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ABC is a Spanish daily founded in Madrid in 1903 by the Marquis Torcuato Luca de Tena y Álvarez-Ossorio. It is considered a conservative, catholic and monarchist newspaper that belongs today to the Vocento group.
A man with a rainbow flag on his cheek at the Bangkok Pride Parade in Thailand
LGBTQ Plus

LGBTQ+ International: Marriage In Thailand, Trans Teacher Suicide In Italy — And Much More

Welcome to our new exclusive weekly round up of LGBTQ+ news from around the world.

This is the first edition of Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on the latest news on everything LGBTQ+ — a topic that you may follow closely at home but can now see from different places and perspectives around the world. Whether it's trans rights, same-sex marriage, gender identity and sexual orientation, find the latest news from all corners of the planet. All in one smooth scroll!

Featuring this week:

  • Thailand taking steps toward legalizing same-sex marriage
  • Joe Biden's move against the discrimination of trans youth
  • Buenos Aires banning the use of inclusive language at schools
  • A forced outing triggering a press reckoning in Australia
  • Homophobic attacks and a float collapsing at a French pride march
  • A first in pro American baseball …

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox: Subscribe here.

COLOMBIA - Gay Congressman Targeted For Pushing Law Against “Conversion Therapy” 

A gay congressman in Colombia has been cited for an "ethical conflict of interests" while presenting a bill to ban so-called "conversion therapies" for LGBTQ+ people.

Mauricio Toro put forward the law after a Volcánicas media investigation compiled the experiences of 10 LGBTQ+ people who were subjected to these procedures in Colombia. The testimonies show "electrocutions, rapes, mutilations and procedures with acid" with false promises of "reconversion".

Toro told fellow lawmakers: "What greater act of discrimination than not allowing me to debate in Congress for being gay?" He pointed out that it was absurd to say that there was a conflict of interest, when Congress has not challenged a woman, Afro-descendant or farmer for defending their respective communities.

On Thursday, the Ethics Commission unanimously denied the challenge presented against the representative, which will allow him to continue the fight for this bill to be debated before June 20, when his term ends.

ARGENTINA - Buenos Aires Bans Use Of Inclusive Language At Schools

The City of Buenos Aires has prohibited the use of inclusive language in schools, Agencia Presentesreports.

“The ban includes the use in the classroom and material produced for educational purposes.” In Spanish, words like "All" are gendered, so inclusive language allows non-binary people and women to feel better represented. It only takes one man in a group of a hundred women to make a group masculine, and only a few words are not gendered.

For one Spanish sex-ed teacher, this is an intimidating approach: "It puts us in the situation of having to violate the rights of some of our students, colleagues and other members of the community.”

Despite the opposition to the measure, the head of government of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez, said, “from now on, teachers in the city will have to respect the rules of the Spanish language.”

MEXICO - First Non-Binary ID Certificate In Guanajuato

For the first time in Mexico, the civil registry of Guanajuato issued a birth certificate that recognizes the non-binary identity of a Mexican citizen (mexicane). It belongs to Fausto Martínez, an LGBTQ+ activist who began a petition in September after being denied the request to adapt their identity on their voting card to NB (non-binary).

After a few weeks, they received the reply that this would not be possible because in the birth certificate submitted for the procedure, this identity did not appear.

With the help of an NGO, Fausto was able to start asking for a birth certificate that matched their gender identity. The Civil Registry of Guanajuato denied this procedure until a district judge based in León, Guanajuato, ruled in favor of Fausto. “The process was carried out through the courts because we are in Guanajuato and here we have obtained our rights by fighting,” Fausto said in an interview for Altavoz.LGBT.

FRANCE - Bordeaux Pride March Interrupted By Protesters, Marred By Injuries

Homophobic protesters at the Bordeaux Pride Parade

Enfants du Stonewall Facebook page


At the Bordeaux Pride march last Sunday, in southwestern France, a float collapsed on the crowd leaving six people wounded, three of them suffering serious injuries.

This is not the only disturbance that occurred at the Pride parade: LGBTQ+ support organization SOS Homophobie reported that some people held up an anti-LGBTQ+ banner with a discriminating message: “Let’s protect children, stop LGBTQ+ craziness.” Other people got hit by projectiles thrown on the crowd.

