Swarmed with tourists, Japan town blocks off viral view of Mt. Fuji

Swarmed with tourists, Japan town blocks off viral view of Mt. Fuji
Tourists stand nearby as workers erect a barrier to block the view of a popular Mount Fuji photo spot, near a convenience store in Fujikawaguchiko town, Yamanashi prefecture, Japan on May 21, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 May 2024
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Swarmed with tourists, Japan town blocks off viral view of Mt. Fuji

Swarmed with tourists, Japan town blocks off viral view of Mt. Fuji
  • The mass of visitors and their refusal to obey rules on littering and parking had become a nuisance and traffic hazard

FUJIKAWAGUCHIKO, Japan: Japan’s majestic Mt. Fuji was some 700,000 years in the making, but on one sultry May morning, it was gone.
At least on one side of a busy road, views of the 3,776-meter (12,388 foot) symbol of Japan and the Lawson convenience store beneath it have vanished, as officials finished a 20-meter by 2.5-meter barrier to obstruct a photo spot that had become viral among tourists.
For locals, the mass of visitors and their refusal to obey rules on littering and parking had become a nuisance and traffic hazard.
“I’m really happy that foreigners are coming to our town,” said Kikue Katsumata, 73, a lifelong resident of Fujikawaguchiko. “But when it comes to taking pictures from the Lawson, the road is a bit narrow and it can be dangerous when people dash across without using a crosswalk.”
March and April set all-time records for visitor arrivals, driven by pent-up demand after the pandemic and as the yen’s slide to a 34-year low made Japan an irresistible bargain. That’s been good news for the economy, with travelers spending a record 1.75 trillion yen ($11.2 billion) in the first three months of 2024, according to the tourist agency.
The drastic decision to block the view of Mt. Fuji symbolizes tensions across the country as Japan reckons with the consequences of its tourism boom. The western metropolis of Osaka and the hot spring resort town Hakone are among municipalities considering new tourism taxes to deal with deluge of visitors.
Cyril Malchand, a 45-year old visitor from France, found out about the fence online and made a special trip to be among the last to take in the view. He said he empathized with the locals.
“When I see that there could be problems with people crossing the road without watching cars, I don’t find it that bad that they’re setting up that fence,” he said.


Yacht crew charged after fireworks spark Greek wildfire

Yacht crew charged after fireworks spark Greek wildfire
Updated 23 June 2024
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Yacht crew charged after fireworks spark Greek wildfire

Yacht crew charged after fireworks spark Greek wildfire
  • The crew denied the charges, and prosecutors will not pursue charges against the 17 Kazakh passengers

ATHENS: Greek prosecutors on Sunday charged 13 crew members of a luxury yacht accused of setting off fireworks that caused a major wildfire on an island near Athens, media reports said.
The crew will go on trial Tuesday on charges of causing a criminal fire, the ERT public broadcaster said.
A new surge in wildfires has put a spotlight on the case, and under recently toughened legislation the crew could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined up to 200,000 euros ($214,000).
The crew denied the charges, and prosecutors will not pursue charges against the 17 Kazakh passengers who were on the yacht on Friday night when the fireworks were set off, ERT said.
Some of the fireworks landed on the island of Hydra, starting a blaze that burned about 30 hectares (75 acres) of pine forest, according to the civil protection service.
The captain of a nearby ship who saw the fireworks being set off was questioned at Sunday’s hearing, reports said.
Amid fierce winds and rising temperature, dozens of wildfires have left at least one dead and already scarred resorts and the Greek countryside at the start of the summer season.
The civil protection service has called for extreme vigilance because the risk of fires was “very high,” particularly in the Attica region, the Peloponnese peninsula and in central Greece.
After its warmest winter ever, the Mediterranean country recorded its first heatwave of the year last week, with temperatures rising above 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) in some locations.
Last year, a fierce two-week heatwave was followed by devastating wildfires in which 20 people died.
Scientists warn that fossil fuel emissions caused by humans are worsening the length and intensity of heatwaves around the world.


Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’

Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’
Updated 23 June 2024
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Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’

Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’
  • Electric minibuses have been introduced on the car-free island of Buyukada
  • Motor vehicles are prohibited on the islands, except for essential services

