Crimean Base Stormed, Golan Strikes, 12-Sided Coin

Crimean Base Stormed, Golan Strikes, 12-Sided Coin

A group of Crimea’s pro-Russian self-defense militants stormed the headquarters of the Ukrainian navy in Sevastopol, one day after Russia declared the peninsula part of its federation. According to AP, Ukrainian servicemen offered no resistance and calmly left the building.

  • The early morning move put Kiev on alert, with Ihor Tenyukh, the interim Defense Minister, telling journalists that Ukrainian forces will not withdraw from Crimea. But Tenyukh, who was instructed by interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenuyk to fly to Crimea, would be barred from entering the territory, Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov said. "They are unwelcome in Crimea. Nobody will let them enter Crimea, and they'll be sent back," he added. Read more from Interfax.

  • Meanwhile, Crimean police arrested a 17-year-old man from the far-right nationalist group Right Sector believed to be the sniper responsible for the deaths of a Ukrainian soldier and a pro-Russian militant, Voice Of Russia reports. Yesterday, Yatsenyuk had accused Russian troops and described the death of the Ukrainian soldier as an “act of war.”

  • The President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, who had asked to meet with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, apparently saw his visit to Moscow cancelled by the EU. In a statement full of irony, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Van Rompuy had been put “on a new sanction list — of those in the European Union who are banned to travel to Russia.” Read more from Itar-Tass.

  • The U.S. has treated Russia like a “loser” since the end of the Cold War, former U.S. ambassador to the USSR. from 1987 to 1991 Jack F. Matlock Jr writes in The Washington Post. In its editorial, The New York Times explains that Crimea joining Russia may be “a watershed in post-Soviet East-West relations, with a lot less for the Russians to celebrate.” In The Moscow Times, Nicolai N. Petro, a professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island, writes that “the new government in Kiev needs to accept the fact that Crimea is lost, however painful and difficult that will be.” But in a column for The Huffington Post, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko says that “Crimea will always be Ukrainian.”

China hasn’t found “any sign” to suggest that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 ever entered its territory, although its destination was Beijing, The Wall Street Journal quotes China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, as saying. Meanwhile, relatives of missing Chinese passengers stormed the meeting room in Kuala Lumpur where officials were holding their daily press conference, South China Morning Post reports.
The aircraft, which went missing 11 days ago, is now assumed to have flown to the southern Indian Ocean, a source told Reuters. Follow The Guardian’s live blog for the latest updates on the search.

Israel’s air force launched a series of strikes against Syrian military sites in the Golan Heights (Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967), killing one Syrian soldier, in retaliation for an explosion that wounded four Israeli soldiers, the BBC reports. This comes after a UN report showed that members of the al-Qaeda-linked group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, involved in the fight against Bashar al-Assad, carried out mass executions of detainees in Syria.

  • Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports the death of a 19-year-old Palestinian in the Hebron district, shot by Israeli troops as he attempted to cross the separation barrier.

  • The Jerusalem Local Planning Committee greenlighted the construction of another 186 new settlements in the illegally occupied territories, after having approved the construction of defense and police units earlier this week. Israeli daily Haaretz quotes a political opponent as saying that the decision “hurts the chances of reaching an arrangement with the Palestinians.”

Six people were killed this morning in the Turkish town of Kars after a recently fired employee stormed into the Turkish Statistical Institute’s office with a firearm, DoÄŸan news agency reports. The man, who is said to have suffered from psychological problems, committed suicide after his killing spree.


Britain has unveiled its new 12-sided one-pound coin. Learn more about it here.

157 dead pigs were found in the Gan river, in the southeastern Chinese province of Jiangxi, which supplies drinking water to the region’s main cityAFP reports. After carrying tests, the authorities however said that the water was safe for consumption, according to Xinhua. Last year, some 16,000 pig carcasses were found in Shanghai’s main waterway, putting the country’s sanitary problems in the spotlight.

Buenos Aires daily Clarin on the role Argentine-born Pope Francis could have on the race for president. “Sergio Massa spoke of poverty, corruption, family life — the Pope’s favored themes when speaking of a better life for Argentines. Yet, let’s remember, Massa was cabinet chief in Cristina Kirchner’s first government, when her party had the worst relations with the then-Cardinal Bergoglio. He’s busy doing some repair work now, though he has yet to obtain a private audience with His Holiness. Read the full Clarin/Worldcrunch article: Argentina's Politicians Latch On To Homegrown Pope


Do you know difference between Spanish and Swahili? We came across this awesome language game, but be warned: It's addictive.

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7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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