Twenty-one tons of sand are transforming the Brooklyn Academy of Music into a day at a beach for the staging of the global warming opera Sun and Sea.”

NEW YORK — How do you turn a performance space in Brooklyn into a day at the beach?

Answer: Truck in 21 tons of sand from New Jersey in 50-pound bags and dump them out onto the floor — all 840 of them.

That’s how the production crew at the Brooklyn Academy of Music set the stage for a prize-winning opera about global warming, “Sun and Sea,” which is having its U.S. premiere this month.

Created by three Lithuanian artists, the hour-long opera features 13 singers sitting or lying on beach blankets under a hot sun. They portray characters identified in the libretto — sung here in English — by generic titles like Wealthy Mommy and Workaholic. Non-singing extras fill out the scene, building sandcastles, playing cards, walking a dog or just strolling around.

“It started from the image of a beach watched from above and the people gathered there,” said director Rugilė Barzdžiukaité, speaking from Lithuania via Zoom. “We see them in their very fragile condition because they are half-naked … just like the cosmic body of Earth which is also very fragile. And the beach is getting warmer and warmer every year. That’s how it came together.”

Once they decided on global warming as their theme, the question became how to explore that through characters who are mostly oblivious to the problem.

“We were thinking how can you write about climate change because it’s such a big and anonymous topic,” said librettist Vaiva Grainyté. “So for these characters and singers it’s like different clouds of thoughts, inner monologues about very mundane and simple things.”

But troubling hints of impending doom creep in.

An example Grainyté cites: one lady complains about messy dogs at the beach, but also mentions how she found three edible mushrooms out of season in December. “This little paradox somehow gives a hint of the disorder in nature. The feeling of the tragedy and apocalypse is very present but it’s subtle, not direct.

“There’s nothing like, ‘Oh my God, the world is about to end,’” she added.

Lina Lapelyté, who composed the music, said, “We wanted to have this very bright beach, almost too bright to believe it’s possible.

“And so the music is also very light,” she said. “It’s not heavy, quite poppy. Sometimes maybe it reminds you of a pop song that you know, but it’s actually none of the songs you know.” The musical accompaniment is provided by a recorded phonogram synthesizer.

The opera premiered in Lithuania in 2017 and was invited to the Venice Biennale 2019, where it won the Golden Lion for best national presentation.

“Rarely has an environmental message been so subtly, humorously, tellingly conveyed in an artwork,”

Consumer prices rose 0.3 percent in August and 5.3 percent over the past 12 months, according to data released Tuesday by the Labor Department 

Monthly growth in the consumer price index (CPI), a closely watched gauge of inflation, fell for the second consecutive month, dropping from a July increase of 0.5 percent. Economists expected the CPI to grow by 0.4 percent last month.

Annual growth in the CPI — one of several ways to measure yearly inflation — also fell from a 5.4 percent rate in July, the highest rate since August 2008. Excluding food and energy prices, which are more volatile, the CPI rose 4 percent over the past 12 months and just 0.1 percent in August.

While inflation remains close to decade-plus highs, the continued slowdown in price growth may help President BidenJoe BidenBiden stumps for Newsom on eve of recall: ‘The eyes of the nation are on California’ Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda Family of American held hostage by Taliban urges administration to fire Afghanistan peace negotiator MORE and Democrats soothe concerns about the rising cost of living as they attempt to pass a sprawling economic agenda. Republicans have sought to blame Biden and congressional Democrats for the recent run-up in price growth with slightly more than a year until the midterm elections.

The decline may also relieve some pressure on the Federal Reserve to begin pulling back on bond purchases meant to keep borrowing costs low, especially as the delta variant continues to roil the U.S. economy.

“The August CPI report showed further moderation in the monthly gain in consumer inflation, especially at the core level,” wrote Kathy Bostjancic of Oxford Economics.

“Headline CPI advanced by a solid 0.3%, though this is much softer than the outsized increases recorded in the prior five months,” she added. 

Economists expected inflation to cool slightly after a summer rush of travel and leisure spending drove price growth to remarkably high levels following steep declines in 2020.

