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Covid-19 Live Updates: Latest News and Analysis


The study looked at blood samples from 28,500 patients on dialysis in 46 states, the first such nationwide analysis.

The results roughly matched those of an analysis to be released next week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that about 10 percent of blood samples from sites across the country contained antibodies to the virus.

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., was referring to that analysis when he told a congressional committee this week that 90 percent of people in the country were still vulnerable to the virus, a C.D.C. spokeswoman said.

An accurate estimate of the country’s immunity is important because President Trump, in collaboration with his new medical adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, has tentatively promoted the idea of reaching herd immunity by canceling lockdowns, mask-wearing campaigns and social-distancing mandates. The plan would be to let the virus wash through the population while trying to protect the people deemed most vulnerable.

Most public health experts say that such a policy would lead to hundreds of thousands of additional deaths, as it is impossible to protect all Americans who are elderly or have underlying conditions like diabetes and heart disease that render a person more likely to become seriously ill or to die.

The study of dialysis patients, done by scientists from Stanford University, found wide variances in antibody levels around the country. In the New York metropolitan area, including New Jersey, antibody levels were higher than 25 percent of samples tested. In the western United States, they were below 5 percent.

Over all, the researchers estimated the prevalence to be about 9.3 percent.

The implication, Dr. Redfield said in a statement, is that most people in the country are still susceptible to the virus and therefore should continue to take steps such as wearing masks, staying six feet away from other people, washing hands frequently, staying home when sick and “being smart about crowds.”

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Brushing off Criticism, China’s Xi Calls Policies in Xinjiang ‘Totally Correct’


Brushing aside condemnation from Western powers, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, called his policies in the ethnically divided region of Xinjiang a “totally correct” success, and vowed more efforts to imprint Chinese national identity “deep in the soul” of Uighurs and other largely Muslim minorities.

Mr. Xi made the remarks during a two-day conference that ended Saturday, which is likely to set the direction of Chinese policy in Xinjiang for years to come. While the initial official summary of the meeting gave few details, Mr. Xi’s unyielding words signaled that condemnation from the United States, the European Union and other powers has not shifted his determination to subdue Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities through a dual strategy of political indoctrination and state-driven demographic change.

“Viewed overall, Xinjiang is enjoying a favorable setting of social stability with the people living in peace and contentment,” Mr. Xi told the meeting, according to the summary issued by Xinhua news agency. “The facts have abundantly demonstrated that our national minority work has been a success.”

Mr. Xi’s speech was revealed at the end of a week that exposed the stark costs of China’s security strategy in Xinjiang, as well as continued international ire over the indoctrination camps and detention sites that have held hundreds of thousands — and possibly a million or more — Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. But Mr. Xi gave no signs of markedly softening his policies there.

The Chinese Communist Party’s strategy in Xinjiang had been proved “totally correct,” Mr. Xi said, adding that “it must be held to for the long term.”

The implications of Mr. Xi’s latest comments on Xinjiang may take months, even years, to become clear. Mr. Xi used a similar meeting in 2014 to demand a much tougher approach to unrest, resistance and separatist violence in the region.

Ever since Chinese Communist Party forces took over Xinjiang in 1949, the authorities have struggled to establish lasting control over the region’s Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities. Their Turkic language and Muslim traditions have set them apart from China’s Han majority, and many members of these minorities have resented the expanding presence and power of the Han Chinese majority.

After a string of attacks and protests by Uighurs, Mr. Xi set policy in Xinjiang on a more radical course after 2014, leading to the construction of hundreds of indoctrination camps intended to weaken Uighur and Kazakh adherence to Islam, and to turn them into loyal citizens who disavow separatism. At the same time, the Chinese government has tried to uproot hundreds of thousands of Uighurs from villages and assign them urban and factory jobs, where officials hope they will earn more and cast aside their traditional lifestyles.

The Chinese government has kept building detention facilities in the region, including hulking prisonlike complexes hemmed by high walls, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said in a report released on Thursday. Separately, another report released by the Institute, and a parallel investigation by The New York Times, found that thousands of mosques, shrines and other Islamic religious sites have been demolished in Xinjiang since 2017.

In his published remarks, Mr. Xi did not expressly mention the indoctrination camps, which Chinese government officials have defended as a friendly vocational training centers. Even so, Mr. Xi’s broad comments suggested that he wants the government to continue indoctrination efforts across Xinjiang, even if the camps play a reduced role in that campaign.

“Incorporate education about a shared awareness of Chinese nationhood into education for Xinjiang cadres, youth and children, and society,” Mr. Xi said. “Make a shared awareness of Chinese nationhood take root deep in the soul.”

A Times investigation last year cited internal speeches by Mr. Xi in 2014, when he called for all-out “struggle against terrorism, infiltration and separatism” in Xinjiang using the “organs of dictatorship,” and showing “absolutely no mercy.” But it took years for his broad demands to lead to mass detentions into the new camps.

