PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Children on their way to school, street vendors selling their wares, priests mid-sermon — few Haitians, rich or poor, are safe from the gangs of kidnappers that stalk their country with near impunity. But the abduction this weekend of 17 people associated with an American missionary group as they visited an orphanage shocked officials for its brazenness.
On Sunday, the hostages, five of them children, remained in captivity, their whereabouts and identities unknown to the public. Adding to the mystery was a wall of silence from officials in Haiti and the United States about what, if anything, was being done to secure their release.
“We are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and authorities are seeking ways to help,” the missionary group, Christian Aid Ministries, an Ohio-based group founded by Amish and Mennonites that has a long history of working in the Caribbean, said in a statement.
The authorities identified the gang behind the kidnappings as 400 Mawozo, an outfit infamous for taking abductions to a new level in a country reduced to near lawlessness by natural disaster, corruption and political assassination. Not content to grab individual victims and demand ransom from their family members, the gang has taken to snatching people en masse as they ride buses or walk the streets in groups whose numbers might once have kept them safe.
President Jovenel Moïse. Violence is surging across the capital, where by some estimates, gangs now control roughly half of the city. On a single day last week, gangs shot at a school bus in Port-au-Prince, injuring at least five people, including students, while another group hijacked a public bus.
According to the Center for Analysis and Research for Human Rights, which is based in Port-au-Prince, this year alone, from January to September, there were 628 people reported kidnapped, including 29 foreigners.
“The motive behind the surge in kidnappings for us is a financial one,” said Gèdèon Jean, executive director of the center. “The gangs need money to buy ammunition, to get weapons, to be able to function.”
That means the missionaries are likely to emerge alive, he said
“They are going to be freed — that’s for sure,” Mr. Jean said. “We don’t know in how many days, but they’re going to negotiate.”
abducted 10 people in Croix-des-Bouquets, including seven Catholic clergy members, five of them Haitian and two French. The group was eventually released in late April. The kidnappers demanded a $1 million ransom, but it is unclear if it was paid.
Haitians have been driven to despair by the violence, which prevents them from making a living and keeps their children from attending school. In recent days, some started a petition to protest gang violence, singling out the 400 Mawozo gang and calling on the police to take action. But the police, underfunded and lacking political support, have been able to do little.
Transportation workers called a strike for Monday and Tuesday in Port-au-Prince to protest insecurity — an action that may turn into a more general strike, with word spreading across sectors for workers to stay home to denounce violence that has reached “a new level in the horror.”
“Heavily armed bandits are no longer satisfied with current abuses, racketeering, threats and kidnappings for ransom,” the petition says. “Now, criminals break into village homes at night, attack families and rape women.”
Christian Aid Ministries’ compound in Haiti overlooks the bay of Port-au-Prince, in a suburb called Titanyen.
On a visit there Sunday, three large delivery trucks could be seen on the sprawling grounds surrounded by two fences reinforced with concertina wire. Chickens, goats and turkeys could be seen near small American-style homes with white porches and mailboxes, and laundry hung out to dry.
There was also a guard dog and a sign in Creole that forbid entry without authorization.
Because the area is so poor, at night the compound is the only building illuminated by electric lights, neighbors said. Everything else around it is plunged in darkness.
The Mennonites, neighbors said, were gracious, and tried to spread out the work they had — building a new stone wall around the compound, for instance — so everyone could earn a little and feed their families. They would give workers food and water and joke with them. And Haitians would often come in for Bible classes.
Usually, children could be seen playing. There are swings, a slide, a basketball court, and a volleyball court. It was very unusual, neighbors said, to see it so quiet. Sundays, especially, it is bustling.
But not this Sunday.
Andre Paultre, Oscar Lopez, Ruth Graham, Patricia Mazzei and Lara Jakes contributed reporting.
The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona had the Dream Team. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing had the Michael Phelps medal sweep. The Tokyo Olympics has a pandemic.
That has been the greatest challenge for NBCUniversal, the company that paid more than $1 billion to run 7,000 hours of games coverage across two broadcast networks, six cable channels and a fledgling streaming platform, Peacock.
