seasonal dust storms that sweep into the country from Mongolia and northern China.

“Generally speaking, Koreans until recently believed that mask wearing was a sort of ‘Japanese practice,’ not ours,” he said.

In Hong Kong, where 299 people died during the SARS epidemic of 2002-3, the experience of universal masking against that coronavirus helped create a “cultural familiarity” with a practice that was also common during episodes of severe air pollution, Mr. De Kai said.

“It was a big reminder to people that masks are important not only to protect yourself from the pollution but also to avoid infecting those around you,” he said.

In Taiwan, SARS and recent air pollution were the two main factors that prompted people there to develop the habit of mask wearing, said Yeh Ming-Jui, a professor of public health at National Taiwan University in Taipei.

Professor Yeh said he believed mask wearing was not more widespread in the West because people there had no immediate memories of a severe pandemic — at least until now.

“The experience and health practices of past generations have been gradually forgotten,” he said.

Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting from Taipei.

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How ‘Put That on Top Shot!’ Became a New N.B.A. Mantra

Late in the third quarter of a March game between the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans, Rudy Gobert, the Jazz’s 7-foot-1 center, caught a pass and slammed down a dunk as the Pelicans’ Josh Hart leapt to contest the shot.

As the two National Basketball Association players jogged back down the court, television viewers could see Mr. Gobert bark out something to Mr. Hart.

Trash talk? Sort of.

“As I was running back on defense, I told him that would be a nice Top Shot Moment right there,” Mr. Gobert said in an interview. Mr. Hart said he had responded with a four-letter word that was not suitable to be printed.

LeBron James reverse windmill dunk Top Shot, for example, sold for $210,000 in March.

Nearly four dozen N.B.A. players have created Top Shot accounts, from All-Stars like Mr. Gobert to journeymen and rookies. Some have collected just a handful of clips, while others own dozens or hundreds.

The trend is an engaging — if expensive — way for fans and players to celebrate exhilarating basketball plays. It’s also a moneymaker for the N.B.A., which lost about $1.5 billion in revenue last season between the pandemic’s emptying arenas and China’s pausing the broadcasting of basketball games over a geopolitical dispute.

The N.B.A. has long been one of the most innovative leagues in finding ways to make money. It finished its 2019-20 season in a Disney World bubble and squeezed in a condensed All-Star Weekend in March to recoup some lost revenue. But with arenas only now slowly filling, Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, recently told Time magazine that the league would still miss out on 30 percent to 35 percent of revenue this season.

dozens of N.B.A. players blew their millions on risky investments, but the league has pushed in recent years for its young stars to educate themselves financially.

Top Shot is risky, too, because the price of the highlights could plummet at any time if people decide they are no longer interested. One warning sign: Top Shot’s sales last month, $82 million, were down from $208 million in March and $224 million in February, according to CryptoSlam, an NFT tracker. Dapper said that the marketplace was still growing, and that April’s numbers were more normal after a brief NFT boom.

“It’s a marketplace that obviously is purely built on demand and scarcity,” said Darren Heitner, a lawyer and a sports law professor at the University of Florida. Between shifting interests and the ebbing of the pandemic, he said, “there’s a lot of reasons you could see this marketplace drying up and find individuals left holding the bag.”

valued at $2.6 billion in a recent funding round. In April, The Information reported that Dapper was raising another round that would value it at more than $7.5 billion.

streams live on YouTube while opening Top Shot packs.

Of course, it’s still the N.B.A., and the fraternity of Top Shot aficionados engages in plenty of antics and inside jokes.

In the locker room and on team plane rides, Mr. Ross and teammates Cole Anthony and Michael Carter-Williams answer questions from curious coaches and debate which vintage basketball play would make the best Top Shot.

“We’re making jokes, like, in-game,” Mr. Ross said. In a game against the Washington Wizards, for instance, Mr. Ross had an impressive dunk, and Mr. Carter-Williams told him as they ran back down the court that he hoped it would become a Top Shot.

In San Francisco, the Golden State Warriors guard Damion Lee — also a Dapper investor — is trying to start a new tradition: having players swap Moments instead of jerseys after games.

The king of Top Shot, though, is a Sacramento King: the rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton.

Bored one day in February, Mr. Haliburton checked Top Shot and saw the value of a Moment featuring him had grown by $600. He posted about it on Twitter and immediately saw another spike, piquing his interest.

“From there on, I was full go with Top Shot,” said Mr. Haliburton, who owns 163 Moments and has spent months exhorting other players to get involved.

During one postgame interview, he even urged Sacramento journalists to pool their money to buy a $10,000 highlight of his 6-foot-4 teammate Buddy Hield dunking over 7-foot Mitchell Robinson of the New York Knicks.

“There’s only 50 in existence, and you will never see Buddy do that again,” he said. They laughed at the advice; Mr. Haliburton, who makes $3.8 million this season, clearly did not know how little journalists earn, they said.

The next day, the Hield Moment surged to $50,000 in value.

Mr. Haliburton, who also invested in Dapper recently, has persuaded at least four other Kings to join Top Shot, including Harrison Barnes, who was “hooked.”

Mr. Barnes, the secretary-treasurer of the players association, is another veteran with a reputation for financial smarts. He owns 242 Top Shot Moments, the most of any player.

Mr. Haliburton thinks the Top Shot bets will pay off.

“I have a real belief that this is the future of our world,” he said. “I’m just going to keep collecting.”

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Conflict Between Israel and Palestinians Continues to Escalate

JERUSALEM — A new front opened in the military showdown between the Israeli Army and Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday as a wave of mob violence between Jews and Arabs spread across several Israeli cities, leading to riots and attacks in the streets as rockets and missiles streaked across the sky.

Israel said it assassinated 10 senior militants and continued to pound both military and residential areas across the Gaza Strip with airstrikes, while Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, and its allies continued to fire rockets into civilian areas across central and southern Israel.

More than 1,000 rockets had been fired from Gaza by Wednesday night, most of them intercepted by an antimissile defense system, the Israeli military said.

expel several families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, approached — a case that quickly became a stand-in for historic expulsions of Palestinians from their land elsewhere in Israel.

The situation finally boiled over after a police raid on one of Islam’s holiest sites, the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, on Monday, which the police said was in response to stone-throwing by Palestinian demonstrators.

Hamas launched long-range rockets at Jerusalem on Monday evening, prompting Israel to respond with airstrikes. The military conflict also unleashed a wave of protests and rioting in Arab areas across Israel that night.

discriminatory laws, not least a recent law that downgraded the status of the Arabic language and said that only Jews had the right to determine the nature of the Israeli state.

“The way that we are treated is as though we shouldn’t be here,” said Diana Buttu, a Palestinian political analyst from Haifa, a northern city in Israel, and a former legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization. “We are the people who they mistakenly did not ethnically cleanse from this place.”

In the central city of Lod, the government declared a state of emergency early Wednesday after a synagogue, school and several vehicles were burned by Arab rioters on Monday and Tuesday nights.

A Palestinian citizen, Moussa Hassouna, was shot dead by a Jewish resident during the disturbances on Monday night, and another wave of unrest followed his funeral 24 hours later.

