As I pulled into a parking lot, a man in an orange vest told me to stay in the car until my appointment time was announced over a very loud loudspeaker to avoid people congregating. After passing through two screenings by people who remained welcoming, despite having to endlessly ask the same questions, and a registration check in, I received a shot four minutes after my scheduled appointment time. It was injected by someone more than qualified for the task: an orthopedic surgeon.

Canada’s decision to get at least one shot into as many people as possible means that I’m not scheduled for a second dose until August.

As many Canadians look at vaccination rates in Britain and the United States, their frustration has been growing. Right now, just 2 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated compared with 24 percent of Americans. But the scheduled increases in vaccine shipments — the Moderna slip up aside — should help Canada catch up slightly over the next few weeks.

If so, it will also be a relief to the medical world. After he released the projections compiled by Ontario’s table of science experts on Friday, which indicated cases could hit 30,000 a day if nothing is done, Adalsteinn Brown, the dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said, “More vaccination, more vaccination, more vaccination.”


built 100 tiny shelters for homeless people to get though the winter. He now has an even bigger plan.

  • Geneva Abdul, a Times colleague now based in London and former member of Canada’s national soccer team, wrote about the confidence that playing the sport gave her.

  • An exhaustive review found that anti-gay bias by Toronto police helped allow a serial killer to prey on the city’s gay community.

  • William Amos, a Liberal member of Parliament from Quebec, stripped down after a jog while not realizing that his computer’s camera was on and broadcasting to his fellow lawmakers in a virtual meeting. Now some people are asking who leaked the photo of Mr. Amos standing nude to the public.


  • 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.


    How are we doing?
    We’re eager to have your thoughts about this newsletter and events in Canada in general. Please send them to nytcanada@nytimes.com.

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    Overwhelmed by the virus, Paraguay considers ditching Taiwan for China — and its vaccines.

    In Paraguay, the government of Taiwan has built thousands of homes for the poor, upgraded the health care system, awarded hundreds of scholarships and helped fund a futuristic Congress building. But the alliance is facing an existential threat as Paraguay’s quest for Covid-19 vaccines becomes increasingly desperate.

    Paraguayan officials across the political spectrum say the time has come to consider dumping Taiwan, which doesn’t export vaccines, to establish diplomatic ties with China, which does.

    Beijing’s one-China principle forces countries to choose between having full diplomatic relations with China or Taiwan, an island that it regards as Chinese territory. In recent years, three countries in Latin America severed ties with Taiwan after secret talks with Beijing. All three were early recipients of Chinese vaccines.

    This week China’s main Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer, Sinovac, made a gesture that is certain to fuel speculation about Beijing’s plans in Paraguay. The South American soccer federation Conmebol, which is based in Paraguay, said it was receiving a donation of 50,000 doses of CoronaVac, the vaccine produced by Sinovac.

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    Paraguay’s ‘Life and Death’ Covid Crisis Gives China Diplomatic Opening

    RIO DE JANEIRO — Taiwan has built thousands of homes for the poor in Paraguay, upgraded the country’s health care system, awarded hundreds of scholarships and even helped fund the futuristic Congress building in the capital, spending generously over decades to nurture their diplomatic ties.

    But the alliance, which makes Paraguay one of only 15 nations to have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and the only one in South America, is facing an existential threat as Paraguay’s quest for vaccines becomes increasingly desperate.

    With its health care system buckling as Covid-19 cases soar, Paraguayan officials across the political spectrum say the time has come to consider dumping Taiwan, which doesn’t export vaccines, in order to establish diplomatic ties with China, which does.

    “This is really a life and death situation,” said Pepe Zhang, an associate director at the Atlantic Council who specializes in relations between Latin America and China. “In this very acute phase of the pandemic, less resourceful countries like Paraguay are asking where they’re going to get the vaccine.”

    to rely predominantly on Chinese vaccines to blunt an epidemic that has left a brutal toll.

    That has given Beijing considerable leverage in a region where it has a broad constellation of investments and projects. Suddenly, wresting Paraguay from Taiwan’s orbit — which would advance Beijing’s goal of politically isolating an island it regards as its territory — appears within reach.

