GUARERO, Venezuela — They bring drinking water to residents in the arid scrublands, teach farming workshops and offer medical checkups. They mediate land disputes, fine cattle rustlers, settle divorces, investigate crimes and punish thieves.
They’re not police officers, civil servants or members of the Venezuela government, which has all but disappeared from this impoverished part of the country.
Quite the opposite: They belong to one of Latin America’s most notorious rebel groups, considered terrorists by the United States and the European Union for carrying out bombings and kidnappings over decades of violence.
Venezuela’s economic collapse has so thoroughly gutted the country that insurgents have embedded themselves across large stretches of its territory, seizing upon the nation’s undoing to establish mini-states of their own.
brutal armed groups known as syndicates that dominate illegal mining manage the supply of electricity and fuel, while also providing medical equipment to clinics in the towns they control.
Along Venezuela’s 1,400-mile border with Colombia, the ELN and other insurgents hold sway. Just a decade ago, the town of Paraguaipoa in the Guajira peninsula had several banks, a post office and a court. All have since closed. The hospital is out of basic medicines. The power goes out for days on end. Water pipes have been dry for years.
proven oil reserves in the world.
“There’s nothing here, just slow death,” said Isabel Jusayu, a Wayuu weaver in the town of Guarero.
The tourists who bought her woven purses and hammocks have disappeared with the pandemic. Her family now survives by biking to Colombia to sell scavenged scrap metal every week. But Ms. Jusayu has been homebound because of a stray bullet that injured her during the recent gang war.
When violence broke out in Guarero in 2018, the police and soldiers largely stood by as criminals fought brutally over the smuggling routes, according to residents and local rights activists.
Gunmen terrorized neighborhoods just steps away from military barracks, spraying houses with bullets, they said. The shooting became so common in Guarero that pet parrots began imitating machine gun fire. Residents said their children were traumatized.
As the violence spiraled, entire Wayuu clans became targets. Magaly Baez said 10 of her relatives were killed and that her entire village, located along a major gasoline trafficking route, was demolished. Most residents fled to Colombia.
“We suffered hunger, humiliation,” said Ms. Baez, “listening all day to children crying: ‘Mami, when are we going to eat?’”
Residents spoke of massacres, forced curfews and mass graves that brought to their remote corner of Venezuela the kind of terror Colombia experienced during its decades-long civil war.
“As long as you stayed alive, you stayed silent,” said Ms. Baez.
Some people dared to report homicides, but it didn’t lead to charges, residents said. The crimes went unpunished — until the ELN stepped in to help last year, said Mr. Hernández, the Wayuu leader in Guarero. His account was corroborated by interviews with dozens of other Indigenous residents.
As the ELN took control, the fighting subsided last year, and refugees began trickling back. Street life resumed in previously deserted towns, and young men went back to ferrying fuel drums from Colombia on bicycles and motorbikes to resell in Venezuela.
In Guarero, when the heat cools at sunset, children once again gather at the soccer field where Junior Uriana, a 17-year-old, was shot dead in 2018.
His aunt, Zenaida Montiel, buried him in her backyard in a simple grave next to her son, José Miguel, who was murdered a week earlier. Ms. Montiel said she still didn’t know why they died. She was too scared to go to the police or ask for help, she said.
Now, things have changed, she said.
“A new law is here now,” she said. “I feel safer.”
Reporting was contributed by María Iguarán from Guarero; Isayen Herrera from Caracas, Venezuela; and Sheyla Urdaneta from Maracaibo, Venezuela.
CAIRO — On a cool morning last November, Egypt’s tourism and antiquities minister stood in a packed tent at the vast necropolis of Saqqara just outside Cairo to reveal the ancient site’s largest archaeological discovery of the year.
The giant trove included 100 wooden coffins — some containing mummies interred over 2,500 years ago — 40 statues, amulets, canopic jars and funerary masks. The minister, Khaled el-Enany, said the latest findings hinted at the great potential of the ancient site and showcased the dedication of the all-Egyptian team that unearthed the gilded artifacts.
But he also singled out another reason the archaeological discoveries were crucial: it was a boon for tourism, which had been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.
unearthed an ancient Pharaonic city near the southern city of Luxor that dated back more than 3,400 years.
The discovery came just days after 22 royal mummies were moved to a new museum in a lavish spectacle that was broadcast worldwide. In addition, the discovery of 59 beautifully preserved sarcophagi in Saqqara is now the subject of a recent Netflix documentary; a bejeweled statue of the god Nefertum was found in Saqqara; the 4,700-year-old Djoser’s Step Pyramid was reopened last year after a 14-year, $6.6 million restoration; and progress is apace on the stunning Grand Egyptian Museum, scheduled to open sometime this year.
