sometimes disappeared for months or years in the Venezuelan justice system, and she worried that her partner was about to do the same.

Ms. Rosales’s lawyer, Venus Faddoul, exited the courthouse. No hearing today, she said. And it would probably be weeks before a judge took up the case.

Ms. Escobar collapsed, consumed by anger and anxiety. Soon, she was shaking violently and struggling to breathe.

“We are powerless,” she cried.

internet outrage that Venezuela’s attorney general, Tarek Saab, took to Twitter to clarify that he had issued an arrest warrant for the accused rapist.

The authorities in Mérida soon released Ms. Rosales to await trial under house arrest.

Abortion rights activists last month met for hours with Mr. Rodríguez, the National Assembly president, where they proposed a change to the penal code, among other ideas.

The country’s influential association of Catholic bishops responded with a letter imploring the country to stick with the status quo.

Powerful international organizations, the association said, were trying to legalize abortion “by appealing to fake concepts of modernity, inventing ‘new human rights,’ and justifying policies that go against God’s designs.”

Ms. Rosales remains in legal limbo. Six months after her arrest, she has yet to have her first day in court. The accused person is still free.

“This goes beyond being a negligent state,” she said. “This is a state that is actively working against women.”

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5,000 Flee as Venezuela Launches Largest Military Campaign in Decades

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Venezuela is waging its most concerted military campaign in years, targeting what it says is a criminal group operating within its border near Colombia but also sending an estimated 5,000 of its own civilians fleeing into the neighboring country.

The assault — which began with several days of airstrikes that security experts described as Venezuela’s largest use of firepower in decades — represents a significant departure from the largely hands-off approach it has long employed toward the illicit organizations that flourish along its border.

For years, officials in President Nicolás Maduro’s government have tolerated and sometimes even cooperated with these armed groups, many of them with roots in Colombia, as they moved drugs and other contraband between nations.

Now it has lashed out at one of them, though the reasons remain murky. Mr. Maduro has claimed in recent days that the attack reflects his government’s policy of “zero tolerance toward irregular Colombian armed groups.”

nine people whom the Venezuelan government considers to be guerrillas and two of its own personnel, the defense minister, Vladimir Padrino, said.

Several Colombian rebel groups have operated in Venezuelan territory in recent years, including dissident members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia who have refused to lay down their weapons following a 2016 peace deal.

The Venezuelan assault, centered around La Victoria, a town of about 10,000, has been aimed at a faction of FARC dissidents known as the Tenth Front, according to local residents, leading security experts to suggest they may have broken unwritten rules laid out by the Maduro government or its allies.

Fundaredes attributed to the FARC group.

the country’s attorney general, Tarek Saab, said. But the government has also sought to limit news coverage of the military campaign, according to Fundaredes.

On Wednesday in La Victoria, Venezuelan authorities detained two journalists with the Venezuelan channel NTN24 and two human rights activists with Fundaredes who had been trying to document the crisis. They were kept for a day before being released, according to family members and friends.

Tamara Taraciuk Broner, Americas deputy director at Human Rights Watch, called abuses documented by her organization as “a case study in the atrocities that the regime has been carrying out, and continues to carry out, with impunity.”

She continued: “This should be a wake up call for the International Criminal Court, which has the duty and the power to criminally investigate those who are ultimately responsible for the most heinous international crimes.”

Isayen Herrera in Caracas contributed reporting.

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How the Stimulus Could Power a Rebound in Other Countries

Washington’s robust spending in response to the coronavirus crisis is helping to pull the United States out of its sharpest economic slump in decades, funneling trillions of dollars to Americans’ checking accounts and to businesses.

Now, the rest of the world is expected to benefit, too.

Global forecasters are predicting that the United States and its record-setting stimulus spending could help to haul a weakened Europe and struggling developing countries out of their own economic morass, especially when paired with a rapid vaccine rollout that has poised the U.S. economy for a faster recovery.

As Americans buy more, they should spur trade and investment and invigorate demand for German cars, Australian wine, Mexican auto parts and French fashions.