    Euclides Acevedo, Paraguay’s foreign minister, said recently that Beijing has made it clear it is interested in establishing ties with Paraguay. He has dangled that prospect of making the diplomatic switch as he has sought to pressure Taiwan and its ally, the United States, to get vaccines to Paraguay quickly.

    late last month in an interview on the television network Telefuturo. “I think our strategic allies, including the United States and Taiwan, must respond.”

    Beijing’s one-China principle forces countries to choose between having full diplomatic relations with Beijing or Taipei. Three countries in Latin America blindsided and angered the United States government in recent years by abruptly severing ties with Taiwan following secret negotiations with Beijing.

    Panama, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador — came with promises of growing trade with Beijing and has made them early recipients of Chinese vaccines.

    Mr. Acevedo said Paraguay should explore what it would gain by doing the same.

    “President Xi Jinping has keen interest in partnering with us,” he said. “It’s a political debate that should draw input from all segments of the state and all of society.”

    Yet, it’s not clear that Paraguay has taken formal steps toward exploring a flip.

    Charles Andrew Tang, who heads the China-Paraguay Chamber of Commerce, said he advised officials at the health ministry earlier this year on the paperwork they would need to fill out to request purchasing Chinese vaccines.

    Mr. Tang, who is seen in Paraguay as a key interlocutor with the Chinese government, said it is conceivable that Chinese vaccine manufacturers would sell vaccines to Paraguay even without formal diplomatic relations. But he said the onus was on officials in Paraguay to make the first move.

    an immediate pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine after six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within one to three weeks of vaccination.

  • All 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico temporarily halted or recommended providers pause the use of the vaccine. The U.S. military, federally run vaccination sites and a host of private companies, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Publix, also paused the injections.
  • Fewer than one in a million Johnson & Johnson vaccinations are now under investigation. If there is indeed a risk of blood clots from the vaccine — which has yet to be determined — that risk is extremely low. The risk of getting Covid-19 in the United States is far higher.
  • The pause could complicate the nation’s vaccination efforts at a time when many states are confronting a surge in new cases and seeking to address vaccine hesitancy.
  • Johnson & Johnson has also decided to delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe amid concerns over rare blood clots, dealing another blow to Europe’s inoculation push. South Africa, devastated by a more contagious virus variant that emerged there, suspended use of the vaccine as well. Australia announced it would not purchase any doses.
  • “The virus can spread across borders, but mankind’s love also transcends borders,” he told reporters.

    This week China’s main Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer, Sinovac, made a gesture that is certain to fuel speculation about Beijing’s plans in Paraguay. The South American soccer federation Conmebol, which is based in Paraguay, announced it was receiving a donation of 50,000 doses of CoronaVac, the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Beijing-based Sinovac.

    “The leaders of this company have understood the enormous social and cultural value of soccer in South American countries,” the federation’s president, Alejandro Domínguez, said in a statement, calling the donation a “noble gesture.”

    Despite all these signals, Taiwan’s position in Paraguay may be safer than it appears, said Lee McClenny, who served as the U.S. ambassador in Paraguay until last September. While cabinet members and businessmen have pressured President Mario Abdo Benítez to forge ties with China, the Chinese government didn’t show much interest in getting Paraguay to flip, he said.

    “On the ground I didn’t see very effective efforts to make this happen,” Mr. McClenny said.

    Besides, Mr. McClenny added, the Paraguayan president takes a special pride in the relationship with Taiwan, which was brokered in the 1950s by his late father, who served as the personal secretary to Alfredo Stroessner, the dictator who ran the country for 35 years. And Taiwanese aid has made a major impact in the landlocked, impoverished nation.

    “It’s effective and benefits people’s lives in real ways,” Mr. McClenny said about Taiwan’s assistance.

    The Biden administration has signaled its unease about the prospect that Paraguay could cut a deal with China. In a phone call with Mr. Abdo Benítez last month, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken urged the Paraguay government to continue to “work with democratic and global partners, including Taiwan, to overcome this global pandemic,” according to a summary of the call provided by the State Department.

