The New York Times 2024-02-24 10:59:24


Waiting for Serhiy

On April 12, 2022, as Russian forces continued their siege of Mariupol, a 22-year-old Ukrainian marine messaged with his sister.

His attempts to escape the Russian siege had failed. He and his fellow Ukrainian marines were surrounded, dozens of miles from friendly lines. They were nearly out of food and water. Some panicked, others quietly resigned themselves to what would come next.

Then, about a day later, Serhiy Hrebinyk, a senior sailor, and his comrades emerged from their final holdout inside the sprawling Ilyich Iron and Steel Works in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. He quickly messaged his older sister: “Hi Anna. Our brigade surrenders in captivity today. Me too. I don’t know what will happen next. I love you all.”


Map locates the town of Trostyanets in northeastern Ukraine, and the eastern cities of Mariupol and Olvenika. It also locates the town of Kamyshin, on the Volga River in Russia.

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Netanyahu Issues First Plan for Postwar Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel released on Friday his most detailed proposal yet for a postwar Gaza, pledging to retain indefinite military control over the enclave, while ceding the administration of civilian life to Gazans without links to Hamas.

The plan, if realized, would make it almost impossible to establish a Palestinian state including Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, at least in the short term. That would likely accelerate a clash between Israel and a growing number of its foreign partners, including the United States, that are pushing for Palestinian sovereignty after the war ends.

The blueprint for Gaza comes after nearly 20 weeks of war in the territory and a death toll approaching 30,000 people, at least half of them women and children, according to Gazan authorities.

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Russia’s Brutal War Calculus


Two years of war have remade Russia.

Isolated from the West, it is now more dependent on China. Political repression is reminiscent of the grim days of the Soviet Union.

But Russia is not the economic shambles many in the West predicted when they imposed punishing sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine. Many Russians are pulling down their highest incomes in years.

Russian society has been refashioned in ways that have devastated some and lifted others. While government critics languish in jail and young men die in trenches at the front, other Russians — especially those willing to spout the official line — are feeling more optimistic than ever.

Here is a look at how Russia at war has changed — suffering enormous costs by some metrics but faring better than expected by others.

Daily Life

People fled Russia in droves after the invasion and draft, more than 820,000, although some returned.
Alcoholics were diagnosed in higher numbers after more than a decade of steady declines.
Demand for psychologists increased by more than 60% in the first year of the war.
Traffic to Facebook and Instagram dropped after Russia blocked them, and use of Telegram and secure platforms like VPNs surged.
Travel abroad plummeted from pre-pandemic days.
But people are making higher wages as men deployed to the front reduce the ranks of workers back home.
And Russians are shelling out on new homes, helped by generous government subsidies.

Despite the ways that life has changed, many people say they feel positive about how President Vladimir Putin is doing. His popularity surged as the war began and is now at its highest level in seven years.

Questions remain about how honest people feel they can be in polls, given the risks. And polls have signaled, too, that a substantial number would like the war to end. But Mr. Putin has convinced many that in invading Ukraine, Russia is defending itself against an existential threat from the West.

The Economy

Mr. Putin went into the war with his financial house in order.

Government debt was low. Funds were stashed away. And a team of agile technocrats were on hand to fend off a crisis.

After an initial shock, the Russian system recovered, thanks in part to emergency financial measures, high oil prices and trade with China and India. Moscow also greatly increased state spending.

Collectively, Russia has created its own wartime economy.

Trade with Europe dropped by about 65% after Western sanctions.
Toyotas and VWs, once popular, disappeared from car assembly lines.
But trade with China, India and Turkey boomed.
By last year, Chinese cars made up six of the top 10 car brands in Russia.
The G.D.P. overall was driven up last year by an enormous war-related government stimulus.
Unemployment dropped.
And more than two-thirds of Russians say their economic well-being is the same or better.
But inflation shot up too.

The economy is now in danger of overheating. The mortgage subsidies could be fueling a housing bubble. And the market is still off-kilter in some sectors, with shortages of certain medicines, for example, and dramatic reductions in car production.

If oil prices plunge, Russia will struggle. If the military spending spree ends, all bets are off. Russia can sustain warfare in Ukraine for the foreseeable future, but its long-term economic future is in doubt.

Support for the War

For the moment, at least, the resilient economy has boosted Mr. Putin. And a campaign of propaganda and repression have allowed him to reign virtually unchallenged.

As nationalist songs top the charts — “I am Russian, out of spite to the whole world,” goes one — less attention is being paid to the news. And the government plans to spend $500 million on “patriotic education” this year, including for a goose-stepping “youth army.”

The percentage of people saying the country is moving in the right direction is the highest in decades, 71% last month.
Support for Russian military actions in Ukraine is even higher, though many Russians have indicated that they aren’t comfortable sharing their opinion about the war.
Repression of those opposing the war is widespread.
Treason convictions nearly tripled.
The war has accelerated a crackdown on the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
Soviet-style denunciations are back, as Russians report “unpatriotic” behavior by fellow citizens to the authorities.
Freedom of assembly has been obliterated, with nearly 20,000 Russians detained for their antiwar stance.
Independent journalists have been forced to flee, and many have been declared foreign agents.
Mr. Putin’s best-known critic, Aleksei A. Navalny, died after years of inhumane treatment in prison.
The number of prisoners in Russia has actually decreased dramatically.
But that’s primarily because many were recruited to fight, and often die, in Ukraine.

Blood and Treasure

In the early months of the war, Mr. Putin’s military made grave mistakes, but it has regrouped. Russia fended off a Western-backed Ukrainian counteroffensive and has taken the initiative on the front, buoyed by frozen American aid for Ukraine.

Still, Russia has sustained huge costs to get this far. It is far from controlling the four regions it claims to have annexed, let alone the rest of Ukraine, and Mr. Putin may need to carry out another draft.

He claims he would like to negotiate an end to the war, but skeptics see that as a ploy to undercut Western aid to Ukraine.

