Every year Lane Schiffman — who lives in Greensboro, N.C., and who co-owns a handful of high-end watch and jewelry stores, including Shreve & Co. — usually spends a couple weeks in Switzerland at the trade shows that have been anchors of the watch industry for decades.
But for Watches and Wonders Geneva, the virtual trade fair that hosts 38 brands and starts on April 7, he will be sitting in a friend’s house, watching each company unveil its newest timepieces on a computer screen.
Mr. Schiffman said he will miss having new watches in his hands and socializing with colleagues in person. He is realistic, however, about the current limitations on physical gatherings. “It’s not something we can do, so Plan B is the next best thing, and Plan B is to do things virtually,” he said.
Certainly the online presentations this year have filled a pandemic-inspired need, but what happens to watch fairs when restrictions on large gatherings and travel are lifted?
Frédéric Arnault, chief executive of TAG Heuer. “It helps us all create this mystique around not just this or that brand, but all watch brands.”
But virtual fairs have their supporters, too. “There is something about just being able to, I hate to say it, sit in your underwear and not leave your home and watch the show,” said Adam Craniotes, an editor at large at the watch magazine Revolution and co-founder of the RedBar Group, a collectors’ organization.
Watch fairs, like so many businesses, were forced to recalibrate by the pandemic. And in this case, experts say, that restructuring was overdue.
“Probably this year of Covid was useful for them to try to disrupt something that was difficult to disrupt without such an event,” said Claudia D’Arpizio, partner and head of luxury goods for the management consultants Bain & Company. “Everyone was questioning the value of these fairs.”
an addition promised, but not fulfilled, in 2019. (Some Baselworld mainstays, like Patek Philippe and Rolex, are scheduled at Watches and Wonders.)
Many brands also have pivoted to and invested in video equipment to be used at the fairs and beyond. Chopard, for example, installed a film studio in its Geneva headquarters that it intends to introduce during the fair this week.
Some videos are brilliant, some are just boring.
In addition to its presentation of new watches, Montblanc’s watch division will include a live conversation with Reinhold Messner, the mountaineer and a brand ambassador, talking about an expedition that helped inspire elements of a limited edition timepiece.
aBlogtoWatch. “It’s because these brands have put absolutely no effort into anything beyond, ‘Hey, we heard Zoom meetings are a thing.’”
As another option, next month Mr. Adams will be introducing his own online fair, called New Watch Week. He aims to create more engaging videos than those in typical brand launches. The fair will include content at intervals throughout the year, instead of just during its first week.
His target audience, he said, is consumers, who will be able to watch for free, no invitations needed.
That type of programming is likely to continue after the pandemic has gone. Physical fairs, he said, may well resume then, too.
“The luxury industry requires real relationships, social opportunities, travel and celebration, and consumers that want to express themselves and have the money to do so,” Mr. Adams said.
“If you don’t have those things happening, you don’t really have a functioning watch industry.”
Tropical forests around the world were destroyed at an increasing rate in 2020 compared with the year before, despite the global economic downturn caused by the pandemic, which reduced demand for some commodities that have spurred deforestation in the past.
Worldwide, loss of primary old-growth tropical forest, which plays a critical role in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere and in maintaining biodiversity, increased by 12 percent in 2020 from 2019, according to the World Resources Institute, a research group based in Washington that reports annually on the subject.
Overall, more than 10 million acres of primary tropical forest was lost in 2020, an area roughly the size of Switzerland. The institute’s analysis said loss of that much forest added more than two and a half billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, or about twice as much as is spewed into the air by cars in the United States every year.
pro-development policies of the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, led to continued widespread clear-cutting. Surging forest losses were also reported in Cameroon in West Africa. And in Colombia, losses soared again last year after a promising drop in 2019.
a severe fire season, with 16 times more forest loss in 2020 than the year before.
anecdotal reports from Brazil and other countries suggested that deforestation was rising because of the pandemic, as the health crisis hampered governments’ efforts to enforce bans on clear-cutting, and as workers who lost their jobs because of the downturn migrated out of cities to rural areas to farm. But Mr. Taylor said the analysis showed “no obvious systemic shift” in forest loss as a result of the pandemic.
