Looking Back at the First Roaring Twenties

We are in a second Roaring Twenties, or so you might think, from the countless comments suggesting that we are entering an exuberant decade that echoes the one of a century ago.

The 1920s were marked by frenetic celebration, amazing stock market returns — and, ultimately, one of the worst crashes and most devastating depressions in modern history.

A century is a long time, and the original Roaring Twenties have become something of a lost world, glimpsed through legend, movies and pop fantasy.

It’s worth looking back more closely. History doesn’t provide a clear guide to the future — many economists avoid studying it, preferring instead to dwell on mathematical models, the latest changes in fiscal and monetary policy and statistically significant leading indicators.

Alexander Dana Noyes wrote both of “the most reckless stock speculation” and of a series of “exceedingly favorable” factors protecting the economy: a “sound banking system,” “expanding production and consumption,” “large profits,” “stability of prices,” “conservative methods of trade,” “labor’s high wages” and “increasing exports.”

As stocks rose, people who had little knowledge of the market blithely bought shares for the first time, as Eunice Fuller Barnard described in “Ladies of the Ticker,” a firsthand account in April 1929.

Recently, there has been a parallel rise in trades by inexperienced retail investors.

Early in the 1920s, people played the market as a grand game, abetted by technological innovation and new mass media.

In 1923 the Trans-Lux company came out with the “movie ticker” — a large illuminated screen showing rapidly changing stock prices. For the first time, a crowd at a retail brokerage could watch together as a facsimile of the stock ticker tape whizzed by in bright light.

And they heard about the stock market on the radio, the hot new technology of that era. Westinghouse, in Pittsburgh, created one of the world’s first commercial radio stations, KDKA, which broadcast Warren G. Harding’s victory in the presidential election on Nov. 2, 1920. Sports events, comedy shows and stock market reports soon followed, and radio stations spread throughout the United States and the world.

The world entered homes electronically, giving people an immediate sense of the possibility of new technologies and access to a global narrative about financial success.

What is startling, in retrospect, is that while there was plenty of discussion of the brave new horizons for investing in the 1920s, there was very little skeptical scrutiny of the underpinnings of the markets available in mass media, at least at first.

CAPE, which enables us to say stock prices today are quite high on a historical basis.

But my research suggests that in the early 1920s, scarcely anyone, outside of investment professionals, knew what a price-earnings ratio was. There was not a single use of the phrase in the ProQuest News & Newspapers database before 1928.

This inattention shifted in the months before the October 1929 crash. In May 1929, for example, The New York Herald Tribune published “Price-Earnings Ratio Ignored by Traders in Present Market.”

It was a sign of worry. Suddenly, many people became aware that this important measure was at record highs, indicating that prices were difficult to justify. The article helped to spread a pessimistic narrative about the stock market that began to dominate discourse.

“The purchaser of securities on tips, who gives no thought or study to intrinsic values, must suffer the consequences of his own lack of reasonable care in conserving his resources,” the article said.

As the crash approached, newspapers reported that many people had taken excessive loans from brokers, noting that the severity of a market decline could be amplified when brokers made “margin calls,” requiring repayment of those loans.

As early as March 1928, an article in The Times said there was a widespread “uncomfortable feeling” about the “unpleasant possibilities” for the still roaring stock market. Such a feeling exists today, though perhaps not in as severe a form.

the risk of excessive speculation. Yet the Standard & Poor’s Composite Index rose 29 percent from Jan. 1 to Sept. 8 that year. (The increase in the S&P 500 from March 23, 2020, to Thursday, at 86 percent, is even larger.)

In 1929, the warnings only heightened public attention to the market.

In February 1929, the singer Eddie Cantor had a hit pop song about the dangers of living. Its title was a form of baby talk: “I Faw Down an’ Go Boom!” The lyrics included this: “I got a tip to buy some stocks, lost my shirt, lost my socks. The minute that I buy some stocks, they faw down an’ go boom.”

