3.7 Million Russians “Flocked” to Film Satirizing “Tyranny and Censorship”

(p. C1) By all appearances, the movie adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s cult favorite novel “The Master and Margarita,” in Russian theaters this winter, shouldn’t be thriving in President Vladimir Putin’s wartime Russia.

The director is American. One of the stars is German. The celebrated Stalin-era satire, unpublished in its time, is partly a subversive sendup of state tyranny and censorship — forces bedeviling Russia once again today.

. . .

“I had an internal belief that the movie would have to come out somehow,” the director, Michael Lockshin, said in a video interview from his home in California. “I still thought it was a miracle when it did come out. As for the response, it’s hard to expect a (p. C2) response like this.”

More than 3.7 million people have flocked to see the film in Russian theaters since its Jan. 25 [2024] premiere, according to Russia’s national film fund.

. . .

State networks didn’t promote the movie the way they normally would for a government-funded picture. And the state film fund, under pressure after the release, removed the movie’s production company from its list of preferred vendors.

The antics spurred a new wave of moviegoers, who rushed to theaters fearing the film was about to be banned.

“The film amazingly coincided with the historical moment that Russia is experiencing, with the restoration of Stalinism, with the persecution of the intelligentsia,” said the Russian film critic Anton Dolin, who has been branded a “foreign agent” and fled the country.

. . .

“The movie is about the freedom of an artist in an unfree world,” Lockshin said, “and what that freedom entails — about not losing your belief in the power of art, even when everything around you is punishing you for making it.”

. . .

When Putin launched his invasion two years ago, Lockshin opposed the war on social media from the United States and called on his friends to support Ukraine. Back in Russia, that put the movie’s release at risk.

“My position was that I wouldn’t censor myself in any way for the movie,” he said. “The movie itself is about censorship.”

. . .

The film’s verisimilitude was unmistakable for many moviegoers.

Yevgeny Gindilis, a Russian film producer, said that he had crowded into a Moscow theater near the Kremlin to watch it, and sensed some discomfort in the hall. At the end, he said, about a third of the audience erupted in applause.

“I think the clapping,” Gindilis said, “is about the fact that people are happy they are able to experience and watch this film that has this clear, anti-totalitarian and anti-repressive state message, in a situation when the state is really trying to oppress everything that has an independent voice.”

Gindilis recounted how one of the most uncomfortable scenes for people to watch in Moscow was the final revenge sequence, when the devil’s mischievous talking cat repels a secret police squad that has come to apprehend the Master, leading to a fire that ultimately engulfs all of Moscow.

The Master and Margarita, alongside the devil, played by the German actor August Diehl, gaze out over the burning city, watching a system that ruined their lives go up in flames.

“Today the whole country is unable to take revenge or even respond to the persecution, restrictions and censorship,” Dolin, the film critic, said. But the protagonists of the film, having made a deal with the devil, manage to get even.

The film flashes to the Master and Margarita in the afterlife, reunited and free. “Listen,” she says to him. “Listen and enjoy that which they never gave you in life — peace.”

For the full story, see:

Paul Sonne. “Poking The Bear Right In His Den.” The New York Times (Monday, February 19, 2024): C1-C2.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 16, 2024 and has the title “Life Imitates Art as a ‘Master and Margarita’ Movie Stirs Russia.”)

Communist Dictators Tremble When Their Subjects Lose Their Fear

(p. 13) It all began with a beauty pageant. There were multiple outfit changes, from evening gowns to bathing suits to national costumes. There were behind-the-scenes looks at the contestants’ lives. There were question-and-answer periods. And by the end of the 2023 Miss Universe competition last month, Sheynnis Palacios of Nicaragua emerged victorious.

People celebrated in Nicaragua’s streets, singing the national anthem and waving the country’s blue and white flag. It was the first time a contestant from the Central American nation of nearly seven million people had claimed the Miss Universe crown.

