MIGRANT BOAT SINKS OFF LIBYA
More than 200 people are feared to have drowned off the Libyan coast after two boats sank early Thursday, the BBC reports. The Libyan coast guard said it had rescued some 200 from the two separate boats carrying some 450 people in total . The victims are said to include people from Syria, Bangladesh and several sub-Saharan African countries.
- The UN refugee agency said today that 300,000 refugees and migrants had already crossed the Mediterranean this year, compared to 219,000 for the whole of 2014. More than 2,500 have died trying to reach Europe, the UNHCR said.
- News of this latest migrant sea tragedy comes after officials in Austria discovered 71 people who had suffocated to death in a truck in a failed attempt to immigrate into Europe. For more, see our Extra! feature.
BORDER TENSIONS RISING BETWEEN VENEZUELA, COLOMBIA
Venezuela and Colombia have recalled their ambassadors amid growing tensions between the two countries following a smuggler attack last Friday in western Venezuela that left three Venezuelan troops and a civilian injured, El Universal reports. Since then, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has closed the border and started to deport hundreds of Colombians living in Venezuela. But according to Colombian newspaper El Espectador, thousands more are fleeing the country to return to Colombia, crossing the Tachira river that separates the two countries, before the Venezuelan National Guard reaches them.
ASIAN STOCKS RALLY
Asian stocks rallied for a second consecutive day, following strong gains in the U.S. and in China yesterday after a dismal start of the week, Reuters reports. The Shanghai Composite index soared by 4.8%, but shares still ended the week 7.8% lower than they started on â€œBlack Monday.â€ Crude oil prices also continued to rise after their biggest one-day rally in six years yesterday.
ON THIS DAY
On Aug. 28, 52 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. â€œhad a dream.â€ Get ready for your 57-second shot of history.
Facebook has reported that a record 1 billion people used the social network on a single day for the first time. The milestone reached Monday means almost one in seven people on the planet logged on to the website on the same day. â€œItâ€™s just the beginning of connecting the whole world,â€ Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg declared.
NESTLÃ‰ ACCUSED OF SUPPORTING SLAVE LABOR
Swiss food giant NestlÃ© is being sued in the U.S. over allegations that its Fancy Feast cat food contains fish from a Thai supplier that uses slave labor. â€œBy hiding this from public view, NestlÃ© has effectively tricked millions of consumers into supporting and encouraging slave labor on floating prisons," Steve Berman, a lawyer for the four plaintiffs, said after filing the class action in Los Angeles federal court. Read more from Bloomberg.
With ISIS terror reigning in Palmyra, where treasured Roman ruins are at risk, Le Tempsâ€™ Boris Mabillard reflects on a fascinating â€" if less ancient part â€" of its history: â€œThis is the Zenobia Cham Palace Hotel, named after the queen who ruled the city for a short time from the year 267, following her husbandâ€™s assassination. Legend has it that Zenobia, the â€˜Warrior Queen,â€™ defied Rome by striking her own coins. The single-story hotel, built in 1924, is located along the original site of ancient Palmyra and the building bears the same grey, yellow and ochre colors as the famous ruins. A small colonial-style parapet is the only thing separating the terrace, where a few palm trees provide shade, from the vast fields of legendary ruin. A magical perspective on the iconic Temple of Bel, the agora, the old gates, the Great Colonnade.â€
Read the full article, Seduction And Sedition Haunt A Different Palmyra Landmark.
LENDERS AGREE UKRAINE DEBT-RELIEF
The hedge funds holding part of Ukraineâ€™s foreign debt have agreed to cut 20% of the $18 billion owned by Kiev, a move that the countryâ€™s Finance Minister described as a â€œwin-win situationâ€ despite seeking a 40% write off, The Guardian reports. The months-long war in eastern Ukraine has made an already tricky economic situation worse, sending the countryâ€™s debt through the roof. As tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine remain high, Polandâ€™s defense minister Tomasz Siemoniak announced yesterday the eastern European country would host U.S. heavy weaponry from mid-2016.
â€œThe rumor Iâ€™m trying to start right now is that Justin Gatlin paid him off,â€ Usain Bolt joked after a cameraman on a Segway ran over a bolt (oh sweet irony), lost control of the scooter and swept the Jamaican champion off his feet, moments after he won the 200m final.
MY GRAND-PÃˆREâ€™S WORLD
BRAVE NEW WORDS
Itâ€™s this time of year again, and an awesomesauce list of new words has just been added to Oxford Dictionaries. So try not to have a brain fart as you read this and donâ€™t rage-quit if you fail to understand this new lingo. Weâ€™d be butthurt.
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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