The New York Times 2024-02-28 16:49:24

Middle East Crisis: Parties to Cease-Fire Talks Offer Mixed Signals

Hamas insists it is being flexible in talks, but is prepared to continue the war.

Parties haggling over a possible cease-fire in Gaza offered mixed signals on Wednesday, with Hamas’s political leader saying that the group was ready to keep fighting Israel while the president of Egypt said that a truce could be reached “in the next few days.”

The Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said in a televised speech that the group was open to the mediated talks with Israel, but that “any flexibility we show in the negotiation process is a commitment to protecting the blood of our people, matched by a readiness to defend them.”

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, which is brokering the talks along with Qatar and the United States, offered a rosier view, saying that, “God willing, in the next few days, we will reach a cease-fire agreement” to bring “real relief” to the people of Gaza. The prediction matched that of President Biden, who said that a deal could come as soon as next week.

In public, however, Hamas and Israel are sticking with their longstanding positions and not signaling any breakthrough. The two sides have not met face to face, instead negotiating through mediators in Doha, Cairo and Paris. Hamas leaders continue to demand that Israel agree to a permanent cease-fire and withdraw all its troops from Gaza, while Israel has insisted that it will continue fighting until Hamas is eliminated, suggesting it is not prepared to agree to a long-term truce.

Qatar’s foreign ministry said this week that talks were ongoing and it was too early to speculate about a resolution. Mr. Haniyeh did not comment on specific terms of a cease-fire deal that could be under discussion, and it was not clear whether his remarks reflected real reservations or were a negotiating tactic.

The start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, around March 10, has emerged as a target for mediators to hammer out a truce. Mr. Haniyeh appeared to raise the stakes for reaching a deal in the coming days, calling on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to defy Israeli restrictions and march to the Aqsa mosque to pray at the start of Ramadan. That creates the prospect of clashes if Palestinians attempt to approach the mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam and a longtime flashpoint in relations with Israel.

Israel has restricted access to the Aqsa mosque for West Bank Palestinians, and it has severely limited movement within the West Bank since the start of the war in Gaza. Israeli officials are debating whether to place further restrictions on access to the mosque for some members of the country’s Arab minority, a move that could spark further unrest.

With the war’s death toll in Gaza nearing 30,000, according to health officials in the territory, pressure is building on Israel and the Biden administration, its chief ally, to secure a cease-fire. Israel has offered at least one significant concession, telling Qatari, Egyptian and U.S. mediators in Paris last week that it was ready to release 15 Palestinians jailed on serious terrorism charges in exchange for five female Israeli soldiers being held in Gaza, according to officials.

But a Hamas spokesman, Basem Naim, told The New York Times on Tuesday that the group had yet to formally receive “any new proposals” since the Paris meeting. Mr. Haniyeh met on Monday with the emir of Qatar and accused Israel of dragging its feet in the talks, according to a Hamas statement.

Israeli officials have said the goal is to reach a deal before the start of Ramadan. An Israeli delegation — including professionals from Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, and its military — traveled to Qatar this week for more discussions, including over such details as the identities of the hostages and prisoners to be exchanged, according to an Israeli official.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad, Nada Rashwan and Adam Sella contributed reporting.

A U.N. aid official warns that Gaza is close to famine.

At least a quarter of Gaza’s population is “one step away from famine,” a U.N. humanitarian aid official has warned, as aid groups say that people are so hungry they are resorting to eating leaves, donkey feed and food scraps.

One in six children under 2 years old in northern Gaza, where the United Nations says it has not been able to deliver any aid since early this month because of security risks and Israeli restrictions, is suffering from acute malnutrition, the official, Ramesh Rajasingham, told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

His remarks came the same day as the Gaza health ministry said that two infants at Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza had died from what it described as dehydration and malnutrition. The ministry did not provide further details.

The fighting, damage from the war and Israeli restrictions on essential goods entering Gaza have decimated the territory’s ability to feed itself through farming, livestock and fishing, Mr. Rajasingham said.

Farmers have had to abandon their crops to flee the fighting or because there is not enough water to sustain them; livestock have been killed in the fighting or perished from lack of food and water; fishing, once an important source of food and income for Gazans, is now impossible, he said.

His remarks echoed a new World Bank report that found that Gaza’s total economic output had shriveled by more than 80 percent in the last quarter of 2023, calling it “one of the largest economic shocks ever recorded in recent history.”

Between 80 to 96 percent of Gaza’s agricultural infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, the World Bank report said. About 80 percent of the population has lost its jobs, the report said, adding that “every resident of Gaza will live in poverty” in the short term.

That is leaving Gazans largely reliant on aid — which is extremely hard to come by.

U.N. and aid group officials say aid is generally able to reach Rafah, in the southernmost part of Gaza, but little of it has trickled up to northern Gaza, which the fighting and Israeli military restrictions have largely cut off from the rest of the territory since early in the war. One of the two crossings where aid trucks enter Gaza has been closed repeatedly in recent weeks.

The Israeli agency that oversees the Palestinian territories has previously denied that it is blocking aid to Gaza, and Israeli officials have accused Hamas of seizing some supplies.

Aid groups were “facing overwhelming obstacles just to get a bare minimum of supplies into Gaza,” Mr. Rajasingham said. “If nothing is done, we fear widespread famine in Gaza is almost inevitable.”

The U.N. says a famine can be designated if 20 percent of households in an area face an extreme lack of food, if 30 percent of children there are suffering from acute malnutrition and if two adults or four children out of every 10,000 are dying every day from starvation or malnutrition and disease.

