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Dreaming of a Visit to Japan? The Government Might Pay for Half of Your Trip to Jumpstart Tourism

Japan officials are reportedly considering a plan to pay half of the travel expenses of foreign travelers to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Elias Marat

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(TMU) – If you’re currently stuck at home and facing government lockdown orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we won’t blame you if you’re currently fantasizing about the vacations you want to take once the world returns to relative normalcy.

While books, YouTube travel vlogs, and even open world video games offer great distractions, in many ways they also offer serious fuel to our wanderlust – inspiring us to do nothing more than get out of our current environs and delve deep into other cultures, climes, and cuisines.

And of all the most amazing tourist destinations out there, one country stands tall with its dazzling combination of ancient culture and stunning modernity – and that country is Japan.

And now, Japanese officials are reportedly considering a plan that would see the government potentially step up to pay half of the travel expenses of foreign travelers to the Land of the Rising Sun.

However, the plan is merely just a proposal – at least for the time being.

Since the coronavirus pandemic became a global concern earlier this year, the brakes have been hit on global travel – as well as the lucrative tourism industries of various countries.

This has been no less true in Japan, where a mere 2,900 tourists visited the country this April – a vast and precipitous drop from the 2,926,685 people who visited the country last April, according to leading Japanese newspaper The Mainichi. On a nationwide level, the country has seen a staggering 99.9 percent year-on-year drop in tourism.

To prevent the continuation of the brutal collapse of tourism, the Japanese government is now considering giving the green light to a 1.35 trillion yen (over $12.5 billion USD) fund to lure back foreign visitors. Japanese Tourism Agency chief Hiroshi Tabata said that the scheme could begin as soon as July if COVID-19 infections continue to subside.

It remains unclear what exactly would be covered under the plan in terms of airfare or which categories of hotels and lodging.

Japan is currently facing its lowest number of visitors from abroad since 1964. Normally, spring is one of the country’s most popular tourist seasons, especially because it’s cherry blossom season, when the blossoming trees around Tokyo, Kyoto and Mt. Fuji attract thousands of sightseers. This year, however, visitors have largely been restricted to these deer – which, needless to say, doesn’t do much for the tourism industry in terms of generating revenue.

Additionally, Japan has barred entry to nationals and passenger flights from roughly 100 nations. This includes China – one of Japan’s major tourism markets, which had been hitting record highs during the winter amid warming people-to-people relations between the Chinese and Japanese people, who have been plagued by poor bilateral ties in the past.

To make matters worse, Japan has also been forced to postpone the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympic Games that were due to take place in Tokyo.

The country’s other landmarks and attractions have also been temporarily closed, including Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, Universal Studios Japan, and a number of museums, festivals, and other mass events.

However, in a sign that good news may be on the horizon, only three new coronavirus infections were reported in the capital on Friday – the lowest figure since the government declared a state of emergency in April.

So while Japan is not quite out of the woods yet – as is the case in much of the rest of the world – the reported plan to slash travel expenses in half for tourists does seem tantalizing.

After all, where else can we be treated to the priceless scenery of Japan’s villages, the brilliant natural beauty of the country’s mountains and islands, or the irreplaceable flavors of genuine Japanese cuisine?

Well, this might just be the chance you’ve been waiting for.

Animals

Fishermen Find $1.5 Million Worth Of ‘Vomit Gold’ In Whale Carcass, Lifting Them From Poverty

Elias Marat

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A group of fishermen from the war-ravaged nation of Yemen have seen their fortunes radically reversed after stumbling upon a rare treasure in the belly of a sperm whale carcass.

The 35 fishermen had been living in poverty before they discovered the floating whale carcass at sea, which turned out to contain an abundance of ambergris worth over $1.5 million, reports the BBC.

Ambergris is a waxy substance that resembles a rock and is often referred to as “whale vomit.” The substance, which is produced deep in the intestines of the marine mammal, is a byproduct of their eating cephalopods such as squid and cuttlefish. The substance is sometimes found floating in the ocean or washed up on beaches after it is believed to have been vomited out by the whales.

Ambergris has been coveted by humans for a long time for its perceived medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities. It has also been used in the manufacturing of expensive perfumes.

“If you find whale ambergris it’s a treasure,” one of the fishermen said in the BBC News video.

The fishermen’s curiosity was piqued when one of them notified them of the whale and said that it may contain the rare treasure in its bowls.

“As soon as we got close to it, there was this strong smell, and we had the feeling that this whale had something,” the fisherman said. “We decided to hook the whale in, take it to the shore and to cut into it to see what was inside its belly. And yes, it was ambergris. The smell wasn’t very nice but [it is worth] lots of money.”

