The New York Times 2024-02-28 22:40:23

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.

In a news conference on Wednesday night, Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, said he was reluctant to comment on Mr. Biden’s remarks that a deal is imminent. “I really hope he’s right,” Mr. Gallant said.

Qatar’s foreign ministry said this week that talks were continuing 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 in the war, which started with an Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel that authorities there say killed at least 1,200 people.

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.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press, said the Israeli team was still in Doha on and would return to Israel on Thursday. The official said it was still not clear whether the talks would continue in Egypt next week.

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 a total of six children had died from what it described as dehydration and malnutrition, including two infants at Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza. 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, Aaron Boxerman and Ameera Harouda 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, adding that “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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Ghana’s Parliament Passes Anti-Gay Bill With Jail Terms

Ghana’s Parliament on Wednesday passed a bill that imposes jail terms on people who identify as L.G.B.T.Q. or organize gay advocacy groups, measures that Amnesty International called among the harshest on the African continent.

The legislation, if signed into law by President Nana Akufo-Addo, would mean that people convicted of identifying as gay could be sentenced to three years in jail, those deemed “promoters” of L.G.B.T.Q. issues could get five years, and those who engage in gay sex would receive five years instead of the three years under previous legislation.

The bill is the latest in a wave of anti-gay legislation passed in Africa: Tanzania, Niger and Namibia have tightened such laws in recent years, while Uganda has adopted an anti-gay law that includes the death penalty.

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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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France Moves Closer to Enshrining Abortion Access in Its Constitution

France took a step closer to enshrining access to abortion in its Constitution, after senators backed a bill on Wednesday to include it as a “guaranteed freedom.”

Before the constitutional amendment becomes official, it must receive approval by three-fifths of all lawmakers in a special meeting called a congress, which is planned for Monday and considered by many to be a rubber stamp, since both houses have already overwhelmingly supported the bill.

While many French politicians consider the move natural for the country that produced the universal rights of man, they also conceded that the trigger came from across the ocean, with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022.

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Seeking to Unsettle Russia, Macron Provokes Allies

With his jolting unexpected statement that sending Western troops to Ukraine “should not be ruled out,” President Emmanuel Macron of France has shattered a taboo, ignited debate, spread dismay among allies and forced a reckoning on Europe’s future.

For an embattled leader who loathes lazy thinking, longs for a Europe of military strength and loves the limelight, this was typical enough. It was Mr. Macron, after all, who in 2019 described NATO as suffering from “brain death” and who last year warned Europe against becoming America’s strategic “vassal.”

But bold pronouncements are one thing and patiently putting the pieces in place to attain those objectives, another. Mr. Macron has often favored provocation over preparation, even if he often has a point, as in arguing since 2017 that Europe needed to bolster its defense industry to attain greater strategic heft.

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Immunity for ‘Troubles’ Violence Violates Human Rights, Belfast Court Rules

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.

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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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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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‘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.”

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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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Canadian Skaters Demand Bronze Medals in Olympics Dispute

Sign up for the Canada Letter Newsletter  Back stories and analysis from our Canadian correspondents, plus a handpicked selection of our recent Canada-related coverage.

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.

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.

Los burros de África son codiciados por China. ¿Puede el continente protegerlos?

Durante años, las empresas chinas y sus contratistas han estado sacrificando millones de burros en toda África, codiciando la gelatina de las pieles de los animales que se procesa para fabricar medicinas tradicionales, dulces populares y productos de belleza en China.

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Pero la creciente demanda de gelatina ha diezmado las poblaciones de burros a un ritmo tan alarmante en los países africanos que los gobiernos están tomando medidas para frenar el comercio, en su mayor parte no regulado.

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