Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times

Your Friday Briefing - The New York Times


Experts warn that despite hope from Covid-19 vaccinations and a clearer path forward, it is much too soon to let down our guard.

Around the world, some political leaders are choosing not to impose restrictions, even in the face of climbing death rates. In Hungary, which reported 302 deaths on Wednesday, the highest there since the start of the pandemic, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that his government will not tighten restrictions and is determined to continue moving to reopen society.

The U.S., where some states are in crisis mode, is a study in contrasts. In Michigan, a major hot spot, more than 2,200 Covid-19 patients statewide are hospitalized, a figure that has more than doubled since the beginning of March. Yet officials are relaxing mask rules and other measures designed to get the virus under control.

“Looking at numbers yesterday felt like a gut punch,” said one Michigan epidemiologist. “We’re going to have to go through this surge, and all this hard work again to get the numbers down.”

In memoriam: Bereaved families have filled a 6.5-foot-high wall on the southern bank of the Thames in London with thousands of painted hearts that they say will eventually contain about 150,000, for every person with Covid-19 marked on a death certificate in Britain.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:


Hundreds of women in Tigray, the mountainous region in northern Ethiopia where a grinding civil war rages on, have detailed abuses and atrocities, including widespread sexual assault from soldiers.

A senior United Nations official told the Security Council last week that more than 500 Ethiopian women had formally reported sexual violence in Tigray, although the actual toll is most likely far higher, she added. In the city of Mekelle, health workers say new cases emerge every day.

On Tuesday, addressing Ethiopia’s Parliament, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed publicly acknowledged that sexual assault had become an integral part of a war that he once promised would be swift and bloodless. “Anyone who raped our Tigrayan sisters, anybody who is involved in looting, will be held accountable in a court of law,” he said, appearing to implicate his own soldiers.

Personal account: Haben, a waitress in Mekelle, said she was raped with two other women in December at the cafe where they work. Her body is still covered in bruises from the assault. “They told us not to resist,” she recalled. “‘Lie down. Don’t shout.’”


Myanmar’s security forces have arrested at least 56 reporters, outlawed online news outlets and crippled communications by cutting off mobile data service, as the military seeks to stamp out dissent after the coup.

With professional journalists under pressure, many young people have jumped into the fray, calling themselves citizen journalists and risking their lives to help document the military’s brutality. They take photographs and videos with their phones and share them online when they get access. It is a role so common now they are known simply as “CJs.”

The regime’s apparent goal is to turn back time to when the military ruled the country, the media was firmly in its grip and only the wealthiest people had access to cellphones and the internet. But the new generation of young people who grew up with the internet say they are not giving up their freedoms without a fight.

Quote: “They are targeting professional journalists, so our country needs more CJs,” said Ma Thuzar Myat, one of the citizen journalists. “I know I might get killed at some point for taking a video record of what is happening. But I won’t step back.”

A growing group of Japanese lawmakers is calling for Japan to speak out against China’s treatment of Uyghurs, beyond expressions of “grave concerns,” despite the economic and geopolitical risks.

If the country were to fully join the effort to compel China to end its human rights abuses in Xinjiang, it would add a crucial Asian voice to what has otherwise been a Western campaign.

Blake Gopnik, a critic for The Times, discovers the joy of visiting Covid-restricted art collections, giving him uninterrupted time with van Gogh and the gang. This is an edited excerpt.

The other morning, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vincent van Gogh and I had a chat. It had been a long time since I’d tried to commune this deeply with his “Self-Portrait With a Straw Hat,” from 1887, one of the Met’s treasures.

For years, the crowd of admirers made it impossible to get near enough, for long enough, for us to achieve any real understanding. But over the last few months, with Covid restrictions severely limiting attendance, the world’s most famous museums have given their art a new opportunity to speak to us.

This is the moment to revisit their holdings: Even if special exhibitions start to fill up again, it will be awhile before crowds come to their permanent collections. As museums everywhere contemplate their post-Covid future, their Covid-troubled present carries us back to a glorious, more art-friendly past.

I won’t say I’m thankful to Covid for anything; a few wondrous hours with art can’t make up for what we’ve suffered. But as I think of all we’ve learned from our trials — how to wash our hands; how to treasure absent loved ones — I wonder if our most popular museums will take their own Covid lessons to heart.

Will they try to return to 2019 attendance and ticket receipts, or will they think back even further in time, to the encounters that people once had with the art?

If that means a limited supply of timed tickets, or rethinking and reversing decades of growth in buildings, budgets and programing, the works themselves will thank us for it. They were growing tired of constant socializing; they’ve been dying for some deep, one-on-one conversation.



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Sexual Violence Pervades Ethiopia’s War in Tigray Region

Sexual Violence Pervades Ethiopia’s War in Tigray Region


Mona Lisa lay on a hospital bed in Mekelle, the main city in war-torn northern Ethiopia, her body devastated but her defiance on display.

Named for the iconic painting, the 18-year-old Ethiopian high school graduate had survived an attempted rape that left her with seven gunshot wounds and an amputated arm. She wanted it to be known that she had resisted.

“This is ethnic cleansing,” she said. “Soldiers are targeting Tigrayan women to stop them giving birth to more Tigrayans.”

Her account is one of hundreds detailing abuses in Tigray, the mountainous region in northern Ethiopia where a grinding civil war has been accompanied by a parallel wave of atrocities including widespread sexual assault targeting women.

A senior United Nations official told the Security Council last week that more than 500 Ethiopian women had formally reported sexual violence in Tigray, although the actual toll is likely far higher, she added. In the city of Mekelle, health workers say new cases emerge every day.

The assaults have become a focus of growing international outrage about a conflict where the fighting is largely happening out of sight, in the mountains and the countryside. But evidence of atrocities against civilians — mass shootings, looting, sexual assault — is everywhere.

In early December, Ms. Mona said, an Ethiopian soldier burst into the house she shares with her grandfather in Abiy Addi, a town in central Tigray, and ordered them to have sex.

“Please,” she recalled her grandfather, an Orthodox Christian, telling the soldier. “This is abnormal and against our religious beliefs.”

When her grandfather refused, the soldier shot him in the leg and locked him into the kitchen. Then he pinned Ms. Mona to a sofa and tried to rape her. She fought back, kicking the man in the crotch and briefly grabbing his gun, she said.

But he quickly overpowered her and, after shooting her in the hand and firing warning shots into the floor, issued another ultimatum. “He said he would count to three and if I did not take off my clothes he would kill me,” she said.

