said this month.

last October and in January, North Korea unveiled what appeared to be newly developed intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said last month that the country appeared to have restarted a reactor in its main nuclear complex​.

But North Korea has refrained from​ testing an I.C.B.M. or a nuclear device since 2017. Its most recent military parade, held Thursday to mark the government’s 73rd anniversary, did not feature new weapons.

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Phony Diagnoses Hide High Rates of Drugging at Nursing Homes

The handwritten doctor’s order was just eight words long, but it solved a problem for Dundee Manor, a nursing home in rural South Carolina struggling to handle a new resident with severe dementia.

David Blakeney, 63, was restless and agitated. The home’s doctor wanted him on an antipsychotic medication called Haldol, a powerful sedative.

“Add Dx of schizophrenia for use of Haldol,” read the doctor’s order, using the medical shorthand for “diagnosis.”

But there was no evidence that Mr. Blakeney actually had schizophrenia.

Antipsychotic drugs — which for decades have faced criticism as “chemical straitjackets” — are dangerous for older people with dementia, nearly doubling their chance of death from heart problems, infections, falls and other ailments. But understaffed nursing homes have often used the sedatives so they don’t have to hire more staff to handle residents.

one in 150 people.

Schizophrenia, which often causes delusions, hallucinations and dampened emotions, is almost always diagnosed before the age of 40.

“People don’t just wake up with schizophrenia when they are elderly,” said Dr. Michael Wasserman, a geriatrician and former nursing home executive who has become a critic of the industry. “It’s used to skirt the rules.”

refuge of last resort for people with the disorder, after large psychiatric hospitals closed decades ago.

But unfounded diagnoses are also driving the increase. In May, a report by a federal oversight agency said nearly one-third of long-term nursing home residents with schizophrenia diagnoses in 2018 had no Medicare record of being treated for the condition.

hide serious problems — like inadequate staffing and haphazard care — from government audits and inspectors.

One result of the inaccurate diagnoses is that the government is understating how many of the country’s 1.1 million nursing home residents are on antipsychotic medications.

According to Medicare’s web page that tracks the effort to reduce the use of antipsychotics, fewer than 15 percent of nursing home residents are on such medications. But that figure excludes patients with schizophrenia diagnoses.

To determine the full number of residents being drugged nationally and at specific homes, The Times obtained unfiltered data that was posted on another, little-known Medicare web page, as well as facility-by-facility data that a patient advocacy group got from Medicare via an open records request and shared with The Times.

The figures showed that at least 21 percent of nursing home residents — about 225,000 people — are on antipsychotics.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees nursing homes, is “concerned about this practice as a way to circumvent the protections these regulations afford,” said Catherine Howden, a spokeswoman for the agency, which is known as C.M.S.

“It is unacceptable for a facility to inappropriately classify a resident’s diagnosis to improve their performance measures,” she said. “We will continue to identify facilities which do so and hold them accountable.”

significant drop since 2012 in the share of residents on the drugs.

But when residents with diagnoses like schizophrenia are included, the decline is less than half what the government and industry claim. And when the pandemic hit in 2020, the trend reversed and antipsychotic drug use increased.

For decades, nursing homes have been using drugs to control dementia patients. For nearly as long, there have been calls for reform.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan signed a law banning the use of drugs that serve the interest of the nursing home or its staff, not the patient.

But the practice persisted. In the early 2000s, studies found that antipsychotic drugs like Seroquel, Zyprexa and Abilify made older people drowsy and more likely to fall. The drugs were also linked to heart problems in people with dementia. More than a dozen clinical trials concluded that the drugs nearly doubled the risk of death for older dementia patients.

11 percent from less than 7 percent, records show.

The diagnoses rose even as nursing homes reported a decline in behaviors associated with the disorder. The number of residents experiencing delusions, for example, fell to 4 percent from 6 percent.

Caring for dementia patients is time- and labor-intensive. Workers need to be trained to handle challenging behaviors like wandering and aggression. But many nursing homes are chronically understaffed and do not pay enough to retain employees, especially the nursing assistants who provide the bulk of residents’ daily care.

Studies have found that the worse a home’s staffing situation, the greater its use of antipsychotic drugs. That suggests that some homes are using the powerful drugs to subdue patients and avoid having to hire extra staff. (Homes with staffing shortages are also the most likely to understate the number of residents on antipsychotics, according to the Times’s analysis of Medicare data.)

more than 200,000 since early last year and is at its lowest level since 1994.

As staffing dropped, the use of antipsychotics rose.

Even some of the country’s leading experts on elder care have been taken aback by the frequency of false diagnoses and the overuse of antipsychotics.

Barbara Coulter Edwards, a senior Medicaid official in the Obama administration, said she had discovered that her father was given an incorrect diagnosis of psychosis in the nursing home where he lived even though he had dementia.

“I just was shocked,” Ms. Edwards said. “And the first thing that flashed through my head was this covers a lot of ills for this nursing home if they want to give him drugs.”

Homes that violate the rules face few consequences.

In 2019 and 2021, Medicare said it planned to conduct targeted inspections to examine the issue of false schizophrenia diagnoses, but those plans were repeatedly put on hold because of the pandemic.

In an analysis of government inspection reports, The Times found about 5,600 instances of inspectors citing nursing homes for misusing antipsychotic medications. Nursing home officials told inspectors that they were dispensing the powerful drugs to frail patients for reasons that ranged from “health maintenance” to efforts to deal with residents who were “whining” or “asking for help.”

a state inspector cited Hialeah Shores for giving a false schizophrenia diagnosis to a woman. She was so heavily dosed with antipsychotics that the inspector was unable to rouse her on three consecutive days.

There was no evidence that the woman had been experiencing the delusions common in people with schizophrenia, the inspector found. Instead, staff at the nursing home said she had been “resistive and noncooperative with care.”

Dr. Jonathan Evans, a medical director for nursing homes in Virginia who reviewed the inspector’s findings for The Times, described the woman’s fear and resistance as “classic dementia behavior.”

“This wasn’t five-star care,” said Dr. Evans, who previously was president of a group that represents medical staff in nursing homes. He said he was alarmed that the inspector had decided the violation caused only “minimal harm or potential for harm” to the patient, despite her heavy sedation. As a result, he said, “there’s nothing about this that would deter this facility from doing this again.”

Representatives of Hialeah Shores declined to comment.

Seven of the 52 homes on the inspector general’s list were owned by a large Texas company, Daybreak Venture. At four of those homes, the official rate of antipsychotic drug use for long-term residents was zero, while the actual rate was much higher, according to the Times analysis comparing official C.M.S. figures with unpublished data obtained by the California advocacy group.

make people drowsy and increases the risk of falls. Peer-reviewed studies have shown that it does not help with dementia, and the government has not approved it for that use.

But prescriptions of Depakote and similar anti-seizure drugs have accelerated since the government started publicly reporting nursing homes’ use of antipsychotics.

Between 2015 and 2018, the most recent data available, the use of anti-seizure drugs rose 15 percent in nursing home residents with dementia, according to an analysis of Medicare insurance claims that researchers at the University of Michigan prepared for The Times.

in a “sprinkle” form that makes it easy to slip into food undetected.

“It’s a drug that’s tailor-made to chemically restrain residents without anybody knowing,” he said.

In the early 2000s, Depakote’s manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories, began falsely pitching the drug to nursing homes as a way to sidestep the 1987 law prohibiting facilities from using drugs as “chemical restraints,” according to a federal whistle-blower lawsuit filed by a former Abbott saleswoman.

According to the lawsuit, Abbott’s representatives told pharmacists and nurses that Depakote would “fly under the radar screen” of federal regulations.

Abbott settled the lawsuit in 2012, agreeing to pay the government $1.5 billion to resolve allegations that it had improperly marketed the drugs, including to nursing homes.