Moscow has made increasing gains in recent weeks. It now controls about 18 percent of Ukraine, up from 7 percent before the full-scale invasion.
But its control of Ukraine is down from the 27 percent Russian forces once occupied at their height.
The progress is coming at a higher cost. Military spending has eclipsed social spending at the federal level for the first time in Russia’s 32-year post-Soviet history. It makes up about a third of the national budget.
Some 60,000 Russians have been killed in the fighting, according to U.S. officials.
That’s two Russian soldiers for every square mile taken from Ukraine since the invasion.
The popularity of the war appears to ebb when it comes to support for the draft. Only 36% of Russians support another mobilization to replenish forces.

To replenish its ranks, Russia has been targeting prisons and poorer regions for recruits.

Soldiers in Ukraine are earning roughly three times the average Russian salary — and in many cases more. Compensation to families of soldiers who die in Ukraine can be more than $84,000, more than nine times the average annual Russian salary.

But despite their stated support for the war, many Russians would be happy for it to end. Half of Russians say they want to start peace talks.

Want to Lose a Lot of Money, Fast? Buy a Small Soccer Team in England.

Geoff Thompson knows there are plenty of people who want to buy what he has to sell. The phone calls and emails over the last few weeks have left no doubt. And really, that is no surprise. Few industries are quite as appealing or as prestigious as English soccer, and Mr. Thompson has a piece of it.

It is, admittedly, a comparatively small piece: South Shields F.C., the team he has owned for almost a decade, operates in English soccer’s sixth tier, several levels below, and a number of worlds away, from the dazzling light and international allure of the Premier League. But while his team might be small, Mr. Thompson is of the view that it is, at least, as perfectly formed as any minor-league English soccer club could hope to be.

South Shields has earned four promotions to higher leagues in his nine years as chairman. The team owns its stadium. Mr. Thompson has spent considerable sums of money modernizing the bathrooms, the club shop and the private boxes. There is a thriving youth academy and an active charitable foundation. “We have done most of the hard yards,” Mr. Thompson said.

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Orban Gives Green Light to Sweden’s NATO Bid

Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary on Friday declared an end to a monthslong spat with Sweden over the expansion of NATO, saying that a visit by his Swedish counterpart had rebuilt trust and paved the way for the Hungarian Parliament to vote on Monday to ratify the Nordic nation’s membership in the alliance.

“We are ready to fight for each other, to give our lives for each other,” Mr. Orban said at a joint news conference in Budapest, the Hungarian capital, with the visiting Swedish leader, Ulf Kristersson. Hungary has been the last holdout in formally endorsing Sweden’s NATO membership.

The sudden warming of relations between the two countries followed a decision by Sweden to provide Hungary with four Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets in addition to the 14 its air force already uses, and a promise that Saab, the maker of the warplanes, will open an artificial intelligence research center in Hungary.

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Unpredictable Strongman? Two Years Into War, Putin Embraces the Image.

After President Biden called President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia a “crazy S.O.B.” this week, the Kremlin was quick to issue a stern condemnation.

But the image of an unpredictable strongman ready to escalate his conflict with the West is one that Mr. Putin has fully embraced after two years of full-scale war.

At home, the Kremlin is maintaining the mystery over the circumstances of the death last week of Aleksei A. Navalny, preventing the opposition leader’s family from reclaiming his body.

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As Gaza War Grinds On, Israel Prepares for a Prolonged Conflict

As the war in Gaza rages on, the situation in the battered enclave is one of devastation and despair. More than 29,000 people have been killed, according to Gaza health officials, the majority in a relentless Israeli bombing campaign. Neighborhoods have been flattened, families wiped out, children orphaned, and an estimated 1.7 million people displaced.

While global scrutiny grows over Israel’s conduct in the war, the Israeli military, by its assessment, has delivered a major blow to the capabilities of Hamas, killing commanders, destroying tunnels and confiscating weapons. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s goal of destroying Hamas remains elusive, according to current and former Israeli security officials.

They anticipate a protracted campaign to defeat Hamas.

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Russian Authorities Threaten to Bury Navalny on Prison Grounds, Aides Say

Russian authorities have warned Aleksei A. Navalny’s mother that if she doesn’t agree to a secret funeral, the late opposition campaigner will be buried by the state on prison grounds, according to Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman.

Lyudmila Navalnaya, Mr. Navalny’s mother, was given three hours to agree to the ultimatum but she refused to negotiate, arguing that Russian authorities had no legal right to decide the time and place of her son’s burial, according to Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh.

“She is demanding compliance with the law, which requires investigators to hand over the body within two days, from the moment the cause of death is established,” Ms. Yarmysh said in a statement released on X. The two days expire on Saturday.

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German Lawmakers Move Closer to Legalizing Marijuana

Lawmakers in Germany approved legalization of limited amounts of cannabis for recreational use on Friday, bringing the country a step closer to becoming one of the few European nations — and by far the largest — to do so.

“By legalizing it, we are taking cannabis out of the taboo zone,” Karl Lauterbach, who as health minister is largely responsible for the law, said on public television before the vote.

In the end, 407 lawmakers voted for the proposal, and 226 voted against the plan, which must be now approved by the Federal Council. That vote is expected next month.

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Canadian Judge Rules the Killing of Four Muslims Was Terrorism

A Canadian judge ruled on Thursday that the deadly rampage of a man who drove his truck into five members of a Muslim family was an act of terrorism motivated by white supremacist ideology and sentenced him to life with no possibility of parole for 25 years for his crimes.

The terrorism finding by Justice Renee Pomerance of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario was the first in Canada against a far-right extremist, according to the country’s criminal prosecution service. The perpetrator, Nathaniel Veltman, 23, killed four members of the Afzaal family in London, Ontario, in his June 2021 rampage and was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder in November.

