He’s a Dogecoin Millionaire. And He’s Not Selling.

Last February, when Glauber Contessoto decided to invest his life savings in Dogecoin, his friends had concerns.

“They were all like, you’re crazy,” he said. “It’s a joke coin. It’s a meme. It’s going to crash.”

Their skepticism was warranted. After all, Dogecoin is a joke — a digital currency started in 2013 by a pair of programmers who decided to spoof the cryptocurrency craze by creating their own virtual money based on a meme about Doge, a talking Shiba Inu puppy. And investing money in obscure cryptocurrencies has, historically, been akin to tossing it onto a bonfire.

But Mr. Contessoto, 33, who works at a Los Angeles hip-hop media company, is no ordinary buy-and-hold investor. He is among the many thrill-seeking amateurs who have leapt headfirst into the markets in recent months, using stock-trading apps like Robinhood to chase outsize gains on risky, speculative bets.

In February, after reading a Reddit thread about Dogecoin’s potential, Mr. Contessoto decided to go all in. He maxed out his credit cards, borrowed money using Robinhood’s margin trading feature and spent everything he had on the digital currency — investing about $250,000 in all. Then, he watched his phone obsessively as Dogecoin became an internet phenomenon whose value eclipsed that of blue-chip companies like Twitter and General Motors.

disavowed the coin, and even Mr. Musk has warned investors not to over-speculate in cryptocurrency. (Mr. Musk recently sent the crypto markets into upheaval again, after he announced that Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin.)

What explains Dogecoin’s durability, then?

There’s no doubt that Dogecoin mania, like GameStop mania before it, is at least partly attributable to some combination of pandemic-era boredom and the eternal appeal of get-rich-quick schemes.

But there may be more structural forces at work. Over the past few years, soaring housing costs, record student loan debt and historically low interest rates have made it harder for some young people to imagine achieving financial stability by slowly working their way up the career ladder and saving money paycheck by paycheck, the way their parents did.

Instead of ladders, these people are looking for trampolines — risky, volatile investments that could either result in a life-changing windfall or send them right back to where they started.

posted a screenshot of his cryptocurrency trading app, showing that he’d bought more. And on Thursday, when the value of his Dogecoin holdings fell to $1.5 million, roughly half what it was at the peak, he posted another screenshot of his account on Reddit.

“If I can hodl, you can HODL!” the caption read.

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Colonial Pipeline paid 75 Bitcoin, or roughly $5 million, to hackers.

Colonial Pipeline paid its extortionists roughly 75 Bitcoin, or nearly $5 million, to recover its stolen data, according to people briefed on the transaction.

The payment came after cybercriminals last week held up Colonial Pipeline’s business networks with ransomware, a form of malware that encrypts data until the victim pays, and threatened to release it online. Colonial Pipeline pre-emptively shut down its pipeline operations to keep the ransomware from spreading and because it had no way to bill customers with its business and accounting networks offline.

The shutdown of the company’s network, which includes 5,500 miles of pipeline that supplies nearly half the gas, diesel and jet fuel to the East Coast, triggered a cascading crisis that led to emergency meetings at the White House, a jump in gas prices, panic buying at the gas pumps, and forced some airlines to make fuel stops on long-haul flights.

The ransom payment was first reported by Bloomberg. A spokeswoman for Colonial declined to confirm or deny that the company had paid a ransom.

first reported that Colonial had shut down its pipeline partly because its billing systems were taken offline and it had no way to charge customers.

Many organizations across the United States, including police departments, have opted to pay their ransomware extortionists rather than suffer the loss of critical data or incur the costs of rebuilding computer systems from scratch.

In a separate ransomware attack on the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, hackers said the price the police offered to pay was “too small” and dumped 250 gigabytes of the department’s data online this week, including databases that track gang members and social media preservation requests.

“This is an indicator of why we should pay,” the cybercriminals, called Babuk, said in a post online. “The police also wanted to pay us, but the amount turned out to be too small. Look at this wall of shame,” they wrote, “you have every chance of not getting there. Just pay us!”

Julian E. Barnes contributed reporting.

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As Ethiopia Fights in Tigray Region, a Crackdown on Journalists

NAIROBI, Kenya — One Ethiopian journalist was taken away by police officers as his distraught 10-year-old daughter clung to him. Another fled the country after she said armed men ransacked her home and threatened to kill her.

And a foreign reporter working for The New York Times had his press credentials revoked, days after he interviewed victims of sexual assault and terrified residents in the conflict-torn Tigray region of northern Ethiopia.

Six months into the war in Tigray, where thousands have died amid reports of widespread human rights abuses, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia has sought to quell critical coverage of the conflict with a campaign of arrests, intimidation and obstruction targeting the independent news media, according to human rights campaigners and media freedom organizations.

broke with tradition by not taking questions from the press. In his acceptance speech, he accused social media platforms of sowing discord in Ethiopia.

the BBC, Agence-France Press, the Financial Times and The New York Times.

Since November, the Committee to Protect Journalists has documented the arrests of at least 10 journalists and media workers who were held for periods from a few days to two months related to their coverage of the conflict in Tigray.

Last week, government officials confirmed that they had revoked the accreditation of Simon Marks, an Irish reporter based in Ethiopia working for The New York Times.

million people and led to charges of ethnic cleansing, news media coverage has become a “very sensitive” topic for the government, said Befeqadu Hailu, an Ethiopian journalist imprisoned for 18 months by the previous regime.