But the pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the industry, and what had been expected to be a bonanza season became a bleak winter.
Tourism is a crucial part of Egypt’s economy — international tourism revenues totaled $13 billion in 2019 — and the country has been eager to attract visitors back to its archaeological sites.
attacks on tourists, bomb blasts that damaged prominent museums and a downed airliner that killed hundreds of Russian tourists in 2015.
But the sector was steadily recovering, with visitors attracted by both antiquities and the sun-and-sea offerings, growing to over 13 million in 2019 from 5.3 million in 2016. The coronavirus pandemic has reversed these gains, leaving hotels, resorts and cruises empty, popular sites without visitors and revenue, and thousands of tour guides and vendors with drastically reduced incomes or none at all.
“Tourism in Egypt just had one of its best years in 2019 and then came the pandemic which severely impacted it all,” Amr Karim, the general manager for Travco Travel, one of Egypt’s largest tour operators, said in a telephone interview. “Nobody knew what would happen, how we will handle it, how it will affect us. It’s strange.”
The pandemic, he said, disrupted how tour companies operated, how they priced their packages and how to work with hotels and abide by their new hygiene playbooks.
exposed the fragility of Egypt’s health care system, with doctors lamenting shortages in protective equipment and testing kits while patients died from lack of oxygen. With over 12,000 deaths, Egypt also recorded one of the highest fatality rates from the virus in the Arab world.
With a growing number of cases, health officials in Egypt have recently warned of a third wave of the virus. Authorities have also canceled large gatherings and festivals, and promised to fine those not complying with protective measures like mask-wearing, but many Egyptians do not abide by these rules.
Travelers are required to have a negative Covid-19 test taken 72 hours before arriving in Egypt, and hotels are mandated to operate at half capacity.
The crisis affected not just big companies like Travco but also smaller ones that had started betting big on the growing tourism industry.
Passainte Assem established Why Not Egypt, a boutique travel agency, in 2017 by interviewing prospective travelers and customizing itineraries for them. But after the pandemic began, most of her clients, who are from Australia, Canada and the United States, canceled their plans, she said, pushing her to suspend the business for now.
The experience left her feeling that “tourism is not stable at all,” she said. “It cannot be the only source of income. I have to have a side hustle.”
a company trying to revive and preserve traditional Egyptian handicrafts.
offered Egyptians discounts on domestic plane travel, hotels and museum admissions.
But Ahmed Samir, chief executive of the tour company Egypt Tours Portal, said the direct cash support for tourism workers was minimal. With reduced bookings, he was able to keep his employees in his marketing and social media departments on the payroll but at half salary.
“As a kind of sympathy to my employees, we tried to balance,” he said. But still, he added, “most of my friends’ companies closed completely.”
The slowdown in tourist arrivals has left areas usually swamped by tourists quiet.
At the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo, Mahrous Abu Seif, a tour guide, sat waiting for clients one morning. A few small tour groups, including from Russia and China, were going through metal detector scans to go into the museum. But he hoped that more clients would come.
“What can I tell you? We sit here and wait and wait,” he said, throwing his hands in the air and adjusting his sunglasses. “We don’t know what the future holds.”
On the other side of town, at the historic El Fishawy coffee house, a few locals gurgled their water pipes and drank mint tea or Turkish coffee while melodious Quran recitation ascended from a nearby speaker. Located in the centuries-old Khan el Khalili market, the cafe, along with souvenir and jewelry shops, was hit badly by the pandemic.
“I used to bring people here and it would be packed, but look at it now,” Mohamed Said Rehan, a guide with a local company, said of the cafe. “The pandemic is a big problem.”
Mr. Rehan said that he knows many colleagues and friends who had to stay home for months without income or who left the industry altogether. But he still clings to a thread of hope that tourism will pick up soon.
And some tourists have indeed started coming back.
In February, Marcus Zimmermann, a 43-year-old architect from Germany, was visiting Egypt for the first time, stopping first in Cairo and planning trips to the southern city of Luxor, home to the iconic Valley of the Kings. Mr. Zimmermann had hoped to come to Egypt last year with his mother, who dreamed of being an archaeologist, for her 70th birthday. But they had to cancel their plans because of the pandemic.
This year, he decided to come alone but promised to “plan the trip again” with her once she’s vaccinated.
Even though it will be tough attaining the prepandemic figures quickly, people like Mr. Karim who work in the industry hope tourists will start coming back by year’s end.
With all the new discoveries, renovations and the planned opening of new sites and museums, tourists will gradually flock back to Egypt, he said.
“People will start to move. People will start to travel,” he said. “I am optimistic.”
