Remembrance, Veterans and Armistice Day 2020

Remembrance, Veterans and Armistice Day 2020
November 11, 2020

Remembrance Day, as it is known in the Commonwealth, and Veterans Day, as it is known in the Americas, is celebrated every November 11.

Remembrance Day has its roots in the Armistice signed at the end of WWI, becoming immortalized as the day the Great War ended. However, the Armistice – agreement to ceasefire on both sides – which was signed on 11 Novermber 1918, did not formally become the end of the war until the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919. The ceasefire did however last for the full duration between the armistice and the peace treaty being signed.

Study Guide: What Caused World War I

Following the outbreak of WWII, the Commonwealth nations decided to change the name from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day to honour all the fallen and not just those of WWI.

During WWII and in the many wars that would follow, including the Vietnam war, the Gulf war, Afghanistan and Iraq, millions more would perish as servicemen from all around the world fought for their countries.

Hence, Remembrance and Veterans Day celebrate the bravery of these service personnel, both fallen and returned heroes, and gives thanks and recognition for the service that they have given.

Large celebrations and commemorations often take place, including ‘Remembrance Sunday’ across the Commonwealth, the Sunday closest to the 11th of November, where crowds gather to mark their respect with a 2 minute display of silence, and Veterans festivals in the US such as the celebrations we visited in San Diego.

2020 has marked other important war anniversaries, most notably the end of WWII in Europe and the Pacific, and the liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp 75 years ago, and the beginning of the reunification of Vietnam 45 years ago following the end of the Vietnam war.

Watch FREE: Grass Roots – Veterans Day in San Diego

Grass Roots – Veterans Day in San Diego

Main image: World War I Cemetery in The Somme Valley, Pilot Productions.

It’s all eyes on America

It's all eyes on America

It’s been all eyes on the US this week for election-mania!

In the moments that we’ve not been following this year’s monumental race, we’ve been brushing up on our history and knowledge, and all the reasons we love the land of the free.

That’s why we’ve made some of our most popular America shows half price for you to enjoy this month, including the American Empire show from our bestselling series Empire Builders!

Shop Now: Half Price November

Empire Builders – The American Empire

Trailer: Empire Builders – The American Empire

From the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall, through to tech solutions of Silicon Valley, America has shaped the world we live in – all the while shaping its own identity through the iconic buildings and structures that chart the nation’s history.

Through bustling ports and strategic forts, cultural quirks and cathedrals of commerce, this episode of Empire Builders tells the the incredible story of the United States through 12 key historic sites.

Our story starts in the humble surrounds of a meeting hall in Philadelphia, with the ‘Thirteen Colonies’ declaring independence from the United Kingdom. And nearby , in Washington D.C., stands the Washington Monument, a tribute to iconic father of the nation and city founder. It was completed almost a century after it was originally commissioned, the huge obelisk a testament to character of man it celebrates.

Shop Now: Half Price November

No geographical entity was more important to the spread of America westwards than the Mississippi River. President Jefferson sought to ensure passage through the purchase of the historic Port of New Orleans at the river’s mouth. He could never have dreamed the outcome; with the eventual ‘Louisiana Purchase’ being described as the greatest land deal in history, almost doubling the size of the United States over night.

Andrew Jackson’s bold and controversial capture of the perfectly preserved Spanish Fort Barrancas at Pensacola culminated in the transfer of Spanish Florida to the United States. Perhaps even more significantly, it resulted in the Spaniards ceding claims over ‘New Spain’, emboldening American progress to the west and propelling Jackson toward the Presidency.

In the story of America’s conquest of west, no chapter burns more brightly in the American conscious than the Battle of the Alamo, with Davy Crockett’s legendary last stand confirming the small Spanish mission’s place in history. It led ultimately to Texas joining the United States and, after victory in the Spanish American War in 1848, the size of the country almost doubling.

With the continent settled, it was soon to be linked by the fantastically ambitious Transcontinental Railroad. The grand project required a grand terminus, with the Vanderbilt family commissioning a fittingly advanced and opulent departure point: ‘Grand Central Terminus’ became the gateway to the nation.

With the nation mobilised, it industrialised at an unprecedented rate. Andrew Carnegie’s Homestead Steel Mill was a game changer, dwarfing anything that industry had witnessed. It remained the largest steel producing plant on the planet for the best part of a century.