The anticipated economic rebound in the United States is expected to join China’s recovery, adding impetus to world output. China’s economy is forecast to expand rapidly this year, with the International Monetary Fund predicting 8.1 percent growth. That is good news for countries like Germany, which depends on Chinese demand for cars and machinery.

just begun to push infections higher in the United States — and a large policy response, including more than $5 trillion in debt-fueled pandemic relief spending passed into law over the past 12 months. Those trends, paired with the accelerating spread of effective vaccinations, seem likely to leave the American economy in a stronger position.

“When the U.S. economy is strong, that strength tends to support global activity as well,” Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said at a recent news conference.

A year ago, it was not at all certain that the United States would gain the strength to help lift the global economy.

International Monetary Fund forecast in April 2020 that the U.S. economy might expand by 4.7 percent this year, roughly in line with forecasts for Europe’s growth, following an expected slump of 5.9 percent in 2020. But the actual contraction in the United States was smaller, and in January, the I.M.F. upgraded the outlook for U.S. growth to 5.1 percent this year, while the euro area’s expected growth was marked down to 4.2 percent.

I.M.F. has signaled that the estimates for the country’s growth will be marked up further when it releases fresh forecasts on April 6.

The recent relief package continues a trend: America has been willing to spend to combat the pandemic’s economic fallout from the start.

America’s initial pandemic response spending, amounting to a little less than $3 trillion, was 50 percent larger, as a share of G.D.P., than what the United Kingdom rolled out, and roughly three times as much as in France, Italy or Spain, based on an analysis by Christina D. Romer at the University of California, Berkeley.

Among a set of advanced economies, only New Zealand has borrowed and spent as big a share of its G.D.P. as the United States has, the analysis found.

In Europe, where workers in many countries were shielded from job losses and plunging income by government furlough programs, the slow pace of the European Union’s vaccination campaign will probably hurt the economy, said Ludovic Subran, the chief economist of German insurance giant Allianz.

On Wednesday, France announced its third national lockdown as infected patients fill its hospitals.

Mr. Subran also questioned whether the European Union can distribute stimulus financing fast enough. The money from a 750 billion euro, or $880 billion, relief program agreed to by European governments last July has been slow to reach the businesses and people who need it because of political squabbling, creaky public administration and a court challenge in Germany.

administered only about 1 vaccine dose per 1,000 people, if that, based on New York Times data. In the United States, the rate is more than 400 doses per 1,000 people.

Still, a booming American economy poses some hazard to other nations — and especially emerging markets — as economic fates diverge.

Market-based interest rates in the United States are already climbing, as investors, sensing faster growth and quicker inflation around the corner, decide to sell bonds. That could make financing more expensive around the globe: If investors can earn higher rates on U.S. bonds, they are less likely to invest in foreign debt that offers either lower rates or higher risk.

If the United States lures capital away from the rest of the world, “the rose-colored view that we are helping everyone is very much in doubt,” said Robin Brooks, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance.

trade tensions with Europe, which the Trump administration treated like an adversary. President Biden met online with European leaders last week.

The U.S. stimulus packages “will be part of the water that lifts all boats,” Selina Jackson, senior vice president for global government relations and public policy at consumer products company Procter & Gamble, said during a recent panel discussion organized by the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union. “We are hoping for a calm slide out of this economic situation.”

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting.

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Myanmar’s Bloodshed Reveals a World That Has Changed, and Hasn’t

Government-sponsored massacres became less frequent too. But a wave in the 1990s were mostly in countries that, like Myanmar, had histories of civil war, weak institutions, high poverty rates and politically powerful militaries — Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others.

Though they largely failing to stop those killings as they happened, world leaders and institutions like the United Nations built systems to encourage democracy and avert future atrocities.

Myanmar, a pariah state that had sealed itself off from the world until reopening in 2011, didn’t much benefit from those efforts.

The country also missed out on a global change in how dictatorship works.

A growing number of countries have shifted toward systems where a strongman rises democratically but then consolidates power. These countries still hold elections and call themselves democracies, but heavily restrict freedoms and political rivals. Think Russia, Turkey or Venezuela.

“Repression in the last couple of years has actually gotten worse in dictatorships,” Dr. Frantz said. But large-scale crackdowns are rarer, she added, in part because “today’s dictators are getting savvier in how they oppress.”