“It was as if someone had won the World Cup,” said Gioconda Belli, a well-known Nicaraguan poet and novelist.

Then came the government crackdown.

In what has felt like a script from a television drama, the authoritarian government claimed that the director of the Miss Nicaragua contest, which had chosen Ms. Palacios to represent the country at the global competition, was part of an “anti-patriotic conspiracy” to overthrow President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

. . .

“Ortega has a problem,” said Arturo McFields Yescas, a former Nicaraguan ambassador to the Organization of American States who resigned and denounced the Ortegas last year.

“What he can’t control, he robs or destroys,’’ he said. “The baseball or boxing champions, for example, have to pay tribute to the regime. If they don’t, they become targets. Sheynnis has something — she came from the bottom, she doesn’t owe anything to the dictatorship — and that makes her someone dangerous.”

Ms. Palacios, who grew up roughly an hour south of Managua, the capital, was raised by a single mother. While at college — which was closed by the Ortega government this year — she helped her mother make buñuelos, fried dough treats, to sell to help pay for school.

The day after Ms. Palacios won Miss Universe, the Nicaraguan government said the country was celebrating “its queen” with “legitimate pride and joy.”

But the authorities shifted their tone soon after large numbers of people took to the streets, waving the Nicaraguan flag. Public demonstrations are effectively prohibited and the government promotes the red and black Sandinista flag over the blue and white national one.

“People lost the fear,” Mr. McFields said, “and that’s the part that scared the dictatorship the most.”

For the full story, see:

James Wagner. “Once She Won Crown, Nicaragua Saw Her as a Threat.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, December 17, 2023): 13.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 16, 2023, and has the title “She Was Crowned Miss Universe. Then Her Government Cracked Down.” The online version says that the title of the print version is “Nicaragua Sees a Threat Behind a Beauty Pageant” but my national edition of the print version had the title “Once She Won Crown, Nicaragua Saw Her as a Threat.”)

Britain’s Socialized National Health Service (NHS) Stripped Parents of Control, Leaving Indi No Choice but to Die

(p. A13) Indi was born with mitochondrial disease, a degenerative condition that prevents cells from producing energy. When her parents and the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, England, disagreed over whether she should be kept on life support, the NHS turned to the courts to strip the parents of decision-making authority. The U.K. High Court agreed, overrode the parents’ wishes, and ordered life support removed.

. . .

While the NHS thought continued treatment would be futile, other experts disagreed, including at the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital. As part of its religious mission, Bambino Gesù specializes in treating children with rare diseases. Doctors there offered a treatment plan they thought could help Indi, free of charge. The Italian government even made her a citizen so that she could be airlifted from England.

. . .

For the U.K., the offer of free treatment by willing doctors ought to have been the end of the story. The government didn’t have to pay another penny. The grateful parents simply wanted the freedom to take their daughter to the experts in Rome.

Instead, the NHS went back to the same court and judge to insist it remained in Indi’s best interests to die in the U.K. The court again agreed and overrode the parents’ desire to take Indi to see the experts in Rome. The judge ordered that they could take her only to one place: to the hospice to die.

The parents had no choice but to comply. Lest they try anything else to save their daughter, the parents were sent to hospice with a security escort and police presence.

Deprived of treatment and with her parents forbidden to help her, Indi died within two days, under the watchful eye of the government that said all along it was looking out for her best interests.

For the full commentary, see:

Mark Rienzi. “Britain’s NHS Left Indi Gregory to Die.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 20, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

“Sí Se Puede”

(p. 21) A center-right candidate appeared headed to victory in Venezuela on Monday in a primary election to choose an opposition candidate to compete in presidential elections next year — a vote that could prove pivotal to the fate of a country that has endured a decade of economic crisis and authoritarian governance.

. . .

At a polling station in a parking lot in Catia, a poor neighborhood in Caracas, voters began lining up at 7 a.m. only to encounter a problem: a group of pro-government civilians was threatening to burn the cars in the parking lot if voting proceeded.

