame game will be always there,” said Vikas Mahatme, a lawmaker with the B.J.P. Summing up the attitudes of many politicians, he said, “Why one should bother about other states? They are not voters to consider.”

Still, getting all sides to work together will be difficult, he acknowledged. “We are not very active,” he said. “I tell you freely.”

More information about clean aire and pure water can be found at AllHealthyInfo.com

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Near-Daily Covid Tests, Sleeping in Classrooms: Life in Covid-Zero China

The southwestern Chinese city of Ruili is small, remote and largely unknown internationally. It is also, when it comes to the coronavirus, perhaps the most tightly regulated place on earth.

In the past year, it has been locked down four times, with one shutdown lasting 26 days. Homes in an entire district have been evacuated indefinitely to create a “buffer zone” against cases from elsewhere. Schools have been closed for months, except for a few grades — but only if those students and their teachers do not leave campus.

Many residents, including 59-year-old Liu Bin, have gone months without income, in a city that relies heavily upon tourism and trade with neighboring Myanmar. Mr. Liu, who ran a customs brokerage before cross-border movement essentially stopped, estimated he had lost more than $150,000. He is tested on a near-daily basis. He borrows cigarette money from his son-in-law.

“Why do I have to be oppressed like this? My life is important too,” he said. “I’ve actively followed epidemic control measures. What else do we normal people have to do to meet the standards?”

remained the last country chasing full elimination, for the most part with success. It has recorded fewer than 5,000 virus-related deaths, and in parts of the country without confirmed cases, the outbreak can feel like a hazy memory.

But the residents of Ruili — a lush, subtropical city of about 270,000 people before the pandemic — are facing the extreme and harsh reality of living under a “Zero Covid” policy when even a single case is found.

live on campus. Classrooms have been converted to dorms. Since students are always around, they also have classes on weekends.

told state media he had taken 90 Covid tests over the last seven months. Another parent said that his one-year-old son had been tested 74 times.

Tens of thousands of residents have fled the city for elsewhere in China in the breaks between lockdowns; officials recently acknowledged that the population had dropped to about 200,000. To control the outflow, the authorities now require people to pay for up to 21 days of pre-departure quarantine.

In a sign of the desperation many residents are feeling, a former deputy mayor of Ruili last month wrote a blog post called “Ruili Needs the Motherland’s Care” — a stunning move in a country where officials almost never deviate from the government line.

“Every time the city is locked down is another instance of serious emotional and material loss,” wrote the official, Dai Rongli. “Each experience battling the virus is a new accumulation of grievances.”

according to state media. No cases have been traced to people leaving Ruili for elsewhere in China.

Even so, officials insist that there is little room for adjustment.

“If Ruili’s epidemic does not reach zero, there will be risk of outward transmission,” Ruili’s deputy mayor, Yang Mou, said at a news conference on Oct. 29.

Shanghai’s Disneyland spent hours waiting to be tested on Sunday night before they could leave the park. Parts of Beijing are locked down, and many incoming trains and flights have been canceled.

announced that all traffic lights would be turned red, to prevent unnecessary travel. (It later backtracked.)

Ruili is uniquely vulnerable to both the virus and the burdens of lockdown.

Nestled in the corner of Yunnan Province, it shares more than 100 miles of borders with Myanmar, attracting tourists and traders. In 2019, people passed through its border checkpoint nearly 17 million times, according to official statistics.

When China sealed up the country, trade and tourism all but collapsed. Yet Ruili’s borders remained porous, raising fears of imported cases. And the military coup in Myanmar this year has led some to seek refuge in Ruili, legally or illegally. Some residents have had to dodge stray bullets from the conflict across the border, according to Chinese media reports.

banned residents from livestreaming about the local jade industry to limit gem orders and the movement of delivery people.

told state media that “at the moment, we do not need” additional help. The day before, he had warned against “criminals” who he said would use “public opinion and false information to disrupt social order.”

have admonished people for protesting lockdown conditions.)

Earlier this year, Mr. Li and a group of fellow investors pooled together about $3 million for a jade market in Ruili, which they had hoped to open in May. Instead, the premises have sat empty, though they have continued to pay rent. He has heard nothing about government assistance.

Originally, his company employed about 50 people. Now? “We only dare to keep one person, to guard the door,” he said. “What can you do? We can’t pay them.”

The cost of daily living has shot up. A kilogram of bok choy used to cost less than 6 renminbi, or under $1, Mr. Li said; now the price has jumped to 8 or 10 renminbi.

“The ordinary people,” he sighed, “have no way to live.”

Liu Yi contributed research.

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What if It Never Gets Easier to Be a Working Parent?

Above all, issues around managing child care and work that had long been considered private family matters were suddenly out in the open, turning the needs of working parents into a subject that resonated in conference rooms and state capitals across the country.

The potential implications were profound: Not only could the pandemic help recalibrate the answer to a question like, “Who picks up a sick child from school?” but it could also radically alter whether workplaces look askance at the parent who takes time away from work to do to so. More fundamentally, any number of policy ideas that the pandemic inspired, if realized, could make it easier for working parents, especially women, to balance work and child care, as well as increase gender equality at work and at home and upend entrenched gender norms about caregiving.

“It just feels like an Overton window, where you have increased public dialogue but also you have public will to really change and reflect on women’s experiences in the work force,” C. Nicole Mason, the president and chief executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said in an interview this summer.