Nada Rashwan and Asmaa Al Zohairy contributed reporting.
The gritty neighborhood is in one of Canada’s most dreamy and picturesque cities, on about 15 blocks that are among the poorest and the most squalid in the country.
An epicenter of Canada’s opioid crisis, the area has become a stark symbol of urban poverty, addiction and social marginalization in one of the world’s wealthiest nations, but also one of resilience, community and progressive social policies.
1,724 deaths in the province from drug overdoses, or an average of about 4.7 deaths a day, according to the British Columbia Coroners Service.
The vaccination program comes as British Columbia’s health care system is under severe strain because of the pandemic with hospitalizations reaching new heights. As of Friday, the province had recorded 123,000 cases of Covid-19, of which 1,550 people have died.
Meanwhile, in the Downtown Eastside, the virus appears to have been largely contained. In mid-February, the neighborhood had about 75 cases of the coronavirus in one week, according to the local health authority. Today, about 7,500 local residents have been vaccinated and cases have trickled down to about five this week.
Alana Paterson, a photographer for The New York Times, set out with her camera to document the vaccination program in action. A Vancouver resident herself, she told me she was heartened by the way dedicated nurses had managed to establish trust in a community with a strong distrust of authority. Some residents had told the nurses they were too afraid to get vaccinated.
greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the Paris Agreement, largely because of the oil sands. (An update: Mr. Trudeau raised Canada’s target for emissions reductions to 40 to 45 percent, Mr. Biden committed the United States to a 50 percent reduction).
When Mr. Trudeau legalized recreational marijuana, many investors had dreams of wealth from getting in on the ground floor of the nation’s newest legal vice. Two and a half years later, the industry continues to retreat and remains burdened with dizzying losses.
In a decision that angered civil liberties groups, a court in Quebec largely upheld the province’s law barring public sector employees from wearing religious symbols while on the job.
A Bloc Québécois member of Parliament acknowledged that he was the source of a leaked screenshot showing William Amos, a Liberal member from Quebec, appearing nude on Zoom by mistake during a House of Commons session last week.
In her review, Jeannette Catsouliswrote that “The Marijuana Conspiracy,” a new film set in Canada in 1972 dramatizing an actual experiment to test the effects of cannabis on young women, is an “agonizingly gauche movie” that “feels like a missed opportunity for a searing ethical investigation.”
This week, Patrick Marleau surpassed the record for the greatest number of games played in the N.H.L. set by Gordie Howe, another native of Saskatchewan, in 1961.
This week’s Trans Canada section was compiled by Ian Austen, The Times’s Ottawa correspondent.
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Around the world, auto assembly lines are going quiet, workers are idle and dealership parking lots are looking bare.
A shortage of semiconductors, the tiny but critical chips used to calibrate cars’ fuel injection, run infotainment systems or provide the brains for cruise control, has sent a shudder through the automaking world.
A General Motors plant in Kansas City closed in February for lack of chips, and still hasn’t reopened. Mercedes-Benz has begun to hoard its chips for expensive models and is temporarily shutting down factories that produce lower-priced C-Class sedans. Porsche warned dealers in the United States this month that customers might have to wait an extra 12 weeks to get their cars, because they lack a chip used to monitor tire pressure.
The French automaker Peugeot, part of the newly formed Stellantis automaking empire, has gone so far as to substitute old-fashioned analog speedometers for digital units in some models.
consumer electronics, which tend to be more lucrative customers.
German economic research institutes warned in a joint report this month.
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The crisis has exposed not only how dependent the car industry is on a few suppliers, but also how vulnerable it is to disruptions. Supply chain managers shuddered last month when an early-morning fire knocked out production at a factory owned by Renesas Electronics in Hitachinaka, Japan, north of Tokyo. Renesas is a crucial supplier of chips used to monitor brake functioning, control power steering, trigger airbags and in many other tasks.
Storms in Texas earlier in the year temporarily forced the shutdown of three semiconductor factories. And Taiwan is in the midst of a severe drought, analysts at IHS Markit warned in a recent report. Chip manufacturing requires large amounts of very pure water.
Even without a pandemic and supply chain disruptions, the auto industry is in turmoil. In the United States, sales have been basically flat since the early 2000s. Profit margins are slim. Some big automakers may not survive the shift to electric cars.
“If I were a chip manufacturer I wouldn’t start investing in a new plant unless I got free money from the government,” said ManMohan S. Sodhi, who teaches supply chain management at the business school at City,University of London.
Ford Motor said Wednesday that it would keep several U.S. plants idle longer than expected because of the chip shortage.
