The underground ‘Parthenon’ protecting Tokyo from floods

by Shingo ITO KASUKABE, Japan (AFP) — It has been called Japan’s underground “Parthenon”, a cavernous complex charged with protecting Tokyo and surrounding areas from catastrophic flooding — a risk experts warn is growing as climate change advances. Above ground, there is little to give away the cathedral-like feat of engineering that forms the main reservoir of the Kasukabe flood tank, the largest facility of its kind in the world. The immense structure — deep […]

‘Making of Harry Potter’ park to open in Tokyo in 2023

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Muggles in Japan can discover how the Harry Potter films were made at a new amusement park opening in 2023 in Tokyo, Warner Bros said Tuesday, in the latest expansion of the multibillion-dollar wizarding franchise. The attraction, offering visitors a behind-the-scenes look into the production of the eight-hit movies, is the second of its kind, modeled on the original permanent studio exhibition in Britain. “The Studio Tour Tokyo” will stretch across […]

Road test: Chinese ‘robotaxis’ take riders for a spin

by Dan Martin / Beiyi SEOW Agence France-Presse SHANGHAI, China (AFP) — Chinese entrants in the race to put autonomous vehicles on the road are bringing “robotaxis” online in hopes that a hired-car format can be the key to unlocking wide acceptance of the futuristic technology. It is expected to be years before cars that operate completely without human intervention are unleashed owing to lingering technological, regulatory, and safety hurdles. But as China challenges US […]

Defying virus, Latvian ocean rower plans next adventure

by Imants LIEPINSH Agence France-Presse RIGA, Latvia (AFP) — After spending 140 days rowing across the ocean without seeing another human being, Latvian adventurer Karlis Bardelis has some valuable tips for those learning to cope with coronavirus lockdowns. Bardelis started his nearly two-year journey in Peru in July 2018, reaching French Polynesia after nearly five months and finishing in Malaysia in June of this year. Along the way, he was rammed by sharks off Papua […]

Disneyland Paris reopens, but no hugs for Donald

MARNE-LA-VALLEE, France (AFP) — Disneyland Paris, Europe’s biggest private tourist attraction, reopened its gates Wednesday after four months of coronavirus lockdown, albeit with limited access and a ban on hugging the famous characters. As festive music played, Mickey, Pluto and other Disney characters greeted the first visitors — all sporting face masks and some the trademark Mickey Mouse ears — while keeping a safe distance from the guests. Despite the merry mood, things at Disneyland […]

UK royal residences reopen after virus shutdown

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — Some of Queen Elizabeth II’s royal residences will reopen to the public later this month after closing during the coronavirus shutdown, the Royal Collection Trust announced Wednesday. Windsor Castle, west of London, where the 94-year-old monarch has been staying since the start of the pandemic, will be open for pre-booked, timed visits from July 23. The Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery at her London home of Buckingham Palace will […]

Virus won’t stop Eiffel Tower high life, says top French chef

by Olga NEDBAEVA PARIS, France (AFP) — The ebullient French chef Frederic Anton is having none of the talk that the world will not be the same again after the coronavirus. From the kitchen of his Jules Verne restaurant perched high on the Eiffel Tower 125 metres (410 feet) above Paris, the combative cook is determined that it will make not one iota of difference to the glories of French gastronomy. “Nothing is going to […]

Zimbabwe increases fuel price by 150 percent

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AFP) — Zimbabwe on Wednesday announced a 150 percent rise in the price of fuel following the launch of a forex auction system which eroded the value of the local currency. The price of a litre of diesel jumped 152 percent to ZW$62.77 ($1.12) from ZW$24.93 while petrol shot up 147 percent to ZW$71.62, the country’s Energy Regulatory Authority said in a notice. The central bank re-introduced forex auctioning on Tuesday, the first […]

Court halts Mexico’s ‘Maya Train’ over indigenous health rights

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AFP) — A Mexican court has ordered the suspension of work on the “Maya Train,” a controversial railroad through Mayan lands in the country’s southeast, after an indigenous community filed an injunction. The $6.2 billion rail link is a pet project of leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who said Wednesday that while the court challenge had “political overtones,” his government would comply with the ruling. “We will comply with the decisions […]

China cancels flights, classes over new outbreak as India deaths soar

by Jing Xuan Teng and Laurie Chen, with AFP Bureaus Agence France-Presse BEIJING, China (AFP) — China closed schools in Beijing and restricted air travel from the capital on Wednesday to prevent a second wave of coronavirus infections, as India’s death toll spiked. The new Chinese cluster and surging infections in Latin America and South Asia have raised fresh doubts about how soon the world can control the pandemic, which has seen more than 8.1 […]

Whale that won Canadian hearts believed to be dead

SOREL, Canada (AFP) — A young humpback whale that swam up one of Canada’s major rivers, delighting Montrealers who packed the shores for a glimpse of the first of the species in local waters, is believed to have died, wildlife officials said Tuesday. The pilot of a passing commercial ship early in the morning spotted a “whale carcass” near Varennes in the Monteregie region of the Canadian province, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of […]

Russia plans rocket tests, lunar programme resumption

MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Russia on Sunday put a brave face on the loss of its space travel monopoly, saying it planned to test two new rockets this year and resume its lunar programme in 2021. The comments from the Russian space agency Roscosmoc came after US entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX became the world’s first commercial company to put humans into orbit, signalling the dawn of a new era. Russia had for many years enjoyed […]