Nursing homes are required to report to federal regulators how many of their patients take a wide variety of psychotropic drugs — not just antipsychotics but also anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants and sleeping pills. But homes do not have to report Depakote or similar drugs to the federal government.

“It is like an arrow pointing to that class of medications, like ‘Use us, use us!’” Dr. Maust said. “No one is keeping track of this.”

published a brochure titled “Nursing Homes: Times have changed.”

“Nursing homes have replaced restraints and antipsychotic medications with robust activity programs, religious services, social workers and resident councils so that residents can be mentally, physically and socially engaged,” the colorful two-page leaflet boasted.

Last year, though, the industry teamed up with drug companies and others to push Congress and federal regulators to broaden the list of conditions under which antipsychotics don’t need to be publicly disclosed.

“There is specific and compelling evidence that psychotropics are underutilized in treating dementia and it is time for C.M.S. to re-evaluate its regulations,” wrote Jim Scott, the chairman of the Alliance for Aging Research, which is coordinating the campaign.

The lobbying was financed by drug companies including Avanir Pharmaceuticals and Acadia Pharmaceuticals. Both have tried — and so far failed — to get their drugs approved for treating patients with dementia. (In 2019, Avanir agreed to pay $108 million to settle charges that it had inappropriately marketed its drug for use in dementia patients in nursing homes.)

Ms. Blakeney said that only after hiring a lawyer to sue Dundee Manor for her husband’s death did she learn he had been on Haldol and other powerful drugs. (Dundee Manor has denied Ms. Blakeney’s claims in court filings.)

During her visits, though, Ms. Blakeney noticed that many residents were sleeping most of the time. A pair of women, in particular, always caught her attention. “There were two of them, laying in the same room, like they were dead,” she said.

In his first few months at Dundee Manor, Mr. Blakeney was in and out of the hospital, for bedsores, pneumonia and dehydration. During one hospital visit in December, a doctor noted that Mr. Blakeney was unable to communicate and could no longer walk.

“Hold the patient’s Ambien, trazodone and Zyprexa because of his mental status changes,” the doctor wrote. “Hold his Haldol.”

Mr. Blakeney continued to be prescribed the drugs after he returned to Dundee Manor. By April 2017, the bedsore on his right heel — a result, in part, of his rarely getting out of bed or his wheelchair — required the foot to be amputated.

In June, after weeks of fruitless searching for another nursing home, Ms. Blakeney found one and transferred him there. Later that month, he died.

“I tried to get him out — I tried and tried and tried,” his wife said. “But when I did get him out, it was too late.”

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Are You Ready for Sentient Disney Robots?

Some of the animatronics at Disney’s parks have been doing their herky-jerky thing since the Nixon administration. The company knows that nostalgia won’t cut it with today’s children.


GLENDALE, Calif. — I was en route to meet Groot.

Not an imitation Groot conjured with video or those clunky virtual reality goggles. The Walt Disney Company’s secretive research and development division, Imagineering, had promised a walking, talking, emoting Groot, as if the arboreal “Avengers” character had jumped off the screen and was living among us.

But first I had to find him. GPS had guided me to a warehouse on a dead-end street in Glendale, a Los Angeles suburb. The place seemed deserted. As soon as I parked, however, a man warily appeared from behind a jacaranda tree. Yes, I had an appointment. No, I was not hiding any recording devices. He made a phone call, and I was escorted into the warehouse through an unmarked door behind a dumpster.

In the back near a black curtain a little wrinkled hand waved hello.

It was Groot.

He was about three feet tall and ambled toward me with wide eyes, as if he had discovered a mysterious new life form. He looked me up and down and introduced himself.

audio-animatronics,” his word for mechanical figures with choreographed movements. There were endlessly harmonizing Small World dolls, marauding Caribbean pirates (“yo-ho!”), Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address. The technology was a runaway hit, mesmerizing generations of children and helping to turn Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida into cultural touchstones and colossal businesses.

Disney’s 14 theme parks around the world attracted 156 million visitors in 2019, and the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products division generated $26 billion in revenue. The coronavirus pandemic severely disrupted operations for a year, but the masses have returned. The wait to get on the swaying Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Disney World on a recent day was two hours and 10 minutes — Delta variant, be darned.

Roblox online gaming universe and augmented reality Snapchat filters. Cars are driving themselves, and SpaceX rockets are autonomously landing on drone ships.

How are the rudimentary animatronic birds in Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room supposed to compete? They dazzled in 1963. Today, some people fall asleep.

“We think a lot about relevancy,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said in April during a virtual event to promote the opening of an interactive Spider-Man ride and immersive “land” dedicated to Marvel’s Avengers. “We have an obligation to our fans, to our guests, to continue to evolve, to continue to create experiences that look new and different and pull them in. To make sure the experience is fresh and relevant.

“And all of that is risk,” Mr. D’Amaro acknowledged. “There is legacy here. People like the way things are. But we’re going to keep pushing, keep making it better.”

Wicked Witch of the West that flailed its arms and shifted its body with remarkable speed and precision.

More recently, Disney has introduced robot characters that seem to talk to guests (Mr. Potato Head, 2008). Others move with such elegance that some visitors mistake them for video projections (an “Avatar” shaman, 2017).

Disney attractions have always required the suspension of disbelief: Those are real flying galleons in Peter Pan’s Flight, not plastic ride vehicles on a rail. But advances in movie imagery — computer-generated animation, the blending of live-action footage with elaborate digital effects — have put pressure on Disney to make its robots more convincing.

“You know how Elsa moves,” said Kathryn Yancey, an Imagineering show mechanical engineer, referring to the “Frozen” princess. “Kids have watched the movie over and over, maybe even in the car that morning. So our animatronic Elsa also has to be fast and lyrical. She can’t be lumbering.”

WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, features a “stuntronic” robot (outfitted in Spidey spandex) that performs elaborate aerial tricks, just like a stunt person. A catapult hurls the untethered machine 65 feet into the air, where it completes various feats (somersaults in one pass, an “epic flail” in another) while autonomously adjusting its trajectory to land in a hidden net.

“It’s thrilling because it can be hard to tell whether it’s a robot or a person — the stuntronic Spider-Man, it’s that good,” Wade Heath said as he joined the line to re-ride WEB Slingers in early August. Mr. Heath, 32, a recruiter for Pinkerton, the security company, described himself as “a major Disney nerd” who has, at times, been surprised that the company’s parks have not evolved faster.

three years to develop. Disney declined to discuss the cost of the stuntronics endeavor, but the company easily invested millions of dollars. Now that the technology has been perfected, Disney plans to roll it out at other parks. WEB Slingers, for instance, has been greenlighted for Disneyland Paris.

Bob Weis, who leads Disney’s 1,000-plus member Imagineering division. In the beginning, it was just an expensive research project with no clear outcome.

“It’s not easy to prove return on investment for never-considered-possible inventions,” Mr. Weis said. “Our longstanding history of creating experiences that completely wow guests — for them to suspend disbelief and live in that moment — has paved the way for acceptance of this inherent risk.”

But budgets are not endless. “We have to be discerning because, as you can imagine, we have plenty of amazing ideas, capabilities and stories,” Mr. Weis added.

Boston Dynamics, where he contributed to an early version of Atlas, a running and jumping machine that inspires “how did they do that” amazement — followed by dystopian dread.

Baby Yoda and swinging ones like Spider-Man — that are challenging to bring to life in a realistic way, especially outdoors.

About 6,000 animatronics are in use at Disney parks worldwide, and almost all are bolted to the floor inside ride buildings. It’s part of the magic trick: By controlling the lighting and sight angles, Disney can make its animatronics seem more alive. For a long time, however, Disney has been enamored with robotics as an opportunity to make the walkways between rides more thrilling.

“We want to create incredible experiences outside of a show box,” said Leslie Evans, a senior Imagineering executive, referring to ride buildings. “To me, that’s going to be next level. These aren’t just parks. They are inhabited places.”