But a woman who lived nearby, Margarita Fuenmayor, offered a solution: She would lend her house as a makeshift voting station.

“My parents died without medical attention in this country,” said Ms. Fuenmayor, 52, as a crowd of voters pushed and shoved to try to enter her home. “I think we need a change.”

All the while the line of voters outside grew. As voters left, they shouted “Sí se puede” or “Yes we can.’’

In another Caracas neighborhood, tables ordered by election volunteers never arrived. Instead the workers set voting boxes on chairs that neighbors had brought out from their houses. Hundreds of people stood in line, holding umbrellas against the rain.

Jesús Abreu, 68, voted and then stayed on as a volunteer. He said he lived on a pension of about $3.70 a month.

“I am here today because we are agonizing in life,’’ he said. “The government is slowly killing us.”

Ms. Machado is a veteran politician nicknamed “the iron lady” because of her adversarial relationship with the governments of Mr. Maduro and Mr. Chávez. She is viewed by some supporters as courageous for staying in Venezuela when many other politicians have fled political persecution.

. . .

“I ask you to remember how many people believed that this was impossible and we have overcome all the obstacles, overcome the hurdles and here we are,” Ms. Machado said as she voted Sunday morning in a middle-class Caracas neighborhood.”

For the full story, see:

Isayen Herrera and Genevieve Glatsky. “Venezuelans Bet on a Challenger to Maduro.” The New York Times (Tuesday, October 24, 2023): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Oct. 23, 2023, and has the title “Maduro Antagonist on Track to Win Venezuela Primary.”)

Lower-Middle-Class Chinese Risk the Darién Gap to Seek Opportunity and Freedom in the U.S.

(p. B1) Mr. Gao said he felt he had no choice but to leave China.

“I think we will only be safe by coming to the U.S.,” he said, adding that he believed that Xi Jinping, China’s leader, could lead the country to famine and (p. B4) possibly war. “It’s a rare opportunity to protect me and my family,” he said.

A growing number of Chinese have entered the United States this year through the Darién Gap, exceeded only by Venezuelans, Ecuadoreans and Haitians, according to Panamanian immigration authorities.

. . .

Their flight is a referendum on the rule of Mr. Xi, now in his third five-year term. Boasting that “the East is rising while the West is declining,” he said in 2021 that China’s governance model had proved superior to Western democratic systems and that the center of gravity of the world economy was shifting “from West to East.”

Every immigrant I interviewed this year who passed through the Darién Gap — a journey known as zouxian, or walking the line, in Chinese — came from a lower middle-class background. They said that they feared falling into poverty if the Chinese economy worsened, and that they could no longer see a future for themselves or their children in their home country.

In Mr. Xi’s China, anyone could become a target of the state. You could get in trouble for being a Christian, Muslim, Uyghur, Tibetan or Mongolian. Or a worker who petitions for back pay, a homeowner who protests the delayed completion of an unfinished apartment, a student who uses a virtual private network for access to Instagram or a Communist Party cadre who is found with a copy of a banned book.

. . .

Another migrant I spoke with who crossed the Darién Gap, Mr. Zhong, who wanted to use only his family name for fear of retribution, has a background similar to Mr. Gao’s.

. . .

The trouble for Mr. Zhong, now in his early 30s, started last December [2022] when police officers stopped his car for a routine alcohol test and saw a copy of a Bible on the passenger seat. They told Mr. Zhong that he believed in an evil religion and tossed the Bible on the ground and stomped on it. The officers then took his phone and installed an app on it that turned out to have software that would track his movements.

On Christmas Day, four police officers broke into a home where Mr. Zhong and three fellow Christians were holding a prayer service. They were taken to the police station, beaten and interrogated.

Like Mr. Gao, Mr. Zhong came across social media posts about the Darién Gap. He borrowed about $10,000 and left home on Feb. 22 [2023].

. . .