The auto industry has been paralyzed by supply chain disruptions before. Mr. Källenius recalled an episode when a hurricane struck Puerto Rico and shut down production at a factory that, to his surprise and pretty much everyone else’s, was the only source of a coating essential to some kinds of auto electronics.
Automobiles have tens of thousands of parts and so many layers of suppliers and sub-suppliers and sub-sub-suppliers that even carmakers have trouble keeping track of every component’s provenance.
The economics of the industry are such that only suppliers with the highest volume survive. Smaller suppliers tend to die out because they can’t produce parts or materials as cheaply as the big players, leaving the industry dependent on one or two manufacturers of high-pressure fuel lines, for example, or a certain specialized plastic.
The current semiconductor shortage may not be the last. The auto industry’s need for semiconductors is expected to explode in coming years because of autonomous driving features and the increasing popularity of electric vehicles, which are more reliant on software than internal combustion engines.
Mr. Källenius said, though, that the most sophisticated chips were not the ones currently giving him headaches. “We are missing the most simple of chips, that maybe only cost cents or dollars,” he said. “That’s holding us up from building a product that costs $75,000.”
CAIRO — More than 100 migrants heading for Europe are feared dead in a shipwreck off Libya, independent rescue groups have said, in the latest loss of life as attempts to cross the Mediterranean increase during the warmer months.
The Libyan Coast Guard searched for the boat but could not find it because of limited resources, an official with the service said.
The humanitarian group SOS Méditerranée, which operates the rescue vessel Ocean Viking, said late Thursday that the capsized rubber boat, which was initially carrying around 130 people, had been spotted in the Mediterranean, northeast of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The vessel did not find any survivors, but aid workers could see at least 10 bodies near the wreck.
“We think of the lives that have been lost and of the families who might never have certainty as to what happened to their loved ones,” the group said in a statement.
who is responsible for saving those in peril at sea.
SOS Méditerranée said it expected that those missing had died, adding to a toll of 350 people who have drowned in the sea so far this year. It accused governments of failing to provide search and rescue operations.
In the years since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed Libya’s longtime leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the war-torn country has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families onto ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route.
Eugenio Ambrosi, chief of staff for the International Organization for Migration, said in a tweet, “These are the human consequences of policies which fail to uphold international law and the most basic of humanitarian imperatives.”
AlarmPhone, which provides a crisis hotline for migrants in distress in the Mediterranean, said it had been in contact with the distressed boat for nearly 10 hours before it capsized.
dangerous sea crossings. Rights groups, however, say those policies leave migrants at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers rife with abuses.
JERUSALEM — Clashes between Israelis and Palestinians erupted overnight in Jerusalem as hundreds of supporters of an extremist Jewish supremacy group staged a march, chanting “Death to Arabs,” near the Old City.
The violence was the culmination of building tensions between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem and elsewhere over the past couple weeks. Palestinian media reported that 78 Palestinians were injured and 15 of them were treated in hospitals. About 20 Israeli police officers and at least 16 Israeli civilians were hurt as well.
More than 50 people were arrested in the melee, both in predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem and mostly Jewish West Jerusalem, according to the police. The city’s mayor, Moshe Lion, said he had asked the police to ban the extremist group’s demonstration but had been told that was impossible.
“There is no doubt that it was superfluous,” Mr. Lion told Kan, Israel’s public radio. “It did not add to the quiet that we need now.”
in a statement for “responsible voices” to urge an end to incitement and to restore calm in the city.
chanting “Allahu akbar,” or God is Great, and “Martyrs are marching to Jerusalem in their millions,” a Palestinian rallying cry.
Peter Warner, an Australian seafarer whose already eventful life was made even more so in 1966 when he and his crew discovered six shipwrecked boys who had been living on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific for 15 months, died on April 13 in Ballina, New South Wales. He was 90.
His death was confirmed by his daughter Janet Warner, who said he had been swept overboard by a rogue wave while sailing near the mouth of the Richmond River, an area he had known for decades. A companion on the boat, who was also knocked into the water, pulled Mr. Warner to shore, but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
The story of the 1966 rescue, which made Mr. Warner a celebrity in Australia, began during a return sail from Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tonga, where he and his crew had unsuccessfully requested the right to fish in the country’s waters. Casually casting his binoculars at a nearby uninhabited island, ‘Ata, he noticed a burned patch of ground.
“I thought, that’s strange that a fire should start in the tropics on an uninhabited island,” he said in a 2020 video interview. “So we decided to investigate further.”
an interview with Vice this year. “And when I compare it to what I gained at school, I think I learned more on the island. Because I learned how to trust myself.”