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, unveiled in 2019, asks groups of riders to work together to steer the ship. The ride’s queuing area features an impressive Hondo Ohnaka animatronic. (He’s a miscreant from the “Clone Wars” animated series.)

In 2003, Disney tested a free-roving animatronic dinosaur named Lucky; he pulled a flower cart, which concealed a puppeteer. In 2007, the company experimented with wireless animatronic Muppets that rode around in a remote-controlled vehicle and chatted with guests. (A technician operated the rig from afar.) Lucky and the Muppet Mobile Lab have since been retired.

play test” stage — a short, low-profile dry run at a theme park to gather guest feedback. Disney declined to say when or where.

Richard-Alexandre Peloquin was also towering in the air, except his lower body was ensconced in a contraption/costume that gave him legs the size of oil barrels and feet that resembled those of a Wampa, a furry “Star Wars” ice beast.

Asya Cara Peña, a ride development engineer, piped up with a rudimentary explanation. They were developing a full-body exoskeleton that could be applied to a wide variety of oversize characters — and that counteracted the force of gravity. Because of safety concerns, not to mention endurance, the weight of such hulking costumes (more than 40 pounds) could not rest entirely or even mostly on a puppeteer’s shoulders. Instead, it needed to be redirected to the ground.

“But it also needs to look natural and believable,” Ms. Peña said. “And it has to be something that different performers of different body types with different gaits can slip into with identical results.”

Just then, Mr. Becker began to sway unsteadily. “Whoa! Be careful!” Ms. Peña shouted, rushing to help him sit down on an elevated chair.

“We still have a long way to go,” Mr. Becker said a bit sheepishly. “The challenge is to not just have a big idea, but to get it all the way to the park.”

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After Trumka’s Death, A.F.L.-C.I.O. Faces a Crossroads

Richard Trumka’s 12 years as A.F.L.-C.I.O. president coincided with the continued decline of organized labor but also moments of opportunity, like the election of a devoutly pro-labor U.S. president. With Mr. Trumka’s death last week, the federation faces a fundamental question: What is the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s purpose?

For years, top union officials and senior staff members have split into two broad camps on this question. On one side are those who argue that the A.F.L.-C.I.O., which has about 12 million members, should play a supporting role for its constituent unions — that it should help build a consensus around policy and political priorities, lobby for them in Washington, provide research and communications support, and identify the best ways to organize and bargain.

On the other side of the debate are those who contend that the federation should play a leading role in building the labor movement — by investing resources in organizing more workers; by gaining a foothold in new sectors of the economy; by funding nontraditional worker organizations, like those representing undocumented workers; and by forging deeper alliances with other progressive groups, like those promoting civil rights causes.

As president, Mr. Trumka identified more with the first approach, which several current and former union officials said had merit, particularly in light of his close ties to President Biden. Liz Shuler, who has served as acting president since Mr. Trumka’s death and hopes to succeed him, is said to have a similar orientation.

documents obtained by the website Splinter.

Ms. Shuler said in an interview on Friday that the department’s budget did not reflect other resources that go toward organizing, like the millions of dollars that the A.F.L.-C.I.O. sends to state labor federations and local labor councils, which can play an important role in organizing campaigns.

Although the rate of union membership fell by about 1.5 percentage points during Mr. Trumka’s tenure to under 11 percent, his influence in Washington helped lead to several accomplishments. Among them were a more worker-friendly revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement, tens of billions of dollars in federal aid to stabilize union pension plans and a job-creating infrastructure bill now moving through Congress.

sent hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to state and local governments, which public sector unions, increasingly the face of the labor movement, considered a lifeline.

But the cornerstone of Mr. Trumka’s plan to revive labor was a bill still awaiting enactment: the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act. The legislation would make unionizing easier by forbidding employers from requiring workers to attend anti-union meetings and would create financial penalties for employers that flout labor law. The federation invested heavily in helping to elect public officials who could help pass the measure.

During an interview with The New York Times in March, Mr. Trumka characterized the PRO Act as, in effect, labor’s last best hope. Because of growing inequality, our economy is on a trajectory to implosion,” he said. “We have to have a way for workers to have more power and employers to have less. And the best way do that is to have the PRO Act.”

Ms. Shuler echoed that point, arguing that labor will be primed for a resurgence if the measure becomes law. “We have everything in alignment,” she said. “The only thing left is the PRO Act to unleash what I would say is the potential for unprecedented organizing.”

But so far, placing most of labor’s hopes on a piece of legislation strongly opposed by Republicans and the business community has proved to be a dubious bet. While the House passed the bill in March and Mr. Biden strongly supports it, the odds are long in a divided Senate.

When asked whether the A.F.L.-C.I.O. could support Mr. Biden’s multitrillion-dollar jobs plan if it came to a vote with no prospect of passing the PRO Act as well, Mr. Trumka refused to entertain the possibility that he would have to make such a decision.

video game industry and other technology sectors.

Such funding can help support workers who want to help organize colleagues in their spare time, as well as a small cadre of professionals to assist them. “You have 100 people who you pay $25,000 per year, and 15 people full time, and the people can build something where they live,” Mr. Cohen said.

Stewart Acuff, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s organizing director from 2002 to 2008 and then a special assistant to its president, said the federation’s role in organizing should include more than just directly funding those efforts. He said it was essential to make adding members a higher priority for all of organized labor, as he sought to do under Mr. Trumka’s predecessor.

“We were challenging every level of the labor movement to spend 30 percent of their resources on growth,” said Mr. Acuff, who has criticized the direction of the federation under Mr. Trumka. “That didn’t just mean organizers. It meant using access to every point of leverage,” like pressuring companies to be more accepting of unions.

Mr. Acuff also said that the A.F.L.-C.I.O. must be more willing to place long bets on organizing workers that may not pay off with more members in the short term, but that help build power and leverage for workers.

succeeded in many ways even though it has produced few if any new union members. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. has supported the Fight for $15 but not provided direct financial backing.

Mr. Cohen and Mr. Acuff both cited the importance of building long-term alliances with outside groups — like those championing civil rights or immigrant rights or environmental causes — which can increase labor’s power to demand, say, that an employer stand down during a union campaign.

speech he made in Ferguson, Mo., after a young Black man, Michael Brown, was shot to death by a police officer there in 2014.

But Mr. Trumka faced a backlash on this front from more conservative unions, who believed the proper role of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. was to focus on economic issues affecting members rather than questions like civil rights.

“There were some unions — not just the building trades — who felt like that work was not what we should be focusing on,” Carmen Berkley, a former director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Department, said in an interview last year.

argued for diverting much of the tens of millions of dollars the labor movement spends on political activities to help more workers unionize.

But Ms. Shuler insists that deciding between investing in organizing and the federation’s other priorities is a false choice.

“I don’t think that they are mutually exclusive,” she said. “The way modern organizations work, you no longer have heavy institutional budgets that are full of line items. We organize around action. We identify a target where there’s heat.” Then, she said, the organizations raise money and get things done.

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NBC Tries to Salvage a Difficult Olympics

The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona had the Dream Team. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing had the Michael Phelps medal sweep. The Tokyo Olympics has a pandemic.

That has been the greatest challenge for NBCUniversal, the company that paid more than $1 billion to run 7,000 hours of games coverage across two broadcast networks, six cable channels and a fledgling streaming platform, Peacock.

The ratings have been a disappointment, averaging 16.8 million viewers a night through Tuesday, a steep drop from the 29 million who tuned in through the same day of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. NBCUniversal has offered to make up for the smaller than expected television audience by offering free ads to some companies that bought commercial time during the games, according to four people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss negotiations.

opening ceremony set a downbeat tone. Instead of the usual pageant of athletes smiling and waving to the crowd, there was a procession of participants walking through a mostly empty Tokyo Olympic Stadium, all wearing masks to protect themselves against the spread of Covid-19 as a new variant raged. The live morning broadcast and prime-time replay drew the lowest ratings for an opening ceremony in 33 years, with just under 17 million viewers. The high came Sunday, July 25, when a little more than 20 million people tuned in.