In the early days of the fight, at least six Ethiopian reporters working for local media in Tigray were arrested. Later, the authorities turned against Ethiopians working with international news outlets. In December, Kumerra Gemechu, a cameraman with Reuters, was detained and held without charge for 12 days before being released.

killing Dawit Kebede, a reporter who was shot dead in the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle, ostensibly for flouting the curfew.

In February, armed men ransacked the home in Addis Ababa of Lucy Kassa, a freelance reporter for the Los Angeles Times and other outlets. In an interview, Ms. Lucy, who has since fled to another country, said the men appeared to be government agents, knew what story she was working on and warned her to stop. They confiscated a laptop and flash drive that she said contained evidence that soldiers from the neighboring country of Eritrea were fighting in Tigray, though Ethiopia had insisted at the time that this was untrue.

The government said in a statement at the time that Ms. Lucy had not legally registered as a journalist.

In March, the Ethiopian government permitted several news organizations to travel to Mekelle, but then detained the Ethiopians working for them for several days.

two stories published by The Times in the following weeks.

Last week, after appeals by The Times were declined, the head of the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority confirmed Mr. Marks’s accreditation had been canceled at least until October. Officials told Mr. Marks that The Times’ coverage of Ethiopia had “caused huge diplomatic pressure” and that senior government officials had authorized the decision to cancel his papers.

“It is deeply disappointing that a Nobel Peace Prize recipient would try to silence an independent press,” said Michael Slackman, The Times’s assistant managing editor for international. “We encourage the government to rethink this authoritarian approach and instead work to foster a robust exchange of information. It can start by reissuing Mr. Marks’s credentials and freeing any journalist being detained.”

The next test of Ethiopia’s openness is likely to be the June 5 election, the first for Mr. Abiy since being appointed prime minister in 2018.

Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for Mr. Abiy, referred questions about Mr. Marks to the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority.

In a telephone interview, Yonatan Tesfaye, the deputy head of the broadcast authority, confirmed that Mr. Marks’s credentials had been revoked. He added that while they did consult other government institutions, including law enforcement, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority made the decision independently.

He said the authority was also examining the work of Ethiopian journalists for potential violations of Ethiopian law.

“We want the media to take the context we are in and we want them to operate respecting the rule of law that the country has,” he said.

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Cameroon Sentences Transgender Women to 5 Years in Prison

Two transgender women were sentenced to five years in prison in Cameroon this week after they were found guilty of “attempted homosexuality” and public indecency, the latest example of an increasing crackdown on gay and transgender people in the West African nation, human rights groups say.

Shakiro, identified in police documents as Loïc Njeukam, and Patricia, referred to as Roland Mouthe, both identify as transgender and were arrested in February as they were having dinner at a restaurant in Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital. On Tuesday, they were also found guilty of failing to show proof of identity and given the maximum fine of 200,000 CFA francs, or $370.

Shakiro, a social media personality who has amassed tens of thousands of followers through her posts calling for more tolerance toward gender minorities in Cameroon, has stopped eating and shared plans to die by suicide since the verdict, according to her mother, Joséphine Marie Njeukam, who visited her in prison on Wednesday.

Ms. Njeukam said her child told her, “‘Mum, I won’t survive here for five years.’” She said her child didn’t kill anyone or steal, and that her sexuality “shouldn’t be a crime.”

according to Human Rights Watch, and several of those arrested were subjected to beatings and other forms of abuse.

“There has long been an anti-L.G.B.T. sentiment in Cameroon,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, a researcher at Human Rights Watch who documents abuses in the country. “Now the judicial system contributes to the perception that homosexual and transgender people are criminals.”

The sentence for Shakiro and Patricia, who both go by a single name, is the maximum punishment under Cameroon’s penal code for engaging in sexual intercourse with a person of the same sex. But the women’s lawyer says they were detained while they were having dinner in a public space, and were not intimate or attempting to be.

Shakiro, 23, and Patricia, 27, were at a restaurant in Douala on Feb. 8 when police officers arrested them on charges of failing to provide identity documents. The two remained in prison for two months awaiting trial, according to their lawyer, Alice Nkom, and were sentenced on Tuesday.

Human Rights Watch.

Prosecutors in Cameroon and several other countries in Africa where homosexuality is criminalized, including Kenya, Tunisia and Uganda, among others, have in recent years commissioned anal examinations to allegedly prove that a person had engaged in homosexual intercourse, even though the outdated practice has been widely discredited by health care professionals and amounts to sexual assault.

attracted a wide following on social media, where she has repeatedly called for more tolerance against homosexual and transgender people in Cameroon.

“My sexual orientation and my sexuality aren’t choices,” she wrote in March. “But your baseless hatred and your homophobia are.”

Linda Noumsi, a makeup artist and friend of Shakiro’s, said her activism had attracted many critics. “She has a strong personality, and she can be quite vocal about her cause, which brought real supporters, fake friends, and enemies,” Ms. Noumsi said.

Ms. Nkom, the lawyer, said the verdict sent a pernicious message to the public in Cameroon: “It says, ‘If you don’t like someone’s appearance because they are different, you can just call the police, and they’ll have them arrested.’”

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Live Updates: Jews and Arabs Clash in Israel’s Streets

more of the forces into the streets on Thursday after another night of unrest.

