LA VANGUARDIA
La Vanguardia is a leading daily based in Barcelona, published in both Spanish and Catalan. It was founded in 1881.
Weird
Laure Gautherin

Murder Of A Spanish Bear Leads To Bust Of Colombian Cocaine Ring

A major bust last week of a Colombian-led narcotics ring deep in the Spanish Pyrenees led to the arrest of 12 people, the seizure of two kilograms of cocaine and the discovery of the laboratory where the drug was processed. Police say they discovered the traffickers while on the trail of the killer of a brown bear.

Both pro- and anti-bear associations in Spain remember well the death of Cachou the Bear, whose body had been found last April at the bottom of a ravine in the eastern region of Catalonia. Known to be responsible for several attacks on livestock, the brown bear had many enemies among the locals, and murder was quickly suspected. The theory was confirmed when the autopsy revealed that it had been poisoned with ethylene glycol, a toxic antifreeze used in car coolants.

An investigation was open, which included secret wiretapping of half a dozen people suspected in the death. Hoping to record conversations about the killing of the bear, the investigators instead stumbled on to even more juicy discussions about cocaine purchases and a laboratory where cocaine paste imported from Colombia was processed into ready-to-use doses. Among the suspects arrested last week is a mayor of the region.

"It is as if the animal, in gratitude for the effort (of investigators) responded to them with the alleged organization of drug traffickers," an official source told Barcelona-based La Vanguardia.

And what about justice for Cachou? The primary suspect, a forest ranger of the Aran Valley, had been arrested back in November. Still, like with the battle against international drug traffickers, that investigation continues.

Society
Alexis Rodríguez-Rata

Long Live Leggings! Deconstructing Pandemic Fashion

The pandemic has caused an overall drop in clothing sales. But is it also changing how we dress? External shocks have had an impact on fashion trends throughout history.

BARCELONA — Bell bottoms were worn in the 1960s and 1970s. Then they disappeared. They returned in the early 2000s, then disappeared again. And now they're back again, suddenly popular among teenagers. Does all fashion just go around in circles? Not always, and especially not right now, say experts.

That's because the coronavirus pandemic is turning the clothing sector upside down — in the short, medium and long term. There is talk of crashing sales and a fundamental break in dress codes. And in the midst of it all, there are a whole lot of leggings.

Since 2007, the sector has seen annual sales drop 10 times, or in every year bar 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019. Sales seemed to be recovering in recent years, in other words. But then along came the pandemic, which appears to have changed everything.

Acotex, one of Spain's main fashion retailing associations, observed an almost 40% fall in the sales of all clothes for men, women and children in 2020, as well as household textiles and accessories. Before the pandemic, these sales had declined by 2%, but fell 89.5% when the lockdown began. They recovered somewhat in June and August before sliding back to a 30% drop over the course of the year.

The changes, however, go beyond just the numbers.

La Vanguardia asked several experts, including Hazel Clark, a specialist in fashion history at New York's Parsons School of Design, about the scope of these shifts. She says the pandemic is causing a drop in sales as people buy simpler, more casual clothes to wear at home, and that when people are shopping for clothes, they're doing so online. Clark also suspects that when it's all said and done, we'll look back at this period as one of historic change.

Alessandra Vaccari, professor of fashion history at IUAV, an arts and design university in Venice and co-author of Time in Fashion, agrees. She believes the pandemic will "greatly influence the future chronologies of fashion," and that modern fashion history may be divided into pre- and post-pandemic phases, as private and domestic spheres gain social importance and earn themselves "a new public identity."

Call it fashion's "aesthetic revenge" alongside historical crises.

But it is not the first time global events have prompted momentous changes in fashion. Transparent bags became popular in the 1980s after a proliferation of terrorist attacks. Jeans became popular after the Vietnam war and the protests of May 1968. Christian Dior's "new look" — with high heels, gloves and generous skirts — arrived after World War II, when textile rationing ended and, as the couturier said, there was a need for "happiness."

Fashion was forced to embrace austerity during World War II, after the glamor of the 1920s, the effervescence of art déco, and the Nazi bid to impose sartorial uniformity. After World War I, female clothes had become more masculine, for practicality's sake and to allow them to work in positions hitherto reserved for men.

The current debate is about comfort, practicality and functionality — Photo: Nappy

More than a century before, the French Revolution put an end to old fashions and the citoyens, with their new rights and duties, decided to ditch the corset. Vaccari says feminine fashion immediately following the revolution "offers an excellent example, with the Directory's white, narrow dresses and elevated waistlines. They were so light as to be scandalously transparent. They were undoubtedly a historic leap, though the aim wasn't a new image. The intention was to revive the tunics of ancient Greece or Rome."

She says female emancipation expressed itself in the first decade of the 20th century with a revival of the Directory's fashions.

Clark says fashion may change in response to shock events, but a better way of looking at it would be to see it as a reflection of its time. La Vanguardia"s fashion correspondent Joana Bonet calls it fashion's "aesthetic revenge" alongside historical crises.

The idea of the historic shock affects views on fashion historiography.

So does fashion revolutionize itself every time there is a historical shock? "It changes by definition," says Vaccari. "Without changes there would be no fashion."

But the idea of the historic shock, she believes, affects views on fashion historiography. Some think fashion simply follows history and is limited in its ability to forge historical change. Others see it as a transformative agent in history (it has a role for example in current debates on gender or sustainability). Finally, says Vaccari, there is the opinion that "fashion change is abstract or illusory and would not mix with history. According to the latter view, everything would change to stay the same."

The current debate is about comfort, practicality and functionality. Second-hand shops and online retailing are flourishing. Social networking sites set the tone. Bonet summed it up with a fact that is also an example: Loewe of Madrid has discontinued the tie, as there is little demand for them. There will be more such changes. Gucci's creative director Alessandro Michele wants to abandon the concept of seasons, and is cutting them to two a year.