“It’s like an unbelievable dream. Wonderful feelings I can’t describe,” he added.

Since 2014, the people of Yemen have been on the receiving end of devastating offensives by a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition in a campaign that has seen tens of thousands of people killed and Yemen pushed to the brink of famine. In October, the United Nations estimated that some 80 percent of the population – over 24 million people – required aid and protection.

However, the fishermen and their families can now lift themselves from poverty after selling the ambergris for $1.5 million and dividing the profits among themselves equally.

The men are now using their funds to assist the people who helped them as well as fellow needy villagers.

The men also have purchased homes, cars, and boats and plan to continue fishing.

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China’s “Artificial Sun” Sets World Record Running At 120 MILLION Degrees For 101 Seconds

Elias Marat

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Chinese researchers have achieved a new world record after scientists developing an “artificial sun” ran the device on Friday at a record-shattering temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for over 100 seconds.

The experiment was held at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP) in Hefei, China.

The exercise is a part of the China’s efforts to develop new clean energy sources through the development of next-generation nuclear fusion reactor technology.

Known as the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), the “Chinese artificial sun” managed to generate plasma temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds before scientists also realized a temperature of 160 million degrees Celsius for an additional 20 seconds.

The goal of EAST is to create Sun-like energy using deuterium, a hydrogen isotope that is plentiful in the ocean and can provide a steady flow of clean energy. According to estimates, one liter of seawater contains enough deuterium to produce energy equivalent to 300 liters of gasoline.

China hopes that it can replace fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas with the fusion energy in order to achieve carbon neutrality and a more ecological society.

“It’s a huge achievement in China’s physics and engineering fields. The experiment’s success lays the foundation for China to build its own nuclear fusion energy station,” ASIPP director Song Yuntao said, according to People’s Daily.

The EAST artificial sun is also part of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, a joint effort by global scientists that includes the input of scientists from China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.

Experts hope that if development proceeds at the current rate, successful nuclear fusion could be achieved within three decades.

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After Strong Backlash, NYPD Kicks Robotic Dog “Spot” to the Curb

Kenny Stancil

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The New York City Police Department decided this week to stop leasing a robotic dog from Boston Dynamics following a sustained outcry from residents and lawmakers, who denounced the use of the high-tech, four-legged device in low-income neighborhoods as a misallocation of public resources and violation of civil liberties.

When the NYPD acquired the K-9 machine last August, officials portrayed “Digidog”—the department’s name for the camera-equipped, 70-pound robot—as “a futuristic tool that could go places that were too dangerous to send officers,” the New York Times reported earlier this week.

Inspector Frank Digiacomo of the department’s Technical Assistance Response Unit said in a television interview in December: “This dog is going to save lives. It’s going to protect people. It’s going to protect officers.”

Instead—thanks to strong backlash from critics, including people who live in the Bronx apartment complex and the Manhattan public housing building where the robotic dog was deployed in recent weeks—the department is returning “Spot,” as Boston Dynamics calls the device, months earlier than expected.

According to the Times:

In response to a subpoena from City Councilman Ben Kallos and Council Speaker Corey Johnson requesting records related to the device, police officials said that a contract worth roughly $94,000 to lease the robotic dog from its maker, Boston Dynamics, had been terminated on April 22.

John Miller, the police department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, confirmed on Wednesday that the contract had been canceled and that the dog had been returned to Boston Dynamics or would be soon.

Miller told the Times that the police had initially planned to continue testing the K-9 machine’s capabilities until August, when the lease had been scheduled to end.

The robotic dog came under increased scrutiny in February, after it was deployed in response to a home invasion at a Bronx apartment building, as Common Dreams reported at the time.

“Robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted in response. “Please ask yourself: when was the last time you saw next-generation, world class technology for education, healthcare, housing, etc. consistently prioritized for underserved communities like this?” 

And earlier this month, as Common Dreams reported, footage of the robotic dog walking through a Manhattan public housing building went viral, sparking additional outrage and prompting a city council investigation.

“Why the hell do we need robot police dogs?” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) asked at the time. 

While there are “people living in poverty, struggling to put food on the table, keep a roof over their head, take care of their kids, afford child care—all this going on, and now we got damn robot police dogs walking down the street,” Bowman lamented.

Bill Neidhardt, a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who urged the police department to reconsider its use of the robot following objections from residents and lawmakers, said he was “glad the Digidog was put down.”

“It’s creepy, alienating, and sends the wrong message to New Yorkers,” Neidhardt said.

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

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