Fast becoming the most powerful nation on earth, the United States now expanded its strategic and military horizons beyond its borders, taking over the Kingdom of Hawaii followed by the Philippines, Puerto Rico and parts of Cuba following the Spanish American War of 1898. Then the huge Panama Canal project made transit of ships between the American continents possible for the first time.

Economic success meant boom time in the city; and nowhere was this more evident than New York City. Tycoons set about building great monuments to their success, the greatest of all them all was the Empire State Building.

The Hollywood Sign hailed success of different kind on the west coast – the eyes of the world now fell on America as it exported movies around the globe. But the symbol that would go on to define this new industry actually started life as a real estate advertisement hoarding.

After success in WWII, the Cold War raged, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union the United States became the world’s only superpower. Meanwhile, America had  looked to the next frontier: space exploration. The colossal Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas would become the Johnson Space Center – Mission Control for the Apollo and Space Shuttle expeditions.

Crowning America’s technological dominance is Silicon Valley. Apple’s gargantuan new HQ was based on an idea of the late Steve Jobs, and raises the bar for contemporary design standards everywhere. Constructed costs were eye-wateringly expensive, but it is affectionately nicknamed the Spaceship.

Main image: Jefferson Monument, Washington DC, Pilot Productions

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
October 13, 2020

Cruise Ships dismantled for scrap metal

A number of disused cruise ships are being dismantled and sold for their scrap metal value following the disastrous impact of the coronavirus on the cruise ship industry.

The ships are being stripped down at a ship-breakers yards, the Aliaga Ship Recycling Facility, in Turkey.

Machu Picchu opened up for one lone tourist

Peru has opened the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu for a single Japanese tourist who had been waiting for almost seven months to visit the world heritage site.

Jesse Katayama was due to visit Machu Picchu in March before it was closed due to coronavirus. He went into lockdown with the rest of the nation, finding himself stranded.

Mr Katayama submitted a request to the ministry of culture and was granted special access to see the World Heritage Site before his return journey to Japan.

The ancient Inca citadel – Peru’s top tourist attraction – is expected to re-open next month, although no exact date has been given.

Jesse Katamaya’s Instagram

Lunch at Singapore Airlines, anyone?

Another quirky initiative by an airline has grabbed headlines this week, with Singapore’s national carrier offering lunch on a plane without a flight.

Diners, travel lovers and aviation enthusiasts have purchased tickets priced between $40 and $500, with every available seat selling out.

The airline is also offering home delivery of its meals, which also includes the airline’s tableware and amenity kits.

Phobic Traveller: The Next Chapter for Air Travel

Other Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • World Health Organization director-general has warned against allowing coronavirus to spread in the hope of achieving so-called herd immunity, saying the idea is “scientifically and ethically problematic”.
  • Texas has overtaken California as the state with the second highest Coronavirus death toll, after New York.
  • Trump returns to campaign trail less than 2 weeks after positive Coronavirus test. On Sunday, 11 days post positive test, Trump’s doctor said he was no longer a COVID transmission risk to others and said later on Monday that his most recent tests had all come back negative.
  • Worldometers: Up to date Coronavirus statistics

Main image: Machu Picchu, Pilot Productions ©

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
October 6, 2020

President Trump and First Lady contract coronavirus

U.S President Donald Trump tested positive for the COVID-19 on Thursday sparking widespread alarm and concern for his health. The President, who has previously expressed skepticism of the coronavirus, spent three nights in hospital receiving treatment before quickly reappearing to put on a strong face for the American public.

The president himself has expressed in a number of statements that he is feeling better. With the presidential election looming, he has made it clear that the show must go on.

Aside from the condition of his health, a number of people have criticised the President for maintaining a busy schedule whilst remaining potentially contagious to others.

Other world leaders who previously contracted the virus include Brazil’s Jair Bolsanaro and the UK’s Boris Johnson.

Air pollution in New Delhi expected to worsen COVID-19

India’s capital is bracing itself for its annual ‘air pollution season’ where officials expect the poor air quality and other pollution related health issues to exacerbate the already serious coronavirus health crisis.

The air quality in New Delhi drastically deteriorates between October and December — to levels which are often considered ‘hazardous’ — due to various factors including stubble burning after the harvest, vehicle pollution, cold weather and post-monsoon low atmospheric pressure.

