The New York Times 2024-03-22 01:15:46


U.S. Draft Resolution Would Call for ‘Immediate and Sustained Cease-Fire’

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, traveling in the Middle East on Thursday, pressed for a halt to fighting in the Gaza Strip as the United States prepared to introduce a resolution at the United Nations on Friday calling for “an immediate and sustained cease-fire.”

The Security Council resolution drafted by the United States contains the strongest language that Washington has supported so far, and was an apparent shift for Israel’s closest ally. In February, the United States vetoed a Council resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

The new resolution also condemns the Hamas-led attacks on Israel of Oct. 7 that set off the war and the hostage-taking that day, and expresses support for the negotiations to free those still being held in Gaza.

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Middle East Crisis: Blinken Says Challenges Remain as U.S. Pushes for Gaza Cease-Fire Deal

‘We’ve closed the gaps, but there are still gaps,’ Blinken says of cease-fire talks.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Thursday that “challenges” and “gaps” remain in talks for a possible deal between Israel and Hamas that would pause the war in Gaza and allow for the release of Israeli hostages.

“There’s still real challenges. We’ve closed the gaps, but there are still gaps,” Mr. Blinken said, speaking alongside his Egyptian counterpart at a news conference in Cairo.

“It’s still difficult work to get there,” he later added.

While Mr. Blinken also repeated an assessment he made in a Wednesday television interview that the “gaps are narrowing” between Israel and Hamas, and that an agreement is possible, his words indicated caution. A U.S. official confirmed that William Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, would travel to Qatar on Friday for negotiations. Mr. Blinken declined to confirm Mr. Burns’s travel.

People briefed on the talks said an agreement between Israel and Hamas was unlikely to be reached imminently.

Mr. Blinken spoke on Thursday after meetings with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, continuing his sixth swing through the Middle East since the war began. Mr. Blinken plans to travel on to Israel.

Among his goals is brokering a temporary Gaza cease-fire, which the United States is also seeking through a United Nations resolution. It will bring the resolution to a vote Friday morning, Nate Evans, a spokesman for the U.S. mission, said in a statement.

Mr. Blinken also joined several Arab foreign ministers to discuss how Gaza could be governed and kept secure once Israel finishes its military campaign there. Among them were ministers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. The group also discussed providing Gaza’s desperate population with more humanitarian aid.

Before his trip to Egypt, Mr. Blinken visited Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he held a late-night meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Mr. Blinken emphasized the Biden administration’s long-term goal of “the establishment of a future Palestinian state with security guarantees for Israel,” the State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, said in a statement on Thursday.

Mr. Blinken and the crown prince also “continued discussions on achieving lasting regional peace and security, including through greater integration among countries in the region and enhanced bilateral cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia,” Mr. Miller said.

That was a reference to discussions between the Biden administration and Saudi Arabia about a possible deal in which the country would establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel for the first time. In return the Saudis have asked the U.S. for security guarantees, arms sales and backing for a civil nuclear program. Such a deal would also likely require Israeli support for a path to Palestinian statehood.

“We are getting close to a point where we will have agreements,” Mr. Blinken said when asked about the negotiations.

A senior U.S. official said that most of the progress had been made on bilateral issues between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Such a U.S.-Saudi agreement would require approval from the U.S. Senate, which is not assured. And Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said that he would not support a Palestinian state.

Mr. Blinken acknowledged the obstacles, but called the effort critical.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office said Thursday that a delegation of mediators from Israel, Egypt, Qatar and the United States would meet in Doha, Qatar’s capital, on Friday to “advance the release of hostages” still being held in Gaza.

Along with Mr. Burns, of the C.I.A., that will include David Barnea, the director of Mossad; Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani of Qatar; and Abbas Kamel, the Egyptian intelligence minister, according to Mr. Netanyahu’s office.

In Israel, Mr. Blinken will discuss the potential Saudi normalization agreement as well as Israel’s war plans and ways to protect and deliver more aid to civilians there.

Julian E. Barnes contributed reporting.

U.S. resolution at the U.N. calls for a sustained cease-fire in Gaza.

The United States is circulating a resolution at the United Nations calling for “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Gaza Strip, as experts warn of imminent famine in the enclave and pressure grows for stronger international action.

The Security Council resolution drafted by the United States contains the strongest language that Washington has supported so far, and was an apparent reversal for Israel’s closest ally. In February, the United States vetoed a Council resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

The new resolution also condemns the Hamas-led attacks on Israel of Oct. 7 that set off the war and the hostage-taking that day, and expresses support for the negotiations to free those still being held in Gaza.

The Security Council will bring the resolution to a vote on Friday, Nate Evans, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said in a statement.

When the United States vetoed the earlier resolution, which had been put forward by Algeria, American officials said they had done so because they were concerned that it could disrupt hostage negotiations. But Biden administration officials have grown more forceful in recent weeks in their push for a cease-fire, as conditions have further deteriorated in Gaza and the death toll has exceeded 30,000.

The resolution being circulated by U.S. diplomats and obtained by The New York Times on Thursday says that the Council determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire to protect civilians on all sides, allow for the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance, and alleviate humanitarian suffering, and towards that end unequivocally supports ongoing international diplomatic efforts to secure such a cease-fire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.”

The resolution also notes the “deep concern about the threat of conflict-induced famine and epidemics.”

The call for an “immediate” cease-fire was markedly stronger language than a draft Security Council resolution that the United States circulated in February, which called for a temporary cease-fire “as soon as practicable.”

The Biden administration also used the resolution to reiterate its opposition to Israel’s planned invasion of Rafah, a city in southern Gaza, which is packed with war refugees. It expresses “concern that a ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries.”

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Back from Gaza, these doctors want Washington to know the horrors they witnessed.

The memories are unforgettable. A flood of screaming families carrying their bloodied loved ones through the doors of an already inundated hospital. A small boy trying to resuscitate a child who looked not much older than himself. A 12-year-old with shrapnel wounds to his head and abdomen being intubated on the ground.

That January day at the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza — the aftermath of a missile strike on an aid distribution site — has haunted Dr. Zaher Sahloul, an American critical care specialist with years of experience treating patients in war zones, including in Syria and Ukraine.

He and other volunteer doctors who have returned from besieged hospitals in Gaza took their firsthand accounts of the carnage to Washington this week, hoping to convey to the Biden administration and senior government officials that an immediate cease-fire was needed to provide lifesaving medical care.

Among the evidence Dr. Sahloul took to show the American officials — including members of Congress and officials from the White House, State Department, Defense Department and the United States Agency for International Development — was a photo of the 12-year-old boy and his death certificate. The child never woke up from surgery after being intubated, the doctor said, and the hospital could not reach his family amid a near-total communications blackout.

Two other doctors in the delegation — Amber Alayyan, a Paris-based deputy program manager for Doctors Without Borders, and Nick Maynard, a British surgeon — said that robust medical advancements achieved by local doctors in Gaza had been wiped out by Israel’s war against Hamas.

Dr. Maynard, who earlier this year met with the British foreign secretary, David Cameron, said he was hopeful that if the U.S. changed its tune on backing what Israeli forces were doing in Gaza, then Britain would follow.

“This is the deliberate destruction of the whole health care system,” he said in an interview.

Dr. Maynard described operating on chest injuries from explosions with few anesthetics or antibiotics at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah in central Gaza in December and January. “The lack of pain relief was particularly disturbing because we saw lots of children with awful burns,” he said.

The availability of sterile gloves and surgical drapes was also limited, and the hospital’s record-keeping abilities had collapsed, rendering follow-up care nearly impossible, he said. Dr. Maynard said he walked through hallways overcrowded with displaced people to check on patients he had operated on and sometimes failed to find them.

Also in the delegation was Thaer Ahmad, a Palestinian American emergency medicine physician who was with Dr. Sahloul in January as Israeli forces encircled Khan Younis and began closing in on Nasser Hospital, the largest one still functioning in the enclave at the time.

He said in an interview that he had a toddler and a 2-month-old baby at home in Chicago when he traveled to Gaza. He contrasted his wife’s experience of being able to deliver in a safe, well-resourced hospital with an obstetrician she knows well with the plight of pregnant women in Gaza, who have been starving and giving birth in shelters. “I had to go,” he said. “They’re my people.”

Not long after the doctors’ departure from Gaza, Nasser Hospital was raided by Israeli forces and forced to cease operations.

“I will regret, for the rest of my life, leaving when I did,” Dr. Ahmad said.

As the death toll in Gaza has soared to nearly 32,000 in five months, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, Palestinian Americans have been “yelling at the top of our lungs, and no one is listening,” he added.

“The numbers clearly aren’t making a difference,” Dr. Ahmad said. “I’m afraid the toll could reach 40,000, or 50,000, and we’ll be in the same position. What else am I going to do?”

Israel’s raid on Al-Shifa Hospital grows into one of the longest of the war.

One of Israel’s longest hospital raids of the Gaza war stretched into a fourth day on Thursday, as the military said that it had killed dozens of people it described as terrorists in the previous 24 hours in its operation at Al-Shifa Hospital.

Israel has staged a series of raids on Al-Shifa in northern Gaza, the largest medical facility in the territory, arguing that Hamas used it as a command center and concealed weapons and fighters in underground tunnels there. Since the latest attack began on Monday, the Israeli military has reported killing more than 140 people it said were terrorists in and around the hospital, far more than in past raids.

On Thursday, the military said it had also detained 600 people at the hospital. The Israeli accounts could not be independently verified.

The Al Jazeera news network and Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s news agency, reported on Thursday that Israeli forces had blown up a building used for surgery that is one of the largest at the complex. The Israeli military said it had no comment on the reports.

Iyad Elejel, who lives about 500 yards from Al-Shifa, said the situation was “very terrifying,” adding in a phone call on Thursday: “We are hearing the constant sounds of clashes, gunshots, shelling, bombing, quadcopters and planes all day and all night.” Smoke had infiltrated the apartment where he is staying with 30 relatives, making it hard to breathe, he said.