Back in Tonga, Mr. Warner was greeted as a hero. King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, who had earlier denied him fishing rights, reversed himself. But the owner of the stolen boat was not in a celebratory mood, and he had the boys arrested. He dropped the charges after Mr. Warner offered to compensate him.
The story captivated Australia; a year later the Australian Broadcasting Corporation sent Mr. Warner and the boys back to the island to recreate aspects of their ordeal for a film crew. Other documentaries and newspaper features followed.
Lord of the Flies,” William Golding’s 1954 novel about a group of boys stranded on an island who descend into murderous anarchy. But this was nothing like Mr. Golding’s book: The six boys flourished in their spontaneous community, suggesting that cooperation, not conflict, is an integral feature of human nature.
“If millions of kids are required to read ‘Lord of the Flies,’ maybe they should also be required to learn this story as well,” the Dutch historian Rutger Bregman, who wrote about the episode in his book “Humankind: A Hopeful History” (2020), said in an interview.
Peter Raymond Warner was born on Feb. 22, 1931, in Melbourne, Australia, to Arthur George Warner and Ethel (Wakefield) Warner. Arthur Warner was one of the country’s wealthiest men, having built a manufacturing and media empire, and he expected his son to follow him in the family business.
But Peter was uninterested; he preferred boxing and sailing, and at 17 he ran away from home to join a ship’s crew. When he returned a year later, his father made him go to law school at the University of Melbourne.
He lasted six weeks. He ran away again, this time to sail for three years on Swedish and Norwegian ships. Quick with languages, he learned enough Swedish to pass the master mariner’s exam, allowing him to captain even the largest seagoing vessels.
a 1974 interview. He returned two days before the wedding, and afterward the couple took a five-month honeymoon aboard a cargo ship sailing between Australia and Japan.
Along with his daughter Janet, his wife survives him, as do another daughter, Carolyn Warner; a son, Peter; and seven grandchildren.
In 1965 Mr. Warner bought several crayfish boats, which he operated around Tasmania. But the grounds around Australia were overfished, and he ventured further and further east, eventually taking him to Tonga — and his encounter with ‘Ata.
After he discovered the six boys, Mr. Warner moved with his family to Tonga, where they lived for 30 years before returning to Australia. He hired all six as crew members; he remained especially close to Mr. Totau, who sailed with him for decades.
In 1974, they were fishing near the Middleton Reef, about 300 miles east of Australia, when Mr. Totau spied four sailors on a small island, where they had been stranded for 46 days.
Mr. Warner converted to the Baha’i faith in 1990 and later gave up commercial fishing to start a company that harvested and sold tree nuts.
He wrote three books of memoirs, the second of which, “Ocean of Light: 30 Years in Tonga and the Pacific” (2016), detailed his encounter at ‘Ata.
an excerpt from his book in The Guardian. It garnered more than seven million page views and set off a new round of interest in the boys’ story, including offers from film production companies. In May 2020 it was announced that the four surviving boys, now old men, along with Mr. Bregman and Mr. Warner, had sold the film rights to New Regency.
Although he was accused by some of trying to win fame off the Tongans’ story, Mr. Warner always insisted that it was theirs to tell, and that he would rather spend his time sailing.
“I’d prefer,” he said in 1974, “to fight mother nature than human beings.”
WASHINGTON — The next phase of President Biden’s $4 trillion push to overhaul the American economy will seek to raise taxes on millionaire investors to fund education and other spending plans, but it will not take steps to expand health coverage or reduce prescription drug prices, according to people familiar with the proposal.
Administration officials had planned to include a health care expansion of up to $700 billion, offset by efforts to reduce government spending on prescription drugs. But they have decided to instead pursue health care as a separate initiative, a move that sidesteps a fight among liberals on Capitol Hill but that risks upsetting some progressive groups that have pushed Mr. Biden to prioritize health issues.
The president is set to outline his so-called American Family Plan, which includes measures aimed at helping Americans gain skills throughout life and have more flexibility in the work force, before his first address to a joint session of Congress next week. Its details remain a work in progress and could change in the days before the announcement.
But after weeks of work, administration officials have closed in on the final version of what will be the second half of Mr. Biden’s sweeping economic agenda, which also includes the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan the president described last month. That plan focused largely on physical infrastructure spending, like repairing bridges and water pipes and building electric vehicle charging stations, and was funded by tax increases on corporations.
expanded tax credit for parents — which is essentially a monthly payment from the government for most families — that was created on a temporary basis by the $1.9 trillion economic aid package Mr. Biden signed into law last month. The duration of that extension was earlier reported by The Washington Post.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have urged Mr. Biden to instead make permanent that credit, which analysts say will drastically cut child poverty this year. Those pushing Mr. Biden include Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, along with Representatives Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Suzan DelBene of Washington and Ritchie Torres of New York.