A breakdown in law and order has also made distribution difficult, with desperate Gazans seizing food from the trucks and occasionally attacking the drivers. Damaged roads and unexploded ordnance have cut off supply routes. Aid workers have been killed.

Earlier this month, the World Food Program announced it was suspending deliveries of food aid to the north after its trucks came under fire there and were attacked by desperate Gazans.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting.

Maps: Tracking the Attacks in Israel and GazaSee where Israel has bulldozed vast areas of Gaza, as its invasion continues to advance south.

‘The bag of flour or your life’: Gazans are in a desperate search for food.

Nutrition bars selling for six times the usual price. Four in five workers unemployed and lacking any income. Food shortages so dire that people are turning to leaves and bird food for sustenance.

Gazans and international relief groups are describing increasingly desperate conditions in the territory, particularly in northern and central areas where the United Nations and relief agencies are struggling to deliver even small amounts of supplies amid Israel’s military offensive.

“Our lives have become very miserable,” said Aseel al-Louh, 23, a university student in Deir al Balah in central Gaza, who said she had lost 11 kilograms, or 24 pounds, since the war began. Her little sisters and brothers were also losing weight, she said in a Facebook message: “Everyone here” was.

She is eating one meal a day, usually some bread, hummus or canned beans, she said. Aid was scarce, she added, with World Food Program nutrition bars selling on the black market for six times the prewar price of similar products.

Aseel Ayman, who has been sheltering in northern Gaza, described people’s desperation in a voice note on Tuesday, saying that she had shaken her family awake the night before and rushed to a nearby traffic circle after hearing people shouting that aid was arriving there.

A crowd of about 500 people gathered in anticipation from all around northern Gaza, she said. Her family waited there for two hours, while others slept at the traffic circle in hopes of receiving aid, she said. But it never came.

She had heard that some aid did make it to another part of northern Gaza, near the coastal highway known as Al-Rasheed Street, but she said the presence of Israeli troops made it too dangerous to go there.

“There was intense fear of going to Al-Rasheed Street to get the flour, because it’s either the bag of flour or your life,” Ms. Ayman said.

She said her family’s meals often consisted only of a leafy green called khubeiza. Though a few other products were available in the market, including canned mushrooms, rice and animal feed, they were unaffordably expensive.

Elsewhere in northern Gaza, the Save the Children aid group said last week that people had reported eating bird and animal food and tree leaves.

“The level of hunger we’ve reached is unbearable,” Ms. Ayman said.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting.

Families of hostages are marching from the Gaza border area to Jerusalem.

Dozens of family members of hostages held in Gaza set off Wednesday morning on a four-day march from the Gaza border area to Jerusalem, aiming to step up pressure on Israeli leaders to reach a deal to release the captives.

Starting in Re’im, the site of the rave where hundreds of people were killed and dozens were taken hostage during the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack, demonstrators plan to march about 13 miles a day, after which they will be taken to campsites set up alongside the road. They expect to reach Jerusalem on Saturday and hold a rally there.

Dekel Lifshitz, whose grandfather Oded is being held in Gaza, said in a phone interview that he had joined the march to encourage the government to “make the right decisions, even if they’re hard.”

Mr. Lifshitz’s grandmother, Yocheved, was released from captivity in late October. He said he wanted those still in Gaza to know that “we are doing everything we can to bring everyone home as soon as possible,” adding: “Hold on just a bit longer and you’ll be with us.”

In recent weeks, negotiators have been trying to reach an agreement that would temporarily pause the fighting in Gaza and allow a swap of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

On Monday, President Biden said he was hopeful that a deal would be reached within a week, but Israeli and Hamas officials have expressed doubts. About 130 of the 240 hostages taken on Oct. 7 are still in Gaza, and Israeli officials believe that at least 30 are dead.

In mid-November, hostage families set out on a similar march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which drew thousands. Days after its conclusion, a hostage deal was announced, and 105 women and children were released from Gaza during a seven-day cease-fire, while 240 Palestinian women and children were released from Israeli prisons.

“Last time I wasn’t able to be a part of the march,” said Sharon Alony Cunio, a former hostage, at the news conference on Wednesday. She was released in November along with her 3-year-old twins, but her husband, David Cunio, is still held captive. “This time I’m here, marching for my husband and for all the remaining hostages,” she said.

A new aid package brings U.S. assistance to Gaza during the war to $180 million.

The United States will provide $53 million in additional aid to support humanitarian programs that are delivering desperately needed assistance to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, officials said on Tuesday.

The new package will bring the total amount of U.S. aid delivered to Gaza during the conflict to $180 million, according to White House officials.

“There’s no question that much more aid is needed to address the critical and urgent needs on the ground,” John F. Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters at a White House press briefing on Tuesday. “That’s why President Biden and the entire team continue to work every day to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, while also prioritizing the safety of civilians and aid workers.”

Mr. Kirby also said that providing more humanitarian aid to Gaza was a critical part of the American push for a temporary cease-fire, which would allow for hostages taken during the Hamas-led attack in Israel on Oct. 7 to be released.

Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, announced the new aid package during a trip to the Middle East.

The funding would support organizations, such as the World Food Program, that are helping to combat severe water shortages and the spread of infectious diseases exacerbated by overcrowding at shelters, according to a statement from the agency, known as U.S.A.I.D.

In a video message from outside a W.F.P. warehouse in Amman, Jordan, Ms. Power described “catastrophic levels of food insecurity” in Gaza and “bureaucratic bottlenecks,” adding that aid workers were not able to do their jobs “without being shot at and killed.”