The soldier fired a volley of bullets that cut through Ms. Mona’s right arm and right leg. By the time she got transportation to the Mekelle General Hospital a day later, doctors were forced to amputate the arm.

She is still in the hospital, the bones in one leg still shattered. An uncle at her bedside corroborated her account of the assault on Dec. 4. Ms. Mona, who consented to be identified, called it a calculated act of war.

“My case is not unique,” she said. “I fought the soldier off. But there are so many women all over this region who were actually raped.”

After months of increasingly desperate pleas for international action on Ethiopia, led by senior United Nations and European Union officials, the pressure appears to be producing results. President Biden recently sent an envoy, Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, to Ethiopia for talks with Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, that lasted five hours.

On Tuesday, addressing Ethiopia’s Parliament, Mr. Abiy publicly acknowledged that sexual assault had become an integral part of a war that he once promised would be swift and bloodless.

“Anyone who raped our Tigrayan sisters, anybody who is involved in looting, will be held accountable in a court of law,” Mr. Abiy told lawmakers, appearing to implicate his own soldiers. “We sent them to destroy the junta, not our people.”

The “junta” is a reference to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, known as the T.P.L.F., which governed Tigray and now fights under the banner of a new group, the Tigray Defense Forces. The majority of sexual violence accusations in Tigray have been leveled against Ethiopian and allied Eritrean soldiers. But Tigrayan forces may also be guilty of war crimes, the top U.N. human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, said this month.

The war started in November after Mr. Abiy accused the T.P.L.F. of attacking a major military base in a bid to overthrow his government. The T.P.L.F. ruled Ethiopia for nearly three decades until Mr. Abiy came to power in 2018, then retreated to its stronghold in Tigray, where it began to openly defy the new prime minister’s authority.

In some ways, the bitter fight is driven by deeply rooted forces — longstanding land disputes, opposing visions over the future shape of Ethiopia, and a rivalry with Eritrea going back decades. But civilians, and particularly women, are bearing the brunt of the most disturbing violence.

Rocks, nails and other objects have been forced inside the bodies of women — and some men — during sexual assaults, according to health workers. Men have been forced to rape their own family members under threat of violence, Pramila Patten, the top U.N. official on sexual violence in conflict, said in January.

“Rape is being used as a weapon of war,” said Letay Tesfay of the Tigray Women’s Association, which runs a safe house for women in Mekelle. “What’s happening is unimaginable.”

The epidemic of sexual assault is exacerbated by a collapsing health system. Many victims have contracted sexually transmitted diseases, including H.I.V., doctors say. Demand for abortions and emergency contraceptives has risen.

But outside the main towns of Tigray, most health clinics are shut — some destroyed in fighting, others plundered by soldiers as part of what Doctors Without Borders recently called a concerted effort to destroy the region’s health care system. In his meeting with Mr. Abiy in March, Senator Coons said they discussed “directly and forcefully” the reports of widespread human rights violations including rape.

Whether Mr. Abiy delivers on his promise of bringing the perpetrators to justice, he added, “is going to be critical to any successful resolution of this conflict.”

The anguish of victims resonates quietly through the wards of the Ayder Referral Hospital in Mekelle, the region’s biggest medical facility.

A doctor specialized in sexual assault said he had received at least three new patients every day since Ethiopian troops marched into Mekelle on Nov. 28. Some said they had been raped by soldiers in the camps for displaced people on the edge of the city; others were abducted from their homes in rural areas and held for days as soldiers repeatedly raped them.

The doctor, who like several other medics spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the authorities, produced a list of 18 registered sexual violence patients at the hospital. The youngest was 14. Most said their attackers were soldiers, he said.

In one bed, a 29-year old woman who asked to be identified only by her first name, Helen, trembled as she recounted how Eritrean and Ethiopian troops had tied her to a tree near her home in Agula, 15 miles north of Mekelle, and assaulted her repeatedly over a 10-day period in late November.

“I lost count,” she said. “They took photos of me, poured alcohol on me and laughed.” Some of her assailants also shot dead her 12-year-old son, she added.

Selam Assefe, a police investigator working on rape cases at the Ayder Referral Hospital, corroborated Ms. Helen’s account.

Most sexual assault cases in Tigray, however, may not be recorded anywhere. Health workers said that officials are reluctant to register such violence, fearing that the military could target them for documenting the crime. Patients often remain anonymous for the same reason.

Filsan Abdullahi Ahmed, Ethiopia’s minister of women, children and youth, insisted that the federal government was taking seriously the reports of sexual violence in Tigray, and had sent a task force including social workers, police officers and prosecutors to investigate.

While her own mandate was limited to providing victims with psychological support, Ms. Filsan said she had pressured Ethiopia’s attorney general to deliver justice. But it is a difficult process, she insisted.

“I cannot 100 percent confirm whom this is being committed by,” Ms. Filsan said, referring to the perpetrators.

The sexual attacks are so common that even some Ethiopian soldiers have spoken out. At a public meeting in Mekelle in January, a man in military uniform made an outburst that was broadcast on state television.

“I was angry yesterday,” he said. “Why does a woman get raped in Mekelle city?” The soldier, who was not identified, questioned why the police weren’t stopping them. “It wouldn’t be shocking if it happened during fighting,” he said. “But women were raped yesterday and today when the local police and federal police are around.”

Haben, a waitress in Mekelle, was raped with two other women at the cafe where they work in December, she said. Her body is still covered in bruises from the assault.

“They told us not to resist,” she recalled. “‘Lie down. Don’t shout.’”

But even if they had shouted, she added, “there was nobody to listen.”

An employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Mekelle, Ethiopia.



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When There’s One Covid Rule Book for Locals, and Another for Tourists

When There’s One Covid Rule Book for Locals, and Another for Tourists


MADRID — Óscar Robles Álvarez yearned to celebrate Easter this year with his family in his hometown in northeastern Spain, which he has not visited since Christmas 2019.

Instead, he will spend the holiday on Sunday in Madrid, where he now lives, because of domestic travel restrictions imposed to stem another wave of Covid-19. He says he understands why the government recently extended those rules, but cannot fathom why no such travel ban applies to foreign tourists visiting his hometown, Getxo, a beach resort popular with surfers 80 miles from the border with France.

“This situation is completely unfair,” said Mr. Robles Álvarez, 50, who worked in finance but is currently jobless. “Citizens are being asked to behave responsibly by politicians who themselves decide completely incoherent Covid rules.”