    That message rankles opposition lawmakers, including the leftist Senator Esperanza Martínez, who served as health minister from 2008 to 2012. Ms. Martínez has long favored establishing relations with China, arguing that Paraguay stands to benefit in the long run by expanding trade. She said Washington’s exhortation was immoral.

    “We’re being loyal to people who impose rules on us while we die,” she said. “Our allies are vaccinating people morning, afternoon and night while they block us from getting vaccines, saying we’ll turn into communists.”

    Ernesto Londoño reported from Rio de Janeiro. Santi Carneri contributed reporting from Asunción, Amy Qin contributed reporting from Taipei, Taiwan and Sui-Lee Wee contributed reporting from Singapore.

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    Former Condé Nast Editor Plans a Vanity Fair for the Substack Era

    A former editor at Vanity Fair has been working for more than a year to create a digital publication with a business twist: Its writers will share in subscription revenue.

    Think of it as Vanity Fair meets Substack, the subscription newsletter platform that has attracted big-name authors.

    The new company behind the publication, Heat Media, hopes to unveil it in the coming months, four people with knowledge of the matter said. The start-up is partly the brainchild of Jon Kelly, a former editor at Vanity Fair who worked under its previous editor in chief, Graydon Carter.

    If all goes to plan, the start-up’s contributors would include writers whose contacts include the power elite of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Washington and Wall Street. An annual subscription would cost $100 and could include a daily newsletter, a website and access to events, the people said. The publication does not yet have a name. One under consideration is Puck, the name of an American humor magazine of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

    invest in the “geek culture” website Fandom, which recently acquired gaming website Focus Multimedia. Last year, a TPG affiliate acquired the soccer site Goal.com, and the firm recently announced plans to acquire a stake in DirectTV.

    The cash from the two firms would give the start-up some security at a time when some of the biggest players in digital publishing, such as BuzzFeed, Vice, Vox Media and Group Nine, have stumbled as the pandemic ravaged the ad industry.

    Mr. Kelly’s business partners are Joe Purzycki, a founder of the podcasting company Luminary Media, and Max Tcheyan, who helped build the sports site The Athletic, the people said.

    Two people who have seen a pitch deck on the company’s plans said that its potential competitors are the Washington news site Axios, the tech news site The Information and Vanity Fair.

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    In Haifa, Israel, Wild Boars Encroach on Human Turf

    HAIFA, Israel — The wild pigs of Haifa might not fly, but they seem to do almost everything else.

    The boars snooze in people’s paddling pools. They snuffle across the lawns. They kick residents’ soccer balls and play with their dogs. They saunter down the sidewalks and sleep in the streets. Some eat from the hands of humans, and they all eat from the trash.

    The wild boars of Haifa, in short, are no longer particularly wild.

    Once largely confined to the many ravines that slice through this hilly port city on the Mediterranean, the boars have become increasingly carefree in recent years and now regularly venture into built-up areas, undeterred by their human neighbors.

    “It became like an everyday thing,” said Eugene Notkov, 35, a chef who lets his dog play with the boars that putter around the local parks. “They’re a part of our city,” he added. Bumping into one is “like seeing a squirrel.”

    animal sightings increased after the pandemic began and people deserted public spaces. But Haifa’s boars started their conquest well before the coronavirus wrought its havoc. In 2019, residents reported 1,328 boar sightings to the city authorities — almost 40 percent more than the 2015 total. The Haifa City Council declined to release data for 2020.

    Palestinian citizens of Israel, who form about 10 percent of the city’s population. It is the home of the leader of the country’s largest Arab political party, and its residents elected a female mayor before Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

    “I wish we could all in Israel learn to live like they live in Haifa,” said Edna Gorney, a poet, ecologist and lecturer at the University of Haifa. “It’s an example of coexistence — not only between Arabs and Jews, but also between humans and wildlife.”

    For dreamers like Ms. Shahar, the painter, it feels almost unsurprising that boars should live cheek by jowl with Haifa’s humans. After moving to Haifa in 2008, she found a city that lends itself to the surreal, and began a series of paintings and drawings that explored what it would look like if the city were overrun with friendly tigers.