Credit…Ammar Awad/Reuters

In one seaside suburb south of Tel Aviv, dozens of Jewish extremists took turns beating and kicking a man presumed to be Arab, even as he lay motionless on the ground. To the north, in another coastal town, an Arab mob beat a man they thought was Jewish with sticks and rocks, leaving him in a critical condition. Nearby, an Arab mob nearly stabbed to death a man believed to be Jewish.

Tamer Nafar, a Palestinian rapper considered one of the symbols of Lod mourned the terrible rupture inside the community.

“Maybe we look at the word coexistence differently,” he said. “But so far there is only one side, the Jewish side.”

The Aqsa raid might have been the spark for the current round of hostilities, but the fuel was years of anger from Israel’s Arab minority, who make up about 20 percent of the population. They have full citizenship, but rights advocates say they are victims of dozens of discriminatory regulations.

“The way that we are treated is as though we shouldn’t be here,” said Diana Buttu, a Palestinian political analyst from Haifa, a city in northern Israel.

A burnt vehicle is seen after violent confrontations between Israeli Arab demonstrators and police in Lod, Israel, on Wednesday.
Credit…Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

LOD, Israel — The hulks of burned out cars and trucks litter the streets of the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Lod, the epicenter of three nights of violence inside Israeli cities that have fed fears the country could be careening toward a civil war.

When the violence spread on Monday from the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to Gaza, an uneasy coexistence in Lod, deep inside central Israel, abruptly ruptured.

The authorities have declared a state of emergency in the town of about 80,000 people and imposed a night curfew from Wednesday. Armed border police, brought in from the occupied West Bank, were deployed.

But the curfew did little to calm the atmosphere, and both Jews and Arabs described a terrifying night on Wednesday. Arab residents, who account for about 30 percent of the town’s population, protested while Jewish extremists came from outside Lod and burned Arab cars and property.

On Thursday morning, a Jewish man was stabbed as he walked to synagogue, but he survived.

Shirin al-Hinawi, a 33-year-old Arab resident of Lod who works for the Israeli food company Osem, said her house was charred when rioters threw a Molotov cocktail into her yard on Wednesday night. She lamented that the police did not come to protect her family.

“We ran out of the house without clothes on. It was burning,” she said. “We are not living in Gaza. I’m an Israeli citizen and we didn’t do anything,” she said with tears in her eyes.

The latest eruption of Israeli-Arab warfare bears many of the hallmarks of past conflicts: round after round of Israeli airstrikes on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and salvos of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. But this time a distinctly different type of violence has spilled over into Israeli cities, some of them with mixed Jewish and Arab populations living closely intertwined lives.

It was this unusual outburst of street clashes inside Israel that prompted the president to warn of a civil war and the prime minister to call for an end to “lynchings” by Arab and Jewish mobs that have run amok.

Ramat Eshkol, a hardscrabble neighborhood near the old city of Lod, has been one of the hottest flash points of violence in Lod. A community of young Orthodox Jews moved there in recent years with Arab neighbors in shared apartment buildings. Israeli flags flying out the windows mark some of the Jewish apartments.

Arab youths in Lod, inflamed by the clashes at the Aqsa compound in Jerusalem and by a long history of discrimination and generations-old fear of displacement, began protesting on Monday night outside a mosque in the old quarter and were dispersed by police who used stun grenades and tear gas, residents said.

That ignited a broader flare-up that then spread to other mixed Jewish-Arab towns and cities in Israel.

By the end of the night on Monday, an Arab man was fatally shot when dozens of stone-throwing protesters approached a building with Jewish residents. Since then, at least four synagogues have been burned as well a religious school and a military training academy.

Yousef Ezz, 33-year-old Arab truck driver from Lod, said his truck was burned on Wednesday night.

“People have lost all their faith. This is their last stop,” he said. “I will live and die here and my children will live or die here.”

Tahael Harris, a 27-year-old a Jewish woman who lives in a shabby building with a mix of Arab and Jewish citizens opposite the school that was burned, said that for the last three nights, she and her husband and two children have been holed up at home behind locked doors while mobs of Arabs were setting cars on fire and throwing stones.

On Wednesday night, the violence ramped up and the family heard live gunfire.

“There is a feeling it’s only getting worse,” she said. “Before, it was quiet, not perfect, but we were good neighbors. I don’t know where they were last night. I don’t want to ask because I’m scared to hear the answer,” she said, fearing her own neighbors were among the attackers.

Palestinian Muslims performing Eid al-Fitr prayers in the Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on Thursday.
Credit…Mahmoud Illean/Associated Press

Muslims around the world marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Thursday, a day typically filled with prayer, celebration and feasting. But for many Palestinians, the moment was a somber one amid escalating clashes with Israel that have killed scores in just a few days.

Tens of thousands of worshipers gathered at the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem at dawn to mark Eid al-Fitr, days after Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians there in one of the triggers to the current round of violence. That episode quickly spiraled into a deadly conflict as Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets and Israel carried out airstrikes on the territory.

The Aqsa Mosque is one of the holiest sites in Islam, located in a complex in the Old City of Jerusalem that is revered by Muslims, Jews and Christians. On Wednesday, tens of thousands of worshipers stood in lines and then bowed in prayer.

Some waved Palestinian flags and a banner showing an image of Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip. Across the region, in prayers in Jordan and Turkey, some of those gathered to mark Eid waved Palestinian flags in solidarity.