The event, which had some 5,000 people, was interrupted by these incidents. Nine people have been placed in custody for damage, violence and being part of a violent group before being freed on Monday.

SAUDI ARABIA - Authorities Seize Rainbow Toys For “Encouraging Homosexuality”

Officials in Saudi Arabia have been removing rainbow-colored items such as toys, children’s clothing, hair clips, pop-its and pencil cases from shops, claiming they encourage homosexuality, the BBC reports. A report by the state-run Al-Ekhbariya news channel said that the rainbow colors send a “poisoned message” to children, writes The Times of Israel.

Homosexual conduct is strictly prohibited in the country, and even consensual same-sex sexual conduct can be punishable by death under the country’s interpretation of Islamic law. According to an official from the commerce ministry, the items being confiscated “contradict the Islamic faith and public morals and promote homosexual colors targeting the younger generation.”

U.S. - Biden Signs Executive Order Against Anti-Trans Laws And Conversion Therapy

U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday targeting conversion therapy and discrimination of transgender youth. The sweeping provisions aim to combat the hurdles LGBTQ+ youth face against an influx of conservative state laws, such as the Florida legislation dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Biden said, “My message to all the young people: Just be you. You are loved. You are heard. You are understood. You do belong. All of us on this stage have your back,” The Hill reports.

U.S. - Seattle Pacific University Graduates Hand President Pride Flags In Protest

KING 5 screenshot


Students at Seattle Pacific University handed their interim president pride flags during a commencement ceremony last Sunday instead of shaking his hand, in an act of protest against the school’s anti-LGBTQ+ hiring policy. The policy prevents the school, which is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church USA, from hiring staff “engaged in same-sex sexual activity and extramarital sex,” according to CNN.

U.S./RUSSIA - Moscow Extends Detention Of WNBA Star Brittney Griner


The pre-trial detention of two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner has once again been extended. She was originally detained on Feb. 17, 2022, after a Russian customs official reported to have found hashish oil in her luggage. She will now be detained until at least July 2. If convicted, Griner could face spending another 10 years in Russian prison.

In May, her wife Cherelle Griner told Good Morning America that Griner would “wholeheartedly love to not go overseas … but she can’t make enough money in the WNBA to sustain her life.” Now, due to the war in Ukraine, Griner’s team has chosen to remain largely silent so as not to politicize her case, though they have been unable to secure her release. Griner’s detention has sparked outrage on social media over the lack of support coming from U.S. officials: “the only reason she’s over there is because the U.S. doesn’t give af about women athletes — let alone Black AND Queer women athletes,” said one user posting under the hashtag #BrittneyGriner.

U.S. - New Suit Filed to Stop Texas Probes Of Families Seeking Transition

Trans activism

Transgender youth and allies rally at the Texas State Capital in Austin, Texas to decry Governer Greg Abbott's policies.

Bob Daemmrich/ZUMA


A new lawsuit filed last week aims to stop investigations in Texas of families supporting its young members from transitioning among genders. The lawsuit is filed by one named family, two pseudonymous families and the LGBTQ+ support and advocacy organization PFLAG.

The suit comes after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order earlier this year to investigate for child abuse parents who provide gender-affirming health care for their non-binary children.

The families and PFLAG wish to prevent probes of their families and others under Abbot’s order. The suit names Abbott, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and its commissioner Jaime Masters as defendants. The Texas Supreme Court had previously held that Abbott did not have the authority to set DFPS policy, but the probes have resumed.

U.S. - Baseball Umpires Wear Pride Hats In First For Pro Sports

Umpires in an MLB baseball game on Saturday between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants wore Pride hats — making it the first time that officials in a U.S. men’s pro sports game included an LGBTQ+ insignia as part of their official uniform. The players on both teams also wore hats with their team logos in rainbow colors.

