The New York Times 2024-04-01 01:20:21

A Russian Defector’s Killing Raises Specter of Hit Squads

The men who killed Maksim Kuzminov wanted to send a message. This was obvious to investigators in Spain even before they discovered who he was. Not only did the killers shoot him six times in a parking garage in southern Spain, they ran over his body with their car.

They also left an important clue to their identity, according to investigators: shell casings from 9-millimeter Makarov rounds, a standard ammunition of the former Communist bloc.

“It was a clear message,” said a senior official from Guardia Civil, the Spanish police force overseeing the investigation into the killing. “I will find you, I will kill you, I will run you over and humiliate you.”

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Angry Farmers Are Reshaping Europe

Reporting from across rural France

Gazing out from his 265-acre farm to the silhouetted Jura mountains in the distance, Jean-Michel Sibelle expounded on the intricate secrets of soil, climate and breeding that have made his chickens — blue feet, white feathers, red combs in the colors of France — the royalty of poultry.

The “poulet de Bresse” is no ordinary chicken. It was recognized in 1957 with a designation of origin, similar to that accorded a great Bordeaux. Moving from a diet of meadow bugs and worms to a mash of corn flour and milk in its final sedentary weeks, this revered Gallic bird acquires a unique muscular succulence. “The mash adds a little fat and softens the muscles formed in the fields to make the flesh moist and tender,” Mr. Sibelle explained with evident satisfaction.

But if this farmer seemed passionate about his chickens, he is also drained by harsh realities. Mr. Sibelle, 59, is done. Squeezed by European Union and national environmental regulations, facing rising costs and unregulated competition, he sees no further point in laboring 70 hours a week.

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Istanbul Mayor Headed for Re-election, in Blow to Erdogan’s Party

The mayor of Istanbul was headed for a stinging re-election victory against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party early Monday, beating back a broad campaign by the president and his government and keeping Turkey’s largest city and economic powerhouse in opposition hands.

The strong showing by Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu put him on track for his third win against Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, solidifying his status as a star in the political opposition. Many Turks see Mr. Imamoglu as a potential contender for the presidency.

Partial returns showed Mr. Imamoglu defeating the ruling party’s candidate, Murat Kurum by a substantial margin. With 96 percent of ballot boxes counted, Mr. Imamoglu had won 50 percent, with Mr. Kurum getting 40 percent, according to preliminary results from the state-run Anadolu news agency.

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Amid Health Concerns, Pope Delivers Strong Easter Message Calling for Gaza Cease-Fire

Amid renewed concerns about his health, Pope Francis presided over Easter Sunday Mass, and with a hoarse but strong voice, he delivered a major annual message that touched on conflicts across the globe, with explicit appeals for peace in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine.

The appearance came after the pope decided to reduce his participation in two major Holy Week events, seemingly at the last minute.

Those decisions seemed to represent a new phase in a more than 11-year papacy throughout which Francis has made the acceptance of the limits that challenge and shape humanity a constant theme. Now, he seems to have entered a period in which he is himself scaling back to observe, and highlight, the limits imposed by his own health constraints, and to conserve strength for the most critical moments.

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India’s Silicon Valley Faces a Water Crisis That Software Cannot Solve

Reporting from Bengaluru, India

The water tankers seeking to fill their bellies bounced past the dry lakes of India’s booming technology capital. Their bleary-eyed drivers waited in line to suck what they could from wells dug a mile deep into dusty lots between app offices and apartment towers named for bougainvillea — all built before sewage and water lines could reach them.

At one well, where neighbors lamented the loss of a mango grove, a handwritten logbook listed the water runs of a crisis: 3:15 and 4:10 one morning; 12:58, 2:27 and 3:29 the next.

“I get 50 calls a day,” said Prakash Chudegowda, a tanker driver in south Bengaluru, also known as Bangalore, as he connected a hose to the well. “I can only get to 15.”

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In Yemen, Renewed Conflict and Rising Hunger Stalk a Lean Ramadan

In the years before war and hunger upended daily life in Yemen, Mohammed Abdullah Yousef used to sit down after a long day of fasting during Ramadan to a rich spread of food. His family would dine on meat, falafel, beans, savory fried pastries and occasionally store-bought crème caramel.

This year, the Islamic holy month looks different for Mr. Yousef, 52, a social studies teacher in the coastal city of Al Mukalla. He, his wife and their five children break their fast with bread, soup and vegetables. Earning the equivalent of $66 a month, he frets that his salary sometimes slips from his hands in less than two weeks, much of it to pay grocery bills.

“I’m fighting to make ends meet,” Mr. Yousef said in an interview, describing how even before Ramadan he had begun skipping meals to stretch his meager paychecks, yet could barely afford bus fare to his job at a primary school.

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King Charles, Hoping to Reassure Public, Attends Easter Service

King Charles III attended the Easter church service on Sunday at Windsor Castle with Queen Camilla, later greeting well-wishers who had turned out to see his first significant public appearance since disclosing last month that he has cancer.

Charles, 75, has continued to work while undergoing treatment, greeting visitors and holding his weekly meetings with the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak. But he has suspended public engagements on the advice of his doctors.

Strolling out of the church after the service ended, Charles shook hands and chatted with the people who had gathered outside, telling one, “You’re very brave to stand out here in the cold.”

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Middle East Crisis: Thousands Protest in Israel, Calling For Early Elections

Protesters call for Netanyahu to leave office.

Thousands of Israelis filled the streets outside the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem on Sunday to call for early elections, in one of the most significant demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

Sunday’s protest in Jerusalem got underway just one day after thousands took to the streets of Tel Aviv in a separate anti-government protest, and as Mr. Netanyahu faces mounting anger from Israelis who believe he has put his political survival ahead of the broader interests of the Israeli people. It also came as he went into surgery to treat a hernia Sunday night.

The protest in Jerusalem is expected to last four days, with some demonstrators planning to stay in a cluster of tents near Parliament. On Sunday, several carried signs calling for Mr. Netanyahu’s “immediate removal” while others held posters calling for elections, saying “those who destroyed can’t be the ones to fix.”

Elad Dreifuss, a 25-year-old student, said protesting against the government in the midst of wartime was a difficult decision. But, he added, “if the government can’t live up to its responsibility, something has to change.”

Many Israelis have refrained from rallying against the government in the middle of Israel’s military campaign against Hamas.

“We held back for six months,” said Michal Begin, a physician from Jerusalem. “At the beginning, there was a sense that we had to be united for the sake of the war effort.”

But now “many of the reservists are back home, many soldiers have left Gaza,” she added. “Our need to mobilize for the intensive war effort has diminished. Now we can say that this government cannot continue to serve.”

At a news conference in Jerusalem on Sunday night ahead of his scheduled surgery, Mr. Netanyahu hit back at the criticism and demands being made by the protesters.

“Calls for elections now during the war, a moment before victory, will paralyze Israel for at least six months; in my estimate, for eight months,” he said. “They will paralyze the negotiations for the release of our hostages and in the end will lead to ending the war before achieving its goals, and the first to commend this will be Hamas, and that says it all.”