In his trial, Mr. Veltman’s lawyers did not challenge that he had deliberately driven his Ram truck into the family. But they argued it was an impulsive act caused by consuming psilocybin, more commonly known as magic mushrooms, several hours earlier. They also said that he suffered from mental health problems and had difficulty controlling “an urge or obsession to put his foot on the gas” of his pickup.

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For Car Thieves, Toronto Is a ‘Candy Store,’ and Drivers Are Fed Up

Vjosa Isai drove around Toronto in a Volkswagen Passat with 290,000 miles on it, a vehicle not coveted by car thieves, to report this article.

Whenever Dennis Wilson wants to take a drive in his new SUV, he has to set aside an extra 15 minutes. That’s about how long it takes to remove the car’s steering wheel club, undo four tire locks and lower a yellow bollard before backing out of his driveway.

His Honda CR-V is also fitted with two alarm systems, a vehicle tracking device and, for good measure, four Apple AirTags. Its remote-access key fob rests in a Faraday bag, to jam illicit unlocking signals.

As a final touch, he mounted two motion-sensitive floodlights on his house and aimed them at the driveway in his modest neighborhood in Toronto.

But all of these security gadgets, Mr. Wilson is convinced, will do no more than delay what seems inevitable: Toronto’s seasoned auto thieves won’t be deterred by the defensive gear, and they’ll make off with this Honda SUV just as they did with its predecessor — and its insurance replacement, which they returned to steal.

“By no means do I think that I’ve stopped them,” Mr. Wilson said. “All I’ve done is made it take an extra 10 minutes to steal my car.”

While there has been a surge in car thefts across Canada — up 24 percent in 2022, the most recent year nationwide statistics were available — the scourge has hit the Toronto area particularly hard, creating a mix of paranoia, vigilance and resentment.

So pervasive are car thefts in Canada’s largest city, up 150 percent in the past six years, that the issue has become something of a common bond among vehicle owners. If not a victim themselves of a theft, or thefts, many people seem to know someone whose car was swiped, and just about everyone can instantly recall one of the car theft headlines that news outlets have had plenty of opportunity to publish.

Social media groups have formed to crowdsource help for car sightings. But the comments are filled with people telling owners to resign themselves to the fact that their car is probably already in a shipping container headed overseas.

“Organized crime is becoming more brazen, and the international black market for the stolen cars is expanding,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking this month in Ottawa at a hastily convened auto theft summit.

The meeting was intended to reassure Canadians that the government was aware of the issue and that it was considering a number of responses, including increasing penalties for auto thieves, investing in the border agency and banning imports of key fob hacking devices.

The government is not only aware of the problem, it also hasn’t been spared: Two government-issued Toyota Highlanders were stolen three times in Ottawa from the current and previous justice ministers.

Pierre Poilievre, the leader of the Conservative Party, has repeatedly criticized Mr. Trudeau on the issue, blaming the government for being excessively lenient in bail and sentencing for offenders.

The police have received new funding, including for better surveillance equipment, but the profit motive for thieves — as much as 20,000 Canadian dollars, or $14,800 per car — has, so far, made the problem intractable.

Car thefts have escalated to “national crisis” levels, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, an industry group, which said insurers paid out a record 1.2 billion Canadian dollars, or about $890 million, in theft claims in 2022.

For victims, it’s a dizzying, and sometimes traumatizing, experience.

“I was not able to digest the truth that the car had been stolen,” said Kamran Hussain, whose leased 2022 Toyota Highlander was stolen in January. Mr. Hussain’s work as a telecom field sales representative requires him to have access to a car. He’s borrowing one from a friend while he weighs what to do next.

“Either I have to buy a new car or I have to switch jobs,” he said. “I have no other choice.”

Demand for vehicle tracking from insurers in Ontario has about doubled business at Tag Tracking, a Montreal-based company, in the past two years, said Freddy Marcantonio, its vice president. Quebec insurers often require the Tag system for high-risk cars in the province, which for decades has grappled with auto thefts largely because many thieves favor Montreal’s port for getting their hot wheels quickly out of the country.

Thanks in part to the well-known prevalence of tracking systems in Quebec, thieves have turned to Toronto for easier pickings.

“It’s like getting a credit card and telling a kid to go in a candy store and buy whatever you want, and that’s why they moved to Ontario,” Mr. Marcantonio said. “It’s a free market for them there.”

But as criminals have adapted their behavior — “I like to say they have Ph.D.s in cars theft,” Mr. Marcantonio said — so have Toronto’s car owners, with many motivated to take a step as simple as clearing the junk out of their garages so they can stow their cars at night.

Homeowners are increasingly looking for solutions to protect their driveways, too, with some winning the praise of the police for installing bollards, like Mr. Wilson has done.

Last year, Achoy Ladrick founded Bollard Boys GTA — for Greater Toronto Area, an acronym unfortunately shared with the popular video game Grand Theft Auto.

“With this company, I’ve been able to bring that confidence back, bring that peace of mind back to people,” said Mr. Ladrick, 23, adding that one client installed four bollards after three Range Rover thefts.

The bread and butter of thieves are the most prosaic cars, like Mr. Wilson’s Honda CR-V, or Ford F-150 trucks. Luxury cars are trophies.

Some wealthy collectors store their cars in secret locations with round-the-clock security and dogs at night, but thieves can still win out.

Nick Elworthy wanted to get every last detail exactly right on his Ferrari, from the stitching down to the unique color, a candy-apple red slightly deeper than the sports car’s signature shade. He got to drive it only a few times before it was stolen last summer.

But the police in Ottawa stumbled on it when an officer noticed a Range Rover being backed into a shipping container on a rural property. A second car in the container was Mr. Elworthy’s Ferrari.

“I was absolutely ecstatic when I got the call from that officer,” he said. “I was literally jumping up and down.”

Most drivers discover they’ve become a victim when confronted with the initially baffling site of an empty parking space.

When Myra White couldn’t find a 2021 Jeep Wrangler that she was sure she had parked at a residential corner in downtown Toronto, she first doubted her memory before she realized it had been stolen. To her surprise, the police found it in a rail yard, with a smashed rear passenger window.