    “I just had no idea there would actually be wild animals roaming the streets,” said Ms. Shahar. “It seems appropriate in some way.”

    highly aggressive, particularly when with their young. In January, a boar bit a pensioner in the leg — the day after another boar made off with a schoolgirl’s pink school bag.

    “They are controlling the streets now,” said Assaf Schechter, 43, a port worker confronted recently by a boar on his porch. “It’s a very crazy situation.”

    Mr. Schechter’s teenage daughter sometimes calls him for moral support after late-night boar encounters, he said. His mother-in-law, Esti Shulman, has taken to carrying a stick in the street, after being run off the sidewalk recently by a pack of boars.

    “They should collect the little ones and put them in a park,” said Ms. Shulman, 75, a retired bookkeeper. “Or take them to the Golan Heights! Or shoot them!”

    This ire has been increasingly aimed at the mayor, Einat Kalisch-Rotem. At a recent public meeting convened by the Council to discuss the boar issue, hundreds of residents showed up to harangue her for three hours.

    “This past Saturday,” said an Sarit Golan-Steinberg, a lawyer and Council member, “my husband came running back home because he ran into a 150-kilogram female boar!”

    “Tell me,” Ms. Golan-Steinberg demanded, “do you think this is funny?”

    Ms. Kalisch-Rotem has hardly been idle in the face of these powerfully built animals, which can top 300 pounds. Under her watch, the Council has fenced off parks and ravines, to choke the access points to the city — and fixed chains to trash cans, to limit access to food waste. But since the municipality has declined to release more recent data about the presence of boars, it is unclear whether these strategies have had an effect.

    In the meantime, amateurs have attempted their own solutions. One group tried to build an app that could deter boars with subsonic sound waves. Others discussed leaving lion dung near boar hot spots, in the hope that the smell would deter the pigs.

    Prof. Dan Malkinson, a wildlife expert at the University of Haifa, investigated whether boars could be repelled with urine, conducting his own informal experiment beside the lemon and loquat trees at the bottom of a friend’s garden.

    “At night, I would go out, after a drink, and recycle the beer,” Professor Malkinson said. “It’s two for the price of one — you fertilize the trees and you try to deter the wild boars.”

    Sadly, however, the boars kept coming.

    But Professor Malkinson, who has researched the boars for years, and even tracked them with collars fitted with GPS devices, wonders if the boars are really Haifa’s biggest problem.

    The tension that most needs a solution, he said, is not between boars and humans — but among the humans themselves.

    “Essentially the conflict is between those who oppose having wild boars in the city and those who don’t,” Professor Malkinson said.

    “It’s not an ecological problem,” he added. “It’s a social problem.”

    Myra Noveck and Irit Pazner Garshowitz contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

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    It’s All a Blur: Chinese Shows Censor Western Brands Over Xinjiang Dispute

    HONG KONG — Viewers of some of China’s most popular online variety shows were recently greeted by a curious sight: a blur of pixels obscuring the brands on sneakers and T-shirts worn by contestants.

    As far as viewers could tell, the censored apparel showed no hints of obscenity or indecency. Instead, the problem lay with the foreign brands that made them.

    Since late March, streaming platforms in China have diligently censored the logos and symbols of brands like Adidas that adorn contestants performing dance, singing and standup-comedy routines. The phenomenon followed a feud between the government and big-name international companies that said they would avoid using cotton produced in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, where the authorities are accused of mounting a wide-reaching campaign of repression against ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs.

    While the anger in China against Western brands has been palpable and enduring on social media, the sight of performers turned into rapidly moving blobs of censored shoes and clothing has provided rare, albeit unintentional, comic relief for Chinese viewers amid a heated global dispute. It has also exposed the unexpected political tripwires confronting apolitical entertainment platforms as the government continues to weaponize the Chinese consumer in its political disputes with the West.

    resurfaced a statement H&M made months ago expressing concerns about forced labor in Xinjiang.

    they would avoid using Xinjiang cotton, and one after another, many Chinese celebrities severed ties with them. Since then, the loyalty test seems to have spread to streaming shows.

