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The Latest: Peru’s COVID Death Rate, Myanmar Teachers, Tesla Prices

Thousands of schoolchildren participate in a calligraphy competition in Anlong, China
Thousands of schoolchildren participate in a calligraphy competition in Anlong, China

Welcome to Tuesday, where there's a new country with the highest rate of COVID deaths, India registers its worst recession in almost 80 years, and Lithuania's capital city goes full on science fiction. The Latin American business magazine America Economia shows us the massive new port in Peru that's planned to be the gateway for growing Chinese trade into the region.


• Netanyahu's legal challenge rejected: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's challenge of the legality of a bid by a rival rightist to head a new Israeli government has failed after it was rejected by the country's president.

Uganda minister shot in assassination attempt: Gen. Katumba Wamala, Uganda's Transport Minister, was wounded in an attack by gunmen. His daughter and driver were killed.

• COVID update: Peru's COVID death toll more than doubles following a review of its counting methods, making it the country with the world's highest death rate per capita, with more than 180,000 fatalities. The WHO has announced it will use Greek letters to refer to variants to simplify discussions and avoid stigma, with the UK variant labelled as Alpha for instance.

• Myanmar's schools boycott: Schools in Myanmar reopen for the first time since the military seized power, but teachers and students are set to defy the junta by boycotting classes in protest.

• Tesla prices increase due to supply chain pressure: U.S. automaker Tesla is increasing the prices of its electric vehicles due to supply chain disruptions across the auto industry, notably a shortage in computer chips.

• Osaka withdraws from French Open: Citing recent struggles with depression, Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka pulls out of French Open after she was fined and threatened with expulsion following her decision to boycott the news conferences.

• A portal to another city: The capital city of Vilnius, Lithuania, has installed a futuristic mirror-like "portal" that is connected to a similar installation 600 kilometers away in Lublin, Poland, broadcasting live images from the two cities to encourage people to "rethink the meaning of unity."


"The Cup of Shame," titles Brazilian daily Extra as South America's soccer federation CONMEBOL announced Brazil would host the Copa America instead of pandemic-hit Argentina — just 13 days before the start of the competition and as Brazil records more than 463,000 deaths.

China's future gateway to Latin America is a mega-port in Peru

Despite local opposition, Chinese investors are pumping billions into the Chancay project, a massive port complex north of Lima that will boost trade between China and Latin America as a whole, reports Gonzalo Torrico in business magazine America Economia.

The Chancay port complex, with an initial investment of $1.3 billion, will turn this fishing and farming town into a regional hub that could redefine shipping lines in the entire southern Pacific. Since 2019, the project's main stakeholder is the Chinese state firm Cosco Shipping Ports (60%). Cosco is a partner in 52 port projects worldwide. But in the Americas, Chancay is the first being built with Chinese capital. The complex is expected to be fully functional by 2024, helping consolidate China's influence in South America, and in Peru especially.

In the last decade, this country has become the regional crux of China's economic and geopolitical interests. So far, Chinese firms have invested more than $30 billion in Peru, a figure exceeded only by money spent in Brazil. The principal sector is mining, which has absorbed more than half all these investments and has proven to be an excellent source for the mineral materials China needs to keep its industrial sector humming. One of those materials is copper, which Peru produces in great supply.

China is also pursuing a global integration strategy here through its Belt and Road Initiative, which promotes global infrastructures that favor its trade. Amid rivalries with the United States, it has signed agreements with 138 countries in spite of warnings from Washington that states risk becoming over-indebted to China. For its location, Peru is an important point on this New Silk Route. With its long swatch of Pacific coastline, it lies directly across from Asia, and can also become a link to Brazil and the Atlantic.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


مكبرات الصوت

Saudi Arabia's Islamic affairs minister is defending a controversial order to limit the volume on mosques' loudspeakers (pronounced "mukabirat alsawt") across the country, in response to complaints of excessive noise.



Quebec's latest demand for recognition: an emoji

At 3,304 and counting, the list of officially recognized emojis includes more than just happy faces, hearts and clinking beer mugs. With certain icons there are politics at play, and even questions about regional pride and sovereignty, as lawmakers in the Canadian province of Quebec made clear in recent days.

For now, there is no official Quebec flag emoji, and so for years, social media users in the French-speaking province have used a similar looking Martinique flag (one that features snakes instead of fleurs-de-lys) as a stand-in.

No offense to Martinque (a French overseas department in the Caribbean sea), but many Quebekers are saying enough is enough. Stop the injustice!

Multiple petitions have been signed and circulated, and last week the Quebec provincial legislature took up the cause, voting unanimously in favor of a motion to request the creation of an emoji bearing their province's colors, reports TVA Nouvelles.

"In the past, people had a flagpole in front of their house to show their pride. Now, we have social media," argued Pascal Bérubé, the Parti Quebecois legislator who put the motion forward to the Assembly last week.

This happens to come as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated a willingness to assign "nation" status and acknowledge the French linguistic identity of Quebec, reports Le Monde.

Quebec is one of the latest provinces — along with Catalonia in Spain and Brittany in France — to ask for its local flag to be recognized by the Unicode Consortium, the universal authority in charge of choosing which new icon can be added to the emoji alphabet.

Two years ago, the encoding authority already refused another symbol of French Canadian identity: poutine, a popular dish that combines French fries, gravy and cheese. There's hope, nevertheless, that the québécois flag might actually make the cut. After all, even pirates have their own emoji banner.

Pourquoi pas Quebec?

➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com


-7.3%

India's economy contracted by a record 7.3% in 2020-2021, official data showed — the country's worst recession since its independence in 1947. The second wave of the pandemic in India prompted further lockdowns and saw more than seven million people lose their jobs in April alone.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet & Bertrand Hauger

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Future

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

commons.wikimedia.org

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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