In Gaza, days of Israeli airstrikes had killed more than 80 people by Thursday morning, according to Palestinian health officials. At least six Israelis have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza into Israel by Hamas militants and their allies.

In one photo from Gaza on Thursday, three Palestinian men laid their mats alongside buildings that had been destroyed by recent airstrikes and bowed in prayer as the sun rose over the crumbling heap of concrete and tangled metal.

Elsewhere in Gaza, funerals were held throughout the morning for those killed in the strikes.

The nearly deserted Ben Gurion airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, on Thursday.
Credit…Gil Cohen-Magen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Airlines in Europe canceled flights to Israel on Thursday as violence in the Middle Eastern nation escalated, and arriving flights were being diverted to Ramon International Airport in southern Israel.

Airlines in the United States had begun canceling flights on Wednesday.

British Airways said it had canceled its flights between London and Israel on Thursday. “The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority​, and we continue to monitor the situation closely,” the airline said in a statement.

Lufthansa, the German airline, said it was suspending flights to Israel until Friday. Virgin Atlantic said it had canceled its service between London and Tel Aviv on Thursday morning. And the Spanish airline Iberia canceled its flight to the city on Thursday from Madrid, Reuters reported.

Flights arriving in Israel that would typically land at Ben-Gurion Airport, about 12 miles southeast of Tel Aviv, were being diverted to Ramon Airport, Israel’s second-largest international airport, the Jerusalem Post said.

El Al Airlines, the Israeli national airline, confirmed on its website that most of its incoming flights would land at Ramon airport, in the south of Israel, instead of Ben-Gurion. Outgoing flights were still due to leave from Ben-Gurion, El Al said on its website. It said on Wednesday that customers with travel booked before May 19 would be able to reschedule without being subject to fees.

United Airlines, American Airlines Delta Air Lines canceled flights to and from Tel Aviv on Wednesday, and in some cases waived change fees for customers with planned trips through May 25.

Deadly violence between Palestinians and Israel continued to take a toll on Thursday, including clashes in city streets, in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as “anarchy.”

A damaged house in Ashkelon, Israel, on Wednesday.
Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

As the United States and Egyptian mediators head to Israel to begin de-escalation talks, the antagonists are weighing delicate internal considerations before agreeing to discussions on ending the violence.

Both Israel and Hamas first have to find ways to spin a narrative of victory for their publics, analysts say, but the task will be easier for Hamas than for Israel.

Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has to calculate the impact of the fighting on his own political fortunes, made more complicated by the internal unrest between Jews and Israeli Arabs in numerous cities inside Israel. The crucial decision for Israel is whether “victory” requires sending ground troops into Gaza, which would extend the conflict and significantly increase the number of dead and wounded on both sides.

For the Palestinians, the indefinite postponement of elections last month by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, created a vacuum that Hamas is more than willing to fill. Hamas argues that it is the only Palestinian faction that, with its large stockpile of improved missiles, is defending the holy places of Jerusalem, turning Mr. Abbas into a spectator.

President Biden has spoken to Mr. Netanyahu and repeated the usual formula about Israel’s right to self-defense, and he has dispatched an experienced diplomat, the deputy assistant secretary of state Hady Amr, to urge de-escalation on both sides.

The aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Thursday.
Credit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times

GAZA CITY — On Tuesday evening, Gazans celebrated as they heard the whoosh of rockets sent toward Israel.

But by Wednesday morning the cheers had stopped, as Gazans saw the aftermath of what some described as the most intense airstrikes since cross-border Israeli-Palestinian hostilities flared again this week.

In one neighborhood, near Zeitoun and Sabra, residents inspected their homes and neighborhoods for damage, and desperately sought information about where the missiles might strike next.

“I felt that the hits were random,” said Nadal Issa, 27, the owner of a bridal shop.

Hamas and other militants have been exchanging fire with Israel since Monday. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 16 children as of Wednesday night, officials said. In Israel, at least six civilians have been killed, including one child.

In Gaza, some said they had never felt anything as harrowing as the surge of Israeli strikes that came Wednesday morning.

Some said it felt as if blast waves were hitting their face and body, as if their block were under attack. Disoriented, they staggered to windows to look outside.

“My two children woke up, and they asked me, ‘What’s going on?’” Mr. Issa said. Thinking quickly, he reminded them that the holiday marking the end of Ramadan was near. “I told them these are celebrations for Eid.”

Mohammed Sabtie, a 30-year-old motorcycle mechanic, was among the Gazans who left their homes after the airstrikes subsided on Wednesday morning to see the damage.

“The sound was very, very horrific,” Mr. Sabtie said. “It was like a state of war. It was the first time I ever heard anything like this.”

Was he scared? Yes, he said, but also glad to see Palestinians fighting back.

“Our ambitions are not war,” Mr. Sabtie said. “Our ambitions are security and peace. We have to do this. We don’t want to be hit and insulted. We want to hit back.”

Israeli forces patrolling Acre, a mixed Arab-Jewish town in northwest Israel, on Thursday.
Credit…Jalaa Marey/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Violence in Israel could have “significant economic repercussions” if it leads to sustained conflict between Jewish and Arab citizens, the Fitch credit ratings agency said Thursday.

The warning from Fitch, whose views influence the interest rates paid by the Israeli government and Israeli corporations, was an indication of how rioting and mob attacks in cities like Lod could undercut the country’s recovery from the economic effects of the pandemic.

