Like every Athens mayor, Kostas Bakoyannis is acutely aware of the illustrious heritage of one of the world’s oldest cities. After all, he says, it is busts of Pericles and his mistress Aspasia that adorn the entrance of the neoclassical town hall. From the windows of his cavernous office, he can glimpse the Parthenon through the jumble of concrete buildings and antennas.But Bakoyannis prefers to talk about the present, not least his plans for fountains, parks and trees – antidotes to the afflictions of more modern times.“When you’re the mayor of Athens you are not in dialogue with history,” he says. “You’re in dialogue with the problems, needs, aspirations and hopes of present-day Athenians and anyone who might visit Athens even for a day.”With that mission, Bakoyannis has his work cut out for him. Decades of reckless urban planning are catching up with the city. Pollution, densely packed neighbourhoods and traffic congestion – byproducts of an uncontrolled building spree that began in the 1950s – are still evident today.A pocket park in Athens. Photograph: Vassilis Triandafyllou/ReutersIn conditions often likened to a pressure cooker, temperatures can surpass 40C (104F) in the summer. “Our models show annual mean temperatures across the Mediterranean increasing by up to 2C over the next 30 years,” says Christos Zerefos, a professor of atmospheric physics. “In the summer the air temperature will rise by more than 3C. Ecosystems will suffer.”Bakoyannis, the scion of a political dynasty, was elected to the post in 2019. He knows time is of the essence.Kostas Bakoyannis, the mayor of Athens. Photograph: Costas Baltas/Reuters“What we are facing is not a climate crisis but clearly a climate emergency,” he says. “If we’re to do our job well we have to adhere to the principles of resilience and sustainability.”With the help of state and private sector support, EU structural funds and municipal levies, the budget allocated to green space has quadrupled. Every year €10m is earmarked for nature conservation, according to Bakoyannis, whose candidacy was backed by the centre-right New Democracy party now in government and led by his uncle, the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.Public-private partnerships, until recently a rarity in Greece, will help finance a huge “double regeneration” project that involves a football stadium in the heart of Athens being turned into an urban park, and a green overhaul for the industrial wasteland in the poorer western suburbs where the arena will be moved to.A municipal employee works at a pocket park in Athens, Greece. Photograph: Louiza Vradi/ReutersProgress has been made in reducing car lanes to reclaim public space for pedestrians and cyclists, rejuvenating the hills of Athens, fixing fountains in public squares and creating pocket parks.All the projects have one goal: to offset the challenges Europe’s warmest city is likely to confront as a result of rising temperatures.“The next decade is going to be all about heat,” says Lenio Myrivili, co-chair of the Washington-based Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance, who advises Bakoyannis. “How we manage it and prepare for it is going to be vital.”A former Athens vice-mayor herself, Myrivili is in no doubt of what lies in store if action isn’t taken.The Greek capital has been singled out in studies on the risks posed by climate change. An analysis of 571 European cities by Newcastle University in 2018 predicted it would experience the worst increases in severe drought and heatwaves by 2050. In a similar study, the ratings agency Moody’s also ranked the Greek capital highest in terms of exposure to rising temperatures. With heatwaves likely to become more frequent and extreme, it forecast that Greece’s credit strength would also become “sensitive to climate change …. [particularly] if heatwaves were to depress tourist activity”.Prior to the pandemic Athens had become increasingly popular as a tourist destination, attracting over six million visitors in 2019.“It’s imperative that we shield the city through heat mitigation,” says Myrivili. “The best way to do this is by introducing nature, biodiversity and ecosystems into urban areas. We’ll also need to more cleverly manage our water resources and ultimately bring the rivers of Attica, so scandalously cemented over, back to life.”Athens was the first city to sign up to Prince Charles’ Terra Carta, (Earth Charter), described as a roadmap to a green post-pandemic recovery, when the British royal visited the capital for celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the war of independence last month.After a “lost decade” as a result of the nation’s prolonged economic crisis, Bakoyannis says he is determined not to lose more time because of the coronavirus crisis.Exploiting the quietude of lockdown, municipal teams have focused on revamping forgotten parks and hills. Children play in a pocket park in Kolonos in Athens. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/ShutterstockIn Omonia square, the central plaza also within view of the Acropolis, analysis has shown temperatures dropping by up to four degrees since a multi-jet fountain was installed last year.Not all the public works have gone down well. The mayor’s eagerness for “liberating” public space has its critics. Bakoyannis, who has also vowed to tackle vehicle emissions by reducing traffic in the city centre, was forced to hand back a traffic lane on a major avenue amid opposition over the move.“Like most Athenians I’d love the city centre to be pedestrianised,” says Kostas Hadzopoulos out walking his yorkshire terrier around the freshly-planted pocket park in Pangrati, among the most congested districts in central Athens. “But a lot of these moves seem slapdash and ill-thought-out. That said, this was a rubbish dump before, and now it’s a breath of fresh air.”Bakoyannis is sanguine in the face of criticism that has also been made by his political opponents.“Change is never easy,” he says. “At the end of the day improving the quality of life is not ideological… We’re all in this fight together.”