Javier Casares, lecturer in Applied Economics at the Complutense university in Madrid, places it in a historical context that, from the point of view of numbers, would be evolutionary. In the 14th and 15th centuries in Europe, China or the Byzantine Empire, he says, fashion was essentially for elites and an expression of hierarchy. Only from 1850, he adds, did clothing "increasingly begin to fit people's wishes, not their bodily needs. In the period 1900-1939, ostentation and extravagance dominated, which was a big boost to the sector. From the 1960s, the unstoppable rise of youth fashion meant fashion's dissemination through the social classes." The permeation he says, is now sideways and geographical, as East and West increasingly dress the same way.

Current changes may thus become global in scope, with big distribution groups acting as their agents and catalysts. Inditex (Zara) has more than 7,000 shops in 202 markets worldwide. Clark calls it one of the world's main purveyors of fast fashion, and of "athleisure" or sports clothing used as casual wear.

This is already a trend in the fashionable districts of big cities like New York, Paris or Tokyo. The question is: Are the new fashions a sign of this particular time, or are they here to stay in a sector that generates 3% of Spain's GDP — a little below banks and insurance?

Coronavirus
Benjamin Witte

Six Iconic Landmarks That May Be Shuttered By COVID-19

Founded a century (or centuries) ago, these businesses survived world wars and economic depressions. Now the pandemic could close them forever.

PARIS — New York City's Roosevelt Hotel, a midtown mainstay that first opened to the public in the roaring 1920s, is now a not-so-distant memory after closing its doors — permanently — just before Christmas.

Like so many businesses around the world, the nearly century old facility — famous, among other things, as the place where then New York state governor Thomas Dewey erroneously declared victory over President Harry Truman in the 1948 U.S. presidential election — is a victim of the times. The grand old hotel survived the Great Depression but not, as it turns out, the revenue loss caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The economic and financial costs of the current health crisis are being felt far and wide. But there's something particularly poignant about the demise of businesses that enjoy true landmark status, places that are cultural cornerstones in our communities.

Owners and employees pay the heaviest cost, of course. But for clients, culture and the public as a whole, what's at stake in each case is also a tangible piece of history that, once gone, is gone for good:

Is the festa in Venice over forever?

By the time the Roosevelt Hotel opened, in 1924, Venice's venerable Café Florian had already been going strong for more than 200 years. And this past December, it officially reached the three-century mark. That's a lot of candles!

But rather than mark the milestone with some kind of celebratory festa, all was eerily quiet. Sadly, the doors of Café Florian's elegant lounge — whose famous clients included Nietzsche, Grace Kelly and Margaret Thatcher — were closed to the public, as ordered by the government. More troubling still is that they could remain that way even if Italy's current lockdown measures are lifted.

"We pay around a million (euros) a year in rent to a private landlord and the State. The private sector has exempted us from half of the part of it, the State nothing," the owner told La Vanguardia. "We will stay open as long as we can, but more than that we cannot guarantee."

A Mexican treasure

Across the Atlantic, the pandemic has also forced the closure — for now at least — of another historic hangout spot with a penchant for attracting celebrity guests.

Mexico City's Sálon Los Angeles, the country's oldest dance hall, was founded in the 1930s during the height of the swing and Charleston dances, and its famous patrons include Diego Rivera, Leon Trotsky and Celia Cruz.

The ballroom was redecorated in the late 1940s — the era of chachachá and mambo — with mirrored columns and neon colors. Then owner Miguel Nieto Hernández also gave the sálon its iconic motto: "Who does not know Sálon Los Angeles, does not know Mexico."

And yet, there's real concern now that the place may not survive. Current owner Miguel Nieto is struggling to keep up with expenses, despite receiving some aid money from the government. Dedicated customers are also helping in the form of small donations. "In the Sálon Los Angeles, we have learned that we must live life as intensely as if we were to die tomorrow and as prudently as if we were going to survive," Nieto told the Mexican daily El Universal.

The meter is running in London

Survival is also the name of the game these days for London's iconic black cabs, which were facing an existential crisis even before the pandemic due to stiff competition from ride-hailing apps like Uber.

Now, with few tourists and many Londoners working from home, they're struggling even more. According to the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, the number of active black cab licenses has fallen from more than 18,000 to just over 14,300 since June.

London black cab — Photo: Hanno Rathmann

The so-called "army of black cabs' is now pinning its hopes on the UK's vaccine rollout — and in more ways than one. As reported in the Financial Times, drivers are offering fixed price-rides for vulnerable and elderly to medical centers.

So far it's unclear if the government will take them up on the offer. The other question mark is just how long the classic cabs can hold out. "I can't even begin to describe it to you; dead is underplaying it," Howard Taylor, a taxi driver for 33 years, told the newspaper. "The city is bereft, it is desolate. It is like tumbleweed."

Going down the drain in Hungary

London isn't the only place lamenting the loss of tourists. Hungary is hurting too, especially its network of thermal baths, which have been an integral part of the country's culture since the Romans invaded.

Now, with border closures limiting the number of foreign visitors, and older clients reluctant, for safety's sake, to return, as many as two thirds of these spas might be facing closure.


"By the summer, 40% of our yearly revenue was gone, and by the end of the year, 70% of the revenues will disappear at some of the spas," Attila László Boros, head of the Hungary Spa Association, told the Chinese media outlet CGTN. Estimates are that of the 18,000 people employed in the industry, up to 4,700 face layoffs.

A San Francisco treat

Across the world, the COVID-19 outbreak has also pushed countless restaurants over the proverbial precipice, including the famous Cliff House Restaurant in San Francisco, California.

Known for its stunning view of the Pacific Ocean, the iconic eatery weathered many storms since it first opened more than 150 years ago. It even caught fire — twice — including once on Christmas Day.

But what it couldn't cope with, in the end, was the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Unable to sell it's high-priced seafood, the Cliff House closed its doors for good last month. More than 100 gathered to watch the restaurant's iconic sign being taken down. Somewhere, Mark Twain, who dined there on multiple occasions, is turning in his grave.

The future of the building itself is unclear, and will depend on the National Park Service, which had leased the land to the Cliff House owners since the 1970s.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is lobbying for the structure to be preserved. In a statement, she encouraged "the National Park Service to explore all possible opportunities to maintain the historic role of this building as a restaurant and visitor destination. Our history is too important to set aside so readily."