Mr. Zhong soon moved to a town of 30,000 people in Alabama. He had grown up near Chengdu, a city of 20 (p. B5) million. Now he felt truly alone. He works at a Chinese restaurant 11 hours a day, he said, and is unwilling to take a day off. He has learned to cook General Tso’s chicken and other Chinese American dishes. The pay is much better than in China, and he can send more money home. Every Sunday, he joins an online religious service, hosted by a church in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, another community with a large population of Chinese immigrants.

He told me a joke over the phone: “Why did you go to the United States?” someone asks a Chinese immigrant. “Aren’t you satisfied with your pay, your benefits and your life?” The immigrant responds: “Yes, I’m satisfied. But in the U.S., I will be allowed to say that I’m not satisfied.”

“I can live like a real human being in the U.S.,” he said.

. . .

. . . Mr. Gao got his work permit, bought a car and started delivering packages for an e-commerce company. He makes $2 per package. The more he delivers, the more he makes.

. . .

On one Wednesday in November [2023], Mr. Gao said, he woke at 4 a.m., delivered more than 100 packages and didn’t get home until after 9 p.m.

He took the next day off. When the motorcade of Mr. Xi, who was in San Francisco for a meeting with President Biden, drove by, Mr. Gao joined other protesters on the sidewalk, chanting in Chinese, “Xi Jinping, step down!”

For the full commentary, see:

Li Yuan. “THE NEW NEW WORLD; Why More Chinese Are Risking Danger in Southern Border Crossings to U.S.” The New York Times (Monday, December 4, 2023): B1 & B4-B5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed years, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 3, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

If You Are Pained to Wait Over Two Years for Socialist Surgery in Britain, Seek Timely Free Market Surgery in Lithuania

(p. 4) For David Haselgrove, it was a battle each day to get out of bed, then another struggle to put on his socks. Stairs were often impossible, and the pain made him tetchy and difficult to live with.

But when he sought medical help for his arthritis, Mr. Haselgrove was told the wait for a specialist consultation was more than two years. It might be another two years before surgery.

“If I wasn’t the person I am, I would have been losing the will to live because the pain takes over your life,” said Mr. Haselgrove, 71, who is now fully mobile after a successful hip replacement.

His recovery has nothing to do with Britain’s National Health Service.

Instead, Mr. Haselgrove, who ran several small businesses during his working life, flew to a clinic in Lithuania to have surgery, becoming one of a growing number of Britons who have dipped into their own pockets to pay for procedures to which they are entitled free on the N.H.S.

. . .

Investment in buildings and equipment, including in vital diagnostic tools such as CT and M.R.I. scanners, has significantly lagged medical systems in other advanced economies, according to the King’s Fund, a health-focused think tank.

That contributed to a backlog of 4.6 million procedures even before the pandemic, a number that swelled to six million as planned procedures made way for emergency care during the Covid crisis. The line for treatment has only grown since. It is now about 7.7 million procedures, representing about a 10th of the population. Thousands have waited more than two years, often in pain.

Little wonder, then, that many Britons who can afford to pay to cut the line are doing so, while some of more limited means are dipping into savings or taking on debt. Yet that trend, some critics say, could undermine a health care system that has been a bedrock of British life for three-quarters of a century.

Private medical insurance is costly in Britain, and taxable when offered as a benefit by employers, so the shift is most visible when people pay for operations and other medical help out of pocket.

According to the Private Healthcare Information Network, which publishes data on the sector, there were about 50,000 “self-pay” medical admissions in a typical quarter before the pandemic. That figure is now steadily substantially higher; in the first quarter of this year, it was 71,000, close to a record.

That does not include patients who go overseas, like Mr. Haselgrove. At 7,000 euros, about $7,500, a hip replacement at the Nord Clinic in Lithuania was significantly cheaper than it would have been in a private hospital in Britain.

. . .

Britain is chronically short of health workers, with over 100,000 N.H.S. positions vacant.