Prices for airline fares, used cars and trucks, and motor vehicle insurance all fell in August after skyrocketing through most of the spring and summer. The CPI for used autos, which drove much of the summer’s increase in inflation, fell 1.5 percent in August but is still 31.9 percent higher than the same point in 2020.

Monthly inflation for groceries, restaurant and takeout meals, new vehicles, and shelter also fell in August. The rate of price growth for gasoline rose 0.4 percent in August, but the cost of fuel oil fell 2.1 percent last month as well.

The slowdown in inflation comes at a critical time for Biden and congressional Democrats as they race to write and pass a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure and social services bill, strike a deal with Republicans to fund the federal government and raise the country’s borrowing limit.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden looks to climate to sell economic agenda Tester says ‘100 percent’ of reconciliation package must be paid for Overnight Energy & Environment —

The fall sports season is in full swing, and while local teams have had their share of hits and misses, everyone is thrilled to be back in action, enjoying a normal campaign.

Here’s a look back at the week that was:

Football

Freeport’s football team is off to a 2-0 start. After opening with a 33-0 home victory over Madison, the Falcons handled visiting John Bapst Saturday, 46-12. Aidan Heath opened the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run and a 52-yard interception return for a score by Cooper Delois made it 12-0 after one quarter. In the second period, Tony Casale scored on runs of 2 and 24 yards, Noah Michaud recovered a fumble (caused by Danny Casale) in the end zone and Tony Casale hit Heath with a 27-yard TD pass for a 40-0 advantage at the half. Jackson Carr added Freeport’s final points on a 58-yard run in the third period. The Falcons take their first road trip Friday when they travel to Foxcroft Academy (2-0).

Yarmouth got in the win column for the first time Saturday. After starting with a 54-8 loss at Cheverus, the Clippers defeated visiting Traip Academy, 46-14. Spencer LaBrecque put Yarmouth ahead to stay with a 7-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion. Jaxson Dauphinee added a 40-yard TD run before the Rangers answered to make the score, 14-6, after one period. The Clippers broke it open in the second quarter, as LaBrecque (12 carries, 117 yards, three touchdowns) had touchdown runs of 15 yards and 1 yard and Dauphinee added a TD rush of 10 yards to make it 34-6. Dauphinee (16 rushes, 140 yards, three TDs) added a 6-yard touchdown run in the third period for a 40-6 advantage, then Rufus MacVane added the final points in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard TD run. Yarmouth stays home Friday to welcome Spruce Mountain (1-1).

Falmouth/Greely lost its opener to visiting Gorham, 16-6. The squad was supposed to host Windham Saturday, but that game was canceled. Falmouth/Greely goes to Mt. Blue (0-1) Friday.

Boys’ soccer

Yarmouth’s Adam McLaughlin boots the ball up field as Freeport’s Owen Rusiecki looks on during the Clippers’ 4-0 win last week. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald

Yarmouth’s boys’ soccer team, the reigning Class B champion, not only gave its longtime coach Mike Hagerty a landmark win last week (see story), but is off to a perfect start this fall. The Clippers opened with a 2-0 win at Cape Elizabeth, then blanked both visiting Freeport and host York by 4-0 scores. Against the Falcons, Steve Fulton scored in the first half, then Sutter Augur, Fulton again and Matt Robichaud added second half goals.

“At halftime, we talked about switching fields, and if we did, we knew we’d get them because they’d over-shift,” Augur said.

“It’s great to be back and have a postseason to look forward to this year,” Fulton said. “It’s fun working toward something. We approach every game we play to win. Starting the

SAIPAN — The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is looking at the possibility of establishing travel bubble programs with other tourism markets, including Japan.

Gov. Ralph Torres on Monday said that he had spoken with Japanese Consul Kazuhiko Ono regarding the vaccination rate in Japan.

He noted that Japan’s vaccination rate is based on the entire population, while the U.S. rate measures those who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, or individuals 12 years old or older. 

Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo on Monday said the MVA board has approved the creation of a Japan Tourism Resumption Investment Plan, or TRIP, ad hoc committee to be chaired by Hyatt Regency Saipan General Manager Nick Nishikawa.

