It’s been another historic week in international news: tourism levels have shrivelled to 1990-levels, two planets will align for the first time in 400 years and the US is bracing itself for the biggest tech hack ever recorded.
Here are five notable stories that emerged this week:
1. COVID-19 killed tourism.
It’s no shocker that the pandemic left the global tourism sector in free-fall. In fact, according to the UN’s International Tourism Organisation, tourism fell by 72% in the first ten months 2020, plummeting revenues to a $935 billion loss, ten times more than in the 2009 economic crisis.
But even with the arrival of vaccines there’s still a long road to recovery in the new year.
Until then, we should stay vigilant, buy local and prepare to be inoculated.
2. A celestial alignment will happen for the first time since the Renaissance.
Ok – this may not have happened yet, but it’s worth noting now so you can ponder at the spectacle this Monday.
Jupiter and Saturn will come closer together in the sky than they have in the last 400 years. The solar system’s largest planets will appear side by side in a “great conjunction” just after sunset.
While their orbital paths create great conjunctions every two decades or so, many aren’t possible to see with the naked eye because they happen in the day time or they simply don’t come close enough. This year, the planets will be the closest since 1623, when Shakespeare’s collected works were first published.
3. The US government and big tech got hit by a huge hack.
A huge, unprecedented and sophisticated hack has hit at least 40 government agencies, think tanks, NGOs and IT companies across the world. The biggest victim, the US government, suspects it may be Russian military hackers that used software from a Texas company Solar Winds to do it.
A U.S. official said the hack may be one of the worst in history.
Organisations are scrambling to protect their assets from information theft including defence contractors, technology companies and providers of telecommunications.
American President Trump has yet to make an official comment on it.
4. Hundreds of schoolboys freed after a Boko Haram abduction.
More than 300 schoolboys that were abducted in northern Nigeria have arrived in the capital of Katsina State.
The terrorist group Boko Haram claimed to be behind last week’s kidnapping, after gunmen raided an all-boys science school in a village called Kankara, marching the children into a nearby forest.
None of the boys spoke as they returned to the village, ushered in a single-file by soldiers to be reunited with their parents.
International human rights groups have raised concerns about increasing crime rates in the African state. Gangs in northwest Nigeria have killed more than 1,100 people in the first half of this year alone, Amnesty International said.
5. More than 1,000 vehicles were stuck in a two-day traffic jam in Japan.
*Insert Maltese traffic joke here*
More than 1,000 vehicles in Japan have been stranded on a high way for two days after a heavy snowstorm. Authorities are distributing essentials like food, fuel, blankets and drivers on the Kanetsu expressway, the main route that connects Tokyo and northern city of Niigata.
It also left 10,000 homes without power in the north and west. It began when a trailer got stuck in the snow, and just as the nation faces a third wave of COVID-19.
6. The EU announced a date when vaccinations will begin.
All 27 EU member states will begin vaccinating their populations on 27th December, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced yesterday.
That means states, including Malta, will start rolling out the vaccine in just over a week, starting with healthcare workers, elderly care home staff and residents, mental care home staff and residents and everyone over 85.
Is there an international news piece you think we’ve missed? Comment below