Mr. Elejel said the children in the apartment were becoming used to the cacophony. “We try to convince them that the sounds they are hearing are from fireworks, but they don’t believe it,” he said.

Nobody has been able to leave the apartment since the raid began, Mr. Elejel said, and the family feared that they could run out of food soon. He said that when he looked out of his window Thursday morning, he saw “many dead bodies lying on the main street” out front. Israeli soldiers have been forcing people in the area to leave their apartments and head south, so the neighborhood was emptying out, Mr. Elejel said.

The military said in an earlier statement that it was continuing to “conduct precise operational activity in the Shifa hospital, eliminating dozens of terrorists over the past day during exchanges of fire.” It also said it was preventing harm to civilians and had located storage sites for weapons.

Mohammed Abu Kmail, a 35-year-old marketing consultant, said in an interview that he was with his wife and two daughters in their apartment, near the hospital, when they woke up before dawn Tuesday to the sound of gunfire close to their building.

He said that around 8 a.m., Israeli soldiers entered nearby buildings, and stripped and handcuffed about 25 men, including himself. He said that, after being scanned by a camera, he and some of the others were released. The account resembled those of other men detained in Gaza since the war began.

The Israeli military said in a statement that detained people “are treated in accordance with international law” and that “it is often necessary” to have detainees remove clothing so it “can be searched and to ensure that they are not concealing explosive vests or other weaponry.”

Israeli forces have carried out a series of raids on medical facilities in Gaza, arguing that Hamas has used them for military purposes. The armed group has denied doing so.

Israel made northern Gaza the initial target of its ground invasion of the enclave, which started on Oct. 27, and it first raided the hospital in November. It later provided evidence that Hamas had constructed a lengthy tunnel under the hospital. A later analysis by The New York Times found that Hamas had used the complex for military purposes. The Israeli military, however, has struggled to prove that Hamas maintained a command-and-control center under it.

Even before the current raid began, international aid workers said that the hospital barely functioned and was incapable of serving the acute health care needs of northern Gaza as it had before the conflict.

The World Health Organization had hoped to conduct a mission to the hospital on Thursday to provide fuel and food for staff and patients, as well as to assess the situation there, but permission had been denied because of security issues, according to Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, who represents the organization in Gaza and the West Bank.

The W.H.O. is “terribly worried” about the situation, he said, adding that it had not been possible to contact staff members there.

Israeli officials said earlier this week that Hamas personnel had returned to the hospital, prompting its operation. Military analysts said Israel’s decision to withdraw most of its forces from the north, in part to concentrate on defeating Hamas in other parts of Gaza, had in effect left a security vacuum.

The initial raid on Al-Shifa became a lightning rod for criticism of Israel over military action around hospitals and the danger it poses to patients and medical staff. The raid also became a symbol of a broader debate about the human cost of Israel’s military campaign to destroy Hamas in Gaza, in which tens of thousands of civilians have been killed or wounded.

Lauren Leatherby contributed reporting.

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House speaker says he will invite Netanyahu to address Congress.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Thursday that he planned to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to address a joint session of Congress, moving to welcome a leader who has become a flashpoint for partisan disagreement in American politics over the war in Gaza.

Mr. Johnson, Republican of Louisiana, brought up the invitation one day after Mr. Netanyahu assailed Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, in a private meeting with Senate Republicans for a speech in which the New York Democrat singled him out as an impediment to peace and called for eventual elections to replace him.

“I would love to have him come and address a joint session of Congress; we’ll certainly extend that invitation,” Mr. Johnson said of Mr. Netanyahu in an interview on CNBC. Mr. Johnson said he had also been invited to speak in front of the Israeli Knesset.

Mr. Schumer on Wednesday declined a request from Mr. Netanyahu to speak virtually to Senate Democrats at their own closed-door party lunch, saying it was not helpful to Israel for discussions with the prime minister to happen in a partisan forum.

But on Thursday, he said he would support an address by the Israeli prime minister in front of the entire Congress if Mr. Johnson moved forward with the invitation.

“Israel has no stronger ally than the United States and our relationship transcends any one president or any one prime minister,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. “I will always welcome the opportunity for the prime minister of Israel to speak to Congress in a bipartisan way.”

The statement came a week after Mr. Schumer delivered an explosive speech on the Senate floor in which he harshly criticized Mr. Netanyahu, naming him and his right-wing coalition alongside Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority leader, as the main obstacles to peace.

The remarks and the Republican backlash that has followed have underscored a growing partisan divide in the United States over Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership as Israel’s war against Hamas rages on, and a struggle between members of both parties to define themselves as the true allies of the Jewish state.

A spokesman said that Mr. Johnson had not yet discussed any plans with Mr. Schumer, who would have to sign off on any invitation for an address before a joint session of Congress.

Mr. Netanyahu enraged Democrats in 2015 by accepting an invitation from Republicans who then controlled the House and Senate to deliver an address to Congress condemning the Iran nuclear deal as the Obama administration was negotiating it.

Israel’s Supreme Court asks authorities to hold off on the deportation of Gazan cancer patients.

Gazans who had been receiving medical treatment in Israel were to be deported back to the Palestinian territory on Thursday but have received a temporary reprieve from Israel’s Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court decision came in response to a last-minute petition filed by rights organizations and 13 cancer patients on Wednesday evening asking for the deportation to be blocked. The court asked the Israeli government to hold off on any action until it had time to review the petition.

Tamir Blank, the lead attorney for the patients, said on Thursday that seven names had been added to the petition since the decision.

“We’re making the argument that Israel created such conditions in Gaza that it cannot sustain people who have cancer and nobody with cancer can survive there for a reasonable amount of time,” he said.

The Israeli government said in a court filing on Thursday that it agreed to the court’s request not to deport any of the patients while the petition was under review. It also asked for 30 days to prepare its own response to the petition.

COGAT, the Israeli agency that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories and that was named along with the government in the petition, did not respond to questions about the petition or the patients involved. It said in a statement that “at present, Gazan residents and their escorts, who have received medical treatment in Israeli hospitals and who are not in need of further medical care, are returned to the Gaza Strip.”

“We emphasize that as of this moment, the coordination of the return of the Gazan patients has stopped and the issue is being discussed in court,” the statement added.

Months of bombardment and dire shortages of supplies since the war began in October have brought Gaza’s already struggling health care system to what aid organizations have said is the brink of collapse. Israel has raided several of Gaza’s main medical complexes, saying it is rooting out Hamas activity, a charge health officials deny.

The health care system was ill equipped to provide advanced cancer treatment even before the war. To get treatment in Israel, Gazans had to navigate several obstacles, including getting the Palestinian Authority’s Health Ministry to agree to absorb the cost of treatment and the Israeli authorities to issue a permit to cross the border.

Since the war began, Israel has sent some Palestinian workers back to Gaza, and rights groups say some Gazans receiving medical treatment have chosen to go back.

The 20 people named on the petition, most of whom are cancer patients and the majority of whom are adults, according to Mr. Black, do not want to return to Gaza. All of them were in Israel before the war began, mostly at hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem.

They were scheduled for deportation because they were no longer receiving “active treatment,” according to the attorney, rights groups and a hospital.

Dr. Fadi Atrash, the head of the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, said that the Israeli authorities had contacted his hospital last week for an updated list with the names and statuses of Gazan patients. The hospital was told that 11 cancer patients who were no longer receiving active treatment would be sent back to Gaza this week, he said.

Completing chemotherapy or radiation is not the end of treatment for cancer patients, the doctor and rights groups argued. Patients might need hormone therapies, and require follow-ups and regular checkups, none of which are feasible in Gaza.

“Sending them back to Gaza — it’s like putting them in a higher risk to be killed because it’s a war zone,” Dr. Atrash said.

Aseel Aburass, the director of the department for occupied Palestinian territories at Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, which took the lead on the petition, said that it was “crazy” to send the patients back to a war zone when they need follow-up care.

“They’re still weak and their immune system is weak,” she said, adding: “This is a death sentence.”

Myra Noveck and Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting.

Indian Opposition Parties Say They Face Tide of Troubles as Vote Nears

The head of one of India’s leading opposition parties was arrested in dramatic fashion on Thursday, the same day another party said it had been blocked from access to its bank accounts — actions taken by the government of Narendra Modi, critics say, to put his rivals at a disadvantage before a pivotal general election in April.

The leader of the Aam Aadmi Party, Arvind Kejriwal, was taken into custody late on Thursday at his home in New Delhi, where hundreds of protesters had gathered to protest his arrest by the federal financial crime agency. Mr. Kejriwal, who is also the chief minister of the national capital region of New Delhi, was arrested on allegations of corruption involving the city’s liquor policy. His party’s leaders say the charges are fraudulent.

Campaigning is heating up for a six-week-long election that starts on April 19 and will determine the next prime minister for the world’s most populous democracy. To run election campaigns from the Himalayan mountains to India’s southern shores, political groups spend billions of dollars in what is seen as one of the world’s most expensive elections.

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Why Do Autocrats Like Putin Bother to Hold Elections?

You’re reading The Interpreter newsletter, for Times subscribers only.  Original analysis on the week’s biggest global stories, from columnist Amanda Taub.

The elections in Russia earlier this month were widely condemned as a performance that fell somewhere between tragedy and farce. Although President Vladimir Putin does have substantial public support, the vote was stage-managed to ensure that he would be “re-elected” with more than 87 percent of the vote.

And the result was fixed long before Russians even arrived at polling stations: The political opposition has been ruthlessly crushed, independent media has been silenced and public protesters have been given draconian prison sentences. Russia’s most prominent opposition politician, Aleksei Navalny, died in prison last month.

All of which raises an interesting question: Why do autocratic leaders bother holding rigged elections at all?

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2-Year-Old Separated From His Parents Flees Haiti’s Violent Capital

A trip by a Florida couple to the Dominican Republic to attend a wedding turned into days of anxiety after they dropped off their 2-year-old son with relatives in neighboring Haiti and the boy ended up trapped by that country’s worsening upheaval.