“I’m trying to think of what we’re going to do with the car when we get it back because I don’t want, of course, for it to happen again,” said Ms. White, an executive at a Toronto logistics company. “It’s something endemic in the city.”

For the exasperated Mr. Wilson, there has been one recent consolation to being a Toronto car owner: This year’s mild winter means he hasn’t often had to pull out his heat gun or de-icer spray to unfreeze his multiple locks.

Given that he bikes to work — and given all that is required for him to try to fend off the thieves who hanker for his Honda — he said his mind is made up on what his next move will be if he is victimized again.

“If they steal this car, I think I’m done,” he said, adding, “When they come with their antenna and they put it by the window, the only two fobs they’re going to pick up are the two cars that they’ve already stolen. I left those for them.”

Where Hostage Families and Supporters Gather, for Solace and Protest

A week after Hamas-led terrorists stormed his kibbutz and kidnapped his wife and three young children, Avihai Brodutch planted himself on the sidewalk in front of army headquarters in Tel Aviv holding a sign scrawled with the words “My family’s in Gaza,” and said he would not budge until they were brought home.

Passers-by stopped to commiserate with him and to try to lift his spirits. They brought him coffee, platters of food and changes of clothing, and welcomed him to their homes to wash up and get some sleep.

“They were so kind, and they just couldn’t do enough,” said Mr. Brodutch, 42, an agronomist who grew pineapples on Kibbutz Kfar Azza before the attacks on Oct. 7. “It was Israel at its finest,” he said. “There was a feeling of a common destiny.”

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An English City Gave Soccer to the World. Now It Wants Credit.

As far as the man in the food truck is concerned, the patch of land he occupies in Sheffield, England, is about as humdrum as they come. To him, the spot — in the drab parking lot of a sprawling home improvement superstore, its facade plastered in lurid orange — is not exactly a place where history comes alive.

John Wilson, an academic at the University of Sheffield’s management school, looks at the same site and can barely contain his excitement. This, he said, is one of the places where the world’s most popular sport was born. He does not see a parking lot. He can see the history: the verdant grass, the sweating players, the cheering crowds.

His passion is sincere, absolute and shared by a small band of amateur historians and volunteer detectives devoted to restoring Sheffield — best known for steel, coal and as the setting for the film “The Full Monty” — to its rightful place as the undisputed birthplace of codified, organized, recognizable soccer.


Map locates Sheffield, Manchester and London in England. It also shows where Wembley Stadium is in northwest London.

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How John Travolta Became the Star of Carnival

Jack Nicas and Dado Galdieri reported this article among the giant puppets of the Carnival celebrations in Olinda, Brazil

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It was near the start of one of Brazil’s most famous Carnival celebrations, in the northern seaside city of Olinda, and the town plaza was jammed with thousands of revelers. They were all awaiting their idol.

Just before 9 p.m., the doors to a dance hall swung open, a brass band pushed into the crowd and the star everyone had been waiting for stepped out: a 12-foot puppet of John Travolta.

Confetti sprayed, the band began playing a catchy tune and the crowd sang along: “John Travolta is really cool. Throwing a great party. And in Olinda, the best carnival.” (It rhymes in Portuguese.)

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Can Gabriel Attal Win Over France?

Gabriel Attal, 34, is a new kind of French prime minister, more inclined to Diet Coke than a good Burgundy, at home with social media and revelations about his personal life, a natural communicator who reels off one-liners like “France rhymes with power” to assert his “authority,” a favorite word.

Since taking office in early January, the boyish-looking Mr. Attal has waded into the countryside, far from his familiar haunts in the chic quarters of Paris, muddied his dress shoes, propped his notes on a choreographed bale of hay, and calmed protesting farmers through adroit negotiation leavened by multiple concessions.

He has told rail workers threatening a strike that “working is a duty,” not an everyday French admonition. He has shown off his new dog on Instagram and explained that he called the high-energy Chow Chow “Volta” after the inventor of the electric battery. He has told the National Assembly that he is the living proof of a changing France as “a prime minister who assumes his homosexuality.”

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Architect Embraces Indigenous Worldview in Australian Designs

Jefa Greenaway will never forget the first time he heard his father’s voice. It was in 2017, when he was watching a documentary about Indigenous Australians’ fight to be recognized in the country’s Constitution.

“It was poignant, surreal,” Mr. Greenaway recalled. “In one word: emotional.”

In the film, his father, Bert Groves, an Indigenous man and a civil rights activist born in 1907, recounts how he was prevented from pursuing an education because of the size of his skull, a victim of phrenology, the pseudoscience that lingered in Australia into the 20th century.

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The Friar Who Became the Vatican’s Go-To Guy on A.I.

Before dawn, Paolo Benanti climbed to the bell tower of his 16th-century monastery, admired the sunrise over the ruins of the Roman forum and reflected on a world in flux.

“It was a wonderful meditation on what is going on inside,” he said, stepping onto the street in his friar robe. “And outside too.”

There is a lot going on for Father Benanti, who, as both the Vatican’s and the Italian government’s go-to artificial intelligence ethicist, spends his days thinking about the Holy Ghost and the ghosts in the machines.

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Cleaning Latrines by Hand: ‘How Could Any Human Do That?’

When he came to fully realize exactly what his parents and older brother did for a living, and what it likely meant for his own future, Bezwada Wilson says he was so angry he contemplated suicide.

His family members, and his broader community, were manual scavengers, tasked with cleaning by hand human excrement from dry latrines at a government-run gold mine in southern India.

While his parents had tried hard to hide from their youngest child the nature of their work as long as they could — telling Mr. Bezwada they were sweepers — as a student Mr. Bezwada knew his classmates viewed him with cruel condescension. He just didn’t know the reason.

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A Child of Another War Who Makes Music for Ukrainians

When the owner of an underground club in Kyiv reached out to Western musicians to play in Ukraine, long before the war, there were not so many takers.