The game was the Giants’ official Pride day. In attendance was former MLB umpire Dale Scott, who came out in 2014 while still working in baseball. The umpires are said to have worn the hats in a gesture of good will toward the LGBTQ+ community, and in support of Scott. Because umpires are thought to be “arbiters of a fair game,” wearing the Pride hats also symbolized the nonpartisan nature supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

MIDDLE EAST/ASIA - Upcoming Disney Movie Banned In 14 Countries For Same-Sex Kiss

Disney’s new film Lightyear will not be showing in 14 Middle Eastern and Asian countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Lebanon due to its portrayal of a same-sex romantic interest. The United Arab Emirates, which is regarded by many as one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East, is among the countries which will not be allowing the release of the Toy Story spinoff in its theaters. The UAE’s Media Regulatory office did not specify why the film does not meet their standards, but homosexual activity is considered illegal in the UAE.

According to a producer for the film, Chinese officials asked that some scenes be cut from the movie. Disney had reportedly already cut and reinstated a same-sex kiss scene after Pixar staff published an open letter criticizing the company, a production source told Variety. Following the incident with the open letter, Disney is denying China’s request and it appears that the film will not be released there.

"We're not going to cut out anything, especially something as important as the loving and inspirational relationship that shows Buzz what he's missing by the choices that he's making, so that's not getting cut," one of the producers told Reuters.

UK/QATAR - Wales Soccer Team Staff To Boycott 2022 World Cup In Qatar Over Gay Rights


The Welsh national soccer team qualified for their first World Cup finals since 1958, but some of the team’s staff will not travel to Qatar for the tournament due to the country’s stance on gay rights. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and they country's human rights record has come under increasing scrutiny.

Despite this, Qatari officials have claimed the World Cup will be a "tournament for everyone.” As FIFA’s decision to host the tournament in Qatar has come under criticism, the head of Welsh soccer Noel Mooney said the team will use the tournament as a “platform” to discuss the state of Qatar's human rights.

UK/RWANDA - LGBTQ+ Asylum Seeker Fears Being Sent To Rwanda 

The UK's plan to deport illegal refugees to Rwanda to have their claims processed there from mid-June has raised controversy, especially among the LGBTQ+ community. The first deportation flight was canceled on Tuesday after the European Court of Human Rights issued a last-minute ruling, but the refugees still fear for their fate.

French-language media Komitid reports on the case of Hadi (not his real name), an Iraqi asylum seeker set to be deported. Hadi fled Iraq because he was persecuted for being homosexual, crossed Europe to reach the UK, and is now afraid of being sent to Rwanda.

Even if homosexuality is not banned there, Rwanda is a country where LGBTQ+ rights are quite limited.

Hadi recalls the discrimination, homophobia and mistreatment he was victim of in Iraq because of his sexual orientation. He doesn’t want to face such prosecutions in Rwanda, saying “Kill me or sentence me to death instead of sending me there.”

AFGHANISTAN - Taliban Use Monkeypox As A Pretext To Arrest LGBTQ+ Afghans

In Afghanistan, the Taliban have found yet another reason to persecute the LGBTQ+ community with the recent outbreaks of Monkeypox in Europe. Most confirmed cases were reported in queer men, although there is no correlation between sexuality and the disease. Monkeypox is transmitted during close contacts between people and can be caught by anybody.

The Taliban are nonetheless targeting men they suspect not to be “straight” on the grounds that they might carry the disease, even though no cases have been reported in the country. Gay men and trans people are subsequently arrested and beaten. Violent persecutions against the Afghan LGBTQ+ community have been commonplace ever since the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

THAILAND - Thailand Moves To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage


Lawmakers in the southeast Asian country of Thailand have taken the first steps toward legalizing same-sex marriage after approving two bills that would permit civil partnerships and same-sex marriages. A committee will consolidate the bills into two proposals in order to give MPs a choice between approving civil partnerships or same-sex marriage.

Thailand is a Buddhist majority country, but it has a very visible LGBTQ+ community. This month has seen Bangkok’s first Pride parade in 16 years. Although it has yet to pass, the new legislation marks a significant milestone for the LGBTQ+ community in overcoming the many existing barriers of discrimination. People have taken to the streets to celebrate this historic moment: "I am very happy and glad. It is a good sign in Pride month that there are MPs who want equality and vote for the bills," activist Nada Chaiyajit told AFP.