Only 20 years ago, 70 percent of protest movements demanding democracy or systemic change succeeded. But that number has since plummeted to a historic low of 30 percent, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth of Harvard University.

Much of the change, Dr. Chenoweth wrote, came through something called “authoritarian learning.”

New-style dictators were wary of calling in the military, which might turn against them. And mass violence would shatter their democratic pretensions. So they developed practices to frustrate or fracture citizen movements: jailing protest leaders, stirring up nationalism, flooding social media with disinformation.

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State Dept. Reverses Trump Policies on Reproductive and Religious Freedoms

WASHINGTON — Women’s access to contraceptives and reproductive care is a global human right that will be monitored by the United States, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken declared on Tuesday, reversing a Trump administration policy that had overlooked discrimination or denials of women seeking sexual health services worldwide.

The announcement was one of several departures Mr. Blinken made from the previous administration’s approach as the State Department issued its annual report on human rights violations, even while he similarly condemned abuses and state-sanctioned oppression from China to Syria to Venezuela that have continued for years.

The report was completed during the Trump administration and, Mr. Blinken said, did not include examples of women who were refused health care and family planning information in nearly 200 countries and territories in 2020. He has directed officials to compile that data and identify violators this year “because women’s rights — including sexual and reproductive rights — are human rights,” Mr. Blinken told reporters at the department.

Mr. Blinken also announced that he had dismantled an advisory committee, set up by Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state at the time, that had prioritized religious liberties and property rights among universal freedoms. Critics of the panel had accused Mr. Pompeo of using it to promote his evangelical Christian beliefs and conservative politics.

had approved the assassination, although the United States has not announced sanctions or other penalties against him.

Prince Mohammed was a key ally to President Donald J. Trump, who had refused to condemn the rising Saudi leader for the death of Mr. Khashoggi, who lived in Virginia. The human rights reports issued by the State Department have also stopped short of directly accusing the crown prince, although Tuesday’s review did note the arrest and abduction by Saudi security forces of the activist Amani al-Zain in May, after she referred to Prince Mohammed as “father of the saw” during a video chat months earlier. Mr. Khashoggi was dismembered by a bone saw when he went to pick up documents in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Although career diplomats took pains to describe the report as a matter-of-fact rundown of human rights around the world, many of its conclusions divided American activists along political lines.

“It’s unfortunate that the many pro-life, pro-religious freedom positions that President Trump had advanced internationally are being rolled back by the Biden administration,” said Travis Weber, a vice president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian organization.

Mr. Pompeo declared Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs — including forced sterilization and internment camps — a genocide, a position Mr. Blinken has retained.

Mr. Blinken called the Chinese abuses in Xinjiang evidence that “the trend lines on human rights continue to move in the wrong direction,” and he cited violence or oppression in Myanmar, Russia, Uganda and the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia as other examples.

All are “indications that the Biden administration is taking seriously its commitment to hold both allies and adversaries to a high standard on human rights,” said Sarah Holewinski, the director of the Human Rights Watch office in Washington.

She called the State Department’s return to monitoring reproductive health access for women and girls “a particularly big deal” after it had been cast aside.

“When women die from preventable pregnancy-related causes, there are likely to exist policies and laws that undervalued their life,” Ms. Holewinski said.

Medical workers and reproductive rights activists had long criticized the Trump administration for refusing to fund health clinics that provide abortions or otherwise support women who needed care. That has led to fewer health providers in some of the world’s neediest places, even for women seeking other kinds of medical attention, just as the coronavirus spread around the globe.

As a matter of international law, Mr. Weber said, “there is no right to abortion.”

Mr. Blinken did not specifically mention abortion in his remarks about protecting women’s access to family planning care. But he also noted the strain that the pandemic had placed on women, racial and ethnic minorities, and others based on their disabilities or sexual orientation.

Erosions of human rights, he said, “are being worsened by Covid-19, which autocratic governments have used as a pretext to target their critics.”

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Fallout From Hedge Fund’s Defaults Spreads Through Markets: Live Updates

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.

Bill Hwang, right, with his lawyer in 2012. Archegos Capital Management manages the personal fortune of the former hedge fund mogul.
Credit…Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg

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:

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, the largest buyer of Boeing’s 737 Max jet, said that it had ordered a total of the planes over the next decade.
Credit…Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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.