ISTANBUL: Ibrahim Aycan has been waging all-out war against the electric minibuses newly introduced on the car-free island of Buyukada, which he says threaten his corner of paradise on the southern shores of Istanbul.
“We live a peaceful life here,” said Aycan, a lawyer and head of the Association of Friends of the Island.
“These vehicles sadden us. Let people walk and cycle!”
Buyukada is one of the Princes’ Islands, a popular destination for tourists and a retreat for many of Istanbul’s 16 million inhabitants.
Motor vehicles are prohibited on the islands, except for essential services, and even horse-drawn carriages were banned in 2020 to protect the local wildlife.
But the controversial new minibuses, with a capacity of 12 people, went into service on June 15, driving through the narrow alleys of the islands.
As one of the protest leaders against the new mode of transport, Aycan uses his body as a roadblock whenever he comes across one of these “monstrobuses” — a name given by islanders in Buyukada — the largest of the Princes’ Islands, in the Sea of Marmara.
“I saw a bus on the way to my home yesterday. I had an appointment but I froze in front of it for half an hour,” Aycan said.
Eight protesters were detained on the first day, and locals have staged demos daily and spontaneously since.
Kamer Alyanakyan, 58, has spent every summer on Buyukada since his childhood, which is home to white wooden villas with gardens filled with colorful Bougainvillea plants.
“Nobody asked our opinion. The island’s streets are pedestrian, and we don’t want to lose that identity,” said Alyanakyan.
He has been knocking on doors to persuade residents to sign a petition calling for the removal of the minibuses.
Mehmet Can, whose cafe is a 40-minute walk from the pier, admits the new buses could have been “smaller” but he says they are “more comfortable.”
Above all, he sees them as “necessary in summer” because tens of thousands of people flock to the islands daily.
“(Authorities) will not throw them away just because a bunch of people are barking,” he said.
Istanbul Municipality, run by the opposition CHP party, has defended the minibuses and said that public transport is “indispensable for the island’s inhabitants,” especially the elderly.
It also argued that these minibuses are accessible to people with disabilities, unlike the existing small electric shuttle service.
Istanbul’s city council, a non-profit body that is in close dialogue with the municipality, has opposed minibuses.
“We support the islanders who want to defend their pedestrian streets,” the council said.
In the 1930s, cars were banned on the islands and since 1984, it has been a pedestrian zone and a protected area.
Alyanakyan is convinced that the municipality will eventually back down.
The activist will join a festival in July on Mackinac Island near Detroit — America’s car capital — which is known for its car-free roads.
“I’m going to talk to people, to the authorities over there,” he said.
“I will ask them: ‘How did you hold up? How did you resist the pressure?’”


Should young kids have smartphones? These parents in Europe linked arms and said no

Should young kids have smartphones? These parents in Europe linked arms and said no
Updated 23 June 2024
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Should young kids have smartphones? These parents in Europe linked arms and said no

Should young kids have smartphones? These parents in Europe linked arms and said no
  • The most engaged parents are pushing for fellow parents to agree not to get their kids smartphones until they are 16. After organizing online, they facilitate real-world talks among concerned parents to further their crusade

BARCELONA, Spain: Try saying “no” when a child asks for a smartphone. What comes after, parents everywhere can attest, begins with some variation of: “Everyone has one. Why can’t I?”
But what if no preteen in sight has one — and what if having a smartphone was weird? That’s the endgame of an increasing number of parents across Europe who are concerned by evidence that smartphone use among young kids jeopardizes their safety and mental health — and share the conviction that there’s strength in numbers.
From Spain to Britain and Ireland, parents are flooding WhatsApp and Telegram groups with plans not just to keep smartphones out of schools, but to link arms and refuse to buy young kids the devices before — or even into — their teenage years.
After being inspired by a conversation in a Barcelona park with other moms, Elisabet García Permanyer started a chat group last fall to share information on the perils of Internet access for children with families at her kids’ school.
The group, called “Adolescence Free of Mobile Phones,” quickly expanded and now includes over 10,000 members. The most engaged parents are pushing for fellow parents to agree not to get their kids smartphones until they are 16. After organizing online, they facilitate real-world talks among concerned parents to further their crusade.
“When I started this, I just hoped I would find four other families who thought like me, but it took off and kept growing, growing and growing,” García Permanyer says. “My goal was to try to join forces with other parents so we could push back the point when smartphones arrive. I said, ‘I am going to try so that my kids are not the only ones who don’t have one.’“
It isn’t just parents. Police and public health experts were sounding the alarm about a spike of violent and pornographic videos watched by children via handheld devices. Spain’s government took note of the momentum and banned smartphones entirely from elementary schools in January. Now they can only be turned on in high school, which starts at age 12, if a teacher deems it necessary for an educational activity.
The movement in Britain gained steam this year after the mother of 16-year-old Brianna Ghey, who was killed by two teenagers last year, began demanding that kids under 16 be blocked from accessing social media on smartphones.
“It feels like we all know (buying smartphones) is a bad decision for our kids, but that the social norm has not yet caught up,” Daisy Greenwell, a Suffolk, England-area mother of three kids under age 10, posted to her Instagram earlier this year. “What if we could switch the social norm so that in our school, our town, our country, it was an odd choice to make to give your child a smartphone at 11? What if we could hold off until they’re 14, or 16?”
She and a friend, Clare Reynolds, set up a WhatsApp group called Parents United for a Smartphone-Free Childhood, with three people on it. Within four days, 2,000 people had joined the group, requiring Greenwell and Reynolds to split off dozens of groups by locality. Now there’s a chat group for every British county.
Parents rallying to ban smartphones from young children have a long way to go to change what’s considered “normal.” By the time they’re 12, most children have smartphones, statistics from all three countries show. In Spain, a quarter of children have a cellphone by age 10, and almost half by 11. At 12, this share rises to 75 percent. British media regulator Ofcom said 55 percent of kids in the UK owned a smartphone between ages 8 and 11, with the figure rising to 97 percent at age 12.
Parents and schools that have succeeded in flipping the paradigm in their communities told The Associated Press the change became possible the moment they understood that they were not alone.
In Greystones, Ireland, that moment came after all eight primary school principals in town signed and posted a letter last year that discouraged parents from buying their students smartphones. Then the parents themselves voluntarily signed written pledges, promising to refrain from letting their young kids have the devices.
“The discussion went away almost overnight,” says Christina Capatina, 38, a Greystones parent of two preteen daughters who signed the pledge and says there were almost no smartphones in schools this academic year.
Something like a consensus has built for years among institutions, governments, parents and others that smartphone use by children is linked to bullying, suicidal ideation, anxiety and loss of concentration necessary for learning. China moved last year to limit children’s use of smartphones, while France has in place a ban on smartphones in schools for kids aged six to 15.
The push to control smartphones in Spain comes amid a surge in cases of children viewing online pornography, sharing videos of sexual violence, or creating “deep fake” pornographic images of female classmates using generative artificial intelligence tools. Spain’s government says that 25 percent of kids 12 and under and 50 percent of kids 15 and under have been exposed to online pornography.
The dangers have produced school bans on smartphones and online safety laws. But those don’t address what kids do in off hours.
“What I try to emphasize to other principals is the importance of joining up with the school next door to you,” says Rachel Harper, principal of St. Patrick’s National School, one of the eight in Greystones to encourage parents to refrain from smartphones for their kids. “There’s a bit more strength that way, in that all the parents in the area are talking about it.”
The home isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic offered a firsthand glimpse of their kids staring at screens and getting clever about hiding what they were seeing there — and what was finding them.
But if the kids can’t have smartphones, are the parents cutting back their own online time? That’s tough, multiple parents say, because they’re managing families and work online.
Laura Borne, a Greystones mom of kids ages 5 and 6 who have never known smartphones, says she is aware of the need to model online behavior — and that she should probably cut back.
“I’m trying my best,” she says. But just as with the children she parents, the pressures are there. And they’re not going away.
 