The W.F.P. said last week that it was suspending food deliveries to northern Gaza because it could not operate safely amid gunfire and the “collapse of civil order.” And Israel has blocked considerable aid from reaching the enclave, leaving airdrops with meager supplies one of the few viable methods of delivery.

A Land Once Emptied by War Now Faces a Peacetime Exodus

Reporting from the village of Socice and from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

When the Bosnian sheep farmer fled his home in a disintegrating Yugoslavia in 1992, trekking with his family for 40 days to escape the start of a war that would pit neighbor against neighbor, the village he left behind had more than 400 people, two shops and a school.

More than half the villagers were fellow Muslims, the rest Serbs, but nobody, he said, paid much attention to that until extremist politicians started screaming for blood.

After more than a decade away from his home in eastern Bosnia, the farmer, Fikret Puhalo, 61, returned to his village, Socice. By then it had 100 or so people, Serbs who had stayed throughout and a few Muslims who had decided it was safe to go back.

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Back From War, Reserve Soldiers Set Their Sights on Israel’s Politics as Usual

Gathered this month around a campfire on the edge of a forest in central Israel, the soldiers planned their next mission: saving their deeply divided country from itself.

Like many of the thousands of Israeli reservists called to fight in Gaza, the soldiers left for war amid a sudden surge of national unity after the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel.

But as the military has withdrawn soldiers from Gaza in recent weeks and the troops have returned home, they have found their country less like it was after Oct. 7 and more like it was before: torn by divisive politics and culture clashes.

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A K-Pop Star’s Lonely Downward Spiral

The K-pop star looked utterly drained. Her face scrubbed of makeup, Goo Hara, one of South Korea’s most popular musical artists, gazed into the camera during an Instagram livestream from a hotel room in Japan. In a fading voice, she read questions from fans watching from around the world.

“You going to work, fighting?” one asked.

In halting English, she gave a plaintive answer: “My life is always so fighting.”

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Navalny’s Funeral Is Planned for Friday, if Authorities Don’t Block It

Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, will be buried on Friday after a funeral service in Moscow that will be open to the public, his family and aides said on Wednesday, while warning that the authorities could try to prevent people from attending or force the service to be called off.

The planned funeral, at a church on Moscow’s outskirts, sets up the possibility of a rare display of opposition sentiment in the Russian capital — and of a new crackdown on Mr. Navalny’s supporters. Although the opposition leader’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, advised anyone planning to attend to “come early,” his widow, Yulia Navalnaya, later cautioned that mourners might be detained.

“I’m not sure yet whether it will be peaceful or whether the police will arrest those who have come to say goodbye to my husband,” Ms. Navalnaya said in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

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Watchdog Finds E.U. Border Agency Too Weak to Prevent Migrant Disasters at Sea

Eight months after hundreds of migrants died in a capsizing on the Mediterranean, investigators said Wednesday that the European Union’s border agency lacks the ability to prevent future maritime disasters.

The investigation by a E.U. watchdog office into the border agency, Frontex, was prompted by the deaths of more than 600 men, women and children who drowned off the coast of Greece last June under the eyes of dozens of officials and coast guard crews.

“Frontex includes ‘coast guard’ in its name, but its current mandate and mission clearly fall short of that,” the head of the E.U. watchdog agency, Emily O’Reilly, said on Wednesday. “If Frontex has a duty to help save lives at sea, but the tools for it are lacking, then this is clearly a matter for E.U. legislators.”

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A Breakaway Region of Moldova Asks Russia for Protection

A thin sliver of land sandwiched between Ukraine and Moldova asked Russia on Wednesday to provide it with protection, repeating in miniature the highly flammable scenario played out by regions of eastern Ukraine now occupied by Moscow.

The call for Russian protection by Transnistria, a self-declared but internationally unrecognized microstate on the eastern bank of the Dniester River, escalated tensions that date to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The territory, largely Russian-speaking, broke away from Moldova and, after a brief war in 1992, set up its own national government.

The appeal to Moscow was made at a special session of Transnistria’s Congress of Deputies, a Soviet-style assembly that rarely meets. At its last session, in 2006, the assembly asked to be annexed by Russia, though Moscow did not act on that request.

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Belfast Court Rules Against Granting Immunity for ‘Troubles’ Violence

A Belfast court ruled on Wednesday that a new British law granting people immunity from prosecution for crimes committed during Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian conflict — known as the Troubles — would be a breach of human rights.

The British government introduced the legislation, known as the Legacy Act, last year, aiming to “promote reconciliation” in the region, despite opposition from every political party there. The law would halt all inquests, civil actions and cold-case reviews of Troubles-related cases that have not been resolved by May 1, and redirect them to an independent commission.

Crucially, the law also includes provisions for conditional amnesty for people suspected of crimes committed during the Troubles, including serious offenses.

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Ukraine Charges Key Figure in Arms Trade With Corruption

A high-profile Ukrainian former politician who has become central to the country’s effort to obtain weapons was arrested on corruption charges earlier this month, officials said.

The ex-politician, Serhiy Pashinsky, was a longtime member of Ukraine’s Parliament who spent much of his career denying accusations of self-dealing. After Russia’s invasion, senior government officials called on him to help arm the military.

The New York Times reported last year that a company tied to Mr. Pashinsky, Ukrainian Armored Technology, had become the biggest private arms supplier in Ukraine and that authorities were investigating the company.

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Iran’s Parliament Election 2024: What You Need to Know

  • Why does this election matter?

  • Are elections fair and free in Iran?

  • Who is running for Parliament?

  • When will we learn the result?

  • Who is going to win?

  • Where can I find out more information?