True indeed. Even if responding to today's emergency is the first priority, we should remember that history can never be rewritten.

Society
Laura Aragó

The Multiple Faces Of Spain's Shifting Immigration Map

From Moroccan migrants to British pensioners, Spain has plenty of foreign-born residents. Each group differs, however, in terms of where and how they concentrate upon arrival.

BARCELONA — Mare Nostrum Avenue in Almería, a mid-sized city in southern Spain, is a dividing line between two realities. On one side, half the residents were born in Morocco; on the other, more than 98% of the population are native Spaniards. Likewise, the city center of Mazarrón, an hour-and-a-half drive up the coast, has little in common wth the surrounding suburbs, an expanse of detached homes where 60% of residents are British. And then there's Madrid's Usera neighborhood, which has developed a distinctly Asian profile: It's now home to 25% of the capital's registered Chinese residents.

Almería, Mazarrón and Usera are just three examples of the residential and communal segregation that divides Spain's territory into different realities and highlights growing inequalities. Typically, a community is segregated from the rest of the population when recently arrived members have fewer options in obtaining credit to access housing, as well as because of racism in the housing market.

While the situation in Spain is not comparable to ghettos in the United States or the Paris banlieue, there is a separation of national communities in Spain. The Moroccan community, as the largest and oldest among immigrant groups, is the most studied in terms of its segregation.

The autonomous communities of Catalonia and Andalusia together host more than 45% of the approximately 934,000 Spanish residents born in Morocco. Not surprisingly, it's also in those regions that the greatest contrasts are seen.

Along Almeria's Mare Nostrum avenue — Photo: Google Street View

As with other groups, economics is the decisive factor for Moroccans when it comes to residential location. Jordi Bayona, a researcher at the Center for Demographic Studies at Barcelona's Autonomous University says "foreigners follow very similar patterns to the rest of the population, and like any other group, find it very difficult to enter the highest-income neighborhoods."

This, he says, is due to economic restrictions and is exacerbated if there is a "white flight" process, whereby locals start moving away as more foreigners move into their district. Juan Carlos Checa, a geography professor at Almería University who studies residential segregation in Spain, observes that U.S. academics have fixed 22% foreign residents as "the inflection point when locals begin moving to other parts of the city with fewer foreigners."

Economics is also an enabling factor.

But economics is not merely restrictive. It can also be an enabling factor. Money is precisely the element that allows aging foreigners from the EU, as well as Britons, to isolate themselves on the Mediterranean coast, in gated communities where they spend their retirement years.

Spain is home to nearly 270,000 people born in the United Kingdom. More than half are distributed between Alicante, Murcia, Almería and Málaga. German and Danish pensioners have also moved to Spain in large numbers.

To understand other foreign communities, one must bear in mind that the smaller the community, the easier it is for contrasts within it to raise the segregation level. In academic terms, a group's segregation index is obtained by calculating a migrant group's numbers in any census sector, and comparing the figure with that community's proportional size throughout a locality.

That, Bayona explains, is why there are higher concentration levels among residents of Chinese or Pakistani origins than Moroccans, as the latter are evenly distributed. The same applies to Latin Americans whose characteristics and shared language aid a more even spread.

The Chinese community, which is 10th in Spain in terms of size, is especially concentrated in large urban areas like Madrid and Barcelona. And within those two cities, the community is mostly concentrated in specific neighborhoods.

In Malleu, Spain, boasts a strong Moroccan community — Photo: Google Street View

In Madrid, the epicenter is the Usera district, which some geographers have termed an "ethnic enclave." Usera's demographics contrast sharply with the rest of the city where — with the exception of the central part of Lavapies — the presence of Chinese immigrants is irrelevant in percentage terms.

In Barcelona, the pattern is repeated in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, where in a number of census sectors, people of Chinese origin represent the largest group of foreigners, constituting up to 30%. Likewise, the Pakistani community living in Sant Roc in Badalona is much more numerous than anywhere else in the Barcelona metropolitan area.

The arrival of nationals of other countries has in turn led to overlaps within domestic migratory flows, with some notable results. After more than 30 years of steady depopulation, an emptied Spain has become a fertile ground for this type of phenomenon.

Torre del Burgo, near the city of Guadalajara, attained sudden fame in January 2019 when the census revealed it to be the district with the most foreign residents. Almost 90% of its inhabitants were, and remain, born outside Spain. The vast majority (83%) are Bulgarians, drawn here by jobs in green asparagus farming. Demand for work has also impacted demographics in the neighboring village of Heras de Ayuso, where 40% of the population is Bulgarian.

The district of Fuente del Olmo de Fuentidueña, north of Segovia, has seen a similar process. The multinational Planasa works 120 greenhouses there for endives and other vegetables, and a shortage of farming hands drew about 90 Romanians, now more than half the district's residents.

The National Institute of Statistics counts all these foreigners as official residents in their given district, though that does not mean they are there throughout the year. Farming activities are seasonal, and when they end, many move to other provinces looking for work.

Migration can also produce more peculiar situations.

The International Labor Organization estimates that migrant workers make up 73% of all migratory flows worldwide. Spain itself sends out an average 67,000 work-seekers a year, based on average figures of the past decade.

Migration can also produce more peculiar situations, such as when relatives of those who emigrated in the past return as immigrants. That is precisely what has occurred in Avión, A Lama and Beariz in Galicia, which have relatively high concentrations (15-30%) of Latin Americans, especially from Brazil and Mexico.

One of those is the Mexican tycoon Olegario Vázquez Raña, a descendent of Galician emigrants who currently runs the successful Ángeles consortium and maintains a summer home in Avión, one of Spain's most prosperous districts. The higher proportion of Latin Americans in Avión is exceptional, even across Spain.

Bayona points out that compared to Pakistanis or even Moroccans, Latin Americans don't tend to live in such high concentrations. Sharing the Spanish language is one reason, but it also has to do with how heterogeneous Latin Americans are in socio-economic terms.