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“Expansion of the child tax credit is the most significant policy to come out of Washington in generations, and Congress has an historic opportunity to provide a lifeline to the middle class and to cut child poverty in half on a permanent basis,” the lawmakers said this week in a joint statement. “No recovery will be complete unless our tax code provides a sustained pathway to economic prosperity for working families and children.”
The family plan will also include some type of extension for an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, which was included in the earlier aid package on a one-year basis.
The plan’s spending and tax credits will total around $1.5 trillion, according to administration estimates, in keeping with early versions of the two-step agenda first reported last month by The New York Times.
To offset that cost, Mr. Biden will propose several tax increases he included in his campaign’s “Build Back Better” agenda. That starts with raising the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent, the level it was cut to by President Donald J. Trump’s tax overhaul in 2017. Mr. Biden would also raise taxes on capital gains — the proceeds of selling an asset like a stock or a boat — for people earning more than $1 million, effectively increasing the rate they pay on that income to 39.6 percent from 20 percent.
The president will also propose eliminating a provision of the tax code that reduces taxes for wealthy heirs who sell assets they inherit, like art or property, that have gained value over time. And he would raise revenue by increasing enforcement at the Internal Revenue Service to bring in more money from wealthy Americans who evade taxes.
Administration officials were debating other possible tax increases that could be included in the plan this week, like capping deductions for wealthy taxpayers or increasing the estate tax on wealthy heirs.
All of the tax provisions would keep with Mr. Biden’s campaign promise not to raise taxes on individuals or households earning less than $400,000 a year.
Previous versions of the family plan, circulated inside the White House, also called for raising revenues by enacting measures to reduce the cost of prescription drugs bought using government health care programs. That money would have funded a continued expansion of health coverage subsidies for insurance bought through the Affordable Care Act, which were also temporarily expanded by the economic aid bill earlier this year. Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California had pushed for that continued expansion.
Mr. Biden’s team was under pressure from Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and the chairman of the Budget Committee, to instead focus his health care efforts on a plan to expand Medicare. Mr. Sanders has pushed the administration to lower Medicare’s eligibility age and expand it to cover vision, dental and hearing services.
An electric trickle is turning into a flood: As many as 100 new E.V. models are coming to showrooms by 2025. Heavyweights including Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford are floating promises of all-electric lineups within a decade.
The end times of gasoline can almost seem a fait accompli, except for one pesky issue: Even given Tesla’s strides, we’re still waiting for the first genuine E.V. sales hit, let alone a mass exodus from unleaded.
In 2014, Nissan sold a mere 30,200 Leafs, and that’s still the American record for any non-Tesla model. Ford routinely sells more than 800,000 F-Series pickups. A single gasoline sport utility vehicle, the Toyota RAV4, finds well over 400,000 annual buyers, compared with roughly 250,000 sales last year for all E.V.s combined — 200,000 of which were Teslas.
Automakers insist we’re “this close” to a tipping point. E.V. market share is expected to grow to as much as 50 percent by 2032, from just 1.7 percent last year, said Scott Keogh, president and chief executive of Volkswagen of America. While Tesla captured 80 percent of the U.S. market for electric vehicles in 2020, VW and other global giants — with war chests built on internal-combustion engines and unmatched scale and manufacturing know-how — are well positioned to take a piece of Tesla’s pie.
prices and charging times of E.V.s, while bolstering driving range, until consumers see no reason to stick with polluting gasoline models whose energy-and-operating costs exceed the plug-in alternatives.
Like the Rolling Stones pushing the Beatles, Mr. Keogh said, healthy competition will ultimately benefit all E.V. fans and creators. And when consumers sees E.V.s proliferate in their neighbors’ driveways, and take their first test drive, there will be no going back.
Mach-E seems the most straight-up rival yet to Tesla’s Model Y, in not only price and performance but also the Ford’s maximum 300-mile driving range.
Consumers have noticed: Ford sold 3,729 Mach-Es in February, the first full month of sales, almost single-handedly chopping Tesla’s dominant E.V. share to 69 percent, from 80 percent. If Ford could maintain that pace for a full year, the Mach-E would easily set a sales record for an E.V. not built by Tesla.
Tesla’s 326-mile Model Y Long Range still squeezes a few more miles from each onboard kilowatt-hour, owing to the carmaker’s expertise in aerodynamics, motor and battery efficiency, and to “simple” stuff that’s anything but: Its 4,416-pound curb weight undercuts the Ford by about 400 pounds. And Tesla rules the public charging space, with its Supercharger network that has rivals — now with a potential infrastructure lift from the Biden administration — racing to catch up.