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.
Credit…Richard Drew/Associated Press

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.”

Tankers and freight ships near the entrance of the Suez Canal.
Credit…Ahmed Hasan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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 have been 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.

Goldman Sachs’s headquarters in New York. A group of investors is suing the Wall Street bank over claims of fraud. 
Credit…Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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.

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela promoted an unproven remedy for Covid-19 on Facebook, which prompted the company to freeze his page. 
Credit…Manaure Quintero/Reuters

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.

A rally on Friday in support of the Amazon workers outside the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s building in Birmingham, Ala.
Credit…Charity Rachelle for The New York Times

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.

Hansjörg Wyss, the former chief executive of the medical device manufacturer Synthes, said he had agreed to join a bid for Tribune Publishing.
Credit…Ruben Sprich/Reuters

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.

“We are in a hyper-growth industry,” said Dhivya Suryadevara, Stripe’s chief financial officer.
Credit…Richard Drew/Associated Press

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.

Christopher Waller, a member of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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.

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China Buys More Iranian and Venezuelan Oil, in a Test for Biden

China has sharply increased its imports of oil from Iran and Venezuela in a challenge to two Biden administration foreign-policy priorities, according to U.S. officials, undermining key diplomatic leverage Washington needs to restart long-stalled negotiations.

China is expected to import 918,000 barrels a day from Iran in March, which would be the highest volume since a full U.S. oil embargo was imposed against Tehran two years ago, according to commodities-data company Kpler.

That trend is confirmed by other shipping trackers, some of which see those sales at 1 million barrels a day.

“If it sells 1 million barrels a day at current prices, Iran has no incentive to negotiate,” said Sara Vakhshouri, president of Washington-based SVB Energy International and an expert on Iran’s oil industry.

President Biden’s administration has sought to engage with Iran to return to a 2015 nuclear deal that was exited by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump. But Tehran has rebuffed overtures so far.

Abadan oil refinery in southwest Iran in 2019. Iran has helped Venezuela by supplying petroleum products, selling diesel and other critical energy needs in exchange for Venezuelan oil and gold

Photo: essam al-sudani/Reuters

China’s oil purchases from Venezuela, where the U.S. has been trying to use sanctions to pressure the Maduro regime into holding credible democratic elections, also are growing, according to London financial data provider Refinitiv.

Rising oil shipments to China, Iranian and Venezuelan officials said, followed Mr. Biden’s offer of relief to Iran in return for the country’s compliance with an international nuclear agreement and to Venezuela if it organized free elections. Mr. Trump pursued a policy of escalating sanctions pressure against both countries.

China is also increasingly flouting international sanctions on North Korea and is no longer trying to hide some of its smuggling activity as it seeks to help Pyongyang, U.S. officials said recently.

Combined with rising oil prices, the developments have diminished pressure for Tehran and Caracas to negotiate with Washington, these people said.

“The informal Chinese purchases have reduced the need to negotiate on oil sanctions” for Tehran, one Iran-focused U.S. official said.

The State Department, asked about the effects of Chinese imports of Iranian crude on efforts to re-engage Tehran, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, has dismissed the idea that the Biden administration would ease sanctions without action by Tehran to curb violations of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

“If the Iranians are under the impression that absent any movement on their part to resume full compliance with the JCPOA that we will offer favors or unilateral gestures, that’s a misimpression,” Mr. Price told reporters earlier this week.

Since November, Iranian oil traders say they have been approached for new sales by Asian buyers seeking to take advantage of discounted prices because purchasers feel sanctions pressure will ease under the Biden administration.

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Iranian officials and traders have become increasingly adept at evading sanctions, carrying out covert transfers in the Persian Gulf and in South Asia to conceal the origin of their cargo and finding new ways to get paid by using nonbanking platforms such as cryptocurrencies.

On Monday, Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said Iran’s oil exports had increased in recent months, though he didn’t give any details.

“There were certain problems with money transfers. So we had to come up with certain plans, methods for bringing in the oil export revenues, and we recently had a breakthrough,” Mr. Jahangiri was quoted as saying by state-run news agency IRNA.