Mr. Netanyahu has come under sharp criticism for refusing to take responsibility for the failures that preceded the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 and for failing thus far to strike a deal with Hamas to bring home the remaining hostages held by militants in Gaza.

But some worried that the protests could revive conflicts inside Israel that the war had temporarily smoothed over. In the months preceding Oct. 7, Israel had experienced immense domestic strife over a plan backed by Mr. Netanyahu to limit the influence of the judiciary. Massive protests against the effort had been taking place on a weekly basis, with demonstrators accusing the prime minister of trying to undermine the balance of powers and democracy in Israel.

Eitam Harel, a 23-year-old reservist from Jerusalem, watched flag-waving demonstrators gather near Israel’s Supreme Court with mixed feelings.

“Protest is a legitimate and praiseworthy thing,” Mr. Harel said. But he added: “The protests could drag us back to the negative discourse we had before the war.”

Organizers said they were hopeful the protest could shake up the Israeli political system.

“I believe Israel is facing one of the most difficult moments in its history,” Moshe Radman, an entrepreneur who is helping organize the four-day protest, said in an interview. “We need a government that will act for the betterment of the nation, not in the interest of political and personal considerations of a prime minister.”

Despite being on trial for corruption charges, Mr. Netanyahu became prime minister again in late 2022 after spending more than a year in the opposition. His critics have said that the court cases have influenced his decision-making.

Mr. Netanyahu has consistently repelled criticisms of his administration, including its handling of the war. He has asserted that his government was seeking a “complete victory” over Hamas, even though the militant group was still believed to have thousands of fighters nearly six months into the war.

As the first night of the Jerusalem sit-in wore on, some protesters set up tents to sleep in. The Israeli police said they had dispersed a crowd of protesters blocking traffic, making one arrest.

Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting from Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu will undergo hernia surgery amid mounting pressure on his government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was set to undergo surgery on Sunday night to treat a hernia, his office said in a statement.

The operation comes as Mr. Netanyahu is under mounting international pressure to negotiate a cease-fire and end the war in Gaza.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office said on Sunday that he had been diagnosed with a hernia during a “routine examination” the previous night. The prime minister decided in consultation with his doctors to have the operation, his office said in a statement, adding that the procedure would take place on Sunday evening “under full anesthesia.”

“Justice Minister Yariv Levin will be temporarily taking over his duties,” the statement said. Mr. Levin is a longtime stalwart in the prime minister’s Likud party.

Mr. Netanyahu — who also underwent surgery for a hernia in 2013 — has come under increasing criticism both on the world stage and at home over how Israel is prosecuting the war in the Gaza Strip. Key allies like the United States have criticized the high civilian death toll and have made urgent calls for Israel to allow more aid into the enclave.

In Israel, protesters have been demanding that Mr. Netanyahu prioritize the release of hostages held in Gaza and strike a deal for a cease-fire.

Mr. Netanyahu was also facing sharp criticism from his far-right coalition partners over any indication that he was hesitating in the war against Hamas or in the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Hours before his scheduled surgical procedure, Mr. Netanyahu met in Jerusalem with families of soldiers held captive in Gaza.

He also delivered an evening news conference, looking pale as he hit back at criticism that he had not done enough to bring the hostages home.

“I’ve done everything in my power, and will continue doing everything, to secure their release,” he said, adding that “those who say I don’t do enough to secure the release of our hostages are wrong and misleading.”

Taking questions for nearly 20 minutes, Mr. Netanyahu also reiterated that Israeli forces would move into Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than a million people have sought refuge. American officials have said that invading Rafah would create a humanitarian disaster and that Israel must have a detailed plan to protect, shelter and feed the civilians there.

“We are now working on addressing the question of evacuating the civilian population and providing humanitarian aid,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “That is required and vital, and it will be done.”



In a strong Easter message, the pope calls for a cease-fire in Gaza.

In a major annual message during Easter Sunday Mass, Pope Francis touched on conflicts across the globe and called for “an immediate cease-fire” in Gaza.

“My thoughts go especially to the victims of the many conflicts worldwide, beginning with those in Israel and Palestine, and in Ukraine,” he said to the tens of thousands of faithful, dignitaries, Swiss Guards and clergy filling St. Peter’s Square.

“I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza, and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on 7 October last and for an immediate cease-fire in the Strip,” he added.

The pope also spoke about the continuing suffering in Syria because of “a long and devastating war.” He expressed concern for Lebanese people affected by hostilities on their country’s border with Israel. He prayed for an end to the violence in Haiti, an easing of the humanitarian crisis afflicting the Rohingya ethnic minority persecuted in Myanmar, and an end to the suffering in Sudan and in the Sahel region of Africa.

And in Gaza, he said, the eyes of suffering children ask: “Why? Why all this death?”

Cease-fire negotiations resume in Cairo.

An Israeli delegation held talks Sunday in Cairo for a cease-fire in the war in the Gaza Strip and the release of hostages held by militants there, according to two Israeli officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

An Egyptian state-owned TV channel, Al Qahera News, had reported on Saturday that the talks would resume on Sunday, citing an Egyptian security official.

The resumption of in-person negotiations comes as the devastating war nears the end of its sixth month and as humanitarian officials are warning that only a cease-fire would allow aid groups to transport enough food and other aid into Gaza to avert a looming famine.

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed over the course of the war between Israel and Hamas, according to Gazan health officials, and negotiations to stop the fighting and release hostages held in Gaza have been stalled.

Bassem Naim, a spokesman for Hamas, confirmed by text that the group did not send a delegation to Cairo.

Hamas said last Monday that it had rejected an Israeli counterproposal. Talks have been at an impasse because of disagreements over the return of displaced Gazans to their homes, the permanency of any cease-fire and an Israeli withdrawal, among other points.

A third Israeli official, who also requested anonymity in discussing sensitive diplomatic matters, said that the nation’s war cabinet would convene on Sunday to discuss several issues related to the negotiations, including the question of displaced Palestinians returning to their homes in northern Gaza.

In an interview on Friday, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, said Israel was refusing to allow Gazans to go back to the north en masse, and was insisting that they do so under “strict conditions and a few at a time.” He did not elaborate.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States, Israel’s staunch ally, have played the role of mediators in previous rounds of negotiations, with the two Arab nations serving as go-betweens with Hamas leaders. So far, however, a workable agreement has eluded all sides.

The mediators had pushed hard to secure a cease-fire before the start of Ramadan, but the Muslim holy month is more than half over.

Last Monday, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.” In a shift from its previous ironclad support for Israel, which has argued a cease-fire would allow Hamas to remain in power, the United States abstained from the vote and let the measure pass.

Previous talks have been held in Cairo and Doha, Qatar, where Hamas leaders have a presence, and the top mediators and Israel have met in Paris at least twice.



Displaced Palestinian Christians marked Easter in Gaza’s only Catholic church.

The only Catholic church in the Gaza Strip held somber Easter celebrations on Sunday for hundreds of displaced Palestinian Christians who have been sheltering within its compound since the war began nearly six months ago.