Geopolitics

Third Wave Coming: How We’re Getting Smarter About COVID-19

PARIS — With much of the world trying to minimize the impact of a COVID-19 second wave, governments are again forced to make impossible choices between relaxing restrictions to avoid total economic implosion or staying shut down to limit death tolls. Even countries typically mentioned as pandemic role models, like South Korea, are seeing a resurgence of cases.

But perhaps the grimmest news of the second wave is that many experts say we're bound for a third wave.

We know little about how things will play out, especially as hopeful results continue to arrive from several major vaccine efforts. But the logistical challenge of deploying a global vaccination effort means there's a real risk of a third wave arriving well before the virus is defeated. Others say that the next surge would be better characterized as a second installment of a drawn-out second wave.

Either way, the West is unlikely to go into crippling lockdowns again given the depth of economic damage caused by previous efforts to contain infections. What we do have is nine months of gained experience of grappling with the pandemic, and from that, governments have learned important lessons and fashioned new tools for minimizing the impact of the crisis in the months ahead. Here's a look at some of the progress that's been made:

Better knowledge of the virus

Treatments Three major vaccines have been developed and moved into final approval phase, with the UK set to deploy this month. But as we wait, the medical community has been testing and repurposing existing drugs and studying their effect on health, mortality and length of hospitalizations. Some show promise:

• A recent WHO worldwide study (conducted on 11,266 adult patients, across 500 hospitals in more than 30 different countries) reported that the steroid dexamethasone, used as a last resort among the most serious cases requiring oxygen, reduced mortality rates by up to one-third.

President Trump's hospitalization, in the United States, shed light on an experimental treatment using a combination of two synthesized "monoclonal" antibodies to boost the natural immune response of patients. U.S. officials have granted emergency authorization for the treatment — though the WHO remains unsure about the method.

• According to CNN, 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu from Texas could help deliver another potential COVID-19 treatment. Using in-silico methodology, she developed a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein that the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses to attach to human cells, infect them and replicate.

• Health professionals and authorities around the world have learned just how crucial timely diagnoses and treatments are. We now know that it's critical to act fast in symptomatic cases, while asymptomatic or only lightly affected patients can quarantine at home.

Viral load - One question researchers have sought to explain is why hospitals and ICU admissions dropped drastically over the summer. The going theory now is that when people receive lower doses of the virus, largely due to social distancing and wearing a mask in public spaces, their bodies are able to fight it and develop immunity more quickly. And the smaller the viral dose people carry, the less infectious they are. The hypothesis is backed by several studies, according to the The Washington Post, but more research is needed to confirm it, especially about how the viral load may impact the severity of the infection.

Masking up in Frankfurt — Photo: 7C0

Prevention is the best cure, but how?

The right tracking - The faster a cluster can be identified, the better the chances of containing the spread. Countries like South Korea have been praised for their streamlined responses to new cases, made possible through extensive contact tracing systems using both manual and digital methods. Many countries have tried to copy that approach, launching smartphone apps that rely on Bluetooth and geolocation to identify and notify people who might have become infected.

• In Germany, the Corona-Warn-App has been downloaded approximately 22 million times but only around 60% of users who have tested positive for Corona upload their findings onto the app, meaning that the people they have come into contact with aren't duly informed of the risk.

• In Finland, an app launched at the start of September became one of Europe's most popular with 1 million downloads in the first 24 hours, as reported by AP. It now has 5.5 million users and counting.

• Across the EU, three out of the 23 member states with a contact-tracing app have switched on cross-border interoperability: Germany's Corona-Warn-App, the Republic of Ireland's COVID-19 tracker, and Italy's Immuni app. Any user traveling from and to these countries can now receive exposure notifications through their national app, without downloading the local one.

Up to the test - Several countries have carried out massive testing campaigns. But the results of the standard PCR tests take up to 4-5 days to arrive, limiting their ability to prevent infected people spreading the virus further. Several labs worldwide have developed antigen tests that work just like the PCR-tests but produce results much more quickly (15 to 30 minutes).

• In the United States, Abbot Laboratories, the only one manufacturing rapid tests, received emergency authorization in August to put them on the market. At the end of September, Trump announced a plan to distribute 150 million of them.

• The WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered to reach volume guarantee agreements with Abbott and SD Biosensor to make 120 million antigen rapid diagnostic tests available to low- and middle-income countries.

On air - Unlike during the first wave, we now know that the virus can be airborne and thus ventilation of potentially infected places is key, with new studies suggesting that the virus can survive in the air for as long as eight minutes. This summer, the WHO issued new recommendations regarding ventilation in public spaces.

Germany will reportedly invest 500 million euros to help schools, offices, museums, entertainment halls, and other public buildings upgrade their ventilation systems.

Buenos Aires province will ban using air conditioning in hospitality venues around primary tourist spots during seasonal holidays, El Tribuno reports.

• In Spain, the Ministry of Education and Employment of the Junta de Extremadura issued clarifications to educational centers in preparation for winter, advising for a "balance" between ventilation to minimize the spread, "adequate" air conditioning to keep a decent temperature, and "adequate" clothing for pupils to stay warm.

Finding new indicators

Back in April, studies pointed out that traces of ribonucleic acid (RNA) of COVID-19 could be found in wastewater. The information was at first explored as a potential new source of contamination but it is now used for wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE), a powerful tool to trace the circulation of a virus in a community and estimate its prevalence and geographic distribution. It is particularly useful to monitor asymptomatic infections, which often slip under the radar of clinical surveillance. Wastewater analysis can help locate potential clusters by detecting the virus from 24 hours up to six days before the first symptoms appear.

• In Madrid, Spain, the regional government implemented a method for collecting samples along the city's 15,000-kilometer sanitation network. The action helped the city predict hospitalization rates several days in advance, La Vanguardia reports.

• In late July, maritime-firefighters from the dedicated COMETE unit in Marseille, France predicted an outbreak that only became clinically measurable in early August. The unit recently started collecting more targeted samples in nursing homes to test the residents' environment without exposing them.

Green Or Gone
Antonio Orti

Regenerative Travel: Will The Pandemic End Mass Tourism?