After nearly three weeks, the boy, Julien, finally left Haiti and flew back to Florida on Wednesday, where he was reunited with his parents, Philippe-Olivier Armand and his wife, Olivia Turnier.

The evacuation of their son was part of a growing number of hasty and ad hoc departures from Haiti, which has been convulsed by a surge of gang violence that has turned parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, into a war zone and has shut down the main airport.

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Russia Targets Kyiv With Biggest Missile Attack in Weeks

Russian missiles streaked into Kyiv early Thursday in the biggest assault on the Ukrainian capital in weeks, injuring at least 13 people and damaging several residential buildings and industrial facilities, according to local officials.

The Ukrainian Air Force said that air defense systems had intercepted all 31 of the Russian missiles that targeted Kyiv. Still, debris from the downed missiles fell in various parts of the city, causing the injuries and damage. No deaths have been reported so far.

“Such terror continues every day and night,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in a social media post that included a video of firefighters dousing burning buildings with water.

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Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan Targets Taliban Heartland

A suicide bombing outside a bank in southern Afghanistan on Thursday killed at least 20 people, including several members of the Taliban, according to hospital staff, in a bloody reminder of the terrorist threats that have persisted in the country since the U.S.-led war ended.

The attack occurred about 8:30 a.m., when a bomber detonated explosives in front of a branch of the New Kabul Bank in Kandahar City, the capital of Kandahar Province, according to Taliban officials. The blast appeared to have targeted Taliban members who had gathered at the bank to collect their salaries, witnesses and hospital staff said.

About 50 others were injured, according to a doctor and a nurse at Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar City who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the news media.

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Ireland’s Prime Minister Stepped Down. So What Happens Now?

The leader of the Republic of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, resigned on Wednesday, prompting a political scramble in the government after his announcement in front of the parliament building in Dublin.

Mr. Varadkar’s decision, which he attributed to both “personal and political” reasons, was unexpected, with some members of his government given only a few hours’ notice of his plans.

A medical doctor and former health minister, Mr. Varadkar first became taoiseach, or prime minister, in 2017, at a time when his Fine Gael party was still one of the country’s two dominant parties, a position it had enjoyed nearly uninterrupted since the founding of the Irish state.

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Far Right’s Success Is a Measure of a Changing Portugal

The sun-soaked Algarve region on Portugal’s Southern coast is a place where guitar-strumming backpackers gather by fragrant orange trees and digital nomads hunt for laid-back vibes. It is not exactly what comes to mind when one envisions a stronghold of far-right political sentiment.

But it is in the Algarve region where the anti-establishment Chega party finished first in national elections this month, both unsettling Portuguese politics and injecting new anxiety throughout the European establishment. Nationwide, Chega received 18 percent of the vote.

“It’s a strong signal for Europe and for the world,” said João Paulo da Silva Graça, a freshly elected Chega lawmaker, sitting at the party’s new Algarve headquarters as tourists asked for vegan custard tarts at a bakery downstairs. “Our values must prevail.”

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A Mexican Drug Cartel’s New Target? Seniors and Their Timeshares

First the cartel cut its teeth with drug trafficking. Then avocados, real estate and construction companies. Now, a Mexican criminal group known for its brutality is moving in on seniors and their timeshares.

The operation is relatively simple. Cartel employees posing as sales representatives call up timeshare owners, offering to buy their investments back for generous sums. They then demand upfront fees for anything from listing advertisements to paying government fines. The representatives persuade their victims to wire large amounts of money to Mexico — sometimes as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars — and then they disappear.

The scheme has netted the cartel, Jalisco New Generation, hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade, according to U.S. officials who were not authorized to speak publicly, via dozens of call centers in Mexico that relentlessly target American and Canadian timeshare owners. They even bribe employees at Mexican resorts to leak guest information, the U.S. officials say.

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Luis Rubiales, Former Spanish Soccer Chief, Faces Arrest

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Luis Rubiales, the disgraced former Spanish soccer head who was forced out after kissing a female player against her will, faces new legal troubles after the Spanish police were given permission to arrest him as part of a wide-ranging investigation into accusations of corruption and money laundering.

Investigators from the Spanish civil guard carried out a series of raids Tuesday, including searches at the headquarters of the Spanish soccer federation on the outskirts of Madrid and at a home owned by Mr. Rubiales in the southern city of Granada.

The public prosecutor’s office in Madrid said 11 homes and a number of other buildings were searched as part of an investigation into what it described as “alleged criminal acts associated with corruption in business, unfair administration and money laundering.”

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Why Isn’t More Aid Getting to Gazans?


Even as international governments and aid agencies try to find air and sea routes for delivering food and supplies to Gaza, experts say land deliveries are still, in theory, the most efficient and cost-effective route.

But the aid getting into Gaza is not meeting the needs of an increasingly desperate and hungry population. As many as 1.1 million people could face deadly levels of hunger by mid-July, according to a new report from a global authority on food crises.

Humanitarian organizations have said that the problem is not a lack of available aid: The United Nations said it has enough food at or near Gaza’s border to feed the enclave’s 2.2 million people. Instead, humanitarian workers say they face challenges at every point in the process of delivering aid, through Israel’s security checkpoints and into an active war zone.

Here are some of the reasons why aid to Gaza has not helped people meet their basic needs so far.

The land delivery route is complex

Just two entry points into the territory are regularly operating, both in the south. Typically, aid must travel dozens of miles and make multiple stops, a process that can take three weeks.

Most of Gaza’s international aid is inventoried at warehouses near El Arish, after being flown into El Arish airport or trucked in from Port Sa’id or elsewhere in Egypt. Some aid is also delivered through a different route from Jordan.

One arrow on a map points from Port Sa’id east to El Arish airport and another arrow points toward El Arish over the Mediterranean Sea. Another arrow indicates trucks carrying aid overland to El Arish.

From El Arish, the trucks carrying aid typically undergo security checks in Rafah, Egypt, shortly before reaching the border with Gaza.

The map shifts to center the Gaza Strip, and an arrow points from El Arish to an area near Rafah crossing, on the border between Egypt and Gaza.

Still on trucks loaded in Egypt, the aid then heads toward Israeli inspection at Kerem Shalom crossing or Nitzana crossing some 25 miles southeast. The inspection process is often lengthy.

One arrow points from near Rafah crossing to Kerem Shalom crossing, and a second arrow points from near Rafah crossing to Nitzana crossing.

After clearing Israeli inspections, trucks in Nitzana might make their way to the Rafah crossing or to Kerem Shalom.

One arrow points from Nitzana crossing to Rafah crossing, and another points from Nitzana to Kerem Shalom crossing.

Those trucks unload their cargo at the crossings, where it is loaded up on different trucks and taken to storage facilities on the Gazan side. Aid is stored at a warehouse, then sometimes another, before being distributed throughout southern and central Gaza.

Arrows now point from Rafah crossing to another part of Rafah and Khan Younis.

Aid headed into northern Gaza has to pass through one of two other Israeli checkpoints. Aid agencies, citing Israeli restrictions, security issues and poor road conditions, have largely stopped deliveries to the north.

Arrows now point from Rafah crossing to the Salah Al Din and Al Rashid checkpoints in northern Gaza.

Gaza has long been reliant on humanitarian aid, as the territory has been under a yearslong blockade by Israel and Egypt. Before the war began in October, two-thirds of Gazans were supported by food assistance. Now, nearly the entire population is dependent on aid to eat.

Over the past four weeks, an average of about 140 trucks carrying food and other aid have arrived in Gaza each day, according to a database maintained by UNRWA, the U.N. agency that supports Palestinians. But the World Food Program estimates that 300 trucks of food are needed daily to begin to meet people’s basic food needs.

As of Tuesday, about 1,200 trucks were waiting at El Arish in Egypt, including more than 800 containing food supplies.

UNRWA has been responsible for a majority of aid coordination in Gaza since the war began. In January, Israel accused a dozen of the agency’s employees of being involved in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 assault on Israel. The U.N. said it fired several employees after being briefed on the allegations, which it and the United States are investigating.

Inspections have been onerous

UNRWA has said that convoluted Israeli inspections hold up aid. Trucks sit in miles-long lines at every checkpoint and are forced to start over if even one item inside is rejected.

Some aid workers have said it is not clear why a shipment might not pass inspection. Inspectors do not usually say why an item is refused, aid officials have said, and if a single one is rejected, the truck must be sent back to El Arish with its cargo and repacked.

U.N. and British officials have said that critical goods, such as water filters and scissors included in medical kits for treating children, are being rejected because they could be used for military purposes. COGAT, the Israeli unit that supervises aid deliveries into Gaza, denied this and said that only 1.5 percent of trucks are turned away.

Scott Anderson, deputy Gaza director of UNRWA, said Israel needs to improve the efficiency of its inspections by adding more scanning equipment and should extend working hours at the crossings, which close on Friday afternoon through Saturday for Sabbath.

Israel has said it is not preventing the flow of aid. Shimon Freedman, a spokesman for COGAT, said the bottlenecks are concentrated on the Gazan side of the border, after aid is inspected but before it is distributed.

Mr. Freedman said the unit has improved the efficiency of its inspections by providing more scanning equipment, adding more staff members and increasing working hours at both inspection points.

“The amount of aid that we are able to inspect is much higher than the amount that the organizations are able to distribute,” Mr. Freedman said. He added that the unit has the capability to inspect 44 trucks an hour.

Mr. Anderson, of UNRWA, rejected the idea that his agency does not have the logistical capacity to pick up or distribute as much aid as Israel is able to scan, adding that the organization has worked out many of the hurdles in its process.

But even so, he described a slew of security challenges aid convoys have faced, and extensive coordination they have required, after entering Gaza.

Destroyed roads and strained resources make distributing aid inside Gaza a challenge

Distribution can be difficult and hazardous, especially in the north. Trucks driven by contractors and U.N. staffers headed north must pass through an additional checkpoint and travel across rubble and ruined roads. Ongoing military operations also hinder the movement of aid.