An article by Joseph Dineen in The Boston Globe on Feb. 10, 1929, said the song had gone viral: “‘I faw down and go boom.’ Did you ever hear anything sillier, more ridiculous and inane in your life? This wisecrack is positively cuckoo, a snatch of baby talk which has swept the country, used every day in every way by broad-shouldered huskies and lithesome lounge lizards as the last word in high-powered repartee. Every broadcasting station tossed it off into the air at least once a night.”

The song, and others like it, helped to prime people into thinking about the possibility of a crash.

Are there similarities today? Certainly. The current widespread fascination with the rising market accompanied by recent concern about a possible downward spiral and strained stock market valuations echo those of 100 years ago.

That said, there is no particular reason to expect a market collapse that would be as bad as the 1929 crash, and the government and the Fed have shown themselves to be far more adept in staving off prolonged recessions than their predecessors. But we shouldn’t be surprised if uncomfortable feelings about the market grow to unmanageable proportions, leading eventually to a major stock market decline.

Robert J. Shiller is Sterling professor of economics at Yale.


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Paraguay’s ‘Life and Death’ Covid Crisis Gives China Diplomatic Opening

RIO DE JANEIRO — Taiwan has built thousands of homes for the poor in Paraguay, upgraded the country’s health care system, awarded hundreds of scholarships and even helped fund the futuristic Congress building in the capital, spending generously over decades to nurture their diplomatic ties.

But the alliance, which makes Paraguay one of only 15 nations to have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and the only one in South America, is facing an existential threat as Paraguay’s quest for vaccines becomes increasingly desperate.

With its health care system buckling as Covid-19 cases soar, Paraguayan officials across the political spectrum say the time has come to consider dumping Taiwan, which doesn’t export vaccines, in order to establish diplomatic ties with China, which does.

“This is really a life and death situation,” said Pepe Zhang, an associate director at the Atlantic Council who specializes in relations between Latin America and China. “In this very acute phase of the pandemic, less resourceful countries like Paraguay are asking where they’re going to get the vaccine.”

to rely predominantly on Chinese vaccines to blunt an epidemic that has left a brutal toll.

That has given Beijing considerable leverage in a region where it has a broad constellation of investments and projects. Suddenly, wresting Paraguay from Taiwan’s orbit — which would advance Beijing’s goal of politically isolating an island it regards as its territory — appears within reach.

Euclides Acevedo, Paraguay’s foreign minister, said recently that Beijing has made it clear it is interested in establishing ties with Paraguay. He has dangled that prospect of making the diplomatic switch as he has sought to pressure Taiwan and its ally, the United States, to get vaccines to Paraguay quickly.

late last month in an interview on the television network Telefuturo. “I think our strategic allies, including the United States and Taiwan, must respond.”

Beijing’s one-China principle forces countries to choose between having full diplomatic relations with Beijing or Taipei. Three countries in Latin America blindsided and angered the United States government in recent years by abruptly severing ties with Taiwan following secret negotiations with Beijing.

Panama, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador — came with promises of growing trade with Beijing and has made them early recipients of Chinese vaccines.

Mr. Acevedo said Paraguay should explore what it would gain by doing the same.

“President Xi Jinping has keen interest in partnering with us,” he said. “It’s a political debate that should draw input from all segments of the state and all of society.”

Yet, it’s not clear that Paraguay has taken formal steps toward exploring a flip.

Charles Andrew Tang, who heads the China-Paraguay Chamber of Commerce, said he advised officials at the health ministry earlier this year on the paperwork they would need to fill out to request purchasing Chinese vaccines.

Mr. Tang, who is seen in Paraguay as a key interlocutor with the Chinese government, said it is conceivable that Chinese vaccine manufacturers would sell vaccines to Paraguay even without formal diplomatic relations. But he said the onus was on officials in Paraguay to make the first move.

an immediate pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine after six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within one to three weeks of vaccination.