24 years as NBC’s prime-time Olympics host before leaving the network in 2017. “You can’t create something out of thin air. Everybody knows that this is, we hope, a one-of-a-kind Olympics.”

“It’s like if somebody is running the 100 meters and they have a weight around their ankles,” Mr. Costas continued. “That is not a fair judge of their speed.”

A widespread change in viewing habits, from traditional TV to streaming platforms, has been a big factor in the number of people watching. While NBC’s prime-time audience has shrunk considerably from what it was for the Rio games five years ago, the Olympics broadcasts are still bringing in significantly more viewers than even the most popular entertainment shows. The most recent episode of CBS’s “Big Brother,” a ratings leader, drew an audience of less than four million.

“We had a little bit of bad luck — there was a drumbeat of negativity,” said Jeff Shell, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, during a conference call last week, after NBC’s parent company, Comcast, reported its second-quarter earnings. The less-than-festive atmosphere, he added, “has resulted a little bit in linear ratings being probably less than we expected.”

a television critic for Vulture. “But more than anything, watching this year has shown the wounds that we’re dealing with.”

Ms. Chaney noted NBC’s interview with the American swimmer Caeleb Dressel right after he won gold in a glamour event, the men’s 100-meter freestyle. Moved to tears, Mr. Dressel said, “It was a really tough year. It was really hard.”

The 13-hour time-zone difference between Tokyo and the East Coast may have also figured in the drop in prime-time viewers. Many people in the United States have been waking up to phone alerts trumpeting the medal winners who will be featured in that night’s broadcast.

all-around win — seemed to gain traction not so much on TV but in snippets shared on social media. That trend has been apparent in the number of followers for NBCUniversal’s Olympics channel on TikTok, which have shot up 348 percent since the opening ceremony.

Those who decide to watch must choose from a jumble of channels and digital options. In addition to NBC, the coverage is spread across NBC Sports Network, CNBC, USA Network, the Olympic Channel, the Golf Channel, the Spanish-language channels Universo and Telemundo, not to mention NBCOlympics.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

There are so many choices that NBC’s “Today” show brought in Steve Kornacki, the political correspondent best known for elucidating election results, to break it all down. “If you’re a badminton fan, you’re going to be looking for NBCSN,” he told viewers. “If you’re an archery fan, USA Network. There’s all sorts of different possibilities!”

Jim Bell, who stepped away from Tokyo planning in 2018 when the company placed him in charge of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” He left that program and NBC a year later.

Ms. Solomon said she has been waking up at 4:30 a.m. in Tokyo and relying on double-shot lattes to get her through workdays that may go till 11 p.m. She does not share the opinion of some critics of the coverage.

“Every day, new stars arise, and new stories come to the fore,” she said. “So, personally, I don’t want it to end.”

In the view of Mr. Costas, who guided viewers through NBC’s Olympics coverage from 1992 through 2016, any comparison of the Tokyo games with previous competitions is not fair, given the pall cast by the pandemic. And three years from now, if all goes according to plan, NBCUniversal will get what amounts to a do-over in Paris.

“Paris 2024 will be, we hope, fingers crossed, much more like a classic Olympics situation,” he said. “That will be a more legitimate test.”

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‘They Have My Sister’: As Uyghurs Speak Out, China Targets Their Families

She was a gifted agricultural scientist educated at prestigious universities in Shanghai and Tokyo. She said she wanted to help farmers in poor areas, like her hometown in Xinjiang, in western China. But because of her uncle’s activism for China’s oppressed Muslim Uyghurs, her family and friends said, the Chinese state made her a security target.

At first they took away her father. Then they pressed her to return home from Japan. Last year, at age 30, Mihriay Erkin, the scientist, died in Xinjiang, under mysterious circumstances.

The government confirmed Ms. Erkin’s death but attributed it to an illness. Her uncle, Abduweli Ayup, the activist, believes she died in state custody.

Mr. Ayup says his niece was only the latest in his family to come under pressure from the authorities. His two siblings had already been detained and imprisoned. All three were targeted in retaliation for his efforts to expose the plight of the Uyghurs, he said.

called a genocide, prompting foreign governments to impose sanctions.

Credit…Abduweli Ayup

Now the Chinese authorities are pushing back against overseas Uyghurs by targeting their relatives.

The Communist Party has long treated the relatives of dissidents as guilty by association and used them to pressure and punish outspoken family members. With the courts under the control of the authorities, there is little recourse to challenge such prosecutions. Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo, spent nearly eight years under house arrest after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. Her younger brother, Liu Hui, served two years in prison for a fraud conviction she called retaliation.

But with the Uyghurs, the authorities seem to be applying this tactic with unusual, and increasing severity, placing some Uyghur activists’ relatives in prison for decades, or longer.

Dolkun Isa, the German-based president of the World Uyghur Congress, a Uyghur rights group, said he believes his older brother is in detention. He learned in late May that his younger brother, Hushtar, had been sentenced to life in prison. “It was connected to my activism, surely,” Mr. Isa said.

Radio Free Asia, a United States-funded broadcaster, says that more than 50 relatives of journalists on staff have been detained in Xinjiang, with some held in detention camps and others sentenced to prison. The journalists all work for the broadcaster’s Uyghur language service, which has in the past several years stood out for its reporting on the crackdown, exposing the existence of camps and publishing the first accounts of deaths and forced sterilizations.

The sister of Rushan Abbas, a Uyghur American activist, was sentenced in December to 20 years in prison for terrorism. The sister, Gulshan Abbas, and her aunt had been detained in 2018, days after Rushan Abbas spoke at an event in Washington denouncing the crackdown and widespread detention in Xinjiang.

use of the Uyghur language. The government regarded even the most moderate expression of ethnic identity as a threat and Mr. Ayup was arrested in 2013 and spent 15 months in prison. After he was released, he fled abroad, but his experience emboldened him to continue campaigning.

a leaked government document outlining how Uyghurs were tracked and chosen for detention.

The circumstances of Ms. Erkin’s death remain unclear.

Radio Free Asia, which cited a national security officer from Ms. Erkin’s hometown as saying she had died while in a detention center in the southern city of Kashgar. Mr. Ayup said he believed it was the same place where he himself had been beaten and sexually abused six years earlier.

Ms. Erkin’s family was given her body, Mr. Ayup said, but were told by security officials to not have guests at her funeral and to tell others she died at home.

In a statement to The New York Times, the Xinjiang government said that Ms. Erkin had returned from overseas in June 2019 to receive medical treatment. On Dec. 19, she died at a hospital in Kashgar of organ failure caused by severe anemia, according to the statement.

From the time she went to the hospital until her death, she had always been looked after by her uncle and younger brother, the government wrote.

Before she returned to China, Ms. Erkin seemed to be aware that her return could end tragically.

“We all leave alone, the only things that can accompany us are the Love of Allah and our smile,” she wrote in text messages to Mr. Ayup when he tried to dissuade her from going home.

“I am very scared,” she admitted. “I hope I would be killed with a single bullet.”

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Heavy Floods in China Trapped Passengers in Subway, Killing 12

The subway train in Zhengzhou, a city of five million in central China, was approaching its next station when the floodwaters began to rise ominously on the tracks. The passengers crowded forward as the water rose, submerging the cars at the rear first because they were deeper in the tunnel.

As the water reached their waists, then chests, finally their necks, the passengers called emergency services or relatives. One gave her parents the details for accessing her bank account. Some cried. Others retched or fainted. After two hours, it became difficult to breathe in the congested air that remained in the cars.