Cycling is still wheelie popular in Europe

A combination of a summer of fantastic weather, the desire to avoid public transport, and err… the pandemic… have proved the perfect series of events for the cycling industry.

Other Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • Paris has once again closed bars and restaurants as officials raise their coronavirus alert level to maximum.
  • Virgin Atlantic has become the first UK airline to introduce COVID-19 pre-flight testing at its Heathrow base for its cabin crew and pilots.
  • Worldometers: Up to date Coronavirus statistics

Main image: Donald Trump, Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
September 30, 2020

Global deaths surpass 1 million

The report of the millionth death arrived on Tuesday, just short of 10 months since the first confirmed death in January. The current confirmed number of cases currently stands at over 33 million. Here are the top 5 nations with the highest number of deaths

PositionCountryTotal CasesTotal Deaths
1USA7,406,729210,797
2Brazil4,780,317143,010
3India6,229,47497,541
4Mexico738,16377,163
5UK446,15642,072
Source: Worldometers, midday (BST) 30 September

Disney to cut 28,000 jobs at theme parks

Walt Disney has announced that it will be cutting 28,000 jobs from its theme parks, mostly in the United States.

The decision comes in reaction to the new limited visitor capacity at the parks, and ongoing uncertainty about how long the coronavirus pandemic will last.

Disney lost $4.7bn (£3.6bn) in the three months to 27 June.

Disney’s parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Paris are not affected by the announcement. Josh D’Amaro, chairman of the parks unit, said the company’s problems in the US were “exacerbated in California by the state’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.”

60 million Indians may have had the coronavirus, pandemic agency suggests

According to official data, India is the world’s second most infected nation, with more than 6.2 million cases. Officially, nearly 100,000 Indians have died due to COVID-19, though the country’s leading pandemic agency suggest that the real number is likely significantly higher.

Citing an antibody study which was run to determine the proportion of the population have had the virus, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) suggested that the figure is more likely closer to 1 in 15 Indians (aged over 10), placing the number at around 60 million, which is 10 times the official number.

Other Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • German Chancellor has urged Germans to “continue acting patiently” in the fight against the Coronavirus. She has this week begun to reimpose restrictions on the number of people who can meet following a number of outbreaks at larger gatherings.
  • Despite concerns for the future of office space across London, Morgan Stanley has decided to move to a new, bigger space in England’s capital. It is thought that currently only 1/3 of London’s workers are travelling to the office each day.
  • Worldometers: Up to date Coronavirus statistics

Main image: Disney, qin linlin, Flickr Creative Commons

California Wildfires Have Burned Over 2 Million Acres of Forest This Year

California Wildfires Have Burned Over 2 Million Acres of Forest This Year

At present, more than 14,000 firefighters are fighting around 24 major fires across the state of California which continue to grow.

It is estimated that this year, an area totalling around five times the size of London has been burned by these wildfires.

The fires do not stop at the state border – Oregon and Washington state are facing similar destruction.

The smoke from the fires has turned the skies orange, prompting calls for various neighbourhoods most at risk to be evacuated. Similar fires in 2018 damaged or destroyed 24,226 structures, and caused 100 confirmed fatalities.

Dry and hot weather, paired with gusty winds, is helping the fires to spread.

Los Angeles county saw temperatures of 121F (49.5C), a record high over the weekend, and San Francisco hit 100F (38C) on Sunday, breaking a previous same-day record of 92F (33C) set more than 100 years ago in 1904.

These temperatures have two large risks attached to them. First, when combined with dry, gusty winds, can facilitate the spread of a fire. Second, they result in an increased electricity usage, primarily from the use of air conditioning systems, somewhat overloading the electricity lines. The power grids in California are notoriously sensitive to high temperatures.

California power companies have warned of power outages to attempt to control the situation and prevent any further fires from starting. Dried woodland material falling onto electrified lines was the direct cause of one blaze in the 2017 wildfires.

These record breaking temperatures are also causing electrical storms, with lightning striking dried areas of woodland. Dead, dry trees are the perfect fuel for a large blaze.

This week, one particular blaze was reported to have been ignited by a ‘pyrotechnic’ device used for a gender reveal stunt. Devices such as these often combust, releasing a coloured smoke, indicating the gender of the baby.