In the prelude to Easter, a debate in Spain about whether double standards are being applied to contain Covid-19 has been intensifying. The polemic is echoed in other European countries, where the authorities have also restricted internal travel while allowing their citizens to go abroad and permitting foreign tourists to enter and move about more freely.

The back-and-forth over the rules reflects the difficult balancing acts for European governments trying to blunt the pandemic while keeping their economies afloat, particularly when it comes to the tourism revenues that are so critical to countries like Italy and Spain. After seven years of consecutive growth in tourism arrivals, Spain welcomed 19 million people last year, down from almost 84 million in 2019.

The Spanish government has defended its approach, stressing that visitors from most other countries do not present the same health risks as residents on the move because they must test negative for Covid-19 before traveling. But local residents do not have the option to move around the country, even if they have tested negative, for leisure.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, introduced plans recently to create a digital certificate that could ease tourism this summer, including internal travel within member states.

“Given that transmission and risk are similar for national and cross-border journeys, member states should ensure there is coherence between the measures applied to the two types of journey,” said Christian Wigand, a commission spokesman.

Opposition politicians in Spain seized on those comments. Some were already accusing the authorities of favoring tourists over residents seeking an Easter getaway.

María Jesús Montero, a minister and spokeswoman for the Spanish government, said last week that the country was doing exactly the same as others in allowing foreign travel but limiting domestic movement.

On Tuesday, the Spanish government ordered the mandatory wearing of face masks in all public outdoor spaces, including beaches. Some regional leaders immediately criticized the rule, arguing that they should have first been consulted by the central government.

Italy also has tough rules in place restricting movement across the country. Residents are allowed to leave their town — or their house in the more affected regions — only for work, health reasons or other reasons deemed necessities.

But the government has allowed Italians to travel for tourism to most European countries, including France, Germany and Spain, only asking them to get a negative test 48 hours before their return.

A spokesman for Italy’s health minister said the risk of contagion from international travel with restrictions was lower than that of allowing free movement between domestic regions. One reason for that, he said, is volume — it is easier and cheaper for large numbers of people to travel domestically — adding that it would also be virtually impossible to enforce quarantines on travel between regions.

The Italian hotel association, Federalberghi, was among those accusing the government of double standards.

“Hotels and all the Italian hospitality system have been stuck for months because of the ban on moving from one region to another,” Bernabò Bocca, the president of Federalberghi, said on Sunday. “We do not understand how it is possible to authorize travel across the border and ban it within Italy,” he added.

On Tuesday, amid reports of a boom in Easter travel bookings by Italians to places like the Canary Islands of Spain, Italy changed in its rules on international travel. People flying to Italy from another European country will now have to stay in quarantine for five days and then show another negative swab test.

While the principle of the freedom of movement between member states is a cornerstone of the European Union, the bloc has struggled not only to keep internal borders open since last spring but also to harmonize its travel restrictions. Instead, individual member states have repeatedly changed their travel rules while also enforcing different methods to test or quarantine travelers.

The inconsistent travel restrictions have also baffled some prominent health experts. Fernando Simón, director of Spain’s national health emergency center, told a news conference in March that the country’s travel rules were incongruous and hard to explain.

Not helping matters, the European Union has also struggled with its vaccine rollout; Spain and Italy have both inoculated only about 11 percent of their populations. In comparison, Britain has given shots to 46 percent and the United States 29 percent, according to data from The New York Times.

Spain is not alone in struggling to sell citizens on travel and holiday rules. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel apologized last week after she dropped an unpopular plan to extend a shutdown over the Easter vacation.

Her U-turn came shortly after Germany lifted a quarantine for people returning from some parts of Europe where the Covid-19 caseload has fallen, including the Balearic archipelago, a major Spanish tourism destination which includes the islands of Majorca and Ibiza.

After the decision, airlines added hundreds of Easter holiday flights between Germany and Spain.

Laura Malone, the communications manager for Riu, a Spanish hotel operator with headquarters on Majorca, said there had been “an exponential rise in our bookings.” She said that the company had reopened two hotels on Majorca and that 90 percent of the reservations were coming from Germans.

The response to the pandemic has also become more fragmented in Spain because regional administrations rather than the central government have been setting most of the lockdown rules since the summer.

Before a local election in May, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, leader of the Madrid region and member of the center-right Popular Party, has taken to social media to criticize the economic restrictions of the Socialist-led national government. She has encouraged foreigners to visit the capital and portrayed the city’s bars and stores as bastions of freedom in comparison with other regions’ tougher restrictions.

This past weekend, the newspaper El País published on its front page a photograph of partying after the 11 p.m. curfew in the streets of central Madrid, and the images spread quickly on social media.

The politicians governing Madrid say that the police are clamping down on disorderly behavior and that tourists are mostly in town to visit the capital’s museums and opera house, particularly because cultural offerings are more restricted in their own cities.

Teresa Buquerín, who runs a hotel in the medieval town of Ayllón, expressed mixed feelings about only having 25 percent of her rooms booked so far for Easter when she would normally have domestic tourists from the capital to fill her establishment. Ayllón is about 85 miles north of Madrid, but it is on the other side of a regional border that residents of the capital cannot cross under the pandemic restrictions now in place.

Madrid is “our economic engine,” Ms. Buquerín said, adding, “I would certainly always welcome people from Madrid, but only as long as they have been respecting the same safety rules as us, which is not what seems to have been happening.”

After keeping her hotel shut for four months until mid-March, she added, “It would be disastrous if I had to close again the week after Easter because of a new Covid problem.”

Emma Bubola contributed reporting from Rome.



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Is the Fight Against Sexism in Australia’s Politics Different This Time?

Is the Fight Against Sexism in Australia’s Politics Different This Time?


The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Sign up to get it by email.

For most of the past week, I’ve been interviewing current and former members of Parliament about the mistreatment of women in Australian politics. I’ve spoken mainly to those with direct experience inside the system, and I found myself starting off with the same question: Does what’s happening now feel different?

Everyone — from Tanya Plibersek in Labor, to Dr. Anne Webster of the National Party, to Julia Banks, who gave up her Liberal Party seat in 2019 — responded with the same answer. Yes.

They all told me that, six weeks after Brittany Higgins spoke up with her allegation of rape in the defense minister’s office when she was a staffer in 2019, the dynamic has changed. Women are angry and unified, speaking up in politics and beyond. More of the men who used to brush off complaints of sexism as whining about the always-tough arena of politics have started to see that it’s an uneven playing field, where women compete with extra burdens and threats.