A global pandemic and weariness in many places of cheap, mass tourism may hasten a real paradigm shift in the travel sector. Or not.

BARCELONA — While some airlines, as bizarre as it may seem, continue to offer "flights to nowhere" — on planes that take off and land in the same airport, just to assuage the need for certain tourists to fly — others in the tourism sector are embracing a concept that goes in the complete opposite direction.

The trend is called "regenerative travel," and its aim, says Silvia Grünig, a city planning specialist at Paris University and lecturer in sustainability at Catalonia's Open University, is not only that visitors take care not to degrade, in any way, the places they visit, but that they actually improve conditions there. They should make things better, in other words, and not just for the sector, but for locals, the environment and travel in the future.

It may sound idealistic.

It may sound overly idealistic — the New York Times used the term "unicorn" to describe the quest — but some tourism operators really are trying to promote an approach to travel that is respectful of ecosystems and the social fabric of destinations, while also being economically viable.

"The key is to recover the concept of doing things well," says José Maria de Juan, vice-president of the European Alliance of Responsible Tourism and Hospitality and a partner in Koan Consulting. "The name doesn't matter so much. The important thing is for a destination to be able to choose its visitors.

Low-cost tourism, he explains, goes against sustainability. "That doesn't mean we shouldn't aim for maximum cost efficiency," De Juan adds. "But if the model is traveling to Morocco because it's cheap and staying there in an Airbnb, perhaps owned by a Californian, then buying a souvenir made in China before returning, clearly that is not sustainable and probably not even tourism."

While sustainability has been a policymaking buzzword since the 1990s, it has not impeded tourism's relentless growth and ever-increasing impact on the environment. In this sector, sustainability efforts have focused mainly on technology to maximize efficiency and reduce the negative effects of its activities. Regenerative tourism wants to take this sustainability beyond environmental concerns, and ensure locals do not see tourists as threatening, but beneficial.

"It's nice if everyone could travel, but not if others have to pay for it. That is neo-colonialism," says De Juan. "Low cost traveling ensures the cheapest deals for customers, but you also have to ask, why are they so cheap?" Part of the answer, he suggests, is in the low wages and scant qualifications of those working at this end of the sector.

Regenerative travel may be the latest in a long list of labels the sector has chosen to embellish itself, and aid its survival, since the 1990s. Keep in mind too that the sector is on pace to have shed nearly 200 million jobs by year's end. Other such labels include "inclusive," responsible, fair or communitarian tourism, and often, they ended up as mere marketing gimmicks.

But as Silvia Grünig explains: "Sustainable tourism is not a particular form of tourism. All forms of tourism and all human activities must tend toward sustainability in three areas, simultaneously: social, economic and environmental."

For now, it's a medley of ideas

Regenerative tourism is for now a medley of ideas. With the world on pause for the pandemic, some countries have started making plans for a more sustainable restart. The Visit Flanders tourism office in northern Belgium is, for example, redirecting offers to boost domestic visitors. Its marketing chief, Elke Dens, says that people can have fun without traveling to the other end of the globe, and they may soon replace one of their annual trips abroad with a local one.

"Everyone wants to see the world these days," Dens says. "But for that to happen, we should all do it a bit less frequently, and that, in turn, should make the experience more profound."

One Visit Flanders initiative is to link visitors to locals with a passion for their past and history. These can create a shared experience through visits to emblematic places, like the battlefields of World War I.

On a beach in Andalusia, Spain — Photo: Album via ZUMA Press

Regenerative is not a new idea. Indeed, it's already used in economics, farming and architecture to create self-sufficiency and boost prosperity around circular economy principles. "It means new patterns of thinking, based on observing how nature, rather than machines, works," says Elke Dens.

Another country exploring regenerative tourism is New Zealand. Its slogan "Do Something New This Winter" wants to promote a slower travel experience (like walking) and spending more time in one place. Certain analysts are even proposing the idea of taxing short-term stays and rewarding those who prolong their stays in a place.

That may be why more New Zealand firms are working to create emotional bonds with places through memorable experiences that could then encourage return visits. Ziptrek Ecotours, based in Queenstown in southern New Zealand, offers the opportunity to plant trees, and takes pride in the native concept of tiaki, or caring for people and a place. Kohutapu Lodge offers jobs to locals and supplies local schools with meals. Rotorua Canopy Tours has pledged to eliminate forest pests as its business expands. And Dive Tutukaka has pledged, with every service hire, to save marine habitats.

Leaders in Hawaii are also reconsidering tourism's role in the islands. The impetus was a 2018 poll indicating that most Hawaiians believe their lives have become a second priority to tourism. The state wants to shed the hotels-and-beach tag and seek new forms of tourism there, already mindful that post-pandemic travel may change for good.

These are not isolated cases. Norway wants to make its fjords emissions-free by 2026, which would force changes on cruise operators. And in Europe as a whole, 22 travel groups are signing onto 13 new guidelines that include a fairer distribution of revenues and placing quality over quantity.

But while the travel press is starting to write about regenerative travel, its success remains to be seen, as mass tourism is itching to get back on its feet. As Josep Ivars, professor of geography and tourism at Alicante University, warns: "Regenerative tourism runs the risk of becoming another label, like sustainable or ecotourism in the 1990s, or basically more greenwashing."

Tourism mustn't be demonized

He says tourism mustn't be demonized but certain types of tourism will "massify the urban environment, displace the local population, saturate infrastructures and destroy" heritage. This is precisely what happened in places like Torrevieja and Calpe, on the Spanish levantine coast. "I always ask my students what seems an absurd question," says Ivars. "Why do we plan? To attract tourists or for the benefit of the local population?"

The pandemic must end before we can know if this will be tourism's new form. Grünig says the sector suffers from a "paralysis of the imagination," as termed by the Austrian thinker Iván Illich referring to an inability to conceive of alternatives to the capitalist logic.

"People just want to go back to whatever there was before, because they cannot imagine other ways of doing things," she says. "But now we have an opportunity, because the model we had before has reached its limit and is starting to sink. The question now is to think of ways of coming out of the binds we've gotten into thanks to our yearning for constant growth."