The ratings have been a disappointment, averaging 16.8 million viewers a night through Tuesday, a steep drop from the 29 million who tuned in through the same day of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. NBCUniversal has offered to make up for the smaller than expected television audience by offering free ads to some companies that bought commercial time during the games, according to four people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss negotiations.
opening ceremony set a downbeat tone. Instead of the usual pageant of athletes smiling and waving to the crowd, there was a procession of participants walking through a mostly empty Tokyo Olympic Stadium, all wearing masks to protect themselves against the spread of Covid-19 as a new variant raged. The live morning broadcast and prime-time replay drew the lowest ratings for an opening ceremony in 33 years, with just under 17 million viewers. The high came Sunday, July 25, when a little more than 20 million people tuned in.
24 years as NBC’s prime-time Olympics host before leaving the network in 2017. “You can’t create something out of thin air. Everybody knows that this is, we hope, a one-of-a-kind Olympics.”
“It’s like if somebody is running the 100 meters and they have a weight around their ankles,” Mr. Costas continued. “That is not a fair judge of their speed.”
A widespread change in viewing habits, from traditional TV to streaming platforms, has been a big factor in the number of people watching. While NBC’s prime-time audience has shrunk considerably from what it was for the Rio games five years ago, the Olympics broadcasts are still bringing in significantly more viewers than even the most popular entertainment shows. The most recent episode of CBS’s “Big Brother,” a ratings leader, drew an audience of less than four million.
“We had a little bit of bad luck — there was a drumbeat of negativity,” said Jeff Shell, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, during a conference call last week, after NBC’s parent company, Comcast, reported its second-quarter earnings. The less-than-festive atmosphere, he added, “has resulted a little bit in linear ratings being probably less than we expected.”
a television critic for Vulture. “But more than anything, watching this year has shown the wounds that we’re dealing with.”
Ms. Chaney noted NBC’s interview with the American swimmer Caeleb Dressel right after he won gold in a glamour event, the men’s 100-meter freestyle. Moved to tears, Mr. Dressel said, “It was a really tough year. It was really hard.”
The 13-hour time-zone difference between Tokyo and the East Coast may have also figured in the drop in prime-time viewers. Many people in the United States have been waking up to phone alerts trumpeting the medal winners who will be featured in that night’s broadcast.
all-around win — seemed to gain traction not so much on TV but in snippets shared on social media. That trend has been apparent in the number of followers for NBCUniversal’s Olympics channel on TikTok, which have shot up 348 percent since the opening ceremony.
Those who decide to watch must choose from a jumble of channels and digital options. In addition to NBC, the coverage is spread across NBC Sports Network, CNBC, USA Network, the Olympic Channel, the Golf Channel, the Spanish-language channels Universo and Telemundo, not to mention NBCOlympics.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.
There are so many choices that NBC’s “Today” show brought in Steve Kornacki, the political correspondent best known for elucidating election results, to break it all down. “If you’re a badminton fan, you’re going to be looking for NBCSN,” he told viewers. “If you’re an archery fan, USA Network. There’s all sorts of different possibilities!”
Jim Bell, who stepped away from Tokyo planning in 2018 when the company placed him in charge of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” He left that program and NBC a year later.
Ms. Solomon said she has been waking up at 4:30 a.m. in Tokyo and relying on double-shot lattes to get her through workdays that may go till 11 p.m. She does not share the opinion of some critics of the coverage.
“Every day, new stars arise, and new stories come to the fore,” she said. “So, personally, I don’t want it to end.”
In the view of Mr. Costas, who guided viewers through NBC’s Olympics coverage from 1992 through 2016, any comparison of the Tokyo games with previous competitions is not fair, given the pall cast by the pandemic. And three years from now, if all goes according to plan, NBCUniversal will get what amounts to a do-over in Paris.
“Paris 2024 will be, we hope, fingers crossed, much more like a classic Olympics situation,” he said. “That will be a more legitimate test.”
TOKYO — Kurumi Mochizuki is the kind of skilled soccer player who can roll a ball from between her shoulder blades to the top of her head and onto her right foot, keeping it aloft for more than a dozen kicks. She makes it look so easy.
Yet when she practices with her local club team in southeastern Tokyo, her coaches sometimes advise her to take longer breaks than her teammates, and warn her not to pick up heavy bags of balls when clearing equipment from the field.
All because she is a girl.
Kurumi, 13, is the only girl on her team. She plays with boys because there are no girls’ club teams near her neighborhood andno girls’ team at her middle school. Finding a team in high school will be difficult, too. Only one of the 14 schools in Kurumi’s area offers a girls’ team. Her older brother, who plays soccer at his high school, has had no such trouble — almost all the high schools in the district have boys’ soccer teams.
