WHILE YOU SLEPT

Germany Tests Turkey, Cancer Vaccine Breakthrough, King Tut’s Dagger

SPOTLIGHT: WHY ARMENIAN GENOCIDE MATTERS NOW

As the country responsible for the Holocaust, Germany understands better than others the importance of acknowledging and atoning for the wrongs in your past. But today, German lawmakers will confront another country’s historical crime, as a debate opens on a resolution that would officially qualify the 1915 mass deportations and killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as a genocide.


As Deutsche Welle reports, passage of the resolution is sure to anger Turkey, which refuses to acknowledge the term “genocide.” The timing could hardly be more sensitive. Germany is relying on Ankara to fulfill its part in a controversial deal to stem the influx of migrants into the European Union via Turkey. Leaders in Turkey have warned that a vote in favor would damage the “diplomatic, economic, business, political and military relations.” Turkey’s newly appointed prime minister, Binali Yildirim, said the vote “will amount to a real test of the friendship” between the two countries. Meanwhile Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that Turkish immigrants and their offspring inside Germany, the country’s largest minority, would view recognition of the Armenian genocide “like a punch in the face.”


Many, including Deutsche Welle’s editor, believe History should be left to historians â€" or at least to the incriminated country. But the issue here is also political. Chancellor Angela Merkel herself has come under heavy criticism for seeming to bow to Turkish pressure in the country's decision to prosecute a German comedian who insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. So perhaps the vote is also a way for Germany to stand up to an increasingly authoritarian Turkey. But just how strong would that message be? Merkel, despite expressing support for the resolution, will not be attending the vote.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY



MOGADISHU HOTEL ATTACKED

At least 16 people were killed and 55 wounded in a car bomb and gunfire attack on a hotel in the center of Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu, Al Jazeera reports. Two lawmakers were killed in the attacks, carried out by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist group al-Shabaab. The assailants were shot dead by police.


VERBATIM

“If you're going to choose a place to die, then Mars is not a bad choice,” SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk said during yesterday’s Code Conference. He announced plans to send a human mission to Mars in 2024, with an arrival time in 2025.


â€" ON THIS DAY

God has been saving the Queen for the past 63 years … Check it out, and more, on today’s 57-second of history.


SAUDI ARABIA INVESTS BIG IN UBER

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has invested $3.5 billion in Uber. It’s the biggest cash influx the company valued at $62.5 billion has received so far from a single investor.


FORT MCMURRAY EVACUEES RETURN AFTER WILDFIRE

The thousands of people who had to evacuate their homes in Fort McMurray are returning to their wildfire-ravaged city, welcomed by a series of new, encouraging billboards, CBC reports.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

In Brazil, hard numbers clash with claims that 45 million people were rescued from poverty during the Lula-Dilma years. For Folha de S. Paulo, Clóvis Rossi writes about both Brazilians’ distrust of the past and anxiety for the future: “If the legacy of a party that rhapsodized about defending the poor is a country where more than 73 million people live below the poverty line, then what will happen now that the new one-note samba is about curbing public spending?”

Read the full article here, The Truth About Lula And Dilma’s Record On Poverty


11%

A YouGov poll published by the Huffington Post France shows President François Hollande’s approval rating at a record-low of just 11%. There is growing debate inside Hollande’s Socialist party about whether he should step aside for the next presidential election in favor of another candidate.


BREAKTHROUGH FOR “UNIVERSAL CANCER VACCINE”

Scientists have made a “very positive” step towards the creation of a “universal cancer vaccine,” according to a study published in Nature. The technique involves injecting genetic code, which can be programmed for any cancer, into the body’s own immune system and tell it to fight against tumors.


MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

The Painter’s Village â€" Ornans, 2002


TUTANKHAMUN’S SPACE DAGGER

Egypt’s boy king Tutankhamun was buried with a dagger that was made of space iron, scientists found.


â€" MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH

TUNNEL VISION

It took the Swiss 17 years to build the world’s longest rail tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel that was inaugurated yesterday â€" and it’ll take us about 17 years of therapy to forget the expand=1] opening show. Warning: contains dancers in underwear, alphorns, goat men, and yodeling.

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Future

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

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.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

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.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

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 airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

commons.wikimedia.org

Hygiene rankings  

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.

Smoother check-in

​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.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

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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