Ding Xiaopei, a radio host, was afraid to call her children, 13 and 4. What could she say? She posted a video that she thought might be her last message. “The water outside has reached this position,” she said, it having reached chest level, “and my mobile phone will soon run out of power.”

“Please save us!” she wrote.

The flood that inundated Line 5 of Zhengzhou’s subway on Tuesday added to the grim global toll extreme weather has taken already this year, with scorching heat in the Pacific Northwest, forest fires in Siberia, and flooding in Germany and Belgium. Although flooding is common in China, researchers have attributed the extreme weather sweeping the planet to the consequences of climate change.

reported. At least one carrying 735 people came to a stop near Zhengzhou and, after more than 40 hours, had run out of food and water. By the afternoon, some passengers were able to leave, while railway workers brought supplies to those still waiting aboard for service to resume.

battled weeks of flooding along the Yangtze River that killed hundreds of people and displaced millions more. The rains at that time filled the Three Gorges Dam to its highest level since it opened in 2003, raising fears that the dam itself could fail.

The government often goes to great lengths to manage information about disasters, sensitive about its history of underreporting casualties. It is quick to limit news coverage and censor blogs and social media sites to mute public dissatisfaction with prevention and rescue efforts.

Some people on Chinese chat platforms and social media sites have raised questions about whether official news outlets in Zhengzhou and Henan Province initially downplayed the flood. When storms struck Beijing recently, the authorities warned people to stay home, but there was no order to shut businesses or schools in Zhengzhou ahead of Tuesday’s heavy rain.

In times of disaster, the country’s state news media often focuses on the efforts of rescue workers, including the military, while playing down the causes of disasters and their damage. A journalism professor, Zhan Jiang, posted a note on Weibo, the social media platform, on Tuesday complaining that a television station in Henan Province continued to show its regular programming instead of providing public safety information.

the news site Jiemian, part of the state-owned Shanghai United Media Group.

By 8:35 p.m., rescuers reached the train and devised a pulley system with ropes to help passengers pull themselves through the floodwaters along a ledge in the subway tunnel. The elderly and injured went first, followed by the women and then the men. State news organizations said that 500 people were evacuated in all.

One man still missing was Sha Tao. When the subway car first flooded, he called his wife and asked her to call the police. She has not heard from him since. She posted a message on Weibo asking people for help, describing his height and weight and the clothes he was wearing.

“I haven’t found him yet,” she said when reached by telephone in Zhengzhou on Wednesday. “I went to several hospitals, but the hospitals didn’t have any information and couldn’t find him. His phone is now off.”

Amy Chang Chien, Claire Fu, Li You, Liu Yi and Albee Zhang contributed research.

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Fear and Misery in an Afghan City Where Taliban Stalk the Streets

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — The Afghan way of war in 2021 comes down to this: a watermelon vendor on a sweltering city street, a government Humvee at the front line just 30 feet away, and Taliban fighters lurking unseen on the other side of the road.

When the shooting starts, the vendor makes himself scarce, leaving his melons on the table and hoping for the best. When it stops, selling resumes, to customers now all too rare.

“I don’t have a choice. I’ve got to sell the melons,” said the vendor, Abdel Alim, speaking to New York Times journalists while he kept an eye on a lane within Kunduz city from which he said Taliban had emerged. “Most people have left,” he said. “There is fighting all the time.”

374,000 in Afghanistan’s north, and several other provincial capitals as well, as the Afghan government’s war with the Taliban enters a new and dangerous phase. For weeks, the insurgents have captured vulnerable districts across the country’s north, sometimes without even firing a shot. And on Wednesday, the Taliban said they had captured an important border crossing with Pakistan, at Spin Boldak — the fourth crossing they have seized in less than a month.

taken by the insurgents in 2015 and then again in 2016. Both times, the insurgents were eventually pushed back by the Afghan forces with help from American airstrikes. It was here that an American gunship mistakenly blasted a Doctors Without Borders hospital in 2015, killing 42 people.

This time, the Americans won’t be coming. The battle for Kunduz has become an intimate fight between Afghan opponents at close range.

“Every night they come to these houses and fire on us,” said the chief of police of Kunduz’s Third Municipal District, Sayed Mansoor Hashimi, looking out at now-vacant dwellings all around his police station. “Slowly, slowly they are tightening the circle.”

The war in Kunduz is intertwined with the fabric of the city. Shopping trips are planned between bursts of war. Residents no longer pay sufficient attention, said Marzia Salam Yaftali, the medical director at Kunduz Regional Hospital. “They are wounded in the streets or in the bazaar,” she said.

At the hospital, Ezzatullah, 14, lay in one of the wards, his legs wrapped in bandages: He lost both his feet when a mortar landed as he was playing outside his house. Three members of his family, including one of his parents, were killed.

“I can’t go to school now,” he said. Asked what he saw as his future, he replied firmly: “I want to be a man, to rebuild my country.”

The war, and the enemy, are inescapable. “We have to live here. Where can we go?” asked Ezamuddin Safi, a telecommunications worker who had to flee his home inside the city in early July. He was passing the day inside a small downtown restaurant.

“My 3-year-old boy, he screams when he hears the firing. He’s tired,” said Mr. Safi, 25. “Taliban are everywhere.”

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Live Updates: Haiti Seizes U.S. Citizen, Possibly 2, in Assassination

declared an “état de siège” — a state of siege — that allows the police and members of security forces to enter homes, control traffic and take special security measures. It also forbids meetings meant to excite or prepare for disorder.

The rapidly evolving crisis deepened the turmoil and violence that has gripped Haiti for months, threatening to tip one of the world’s most troubled nations further into lawlessness. Questions swirled about who might have been behind such a brazen attack and how they eluded the president’s security detail to carry it out.

Helen La Lime, the top U.N. official in Haiti, told reporters that a group of suspects had “taken refuge in two buildings in the city and are now surrounded by police.” She spoke via teleconference from Port-au-Prince, after briefing the United Nations Security Council on the Haitian crisis in a private meeting.

Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, has described the assailants as “well-trained professionals, killers, commandos.”

On Wednesday, security forces engaged in a chaotic shootout with a group of what they described as suspected assailants, though they offered no evidence linking them to the attack. Officers killed four in the group and took two into custody.

On Thursday, Haiti’s police chief, Leon Charles, said that the authorities had now arrested six suspected assailants, and that three foreign nationals had been killed. Two suspects had been wounded in clashes with the police, according to Mr. Pierre.

Chief Charles also said that five vehicles that might have been used in the attack had been seized and that several of them had been burned by civilians. He said it was impossible for the police to gather evidence from inside the charred vehicles.

Social media was full of reports that could not be immediately verified, showing groups of civilians parading men with their arms tied behind their backs and men in the back of a police pickup truck.

A large crowd of people gathered in front of the police station in the Pétionville area of Port-au-Prince on Thursday morning, before Chief Charles spoke, some demanding vigilante justice for the suspects they believed to be inside. “Burn them,” some cried.

Carl Henry Destin, a Haitian judge, told the Nouvelliste newspaper that the assailants had posed as agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — both U.S. and Haitian officials said that they were not associated with the D.E.A. — when they burst into the president’s private home on the outskirts of the capital around 1 a.m. on Wednesday.

Judge Destin said that a maid and another member of the household staff had been tied up by the attackers as they made their way to the president’s bedroom.

The president was shot at least 12 times, he said.

“The offices and the president’s bedroom were ransacked,” Mr. Destin said. “We found him lying on his back, blue pants, white shirt stained with blood, mouth open, left eye blown out.”

He said Mr. Moïse appeared to have been shot with both large-caliber guns and smaller 9-millimeter weapons.

The president’s wife, Martine Moïse, was injured in the assault and was rushed by air ambulance to the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, where Mr. Joseph, the interim prime minister, said she was “out of danger” and in stable condition. Representative Frederica Wilson of Florida said at a news conference in Miami that Ms. Moïse was not the target of the attack and that, according to the U.S. State Department, “she was caught in a crossfire.”