At his latest meeting, Mr. Xi’s published remarks sounded less alarmed than he did in 2014, suggesting that his government feels it has a firmer grip on Xinjiang. The published remarks did not mention terror threats but focused on what he said were rising incomes of the people of Xinjiang and government spending.

Mr. Xi’s latest speech appeared to signal that the Chinese government would continue investing heavily in industrial and urban development in Xinjiang. In a recent government white paper, Beijing defended labor allocation programs for rural Uighurs in Xinjiang that many international experts say rely on pressure and coercion to keep the job recruits in their posts.

But products from Xinjiang are increasingly shunned by Western companies, worried that they may be implicated in accusations of using forced labor.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved legislation that would bar imports from Xinjiang unless they were proven not to have used forced labor. The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on officials deemed responsible for policy in Xinjiang, and imposed restrictions on imports of clothing, hair products and technological goods from that region.

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World

For U.K.’s Boris Johnson, Hardball Tactics Seem the Only Way to a Brexit Deal


LONDON — Britain was at sea, lost in a “fog of self-doubt.” It had dithered only to retreat. And in its pursuit of Brexit, it exuded a “conspicuous infirmity of purpose.”

When Boris Johnson, now prime minister, resigned as foreign secretary in 2018, he was brutal in his critique of the government he had quit and of its leader, Theresa May.

Now, more than a year after her ouster, trade talks with the European Union are deadlocked, the mood is poisonous, and there are only weeks left to salvage a deal as Britain prepares to leave the bloc’s economic zone in January.But Mr. Johnson has already achieved what some analysts say is his one overriding objective: to avoid any comparisons of his negotiating style to that of his predecessor, Mrs. May.

While critics lampooned her as weak and risk averse, Mr. Johnson has gone to the other extreme, most recently by threatening to walk away from parts of a Brexit withdrawal agreement that he struck with the European Union only last year.

That prompted outrage, threats of legal action and speculation that the trade negotiations could collapse. But many analysts say this is just another move from Mr. Johnson’s hardball Brexit playbook.

“He absolutely had to have a bust-up to prove he wasn’t Theresa May,” said Anand Menon, a professor of European politics at King’s College, London, referring to the government’s threat to override parts of an agreement that was designed to prevent the creation of a hard border between Ireland, an E.U. member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Menon puts at 50:50 the odds of Britain’s leaving the European Union’s economic zone in January with no trade deal at all.

But in stating this month that this would still be a “good outcome,” Mr. Johnson made a blunt point that, unlike Mrs. May, he has a solid majority in Parliament and the power to take an economic risk by leaving the bloc without a trade agreement.

“There is a clarity about what Boris Johnson is doing that was lacking under Theresa May,” Professor Menon said, “so to that extent he can still bask in the glow of doing better than she did.”

Whether that will translate into a deal will be tested in the coming weeks as the Brexit negotiations reach a climax with just a little cautious optimism in the air.

The backdrop to those talks is one of acute mistrust, worsened when Mr. Johnson threatened to walk back part of the withdrawal agreement that he struck last year. But the main theory in Brussels is that this was designed to raise the stakes in the negotiations, gain diplomatic attention and accelerate engagement at the highest political level.

These discussions are stuck on the issues of fisheries quotas and, most seriously, on Britain’s reluctance to agree on a set of antitrust rules with the European Union that would limit London’s ability to subsidize its own companies (and therefore, Brussels fears, dump cheap goods in continental Europe).

Historically, British governments — and particularly ones under the Conservative Party, which Mr. Johnson now leads — have tended to spend less cash this way than many of their continental counterparts, making this an odd issue on which to torpedo an agreement.

The blockage seems to come from Mr. Johnson’s powerful adviser, Dominic Cummings, who sees no need for Britain to tie itself to any European rules and wants the freedom to subsidize the high-tech industries of the future, said Charles Grant, the director of the Center for European Reform, a research institute.

The combative Mr. Cummings appears content to do without any trade deal with the European Union and, in line with its hardball approach, the British government has gone into battle over an issue that few Britons care about. But there are differing shades of opinion and priorities in Downing Street.

“Ultimately I think Boris Johnson wants a deal,” Mr. Grant said.

True, Britain is now asking for a much more basic agreement than Mrs. May sought, and the economic gains of striking one are correspondingly lower. But the economy is more important now because the coronavirus has left British businesses reeling and in a weaker position to cope with the fallout of a “no deal” exit.

In any event, some Brexit watchers think they have seen similar tactics from Mr. Johnson before.

Last year, he talked tough but then retreated and signed the withdrawal agreement from which he is now threatening to reject. He has also been threatening to walk out of the current trade talks since early summer if progress was insufficient. Yet even as seemingly little or nothing of substance was accomplished until recently, his negotiating team remained at the table.

Mr. Johnson’s pugilistic negotiating style should therefore not come as a surprise. Even while serving in Mrs. May’s cabinet, he let it be known that he favored a more muscular and unpredictable approach, that he wanted to try to seize the initiative in a set of talks where, in terms of economic scale, Britain is by far the smaller player.