But is that enough to change the system, to make it fair and equal? Maybe not, they said — not yet.

“It feels different in terms of momentum, in terms of moving toward change,” Ms. Banks told me. “But I do worry about the leadership and the lack of accountability. That’s what it comes down to. We’ve seen a lack of accountability before — it can’t be treated like a P.R. issue.”

Dr. Webster, a sociologist who is the National party’s point person on gender issues, compared the level of public outrage to a tsunami, with an impact still unknown.

“The events of the last six weeks, nobody is taking them lying down,” she said. “Everyone is on alert and wondering: Where are we going from here?”

What many of the women found discouraging was the lack, so far, of demonstrable reform. The most obvious solutions I heard proposed by current and former lawmakers, along with political scientists and legal experts, have yet to become a reality, or even a likely possibility.

Susan Harris-Rimmer, a law professor at Griffith University and a former parliamentary staffer, noted that Parliament still does not have an independent reporting system for workplace complaints, even after Ms. Higgins’s allegations and a slew of additional scandals and accusations against men in government.

An independent reporting system has long been the standard in most big businesses, universities and large institutions of any kind. Over the past few years, Canada and England have updated workplace protocols in their parliaments with a more modern system that makes it easier for victims of bullying or abuse to come forward without repurcussions.

Australia has not. In Parliament and in politics generally, everything still goes through the parties. That creates obvious conflicts of interest and contributes to the kind of situation that Ms. Higgins described, where she said she felt pressured not to report the rape allegation to police because it would have hurt the Liberal Party’s chances in the 2019 election.

Just as importantly if not more so, I was also told, men — not just women — need to do a better job of enforcing reasonable standards of behavior. Men need to redraw the lines of what is acceptable and then enforce the rules with zero tolerance.

“We need to recognize that it wasn’t women who established the culture in Parliament; it wasn’t women who set up the practices,” said Kate Ellis, a Labor Party lawmaker from 2004 to 2019. “It’s been men and it’s those men who need to stand up now and change.”

Louise Chappell, a political scientist at the University of New South Wales who has studied gender in politics since the ’90s, said the current approach tends to involve adding more ministers for women, as the prime minister did earlier this week with his cabinet reshuffle.

The suggestion, she said, is that women are somehow responsible — “It’s still how can we fix up women rather than fix the system,” she said.

She offered up an intriguing alternative.

“Why don’t we have a minister for men behaving better? Why don’t we shift the lens?”

Another suggestion that she said might sound radical but isn’t: Quotas for men. Instead of saying parties need to have 40 or 50 percent women, why not put a limit on how many men can be selected by the parties as candidates?

“We’ve gotten so used to looking at women’s absences rather than men’s privileges and access,” she said. “The first thing we need to do is get men to stop behaving so badly that when women get in there, they just want to flee.”

My article about the chauvinist culture of Australian politics will be out in the next few days.

In the meantime, here are our stories of the week.




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Shut Out on Vaccines, Tiny San Marino Turns to Old Friend: Russia

Shut Out on Vaccines, Tiny San Marino Turns to Old Friend: Russia


SAN MARINO — On the ground floor of the only hospital in San Marino, a tiny, independent republic perched high above the surrounding Italian countryside, nurses prepared Covid-19 vaccine doses from glass vials labeled in Cyrillic script, flicked needles and sought to put nervous residents at ease.

“Have you started speaking Russian since you got your first shot?” one nurse asked, coaxing a smile from Erica Stranieri, 32, as he injected Russia’s Sputnik vaccine into her arm.

San Marino, an ancient enclave within northern Italy, topped with crenelated medieval battlements on a mountain near the Adriatic coast, is best known — to the extent it is known at all — as one of the smallest countries on Earth.

Just six weeks ago, San Marino risked becoming the last country in Europe to start inoculating its people. It had counted on an agreement with Italy to furnish it with vaccines, but they never materialized. With tensions rising and doctors threatening to stop working, the desperate government turned to Russia and found a warm embrace.

San Marino has long had close ties to Russia, and readily accepted more than 7,000 doses of the Sputnik vaccine, which has not been authorized by European or Italian drug regulators. For San Marino, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

Russians have been drawn for years to this nation of just 33,000 people, often flying directly from Moscow to the Italian beach town of Rimini only 10 miles away. More than 100,000 Russian tourists visit San Marino in a typical year, so many that most stores started hiring Russian-speaking salespeople.

“Pronto. Da,” the Ukrainian manager at one sunglass store answered the phone in Italian and Russian. She sold 15 pairs of designer sunglasses to a group of glamorous Russian regulars who browsed under Matryoshka dolls sent back from clients in Russia.

“San Marino is extremely convenient for taxes,” said Marina Skirnevskaya, 35, a customer who entered the shop with her pet Chihuahua. Ms. Skirnevskaya, who is from Siberia but lives outside Rimini and has an export company, said the arrival of Sputnik was a positive development, and she wished she could get it, but that it wasn’t needed to improve bilateral relations. “The relationship is good already.”

Signs of San Marino’s friendship with Russia dot the sloping stone streets of the historical town center. A few paces from the city walls is a 2006 statue of a terrified boy, dedicated to the hundreds of children killed by Chechen militants in the Beslan school siege of 2004. At the national university is a bust of the first person in space, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

San Marino did not back sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Crimea. In 2019, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, visited San Marino without stopping in Italy.

“Politically there is a strong link,” said Sergio Rabini, 62, the director of the San Marino hospital, who was himself hospitalized with Covid in October. He walked past the Covid ward, still packed with patients intubated in intensive care, and down to the vaccination center.

“Here’s Sputnik,” he said, holding up one of the thawing vials. He said it wasn’t the first time his country hadn’t followed the lead of Italian or European regulatory agencies.

“Viagra,” he said with a grin. “We had it before the Europeans authorized it.”

Sputnik is just the latest tool Moscow has used to gain influence in Europe, exploiting rifts between the European Union, which has had a disastrously slow vaccine rollout, and some member states. This week, Slovakia’s prime minister resigned amid an uproar over his secretly arranging a delivery of Sputnik.

Roberto Ciavatta, San Marino’s health minister, said that he understood that many people saw geopolitics in Russia’s vaccine diplomacy, but that for his nation the issue was much simpler.

“The only vaccine in that moment available on the market was Sputnik,” he said in his office in the hospital complex.

Vaccine makers told San Marino that they would deal only with the European Union, Mr. Ciavatta said, and his government’s direct appeals to the Biden administration and the U.S. consulate in Italy went nowhere.