Aid agencies have largely suspended deliveries in the north, and there has been little opportunity for organizations to distribute aid to people there. Instead, hungry Gazans who are willing to take the risk must travel long distances to the few trucks and air-dropped supplies that arrive.

“It’s very hard to reach all people,” said Naser Qadous, who coordinates food assistance in Gaza’s north for Anera, an aid organization. “This is why there are many people that are starving.”

In Rafah, where aid is somewhat more available, UNRWA’s distribution infrastructure is strained as more than half of Gaza’s population has sought shelter there. Some Gazans are even trading or selling their aid, and the prices have become prohibitive for most people, exacerbating the unequal distribution of food supplies.

Aid convoys are frequently beset by violence

The threats of desperate crowds and Israeli gunfire make the transfer of food to people dangerous.

More than a hundred Gazans died near a convoy on Feb. 29, after thousands massed around aid trucks. Israel said most victims were trampled by crowds, but witnesses described shooting by Israeli forces and hospital doctors said most casualties were from gunfire. At least 20 people were killed at another convoy on March 14. Gazan health officials accused Israel of a targeted attack, but the Israeli military blamed Palestinian gunmen.

UNRWA and U.S. officials have said it is extremely difficult to distribute aid without the help of police escorts, and their security is needed to protect convoys from swarms of people. Israel has struck Palestinian officers escorting U.N. aid convoys. The absence of security officers has enabled organized criminal gangs to steal aid or attack convoys, U.S. officials and Palestinians in central and northern Gaza have also said.

Israel has said that members of Hamas have been seizing aid, though U.S. and UNRWA officials have said there is no evidence for the claim. Israel has vowed to dismantle Hamas’s operations in Gaza.

After the World Food Program said its trucks encountered gunfire and looting while distributing food in northern Gaza, the organization suspended its deliveries there in late February. But Israel recently allowed the aid group to bring small amounts of aid directly through a northern border crossing: six trucks last week and an additional 18 over the weekend.

“This cannot be a one-off, but this needs to be sustained, regular and at scale to support those in need,” said Carl Skau, the World Food Program’s deputy executive director.

COGAT said it has taken measures to improve security in distribution by setting up “humanitarian corridors” and declaring daily tactical pauses for aid trucks to move through Gaza.

Air and sea efforts are ‘not going to solve the problem’

The U.S. and other countries have announced measures to provide aid by air and sea, including thousands of ready-to-eat meals and humanitarian aid packages that have been airdropped into Gaza by the United States, France, Jordan, and other countries in the region.

But aid officials and experts say that such efforts are costly and slow, emphasizing that delivering aid by trucks remains the most efficient way to distribute desperately needed food in Gaza. Sarah Schiffling, an expert in humanitarian aid supply chains and logistics at the Hanken School of Economics in Finland, described airdrops as “an absolute last resort.”

At worst, they can be deadly: Gazan authorities reported this month that at least five people were killed and several others were wounded by humanitarian aid packages that fell on them in Gaza City.

Recently announced plans by the United States and aid groups to deliver aid by installing temporary ports off the coast of Gaza have the potential to bring much more aid into the enclave. The Biden administration said its operations could bring as many as two million meals a day to Gazan residents.

The first ship organized by the nonprofit World Central Kitchen arrived in Gaza on Friday loaded with 200 tons of food, including rice, flour and canned meat — the equivalent of about 10 trucks’ worth.

Shipborne aid into Gaza is a “good step, but it’s not going to solve the problem,” said Dr. Schiffling.

Since Gaza does not have a functioning port, such an operation requires an entirely new infrastructure to efficiently offload aid from barges. And once the aid arrives on land, humanitarian groups will most likely face the same challenges they have already been contending with on the distribution side.

The only solution to increase the amount of aid that enters and is distributed in Gaza is a cease-fire, Dr. Schiffling added.

Juliette Touma, the director of communications at UNRWA, has also raised concerns that building a pier, which the United States has said it can do in about two months, would take too long, especially for northern Gazans who are severely hungry and facing starvation. According to the report on hunger in Gaza, nearly two-thirds of households in the north had nothing to eat for at least 10 days and nights over the past month.

“The people of Gaza cannot afford to wait for 30 to 60 days,” Ms. Touma said.

Congress Seeks to Bar Funding for U.N. Agency for Palestinians

The United States would cut off funding for the main U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians in Gaza under a spending agreement on track to soon become law, according to two people familiar with the plan.

The ban, part of a massive spending bill negotiated by lawmakers and the White House that is expected to clear Congress by this weekend, would create a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars for the agency, known as UNRWA. That could have disastrous consequences for Gazans, who are facing an acute hunger crisis and displacement in crowded shelters and tent encampments.

The move would also put Washington at odds with its Western allies over how to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza amid accusations that Hamas fighters have infiltrated the agency.

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Belching Volcano and Flowing Lava Dent Tourism in Icelandic Region

The Blue Lagoon resort in the south of Iceland is a scenic network of steaming azure pools surrounded by dark rocks, where tourists dip in the geothermal water, have spa treatments and enjoy what the resort advertises as “a universe of radiant well-being.”

But last week, a stream of radiant lava burst from a crater a few miles from the resort, forcing it to evacuate hundreds of guests, in yet another eruption of a volcano system in the Reykjanes Peninsula that had been dormant for 800 years.

The outbursts began in 2021, and the eruptions and earthquakes in the peninsula have destroyed some houses and forced villagers from their homes. One construction worker went missing in the town of Grindavik after falling down a crack caused by an earthquake.

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Snakes in the Grass — and Under the Piano, by the Pool and in the Prison

Natasha Frost spent two days trailing snake catchers on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

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The phone rings. It’s the local prison. There’s a snake in a cell. Within a few hours, snakes have also been spotted at a school, beneath a piano stored in a private garage and near a lagoon-like swimming pool at a retirement home. Customers want them gone.

Business has never been so good for Stuart McKenzie, who runs a snake-catching service in the Sunshine Coast, a verdant enclave along miles of pristine beach in the vast Australian state of Queensland. On the busiest days, he can receive more than 35 calls about troublesome snakes.

Queensland is home to the largest number of snake species in Australia — about 120. Of those, two-thirds are venomous and a handful are deadly. Throughout Australia, fatalities from snake bites remain extremely rare — about two a year — and in Queensland, the reptiles are simply a part of life.

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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.

For now, their attempts have mustered a walking tour of the city, conducted through a homemade app, and a few slightly weathered plaques. But Dr. Wilson and his compatriots have a bold vision of what their efforts might produce: a “digital museum” of Sheffield’s soccer history, a sculpture trail and — more than anything — a clear and prestigious identity for a city that has, in recent times, struggled just a little to define itself.

As they look to use the city’s past to shape its future, though, they do — Dr. Wilson warned — have a bit of a “tendency to go off on tangents.”

He is not wrong. In the half-hour walk to the parking lot, Dr. Wilson, 65, and two of his fellow enthusiasts, John Stocks, a 65-year-old retired English teacher and author, and John Clarke, a retired computer engineer who is 63, touched on a range of subjects that included — but was not limited to — social migration patterns in Victorian England, the Netflix series “The English Game” and the practice of topping walls with crozzle, a waste product from iron furnaces.

They discussed each digression with glee, eagerly diving every rabbit hole. Like many ardent hobbyists, they reveled in the detail as much as the sweep.

The picture they have in their minds, though, is clear.

“In the 1850s and 60s, there were hundreds of teams, playing each other in competitive games, on pitches all over the city,” Mr. Stocks said. In studying Sheffield’s soccer legacy, he said, the past they have unearthed reveals the city as “the home of the first real football culture anywhere in the world.” That, they believe, might also be the key to its future.

But the title “Home of Football” — always capitalized and, in flagrant disregard of New York Times style, never “soccer” — is a contested one.

It is semiofficially applied to Wembley, the stadium in the endless gray expanse of northwest London that is the headquarters of both the English national team and the Football Association, the game’s governing body in England.

Visit England, the country’s tourist board, backs another contender. It describes Manchester as the “Home of Football,” on the grounds that it hosts two heavyweights of the Premier League and the National Football Museum. Manchester is also where the Football League — the sport’s first professional competition — was formed.

In comparison, Sheffield’s candidacy for the title is distinctly homespun. There is a brief précis of the city’s role in the game’s formation on the website of its tourist board, and an archive is on display in the “local studies” section of the city’s library.

“We’ve not been very good at promoting ourselves,” said Richard Caborn, a former lawmaker from the city and the minister for sport under Tony Blair’s Labour government. “We’ve never really positioned ourselves to exploit it.”

Sheffield Home of Football, an educational charity established by Dr. Wilson and his fellow travelers, has stepped into that void.

“We’ve been through the history and we have the documentation,” Mr. Caborn said. “This isn’t a claim. It’s evidence-based.”

Sheffield’s case is compelling. Sheffield F.C., the world’s oldest club, was founded here. So, too, was Hallam F.C., the world’s second-oldest. Hallam’s home, Sandygate, has been hosting soccer since 1860, longer than anywhere else. It was in Sheffield, too, that the rules of the game that would become soccer were first written down.

Mr. Stocks and his fellow “obsessives” — his word — draw the greatest satisfaction in finding the supporting evidence. It is painstaking work, trawling through both digital and physical archives, but worth it, he said.

“There are some of us who will stay up all night chasing down a lead they’ve found,” he said. “I’m not quite as bad as that, but I do devote quite a lot of time to it. I have quite a few other projects I’m supposed to be getting on with, but the reality is that most of the time, I’m doing this.”

Because of their work, Sheffield can now, with a reasonable degree of confidence, claim to be home to the first derby match in world soccer — the meeting of city rivals Sheffield F.C. and Hallam on the site of the home improvement store’s parking lot — as well as the first corner kick, the first use of the crossbar and the first match report.