But an American from Boston, Mirza Ramic, accepted the invitation, spawning a lasting friendship with the club’s owner, Taras Khimchak.

“I kept coming back,” Mr. Ramic, 40, said in an interview at the club, Mezzanine, where he was preparing for a performance during a recent tour of Ukraine.

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Playing Soccer in $1.50 Sandals That Even Gucci Wants to Copy

The wealthy pros of Ivory Coast’s national soccer team were resting in their luxury hotel last week, preparing for a match in Africa’s biggest tournament, when Yaya Camara sprinted onto a dusty lot and began fizzing one pass after another to his friends.

Over and over, he corralled the game’s underinflated ball and then sent it away again with his favorite soccer shoes: worn plastic sandals long derided as the sneaker of the poor, but which he and his friends wear as a badge of honor.

Shiny soccer cleats like his idols’? No thanks, said Mr. Camara, a lean 18-year-old midfielder, as he wiped sweat from his brow.

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Russian Skaters Stripped of Olympic Gold, Setting Up New Fight for Medals

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International skating’s governing body on Tuesday sought to put an end to a two-year-old controversy by revising the disputed results of a marquee figure skating competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. But in stripping Russia of its victory in the team event, awarding the gold medal to the United States and denying Canada the bronze it had been expecting, the sport may have only set the stage for yet another protracted legal fight.

The revised finishes were announced by the skating body, the International Skating Union, one day after the teenage Russian star Kamila Valieva was banned for four years for doping. Disqualifying Valieva, a 15-year-old prodigy who had led Russia to an apparent victory, had the most immediate effect on the Olympic team standings: elevating the U.S. to gold and Japan to silver, while, surprisingly, dropping Russia just enough that it could still claim the bronze.

Within hours, Russia’s Olympic committee, already furious about Valieva’s ban, announced that it would appeal any outcome that denied it the team gold. Canadian officials quickly threatened to appeal the ruling as well. That left skating officials and the International Olympic Committee, which had chosen not to award medals in the team event until Valieva’s doping case was resolved, wondering how they could at last arrange a “dignified Olympic medal ceremony” for an ugly dispute that appeared nowhere near its end.

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FIFA Convictions Are Imperiled by Questions of U.S. Overreach

Nearly a decade after police officers marched world soccer officials out of a luxury hotel in Zurich at dawn, revealing a corruption scandal that shook the world’s most popular sport, the case is at risk of falling apart.

The dramatic turnabout comes over questions of whether American prosecutors overreached by applying U.S. law to a group of people, many of them foreign nationals, who defrauded foreign organizations as they carried out bribery schemes across the world.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year limited a law that was key to the case. Then in September, a federal judge, citing that, threw out the convictions of two defendants linked to soccer corruption. Now, several former soccer officials, including some who paid millions of dollars in penalties and served time in prison, are arguing that the bribery schemes for which they were convicted are no longer considered a crime in the United States.

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Depardieu Sexual Assault Suit Dropped Over Statute of Limitations

A sexual assault lawsuit filed against Gérard Depardieu by a French actress has been dropped because it was past the statute of limitations, prosecutors in Paris said on Monday, but the French actor is still under investigation in a separate case.

In the lawsuit that was dropped, the actress Hélène Darras had accused Depardieu of groping her on the set of “Disco,” a comedy released in 2008. Her suit had been filed in September but was made public only last month, shortly before she appeared in a France 2 television documentary alongside three other women who also accused Depardieu of inappropriate comments or sexual misconduct.

The documentary, which showed Depardieu making crude sexual and sexist comments during a 2018 trip to North Korea, set off a fierce debate in France that prompted President Emmanuel Macron and dozens of actors, directors and other celebrities to defend Depardieu, splitting the French movie industry.

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An Olympic Dream Falters Amid Track’s Shifting Rules

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Maximila Imali, a top Kenyan sprinter, did not lose her eligibility to compete in the Paris Olympics because she cheated. She did not fail a doping test. She broke no rules.

Instead, she is set to miss this year’s Summer Games because she was born with a rare genetic variant that results in naturally elevated levels of testosterone. And last March, track and field’s global governing body ruled that Ms. Imali’s biology gave her an unfair advantage in all events against other women, effectively barring her from international competition.

As a result, Ms. Imali, 27, finds her Olympic dream in peril and her career and her livelihood in limbo.

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Incendio en Valencia: hay al menos 9 muertos

Un día después de que un incendio arrasara un complejo de viviendas de gran altura en la ciudad española de Valencia, que derivó en la muerte de al menos 9 personas, los investigadores policiales intentaban determinar por qué las llamas se habían extendido por los dos edificios en menos de una hora.

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Las primeras sospechas recayeron en los materiales de construcción, pero era difícil determinarlo, ya que las dos estructuras permanecían tan calientes que los bomberos no pudieron entrar en los edificios sino hasta alrededor del mediodía del viernes, horas después de haber llegado al lugar durante la noche anterior.

Luis Sendra, decano del Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de la Comunidad Valenciana, dijo que los investigadores tendrían que esperar a que las estructuras se enfriaran para poder precisar si el revestimiento exterior podría haber contribuido a avivar el fuego. Afirmó que los huecos entre el aislamiento y el revestimiento podrían haber facilitado la propagación de las llamas.

“Es pronto para saber la causa exacta”, dijo Sendra. “Pero por la rapidez con que se extendió, podría haber mucha similitud con Grenfell en Londres”.

Setenta y dos personas murieron en el incendio de Grenfell, que consumió un edificio de apartamentos de gran altura en el oeste de Londres en 2017. Se habían utilizado materiales inflamables en el revestimiento de ese edificio, lo que aceleró la propagación del fuego.

En una rueda de prensa celebrada el viernes por la mañana, Carlos Mazón, presidente de la Comunidad Valenciana, anunció un periodo de luto de tres días y afirmó que siete bomberos habían resultado heridos en el incendio.