San Marino has been a political anomaly, its identity built on standing apart, ever since its founding, according to tradition, in 301 by its namesake, St. Marinus, a stonecutter who settled amid the craggy caves of Monte Titano in the Apennines.

What started as a haven for Christians escaping persecution by the Roman Empire eventually became an assiduously neutral microstate. One of the world’s oldest republics, it has a system of government more than seven centuries old, and a constitution codified in 1600.

After surviving feudal lords, Napoleon, the Austrian empire and Italian unification, it emerged in the 20th century as a wealthy haven for tax-averse Italians and a destination for tourism and duty-free shopping.

Just as San Marino is within Italy but not part of it, it is ensconced in the heart of the European Union but not a member of the club and its vaccine buying program. As Europe’s vaccination efforts stumbled badly, San Marino risked falling ever further behind.

With help from Russia, the positions are now reversed. San Marino has given at least one vaccine shot to 26 percent of its people, more than double the E.U. average. Officials say hundreds of Italians have tried to make vaccination appointments there, and some even showed up, hoping in vain to get vaccinated by the foreign state next door.

“We asked Italy for help and didn’t get any,” Denisa Grassi, a 42-year-old teacher, said after receiving her shot. “Now it’s the Italians who ask us.”

Some Italians see in San Marino’s embrace of Sputnik only its latest provocative pandemic behavior. In November, when Italy imposed a 6 p.m. curfew on eateries, San Marino kept its bars and restaurants open until midnight, luring Italians and their euros across the invisible border to what Italian officials worried was a hilltop viral breeding ground.

“It was mostly young people who took advantage to go out at night,” said Aldo Bacciocchi, 50, whose restaurant, Ristorante Bolognese, was recently featured on Russian television. Now, San Marino’s restaurants must close by 6 p.m., and Mr. Bacciocchi said that business was lousy and that he didn’t see a way back to normalcy unless people got vaccinated. His mother, 77, was scheduled to receive her second dose of Sputnik on Friday.

“It’s not that we prefer it,” he said. “It’s that it’s there.”

A shade of that normalcy returned to the center of San Marino on Thursday, for the biannual installation of the country’s two heads of state, known as Captains Regent.

Throughout the morning and early afternoon, military marching bands wearing helmets festooned with feathers snaked up and down the sloping stone streets, past luxury watch and jewelry shops, the “Torture Museum,” souvenir traps and a multitude of stores selling guns, crossbows and swords, a legacy of San Marino’s medieval armory industry and relaxed gun laws.

Dignitaries took advantage of pauses in the procession to sip aperitifs at sunlit cafes, until the cannons blasted again and the march resumed. Guards escorted the incoming and outgoing Captains Regent — wearing black velvet cloaks, blue-and-white ribbons, satin gloves, black tights, black velvet hats edged with white ermine fur, and lace scarves — into various grand marble and stone buildings.

Bishops and ambassadors and men in top hats joined the procession, and so did some local residents wearing ghost masks, silently protesting the coronavirus lockdown measures.

“San Marino is not Europe, and we’re not getting any help,” said Massimiliano Carlini, 58, the protest organizer, referring to the lack of funds directed to struggling businesses. Himself a vaccine skeptic, he wasn’t sure inoculations would help, though he welcomed Russia’s involvement. “Sputnik is the only one I think people should be taking.”

Among the protesters was Matteo Nardi, the nurse who had vaccinated Ms. Stranieri. An Italian by nationality, he wondered why Italy, struggling with vaccine shortages, didn’t offer Sputnik, too.

“I mean,” he said, “why not?”



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A Rapper, Hitting His 30s, Reinvents Himself as a Scion of Spanish Pop

A Rapper, Hitting His 30s, Reinvents Himself as a Scion of Spanish Pop


LONDON — C. Tangana, one of Spain’s biggest rap stars, two years ago hit “a little bit of a crisis.”

He was riding a wave of fame, known for provocative songs and equally provocative interviews. But he was fast approaching his 30s, he said in a recent Zoom interview, and risked becoming one of those “cringe-y, embarrassing” rappers who act a decade younger than they are.

So C. Tangana — real name Antón Álvarez Alfaro — did a U-turn and decided to try his hand at other styles of music that he had loved since childhood, like flamenco and rumba, even Spanish folk.

“I was opening a window I’d kept closed,” he said, adding, “I assumed it would go wrong.”

Álvarez’s experiment appears to have paid off. In February, he released “El Madrileño,” an album that mixes traditional Spanish and Latin American styles, including rock, with electronic sounds and beats more familiar to his trap and reggaeton fans. It’s turned him from Spain’s biggest rapper into one of its biggest pop stars.

One of the album’s early tracks, “Tú Me Dejaste De Querer” (“You Stopped Loving Me”), has over 100 million views on YouTube.

“You can listen to his music anytime, in any shop” Pablo Gil, a music journalist at El Mundo, a Spanish daily newspaper, said in a telephone interview.

Some of the musical styles it features were last popular in Spain in the 1970s, when the country was under Franco’s dictatorship, Gil added. Álvarez, he said, was taking old-fashioned sounds, “subverting their meaning and making them modern.”

In a review for the newspaper El País, the music critic Carlos Marcos wrote, “It remains to be seen whether this is the birth of a new Spanish pop, or something that we will forget in a few years.”

“But who cares?” he added. “Let’s enjoy it today, and we’ll see tomorrow.”

On YouTube, C. Tangana’s videos now attract comments from older music fans who would presumably never have gone near his records before. “I thought the music my son listened to was for landfill,” wrote Felix Guinnot, who said he was in his 50s, “but this boy is changing my musical perception.”

Álvarez’s road to fame has been winding, with multiple changes of name to reflect new musical personas. Born in Madrid, he started rapping in his teens, he said, but twice gave up on music entirely. When the 2008 global financial crisis hit Spain particularly hard — its lingering effects are still felt by the country’s youth — he stopped rapping to work in a fast-food restaurant. Later, he got a job in a call center selling cellphones.

He started rapping again after falling in love with a colleague. It was a toxic relationship, Álvarez said, but it inspired him to get back into the studio. “I said, ‘It must be possible for me to make money doing this rather than selling phones or cleaning,’” he recalled. “It changed my whole mentality. I started to think I had to sell myself. I started to do things to get attention.”