The Holy Family Church is in Gaza City, in the northern part of the strip, an area that has suffered some of the heaviest Israeli bombardment since October and where the global authority on food security says a full-scale famine is imminent.

The families who have taken refuge at the church have been “scraping to get by” for months with limited food and “almost nonexistent” medical supplies — the same as all Palestinians in northern Gaza, including Muslims celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, said Father Davide Meli, the chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. “It’s a high holiday for all of us,” he said.

The priest of the Holy Family parish, Father Gabriel Romanelli, was in Bethlehem when the war began on Oct. 7, and Israeli authorities have repeatedly denied him permission to return to Gaza, according to Father Meli.

More than 500 people are sheltering at the Holy Family Church and approximately 300 others are at the historic Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church nearby, Father Meli said. Together, he added, they make up the vast majority of Gaza’s tiny and tight-knit Christian population.

Both churches have been attacked during the war. An Israeli airstrike killed 18 people at the Saint Porphyrius church in October, according to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which condemned the attack as a war crime. The Israeli military later said it was targeting a nearby building.

At the Holy Family Church in December, Israeli snipers killed a mother and daughter inside the church compound and injured seven others who rushed to help them, according to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Church officials said Israeli rockets also hit a convent within the compound earlier that day, destroying the building’s sole generator and leaving some of the dozens of disabled people living there without working respirators that they needed to survive.

The Israeli military denied knowledge of the incident, which Pope Francis condemned as an attack on a church “where there are no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick and have disabilities, sisters.” He called for an immediate cease-fire in his Easter address on Sunday.

Aid is slow to enter Gaza, despite a top U.N. court ruling demanding ‘unhindered’ access.

When Christopher Lockyear, the secretary general of the aid group Doctors Without Borders, visited the Gaza Strip for five days this month, he took note of the miles of trucks waiting to deliver aid into the devastated enclave despite mounting international pressure to increase shipments.

On Thursday, the International Court of Justice in The Hague reacted to the continuing problems by ordering Israel to ensure the “provision of unhindered aid” into Gaza, using some of its strongest language yet. Israel has rejected accusations that it is responsible for delays in delivering aid, and it did so again this past week.

The amount of aid reaching Gaza has fallen sharply since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas. Months of bombs and street fighting have devastated entire neighborhoods, and experts continue to warn that Gazans unable to escape the war are facing a looming famine.

“It’s not just about the number of trucks coming in the border,” Mr. Lockyear said in an interview on Saturday. “It’s about what happens after that point. It is about the delivery. It is about sustained health care. It is about clean water.”

In its ruling on Thursday, the I.C.J., the United Nations’ highest court, called on Israel to increase the number of land crossings for aid and demanded that it ensure its military doesn’t violate Palestinians’ rights under the Genocide Convention, “including by preventing, through any action, the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded by saying that Israel had gone to great lengths to mitigate harm to civilians and to facilitate the flow of aid into Gaza, “including in particular food, water, shelter equipment and medicines.”

On Oct. 9 — two days after the Hamas attack into southern Israel and the start of Israel’s war in Gaza — Israel imposed what it called a “complete siege” of the territory. Since then, aid has been allowed into Gaza only under restrictive measures that Israel controls; those rules also apply to aid sent by the United Nations and groups like Doctors Without Borders, which is known by its French acronym, M.S.F.

This past week, Mr. Lockyear said, an M.S.F. truck carrying medical supplies and equipment was prevented from entering Gaza because it was carrying metal devices that are used to help set broken bones. “These items, which were formerly approved to go in, we have got them into Gaza previously,” Mr. Lockyear said. This time, he said, “the whole truck was turned around because these items were there, and we don’t know why.”

A spokeswoman for the Israeli authority responsible for allowing aid into Gaza said the authority could find no record or information about an M.S.F. truck being rejected or refused.

Israel has previously said that it prevents or restricts entry of what it calls “dual-use” items — materials or items that it says Hamas could use for military purposes.

Mr. Lockyear said his five-day visit to Gaza, both in the southern city of Rafah as well as Deir al Balah in the central part of the territory, underscored for him the crucial importance of not only ensuring that sufficient aid gets into Gaza and is properly and safely distributed, but also the need to end the conflict itself.

The compounding effects of the humanitarian disaster and the continued military operations came into focus, he said, during a visit to Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah on March 19, the morning after the area endured another heavy bombardment.

The wards and corridors were full of wounded victims with burns, shrapnel wounds and crushed limbs, including some in need of amputation. Meanwhile, a steady stream of weak and bony children suffering from malnutrition was being brought in.

“One of the most shocking things there is the decision that the medical teams there were having to make, in terms of: Do they give beds to trauma patients, or do they give beds to malnourished kids?” he said.

On Saturday, the director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called for increased evacuations out of Gaza. With battered hospitals struggling to care for the sick and injured, he wrote in a post on X, “around 9,000 patients urgently need to be evacuated abroad for lifesaving health services, including treatment for cancer, injuries from bombardments, kidneys dialysis and other chronic conditions.”

He urged Israel to approve more evacuations, saying, “Every moment matters.”

Police Raid Peruvian President’s Home, Looking for Rolex Watches

The police and prosecutors in Peru carried out a surprise raid at the home of President Dina Boluarte and the presidential palace early Saturday as part of an “unlawful enrichment” investigation into news reports that she had been seen wearing Rolex watches since taking office.

The raid, which came as Peruvians were celebrating the Holy Week holiday, shocked many people, even in a country that has grown accustomed over the past two decades to politicians investigated for alleged corruption.

Before midnight on Good Friday, the police used a battering ram to force their way into Ms. Boluarte’s home in Lima, according to live coverage on Latina Noticias. Prosecutors and the police then searched Ms. Boluarte’s office and residence in the presidential palace.

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How African Immigrants Have Revived a Remote Corner of Quebec

Reporting from Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec

Not long ago, the handful of African immigrants in Rouyn-Noranda, a remote city in northern Quebec, all knew one another.

There was the Nigerian woman long married to a Québécois man. The odd researchers from Cameroon or the Ivory Coast. And, of course, the doyen, a Congolese chemist who first made a name for himself driving a Zamboni at hockey games.

Today, newcomers from Africa are everywhere — in the streets, supermarkets, factories, hotels, even at the church-basement boxing club.

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A Stork, a Fisherman and Their Unlikely Bond Enchant Turkey

Ben Hubbard and

Reporting from Eskikaraagac, Turkey

Thirteen years ago, a poor fisherman in a small Turkish village was retrieving his net from a lake when he heard a noise behind him and turned to find a majestic being standing on the bow of his rowboat.

Gleaming white feathers covered its head, neck and chest, yielding to black plumes on its wings. It stood atop skinny orange legs that nearly matched the color of its long, pointy beak.

The fisherman, Adem Yilmaz, recognized it as one of the white storks that had long summered in the village, he recalled, but he had never seen one so close, much less hosted one on his boat.