Iran is holding parliamentary elections on March 1, the first general vote since an uprising, led by women and girls, swept across the country in 2022, calling for an end to the Islamic Republic’s rule. The government violently crushed the protests, but demands for change endure and many Iranians view boycotting the vote as an act of protest.

Election turnout is expected to be low, especially in the capital, Tehran, and other major cities, according to the government’s own polls cited in Iranian media. The election is important because voter turnout is viewed by both supporters and critics of the government as a barometer for legitimacy. Opponents say they are sitting out the vote to signal that they no longer believe meaningful change can come through the ballot box under the current system.

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A Boring Capital for a Young Democracy. Just the Way Residents Like It.

Reporting from Belmopan, Belize

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Mention Belmopan, Belize’s capital that sits deep in the country’s interior, and many Belizeans will belittle the city as a bastion of pencil-pushing bureaucrats that’s not just dull, but also devoid of nightlife.

“I was warned, ‘Belmopan is for the newlyweds or the nearly deads,’” said Raquel Rodriguez, 45, owner of an art school, about the reactions when she moved to Belmopan from coastal, bustling Belize City.

Not exactly known as an Eden for young urbanites, Belmopan figures among the smallest capital cities anywhere in the Americas. It has only about 25,000 residents and a cluster of hurricane-proof, heavy-on-the-concrete, Maya-inspired Brutalist buildings.

The capital of Central America’s only English-speaking nation can feel jarringly different from the frenetic capitals of neighboring countries. In terms of its origins and design, Belmopan has more in common with the capitals of other former British colonies, especially in Africa.

But Belmopan is also, perhaps, a prism through which to view the development of Belize, which has emerged as something of an exception in Central America. In a region where rulers are embracing authoritarian tactics, Belize has developed into a relatively stable (albeit young) parliamentary democracy with a history of peaceful transitions of power.

The capital, serenely calm at times, boasts a reputation for safety and quality of life. In a sparsely populated country with fewer than half a million people, Belmopan’s welcoming vibe also showcases Belize’s extraordinary ethnic diversity, and its propensity to absorb migrants from other parts of Central America.

Consider the open-air market where many residents buy their food. Peddlers greet customers in Belize’s official language, English, or Kriol, the patois formed centuries ago when Britons brought enslaved Africans to what is now Belize.

Other vendors speak Mayan languages such as Kekchí, Mopán and Yucatec, spotlighting the Indigenous peoples who have long lived in Belize or who moved to the country from Guatemala or Mexico. Reflecting different migration waves, others ply their trade in Spanish, Chinese or Plautdietsch, an archaic Germanic language influenced by Dutch.

Like many others in Belmopan, Johan Guenther, 71, a Mennonite farmer, came from somewhere else. He was born in Mexico’s Chihuahua State, the site of large Mennonite communities, and came to Belize at 16.

He then tried his luck in Bolivia for a while but decided he preferred Belize’s mellower lifestyle. He lives with his wife in a small farming settlement outside Belmopan, coming into the capital to sell cheese, butter, cream and honey at the market.

“I’m not a city man, but I like Belmopan,” Mr. Guenther said in a mixture of English, Plautdietsch and Spanish. “It’s calm, good for selling my production, easy to get in and easy to get out.”

Making Belmopan a linchpin for agricultural development in Belize’s interior, and a haven from natural disasters, was top of mind when British colonialists developed plans to build the city after Hurricane Hattie in 1961 laid waste to the old capital, Belize City, leaving hundreds dead.

At the time, planned cities were popping up in various parts of the world, a trend turbocharged by the inauguration in 1960 of Brazil’s futuristic capital, Brasília. In Britain’s disintegrating empire, especially in Africa, the new capitals included Dodoma, in Tanzania; Gaborone, in Botswana; and Lilongwe, in Malawi. Designers largely envisioned them, like Belmopan, as “garden cities” with ample open spaces, parks and pedestrian walkways.

Political tensions shaped the city’s plans. George Price, the architect of Belizean independence, viewed Belmopan’s construction as a way to forge a sense of national identity transcending ethnic differences. And with Guatemala laying claim to Belize in a territorial dispute persisting to this day, Belize’s colonial rulers chose a site about midway between Belize City and the Guatemalan border, in a bid to populate to the interior.

Sturdy concrete government buildings like the National Assembly evoke the pyramidal design of a Maya temple, perched on an artificial mound where breezes could cool the structure. They were designed to be both hurricane proof and economical, at the time avoiding the need for air conditioning.

At the same time, the authorities tried to lure public employees to Belmopan by offering them homes, essentially in the form of concrete shells, on streets where people from different economic backgrounds were intended to live.

“Belmopan is a social experiment,” said John Milton Arana, 51, a Belizean architect whose family moved here in 1975. Noting the footpaths still connecting residential areas to Belmopan’s concrete-laden core, he added, “The pedestrian was the priority of this vision.”

Still, Mr. Arana said the notably slow-paced city can also be disorienting with its traffic circles, ring road and dearth of teeming commercial areas. “People visit and ask me, ‘Where’s downtown?’” Mr. Arana said. “I tell them, ‘You just passed it.’”

Not everyone is sold on Belmopan. Tourists tend to neglect the city, preferring the snorkeling near remote islands or stunning Maya archaeological sites. When Belmopan was inaugurated in 1970, it was forecast to grow quickly to a population of 30,000 — a figure it has still not reached more than five decades later.

Some attribute that slow growth to perennial budgetary restrictions giving Belmopan a perpetually unfinished look. The fortresslike structures where many civil servants toil are showing their age, adorned with noisy air-conditioning units; airy new buildings like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a gift from Taiwan’s government replete with hanging gardens, show how the authorities have moved on from Belmopan’s spartan origins.