    Fang Kecheng, an assistant professor of journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who studies media and politics, said he believed that the platforms most likely censored the brands to pre-empt a backlash from viewers.

    “If anyone is not happy with those brands appearing in the shows, they could start a social media campaign attacking the producers, which could attract attention from the government and eventually lead to punishment,” he said by email on Thursday.

    As the blurring spread across apparel brands, it led to some hiccups on shows. The video platform iQiyi announced that it would delay the release of an episode of “Youth With You 3,” a reality show for aspiring pop idols. It did not disclose the reason, but internet users surmised that it had to do with Adidas, which had supplied T-shirts and sneakers for the contestants to wear as a sort of team uniform.

    Some internet users made mocking predictions about how the upcoming episode would look, photoshopping images to flip the contestants vertically so that their Adidas T-shirts read, “Sabiba” instead.

    The earlobes of male pop stars have been airbrushed to hide earrings deemed too effeminate. A period drama featuring décolletage distinctive to the Tang Dynasty was pulled off the air in 2015, only to be replaced with a version that cropped out much of the costumes and awkwardly zoomed in on the talking heads of the performers. Soccer players have been ordered to cover arm tattoos with long sleeves.

    The onscreen censorship illustrates the difficult line that the online video platforms, which are regulated by the National Radio and Television Administration, need to tread.

    “The blurring is likely the platforms’ self-censorship in order to be safe than sorry,” said Haifeng Huang, an associate professor of political science at the University of California at Merced and a scholar of authoritarianism and public opinion in China.

    “But it nevertheless implies the power of the state and the nationalistic segment of the society, which is also likely the message that the audience gets: These big platforms have to censor themselves even without being explicitly told so.”

    The blurring episodes also show how the platforms seem to be willing to sacrifice the quality of the viewing experience to avoid political fallout, even when they become the butt of audience jokes.

    “In a social environment where censorship is commonplace, people are desensitized and even treat it as another form of entertainment,” Professor Huang said.

    Albee Zhang and Joy Dong contributed research.

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    Syrian Refugees in Rebel Controlled Idlib Are Stuck in Limbo

    IDLIB, Syria — Among the millions of Syrians who fled as the government bombed their towns, destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones are 150 families squatting in a soccer stadium in the northwestern city of Idlib, sheltering in rickety tents under the stands or in the rocky courtyard.

    Work is scarce and terror grips them whenever jets buzz overhead: New airstrikes could come at any time. But the fear of government retribution keeps them from returning home. More than 1,300 similar camps dot Syria’s last bastions under rebel control, eating up farmland, stretching along irrigation canals and filling lots next to apartment buildings where refugee families squat in damaged units with no windows.

    “People will stay in these places with all the catastrophes before they go live under the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” said Okba al-Rahoum, the manager of the camp in the soccer stadium.

    On a rare visit to Idlib Province, examples abounded of shocked and impoverished people trapped in a murky and often violent limbo. Stuck between a wall to prevent them from fleeing across the nearby border with Turkey and a hostile government that could attack at any moment, they struggle to secure basic needs in a territory controlled by a militant group formerly linked to Al Qaeda.

    bused them here after conquering their towns. They drove in with trucks piled high with blankets, mattresses and children. Some arrived on foot, with few possession besides the clothes they wore.

    Last year, an offensive by the Syrian government, backed by its Russia and Iran, pushed nearly a million more people into the area.

    About 2.7 million of the 4.2 million people in the northwest, one of the last of two strips of territory held by a rebel movement that once controlled much of Syria, have fled from other parts of the country. That influx has transformed a pastoral strip of farming villages into a dense conglomeration of makeshift settlements with strained infrastructure and displaced families crammed into every available space.

    SHINE, an education organization, urged a group of women at an event in Idlib to refuse polygamous marriages, which are permitted under Islamic law.

