SPOTLIGHT: BRITISH BREAKUPS AFTER BREXIT
Whatever the result, last Thursdayâ€™s referendum was always going to leave Britain deeply divided. It was also bound to divide the UKâ€™s major political parties, whose leaders now face the daunting task of both negotiating the best possible exit deal and bringing the country together, avoiding, if possible, a breakup of the United Kingdom itself.
The clear victory for the Brexit side has already cost Prime Minister David Cameron his job. But as former London Mayor Boris Johnson â€" a Cameron rival and leader of the Leave camp â€" looks to muscle into the Conservative Party leadership, it may be the reverberations on Britainâ€™s main opposition Labour party that may wind up being harder to resolve. And the more internal strife in the UK, the harder it will be to negotiate its exit from the European Union. What we are set to witness may be more than just a major, messy divorce, but a series of messy divorces.
- OPPOSITION IN DISARRAY The leader of the opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, was forced to appoint a new shadow cabinet this morning after at least 12 members left their top party roles over the weekend, in the wake of the Brexit result. A number of Labour MPs are blaming Corbyn for the partyâ€™s failure to convince Labour voters to back the Remain campaign. Thought to be more eurosceptic that euro-enthusiast, the 67-year-old leftist had been challenged by more centrist Labour members since his surprising election in September 2015. Corbyn so far resisted calls to resign in what The Guardian is describing as a â€œcoup.â€
- PETITIONS A petition to demand a second referendum, with stricter rules, has garnered more than 3.6 million signatures, but at least some of the signatures are fraudulent. Another petition wants to make London independent.
- SCOTTISH BLOCKADE Scotlandâ€™ First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterated threats to hold a new referendum for Scottish independence from the UK. She also said that the Scottish parliament could veto the UKâ€™s exit from the European Union.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- European leaders discuss Brexit fallout, amid concerns other countries might leave the EU.
- U.S. Supreme Courtâ€™s end-of-term decisions.
- Wimbledon tennis championship begins.
SPANISH VOTE DELIVERS HUNG PARLIAMENT, AGAIN
Amid Brexit turmoil, voters seemed to have backed away from insurgent political forces in favor of the relative security of conservatism: Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoyâ€™s People's Party (PP) won the most seats in Spain's parliamentary elections yesterday, a blow to anti-austerity party Podemos. But it is again unclear if Rajoy can form a ruling coalition. See how daily La Voz de Galicia featured Rajoy and his wife on its front page today.
FRENCH PM OPPOSES TTIP
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said yesterday that â€œthere can be no transatlantic treaty,â€ in another blow to the controversial TTIP free trade agreement at a time when the European Commission is urging European leaders to support the negotiations, Les Échos reports.
â€" ON THIS DAY
From Korea to Tony Blair and the â€œBattle of Berne,â€ hereâ€™s your 57-second shot of History!
â€œThe pope is on no crusade,â€ the Vatican said in response to accusations from Turkey, after Pope Francis used the word â€œgenocideâ€ to describe the killings of 1.5 million Armenians a century ago. The pontiff also said gays, and other people the Church marginalized, deserved an apology.
CHINA AND RUSSIA STRENGTHEN TIES
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin signed more than 30 trade deals, with a particular focus on energy, as the two countries reinforced their ties in Beijing, the South China Morning Post reports. The two leaders also slammed the U.S. for its â€œunilateral deployment of anti-missile systems all over the world.â€
FindFace, a revolutionary facial recognition tool made in Russia, makes it possible to instantly identify an attractive stranger or petty criminal. But it could also provide states with new ways to monitor their citizens' activities. From Moscow, Emmanuel Grynszpan writes for Le Temps: â€œA few days after FindFace went viral, Russia's online trolls came out in full force. A group of anti-pornography advocates started using the app to reveal the real identity of hundreds of young Russian women who posed nude in videos or magazines, or prostituted themselves on the internet. Some went even further by harassing the young women and their families on VK, with numerous Russian media outlets covering the ensuing controversy.â€
Read the full article, Anonymity Killer, Russian App Takes Facial Recognition Mainstream.
ICELAND HAS A NEW PRESIDENT
Gudni Johannesson, a 47-year-old historian new to politics, won Icelandâ€™s presidential election amid anger at political elites after the revelations of the Panama Papers. â€œThe last few weeks have been unforgettable. Life changing, and in the best possible way,â€ Johannesson said.
Norway has set up a new record for the worldâ€™s tallest Midsummer bonfire, at 47.4 meters â€" 155.5 feet.
Iraqi forces have recaptured the city of Fallujah, more than two years after it fell into ISISâ€™ control and after a month-long operation, Al Jazeera reports. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the liberated city yesterday and urged all Iraqis to â€œget out and celebrate.â€
MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
A Mayan Line â€" Tulum, 1989
SINGAPORE PLANE CATCHES FIRE
A Singapore Airlines plane burst into flames this morning after an emergency landing at the city-state's Changi Airport. All passengers are safe despite the scare.
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MESSI MISSES, RETIRES FROM INTERNATIONAL SOCCER
After missing a penalty that saw Argentina lose the Copa America at the hands (or, rather, feet) of Chile, five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi announced he wouldnâ€™t play for his national team anymore. After Brexit, another Messi adios?
Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.
It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.
More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.
But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:
Cleaner aviation fuel
The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.
While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.
Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.
In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.
Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.
High-flying ambitions for the sector
Hydrogen and electrification
Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.
One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.
Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.
New aircraft designs
Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.
International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.
The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.
Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airportcommons.wikimedia.org
Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.
The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.
Data privacy issues
However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.
Auckland Airport, New Zealand
The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?
At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.
Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.
40% of Swedes intend to travel less
According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.
At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.
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