Mr. Arana, the architect, said that departures from Belmopan’s original designs were changing the city for the worse. Ramshackle development outside central areas, he said, particularly where Spanish-speaking migrants from neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala have settled, underscore problems like substandard housing and untreated sewage.

Among diplomats, views on Belmopan are divided. Countries like Panama and Guatemala, along with the self-governing island of Taiwan, maintain their embassies in Belize City, which has more than double Belmopan’s population. Even after Belize gained full independence in 1981, the United States took 25 years to move its embassy to Belmopan.

Michelle Kwan, the United States ambassador to Belize and a decorated Olympic figure skater, said she had grown fond of Belmopan after relocating from Los Angeles. She compared life here to her days training in Lake Arrowhead, a small resort community in California’s San Bernardino Mountains, where she could “really focus on what I had to do.”

“It’s no different here,” Ms. Kwan said. “This is where we focus and where we work.”

Others in Belmopan suggest the city has helped forge a multicultural Belizean identity incorporating Maya peoples and newer Latino immigrants that is distinct from that of Belize City, known more as a bastion of Kriols, people of African and British descent.

“Belmopan made our cultural divides less pronounced,” said Kimberly Stuart, 49, an education lecturer at the University of Belize, whose main campus is in the capital.

Others bemoan certain aspects of life in Belmopan. While garish new homes and flashy new office buildings are altering the capital’s small-town feel, restaurants and bars are still few in number, and tend to close early.

Some in Belmopan say it is downright boring — but they like it that way. Raj Karki, 52, a Nepalese immigrant who moved to Belize to work on a hydroelectric project, liked the relaxed city so much that he decided to stay and open a restaurant offering South Asian food near government buildings.

“You can come to Belmopan from any place in the world,” Mr. Karki said. “In a short time you are welcomed and they say, ‘Help us build the future.’”

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Pope Francis Undergoes ‘Diagnostic Tests’ in Rome Hospital

Pope Francis, who has had a mild flu in recent days, was taken to a hospital in downtown Rome on Wednesday, reviving concerns about the 87-year-old pontiff’s health. The Vatican said in a statement that he had gone for “some diagnostic tests,” but did not offer details about a visit that lasted less than an hour.

At his weekly audience earlier in the day, Francis had apologized to those present, saying that an assistant would read his speech because he still had “a slight cold.” After the audience ended, the pope spent about an hour greeting the faithful while sitting in a wheelchair that he has increasingly used in recent years.

Traffic police officers at the Gemelli Hospital on Tiber Island said that Francis arrived around 11:20 a.m. on Wednesday and left about 40 minutes later.

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Prince Harry Loses Legal Challenge Over Security Downgrade

Prince Harry lost a long-running legal battle over the downgrading of his security in Britain, as a High Court judge ruled on Wednesday that the British government was entitled to change the level of police protection for a member of the royal family who was no longer carrying out official duties.

In a 51-page ruling, the judge, Peter Lane, rejected Harry’s challenge to the decision, declaring that Britain’s Home Office, through its Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures, had not been procedurally unfair or irrational in changing his level of security.

It was a stinging setback for Harry, who has waged a series of legal battles on both his security and privacy. Earlier this month, he won at least 400,000 pounds ($506,000) in damages from the publisher of The Daily Mirror, a London tabloid, for “widespread and habitual” hacking of his cellphone voice mail.

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After U.S. Strikes, Iran’s Proxies Scale Back Attacks on American Bases

Iran has made a concerted effort to rein in militias in Iraq and Syria after the United States retaliated with a series of airstrikes for the killing of three U.S. Army reservists this month.

Initially, there were regional concerns that the tit-for-tat violence would lead to an escalation of the Middle East conflict. But since the Feb. 2 U.S. strikes, American officials say, there have been no attacks by Iran-backed militias on American bases in Iraq and only two minor ones in Syria.

Before then, the U.S. military logged at least 170 attacks against American troops in four months, Pentagon officials said.

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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.

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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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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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‘This Is Where I Want to Be’

When Ayelet Khon moved back to the Kfar Azza kibbutz with her husband two months after the brutal Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7, the first thing she did was hang a string of rainbow-colored lights up on the front patio.

At night, when darkness drenches this community, the twinkling colors are the only lights visible.

“We are going to keep these lights on and never turn them off — even if we’re out for the evening — they are lights of hope,” Ms. Khon said she told her husband, Shar Shnurman.

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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.”

France does budge, but whether it is ready for the control-the-narrative politics of emotion and distraction that Mr. Attal embodies is an open question. Time is short. The prime minister’s mission, as conceived by an embattled President Emmanuel Macron, is clear: reverse the ascendancy of the far right of Marine Le Pen ahead of European Parliament elections in June and a French presidential election just over three years from now.

Mr. Macron is term limited and must leave office in 2027; the specter that haunts him is Ms. Le Pen as his successor. In Mr. Attal, he hopes to cultivate one of his own.

“Macron is amazed by Attal, the way one is amazed by someone who has transgressed like oneself, and who at the same time is of an absolute loyalty,” Marisol Touraine, a former minister of health and social affairs who has been Mr. Attal’s political guru, said in an interview. “The president believes in Attal’s political sixth sense.”

The “transgression” of both men was that of restive youth against the old order. Neither Mr. Macron nor Mr. Attal ever saw a taboo he did not want to shatter. Mr. Macron was a one-man revolution when he came to power in 2017 at the age of 39, proclaiming the politics of left and right defunct and offering a malleable post-ideological thing called “Macronism.”