If anything, the crisis and the resulting global economic downturn should have led to less overall forest loss, as demand, and prices, for palm oil and other commodities fell. While falling demand may have helped improve the situation in Indonesia and a few other countries, Ms. Seymour said that globally it was “astonishing that in a year that the global economy contracted somewhere between 3 and 4 percent, primary forest loss increased by 12 percent.”
Global Land Analysis and Discovery laboratory at the University of Maryland, who have devised methods for analyzing satellite imagery to determine forest cover. The World Resources Institute refers to their findings as “forest cover loss” rather than “deforestation” because the analysis includes trees lost from plantations and does not distinguish between trees lost to human activities and those lost to natural causes.
Bloomberg identified it as Archegos Capital Management, a New York-based family office that manages the wealth of Bill Hwang, a former hedge fund manager at Tiger Asia Management who was found guilty of wire fraud in 2012.
Investment banks that provided services to Archegos, such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, dumped huge quantities of stocks including ViacomCBS and Chinese tech companies on Friday.
Archegos was forced into the stock sales, worth about $20 billion, after bets the fund made moved the wrong way, Bloomberg reported. Shares in ViacomCBS, one of Archegos’s positions, dropped 23 percent on Wednesday last week. On Friday, the share price plummeted a further 27 percent as the investment banks liquidated positions. ViacomCBS shares fell about 3 percent in early trading on Monday.
Shares in Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley opened about 2-3 percent lower on Monday. Shares in Deutsche Bank fell more than 3 percent, after it was said to also have some exposure to Archegos.
Credit Suisse has already been roiled this month by the collapse of Greensill Capital, a London-based financial firm it sold funds for, and to whom it extended loans of $140 million. The Swiss bank told investors it would probably report some losses on the loan.
“A significant U.S.-based hedge fund defaulted on margin calls made last week by Credit Suisse and certain other banks,” the Swiss bank said on Monday. It did not yet know the exact size of the loss from exiting its positions but “it could be highly significant and material to our first quarter results,” the statement said.
Elsewhere in markets
Oil prices bounced around on Monday following news about the fate of the container ship that had been blocking the Suez Canal for nearly week. The ship was finally freed on Monday, raising the prospect that trade flows would be restored, but authorities said more work was needed before maritime traffic could restart.
Yields on 10-year Treasury notes fell 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 1.65 percent.
The fallout from risky investments made by Archegos Capital Management continued to spread through the global markets on Monday, and it could spur more attention from regulators on the murky world of swaps and investor borrowing, the DealBook newsletter reports.
But how did one firm’s bad bets cascade to become a multibillion-dollar fire sale of stocks by banks around the world? Here’s what we know so far:
Archegos manages the personal fortune of the former hedge fund mogul Bill Hwang, who won Wall Street’s business despite having pleaded guilty to insider trading years ago. It amassed huge positions in media giants like ViacomCBS and in several Chinese tech companies — largely with borrowed money.
The Archegos strategy included using swaps, contracts that gave Mr. Hwang financial exposure to companies’ shares while hiding both his identity and how big his positions really were. (It is also becoming increasingly apparent that several Wall Street banks lent Archegos money without knowing that others were doing the same thing for the same trades.)
Trouble for Mr. Hwang, and his banks, arose when the prices of those stocks started to fall. That prompted some of his lenders to demand cash to cover his bets. When they began to question his ability to do so, some of them, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, seized some of his holdings and kicked off the sale $20 billion worth in huge block trades.
That forced selling led to even bigger drops in the prices of those stocks, starting a vicious circle.
Goldman Sachs has told investors that its potential losses are “immaterial,” having covered its exposure, but other investment banks faced a reckoning:
Credit Suisse told investors that a “U.S.-based hedge fund” had defaulted on its margin calls, which could lead to losses that were “highly significant and material to our first-quarter results.”
Nomura said that one of its U.S. arms could suffer “a significant loss” because of the forced sales.
One person who is surely paying attention is Gary Gensler: President Biden’s pick to lead the S.E.C. has been an advocate for market transparency, having argued that unregulated dark pools could cause a broader risk to the U.S. economy.
Southwest Airlines is doubling down on Boeing’s troubled 737 Max jet, adding 100 new orders for the plane just months after regulators began allowing it to fly again.