Video

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Martine Moïse, wife of the slain President Jovenel Moïse, was rushed to a hospital in Miami on Wednesday following the nighttime raid and attack on their home in Haiti.CreditCredit…Valerie Baeriswyl/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ms. Wilson said the couple’s three children are in protective custody. Mr. Destin said that a daughter, Jomarlie, was at home during the attack but hid in a bedroom and escaped unharmed.

Haitians pressured the police on Thursday to hand over the bodies of two men killed in a shootout.
Credit…Joseph Odelyn/Associated Press

The official manhunt for the assassins who burst into the home of Haiti’s president continued on Thursday, but as some ordinary Haitians set out to capture suspects themselves, setting afire vehicles believed to have been used in the attack, the interim prime minister appealed for calm and to refrain from violence.

“I’m asking everyone to go to their homes,” said Claude Joseph, the interim prime minister, at a news conference Thursday afternoon. “The police have the situation under control.”

The goal, Mr. Joseph said, is to maintain security in the country and get justice for the former President Jovenel Moïse and his family.

Haiti’s police chief, Léon Charles, said over the past day the authorities had arrested six suspects. He also said police had recovered three bodies, “visibly foreigners,” as well as five vehicles believed to have been used in the assassination plot.

But several of those vehicles had been burned by citizens, he said, making it impossible for the police to gather evidence.

“We can’t have vigilante justice,” Mr. Charles said. “Let us do our work. Help us do our work.”

But passions were high on the streets of Pétionville, an affluent suburb of the capital close to where the president lived. A large crowd of people gathered in front of the police station there, demanding to hear from the police chief about the assassins — some of whom were believed to be inside.

Some demanded street justice.

“Burn them,” they cried.

Later, drifting away from the police station, some took their anger into nearby streets, at one point attacking a car dealership. Two protesters were arrested by the police.

A video shared widely on social media shows a crowd of more than 30 Haitians pulling light-skinned men through the footpaths of a dense neighborhood. One of the men was shirtless and had his arms tied with a rope behind his back. The people in the crowd, who appeared to be unarmed, brought the men to the police station, sources told The New York Times.

The police were also surrounding two buildings in which suspects in the assassination had holed up, Helen La Lime, the top U.N. official in Haiti, said at a news conference.

One of the suspects arrested in Haiti is an American citizen of Haitian descent from South Florida, said Haiti’s minister of elections, Mathias Pierre.

On Thursday, just a day after declaring a “state of siege” and a curfew, Mr. Joseph, the interim prime minister, asked people to return to work and said he planned to reopen the country’s main airport.

Reporting contributed from Andre Paulte and Harold Isaac in Haiti.

President Jovenel Moïse, center,  with his wife, Martine, and the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, at a ceremony in the Haitian capital,Port-au-Prince, in May.
Credit…Joseph Odelyn/Associated Press

An already turbulent political landscape in Haiti threatened to descend into further turmoil on Thursday as a power struggle between two competing prime ministers stoked tensions after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

In the hours after the killing, the country’s interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, said he was in charge, taking command of the police and army in what he cast as an effort to ensure order and stability. Mr. Joseph declared a “state of siege” for 15 days, essentially putting the country under martial law, though constitutional experts were unsure whether he has the legal authority to do so.

It was not even clear whether he was really still prime minister.

Two days before his death, Mr. Moïse appointed a new prime minister, Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon and politician, who was supposed to take up the role this week.

In an interview with The Nouvelliste, a newspaper, Mr. Henry said that Mr. Joseph was “no longer prime minister” and claimed the right to run the government.

“I am a prime minister with a decree that was passed in my favor,” Mr. Henry said, adding that he had been in the process of forming his government.

Mr. Henry said that he “did not want to add fuel to the fire,” but he criticized Mr. Joseph’s decision to impose a state of siege and called for dialogue to ensure a smooth political transition.

President Moïse himself had faced questions about his legitimacy.

For more than year, he had been ruling by decree. Many, including prominent jurists, contended that his term ended in February. Haiti had been rocked by protests against his rule, and also suffered a surge in gang activity that undercut the legitimacy of the government.

Now, there is a new political struggle, and it threatens to undermine the legitimacy either man would need to effectively lead the police, the army and the country itself.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Mr. Joseph on Wednesday, the State Department said, offering condolences and offering to assist the country “in support of the Haitian people and democratic governance, peace, and security.” Mr. Joseph, speaking at a news conference on Wednesday evening portrayed the conversation as lasting more than 30 minutes.

“We talked about security, elections and a political accord,” he said.

Adding to the challenges for a government in crisis, Haiti, a parliamentary democracy, has no functioning Parliament. There are currently only 10 sitting senators out of 30; the terms of the other 20 have expired. The entire lower house is no longer sitting, because the representatives terms expired last year. Long-planned elections were scheduled for later this year, but it was unclear when or whether they would take place.

The president of what remains of the Haitian Senate, Joseph Lambert, put out a news release on Thursday morning, saying that the Senate “reassures Haitians and the international community that everything will be managed by the national institutions, political forces and civil society to guarantee the continuity of the state and the republican order.”

A Haitian political analyst, Monique Clesca, said that Mr. Moïse had avoided opportunities to hold national elections, and that when the terms of the country’s mayors expired in January, he had installed his own supporters in those positions.

“The objective was always to be the supreme ruler,” Ms. Clesca said. “Eventually to be able to control the whole political apparatus.”

Haiti has a long history of political instability. The country has been rocked by a series of coups in the 20th and 21st centuries, often backed by Western powers, and has been marked by frequent leadership crises that have driven Haitians into the streets in protest.

While the United States and other nations have long supplied Haiti with much-needed aid and financial assistance, including help in recovering from a devastating earthquake in 2010, Western powers have also exerted an overwhelming influence over the country’s political destiny. The United States occupied the country from 1915 to 1934.

France has had a particularly long and difficult relationship with Haiti. More than two centuries ago, Haitians fought to throw off the yoke of colonial France and to bring an end to one of the world’s most brutal slave colonies.

Jacky Dahomay, a French philosopher who served on a French government-mandated commission on relations with Haiti, faulted France and other international actors for failing to help the country establish “truly democratic institutions.” In an interview, he said that only “the law of the strongest” was working in Haiti at the moment and called for the “an international intervention force to restore order.”

News Analysis

U.S. soldiers delivering aid from the World Food Program to Jabouin, Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew destroyed dozens of villages in 2016.
Credit…Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

There are failed states. And then there is Haiti.

The Caribbean nation is better described as what one analyst once called an “aid state.” It ekes out an existence with the help of billions of dollars from the international community.

The country’s struggles have long captured the world’s attention, but they have not occurred in a vacuum: Outside nations have played a major role, through the brutal exploitation of the past and years of political interference. But damage has also been done by their efforts to help.

Over the past decade, the international community has pumped $13 billion of aid into the country, afraid to let Haiti fail. But the nation-building that aid was meant to support never came about. Instead, Haiti’s institutions became further hollowed out.

The funds stripped leaders of the incentive to carry out the institutional reforms necessary to rebuild the country. Instead, analysts and Haitian activists say, the leaders learned to bet that in times of crisis — and the country has had many — international governments would open their wallets.

For years, the aid has provided vital services and supplies, but it has also bred corruption and violence, and left political paralysis unchecked.

Some Haitian civil society leaders contend, the United States, a large provider of aid, has propped up strongmen and tied the fate of the nation to them.

“Since 2018, we have been asking for accountability,” Emmanuela Douyon, a Haitian policy expert who gave testimony to the U.S. Congress this year, said in an interview. “We need the international community to stop imposing what they think is correct and instead think about the long term and stability.”