Society
Bertrand Hauger

Adios Maradona: 22 World Front Pages On The Death Of Soccer God

El Pibe de Oro, Barrilete, El Dios, Cósmico, D10S, Dieguito, El 10, El Diez ...

The quantity of nicknames is just one more sign that fútbol legend Diego Armando Maradona was in a category of his own. His death Wednesday from a heart attack at the age of 60 was a bonafide global event.

Here are the front pages of 22 newspapers dedicated to the passing of the soccer legend: from dailies in his native Buenos Aires to the cities of his beloved club teams, Naples, Italy and Barcelona, Spain, but also California, France, India and beyond celebrated arguably the greatest artist that the beautiful game has ever seen.

ARGENTINA

Cronica, a daily newspaper in Maradona

Cronica

Portada de Clarín (Argentina)

Clarin

Portada de La Nación (Argentina)

La Nacion

Portada de Página/12 (Argentina)

Pagina/12

Portada de La Prensa (Argentina)

La Prensa

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Geopolitics
Jaume Mandeu

Flemish Fishers, Brexit And A 350-Year-Old Backup Plan

Authorities in Belgium say that regardless of how Brexit negotiations unfold, fishers from Bruges have 'royal privilege' to continue operating in British waters.

BRUSSELS — Charles II of England had a hectic life. He married the same woman twice, with two separate ceremonies; had no legitimate children but at least 12 with his lovers; and his father was beheaded. On top of all that, he spent nine years in exile before taking the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland after the death of Oliver Cromwell.

The Merry Monarch, as he was known, spent three of those exile years in the Flemish city of Bruges. And it was there, in 1666, that Charles II — grateful for the city's hospitality — granted it the Privilegie der Visscherie, the privilege of fishermen that gave 50 boats from that city eternal rights to fish in British waters.

All of this may seem like a minor, irrelevant mishap in history. But this past October, Charles II's three-and-a-half-century-old favor was suddenly back in the news when Belgium's ambassador to the EU, Willem van de Voorde, raised the issue in a meeting on Brexit negotiations.

Fishing is one of the three major obstacles that remain in the negotiations.

Government data suggest that more than half of the income of Flemish fishermen comes from catches in British waters. They have a modest fleet, 67 boats, but the sector as a whole provides work for 2,500 people, according to Crevits, who says that "expelling Flemish fishermen from British waters poses an existential threat to the entire industry."

To the surprise of his colleagues, the ambassador pointed out that even if Brexit negotiations fail — and European fishermen lose access to British waters — those based in Bruges would keep their rights. Fifty boats from that city could continue fishing based on that privilege of more than 350 years ago, which they are now carefully dusting.

The Flemish government insists on this right, which they believe will serve them if the Brexit negotiations do not bear fruit. "A first legal analysis indicates that the privilege of fishermen is still valid," said the Flemish minister for the economy, Hilde Crevits, who is ready to play this card if necessary.

Charles II of England — Hendrick Danckerts painting

Although Flanders has unearthed this 1666 privilege, its legal value is far from being proven. The document was wielded on two previous occasions but never led to conclusive results. The first opportunity came in 1849, in fisheries negotiations between the United Kingdom and Belgium, which had just become an independent state. The argument failed to impress the British much.

The second attempt was more picturesque. It occurred in 1963, when a Bruges councilor, Victor Depaepe, sailed into British waters with the declared intention of being arrested and taking the case to court. To do this, he sent individual telegrams to give the Queen of England and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan advance warning of his departure. The stunt generated publicity, but not to the extent that judges intervened — even though advisers of the British Ministry of Agriculture would have recommended not to go to court because they could not guarantee that they would win the case.

What luck the privilege might have this time remains to be seen. It will depend first on the Brexit negotiations, which have intensified in London and Brussels since late October. Behind the provocative statements, the parties are reportedly making some progress, although no one knows if it is enough. January, the date of the disengagement of the UK from the EU, is very close.

The 1666 Fisheries Privilege — Wikipedia

Fishing is one of the three major obstacles that remain in the negotiations, along with the so-called "level playing field" (Brussels-slang to indicate that British products cannot enter the single market if they benefit from state aid that gives them an advantage) and governance, namely how any disputes will be resolved. Then comes fishing, which is proving to be a thorny issue despite its limited economic weight.

The EU has made it clear that there won't be a agreement without an accord on fisheries, and although the issue only affects eight of the EU's 27, all countries have closed ranks against what is considered British attempts to open cracks in the bloc.

With some realism, European fishermen can't expect to have the same rights that they currently enjoy, but they are trying to keep the reduction of their quotas as small as possible. Meanwhile, the 50 from Bruges might keep the Privilegie der Visscherie up their proverbial sleeves, just in case.

Geopolitics
Gonzalo Guajardo F. Caballos

Ethiopia: Shutting Down The Internet As Tool For Statecraft

Though it may undermine free speech, Ethiopians seem accepting of government-ordered Internet shutdowns to curb rioting fomented online.

ADDIS ABABA — Would you sacrifice your freedom to feel safe? Following days of deadly rioting this summer, Ethiopians are increasingly clear on the answer. Not for the first time, this former communist dictatorship in northeastern Africa decided to block the Internet to stifle a growing protest movement online, after the murder of a singer from Ethiopia's main ethnic group, the Oromo.

One wonders whether Ethiopia's reality justifies limiting people's rights and liberties to keep the peace. In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin warned that "those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." It's a pertinent concept today in the face of challenges posed by new technology and online privacy.

Conflicts are of course more primordial, if that is the term: they are about being able to work, feed your family and school your children, access medical assistance of a reasonable level, use reliable public transport, assure a democratic polity... Or indeed, ensure social protests will not also burn down your home and business.

And so it was, on June 30 that Ethiopia woke up to the news of the murder the night before of the singer and activist Hachalu Hundessa.

The social networks were ablaze within hours, mobilizing and assembling thousands of Oromo followers who proceeded to sow chaos in Ethiopian cities including the capital, Addis Ababa.