Fitch, noting that the Israeli economy has withstood past conflicts, said damage to the government’s creditworthiness would be limited “unless there is a substantial and sustained escalation in violence.”

If persistent strife prompts bond investors to demand higher interest rates on Israeli government debt, borrowing costs for businesses and consumers would also rise and act as a brake on growth.

Fitch and other ratings agencies consider Israeli government bonds to be a relatively safe investment, but the country already pays a premium because of what Fitch called its “hostile geopolitical environment.”

Fitch said that violence involving Arab Israelis, who make up about one-fifth of the population, represents a particular risk. In recent days Jewish and Arab citizens have clashed in the worst violence in decades in Israeli cities, in some cases dragging people from their vehicles and beating them severely.

The violence will make it more difficult for the leading political parties to form a stable government following elections in March that produced a stalemate. And the fighting will hurt the Israeli tourism industry, Fitch said.

The fighting will also hinder Israel from benefiting from better relations with other countries in the region, Fitch said. “The prospect of improved regional relations has receded further with the latest clashes,” Fitch said.

The United States Embassy in Jerusalem in 2018.
Credit…Valery SharifulinTASS, via Getty Images

The United States Embassy in Jerusalem has warned its staff members and their families to stay close to home or near bomb shelters because of the heightened threat of rocket attacks from Palestinian militants in Gaza, barely 40 miles away.

The warning, issued on Wednesday and posted on the embassy’s website, came as the crisis engulfing Israel and the Palestinian territories escalated to the most violent in years.

“Rockets continue to impact the Gaza periphery and areas across Southern and Central Israel,” read the alert. It advised diplomats and their relatives to remain in safe surroundings at least until May 17.

The embassy itself is contentious, having been moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv by President Donald J. Trump three years ago over the strenuous objections of the Palestinians, who saw the change as an endorsement of Israel’s claim to the entire city as its capital. Israel captured the eastern part of the city in the 1967 war, and its occupation is not internationally recognized.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their capital under a long-proposed two-state solution to the conflict. Most foreign embassies in Israel remain in Tel Aviv, partly because of Jerusalem’s disputed status.

While the Biden administration has pledged a more evenhanded approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than that of its predecessor, which heavily favored the Israeli side, there is no expectation the embassy will be moved back to Tel Aviv.

The embassy was part of a jarring juxtaposition when it held a celebratory opening on May 14, 2018. While Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and other American officials were toasting the relocation, Israeli soldiers and snipers were using tear gas and live gunfire to drive back hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators on the Gaza side of the border.

Several Islamist terror organizations take their name from Al-Aqsa, a holy site in Jerusalem., 
Credit…Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Instagram removed some posts and restricted access to other content that used hashtags related to the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem after mistakenly associating the name with a terrorist organization, according to an internal company message.

The error, acknowledged by Facebook, which owns Instagram, added a new irritant to the crisis roiling Jerusalem and spreading elsewhere in Israel and the occupied territories. The crisis began over an Israeli police crackdown around the mosque, which is built atop a site holy to Muslims and Jews.

Facebook said in the message that while “Al-Aqsa” often refers to the mosque, “it is also unfortunately included in the names of several restricted organizations.” Although the company did not identify those groups, the State Department has designated the Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as a foreign terrorist organization, and several other groups with “Al-Aqsa” in their names have had sanctions imposed on them by the United States.

As a result, the company said, some content related to the Aqsa Mosque was mistakenly removed or restricted.

“I want to apologize for the frustration these mistakes have caused,” a Facebook employee who works on the issue of “dangerous organizations” wrote to employees in an internal message that Facebook shared with The New York Times. “I want to reaffirm that these removals are strictly enforcement errors. We understand the vital importance of the Al-Aqsa mosque to Palestinians and the Muslim community around the world.”

The restrictions, previously reported by BuzzFeed News, had fueled criticism that Instagram and other social media platforms were censoring Palestinian voices after a raid by the Israeli police on the mosque left hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers wounded.

Facebook’s internal message said the company was making changes to ensure that the term “Al-Aqsa” by itself does not prompt restrictions or removals.

“These mistakes are painful, erode the trust of our community and there is no easy fix for that,” the Facebook employee wrote. “While I cannot promise that future errors will not occur — I can promise that we are working earnestly to ensure that we are not censoring salient political and social voices in Jerusalem and around the world.”

Twitter, which had also been accused of unfairly blocking Palestinian content, said in a statement that it used a combination of technology and people to enforce its rules.

“In certain cases, our automated systems took enforcement action on a small number of accounts in error through an automated spam filter,” Twitter said in a statement. “We expeditiously reversed these actions to reinstate access to the affected accounts.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel declared a state of emergency in the city of Lod on Wednesday. His political opponents blame him for the rising violence.
Credit…Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JERUSALEM — When it’s guns doing the talking, Israel’s usual political clamor typically shushes up.

This time? It’s different.

As the conflict with Gaza inflicted more death on Wednesday, a political rival of Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the prime minister for the escalating violence and said he was working to replace him.

Yair Lapid, the centrist leader of the opposition, said the conflict “can be no excuse for keeping Netanyahu and his government in place,” He added, “They are exactly the reason why he should be replaced as soon as possible.”

The crisis, in which dozens have been killed, has occurred at a key moment in Israeli politics.