In 2017, Álvarez had his first major hit with “Mala Mujer,” a track about his longing for a “bad woman” whose “gel nails have left scars all over my body.” But he was soon known more for his relationship with Rosalía, a Spanish pop star (he co-wrote much of “El Mal Querer,” or “Bad Love,” her breakthrough album, although they have since broken up) and for getting into political controversies.

The next year, the northern Spanish city of Bilbao threw C. Tangana off a concert lineup, saying that his lyrics were degrading to women.

More recently, he called for people to reclaim Spain’s flag from fascists, a potentially contentious endorsement in a country where some associate it with Franco’s dictatorship.

Ana Iris Simón, a music journalist and author who has written about the reaction to “El Madrileño,” praised Álvarez’s outspoken nature. “He’s not afraid of getting involved or giving his opinion,” she said in an email.

Some critics still accuse him of being overly macho, Simón said. They point out that only one of the new album’s 15 guests is a woman (La Húngara, a flamenco singer). But Simón said those comments were out of touch with how Spaniards viewed him. “Public opinion and published opinion have never been as far apart as they are now,” she noted.

The new album also plays to Spain’s class divides, Simón said. It involves artists and musical styles “reviled by the cool cultural scene for years for being music typical of the common people,” she said. Álvarez uses those styles without irony, Iris added, instead embracing them as would an heir.

Álvarez said his choice of collaborators — who include the Gypsy Kings, the flamenco band that was hugely popular in the 1980s; Ed Maverick, a “Mexican folk romantic”; and Jorge Drexler, a Uruguayan singer-songwriter — was driven by his love of artists who’ve taken their own distinct musical paths. But he also hoped the collaborations with Latin American musicians might change some Spaniards’ view of the region.

“In Spain, we have this problem that a lot of people still have this colonial mentality,” Álvarez said. “They think that our culture is better than their culture, and that’s so stupid.”

During the interview, Álvarez said he was overjoyed that his experiment had paid off. He talked a lot about the joy of being seen as a good songwriter. But he seemed happiest when asked about the album’s impact on one specific person. His mother had “always been super proud” of him, he said, “but now she can sing my songs.”

Comments on his YouTube tracks suggest that is mother is not the only member of another generation doing that. Antonio Remacha, in Madrid, wrote a long message beneath one track saying that his daughter had forced him to listen to the record against his better judgment, but that he had loved it.

“I have to admit that at 62 years of age, he’s managed to impress me,” Remacha wrote of Álvarez, before politely and formally signing off: “Congratulations and all of my praise.”





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‘Mommy, I Have Bad News’: For Child Migrants, Mexico Can Be the End of the Road

‘Mommy, I Have Bad News’: For Child Migrants, Mexico Can Be the End of the Road


Thousands of children, most from Central America, are making their way to the border, many hoping to meet parents in the United States. But for those caught in Mexico, there is only near-certain deportation.


CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — The children tumbled out of a white van, dazed and tired, rubbing sleep from their eyes.

They had been on their way north, traveling without their parents, hoping to cross the border into the United States.

They never made it.

Detained by Mexican immigration officers, they were brought to a shelter for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juárez, marched in single file and lined up against a wall for processing. For them, this facility about one mile from the border is the closest they will get to the United States.

“‘Mommy, I have bad news for you,’” one of the girls at the shelter, Elizabeth, 13, from Honduras, recalled telling her mother on the phone. “‘Don’t cry, but Mexican immigration caught me.’”

The children are part of a growing wave of migrants hoping to find a way into the United States. If they make it across the border, they can try to present their case to the American authorities, go to school and one day find work and help relatives back home. Some can reunite with parents waiting there.

But for those caught before crossing the border, the long road north ends in Mexico.

If they are from elsewhere in the country, as a growing number are because of the economic toll of the pandemic, they can be picked up by a relative and taken home.

But most of them are from Central America, propelled north by a life made unsustainable by poverty, violence, natural disasters and the pandemic, and encouraged by the Biden administration’s promise to take a more generous approach to immigration.

They will wait in shelters in Mexico, often for months, for arrangements to be made. Then, they will be deported.

The journey north is not an easy one, and the children who brave it have to grow up fast.

At the shelter, most of them are teenagers, but some are as young as 5. Traveling alone, without parents — in groups of children, or with a relative or a family friend — they may run into criminal networks that often take advantage of migrants, and into border officers determined to stop them. But they keep trying, by the thousands.

“There is a big flow, for economic reasons, and it will not stop until people’s lives in these countries improve,” said José Alfredo Villa, the director of the Nohemí Álvarez Quillay shelter for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juárez.

In 2018, 1,318 children were admitted into shelters for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juárez, the local authorities said. By 2019, the number of admissions had grown to 1,510 children, though it dipped to 928 last year because of the pandemic.

But in the first two and a half months of this year, the number has soared to 572 — a rate that, if kept up for the rest of the year, would far surpass 2019, the highest year on record.

When children enter the shelter, their schooling stops, the staff unable to provide classes for so many children coming from different countries and different educational backgrounds. Instead, the children fill their days with art classes, where they often draw or paint photos of their home countries. They watch television, play in the courtyard or complete chores to help the shelter run, like laundry.

The scene in Ciudad Juárez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, in Texas, tells only one part of a larger story that is playing out all along the border’s nearly 2,000 miles.

Elizabeth, the 13-year-old from Villanueva, in Honduras, said that when the Mexican authorities detained her in early March, she thought of her mother in Maryland, and how disappointed she would be.

When she called from the shelter, her mother was ecstatic at first, thinking she had crossed, Elizabeth said; then, on hearing the news, her mother burst into tears.

“I told her not to cry,” Elizabeth said. “We would see each other again.”

The New York Times agreed to use the middle names of all unaccompanied minors interviewed to protect their identities. Their family circumstances and the outlines of their cases were confirmed by caseworkers at the shelter who are in touch with their relatives and with the authorities in their countries to arrange for their deportation.

If Elizabeth had made it across the river into Texas, her life would be different now. Even if apprehended by United States Customs and Border Protection, she would have been released to her mother and given a court date to present her asylum case.

The success of her asylum application would not be a given. In 2019, 71 percent of all cases involving unaccompanied minors resulted in deportation orders. But many never turn up for their hearings; they dodge the authorities and slip into the population, to live lives of evasion.

For the majority of children in the shelter, being caught in Mexico means only one thing: deportation to their home country in Central America.

About 460 children were deported from shelters in Juárez in the first three months of the year, according to Mr. Villa, the shelter director. And they often wait for months as Mexican officials routinely struggle to gain the cooperation of Central American countries to coordinate deportations, he said.