The airline, already the largest customer of the Max, said on Monday that it had ordered a total of 349 Max jets over the next decade. Southwest, which resumed flights aboard the Max this month, also said it had more than doubled the number of planes it had options to buy, to 270.
“Southwest Airlines has been operating the Boeing 737 series for nearly 50 years, and the aircraft has made significant contributions to our unparalleled success,” Gary Kelly, Southwest’s chief executive, said in a statement. “Today’s commitment to the 737 Max solidifies our continued appreciation for the aircraft.”
Regulators around the world grounded the Max, which is quieter and more fuel-efficient than its predecessors, in March 2019 following fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed 346 people. The Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban on the plane in November, requiring various changes and upgrades. It was soon followed by other aviation regulators and the plane has been used on thousands of flights since.
The expanded Southwest order comes as more passengers start flying again. More than 1.5 million people were screened at airport security checkpoints on Sunday, according to the Transportation Security Administration, the most since the coronavirus pandemic began. Still, that was about 37 percent fewer people than the agency had screened on the same day in 2019.
Southwest did not say how much it will pay for its new Max order. The airline is spending more than $10 billion in new and existing airplane orders. The airline expects to receive 28 Max planes this year and at least 30 each year after through 2025.
HarperCollins, one of the five largest publishing companies in the United States, has made a deal to acquire Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books and Media, the trade publishing division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for $349 million.
The acquisition will help HarperCollins expand its catalog of backlist titles at a moment of growing consolidation in the book business. Houghton Mifflin publishes perennial sellers by well-known authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, George Orwell, Philip Roth and Lois Lowry, as well as children’s classics and best-selling cookbooks and lifestyle guides.
News of the sale was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.
By acquiring Houghton Mifflin, HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, will be better able to compete as publishing has come to be dominated by the biggest players.
The book business has been transformed by consolidation in the past decade, with the merger of Penguin and Random House in 2013, News Corp’s purchase of the romance publisher Harlequin, and Hachette Book Group’s acquisition of Perseus Books. Last fall, ViacomCBS agreed to sell Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for more than $2 billion, in a deal that has drawn scrutiny from antitrust regulators and has raised concerns among booksellers, authors and agents.
Book sales across the industry have remained strong during the pandemic, but Houghton Mifflin saw its revenue fall sharply last year because of a steep drop in sales in its education division. Its revenue fell by more than 46 percent in the nine months that ended on Sept. 30 of last year, compared with the same period in 2019. The company put its trade publishing division up for sale last fall, as it aims to focus on its core business of K-12 educational publishing, and to pay down its debt.
“There is incredible demand for our expertise as schools across the country plan for post-pandemic learning and recovery,” Houghton Mifflin’s president and chief executive, Jack Lynch, said in a news release. “This is an inflection moment for K-12 education in our country and for HMH as a trusted partner to schools and teachers in advancing learning for every student.”
Oil prices fell on Monday as word spread that the giant cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal had been set free, raising hopes that hundreds of vessels, many carrying oil and petroleum products, could soon proceed through the critical waterway.
Oil prices had swirled earlier in the day, as prospects of an end to the logjam brightened, and then dimmed. But following the announcement that the containership Ever Given had been freed, the price of Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell about 2.5 percent, to $63.90 a barrel.
Since the vessel got stuck early last week, tankers havebeen lining up at the entrances to the canal waiting to deliver their cargoes to Europe and Asia.
The Suez Canal is a crucial choke point for oil shipping, but so far the impact on the oil market of this major interruption of trade flows has been relatively muted. Though prices jumped after shipping on the canal was halted, oil prices still remain below their nearly two-year highs of about $70 a barrel reached earlier this month.
Traders are now expected to focus on broader threats to the oil market, including whether the imposition of new lockdowns in Europe may hold back the recovery of oil demand from the pandemic.
From a global perspective, oil supplies are considered adequate, and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, the group known as OPEC Plus, are withholding an estimated eight million barrels a day, or about 9 percent of current consumption, from the market. Officials from OPEC Plus are expected to meet by video conference on Thursday to discuss whether to ease output cuts.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday from Goldman Sachs and pension funds over a claim that the Wall Street giant misled investors about its work selling complex debt investments in the prelude to the 2008 financial crisis.