After Mr. Netanyahu failed to form a government following the fourth elections in two years, Mr. Lapid was given his chance. Yet the bloodshed makes Mr. Lapid’s efforts to forge a coalition government both simpler and more difficult.

On one hand, Mr. Netanyahu’s detractors have even more incentive to oust him. But the violence has highlighted the profound differences between the parties of the anti-Netanyahu camp, which span the political spectrum from left to right.

“If the opposing ideologies meant they had one hand tied behind their back,” said Reuven Hazan, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “now they have both hands tied behind their back.”

President Biden condemned the rocket attacks on Israel and said the United States’ position was that Jerusalem should be “a place of peace.”
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden said that he had spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel “for a while” on Wednesday amid escalating fighting between Israelis and Palestinians, and asserted his “unwavering support” for Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

“My hope is that we will see this coming to a conclusion sooner than later,” Mr. Biden said in response to questions from reporters.

According to a readout of the call released by the White House, Mr. Biden “condemned” the rocket attacks on Israel and added that the United States’ position is that Jerusalem be “a place of peace.”

Mr. Biden also said that his administration’s national security and defense officials had been and would stay “in constant contact” with their counterparts in the Middle East.

The White House added that during the phone call Mr. Biden had updated Mr. Netanyahu on the United States’ diplomatic engagement with Palestinian officials and other nations in the Middle East.

The call between the two leaders came on the same day that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke over the phone with Mr. Netanyahu.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Wednesday offered “ironclad support” for Israel’s self-defense in a phone conversation with Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister.

Andrew Yang, a candidate for New York City mayor, said early this week that he was “standing with the people of Israel.”
Credit…Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for The New York Times

New York City has the largest Jewish population in the world outside Israel. And while the city’s mayor has no formal foreign-policy powers, the position often affords opportunities to showcase New York’s posture toward Israel.

But wholehearted, uncritical support for Israel is no longer automatic among officials or candidates — a dynamic that has been brought to the fore amid the latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Andrew Yang, a leading candidate to be the city’s next mayor, issued a statement early this week saying that he was “standing with the people of Israel who are coming under bombardment attacks, and condemn the Hamas terrorists,” and adding, “The people of N.Y.C. will always stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere.”

Then came the backlash.

At a campaign stop, Mr. Yang was confronted about his statement and its failure to mention the Palestinians, including children, who were killed in Israeli airstrikes. He was uninvited from an event to distribute food to families at the end of Ramadan.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat who has condemned the “occupation of Palestine,” called Mr. Yang’s statement “utterly shameful” and noted that it had come during the Muslim holy month.

Mr. Yang acknowledged that volunteers with his campaign had been upset by his statement. And on Wednesday he released a new one, admitting that his first was “overly simplistic” and “failed to acknowledge the pain and suffering on both sides.”

“I mourn for every Palestinian life taken before its time, as I do for every Israeli,” he said.

His clarification reflects a reality that what was once a given in New York City politics — unquestioning support for Israel — has become a much more complicated proposition for Democratic candidates.

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Baseball in Britain Confronts Issues With Sexism

It is no exaggeration to say that Amanda Hocking has dedicated her life to baseball — especially women’s baseball — in Britain. Playing the game has been her dream since she was a child.

That is what made the events of the last few weeks doubly painful to Hocking, and drove her to resign from her position as the general manager of Britain’s national women’s baseball team.

On April 25, Hocking, who goes by Doris, was shocked to see a post on the British Baseball Federation’s Twitter account that she said disgusted her. The post appeared to be a crass attempt by the federation to use a sexualized image of a topless female player to promote the new United Kingdom Women’s Baseball league, which Hocking founded.

The image was a rendering of a female player viewed from behind, wearing a helmet and holding a glove. The player appeared to be either topless or wearing a halter top and just to the left of the image sat the logo of the women’s league, lending the appearance of its approval. Despite requests to have the tweet taken down, it stayed up for hours, with the federation’s president initially defending it.

small but passionate British baseball community over an issue that mirrors an ongoing problem in the United States.

May 4 resignation in a telephone interview from her home in Camelford, Cornwall, in southwestern England. “Ever since I was a kid it has been my dream to play baseball for Britain and to build this league and be taken seriously. And then it was shattered.”

As in the United States, the episode was a catalyst for many to more closely examine attitudes that British baseball holds toward women. But unlike in M.L.B., many in the British baseball community quickly rallied around Hocking and condemned the B.B.F.

Players in Britain do not make a living playing baseball, so there is far less at stake. But many teams issued statements condemning the tweet and the lack of a quick response from the federation. Players threatened to boycott games unless action was taken.

“That was gratifying to see,” said Tracey Wilkes, a British New York Mets fan who lives in Sheffield, England, and co-hosts “Birds with Balls,” a British baseball podcast. “The support for Doris and the women’s game from the male teams has been amazing and I think this regrettable incident has given us an opportunity to learn from it.”

For many, the tweet itself was only the seed of the problem. The lack of contrition from the federation, and its initial decision to defend the image rather than delete it, added fuel to the furor.

Drew Spencer, the head coach of the British men’s team, also oversees the men’s and women’s domestic teams. He was shocked and disappointed by the tweet, he said, and immediately reached out to Hocking to lend support.

“As soon as I saw it, I knew it was going to be a big deal,” said Spencer, a Californian who played center field for Dartmouth College in the 1990s before moving to England. “This has been devastating for Doris. She has literally dedicated her life to British baseball.”