SOUTH AFRICA - South Africa’s Robben Island Holds First Pride

www.flickr.com


On May 25, more than 200 southern African LGBTQ+ activists held the first Pride March ever on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years along with other anti-Apartheid activists. They were welcomed by former inmates who gave them an emotional tour of the prison, reminding them of the importance of the fight for diversity and inclusivity.

This event was part of the Kopano conference, a platform for LGBTQ+ activists from 13 southern African countries. As a president, Nelson Mandela fought for LGBTQ+ South Africans’ rights by including protections against discrimination due to sexual orientation in the constitution.

ITALY - Shunned Trans Teacher Kills Herself


A transgender former physics teacher killed herself in her camper van near Venice, in northern Italian, during the weekend. Cloe Bianco had announced she was going to commit suicide in a June 10 post of her blog, where she had previously written about how, as a trans woman, she was not allowed a place in society.

Italian daily La Stampa reports that Bianco had been suspended as a teacher in 2015 when she came out to her students and was demoted to a role as a secretary. “Transphobia kills,” commented LGBTQ+ rights account Radio Zek on Twitter.

AUSTRALIA - Rebel Wilson’s Forced Outing Triggers Ethics Reckoning For Australian Press


Australian actress Rebel Wilson revealed her relationship with fashion designer Ramona Agruma, her “Disney Princess,” last Friday with an Instagram post. But it has since been revealed that the move was to preempt an Australian newspaper that had planned to "out" her. Sydney Morning Herald columnist Andrew Hornery accused Wilson of revealing her relationship to “gazump” a story he planned to publish.

Critics have argued that Horney’s approach was an “abuse of power” and a “journalist ego". The situation has triggered a reckoning for the Australian press and opened a discussion on journalism ethics worldwide, with some saying the incident just shows how far Australia has to go in terms of LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Hornery claims he had reached out to Wilson’s representatives with the intention of publishing Wilson and Agruma’s relationship in his column. He gave her two days to respond, which she ignored. Hornery has since published an apology.

POLAND - Majority Of Poles In Favor Of Same-Sex Marriage

According to a new OKO.press poll, a growing majority of citizens in Poland are in favor of legalizing same-sex civil unions or marriage: 64%, up by 6% from 2019 and 10% from 2015.

Despite progress being made, the influx of refugees fleeing war in Ukraine is highlighting persistent divisions when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights in Poland. As Poland accepts millions of displaced Ukrainians with open arms, activists are working hard to make sure that the same warmth and empathy is extended to members of Ukraine’s LGBTQ+ community.

At the moment, LGBTQ+ refugees are facing a lack of support from local governments and face increased prejudice when seeking housing in the traditionally Catholic country that is run by the extremely conservative Law and Justice party.

OTHERWISE:

Private flights have soared in demand for their ability to skirt certain travel issues
Society
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

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 has 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.

PARIS — Traveling by private jet has long been a mode of transportation long exclusively reserved for the super rich, extremely powerful and very famous. This article will not report that it is, er, democratizing....but still.

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, as Deutsche Welle reports.

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The Latest: Kabul Airport Gunfight, NZ Extends Lockdown, Bye Bye Don
WORLDCRUNCH

The Latest: Kabul Airport Gunfight, NZ Extends Lockdown, Bye Bye Don

Welcome to Monday, where chaos continues at Kabul airport, flooding kills at least 22 in Tennessee, and Taiwan hisses at the culling of smuggled cats. Meanwhile, Les Echos invites you to mind the gap and hop on Europe's rekindled love for overnight rail travel.


• Kabul airport clash: A firefight erupted at the Kabul airport Monday between unidentified gunmen and U.S., German, and Afghan guards. One guard was killed during the clash and three others were wounded. Thousands of Afghans and foreigners have been at the airport for days, hoping to flee Kabul after the Taliban conquered virtually all of the country last week. So far, 20 people have been killed in the chaos, mostly during shootings and stampedes.

• Turkey reinforces Iran border to block Afghan refugees: New border measures in Turkey are being imposed as the Taliban regain power in Afghanistan. By the end of the year, Turkish authorities hope to add another 64 kilometers to the border wall for fear that Afghan refugees traveling through Iran will attempt to move westward through Turkey.

