Five U.S. states had coronavirus infections even before first reported cases

By Mrinalika Roy

(Reuters) -At least seven people in five U.S. states were infected with the novel coronavirus weeks before those states reported their first cases, a large new government study showed, pointing to the presence of the virus in the country as early as December 2019.

Participants who reported antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 were likely exposed to the virus at least several weeks before their sample was taken, as the antibodies do not appear until about two weeks after a person has been infected, the researchers said.

The positive samples came from Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and were part of a study of more than 24,000 blood samples taken for a National Institutes of Health research program between Jan. 2 and March 18, 2020.

Of the seven samples, three were from Illinois, where the first confirmed coronavirus case was reported on Jan. 24, while the remaining four states had one case each. Samples from participants in Illinois were collected on Jan. 7 and Massachusetts on Jan. 8.

The data suggests that the coronavirus was circulating in U.S. states far from the initial hotspots and areas that were considered the virus’ points of entry into the country, the study noted.

The data also backs a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that suggested the virus may have been circulating in the United States well before the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed on Jan. 19, 2020.

“This study allows us to uncover more information about the beginning of the U.S. epidemic,” said Josh Denny, one of the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The United States has so far reported 33.6 million cases, according to a Reuters tally.

The infections were confirmed using two antibody tests, which were granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Philippines again suspends scrapping of troop pact with U.S. amid China dispute

By Karen Lema and Idrees Ali

MANILA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Philippines has again suspended a decision to scrap a crucial agreement governing the U.S. troop presence in the country, its foreign minister said on Monday, amid continuing maritime pressure from China.

The Pentagon welcomed the announcement from Manila – the third suspension of the decision covering the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that had been due to expire in August – but analysts said there would be disappointment in both countries that it was not renewed.

Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin said the suspension would be for a further six months while President Rodrigo Duterte “studies, and both sides further address his concerns regarding, particular aspects of the agreement.”

The Philippines is a U.S. treaty ally and several military agreements are dependent on the VFA, which provides rules for the rotation of thousands of U.S. troops in and out of the Philippines for war drills and exercises.

Having the ability to rotate in troops is important not only for the defense of the Philippines, but strategically for the United States when it comes to countering China’s increasingly assertive behavior in the region.

“The Department welcomes the government of the Philippines’ decision to again suspend termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

“We value the Philippines as an equal, sovereign partner in our bilateral alliance. Our partnership contributes not only to the security of our two nations, but also strengthens the rules-based order that benefits all nations in the Indo-Pacific.”

MARITIME TENSIONS

Greg Poling, a maritime security expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said there would be frustration in Washington and most of the Philippine government.

“It isn’t the worst possible scenario, obviously, but Philippine officials were really signaling that they were confident they had reached a deal Duterte would get on board with, and instead everyone has to remain in limbo for at least another six months,” he said.

Poling said he did not think there was any substantive issue holding up an agreement.

“It is now as simple as Duterte doesn’t seem to want it, but everyone else does. If he won’t reverse course but he also doesn’t want to waste political capital on an unpopular decision heading into election season, then kicking the can down the road is his preferred option.”

Duterte told Washington last year he was cancelling the deal amid outrage over a senator and ally being denied a U.S. visa, but he has repeatedly suspended the expiration date.

The latest suspension comes at a time of continued tensions between Manila and Beijing over disputed waters in the South China Sea and a U.S. announcement last week that the Philippines would be among countries that would receive millions of COVID-19 vaccines it is donating.

Ties between Washington and its former colony have been complicated by Duterte’s rise to power in 2016 and his frequent condemnation of U.S. foreign policy and embrace of China, which has nevertheless continued to pressure his country’s maritime boundaries.

Manila has repeatedly protested what it calls the “illegal” and “threatening” presence of hundreds of Chinese “maritime militia” vessels inside its exclusive economic zone.