Members of Montreal’s Haitian diaspora holding an anti-Moïse demonstration outside the Haitian consulate in March.
Credit…Nasuna Stuart-Ulin for The New York Times

Many Haitians in the diaspora are fearing the worst after the assassination of the country’s president, Jovenel Moïse, an act of violence that many consider a potent symbol of the mayhem experienced in the Caribbean nation in recent months.

Rodney Saint-Éloi, a Haitian-Canadian poet and publisher in Montreal, said the assassination of Mr. Moïse was a blow to democracy in Haiti. “It turns all Haitians into assassins, because he was, like it or not, the president of all Haitians,” he said. “It is the failure of a society and of an elite who helped get us to this point.”

Mr. Moïse, killed in an attack early Wednesday on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, had presided over a country buffeted by instability, endemic corruption and gang violence. His refusal to cede power had angered Haitians the world over, and many in the diaspora had put off trips home for the past year as kidnappings and other acts of violence became more commonplace.

Because of its chronic instability, Haiti has a large diaspora, with some of the largest communities based in the United States, Canada, France and the Dominican Republic. About 1.2 million Haitians or people of Haitian origin live in the United States, according to 2018 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. But the figure is thought to be higher because of a sizable number of immigrants who are in the country without documentation.

Frantz André, a leading Haitian rights advocate in Montreal, organized a protest in March in which dozens of Haitians demonstrated against what they called Mr. Moise’s political repression. He described Mr. Moïse as a deeply polarizing figure and said that other Haitians abroad were feeling mixed emotions about the president’s killing.

“I don’t think it would be wise to scream victory at his assassination, because we don’t know what will come after and the situation could be even more precarious,” Mr. André said. “Educated people saw him as a threat to democracy, and others have been protesting against him because they have nothing to eat.”

Mr. André added that a sizable minority had supported Mr. Moïse and saw him as a catalyst for change, because he had promoted the idea of giving Haitians outside the country the right to vote and was pushing to change the Constitution.

The Haitian security forces are engaged in what the authorities described as a sweeping manhunt for suspects in the killing of President Jovenel Moïse. Four people were killed, and two more taken into custody after a shootout late Wednesday.

An ambulance carrying the body of President Jovenel Moise in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Wednesday.
Credit…Reuters

With security forces still hunting for the killers and investigators combing through the evidence from the scene of his assassination, the body of Haiti’s slain president, Jovenel Moïse, was loaded onto an ambulance on Wednesday, bound for a morgue.

A procession of cars was seen speeding away from the presidential residence, but things apparently did not go as planned: Encountering a highway blocked by tires, and hearing gunfire, observers said, the drivers made a quick turnaround.

They needed another route.

The same could be said for Haiti itself on Thursday, a day after its president was shot by a team of assassins described as “well-trained professionals” who had stormed his home on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and then disappeared into the night.

Now, an interim prime minister whose legitimacy was already under question — a replacement was named before the assassination — has declared himself in charge, and put the country under a Haitian version of martial law.

Parliament is riddled with vacancies and inactive. And a country steeped in violence is poised for things to get worse. Late Wednesday, prolonged gunfire could be heard in Port-au-Prince.

“It’s a very grave situation,” said Georges Michel, a Haitian historian and constitutional expert.

The interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, appealed for calm. “Let’s search for harmony to advance together, so the country doesn’t fall into chaos,” he said in a televised address to the nation.

But the country has learned the hard way over the decades, through earthquake and disease, poverty and political turbulence, that chaos feels always near at hand.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen now,” one man said as neighbors gathered to exchange news. “Everything is possible.”

Andre Paultre contributed reporting.

Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, in 2017.
Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Haiti has been thwarted by outside interests from its very foundation as a country.

For decades, European powers, and later the United States, refused to recognize it as an independent republic.

The Caribbean nation became the world’s first Black-led republic when it declared its independence from France on New Year’s Day 1804. That day, Saint-Domingue, once France’s richest colony, known as the “Pearl of the Antilles,” became Haiti.

It was a land long coveted for its riches of sugar, coffee and cotton, brought to market by enslaved people. Its declaration of independence meant that, for the first time, a brutally enslaved people had wrenched their freedom from colonial masters. But it came only after decades of bloody war.

In 1825, more than two decades after independence, the king of France, Charles X, sent warships to the capital, Port-au-Prince, and forced Haiti to compensate former French colonists for their lost property.

Haiti, unable to pay the hefty sum, was forced into a debt that it had to shoulder for nearly a century. Throughout the 19th century, a period marked by political and economic instability, the country invested little in its infrastructure or education.

In 1915, U.S. troops invaded after a mob killed the Haitian president.

The United States later justified its occupation as an attempt to restore order and prevent what it said was a looming invasion by French or German forces. But U.S. troops reintroduced forced labor on road-construction projects and were later accused of extrajudicial killings.

The widely unpopular occupation ended in 1934, but U.S. control over Haiti’s finances lasted until 1947.

After a series of midcentury coups, the Duvalier family, father-and-son dictators, reigned over Haiti with brute force until the 1980s. Their regime plunged Haiti deeper into debt, and introduced the so-called Tontons Macoutes, an infamous secret police force that terrorized the country.

In the early 1990s, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, was elected president. He was then ousted twice from power over the next 15 years.

Mr. Aristide preached liberation theology, and threatened the establishment by promising economic reforms. After a first coup, he was restored to power. But he left the presidency for good after a second coup in 2004, which was supported by the United States and France. He was exiled to the Central African Republic and, later, to South Africa.

Haiti, with a population of 11 million, is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

In 2010, it suffered a devastating earthquake that claimed the lives of about 300,000 people. The country never really recovered, and it has remained mired in economic underdevelopment and insecurity. A cholera outbreak in 2016, linked to U.N. peacekeepers, killed at least 10,000 Haitians and sickened another 800,000.

Then early Wednesday, Jovenel Moïse, who became president in 2017, was assassinated at his residence.

A police officer standing guard outside the presidential residence in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.
Credit…Valerie Baeriswyl/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Not long after Haiti’s president was shot to death by assassins who burst into his home early Wednesday, the country’s interim prime minister announced that he had declared an “état de siège” — a state of siege.

To many people around the world watching with alarm as events unfold in Haiti, the term was unfamiliar, even baffling.

But things grew a little clearer when the interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, published details of the order in the official government journal, Le Moniteur.

Haiti is now basically under martial law. For 15 days, the police and members of the security forces can enter homes, control traffic and take special security measures and “all general measures that permit the arrest of the assassins” of President Jovenel Moïse. It also forbids meetings meant to excite or prepare for disorder.

There is one wrinkle. Or two, really.

Only Parliament has the power to declare a state of siege, said Georges Michel, a Haitian historian and constitutional expert. But Haiti at this moment has no functional Parliament. The terms of the entire lower house expired more than a year ago, and only 10 of Haiti’s 30 Senate seats are currently filled.

“Legally, he can’t do this,” Mr. Michel said. “We are in a state of necessity.”

There are actually a few other wrinkles.

Mr. Joseph’s term as interim prime minister is about to end and, in fact, President Moïse had already appointed a replacement, his sixth since taking office.

“We are in total confusion,” said Jacky Lumarque, rector of Quisqueya Universty, a large private university in Port-au-Prince. “We have two prime ministers. We can’t say which is more legitimate than the other.”

It gets worse.

Haiti also appears to have two Constitutions, and the dueling documents say different things about what to do if a president dies in office.

The 1987 version — published in both national languages, Creole and French — deems that if the presidency is vacant for any reason, the country’s most senior judge should step in.

In 2012, however, the Constitution was amended, and the new one directed that the president should be replaced by a council of ministers, under the guidance of the prime minister. Except if, as was Mr. Moïse’s situation, the president was in the fourth year of office. In that case, Parliament would vote for a provisional president. If, of course, there were a Parliament.

Unfortunately, that Constitution was amended in French, but not in Creole. So as it stands, the country has two Constitutions.