    The next day, gunmen closed SHINE’s office and threatened to jail its manager, Ms. Kisar said.

    a cease-fire between Russia and Turkey has stopped outright combat in Idlib, but on one day last month there were three attacks. A shell hit a refugee camp; an airstrike ignited a fuel depot on the Turkish border; and three artillery shells struck a village hospital in Al Atarib, killing seven patients, including an orphan boy who had gone for a vaccination, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the facility.

    While the area’s displaced struggle to survive, others try to provide simple pleasures.

    In the city of Idlib, the Disneyland restaurant entices visitors to dine on salads and grilled meat, and to forget their woes with video games, bumper cars, air hockey and stuffed animal claw machines.

    The basement storeroom doubles as a shelter when the government shells nearby, and the terrace is enclosed with plastic sheeting instead of glass so it doesn’t shatter on diners if something explodes nearby.

    The manager, Ahmed Abu Kheir, lost his job at a tourist restaurant that shut down when the war began, he said, so he opened a smaller place that was later destroyed by government shelling.

    He opened another restaurant, but left it behind when the government seized the area last year and he fled to Idlib.

    Like all of Idlib’s displaced, he longed to take his family home, but was glad to work in a place that spread a little joy in the meantime.

    “We are convinced that normal life has to continue,” he said. “We want to live.”

    View Source

    In a Syrian Rebel Bastion, Millions Are Trapped in Murky, Violent Limbo

    IDLIB, Syria — Among the millions of Syrians who fled as the government bombed their towns, destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones are 150 families squatting in a soccer stadium in the northwestern city of Idlib, sheltering in rickety tents under the stands or in the rocky courtyard.

    Work is scarce and terror grips them whenever jets buzz overhead: New airstrikes could come at any time. But the fear of government retribution keeps them from returning home. More than 1,300 similar camps dot Syria’s last bastions under rebel control, eating up farmland, stretching along irrigation canals and filling lots next to apartment buildings where refugee families squat in damaged units with no windows.

    “People will stay in these places with all the catastrophes before they go live under the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” said Okba al-Rahoum, the manager of the camp in the soccer stadium.

    On a rare visit to Idlib Province, examples abounded of shocked and impoverished people trapped in a murky and often violent limbo. Stuck between a wall to prevent them from fleeing across the nearby border with Turkey and a hostile government that could attack at any moment, they struggle to secure basic needs in a territory controlled by a militant group formerly linked to Al Qaeda.

    bused them here after conquering their towns. They drove in with trucks piled high with blankets, mattresses and children. Some arrived on foot, with few possession besides the clothes they wore.

    Last year, an offensive by the Syrian government, backed by its Russia and Iran, pushed nearly a million more people into the area.

    About 2.7 million of the 4.2 million people in the northwest, one of the last of two strips of territory held by a rebel movement that once controlled much of Syria, have fled from other parts of the country. That influx has transformed a pastoral strip of farming villages into a dense conglomeration of makeshift settlements with strained infrastructure and displaced families crammed into every available space.

    SHINE, an education organization, urged a group of women at an event in Idlib to refuse polygamous marriages, which are permitted under Islamic law.

    The next day, gunmen closed SHINE’s office and threatened to jail its manager, Ms. Kisar said.

    a cease-fire between Russia and Turkey has stopped outright combat in Idlib, but on one day last month there were three attacks. A shell hit a refugee camp; an airstrike ignited a fuel depot on the Turkish border; and three artillery shells struck a village hospital in Al Atarib, killing seven patients, including an orphan boy who had gone for a vaccination, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the facility.

    While the area’s displaced struggle to survive, others try to provide simple pleasures.

    In the city of Idlib, the Disneyland restaurant entices visitors to dine on salads and grilled meat, and to forget their woes with video games, bumper cars, air hockey and stuffed animal claw machines.

    The basement storeroom doubles as a shelter when the government shells nearby, and the terrace is enclosed with plastic sheeting instead of glass so it doesn’t shatter on diners if something explodes nearby.

    The manager, Ahmed Abu Kheir, lost his job at a tourist restaurant that shut down when the war began, he said, so he opened a smaller place that was later destroyed by government shelling.