Jose Manuel Romualdez, Manila’s ambassador to Washington, told Reuters this month the VFA had been revamped to make it “acceptable” and “mutually beneficial” to both countries.

Manila has in the past been unhappy about issues such as a lack of jurisdiction over U.S. personnel who commit crimes in the Philippines and environmental damage during maritime drills.

(Reporting by Karen Lema in Manila; additional reporting by Idrees Ali and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson)

U.S. COVID-19 deaths cross painful 600,000 milestone as country reopens

By Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) – The United States has now lost over 600,000 mothers, fathers, children, siblings and friends to COVID-19, a painful reminder that death, sickness and grief continue even as the country begins to return to something resembling pre-pandemic normal.

A bride forced by the pandemic to have a Zoom wedding is planning a lavish in-person anniversary celebration this summer, but all of the guests must attest they are vaccinated.

A Houston artist, still deep in grief, is working on a collage of images of people who died in her community. Others crowd theaters and bars, saying it is time to move on.

“There will be no tears – not even happy tears,” said Ali Whitman, who will celebrate her first wedding anniversary in August by donning her gown and partying with 240 vaccinated friends and family members in New Hampshire.

COVID-19 nearly killed her mother. She spent her wedding day last year with 13 people in person while an aunt conducted the ceremony via Zoom.

“I would be remiss not to address how awful and how terrible the past year has been, but also the gratitude that I can be in a singular place with all the people in my life who mean so much to me,” said Whitman, 30.

The United States passed 600,000 COVID-19 deaths on Monday, about 15% of the world’s total coronavirus fatalities of around 4 million, a Reuters tally shows.

The rate of severe illness and death has dropped dramatically as more Americans have become vaccinated, creating something of a psychological whiplash that plagues the millions whose lives have been touched by the disease. Many are eager to emerge from more than a year of sickness and lockdown, yet they still suffer – from grief, lingering symptoms, economic trauma or the isolation of lockdown.

“We’ve all lived through this awful time, and all of us have been affected one way or another,” said Erika Stein, who has suffered from migraines, fatigue and cognitive issues since contracting COVID-19 last fall. “My world flipped upside down in the last year and a half – and that’s been hard.”

Stein, 34, was active and fit, working as a marketing executive and fitness instructor in Virginia outside Washington, D.C., before the initial illness and related syndrome known as long-COVID ravaged her life.

Like many, she has mixed feelings about how quickly cities and states have moved to lift pandemic restrictions and re-open.

‘FOR MY FAMILY, THERE IS NO NORMAL’

In New York, social worker Shyvonne Noboa still cries talking about the disease that ravaged her family, infecting 14 out of 17 relatives and killing her beloved grandfather, who died alone in a hospital where they could not visit him.

She breaks down when she goes to Target and sees the well-stocked aisles, recalling the pandemic’s depths, when she could not find hand sanitizer to protect her family.

“New York City is going back to quote-unquote ‘normal’ and opening up, but I can assure you that for my family there is no normal,” said Noboa, who lives in Queens, an early epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. She is vaccinated but still wears a mask when she is out, and plans to continue doing so in the near future.

In Houston, artist Joni Zavitsanos started looking up obituaries of people in Southeast Texas who had died in the pandemic’s early days, reading their stories and creating mixed-media memorials displaying their names and photographs. Around each person she painted a halo using gold leaf, an homage to the Byzantine art of the Greek Orthodox church she attends.

Zavitsanos has now created about 575 images, and plans to keep going, making as many as she can, each portrait on an eight-by-eight-inch piece of wood to be mounted together to form an installation. Her brother and three adult children contracted COVID-19 and recovered. A very close friend nearly died and is still struggling with rehabilitation.

Chris Kocher, who founded the support and advocacy group COVID Survivors for Change, urged sympathy and support for people who are still grieving.

“We’re being given this false choice where you can open up and celebrate, or you need to be locked down in grief,” he said. “Let’s be thankful that people are getting vaccinated, but let’s also acknowledge that going back to normal is not an option for millions of Americans.”