Kpler analyst Homayoun Falakshahi said ship tracking showed the fastest-growing buyer was state-run China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. , or Sinopec, the country’s largest refiner. After cutting staffing and spending in the past two years, Sinopec is posting new job offers online and talking with the government on doubling its production in the country, according to former Iranian oil officials and an adviser to the company.

Officials from Sinopec and the Chinese embassy in Washington didn’t return requests for comment. Chinese officials have long criticized U.S. policy in Iran and Venezuela, as well as its financial diplomacy, as unilateral and coercive.

A Sinopec gas station in Shanghai in January.

Photo: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg News

Washington still hopes to entice the Islamic Republic with the more substantial relief that would come with the release of billions of dollars in frozen oil money and a return to official crude sales. In exchange, the U.S. wants Iran to comply with the nuclear deal despite repeated breaches and wants to tighten controls on Tehran’s ballistic program and other efforts that weren’t covered under the original nuclear agreement.

Meanwhile, Iran has helped Venezuela by supplying petroleum products, selling diesel and other critical energy needs in exchange for Venezuelan oil and gold. That oil is then sold off in global markets, yielding revenue for Iran and reinforcing Mr. Maduro politically.

For the U.S.-China relationship, already strained by a range of security and economic disputes, Beijing’s crude trade with two of Washington’s top foes adds another major irritant.

“This is a complex relationship and maybe the most consequential relationship for both of our countries, and it has adversarial aspects, it has competitive aspects, and it has cooperative aspects,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this week.

U.S. officials have reminded China that firms helping import oil from Iran risk sanctions and say Beijing could face punishment over its Venezuelan trade. The State Department declined to comment on its communications with China.

“The Maduro regime has adapted to oil sanctions, finding a way around them to deliver oil to China and Russia, and Iran has been helping them,” one senior administration official said. “So we’re going to use our sanction tools to make sure that we’re eliminating those options” for the Maduro government, the official said.

Others, however, say the administration will also be careful to balance such policies with American economic interests. “In some cases, we have not sanctioned [China] because of the impact on our economy. If we hit hard, they could retaliate,” said another U.S. official.

Biden administration officials are meeting Chinese counterparts for the first time this week in Alaska.

Write to Benoit Faucon at benoit.faucon@wsj.com and Ian Talley at ian.talley@wsj.com

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Europe Struggles to Defend Itself Against a Weaponized Dollar

BRUSSELS — The new Biden administration is making nice with the European Union, talking of renewed cooperation and suspending retaliatory tariffs stemming from an old dispute between Airbus and Boeing.

But despite the warm words and efforts at rebuilding trust, the American willingness to punish its European allies and impose sanctions on them in pursuit of foreign-policy goals continues to rankle.

It is an underlying tension, a ready reminder of the asymmetric power of the United States. That is especially so when it comes to what are known as secondary sanctions. While Iran and Russia, for example, may be the primary target of sanctions, the secondary sanctions punish other countries and companies — very often European — that do business with them as well.

Increasingly popular with Congress, secondary sanctions have been deployed to coerce allies to fall into line on any number of issues. In recent years, those have included the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, Iran’s nuclear program and the socialist governments of Venezuela and Cuba. The great fear is that they would some day be used by the United States against China — or even vice versa — leaving Europe squeezed in the middle.

a marked vulnerability for Europe, which depends on open markets. It has prompted serious discussions of how to defend Europe and the euro from Washington’s whims, and it has become a central part of the argument about how to create “strategic autonomy,” so Europe can protect its own interests.

Last month, the European Union announced efforts to strengthen an “anti-coercion instrument’’ against “unfair trading practices.” The main sources of them are China and Europe’s self-professed ally and partner, the United States.

While Europe favors using multilateral institutions on trade disputes, “we cannot afford to stand defenseless in the meantime,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Union’s commissioner for trade. The European Union must be able to defend itself “from those trying to take advantage of our openness,’’ he said.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, has condemned Washington’s use of secondary sanctions against European companies doing “legitimate business.’’

threatening “crushing legal and economic sanctions.’’

Denying access to the American market and the dollar is “an immense source of political power,’’ said Jonathan Hackenbroich of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, who has studied the issue as part of a project with senior German and French officials, who want to reduce European vulnerability.