In its latest brief, Goldman makes an interesting argument, the DealBook newsletter reports: Investors shouldn’t rely on statements such as “honesty is at the heart of our business” or “our clients’ interests always come first” that appear in Securities and Exchange Commission filings and annual reports.
The case is a test of shareholders’ ability to sue over claims of investment fraud. The pension funds sought to sue as a class over Goldman’s statements, saying they belied those statements of honesty, and lower courts agreed to let them proceed. Goldman has argued that the investors are engaged in “guerrilla warfare” and aren’t providing “serious legal arguments,” relying on support from the federal government instead.
However, the Biden administration isn’t taking sides, technically. It will argue as a “friend of the court” on Monday that “meritorious private securities-fraud suits” are “an essential complement” to enforcing securities laws.
“I expect the court to be troubled by the claim that companies cannot be held accountable for saying that clients come first and then acting otherwise,” Robert Jackson Jr., who served on the S.E.C. from 2018 to 2020 and is now an N.Y.U. law professor, told DealBook.
The justices probably won’t agree with the claim that making a company “mean what it says” will lead to a tsunami of meritless lawsuits,” he added. Regardless, Goldman is right that the stakes are high, because the case is likely to decide whether shareholders can “hold corporate insiders accountable when they tell investors one thing and do another,” Mr. Jackson said.
The Facebook page of Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, was frozen for “repeated” violations of its misinformation policies, including a post about an unproven remedy for Covid-19, the company said on Sunday, the latest example of the social media giant cracking down on political figures who violate its content policies.
Mr. Maduro’s Facebook page will be frozen for 30 days in a “read-only” mode, the company said, “due to repeated violations of our rules.”
“We removed a video posted to President Nicolas Maduro’s Page for violating our policies against misinformation about Covid-19 that is likely to put people at risk for harm,” a Facebook spokesman said. “We follow guidance from the W.H.O. that says there is currently no medication to cure the virus.” The spokesman was referring to the World Health Organization.
Facebook’s move came after Mr. Maduro posted a video on his page that promoted Carvativir, a drug derived from thyme. He said in January that the medicine was a “miracle,” but did not provide evidence of its effectiveness — and declined to release the name of the “brilliant Venezuelan mind” that created the drug. In the video, Mr. Maduro falsely claimed that Carvativir can be used preventively and therapeutically against the coronavirus.
In the past, Facebook has been criticized for its inaction against political figures who test the boundaries of the company’s content policies by spreading misinformation. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook, has said he does not want to be the “arbiter of truth” in public discourse.
But in recent months, Facebook has cracked down on certain types of misinformation across the network. The company has banned posts containing false or misleading information regarding the coronavirus, and has shown willingness to take action against some political figures. And in the past, it has removed at least one post by Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, for false coronavirus remedy claims regarding the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
In January, after insurgents stormed the United States Capitol, President Donald J. Trump’s account was banned indefinitely for inciting his supporters to violent action using the social network.
In response to his account restriction, Mr. Maduro has said Facebook is practicing a form of “digital totalitarianism,” according to Reuters, which first reported Mr. Maduro’s suspension.
Mr. Maduro said on Twitter on Sunday that he would continue to broadcast his regular coronavirus briefing from his other digital accounts, including Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. And to circumvent his suspension, he said he would use the Facebook account belonging to his wife, Cilia Flores, to broadcast Covid-19 information. Facebook would not comment on whether it would suspend Ms. Flores’s account.
One of the most closely watched union elections in recent history is wrapping up on Monday, one that could alter the shape of the labor movement and one of America’s largest employers.
Almost 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse near Birmingham, Ala., one of the company’s largest, are eligible to vote in this election. After years of fierce resistance from the company, they could form the first union at an Amazon operation in the United States.
The outcome of the vote may not be known for days, but the union drive has already succeeded in roiling the world’s biggest e-commerce company and spotlighting complaints about its labor practices, The New York Times’s Karen Weise and Michael Corkery write. If the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union succeeds, it would be a huge victory for the labor movement, whose membership has declined for decades. A victory would also give it a foothold inside one of the country’s largest private employers. The company now has 950,000 workers in the United States, after adding more than 400,000 in the last year alone.
If the union loses, particularly by a large margin, Amazon will have turned the tide on a unionization drive that seemed to have many winds at its back. A loss could force labor organizers to rethink their overall strategy and give Amazon confidence that its approach is working.