• COVID-19 update: The nationwide lockdown in New Zealand has been extended again as another 35 COVID cases were reported. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern believes the outbreak has not reached its peak yet. The health ministry of Iran reported more than 680 daily coronavirus-linked deaths, a new daily record, just as nationwide restrictions were lifted. Meanwhile, China has reported no new locally transmitted cases for the first time since July.

• Solar power in Australia (momentarily) overtakes coal: This weekend in Australia, low energy demand and sunny skies led to a drop in coal-generated energy and a slight increase in solar energy, meaning that for the first time, more than half of the nation's electricity came from solar power rather than coal. In those few minutes, low demand and a first for the country, although according to experts, Australia is still far away from peak renewable energy.

• Deadly Tennessee floods: At least 22 people are confirmed dead as rescue crews searched shattered homes after heavy rainfall caused flash floods in the rural town of Waverly, Tennessee.

• Taiwan outraged over cat euthanizations: Animal activists in pet-loving Taiwan are criticizing the decision by authorities to put down 154 cats for public health reasons after the felines were found in an attempted smuggling operation.

• Don Everly dies: The surviving member of influential rock 'n' roll duo the Everly Brothers, died on Sunday at 84. Don Everly and his brother Phil, famous for their close harmonies, were behind 1950s and 1960s hits like "Bye Bye Love", "Wake Up Little Susie" and "All I Have To Do Is Dream".


The city of Gijón in northern Spain has cancelled its traditional bullfighting festival, after the names of two recently salin bulls ("Feminist" and "Nigerian") sparked outrage. The cancellation was met with "indignant silence" by Gijon's bullfighting organizers, as shown on today's front page of Spanish daily ABC.

All aboard Europe's night-train revival

After years of letting overnight rail travel fade into oblivion, France and other European countries are rushing to reverse course. Doing so will be easier said than done, however, reports Les Echos.

The rebound follows a long period of neglect. In the early 1980s, France had up to 550 stations served by several dozen night routes. Across the continent, only a handful of central European countries kept a network worthy of the name. Austria in particular stands out in this regard, with a network of lines that connect to a multitude of destinations: Prague, Warsaw, Hamburg, Rome and even Kiev.

To get a sense of Austria's persistent love for a mode of transport that was said to have no future, last October I boarded a Nightjet train operated by the ÖBB, the Austrian national railway company.The cabin was new and comfortable and the bathroom well equipped with towels and shampoo, even if the hot water didn't seem to work. The welcome pack included a bottle of water, a mini-bottle of sparkling wine, cookies, slippers and earplugs. The dinner, served hot on a tray, at a reasonable price (less than 10 euros) was surprisingly good.

The Austrian company intends to take advantage of the public's renewed interest in night trains. "For the past three years, we have seen a strong demand for night travel," says spokesman Bernhard Rieder. In 2019, the ÖBB welcomed 1.5 million passengers on its Nightjets. "In good years, we don't necessarily lose money on night trains," he adds. "2019 was a very good year."

France is eager to get on board the trend as well. Still, there are obstacles to how far France can go with the revival. "Given the major work to be done on the network, it will be complicated to open many other lines until 2025," Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said in an interview with Le Parisien. Orders for new cars from Bombardier or Alstom could take years to complete — at a cost potentially exceeding 1 billion euros.

Read more on Worldcrunch.com



-73%

A recent New Street Consulting Group study shows that although the number of female board members in UK's biggest companies (FTSE 100) has increased sharply since 2015, they still hold non-executive jobs, and are paid 73% less than their male counterparts on average.

Gas cannot be used as a weapon.

— German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday, after a meeting with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev. She was seeking to calm Ukrainian concerns over the nearly completed $11 billion Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, which will provide Europe with Russian gas. If Russia would use this project as a weapon, Merkel would be in favor of new sanctions, she promised.

Newsletter by Meike Eijsberg, Laure Gautherin and Bertrand Hauger

Potty-Mouthed Grandma Strikes A Chord In Paraguay Protests
ABC
Benjamin Witte

Potty-Mouthed Grandma Strikes A Chord In Paraguay Protests

Amid a wave of protests against the Paraguayan government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, one unlikely voice — that of a sharp-tongued, silver-haired abuelita (grandmother) — has stood out above the chorus of discontent.