The Ford fires back with a sculpted exterior versus the dad-bod Model Y, a tech-savvy interior with superior materials and craftsmanship, and winning performance of its own. With 346 horsepower from dual motors, the Mach-E Premium A.W.D. that I drove shot to 60 miles an hour in 4.8 seconds. Even the new Shelby GT500 — history’s mightiest Mustang, with 760 horsepower — won’t equal the 3.5-second 0-to-60 m.p.h. blast of this summer’s Mach-E GT Performance version.
Voltswagen, as the company briefly convinced some media and car fans in a marketing stunt gone bad. Regarding historic names, VW calls the ID.4 its most significant model since the original Beetle. But where the Beetle was a revolutionary leader, the ID.4 feels like a follower.
Based on my drive, the VW can easily top its 250-mile range rating, with 275 miles within reach. A rear-drive, 201-horsepower model rolls to 60 m.p.h. in 7.6 seconds. That’s on a par with gasoline sport utilities like the Honda CR-V, but pokey by E.V. standards. Dual-motor, all-wheel-drive models arrive later this year, promising 60 m.p.h. in under six seconds.
From a company famed for fun-to-drive German cars, the ID.4’s generic performance and styling are letdowns. Its infotainment system is even more disappointing: The clunky, vexing touch screen can’t touch the onscreen wizardry of the Ford, Volvo or Tesla.
The VW’s snappiest performance came during a fast-charging session at a Target in New Jersey, replenishing its 77 kilowatt-hour battery from 20 to 80 percent in an impressive 31 minutes. That growing network of Electrify America chargers is funded by VW’s $2 billion, court-ordered penance for its diesel emissions scandal. And VW is offering indulgences to ID.4 buyers, with three years of free public charging.
Thrifty virtues include a $41,190 base price, or $33,690 after the $7,500 federal tax break. That’s $2,800 less than the most-affordable Mach-E. It’s also less money, after credits, than a smaller Chevrolet Bolt. The more powerful ID.4 with all-wheel drive will start at $37,370, postcredit.
Still, as Tesla’s triumph and Chevy’s lukewarm Bolt have proved, there’s more to electric success than an attractive price. VW is aggressively investing $80 billion to develop E.V.s, but the ID.4 feels less like a market splash and more like a toe in the water. We’ll see if VW erred by not kicking off with a recognizable design that truly connects its nostalgic, weed-hazed past to today’s green virtues: the electric ID.Buzz Microbus, due in 2023.
Volvo XC40 Recharge
Volvo seems such a natural fit for E.V.s. And the progressive-minded brand brings us the XC40 Recharge, an electrified take on its gasoline XC40.
The Recharge is like that perfect dining table in a shelter magazine: You’re not sure why it costs so much, but you want it anyway.
The Recharge’s wedgy Scandinavian styling tops every S.U.V. in this group, as does its lovely interior. That includes soft Nappa leather, versus the ascetic “vegan” materials of many E.V.s.
The drive is similarly breezy, with 402 horses and a quicksilver, 4.7-second flight to 60 m.p.h. The biggest tech talking point may be Android Automotive OS: The Recharge (and Volvo’s electric Polestar 2) introduces a cloud-based Google operating system that works like a dream, with Google Maps, search, an ultra-capable voice assistant and more. (Don’t confuse this with the ubiquitous Android Auto, which simply mirrors phone apps on a car’s screen.)
Several major automakers, including G.M. and Ford, plan to make Android Automotive the nerve centers of coming cars. If only the Volvo itself were as efficient.
The Recharge is an electron guzzler, with a 208-mile range that seems optimistic in real-world use. I drove the Recharge in frigid New York weather, which explained some but not all of its hunger for power: No matter how I babied the throttle, the Volvo stayed on a pace for 190 miles, at best, covering about 2.4 miles for each kilowatt-hour in the batteries. I can achieve 3.6 miles per kilowatt-hour with little effort in the Tesla Model Y and above 3.2 in the Ford.
Environmental Protection Agency numbers bear that out: Despite having virtually the same-size battery, the Tesla brings 326 miles of maximum range, 118 more than the Volvo. The Recharge is also expensive for its intimate size: $54,985 to start, and nearly $60,000 for the model I drove. That $7,500 federal tax break softens the blow. Yet if the Volvo indulges bourgeois buyers, they’ll also need to indulge its profligate ways.
Jack Ma, the most famous businessman China has ever produced, is avoiding the spotlight. Friends say he is painting and practicing tai chi. Sometimes, he shares drawings with Masayoshi Son, the billionaire head of the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.