Almost any company that has business in the United States or uses the American banking system or the dollar is going to try to preserve that relationship and cut off business with the target of the sanctions, he said, even to the point of “overcompliance.”

Mr. Borrell wrote that “we need to develop the international role of the euro, to avoid being forced to break our own laws under the weight of secondary sanctions.”

But few believe that the euro will become a rival to the dollar any time soon, or perhaps ever, given Europe’s slow growth, its internal divisions over how to solidify and strengthen the euro, and the growing power of China and the renminbi.

an estimated $2 billion, while Siemens lost a rail contract worth $1.5 billion and Airbus lost $19 billion.

President Biden has said that he will rejoin the Iran deal, but will not lift sanctions until Iran returns to compliance. Although most diplomats assume that Washington and Tehran will work out some sort of sequencing, European companies remain hesitant.

the debate over how Europe can project its own power and protect itself from larger and more powerful nations, whether allies or competitors, will not go away.

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As Oil Prices Rise, Executives Aim to Keep Them High

HOUSTON — Even as oil and gasoline prices rise, industry executives are resisting their usual impulse to pump more oil out of the ground, which could keep energy prices moving up as the economy recovers.

The oil industry is predictably cyclical: When oil prices climb, producers race to drill — until the world is swimming in petroleum and prices fall. Then, energy companies that overextended themselves tumble into bankruptcy.

That wash-rinse-repeat cycle has played out repeatedly over the last century, three times in the last 14 years alone. But, at least for the moment, oil and gas companies are not following those old stage directions.

An accelerating rollout of vaccines in the United States is expected to turbocharge the American economy this spring and summer, encouraging people to travel, shop and commute. In addition, President Biden’s coronavirus relief package will put more money in the pockets of consumers, especially those who are still out of work.

to less than zero.

That bizarre day seems to have become seared into the memories of oil executives. The industry was forced to idle hundreds of rigs and throttle many wells shut, some for good. Roughly 120,000 American oil and gas workers lost their jobs over the last year or so, and companies are expected to lay off 10,000 workers this year, according to Rystad Energy, a consulting firm.

Yet, even as they are making more money thanks to the higher prices, industry executives pledged at a recent energy conference that they would not expand production significantly. They also promised to pay down debt and hand out more of their profits to shareholders in the form of dividends.

“I think the worst thing that could happen right now is U.S. producers start growing rapidly again,” Ryan Lance, chairman and chief executive of ConocoPhillips, said at the IHS CERAweek conference, an annual gathering that was virtual this year.

several million barrels of oil off the market. OPEC’s 13 members and nine partners are pumping roughly 780,000 barrels of oil a day less than at the beginning of the year even though prices have risen by 30 percent in recent months.

rising concerns about climate change reduce the demand for fossil fuels in favor of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles. Russia has been pressing Saudi Arabia to loosen production caps, while Kazakhstan, Iraq and several other countries are exporting more. Even Iran and Venezuela, which have struggled to sell oil because of U.S. sanctions, are beginning to export more.

attacked American military forces.

Some tensions in the region could ease if the Biden administration and Iranian officials restart negotiations on a new nuclear agreement to replace the one that was negotiated by the Obama administration and abandoned by the Trump administration. Iran would then most likely export more oil.

Of course, U.S. oil executives have little control over those geopolitical matters and say they are doing what they can to avoid another abrupt reversal.

“We’re not betting on higher prices to bail us out,” Michael Wirth, Chevron’s chief executive, told investors on Tuesday.

Chevron said this week that it would spend $14 billion to $16 billion a year on capital projects and exploration through 2025. That is several billion dollars less than the company spent in the years before the pandemic, as the company focuses on producing the lowest-cost barrels.

“So far, these guys are refusing to take the bait,” said Raoul LeBlanc, a vice president at IHS Markit, a research and consulting firm. But he added that the investment decisions of American executives could change if oil prices climb much higher. “It’s far, far too early to say that this discipline will last.”

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This Small Country Is Way Ahead in the Covid-19 Vaccine Race

Chile is advancing a vaccination campaign against Covid-19 that is outpacing not only its Latin American neighbors but much of the world, putting the South American nation on course to become the first developing country to achieve herd immunity.