El gobierno de la comunidad autónoma había anunciado a primera hora del viernes que 10 personas habían fallecido en el incendio, pero de acuerdo con información que apareció en los medios de comunicación españoles más tarde ese mismo día, citando fuentes policiales, se afirmaba que el número de muertes se había revisado y eran nueve, y una persona desaparecida.

En unas imágenes dramáticas que circularon en los medios de comunicación españoles se veía a un bombero saltando desde el séptimo piso a una colchoneta de seguridad en el suelo. Dos residentes también fueron rescatados de un balcón tras quedar atrapados por el fuego; mientras los bomberos contenían las llamas con mangueras, los residentes trepaban de balcón en balcón para llegar a una plataforma de rescate elevada por un camión de bomberos.

El complejo residencial de Valencia, la tercera ciudad más grande de España, estaba formado por un edificio de 14 plantas y otro más bajo, y tenía un total de 138 viviendas, según Sendra.

Un equipo de 15 agentes forenses de la policía nacional está llevando a cabo una investigación sobre el incendio. Tampoco estaba claro el origen del incendio.

Aún no se sabía con claridad qué materiales se utilizaron en el exterior de los edificios. Sendra declaró a los medios de comunicación que el uso de aluminio en las fachadas de los edificios estaba permitido por la normativa de construcción española, pero que el uso de poliuretano como aislante no lo estaba.

Tampoco quedaba claro si se había utilizado poliuretano. Sin embargo, Esther Puchades, vicepresidenta del Colegio Oficial de Ingenieros Técnicos Industriales de Valencia, afirmó en un comunicado que “todos los indicios apuntaban al poliuretano como el causante de la voracidad de las llamas y el color del humo”.

Un comunicado del colegio señaló que algunos de los materiales de la fachada de los edificios contenían plástico que se incendió con rapidez, pero añadía: “No podemos asegurar que sea un material en concreto hasta que no acabe la investigación”.

Pep Benlloch, presidente de la asociación de vecinos de la zona, dijo en una entrevista en la cadena de televisión Antena 3 que en el complejo vivían muchos extranjeros, entre ellos ucranianos, pero que, en un principio, había estado vacío durante mucho tiempo debido a los precios prohibitivos por el auge de la construcción.

La policía y el ayuntamiento señalaron que no podían confirmar inmediatamente cuántas de las viviendas estaban habitadas en el momento del incendio. El complejo se construyó durante el auge inmobiliario de mediados de la década de 2000, según Sendra.

Un residente de 67 años que solo dio su nombre de pila, Pep, dijo el viernes a los medios de comunicación españoles que había salido de su vivienda con su esposa poco después de que se declarara el incendio.

“Cogí la cartera, el móvil, y logré salir del infierno”, dijo el hombre, hablando fuera del hotel donde ha sido alojado temporalmente.

Jorge, quien vive en el barrio de Campanar, dijo que había salido a dar un paseo cuando vio el incendio y se unió a un pequeño grupo de personas que contemplaba con horror cómo el edificio era consumido por las llamas.

Inmediatamente empezó a grabar; hizo un video del edificio en llamas, con el sonido de gritos de fondo, que publicó en las redes sociales

“Olía a plástico quemado”, dijo Jorge, quien solo dio su nombre de pila, en una entrevista.

El ayuntamiento de Valencia señaló en un comunicado que se había instalado una locación de asistencia en un edificio cercano para ofrecer apoyo práctico y psicológico a los residentes sobrevivientes.

El presidente del gobierno de España, Pedro Sánchez, visitó el viernes el lugar del incendio, agradeció a los trabajadores de emergencia y ofreció “trasladar nuestra solidaridad, nuestro cariño y nuestra empatía” a las familias afectadas por el fuego.

“La prioridad ahora”, dijo, “es la búsqueda de víctimas”.


Emily Schmallcolaboró con reportería.

EE. UU. indagó acusaciones de vínculos del narco con aliados del presidente de México

Funcionarios de la ley estadounidenses indagaron durante años afirmaciones de que aliados del presidente de México, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, se habían reunido con cárteles del narcotráfico y recibido millones de dólares luego de que asumió el cargo, según consta en registros de EE. UU. y de acuerdo con tres personas con conocimiento del tema.

La indagatoria, de la que hasta ahora no se había informado, descubrió información que señalaba posibles vínculos entre operadores poderosos de los cárteles y funcionarios y asesores mexicanos cercanos a López Obrador cuando ya gobernaba el país.

Pero Estados Unidos nunca abrió una investigación formal a López Obrador y los funcionarios que estaban haciendo la indagatoria al final la archivaron. Concluyeron que había poca disposición en el gobierno estadounidense para rastrear acusaciones que pudieran implicar al líder de uno de los principales aliados del país, dijeron las tres personas con conocimiento del caso, quienes no tenían autorización de ofrecer declaraciones públicamente.

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EE. UU. defiende a Israel ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia

El miércoles, un día después de vetar los llamados a un alto al fuego inmediato en Gaza, Estados Unidos defendió la ocupación israelí de Cisjordania y Jerusalén Oriente, ocurrida a lo largo de décadas, argumentando ante el más alto tribunal de las Naciones Unidas que Israel se enfrentaba a “necesidades muy reales en materia de seguridad”.

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La más reciente defensa estadounidense de Israel en la escena internacional se produjo en la Corte Internacional de Justicia de La Haya, donde Richard Visek, asesor jurídico en funciones del Departamento de Estado de EE. UU., instó a un panel de 15 jueces a no exigir la retirada inmediata de Israel de los territorios palestinos ocupados.

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¿Quién controla las prisiones de Latinoamérica? ¿El hampa o los guardias?

El Times  Una selección semanal de historias en español que no encontrarás en ningún otro sitio, con eñes y acentos.

El ejército de Ecuador fue enviado a recuperar el control de las prisiones el mes pasado, luego de que dos cabecillas importantes se fugaron y bandas criminales organizaron con rapidez una serie de disturbios que paralizaron el país.