Iakopo said MVA also is communicating with its Japan office to begin discussions with travel partners in Japan.

She said MVA was told that Japan currently is focusing on controlling the coronavirus in the Asian nation.

“When they’re able to control that, I guess, they’ll start discussions with us,” she added.

Last week, she said she spoke with Skymark Airlines, which had to suspend its Japan-Saipan flight service because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They’re still asking for our patience,” Iaokopo said, referring to Skymark Airlines. “Once they’re ready to resume travel again, whether that will be domestically or internationally, we will be on standby.”

DEAR ABBY: I am currently without a job. I hesitated to inform my mother because I was sure her reaction would only add to my stress. I was right. She constantly corners me about my efforts to find a job. I talk to her nearly every day to keep up with how she and my stepfather are doing. Because she never fails to dig into me about my job search progress, I now find ways to shorten our conversations.

I can get a job or two to sustain my living expenses for the time being.

However, I’m trying to hold out for a job or career that connects to my soul passion. Working for decades in a job that sustains me and my children is no match for the longing of my passion. (I’m still not sure what it is.)

How do I curb my mother’s pushing me for a resolution without coming off as annoyed, which I am?

I’m sure she wants to express her concern, but I want support in my efforts without feeling condemned. Help me, please. — ANNOYED IN ALABAMA

DEAR ANNOYED: I will try. Because you still aren’t sure what your “soul passion” is, it’s time to find out. A place to start might be a career counseling center (some universities have them). Contact one or more and inquire whether they offer career counseling and aptitude testing. The test results will tell you what you are best suited for.

Of course, this service is not offered for free, which is why you might want to buckle down and take a job or two in the meantime to afford it, as well as to feed your little family.

As to your mother, who may be worried because you don’t yet have a plan of action, explain to her about seeking career counseling and she may calm down.

DEAR ABBY: I’ve been seeing a man, “Carson,” on and off for about five years. Last year, when I asked him if we were exclusive, he quickly said no, so I went and slept with an ex and became pregnant. I didn’t reach out to Carson because I thought the baby belonged to my ex, but when the baby was born I quickly realized she might be Carson’s. When I told him, he immediately denied she was his but still rekindled our relationship. Abby, he disappears frequently and doesn’t answer my calls. What should I do? Leave him? Stay? I do love him. — HOPELESS ROMANTIC IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR HOPELESS ROMANTIC: Have your child DNA-tested. If it proves she is Carson’s, he should be contributing to his daughter’s support. (The same goes for anyone else you think could be the father.) It’s important that you understand this man behaves the way he does because he is not in love with you and doesn’t care about your feelings.

He sees other women, just as he did the first time around. If this is the way you want to be treated,

Could vaccines be mandated for U.S. air travelers?

It was reported by the Washington Post that White House Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Anthony Fauci is in support of a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel.

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“I would support that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people, that you should be vaccinated,” he told theSkimm in a recorded interview.

The U.S. Travel Association disagreed with Fauci, noting that travel precautions used by airlines to control the spread of COVID-19 are already sufficient.

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“The science—including studies from the Harvard School of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Defense—overwhelmingly points to the safety of air travel as long as masks are worn. And with the federal mask mandate for all forms of public transportation and U.S. airports extended through January 2022, proper tools are already in place to enable safe air travel for Americans,” said U.S. Travel Association executive vice president of public affairs and policy Tori Emerson Barnes.

The association maintained that there should be no mandates for vaccinations for domestic travel.

“Such a policy would have an unfair, negative impact on families with young children who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine,” noted Emerson Barnes. “While U.S. Travel does not endorse a national vaccine mandate, we continue to believe that vaccines are the fastest path back to normalcy for all, and we strongly encourage all who are eligible to get a vaccine immediately to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors.”

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Auckland is now in its fourth week of level-four lockdown – the strictest level of restrictions – with the rest of the country leaving lockdown last week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Auckland was likely to move to level-three restrictions next week, but it could be weeks before the current COVID-19 cluster is eliminated.

