Friday news roundup August 13, 2021
Italy registered what may have been Europe’s hottest ever temperature this week. Regional authorities on the Italian island of Sicily reported a reading of 48.8C (119.8F) on Wednesday. The current official record for Europe, as verified by the World Meteorological Organization, is 48C, registered in Athens, Greece, in 1977. The latest heatwave is being caused by an anticyclone—nicknamed Lucifer—moving up from Africa. It is due to continue north, raising temperatures across mainland Italy. Italy’s health ministry has issued “red” alerts for extreme heat in several regions, while Italian firefighters are currently battling a number of wildfires fuelled by the hot, dry weather across southern Italy. Climate change has increased the risk of such weather events and other countries, such as Greece, Turkey, and Algeria, have also been affected by wildfires over recent weeks.
New census data reveals the US to be an increasingly diverse nation. The US’s non-Hispanic white population, which remains the country’s largest race or ethnic group, shrank by 8.6% over the decade from 2010 to 2020 and now accounts for 57.8% of the US population—the lowest share on record. The number of people who identify as multiracial increased by 276%, from 9 million in 2010 to 33.8 million in 2020. California’s largest ethnic group is Hispanic (39.4% of the population), and in Texas, the non-Hispanic white population (39.7%) remains just slightly larger than the Hispanic population (39.3%). The census figures also provide new details on the slowing rate of population growth in the country, the lowest of any ten-year period apart from the Great Depression in the 1930s. More than half of all US counties lost population from 2010 to 2020, census officials said, and almost all growth occurred in metropolitan areas. The data were delayed by months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Find IZA World of Labor articles on data and methods, and read Editor-in-chief Dan S. Hamermesh’s country labor market article on the US, which will be updated to cover the Covid-19 pandemic later this year.
An Indonesian village is using a robot built out of household items to help in the pandemic. Indonesian villagers and scientists in East Java are using the robot, called Delta, to help bring food to self-isolating residents with Covid-19. The robot is built from used materials found locally, like pots and pans, an old television monitor, a rice cooker, and a toy car chassis. Aseyanto, the neighborhood leader who heads the project, said “With this new Delta variant and the surging number of COVID-19 cases, I decided to turn the robot into one used for public services such as to spray disinfectant, deliver food and meet the needs of residents who are self-isolating.” The robot is one of several made in the village of Tembok Gede, which has a reputation for its creative use of technology, and is operated by remote control. On arrival at its destination, Delta’s speaker emits the message “assalamu’alaikum” (Peace be with you), followed by “A delivery is here. Get well soon.” Indonesia has been hit hard by the virus, recording more than 3.68 million infections and over 108,000 deaths.