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A 500-Year Old Chapel, 438 Solar Panels and an Architectural Squabble

Clambering across the sloped roof of King’s College Chapel with the agility of an undergraduate, Toby Lucas, 56, pointed to where his craftsmen had welded solar panels to an expanse of newly installed lead. It was the scariest part of the project, he said, because an errant spark could have ignited the 500-year-old timbers underneath, which hold up the roof of this English Gothic masterpiece.

“It’s an iconic landmark in Cambridge, and it’s part and parcel of where I live,” said Mr. Lucas, whose firm, Barnes Construction, did the restoration. “You don’t want to be the person who is responsible for burning part of it down.”

The chapel came through the project unscorched and now stands at the heart of Cambridge University, no longer just a glorious relic of the late-medieval period but also a cutting-edge symbol of the green-energy future. Its 438 photovoltaic panels, along with solar panels on the roofs of two nearby buildings, will supply a shade over five percent of the college’s electricity.

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Troop-Starved Ukrainian Brigades Turn to Marketing to Attract Recruits

Skyscraper-sized billboards show assault troops in battle gear emerging from a ball of flames. On street posters, soldiers urge passers-by to enlist, proclaiming that “victory is in your hands.” Take a seat on a high-speed train and chances are high that a television will be advertising jobs for drone operators.

Slick recruiting campaigns brimming with nationalist fervor have become ubiquitous in Kyiv, the capital, and other Ukrainian cities in recent months. They are perhaps the most visible sign of a push to replenish Ukrainian troops depleted by more than two years of a brutal war — an effort that experts and officials say is crucial for fending off relentless Russian attacks.

But most of the campaigns are not the work of the country’s political and military leadership. They are the initiatives of troop-starved brigades that have taken matters into their own hands, shunning an official mobilization system that they say is dysfunctional, often drafting people who are unfit and unwilling to fight.

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Dispute Over Conscription for Ultra-Orthodox Jews Presents New Threat to Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing his most challenging political threat since the start of the Gaza war because of a disagreement among members of his coalition about whether ultra-Orthodox Jews should retain their longstanding exemption from military service.

An unwieldy right-wing alliance of secular and ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, the coalition’s members are divided about whether the state should continue to allow young ultra-Orthodox men to study at religious seminaries instead of serving in the military, as most other Jewish Israelis do. If the government abolishes the exemption, it risks a walkout from the ultra-Orthodox lawmakers; if it lets the exemption stand, the secular members could withdraw. Either way, the coalition could collapse.

The situation poses the gravest challenge to Mr. Netanyahu’s grip on power since Hamas raided Israel on Oct. 7, prompting Israel to invade Hamas’s stronghold in the Gaza Strip. Criticized by many Israelis for presiding over the October disaster, Mr. Netanyahu is trailing in the polls and faces growing calls to resign. But until now, there were few obvious ways in which his coalition might collapse.

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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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From New England to Notre-Dame, a U.S. Carpenter Tends to a French Icon

Notre-Dame Cathedral sat in the pre-dawn chill like a spaceship docked in the heart of Paris, its exoskeleton of scaffolding lit by bright lights. Pink clouds appeared to the east as machinery hummed to life and workers started clambering around.

One of them, Hank Silver, wearing a yellow hard hat, stood on a platform above the Seine River and attached cables to oak trusses shaped like massive wooden triangles. A crane hoisted them onto the nave of the cathedral, which was devastated by fire in 2019.

Mr. Silver — a 41-year-old American-Canadian carpenter — is something of an unlikely candidate to work on the restoration of an 860-year-old Gothic monument and Catholic landmark in France. Born in New York City into an observant Jewish family, he owns a small timber framing business in rural New England and admits that until recently he didn’t even know what a nave was.

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Insooni Breaks Racial Barrier to Become Beloved Singer in South Korea

When she took the stage to perform at Carnegie Hall in front of 107 Korean War veterans, the singer Kim Insoon was thinking of her father, an American soldier stationed in South Korea during the postwar decades whom she had never met or even seen.

“You are my fathers,” she told the soldiers in the audience before singing “Father,” one of her Korean-language hits.

“To me, the United States has always been my father’s country,” Ms. Kim said in a recent interview, recalling that 2010 performance. “It was also the first place where I wanted to show how successful I had become — without him and in spite of him.”

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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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‘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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La policía allana la casa de la presidenta de Perú en busca de relojes Rolex

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La policía y la fiscalía de Perú llevaron a cabo un allanamiento sorpresa en la casa de la presidenta Dina Boluarte y en el palacio de gobierno a primera hora del sábado, como parte de una investigación por “enriquecimiento ilícito” tras las noticias de que se la había visto llevando relojes Rolex desde que asumió el cargo.

El allanamiento, que se produjo cuando los peruanos celebraban el feriado de Semana Santa, conmocionó a mucha gente, incluso en un país que se ha acostumbrado en las últimas dos décadas a que los políticos sean investigados por presunta corrupción.

Antes de la medianoche del Viernes Santo, la policía utilizó una comba para entrar por la fuerza en la casa de Boluarte en Lima, según la cobertura en directo de Latina Noticias. Los fiscales y la policía registraron a continuación el despacho de Boluarte y su residencia en el palacio de gobierno.

La presidenta no se había presentado esta semana a una cita programada con los fiscales para mostrarles tres relojes Rolex que ha usado y explicar su procedencia. También se negó a permitirles entrar en su casa para ejecutar una orden de registro, según el fiscal general Juan Villena, quien dijo a los legisladores que su negativa era “un claro indicador de rebeldía”.

La investigación a Boluarte comenzó el 18 de marzo, después de que el programa de noticias por internet La Encerrona reveló que la mandataria había empezado a llevar relojes cada vez más caros, entre ellos al menos un Rolex, desde que asumió el cargo en diciembre de 2022. Los fiscales sospechan que ha violado las leyes del país contra el enriquecimiento ilícito y no ha declarado bienes de lujo. En Perú, las autoridades electas deben informar al gobierno de cualquier activo cuyo valor supere los 10.300 soles, unos 2774 dólares, y consignar cualquier regalo recibido de terceros.

Los medios de comunicación locales han informado desde entonces que Boluarte ha llevado otros tres relojes Rolex, así como una pulsera Cartier de 50.000 dólares, y que las autoridades bancarias han detectado unos 300.000 dólares en depósitos de origen desconocido realizados en sus cuentas personales antes de que asumiera el cargo.

Según La Encerrona, los modelos de relojes Rolex que ha llevado cuestan al menos 14.000 dólares.

Boluarte ha negado haber cometido irregularidades, pero también se ha rehusado a explicar públicamente el origen de los Rolex, limitándose a decir que el primer reloj Rolex que llamó la atención era un artículo “de antaño”. “En mi ADN está no ser corrupta”, declaró a los periodistas. “Lo que tengo es fruto de mi esfuerzo y de mi trabajo”.

En un discurso televisado el sábado, Boluarte, flanqueada por los ministros de su gabinete, culpó a los medios de comunicación de crear “cortinas de humo” que alimentan el “caos” y la “incertidumbre”.