. . .

. . . the deepest risk of the rise in self-pay patients, according to Chris Thomas, principal health fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, a progressive think tank, is not to the health service’s operations, but to its political underpinnings.

The British health system, he said, is built around the idea of “universalizing the best” — creating a system “as good for a rich person” as for a poor one, Mr. Thomas said.

If wealthier people increasingly opt out, Mr. Thomas said, the N.H.S. will become a second-class system for those who cannot afford to do so, resulting in “a slow erosion of support.”

For the full story, see:

Stephen Castle. “Long Wait Lists Threaten U.K. Promise of Free Care.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, December 10, 2023): 4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 9, 2023, and has the title “Britons Love the N.H.S. Some Will Also Pay to Avoid It.”)

Long Waits for Italian Cabs Due to Regulations Limiting More Cabs and Ride-Sharing

(p. A4) Returning to Rome from Naples one Monday afternoon in June [2023], a train trip that takes just over an hour, Daniele Renzoni said that he and his wife waited for more than an hour and a half at Termini station for a cab under a blazing sun.

“Just image a long line of grumbling, frustrated people, complaining, cursing. Hot day, angry tourists, there’s not much else to say,” said Mr. Renzoni, who is retired. “Taxi drivers will tell you there’s too much traffic, too many requests, too much everything, but the fact is, the customer pays.”

The situation is “a disgrace to Italy,” said Furio Truzzi, president of the consumer rights group Assoutenti, one of several associations that protested the shortage.

. . .

Thanks to the taxi lobby, ride-sharing services are almost nonexistent in Italy, where Uber is the only platform in use, with many restrictions.

The government lost an opportunity for real change, said Andrea Giuricin, a transportation economist at a research center at the University of Milan Bicocca. He said the best way to meet consumer needs would be to increase the number of licenses for Italy’s chauffeur services, known as N.C.C., which work with Uber.

“It’s very difficult in Italy” because “there isn’t a culture of liberalization in general,” creating little opportunity for competition, said Professor Giuricin. Taxis “are a small but powerful lobby” that easily influences politics, “which is very weak” in Italy, he said.

Angela Stefania Bergantino, a professor of transportation economics at the University of Bari, pointed out that previous governments had tried to open up the taxi market. But they failed.

“The problem is that taxis are regulated by municipal governments, which can find themselves captive in the sense that it is difficult for City Hall to implement policies that the cab lobby doesn’t like,” she said. “These are lobbies that have effective strike tools,” like wildcat strikes or traffic blockages that can paralyze entire cities, she said.

. . .

Above all, though licenses are issued by the city, they can then be sold by the drivers, for sums that can reach 250,000 euros, or about $276,000, depending on the city — a retirement nest egg for many. With an influx of new licenses, the value of an existing license would depreciate.

City administrators fear cabbies could revolt and strike if the status quo changes. “If I decide to issue new licenses,” said Eugenio Patanè, Rome’s city councilor in charge of transportation, “I’m going to find 1,000 taxis blocking traffic in Piazza Venezia,” the downtown Rome square that taxi drivers habitually clog while protesting.

For the full story, see:

Elisabetta Povoledo. “Getting a Cab in Italy Is Hard. But Remedying That Isn’t Easy.” The New York Times (Friday, August 11, 2023): A4.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 10, 2023, and has the title “Getting a Taxi in Italy Is Too Hard. Fixing That Is Not Easy.”)

Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) Buys Foreign Sunscreens Not Approved by U.S. Government F.D.A.

(p. 2) After months of prompting, I have finally managed to help my husband form a daily sunscreen habit. Whenever I see traces of paper white cream in his dark beard, I think, We’re halfway there.

Hoping to avoid the white cast, heaviness and greasiness common in many sunscreen products available in U.S. drugstores, some Americans, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have taken matters into their own hands, opting for sunscreens manufactured abroad. In a recent interview, the congresswoman said she toggled between Bioré in the summer and Beauty of Joseon in the winter — two Asian brands that employ active ingredients not approved for use in the United States.