Mr. Stocks has also tracked down a suggestion that passing was invented in Sheffield — not in Scotland, as is widely believed. There are accounts of what sounds an awful lot like professionalism. “We think there’s a chance the first German team was founded here, too,” Dr. Wilson said.

Part of the thrill, they admit, is correcting some of the inaccuracies in what they call soccer’s “folk history.” Their driving force, though, is the sense that their discoveries can define not only what Sheffield was, but what it might yet be.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Sheffield was hit hard by the decline of Britain’s heavy industries; even harder than much of the rest of northern England, Dr. Wilson said.

Built on steel and coal, the city was run for years by a left-leaning council that was a gleeful thorn in the side of successive British governments. “They called it the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire,” he said. As the factories and mines shuttered, Sheffield struggled both for investment and identity.

The various modern conceptions of Sheffield have not yielded a new one. The backdrop for the film “Brassed Off,” as well as “The Full Monty,” and home to Pulp and the Arctic Monkeys, two of the defining British bands of the last quarter-century, the city also developed a reputation for advanced manufacturing. It is where, every year, the world snooker championship is held.

Nothing, though, has ever quite settled. “The council are leaning into music quite heavily now,” Mr. Stocks said. “But it won’t stick. We’re not Liverpool. We’re not London. We’re not Glasgow.”

Soccer, though, is different. To him and the others, Sheffield’s role in shaping the most popular sport in the world should be its calling card, its claim to fame — not to attract tourists necessarily, but so it can find its place in the world, can define its sense of self.

“Most people here only have a vague awareness of some of it,” Dr. Wilson said. “They don’t know we have this unique identity, that this is something we gave to the world. No other city can say that.”

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‘Decolonizing’ Ukrainian Art, One Name-and-Shame Post at a Time

Hiding for days in the basement of a kindergarten in Bucha, the Kyiv suburb that became synonymous with Russian war crimes, Oksana Semenik had time to think.

Outside, Russian troops were rampaging through the town, killing civilians who ventured into the streets. Knowing she might not make it out, Ms. Semenik, an art historian, mulled over the Ukrainian artworks she had long wanted to write about — and which were now in danger of disappearing.

That time spent holed up in Bucha was during the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion, but even then, two years ago, she had already seen reports of destroyed museums. Precious folk paintings by her favorite artist, Maria Primachenko, had gone up in flames. Moscow, she realized, was waging a war on Ukrainian culture.

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Murder and Magic Realism: A Rising Literary Star Mines China’s Rust Belt

For a long time during Shuang Xuetao’s early teenage years, he wondered what hidden disaster had befallen his family.

His parents, proud workers at a tractor factory in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, stopped going to work, and the family moved into an empty factory storage room to save money on rent.

But they rarely talked about what had happened, and Mr. Shuang worried that some special shame had struck his family alone.

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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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‘Get Ready to Scream’: How to Be a Baseball Fan in South Korea

In the United States, many Major League Baseball games feature long periods of calm, punctuated by cheering when there’s action on the field or the stadium organ plays a catchy tune.

But in South Korea, a baseball game is a sustained sensory overload. Each player has a fight song, and cheering squads — including drummers and dancers who stand on platforms near the dugouts facing the spectators — ensure that there is near-constant chanting. Imagine being at a ballpark where every player, even a rookie, gets the star treatment.

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Canadian Skaters Demand Bronze Medals in Olympics Dispute

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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El nuevo objetivo de un cártel del narcotráfico de México: personas mayores y sus tiempos compartidos

Al principio, el cártel comenzó con el tráfico de drogas. Luego pasó a aguacates, bienes raíces y constructoras. Ahora, una organización criminal mexicana conocida por su crueldad está haciendo la transición hacia adultos mayores y sus tiempos compartidos.

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La operación es relativamente sencilla. Personas que trabajan para el cártel que se hacen pasar por representantes de ventas llaman a los dueños de las propiedades de tiempo compartido, ofreciéndoles comprar sus inversiones por sumas generosas de dinero. Luego exigen pagos por adelantado para cualquier cosa, desde la publicación de anuncios hasta el pago de supuestas multas gubernamentales. Los falsos representantes convencen a sus víctimas de que les transfieran grandes cantidades de dinero a México —en ocasiones hasta cientos de miles de dólares— y luego desaparecen.

Esta estafa ha hecho que el Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación gane cientos de millones de dólares en la última década, según funcionarios estadounidenses que no estaban autorizados para hablar públicamente sobre este tema, a través de decenas de centros de llamadas en México que buscan sin descanso a propietarios estadounidenses y canadienses de tiempos compartidos. Incluso sobornan a empleados en resorts mexicanos para que filtren información de los huéspedes, según afirmaron los funcionarios estadounidenses.

Esta estafa representa la evolución más reciente del Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, un grupo que está arraigado en sectores legales e ilegales de la economía. Con poco más que un teléfono y un guion convincente, los trabajadores del cártel están victimizando a personas en diferentes países.

Incluso esos mismos trabajadores son vulnerables a la crueldad del cártel.

En mayo del año pasado, se descubrieron los restos de ocho jóvenes mexicanos que trabajaban en un centro de llamadas del cártel en decenas de bolsas de plástico que fueron tiradas en un barranco en las afueras de Guadalajara, la capital del estado de Jalisco.

Por lo general, el cártel busca aprovecharse de personas mayores retiradas que quieren dejarle todo el dinero posible a sus familiares a través de la venta de bienes. Varias víctimas entrevistadas por The New York Times dijeron que el dinero que perdieron excedía el valor de su inversión inicial en propiedades vacacionales de tiempo compartido en Jamaica, California y México.

“Soy viejo, al igual que estos clientes”, dijo Michael Finn, fundador de Finn Law Group en San Petersburgo, Florida, que ha representado a miles de personas que han lidiado con diversas formas de estafas con tiempos compartidos. “Tendemos a confiar cuando alguien nos llama y nos vende estos sueños”.

Finn comprendió la gravedad de este tipo de fraude hace unos 4 años, cuando recibió una llamada de una mujer desesperada que había transferido 1,2 millones de dólares, la totalidad de sus ahorros, a México, para vender su tiempo compartido.

La industria de las propiedades vacacionales de tiempo compartido está en auge, con 10.500 millones de dólares en ventas en 2022, un incremento del 30 por ciento en comparación con el año anterior, según la Asociación Estadounidense de Desarrolladores de Complejos Turísticos. Cerca de 10 millones de hogares estadounidenses poseen tiempos compartidos, informó la asociación, gastando un promedio de alrededor de 22.000 dólares por su inversión además de tarifas anuales de unos 2000 dólares. La mayoría de los tiempos compartidos son complejos turísticos de playa.

El crecimiento del sector coincide con un incremento del 79 por ciento en los últimos cuatro años en las denuncias de fraudes con tiempos compartidos recibidas por el FBI. Pero, para poder investigar las estafas que se originan en México, el FBI debe contar con la cooperación de las autoridades locales. Además, las firmas de abogados no pueden introducir demandas civiles porque no tienen jurisdicción en México.

En los últimos cinco años, a dueños estadounidenses de propiedades de tiempo compartido les han estafado unos 288 millones de dólares, según el FBI, a través de varios tipos de fraudes, lo que incluye los esquemas gestionados por el cártel. La cifra real está probablemente alrededor de los 350 millones de dólares, ya que cerca del 20 por ciento de los estafados no interponen una demanda.

“Las víctimas no quieren denunciar porque están avergonzadas y le ocultan la situación a sus familias”, afirmó Finn.

En octubre de 2022, una pareja retirada —James, de 76 años, y su esposa, Nicki, de 72— dijeron que habían recibido una llamada de un supuesto agente de bienes raíces en Worry Free Vacations en Atlanta, que les ofreció negociar la venta de su tiempo compartido en el lago Tahoe, California, a un empresario millonario mexicano. La pareja pidió que no se publicaran sus apellidos porque estaban “muy avergonzados” de haber sido estafados.

A medida que sus hijas fueron creciendo, dejaron de utilizar la propiedad vacacional que compraron en la década de 1990 por unos 8000 dólares, por lo que la pareja no dudó ante la oportunidad de vender.

La estafa comenzó con tarifas pequeñas, afirmó James, unos pocos miles de dólares aquí y allá destinados para pagar costos de registros con el gobierno mexicano para “transacciones transfronterizas”. Las tarifas fueron aumentando a medida que le decían que estaba siendo multado por las autoridades mexicanas debido a varias infracciones, y que podía ser extraditado por romper la ley a menos que pagara las multas. En un punto, contó James, los estafadores incluso lo convencieron de que invirtiera en una nueva propiedad comercial en México.

Después de unos 20 pagos, la pareja había transferido casi 900.000 dólares a diferentes cuentas bancarias en México, según registros bancarios revisados por el Times.

Las estafas que llegan tan lejos no son poco comunes, según el FBI. La agencia afirmó que, por lo general, víctimas como James y Nicki, transfieren su dinero a cuentas bancarias de socios del Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación.

La pareja dijo que agotaron sus ahorros y que ahora estaban endeudados. Afirmaron que incluso pidieron prestado unos 150.000 dólares a una de sus hijas y vendieron la casa de infancia de James, pero no han recibido ni un solo centavo.

“Estoy seguro de que si les hubiera preguntado, me habrían dicho: ‘¿Cómo puedes ser tan idiota?’”, dijo James refiriéndose a sus hijas. “Y me pregunto lo mismo. Solía pensar que era muy inteligente”.

Los estafadores se identificaron como representantes de ventas y como un funcionario del banco central de México, según revelaron correos electrónicos revisados por el Times, y en todo momento prometieron que si pagaba solo “un monto más”, todo se resolvería y su dinero sería liberado.

Sin embargo, después de cada pago, una nueva tarifa aparecía.

En un comunicado, el banco central de México declaró que estaba al tanto de que se estaban cometiendo estafas con tiempos compartidos usando su nombre y advirtió a las personas para que no cayeran en el fraude.

