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.
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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