“The technology is very sophisticated,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. “You don’t feel like you have a layer of sunscreen on, and it kind of just feels like you’re putting on a moisturizer in that sense, which makes it easier to use.”

While sunscreen is regulated as a cosmetic in major skin-care hubs like South Korea, Japan and the European Union, in the United States, it falls under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration. Any drug product marketed to American consumers must be approved by the F.D.A., and because sunscreen “makes a drug claim” — namely, that it can prevent sunburn, decrease the risk of skin cancer and mitigate early skin aging — the agency regulates it as an over-the-counter drug.

The last time the Food and Drug Administration approved new active ingredients for use in sunscreens was more than two decades ago, and at times it can feel as if the rest of the world has surpassed the United States in the development of new sunscreen formulations and protocols. Skin-care influencers on TikTok and Instagram are in a near-constant state of frenzy over exciting new products and innovations that are nowhere to be found on American shelves. Currently there are 14 sunscreen filters approved for use by the F.D.A. The European Union employs more than 30.

Frustrated by what seems to be a wealth of more exciting options for sun protection overseas, skin-care-conscious Americans have been quick to point the finger at the F.D.A. for the delay in approving new active ingredients.

For the full story, see:

Sandra E. Garcia. “U.S. Sunscreen Is Stuck in the ’90s.” The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sunday, August 13, 2023): 2.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 12, 2023, and has the title “U.S. Sunscreen Is Stuck in the ’90s. Is This a Job for Congress?”)

Chinese Communists Suspend Release of Record High Youth Unemployment Rate

(p. B1) The Chinese government, facing an expected seventh consecutive monthly increase in youth unemployment, said Tuesday [Aug. 15, 2023] that it had instead suspended release of the information.

The unemployment rate among 16- to 24-year-olds in urban areas hit 21.3 percent, a record, in June and has risen every month this year. It was widely forecast by economists to have climbed further last month.

The decision to scrub a widely watched report could exacerbate the concerns expressed by investors and executives who say ever-tightening government control of information is making it harder to do business in China.

Fu Linghui, a spokesman of the National Bureau of Statistics, said at a news briefing that the government would stop making public employment information “for youth and other age groups.” He said the surveys that government researchers use to collect the data “need to be further improved and optimized.”

China’s youth unemployment rate has doubled in the last four years, a period of economic volatility induced by the “zero Covid” measures imposed by Beijing that left companies wary of hiring, interrupted education for many students, and made it hard to get the internships that had often led to job offers.

The announcement drew more than 140 million views on the Chinese social media site Weibo within a few hours. Many people (p. B3) commenting online, some turning to sarcasm, said they believed the government suspended the report to try to hide negative information. Others said they believed the public had the right to be informed.

. . .

Young people in China are facing a big gap between labor demand and supply. According to official data, 11.6 million students were expected to graduate college or university this year — the most ever and nearly one million more than last year. Future classes are expected to be even larger, while economic growth had started to slow even before the pandemic.

. . .

Even becoming an entry-level civil servant working for the government is harder these days. Last year, a record 2.6 million people applied to take the national civil service exam to compete for only 37,100 entry-level positions.

Xi Jinping, the country’s top leader, has called for young people to go to remote areas to find work — to “eat bitterness,” a Chinese expression that refers to enduring hardship.

For the full story, see:

Claire Fu. “China Scraps Jobs Report On the Young.” The New York Times (Wednsday, August 16 2023): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 15, 2023, and has the title “China Suspends Report on Youth Unemployment, Which Was at a Record High.”)

Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) Rallied with Poor Hispanic Entrepreneurs Who Were Shut Down by Government Regulators

(p. A21) Until last week, Corona Plaza in Queens was bustling: taqueros flipping fresh tortillas and vendors hawking Central American crafts over a soundtrack of cumbia and train traffic. There were produce stands, live bands and surging crowds, all in a public square that was named one of the 100 best places to eat in the city.