Tokyo Olympics, which open next month, offer an opportunity to anoint another crop of champions to inspire girls with athletic aspirations. But after the Olympic spotlight dims, those like Kurumi will still face powerful obstacles.
Japan has no law like Title IX, the American statute that requires schools receiving public funding to offer equal opportunities to boys and girls, and there is no public data on how much schools spend on extracurricular sports or how it breaks down on gender lines.
Female athletes who persevere often have to push past stereotypes that they are doing something unladylike, jeopardizing their chances of attracting boys and later becoming wives and mothers. Even their coaches view their participation through this lens, in some cases giving them etiquette lessons to ensure they are ready for domestic life.
2011 Women’s World Cup and claimed the silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012.
She followed her brother into soccer when she was 6. “When I was little, I never thought about it,” she said of being the sole girl on her team. “But once I got a bit older, I was much more aware of it.”
The extracurricular soccer team at her public middle school is technically coed, although not one of the team’s 40 players is a girl. Kurumi decided to stick to the club team she had played with since elementary school rather than try to break into a new group at school.
“There is a difference in strength and aggressiveness between boys and girls,” said Shigeki Komatsu, the middle school’s vice principal, standing on the sidelines as the boys scrimmaged on a gravel pitch, their cleats kicking up puffs of dust.
hopes that the situation would improve for female athletes in Japan.
Before that victory, girls in the United States had flocked to suburban soccer clubs after the U.S. women won the World Cup on American soil in 1999.
Koshien, that is more than 100 years old. Just after New Year’s, huge audiences tune in to watch the Hakone Ekiden, a college-level marathon relay that is restricted to male runners.
There are few vocal advocates for female athletes, and most of their coaches are men who often do not provide support for the physical changes that girls undergo in adolescence.
Hanae Ito, a swimmer who represented Japan at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, said coaches along the way had told her she was “mentally weak” when she gained weight or suffered menstruation-related mood changes as a teenage athlete.
“I thought it was a problem with me or that it was my fault,” she said. “But I think that this all ties back to Japan being a patriarchal society. Even women’s sports is seen from a male gaze.”
The idea that female athletes need to worry about their future prospects with men is deeply rooted.
After Hideko Maehata, an Olympic swimmer, became the first woman to win a gold medal for Japan, The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers, heralded her victory at the 1936 Berlin Summer Games with the headline: “Next Up Is Marriage.”
Such attitudes persist today. Yuki Suzuki, who played in Japan’s Nadeshiko women’s professional soccer league and taught the sport until she gave birth to her son, is frustrated by the rigid gender definitions.
“Girls are often told ‘be feminine, be feminine,’” said Ms. Suzuki, now 34. “I think we have to change the fundamental culture of Japan when it comes to women.”
Even when girls get the chance to play, a bias toward boys emerges in small ways. At the middle school Kurumi attends, the boys’ volleyball and basketball teams get the gym three days a week for practice, while the girls use it the other two days.
Kurumi said she tried not to worry about the unequal treatment. She does not hold it against her coaches, she said, for barring her from carrying heavy equipment during practice.
“I am sure the coaches just care about me,” she said. “But personally, I know I could carry it.”
Eduardo Torres, 53, was up early in Chicago on Thursday morning when he heard the news on the television: Younger adolescents, including his 14-year-old daughter, Raquel, were now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine.
“I told my wife, ‘I’ve got to take her to get vaccinated — immediately,’” he said.
The world’s first mass coronavirus inoculation campaign for children kicked off in earnest in the United States on Thursday after the federal government recommended making the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available to those aged 12 to 15. Vaccinations of adolescents had already begun this week in a few states, like Maine.
By 9:30 a.m., Raquel was among the first wave of children in her age group to be vaccinated at a site near Wrigley Field and was excitedly listing the things she could do once she is fully vaccinated. Go to her high school in person again. See her friends without worrying. Return to playing volleyball and bowling.
“It’s just a beautiful thing that this is available,” Mr. Torres said.
The start of shots for younger people marks a pivotal phase of the race to vaccinate as many Americans as possible, opening up the vaccine to millions of adolescents far earlier than many experts had predicted. There are about 17 million children between the ages of 12 and 15 in the United States, representing about 5 percent of the population. The changes — which mean that people ages 12 and up are now eligible — also opened the possibility that many more children may soon return to a semblance of normalcy, attending camps this summer and returning to in-person school by fall.
mental health emergencies among children during the pandemic.
