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The Latest: Sep. 11 Troop Withdrawal, Vaccine Doubts, Even Bigger Christ In Brazil

Inter Milan supporters are celebrating outside the Duomo di Milano after the Italian soccer team won the Serie A title for the first time in 11 years, ending Juventus’ nine-year reign in Italy.
A new statue of Christ is under construction in the southern city of Encantado in Brazil. The statue will be 43 meters high, making it taller than the world-famous Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro and the world’s third tallest Jesus statue.

Welcome to Wednesday, where Joe Biden chooses a major anniversary for the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout is stopped and there's an even taller Christ statue in Brazil. We also look at how different countries are finding creative ways to commemorate the COVID-19 victims.

U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan: U.S. President Joe Biden has officially announced the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks that led to the 2001 invasion. It is a short extension of a May 1 deadline for full withdrawal made in an agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban.

New questions about vaccines made in U.S. and China: The United States, the European Union and South Africa temporarily halt the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine rollout, after a few rare cases of blood clots have been reported. Meanwhile, new questions are raised about the effectiveness of China's Sinovac vaccine, which has been distributed in such countries as Brazil and Indonesia.

Violence continues in Minneapolis after police resignations: A third night of unrest was reported in Minneapolis, following the resignation of police officer Kim Potter two days after fatally shooting Daunte Wright. The police chief in the nearby town where the killing happened also resigned after calling the shooting an accident. The latest killing happened just a few miles from where George Floyd was killed last year by police officer Derek Chauvin, who is currently on trial for murder.

20 children die in Niger school fire: Investigators are probing the cause of a fire that killed 20 children died yesterday at a school in Niamey, Niger's capital city.

Coinbase listing marks crypto landmark: The largest cryptocurrency exchange, called Coinbase, lists today on the Nasdaq stock market, a milestone for the blockchain-backed currency economy.

Somalia's president extends his mandate: President Mohamed Abdullahi has signed a controversial law that extends his mandate for two more years, according to a state news agency. Adullahi's four-year term expired in February without a successor.

World's longest rabbit is missing: Darius, the 129 cm-long continental giant rabbit has been stolen from its home in Worcestershire, in the UK, according to police officials. His owner has offered a £1,000 ($1,378) reward for his return.


"Two more quarantines," titles Colombian daily El Espectador as Bogota extends strict lockdown restrictions for the next two weekends, after the country's capital city declared its health system under red alert.

Different ways the world is commemorating COVID-19's victims

With society as a whole facing the sheer scale of the loss of life caused by this pandemic, what can we do to commemorate its countless victims? Since March 2020, people from all over the world have been searching for new ways to pay tribute to the dead. From Switzerland to Mexico, mourners have explored different approaches to commemorating.

Switzerland: Telling a dramatic story through music — this was the idea of Swiss journalist Simon Huwiler, who created a music box whose singular tune was based on the daily number of people who lost their lives to the virus since last year, reports SWI swissinfo.ch. The holes in the music paper correspond to COVID victims.

Chile: "To Mend the Pain." This is how a group of Chilean women have named their art project that aims at creating a textile memorial for COVID-19 victims, reports Diario Uchile. After having worked for seven months, trying to reach out to people across the country, the group of women received over 200 pieces of embroidery, and more than 100 people expressed their willingness to take part in this creative memorial.

Britain: 150,000. That's where the COVID-19 death toll has arrived in Britain, as well as the number of hand-drawn red hearts that decorate a wall opposite Westminster, in London, and which stands as a temporary memorial to victims of the pandemic, reports The Guardian.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


Mayor of Rome mistakes another arena for Colosseum, sent to lions

For the Romans, there's no other choice but the fatal (though virtual) thumbs down for their mayor.

Yes, online commentators (and no doubt offline elders around the Italian capital) are sending Mayor Virginia Raggi to the proverbial lions for mixing up the Colosseum — the one (and only) built in Rome nearly 2,000 years ago, the first and biggest open-air amphitheater ever built — with some other, smaller ancient arena in a much smaller city almost not worth mentioning by name. But alas...

In a video presentation this week to tout the Italian capital's selection as host of the 2023 Ryder Cup golf tournament, Raggi showed a footage of what was supposed to be Rome's signature landmark… but was instead the arena of Nimes in southern France.

Italian daily La Stampa gathered some of the Romans' reactions: "Tell me it isn't true," wrote online commentator Simone N, after seeing the video. "What you see in the first three seconds is the Arena of Nîmes, which is in France. IN FRANCE. What the hell does that have to do with the city of Rome? The Colosseum is the Colosseum."

For those outside Rome, it may seem like an honest mistake, after all the French arena was built shortly after the Colosseum and is one of the best preserved ancient amphitheaters in the world. But for Romans, you might as well have substituted in the Yankee Stadium or the Wembley arena. Beyond stupido for the mayor.

"The mayor of Rome can't recognize the Colosseum?" asked one. Another added: "I could cry... a mistake that not even a kid in elementary school would make. Mixing up the symbol of Rome."

La Stampa reports that Raggi's staff has pulled the erroneous footage out, and blamed the gaffe on the Italian Golf Federation, which had included the wrong images in a video that the city of Rome borrowed for its presentation.

There was at least one defender of the error, several hundred miles to the north. Xavier Duais, deputy maire of Nîmes and responsible for tourism, tweeted a message to Raggi: "Thank you for the wonderful showcase you've given our arenas. Errare humanum est !" That's Latin for: To err is human. Sure, and to tear apart foolishness is Roman.

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

$900 million

An Egyptian court has ordered the Japanese owner of the Ever Given to pay $900 million in compensation after the massive cargo ship blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week. Egyptian authorities have seized the vessel amid a dispute over the financial damages caused by the blockade of this vital global trade waterway.

They got a lesson from the Myanmar army … now they have to give a lesson back to the army. They have to show their strength.

— In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, ousted Myanmar ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn said that he is waiting for British officials to strengthen security measures as he fears reprisals for himself and his relatives at home. The Myanmar military regime removed him from office after he declared his loyalty to detained civil leader Aung Saun Suu Kyi.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet & Emma Flacard

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EL ESPECTADOR
The oldest newspaper in Colombia, El Espectador was founded in 1887. The national daily newspaper has historically taken a firm stance against drug trafficking and in defense of freedom of the press. In 1986, the director of El Espectador was assassinated by gunmen hired by Pablo Escobar. The majority share-holder of the paper is Julio Mario Santo Domingo, a Colombian businessman named by Forbes magazine as one of the wealthiest men in the world in 2011.
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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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