Hocking, 34, was seven years old when her mother bought her a baseball glove. She played with her brother and some friends at the local soccer field, but they did not even know the rules. When she was a teenager she regularly scanned eBay for a pitching machine and when she was about 19 she reached out to the B.B.F. to see if there were any teams or leagues for women.

They pointed her to softball, which did not interest her. She was just beginning to think about starting a women’s national team when she collapsed one day from a severe case of cholesteatoma, a skin growth in the middle ear that reached her brain. Doctors told he she would not live past 27.

“I had accepted that I was going to die,” she said. “I planned my own funeral.”

A new laser technology destroyed the growth and Hocking recovered, although with some balance issues related to the damage to her inner ear. Despite regaining her health, she struggled to cope with the changes in her life until one day she saw an advertisement on social media for a coed baseball league in Cornwall. She joined, and her passion for baseball, and her spirit, were renewed.

“That advert saved my life,” she said. “I had nothing to get up for. Since then, it’s been all baseball.”

Hocking works as a sales assistant for an outdoor clothing company and on a full-time basis attends Plymouth Marjon University, where she studies sports development and coaching. All the while, she has been building the new women’s national team and creating the U.K.’s first women’s domestic league in 80 years, while also playing for a club team in Paris.

She says her interest in the sport was so extreme that it eventually led to the end of her marriage.

“It all became too much for my husband,” she said. “We are still friends and all that, but I’m addicted to baseball. I feel like I was put on the planet to give my services to it.”

But in the amount of time it took to look at a tweet, the game she loved so much seemed to turn on her.

When Hocking first saw the post of the topless woman, she considered it appalling, but felt it would be easily remedied by deleting it. “Everyone makes mistakes,” she said. “You address it and move on.” So she texted Perez and asked him to remove it.

“It’s obvious that the player on the image is topless and is inappropriate,” Hocking wrote in a text she showed to The New York Times, “can you change it or remove it, please. Thanks.”

Perez initially refused, claiming that the woman in the image was not topless. Instead, he wrote back to Hocking claiming the image originally had a uniform but that an editor had smoothed it out “so you can’t see her name.”

The B.B.F. left the post up for roughly 12 hours before deleting it, despite increasingly urgent appeals from Hocking and others. Hocking said she felt Perez’s replies to her were insulting.

Despite several attempts to contact Perez by email and voice message, he did not respond to requests for comment.

As hours passed and the tweet remained, Hocking said, she received several outraged messages from colleagues and members of the women’s international baseball community under the mistaken impression that Hocking had sanctioned the tweet.

“It was damaging to my reputation and to the reputation of the whole league,” she said.

While the post was still up, Wilks, the Mets fan and podcaster, did an internet search and uncovered a stock photo of a woman with bare shoulders that is likely the original image. It appeared to refute the notion that someone had merely erased the name from a uniform jersey.

Wilks’s discovery inflamed the matter and Molly Willcox, a respected British player, announced on May 2 that she would boycott any team affiliated with the B.B.F. until Perez resigned.

“It seems a bit harsh,” she said in a video posted on social media. “But unfortunately, our sport can’t continue to grow or thrive under his presidency.”

On May 7, with pressure mounting, Perez resigned. A few days later, the B.B.F. apologized to Hocking and the entire women’s league. It said it planned to work with Hocking and WB-UK to analyze the “structural failures within the league that led to the unfortunate incident.”

Hocking said that once the situation calmed down, she grew heartened at the outpouring of support she received. She remains focused on the new domestic league but is not yet ready to take back her position as the G.M. of the national team. Spencer said he hopes Hocking reconsiders.

After all, modern women’s baseball in Britain is mostly the result of Hocking’s vision and industry.

“Nobody does anything all by themselves,” Spencer said, “But if Doris doesn’t create WB-UK and become a beacon of hope for women all over the country, it probably wouldn’t exist today.”

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Mystery Boxes With Mail-Order Pets Set Off a Backlash in China

HONG KONG — The mystery pet boxes are listed on e-commerce platforms in China as a bargain, priced at little more than a few dollars, and they often contain cuddly animals ready to be mailed straight to your doorstep.

The recipients of the pet “blind boxes.” typically don’t know exactly what’s inside — other than the fact that it’s a dog, a cat, a hamster or an unhatched turtle egg. Though the unauthorized transport of live animals across the country is illegal, that hasn’t stopped vendors from openly holding cheap sales and promising fast deliveries. The practice has become increasingly popular.

But many of the animals have ended up dead or suffering from infections or organ damage during the winding journey through China’s postal system after they have been dispatched by breeders.

dead animals among 13 packages at a depot in eastern China, headed to a village in Jiangsu Province, set off a furor. It was the second instance this month, after about 160 crates containing puppies and kittens were found by animal rescuers in a Chengdu shipping facility.

Video footage of the earlier episode posted by the rescuers of the malnourished animals piled into plastic-wrapped crates circulated widely online, casting harsh scrutiny on the industry and prompting internet users to denounce the maltreatment of the animals.

“We could hear them crying in discomfort,” the Chengdu Love Home Animal Rescue Center wrote on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform, last week after its volunteers worked to feed and revive the animals.

Last September, an animal rescue group said that 5,000 dogs, cats and rabbits were found abandoned in perforated cardboard boxes at a shipping warehouse in Henan Province. As volunteers rushed to rescue the surviving animals, they found that about 4,000 had already died.