“Soy una mujer honesta. Entré a palacio de gobierno con las manos limpias y así me retiraré en el año 2026”, dijo. “Hoy marchemos por la verdad, por la idoneidad, por abrazarnos todos en un solo corazón”.

Los subordinados de Boluarte han sugerido otras explicaciones. Hania Pérez de Cuéllar, su ministra de Vivienda y exdirectora de la institución que protege la propiedad intelectual, sugirió que el Rolex podría ser falso y admitió haber comprado ella misma una réplica de un reloj de lujo en un viaje a China. Un abogado de Boluarte dijo a primera hora del sábado que podría haber recibido los relojes de un “fan” que quería permanecer en el anonimato.

El ministro de Justicia, Eduardo Arana, calificó la medida de los allanamientos de “inconstitucional” y “desproporcionada” y pidió a los legisladores y a la ciudadanía “unidad” ante lo que describió como un intento de desestabilizar al Gobierno.

“Se ha politizado la justicia”, dijo en rueda de prensa junto a otros ministros. “Estos hechos tienen un propósito de resquebrajar el Gobierno, resquebrajar la democracia y resquebrajar la institucionalidad”. Declinó responder a las preguntas de los periodistas.

No estaba claro si la polémica del Rolex le costaría a Boluarte un apoyo clave.

El Ministerio del Interior, que controla la Policía Nacional, expresó su apoyo a Boluarte, diciendo en un post en X que rechazaba “actos que afectan el desarrollo del país, encubiertos en cuestionables disposiciones judiciales”.

“Reafirmamos nuestro compromiso de continuar trabajando por el orden interno del país”, escribió el ministerio.

Algunos de los aliados de Boluarte en la derecha la culparon de dejar que la situación se agravara. Y los medios de comunicación, alguna vez afines, han adoptado por una postura más crítica, señal de que la paciencia puede estar agotándose entre sus partidarios.

La polémica sobre los relojes Rolex se produce en un momento en el que la economía flaquea y el hambre crece en Perú, un país que se ganó el elogio internacional por consolidar su democracia y aprovechar el auge de las materias primas impulsado por la minería para sacar a millones de sus ciudadanos de la pobreza. El programa de noticias de investigación Cuarto Poder informó que Boluarte lució un modelo de Rolex valorado en más de 18.000 dólares durante un acto celebrado en febrero para abordar la pobreza en poblaciones vulnerables.

Algunos analistas políticos dijeron que el escándalo podría abrir la puerta a una nueva ronda de agitación política en un país que ha tenido seis presidentes en los últimos seis años.

Todas las salidas a la crisis actual parecían conducir a “un callejón sin salida”, dijo en una entrevista el politólogo peruano Gonzalo Banda. Si seguía en el cargo, era probable que la confianza en la democracia disminuyera aún más, con consecuencias impredecibles, dijo.

“En Perú, hay una clase política que ya no responde a los ciudadanos, por lo que los ciudadanos están cada vez más alejados de la política, más descontentos con la política, más hartos de la política, lo que no significa que no presten atención”, dijo Banda. “Todo ese descontento se va a desatar en las nuevas elecciones”.

Según una encuesta realizada en enero, Boluarte es la presidenta menos popular de América Latina, con un índice de aprobación de solo el 9 por ciento.

Antigua funcionaria convertida en política de un partido marxista, fue vicepresidenta del presidente Pedro Castillo. Le sucedió después de que este fuera destituido en 2022 y arrestado por anunciar que iba a tomar el control del Congreso y del sistema judicial.

La decisión de Boluarte de sustituir a Castillo en lugar de renunciar —como prometió en una ocasión que haría para dar paso a nuevas elecciones— desencadenó violentas protestas contra su gobierno a finales de 2022 y principios de 2023, con 49 civiles muertos en represiones policiales y militares. Actualmente está siendo investigada por la fiscalía nacional de derechos humanos.

Boluarte es también coautora de un libro sobre legislación de derechos humanos que está siendo investigado por plagio.

Antes de asumir el cargo, Boluarte ganaba 1100 dólares al mes como funcionaria de la institución estatal que elabora los documentos de identidad. Como ministra, ganaba unos 8000 dólares al mes, y como presidenta gana algo más de 4000 dólares al mes.

Mientras las autoridades retiraban cajas de las residencias de Boluarte, un legislador anunció que su antiguo partido de izquierda había conseguido apoyo suficiente para una moción de vacancia en el Congreso, donde Boluarte se ha apoyado en una coalición de partidos de derecha y de centro para sobrevivir.

Aunque solo se requieren 26 votos para una moción de vacancia, se necesitan 87 votos —o dos tercios de los legisladores— para su aprobación.

Desde 2016, cuando los escándalos de corrupción consecutivos comenzaron a alimentar batallas políticas de alto riesgo en Perú, dos presidentes, Castillo y Martín Vizcarra, han sido destituidos. Uno de ellos, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, dimitió para evitar la destitución. Todos los expresidentes peruanos vivos, excepto uno, Francisco Sagasti, que gobernó desde finales de 2020 hasta mediados de 2021, han sido investigados por corrupción o abusos de los derechos humanos. En 2019, el expresidente Alan García se suicidó para evitar ser detenido.

El congresista Alejandro Muñante, del partido de extrema derecha Renovación Popular, dijo en X que Boluarte no se había hecho ningún favor con su silencio en las últimas semanas.

“Callar le ha costado mucho a la presidenta y le seguirá costando si sigue optando por esta pésima estrategia de defensa”, dijo Muñante. “Boluarte aún está a tiempo de aclararlo. Si no lo hace, una nueva sucesión no sería nada descabellada”.

Un fotógrafo del Times viajó a Gaza. Esto es lo que vio

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La enorme puerta trasera del avión de carga de la fuerza aérea jordana baja lentamente como una rígida mandíbula de hierro, revelando un cielo azul brumoso y, mucho más abajo, el golpeado paisaje del norte de Gaza.

En la cavernosa bodega del avión, la ayuda a entregar por la tripulación está alineada en hileras ordenadas: fardos de cajas que llegan hasta el pecho apiladas sobre palés de madera, cada uno de ellos cubierto con envoltura retráctil y pesadas correas y marcado con imágenes de la bandera de Jordania.

Ahora, en medio de la luz y el ruido, los bultos se deslizan por los rodillos del suelo y desaparecen por la puerta, flotando bajo ondulantes paracaídas como una ofrenda silenciosa, y muy probablemente insuficiente, a la desesperada población que se halla abajo.

Mientras los grupos humanitarios y otros advierten sobre una hambruna inminente en el norte de Gaza y el hambre generalizada en todo el territorio, las entregas aéreas están desempeñando un papel destacado en los esfuerzos por brindar alimentos, agua y suministros urgentes a los palestinos.

El jueves, las fuerzas aéreas jordanas permitieron que un fotógrafo de The New York Times viajara en uno de sus aviones para observar la entrega aérea de paquetes de ayuda en el norte de Gaza. El viaje, que despegó y regresó de la base aérea jordana Rey Abdullah II, al este de Amán, duró varias horas.

