Omicron Origins, Barbados Reborn, Messi’s 7th

South Korean authorities have reimposed an entry ban on foreign travellers from eight African countries, to prevent the spread of the new COVID variant

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Jane Herbelin

👋 Tashi delek!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Barbados is finally fully independent, we learn more about the origins of the Omicron variant and Santa gets a boyfriend in Norway. Chilean-based business magazine America Economia also looks at how airlines are reconfiguring cabins and enlarging seats in hopes of boosting a recovery in air travel.

[*TIbetan]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Barbados leaves behind British rule: After renouncing the British Queen, Barbados has become the world’s youngest republic, putting an end to almost 400 years of colonial rule. Sandra Mason, a lawyer and politician, was sworn in as the Caribbean Island’s first president. A firm believer in regional unity, Mason has previously shared her dreams of a Caribbean version of the European Union.

• COVID update: More information about the origins of the variant is being revealed, with new data from the Netherlands showing that Omicron was present in the European Union a week earlier than thought. The European Medicines Agency has said vaccines adapted to the new COVID-19 variant could be approved within three to four months. Meanwhile, China vows to carry on with plans for the Winter Olympics, slated to begin in February, despite the changing pandemic outlook.

• Landmark report on sexual harassment in Australian Parliament: One in three workers in Australia's federal parliament said they have experienced sexual harassment while on the job. The report was commissioned after a former staffer said she was raped by a colleague. Some 51% of the more than 1,700 staffers interviewed said they had experienced some form of bullying or harassment, with 63% of female parliamentarians reporting having experienced sexual harassment.

• UK intel chief warns China, Russia racing to master AI: The chief of MI6, Britain’s foreign spy service, Richard Moore, warned that China and Russia are “pouring money” into technological advances to master artificial intelligence in a way that could revolutionize geopolitics over the next decade, posing a threat that needs to be addressed by democratic powers.

• Leaked papers link Uyghur crackdown to top China leadership: Excerpts have been put online from previously unpublished documents directly linking top Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping, to the state's crackdown on Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang province. According to analysts, the documents show that former government leaders called for measures that led to mass detention and forced labor. China has consistently denied committing genocide against Uyghurs.

• Twitter CEO resigns: The eccentric head of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, has left the social media app that he co-founded. During his tenure (his second stint as CEO), Dorsey focused on accelerating revenue growth and made waves for his decisions around free speech on the platform, most notably banning President Donald Trump following the U.S. Capitol riots.

• “Gay Santa” ad goes viral in Norway: Norway’s national postal service Posten has released a four-minute ad titled “When Harry Met Santa,” depicting Santa Claus in a same-sex relationship, to celebrate 50 years since the country decriminalized homosexuality.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Argentine daily Crónica celebrates soccer superstar Lionel Messi who has now claimed a record “siete” (seven) Ballon d’Or awards despite the most turbulent year of his career and his departure from Barcelona after 11 seasons to join the PSG team. FC Barcelona midfielder Alexia Putellas was awarded the women's Ballon d'Or award.

💬  LEXICON

Panthéonisée

Late American-born actress, dancer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker will receive one of France’s highest honors today when her remains are placed inside the Panthéon mausoleum in Paris, alongside other greats like Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie. Baker, who joined the French resistance during World War II, is the first Black woman and first performer to receive Panthéon honors, a.k.a. be panthéonisée.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Premium-economy pivot? Airlines adjust seat size, hope for travel rebound

Airlines are eyeing premium economy seating options to woo money-conscious business class travelers, and possibly weary economy passengers, back to air travel, reports René Armas Maes in business magazine America Economia.

✈️ Changes in business travel patterns are clearly evident today because the way people work has changed for good. Thus airlines must be flexible and adapt, especially when a significant change in passenger demand is expected. By way of reference, full-service airlines (i.e. airlines that offer full services and higher prices, unlike low-cost airlines) generate 70% of their revenues and 50% of their traffic from the business travel sector. Indeed business travelers are the lucrative sector that directly assures profitability for these airlines.

💺 Today, changing travel patterns have already led to airlines offering new products and reconfiguring cabins. In Europe, Lufthansa Airlines has premium economy cabins in more than 100 long-haul planes and plans to expand this product in 2022. Premium economy cabins are nothing new, and began years before the coronavirus pandemic. But the pandemic-induced crisis in passenger demand has given them a boost.

💰 Premium economy can help airlines maximize revenues both during and beyond the pandemic, and help widen profit margins as part of a varied strategy that includes passenger segmentation, profiling and loyalty. The concept works in both directions. Business travelers may well want to "downgrade" to a less costly service, which remains more comfortable than economy class. Also, many economy travelers may well be ready to pay a little more for better services offered in premium economy.

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📣 VERBATIM

Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty, may you continue to shine like a diamond.

— Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said in a speech when declaring the pop singer Rihanna a national hero during the country’s celebration of becoming a republic. In 2018, Rihanna was appointed by the government of Barbados as an ambassador of education, tourism and investment. Her new role comes with the title of “The Right Excellent.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Jane Herbelin

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Geopolitics

The New Iraq, Signs Of Hope Amid The Rubble And Reconstruction

How do you rebuild a country decimated by four decades of war and embargoes? Following the withdrawal of the U.S. military, Iraq faces many challenges, from oil revenues captured by the militias and endemic corruption to religious segregation. However, there are glimmers of hope for the country's future.

Street scene in Erbil, Iraq

Théophile Simon

BAGHDAD — With a vast office located at the top of a tower fiercely guarded by the army and a bell to call the staff, Khalid Hamza Abbas is obviously a powerful character, decked out in an impeccable suit. Abbas runs the Basra Oil Company (BOC), the national company responsible for the exploitation of the oil fields in the province of Basra, in the very south of Iraq, from which four million barrels of crude oil flow daily. It’s the equivalent of 4% of world demand and 65% of central government revenue concentrated in a region of only four million inhabitants.

As he explains the profit-sharing scheme between the world’s major oil companies and his public enterprise, the 50-year-old with thin glasses is suddenly stopped dead in his tracks by the ringing of his telephone. He tries a joke to mask his suddenly worried face: "I'm going to ask you to leave my office for a few moments. If I haven't called you back in 10 minutes, call the police."

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