 


Four fans get on field for selfies with Cristiano Ronaldo during chaotic scenes at Euro 2024 match

Four fans get on field for selfies with Cristiano Ronaldo during chaotic scenes at Euro 2024 match
Updated 22 June 2024
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Four fans get on field for selfies with Cristiano Ronaldo during chaotic scenes at Euro 2024 match

Four fans get on field for selfies with Cristiano Ronaldo during chaotic scenes at Euro 2024 match
  • That fan then ran off before being stopped and escorted away
  • More chaos ensued when a third field invader emerged in stoppage time and ran past Ronaldo

DORTMUND: Four fans ran on the field in a bid to get selfies with Cristiano Ronaldo in chaotic scenes at a European Championship match between Portugal and Turkiye on Saturday.
Only one appeared to succeed.
Ronaldo was fine having his photograph taken with a young boy who evaded stewards to get on the field in the 69th minute at Westfalenstadion before whipping out his cell phone.
That fan then ran off before being stopped and escorted away — but not before he waved to the crowd.
Then, about 15 minutes later, an older fan tried the same but Ronaldo threw his hands up in the air and turned his back on the spectator, who seemed to grab hold of Ronaldo’s arm.
More chaos ensued when a third field invader emerged in stoppage time and ran past Ronaldo, who was defending a corner.
After the final whistle, there were more security breaches as a fan wearing a Portugal jersey attempted to get close to Ronaldo while holding a phone. He was soon tackled to the ground while another supporter was stopped from confronting Ronaldo as Portugal’s players walked off the field.


88-year-old Montana man who was getaway driver in bank robberies sentenced to 2 years in prison

(Facebook/Billings Police Department)
(Facebook/Billings Police Department)
Updated 22 June 2024
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88-year-old Montana man who was getaway driver in bank robberies sentenced to 2 years in prison

(Facebook/Billings Police Department)
  • The man and his co-defendant were arrested after the second robbery in August 2023 in a car matching the description of the car involved in the first bank robbery just four days earlier, prosecutors said

BILLINGS, Montana: An 88-year-old Montana man has been sentenced to two years in a federal prison medical facility for being the getaway driver in two bank robberies in Billings last summer, the US Attorney’s Office in Montana said.
The man was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in February to two counts of bank robbery. He was ordered to pay nearly $3,100 in restitution and will be on supervised release for three years after he finishes his prison sentence.
US District Court Judge Susan Watters ordered him to report to the US Marshals Service, after which he would be sent to a Bureau of Prisons medical facility.
The man and his co-defendant were arrested after the second robbery in August 2023 in a car matching the description of the car involved in the first bank robbery just four days earlier, prosecutors said. The defendant told investigators he suggested he and the co-defendant rob banks to get money, as he had done in the past. The defendant pleaded guilty to bank robbery in 2008, when he was 72.