A fines del año pasado, James comenzó a recibir mensajes desesperados de supuestos representantes que afirmaban que uno de sus colegas había sido encarcelado en México tras intentar resolver el caso, según llamadas grabadas y correos electrónicos revisados por el Times.

“Por favor, haz todo lo posible para que mi amigo/jefe regrese a casa. Extraña mucho a su familia y escucharlo es terrible, eres la única esperanza para que esto se solucione”, decía un correo electrónico reciente. “El monto pendiente de pago es: 157.786,61 dólares”.

James dijo que estaba pensando sacar una segunda hipoteca para pagar el monto, hasta que sus hijas lo detuvieron.

Si bien la estafa dirigida a los dueños de propiedades de tiempo compartido es financiera, en México puede ser mortal.

Los ocho mexicanos que fueron hallados muertos el año pasado trabajaban en un centro de llamadas en el centro de Guadalajara que estaba dirigido por el Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, según afirmaron funcionarios estadounidenses. Los fiscales locales dijeron que cuando registraron el centro, encontraron un trapeador con manchas rojas, pizarrones con nombres extranjeros y detalles de membresías de propiedades de tiempo compartido.

Cuando los periodistas de The New York Times visitaron recientemente el centro de llamadas, descubrieron que estaba cerrado, y un vehículo de la policía estaba estacionado afuera. El edificio estaba en un vecindario de clase alta, frente a un parque. Los padres pasaban, llevando a sus hijos a la escuela.

Héctor Flores, fundador del Colectivo Luz de Esperanza, una organización que realiza búsquedas por todo el estado de Jalisco en busca de los cuerpos de los desaparecidos, afirmó que sabía de unas 30 personas que habían desaparecido de centros de llamadas desde 2017. Sin embargo, dijo que con casi toda seguridad hay más porque muchas familias no hacen denuncias por miedo.

La fiscalía del estado no respondió a solicitudes de comentarios.

El Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, que fue fundado hace unos 15 años, ha crecido hasta ser uno de los cárteles más poderosos en México. En los últimos años, se ha expandido hacia sectores legales de la economía, como la venta de aguacates a Estados Unidos.

En Puerto Vallarta, un bastión del cártel y popular localidad costera, los trabajadores mexicanos de los hoteles son presionados de manera rutinaria por la organización criminal para que filtren información de los huéspedes, según James Barnacle, el subdirector asistente del FBI que monitorea los delitos financieros.

Barnacle afirmó que los hoteles y las compañías de propiedades de tiempo compartido en México estaban al tanto de las filtraciones y también dijo que el gobierno de Estados Unidos les ha hecho advertencias para que comiencen a tomar medidas drásticas.

Una preocupación en particular para los funcionarios estadounidenses es el Grupo Vidanta, una de las empresas de complejos turísticos de tiempo compartido más grandes del mundo con sede en México. Su dueño, Daniel Chávez Morán, es amigo y asesor del presidente de México. Muchos de los clientes de Vidanta han sido víctimas del fraude en propiedades de tiempo compartido, según un funcionario estadounidense que no tenía autorización para hablar públicamente.

Vidanta no respondió a las solicitudes de comentarios.

Pete Willard contó que compró su propiedad de tiempo compartido de Vidanta en 2015. Seis años después, recibió una llamada de una supuesta compañía de bienes raíces de Nueva York, la cual le ofrecía alrededor de medio millón de dólares por ella. Tras enviar varias transferencias de dinero a México, había perdido unos 100.000 dólares sin recibir nada a cambio, dijo Willard.

Cuando comprendió que nunca más iba a ver su dinero, Willard contactó al FBI.

“Me dijeron que no había mucho que pudieran hacer porque todo el dinero estaba en México”, afirmó.

Willard intentó introducir demandas con el Better Business Bureau y el fiscal de distrito en Nueva York contra las compañías que lo habían estafado. “Nunca obtuve una respuesta de nadie más allá de ‘lo siento, debió haber sido más diligente’”.

Barnacle admitió que las fuerzas de seguridad de Estados Unidos están básicamente de manos atadas para contrarrestar estos fraudes, más allá de emitir mensajes de advertencia a la población.

“La gente explota tus datos todo el tiempo”, dijo Barnacle. El cártel no “tiene que invertir en un producto que tienen; solo tienen que levantar el teléfono o enviar un correo electrónico a las personas y, ya sabes, engañarlos para que les den su dinero”.

Hasta el momento, el Departamento del Tesoro de Estados Unidos ha impuesto sanciones a 40 compañías mexicanas y a alrededor de una decena de personas por fraude con propiedades de tiempo compartido, pero se han hecho pocos arrestos. Y apenas se clausura una compañía tapadera o una cuenta bancaria, surgen nuevas.

Los bancos mexicanos “tienen culpa en esto”, afirmó Spencer McMullen, un estadounidense que ejerce el derecho en Chapala, México, y añadió que por lo general no verifican si las cuentas gestionadas por el cártel están utilizando direcciones válidas y son negocios legítimos. “Ellos podrían congelar estas cuentas por actividad sospechosa”.

Durante las dos semanas en las que James, el dueño de la propiedad de tiempo compartido que perdió casi 900.000 dólares, estuvo hablando con el Times, comenzó a entender que nunca más iba a ver su dinero. Su esposa, Nicki, está furiosa, pues se lo había advertido desde el principio.

“Sabes, cuando trabajas durante tantos años y ahorras para poder disfrutar de tu vejez y luego te lo arrebatan”, dijo Nicki, “eso no está bien”.

Pasaron de comenzar su retiro de forma muy cómoda a preguntarse si ahora deberían aplicar a empleos de medio tiempo. Nicki está recuperándose de un cáncer y sus gastos se están acumulando.

“¿Voy a tener que trabajar en un Walmart ahora?”, dijo Nicki.

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega colaboró con este reportaje desde Ciudad de México.

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


París busca organizar los Juegos Olímpicos desde una visión ecológica

Somini Sengupta y

Somini Sengupta y Catherine Porter informaron sobre París y los suburbios del norte en Sena-Saint Denis.

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¿Cómo se organiza un evento deportivo internacional en el que millones de personas visitan una ciudad en la era del calentamiento global?

Esa es la prueba para los Juegos Olímpicos de París 2024 este verano.

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

Los organizadores afirman que están sometiendo a las olimpiadas a una dieta climática. Según ellos, estos Juegos Olímpicos no generarán más que la mitad de las emisiones de gas de efecto invernadero de los más recientes. Eso significa ser muy estrictos con todo lo que produce las emisiones que calientan el planeta: electricidad, alimentos, construcciones y transporte, incluido el combustible que quemarán los aviones que serán utilizados por los atletas y aficionados para viajar desde todas partes del mundo y llegar hasta la ciudad organizadora.

Por su naturaleza, un evento al que acuden 10.500 atletas y cerca de 15 millones de espectadores va a tener un costo en términos medioambientales. Y eso ha hecho que quienes adoran las olimpiadas pero odian la contaminación sugieran que el evento se reparta en las instalaciones ya existentes en todo el mundo con el fin de que no se necesiten tantas edificaciones nuevas y viajes en avión. Por esa razón, la cita deportiva de París está siendo vigilada con mucha atención.

La ciudad le está dando más espacio a las bicicletas y menos a los automóviles. Está eliminando los enormes generadores que funcionan con diésel, un elemento básico de los grandes eventos deportivos. Está planeando menús para los huéspedes cuyo cultivo y cocción no generen tanta contaminación como las típicas comidas francesas: con más vegetales y menos carne a la pimienta. También habrá paneles solares que floten de manera temporal sobre el río Sena.

Pero tal vez la medida más importante que han tomado los organizadores sea lo que no están haciendo: construir. Al menos, no tanto.

En vez de construir nuevas obras emblemáticas para las olimpiadas (lo que genera muchas emisiones de gas de efecto invernadero por la fabricación del concreto y el acero), se están reutilizando muchos de sus lugares de interés existentes, entre ellos el Gran Palacio, la plaza conocida como de la Concordia e incluso la piscina construida para los Juegos Olímpicos de París 1924.

Pero esto no ha ocurrido sin controversias.

Una importante iniciativa para la reducción de emisiones, la decisión de prescindir del aire acondicionado convencional en la villa olímpica, ha planteado preocupaciones. En su lugar, los edificios emplearán un sistema de enfriamiento que utiliza agua extraída del subsuelo. Varios equipos olímpicos están considerando llevar sus propios aparatos de aire acondicionado.

No obstante, la esperanza es que este tipo de experimentos sirvan como modelo para otros Juegos Olímpicos en el futuro y para otras ciudades de todo el mundo. Los pocos edificios nuevos que se están construyendo, entre ellos los que albergarán a los atletas, así como un complejo de piscinas y un estadio, están utilizando menos cemento y más madera. Cuentan con paneles solares y vegetación sobre sus azoteas.

También se espera que los nuevos edificios tengan una vida que vaya mucho más allá del evento deportivo. Están diseñados para que los residentes locales los usen en las próximas décadas y, según los dirigentes del comité organizador de París 2024, para revitalizar los suburbios de la ciudad. “Nos planteamos objetivos que nunca se habían planteado para ningún evento anterior, mucho menos a esta escala”, señaló Georgina Grenon, quien se encarga de los esfuerzos medioambientales de los Juegos Olímpicos.

Los críticos objetan que aunque es admirable gran parte de lo que está haciendo París, sobre todo las restricciones a nuevas construcciones, para combatir la crisis climática se requiere algo más que reducir emisiones aquí y allá. “Tenemos que replantearnos fundamentalmente estos megaeventos”, señaló Cesar Dugats, cofundador de un grupo de análisis climático llamado Eclaircies. “En vez de concentrar todos los eventos en una sola ciudad, podría considerarse distribuirlos en todo el mundo”.