One of countless people taking to the streets in the capital Asunción in recent days, the elderly woman has yet to be publicly identified. But her opinion of the country's president, Mario Abdo Benítez of the conservative Colorado Party, is now widely known following an impromptu interview Sunday with a reporter from the Paraguayan news outlet ABC TV.

"We're here resisting until that cabrón hijo de puta (bastard son of a bitch) falls," the bespectacled woman, wearing a Paraguayan flag as a cape, said of the president.

Abdo Benítez, elected in 2018, faces widespread criticism over what many people see as an inadequate response to the coronavirus epidemic. Barely anyone in the country of roughly 7 million people has been vaccinated, according to news reports, and with deaths and infection numbers on the rise, Paraguay"s available hospital beds are quickly filling up.

Nevertheless, the government decided recently to reopen schools after eight months of lockdown. This move prompted demonstrations by teachers, who were soon joined by healthcare workers and everyday citizens. The Abdo Benítez administration responded by sacking several key cabinet officials, including the health and education ministers. But the protesters, including

"Don't think we're satisfied with three ministers being fired," the now famous grandmother said. "What we want is the president's head. Your head, little Mario. It's your head we want ... You're worthless, you son of a bitch."

Japan has asked its population to stay away from closed and crowded spaces
ABC
Bertrand Hauger

COVID-19: Ventilation May Be Hidden Key To Reducing Spread

Germany has made the airing out of closed spaces a centerpiece of its recommendations for limiting contagion. Others, including the CDC, are also touting the benefits.

After months of fighting the spread of COVID-19, a number of protective measures have made their way into our daily routine: We wash our hands, sneeze into our arm, wear a mask, social-distance and elbow-bump. But another potentially crucial weapon in combatting the virus has gone underreported in many parts of the world: ventilating closed spaces.

Ventilation's biggest fan: Though the science is still divided, ventilation has moved to the center of government recommendations in a country respected for its pragmatism and scientific rigor: Germany.

Doing the heavy Lüften Among the lesser-known stereotypes about Germans is their love of fresh air. True to linguistic form, they even have a name for it: Stosslüften, or the act of airing a room several times a day. Thus her fellow Germans weren't surprised when Chancellor Angela Merkel herself advertised ventilating as "one of the cheapest and most effective ways' of containing the spread of the virus.

Germany's handy acronym against coronavirus, AHA (Abstand, Hygiene und Alltagsmasken: Social distancing, Hygiene and Facemasks) has recently gained two letters: enters AHACL, with C and L standing respectively for Corona-Warn-App, the government's prevention app, and Lüften — airing.

  • The update is based on the belief that "regular ventilation in all private and public rooms can significantly reduce the risk of infection," as Münich-based Merkur daily reports.

  • With winter around the corner, opening windows to fend off the pandemic is becoming less of an option. Germany's federal government is about to invest a half-billion euros in the renovation of ventilation systems in schools and public buildings, as German daily Die Welt reports.

    → The goal: retrofitting old AC systems so that they can use as little circulating air as possible, and as much outside air as possible, therefore avoiding recycling potentially contaminated air while limiting heat loss during cold months.

Open window in a classroom in Stuttgart, Germany — Photo: Christoph Schmidt/DPA/ZUMA

An idea is spreading: For months, evidence has been mounting that the virus can spread by microparticles and aerosols. At the beginning of October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published guidelines on Oct. 5, declaring the novel coronavirus is indeed airborne. But Germany, it turns out, is not alone in pushing the merits of airing:

  • The Spanish government has issued an extensive series of specific guidelines "on the use of air conditioning and ventilation systems to prevent the spread of COVID-19" covering aspects such as airflow rates, humidity levels and the replacement of air filters. Another guide aimed specifically at the country's schools, recommends ventilating classrooms five to six times per hour — never mind lower outside temperatures, the guide going as far as to recommend students "wear warmer clothes', the Madrid daily ABC reports.

  • In the U.S., the craze surrounding high-end air filtration systems is "like toilet paper in April times two," CNBC quotes the CEO of a Texas AC company as saying, with HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems selling like hotcakes.