  • All 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico temporarily halted or recommended providers pause the use of the vaccine. The U.S. military, federally run vaccination sites and a host of private companies, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Publix, also paused the injections.
  • Fewer than one in a million Johnson & Johnson vaccinations are now under investigation. If there is indeed a risk of blood clots from the vaccine — which has yet to be determined — that risk is extremely low. The risk of getting Covid-19 in the United States is far higher.
  • The pause could complicate the nation’s vaccination efforts at a time when many states are confronting a surge in new cases and seeking to address vaccine hesitancy.
  • Johnson & Johnson has also decided to delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe amid concerns over rare blood clots, dealing another blow to Europe’s inoculation push. South Africa, devastated by a more contagious virus variant that emerged there, suspended use of the vaccine as well. Australia announced it would not purchase any doses.
  • “The virus can spread across borders, but mankind’s love also transcends borders,” he told reporters.

    This week China’s main Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer, Sinovac, made a gesture that is certain to fuel speculation about Beijing’s plans in Paraguay. The South American soccer federation Conmebol, which is based in Paraguay, announced it was receiving a donation of 50,000 doses of CoronaVac, the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Beijing-based Sinovac.

    “The leaders of this company have understood the enormous social and cultural value of soccer in South American countries,” the federation’s president, Alejandro Domínguez, said in a statement, calling the donation a “noble gesture.”

    Despite all these signals, Taiwan’s position in Paraguay may be safer than it appears, said Lee McClenny, who served as the U.S. ambassador in Paraguay until last September. While cabinet members and businessmen have pressured President Mario Abdo Benítez to forge ties with China, the Chinese government didn’t show much interest in getting Paraguay to flip, he said.

    “On the ground I didn’t see very effective efforts to make this happen,” Mr. McClenny said.

    Besides, Mr. McClenny added, the Paraguayan president takes a special pride in the relationship with Taiwan, which was brokered in the 1950s by his late father, who served as the personal secretary to Alfredo Stroessner, the dictator who ran the country for 35 years. And Taiwanese aid has made a major impact in the landlocked, impoverished nation.

    “It’s effective and benefits people’s lives in real ways,” Mr. McClenny said about Taiwan’s assistance.

    The Biden administration has signaled its unease about the prospect that Paraguay could cut a deal with China. In a phone call with Mr. Abdo Benítez last month, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken urged the Paraguay government to continue to “work with democratic and global partners, including Taiwan, to overcome this global pandemic,” according to a summary of the call provided by the State Department.

    That message rankles opposition lawmakers, including the leftist Senator Esperanza Martínez, who served as health minister from 2008 to 2012. Ms. Martínez has long favored establishing relations with China, arguing that Paraguay stands to benefit in the long run by expanding trade. She said Washington’s exhortation was immoral.

    “We’re being loyal to people who impose rules on us while we die,” she said. “Our allies are vaccinating people morning, afternoon and night while they block us from getting vaccines, saying we’ll turn into communists.”

    Ernesto Londoño reported from Rio de Janeiro. Santi Carneri contributed reporting from Asunción, Amy Qin contributed reporting from Taipei, Taiwan and Sui-Lee Wee contributed reporting from Singapore.

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    A Former Alt-Right YouTuber Explains His Methods

    “There’s one way this is going to go,” he told the man. “You’re going to end up knocked down unconscious.”

    Over the more than two years he helped produce and publish videos for Mr. Robinson and others, Mr. Robertson learned how making clever edits and focusing on confrontation could help draw millions of views on YouTube and other services. He also learned how YouTube’s recommendation algorithm often nudged people toward extreme videos.

    “It meant that we did more and more extreme videos,” Mr. Robertson said.

    Caolan Robertson grew up in Ireland, and after his parents divorced, he moved with his father to a predominantly working-class area in the north of England. Realizing from a very young age that he is gay, he often felt like an outsider. But he says he encountered more overt homophobia when he moved to London for college and walked through the largely Muslim neighborhoods at the East End of the city.

    After the 2016 shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. — where a Muslim man pledging loyalty to the Islamic State killed 49 people and wounded 53 more — Mr. Robertson developed an extreme animosity toward Muslims, particularly immigrants. His anger was fueled in large part, he said, by videos he watched on YouTube.