    He opened another restaurant, but left it behind when the government seized the area last year and he fled to Idlib.

    Like all of Idlib’s displaced, he longed to take his family home, but was glad to work in a place that spread a little joy in the meantime.

    “We are convinced that normal life has to continue,” he said. “We want to live.”

    View Source

    China’s Anger at Foreign Brands Helps Local Rivals

    Tim Min once drove BMWs. He considered buying a Tesla.

    Instead Mr. Min, the 33-year-old owner of a Beijing cosmetics start-up, bought an electric car made by a Chinese Tesla rival, Nio. He likes Nio’s interiors and voice control features better.

    He also considers himself a patriot. “I have a very strong inclination toward Chinese brands and very strong patriotic emotions,” he said. “I used to love Nike, too. Now I don’t see any reason for that. If there’s a good Chinese brand to replace Nike, I’ll be very happy to.”

    Western brands like H&M, Nike and Adidas have come under pressure in China for refusing to use cotton produced in the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has waged a broad campaign of repression against ethnic minorities. Shoppers vowed to boycott the brands. Celebrities dropped their endorsement deals.

    But foreign brands also face increasing pressure from a new breed of Chinese competitors making high-quality products and selling them through savvy marketing to an increasingly patriotic group of young people. There’s a term for it: “guochao,” or Chinese fad.

    HeyTea, a $2 billion milk tea start-up with 700 stores, wants to replace Starbucks. Yuanqisenlin, a four-year-old low-sugar drink company valued at $6 billion, wants to become China’s Coca-Cola. Ubras, a five-year-old company, wants to supplant Victoria’s Secret with the most non-Victoria’s Secret of products: unwired, sporty bras that emphasize comfort.

    The anger over Xinjiang cotton has given these Chinese brands another chance to win over consumers. As celebrities cut their ties to foreign brands, Li-Ning, a Chinese sportswear giant, announced that Xiao Zhan, a boy band member, would become its new global ambassador. Within 20 minutes, almost everything that Mr. Xiao wore on a Li-Ning advertisement had sold out online. A hashtag about the campaign was viewed more than one billion times.

    China is undergoing a consumer brand revolution. Its young generation is more nationalistic and actively looking for brands that can align with that confidently Chinese identity. Entrepreneurs are rushing to build up names and products that resonate. Investors are turning their attention to these start-ups amid dropping returns from technology and media ventures.

    When patriotism becomes a selling point, Western brands are put at a competitive disadvantage, especially in a country that increasingly requires global companies to toe the same political lines that Chinese firms must.

    a jump in Tesla deliveries. IPhones remain immensely popular. Campaigns against foreign names have come and gone, and local brands that emphasize politics too much risk unwanted attention if the political winds shift quickly.

    Still, interest in local brands marks a significant shift. Post-Mao, the country made few consumer products. The first televisions that most families owned in the 1980s were from Japan. Pierre Cardin, the French designer, reintroduced fashion with his first show in Beijing in 1979, bringing color and flair to a nation that during the Cultural Revolution wore blue and gray.

    Chinese people born in the 1970s or earlier remember their first sip of Coco-Cola and their first bite of a Big Mac. We watched films from Hollywood, Japan and Hong Kong as much for the wardrobes and makeup as the plot. We rushed to buy Head & Shoulders shampoo because its Chinese name, Haifeisi, means “sea flying hair.”

    “We’ve gone through the European and American fad, the Japanese and Korean fad, the American streetwear fad, even the Hong Kong and Taiwan fad,” said Xun Shaohua, who founded a Shanghai sportswear company that competes with Vans and Converse.

    Now could be the time for the China fad. Chinese companies are making better products. China’s Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2009, doesn’t have the same attachment to foreign names.

    Even People’s Daily, the traditionally staid Communist Party official newspaper, is getting into branding. It started a streetwear collection with Li-Ning in 2019. That same year, it issued a report with Baidu, the Chinese search company, called “Guochao Pride Big Data.” They found that when people in China searched for brands, more than two-thirds were looking for domestic names, up from only about one-third 10 years earlier.

    makes up only about 40 percent of China’s economic output, much less than it does in the United States and Europe.