The Israeli police said that Arab mobs were pulling Jews from their homes and trying to kill them.

“I feel like it’s 100 years ago, and I’m a defenseless Jew in the pogroms,” said Shabtai Pessin, 27, standing in a burned-out classroom at a religious school in Lod. “What’s our sin? Wanting a Jewish state after 2000 years of exile?”

In the northern city of Acre, a popular Jewish fish restaurant was set on fire, while Arab Bedouins attacked police stations and passing cars in the Negev desert, in southern Israel.

On Wednesday, these riots prompted crowds of Jews to respond.

In the cities of Or Akiva and Beersheva, Jews stoned the cars of people they believed to be Arab. In Tiberias, they threw rocks at hotels housing Arabs, who hurled objects from their windows in return. Cars were set on fire in several towns. And an Arab mob in Haifa ransacked a Jewish-owned hotel.

“It’s happening as we speak,” the hotel’s owner, Evan Fallenberg, said by phone on Wednesday night. “People are saying this is a rupture that we won’t be able to overcome. I don’t believe that — I know my friendships are lasting ones. But it is going to put everything to the test. We’re headed into something extremely difficult and dangerous, and I don’t know where this is going to end or how.”

Reporting was contributed by Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel; Irit Pazner Garshowitz and Myra Noveck from Jerusalem; Iyad Abuhweila from Gaza City; Megan Specia from London; and Annie Karni from Washington.

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Canadian Company Defies Michigan Order to Shut Down Oil Pipeline

OTTAWA — A Canadian company on Wednesday defied an order to shut down an oil and gas pipeline that passes through Michigan, flouting a directive from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a contest of wills that threatens to aggravate U.S.-Canada relations.

Ms. Whitmer in November canceled the pipeline’s legal permission to cross the Straits of Mackinac, the narrow, heavily trafficked waterway that separates Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, and links Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.

She cited “persistent and incurable violations” of the permission, known as an easement, and concerns that potential leaks could pollute a vast area of the Great Lakes and endanger drinking water for millions of people in both countries.

The state had given Enbridge, the company that owns the pipeline, until Wednesday to shut it down. But the pipeline’s future is currently in mediation ordered by a U.S. district court in Michigan, and Mike Fernandez, senior vice president of Enbridge, said that the company, based in Calgary, Alberta, will only stop the flow of oil if ordered by a court.

and other pollutants than most oil production. Michigan’s action and the company’s defiance place Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in the uncomfortable position of defending an oil sands pipeline while making the fight against climate change one of its top priorities.

On Tuesday, Canada joined the legal fray, filing a brief in support of Enbridge, arguing that the state had overstepped its authority. Ottawa backed Enbridge’s claim that only the U.S. federal government can order a shutdown, and that the matter must be negotiated between the two nations.

Canada’s ambassador in Washington, said that Mr. Trudeau had raised the issue with the president and members of the Canadian cabinet had brought it up with their American counterparts. Along with other officials, Ms. Hillman said that she had laid out Canada’s case with Ms. Whitmer as recently as last week and with officials throughout Washington.

Exactly what Canada has to show for that, however, is unclear.

“I don’t really think that’s for me,” Ms. Hillman said. “Their discussions, within their system, are really something you’d have to ask them about.”

The Canadian government’s involvement adds another factor to the mix: a 1977 treaty in which Canada and the United States agreed not to block oil and gas while it is in transit through either country.

“The treaty is a very clear demonstration of the fact that this is an international matter,” Ms. Hillman said.

A spokesman for the White House declined to comment about Line 5 or Michigan’s authority over it.

Environmentalists in the state have long argued the line’s two aging pipes, which sit on the lake bed, could be broken open by a ship’s anchor or a structural failure. Any resulting spill would despoil cherished, economically vital waters.

“We spend time growing up going to the lakes, going to the beach,” said David Holtz, a spokesman for Oil & Water Don’t Mix, a group that wants Line 5 closed. “The governor has really decided that the right decision is to not put the Great Lakes, and our northern Michigan economy and shipping at risk for an oil pipeline that primarily services the Canadian market.”

Several Indigenous groups on both sides of the border and several states have also backed the governor’s move. Her opponents include business groups and some labor unions.

Detroit Free Press.

Ms. Whitmer said in a letter to Enbridge on Tuesday said that the state will attempt to recover all of the company’s future earnings from the continued operation of the pipeline.

Mr. Fernandez said pipeline opponents ignore its economic importance. In addition to delivering crude oil to Michigan and surrounding states, Line 5 provides refineries in Ontario and Quebec, home to about two-thirds of Canadians, with about 45 percent of their crude oil.

“There are protesters that think we can push a button or turn a dial and automatically what’s going to happen is that oil is going to be filled by other sources of energy,” Mr. Fernandez said. “That’s not readily apparent and the infrastructure currently is not in place.”

He added that the 4.5-mile-long underwater section of Line 5 has never leaked in the 68 years since it was built.

blamed avoidable blunders by Enbridge for the spill.

The Conservative opposition in Canada’s Parliament and the conservative government of Alberta have been pressing Mr. Trudeau to get Mr. Biden behind the pipeline. However, Annamie Paul, the leader of Canada’s Green Party, and several environmentalists say that Canada is backing the wrong side in the battle.

“We see no reason to doubt the data she is relying on,” Ms. Paul said of the governor. “It is ill-advised for our prime minister to be spending additional political capital down in the States on stopping the shutdown of a pipeline.”

Exactly how economically disruptive for Canada shutting the pipeline down would be is unclear.

Bob Larocque, the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Fuels Association, a trade group for oil refiners, said that his members’ contingency planning has found other pipelines can handle about 60 percent of the oil that now arrives at Ontario and Quebec refineries through Line 5. The rest, he said, would have to be moved by truck, trains and ships, all more expensive transport modes. Mr. Larcoque said that he had no way to estimate the resulting increase in the price of gasoline and other fuels.

Under Michigan’s previous governor, Rick Snyder, a Republican, Enbridge received state permission to build a tunnel well under the lake bed. It would, according to the company, eliminate any danger to the pipeline from ships and also contain any oil in the case of any leaks.

Canada, Ms. Hillman the ambassador said, hopes that Enbridge can end the dispute by selling its tunnel plan to Ms. Whitmer.

“We’re really supportive of that tunnel project,” she said. “The pipeline’s already operated safely for over 65 years and that the tunnel project will make the pipeline safer, eliminating any risk of spills.”

Mary M. Chapman contributed reporting from Detroit.

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Inflation News: Consumer Prices Jump in April as Investors Worry

Consumer prices jumped at the fastest pace in more than a decade in April, surprising economists and intensifying a debate on Wall Street and in Washington over whether inflation might reach levels that would squeeze households and ultimately undermine the recovery.

Investors and politicians are worried that prices will keep climbing — potentially causing the Federal Reserve to lift interest rates sharply. That could slow economic growth and send stock prices plummeting. But some economists and central bank officials said the jump in the Consumer Price Index reflected pandemic-driven trends that would most likely prove temporary.

