Welcome to Thursday, where Libya’s prime minister survives an assassination attempt, Belarus and Russia start joint military drills and a Republican congresswoman spills her gazpacho. Fasten your seatbelts, we’re also looking at the world of private jet travel, a means of transportation that soared during the pandemic.
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• Russia military drills with Belarus: Belarus and Russia started ten days of joint military drills on Thursday, as tensions remain high over the Kremlin’s buildup of forces along Ukraine’s borders. Moscow has said the aim of the exercises is to “practice suppressing and repelling external aggression.” Around 3,000 Russian troops are believed to be in Belarus, which according to NATO marks the biggest Russian deployment to the ex-Soviet territory since the Cold War. On a visit to NATO’s headquarters, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the Ukraine crisis has entered its “most dangerous moment” as the threat of a war looms.
• COVID update: The U.S. plans to begin the distribution of COVID-19 shots for children under the age of 5, as early as Feb. 21, according to the U.S. Centers for DIsease Control and Prevention. Paris banned a French “Freedom Convoy” of hundreds of motorists protesting against COVID-19 restrictions from entering the capital city. Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Jonhson outlined plans to lift all domestic COVID-19 restrictions in England within weeks, including the legal requirement to self-isolate.
• Libyan Prime Minister survives assassination attempt: Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah survived an assassination attempt in Tripoli, after gunmen fired on his car as we was returning home early Thursday. The attack came amid intense rival factions over control of the government.
• Church sex abuse panel in Portugal reports first 200+ cases: A lay committee investigating historic child sex abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church announced it had received allegations from 214 people throughout its first month of work.
• Olympics drug controversy: The 15-year-old Russian superstar figure skater Kamila Valieva has turned up for training as usual Thursday morning at the Winter Olympics, despite having tested positive for a banned substance. The International Olympic Committee had announced that the medal ceremony for the figure skating event had been suspended. Meanwhile, Austrian Johannes Strolz bounced back from being dropped from his team to winning the gold medal in the men's Alpine combined event on Thursday, following in his father’s footsteps.
• Space storm destroys 40 of Space X’s Starlink satellites: Elon Musk's company SpaceX confirmed that a solar storm had destroyed most of the Starlink satellites it launched last Friday, with 40 of its 49 satellites expected to fall back to earth.
• Pro Trump representative confuses the Gestapo with gazpacho soup: Controversial Republican U.S. congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene triggered a wave of viral jokes on Wednesday as she accused Democratic leaders of “gazpacho” tactics on Capitol Hill. She apparently confused Hitler’s secret police with the popular Spanish cold tomato soup …
Canadian daily Ottawa Citizen devotes its front page to the “Freedom Convoy” protests that have paralyzed Ottawa’s city center for more than a week. What started as demonstrations against mandatory vaccinations for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada border has grown into broader dissent against the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The leader is demanding an end to the protests, which have forced some factories to shut down due to the blockade of Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge on the border.
The South Korean curling team known as the “Garlic Girls” (마늘 소녀들, maneul sonyeodeul), a nod to the iconic produce of their region, starts competing at the Beijing Winter Olympics today in a round-robin match against Canada. The team had gained fame with its first Olympic gold medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games, before prompting debates about the mistreatment of athletes in South Korea, when its members denounced their coaches’ harsh training and abuse nine months later.
How the pandemic spread private jet travel beyond the super-rich and powerful
Once the reserve of the super-rich and famous, private jet travel soared during the pandemic. Amid border closures and travel restrictions, private charter flights are sometimes the only option to get people — and their pets!? — home.
✈️ During the pandemic, a surprisingly wide demographic have turned to private jets not because it was a luxury they could afford, but out of desperation, trying to reach a destination in the face of border closures and widespread flight cancellations. Last year, private jet hours were close to 50% higher than in 2020, according to the Global Business Aviation Outlook. While some of the increase can be attributed to more travel in 2021 because of COVID-19 vaccination, it still amounts to 5% more hours than before the pandemic.
🐶 More than just saving time through skipping security lines and long waits at airports, flying private jets also lets the super wealthy, and those desperate enough to break the bank, sidestep other regulations. As part of its zero-COVID policy, Hong Kong has severely limited flights. High cargo rates for animals and flight cancellations are making it very hard for pet owners to leave the island taking their furry friends along. Those desperate enough are spending upwards of $25,665 to privately charter themselves and their pets. Many are pooling their resources to share in the cost.
🧳 In Morocco, private jets were the only way for many to enter the North African kingdom after it suspended all air travel from Nov. 29 until Feb. 7 due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Close to 6,000 Moroccans were stuck abroad. In this case, many weren’t looking for a luxurious travel experience but were just desperate to return to their home country. Traveling in groups was one way to decrease the expense, to as low as $1,400 per passenger for a flight from Europe, but for some this still means relying on family support or finding other ways to raise money.