An email chain revealed by Epic Games as part of its lawsuit against Apple provides earlier context about Facebook’s battle with Apple over its App Store.Last August, Facebook said Apple’s App Store rules were hampering it from releasing its Facebook Gaming app for iPhones in the way it wanted to.Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said the company had to remove the part of the app that played games — the point of the app — in order to secure approval on Apple’s App Store for iPhones. Now, emails between three former Apple executives, including Steve Jobs, from 2011 show that a similar conflict between Apple and Facebook was likely part of the reason for a delay for the release of a Facebook app for iPads over a decade ago.Tensions between Apple and Facebook over what the App Store rejects are ongoing. Last year, Facebook publicly accused Apple of using its control over the App Store and iPhone to “harm developers and consumers.”The exchange was published as part of a cache of exhibits used in the Apple-Epic trial, but was removed after it was posted.Apple’s iPad came out in 2010, but Facebook didn’t release an app for it until October 2011. Between those two dates, a Facebook engineer even quit in a public blog post, citing delays in the app’s release partially because of a “strained relationship with Apple.”In July 2011, Apple’s then-software head Scott Forstall sent an email to former Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller and Jobs. In the message, he said that he had spoken with Mark — presumably Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — about the Facebook iPad app.He wrote that he told Mark that Facebook should not include “embedded apps” in its Facebook iPad app.”Not surprisingly, he wasn’t happy with this as he considers these apps part of the ‘whole Facebook experience’ and isn’t sure they should do an iPad app without them,” Forstall wrote.At the time, Facebook was turning its social network into a platform for games and apps. The most famous of these was Farmville, a game where users tended gardens inside their Facebook accounts.Facebook wanted Apple to compromise. Mark suggested, according to Forstall:Facebook could omit a directory of Apps in the Facebook app — not even links.Facebook could prevent third-party apps from running in an “embedded web view,” or basically a browser inside the Facebook app.Facebook wanted Apple to allow user posts in the news feed related to apps. Forstall wrote that those were filtered at the time, because tapping those posts would do nothing.Facebook proposed having tapping one of those app links in the feed switch the user to a native app or take them to the App Store if one exists, or otherwise link out to Safari, the iPhone web browser.Jobs, then CEO of Apple, replied from his iPad: “I agree — if we eliminate Fecebooks third proposal it sounds reasonable.”Three days later, Forstall followed up, saying he had a long conversation with Mark, and that Facebook didn’t like Apple’s counterproposal to forbid Facebook apps to link out to Safari.”But according to Mark, there is no obvious way to distinguish between a poker game and the NYT. Both are Facebook developers and provide Facebook integration,” Forstall wrote.Schiller, who was Apple’s head of marketing until last year and runs Apple’s Executive Review Board that makes calls whether apps will be approved by Apple, summed up Apple’s position.”I don’t see why we want to do that,” Schiller wrote. “All these apps won’t be native, they won’t have a relationship or license with us, we won’t review them, they won’t use our APIs or tools, they won’t use our stores, etc.”When Facebook’s iPad app eventually launched, it said it would not support its own Credits currency on iOS for apps like Farmville — a compromise along the lines of what Apple’s executives discussed.In recent years, the rivalry between the two Silicon Valley neighbors has heated up. Current Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken lightly veiled shots at Facebook’s handling of user privacy, and used Facebook as the example for a recent feature about asking apps “not to track.”Facebook has mounted an ad campaign to say that the iPhone maker’s privacy features hurt small businesses. It has also continued to tweak Apple’s App Store policies, criticizing Apple’s 30% App Store fee for online events in addition to its complaints about its gaming app.Facebook isn’t part of Epic Games’ argument in its legal battle against Apple and its App Store policies. The trial started on Monday and is expected to run three weeks.
A suggestion to waive patent restrictions on Covid-19 vaccines has been rejected by Bill Gates, who said he doesn’t believe intellectual property has anything to do with the drawn-out global effort to rein in the pandemic.
Vaccines developed by pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer and Moderna enjoy global protection under the World Trade Organization (WHO). Considering the scarcity of the medicines, there have been increasing calls from countries like India and South Africa, international relief organizations and public figures to waive those protections so that poorer countries can get better access to the medicines.However, one of the most publicized figures in the global vaccination campaign, Bill Gates, apparently believes it’s a bad idea. When asked by Sky News’ Sophy Ridge if stripping intellectual property protections from vaccine recipes would be helpful, the founder of Microsoft responded with an emphatic “No.”“The thing that’s holding things back in this case is not intellectual property. It’s not like there’s some idle vaccine factory, with regulatory approval, that makes magically safe vaccines. You know, you’ve got to do the trial on these things. Every manufacturing process has to be looked at in a very careful way,” he explained.There are all sorts of issues around intellectual property having to do with medicines. But not in terms of how quickly we’ve been able to ramp up the volume here.Gates cited his foundation’s experience in helping to organize vaccine production in developing nations like India and said the fact that poor nations would likely have a chance to get supplies from rich ones as soon as they immunize their own populations was a success. “Typically, in global health it takes a decade between when a vaccine comes into the rich world and when it gets into the poor countries,” he noted.Gates speaks as if all the lives being lost in India are inevitable but eventually the West will help when in reality the US & UK are holding their feet on the neck of developing states by refusing to break TRIPS protections. It’s disgusting. https://t.co/sNdFanmIKH— Tara Van Ho (Dr) (@TaraVanHo) April 25, 2021Both Gates and his foundation are long-time defenders of intellectual property protections, and now critics are accusing Gates of deliberately wasting an opportunity to help reshape how intellectual property works for matters of greater public good. The Covid-19 ACT-Accelerator mechanism, backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has a stated goal of providing “equitable access” to anti-Covid tools – but it also respects the exclusive intellectual property rights. At the same time, Gates has apparently been snubbing the alternative solution, known as Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP, which would pool open-source technologies on how to deal with the pandemic.
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Big Pharma is quite happy with the status quo and has reportedly been engaged in its own effort to sink the waiver proposal. According to a Sunday report by the Financial Times, US pharmaceutical companies have been rattled by a recent WTO speech by Joe Biden’s top trade official Katherine Tai, in which she said Washington could “consider what modifications and reforms” can be applied to intellectual property rules.FT sources say that, in response, companies have been trying to convince the White House that China and Russia would benefit from patent exposure, using the proprietary US technologies “for other vaccines or even therapeutics for conditions such as cancer and heart problems in the future.”Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!