A Swiss billionaire who has donated hundreds of millions to environmental causes is a surprise new player in the bidding for Tribune Publishing, the major newspaper chain that until recently seemed destined to end up in the hands of a New York hedge fund.
Hansjörg Wyss (pronounced Hans-yorg Vees), the former chief executive of the medical device manufacturer Synthes, said he had agreed to join with the Maryland hotelier Stewart W. Bainum Jr. in a bid for Tribune, an offer that could upend Alden Global Capital’s plan to take full ownership of the company, Marc Tracy of The New York Times writes.
Mr. Wyss, who has given away some of his fortune to help preserve wildlife habitats in Wyoming, Montana and Maine, said he was motivated to join the Tribune bid by his belief in the need for a robust press. “I have an opportunity to do 500 times more than what I’m doing now,” he said.
Alden, which already owns roughly 32 percent of Tribune Publishing shares, is known for drastically cutting costs at the newspapers it controls through its MediaNews Group subsidiary. Last month, the hedge fund reached an agreement with Tribune, whose papers include The Daily News, The Baltimore Sun and The Chicago Tribune, to buy the rest of the company’s shares.
The sale of Tribune, which the newspaper company hopes to conclude by July, requires regulatory approval and yes votes from company shareholders representing two-thirds of the non-Alden stock.
Thousands of financial technology start-ups are riding an investor frenzy driven by a growing realization that the industry is ripe for a tech makeover, writes Erin Griffith of The New York Times.
When the pandemic forced businesses to speed up their usage of digital tools, including e-commerce and online banking, the demand for what is known as fintech exploded.
Now start-ups with names like Blend, Brex and Dave that provide decidedly unglamorous banking, lending and payment processing offerings are hot tickets. That was punctuated this month when Stripe, a payments company, raised $600 million in a financing that valued it at $95 billion, the highest ever for a private start-up in the United States.
Financial technology companies are also making a splash on the stock market. On Tuesday, Robinhood, a stock trading app popular with young adults, filed for an initial public offering. And Coinbase, a cryptocurrency start-up, is scheduled to go public in the next few weeks in what could be a $100 billion listing.
In total, venture capital investors poured $44.4 billion into financial technology start-ups last year, up from $1.1 billion in 2009, according to PitchBook, which tracks private financing. Many investors are now making bold predictions that these start-ups will upend big banks, established credit card providers — and in some cases, the entire financial system.
The Federal Reserve’s independence from partisan politics is essential and must be protected, Christopher Waller, a member of Fed’s Board of Governors, said in his first speech as a top central bank official.
Mr. Waller, who previously worked in research at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, was nominated to the Fed by President Donald J. Trump and confirmed to the job late last year.
He used his first extensive public remarks to push back on the idea that the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets interest rates, might keep them steady just to make interest costs on the government’s huge debt pile low in the wake of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
“Going forward, the monetary policy choices of the F.O.M.C. will continue to be guided solely by our mandate to promote maximum employment and stable prices,” Mr. Waller said. “Partisan policy preferences or the debt-financing needs of the Treasury will play no role in that decision.”
Mr. Waller noted that the government’s pandemic response spending packages — which totaled more than $5 trillion — have pushed the U.S. debt to a level last seen in World War II, relative to the nation’s output.
At the same time, the Fed has been keeping short-term policy interest rates near zero while buying up huge amounts of government debt to make financing of all kinds cheaper, helping to stoke demand and fuel an economic recovery.
That has contributed to a narrative that “the Federal Reserve will succumb to pressures” to keep rates low and continue buying bonds, Mr. Waller said, policies that would make it easier for the government to borrow and spend.
“It is simply wrong,” he said. “Monetary policy has not and will not be conducted for these purposes.”
Instead, the Fed will focus on fostering maximum employment and price stability — its two Congress-given goals. The Fed is politically independent, and although it has traditionally cooperated with the Treasury Department during times of crisis, elected officials and those with close ties to the presidential administration do not have a say in how it sets monetary policy to achieve its targets.
Mr. Waller’s remarks do not mean interest rates are poised to rise soon, though. The Fed has signaled that it will leave them near rock-bottom until inflation has moved higher and looks poised to stay there, and until the economy has returned to what they see as full employment.