Los Juegos Olímpicos se enfrentan a un riesgo más inmediato: el cambio climático en si mismo. El aumento de la temperatura global está haciendo que los veranos de París sean tan calurosos que impliquen un peligro. Eso ha incrementado las inquietudes sobre cómo proteger a los atletas y a los aficionados a fines de julio y principios de agosto.

Las autoridades de la ciudad afirmaron que durante los últimos años se han plantado miles de árboles para atenuar el calor del verano. Están erigiendo torres que emiten llovizna para que se esparza por el aire. Se pretende instalar amplias sombrillas debajo de las cuales puedan esperar los aficionados. “Tenemos soluciones, nos estamos preparando”, comentó Dan Lert, vicealcalde encargado de preparar la ciudad para el calor. “Es una gran prueba”.

Cuando se trata de emisiones, el transporte es otro dolor de cabeza. París ya ha estado restringiendo el espacio para los automóviles y le ha concedido áreas a las bicicletas, y está usando estos Juegos Olímpicos para acelerar ese cambio.

Pero las olimpiadas, con sus enormes multitudes, suscitan un problema para los medios de transporte usados por los parisinos y muchos están haciendo planes para irse de vacaciones y huir del evento.

Pierre Rabadan, un exjugador de rugby que ahora es vicealcalde en el área de deportes de la ciudad, se encogió de hombros para protegerse del viento y salió con paso enérgico de la parada del tranvía que está frente al nuevo estadio de baloncesto de la ciudad, sobre la calle de la Chapelle. Señaló una ciclovía casi terminada que corre a lo largo de la calle, construida en una amplia avenida que solía estar dedicada a los automóviles.

Desde la elección de Anne Hidalgo como alcaldesa en 2014, París ha añadido casi 600 kilómetros de carriles para bicicleta. Cerca del 10 por ciento se han denominado como “olimpistas”.

“El problema es que construimos la ciudad en torno a los automóviles”, explicó Rabadan.

Otro problema es que el sistema del metro de la ciudad está desbordado. Los vagones ya van repletos y los trabajadores se apresuran para terminar las nuevas ampliaciones de dos de las líneas con el fin de que estén listas para los Juegos Olímpicos.

Con el fin de brindarles espacio a los asistentes, las autoridades han exhortado a la población a no usar los vagones o a trabajar desde casa.

Según Grenon, los Juegos Olímpicos proporcionan “un laboratorio”, sobre todo en el caso de edificios diseñados desde cero.

Un nuevo centro acuático, al final de una autopista en el suburbio de Saint-Denis, al norte, es una obra emblemática de pino y abeto de Douglas. Su techo de 5000 metros cuadrados dibuja una curva como si fuera una ola: los arquitectos la diseñaron de ese modo para reducir el tamaño del edificio y disminuir la energía que se requiere para calentar el espacio.

La piscina tiene 5 metros de profundidad solo en la parte necesaria para clavados de mayor profundidad y es menos profunda donde no se necesita. Eso también ahorra agua y la energía que se requiere para calentarla. Parte de ese calor vendrá de un centro de datos cercano. Los 5000 asientos del recinto están fabricados con plástico reciclado.

El objetivo, según señaló la arquitecta Cécilia Gross, fue “hacer más con menos”.

Léontine Gallois colaboró con reportería desde París.

Somini Sengupta es la reportera internacional del equipo climático del Times. Más de Somini Sengupta

Catherine Porter es reportera internacional del Times y cubre Francia. Está radicada en París. Más de Catherine Porter

Bolsonaro enfrenta posibles cargos penales por falsificar registros de vacunación

La policía federal de Brasil recomendó que el expresidente Jair Bolsonaro sea imputado por un esquema de falsificación de su tarjeta de vacunación de la COVID-19, una acción que en parte fue cometida para viajar a Estados Unidos durante la pandemia. Este incidente es la señal más reciente de que las investigaciones penales se ciernen sobre el exmandatario.

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

Ahora los fiscales federales tendrán que decidir si siguen adelante con el caso. Si eso sucede, sería la primera vez que el expresidente se enfrentaría a cargos penales.

La policía brasileña acusó a Bolsonaro de ordenarle a uno de sus principales ayudantes que obtuviera registros falsificados de vacunación de la COVID-19 para él y su hija de 13 años, a fines de 2022, justo antes de que el expresidente viajara a Florida donde estuvo durante tres meses después de su pérdida electoral.

La policía brasileña dijo que estaba esperando una respuesta del Departamento de Justicia de Estados Unidos sobre si Bolsonaro utilizó una tarjeta de vacunación falsa para ingresar al país, lo que podría acarrear diferentes cargos penales. En ese momento, la mayoría de los visitantes internacionales que ingresaban a Estados Unidos estaban obligados a mostrar una prueba de vacunación de COVID-19 para poder entrar al país.

Bolsonaro ha dicho que no recibió la vacuna de la covid, pero ha negado las acusaciones de que estuviera involucrado en cualquier plan para falsificar sus registros de vacunación. Su abogado dijo en un mensaje de texto que todavía estaba revisando las acusaciones.

Si es declarado culpable de falsificar su tarjeta de vacunación, Bolsonaro podría enfrentarse a penas de prisión.

La acusación de la policía federal es la primera vez en que las diversas investigaciones penales sobre Bolsonaro han avanzado hasta la fase de formular cargos.

Bolsonaro ha sido objeto de interrogatorios y registros como parte de varias investigaciones, incluida la venta de relojes y joyas que recibió como regalos presidenciales de Arabia Saudita y otros países, así como las acusaciones de que trabajó con altos funcionarios gubernamentales para fraguar un plan con el fin de tratar de aferrarse al poder tras su derrota en las elecciones de 2022.

El Tribunal Superior Electoral de Brasil ya ha declarado a Bolsonaro inelegible para ocupar cargos públicos hasta 2030 por difundir información falsa sobre los sistemas de votación de Brasil en la televisión estatal, lo que impide su participación en la próxima contienda presidencial de 2026.

Durante la pandemia, Bolsonaro criticó la vacuna de la covid con bromas en las que decía que convertiría a la gente en cocodrilos y también promovió tratamientos no probados, como la hidroxicloroquina, un fármaco contra la malaria.

Su gobierno titubeó en obtener las vacunas cuando se empezaron a distribuir, lo que agravó la pandemia en Brasil, según una investigación del Congreso del país que recomendó en 2021 que se acusara al expresidente de “crímenes contra la humanidad”, entre otros cargos, por su actuación durante la pandemia.

En ese momento, los fiscales no presentaron cargos contra el líder político. Más de 700.000 personas han muerto en Brasil a causa de la covid, lo que lo convierte en el segundo país con mayor número de víctimas mortales después de Estados Unidos.

En mayo de 2023, la policía registró la casa de Bolsonaro, confiscó su celular y detuvo a uno de sus ayudantes más cercanos y a dos de sus guardias de seguridad como parte de la investigación sobre los registros falsos de vacunación.

En una denuncia presentada el martes, la policía federal de Brasil dijo que los registros mostraban que el ayudante personal de Bolsonaro, el teniente coronel Mauro Cid, y su esposa, usaron tarjetas de vacunación falsas para entrar en Estados Unidos en el año 2022. Cid, que fue arrestado el año pasado como parte de la investigación, le dijo a la policía que cuando Bolsonaro se enteró de que tenía una tarjeta de vacunación falsa, le ordenó que también le consiguiera una, según dijo la policía.

La policía también dijo que los registros muestran que el 21 de diciembre de 2022, un funcionario en un suburbio de Río de Janeiro introdujo registros falsos en la base de datos sanitarios de la ciudad que decían que Bolsonaro y su hija habían recibido dos dosis de la vacuna de Pfizer a principios de ese año. Los funcionarios policiales dijeron que durante una de las dos fechas en las que los registros mostraban que Bolsonaro recibió una vacuna, el expresidente no estaba en ese suburbio de Río de Janeiro.

Además de Cid, según la policía, otros aliados del expresidente falsificaron registros de vacunación en un esquema similar, algunos de los cuales utilizaron los registros para acompañar a Bolsonaro a Estados Unidos. La policía también recomendó presentar cargos contra ellos.

Bolsonaro pasó sus tres primeros meses tras dejar la presidencia en una casa alquilada cerca de Disney World, en las afueras de Orlando.

Bolsonaro entró en Estados Unidos varias veces más mientras el país exigía a los visitantes que mostraran una prueba de vacunación, incluso para asistir a la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas y para reunirse con el presidente Joe Biden en Los Ángeles, aunque esos viajes de 2022 preceden al plan descrito por los investigadores para falsificar los registros de vacunas.

En 2021, Bolsonaro, que fue quizás el único líder mundial no vacunado en la Asamblea General de la ONU, ofreció un discurso en el que dijo que Brasil no le exigiría a la gente que se vacunara. Añadió que se había recuperado de la covid usando medicamentos que no fueron desarrollados para el tratamiento específico de la enfermedad.

“La historia y la ciencia pedirán cuentas a todos”, dijo.

Durante ese viaje, él y su comitiva tuvieron problemas para entrar en restaurantes de Nueva York que exigían una prueba de vacunación. En su lugar, publicó una foto de su equipo comiendo pizza en la acera. El ministro de Salud de Bolsonaro, que estaba mordiendo un trozo de pizza en la foto, dio positivo por COVID-19 horas después de asistir a las reuniones de la ONU.

Flávia Milhorance colaboró con reportería desde Río de Janeiro y Paulo Motoryn desde Brasilia.

Jack Nicas es el jefe de la oficina de Brasil del Times, con sede en Río de Janeiro, donde dirige la cobertura de gran parte de Sudamérica. Más de Jack Nicas


La familia real británica lidia con otra foto editada

Cuando Catalina, princesa de Gales, confesó la semana pasada que alteró digitalmente una foto suya con sus hijos, las agencias de noticias empezaron a examinar las fotos de la familia real tomadas por la princesa en busca de otros casos de manipulación.

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

No tardaron mucho: el lunes, Getty Images puso una advertencia editorial en una segunda foto tomada por Catalina, esta vez una imagen de la reina Isabel II rodeada de sus nietos y bisnietos, diciendo que la imagen había sido alterada antes de ser publicada por el palacio.