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“I didn't kill anyone, and I didn't hurt anyone. Not even a scratch.”
— Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the ISIS cell that targeted Paris in the 2015 attacks, has denied killing or hurting anybody during the trial of the attacks that left 130 people dead. Adbeslam said he supported the Islamic State of Iraq but chose at the last minute not to detonate his explosives, though prosecutors believe his suicide belt malfunctioned. The French-Moroccan is the only defendant, among 20, to be directly accused of murder and hostage taking.
The Enigma, a 555.55 carat black gem believed to be the world's largest cut diamond, has sold for $4.3 million in an online auction. The gem, known as a “carbonado,” is an extremely rare billion-year-old black diamond which contain osbonite, a mineral found only in meteors — meaning it could originate from space.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin
Garlic curling and gazpacho on the menu? Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!
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Misguided arguments about air conditioning's environmental impact are stopping people from installing systems in homes and offices. But in the age of solar power, there's no need to stew in your own sweat "for the sake of the planet."
BERLIN — The maps on TV weather reports were a glowing swathe of red. As the summer heatwave took hold in Germany, the country experienced record temperatures, with the mercury rising to over 35 °C in many places.
Every year, this time sees a fall in unemployment rates and a rise in heat-related deaths. But why do we take it for granted that the fierce heat outside must be reflected indoors?
In winter we have no problem with turning the heating on to keep our homes warm. In summer, there is also a simple technological solution – air conditioning. It costs relatively little, can be easily installed and creates a comfortable indoor temperature at the click of a button. It comes as standard in cars, but is rare in offices and homes in Germany. Only 3% of all homes in the country have air conditioning, whereas in the U.S. it is around 90%.
Instead, Germans sweat and complain, congregating around fans to swap tips about wearing wet T-shirts and debate the merits of ice water. It would cost no more than a few thousand euros to put an end to all this suffering: even multi-split air conditioners that control the climate of multiple rooms cost far less than many electric bikes.
But calls for air conditioning are met with suspicion and judgement. What about the environment? Air conditioners use too much energy — they cause global warming. No thanks. Much better to suffer for a couple of months every year for the sake of the planet.
Unfortunately, this argument makes no sense. Perhaps it did 20 or 30 years ago before solar and wind energy really took off. But now that we have high-tech solar panels available for relatively low prices, it is redundant.
Solar power lends itself perfectly to powering air conditioners – because when the sun is beating down and causing heatwaves, it’s also providing plenty of energy. Even a small roof can provide enough energy to cool an entire house.
So we could easily install air conditioning in our homes without worrying about our carbon footprint. Even in the U.S., where restaurants and hotels maintain Arctic temperatures in summer, air conditioners only account for 6% of energy use.
Superiority of suffering
There is an unpleasant preachiness to the entire debate. In some places, air conditioning is banned and energy companies share tips for how to survive summer without it.
Cognitive functions have been shown to decline once the temperature reaches 25 °C.
At the University of Zürich, for example, laboratories that carry out experiments on animals are allowed to have air conditioning, while students, administrative staff and professors are forced to stew in their own sweat because the local authorities refuse to allow air conditioning to be installed in those buildings.
This is despite the fact that cognitive functions have been shown to decline significantly once the temperature reaches 25 °C. With mental rather than physical work increasingly becoming the norm in developed countries, this irrational hatred of air conditioning is counterproductive.
Solar power lends itself perfectly to powering air conditioners
Sun Belt lessons
In the U.S., the Sun Belt’s economic boom was only made possible by the widespread adoption of air conditioning. In southern Europe, many homes and almost all offices have air conditioning installed.
This self-imposed suffering in many northern European countries is nothing more than self-righteous posturing. Yes, we are uncomfortable, often for weeks at a time, and older people are dying of heat stroke, but we’re doing our bit for the environment. We couldn’t possibly take the easy way out.
This hatred of air conditioning is above all an intellectual form of self-hatred.
As if individual suffering was necessary to spur us on to do something about climate change. In his wonderful essay The Unbearable Ugliness of Volvos, American literary theorist Stanley Fish describes a kind of automatic self-denial, whereby people consider themselves superior to others if they deny themselves the thing they truly desire.
So, just as many people buy a Volvo when they really want a Porsche, this hatred of air conditioning is above all an intellectual form of self-hatred, a kind of anti-materialism, where people define themselves by their own suffering and champion their cause with an almost religious fervor. Their motto? “Even if it doesn’t help the environment, I suffer, therefore I am (morally superior).”
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