Why worry?

It’s comforting to learn that when it comes to wreaking havoc on the climate, the world’s elite is more than pulling its weight. That’s according to researchers at Linnaeus University, in Sweden, who found that “frequent fliers—at most 1% of the world population—likely account[ed] for more than half of the total emissions from passenger air travel” in 2018. Well done, us! And because American exceptionalism knows no bounds, it shouldn’t come as a shock that the United States is the worst offender by far among wealthy countries.

But the travel falloff of 2020 offers some hope. The Linnaeus study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, concluded that “the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic represents an opportunity to rethink aviation in terms of demand distributions, air transport wants and needs (private aircraft, first class suites).” Or as the lead researcher Stefan Gössling put it to The Guardian, “The rich have had far too much freedom to design the planet according to their wishes. We should see the crisis as an opportunity to slim the air transport system.”

That slimming might begin with a close examination of the wants and needs of Vladimir Putin and his “Doomsday” airplane. And perhaps that’s precisely what thieves had in mind when they broke into Putin’s flying mobile command post (those things might come in handy during a nuclear war) while it was undergoing maintenance at an airfield south of Moscow. They liberated $13,000 worth of radio equipment from the windowless (save for the cockpit!) Ilyushin Il-80 and left behind only shoe prints and fingerprints. No arrests yet, but a Kremlin spokesman who described the theft as an “emergency situation” added that “measures will be taken.” Even more reassuring, the Web site of Russian television station REN-TV stated flatly that “the Kremlin promised to draw conclusions after the theft from the ‘Doomsday plane.’”

The detail that really made us sit up, in reading about how France has decided to develop “augmented soldiers”—who, through the use of implants, prosthetics, and medicines, acquire superhero-like abilities to withstand the stress, pain, and fatigue of battle—was that the French were motivated by a determination to keep up. Keep up? With … ? Well, France’s announcement followed a Wall Street Journal op-ed by John Ratcliffe, the U. S. director of national intelligence, in which he wrote that “China has even conducted human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities.”

China has disputed Ratcliffe’s claim. As for France, their decision to dabble in bionic soldiers followed some ethical soul-searching (and a subsequent report) by a special committee, and the defense ministry took pains to make it clear that they were not interested in producing anything too, you know, invasive, or that went against our fundamental values, or—for instance—jeopardized the humanity of a soldier whose arm had been replaced by a prosthetic firearm. “The report said that the soldier would in effect be unable to leave the army,” noted The Times of London. Florence Parly, France’s minister of the armed forces, drove the point home: “Rather than implanting a chip under the skin, we will seek to integrate it into a uniform. In summary, we are saying yes to the Iron Man armor and no to the increase and genetic mutation of Spiderman.”

A phonetic alphabet instituted by the Nazis for use in codes will be eliminated and revert to the “too Jewish” one it had replaced in 1934. Until then, for example, “Jacob” had stood for the letter j, “Samuel” for s, and “David” for d, but the Nazis, in cleansing mode, changed those to “Julius,” “Siegfried,” and “Dora.” The pre-1934 alphabet will be in use until at least 2022, when an entirely new one may be introduced—one that draws on names of cities rather than people.

Cricket Australia has announced a partnership with Rexona, a deodorant, to advertise in umpires’ armpits—perhaps the first-ever foray into what is being described as “pit-vertising.” (Already sorry you read this far? We’ll wrap it up quickly.) Cricket is sponsor-heavy and its available hustling space scarce, hence the intense focus on the commercial possibilities of the officials’ underarms. The visibility of the ads will depend on the umpires’ signaling during matches, so Rexona is doubtlessly hoping for a lot of “byes” (arm, or arms, stretched high). And although they won’t help here, judging from the images one finds online, the umpires’ signals for “leg byes” represent some interesting uncharted advertising territory. (Think dogs and hydrants.)

George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL