ITâ€™S CRUZ IN IOWA, CLINTON BY A HAIR
In a humiliating upset for Donald Trump, evangelical Tea Party hero Sen. Ted Cruz won Iowaâ€™s all-important GOP caucus with 28% of the vote last night, to Trumpâ€™s 24%. On the Democratic side, major media outlets are still characterizing the Hillary Clinton/Bernie Sanders matchup a â€œvirtual tie.â€ Clinton looks to be ahead by the narrowest of margins â€" 49.9% to 49.5% with 99% of precincts reporting. Now all eyes turn to next weekâ€™s New Hampshire primary.
- â€œTonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and all across this great nation,â€ Vox quoted Cruz as saying in his victory speech.
- Trump, who said he still expected to win the Republican nomination, said he was â€œjust honored.â€
- â€œIt is rare that we have the opportunity we do now to have a real contest of ideas,â€ Clinton said, adding she was breathing a â€œbig sigh of relief.â€
- â€œNine months ago, we came to this beautiful state, we had no political organization, we had no money, we had no name recognition, and we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the United States of America,â€ an overwhelmed Sanders said.
- See how todayâ€™s front page of New Yorkâ€™s Daily News mocks Trump.
â€œSooner or later, I think the dam is going to burst,â€ Jordanâ€™s King Abdullah tells the BBC about the influx of refugees there, characterizing the situation as reaching a â€œboiling point.â€ Jordan has welcomed refugees from neighboring war-torn countries for decades. Syrians fleeing their country now make up almost 20% of Jordonâ€™s population, but only 1% of them have work permits. King Abdullah, who also said 25% of the countryâ€™s budget was being spent on helping refugees, stressed the need for more international funding if Jordan is going to accept more refugees.
RIO OLYMPICS WILL GO ON DESPITE ZIKA
Augustâ€™s Olympic Games in Brazilâ€™s Rio de Janeiro will â€œgo aheadâ€ despite the devastating mosquito-borne Zika virus, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said yesterday, Reuters reports. Bach added that conditions will be good for athletes and spectators to attend the event. This came just after the World Health Organization declared the virus an international public health emergency, The Guardian reports. Last week, the WHO said the Zika virus, suspected of causing microcephaly in babies, was â€œspreading explosively" and could infect as many as 4 million people in the Americas.
The French far-right National Front party is currently able to garner a majority of votes among the working class, but not among the middle class or senior executives, Jean-Marc Vittori writes for Les Echos. â€œIf a National Front victory in 2017 isnâ€™t the likeliest prospect, it should not, however, be ruled out entirely,â€ he continues. â€œItâ€™s actually not difficult to imagine how it could happen.â€
Read the full article, The Perfect Storm That Could Lead To A Le Pen Presidency.
SYRIA TALKS ENTER SECOND DAY
Syria peace talks in Geneva entered a second day today after opposition representatives and UN diplomats gathered on Monday. â€œWe are starting officially the Geneva talks,â€ UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said yesterday, following humanitarian demands by the main Syrian opposition bloc, Al Jazeera reports. Syrian government representatives are expected there this morning, and the opposition in the afternoon.
- Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that Syrian government forces and their allies made significant advances in a major offensive that could cut insurgent supply lines between the northwestern city of Aleppo and the Turkish border.
- An ISIS suicide bomber killed at least 18 Iraqi soldiers today when he detonated his car in the town of Al-Bu Dhiaab, north of Ramadi, which was recently liberated from the terrorist organization.
Photo: Liu Dawei/Xinhua/ZUMA
At least 100,000 Chinese travellers are stuck in Guangzhouâ€™s main railway station during their journeys home for the Chinese Lunar New Year festivities that begin Feb. 8.
NEW MUSLIM CARTOON CAUSES UPROAR
A cartoon of an early 20th century Senegalese Muslim leader has sparked a nationwide uproar, with the vignette criticized by civilians and political leaders alike. The Paris-based African news magazine Jeune Afrique published a cartoon of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, founder of the Mouride Brotherhood, last week in which a passing Westerner asks why the traditionally robed leader is â€œwearing a dress.â€ The magazine formally apologized for the caricature over the weekend and removed it from the website, though it is still visible on the cartoonistâ€™s Twitter profile. The caricature poked fun at ongoing controversy in Senegal over men carrying handbags, a new fashion trend pioneered by the young singer Wally Seck. Read more in English.
ON THIS DAY
James Joyce, Shakira and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Weâ€™ve got â€™em all in todayâ€™s shot of history.
For the first time in 24 years, more people are migrating from Australia to New Zealand than vice versa (25,273 vs. 24,504 in 2015), according to Statistics NZ. Itâ€™s the highest net gain of Australians moving to New Zealand since 1991. The two countries have an agreement allowing most citizens to work and live in either country, and the rise is being explained by New Zealandâ€™s economic and political stability.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
GOOGLE OVERTAKES APPLE
Googleâ€™s parent company Alphabet has become the worldâ€™s most valuable company after announcing that its global revenues rose by 13% last year, Forbes reports. This means that Apple, which had been holding the title since dethroning Microsoft in 2010, has now been deposed too.
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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