Elizabeth has no idea who will take care of her if she is sent back to Honduras. Her father walked out on the family when she was born, she said, and the grandmother she lived with is dying.

When Elizabeth’s mother left in 2017, it broke her, she said.

The mother had taken out loans to support Elizabeth. When loan sharks came after the family seeking repayment, she went to the United States to look for work, Elizabeth said.

“When my mother left, I felt my heart left, my soul,” she said, crying.

Elizabeth’s mother landed a good job in landscaping in Maryland, and wanted to spare her daughter the treacherous journey to the United States. But when the grandmother’s health left her unable to care for Elizabeth, it was the girl’s turn to say goodbye.

Elizabeth said she doubted whether she would ever see her grandmother again.

In early March, Elizabeth made it to the Rio Grande, on Mexico’s northern border. She began wading toward Texas when the local authorities caught her and pulled her out of the water.

Mexican immigration officials dropped her off at the Nohemí Álvarez Quillay shelter, which is named after an Ecuadorean girl who died by suicide at another shelter in Juárez in 2014 after being detained. She was 12, and on her way to reunite with parents who had lived in the Bronx since she was a toddler.

In mid-March, two weeks after her arrival, Elizabeth celebrated her 13th birthday at the shelter.

As shelter staff cut the cake for Elizabeth — the children are prohibited from handling sharp objects — three more children were dropped off by the immigration authorities, just hours after the eight who had arrived that morning. They watched cartoons as they waited for shelter officials to register them.

Elizabeth’s best friend since she arrived, Yuliana, 15, was by her side, apprehended by the Mexican authorities in December when she tried to cross the border carrying her 2-year-old cousin and tugging on the hand of her 4-year-old cousin. Yuliana is from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the most violence-wracked cities in the world.

Both girls said they had seen a parent struggle to put food on the table before making the tough decision to migrate to the United States. And both felt that their failure to cross had upturned the tremendous expectations that had been placed on them: to reunite with a lonely parent, to work and to send money to family members left behind.

For the girls, home is not a place — Honduras or the United States. Home is where their families are. That is where they want to be.

“My dream is to get ahead and raise my family,” Yuliana said. “It is the first thing, to help my mother and my brothers. My family.”

The day she left San Pedro Sula to join her father in Florida, she said, her mother made her promise one thing.

“She asked me never to forget her,” Yuliana said. “And I answered that I could never, because I was leaving for her.”



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Italy Bans Cruise Liners From Venice Lagoon, With a Catch

Italy Bans Cruise Liners From Venice Lagoon, With a Catch


ROME — The coronavirus pandemic has kept most cruise ships docked. But the Italian government ruled this week that even when voyages resume, gigantic cruisers will no longer be permitted to pass Venice’s St. Mark’s Square and must find berthing outside its fragile lagoon.

Citing the need to protect the “artistic, cultural and environmental heritage of Venice,” the Italian cabinet passed a decree late Wednesday calling for “urgent provisions” to detour cruise activities and freight traffic. The government mandated that Venice’s port authority issue a public consultation — described as a “call for ideas” — to find alternative ports to handle large container ships and cruise ships over 40,000 tons and planned to build a terminal outside the lagoon.

Dario Franceschini, Italy’s culture minister, praised the decision on Thursday, citing the shock of visitors to Venice upon seeing cruise ships “hundreds of meters long and as tall as apartment buildings,” passing in front of St. Mark’s Square. He said the government’s decision had been influenced by UNESCO, the cultural protection agency of the United Nations, which had long called on Italy to reconcile the balancing of lagoon preservation with the economics of cruise and freight activity.

The government’s decision was welcomed by environmental associations that have been warning about the havoc that large ships have been wreaking on the Venetian lagoon as they make their way down the Giudecca Canal to dock at the city’s main passenger canal.

“We won: ‘big ships out of the lagoon’ it’s a law,” the No Big Ships Committee proclaimed on its Facebook page. After years of protests, marches, initiatives and trials against committee members, the government had sided with the voices of the city: “Big ships are not compatible with the Venetian Lagoon,” the committee wrote.

Their concerns rang loudest whenever ship-induced accidents shone a spotlight on the big ship issue, including a June 2019 accident when a cruise liner crashed into a smaller tour ship and a wharf on the Giudecca Canal.

But even as environmentalists said they felt vindicated by the government’s decision, they expressed concerns about the government’s plans to temporarily detour cruise ships to the port of Marghera, the industrial hub on the lagoon, until the new mooring station outside the lagoon is built.

“This is the first time that a government has issued a formal decree banning ships from the lagoon, and this is without doubt enormously positive,” said Tommaso Cacciari, a spokesman for the No Big Ships Committee.

“But then the government messes up immediately after,” he said, because “it speaks of temporary solutions in Marghera.”

Mr. Cacciari said that such solutions could end up lasting years and that a terminal in Marghera would not be feasible because of logistical and environmental concerns.

The state of Venice’s fragile lagoon has increasingly come under scrutiny in recent years as violent storms and frequent floods have ravaged the city.

UNESCO said in an email that its World Heritage Committee had been in “constant dialogue with the Italian authorities to find a suitable solution.” The agency is considering adding Venice to its list of world heritage in danger, unless measures are taken for “significant and measurable progress in the state of conservation” .

The government had previously ruled that big ships had to find an alternative route to avoid fragile areas like the Venetian Lagoon. Other initiatives include a project for an offshore terminal and a permanent passenger terminal at the Lido entrance to the lagoon.

The Lido project was approved by several government committees but has languished at the infrastructure ministry. Cesare De Piccoli, a former lawmaker from Venice involved with the project, said he that had not been informed about the reasons for the limbo but that the latest decision to ban ships from the lagoon was “politically important.”

Given his own experience, Mr. De Piccoli expressed skepticism but said he planned to re-pitch the Lido project as part of the call for ideas.

“After all, it’s already been approved,” he said.

Critics said the decision to detour ships to Marghera, even if temporary, went against the spirit of the government decree.

Some were concerned that the canal used by freight ships, which was built in the 1960s, was both too narrow and shallow to handle current big ships. The recent Suez Canal episode “should provide ample warning,” said Senator Mauro Coltorti, the president of the Senate transport and public works commission.

Others feared that spending millions on a passenger terminal risked making it permanent.

Still others worried that the canal leading to Marghera would have to be enlarged to accommodate large ships, “which would be a kick in the stomach” to environmental initiatives, said Maria Rosa Vittadini, a retired professor at the University of Venice.