La semana pasada, dos reclusos en Brasil con conexiones a una pandilla importante se convirtieron en los primeros en escapar de una de las cinco prisiones de máxima seguridad del país, según las autoridades.

Las autoridades en Colombia declararon una emergencia carcelaria después de que dos guardias fueron asesinados y varios más han sido blanco de lo que el gobierno calificó de represalias por su mano dura contra las principales organizaciones delictivas.

Al interior de las prisiones de toda Latinoamérica, grupos criminales ejercen una autoridad irrestricta sobre los presos, a quienes brindan protección o artículos básicos, como comida, a cambio de dinero.

Las prisiones también sirven como una suerte de refugio seguro para los líderes criminales encarcelados para que puedan dirigir a distancia y desde la reclusión sus grupos delictivos y ordenan asesinatos, organizan contrabando de drogas a Estados Unidos y Europa y coordinan secuestros y extorsiones a negocios locales.

A menudo, cuando las autoridades intentan restringir el poder que los grupos delincuenciales ejercen tras las rejas, sus líderes mandan a sus secuaces en el exterior de las prisiones a contraatacar.

“El principal centro de gravedad, el control que tiene el crimen organizado, está dentro de los centros carcelarios”, dijo Mario Pazmiño, coronel retirado y exdirector de inteligencia del ejército ecuatoriano que funge como analista en temas de seguridad.

“Ahí funcionan, digamos, los puestos de dirección, los puestos de mando”, añadió. Es “donde se dan las órdenes y disposiciones para que convulsionen el país”.

La población carcelaria de Latinoamérica se ha disparado en las últimas dos décadas, un crecimiento impulsado por medidas más severas como la prisión preventiva. Sin embargo, los gobiernos de la región no han destinado suficientes recursos para manejar este aumento y, más bien, a menudo han cedido el control a los reclusos, según expertos penalistas.

Quienes son enviados a prisión con frecuencia enfrentan una decisión: unirse a un grupo criminal o sufrir su ira.

Como resultado, los centros penitenciarios se han tornado en una pieza clave en el reclutamiento para los carteles y las pandillas más violentos de América Latina, con lo que refuerzan, y no pierden, su control de la sociedad.

En su mayoría, las autoridades carcelarias —mal financiadas, sobrepasadas en número, saturadas y que a menudo reciben sobornos— se han rendido ante los líderes criminales en muchas prisiones a cambio de una paz frágil.

Las bandas delictivas controlan total o parcialmente mucho más de la mitad de las 285 prisiones de México, según los expertos. En Brasil, el gobierno a menudo distribuye la población penitenciaria según su afiliación criminal para evitar la agitación. En Ecuador, los analistas dicen que la mayoría de las 36 prisiones del país tienen algún grado de control criminal.

“La pandilla está resolviéndole un problema al gobierno”, dijo Benjamin Lessing, profesor de ciencia política de la Universidad de Chicago que estudia bandas y prisiones latinoamericanas. “Esto le da a las bandas un tipo de poder que es muy difícil de medir pero también difícil de sobreestimar”.

La población de las prisiones latinoamericanas aumentó en un 76 por ciento de 2010 a 2020, según el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, lo que excede por mucho el aumento poblacional del 10 por ciento que experimentó la región en el mismo periodo.

Muchos países han impuesto políticas de aplicación de la ley más estrictas, entre ellas sentencias más prolongadas y más condenas por delitos menores relacionados con las drogas, lo que ha llevado a la mayoría de las cárceles de la región a sobrepasar su máxima capacidad.

Al mismo tiempo, los gobiernos han priorizado la inversión en las fuerzas de seguridad como una forma de atacar la delincuencia y mostrar al público que hacen algo, en lugar de invertir en las cárceles, que son menos visibles.

Brasil y México, los países latinoamericanos más poblados y con las mayores poblaciones carcelarias, invierten poco en las prisiones: el gobierno de Brasil gasta unos 14 dólares diarios por preso mientras que México gasta unos 20 dólares. Estados Unidos gastaba unos 117 dólares diarios por recluso en 2022. Los guardias penitenciarios de América Latina también reciben salarios ínfimos, lo que los vuelve susceptibles a los sobornos de las bandas que buscan ingresar contrabando o ayuda para que los detenidos de alto perfil puedan escapar.

Las autoridades federales de Brasil y Ecuador no respondieron a los pedidos de comentarios, mientras que las autoridades federales de México rechazaron hacer comentarios. En general, las prisiones federales en México y Brasil cuentan con mejor financiamiento y condiciones que sus prisiones estatales.

El estado de Río de Janeiro, que gestiona algunas de las prisiones más mala fama de Brasil, afirmó en una declaración que por décadas ha separado a los presos según su afiliación para “garantizar su seguridad física” y que la práctica está permitida por la legislación brasileña.

Algunos líderes criminales viven con relativa comodidad tras las rejas, lo que refleja el poder que tienen las bandas de las prisiones, donde operan tiendas de comestibles, clubes nocturnos y áreas de peleas de gallos, y a donde en ocasiones llevan de contrabando a sus familiares para que vivan con ellos.

Los expertos aseguran que las prisiones ecuatorianas son un ejemplo modélico de los problemas que aquejan a los sistemas penitenciarios en Latinoamérica y de la dificultad de atenderlos.

Los disturbios de enero estallaron después de que el presidente recientemente electo de Ecuador intentara aumentar la seguridad en las prisiones luego de que una investigación realizada por la fiscala general del país mostró que un cabecilla encarcelado, que se enriqueció con el tráfico de cocaína, había corrompido a jueces, oficiales de policía, guardias e incluso al exdirigente del sistema penitenciario.

El presidente de Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, planeaba transferir a varios líderes delictivos a una prisión de máxima seguridad, dificultando así la operación de sus negocios ilícitos.