Based on that, any resumption of Australia-New Zealand travel may not be possible before Christmas.

Key market for Queensland

A total of 66.5 per cent of NZ’s eligible population (those aged 12 years and over) have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and 34 per cent have had both doses.

Australian Tourism Minister Dan Tehan has flagged international flights for double-vaccinated Australians to a number of destinations could be on the cards by the end of the year.

“Well, they’ll be all part of the discussions that we’ll be having, especially as we seek to set up travel bubbles once we hit that 80 per cent double vaccination rate, and looking at those requirements,” Mr Tehan told ABC on Monday.

He said some countries required travellers to get a test three days before arrival and then tested when in the country, while others rely on rapid antigen tests at airports.

“So, there’s various ideas and thought being put into this, and they’ll be part of the discussions that we’ll continue to have as we seek to set up travel bubbles, once we hit that 80 per cent double vax rate,” he said.

The Morrison government is also working on vaccination passports for incoming passengers.

But tourism-reliant states such as Queensland are keen to reopen the existing trans-Tasman travel bubble once it is safe.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said there was no reason why there should not be travel from New Zealand to Queensland and vice versa once the current outbreaks are under control.

New Zealand is a key market for Queensland tourism operators, with a large number of Kiwi relatives living in regions such as the Gold Coast.

“We certainly would like to see travel with New Zealand activated. It would be highly desirable,” Mr Gschwind said.

“Queensland and New Zealand are very compatible markets.”

  • Brits are working again, as new data shows the number of employees has returned to pre-pandemic levels
  • But the travel industry is bracing for a wave of redundancies once furlough support ends
  • JD Sports’ US expansion has paid off, as demand for sports fashion booms

UK labour market regains pre-pandemic strength

The UK jobs market is booming, but will the impending end to furlough temper its expansion?

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showed another 241,000 employees were added to UK payrolls in August, taking the total number of people in work to 29.1m – a level last recorded in February 2020. Meanwhile the number of job vacancies during the three months to August reached 1.03m, breaching the 1m mark for the first time and around a quarter of a million higher than the number of vacancies between January and March 2020.

For those who have been holidaying in the UK over the summer and noticed the number of job ads in restaurant windows, it will come as little surprise that the sector which saw the biggest rise in vacancies was accommodation and food service. Vacancies here rose by 75 per cent, although the increase may drop as seasonal factors fall away. 

Those in work are still enjoying strong pay growth. Average pay was up 8.3 per cent in May to July, although the market is being distorted by a decline in low-paying jobs and sharp wage inflation in sectors where there are severe shortages of workers, such as haulage.

But the big question remains: what effect will the ending of furlough support later this month have on the jobs market? The ONS reported that more than 1m people were still being supported by the furlough scheme at the end of August. GD

Read more: 

Is there a national labour shortage?

What does the lorry driver shortage mean for supermarket earnings?

Save travel industry by ending harsh rules, says ABTA

When the government does withdraw coronavirus job support, travel companies are likely to be hit harder than most. The UK’s leading travel agency body warned today that the industry faces a wave of redundancies when the furlough scheme ends later this month.

The Association of British Travel Agents argued the government should kill its current traffic light system, maintaining only a red list for the highest risk destinations. It also called for the end of expensive PCR testing for vaccinated travellers returning from “lower-risk countries”. New foreign holiday bookings this summer were down 83 per cent on 2019, ABTA said, while 58 per cent of holidays booked for July and August had to be postponed or cancelled. 

The government is reportedly considering changing testing requirements, and the traffic light system could end within weeks. But the industry is demanding action soon. On Monday, Heathrow Airport said that its August traffic figures were down 71 per cent compared to 2019, adding it had gone from being Europe’s busiest airport to only the 10th busiest. AH 

Further reading: 

EasyJet

LONDON (AP) — The number of people on payroll in the U.K. has soared back to levels last seen before the coronavirus pandemic struck a year and a half ago, official figures showed Tuesday in the latest clear signal that the lifting of lockdown restrictions has prompted businesses to ramp up hiring.