Social networks here seem to have become a hotbed of incendiary rumors and suspected conspiracies that fuel ethnic hatred and systematic disinformation campaigns. These are particularly promoted by extremist opposition groups and activists of the Ethiopian diaspora, notably those in the United States.

Curiously they make their incendiary declarations from the comfort and security provided by the Internet, while the consequences as always are paid by people on the ground.

Filled with rage at the death of their idol, sickened by a sense of historical discriminations and egged on by leaders online, numerous Oromos took to the streets to protest, with too many smashing everything along their path! Their compatriots were both frightened and astounded by police inaction. The police had been taken by surprise and weren't receiving clear orders, and in cases connived with fellow tribesmen with whom they may have sympathized.

There were chilling eyewitness accounts of properties being burned down, and individuals lynched or beheaded.

How do you stop the madness?

And while senior officials were thinking of a response strategy, the vilified citizenry began organizing and defending itself. Then, after two or three days of silence and terror on the streets and with the country on the brink, the army was deployed to restore order. Some 200 people had died, hundreds more were injured, 7,000 detained and the cost of damage to property was enormous.

How do you stop the madness? The only way possible, says the government, was to block Internet access. When disturbances erupt in Ethiopia, an engineer somewhere in the capital receives a call from a number he knows all too well, and is ordered to proceed with shutting down the web. The entire country is thus deprived of what has become a basic need in our time. No e-mail, no Google search, no messaging, online education, news, hotel bookings or shopping for that matter... And needless to say, no social networks.

The entire country was engulfed in digital darkness. The measure gradually calmed the fury of the masses who could no longer congregate fast and effectively. The instigators were detained and without their leaders, protesting groups began dispersing. Normality gradually returned over the following weeks.

The first to recover internet access were the diplomatic corps, then essential public services. Domestic ADSL was then restored and when everything is under control and the chief mutineers are behind bars, the Internet is finally available on all mobile devices. Until the next incident of course...

This has been the leitmotiv of Ethiopia's history in the past five years. Those who have visited dictatorial or authoritarian countries or those that appear democratic but really have a strongman in charge, will understand what we mean.

Protests in London demanding justice for singer Hachalu Hundessa — Photo: Thabo Jaiyesimi/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Visiting or living in such places more or less safely is only possible with a national system of rigorous controls and vigilance, with internal espionage and the pervasive presence of security forces that keep people safe, but also "in check." Ethiopia was this type of country from the 1990s until its recent political rebirth.

In recent years, the glasnost policies enacted by the government of Dr. Aby Ahmed — himself an Oromo — seem to have proven costly. The president may have lost some control over events, with problems arising around the country. In the north, the Tigre minority, which has lost its historically privileged position, wants instability that could restore it to power. The west is seeing ethnic Somali separatism and elsewhere, the Oromos feel betrayed by the man they used to consider their leader.

Faced with the difficult task of keeping so many ethnic tensions in check, the government has turned to authoritarian tactics that had apparently ended with the dissolution of the old government. Ethiopia seems to have become dependent on a measure that would be derided elsewhere as a violation of the freedom of speech and the perfect trigger for an economic meltdown.

And citizens have become resigned and learned not just to live with shutdowns but also see its utility, in spite of the many inconveniences.

Speaking with Ethiopian in the capital and especially members of the new middle classes — generally better traveled and educated — they exude an unmitigated weariness. They give off a sense of the erratic destruction of years of personal effort to better your conditions and those of the country. A life of sacrifice will only get you so far, and ultimately, chaos is always around the corner.

You may even be given the impression that liberal democracy is impossible in Ethiopia. And one must ask: Is civil liberty such a universal and imperious principle as to require the sacrifice of personal safety?

Some years ago, the country became a darling of the press as a paragon of economic growth in Africa and choice travel destination, exemplary for its peace on this continent of unending crises. But more recent instability has dissuaded tourists and foreign investors, and is even prompting domestic investors to pack their bags. It is yet another brain drain in an African country..

Ethiopia's prosperity thus demands social and political stability, and security. Democracy remains an objective, even if not fully practicable on an everyday basis. The recent actions of sectors in this country, suggest the country remains unprepared for Western-style democracy.

Perhaps democracy, that big word, is simply too big and unpalatable for Ethiopians right now.

Coronavirus
Leyre Flamarique

Research Short Cuts For COVID-19 May Change Science Forever

In the race to to find a cure, scientists are rushing to release their study results. There are dangers in skipping the standard peer-review procedures, but they may be outweighed by the benefits.

BARCELONA — Across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has mobilized researchers and specialists in an array of fields in a collective bid to end the current state of emergency. Scientific research has pulled out all the stops to publish studies at a frantic rate, with one website, the Allen Institute of AI's Semantic Scholar, compiling more than 130,000 papers on the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Many were published almost immediately upon completion, and made publicly accessible before undergoing peer revision. This means the results were available months before they would have under standard publication procedures. The aim is to accelerate the search for solutions to the global malady.

Extraordinary circumstances, as they say, require extraordinary measures. But as a result, websites are brimming with content that's being read as if these outlets were rigorous scientific journals, and with provisional conclusions being taken as definitive.

The positive side of this is "results in real time," says Patrick Aloy, a senior researcher at the Barcelona-based Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB). The less positive side, he said, "is that it doesn't give us time to give the validation science deserves. We're practically spitting out data."

The consequences were not late in coming. The bioRxiv, an online archive of studies, decided in March to no longer upload computer studies on potential treatments for the coronavirus. The web was receiving too many speculative articles done with this method, some of which, as the website's co-founder Richard Sever told the journal Nature, made somewhat "crazy" affirmations and predictions about COVID-19.

Extraordinary circumstances, as they say, require extraordinary measures.

This "preprint server for biology" argues that in a pandemic, when people are paying so much attention to such websites, there is added concern about the possible consequences of this methodology. It's akin to self-medication. The website does stress that many of the new studies have not been verified, and thus should not be considered conclusive.

This mass of information inevitably requires some sifting. There's so much data, Aloy explains, "that it's difficult to use it all, and you focus on the groups you trust." His laboratory has joined forces with Amazon to design a tool for filtering information on molecules of possible utility in curing the COVID-19 illness.