President Biden wants to forge an “alliance of democracies.” China wants to make clear that it has alliances of its own.
Only days after a rancorous encounter with American officials in Alaska, China’s foreign minister joined his Russian counterpart last week to denounce Western meddling and sanctions.
He then headed to the Middle East to visit traditional American allies, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as well as Iran, where he signed a sweeping investment agreement on Saturday. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, reached out to Colombia one day and pledged support for North Korea on another.
Although officials denied the timing was intentional, the message clearly was. China hopes to position itself as the main challenger to an international order, led by the United States, that is generally guided by principles of democracy, respect for human rights and adherence to rule of law.
John Delury, a professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, said of China’s strategy.
As result, the world is increasingly dividing into distinct if not purely ideological camps, with both China and the United States hoping to lure supporters.
geopolitical competition between models of governance. He compared Mr. Xi to the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, “who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future and democracy can’t function” in “an ever-complex world.”
He later called the challenge “a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies.”
declared a genocide.
quashing of dissent in Hong Kong, from Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, though a Saudi statement did not mention Xinjiang.
China’s most striking alignment is with Russia, where Mr. Putin has long complained about American hegemony and its use — abuse, in his view — of the global financial system as an instrument of foreign policy.
The Russian foreign minister arrived in China last Monday railing about American sanctions and saying the world needed to reduce its reliance on the U.S. dollar.
China and Russia have drawn closer especially since Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was met with international outrage and Western penalties. While the possibility of a formal alliance remains remote, the countries’ diplomatic and economic ties have deepened in common cause against the United States. So have strategic ties. The People’s Liberation Army and the Russian military now routinely hold exercises together and have twice conducted joint air patrols along Japan’s coast, most recently in December.
The two countries announced this month that they would build a research station on the moon together, setting the stage for competing space programs, one led by China and the other by the United States.
“The latest steps and gestures by the Biden administration, seen as hostile and insulting by the Russian and Chinese leaders, have predictably pushed Moscow and Beijing even deeper into a mutual embrace,” said Artyom Lukin, a professor of international studies at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia.
report on human rights in the United States on Wednesday, using as an epigraph George Floyd’s plea to the police,“I can’t breathe.”
“The United States should lower the tone of democracy and human rights and talk more about cooperation in global affairs,” Yuan Peng, president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a government think tank, wrote the same day.
From that perspective, Mr. Xi’s outreach to North Korea and Mr. Wang’s visit to Iran could signal China’s interest in working with the United States to resolve disputes over those two countries’ nuclear programs.
Mr. Biden’s administration may be open to that. After the Alaska meetings, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken mentioned both as potential areas where “our interests intersect” with China’s.
sealed trade and investment agreements, including one with the European Union, hoping to box out Mr. Biden.
It didn’t work. The first results of Mr. Biden’s strategy emerged last week, when the United States, Canada, Britain and the European Union jointly announced sanctions on Chinese officials over Xinjiang. China’s condemnation was swift.
“The era when it was possible to make up a story and concoct lies to wantonly meddle in Chinese domestic affairs is past and will not come back,” Mr. Wang said.
China retaliated with sanctions of its own against elected officials and scholars in the European Union and Britain. Similar penalties followed Saturday on Canadians and Americans, including top officials at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government body that held a hearing this month on forced labor in Xinjiang. All affected will be barred from traveling to China or conducting business with Chinese companies or individuals.
Theresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russia Europe Asia Studies in Brussels, said China’s sanctions on Europeans were an overreaction that would drive officialsinto an anti-China camp.
They could also jeopardize China’s investment deal with the European Union, as many of those penalized are members of the European Parliament, whose approval is required. So could new campaigns by Chinese consumers against major Western brands like H & M and Nike.
Until now, many European Union nations have not wanted to explicitly choose sides, eschewing the kind of bipolar ideological divisions seen during the Cold War, in part because of deepening economic ties with China.
With each new twist in relations, however, clearer camps are emerging. “The Chinese mirror all the time,” Ms. Fallon said. “They always accuse people of Cold War thinking because I think that’s really, deep down, how they think.”
Chris Buckley contributed reporting, and Claire Fu contributed research.
