FEZ – It is the fourth stage of the Tour du Maroc bicycle race, and we are somewhere between Guercif and Fez.
Since this morning, the wind has not stopped sweeping this stretch of road, and the cyclists with it. Everyone is pedaling in slow motion, at about 15 kilometers per hour. Some of the cyclists can’t even pedal straight – zigzagging, almost falling into the ditch or hitting cars… a press motorcycle falls on its side.
The wind is getting worse, blowing harder and harder, to the point where it is even ungluing the advertising stickers from the publicity caravans.
The pack is angry – some cyclists go to the president of the jury, Eduardo Margiotta, an Italian, to ask him to cancel the fourth stage. Unthinkable! Forty minutes after the start of the stage, the peloton pack cyclists get off their bikes. “This wind is becoming dangerous,” says race front-runner, Mathieu Perget from France. “No, it is not dangerous,” answers Margiotta.
The problem is: two runners have made a breakaway, and the pack is losing precious minutes while the fugitives are making headway. “Let's catch up to them,” says Perget. The cyclists – 16 amateur teams – are back on the road, faster than ever. But, 20 minutes later, the wind is back. The peloton stops again, the organizers are furious. The riders want to finish the stage in their technical directors’ cars. “If you go back to the cars, hand in your bib and go home,” yells Margiotta.
Even the president of the Royal Moroccan Cycling Federation, Mohammed Belmahi is starting to get annoyed – but keeps smiling. He goes to a Spanish cyclist: “Are you here for tourism?” – “No,” answers the young man. “Get back to it, then,” says Belmahi. The race stops for a long time. Nobody seems to want to resume. Margiotta proposes a solution: placing car in front of the pack so that cyclists are protected from the wind.
Everyone gets back on their bicycles, riders hugging the cars. It is colder and colder – the temperature drops from 17° Celsius to 13°. Thirty-five minutes later, it starts raining. The whole pack stops and runs to shelter in an abandoned house. The president of the jury is furious: “This is not possible! It is not professional!”
A pack of tourists
Belmahi, hiding under a plastic poncho, starts making fun of the “tourists” who have come to Morocco for its sun. “It's a race... wind, rain... it's cycling, it's all ok” he says. But no one is listening. “These armchair cyclists are lazy, all they want to do is eat,” he says, smiling, before shouting: “Come on, couscous and tagine for everybody!”
It is utter chaos. Moroccan journalists are holding up microphones and filming the declarations of the various Tour du Maroc managers. “Ricardo! Ricardo! Where is Ricardo?” asks Belmahi, before finding out that the president of the jury is actually called Eduardo.
The pack refuses to leave and Margiotta threatens to rip the bib off the most recalcitrant cyclists. It doesn’t work and the cyclists get on the bus for Fez. The idea is to stop 60 kilometers before the finishing line and to resume the race. “The organizers are doing their best, but the cyclists are not reasonable,” says Margiotta. “Enough with the tourists,” says Zlatica Valachova, the coordinator of the Slovakian national team.
Everybody gets back on the road, in a convoy escorted by police. They drive quickly, so quickly that the truck transporting the bikes crashes. A few wheels and handlebars are twisted; the fourth stage is definitely cancelled. The French front-runner is happy, so are the others. Back to the hotel, couscous and tagine for everyone.
Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.
[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.
• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.
• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.
• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.
• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.
• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.
• Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
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.
⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: 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. 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
.🛃 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.
✈️ 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.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."
— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.
📈💥 IN OTHER NEWS
Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians
The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:
⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.
☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.
🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.
Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com
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