WHILE YOU SLEPT

Syria, Stakes Of A Fragile Ceasefire

A photograph of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, covered in dust and blood after an Aug. 17 airstrike in the Syrian city of Aleppo wrenched our hearts, and reminded us that the country’s civil war is not just some geopolitical football. Omran was lucky to survive. Tens of thousands of other children have not, including Omran’s own 10-year-old brother, Ali.


It’s not clear if the recent one-week-long ceasefire negotiated between the U.S. and Russia is driven more by geopolitics or the recent burst of public empathy for the likes of Omran and Ali. Nonetheless, beginning last night, Syrian government troops were supposed to stop bombing certain rebel-held areas and humanitarian aid was finally due to reach the many civilians in need. In turn, rebels were supposed to cut off their affiliation with militants formerly linked to al-Qaeda.


But just a few hours after the ceasefire was slated to start, government helicopters reportedly dropped barrel bombs on an Aleppo neighborhood and troops shelled a route intended for humanitarian aid, The Washington Post reports. Syrian media loyal to the government accused rebels of attacking a southern province. Still, according to UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, there were no civilian casualties in the first 15 hours of the truce.


In a better world, the haunting image of Omran’s face, one eye wounded shut, would lead directly to a lasting negotiated settlement in Syria. We hold no illusions that the real world doesn’t work quite that way. But if even temporary ceasefires can’t hold, the empathy that Omran inspired is bound to be another victim of this endless war.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY



SHOW OF FORCE IN KOREA

Two U.S. B-1 bombers flew over South Korea today in a show of force and solidarity with Seoul after North Korea's nuclear test last week, Reuters reports.


â€" ON THIS DAY

Everybody’s favorite moustachioed plumber turns 31 today! That, and more, in your 57-second shot of history.


AUSTRIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION UNGLUED

Austria’s government confirmed yesterday that the rerun of this year’s presidential election would be postponed to Dec. 4, due to problems with faulty glue in the envelopes provided for postal votes. Interior Minister, Wolfgang Sobotka, took the decision after envelopes arrived at counting stations already open, and thus invalid, The Guardian reports.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Detox? Schmetox, according to Swiss daily Le Temps’ Julie Rambal: “Online, the word demonstrates magical properties in attracting readers with such headlines as: ‘10 Delicious Detox Water Recipes To Cleanse Your Body’, ‘Top detox diets’, ‘Cleanse Your Body With These Detox Teas’, and ‘Want To Lose Weight & Cleanse Your System? Try A Birch Sap Detox’. Women's magazines have even started talking about a jet black ‘detox ice cream’ made out of ‘black coconut ash’ and set to become the latest summer trend in New York.

Gian Dorta, a doctor at Lausanne University Hospital, is annoyed by the detox trend.

‘These detox things mark the return of charlatanism,’ she says. ‘We have absolutely no need for detoxification since the human body does it itself with the liver and the kidneys, which are dedicated elimination organs.’”

Read the full article, That Pure Marketing Scam We Call Detox.


POTENTIAL MH370 DEBRIS IN MADAGASCAR

Several pieces believed to be from missing flight MH37O were recovered in southeastern Madagascar and handed to Australian officials for verification, The Australian reports. The Boeing 777 is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014 with 239 passengers and crew on board.


THREE TERROR SUSPECTS ARRESTED IN GERMANY

Three Syrian nationals aged 17, 18 and 26 were arrested in a series of pre-dawn raids in the German states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony on suspicion of belonging to terror group ISIS. According to a statement from Germany's Federal Public Prosecutor's office quoted by Deutsche Welle, the three men had come to the country in November with the intention of "carrying out a previously determined order from ISIS or to await further instructions."


â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Stars And Strifes â€" Philadelphia, 1990


$3.5 MILLION

That’s the record prize money netted by the men's and women's singles champions, Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka and Germany’s Angelique Kerber, at this year’s US Open tennis championship.


MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH

ARGENTINA’S FIELD OF SKY

The world’s second largest meteorite â€" weighing 68,000 pounds â€" has been discovered about 500 miles northwest of the Argentine capital Buenos Aires. The area where it was found â€" rightly called “Campo del Cielo” meaning the “Field of the Sky” â€" was hit by a meteor shower 4,000 years ago. The largest known meteor remains Hoba, a massive piece of iron of about 110,000 pounds, discovered in Namibia a century ago.

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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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