“Things are unclear,” said Mr. Michel, who helped write the 1987 Constitution. “It’s a very grave situation.”

Mr. Lumarque lamented the state of his country.

“This is the first time where we’ve seen that the state is so weak,” he said. “There is no Parliament. A dysfunctional Senate. The head of the Supreme Court just died. Jovenel Moïse was the last legitimate power in the country’s governance.”

A street market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, last month.
Credit…Joseph Odelyn/Associated Press

The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti on Wednesday could complicate efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in the Caribbean nation, which has yet to begin vaccinating its citizens, officials from the World Health Organization warned.

Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organization, which is part of the W.H.O., said her organization had made Haiti a priority in recent weeks as reported cases have surged.

“I am hopeful that the arrival of vaccines in the country can start to turn the tide of the pandemic and bring some relief to the Haitian people during these very difficult times,” Dr. Etienne said. “We continue to stand with them now and will redouble our efforts.”

Haiti did not experience the kind of surge early in the pandemic that many experts feared could devastate the country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. But the pandemic has grown worse in recent weeks, with a rise in reported cases that experts say is almost certainly an undercount, considering the country’s limited testing capacity.

Last month, Covid-19 claimed the life of René Sylvestre, the president of Haiti’s Supreme Court — a leading figure who might have helped to establish order in the wake of an assassination that has plunged the country into even deeper political uncertainty.

Dr. Etienne’s organization said in an email that while it was too soon to evaluate the impact of the assassination, “further deterioration of the security situation in Haiti could have a negative impact on the work that has been done to curtail Covid-19 infections,” as well as on vaccination plans.

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President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti was killed in an attack at his private residence on the outskirts of the capital, Port-au-Prince.CreditCredit…Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters

The organization said that Haiti was also facing challenges from the start of hurricane season and the recent detection of the Alpha and Gamma virus variants on the island. Though “vaccines are expected to arrive shortly” in Haiti, the organization said it did not have a specific delivery date.

In June, Dr. Etienne urged the global community to do more to help Haiti cope with rising coronavirus cases and deaths. “The situation we’re seeing in Haiti is a cautionary tale in just how quickly things can change with this virus,” she said.

Haiti is an extreme example of the “stark inequities on vaccine access,” Dr. Etienne said. “For every success, there are several countries that have been unable to reach even the most vulnerable in their population.”

Across Latin America and the Caribbean, there are millions of people who “still don’t know when they will have a chance to be immunized,” she said.

She said the inequitable distribution of vaccines posed practical and moral problems.

“If we don’t ensure that countries in the South have the ability to vaccinate as much as countries in the North, this virus will keep circulating in the poorest nations for years to come,” Dr. Etienne said. “Hundreds of millions will remain at risk while the wealthier nations go back to normal. Obviously, this should not happen.”

Haitian Foreign Minister Claude Joseph during an interview, February 2021 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Credit…Orlando Barríia/EPA, via Shutterstock

The top United Nations official in Haiti told reporters Thursday that she considered Claude Joseph, the interim prime minister, the person in charge of the country in the aftermath of President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination.

The assertion by the official, Helen La Lime, the head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, carries weight concerning the question over who is legally authorized to be running the country of 11 million. A former American diplomat, she spoke remotely via teleconference from Port-au-Prince, the capital, after briefing the United Nations Security Council about the Haitian crisis in a private meeting.

Mr. Joseph was supposed to be replaced this week by Ariel Henry, who had been appointed prime minister by Mr. Moïse two days before his assassination. But hours after the killing of the president early Wednesday, Mr. Joseph assumed leadership of Haiti, taking command of the police and army in what he said was an effort to ensure order and stability.

Mr. Henry’s confirmation as prime minister “did not happen,” Ms. La Lime said, and Mr. Joseph “continues to govern,” under Article 149 of the country’s 1987 Constitution.

At the same time, she said, “there are certainly people on all sides of the issue who have different interpretations of Article 149, and that is why it’s important to have a dialogue.”

Ms. La Lime stressed Mr. Joseph’s contention that he intended to hold elections later this year. The country’s Parliament is not functioning, as many members’ terms expired last year, and Mr. Moïse had come under international criticism for failing to call elections.

Ms. La Lime also said that Haiti’s government had made a “request for transitional security assistance” from the United Nations, which once deployed thousands of peacekeepers in the country but withdrew them a few years ago. “Haiti needs to specify what it’s after,” she said.

Regarding the killers of Mr. Moïse, Ms. La Lime said “all efforts must be made to bring these perpetrators to justice.”

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Taliban Try to Polish Their Image as They Push for Victory

KABUL, Afghanistan — In June, when the Taliban took the district of Imam Sahib in Afghanistan’s north, the insurgent commander who now ruled the area had a message for his new constituents, including some government employees: Keep working, open your shops and keep the city clean.

The water was turned back on, the power grid was repaired, garbage trucks collected trash and a government vehicle’s flat tire was mended — all under the Taliban’s direction.

Imam Sahib is one of dozens of districts caught up in a Taliban military offensive that has swiftly captured more than a quarter of Afghanistan’s districts, many in the north, since the U.S. withdrawal began in May.

It is all part of the Taliban’s broader strategy of trying to rebrand themselves as capable governors while they press a ruthless, land-grabbing offensive across the country. The combination is a stark signal that the insurgents fully intend to try for all-out dominance of Afghanistan once the American pullout is finished.

have begun to muster militias to defend their home turf, skeptical that the Afghan security forces can hold out in the absence of their American backers, in a painful echo of the country’s devastating civil war breakdown in the 1990s.

report. Some homes there were burned down by the Taliban, residents said.

“The Taliban burned my house while my family was in the house,” said Sirajuddin Jamali, a tribal elder. “In 2015, a military base was under siege and we provided food and water for them, but now the Taliban are taking revenge,” Mr. Jamali sobbed. “Do they do the same in any area the Taliban take?”

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said the accusations of burning down homes was under investigation.

The group’s public responses, though rarely sincere, play directly into a strategy meant to portray the insurgents as a comparable option to the Afghan government. And they ignore the fact that local feuds drive large amounts of the war’s violence, outweighing any official orders from the Taliban leadership.

On the battlefield, things are shifting quickly. Thousands of Afghan soldiers and militia members have surrendered in past weeks, forfeiting weapons, ammunition and armored vehicles as the Taliban take district after district. Government forces have counterattacked, recapturing several districts, though not on the scale of the insurgents’ recent victories.

But little reported are Taliban losses, aside from the inflated body counts announced by the Afghan government’s Ministry of Defense. The Taliban, with their base strength long estimated to be between 50,000 and 100,000 fighters, depending on the time of year, have taken serious casualties in recent months, especially in the country’s south.

The casualties are primarily from the Afghan and U.S. air forces, and sometimes from Afghan commando units.

Mullah Basir Akhund, a former commander and member of the Taliban since 1994, said that cemeteries along the Pakistani border, where Taliban fighters have long been buried, are filling up faster than in years past. Pakistani hospitals, part of the country’s unwavering line of support for the insurgents, are running out of bed space. During a recent visit to a hospital in Quetta, a hub for the Taliban in Pakistan, Mr. Akhund said he saw more than 100 people, most of them Taliban fighters, waiting to be treated.

But despite tough battles, the weight of a nearly withdrawn superpower, and the Taliban’s own leadership issues, the insurgents continue to adapt.

Even as they seek to conquer the country, the Taliban are aware of their legacy of harsh rule, and do not want to “become the same pariah and isolated state” that Afghanistan was in the 1990s, said Ibraheem Bahiss, an International Crisis Group consultant and an independent research analyst.

“They’re playing the long game,” Mr. Bahiss said.

Reporting was contributed by Asadullah Timory in Herat, Taimoor Shah in Kandahar, Ruhullah Khapalwak, Farooq Jan Mangal in Khost and Zabihullah Ghazi in Jalalabad.

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