One way to acknowledge the toll that COVID-19 has taken is to incorporate the color yellow into celebrations and gatherings, or display a yellow heart, which for some has become a symbol of those lost to the disease, he said.

The bittersweet mix of grief at the pandemic’s toll with relief brought by its ebb was clear at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on Thursday, where Stephanie Aviles and her family waited for a cousin to arrive from Puerto Rico.

Aviles, 23, lost two close friends to the virus, and her father nearly died. And yet, here she was, greeting family she had not been able to see for 15 months as the pandemic raged.

“I’m grateful, but it’s a lot,” she said. “It’s a strange feeling to be normal again.”

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

U.S. inflation will accelerate if recovery stays on track: Kemp

By John Kemp

LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. consumer prices are rising at the fastest rate for several years, as the economy recovers from the coronavirus recession and manufacturing supply chains struggle to keep up with demand.

But the rate of inflation is still being flattered by the relatively modest increase in energy prices, masking the impact of faster increases in food products and other commodities.

If energy prices rise further in the second half of 2021 and into 2022, as the expansion matures, inflation could prove more persistent than anticipated by officials at the Federal Reserve.

The U.S. consumer price index has increased at a compound annual rate of 2.55% over the last two years, the fastest for more than eight years, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But energy prices have risen at an average rate of only 2.20% over the same period, which uses 2019 rather than 2020 as a baseline to avoid distorted comparisons caused by the first wave of the epidemic last year.

Prices for non-energy items have increased at a rate of 2.59%, the fastest for more than 12 years since the financial crisis of 2008/09.

Inflation has accelerated most sharply in the goods sector, where manufacturers have struggled to meet the surge in demand, especially for motor vehicles and consumer electronics.

As a result, prices for merchandise other than food and energy are increasing at the fastest rate since the early 1990s.

INFLATION OUTLOOK

U.S. central bank officials have said they believe the acceleration will prove temporary, with price increases slowing in 2022 and 2023.

But inflationary pressures normally intensify as a business cycle becomes longer and more capacity constraints emerge.

It would be unusual for inflation to slow as employment rises, manufacturing capacity becomes more fully utilized and service sector output increases.

The relationship between inflation and the business cycle is often obscured because the cycle is presented as if it exists in only two states: recession and expansion.

The two-state model is a simplification. In fact, the rate of growth is highly variable; recessions are only the most pronounced slowdowns.

The long boom between 1991 and 2001 was almost derailed by a sharp mid-cycle slowdown in 1998/99 caused by the East Asia financial crisis, Russian debt default and failure of the Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund.

The expansion between 2001 and 2007 lost momentum in its early stages and threatened to stall in 2002/2003, prompting the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates again to try to entrench the recovery.

During the expansion of 2009 to 2020, a similar early-recovery stall occurred between 2010 and 2012, prompting the Fed to launch further rounds of bond buying.

Later in the same expansion, there was an even more serious mid-cycle slowdown (in effect an undeclared recession) in 2015/16, which contributed to the populist revolt and election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.

Experience suggests inflationary pressures are only likely to abate if the recovery threatens to stall or enters a mid-cycle slowdown.

If the U.S. economy avoids both in 2022/23, inflation will accelerate further and necessitate a tightening of monetary policy earlier than the central bank has indicated.

(Editing by Catherine Evans)

U.S. drops sanctions on former Iranian officials, step called routine

By Arshad Mohammed and Daphne Psaledakis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States said on Thursday it had removed sanctions on three former Iranian officials and two companies that previously traded Iranian petrochemicals, a step one U.S. official called routine but that could show U.S. readiness to ease sanctions when justified.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the U.S. official said that the moves by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) were unrelated to efforts to revive Iranian and U.S. compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“Today, OFAC and the Department of State are also lifting sanctions on three former Government of Iran officials, and two companies formerly involved in the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of Iranian petrochemical products,” the Treasury said in a statement.