Isabel Sola, a researcher at the CSIC's National Biotechnology Center in Madrid, has been working since February on a vaccine based on a modification of the coronavirus genome. She believes we need to keep looking at the incoming information with a critical eye. "Haste is not a good counselor," she says. "We're talking about a biological problem and this takes some time."

A researcher holds a COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Saraburi, Thailand — Photo: Chaiwat Subprasom/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Sola has been studying coronaviruses for years and is a world leader in the field. The pandemic has freed up "a whole lot of money and a great many research groups have seen an opportunity," she says. The Spanish government has itself approved a 30-million-euro budget to research the virus, 4.5 million of which have gone to CSIC, the research center where she works.

Some of these groups are starting from scratch and "clearly lack experience," she says. The search for a virus is no easy task, she says. "You need years to find a vaccine, and each virus has its own personality and problems." Sola's group is familiar with the difficulties of finding a vaccine for the coronavirus group and the approaches to be discarded beforehand. She stresses, however, that not every new finding is bad.

The flood of new, freely published material may become a departure point for future scientific output.

Across the Atlantic, José Manuel Ordovás, an immunologist at the Harvard Medical School, has adapted his laboratory at the Boston Children's Hospital to research the coronavirus. His team found that interferons — a specific group of proteins the immune system produces to fight off infections — can help the virus penetrate cells.

This, he says, means that "in recent months we haven't focused on what we were studying before." Nor could they have, as the Boston hospital did not allow experiments on the virus until early June. The laboratory is slowly resuming work after a several-month pause.

The negative aspects of the information rush aside, it's a situation that has also led teams to follow each other's results. The flood of new, freely published material may become a departure point for future scientific output. "This system may prevail," Sola says. "It was already possible to present preprints, but it wasn't so widely visible or valued so much."

Like an overflowing river that eventually crests and drops back to normal levels, the Madrid-based researcher believes we shall recover the balance between the two sources: the traditional journals and the more free-flowing online compendia.

Ordovás believes the balance should be between skepticism and transparency. He says this proliferation could become a new way of doing research that is neither totally secretive with its results, nor practically transparent and overly interested in emitting findings at any cost. It would, he argues, be a step toward a "slightly more democratic" state of communicating data and ideas.

Geopolitics

Coronavirus — Global Brief: Why We Care About Boris Johnson

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT: WHY WE CARE ABOUT BORIS JOHNSON

Boris Johnson Taken To Intensive Care: It's a headline that stands out among the non-stop flow of disturbing coronavirus news flashes. We already knew the 55-year-old British Prime Minister had been infected two weeks ago, and even Sunday's news that he was being brought to the hospital with a persistent fever was presented as routine testing.

But there's nothing routine about the ICU, nor the oxygen he was being given after breathing difficulties had suddenly appeared on Monday. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is running the country, and Boris Johnson is by all appearances fighting for his life.

There will be time another day to reflect on what this means politically in the UK, where Johnson has been questioned for his choices in fighting the pandemic and more generally criticized about his policies on healthcare. But serious illness turns every politician into a person.

He is of course hardly the only person: 1.4 million have been infected, and more than 76,000 people have died from COVID-19 around the world. On Tuesday, Britain's death toll alone hit a one-day high of 854. Yet for those not touched directly, the gravity of this pandemic hits home again as a very public person deteriorates in real-time before our eyes. Indeed, Johnson had posted a video just before being taken to the hospital where he seemed a bit fatigued, but otherwise his usual moppy-haired wry self. So it's him this time, we tell ourselves. Who will be next?

This has happened before in Britain, in 1918, when the nation's war hero prime minister David Lloyd George caught the flu during a ceremonial visit to Manchester's Albert Square. As his condition worsened, and with World War I in full swing, the prime minister's illness was kept hidden to prevent the news from reaching the country's enemies.

A century later, the stricken leader is very much in plain view — it's the enemy that we can't see.

— Jeff Israely

THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

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Geopolitics

Coronavirus — Global Brief: Your Health Depends On Helping Poor Countries

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT: YOUR HEALTH DEPENDS ON HELPING POOR COUNTRIES

The unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 has simultaneously generated both global solidarity and new heights of navel gazing. You've probably stumbled across the the VIPs sharing their self-absorption on social media. But there are also millions of others who are rightly laser focused on the well-being of their families, the fate of their careers and the challenge of being locked inside their homes for weeks on end. And yet at the same time, many are doing their best to support neighbors and local healthcare workers — and try to imagine a better world for all.

While citizens of the world's richest countries — currently the worst affected by the virus — cheer on their own troops and look to one another for guidance, the path to returning their own home turfs to normality may ultimately require looking abroad, and more specifically at how the pandemic will be tackled in the developing world. As we've seen, this virus travels across borders at lightning speeds — and may indeed flare back up in a "second wave" even after it may appear defeated in any one country.

This means that medical and economic aid should be a global calculation, and inevitably poorer countries will need the most help. "It is clearer than ever that none of us will be safe until all of us are safe," reads a blog post from the World Economic Forum calling for immediate debt cancellation to nations in the developing world.

Quoted in Le Monde, UN Chief Antonio Gutteres puts it this way: "The virus will come back up from the South to the North. So it's in the interest of countries in the North to make a massive investment in Africa." Though coronavirus has pushed each of us deeper into our respective bubbles, the world has never been smaller.

Rozena Crossman​

THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Toll: More than one million cases have been registered around the world, Europe accounts for around half. The U.S. records world's highest daily toll with 1,169 deaths.

  • Democrats delay: US Democrats postpone Democratic National Convention to anoint presidential nominee until August.

  • U.S. masks: New York City urges residents to wear masks in public, as White House is expected to issue new face masks guidelines.

  • No exams: France cancels end-of-year national school exams.

  • Gender restrictions: Peru and Panama introduce restrictions of public movement by gender, alternating days out for men and women to slow virus spread.

  • That Mexican beer: Brewer of Corona halts production of beer, after being declared non-essential business by government.

  • What!? Twins born in India during lockdown named Corona and Covid.

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