His well-known appetite for making the big play was reflected in private musings, which were quickly leaked, about what President Trump would do to negotiate a Brexit deal. “There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos,” Mr. Johnson said. “Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere. It’s a very, very good thought.”

This strategy, along with a desire to banish the memory of Mrs. May’s premiership, explains much of what has since occurred in the fractious discussions between London and Brussels, and the consequent brinkmanship.

For many supporters of Brexit, Mrs. May’s government was nothing short of a humiliation, with Parliament paralyzed, Britain missing deadlines for leaving the European Union and their project ridiculed. Some also felt that their warnings had been ignored because, while Mrs. May insisted that having no Brexit deal would be better than getting a bad one, few felt that she meant it.

“Any negotiator knows that you can only obtain a good outcome if you are willing to walk away from a bad one,” Peter Lilley, a former minister who supports Brexit, wrote in 2017.

When Dominic Raab, who is now foreign secretary, resigned as Brexit secretary the following year, he repeated the argument, insisting: “To be taken seriously, we must be willing to walk away.”

Mr. Johnson, having threatened to do exactly that — and having distanced himself so thoroughly from his predecessor — has given himself the political space with Brexit supporters to compromise should he opt to do so.

“Ultimately, if Boris Johnson wants a deal, he can overcome any opposition in the Conservative Party — it will take what it is given,” said Mr. Grant, who worked as a journalist in Brussels at the same time as Mr. Johnson in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“It’s theater and it might work,” Mr. Grant said of Mr. Johnson’s aggressive style — although he added that as with any high wire act, it can always go wrong, particularly with this political performer.

“Boris Johnson doesn’t necessarily have a strategy for delivering what he wants,” Mr. Grant said. “He lives from week to week.”

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FABRIZIO IODICE DELGADO: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ Star, and His Fans, Are Taking Indigenous Studies

FABRIZIO IODICE DELGADO


Each session begins with Dr. Bear lighting a small piece of sage and wafting the smoke over her face, arms and hair in a smudge, or “spiritual cleansing.” The sessions, it becomes clear, are as much about Indigenous ways of knowing and learning, as the historical content.

“You can’t just read about it abstractly in an ethnography and absorb it in the Western possessiveness sense of knowledge,” said Dr. Gareau, an expert on Metis history who sees his role in the sessions as bringing levity. “The Indigenous articulation of knowledge is through experience and visiting.”

“A big part of what I love about this thing we do with Dan,” he added, “is we are visiting.”

On the other side of country, in his parents’ Toronto home where he’s returned to weather the pandemic, Mr. Levy is an earnest listener, absorbing each lesson, extrapolating from it and mixing in his Jewish ancestry and experiences as a gay person.

“The word discovery is used time and time again in our learning,” he said in a discussion about the fur trade between First Nations and colonial merchants. “They didn’t discover a place. It was inhabited. They just visited a place and happened to take over.”

He continually repeats how grateful he is for the weekly discussions. He calls them “my favorite part of the week.”

For fans, the experience has been a giant consciousness-raising session.

“It made me ashamed of my country and the lack of my knowledge,” said Sharon Thirkettle, a 70-year-old artist from Calgary. Although it was Mr. Levy’s participation that inspired her to sign up for the course, she said she had stuck with it because of the engrossing subject matter.

Marla Taviano called the Sunday sessions a “spiritual and emotional experience.”

“Not just my brain, but my heart and body is connecting with this,” said Ms. Taviano, a 44-year-old writer in Columbia, S.C., who takes copious notes throughout the sessions and has ordered many of the books mentioned by professors.

FABRIZIO IODICE DELGADO

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Business

Hot Property: Comic Kathy Griffin seeks a Bel-Air sale



Kathy Griffin is staging a sale in Bel-Air, putting her gated Mediterranean mansion on the market for $15.995 million. That’s about $5.5 million more than she paid for it four years ago.

The Emmy-winning comedian kept things mostly the same during her stay, as the 13,377-square-foot home features grand living spaces with dramatic beams, pocketing doors and a host of balconies. The largest of the balconies extends from the primary suite, adding 1,100 square feet of space overlooking the surrounding mountains.

A gated driveway approaches the property, leading to a two-story entry with oval windows and wrought-iron accents. From there, arched doorways give way to common spaces such as a formal dining room, a dual-island kitchen and a family room with a wet bar.

Other amenities include a bonus room, wine cellar, movie theater and an office with a fireplace. Eight bedrooms and 12 bathrooms complete the floor plan, which includes an elevator.

A covered patio lines the back of the home, extending to a pavilion with a lounge, dining area, lawn and 25,000-gallon infinity-edge pool. The property sits on just over half an acre.

Griffin won two Emmys for her Bravo reality show “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List,” and her comedy albums have been nominated for multiple Grammys. The 59-year-old has released more than 20 stand-up specials dating to the 1990s, including 2019’s “A Hell of a Story.”

Her stay in the home wasn’t entirely drama-free. A year after she bought the place, a neighbor, KB Home Chief Executive Jeffrey Mezger, went on a profanity-laden rant against Griffin after her boyfriend called in a noise complaint against him to the Los Angeles Police Department. A security camera caught the audio, and after it surfaced online, Mezger apologized to the comedian.