Stocks slumped more than 2 percent on Wednesday, their biggest decline since late February.

Hanging over the debate is America’s inflationary experience in the 1960s and 1970s, when big government spending, an oil crisis, a slow-moving Fed and the final end of the gold standard converged to send price gains to double-digit heights. The central bank got things under control only by lifting interest rates to punishing levels, at a grave cost to the housing market and ultimately the job market.

Few analysts expect a return to such huge price gains, in part because the Fed has pledged to act to keep inflation under control. But if officials are prodded to withdraw economic support quickly in order to prevent another “Great Inflation,” it could spur a downturn, as sudden Fed changes have done in the past.

showed that job gains slowed sharply in April, vastly disappointing economists’ expectations.

“We have not made substantial further progress toward our labor market objective,” Mr. Clarida said Wednesday, speaking to business economists on a webcast.

Fed last year redefined its 2 percent inflation target to make it clear that it will aim for periods of slightly faster price gains to make up for months of slow ones.

Fed officials have been clear in recent weeks that as inflation pops, they need to focus on both risks: that it might take off, but also that it might sink back down after a 2021 reopening jump.

“The Fed has a fundamentally different framework. I mean, we cannot apply the playbook of the Fed in the previous recovery to what’s happening now,” said Jean Boivin, head of the BlackRock Investment Institute. “I think each time we get a number that surprises in the upside, we get an extrapolation, too much extrapolation, into a Fed tightening coming sooner.”

Matt Phillips, Jim Tankersley and Ella Koeze contributed reporting.

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A US Envoy is Heading to the Middle East to Urge Calm Between Israel and Palestinians

A senior American diplomat is headed to the Middle East to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders “to urge de-escalation and to bring calm,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Wednesday amid mounting violence.

Speaking at the State Department in Washington, Mr. Blinken repeatedly affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks from Hamas, the Islamist militant group that runs the Gaza Strip.

“There is, first, a very clear and absolute distinction between a terrorist organization, Hamas, that is indiscriminately raining down rockets, in fact, targeting civilians, and Israel’s response, defending itself,” Mr. Blinken said.

But he also said Israel “has an extra burden” to try to prevent civilian deaths, noting that Palestinian children have been killed in Israeli strikes.

Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, to meet with leaders from both sides in coming days. Mr. Amr was expected to depart Washington later Wednesday for the region.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III also offered “ironclad support” for Israel’s right to self-defense during a conversation earlier Wednesday with Israel’s defense chief, Benny Gantz.

A readout of their talk, issued by John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said Mr. Austin had condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas, and urged calm among all parties, but did not mention the matter of casualties among Palestinian civilians.

President Biden took office this year with little interest in pursuing an Israel-Palestinian peace agreement, given the failure by previous presidents from both parties to foster a lasting accord. But the latest outbreak of violence has prompted growing calls from within the Democratic Party for Mr. Biden to play a more active role.

later said he had spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to reinforce his message. “It’s vital now to de-escalate,” Mr. Blinken said on Twitter.

Michael Crowley contributed reporting.

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What if Space Junk and Climate Change Become the Same Problem?

It’s easy to compare the space junk problem to climate change. Human activities leave too many dead satellites and fragments of machinery discarded in Earth orbit. If left unchecked, space junk could pose significant problems for future generations — rendering access to space increasingly difficult, or at worst, impossible.

Yet the two may come to be linked. Our planet’s atmosphere naturally pulls orbiting debris downward and incinerates it in the thicker lower atmosphere, but increasing carbon dioxide levels are lowering the density of the upper atmosphere, which may diminish this effect. A study presented last month at the European Conference on Space Debris says that the problem has been underestimated, and that the amount of space junk in orbit could, in a worst-case scenario, increase 50 times by 2100.

“The numbers took us by surprise,” said Hugh Lewis, a space debris expert from the University of Southampton in England and a co-author on the paper, which will be submitted for peer review in the coming months. “There is genuine cause for alarm.”

Our atmosphere is a useful ally in clearing up space junk. Collisions with its molecules cause drag, pulling objects back into the atmosphere. Below 300 miles above the surface, most objects will naturally decay into the thicker lower atmosphere and burn up in less than 10 years.

rerelease infrared radiation after absorbing it from the sun, which is then trapped by the thick atmosphere as heat. But above 60 miles where the atmosphere is thinner, the opposite is true. “There’s nothing to recapture that energy,” said Matthew Brown, also from the University of Southampton and the paper’s lead author. “So it gets lost into space.”

21 percent of its density because of rising carbon dioxide levels. By 2100, if carbon dioxide levels double their current levels — in line with the worst-case scenario assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — that number could rise to 80 percent.

For space junk, the implications are stark. More than 2,500 objects larger than four inches in size currently orbit at or below an altitude of 250 miles. In the worst-case scenario, increased orbital lifetimes of up to 40 years would mean fewer items are dragged into the lower atmosphere. Objects at this altitude would proliferate by 50 times to about 125,000.

Even in a best-case scenario, where carbon dioxide levels stabilize or even reverse, the amount of space junk would still be expected to double. Mr. Brown thinks a more probable outcome is somewhere in between, perhaps a 10 or 20 times increase.

major factor in atmospheric density changes.

The findings may also pose challenges for regulators and satellite operators, especially SpaceX, Amazon and other companies seeking to build megaconstellations of thousands of satellites to beam internet service down to the ground from low Earth orbit.

Just last month, for example, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved a request from SpaceX to decrease the orbits of nearly 3,000 satellites in its Starlink constellation, reasoning that atmospheric drag would naturally sweep up dead satellites and debris in a reasonable amount of time.

Debris Assessment Software to predict lifetimes of satellites in low Earth orbit. “We do not know at this time if there are any plans to change that program to address the changes in atmospheric composition predicted in the paper,” he said. “The F.C.C. periodically reviews its rules and regulations and updates them consistent with developments in the marketplace and in scientific knowledge.”

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.

Dr. Lewis said that he suspected that some of the modeling, however, relies on outdated data, and that more needed to be done to actively remove satellites and debris from orbit rather than relying on the passive atmospheric effect. “Operators have to make this aspect of the mission a priority,” he said.

Even a moderate increase in lifetimes for large constellations could pose significant problems. “If SpaceX’s spacecraft re-enter passively in 10 or 15 years, would you argue that’s good enough?” Dr. Lewis said. “Given the fact that it’s a large constellation, lots of people would say probably not.”

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Covid Live Updates: Leaders of Biotech Firm That Ruined Vaccines Will Testify to Congress

opened a sprawling inquiry into Emergent’s manufacturing failures, and whether the company used its contacts with the Trump administration to land hundreds of millions of dollars in coronavirus vaccine contracts.

“Emergent’s actions wasted American taxpayer dollars and reduced the number of doses available for global vaccination efforts,” Representative Jim Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and the subcommittee’s chairman, said in a statement to The Times. He said that Congress “is looking for answers and they are long overdue.”

An investigation by The New York Times, published in March before the firm’s vaccine manufacturing troubles were known, examined Emergent’s aggressive lobbying tactics and lucrative relationship with the federal government.