But last Thursday [Aug. 3, 2023] and Friday [Aug. 4, 2023], sanitation workers swept through the plaza, removing several stalls and threatening to penalize vendors who did not have a city permit to operate — nearly all of the more than 80 who regularly work there. In the days since, the grilled-meat stands and jugs of agua fresca have been replaced with protest signs.

It was the latest escalation in the city’s tense relationship with the plaza merchants — most of them immigrant women, many of them undocumented — who have helped revive one of the New York neighborhoods hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

. . .

The City Council passed a law in 2021 mandating the release of another 445 food vendor permits every year for a decade, but the rollout has been slow.

There are 10,195 food vendors on the waiting list, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which manages the applications. The agency has issued just 104 of the new licenses so far, and only four of the recipients have completed all the steps needed to sell food legally.

Ms. Calle is one of the few vendors at the plaza who has a permit — but only because she rents it from a third party for $16,000 a year, a prohibited but widespread practice.

Even so, Ms. Calle decided to close her stall this week, in solidarity with her neighbors.

“I know how hard it is” for new vendors, she said in Spanish, recounting how she had been arrested four times in 23 years for various permitting violations.

While few merchants at the plaza own the hard-to-obtain permits, most of them, including Ms. Calle, pay taxes on sales, and hold a license that certifies they have taken a food safety course.

At the rally at the plaza on Wednesday [Aug. 2, 2023], the dispersed merchants were joined by elected officials including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Donovan Richards, the Queens borough president, . . .

. . .

Nearly 4,000 people, most of them locals, have signed a petition in support of the vendors.

The plaza, once an underused service road near 103rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue, was redesigned in 2012 as a public square.

When the pandemic hit the surrounding neighborhood of Corona — harder than almost anywhere else in the United States — the plaza became an economic and cultural hub for recovering workers, said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, the deputy director of the Street Vendor Project.

For the full story, see:

Stefanos Chen and Raúl Vilchis. “Their Food Is Hailed; They Want the Right to Sell It.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, August 6, 2023): A21.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 5, 2023, and has the title “They Make Some of New York’s Best Food. They Want the Right to Sell It.” Where there are minor differences in wording between the print and online versions, the passages quoted above make use of the online wording.)

“Proud Symbol of Britain’s Welfare State” in “Deepest Crisis of Its History”

(p. A1) As it turns 75 this month, the N.H.S., a proud symbol of Britain’s welfare state, is in the deepest crisis of its history: flooded by aging, enfeebled patients; starved of investment in equipment and facilities; and understaffed by doctors and nurses, many of whom are so burned out that they are either (p. A6) joining strikes or leaving for jobs abroad.

Interviews over three months with doctors, nurses, patients, hospital administrators and medical analysts depict a system so profoundly troubled that some experts warn that the health service is at risk of collapse.

. . .

(p. A6) More than 7.4 million people in England are waiting for medical procedures, everything from hip replacements to cancer surgery. That is up from 4.1 million before the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020.

Mortality data, exacerbated by long wait times, paints a bleak picture. In 2022, the number of excess deaths rose to one of the highest levels in the last 50 years, and those numbers have kept rising, even as the pandemic has ebbed.

In the first quarter of 2023, more than half of excess deaths — that is, deaths above the five-year average mortality rate, before the pandemic — were caused by something other than Covid-19. Cardiovascular-related fatalities, which can be linked to delays in treatment, were up particularly sharply, according to Stuart McDonald, an expert on mortality data at LCP, a London-based pension and investment advisory firm.

For the full story, see:

Mark Landler. “After 75 Years, Health Service In U.K. Teeters.” The New York Times (Monday, July 17, 2023): A1 & A6-A7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 16, 2023, and has the title “A National Treasure, Tarnished: Can Britain Fix Its Health Service?”)