Japan’s humble ‘onigiri’ rice balls get image upgrade

By Mathias Cena with Cecilia Sanchez in New York TOKYO, Feb 15, 2024 (AFP) – Wrapped in seaweed and stuffed with delicious fillings, “onigiri” rice balls are shaking off their reputation as a cheap and uninspiring snack in Japan — and enticing hungry converts abroad. Mouth-watering pictures on social media, rising demand for affordable lunches, and a surge in tourism to Japan are all drawing people to the humble onigiri. Just ask any of the […]

New Zealand to ban ‘forever chemicals’ in make-up

New Zealand is set to become one of the first countries to ban harmful “forever chemicals” from cosmetic products, environment watchdogs said Wednesday. The Environmental Protection Authority said it will ban long-lasting substances perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl — known as PFAS or “forever chemicals” — by 2027. Found in items like nail polish, shaving cream, foundation, lipstick and mascara, PFAS make products more durable, spreadable and water-resistant. They are virtually indestructible, but can build up in […]

Autonomous driving is ‘happening’, but slower than expected

By Elodie MAZEIN LAS VEGAS, Jan 11, 2024 (AFP) – To the believers, the oft-promised autonomous car revolution is “clearly happening” — they point to the myriad displays at the Consumers Electronics Show in Las Vegas that defy the industry’s bad headlines. “Companies are deploying robotaxis in larger scale than before and in more cities,” insisted Kersten Heineke, partner and codirector of the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility. Even “in times where money is scarce…we’re […]

‘I’ll keep going:’ Chile granny finds solace, celebrity in online gaming

By Axl HERNANDEZ LLAY-LLAY , Chile, Dec 29, 2023 (AFP) – Few players of the online video game Free Fire would know that one of their most ferocious opponents — a lithe, gun-wielding warrior in a short kimono and fang mask — is in reality an 81-year-old grandmother from rural Chile. From her professional gaming chair at home in a small village, the soft-spoken Maria Elena Arevalo becomes a merciless hunter, mowing down rivals in […]

1962 Ferrari auctioned for $51.7 mn in New York: Sotheby’s

A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sports car sold for $51.7 million in New York on Monday, making it the second most expensive car ever sold at auction, Sotheby’s said. The bright red roadster had been the property of an American collector for the past 38 years, and its auction price was surpassed only by that of a Mercedes 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe that went for 135 million euros in 2022, the auction house said. That […]

UK designer rejects ‘fast fashion’ to protect planet

By Caroline TAÏX Driven by a passion to protect the planet, Phoebe English hasn’t bought a centimetre of fabric or a single plastic button for her collection at London Fashion Week. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting, accounting for up to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to World Bank estimates. “Fast fashion”, where clothes are bought for a few dollars and then discarded after a few wears, leads to a […]

The fight over a ‘dangerous’ ideology shaping AI debate

PARIS, Aug 28, 2023 (AFP) – Silicon Valley’s favourite philosophy, longtermism, has helped to frame the debate on artificial intelligence around the idea of human extinction. But increasingly vocal critics are warning that the philosophy is dangerous, and the obsession with extinction distracts from real problems associated with AI like data theft and biased algorithms. Author Emile Torres, a former longtermist turned critic of the movement, told AFP that the philosophy rested on the kind […]

K-pop to the rescue? S. Korea all-in for scout jamboree closing concert

Tens of thousands of scouts are set to gather for a massive K-pop festival in Seoul on Friday, as South Korea seeks to salvage a problem-plagued jamboree with “the power of Korean culture”. But even as the government throws millions of dollars in emergency funding into fixing an event that has been a public relations disaster, criticism — from K-pop fans to public sector employees — is mounting over Seoul’s approach. The quadrennial world jamboree […]

Japan sees record drop in population

TOKYO, July 26, 2023 (AFP) – Japan’s population fell by a record in 2022, government data showed Wednesday, as the country struggles to reverse its perennial low birthrates. While many developed countries face low birthrates, the problem is particularly acute in Japan where the population has now fallen for 14 straight years. The country has the world’s second oldest population, after tiny Monaco, and in January, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warned Japan was “on the […]

French parliament seeks to regulate ‘jungle’ of social media influencers

  PARIS, June 1, 2023 (AFP) – The upper house Senate of France’s parliament was Thursday due to pass a law that will better regulate social media influencers by limiting and regulating their ability to endorse products and encourage betting. The lower house National Assembly late on Wednesday gave its green light to the bill which has wide-cross party support — highly unusual in France’s current tense political climate — after being proposed by deputies […]

Southeast Asia seeks global recognition for ‘special’ kebaya craft

By Patrick Lee with Dessy Sagita in Jakarta AMPANG, Malaysia (AFP) – In a Malaysian boutique, a small group of seamstresses sit at clattering sewing machines, stitching bright flowers and leaves into kebayas, traditional blouses worn by women around Southeast Asia. What makes kebayas special is that they are worn by women of all ethnic backgrounds in a diverse region, according to Lim Yu Lin, who co-runs the family business her grandmother founded in 1955. […]

The long wait is over: New ‘Zelda’ hits shelves

TOKYO (AFP) – A six-year wait came to an end for “Zelda” fans across the world on Friday as Nintendo released the long-awaited next instalment of its 40-year-old gaming saga. Gamers began lining up outside a shop in Paris well before midnight, determined to get their hands on “Tears of the Kingdom” the minute it became available. “I’m going crazy actually, because it’s been six years that we’ve been waiting for this game,” 19-year-old Taylor […]