Roughly half of mothers with children under 18 were employed full-time last year. For white-collar women and women with office jobs, who were more likely to benefit from increased work flexibility, the possible reforms were uniquely promising.

But the optimism is fading, partially because of Washington. The Biden administration and Democrats in Congress indicated early in the year that federal paid family and medical leave was a priority in the president’s domestic spending package — but the plan was pared down from 12 weeks to four weeks, then dropped entirely from the framework President Biden announced on Thursday.

“As you can see, the window is closing,” Dr. Mason said this past week.

Now, as the pandemic recedes and everyday life begins to return to normal, some working mothers are worried that nothing much will change.

“People are finally seeing how important child care is in our society,” said Kristen Shockley, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Georgia who studies the intersection of work and family life. “But is that going to translate into a way that our society values caregiving? I’m less optimistic about that.”

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World’s Growth Cools and the Rich-Poor Divide Widens

As the world economy struggles to find its footing, the resurgence of the coronavirus and supply chain chokeholds threaten to hold back the global recovery’s momentum, a closely watched report warned on Tuesday.

The overall growth rate will remain near 6 percent this year, a historically high level after a recession, but the expansion reflects a vast divergence in the fortunes of rich and poor countries, the International Monetary Fund said in its latest World Economic Outlook report.

Worldwide poverty, hunger and unmanageable debt are all on the upswing. Employment has fallen, especially for women, reversing many of the gains they made in recent years.

Uneven access to vaccines and health care is at the heart of the economic disparities. While booster shots are becoming available in some wealthier nations, a staggering 96 percent of people in low-income countries are still unvaccinated.

restrictions and bottlenecks at key ports around the world have caused crippling supply shortages. A lack of workers in many industries is contributing to the clogs. The U.S. Labor Department reported Tuesday that a record 4.3 million workers quit their jobs in August — to take or seek new jobs, or to leave the work force.

Germany, manufacturing output has taken a hit because key commodities are hard to find. And lockdown measures over the summer have dampened growth in Japan.

Fear of rising inflation — even if likely to be temporary — is growing. Prices are climbing for food, medicine and oil as well as for cars and trucks. Inflation worries could also limit governments’ ability to stimulate the economy if a slowdown worsens. As it is, the unusual infusion of public support in the United States and Europe is winding down.

6 percent projected in July. For 2022, the estimate is 4.9 percent.

The key to understanding the global economy is that recoveries in different countries are out of sync, said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “Each and every economy is suffering or benefiting from its own idiosyncratic factors,” he said.

For countries like China, Vietnam and South Korea, whose economies have large manufacturing sectors, “inflation hits them where it hurts the most,” Mr. Daco said, raising costs of raw materials that reverberate through the production process.

The pandemic has underscored how economic success or failure in one country can ripple throughout the world. Floods in Shanxi, China’s mining region, and monsoons in India’s coal-producing states contribute to rising energy prices. A Covid outbreak in Ho Chi Minh City that shuts factories means shop owners in Hoboken won’t have shoes and sweaters to sell.

worldwide surge in energy prices threatens to impose more hardship as it hampers the recovery. This week, oil prices hit a seven-year high in the United States. With winter approaching, Europeans are worried that heating costs will soar when temperatures drop. In other spots, the shortages have cut even deeper, causing blackouts in some places that paralyzed transport, closed factories and threatened food supplies.

China, electricity is being rationed in many provinces and many companies are operating at less than half of their capacity, contributing to an already significant slowdown in growth. India’s coal reserves have dropped to dangerously low levels.

And over the weekend, Lebanon’s six million residents were left without any power for more than 24 hours after fuel shortages shut down the nation’s power plants. The outage is just the latest in a series of disasters there. Its economic and financial crisis has been one of the world’s worst in 150 years.

Oil producers in the Middle East and elsewhere are lately benefiting from the jump in prices. But many nations in the region and North Africa are still trying to resuscitate their pandemic-battered economies. According to newly updated reports from the World Bank, 13 of the 16 countries in that region will have lower standards of living this year than they did before the pandemic, in large part because of “underfinanced, imbalanced and ill-prepared health systems.”

Other countries were so overburdened by debt even before the pandemic that governments were forced to limit spending on health care to repay foreign lenders.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, there are fears of a second lost decade of growth like the one experienced after 2010. In South Africa, over one-third of the population is out of work.

And in East Asia and the Pacific, a World Bank update warned that “Covid-19 threatens to create a combination of slow growth and increasing inequality for the first time this century.” Businesses in Indonesia, Mongolia and the Philippines lost on average 40 percent or more of their typical monthly sales. Thailand and many Pacific island economies are expected to have less output in 2023 than they did before the pandemic.

debt ceiling — can further set back the recovery, the I.M.F. warned.

But the biggest risk is the emergence of a more infectious and deadlier coronavirus variant.

Ms. Gopinath at the I.M.F. urged vaccine manufacturers to support the expansion of vaccine production in developing countries.

Earlier this year, the I.M.F. approved $650 billion worth of emergency currency reserves that have been distributed to countries around the world. In this latest report, it again called on wealthy countries to help ensure that these funds are used to benefit poor countries that have been struggling the most with the fallout of the virus.

“We’re witnessing what I call tragic reversals in development across many dimensions,” said David Malpass, the president of the World Bank. “Progress in reducing extreme poverty has been set back by years — for some, by a decade.”

Ben Casselman contributed reporting.

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