The European Union’s stumbling Covid-19 vaccination drive, badly shaken by the recent AstraZeneca safety scare, got a boost Friday from the European Medicines Agency, which approved new AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine production sites.
The agency, an arm of the European Union and Europe’s top drug regulator, approved sites in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. It also loosened regulations for how long the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at ultralow temperatures.
The moves could speed up the Continent’s lagging vaccine production and distribution, which have been plagued by delays and setbacks.
Though the European Union is flush with cash, influence and negotiating heft, only about 10 percent of its citizens have received a first dose, compared with 26 percent in the United States and 44 percent in Britain. The bloc of 27 nations was comparatively slow to negotiate contracts with drugmakers, and regulators were cautious and deliberative in approving some vaccines. And it has been stymied by supply disruptions and shortages.
AstraZeneca vaccine and distribution in several countries was temporarily halted. Most of those countries have resumed using it, after the E.M.A. vouched for its safety, but public confidence in the shot has been severely undermined.
The agency said a new warning label would be added to the vaccine so that people in the medical community could watch for rare complications that could lead to blood clots and brain bleeds.
Trust in the AstraZeneca vaccine is essential to fighting the pandemic worldwide. The shot is more easily stored and less expensive than Pfizer’s or Moderna’s, and for now, it is sold without the goal of earning a profit.
The European Union has exported more vaccine doses than it has administered. On Wednesday, the it revealed emergency legislation that would curb exports of Covid-19 vaccines manufactured in its countries for the next six weeks.
According to a tweet by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the European Union has shipped out 77 million doses since early December, 88 million will have been distributed internally by the end of the week, and 62 million shots have been administered within the member nations.
“I can’t explain to European citizens why we are exporting millions of vaccine doses to countries that are producing vaccines themselves and aren’t sending us anything back,” Ms. von der Leyen, said last week.
Pilgrims have been coming to Switzerland’s Einsiedeln Abbey since shortly after St. Meinrad, the Martyr of Hospitality, retreated to the secluded “Dark Forest” in a valley between Lake Zurich and Lake Lucerne to establish a hermitage around 835.
I visited the abbey in October 2019 at the start of an unusual pilgrimage: to travel in the footsteps of the Swiss tennis player Roger Federer. As Switzerland’s best-known pilgrimage site, it seemed like an auspicious place to start my journey. I had no idea that Mr. Federer had a connection to the place, but when I contacted the abbey to arrange my visit, the monks had a surprise for me. “Did you know our abbot is also named Federer?” asked Marc Dosch, the abbey’s lay representative. I had not. “Yes and he baptized Roger’s children.”
Einsiedeln, with its twin-spired, Baroque-style church and horses and mooing cows dotting the lush, green hills, before being welcomed by Abbot Federer, who greeted me like an old friend. “You know, before Roger became famous, I always used to have to spell my name,” he told me. “But now everyone knows the name Federer.”
Djokovic doesn’t win any more titles. I don’t want him to catch Roger.”
Jakob Schmid Kaspar Wetli, where Jakob ages his Stegeler brand wine in giant oak barrels. After a vegetarian lunch, the village president, Bruno Seelos, stopped by for a chat. Mr. Seelos explained that the village planned to name something after Roger Federer, but they were waiting until he retired. Jakob and Antonia weren’t convinced this was necessary. “It’s like a cult of personality,” she said.
Roger Federer biography and my own research, I identified nearly a dozen tennis clubs around the country that I wanted to visit — many are clubs where Mr. Federer currently trains, others are places where he developed his game as a junior.
I found my opportunity that afternoon at Tennisclub Seeblick, a posh club of well-groomed red clay courts with stunning views over Lake Zurich where Mr. Federer is known to practice. I cornered Alan, a club member who was enjoying a post-tennis coffee in the club’s cafe, and convinced him to hit with me for a few minutes. I was rusty, spraying balls around the court with little idea of where they might land.
The next day, I made my way by train and bus to the venerable Hotel Schweizerhof, a century-old lodge with a Turkish-style hammam nestled in the picturesque village of Lenzerheide, deep in the Swiss Alps in the canton of Graubünden. Roger and his family moved to the neighboring village of Valbella in 2012, and I wanted to understand why he had chosen to live in this out-of-the-way place, instead of one of Switzerland’s more famous winter resorts like Zermatt, Gstaad or St. Moritz.