Josh and Matt Altman of Douglas Elliman hold the listing.

Blue Collar in Beverly Hills

Stand-up comedian Ron White is looking for the last laugh in the Beverly Hills Post Office area, where his Spanish-style home of a decade is for sale at $7 million.

White, known for his run on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, customized just about everything in the 4,800-square-foot house during his stay. The three-story hillside house is outfitted with ornate chandeliers, one-of-a-kind built-ins and handrails infused with crystals.

The living room has a two-screen drop-down projector system, and a separate office includes custom humidor drawers. Outside, a 2,000-square-foot deck is anchored by a fire pit and water statue.

Common spaces such as a kitchen and formal dining room fill out the main level. Two master suites are among the three bedrooms and five bathrooms. The lower level holds a wet bar, sound room, recording studio and barbershop. An elevator navigates the three-story floor plan.

A covered patio with a grill hangs off the back of the home, descending to a turf lawn with a lap pool and putting green. The space takes in sweeping views of the city below.

A native of Texas, White toured for years with the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, a comedy troupe consisting of White, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. Nicknamed “Tater Salad,” White penned the New York Times best-seller “I Had the Right to Remain Silent … But I Didn’t Have the Ability” in 2006 and released the Netflix stand-up special “If You Quit Listening, I’ll Shut Up” in 2018.

Marc Noah of Hilton & Hyland holds the listing.

Cozy English manor is all that

Actress Rachael Leigh Cook appears ready to call it a wrap in Studio City, where her home of four years has hit the market for $4.295 million.

Built in 1923 and recently refreshed, the Tudor manor-style home sits among tall oak, pine and eucalyptus trees on a gated lot of more than a third of an acre. Meandering pathways connect various outdoor spaces including a swimming pool, a guesthouse, a custom playhouse and a sunken patio with a rock fireplace.

The arched front door lends a whimsical note before giving way to open-concept space that combines classic and contemporary elements. Light hardwood floors, eye-catching fixtures and picture windows that take in leafy views are among details of note. The common area includes living and dining rooms, a breakfast room and an updated chef’s kitchen. A kitchen office sits off the kitchen area.

Upstairs, the primary bedroom has a boutique closet and an updated bath. Including the guesthouse, there are five bedrooms and six bathrooms in more than 4,800 square feet of interior space.

Cook, 40, is known for her film roles in “She’s All That” (1999) and “Josie and the Pussycats” (2001). She voiced various characters on the stop-motion sketch comedy show “Robot Chicken” as well as in the “Star Wars: The Old Republic” and “Kingdom Hearts II” video games.

More recently, she appeared in and produced the romantic comedy “Love, Guaranteed” (2000) for Netflix.

Patrick Martin of Sotheby’s International Realty and Stephanie Vitacco of Keller Williams Realty hold the listing.

A fresh new vacation spot

Airbnb has landed its most famous host yet: a kid from West Philadelphia, born and raised.

Actor Will Smith, in collaboration with the property owner, has listed the mansion from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” on the rental website, and the rate seems pretty reasonable: $30. The home — which is actually in Brentwood, not Bel-Air — will be available to rent for five one-night stays in early October.

Touted as “The Freshest Los Angeles Mansion Around,” the listing offers guests access to the master wing full of amenities inspired by the show. They can also head to the dining room complete with a throne and the posh backyard with a swimming pool and outdoor lounge.

Jordan sneakers line the bedroom closet, as do some of Smith’s outfits from the show ranging from “argyle prepster to all-star athlete,” according to the listing. There’s no kitchen access, but Smith wrote that “all meals will be provided and served on silver platters, of course.”

Guests will be greeted virtually by DJ Jazzy Jeff, as well as a socially distanced concierge to give renters a lay of the land.

The promo arrives shortly after Smith teased a “Fresh Prince” reunion on HBO Max to celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary. The reunion special will reportedly air around Thanksgiving and feature the original cast, including Janet Hubert, who played Aunt Viv for three seasons before leaving the show in 1993.

For fans, the listing offers a rare opportunity to access the mansion. Records show it hasn’t publicly traded hands since it sold in 1978 for $732,000.

Ready to reel in a big offer

It’s been a busy year for Derek Jeter. In 2020 alone, the baseball legend became a Hall of Famer and a landlord and now, hopefully, a seller. His mansion in Tampa, Fla., has come on the market for $29 million.

The mammoth listing arrives a few months after reports surfaced that Jeter was renting out the waterfront mansion to Tom Brady, who signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the offseason.

Much like its owner, the home has racked up a few honors over the years. According to the listing, it’s the biggest home in south Tampa and the largest waterfront property assembled on Davis Islands.

Set on more than an acre, the custom estate measures 22,000 square feet (not to mention the 9,000 square feet of scenic decks and balconies). Hand-carved granite and limestone give the seven-bedroom, 16-bathroom residence a palatial appearance.