The Office for National Statistics said that payroll numbers rose by 241,000 between July and August to 29.1 million. The total is now 1,000 higher than it was the month before the pandemic struck in March 2020.

The statistics agency also said that vacancy numbers increased by 249,000 in the three months to August to more than 1 million for the first time since records began in 2001 amid labor shortages in industries such as accommodation and food services that are partly related to the pandemic but also because of Britain’s departure from the European Union.

It also found that the the overall rate of unemployment dropped by 0.3 percentage point in July to 4.6% while the employment rate ticked up by 0.5 percentage point to 75.2%.

Overall, the figures point to the positive impact of the lifting of restrictions over the past few months and the rebound in confidence following the rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines across the U.K.

National statistician Jonathan Athow cautioned that the jobs recovery isn’t even and that “in hard-hit areas such as London, and sectors such as hospitality and arts and leisure, the numbers of workers remain well down on pre-pandemic levels.”

There’s also unease as to what will happen in the labor market over the coming months as the government’s salary support program, which has kept a lid on unemployment during the pandemic, comes to an end.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is set to end at the end of September, saw the government pay 80% of the salaries of those workers unable to work because of lockdown measures. The program helped support around 12 million people at its height. But the number has been falling as lockdown restrictions were lifted and now stands at around 1.6 million.

“With the furlough scheme ending in little over two weeks’ time, we should expect a fresh rise in unemployment this autumn, particularly among furloughed staff that aren’t able to return to their previous jobs,” said Nye Cominetti, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank.

Unions are urging the government to come up with new support, particularly for sectors like aviation which are still struggling in the face of restrictions.

___

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Government briefings indicate that the current “traffic light” system that restricts travel to the UK is likely to be dismantled soon.

The UK has by far the highest infection rates for any major country in Europe, yet it also imposes the strictest rules on arrivals.

A total of 62 nations and territories are on the UK”s “red list,” representing a total population of well over one billion people.

Appearing on the red list is effectively a travel ban, with arrivals from those countries required to go into 11 nights of hotel quarantine once in the UK – at a cost, for a solo traveller, of £2,285.

So which countries might leave the club – and which nations should join? Tim White, the Covid data analyst who tweets as @TWMCLtd, has given his expertise to The Independent.

He has trawled through the genomic sequencing records held by Gisaid, the worldwide database, with a focus on variants of concern.

Staying on red

Fourteen nations, says Mr White, are likely to remain on red: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, French Guiana, Montenegro, Philippines, Seychelles, Suriname, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia.

Mr White offered this commentary: “Brazil uploaded many hundreds of samples, but 41 per cent were Gamma.

“Chile reported 37 per cent of its sequenced positive cases were Gamma, while almost 10 per cent were Lambda and another 16 per cent were the most recent variant, Mu.

“Colombia will be kept red because of lack of quality data.

“Costa Rica uploaded only four samples, two of which were variants.

“Suriname and French Guiana are likely to stay red with Gamma variant circulating widely.

But, he added: “Most scientists believe most of the variants circulating in South America are not more likely to evade vaccines so there is an argument to allow them all off red.”

Elsewhere in the world, he said: “Montenegro is Europe’s most infected country.

“The Philippines registered an all-time record recently

“Seychelles has still quite high rates.

“Tanzania has never bothered reporting any samples to the collective, so it is almost certain to stay on red, more so considering the government’s attitude to the virus has been to pretty much deny its existence and punish people for posting things about it.

“Thailand submitted very little data. Given the fear over mutant strains and Beta in particular, I think Thailand will stay red until it can do more genomic sequencing.

“Tunisia had awful figures for number of travellers arriving into UK infected with Covid-19.”

Added to red

Tim White picked another 10 nations not currently on the red list which, he said, have high case rates or were “fibbing about figures”, meaning they should probably be added to the red list.

These were Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cote d’Ivoire, Fiji, Grenada, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Russia and Venezuela.

All of these are currently amber, except Grenada – currently on the “low-risk” green list.

Mr White speculates that Iran, Iraq and Russia have avoided the red list up to now “for political