    He began watching videos from mainstream outlets, like an episode of the HBO show “Real Time With Bill Maher” in which Sam Harris, an author and a podcast host, advocated greater criticism of Muslim beliefs. YouTube’s recommendation algorithm suggested more extreme videos involving personalities like Mr. Robinson, a former member of the neo-fascist and white nationalist British National Party who was born Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.

    In 2017, Mr. Robertson contacted Mr. Robinson and soon began working with him as a video producer. By the end of the year, he was also collaborating with Ms. Southern, an activist from Canada.

    Knowing what garnered the most attention on YouTube, Mr. Robertson said, he and Ms. Southern would devise public appearances meant to generate conflict. That December, they attended a women’s march in London and, with Ms. Southern playing the part of a television reporter, approached each woman with the same four-word question: “Women’s rights or Islam?”

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    How Working From Home Changed Wardrobes Around the World

    Have months of self-isolation, lockdown and working from home irrevocably changed what we will put on once we go out again? For a long time, the assumption was yes. Now, as restrictions ease and the opening up of offices and travel is dangled like a promise, that expectation is more like a qualified “maybe.” But not every country’s experience of the last year was the same, nor were the clothes that dominated local wardrobes. Before we can predict what’s next, we need to understand what was. Here, eight New York Times correspondents in seven different countries share dispatches from a year of dressing.

    Italian Vogue called “a luxury version of classic two-piece sweats.”

    Fabio Pietrella, the president of Confartigianato Moda, the fashion arm of the association of artisans and small businesses, said that while consumer trends indicated a shift from “a business look to comfort,” it was “not too much comfort.” Italian women, he said, had eschewed sportswear for “quality knitwear” that guarantees freedom of movement but with “a minimum of elegance.”

    flyest city on the planet.

    In the Senegalese capital, at Africa’s westernmost tip, men in pointy yellow slippers and crisp white boubous — loosefitting long tunics — still glide down streets dredged with Saharan dust. Young women still sit in cafes sipping baobab juice in patterned leggings and jeweled hijabs. Everyone from consultants to greengrocers still wears gorgeous prints from head to toe.

    Occasionally they now wear a matching mask.

    While much of the world was shut up at home, many people in West Africa were working or going to school as normal. Lockdown in Senegal lasted just a few months. It was impossible for many people here to keep it up. They depend on going out to earn their living.

    the poet and revolutionary Amílcar Cabral loved.

    joint report by the Boston Consulting Group and Retailers Association of India.

    While infections were low during the winter, the past few weeks have seen cases rising to staggering levels in many parts of the country. Right now, it looks as though many people will be working from home for most of 2021 too.

    For Ritu Gorai, who runs a moms network in Mumbai, that means she has barely shopped at all, instead using accessories like scarves, jewelry and glasses to jazz up her look and add a little polish.

    For Sanshe Bhatia, an elementary schoolteacher, it has meant trading her long kurtas or formal trousers and blouses for caftans and leggings. In order to encourage her class of 30 kids to get dressed in the morning rather than attending lessons in their pajamas, she takes care to look neat and makes sure her long hair is brushed properly.

    into a tailspin,” interviews with a range of Parisians suggest a compromise of sorts had been reached.

    When Xavier Romatet, the dean of the Institut Français de la Mode, France’s foremost fashion school, went back to work, he didn’t wear a suit, but he did wear a white shirt under a navy blue cashmere sweater and beige chinos, as he would at home. He paired his outfit with sneakers by Veja, a French eco-friendly brand.

    Similarly, Anne Lhomme, the creative director of Saint Louis, the luxury tableware brand, dresses the same whether remotely or in person. A favorite look, she said, includes a camel-colored cashmere poncho “designed by a friend, Laurence Coudurier, for Poncho Gallery” and loosefitting plum silk pants. Also lipstick, earrings and four Swahili rings she found in Kenya.

    light blue or white shirts, which I buy at Emile Lafaurie or online from Charles Tyrwhitt, with a round-collar sweater if it’s cold” — and, from the waist down, “Uniqlo pants in stretch fabric.”