It said the delisting reflected “a verified change in behavior or status” of those sanctioned and “demonstrate the U.S. government’s commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of (such) a change.”

A Treasury spokesperson said the three individuals had established “that they are no longer in their positions within entities affiliated with the Government of Iran,” adding there was no reason to maintain sanctions on them.

The oil market briefly plunged after being spooked by media reports suggesting sanctions were lifted on Iranian oil officials, showing the potential impact of additional Iranian barrels if a deal is struck and sanctions lifted. [O/R]

U.S. and Iranian officials are expected to begin their sixth round of indirect talks in Vienna this weekend about how both sides might resume compliance with the nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Under the deal, Iran limited its nuclear program to make it harder to obtain fissile material for atomic weapons in return for relief from U.S., EU and U.N. sanctions.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, arguing it gave Tehran too much sanctions relief for too few nuclear restrictions, and reimposed sanctions that slashed Iran’s oil exports.

Iran retaliated about a year later by violating the limits on its nuclear program.

U.S. President Joe Biden hopes to negotiate a mutual return to compliance, a task that requires defining the nuclear limits Iran will accept, the U.S. sanctions to be removed, and how to sequence these.

Asked about the talks, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters: “We’ve made progress, but, and you’ve heard this before; challenges do remain, and big issues do continue to divide the sides.”

The Treasury statement did not name the three former Iranian officials or the two companies dropped from its sanctions lists.

However, on its website, OFAC said it removed three men from one of its sanctions lists: Ahmad Ghalebani, a managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company; Farzad Bazargan, a managing director of Hong Kong Intertrade Company, and Mohammad Moinie, a commercial director of Naftiran Intertrade Company Sarl.

OFAC said it removed some sanctions on Sea Charming Shipping Company Limited and on Aoxing Ship Management Shanghai Limited.

“This is just a decision by Treasury in the normal course of business – nothing to do with JCPOA,” said the U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity, describing it as the “regular process of delisting when (the) facts so dictate.”

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed and Daphne Psaledakis; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis; Writing by Arshad MohammedEditing by Chris Reese and Marguerita Choy)

Moderna files for U.S. authorization to use its COVID-19 vaccine in teens

(Reuters) – Moderna Inc said on Thursday it has filed for U.S. authorization to use its COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents aged 12 through 17, potentially offering healthcare providers and pediatricians an easier-to-store shot ahead of the return-to-school season in the fall.

The company is the second drugmaker to seek regulatory nod for use of its vaccine in the age group, as the U.S. tries to vaccinate more young people.

Vaccinating children has been considered key to achieving “herd immunity” and while they mostly develop only mild COVID-19 symptoms or no symptoms, younger people still remain at risk of becoming seriously ill, and can spread the virus.

Moderna’s vaccine is already being used in the United States, the European Union and Canada for anyone over 18. The drugmaker said it has also submitted applications to European and Canadian regulators seeking authorization for the shot’s use in adolescents.

Last month, Moderna’s two-shot vaccine was shown to be effective in adolescents aged 12-17 and showed no new or major safety problems in a clinical trial which evaluated the vaccine in 3,732 teenagers.

The U.S. has already authorized Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in children as young as 12.

More than 7 million teens have received at least one dose of the vaccine in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Shounak Dasgupta)

EU, U.S. to end steel tariffs, urge progress into COVID origins, summit draft says

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union and the United States are set to commit at a summit in Brussels next week to ending their transatlantic trade disputes, and to call for progress on a new study into the origins of COVID-19, according to a draft communique.

The seven-page draft, seen by Reuters, aims to show concrete results of the “new dawn” hailed by EU leaders when U.S. President Joe Biden took over from Donald Trump in January.

The draft, which was discussed by EU ambassadors on Wednesday, commits to ending a long-running dispute over subsidies to aircraft makers before July 11, and to lifting steel tariffs imposed three years ago by December.