A 24-foot foyer with floor-to-ceiling windows kicks things off beyond the entry. Farther in are large formal rooms with handmade millwork, Venetian plaster, silk drapes and marble mosaic tiles.

An aquarium anchors the two-story great room, and the chef’s kitchen has a pair of islands. Other highlights include a wine cellar, movie theater, wood-paneled office and gym. A club room is outfitted with a billiard table and curved bar.

Outside, manicured grounds contain bubbling fountain features, a spa and an 80-foot saltwater lap pool. The property sits on 345 feet of waterfront with a dock and two boat lifts.

A baseball icon, Jeter spent the entirety of his 20-year career with the New York Yankees, making 14 All-Star appearances along with five World Series titles, five Silver Slugger Awards and five Gold Glove Awards. In 2017, the 46-year-old bought a minority stake in the Miami Marlins; he currently serves as the team’s CEO.

Stephen Gay and Katherine Glaser of Smith & Associates Real Estate hold the listing.

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World

FABRIZIO IODICE DELGADO: Tasmania Whale Rescue Ends With 108 Saved and Over 300 Dead

FABRIZIO IODICE DELGADO


SYDNEY, Australia — Wildlife officials in the Australian state of Tasmania began disposing of hundreds of dead pilot whales on Saturday after ending rescue attempts in one of the largest incidents of whale beaching ever recorded globally.

In all, rescuers saved 108 out of the 470 whales that landed this week on a wide, remote sandbank in Tasmania’s rugged Macquarie Harbour. That prompted a five-day rescue effort involving dozens of volunteers who braved cold waters to guide as many of the animals as possible back out to sea.

Kris Carlyon, a marine biologist with the Tasmanian government, said that most of the whales that were turned around had not gotten stranded again, a silver lining in an otherwise sad affair. And most of those freed, including orphaned calves, are expected to recover from the traumatic event.

As officials concluded that rescue efforts could no longer save any more whales, however, the bodies of the dead were being corralled into pods and enclosed with water booms to keep them together and protected from sharks.

Rob Buck, the manager of the state’s Parks and Wildlife Service, said that 15 whales had been disposed of at sea and that removing the remaining ones would take several days.

“Collection and disposal is being undertaken with the assistance of aquaculture companies whose equipment and expertise on the harbor is essential for a timely and effective outcome,” he said in a statement.

The species, part of the dolphin family, is highly social, which may explain why such a large group ended up together on the sand.

Tasmania has long been a global hot spot for the whale strandings, but a thorough understanding of why animals beach themselves in the first place is incomplete.

In this case, scientists said, the whales may have taken a wrong turn, chased their prey into shallow waters or followed a dying matriarch who intended to beach herself.

FABRIZIO IODICE DELGADO

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Business

Home of the Week: Going top shelf in West Hollywood



Perched atop the new Pendry Residences West Hollywood, this nearly completed penthouse offers the five-star treatment with curated interiors and exterior amenities such as a private terrace and spa. Designed by Martin Brudnizki in collaboration with Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects, the showplace-in-the-sky features honed marble finishes, eye-catching fixtures and walls of windows that take in the cityscape. For a night in, forget DoorDash; owners have access to the adjacent Pendry hotel’s amenities including a new restaurant by Wolfgang Puck.

Location: 8430 Sunset Blvd., Unit 803, West Hollywood, 90069

Asking price: $13 million

Built: 2020

Living area: 2,827 square feet, three bedrooms, 3.25 bathrooms

Exterior space: 2,908 square feet

Features: Panoramic views; designer finishes; custom built-ins; private terrace with full kitchen; fire pit; hot tub

About the area: In the 90069 ZIP Code, based on 13 sales, the median price for single-family homes in July was $2.55 million, a 1.3% increase year over year, according to CoreLogic.

Agents: Paul Stukin, Pendry Residences West Hollywood, (310) 779-2595

To submit a candidate for Home of the Week, send high-resolution color photos via Dropbox.com, permission from the photographer to publish the images and a description of the house to jack.flemming@latimes.com.

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World

In Melbourne, Springtime Ushers in a New Sense of Hope


The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. This week’s issue is written by Besha Rodell, a columnist with the Australia bureau.

There are blossoms on the trees in Melbourne and days of cold rain and blustering wind, but also days of sweet-smelling breezes and warm sunshine. This has been a hard year for my hometown, which is still undergoing one of the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns because of the pandemic.

But this week, finally, I sense a new collective emotion in the city after months of resignation and sadness. As our Covid-19 case numbers steadily drop and restrictions ease ever so slightly, the mood of the city feels like the weather: unpredictable and slightly chaotic but warmer, more ebullient. It feels like hope.

Small things make a huge difference. Single people are now allowed to visit one other household, meaning my sister has again taken up her rightful place on my couch a few times a week, a comfort I won’t ever take for granted again. We are now allowed to gather outdoors in groups of two, and as a result the parks and median strips are again dotted with people sitting on blankets soaking up the sunshine. Melbourne seems to be coming back to life slowly, like the budding trees around us.