More than 22% of Chile’s 19 million people have already received at least one dose, a feat topped only by Israel, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, according to Our World in Data, an Oxford University project tracking the global vaccine rollout.

On most days over the past month, 1.1% of Chile’s population—more than 200,000 people daily—have been vaccinated. In the past week, Chile has administered 1.06 doses per 100 inhabitants, on par with Israel, and more than any other country. The government expects to cover 80% of its people by June.

Rodrigo Yáñez, who led the government’s negotiations with pharmaceutical companies, attributes the success to a strategy of casting a wide net and engaging early in negotiations that allowed Chile to seal deals with Pfizer Inc. of the U.S., Sinovac Biotech Ltd. of China, and AstraZeneca PLC of the U.K. The government also funded and hosted Phase 3 clinical trials with several pharmaceutical companies, helping make the vaccines more readily available.

The advances in Chile, which is relatively prosperous with the third-highest per capita income in Latin America, according to the World Bank, contrast with the rest of the region. Latin America has just 8% of the world’s population but has accounted for nearly a third of all Covid-19 deaths. Vaccination efforts rolled out slowly, hampered by limited supplies and corruption scandals that have sparked resignations of public officials and criminal investigations.

About 4% of Brazil’s 210 million people have gotten the first doses, which health officials said helped little as a new, more contagious variant spread, killing record numbers of people. Domestic political crises in Peru and Venezuela delayed vaccine procurement talks. Colombia, a country of 50 million and the last of the region’s major economies to receive vaccines, had administered 360,000 doses as of Tuesday.

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Chile, meanwhile, has 10 million vaccines, with agreements signed to receive more than enough to vaccinate the 15 million that health authorities say is needed to reach herd immunity.

Unlike in several South American countries, Chile faced less political squabbling over the government’s handling of the crisis. And while large percentages of people elsewhere have been reluctant to get vaccinated, in Chile only 10% were hesitant, according to a recent poll by the Santiago-based pollster, Cadem.

Chileans widely approve of how President Sebastián Piñera’s government is handling the pandemic, a poll shows.

Photo: Esteban Felix/Associated Press

Among those recently inoculated was Edith Fuentealba, a 68-year-old homemaker. “I’m the kind of person who gets goosebumps just thinking about a needle,” said Ms. Fuentealba, describing her fear of the vaccine. But Ms. Fuentealba said she went last month to Santiago’s Bicentennial Stadium, one of a host of public spaces converted into vaccination centers, to get her first jab.

She is now preparing to receive her second dose next week. “Now I’m not even worrying,” she said.

Though Chile has logged 21,000 deaths and nearly 900,000 coronavirus cases, the progress with vaccinations have been a bright spot in a country that in late 2019 was upended by mass protests against the conservative government of President Sebastián Piñera.

Covid-19 vaccinations in Chile by age group

One or more doses

Share with two doses

Share with two doses

One or more doses

Share with two doses

One or more doses

Share with two doses

One or more doses

Next month, Chileans will elect the 155 members to an assembly that will draft a new charter to meet widespread demands for more social reforms and worker rights. A recent poll by Cadem shows that Chileans widely approve of the government’s handling of the pandemic and more people are optimistic about the future than pessimistic.

Not everyone, though, is pleased by the government’s performance. “That the government is having success with the vaccines isn’t going to change the malaise, nor the social uproar,” said Matias Jara, a 29-year-old medical resident. Mr. Jara has already received two vaccine doses, for which he credits the country’s primary healthcare network and 60-year history of mass immunizations.

Jaime Mañalich, a physician who had served as Chile’s health minister until June, said the success of the vaccination rollout shows that the Chilean system works and that wholesale changes to the economic model should be avoided.

“The pandemic has given us a chance to reflect and I think we should be trying to preserve the institutions,” Mr. Mañalich said. He said the country benefited from a “big bet” by sealing and paying in advance for pharmaceutical contracts, before any guarantees of a viable vaccine.

“We knew from the get-go that we were going to have to sign things that will have uncomfortable parts,” said Mr. Mañalich, referring to vaccine prices that are “difficult to swallow.” “But we had to reach for all of the tools possible to beat the virus.”

Write to Kejal Vyas at kejal.vyas@wsj.com

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