The hearing will put an unwelcome spotlight on the company, which kept a low profile over the past two decades as it cornered the market on sales of anthrax vaccines and other bioterror-related products to the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s emergency medical reserve.

Emergent’s stock performed so well in 2020 that Mr. El-Hibri cashed in shares and options worth over $42 million, corporate filings show. Mr. Kramer, who has boasted to investors that “extensive relationships across multiple agencies within the federal government” helped build the company, took home a $1.2 million cash bonus and $2 million in stock awards.

Credit…Joe Andrucyk/Office of Governor Larry Hogan

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday morning, Mr. Clyburn indicated that the committee was also scrutinizing the executives’ market moves. “They all made millions in stock transactions while they seem to be hiding stuff from the public,” he said.

The Times reported last month that workers at Emergent’s Baltimore plant had accidentally conflated the ingredients of two coronavirus vaccines, one by Johnson & Johnson and the other by AstraZeneca. The error resulted in the loss of up to 15 million Johnson & Johnson doses, and a recent inspection by the Food and Drug Administration said that more doses may have been exposed to contamination.

In a statement on Wednesday, the company said that it had responded to the F.D.A.’s observations with a “comprehensive quality enhancement plan” and had “already started making improvements.”

On a recent call with investors, Mr. Kramer announced a management shake-up and took “full responsibility” for the manufacturing problems, acknowledging that the “loss of a batch for a viral contamination is extremely serious, and we treated it as such.” But he also said that Emergent had taken on a “herculean task” in a crisis.

In letters to the two Emergent executives last month, Mr. Clyburn and Representative Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York and chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, demanded a slew of documents, including any correspondence between the company and Dr. Robert Kadlec, President Trump’s assistant secretary for preparedness and response, who previously consulted for the company. In interviews, Dr. Kadlec has said his consulting work, in 2013 and 2014, was limited and did not affect contracting decisions.

“Emergent has been in the news a lot lately, and that’s frankly not something we’re used to,” Mr. Kramer wrote in a commentary posted on the company’s website last month. “Until a year ago we were a little-known company that does our work behind the scenes.”

The company is trying to burnish its image with television and digital advertising, as part of a campaign it is calling “We Go.” The 30-second ads feature images of white-clad lab technicians and spotlight some of the company’s lesser-known work manufacturing cholera vaccines and medicine used to treat opioid overdoses, as well as its Covid-19 work.

Emergent’s plant in Baltimore is one of two federally designated Centers for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing, funded in part by taxpayers. In June 2020, the federal government awarded Emergent a $628 million contract, largely to reserve space for coronavirus vaccine manufacturing, despite staffing and quality concerns.

After The Biden administration responded to the potential contamination last month by putting Johnson & Johnson in charge of the Baltimore facility and moving out AstraZeneca. Doses made at the plant have not been cleared for use in the United States, and millions of shots made in Baltimore and sent overseas have also been put on hold.

Medical workers tending to a coronavirus patient in an emergency room in New Delhi last week.
Credit…Adnan Abidi/Reuters

A virus variant that has been spreading rapidly in India and designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organization might be more contagious than most versions of the coronavirus, the agency said in a report it published on Tuesday evening.

The W.H.O. emphasized in its report that it wasn’t yet clear how much the variant, known as B.1.617, had contributed to the devastating surge that has crushed India in recent weeks. It cautioned that India, like many countries, is only sequencing a tiny fraction of positive samples, and that with so little surveillance, it’s difficult to make firm conclusions about B.1.617.

The W.H.O. study comes amid growing condemnation of the Indian government’s response to its ferocious virus wave and calls for nationwide restrictions to try to limit the death toll, as hospitals are overrun and crematories burn nonstop.

India recorded more than 360,000 new cases on Wednesday and more than 4,200 deaths, the country’s highest daily death toll since the pandemic began. India has now reported more than 250,000 deaths from the virus, although experts believe that the true toll is far higher.

Experts also caution that it is not yet clear just how much of a factor B.1.617 has played in the explosion of cases in India. They point to a perfect storm of public health blunders, such as permitting enormous political rallies and religious festivals in recent months. It’s possible that the variant is being lifted up by the surge, rather than the other way around.

The W.H.O. speculated that another variant known as B.1.1.7, first identified in Britain and now dominant in the United States, might also be driving the swell in cases.

It’s not yet clear whether B.1.617 causes more severe Covid-19. Anecdotally, doctors in India are reporting higher numbers of young people and children testing positive for the virus and more patients with severe disease requiring oxygen support. But until more genetic sequencing is done, it’s impossible to know if the variant is to blame.

Stacia Wyman, a genomics scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, said that the W.H.O. had made the right decision. She pointed to the fact that the variant had already spread to at least 49 countries. “This appears to be posing the biggest threat right now in terms of transmissibility, with many countries reporting increasing trajectories of the B.1.617 variant,” she said.

B.1.617 is the fourth variant of concern recognized by the W.H.O. The others include B.1.1.7; B.1.351, which swept through South Africa; and P.1, which has devastated Brazil.

B.1.617 first came to light in October 2020. It had a number of mutations, some of which have been proved worrisome in other variants. Preliminary studies on the mutations suggest that some of them might give the coronavirus a tighter grip on cells, increasing their chances of a successful infection.

Other mutations could make it more difficult for antibodies produced by infections with other variants to stick to them. Studies on antibodies produced by vaccinated people also suggest that they work less successfully against B.1.617. Experts expect that most vaccines will remain effective against the variant.

W.H.O. researchers determined that B.1.617 is spreading fast in India, making up over 28 percent of samples from positive tests. The shift suggests that B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than other variants circulating in India, with the possible exception of B.1.1.7. And B.1.617 has been growing rapidly in Britain.

Gagandeep Kang, a pre-eminent Indian virologist, said there was not enough data to conclude whether either variant was contributing to India’s deadlier second wave.

“There is some conflicting data regarding the B.1.1.7 variant, which seems to indicate in some studies that it does cause more severe disease, in other studies not,” said Dr. Kang, the executive director of the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute in India.

Based on reports from hospitals, Dr. Kang said, it appeared that B.1.617 was causing more severe disease but that, again, there was insufficient data to draw conclusions. She said that real-time genetic information would be needed to determine whether B.1.617-infected people needed more oxygen.

Officials in India are trying to track how many fully vaccinated people have fallen ill. If an unusual number of these so-called breakthroughs are caused by a variant such as B.1.617, then that could point to the variant’s ability to evade a vaccine.

Pramod Sawant, chief minister of Goa, India, on the left and wearing personal protective gear, visited Covid-19 patients at a hospital in Panjim, a city in the state, on Tuesday.
Credit…Goa Chief Minister’s Office, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

NEW DELHI — Just a few months ago, the southwestern state of Goa was welcoming tourists from across the rest of India who were drawn to its picture-perfect beaches, an ideal source of relief from coronavirus rules in other regions.

Group celebrations, many without masks, were common. Life appeared to have gone back to normal.

But it did not last.