Países como Jordania, Estados Unidos, Reino Unido y Francia afirman que las entregas están ayudando a compensar la fuerte caída de la cantidad de ayuda que entra en Gaza por camión desde el 7 de octubre, cuando Hamás dirigió un ataque mortal contra Israel, e Israel respondió con una ofensiva militar de varios meses.

La Organización de las Naciones Unidas y los grupos de ayuda se han quejado de que las entregas por camión se están viendo ralentizadas por la insistencia de Israel en inspeccionar todos los suministros que entran en Gaza. La mayoría de los camiones de ayuda solo pueden entrar por dos pasos fronterizos, uno desde Egipto y otro desde Israel, en el sur de Gaza.

Israel ha afirmado que la desorganización entre los grupos de ayuda es responsable de la lentitud de las entregas de ayuda a los palestinos y que gran parte de la ayuda se desvía a Hamás o al mercado negro, aunque no es posible verificar estas afirmaciones.

Una de las pocas alternativas es la entrega de suministros desde el cielo, un proceso que solo lleva unos minutos en el aire, pero mucha burocracia y horas de preparación en tierra.

Según los jordanos, las decenas de palés que salieron de los aviones el jueves incluían miles de comidas preparadas. Pero las entregas aéreas son ineficaces y costosas, afirmaron los funcionarios de organizaciones humanitarias, ya que incluso los grandes aviones militares de carga entregan menos de lo que podría hacer un convoy de camiones.

Además, las entregas aéreas pueden ser peligrosas: esta semana, las autoridades de Gaza declararon que 12 personas murieron ahogadas mientras intentaban recuperar ayuda que había caído al océano.

Una nueva estrategia contra las inundaciones: las ‘ciudades esponja’

En la era del cambio climático, las ciudades de todo el mundo se enfrentan a un reto de enormes proporciones: lluvias torrenciales potentes que convierten las calles en ríos e inundan sistemas de metro y barrios residenciales, a menudo con consecuencias mortales.

Kongjian Yu, arquitecto paisajista y profesor de la Universidad de Pekín, está desarrollando una respuesta que podría parecer contraria a la intuición: dejar entrar el agua.

“No se puede luchar contra el agua”, afirmó. “Hay que adaptarse a ella”.

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En lugar de poner más tuberías de desagüe, construir muros de contención y canalizar los ríos entre diques de concreto, que es el planteamiento habitual para gestionar el agua, Yu quiere disipar la fuerza destructiva de las crecidas ralentizándolas y dándoles espacio para extenderse.

Yu denomina a este concepto “ciudad esponja” y explica que es como “hacer taichí con el agua”, una referencia al arte marcial chino en el que la energía y los movimientos del oponente se redirigen, no se resisten.

“Es toda una filosofía, una nueva manera de lidiar con el agua”, afirmó.

A través de su empresa Turenscape, con sede en Pekín, una de las mayores del mundo en arquitectura paisajística, Yu ha supervisado el desarrollo de cientos de parques acuáticos urbanos en China, donde se canaliza la corriente de las crecidas repentinas para que penetre en el suelo o sea absorbida por humedales artificiales.

Yu relató que su infancia en un pueblo de la provincia de Zhejiang, al final de la Revolución Cultural, le enseñó cómo las generaciones anteriores de la China rural se habían “hecho amigas del agua”. Los agricultores de su región construyeron terrazas, terraplenes y estanques para dirigir y almacenar el exceso de agua durante la temporada de lluvias.

Esto contrasta con los paisajes urbanos de la China moderna. Tradicionalmente, las ciudades chinas reservaban zonas capaces de absorber el agua de las inundaciones. Pero este diseño urbano respetuoso con la naturaleza terminó en gran parte con la Revolución Industrial, explicó Yu. En tiempos recientes, se pavimentaron millones de hectáreas para construir ciudades, algunas de las cuales se han erigido prácticamente de la noche a la mañana.

“Llevamos 200 años utilizando la infraestructura de drenaje convencional y no hemos resuelto el problema de las inundaciones”, dijo Yu, quien señaló que la mayor parte de China tiene un clima monzónico con lluvias torrenciales que suponen un peligro cada vez mayor a medida que avanza el cambio climático. Ello se debe a que el aire caliente puede retener más humedad, lo que provoca tormentas más intensas.

Según Yu, en la actualidad, el 65 por ciento de las zonas urbanas de China sufren algún grado de inundación cada año. Además, ahora el país es el mayor productor mundial de gases de efecto invernadero. Estados Unidos es el mayor emisor histórico.

“Los sistemas de drenaje de hormigón que llegaron desde Occidente no pueden con esto”, afirmó Yu. “Necesitamos una solución nueva”.

El presidente Xi Jinping inauguró de manera oficial el programa de ciudades esponja en 2015, con proyectos piloto en 16 ciudades chinas, y desde entonces se ha ampliado a más de 640 lugares en 250 municipios de todo el país.

El concepto puede apreciarse en el parque Houtan, una franja verde de poco más de un kilómetro y medio de longitud junto al río Huangpu, en Shanghái, que Yu diseñó donde antes había un parque industrial.

Las terrazas plantadas con bambú y plantas endémicas están divididas por pasarelas de madera que zigzaguean entre estanques y humedales artificiales. Los humedales filtran el agua, ralentizan el caudal del río y sirven de hábitat a aves acuáticas y peces que desovan.

La meta, al menos en teoría, es que para 2030 el 70 por ciento de la lluvia que cae en las ciudades esponja de China durante fenómenos meteorológicos extremos se absorba en el lugar en vez de acumularse en las calles.

La cuestión clave es si se podrán convertir suficientes terrenos para esto.

Edmund Penning-Rowsell, investigador asociado de la Universidad de Oxford especializado en seguridad hídrica, afirmó que la escala de los proyectos de ciudades esponja tendría que ser enorme para hacer frente a las inundaciones por sí solas. “Por ejemplo, Nueva York”, dijo. “¿Cuántos Central Park se necesitarían para absorber este tipo de problema? Tal vez necesitarías la mitad de Manhattan”.

Zhengzhou, en el noreste de China, a orillas del río Amarillo, fue una de las primeras ciudades que adoptó con entusiasmo el concepto de ciudad esponja e invirtió cientos de millones de dólares en la construcción de proyectos relacionados entre 2016 y 2021. Pero las lluvias torrenciales inundaron gran parte de la ciudad en julio de 2021, lo cual generó destrucción y causó centenares de muertos, entre ellos al menos 14 en un túnel del metro.

¿Por qué las inundaciones en Zhengzhou fueron tan desastrosas? Yu explicó que parte del dinero destinado a proyectos de áreas de absorción se desvió a otros programas y que el terreno reservado para este fin fue insuficiente. Si las superficies permeables o los espacios verdes ocupan entre el 20 y el 40 por ciento de la superficie de una ciudad, dijo, “casi queda resuelto el problema de las inundaciones urbanas”.