    And Sophie Fontanel, a writer and former fashion editor at Elle, said, “I am often barefoot at home, alone, wearing a very pretty dress.”

    Daphné Anglès

    Fifth, as well as high-fashion labels, have focused on bright satin, silk and linen shirts with bow ties or stand-up collars, striped patterns or gathered sleeves. The trend for such showy tops has led to a boom in clothing subscription services.

    One such platform, AirCloset, announced that 450,000 users had subscribed in October 2020, three times more than in the same period in 2019. Often users request tops only (one bottom item is usually included), and there is now a limit of three in any one order.

    “Customers prefer brighter colors to basics such as navy or beige for online meetings, or they prefer asymmetric design tops,” said Mari Nakano, the AirCloset spokeswoman. About 40 percent of subscribers are working mothers for whom the subscription service saved time because they didn’t have to be bothered with washing. They just put the tops in a bag, return them and then wait for the next package to arrive with their new items.

    Hisako Ueno

    Ushatava, an independent label of sleek, geometrically tailored sleek designs in mostly muted natural colors. It was founded in Yekaterinburg, a city in the Ural Mountains that in the last few years has turned into a Russian fashion hub. 12Storeez, another rising brand from Yekaterinburg, saw its turnover balloon by 35 percent over the last year, even as the market overall shrank by a quarter, said Ivan Khokhlov, one of the founders.

    Nastya Gritskova, the head of a P.R. agency in Moscow, said the effect of the pandemic was that for the first time in the Russian capital people stopped “paying attention at who wears what.” Yet last fall, when the government eased coronavirus-related restrictions, things started going back to normal.

    “There isn’t a pandemic that can make Russian women stop thinking about how to look beautiful,” she said.

    Ivan Nechepurenko


    Elisabetta Povoledo, Ruth Maclean, Mady Camara, Flávia Milhorance, Shalini Venugopal Bhagat, Daphné Anglès, Hisako Ueno and Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.

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    The Israel Prize Is Meant to Unify. More Often, It’s Mired in Controversy.

    Michael Sfard, an Israeli human rights lawyer who represents Professor Goldreich, said that even if his client did support B.D.S., such support should not disqualify him from receiving the Israel Prize.

    “Now, to prove that someone called for a boycott, you need to scrutinize his writings and signatures, driving us straight toward a McCarthyist process,” Mr. Sfard said, referring to the 1940s and 1950s in the United States, when leftists were regularly accused of subversion and treason. “This is an attempt to exclude a whole political camp in Israel.”

    Professor Goldreich missed this year’s ceremony, which was recorded on Sunday for broadcast on Thursday. The judges said that should he be approved, he could receive the award at next year’s ceremony, if not before.

    Mr. Gallant, the education minister, appeared emboldened by the court decision.

    “Prof. Goldreich may be a brilliant scientist, but his support for the boycott movement and his call to boycott Ariel University is a spit in the face of the state of Israel and of Israeli academia and is possibly even a violation of the law,” he wrote on Twitter. He added that he would use the time to investigate whether the professor’s “current renunciation” of the boycott movement was genuine.

    Mr. Gallant’s staff declined requests for comment.

    “I view this (unlawful) behavior of the minister as a small step in the process of pushing the left in Israel outside the limits of legitimacy, a process that has been going on for decades now and has been intensified in the last years,” Professor Goldreich said in an emailed comment. “I am happy to play a role in the struggle to block this delegitimization process and the attempt to reverse it.”

    The professor’s colleagues and supporters held an alternative award ceremony for him at Weizmann Institute this week, where he referred to the award as the “Likud Prize.”

    “I think that the Likud and the state of Israel are two different things,” he said.

    The Weizmann Institute took out ads in the Hebrew newspapers on Wednesday congratulating Professor Goldreich and saying that, as far as they were concerned, he had won the prize.