More information

Smoke From Australia’s Fires Will Make Full Circuit Around The Globe (Jan 2020)


Main image: The Woolsey Fire, California, 2018. Photo courtesy of Peter Buschmann

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel, Explore, Defer?

For most of the northern hemisphere, this time of year marks the start of a new academic year, and for many students this means upping sticks and moving to a new house, city and sometimes even country!

As with many other things over the past few months, the coronavirus has now put pay to this year’s foreign cohorts. A report conducted by Ernst & Young estimates that only about 330,000 foreigners are studying in Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand this year, down from 1.09 million in 2019.

However, they also predict that 2021 will see up to 1.85 million people starting degrees in foreign countries, as those who deferred this year resume their studies.

Why not check out our free Study Guides?

In the UK, Cambridge University has said it will be only conducting online teaching for the duration of the new acadmeic year, deferring the arrival of over 20,000 students to the city, which usually make up around a sixth of the entire city’s population!

Meanwhile, Harvard’s 2020 freshmen have arrived on campus in a socially distanced manner, with most student expressing relief at having made it, and a little disappointment at the lack of buzz about the Yard. In past weeks, the New York Times has tracked thousands of cases that were linked to students returning to campuses across the nation.

Hope and Fear: How Pandemics Changed the World

Our latest documentary explores the impact on our planet of viral diseases across the ages.

COVID-19, which struck with such devastating impact in the early months of 2020, is just the latest in a long line of pandemics that have devastated, and in some cases, destroyed societies throughout time.

Like all pandemics, COVID-19 was sparked by human interaction with the animal world.

“Hope and Fear: How Pandemics Changed the World” looks at the circumstances that have caused these diseases – whether it be hygiene, poverty, overcrowding, urbanisation or the growth of cities – and how travel has impacted on their rapid transmission resulting in pandemics.

Other Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • The University of Georgia has advised its students to wear face masks during sex. In a COVID pamphlet, it said: “Consider wearing a face mask during sex. Heavy breathing and panting can further spread the virus, and wearing a mask can reduce the risk.”
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading by example and has been spotted exercising in a bid to shed his excess pounds after asking the nation to do the same. In 2018, 63% of adults in the UK were overweight or obese, and 20.2% of children aged 11 were obese. It is understood that being overweight puts you at risk of becoming seriously ill with the COVID-19 virus, along with multiple other health complications.
  • Worldometers: Up to date Coronavirus statistics

Main image: Cambridge University, Mark Fosh, Flickr Creative Commons

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
25 August, 2020

First documented coronavirus reinfection reported in Hong Kong

A man in his 30’s is reported to have become reinfected with coronavirus more than 4 months after his first diagnosis.

Hong Kong scientists say that the two strains of the virus are “clearly different”, making it the world’s first proven case of reinfection

The World Health Organization warns it is important not to jump to conclusions based on the case of one patient, and experts say reinfections may be rare and not necessarily serious. It is fully expected that the virus will mutate over time.

Usain Bolt tested positive for COVID-19 following his birthday celebrations.

Usain Bolt, world sprinting superstar, has tested positive for COVID-19 just days following his “big, mask-free” birthday party.

The Jamaican 100m and 200m sprint world record holder is said to be isolating at his home in Jamaica, and has so far not displayed any symptoms of the illness.

Usain Bolt, Nick Webb, Flickr Creative Commons

Did these countries dodge the COVID bullet?

Read this BBC article about the 10 nations that managed to keep COVID at bay!

Latest Coronavirus News & Statistics


Main image: Hong Kong, November 2011, MojoBaron, Flickr Creative Commons

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
August 5, 2020

Come Fly With Me

Virgin has unveilled designs for a new supersonic plane capable of travelling three-times faster than the speed of sound. A flight leaving London could reach Sydney in just 5 hours, though the jet would remain very exclusive, carrying only a handful of passengers, and is obviously not on 2020’s list of priorities. Back in the real world, uncertainty in the industry is causing Virgin huge financial worries, leading them to file for chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in the US this week, in the fear that cash reserves will dry up if a rescue deal isn’t struck on August 25th.