Niall Kirkwood, profesor de arquitectura paisajista en Harvard que conoce a Yu desde hace años, reconoció que puede ser difícil, y a veces imposible, reconvertir terrenos en centros urbanos que ya cuentan con una urbanización densa. Sin embargo, afirmó que el impacto de Yu como innovador ha sido incalculable.

“Ha creado una idea clara y elegante de mejora de la naturaleza, de asociación con la naturaleza, que todo el mundo (el ciudadano de a pie, el alcalde de una ciudad, un ingeniero, incluso un niño) puede entender”, afirmó Kirkwood.

Y donde no se dispone de grandes extensiones de terreno, los proyectos de ciudades esponja sustituyen el hormigón y el asfalto por pavimento permeable, instalan tejados verdes y crean zanjas llamadas drenajes sostenibles (bioswales) que canalizan la escorrentía de las aguas pluviales y utilizan la vegetación para filtrar los residuos y la contaminación.

John Beardsley, curador del Premio Internacional Oberlander de Arquitectura Paisajista, que se otorgó a Yu el año pasado, coincidió con Kirkwood y afirmó que la repercusión de Yu en la política de China, un país más proclive a encarcelar a los activistas medioambientales que a tomarse en serio sus mensajes, ha sido asombrosa.

Beardsley lo atribuye a las ingeniosas habilidades políticas de Yu y a su entusiasmo contagioso, así como al poderoso incentivo del gobierno chino para aparentar que aborda el problema de las inundaciones urbanas, que ha crecido de forma alarmante en los últimos años.

“Kongjian ha sabido ser muy crítico con las políticas medioambientales del gobierno sin dejar de ejercer su profesión ni sus nombramientos académicos”, afirmó. “Es a la vez valiente y hábil en este sentido, pues se mueve en un terreno muy difícil”.

“Las ciudades esponja no son una solución total, pero tienen un impacto significativo”, dijo Beardsley. “Tenemos que empezar a hacer algo”.

La mayoría de los estadounidenses desaprueba las acciones de Israel en Gaza, según una nueva encuesta

Una mayoría de estadounidenses desaprueba las acciones militares de Israel en Gaza, en un pronunciado cambio desde noviembre, según una nueva encuesta publicada por Gallup el miércoles.

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En una encuesta realizada entre el 1 y el 20 de marzo, el 55 por ciento de los adultos estadounidenses manifestó que desaprobaba las acciones militares de Israel, lo que supone un aumento de 10 puntos porcentuales respecto a cuatro meses antes, según Gallup.

La aprobación por parte de los estadounidenses de la conducta de Israel en la guerra descendió por un margen aún mayor, del 50 por ciento en noviembre, un mes después del comienzo de la guerra, al 36 por ciento en marzo, mientras que la proporción de estadounidenses que dijeron no tener opinión sobre el tema aumentó ligeramente del 4 por ciento al 9 por ciento.

Los resultados son la prueba más reciente del descontento cada vez mayor de los estadounidenses con Israel a lo largo de los cinco meses en los que han muerto más de 32.000 palestinos en Gaza, entre ellos casi 14.000 niños, según las autoridades de salud locales y las Naciones Unidas. Las autoridades israelíes afirman que unas 1200 personas murieron en Israel durante el ataque dirigido por Hamás el 7 de octubre.

La encuesta de Gallup reveló que la aprobación estadounidense de las acciones militares de Israel descendió en todo el espectro político: aunque la mayoría de los republicanos seguía manifestando su aprobación, esa cifra descendió del 71 por ciento en noviembre al 64 por ciento en marzo. La aprobación de los independientes bajó del 47 por ciento al 29 por ciento, y la de los demócratas, del 36 por ciento al 18 por ciento.

Una encuesta de AP-NORC realizada a finales de enero reveló que la mitad de los adultos estadounidenses consideraban que la respuesta militar de Israel en Gaza había “ido demasiado lejos”, frente a cuatro de cada 10 en noviembre. Esa encuesta también mostró un aumento de la desaprobación pública en todos los partidos políticos, de unos 15 puntos porcentuales para los republicanos, 13 para los independientes y cinco para los demócratas.

Otra encuesta reciente del Pew Research Center —que, al igual que Gallup y AP-NORC, es un líder bien considerado en el sector de las encuestas— encontró cismas importantes en la opinión pública entre segmentos generacionales y religiosos. Los adultos más jóvenes y los musulmanes estadounidenses eran significativamente más propensos que los adultos de más edad y los estadounidenses judíos a decir que la forma en que Israel estaba llevando a cabo su respuesta al ataque de Hamás del 7 de octubre era inaceptable, según la encuesta realizada entre mediados y finales de febrero.

Se realizó un sobremuestreo de estadounidenses musulmanes y judíos, ponderado para reflejar su proporción respectiva en la población total, con el fin de analizar sus opiniones de forma más fiable y por separado.

Anushka Patil es reportera y cubre noticias en directo. Se unió al Times en 2019. Más de Anushka Patil

El Kremlin teme que el atentado terrorista pueda avivar las tensiones étnicas en Rusia

En un acto conmemorativo celebrado esta semana frente a la sala de conciertos en la que se sospecha que extremistas islamistas perpetraron un atentado terrorista mortífero, uno de los raperos pro-Kremlin más populares de Rusia advirtió a los “grupos de derecha y extrema derecha” que no deben “incitar al odio étnico”.

En una reunión televisada sobre el atentado, el fiscal superior de Rusia, Igor Krasnov, prometió que su servicio prestaba “especial atención” a la prevención de “conflictos interétnicos e interreligiosos”.

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

Y cuando el presidente Vladimir Putin hizo sus primeros comentarios sobre la tragedia el fin de semana pasado, dijo que no permitiría que nadie “sembrara las semillas venenosas del odio, el pánico y la discordia en nuestra sociedad multiétnica”.

Tras el atentado ocurrido cerca de Moscú en el que murieron 139 personas el pasado viernes, ha habido un tema recurrente en la respuesta del Kremlin: el temor a que la tragedia pueda incentivar luchas étnicas dentro de Rusia. Mientras Putin y sus jefes de seguridad acusan a Ucrania —sin ofrecer pruebas— de haber ayudado a organizar el ataque, el hecho de que los cuatro sospechosos detenidos por el atentado procedan del país centroasiático de Tayikistán, predominantemente musulmán, está avivando la retórica antimigratoria en internet.

Para Putin, el problema se ve agravado por las prioridades de su guerra en Ucrania. Los miembros de grupos minoritarios musulmanes constituyen una parte significativa de los soldados rusos que luchan y mueren. Los migrantes de Asia Central proporcionan gran parte de la mano de obra que mantiene en marcha la economía rusa y su cadena de suministro militar.

Pero muchos de los más fervientes partidarios de la invasión de Putin son nacionalistas rusos cuyos populares blogs a favor de la guerra en la aplicación de mensajería Telegram han rebosado xenofobia en los días posteriores al ataque.

“Hay que cerrar las fronteras en la medida de lo posible, si no es que clausurarlas”, decía uno de ellos. “La situación actual ha demostrado que la sociedad rusa está al borde del abismo”.

