Europe’s fast trains and women in tennis

in June 23rd, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of June 23, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

With Pride Month in full swing, U.S. transgender veterans are facing a big win. The U.S. government announced it will be offering gender confirmation surgery for trans veterans through its health care coverage for the first time. The announcement was made at a Pride event in Florida on Saturday, in the city of Orlando where five years prior a gunman had opened fire at a gay nightclub and killed 49 people.


TRANSPORTATION

Europe makes moves to ban short, domestic flights in favor of faster trains

Fri Jun 18

Traveling with reduced check-in times, security lines, and no airport transfers sounds too good to be true — but can be done. A new proposal in Germany is seeking a ban on short-haul flights within the country to instead invest in an improved train network. In fact, 42% of these intra-German routes could be covered by a train in four hours or less, which is quicker overall than the equivalent air travel option. The proposal itself was brought forward by the Green Party, who Free Democrats believe have a “ban fetish.” 

Most Germans welcome the change, with 67% in support. Studies show switching from planes to trains greatly benefits the environment, resulting in (for one route) 5.7 times less carbon dioxide emissions, 20 times less smog-producing nitrogen oxides, and five times less fuel. Austria already banned shorter domestic flights in 2020, France took a similar approach in April, and Spain is expected to as well.

While Europe progresses towards quicker and relaxing flight-free travel, America is making strides to slowly catch up. On the 50th anniversary of Amtrak train service, President Biden (who rode their trains for more than three decades) supported a $75B expansion plan to introduce 39 new routes. This is a big turnaround for the railroad industry in the U.S. that has not only struggled to gain support, but lost funding under the Trump administration. Over the plan’s 15 years of work, the hope is to address not only climate change but the growing highway congestion problem. 

Some additional resources...


MENTAL HEALTH

Tennis’ unpleasant history with its female players 

Thu Jun 17

In case you missed it, Naomi Osaka made headlines when she withdrew from the 2021 French Open. The conversation more absent from headlines? The history of how female tennis players have been treated by the sport’s governing bodies and press. 

  • In the 1970s, Australian player Evonne Goolagong Cawley (who won the Australian Open four times in her career) faced racism and was often treated like a second class citizen. 
  • In 1999, the press began including transphobic and homophobic comments made towards French player Amelie Mauresmo in their reporting. She endured jibes about her physique and sexuality for at least seven more years. 
  • In 2018, the French Tennis Federation banned American player Serena Williams from wearing a full-length bodysuit, which was made to help with circulation and prevent potentially fatal blood clots after giving birth to her daughter, saying it disrespected the sport. She also faced hair, body, and clothing remarks throughout her career. 

Now the focus is on Osaka, who has suffered from a range of mental health problems as a result of an insensitive press. The Japanese player feels extreme anxiety and pressure from reporters, claiming they place doubts in her mind and ask repetitive questions. To protect herself, she withdrew from mandatory press conferences knowing a $15,000 fine would follow — but what actually happened was worse. Four of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world wrote a joint statement threatening more substantial fines, future suspensions from Grand Slams, and default from the French Open if she continues to skip post-match press conferences. Many players and celebrities have come out in support of Osaka online, hoping this becomes a teaching lesson for the press and tennis industry overall to prioritize the players over the tabloid-like coverage that follows them.  

Some additional resources... 

  • Full coverage: Vox
  • Racism towards Evonne Goolagong Cawley: CNN
  • Media’s mistreatment of Amelie Mauresmo: The Guardian
  • Serena Williams’ catsuit: Vox
  • Grand Slams’ joint statement: ESPN

ASCII OF THE WEEK
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Trains over planes? I choo choo choo-se you!

Art Credit: ASCII Art Archive