“This is your ticket out of that problem,” he said.
Still, many parents remain hesitant to put their children on the frontline of a vaccine that they view as experimental. And unlike in previous phases of the vaccine rollout, there were few reports of crowds and long lines during the first hours of eligibility on Thursday, when many children were in school.
In New York City, Julian Boyce, 14, was among a scattering of teenagers who showed up to be vaccinated first thing Thursday morning at Harlem Hospital Center. His family has known as many as 20 people who have died of Covid-19, his father said, and Julian has spent much of the last year indoors, keeping up with school work and playing video games.
Julian, an eighth grader at The Cathedral School, asked a nurse to administer his shot in his left arm, so any soreness wouldn’t affect his writing. Then he turned his attention to his cell phone.
“I just got my vaccine,” he texted his friends.
Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged parents to have their children vaccinated to protect their families. “Parents, let’s get our zoomers off of Zoom and back to life as normal,” he said Thursday morning.
TOKYO — Spectators from overseas will not be allowed to attend the Summer Olympics in Japan, organizers said on Saturday, making a major concession to the realities of Covid-19 even as they forged ahead with plans to hold the world’s largest sporting event.
The Tokyo Games, which begin in July, were originally scheduled for 2020 but were delayed by a year because of the pandemic. The Tokyo organizing committee has been scrambling to develop safety protocols to protect both participants and local residents from the virus. Concern has been running high in Japan, with big majorities saying in polls that the Games should not be held this summer.
The decision, which the Tokyo organizers made jointly with the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the national and local governments in Japan, had been foreshadowed in the Japanese media for weeks.
Thomas Bach, the president of the I.O.C., has encouraged national organizing committees to secure vaccines for athletes, and he announced this month that China had offered to provide vaccinations for participants who required one ahead of the Games.
vaccine rollout has been relatively slow, the population will not be close to fully vaccinated by the time the Games start.
The organizing committees will now have the enormous headache of arranging refunds for ticket buyers. In bidding for the Games, the Tokyo organizers said that 7.8 million tickets would be made available. Typically, about 10 to 20 percent of Olympic tickets go to international spectators.
Japanese fans could take up some of the slack. Local demand for tickets far outstripped the supply, at least before the pandemic.
The coronavirus has had a comparatively muted effect on Japan, which has had far fewer cases and deaths than the United States and Western Europe. The country has reported just over 8,700 Covid-19 deaths since the pandemic began.
Japan declared a widespread state of emergency in early January after a rise in infections. Since then, most areas have lifted the declaration. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced this week that it would be ended in Tokyo.
a superfan who has attended 15 Olympics, bought about $8,600 in tickets for the Tokyo Games for himself and his nephew.
They were looking forward to seeing beach volleyball, archery, fencing, diving and a men’s basketball game and had tickets for the closing ceremony. According to terms from CoSport, the broker that handled ticket sales for U.S.-based fans, customers will not be repaid for some fees — which Mr. Brown said could cost him about $1,200 — and refunds could take time.
“Since we are being barred, it is only right for them to make everyone whole and refund all of the money paid,” Mr. Brown said before the official announcement was made. What’s more, he said, after waiting a whole year, he wanted his refund quickly. “It would be real painful watching this at home on TV and knowing they have the money, and not knowing when you’re going to get it back.”
SAINT-AMBROISE, Quebec — In a retirement community north of Quebec City, 30-foot plastic palm trees overlook Miami, Orlando and Cocoa Avenues, cookie-cutter streets where residents glide by some days on snowshoes.
The pool area — complete with straw-covered umbrellas, a candy-colored inflatable children’s slide and a nearby tiki bar — evokes countless oceanside condos in Florida. Except for the snow, and temperatures that dipped this month to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Domaine de la Florida, a Canadian make-believe Miami, whose 520 residents are so in love with the Sunshine State that they have recreated it here. In the summer, golf carts whisk silver-haired retirees to games of beach volleyball, shuffleboard and Bingo. In the winter, as many as half of them fire up their R.V.’s or hop into their cars or a plane, and head south for the real deal.
Le Soleil de la Floride, as well as a local ecosystem of Francophone real estate agents, accountants and dentists.