Como resultado, el Kremlin está caminando por una línea muy fina, tratando de mantener contentos a los partidarios de la guerra prometiendo medidas más duras contra los migrantes, al tiempo que intenta evitar que las tensiones estallen en toda la sociedad. El potencial de violencia se evidenció en octubre, cuando una turba antisemita irrumpió en un aeropuerto de la región rusa de Daguestán, predominantemente musulmana, para enfrentarse a un avión de pasajeros procedente de Israel.

“Las autoridades consideran que se trata de una amenaza muy grave”, declaró en una entrevista telefónica Serguéi Márkov, analista político que simpatiza con Putin y exasesor del Kremlin radicado en Moscú. “Por eso se están haciendo todos los esfuerzos para calmar a la opinión pública”.

Atrapados en medio están millones de trabajadores migrantes y rusos de minorías étnicas que ya se enfrentan en las calles de la ciudad a un aumento del tipo de discriminación por perfil racial que era habitual incluso antes del atentado. Svetlana Gannushkina, defensora rusa de los derechos humanos desde hace mucho tiempo, declaró el martes que se apresuró a intentar ayudar a un hombre tayiko que acababa de ser detenido porque la policía “busca tayikos” y “vio a una persona con ese aspecto”.

“Necesitan migrantes como carne de cañón” para el ejército ruso “y como mano de obra”, dijo Gannushkina en una entrevista telefónica desde Moscú. “Y cuando necesiten cumplir el plan de lucha contra el terrorismo, también se centrarán en este grupo” de tayikos, añadió.

Casi un millón de ciudadanos de Tayikistán, que tiene una población de unos 10 millones de habitantes, se registraron en Rusia como trabajadores migrantes el año pasado, según las estadísticas del gobierno. Forman parte de los millones de trabajadores migrantes en Rusia procedentes de todas las antiguas repúblicas soviéticas de Asia Central, y que son un motor de la economía rusa en actividades como el reparto de alimentos y la construcción hasta el trabajo en fábricas.

Una gerente de una empresa de alimentación de Moscú que emplea a tayikos dijo en una entrevista que el ambiente de la capital rusa le recordaba a la década de 2000, cuando los musulmanes de la región del Cáucaso sufrían una discriminación generalizada tras los atentados terroristas y las guerras de Chechenia. Los tayikos de Moscú son tan aprensivos que apenas salen a la calle, dijo, solicitando el anonimato porque temía repercusiones por hablar con un periodista occidental.

“Ya no hay suministro de mano de obra debido a la operación militar especial”, añadió. “Y ahora será aún peor”.

Las tensiones étnicas han sido un desafío permanente para Putin durante su gobierno de casi un cuarto de siglo, pero también ha intentado utilizarlas en su beneficio geopolítico. El ascenso al poder de Putin estuvo marcado por la guerra en la región meridional de Chechenia, predominantemente musulmana, donde Rusia trató de extinguir brutalmente los movimientos separatistas y extremistas. También ha contribuido a fomentar el separatismo en lugares como las regiones georgianas de Osetia del Sur y Abjasia, tomando partido en conflictos que llevan mucho tiempo latentes con el fin de ampliar la influencia de Rusia.

El gobierno de Putin ya está tratando de demostrarle a la opinión pública que está dispuesto a tomar medidas contra los migrantes. Un alto legislador propuso el martes que se prohibiera la venta de armas de fuego a los ciudadanos rusos recién naturalizados. Krasnov, el fiscal superior, dijo que el número de delitos cometidos por migrantes aumentó un 75 por ciento en 2023, sin dar detalles concretos. “Tenemos que desarrollar soluciones equilibradas basadas en la necesidad de garantizar la seguridad de los ciudadanos y la conveniencia económica de utilizar mano de obra extranjera”, añadió.

Lejos de intentar mantener alejados a los extranjeros, Rusia ha facilitado que los migrantes se conviertan en ciudadanos rusos desde el comienzo de su invasión a gran escala de Ucrania en febrero de 2022. Una de las principales razones parece ser la necesidad militar de soldados en Ucrania, y las redadas policiales contra trabajadores inmigrantes para obligarlos a inscribirse en el servicio militar se han convertido en algo habitual en las noticias rusas.

Como consecuencia, los emigrantes tayikos en Moscú temen ahora no solo ser deportados, sino también la posibilidad de que se les obligue a prestar servicio en Ucrania, dijo Saidanvar, de 25 años, activista tayiko de derechos humanos que hace poco abandonó Moscú. Pidió que no se utilizara su apellido por motivos de seguridad.

“Los tayikos tienen mucho miedo”, dijo en una entrevista, “de que las autoridades rusas empiecen a enviar tayikos al frente en masa para luchar como una especie de venganza contra nuestro pueblo tayiko”.

En sus discursos sobre la guerra, Putin se ha referido con frecuencia a Rusia como un Estado multiétnico, un legado de los imperios ruso y soviético. En marzo de 2022, tras describir el heroísmo de un soldado de Daguestán, Putin enumeró algunos de los grupos étnicos de Rusia diciendo: “Soy un lak, soy un daguestaní, soy un checheno, un ingusetio, un ruso, un tártaro, un judío, un mordvin, un osetio”.

En su retórica sobre el conflicto con Occidente, Putin ha acusado con frecuencia a los adversarios de Rusia de intentar atizar la lucha étnica en el país. Esa fue su respuesta a los disturbios del aeropuerto de Daguestán en octubre, de los que culpó sin fundamento a las agencias de inteligencia occidentales y a Ucrania.

También es cada vez más el centro de su respuesta al atentado terrorista del viernes, cuya autoría reivindicó el Estado Islámico y que, según funcionarios estadounidenses, fue perpetrado por una rama del grupo extremista. El martes, el jefe de la agencia rusa de inteligencia nacional afirmó que espías ucranianos, británicos y estadounidenses podrían haber estado detrás del atentado.

El resultado parece ser que el Kremlin está tratando de reorientar la indignación por el ataque hacia Ucrania, al tiempo que intenta mostrar al público que está teniendo en cuenta las preocupaciones sobre la migración.

“Van a agarrar a los tayikos y culpar a los ucranianos”, dijo Gannushkina, la defensora de los derechos humanos. “Estaba claro desde el principio”.

Sin embargo, Márkov, el analista pro-Kremlin, dijo que veía tensiones en torno a la política migratoria incluso dentro del poderoso estamento de seguridad de Putin. Las fuerzas del orden y los servicios de inteligencia contrarios a la inmigración están en desacuerdo con un complejo militar-industrial que necesita mano de obra inmigrante.

“Es una contradicción”, dijo. “Y este ataque terrorista ha agravado mucho ese problema”.

Anton Troianovski es el jefe del buró en Moscú del Times. Escribe sobre Rusia, Europa del Este, el Cáucaso y Asia Central. Más sobre Anton Troianovski

Milana Mazaeva es reportera e investigadora, y colabora en la cobertura de la sociedad rusa. Más de Milana Mazaeva