Pero dichos planes se filtraron a los líderes de las bandas y uno desapareció de un centro penitenciario.

La búsqueda subsiguiente dentro de la prisión ocasionó disturbios en las cárceles del país, tras los cuales escaparon decenas de presos, entre ellos el líder de otra poderosa banda.

Las bandas también ordenaron a sus miembros que atacaran en el exterior, dijeron los expertos. Secuestraron oficiales de policía, quemaron vehículos, detonaron explosivos y tomaron brevemente el control de una gran cadena de televisión.

Noboa respondió con el decreto de un conflicto armado interno, autorizando al ejército a actuar contra las bandas en las calles e intervenir en las prisiones. En al menos una prisión se despojó a las personas privadas de su libertad de la ropa interior y se confiscaron y quemaron sus pertenencias, según el ejército y videos en las redes sociales.

Las escenas recordaban a algunas en El Salvador, en donde el presidente Nayib Bukele declaró un estado de excepción en 2022 para abordar la violencia de las pandillas. Unas 75.000 personas han sido encarceladas en ese país, muchas de ellas sin el debido proceso, de acuerdo con grupos de derechos humanos.

El dos por ciento de todos los salvadoreños están encarcelados, la proporción más alta del mundo, según World Prison Brief, una base de datos recopilados por Birkbeck, Universidad de Londres.

Las tácticas de Bukele han diezmado a las pandillas callejeras del país, revertido años de violencia terrible y ayudado a asegurarle un segundo mandato.

Pero los expertos aseguran que miles de personas inocentes han sido encarceladas.

“¿Qué consecuencias tiene esto?”, dijo Carlos Ponce, experto en El Salvador y profesor asistente en la Universidad del Fraser Valley en Canadá. “Esto los va a marcar a ellos y sus familias de por vida”.

El frecuente uso de la prisión preventiva por toda la región para combatir la delincuencia ha ocasionado que muchas personas desfallezcan durante meses e incluso años en prisión a la espera de ser enjuiciados, aseguran grupos de defensa de derechos humanos. La práctica afecta especialmente a los más pobres, quienes no pueden pagar abogados y a menudo se enfrentan a un sistema judicial que avanza con lentitud y está saturado.

En los primeros siete meses del estado de excepción de El Salvador, el 84 por ciento de los arrestados se encontraba en prisión preventiva y casi la mitad de la población penitenciaria de México sigue a la espera de un juicio.

“Las cárceles pueden definirse como centros de explotación para los pobres”, dijo Elena Azaola, una académica que ha estudiado el sistema penitenciario de México durante 30 años.

“Algunas personas han estado encarceladas por 10 o 20 años sin proceso”, añadió. “Muchas salen peor de lo que estaban al ingresar”.

De hecho, las prisiones de algunos países latinoamericanos son hasta cierto punto un carrusel.

Alrededor del 40 por ciento de los prisioneros en Argentina, Brasil, Chile y México son liberados solo para volver a ser puestos tras las rejas. Si bien la tasa de reincidencia es mucho más elevada en Estados Unidos, en América Latina muchas personas son encerradas por delitos menores y a menudo no violentos y luego pasan a cometer crímenes más graves, dicen los expertos, en parte porque los delincuentes del fuero común comparten el encierro con los criminales serios.

De hecho, las dos pandillas más grandes de Brasil —el Primer Comando Capital y el Comando Vermelho— se fundaron en prisiones que siguen siendo bastiones de su poder.

Jefferson Quirino, otrora integrante de una pandilla que completó cinco detenciones distintas en las cárceles de Río, dijo que las bandas controlaban todas las prisiones donde estuvo recluido. En algunas, los presos a menudo se dedicaban a llevar a cabo operaciones de las pandillas a través de los numerosos celulares que lograban ingresar de contrabando, con frecuencia con la ayuda de guardias a los que habían comprado.

En Brasil, donde las autoridades mismas a menudo dividen a los centros de detención por su afiliación criminal, la influencia de las pandillas en las prisiones es tan grande que los guardias obligan a los nuevos reclusos a elegir un bando a fin de limitar la violencia.

“Lo primero que te preguntan es: ‘¿A qué pandilla perteneces?’”, dijo Quirino, quien lidera un programa para evitar que los niños pobres se unan a las pandillas. “En otras palabras, necesitan comprender dónde ubicarte en el sistema porque de otro modo te mueres”.

Esto ha contribuido a que los grupos delictivos aumenten sus filas.

“La cárcel funciona como un espacio de reclutamiento de personal”, dijo Jacqueline Muniz, quien fue líder de Seguridad de Río de Janeiro.

“Y para crear lealtad entre tu fuerza de trabajo criminal”.

Colaboraron con reportería Emiliano Rodríguez Mega desde Ciudad de México; José María León Cabrera desde Quito, Ecuador; Thalíe Ponce desde Guayaquil, Ecuador; Genevieve Glatsky desde Bogotá, Colombia; y Laurence Blair desde Asunción, Paraguay.

Annie Correal reporta desde Estados Unidos y América Latina para el Times. Más de Annie Correal

Maria Abi-Habib es corresponsal de investigación con sede en Ciudad de México y cubre América Latina. Anteriormente ha reportado desde Afganistán, todo Medio Oriente e India, donde cubrió el sur de Asia. Más de Maria Abi-Habib

Jack Nicas es el jefe de la corresponsalía en Brasil, con sede en Río de Janeiro, desde donde lidera la cobertura de gran parte de América del Sur. Más de Jack Nicas


4 Ways Autocrats Have Used Interpol to Harass Faraway Enemies

Interpol is the world’s largest police organization. It serves as a powerful bulletin board that governments and law enforcement agencies use to team up to pursue fugitives across the globe. At its best, it helps track down killers and terrorists.

But it is also a novel weapon for strongmen and autocrats in the hunt for political enemies, giving them the power to reach across borders and grab their targets — even in democracies.

Here are some of the ways countries can exploit Interpol:

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