CHINA AND RUSSIA TO U.S.: CAREFUL ON KOREA
In a joint press brief today, China and Russia urged the U.S. not to put a new missile defense system on the Korean peninsula in response to recent North Korean muscle-flexing and weapons testing, Reuters reports. The U.S. and South Korea had opened talks on expanding defense capabilities on the peninsula after Pyongyangâ€™s repeated testing of long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. Beijing fears that the presence of more U.S. hardware on its doorstep will further tip the balance of power in the Pacific towards Washington. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that a new deployment of U.S. weaponry in South Korea risked escalating simmering tensions.
KOREAN AMERICAN SENTENCED IN N. KOREA
In the latest conviction of a foreigner for crimes against the state, North Korea's Supreme Court sentenced 62-year-old Korean American Kim Dong Chul to 10 years of hard labor for subversion today, North Korea Times reports. North Korea has detained Americans in the past to extract high-profile visits from the U.S. Six foreigners, including Kim and three South Koreans, are known to be detained in the North.
â€" ON THIS DAY
Itâ€™s already been five years since that wedding. You know which. Time for your 57-second of history!
CLASHES AT TRUMP RALLY
Some 20 people were arrested as clashes erupted outside a rally for Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump last night in Southern California. CNN reports that several injuries were also reported and police vehicles damaged in the violence in the city of Costa Mesa.
VIOLENCE BREAKS OUT OVER FRENCH REFORM
Photo: Stephane Mahe/Reuters/ZUMA
Some two dozen police officers were injured and more than 120 people arrested in France during the early hours this morning as violence broke out on the fringes of nationwide protests against proposed labor reform. Some 170,000 workers and students took to streets demanding that the government withdrawal a bill that included measures to make it easier to fire and lay off employees, Le Monde reports.
7.3 QUAKE HITS SOUTH PACIFIC ISLAND
A magnitude-7.3 earthquake hit the coast of the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu 1,100 miles northeast of Australia this morning local time, news.com.au reports. No serious damages have so far been reported and the governmentâ€™s initial tsunami warning has been canceled.
â€" MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
Cool Like The Romans â€" Tivoli, 1968
IRAN URGES UN TO INTERVENE AFTER U.S. COURT RULING
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote a letter to United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon yesterday, asking him to push Washington to reverse a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that could send $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets to American victims of terrorist attacks blamed on Tehran. Zarif's appeal comes amid increasing Iranian frustration over the U.S., to keep its promises regarding sanctions relief agreed to under the historic nuclear deal struck last year by Iran and six other states last year.
U.S. HIGH COURT EXPANDS FBI HACKING POWER
The U.S. Supreme Court approved a hotly contested rule change yesterday that would let judges issue search warrants for access to computers located in any jurisdiction, Tech Crunch reports. The new rules â€" that have faced opposition from civil liberties groups who say it will greatly expand the FBI's hacking authority â€" will take effect by Dec. 1 unless rejected or modified by Congress.
As part of our Rue Amelot essay series, São Paulo- born travel writer and journalist Alex Correa writes about what itâ€™s like to be a Good Samaritan completely lost in translation in the Czech Republic: â€œI became the hero of two helpless Japanese girls standing in the middle of the sidewalk with gigantic suitcases. Or at least I tried to. They were trying to make sense of their city map. But when people don't even know they're holding the map upside down, you know it's going to be a slog for them.
I came closer, but they completely ignored me. When I finally offered to help, I was sprayed with a series of piercing â€˜no no no no no no no no no nos.â€™ ... They were only moving further away, each time a little faster, while I was trying to give my best rendition of â€˜it's not what you're thinking.â€™ Thanks for nothing, pop culture.â€
Read the full essay, A Brazilian Superman, Lost And Homeless In Prague.
â€" MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH
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FORMER NAZI GUARD EXPECTED TO SPEAK IN GERMAN COURT TODAY
A 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard on trial in Germany is expected to break his silence today when his statement is read by his lawyers in court, Die Welt reports. The defendant Reinhold Hanning has so far not said a word during the trial that started early February over accusations of accessory to the murder of 170,000 people.
FROM NSA TO EDM
American whistleblower Edward Snowden and French electronic music icon Jean-Michel Jarre have joined forces for a techno track called â€œExitâ€ â€" which also happens to be what youâ€™ll be looking for if you watch expand=1] the video.
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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