Now, almost seven years on, Mr. Macron is looking to his protégé, or some say, clone, to re-inject political excitement. Pragmatism, not conviction, has defined Mr. Attal. Now, he must deliver in a prickly France, without an absolute majority in Parliament and knowing that, as Clément Beaune, the former transport minister, put it, “To be prime minister here is very tough because it’s the president who decides.”

“The question that looms is how far Macron will let Attal go without growing jealous,” said Philippe Labro, an author and political commentator. Sharing the spotlight does not come easily to Mr. Macron, as became evident when one former prime minister, Édouard Philippe, became popular and was eased out.

A recent poll for Paris Match magazine showed Mr. Attal with a 47 percent approval rating, which is high by French standards. Mr. Macron sank to 32 percent, with Ms. Le Pen at 43 percent.

Mr. Attal’s challenge will be to use the hand that Mr. Macron has given him but not appear to bite it as he steps out of the shadow of the president. Already the two men have parted company over Ms. Le Pen’s National Rally.

This month Mr. Macron said he considers the party “outside the arc of the republic,” broadly meaning anti-democratic, even as Mr. Attal declared that the “arc of the republic is the hemicycle” of the National Assembly, and that he would work with all parties there, including the far-right party, which holds 89 seats.

“Attal wants to become president and will do everything to achieve that,” said Ms. Touraine, whose daughter was a friend of Mr. Attal in school. “Is he ambitious? Yes, in an extreme way. But he has no complexes. He assumes who he is, and I find that positive.”

Mr. Attal, who did not respond to requests for an interview, has been on a whirlwind political journey to the prime minister’s office, known as Matignon. Born in 1989 into an affluent Parisian family, Jewish on his father’s side and Orthodox Christian on his mother’s, he was educated at an elite private school and the prestigious Sciences Po university in Paris, before drifting into politics, essentially the only job he’s ever had.

“École Alsacienne, Sciences Po, National Assembly, Ministry of Education, Matignon, the career of Gabriel Attal spans 6 kilometers,” mocked François Ruffin, a left-wing lawmaker on X, formerly Twitter, adding, “Disruption and audacity, but not too far from his class.”

Mr. Attal’s youth was not without its challenges, however. As a teenager he was bullied at school for being gay. “It was a torrent of insults and abuse, and it went on for many months with an extreme violence,” he told TF1 television last year. “I suffered.”

The suffering was redoubled because he did not want to tell his family, afraid “they would ask why this was being said” when he was not ready to talk about being gay. At last, a decade later, Mr. Attal, in his account, approached his father on his deathbed in 2015 and said, “Papa, I have fallen in love with a man.” His father responded positively, was eager to meet the man, but died the next day.

France, where the privacy of love and sex has been near sacred, is unused to such dramatic avowals, but Mr. Attal is a disrupter, even as he exercises extreme discipline. A “control freak,” in the words of Ms. Touraine, he has understood that in the age of the short attention span, the way to dictate the agenda is through relentless, varied communication.

He has also understood that this is an era where nationalist politics thrive on fears of immigration. In his brief spell as education minister, he banned the abaya, or loosefitting full-length robe, used by some female Muslim students. Leaders of France’s large Muslim community and the left were incensed; they are no fans of Mr. Attal. In cabinet meetings, Mr. Attal was known for insisting that the government assume the need to move right on immigration.

Mr. Attal’s hard-hitting inaugural speech to Parliament last month was a hymn to “a nation without equal.” He would, he said, “refuse that our identity be diluted or dissolved.”

“You don’t negotiate with the Republic,” he hammered. “You accept and respect it, whole, without a single exception!”

As an appeal to Ms. Le Pen’s voters, it was scarcely subtle.

The rightward journey has been long. Mr. Attal’s roots, like Mr. Macron’s, were as a Socialist. Starting out in the moderate Social Democratic wing of the party, Mr. Attal did two internships with Ms. Touraine, then a Socialist representative, before joining her team at the health and social affairs ministry in 2012.

He was 23. Few people guessed what determination lay behind his even-tempered manner.

“You don’t sense his ambition at first,” said Luc Broussy, who, as an expert on aging populations, worked frequently with Mr. Attal. “I never saw him angry. He has never betrayed his convictions because I never saw him affirm any.”

As the Macron bandwagon gathered pace in 2016, Mr. Attal wavered. He had provisionally accepted a job arranged by Ms. Touraine at the French diplomatic mission to the United Nations in New York.

At the same time, however, he had fallen in love and formed a couple with Stéphane Séjourné, now the foreign minister, who was and remains close to Mr. Macron; and in early 2017, a Macron victory in the presidential election suddenly looked near inevitable.

“He joined Macron at the last moment and this incredible adventure began,” said Mr. Broussy. Ms. Touraine recalls telling Mr. Attal in March 2017, “It’s now or never.”

Mr. Attal jumped. Three months later he was a representative in the National Assembly as Mr. Macron’s centrist La République en Marche (now Renaissance) party swept the June parliamentary election.

“Absent Séjourné, I am not sure Attal would have become a Macronist lawmaker in 2017,” Ms. Touraine said. (He and Mr. Séjourné have since broken up.)

Soon records started to tumble as Mr. Macron adopted Mr. Attal as a favorite. At 29, in 2018, he became the youngest minister of a French Fifth Republic government as secretary of state for education; then the youngest education minister in 2023, and youngest prime minister in 2024.

The task now before him is daunting. He wants to “unlock” the economy — “A bureaucracy that retreats is liberty that advances!” — in a country fiercely attached to its social safety net.