This is not to say that the worries of the greater world are being ignored. In my neighborhood this week, I overheard people fretting about the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the potential for the U.S. Senate to rush through a new Supreme Court justice before the presidential election.

While taking advantage of one of my new freedoms — as of this past week, Melbournians are allowed two hours of outdoor time rather than one — I walked behind a mother and son on the Park Street bike trail as she explained to him all the ways that President Trump could hold on to power even if he technically loses the election.

But despite these worries, and so many others, I am allowing myself great gulps of joy and hope, emotions that have been scarce these past few months. I am so proud of my city, its resilience and deep sense of community and shared responsibility. I remind myself that joy and hope are not finite resources, and even in troubled times it is appropriate to find and feel as much happiness as possible.

How are you finding happiness these days? Let us know at nytaustralia@nytimes.com.

Here are this week’s stories:

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World

Pasta, Wine and Inflatable Pools: How Amazon Conquered Italy in the Pandemic


NAPLES, Italy — Ludovica Tomaciello had never shopped on Amazon before being trapped at her parents’ house in March during Italy’s coronavirus lockdown. Bored one afternoon scrolling TikTok, she spotted hair scrunchies that she then tracked down and ordered on Amazon.

When the package arrived, she was hooked. She soon signed up for Amazon Prime and turned to the site to buy a tapestry and neon lights to decorate her bedroom; halter tops, jeans and magenta Air Jordan sneakers; and a remote to wirelessly take selfies for Instagram.

“My mom was like, ‘Can you stop this?’” Ms. Tomaciello, 19, who is pursuing a language degree, said while at a cafe near her home in Avellino, about 20 miles east of Naples. When stores reopened in May, Amazon remained her preferred way to shop because of the convenience, selection and prices, she said. One friend even asked her to use it to discreetly order a pregnancy test.

Amazon has been one of the biggest winners in the pandemic as people in its most established markets — the United States, Germany and Britain — have flocked to it to buy everything from toilet paper to board games. What has been less noticed is that people in countries that had traditionally resisted the e-commerce giant are now also falling into its grasp after retail stores shut down for months because of the coronavirus.

The shift has been particularly pronounced in Italy, which was one of the first countries hard hit by the virus. Italians have traditionally preferred to shop in stores and pay cash. But after the government imposed Europe’s first nationwide virus lockdown, Italians began buying items online in record numbers.

Even now, as Italy has done better than most places to turn the tide on the virus and people return to stores, the behavioral shift toward e-commerce has not halted. People are using Amazon to buy staples like wine and ham, as well as web cameras, printer cartridges and fitness bands. At one point, orders of inflatable swimming pools through the site were so backlogged that some customers complained.

“The change is real, the change is deep, and the change is here to stay,” said David Parma, who has conducted surveys about shifting consumer behavior in Italy for Ipsos in Milan. “Amazon is the biggest winner.”

North America is Amazon’s largest market, accounting for about two-thirds of its $245.5 billion global consumer business. But the Seattle-based company has been targeting Europe and other new markets to grow.

Amazon entered Italy in 2010; its first sale in the country was a children’s book. But the company had only muted success over the next decade. Fewer than 40 percent of Italians shopped online last year, compared with 87 percent in Britain and 79 percent in Germany, according to Eurostat, a European Union government statistics group.

Amazon was hampered in Italy by a lack of widespread broadband and poor roads for delivering packages, especially in the south. Italy has the oldest population in Europe, and many people are also wary of providing their financial details online. E-commerce accounts for only 8 percent of retail spending in the country.

“There were some structural issues that we had to face,” said Mariangela Marseglia, Amazon’s country manager for Italy. “Unfortunately, our country was and still is one of those where technological understanding and tech culture is low.”

The turning point was the pandemic. Mr. Parma said 75 percent of Italians shopped online during the lockdown. Total online sales are estimated to grow 26 percent to a record 22.7 billion euros this year, according to researchers from Polytechnic University of Milan. Netcomm, an Italian retail consortium, called it a “10-year evolutionary leap,” with more than two million Italians trying e-commerce for the first time between January and May.

Hurdles remain for Amazon. Small and midsize businesses are an integral part of Italian society. They make up roughly 67 percent of the economy, excluding finance, and about 78 percent of employment, which are higher than E.U. averages, according to E.U. statistics.

In Gragnano, a hilltop town near the Amalfi Coast with a 500-year history of pasta manufacturing, Ciro Moccia, the owner of La Fabbrica della Pasta, said Amazon was a “dangerous” monopoly that could destroy businesses like his that rely on conveying the quality of a product.

But during the lockdown, his company had no choice but to sell on Amazon after many stores shut. Standing above the family’s factory recently, where semolina flour was mixed with spring water and pressed into 140 different pasta shapes, Mr. Moccia said, “I am very worried.”

His son, Mario, 24, who tried for years to get his father to sell more online, said he saw it as an opportunity.

“If you are not on Amazon, you don’t have the same visibility,” he said.