Even the unofficial Queen of Quebec, the singer Celine Dion, kept a 13-bedroom beachfront estate in Florida, with a private water park, before selling it in 2017 for a reported $28 million.
Before the pandemic, an estimated one million Canadian residents spent their winters in the United States; at least 500,000 of them were Quebec snowbirds who traveled to Florida, according to the Canadian Snowbird Association, a group that advises snowbirds on matters like insurance.
half a dozen restaurants offering poutine, the zipper-bursting Quebecois delicacy of French fries, cheese curds and gravy.
But this year, the closure of the land border with the United States and fears of catching the virus deterred many of Quebec’s snowbirds from the annual pilgrimage. Florida has had more than 1.96 million cases of Covid-19 compared with 922,848 in all of Canada.
And while it is still possible to take quick flights from Montreal to Miami — a more expensive option than driving — some residents of Domaine de la Florida said they were repelled by rules requiring them to quarantine for 14 days after flying home to Canada. That would include spending three days in a designated hotel at a cost of about $2,000 Canadian dollars, or about $1,600.
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. The region is proud and picturesque, surrounded by mountains and famed for its aluminum and forest industries.
Mr. Bouchard, who owns an RV dealership across the street, said about half of the Domaine’s residents were snowbirds.
His faux Florida took root about a decade ago when he noticed how many Quebecers spent their winters in Miami. To reproduce Florida’s tropical sensibility, he said he “planted” dozens of plastic palm trees each year — imported from China. The largest cost about 5,000 Canadian dollars, or about $4,000, each.
Florida. Part of the appeal was the possibility of getting vaccinated against the coronavirus at a time when Canada’s vaccination rate has been lagging other countries, including that of the United States.
Perhaps predictably, there was a backlash against Canadian vaccine tourists on social media.
Century Village East, a condominium complex in Deerfield Beach where about half of the more than 8,000 condominiums are owned by Canadian snowbirds. Mr. Roboz, who has a lung ailment, said that after arriving in Florida in January, he had been vaccinated within 48 hours.
“This is my life we are talking about,” he said, explaining his rationale for traveling. He said vaccinating Canadian residents in Florida, big contributors to the local economy, was a public health imperative.
Real Vachon, 60, a resident of Domaine de la Florida, recently traveled to Fort Lauderdale to join his wife, Linda, and their French bulldog, Daisy. He said getting vaccinated had been a draw, along with the opportunity to pass the days lolling at their Florida home’s outdoor spa, surrounded by real palm trees, sans frostbite.
He and his wife are planning to depart Florida by the end of April for home. That should be just in time to see the plastic palm trees “bloom.”
ROME — When the Italian volleyball player Lara Lugli got pregnant, she knew she would lose her job.
But when her club refused a request for some pay she claimed was owed to her, she brought a lawsuit. The club responded by accusing her of causing financial damage and ruining her team’s season, and she decided to speak out.
She denounced her treatment on Facebook on Sunday, triggering outrage across Italy and a national conversation that was a long time coming. Her case was a call to action in a country where many paid female athletes have lacked legal protections against discrimination for decades, and where all too often women must still choose between motherhood or jobs.
“Comparing a pregnancy to bad behavior is simply so low,” said Ms. Lugli, now 41. “This is not something just about me.”
Her case reflects a broader gender inequality in Italian sports, entrenched in deeply rooted stereotypes in a country that ranks 76th in the world in terms of gender gap, according to the World Economic Forum.
Facebook Wednesday that the fact women must choose between motherhood and work “forces them into inequality,” and is a situation that Italian women can no longer tolerate.
the United States and Norway — maternity clauses would most likely be impossible to impose, Ms. Tortorella said.
promised to not financially penalize its sponsored athletes who become pregnant, after its handling of the issue had been criticized. A few months ago, FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, made it mandatory to guarantee maternity leave for at least 14 weeks for professional women soccer players.
But because of the lack of public attention, political interest and funding for women’s volleyball, offering professional contracts would be a fatal blow to the clubs’ finances, the president of the Women Volleyball League has said.
a recent study. Overall, 72 percent of athletes in Italy are men, while only 28 percent are women, according to the Italian National Olympic committee.
“It is a partly a cultural problem, and that is clear,” said Luisa Rizzitelli, the president of Assist, the national association of women athletes. But it also reflects a lack of political will to invert the trend.
“Women in sports need to be allowed to have protections if they become mothers,” she added. “In 2021, this simply is no longer acceptable.”