With India in the grip of a devastating coronavirus outbreak, 26 people died at the state-run Goa Medical College and Hospital on Tuesday morning, possibly because of an oxygen shortage, one official said.

“Due to interrupted supply of oxygen, we feel that between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. many people are dying in G.M.C.,” the health minister for Goa, Vishwajit Rane, told The Times of India. He also called for a High Court inquiry to investigate the cause of the deaths.

Goa reported 75 deaths in total on Tuesday, its highest daily toll of the pandemic, and there were over 32,800 new daily infections in the state, which has a population of about 1.5 million. Officially, India has surpassed 250,000 total reported deaths from Covid.

Contradicting the health minister, Pramod Sawant, Goa’s chief minister, who visited the hospital, said that there was “no scarcity” and that the state had “abundant supplies of oxygen.” Mr. Rane said the chief minister might be “misguided.”

Goa has been reporting one of the highest infection rates in the country for at least a week.

Mr. Rane said in an interview with CNN last week, “Opening up of tourism without any restrictions in December has led to this situation.”

Goa has also created headlines for approving the use of ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug, in the treatment and prevention of Covid-19. The World Health Organization has said that there is not enough evidence to suggest that the drug reduces mortality in coronavirus patients.

On Monday, Mr. Rane announced on Twitter that the state government would make the drug available for everyone over 18 as a prophylactic.

Patients will be treated with ivermectin for a period of five days, Mr. Rane said, adding that the government would make the drug available at hospitals and primary health centers for people to “start the treatment immediately, irrespective of any symptoms.”

The W.H.O. has warned against the use of the drug, except in clinical trials.

“Safety and efficacy are important when using any drug for a new indication,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the W.H.O. chief scientist, in a post about ivermectin on Tuesday.

Marisol Gerardo, 9, is held by her mother as she gets a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine during a clinical trial for children at Duke Health in Durham, N.C., in April.
Credit…Shawn Rocco/Duke Health, via Reuters

On May 4, Dr. Hina Talib, who goes by the handle @teenhealthdoc on Instagram, asked the parents among her 33,000 followers if they were hesitant to get the coronavirus vaccine for their 12- to 15-year-olds, and if so, why. Dr. Talib, a physician in the adolescent medicine division at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York, got 600 messages in response.

More often than not, Dr. Talib said, the parents had already had the Covid-19 vaccine, and would preface their message with: “I’m not an anti-vaxxer or an anti-masker. I’m just worried.”

Although trials have shown no serious safety concerns for children thus far, some recent polls show that only about 30 percent of parents nationwide say they would get their children vaccinated right away. Parents of infants and preschoolers expressed even more anxiety about the vaccine than parents of teenagers.

These parents tend to be concerned about the vaccine affecting puberty and future fertility for their children, and its possible impact on allergies and side effects. Their fears are a key hurdle for U.S. efforts to expand vaccinations to younger teens.

Unloading an oxygen cylinder as a patient lay outside the emergency ward of a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Monday.
Credit…Niranjan Shrestha/Associated Press

As hospitals in Nepal strain to cope with one of the world’s fastest-growing coronavirus outbreaks, relief groups in the Himalayan nation are asking mountain climbers to hand over their used oxygen cylinders so that they can be refilled for Covid-19 patients.

The unusual appeal reflects the strange duality in Nepal: While hundreds of foreign climbers are attempting costly expeditions to the summits of Mount Everest and other peaks, the impoverished nation down below is facing urgent shortages of hospital beds, medical oxygen, coronavirus test kits and other supplies.

Expedition operators are preparing to airlift thousands of cylinders from the Himalayas as expeditions are completed this month, the culmination of the climbing season. Kul Bahadur Gurung, general secretary of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, estimated that tour companies would be able to provide at least 4,000 cylinders by the first week of June.

“We are asking them not to leave even a single oxygen cylinder in the mountains,” Mr. Gurung said.

Climbers attempting to reach the top of Everest, the world’s tallest peak, and other mountains carry oxygen to help them breathe in the thin air. Although Nepal prohibits leaving equipment behind in the mountains, canisters are sometimes left buried in the snow by exhausted climbers or stashed by expedition companies for later use.

Cylinders used in mountaineering are smaller to those typically found in intensive-care wards, but Mahabir Pun, a prominent Nepali scientist who is helping to lead the cylinder drive, said that they could be used by patients who cannot find a hospital bed or who are being treated at home.

“I.C.U. beds are already filled with critical Covid patients, so we want to distribute these portable expedition cylinders with regulators for those patients staying in home isolation,” Mr. Pun said.

Nepal’s outbreak has surged in recent weeks, most likely fueled by the virus’s catastrophic surge in India, with which it shares a long, porous border. On May 1, Nepal reported 26 deaths from the virus. On Tuesday, the official death toll was 225.

Doctors say that a shortage of medical oxygen is a factor in many of the deaths. Many hospitals have stopped admitting new Covid-19 patients, citing a lack of oxygen. Wealthy families are airlifting their loved ones by chartered helicopter to cities where they can find intensive-care beds. Other patients are being treated in makeshift emergency facilities set up in parking lots and other open spaces.

With almost half of Nepal’s coronavirus tests coming back positive, health experts warn that the worst is yet to come.

China has pledged to provide Nepal with 20,000 oxygen cylinders and 100 ventilators, the first batch of which arrived on Tuesday.

Expedition companies are stepping in with smaller donations. Mr. Gurung’s group said that he was sending five dozen cylinders, along with a few more from a local mountaineering museum, to hospitals treating coronavirus patients.

Mingma Sherpa, chairman of Seven Summit Treks, Nepal’s largest expeditions operator, said that he planned to ship as many as 500 cylinders used in expeditions to Everest and other peaks soon after climbers descended to base camps.

“My only condition is that those cylinders should be used for poor and helpless people rather than V.I.P.s,” he said, adding: “It’s our responsibility to help the government during these trying times. We will do it happily.”

Taking temperatures at a vaccination site in Bangkok on Tuesday.
Credit…Lillian Suwanrumpha/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As a resurgent coronavirus threatens countries across Southeast Asia, the health authorities in Thailand are working to contain an outbreak that is ripping through the tight-knit community of gemstone traders in the southeastern reaches of the country near the border with Cambodia.

The town of Chanthaburi — which has a long history as a center of the country’s business in rubies, sapphires and other stones — is at the heart of the outbreak, which has infected at least 166 in the community of traders from Africa who work in the country. At least 103 Thais in the town have also tested positive as a result of the latest outbreak, officials reported.

The cluster of cases comes as Thailand battles its worst outbreak since the pandemic began. For nearly three weeks, the country has averaged about 2,000 new cases a day — more than double its worst peak in January. The largest outbreak has been reported in Bangkok, which is under a partial lockdown.

On Wednesday, the government reported 34 deaths, a record, and 1,983 cases. One of those who died was from Finland.

Thailand was among the most effective countries last year in controlling the virus, but it has been slow to contain outbreaks this year and has lagged behind other countries in procuring vaccines.

Now, with the latest surge in cases, it is scrambling to obtain shots and to develop a mass inoculation program.

