Hundreds of people are missing and dozens confirmed dead in some of the worst flooding in European history:
Following a day of frantic rescue efforts and orders to evacuate towns rapidly filling with water unloosed by violent storms, the German authorities said late Thursday that after confirming scores of deaths, they were unable to account for at least 1,300 people.
That staggering figure was announced after swift-moving water from swollen rivers surged through cities and villages in two western German states, where the death toll passed 90 on Friday in the hardest-hit regions and other fatalities were expected.
The devastation caused by the severe weather came just days after the European Union announced an ambitious blueprint to pivot away from fossil fuels over the next nine years, as part of plans to make the 27-country bloc carbon-neutral by 2050. Environmental activists and politicians were quick to draw parallels between the flooding and the effects of climate change.
“The water is still flowing knee-high through the streets, parked cars are thrown sideways, and trash and debris are piling up on the sides,” Alexander Bange, the district spokesman in the Märkische region of North Rhine-Westphalia, told the German news agency D.P.A.
I hope the rains abate long enough, and the rivers empty quickly enough, to limit the damage and deaths that continue today.
French start-up Midnight Trains plans a set of overnight train routes of 800-1,500 km in length, from Paris to Edinburgh, Madrid, Copenhagen, and Rome:
The founders say the aim is not to match the famous – and expensive – luxury of the Orient Express but offer an alternative to the basic, state-run SNCF sleepers and short-haul flights.
Key to the service will be “hotel-style” rooms offering privacy and security, and an onboard restaurant and bar.
Midnight Trains is the latest arrival in what is becoming a crowded market. Across Europe, state-run railways are facing new competition from private operators looking to introduce night trains. Fans of rail travel have waited some time for new night train routes to come along … only to find, a bit like buses, several turning up at the same time.
Since 2016, Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) has introduced six new overnight routes under the Nightjet brand that was already operating nine night routes. Private operators in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Belgium have announced new overnight services.
In December last year, ÖBB, the German rail company Deutsche Bahn, SNCF and Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) announced the signing of an agreement to launch new night train services in Europe. This is the first step in developing the Trans-Europe Express (TEE) 2.0 network, proposed by the German presidency of the Council of the European Union. This partnership plans to launch four new services to 13 of Europe’s largest cities in the coming years.
Sign me up!
With France and the UK sending naval vessels to the Isle of Jersey last week, it's only fitting that Belgium got into the historical reenactment game:
Apparently frustrated by a 200-year-old stone border marker, a Belgian farmer dug it out and moved it about seven feet into French territory, local officials told French news media, thus slightly enlarging his own land as well as the entire country of Belgium.
The stone markers, each believed to weigh between 300 and 600 pounds, were laid when the 390-mile border between France and what is now Belgium was established under the 1820 Treaty of Kortrijk.
It is unclear whether the farmer knew the significance of the stone, which has 1819 carved into its face.
The farmer could face criminal charges if he does not return the Franco-Belgian border to the correct location.
I also found it fascinating that France has clubs who walk the Belgian border looking for exactly these kinds of things. I wonder how many other borders in the world have changed slightly due to adverse possession by people who don't know they're invading the other country?
Today is not only the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, it's also the 84th anniversary of the Nazi bombing of Guernica. Happy days, happy days.
In today's news, however:
I will now get lunch. And since it's 17°C right now (as opposed to yesterday's 5°C), I may eat it outside.
Just a couple passing stories this afternoon:
Finally, Merck and Johnson & Johnson announced a plan to combine production of Covid-19 vaccines, an "unprecedented" collaboration between competitors.
I read the news today, oh boy. And one of the stories reminded me of this movie:
See if you can guess which one.
- The FBI charged Richard Michetti, of Ridley Park, Pa., with several crimes related to the January 6 insurrection after his ex-girlfriend turned over photos, videos, and texts of Michetti storming the Capitol. She did so shortly after he called her a "moron" in one of the texts.
- The North Atlantic Overturning Circulation has declined to its lowest point in over a millennium, threatening to make Northern Europe's weather more like Canada's and to raise sea levels along the US Atlantic coast. Note that global warming slowing the ocean's thermohaline circulation was predicted back in the 1980s.
- Following Monday's unsigned order from the United States Supreme Court, Mazars USA, the XPOTUS's accounting firm, has turned over 8 years of Trump Organization tax records to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.
- Dominion Voting Systems' legal filings against Rudy Giuliani and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell spared no one's feelings.
- The New Yorker's Eric Lach puzzles over "the sound and fury of Andrew Cuomo."
- If you're a mom at wit's end trying to manage children during the pandemic, Jennifer Senior wants you to know you're not alone.
Finally, Chicago managed 58 hours of above-freezing temperatures (from 1pm Monday until 11pm yesterday) leaving us with only 15 cm of snow on the ground and a chance it'll all be gone by this time tomorrow. The forecast calls for daytime highs above freezing every day through next week, possibly hitting 10°C over the weekend. Spring!
Even though things have quieted down in the last few days (gosh, why?), the news are still newing:
Finally, last August's derecho caused "the most damage in the least amount of time" of any weather disaster on record.
Thank you, Tom Lehrer, for encapsulating what this season means to us in the US. In the last 24 hours, we have seen some wonderful Christmas gifts, some of them completely in keeping with Lehrer's sentiment.
Continuing his unprecedented successes making his the most corrupt presidency in the history of the country (and here I include the Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding presidencies), the STBXPOTUS yesterday granted pardons to felons Charles Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone. Of the 65 pardons and commutations he has granted since becoming president, 60 have gone to people he knows personally and who have committed crimes on his behalf. Maggie Haberman and Michael S Schmidt say he's at his most unleashed as he tries to avoid leaving office the loser he is.
In other news:
Finally, enjoy this performance of the "Hallelujah" chorus from Händel's Messiah released just a few moments ago by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago:
The December solstice happened about 8 hours ago, which means we'll have slightly more daylight today than we had yesterday. Today is also the 50th anniversary of Elvis Presley's meeting with Richard Nixon in the White House.
More odd things of note:
Finally, it's very likely you've made out with a drowning victim from the 19th century.
I'm looking out my office window at the light dusting of snow on my neighbors' cars, wondering how (or whether) I'll get my 10,000 steps today. My commute to work got me 3,000 each way, making the job tons easier before lockdown. Easier psychologically, anyway; nothing prevents me from going for a 45-minute walk except that I really don't want to.
Instead of a lunchtime hike, I'll probably just read these articles:
And just as a side note for posterity, we should remember that the President of Russia congratulated Joe Biden on his win before the Majority Leader of the US Senate did. The Republican Party must really not like democracy.