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    Some companies are focusing on wooing individual investors, who are becoming a market force.

    Dozens of companies are suddenly paying more attention to individual investors.

    Small investors who buy single stocks have not been a major force in financial markets for the better part of half a century. They were growing in influence before the pandemic, partly because of the popularity of free trading apps such as Robinhood.

    But with millions of Americans stuck at home during the pandemic, the trading trend escalated, Matt Phillips reports for The New York Times.

    “Retail trading now accounts for almost as much volume as mutual funds and hedge funds combined,” Amelia Garnett, an executive at Goldman Sachs’s Global Markets Division, said on a recent podcast produced by the firm. “So, the retail impact is really meaningful right now.”

    Tesla has long eschewed traditional communications with Wall Street. Ark Investment Management — the high-flying, tech-focused exchange-traded fund company run by the investor Cathie Wood — and Palantir Technologies, are also trying to reach small investors directly.

    Before Lemonade, a company that sells insurance to consumers online, went public in July, it went on a traditional tour of Wall Street, meeting big investors and talking up its prospects. However, the company has since discovered that more than half of its shares are held by small investors, excluding insiders who own the stock, said Daniel Schreiber, its chief executive.

    That has prompted a strategy adjustment. In addition to spending time communicating with analysts whose “buy” or “sell” ratings on the stock can move its price, Mr. Schreiber said, he has made a point of doing interviews on podcasts, websites and YouTube programs popular with retail investors.

    “I think that they are, today, far more influential on, and command far more following in terms of stock buying or selling power than the mighty Goldman Sachs does,” Mr. Schreiber said. “And we’ve seen that in our own stock.”

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    How Small Market Investors Are Being Wooed by Companies

    That has prompted a strategy adjustment. In addition to spending time communicating with analysts whose “buy” or “sell” ratings on the stock can move its price, Mr. Schreiber said, he has made a point of doing interviews on podcasts, websites and YouTube programs popular with retail investors.

    “I think that they are, today, far more influential on, and command far more following in terms of stock buying or selling power than the mighty Goldman Sachs does,” Mr. Schreiber said. “And we’ve seen that in our own stock.”

    Academic research suggests that over the longer term, it can be a competitive advantage for a company to have a patient base of investors who understand and believe in its strategy. Such a steady foundation makes it possible for executives to focus on longer-term strategic goals, rather than meeting the short-term metrics often dictated by Wall Street analysts, said Mr. Cunningham of George Washington University Law School.

    Take Amazon. Its share price kept rising over the years, despite its skimpy and unpredictable profits and widespread skepticism from Wall Street. The individual shareholders who held Amazon stock bought into the vision of the founder, Jeff Bezos, and saw no problem with Amazon recycling its enormous cash flows back into the company rather than paying dividends. Many of those shareholders are now rich; someone who bought $1,000 worth of Amazon shares at the start of 2000 would be sitting on more than $4.3 million today.

    Shares of Tesla, too, have exploded in recent years — a victory for its base of cultish followers, who believed in the company’s prospects despite years of losses. Over the past five years, Tesla shares have gained more than 1,300 percent, creating $640 billion in market wealth.

    While some companies are pursuing the loyalty of small shareholders, others are pursuing their money. Several companies whose stocks climbed during January’s “meme stock” boom have taken advantage of the demand to issue new shares, turning trading enthusiasm into actual cash for the company. (Previously issued shares that are bought and sold in the open market don’t generate any new money for companies themselves.)

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    Darius, ‘World’s Longest Rabbit,’ Goes Missing

    LONDON — Have you seen Darius, the world’s longest rabbit?

    Four feet long and weighing 50 pounds, the heavyweight bunny should be easy to spot. But he went missing this past weekend, and now the police are involved, appealing for information about his apparent abduction from his home in a small English village.

    Darius’s owner, Annette Edwards, has offered a reward of 2,000 pounds, about $2,745, for his safe return, no questions asked. She detailed his disappearance on Sunday from her home in Stoulton, England, in a post on Twitter, calling it a “very sad day.” She added that the rabbit was too old to breed now, “So please bring him back.”