The wider world glimpsed Mr. Ma for the first time in months last week, during a virtual board meeting of the Russian Geographical Society. As President Vladimir V. Putin and others discussed Arctic affairs and leopard conservation, Mr. Ma could be seen resting his head on one hand, looking deeply bored.
For Mr. Ma — the charismatic entrepreneur who first showed, two decades ago, how China would shake the world in the internet age; whose face adorns shelves of admiring business books; who never met a crowd he couldn’t razzle-dazzle — it is a stark change of pace.
Beijing’s biggest targets yet, as officials start regulating the country’s powerful internet industry like never before.
snatched from a luxury Hong Kong hotel in 2017. Ye Jianming, an oil tycoon who sought connections in Washington, was detained, as was Wu Xiaohui, whose insurance company bought the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. Mr. Wu later went to prison. Lai Xiaomin, the former chairman of a financial firm, was executed this year.
“The general iron rule is that there should be no individual centers of power outside of the party,” said Richard McGregor, a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute and author of “The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers.”
Beijing’s clampdown on tech is already rippling through boardrooms beyond Alibaba’s.
Ant Group’s chief executive, Simon Hu, resigned in March. A few days later, Colin Huang stepped down as chairman of Pinduoduo, the mobile bazaar he founded and took public within a few short years. Pinduoduo announced his resignation the same day it said it had attracted 788 million shoppers over the previous 12 months — a bigger number than Alibaba.
proposed tougher rules for internet companies — or, as an official newspaper put it, “innovative methods of regulation and governance.”
China’s antitrust authority summoned 34 top internet companies to talk about new fair-competition rules. Within hours, they were discussing business changes and publicly pledging to stay in line.
“These new regulations are going to require internet platforms to look at how they innovate going forward, and the result is potentially less innovation,” said Gordon Orr, a nonexecutive board member at Meituan, the Chinese food delivery giant.
Even so, Alibaba and other internet titans have a status in China that could protect them from the most heavy-handed treatment. Officials have praised the titans’ economic contributions even as they tighten supervision. Mr. Xi wants China’s economy to be driven more by its own innovations than by those of fickle foreign powers.
That means it might be too soon to declare Jack Ma down for the count.
“His company is much more important to the success and functioning of the Chinese economy than any of the other entrepreneurs’,” Mr. McGregor said. “The government wants to continue to reap the benefits of his company — but on their terms. The government isn’t nationalizing Alibaba. It isn’t confiscating its assets. It’s simply narrowing the field in which it operates.”
Alibaba declined to comment.
Mr. Ma is no neophyte at dealing with the authorities in China.
He worked briefly and unhappily at a government-run advertising agency before founding Alibaba in 1999. At the time, China was still getting used to the idea of powerful private entrepreneurs, and Mr. Ma proved adept at charming government officials.
in the 2000s. “What a world-class company needs most is a soul, a commander, a world-class businessman. Jack Ma, I believe, meets this standard.”
Mr. Ma saw early on what success might bring with it in China, said Porter Erisman, an early Alibaba executive.
“There was only one person in the company who brought to our attention that one day we might face issues of being so big that we would come under pressure for having too much market power,” Mr. Erisman said. “And that was Jack.”
one of Alibaba’s biggest investors, Yahoo. Mr. Ma said the move had been necessary under new Chinese regulations. Alipay later became Ant Group.
“The Alipay transfer emboldened him,” said Duncan Clark, who has known Mr. Ma since 1999 and is chairman of BDA China, a consulting firm. “He kind of got away with it.”
work more closely with the state.
When Mr. Ma stepped down as Alibaba’s chairman in 2019, a commentary in the official Communist Party newspaper declared: “There is no so-called Jack Ma era — only Jack Ma as part of this era.”
China’s leaders need the private sector to help sustain economic growth. But they also do not want entrepreneurs to undermine the party’s dominance across society.
Last October, as Ant was preparing to go public, Mr. Ma spoke at a Shanghai conference and criticized China’s financial regulators. He had long seen Ant as a vehicle for disrupting the country’s big state-run banks. But there could scarcely have been a less opportune moment to press the point. Officials halted Ant’s share listing soon after.
In China, “it’s hard to say the emperor has no clothes these days,” said Kellee S. Tsai, a political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Mr. Ma has largely vanished from sight within his companies, too. In January, he popped up in an internal chat group to answer a business question, according to a person who saw the message but was not authorized to speak publicly. Employees later shared Mr. Ma’s message to reassure nervous colleagues.
estimated that Mr. Ma was not, for the first time in three years, one of China’s three richest people. The country’s new No. 1 was Zhong Shanshan, the low-key head of both a bottled-water giant and a pharmaceutical business.
Chinese news reports about his sudden wealth had to explain to readers how to pronounce the obscure Chinese character in his name.