  • In France, "airing rooms for 10 minutes, three times a day" is now part of the country's mesures barrières to stop the spread, as shown on government website — a matter of particular importance for the French who have just entered their second nationwide lockdown.

  • Japan too, focused on ventilation, as sociologist Zeynep Tufekci writes in The Atlantic. The government has asked the population to stay away from places that may gather "the three Cs': Crowds, Closed spaces, close Contact.

The takeaway Airborne? Well, it's complicated. Although many questions about the pandemic remain open, according to Dr. Bill Schaffner, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University, the spread of coronavirus through aerosols is "rather uncommon." The virus, it seems, spreads mainly through direct contact and via droplets that are significantly bigger and therefore not subject to airborne transmission per se.

At the same time, as Tufekci writes, super-spreading events seem to overwhelmingly occur when three conditions are reunited: 1) many people 2) especially in a poorly ventilated indoor setting 3) and especially not wearing masks.

  • In other words, though COVID-19's airborne risks may be relative, ventilating efforts still make sense — that is, if done in conjunction with other prevention methods. Which means that for now, the best solution may rest not with the Germans, but with their neighbors: the Swiss cheese approach, where each holey slice of cheese serves as an additional barrier against the spread.
North Macedonia's candidate performs during the 1st semifinal of the Eurovision contest, which started in Rotterdam
ABC

The Latest: Bad COVID Record In India, Gaza Gets Worse, Italian Village Reappears

Welcome to Wednesday, where the fighting in Gaza intensifies despite international calls for ceasefire, COVID deaths hit a new record in India and a flooded Italian village resurfaces. Le Monde"s correspondent Louis Imbert reports from the West Bank where more and more young supporters of the ruling Fatah party are joining the clashes with Israeli forces.

• Israel-Gaza fighting intensifies despite ceasefire calls: Israeli forces carried out dozens of airstrikes on Gaza and Hamas militants continued to launch rockets on Wednesday, despite international calls for a ceasefire. On Tuesday, France called for a UN Security Council resolution on the violence, as the death toll in Gaza rises to 219 and to 12 in Israel.

• Daily COVID deaths hit record in India: India reported the highest daily COVID death toll of any country, with 4,529 deaths in the last 24 hours, driving the overall toll to more than 283,000. The country registers the world's third highest number of deaths from the pandemic after the U.S. and Brazil.

• Pelosi calls for China Olympics "diplomatic boycott": U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the US and other major countries to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, over China's reported treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

• Lebanon foreign minister quits after ISIS comments: Lebanese Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe resigned after his comments on the rise of ISIS in Gulf States provoked a diplomatic backlash.

• Criminal fraud inquiry over Trump Organization: The New York attorney general's office says that its investigation over the Trump Organization was no longer "purely civil." New York attorneys have been scrutinizing former President Trump's financial business before he took office.

• Ex-FARC leader killed in Venezuela: Former prominent leader of the Colombian FARC rebel group Jesus Santrich has been killed in Venezuela, in a military operation led by Colombia.

• Italy's lost village resurfaces: Repair work at a reservoir in the Italian lake of Resia, in the north of the country, has revealed the ruins of Curon, a village that had been flooded to make way for a hydroelectric plant in the 1950s.

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An open barbershop seen following strict sanitary conditions in Spain.
ABC
Bertrand Hauger

The Meaning Of A Haircut

We have all, at some point, thought about the very first thing we'd do once lockdown restrictions start to lift. Going for a cup of coffee, dining out, meeting friends in the flesh (not on Zoom). But there's one item on our list of mundane things we took for granted that we're reminded of each time we look in the mirror: a good old haircut.

For billions of confined people around the world, our scruffy appearances have progressively become a very tangible reminder of the limitations imposed upon our quarantined lives for the past couple of months.

Turns out it is not (only) a question of vanity. As clinical psychologist Dr. Ilyse Dobrow DiMarco told ABC News, with this kind of routine activity "We know what to expect, and that helps us feel in control." We go to the hairdresser's. We chit-chat for a bit with our trusty barber. We get our hair cut. We pay for it. Nice, clean, predictable. At least some portion of chaos that can be easily tamed — not too short in the neck, thank you very much.