Some officials have declared that foreigners will not be vaccinated despite earlier outbreaks among migrant workers from Myanmar and now among the African gemstone traders. Other officials have said that Thailand will inoculate foreigners but have not provided specifics.

Thailand, which has a population of about 70 million, is home to more than two million foreigners who live in the country legally. More than two million more are believed to live in the country illegally.

Over the years, the gem business has attracted traders from several predominantly Muslim countries in Africa, including Gambia, Guinea and Mali. Many of them have settled in Thailand, married Thai wives and import gemstones from Africa.

Sankung Kongeh, a trader from Gambia, said members of the African community gathered daily at their offices and at the market, where they work, talk and eat together. During Ramadan, which began April 12, many also have prayed together, he said.

It is precisely that kind of close social contact that has fueled outbreaks around the world, but Mr. Kongeh discounted the group prayers as a significant risk.

“The possibility of the Covid spread has nothing to do with praying together,” said Mr. Kongeh, who recently tested negative. “It’s during the time hanging out at the office where we have the AC on, the door closed, and we chat with each other, drinking hot tea. There could be 10 or 12 of us sitting together. We don’t talk to each other during prayer.”

“Current institutions, public and private, failed to protect people from a devastating pandemic,” according to new reports delivered to the World Health Organization today. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Minneapolis last November.
Credit…Tim Gruber for The New York Times

The next time the world faces an outbreak of a fast-spreading and deadly new pathogen, governments must act swiftly and be ready to restrict travel or mandate masks even before anyone knows the extent of the threat, according to a pair of new reports delivered to the World Health Organization.

The studies are intended to address missteps over the past year that led to more than 3.25 million deaths, some $10 trillion in economic losses and more than 100 million people pushed into extreme poverty.

“Current institutions, public and private, failed to protect people from a devastating pandemic,” concluded one of the reports, released on Wednesday, which called the Covid-19 pandemic “the 21st century’s Chernobyl moment.”

“Without change,” it said, these institutions “will not prevent a future one.”

The reviews, released in advance of this month’s meeting of the W.H.O.’s governing assembly, were written by appointees who donated countless hours in the midst of their own countries’ pandemic fights to interview hundreds of experts, comb through thousands of documents, gather data and seek counsel from public and private institutions around the world.

Pandemics, the authors concluded, are an existential threat on the order of a chemical or nuclear weapon, and preparing for them must be the responsibility of the highest levels of political leadership rather than only health departments, which are often among the least powerful of government agencies.

Aurora Duran, 86, is hugged by her granddaughter during a visit from her family at a long-term-care nursing community in Fort Stockton, Tex.. in April.
Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Epidemiologists in the United States are starting to hug again, running errands, gathering outdoors with friends and getting haircuts.

In a new informal survey this month by The New York Times, 723 epidemiologists responded to questions about how they were navigating this in-between phase of the pandemic, when vaccines have become widespread and cases are declining but herd immunity is not assured and Covid-19 remains a threat.

More than at any time in the past year, most are feeling hopeful that Covid-19 will eventually become just another risk in daily life, but not one that paralyzes us.

Nevertheless, their advice was to hold on to most precautions just a bit longer.

“There is a strong likelihood that we will experience unexpected problems due to moving about as if the Covid pandemic was no longer a threat,” said Jana Mossey, an epidemiologist who retired from Drexel University.

“It is not ‘one size fits all,’” said Alicia Riley, a sociologist and epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, expressing a version of the profession’s unofficial motto: It depends. “How safe it is depends on the local levels of community transmission.”

Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina signing a bill on April 22 requiring schools to provide in-person classes five days a week starting on April 26, in Columbia, S.C. 
Credit…Jeffrey Collins/Associated Press

Parents in South Carolina will be able to opt their children out of mask requirements in public schools, effectively ending mask mandates for schools throughout the state, according to an executive order signed by the governor that defies Centers for Disease Control and Protection guidance.

The order signed on Tuesday by Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, also prevented South Carolina’s local governments from using previously issued orders or states of emergency to enforce mask mandates and barred the use of “vaccine passports” in the state. South Carolina was one of several states that never had a statewide mask mandate, though several counties and cities imposed their own.

At least one school district said its legal counsel was reviewing the order. Doing away with masks in schools conflicts with C.D.C. guidance, which recommends universal masking combined with at least three feet of social distancing.

“Everybody knows what we need to do to stay safe — including wearing a mask if you’re at risk of exposing others — but we must move past the time of governments dictating when and where South Carolinians are required to wear a mask,” Mr. McMaster said in a statement, noting the availability of vaccines and falling coronavirus cases. “Maintaining the status quo ignores all of the great progress we’ve made.”

Mr. McHenry’s announcement comes as leaders in other states and cities have announced a rollback of restrictions and vaccines have become available to any adult. Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington said on Monday that most of the city’s restrictions, including capacity limits, time restrictions and limits on types of activities would be lifted on May 21. Capacity limits on bars, nightclubs, and large sports and entertainment venues would be lifted June 11.

Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia announced on Tuesday that all restrictions except the mask mandate would be lifted on June 11. The announcement came a week after Governor Tom Wolfe of Pennsylvania said that all restrictions related to gatherings, businesses and restaurants would be lifted on May 31 and that the statewide mask mandate would be lifted when 70 percent of adults in the state had been vaccinated. But the announcement came with the caveat that municipalities and school districts could continue or implement stricter mitigation efforts, despite the state’s easing restrictions.

The governor directed the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Department of Education to develop a standardized form for opting out, the statement said.

Buying protective face masks following a small outbreak of coronavirus disease in Taipei, Taiwan, on Wednesday.
Credit…Ann Wang/Reuters

Growing concerns in Taiwan about a small but worsening coronavirus outbreak drove a sharp intraday plunge in its stock market on Wednesday, as investors worried about new government restrictions on businesses in a place that has largely escaped the pandemic.

On Wednesday morning, Taiwan’s health minister, Chen Shih-chung, said that the island’s new outbreak has reached a “very severe stage” and that restrictions could be upgraded in “the coming days.” He spoke after the government reported 16 new cases of local infection on Wednesday and seven on Tuesday.

The Taiwan Stock Exchange weighted index slumped as much as 8.6 percent intraday following the news, a nearly 13 percent loss from its April peak. The market regained some ground later in the day and finished down 4.1 percent.

Taiwan has been a rare success story in a pandemic-stricken world. The island democracy threw up its borders when the pandemic first began to spread from mainland China and has heavily limited travel. It has recorded only 1,210 total cases, according to a tally by The New York Times.

But the authorities haven’t been able to trace the handful of cases that have popped up in recent days, raising questions about whether the government will limit the number of people who can gather within restaurants or other businesses.

Taiwan instituted some Covid-related restrictions on Tuesday, the first in a long time. It suspended large events, limiting outdoor gatherings to 500 people and indoor gatherings to 100 people. On Wednesday morning, the health minister said that the restrictions might be stiffened within days.

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U.S. Consumer Prices Rise Faster Than Expected: Live Updates

uncomfortably low levels, where they have been mired for much of the past decade.