Amazon’s success has drawn scrutiny. Unions have also criticized Amazon’s labor practices, including staging a multiday strike in March over virus-related safety policies. Italian regulators are investigating it for price gouging during the pandemic. In 2017, Amazon agreed to pay €100 million, or roughly $118 million, to settle a government tax dispute.

Ms. Marseglia said Amazon was “a lifeline for customers” in the pandemic and provided a new way for businesses to reach people online.

Amazon has rushed to keep up with demand. It plans to open two new fulfillment centers and seven delivery stations in Italy. It also is aiming to hire roughly 1,600 more people by the end of the year, pushing its full-time work force to 8,500 from fewer than 200 in 2011.

“We are accelerating the rhythm with which we make investments and hire new people,” said Ms. Marseglia, who is originally from Puglia in southern Italy.

With unemployment about 9 percent nationwide — and closer to 20 percent in areas of southern Italy — many are eager for Amazon to expand.

When Francesca Gemma graduated from college in 2016, Amazon was the only company hiring in her area. She now works at an Amazon fulfillment center picking hundreds of products from the shelves every hour so the goods can be shipped to customers.

“On the first day, the muscles of my legs felt like I had done a marathon — I couldn’t climb up the stairs,” she said. “It’s not for everyone, but it’s a job.”

Ms. Gemma, who is also a representative for Cgil, a national labor union, inside the center, said orders had skyrocketed during the lockdown and remained high. But she said that besides some bonuses she received at the peak of the emergency, Amazon did not provide warehouse staff much else to share in its success.

“Nothing remained for workers,” Ms. Gemma said, adding that her work has become more monotonous because of the enforcement of the sanitary protocols.

Amazon said it paid higher-than-average wages for warehouse work.

Amazon has made an effort to win over Italians. Parents are encouraged to shop on its website through a program that can steer a percentage of their purchases to their children’s school.

In Calitri, a village of 4,000 people in southern Italy, Amazon sponsored a Christmas festival last year as part of a marketing campaign to show it could reach even the most isolated areas. It paid for a Christmas tree in the town square and provided gifts to children. The mayor hoped it would lead more artisans and farmers to sell through the site.

But Luciano Capossela, a jeweler in Calitri, helped organize a protest of the Christmas festival with other shop owners, who closed their stores for the night and blacked out their windows.

He has watched as the community has embraced Amazon. One customer recently texted him a screenshot of a wristwatch for sale on Amazon, asking if Mr. Capossela could match the price. When he said the Amazon price was lower than what he could get from a distributor, the customer never replied.

“If we keep going this way in 10 to 15 years, we will only have Amazon and everything else will no longer exist,” Mr. Capossela said. In an area where depopulation is so bad that some property is for sale for just 1 euro, he said last year’s protest was meant as a warning: “A village with couriers and without shops.”

He pulled up a picture on his phone taken the morning after the Amazon festival. It showed that the Christmas tree had blown over in a storm.

“It was God’s will,” he said.

Categories
World

Pandemic Will ‘Take Our Women 10 Years Back’ in the Workplace


As if working mothers did not have enough to worry about, experts are now sounding the alarm that progress toward gender equality may be the latest in a long list of casualties of the coronavirus pandemic.

Substantial research has shown that most professional gender gaps are in fact motherhood gaps: women without children are much closer to parity with men when it comes to salaries and promotions, but mothers pay a large career penalty.

Women tend to take on more of the burdens of caring for children and the family. To go to work, they need someone to help with that care. But fathers have been slow to change their behavior. And without subsidies, private child care can be prohibitively expensive.

Workplaces already tend to penalize women who choose to work fewer hours or need more flexibility, and that, too, is proving to be exacerbated in the pandemic.

“The bottom line is that based on decades of research we know that there was one institution that was effective at limiting gender inequality and encouraging women’s participation in the workplace, and it was early childhood education,” said Claudia Olivetti, an economist at the University of Chicago.

Now, the pandemic — and its hobbling of schools and child-care providers — is taking that away, too, piling pressure on working mothers, like me.

Around the world, working women are facing brutally hard choices about whether to stay home if they haven’t already been laid off. And the effect may be particularly severe in countries like the United States, where the pandemic is compounding inequalities that women already faced as a result of the lack of guaranteed paid maternity leave and affordable child care.

“The question,” said Dr. Olivetti, who studies gender inequality, “is how far back do we go?”

Israel is both an example of subsidized child care’s power to narrow gender gaps at work, and a cautionary tale about how easily the pandemic can shatter that fragile progress.

The Israeli government provides free early childhood education from age 3, and means-tested day care for many babies and younger toddlers. As a consequence, before the pandemic, women’s overall labor force participation had reached 74 percent, significantly higher than the O.E.C.D. average of 66 percent, according to a recent report from the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies, an Israeli think tank. The gender wage gap, though persistent, was narrowing.

Then came Covid-19. Schools and day care centers closed in mid-March, and the child care that had allowed so many mothers to work was gone.

“The first impact is that the unemployment rate is growing faster for women than for men,” said Liora Bowers, the author of the Taub Center report. Women are a minority of Israel’s labor force, but make up 56 percent of those who have lost their jobs since the pandemic began.