But even as barbershops start to reopen in some countries, as downward infection rates encourage governments to ease lockdown measures, getting a haircut will most likely be a very different experience. How, indeed, can we reconcile this close-quarters activity with the current sanitary distanciation guidelines?

Le Monde enumerates some of the hygiene practices put in place in France: "Compulsory masks, gloves and plastic visors, single-use gowns, disinfecting the tools in between haircuts, taking away magazines." While in Germany, patrons are required to fill out questionnaires before entering a shop ... Not exactly the kind of intimate atmosphere that induces small talk about the weather or Tiger King. In post-COVID salons, it may take us some time before we, well, let our hair down.

Still, angst notwithstanding, at the stroke of midnight on Monday — just as the country started loosening its lockdown restrictions — some French people rushed to cross that item from their resurrection list. From the north to the south, barbershops started buzzing with business, showing exactly how essential those "non-essential jobs' are when we're shut off from something we took for granted. Did two months of "hair anarchy" change us?, Le Monde wonders. Will a simple haircut help bring us back to our old selves again?

A haircut may be a symbol of something basic about our modern lives. An affordable luxury we set our calendars to. A bit of self-care and a boost to our feral morale. And now, perhaps, a sign that things are starting to get back to normal — one particularly scruffy writer certainly hopes so.

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Joggers in Barcelona on May 3
ABC

Pandemic Dilemma: Save Summer Tourist Season Or Take No Risks?

Last year 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals were recorded globally. In 2020, with borders closed and airplanes grounded, the tourism industry has been decimated and its recovery could take years.

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development anticipates a 45% to 70% decline in the tourism economy — amounting to losses between $295-$430 billion for the global travel industry. For countries that rely heavily on summer tourism, there's a scramble to save the season.

  • Quick to impose a nationwide lockdown, Greece hasn't been hit as hard as other European countries, with 146 registered deaths so far. But with the tourism sector making up about 18% of its GDP, and most of the visitors arriving in the warm months, action is needed. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis estimates that the country could be ready to reopen to foreign tourists on July 1, depending on the implementation of health protocols.Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis presented a three-point planto the Parliament earlier this week to help reopen Greece to tourism, I Kathimeriní reports. The plan centers on special health safety standards for hotels, airplanes and tour buses, as well as diplomatic contacts with other governments to allow visitors to come, and finally, a new advertising campaign to promote Greece as a holiday destination in spite of coronavirus.

  • Last year, Spain was the world's second most visited country, with nearly 84 million tourists. Having suffered more than 24,500 deaths, Spain continues to be on strict lockdown. After the ABCdaily reported that the government was considering closing its borders to foreign tourists for the whole summer, an outcry followed from the tourism industry. Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto since told El Paisthat the reopening of borders would depend on "the evolution of the health crisis'. For now, only domestic travel and tourism will be encouraged as hotels, bars and restaurants will be gradually reopened beginning next week, with reduced capacity and under strict hygiene measures. Some coastal towns are also looking to recruit extra lifeguards to make sure beachgoers respect social distancing, while separate hours for children or elderly people are also being considered. On the destination islands of Mallorca and Ibiza, some hotels are starting to reopen, though it's unclear how people would reach them.

In Malaga, Spain, on May 2 — Photo: Jesus Merida/SOPA/ZUMA

  • Egypt has cut itself from the outside world and cancelled all international flights since March 19, leading to losses estimated at $1 billion per month for its tourist sector. The country, famed for its Pyramids and Nile river cruises earned $12.6 billion in tourism revenues in 2019, the highest in a decade, according to Asharq al-Awsat. Now Egypt has begun to allow hotels to reopen, but only for domestic tourists and at a 25% capacity until the end of May and 50% from the beginning of June. The Egyptian Tourism Federation has devised a plan with a package of health measures for tourism establishments to reopen while ensuring the safety of both tourists and workers, Egypt Independent reports. Hotels will have to clean rooms daily with a special steam machine to disinfect furniture and fabric and all touchable points will have to be cleaned and sterilized every hour in public places and restrooms. Each hotel will also have to provide an on-site clinic and doctor, and assign an area that can be used as a quarantine bay if any coronavirus case is discovered.

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