But Mr. Clarida said after the report that if there are signs that inflation is going to jump in a lasting way, “we would use our tools to bring inflation to our 2 percent longer-run goal.”

Stocks on Wall Street fell for the third-consecutive day on Wednesday as new data on consumer prices added to investors’ concerns that inflation could upend the Federal Reserve’s efforts to bolster the economy.

The S&P 500 fell 0.7 percent in early trading, and government bond yields jumped. This week, the benchmark stock index had dropped close to 2 percent through the close on Tuesday.

The moves came after the Labor Department said the Consumer Price Index climbed 4.2 percent during the month, from a year earlier, the fastest pace of increase since 2008. From March to April, prices increased 0.8 percent. Economists had expected the C.P.I. to rise 3.6 percent over the year, and 0.2 percent from the month before.

For stock investors, the concern is that hotter-than-expected inflation will prompt the Fed to raise interest rates to rein in costs. Higher interest rates discourage risk taking in the markets, and high-flying stocks can be hit hard when concern about inflation dominates.

On Wednesday, technology stocks, which are particularly sensitive to concerns about rising rates, were hit harder. The Nasdaq composite fell more than 1 percent in early trading.

The International Energy Agency said global demand for oil would be slightly less than expected in the second quarter of this year because of the toll of the pandemic in India. Still, it said, its projections for overall growth in the second half of the year were mainly unchanged, “based on expectations that vaccination campaigns continue to expand and the pandemic largely comes under control.”

In the oil markets, Brent crude gained 1.1 percent to $69.30 a barrel, and West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, rose 1.1 percent, to just above $66 a barrel.

Gasoline prices continued to rise as the Colonial Pipeline, a 5,500-mile conduit stretching from Texas to New York, remained closed because of a ransomware attack. The AAA motor club said Wednesday that the national average price had reached $3.008 a gallon, up about 2 cents from Tuesday’s average price and 8 cents from a week ago. A year ago, the average price was $1.854.

Shopping for books in Barcelona last month. Spain’s economy, hit hard during the pandemic, is expected to grow nearly 6 percent this year.
Credit…Pau Barrena/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The economic outlook has brightened considerably across Europe after lockdowns restricted growth at the start of the year. Now, economists can foresee the complete recovery by the end of next year from the early effects of the pandemic.

The British economy grew 2.1 percent in March from the previous month, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. The reopening of schools was one of the biggest reasons for the larger-than-expected jump in economic growth, as well as a rise in retail spending even though many stores remained closed because of lockdowns.

The statistics agency estimated that gross domestic product fell 1.5 percent in the first quarter, slightly less than economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted, while the country was under lockdown with nonessential stores, restaurants and other services such as hairdressers shut.

Though the British economy is still nearly 9 percent smaller than it was at the end of 2019, before the pandemic, the Bank of England forecasts it to return to that size by the end of this year.

The European Commission also upgraded its forecasts for the region on Wednesday. It predicted the European Union economies would grow 4.2 percent this year, up from a forecast of 3.7 percent three months ago. Germany’s economy is forecast to grow 3.4 percent this year and Spain, which suffered Europe’s deepest recession last year, is expected to grow nearly 6 percent.

“The E.U. and euro area economies are expected to rebound strongly as vaccination rates increase and restrictions are eased,” the commission, the executive arm for the European Union, said on Wednesday. The recovery will be driven by household spending, investment, and a rising demand for European exports, it said.

Still, despite the optimistic outlook, the commission warned that the risks were “high and will remain so as long as the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic hangs over the economy.”

Even as millions of people were vaccinated, the number of new coronavirus cases globally reached a peak in late April as the pandemic has struck especially hard in India. The uneven distribution of vaccines around the world and the emergence of new variants has the potential to set back the recovery.

The National Institute Of Economic and Social Research in London said on Monday that it did not expect the British economy to return to its prepandemic size until the end of 2022, predicting a slower recovery than the central bank.

Economists at the institute expect lower global growth because of uncertainty about the global vaccine rollout and lingering doubts about the end of the pandemic inducing more people to hold onto their savings, rather than spend it.

SoftBank reported a net profit of more than $36 billion for the year ending in March.
Credit…Philip Fong/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The comeback continued for SoftBank on Wednesday, as the Japanese technology investment firm posted a net profit of more than $36 billion for the year ending in March.

Yet a recent slide in confidence in technology stocks could make it more difficult for Masayoshi Son, the founder of the technology conglomerate turned investment powerhouse, to keep up the momentum after what seemed like an impossible change of fortune.

Last May, SoftBank was in crisis after posting a loss of more than $12 billion. Its big bets on Wall Street favorites, like WeWork, the troubled office space company, and Uber, resulted in huge losses.

But it was not down for long. Riding high on a post-pandemic stock boom, SoftBank has since notched seemingly unthinkable gains. When compared with its previously released figures, the year-end results implied a profit for the first three months of 2021 alone of more than $17 billion.

In a live-streamed press event Wednesday, Mr. Son opened by showing a photo of the humble town where SoftBank began, before calling the huge earnings numbers “lucky plus lucky plus lucky.”

SoftBank Group’s net income

Mr. Son told investors on Wednesday that he would not deny that he is a gambler. But he said he regretted some decisions. The question now is whether his current run of luck can continue.

SoftBank’s profit, mostly paper gains from increases in investment values, was based heavily on a jump in the price of South Korean e-commerce firm Coupang after it listed earlier this year. Results were also lifted by strong share price rises from other SoftBank investments, DoorDash and Uber.

The share price of all three companies has fallen sharply over the past month on a broader pullback in technology shares, in part related to fears over inflation out of the United States.

Investors appeared more interested in the broader tech sell off than Mr. Son’s luck, as SoftBank’s shares fell more than 3 percent on Wednesday, despite the solid gains.

Margrethe Vestager, an executive vice president at the European Commission, announcing Amazon’s $300 million tax bill in 2017.
Credit…Emmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Amazon on Wednesday won an appeal against European Union efforts to force the company to pay more taxes in the region, illustrating how American tech giants are turning to the courts to beat back tougher oversight.

The General Court of the European Union struck down a 2017 decision by European regulators that ordered Amazon to pay $300 million to Luxembourg, home of the company’s European headquarters and where regulators said the company received unfair tax treatment. The court said regulators did not sufficiently prove that Amazon had violated a law meant to prevent companies from receiving special tax benefits from European governments.

The decision, which comes as European Union and American officials attempt to reach a global tax agreement that could result in higher levies against tech companies, undercuts an effort by Margrethe Vestager, an executive vice president at the European Commission, who issued the Amazon penalty and has led efforts to force big tech firms to pay more in taxes. The companies have been criticized for using complex corporate structures to take advantage of low-tax countries like Luxembourg and Ireland. In 2020, Amazon earned 44 billion euros in Europe, but reported paying no taxes in Luxembourg.

Tech companies are using the courts to fight European regulators trying to rein in the industry’s power. Last year, Apple won an appeal against Ms. Vestager to annul a decision to repay about $14.9 billion in taxes to Ireland, where the company has a European headquarters. That case is now before the European Union’s highest court.