Tennisclub Felsberg, a club where Roger has trained on several occasions. Mr. Poltera drove us south on a snaking country road past villages perched on green hillsides below jagged peaks that would soon be full of snow toward the village of Lain.
As we got out to look at a remote playground where Mr. Poltera told me Roger Federer likes to take his family, it was easy to understand why he would want to live in such a place. “You see,” Mr. Poltera said, sweeping his right hand toward a snow-capped peak, “here Roger can have peace, he can play with his kids like a normal person.”
Turning north, we ventured into Valbella, a charming little community with a handful of businesses and Alpine-style homes perched across a hillside with views of Lake Heidsee and nearby mountains. I never asked Mr. Poltera to show me Mr. Federer’s house, but he pre-empted any potential request, explaining, “Roger lives here for privacy, that’s why we’re not going to drive by his home.”
Tennisclub Felsberg, a half-hour drive down a zigzagging road from Valbella, is an out-of-the-way place with three courts situated along the Rhine. “We’re playing on Roger’s court,” Mr. Poltera said, pointing to a sign above Court 1 labeled “Roger Platz.” He led me to a small dressing room with a humble shower and sink. “You’ll get dressed and take your shower here, just like Roger does.”
I muffed several of my first shots but quickly found a groove and fell into a blissful tennis trance.
St. Jakobshalle Arena, where Mr. Federer served as a ball boy as a kid.
In between matches, I explored Basel’s charming old town and visited a host of Federer sites, including Villa Wenkenhof, the stately, 17th-century English manor house where Mr. Federer and his wife, Mirka, were married in 2009; the Old Boys Tennis Club, where the tennis star honed his game as a child; and the “Swiss Tennis House” national training center in Biel, where I met Yves Allegro, who was Mr. Federer’s roommate when they trained at the facility in 1997.
Hotel Les Trois Rois overlooking the Rhine, where cheeseburgers at the bar go for $48, and as I walked across the chandelier-heavy lobby, I nearly bumped into one of Mr. Federer’s twin daughters, who were joyfully bounding down a grand staircase with the tennis player’s father, Robert, trailing.
On the morning of the final, I took the tram to Münchenstein, the Basel suburb where Roger spent most of his childhood. Daniel Altermatt, a Münchenstein city councilperson, greeted me on the platform wearing a beret and dark sunglasses. He took me on an extensive tour of the town, starting with the small housing development called Wasserhaus, where Mr. Federer grew up.
His block felt narrow, too cramped for a person of his stature. Around the corner, on a small street with a canopy of trees, Mr. Altermatt explained how someone had tried to unofficially rename the street Roger Federer Allée. “We have a local regulation prohibiting us from naming anything after anyone who is still alive,” he said. “So if we want to name something after Roger, we’d have to kill him first.”
Mr. Altermatt drove me to the arena, where I bumped into Marc Dosch, who was there for the final with Abbot Federer. “I lost the abbot,” he said, and I wondered if perhaps he was giving Mr. Federer a prematch blessing.
Alex de Minaur, a surprise finalist, to capture his record 10th Swiss Indoors title in what seemed like an anticlimactic final until Mr. Federer broke down in tears during his victory speech. He appeared in the pressroom carrying his trophy after the match, and this time he was still in his tennis gear. He had literally won the tournament without breaking a sweat.
I showed Mr. Federer a photo of him hoisting a trophy at age 10, that was given to me by Madeline Bärlocher, one of his first coaches at the Old Boys club, and asked him if the feeling of lifting trophies had changed over the years. “It’s similar,” he said, smiling. “It’s been an incredible journey, it definitely hit me hard being here in Basel. I don’t take these tournament victories as a normal thing, I take it as something quite unique and special even though it’s been a lot by now.”
And what, I asked, had triggered his tears on court. “When I stand there and look back at everything I had to go through, it really touches me,” he said. Mr. Federer said that he tends to break down depending “on the applause of the people, how warm it is, how much they feel that I’m struggling or not and how much love I get.”
As I waited for the tram, it started to rain and I remembered that I had my Roger Federer hat buried in my bag. I hadn’t worn it in more than a week, but now it was time to put my hat back on and return home — a tennis player once again.