While demand for long haul flights looks very uncertain, short trips around Europe appear to be on the uptick, with budget airline Easy Jet laying on more flights to meet demand for holidays. This comes in spite of the extremely volatile and quick-changing travel guidance issued by governments. All this swivel-hips, flip-flop, u-turn madness has taken its toll on citizens, leading people to make their own decisions and take the risks into their own hands!

Departures and arrivals are still pretty much nonexistent in Australia, even for travel within its own shores, as lockdowns continue to intensify. In fact, our award for world’s strangest lockdown this week goes to Aussie state of Queensland which has banned People from travelling to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) where there are no cases

Go Quietly

According to Anchorage Daily News, Alaska’s first cruise sailing of 2020 departed Juneau on Saturday, carrying 30 crew and 37 passengers, for a weeklong voyage in Southeast Alaska. The cruise operators are planning a handful of additional voyages for the remained of 2020.

Tag; you’re it!

Singapore has introduced a tagging system to help assist in enforcing quarantine, whereby foreign visitors must wear a tagging device to ensure that they do not break the rules. Current rules dictate that only business and official travel is permitted to the country, subject to testing. It is reported that 2,200 vistors entered Singapore in June, down from 1.6 million the same month last year.

Latest Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • According to a report by the World Health Organisation, COVID-19 has provided the perfect opportunity for Suriname to identify its health industry’s shortcomings, and to put a plan in place to address them.

  • The International Finance Corporation’s (World Bank Group) new $4 billion financing platform will help increase the supply to developing countries of health supplies needed to fight the pandemic.
  • After months gone by with no coronavirus deaths, Vietnam have reported a fresh outbreak of COVID-19.

Main image: Melbourne Airport Flight Information… Non-existent! Pilot Productions

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
July 21, 2020

First phase of human clinical trials shows Oxford Vaccine induces immune response

In the race to create a vaccine for COVID-19, Oxford Univesiry and AstraZeneca have this week announced that the human clinical trials show great promise.

When administered to patients in a controlled environment, the vaccine caused minor side effects in some cases which were reduced by taking paracetamol.

The team’s vaccine shows such promise that the UK government has done a deal to secure 100 million doses of the drug once it is ready.

Whilst the trials hold promise, it is still widely debated as to how far a vaccine could manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrew Pollard, the Oxford professor leading the research “We need more research before we can confirm the vaccine effectively protects against SARS-CoV-2 infection, and for how long any protection lasts.”

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is one of the leading candidates among several others around the world, including an injection being developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, another from state-owned Chinese firm Sinopharm and one from US biotech firm Moderna.

It is thought that an effective vaccine would see an end to lockdowns and travel restrictions across the globe.

Wearing a mask is a display of patriotism, according to Trump

Italy to receive €210 billion stimulus package to help with post coronavirus economic recovery

The European Union have this week unveiled a €750bn stimulus package to help get the hardest hit corners of Europe back on their feet again in a post-coronavirus world. 28% of the funds, which are made up of both grants and a repayable loan, will be shared with Italy, whose economy had been expected to shrink up to 11% this year.

South Sea Bubble Border Security… over the top?

Australia and New Zealand have recorded an extremely low number of COVID-19 cases in the pandemic — in part because they are very isolated islands and in part because they closed their borders early on and they have remained tightly shut.

Now in Australia these borders are being erected internally as cases spike in states like Victoria. Communities have been confined within tower blocks, suburbs and cities, and state borders have been sealed. Those who ignore these draconian rules heavily are fined and threatened with prison.

Australia’s Border security forces have always been tough and need no encouragement to do their job. Check out a recent report here.

Look out for our forthcoming documentary on the history of pandemics, Hope and Fear: How Pandemics Changed the World.

Borders are certainly not new in history. Check out our Globe Guides – Borderlines show about the barriers that separate the world.

Latest Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • Brazilian COVID-19 deaths top 80,000. President Bolsanaro has voiced concerns surrounding lockdown restrictions and how they are killing the economy. Bolsanaro, having tested positive for the virus himself, has criticised the states and municipalities who are locking down, saying that “Without salaries and jobs, people die,”.
  • India’s biggest airline, IndiGo, has announced job cuts for up to 10% of its workforce as planes largely continue to remain grounded.
  • USA coronavirus cases are rapidly approaching 4 million.
  • Worldometers: Up to date Coronavirus statistics

Main image: Injection needle with Vaccination text, Marco Verch, Flickr Creative Commons