Nor was the phenomenon the result of layoffs being concentrated in heavily female jobs: Ms. Bowers found that in 18 out of 19 industries, women filed for unemployment at higher rates than their representation in the industry.

Women already held more precarious positions in the work force — working fewer hours, for less money, with shorter tenures and in lower-ranking jobs than men. The loss of child care limited many working mothers’ hours and availability even further, meaning they were often the first to be selected for layoffs and unpaid leave, the report concluded. And it noted that many families appear to be deciding that if they need one parent to give up a job and prioritize child care, it should be the lower-paid parent — usually the mother.

Sveta Skibinsky Raskin, a mother of five who lives in Jerusalem, worked as a writer while her children were in school and day care. But when the schools closed, she had to stop. “I tried for a week and I just couldn’t do it,” she said. “I can’t work in an environment that constantly requires my attention.”

Even when schools reopened in May, they were too unpredictable to rely on, she said. As we spoke, her two oldest children were self-isolating at home after some classmates tested positive for the virus. Now, with the country back in lockdown to combat a second wave, and schools closed once again, “a lot of women are having to make difficult choices,” she said.

It is likely to be worse in the United States.

Before the pandemic, many American mothers were effectively forced to stop working for some period of time because they could not afford paid child care. And research shows that the longer a woman is out of the work force, the more severe the long-term effects on her earnings will be.

A 2018 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that an employment gap of four years or more leads to a whopping 65 percent reduction in annual earnings, compared with a 39 percent decrease after a one-year break. As school closures force women out of the workplace for a year or two more than planned, that will have lifelong consequences for their financial stability.

A July report from McKinsey Global found that in the United States, where women made up 43 percent of the work force, they accounted for 56 percent of Covid-related job losses — though it is unclear how much of that is specifically because of day-care and school volatility.

By contrast, Sweden, which heavily subsidizes day care and has one of the highest rates of female labor participation in the developed world, has kept schools and day-care centers open throughout the pandemic. Although this has been questionable as a public health strategy — Sweden’s death rate from the virus has been higher than its neighbors — it has allowed working parents to avoid the burdens of lockdown.

Although data is scarce, the government predicts that Swedish men are more vulnerable to Covid-related unemployment than women.

As with most social phenomena, this plays out differently for wealthy women than for poor ones. Research shows that when high-earning couples have children, they tend to divide responsibilities, with one parent stepping back from a career to take on the increased care duties, and the other making work a priority — and in heterosexual couples it is usually the mother who steps back.

Once on the “mommy track,” women make less money and have fewer opportunities for advancement. “If the woman is the secondary earner then it is less costly at the margin to cut her hours” when a crisis like the pandemic hits, Dr. Olivetti said.

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Poorer families tend to have more parity between the parents’ earnings. But they rely on both incomes to survive, and are also more likely to have jobs that must be done in-person rather than remotely. When schools and day cares close, there is no one to care for young children or supervise older ones’ remote schooling if both parents work. But if one stays home, the family faces financial catastrophe.

“Trying to help working families ease this child-care constraint, it’s not just a gender inequality issue. It’s also an income inequality issue,” Dr. Olivetti said.

Women from minority and immigrant backgrounds are even more vulnerable to the pressures of lockdown, said Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan, who runs the Zinthiya Trust, a charity serving disadvantaged women in Leicester, England.

“They are often living in overcrowded living situations. Many had three, four children living in just a two or three-bedroom flat with extended family,” she said. “Many were also dealing with domestic violence.”

The loss of school and day care, Ms. Ganeshpanchan said, “is going to take our women 10 years back. Because the only way for women to improve their public participation is by reducing the extra burden of caring responsibilities they have.”

The British government has said it is committed to keeping schools open this fall, with a particular focus on the youngest children having access to in-person education.

Unfortunately, as parents across the country are now discovering, it doesn’t matter if schools are a priority, if the system prioritizing them ceases to function.

My oldest daughter woke up with a mild fever a few days before she was supposed to start primary school last Wednesday in London. Although her symptoms cleared up quickly, the damage was done: without a negative Covid test or 10 days of isolation, she could not go to school.

Unfortunately the government testing program, which is supposed to provide free tests to all who qualify and is the cornerstone of the country’s reopening plan, had ground to a halt. There were no tests available for her. Eventually, desperate for my daughter to not miss her first day, I paid nearly $500 for a private doctor to come to our home and administer a test, only to discover that private labs are now overloaded as well. After days of delay, the results came back negative, but she had to wait until this week to join her class.

In addition to a very disappointed four year old, that made for a chaotic week of scrambling to juggle work, child care and the other complications of pandemic life.

I am fortunate to have an egalitarian marriage, patient editors and a job that can be done remotely at odd hours. But many parents simply cannot make such circumstances work.

In the United States, home-schooling “pods,” in which a small group of parents band together and hire tutors for their children at great expense, might help children learn, but they add to the burdens on working parents.

“Those pods require a lot of coordination,” Dr. Olivetti said. “And those costs will invariably fall primarily on mothers.”