Google has appealed three decisions and billions of dollars in fines issued by the European Commission over anticompetitive business practices related to its search engine, advertising business and Android mobile operating system.

More legal battles may loom, as regulators have issued preliminary charges against Apple and Amazon for violating antitrust laws.

On Wednesday, Amazon cheered the decision by the Luxembourg-based court.

“We welcome the court’s decision, which is in line with our longstanding position that we followed all applicable laws and that Amazon received no special treatment,” Conor Sweeney, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

Ms. Vestager said the European Commission would study the Amazon ruling before deciding whether to appeal.

“All companies should pay their fair share of tax,” Ms. Vestager said in a statement. “Tax advantages given only to selected multinational companies harm fair competition in the E.U.”

A closed gas pump in Falls Church, Va. Gas prices have risen in several states as drivers rush to fill their tanks.
Credit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The operator of the Colonial Pipeline is expected to announce on Wednesday a timetable for resuming service of its vital fuel pipeline, which stretches from Texas to New Jersey and has been shut down since Friday after a ransomware attack.

At best, it would take several days and probably at least through the weekend to return gasoline, diesel and jet fuel shipments to normal. At worst, any delays could further encourage the panic buying that left thousands of outlets out of gasoline in Tennessee, Georgia and several other states in the Southeast, pushing up regional fuel prices.

Over the last few days, Colonial has opened segments of the pipeline manually to relieve some supply pressures in a few states, including Maryland and New Jersey. But anxiety has persisted despite the assertions of industry analysts that the impact of the shutdown would remain relatively minor as long as the artery was fully restored soon.

Gasoline in Georgia and a few other states rose 8 to 10 cents a gallon on Wednesday, a price jump typically seen only when hurricanes interrupt Gulf of Mexico refinery and pipeline operations.

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Thomas Plantenga, Vinted’s chief executive, in 2019. The company, an online marketplace for secondhand clothes, recently raised funding that put its valuation at $4.24 billion.
Credit…Vinted-Investment/via Reuters

The pandemic revealed just how important e-commerce is to the future of the global fashion industry. In a year of lockdowns, millions of shoppers turned online to satisfy their desire for clothes, accelerating a shift toward digital sales and rapid growth for many e-commerce companies.

This week, two leading European names announced their latest funding rounds, as investors look to capitalize on the expansion of the online fashion market.

Lyst, a London-based online fashion platform with 150 million users, said it had raised $85 million ahead of a planned initial public offering. In 2020, the company — which acts as an inventory-free search portal for high-fashion brands and stores to sell to trend-focused online shoppers — said it had seen a 1,100 percent increase in new users on its app. It said the company has a gross merchandise value of more than $500 million.

Appetite for secondhand fashion also boomed in the last year, as more shoppers looked to declutter wardrobes, earn cash by selling old clothes and became more aware of the environmental impact of the industry.

Vinted, which is based in Lithuania, says it is Europe’s largest secondhand fashion marketplace with more than 45 million members globally. On Tuesday, the company said it had raised 250 million euros in a Series F funding round, giving the start-up a valuation of 3.5 billion euros, or $4.24 billion.

“We want to replicate the success we’ve built in our existing European markets in new geographies and will continue investing not only to improve our product, but also to ensure we continue to have a positive impact,” said Vinted’s chief executive, Thomas Plantenga.

The electric Endurance pickup truck made by Lordstown Motors. An investment firm claimed the company had inflated the number of orders for its pickup trucks.
Credit…Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Lordstown Motors is one of a dozen electric vehicle start-ups that have wowed investors with big plans to revolutionize the auto industry.

But in February, a prototype it was testing in Michigan caught fire. Then, in April, another prototype dropped out of a 280-mile off-road race in Baja California after just 40 miles. Lordstown is also being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and its stock has tumbled from a high of about $30 last year to less than $8.

The swift rise and stunning decline of Lordstown are emblematic of the recent mania for E.V. businesses that are far from making a product, let alone selling it, Neal E. Boudette and Matthew Goldstein report for The New York Times. That frenzy has been driven by investors looking for the next Tesla, a pioneer in the industry that has a strong sales lead over other electric-car makers.

But Lordstown seems far from achieving its goal of churning out electric pickup trucks starting in September and becoming a challenger to G.M. and Ford Motor.

It’s not alone. Shares of Nikola, which is developing heavy trucks, have fallen from around $65 to about $11, for example. The S.E.C. is looking into allegations by an investment firm that Nikola made false statements about its technology.

Buying protective face masks following a small outbreak of coronavirus disease in Taipei, Taiwan, on Wednesday.
Credit…Ann Wang/Reuters

Growing concerns in Taiwan about a small but worsening coronavirus outbreak drove a sharp intraday plunge in its stock market on Wednesday, as investors worried about new government restrictions on businesses in a place that has largely escaped the pandemic.

On Wednesday morning, Taiwan’s health minister, Chen Shih-chung, said that the island’s new outbreak has reached a “very severe stage” and that restrictions could be upgraded in “the coming days.” He spoke after the government reported 16 new cases of local infection on Wednesday and seven on Tuesday.

The Taiwan Stock Exchange weighted index slumped as much as 8.6 percent intraday following the news, a nearly 13 percent loss from its April peak. The market regained some ground later in the day and finished down 4.1 percent.

Taiwan has been a rare success story in a pandemic-stricken world. The island democracy threw up its borders when the pandemic first began to spread from mainland China and has heavily limited travel. It has recorded only 1,210 total cases, according to a tally by The New York Times.

But the authorities haven’t been able to trace the handful of cases that have popped up in recent days, raising questions about whether the government will limit the number of people who can gather within restaurants or other businesses.

Taiwan instituted some Covid-related restrictions on Tuesday, the first in a long time. It suspended large events, limiting outdoor gatherings to 500 people and indoor gatherings to 100 people. On Wednesday morning, the health minister said that the restrictions might be stiffened within days.

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Consumer Prices Rose in April as Investors Worried About Inflation

Consumer prices are expected to jump sharply in April data that will be released on Wednesday, a move resulting mainly from a technical quirk — but one that investors will be watching carefully as they try to determine if inflation could alter Federal Reserve policy.

The Consumer Price Index probably climbed by 3.6 percent in the year through April, economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect. The increase in prices from March to April is expected to be more muted, at 0.2 percent. The Labor Department will release the figures at 8:30 a.m.

The annual jump would be the fastest increase since 2011, and a sign that prices are shooting higher as inflation figures lap extremely weak readings from 2020 and, to a lesser extent, as supply chain disruptions begin to bite and demand climbs.

Central bankers think the jump in prices will be short-lived, and have made it clear that they plan to look past a temporary increase when setting policy. The technical quirks at work in April will last only a few months, officials point out, and while it is less clear when shortages will be resolved, they are expected to eventually work their way through the system as businesses ramp up production to meet demand.

uncomfortably low levels, where they have been mired for much of the past decade.

said during a speech on Tuesday that “remaining patient through the transitory surge associated with reopening will help ensure” the economic momentum to “reach our goals.”

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