Despite pressure by U.S. steel industry groups to keep the “Section 232” national security tariffs imposed by Trump, the draft said: “We commit to work towards lifting before 1 December 2021 all additional/punitive tariffs on both sides linked to our steel and aluminum dispute.”

Biden will meet the European Union’s chief executive, Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President Charles Michel, who represents EU governments, and will also pledge to promote international cooperation to tackle global warming.

The EU and the United States are the world’s top trading powers, along with China, but Trump sought to sideline the EU.

After scotching a free-trade agreement with the EU, the Trump administration focused on shrinking a growing U.S. deficit in goods trade. Biden, however, sees the EU as an ally in promoting free trade, as well as fighting climate change and ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID ORIGINS

At the Brussels summit, both sides will agree to cooperate on China policy and also call for a new study into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the draft said.

“We call for progress on a transparent, evidence-based and expert-led WHO-convened phase 2 study on the origins of COVID-19, that is free from interference,” the draft said.

The two prevailing theories are that the virus jumped from animals, possibly bats, to humans, or that it escaped from a virology laboratory in Wuhan. Members of a WHO team that visited China this year to investigate COVID-19’s origin said they were not given access to all data, fueling the debate.

However, EU diplomats made it clear that the EU’s support to Biden on the virus origins is mostly symbolic.

“We, the EU, are not going to launch our own probe,” one EU diplomat said. “We are not anti-China”.

“The EU doesn’t have intelligence services, and we are not going to try to do this origins search through our member states agencies,” a second EU diplomat said. “The Americans can still talk to European services in member states, but we are not going to get involved.”

Despite the caveats, if agreed the joint stance on China will be a boost for the Biden administration, which seeks friends to stand up to Beijing but has said it will not force any ally to choose sides.

In a concession to the EU, the draft makes no mention of Biden’s proposals for vaccine patent waivers to boost global production. Instead it pledges to reduce U.S. export restrictions and promote voluntary transfer of technologies.

But the task of fully inoculating the world is expected to be a long one. The text says that the United States and the EU “aspire to vaccinate at least two-thirds of the world’s population by the end of 2022”. In other words, as many as 2.5 billion people in the world may not get a shot before 2023.

EU states have until now tried to maintain a strategic balance that avoids alienating either China or the United States.

But China’s military expansion, its claims to sovereignty in most of the South China Sea, and the mass detentions of Muslim Uyghurs in northwestern China have shifted the mood in Brussels.

“We intend to closely consult and cooperate on the full range of issues in the framework of our respective similar multi-faceted approaches to China, which include elements of cooperation, competition, and systemic rivalry,” the draft said.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Oil rises on expectation that Iranian supply won’t return soon

By Stephanie Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Oil prices edged higher on Tuesday after the top U.S. diplomat said that even if the United States were to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, hundreds of U.S. sanctions on Tehran would remain in place.

That could mean additional Iranian oil supply would not be re-introduced into the market soon.

“I would anticipate that even in the event of a return to compliance with the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), hundreds of sanctions will remain in place, including sanctions imposed by the Trump administration,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Brent crude rose 39 cents to $71.88 a barrel, a 0.6% gain. U.S. West Texas Intermediate oil rose 51 cents to $69.74 a barrel.

“Blinken is looking at the reality of the situation and saying even if we do get a deal, there’s a long way to go,” said Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. “All those people expecting a flood of oil are going to be disappointed.”

Barriers to the revival of Iran’s nuclear deal remain ahead of talks due to resume this week between Tehran and world powers, four diplomats, two Iranian officials and two analysts said.

In China, data showing China’s crude imports were down 14.6% in May on a yearly basis weighed on futures.

Crude prices have risen in recent weeks, with Brent up by nearly 40% this year and WTI gaining even more, amid expectations of demand returning as some countries succeed in vaccinating populations against COVID-19.

Restraint on supply by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies has also helped buttress prices.