He wants to promote green energy against a wave of protests over the high cost of that. He is a representative of the very elite class that people in outlying areas see as disconnected from the hardships of real life — a theme Ms. Le Pen likes to hammer on.

Not least, Mr. Attal must nurse his own fierce presidential ambitions while showing fealty to Mr. Macron, even as the jostling to succeed the president has already started.

Before he died in 2015, Mr. Attal’s father, a Jew of Tunisian descent, told him, “You are not a Jew, but everyone will think you are. So it’s as if you were.”

Mr. Attal, who was raised in the Orthodox Church but is not religious, has talked about this scene, as well as the homophobic and antisemitic rants he has sometimes faced on social media. These attacks, if anything, appear to have toughened him.

“One thing I know for certain about him is that if something inhabits and torments him, and I do believe he is tormented, it is ambition that allows him to overcome all that,” Ms. Touraine said.

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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.

In recent weeks, the ethics professor, ordained priest and self-proclaimed geek has joined Bill Gates at a meeting with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, presided over a commission seeking to save Italian media from ChatGPT bylines and general A.I. oblivion, and met with Vatican officials to further Pope Francis’s aim of protecting the vulnerable from the coming technological storm.

At a conference organized by the ancient Knights of Malta order, he told a crowd of ambassadors that “global governance is needed, otherwise the risk is social collapse.” He also talked up the Rome Call, a Vatican, Italian government, Silicon Valley and U.N. effort he helped organize.

The author of many books (“Homo Faber: The Techno-Human Condition”) and a fixture on international A.I. panels, Father Benanti, 50, is a professor at the Gregorian, the Harvard of Rome’s pontifical universities, where he teaches moral theology, ethics and a course called “The Fall of Babel: The Challenges of Digital, Social Networks and Artificial Intelligence.”

For a church and a country looking to harness, and survive, the coming A.I. revolution, his job is to provide advice from an ethical and spiritual perspective. He shares his insights with Pope Francis, who in his annual World Day of Peace message on Jan. 1 called for a global treaty to ensure the ethical development and use of AI to prevent a world devoid of human mercy, where inscrutable algorithms decide who is granted asylum, who gets a mortgage, or who, on the battlefield, lives or dies.

Those concerns reflected those of Father Benanti, who does not believe in the industry’s ability to self-regulate and thinks some rules of the road are required in a world where deep fakes and disinformation can erode democracy.

He is concerned that masters of the A.I. universes are developing systems that will expand chasms of inequality. He fears the transition to A.I. will be so abrupt that entire professional fields will be left doing menial jobs, or nothing, stripping people of dignity and unleashing floods of “despair.” This, he said, raises enormous questions about redistributing wealth in an A.I. dominant universe.

But he also sees the potential of A.I.

For Italy, with one of the world’s most aged and shrinking populations, Father Benanti is thinking hard about how A.I. can keep productivity afloat. And all the time he applies his perspective about what it means to be alive, and to be human, when machines seem more alive and human. “This is a spiritual question,” he said.

After his morning meditation, Father Benanti walked, with the bottom of his bluejeans peeking out under his black robes, to work. He passed the second-century Trajan’s column and carefully stepped into one of Rome’s busiest streets at the crosswalk.

“This is the worst city for self-driving cars,” he said. “It’s too complicated. Maybe in Arizona.”

His office at the Gregorian is decorated with framed prints of his own street photography — images of down-and-out Romans dragging on cigarettes, a bored couple preferring their cellphones to their baby — and pictures of him and Pope Francis shaking hands. His religious vocation, he explained, came after his scientific one.

Born in Rome, his father worked as a mechanical engineer and his mother taught science in high school. Growing up, he loved “The Lord of the Rings” and Dungeons and Dragons but wasn’t a shut-in with games, as he was also a Boy Scout who collected photography, navigation and cooking badges.

When his troupe of 12-year-olds visited Rome to do charity, he met Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia, who was then a parish priest, but who, like him, would go on to work for the Italian government — as a member of the country’s commission on aging — and the Vatican. Now Cardinal Paglia is Father Benanti’s superior at the church’s Pontifical Academy For Life, which is charged with grappling with how to promote the church’s ethic on life amid bioethical and technological upheavals.

Around the time Father Benanti first met Monsignor Paglia, an uncle gave him a Texas Instruments home computer for Christmas. He sought to re-engineer it to play video games. “It never worked,” he said.

He attended a high school that stressed the classics — to prove his antiquity credibility, he burst out, while walking to work, with the opening of the Odyssey in ancient Greek — and a philosophy teacher thought he had a future pondering the meaning of things. But the workings of things exerted a greater attraction, and he pursued an engineering degree at Sapienza University in Rome. It wasn’t enough.

“I started to feel that something was missing,” he said, explaining that his advancement as an engineering student erased the mystique machines held for him. “I simply broke the magic.”

In 1999 his then-girlfriend thought he needed more God in his life. They went to a Franciscan church in Massa Martana in Umbria, where her plan worked too well because he then realized he needed a sacred space where he could “not stop questioning life.”

By the end of the year he had ditched his girlfriend and joined the Franciscan order, to the consternation of his parents, who asked if he was overcompensating for a bad breakup.

He left Rome to study in Assisi, the home of St. Francis, and over the next decade, took his final vows as a friar, was ordained as a priest and defended his dissertation on human enhancement and cyborgs. He got his job at the Gregorian, and eventually as the Vatican’s IT ethics guy.

“He is convened by many institutions,” said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who used to run the Vatican’s culture department, where Father Benanti was a scientific adviser.