En un comunicado, la agencia de noticias dijo que “de acuerdo con su política editorial ha colocado una nota del editor en una imagen que indica que la imagen ha sido optimizada digitalmente por la fuente”.

La segunda foto manipulada plantea todavía más preguntas incómodas sobre la forma en que la familia real británica se comunica con el público. También aumenta el escrutinio sobre Catalina, quien se ha visto envuelta en un torbellino de rumores y especulaciones desde que se sometió a una operación abdominal en enero y desapareció de la vida pública.

La foto del Día de la Madre con sus hijos, tomada por su esposo, el príncipe Guillermo, y publicada hace 10 días, pretendía calmar el torrente de preguntas. Sin embargo, se desató una nueva ronda de especulaciones después de que The Associated Press, Reuters, Getty y otras agencias retiraran la imagen, alegando que había sido manipulada indebidamente.

Catalina, fotógrafa aficionada, ha documentado a la familia real en muchos momentos privados, a veces retocando los resultados, según admitió la semana pasada. El palacio de Buckingham y el de Kensington, donde ella y Guillermo tienen sus oficinas, han distribuido estas fotos a los medios de comunicación, y aparecen regularmente en las portadas de las publicaciones británicas.

La foto de la reina flanqueada por 10 niños, que fue tomada por Catalina en el castillo de Balmoral, en Escocia, en agosto de 2022, parece tener diversas incoherencias visuales. La más llamativa es un desajuste en la línea vertical de la falda a cuadros escoceses de la reina.

El palacio de Kensington declinó hacer comentarios sobre la foto que publicó el año pasado en el que habría sido el cumpleaños 97 de la reina.

Catalina se disculpó en las redes sociales por la foto del Día de la Madre: “Como muchos fotógrafos aficionados, de vez en cuando experimento con la edición. Quería expresar mis disculpas por cualquier confusión que haya causado la fotografía familiar que compartimos ayer”.

Mientras los rumores seguían extendiéndose, el palacio se negó a comentar sobre un video que salió a la luz el lunes, que parecía mostrar a Catalina y a Guillermo saliendo de un supermercado al oeste de Londres, cerca de su casa en Windsor.

De ser auténtico, el video, publicado por el sitio estadounidense de chismes sobre famosos TMZ, ofrecería las primeras imágenes de Catalina desde antes de que ingresara al hospital. También apareció en el sitio web del tabloide británico The Sun, que publicó las imágenes en su portada el martes, al igual que otro tabloide, The Daily Mail.

El video muestra a Catalina, vestida con ropa deportiva, entrando en un estacionamiento con Guillermo, quien lleva una gorra de béisbol. Ambos llevan bolsas de compras. The Sun informó que Catalina había sido vista yendo de compras el sábado y viendo a sus hijos practicar deportes el domingo.

“¡Estupendo verte de nuevo, Kate!”, se lee en el periódico, que ha sido uno de los más devotos defensores de la princesa de 42 años.

La intensa cobertura contrasta con la forma en la que los tabloides trataron a una foto tomada por un paparazzi en la que aparecía Catalina en un coche con su madre, publicada por TMZ hace dos semanas. Los periódicos se negaron a publicar esa foto a pesar de que había circulado ampliamente en las redes sociales, citando la petición del palacio de Kensington de que se permitiera a Catalina recuperarse de su tratamiento médico en privado.

Los medios de comunicación británicos se han esforzado por equilibrar su tradición de respetar la privacidad en asuntos de salud de la realeza con lo que se ha convertido en una épica avalancha diaria de especulaciones en línea sobre el estado de Catalina, así como el del rey Carlos III. El palacio de Buckingham anunció el mes pasado que al rey se le había diagnosticado un tipo de cáncer no revelado tras ser operado en enero de un agrandamiento de próstata.

Aunque Carlos ha aparecido en fotos y videos recientes, entre ellos con el primer ministro británico, Rishi Sunak, y con el primer ministro de Canadá, Justin Trudeau, eso no ha impedido que se especule descontroladamente sobre la gravedad de su enfermedad, o incluso a los rumores sin fundamentos de su muerte, que aparecieron el lunes en noticias falsas en Rusia.

Canales en Telegram informaron que Carlos había muerto. Citaron un falso comunicado de prensa del palacio de Buckingham, fechado el 18 de marzo, que decía: “El rey falleció inesperadamente ayer por la tarde”. El formato y la escueta redacción son similares a los que utilizó el palacio en septiembre de 2022 para informar de la muerte de Isabel.

El rumor de que Carlos se había convertido en uno de los monarcas británicos que menos tiempo había permanecido en el trono, se extendió con tal rapidez en Rusia que empezó a competir con el análisis de las votaciones del fin de semana pasado, en las que el presidente Vladimir Putin se convirtió en el dirigente ruso que más tiempo ha permanecido en el poder desde Catalina la Grande en el siglo XVIII.

Después de que la historia falsa fuera recogida por sitios de noticias como Sputnik y se extendiera a Ucrania, las embajadas británicas en ambos países se sintieron obligadas a desmentirla, recurriendo ambas a un término popularizado por el expresidente Donald Trump en Estados Unidos.

“¡Los informes sobre la muerte del rey Carlos III del Reino Unido son falsos!”, publicó en X la embajada en Moscú. “Nos gustaría informarles de que las noticias sobre la muerte del rey Carlos III son falsas”, publicó la embajada en Kiev.

Un funcionario del palacio de Buckingham dijo a los periodistas que el palacio no iba a dignificar los reportes con una respuesta.

Mark Landler es el jefe de la oficina de Londres del Times, donde cubre el Reino Unido, así como la política exterior estadounidense en Europa, Asia y Medio Oriente. Es periodista desde hace más de tres décadas. Más de Mark Landler


La falta de agua agravó el incendio forestal más letal de Chile, según denuncias

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

A medida que un incendio forestal arrasó con rapidez las ciudades de Viña del Mar y Quilpué en la costa del Pacífico de Chile el mes pasado, las llamas rodearon a los residentes en la calle, destruyeron casas y sobrepasaron la red de servicios públicos. Se cortó la electricidad, se interrumpieron las comunicaciones y no llegó el agua necesaria para una línea de defensa crítica: los hidrantes.

En este reportaje en video, varios bomberos y residentes de Quilpué y Viña del Mar dijeron a los reporteros de The New York Times que la escasez de agua obstaculizó los esfuerzos para salvar casas y detener el avance del fuego, lo que los obligó a tener que salir de algunos sectores de ambas ciudades.

El incendio forestal —el más mortífero de la historia de Chile, con 134 muertos y miles de casas destruidas— ardió fuera de control casi desde el principio, impulsado por unas condiciones climáticas extremas, fuertes vientos y árboles inflamables.

Según los bomberos y los residentes, la falta de agua empeoró las cosas.

Chile, un país inmerso en una prolongada sequía, se enfrenta a continuos problemas de abastecimiento de agua para combatir los incendios forestales en zonas urbanas.

En la región de Valparaíso, que incluye Viña del Mar y Quilpué, los expertos en incendios forestales afirman que el desarrollo desordenado ha hecho que las ciudades y pueblos sean especialmente vulnerables a los incendios forestales.

“Es un problema de oferta y demanda”, dijo Miguel Castillo, profesor del Laboratorio de Incendios Forestales de la Universidad de Chile, quien trabaja con las ciudades en medidas de prevención de incendios forestales.

“Esta agua muchas veces no está disponible para el combate”, dijo y agregó que el problema había persistido durante años en la región. “Ese problema ahora aumentó”.

Esval, la empresa privada que suministra agua a la región de Valparaíso, negó que hubieran problemas con los hidrantes en la zona del incendio y afirmó que el sistema local de agua trabajó a plena capacidad.

Mientras el fuego hacía estragos, Esval dijo que había reducido el suministro de agua fuera de la zona del incendio para reforzar la presión del sistema.

Daniel Garín, un funcionario con experiencia, quien ha trabajado durante 13 años en el cuerpo de bomberos de Quilpué, le dijo al Times que los problemas de presión del agua y los hidrantes fuera de servicio ya existían antes del incendio de febrero.

A principios de enero, después de que un supermercado se incendiara en Viña del Mar, el jefe de bomberos de la ciudad, Patricio Brito, declaró a una estación de televisión local que no había agua en los hidrantes, diciendo: “La verdad es que el agua en este sector es nulo, nulo”.

Un diputado local, Andrés Celis Montt, dijo que era necesario investigar y solucionar el “grave problema” con los hidrantes antes de la temporada alta de incendios forestales, que en Chile suele durar hasta abril.

El 2 de febrero, en el barrio El Olivar de Viña del Mar, Yanet Alarcón dijo que vio con impotencia cómo el fuego se acercaba y la manguera de agua que estaba usando para rociar su casa de dos pisos se secó. Tuvo que huir, y su casa fue consumida por el fuego.

“Cuando yo pasé todavía había una llama aquí. Había llamas adentro, de hecho focos de llamas dentro”, dijo Alarcón entre lágrimas.

En Quilpué, Mauricio Miranda dijo que los bomberos no habían podido encontrar agua en los hidrantes cercanos y se quedaron detenidos esperando a que llegaran suministros mientras su casa ardía.

“Cuando llegamos después del incendio, la casa estaba consumida y no había nada de agua dentro. Eso significaba que los bomberos no tiraron agua”, dijo.

Miranda y una decena de familias del barrio de Canal Chacao dijeron que tenían previsto reunirse con Esval para solicitar una indemnización, alegando que el hecho de que la empresa no suministrara suficiente agua a los hidrantes provocó la destrucción de sus hogares.

Arijeta Lajka y Kristen Williamson colaboraron con este reportaje.

Brent McDonald es corresponsal sénior de video para el Times en Washington. Produce cortos documentales, reportajes en video e investigaciones visuales. Más de Brent McDonald