Meanwhile, U.S. crude inventories have been drawing down and were forecast to drop for a third straight week, analysts said in a poll ahead of industry data from the American Petroleum Institute at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT), followed by the government’s report on Wednesday.

“The fundamental environment on the oil market remains favorable: fuel demand is recovering strongly not only in the United States, but also in Europe following the (partial) lifting of restrictions,” Commerzbank said.

There are still questions about the demand recovery’s trajectory.

In Britain, one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, there are now doubts that the country will lift all coronavirus-related restrictions as previously planned on June 21.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York; additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar and Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Jason Neely)

Colonial Pipeline CEO tells Senate cyber defenses were compromised ahead of hack

By Stephanie Kelly and Jessica Resnick-Ault

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Colonial Pipeline Chief Executive Joseph Blount told a U.S. Senate committee on Tuesday that the company’s cyber defenses were in place, but were compromised ahead of an attack last month.

The hearing was convened to examine threats to critical infrastructure and the Colonial Pipeline cyber attack that shut the company’s major fuel conduits last month.

The hack, attributed by the FBI to a gang called DarkSide, caused a days-long shutdown that led to a spike in gasoline prices, panic buying and localized fuel shortages. It posed a major political headache for President Joe Biden as the U.S. economy was starting to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senators questioned whether Colonial was sufficiently prepared for a ransomware attack and the company’s timeline for responding to the attack. Some suggested Colonial had not sufficiently consulted with the U.S. government before paying the ransom against federal guidelines.

Colonial did not specifically have a plan for a ransomware attack, but did have an emergency response plan, Blount said. The company reached out to the FBI within hours of the cyber attack, he said.

“We take cybersecurity very seriously,” Blount said. Still, he said the attack occurred using a legacy VPN (Virtual Private Network) system that did not have multifactor authentication in place.

He said the system was protected with a complex password. “It wasn’t just Colonial123,” he said.

Blount said he made the decision to pay ransom, made the decision to keep the payment as confidential as possible because of concern for security.

“It was our understanding that the decision was solely ours to make about whether to pay the ransom,” he said.

However, he said even after getting the key, the company is still continuing to recover from the attack and is currently bringing back seven finance systems that have been offline since May 7, he said.

The Justice Department on Monday said it had recovered some $2.3 million in cryptocurrency ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline.

Colonial Pipeline previously had said it paid the hackers nearly $5 million to regain access. The value of the cryptocurrency bitcoin has dropped to below $35,000 in recent weeks after hitting a high of $63,000 in April.

Bitcoin seizures are rare, but authorities have stepped up their expertise in tracking the flow of digital money as ransomware has become a growing national security threat and put a further strain on relations between the United States and Russia, where many of the gangs are based.

(Reporting By Stephanie Kelly and Jessica Resnick-AultEditing by Marguerita Choy)

Giant drone sculpture menaces New York City, with intent

By Aleksandra Michalska

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A giant, white sculpture of a drone has appeared 25 feet (7.6 m) over Manhattan’s High Line park, unnerving New Yorkers – which was the creators’ intention.

Sam Durant, the artist behind the fiberglass “Untitled (drone),” said the work was designed to “remind the public that drones and surveillance are a tragic and pervasive presence in the daily lives of many living outside – and within – the United States.”

The white sculpture of the predator drone stands out against the blue summer skies, appearing to hover over 10th Avenue, and rotating on its pole when pushed by the wind.

“What we want to do with High Line Art is to bring to the public not just beautiful artworks, but also thought provoking artworks that can generate conversations,” said Cecilia Alemani, chief curator of High Line Art, which sponsored Durant’s work.

California resident Ariella Figueroa said the drone made her think about the future.

“It’s the same technology that we were using in Iraq and Afghanistan 10, 12 years ago that is now handheld and anyone can buy,” said Figueroa. “It’s a little intimidating, a little scary, especially here in New York City.”

(Reporting by Aleksandra Michalska, Writing by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Marguerita Choy)