In 2017, Cardinal Ravasi organized an event at the Italian embassy to the Holy See where Father Benanti gave a talk on the ethics of A.I. Microsoft officials in attendance were impressed and asked to stay in touch. That same year, the Italian government asked him to contribute to A.I. policy documents and the next year he successfully applied to sit on its commission for developing a national A.I. strategy.

Then in 2018, he reconnected with now Cardinal Paglia, a favorite of Francis, and told him “look, something big is moving.” Soon after, Father Benanti’s contacts at Microsoft asked him to help arrange a meeting between Francis and Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith.

Father Benanti, as part of the Vatican delegation, translated technical terms during the 2019 meeting. Francis, he said, didn’t at first realize what Microsoft really did, but liked that Mr. Smith took out of his pocket one of the pope’s speeches on social media and showed the pontiff the concerns the business executive had highlighted and shared.

Francis — who Father Benanti said has become more literate on A.I., especially after an image of the pope sporting an A.I. designed white puffer coat went viral — then became more animated. The pope liked when the discussion was less about the technology, Father Benanti said, and more on “what he can do” to protect the vulnerable.

Last month, Father Benanti, who said he receives no payment from Microsoft, participated in a meeting between Mr. Gates, the company’s co-founder, and Ms. Meloni, who is worried about A.I.’s impact on the work force. “She has to run a country,” he said.

She has now appointed Father Benanti to replace the leader of the A.I. commission on Italian media with whom she was displeased.

“Obedience to authority is one of the vows,” Father Benanti said as he fiddled with the knots on his robe’s corded belt signifying his Franciscan order’s promise of obedience, poverty and chastity.

That commission is studying ways to protect Italy’s writers. Father Benanti believes that A.I. companies should be held liable for using copyrighted sources to train their chatbots, though he worries it is hard to prove because the companies are “black boxes.”

But that mystery has also, for Father Benanti, once again imbued the technology with magic, even if it is the dark kind. In that way, it wasn’t so new, he said, arguing that as ancient Roman augurs turned to the flight of birds for direction, A.I., with its enormous grasp of our physical, emotional and preferential data, could be the new oracles, determining decisions, and replacing God with false idols.

“It’s something old that probably we think that we left behind,” the friar said, “but that is coming back.”

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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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Canadian Skaters Demand Bronze Medals in Olympics Dispute

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Nearly a month after international figure skating’s governing body revised the results of a marquee competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, stripping Russia of the gold medal and giving the United States team a long-delayed victory, a new fight about the outcome erupted on Monday.

Eight members of the Canadian squad that competed in the team competition in Beijing have filed a case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport demanding that they be awarded bronze medals in the team event. The court announced the filing but revealed no details.

The Canadians, whose case was joined by their country’s skating federation and national Olympic committee, are expected to argue that figure skating’s global governing body erred when it revised the results of the competition in January after a Russian skater who had taken part, the teenage prodigy Kamila Valieva, was given a four-year ban for doping.

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In Latin America, a New Frontier for Women: Professional Softball in Mexico

Reporting from Mexico City and León, Mexico

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In many parts of Latin America, baseball is a popular and well-established sport with men’s professional leagues in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, among others. But women wanting to play baseball’s cousin — softball — professionally had only one option: to leave. They had to go to the United States or Japan.

Until now.

In what is believed to be a first in Latin America — a region where men often have more opportunities than women, particularly in sports — a professional women’s softball league has started in Mexico. On Jan. 25, when the inaugural season began, 120 women on six teams got to call themselves professional softball players, many for the first time.

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Why the Cost of Success in English Soccer’s Lower Leagues Keeps Going Up

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 poised for profitability 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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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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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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‘Belmopán es un experimento social’: así es la capital multicultural de Belice

Reportando desde Belmopán, Belice

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Cuando se menciona Belmopán, la capital de Belice, situada en lo profundo del interior del país, muchos beliceños la tachan como un bastión de burócratas que no solo es aburrida, sino que carece de vida nocturna.

“Me advirtieron: ‘Belmopán es para los recién casados o los casi muertos’”, dijo Raquel Rodriguez, de 45 años y propietaria de una escuela de arte, sobre los comentarios que le hicieron cuando dejó la costera y bulliciosa Ciudad de Belice para mudarse a Belmopán.

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Tras 19 meses, el Parlamento húngaro aprueba la candidatura sueca a la OTAN

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El Parlamento de Hungría votó el lunes a favor de aceptar a Suecia como nuevo miembro de la OTAN, sellando así un importante cambio en el equilibrio de poder entre Occidente y Rusia que fue desencadenado por la guerra en Ucrania.

La votación permitió que Suecia, no alineada desde hace mucho tiempo, sorteara el último obstáculo que bloqueaba su ingreso en la OTAN y frenaba la expansión de la alianza militar.

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Las deportistas de México alcanzan una nueva frontera: el softbol profesional

Reportando desde Ciudad de México y León, Mexico

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En muchas partes de América Latina, el béisbol es un deporte popular y bien establecido, con ligas profesionales masculinas en México, República Dominicana y Venezuela, entre otros países. Pero las mujeres que querían jugar el deporte primo del béisbol —softbol— de forma profesional solo tenían una opción: marcharse. Debían irse a Estados Unidos o Japón.

Hasta ahora.

En lo que se cree es el primer caso en América Latina —una región donde los hombres suelen tener más oportunidades que las mujeres, particularmente en los deportes— se ha creado una liga profesional de softbol femenino en México. Desde el 25 de enero, cuando comenzó la temporada inaugural, 120 mujeres en 6 equipos pudieron llamarse a sí mismas jugadoras profesionales de softbol, muchas por primera vez.

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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.

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