Blind boxes promise the thrill of the unexpected and the chance to own a coveted collectible or particular breed of dog at a lower-than-market price. In the past few years, vendors on China’s e-commerce platforms have lured consumers with photos of figurines, comic books, clothes or makeup products. One of the largest manufacturers of blind-box figurines, Pop Mart, entered the Hong Kong stock market in 2020.

China banned the live transport of dogs and cats across provincial boundaries in 2011 without a health certificate signed by a government-approved vet at the animal’s place of origin.

Peter Li, a China policy specialist at the Humane Society International and an associate professor of East Asian politics at the University of Houston-Downtown, said that the mystery pet box phenomenon was not only a “gross inhumanity,” but also a public health risk.

“The fact that China’s surveillance system has failed to capture the illegal trade is because it looks like a normal business operation,” Dr. Li said in an email.

“Those involved in the mystery box ‘business’ are encouraging irresponsible pet ownership, irresponsible consumption habit and encouraging disrespectful behaviors toward nonhuman animals,” he said. “Shipping companies and delivery services have the duty not to handle shipment that is ethically questionable, legally liable and socially toxic.”

He added that while animal-protection groups in mainland China have been encouraging the adoption of rescue animals, the mystery-box model is a supply-driven trade, driven by breeders with too many animals who seek to lure younger customers with the promise of expensive breeds of pets at low prices.

Even among people who have bought mystery boxes of other items, but not pets, there was a recoiling at the idea of mailing animals.

Zhang Luyuan, a 33-year-old staff worker at a tourist attraction in the Chinese city of Fuzhou in Fujian Province, once indulged in blind-box purchases. “Those who buy blind boxes have a bit of wishful thinking and want to get what they want with less money,” he said by phone. But after spending $60 on a mystery box for what he thought were high-quality sport jerseys, he found subpar products inside.

“Since buying that blind box, I learned that meat pies won’t fall from the sky, and I have been buying the products the honest way,” he said, using an idiom similar to “there’s no free lunch.”

He said the delivery of living animals in mystery packages was tantamount to abuse, a lucrative way for breeders perhaps to get rid of those that are ill and unlikely to survive.

ZTO Express, the company behind both botched shipments of animals this month, could not be reached for comment. In a statement on May 4, it apologized for failing to enforce safety laws and said that it needed to “uphold correct life values.”

The company added that it would close the Chengdu delivery facility where the 160 crates were found, would cooperate with the police investigation and would enhance safety training. In another statement on Wednesday, ZTO said it had sought to regulate and reverse the delivery of live animals since May 5. The company added that the animals found in Suzhou were already being returned to their place of origin, but had been stranded at a shipment centers.

The police and postal authorities in Chengdu and Suzhou also could not immediately be reached for comment.

The backlash this month has prompted many breeders to remove their listings from popular e-commerce sites such as Pinduoduo and Taobao.

Li Ruoshui, a 19-year-old university student in Shanghai, said he had bought more than a dozen blind boxes of Harry Potter and anime figurines as gifts over the past two years.

“My sister really enjoys the surprise when opening the box, because you don’t know what you’re going to get,” he said in a phone interview. “I think that’s how blind boxes stand out from other products.”

But he said that the concept of blind boxes should never be extended to living animals, and questioned whether the customers who buy pet boxes actually want to take care of the animals inside or are doing it for the novelty.

“I will never buy pet boxes,” he said. “I like small animals, and transporting them in blind boxes is very unsafe and increases the chances of their abandonment.”

Liu Yi contributed research from Beijing.

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Instagram blocked posts about the Aqsa Mosque in a terrorism screening error.

Instagram removed some posts and restricted access to other content that used hashtags related to the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem after mistakenly associating the name with a terrorist organization, according to an internal company message.

The error, acknowledged by Facebook, which owns Instagram, added a new irritant to the crisis roiling Jerusalem and spreading elsewhere in Israel and the occupied territories. The crisis began over an Israeli police crackdown around the mosque, which is built atop a site holy to Muslims and Jews.

Facebook said in the message that while “Al-Aqsa” often refers to the mosque, “it is also unfortunately included in the names of several restricted organizations.” Although the company did not identify those groups, the State Department has designated the Aqsa Martyrs Brigade as a foreign terrorist organization, and several other groups with “Al-Aqsa” in their names have had sanctions imposed on them by the United States.

As a result, the company said, some content related to the Aqsa Mosque was mistakenly removed or restricted.

BuzzFeed News, had fueled criticism that Instagram and other social media platforms were censoring Palestinian voices after a raid by the Israeli police on the mosque left hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers wounded.

Facebook’s internal message said the company was making changes to ensure that the term “Al-Aqsa” by itself does not prompt restrictions or removals.

“These mistakes are painful, erode the trust of our community and there is no easy fix for that,” the Facebook employee wrote. “While I cannot promise that future errors will not occur — I can promise that we are working earnestly to ensure that we are not censoring salient political and social voices in Jerusalem and around the world.”

Twitter, which had also been accused of unfairly blocking Palestinian content, said in a statement that it used a combination of technology and people to enforce its rules.

“In certain cases, our automated systems took enforcement action on a small number of accounts in error through an automated spam filter,” Twitter said in a statement. “We expeditiously reversed these actions to reinstate access to the affected accounts.”

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