Cinzia Zincone, the commissioner for the port authority that oversees the port of Venice, said the canal required maintenance, as its banks were eroding and “important sediment” was sinking into the canal. “We can’t permit this to continue because it negatively impacts on the environment,” she said.

Some Venetians wondered how international cruise ship travelers would feel about docking in Marghera, which is unequivocally not scenic. “You’re going to have tourists that think they’re going to see St. Mark’s but find themselves in front of an oil refinery,” Mr. De Piccoli said.



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BBC’s John Sudworth Leaves China, Citing Growing Risks

BBC's John Sudworth Leaves China, Citing Growing Risks


At times, the propaganda campaign zeroed in on Mr. Sudworth, a longtime BBC correspondent who won a George Polk Award last year for his reporting on the internment camps in Xinjiang. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said on Wednesday that Chinese state media had posted videos of Mr. Sudworth online using footage obtained from police cameras.

Last month, The Global Times, a state-backed nationalist tabloid, published a widely circulated article attacking Mr. Sudworth for his Xinjiang reporting and accusing him of being an “anti-China” journalist backed by “foreign forces,” including the United States.

“In the past few years, the BBC and their China correspondent, John Sudworth, have been doing their best to demonize China as a cruel country without human rights by distorting the situation in Xinjiang,” said the article. “But today, their ‘crazy’ distortions have been exposed — the truth is that they are the clowns who violate human rights.”

Before the recent propaganda campaign, Mr. Sudworth had been repeatedly issued shortened journalist visas of as little as one month for nearly three years, part of an ongoing effort by the Chinese government to punish news organizations for coverage it perceives to be overly critical. Most resident foreign journalists are typically granted one-year visas.

In September, two Australian journalists fled China following a five-day diplomatic standoff that began when Chinese state security officers paid them unannounced visits, prompting fears that they would be detained. Australian news outlets now no longer have any correspondents on the ground in China at a time of fast-deteriorating relations between the two countries.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, whose members include many journalists working there, voiced concerns on Wednesday about the “increasing frequency of erroneous claims by Chinese state and state-controlled entities that foreign correspondents and their organizations are motivated by anti-China political forces to produce coverage that runs counter to the Communist Party’s official line.”

“Alarmingly, Chinese authorities have also shown a greater willingness to threaten journalists with legal measures, proceedings that could subject them to exit bans, barring them from leaving China,” the club added.

Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting.





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London Police Officer Convicted of Membership in Neo-Nazi Group

London Police Officer Convicted of Membership in Neo-Nazi Group


LONDON — An officer in London’s main police force was convicted on Thursday of being a member of a banned neo-Nazi group, the police said. The conviction was the first time a British police officer had been convicted of a terrorism offense, the BBC and other British news organizations reported.

Benjamin Hannam, 22, a probationary police officer who applied to the Metropolitan Police in London in 2017 and joined it in early 2018, was found guilty of membership in an outlawed organization — the neo-Nazi group National Action — as well as two counts of fraud by false representation and two counts of possession of information likely to be of use to a terrorist, the police said in a briefing.

The fraud charges related to lying about his membership on his job application and police vetting forms for his position, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

His conviction comes as concerns are rising over the infiltration of right-wing groups in police forces, and as the Metropolitan Police are under pressure for policing tactics. In the United States, the police killings of Black people have put a focus on racism within police forces. In Germany, there is concern that right-wing groups have infiltrated the police, with officers on forces across the country found to have used racist and far-right chat groups.

“Benjamin Hannam would not have got a job as a probationary police constable if he’d told the truth about his membership of a banned far-right group,” said Jenny Hopkins, of the Crown Prosecution Service, in the agency’s statement.

“His lies have caught up with him,” she said. “And he’s been exposed as an individual with deeply racist beliefs who also possessed extremist publications of use to a terrorist.”

Prosecutors said that Mr. Hannam had posted comments about National Action on an online message board and sought to recruit others to the group, and that he had attended events even after the group was barred. He was shown in a propaganda video for the group, which was used as evidence. National Action, which praised the murder of a British lawmaker, Jo Cox, was deemed a terrorist organization and outlawed in December 2016, and prosecutors said it “espoused homophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism and promoted violence and interracial hatred.”

The trial began in March, but the court had banned reporting of its details to avoid a risk of biasing future jurors in a separate case against Mr. Hannam, according to the local news media. The restrictions were lifted after Mr. Hannam pleaded guilty to possessing an indecent image of a child, which was to have been the subject of the second trial.

Mr. Hannam, who in court denied being a member of the group, attended a National Action meeting in 2016 and continued to participate in gatherings over the next year, according to the police briefing. The police also found evidence that he had visited sites about the group’s ban in Britain and moved files about the group onto a USB stick, which meant he was aware of the group’s illegality, they said.

Also discovered in his files was a manual on how to use a knife to seriously injure or kill someone and a document written by Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in a bomb and gun rampage in Norway in 2011, prosecutors said.

During the trial, Mr. Hannam said that he was interested by the “look and aesthetic of fascism,” but that he was not a racist and had challenged other group members when they made racist remarks, according to the BBC.

Police forces across Europe are struggling to identify infiltration by right-wing extremists and Britain is not immune to that, said Professor Alberto Testa, a professor of applied criminology at the University of West London who has studied far-right groups. “I do not see this as very surprising.”

The far-right movement was fragmented, he said, and extremist groups often continued meeting even when banned. He added that officers could be radicalized after joining a police force. “Declaring a group outlawed does not mean it will be destroyed,” he said.

To combat this, police forces need better training on recognizing the terminology and symbols of far-right groups, he said, and should have people on their selection panels trained to spot far-right extremists.

The Metropolitan Police have faced accusations of racism and discriminatory practices, and the force said in November that it would recruit more minority officers in order to be more representative. Officials in Britain have expressed concern about a rise in right-wing extremism during the pandemic.

Mr. Hannam’s affiliation with National Action was unearthed after anti-fascists leaked data from Iron March, a neo-fascist online forum that experts have linked to terrorist attacks in Western countries.

He was arrested in March 2020 after the police linked his online profile for the forum to his identity, Richard Smith of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command said on Thursday, adding that Mr. Hannam had been “radicalized and seduced online by this toxic ideology.” He is due to be sentenced this month.

“The public expect police officers to carry out their duties with the very highest levels of honesty and integrity,” Mr. Smith said. But Mr. Hannam, he said, “showed none of these qualities.”



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