    Patriotism aside, entrepreneurs argue that their ventures rest on a solid business foundation. Similar trends happened in Japan and South Korea, both now home to strong brands. Local players better know the abilities of the country’s supply chains and how to use social media.

    Mr. Xun’s sports brand has half a million followers on Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace and sells at the same prices as Vans and Converse, or even slightly higher. He said his brand competed by making shoes that fit Chinese feet better and offering colors favored locally, such as mint green and fuchsia. He sells exclusively online and teams up with Chinese and foreign brands and personalities, including Pokemon and Hello Kitty. At 37, he’s the only person in his company who was born before 1990.

    The guochao fad has also reinvigorated older Chinese brands, like Li-Ning. For many years, sophisticated urbanites considered the brand, created by a former world champion gymnast of the same name, ugly and cheap. Its signature red-and-yellow color combination, after the Chinese flag, was mockingly called “eggs fried with tomato,” an everyday Chinese dish. Li-Ning was losing money. Its shares were on a losing streak.

    Then the company introduced a collection at New York Fashion Week in early 2018. Its edgy look, combined with bold Chinese characters and embroidery, created buzz back home. Its shares have risen nearly ninefold since then. Now Li-Ning’s high-end collections sell at $100 to $150 on average, on a par with those of Adidas.

    National Basketball Association and Dolce & Gabbana passed pretty quickly, this bout could linger, many people said.

    “In the past, some Western brands didn’t understand or failed to respect the Chinese culture mostly because of lack of understanding,” Mr. Xun said. “This time it’s a political issue. They have violated our political sensitivities.”

    Then, like any savvy Chinese entrepreneur who knows which topics are sensitive, he asked, “Could we not talk about politics?”

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    The plan for post-pandemic life in England includes free testing and Covid certificates.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain offered a first detailed glimpse of what a post-pandemic society in England might look like on Monday, announcing free twice-weekly coronavirus tests and Covid status certificates that would allow people with immunity into crowded nightclubs and sporting events.

    The plans were the next step in the British government’s cautious reopening of the economy, and its first effort to tackle thorny questions about how to distinguish between people who are protected against the virus and those who are still vulnerable, as the country edges back toward normalcy.

    “I will be going to the pub myself and cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips,” Mr. Johnson said at a news conference at 10 Downing Street, as he listed the next round of relaxed restrictions.

    Trying to strike a balance between public health and personal liberties, he said Britain would design a system to certify the Covid status of anyone seeking to enter higher-risk settings. While pubs and nonessential shops might be allowed to demand proof of Covid-free status, they will not be required to do so.

    Britain has long resisted the idea of requiring people to carry identity documents, and for some in the country, this issue carries authoritarian overtones. The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, recently suggested that Covid “passports” could be against the “British instinct.”

    Mr. Johnson acknowledged the sensitivities and pointed out that the certification plan would not be rolled out for a few months. The government plans to test the program in pilot locations, from a comedy club and nightclub in Liverpool to the FA Cup soccer final at Wembley Stadium.

    “You’ve got to be very careful in how you handle this,” he said, “and don’t start a system that is discriminatory.”

    Starting next week, the prime minister said nonessential shops, hairdressers and beer gardens in pubs would be allowed to reopen. But he was far more cautious about foreign travel, declining to say whether the government would stick to its earlier target of May 17 for lifting a ban on overseas vacations.

    Britain plans to classify countries according to a traffic light system, with visitors from green countries not required to isolate themselves, visitors from amber countries required to isolate at home for several days, and those from red countries required to continue quarantining in hotels.

    With more than 31 million people having gotten at least one vaccine “jab,” and the country still largely in lockdown, Britain has dramatically driven down its new cases, hospital admissions and deaths from the virus. As a result, Mr. Johnson’s focus has shifted to managing a steadily more open society.

    Among his most ambitious plan is to offer free rapid testing kits to the entire population, so people can test themselves routinely. The kits, already used by hospitals and schools, will be available by mail or at pharmacies.

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