    A former model turned rabbit breeder who has held four world-record titles for the size of her animals, Ms. Edwards has previously sold Darius’s offspring for as much as £250 pounds each.

    “It’s just so upsetting because he is such a lovable character,” she told the British newspaper The Telegraph, adding that Darius, who is largely retired from public appearances, was on a special diet for his age and would die without it.

    appealing for those with information about the theft to come forward. The police say that they believe the rabbit was stolen from an enclosure in Ms. Edwards’s garden on Saturday.

    Darius was crowned the world’s longest rabbit by the Guinness World Records in 2010. In a 2019 interview with the Canadian broadcaster CBC, Ms. Edwards described Darius, a type of domestic rabbit known as a Continental Giant that was historically bred for its meat and fur, as “an old man” who “can be a bit grumpy.” Still, she added, “he hasn’t lost his sparkle.”

    Darius drew attention online and traveled across the country for events alongside Ms. Edwards, who often appeared with him dressed as the cartoon character Jessica Rabbit. Darius was insured for $1.6 million and traveled with a bodyguard, according to NBC’s Today show in a 2010 article.

    But his reign as the world’s longest rabbit was already under threat from his own offspring, some of whom also measure over four feet long.

    said of her pets in the CBC interview. “They’re a lovely creature, very gentle,” she added, describing them as “more like dogs than rabbits.”

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    When Anti-Asian Jokes Targeted BTS, the Boy Band’s Fan Army Mobilized

    A parody on Chilean television of the Korean boy band BTS prompted an international backlash over the weekend, illustrating the power of the group’s many fans and a heightened sensitivity around the world to racist, particularly anti-Asian, speech.

    In a short sketch on the show “Mi Barrio,” which aired Saturday on the Mega Channel in Chile, comedians satirized the South Korean supergroup, mocking the Korean language and associating the band’s members with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.

    Asked to introduce themselves, the actors portraying the band’s members gave their names as “Kim Jong-Uno,” “Kim Jong-Dos,” “Kim Jong-Tres,” “Kim Jong-Cuatro” and “Juan Carlos.” Asked to say something in Korean, one comedian spoke in accented gibberish.

    Fans of BTS are legion and fiercely loyal. They quickly came to the band’s defense and linked the jokes to wider issues of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia that have flared since the coronavirus surfaced last year in China.

    Korean pop music fans coordinated to embarrass President Donald J. Trump by inflating ticket requests at a campaign rally.

    At a time of increased anti-Asian rhetoric and violence across the internet and around the world, “Mi Barrio” quickly became the target of a larger antiracism campaign. The trading card company Topps faced a similar backlash last week after releasing Garbage Pail Kids cards that were intended to mock the band but were widely perceived as racist and tone deaf.

    Not confined to Spanish-language social media and BTS fan accounts, outrage about the “Mi Barrio” episode quickly spread across the web, with the hashtag #RacismIsNotComedy becoming the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the United States on Sunday night. It was an indication that thousands of people were discussing the term at the same time.

    “There is NOTHING funny about racism, especially in a time where Asian hate crimes have been rampant around the world. This is disgusting,” wrote one Twitter user.

    Chilean BTS fan account with 150,000 followers pushed people to register a formal complaint against “Mi Barrio” with the country’s National Television Council, calling on the regulator to “ensure that racist attitudes and stereotypes are eliminated from Chilean television.”

    In a statement posted to its Instagram account on Sunday, “Mi Barrio” struck a conciliatory, if not wholly contrite, tone. “We will continue to improve, learn, listen and strengthen our intention: to bring entertainment to families.”

    BTS has not officially commented on the Chilean episode, but in a statement released in March about increased attacks against Asians, the group said, “We recall moments when we faced discrimination as Asians. We have endured expletives without reason and were mocked for the way we look. We were even asked why Asians spoke in English.”

    “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected,” the message concluded. “We will stand together.”

    That statement, released on Twitter, has been liked more than two million times.

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