TAKE 5
Five cold and cool facts about anything and everything.
Society
Mathieu Pollet

Take 5: Overtourism Pushback From Venice To Machu Picchu To Maya Bay

With many in the Northern Hemisphere now making their way back to the office, it's time to share stories and rankings of our respective summer vacations. One question that always comes up: How crowded was it?

Indeed, travels to popular foreign destinations continue to grow worldwide. In 2018, there were an estimated 1,4 billions international tourist arrivals, according to The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) — which forecasts a 3-4% rise for the current year.

Sure, tourism does generate wealth and creates jobs. Yet certain destinations around the world are now seeing it as more a question of "overtourism." The list of troubles outside visitors brings is long: overcrowding, littering, rising housing and land prices, hidden costs to upgrade infrastructure to meet both tourist demand and to take care of sometimes already endangered, natural habitats and monuments. There is also a broader awareness of travelers' contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

All of this adds up to an "invisible burden" — as dubbed by the charity The Travel Foundation which has been taking on the matter by focusing on different ways to curb mass arrivals. Here are five destinations which have been looking for new ways to, well, push back on the growing crowds:

NEW ZEALAND — Matapōuri

Waitangi and the Matapōuri Mermaid Pools, two New Zealander hot spots, were recently added to the interactive map of the Travel Responsible website of 98 "places that are suffering under the strains of overtourism." Matapōuri had already been closed since April after being polluted by urine and sunscreen, reported the New-Zealander news website Stuff.

Matapouri, with tourists — Source: Google Street View

A nationwide response has been put in place: Since July 1st, every tourist flying to New Zealand has to pay $35 NZD ($23) International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy. This new tax will help combat the environmental damage that overtourism is causing to the country's world-famous natural venues and landscapes.

PERU — Machu Picchu

Peruvian authorities are taking a very different approach when it comes to dealing with the flows of tourists to Machu Picchu. As a cornerstone of the local economy, the government recently approved another airport in the Cusco region, hoping to double the number of tourists to the ancient Inca site that is already visited by more than one million tourists each year.

It didn't take long for UNESCO to send a letter to Peruvian authorities to warn about protecting the Inca citadel, which has long been on the list of world heritage sites, the Lima-based newspaper El Comercio reported. Any construction that may have an impact on protected areas must be cleared with the UN agency. In 2017, the news website Gestíon reported, Peruvian authorities decided to tackle this alarming issue — by introducing a new ticket for a specific period of time, a guide for each group of visitors.

ITALY — Venice

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The city council in Venice, which is bursting with 36 million international tourists annually, implemented a new set of regulations, including fines from 25 to 500 euros and permanent bans from the city center for visitors showing "anti-social" behavior.

The "City of Canals' — Photo: veneziaunica via Instagram

Among the behavior that can be punished: taking part in some sort of noisy celebration (stag, hen, university-degree parties, etc.) Monday to Thursday between 8 A.M. and 8 P.M., eating or drinking outside of designated areas, wearing bathing suits or walking bare-chested, riding or even pushing a bicycle in the historical center, caught singing, shouting or listening to music without earphones from 11 P.M. to 8 A.M. and noon to 5 P.M. Italian daily Il Giornale wrote about two German backpackers who were fined 950 euros (and then banned) for making coffee on a travel cooker on the steps of the Rialto bridge.

THAILAND — Maya Bay

Made famous by the 2000 movie The Beach starring Leonardo Dicaprio, the beautiful Maya Bay is closed for business. Initially, the Bay was supposed to be granted a four-month break to allow the local natural ecosystem to recover from the up to 5,000 tourists, on 200 boats, who visited every day. But last May, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation decided to extend the closure of the tourist magnet for another two years, the Bangkok Post reported. It is estimated than 80% of the coral around Maya Bay has been destroyed by human activity.

The decision received mixed feelings from professionals and experts. Some fear that focusing on one spot will just move the damage someplace else, and not really deal with the root of the problem. So, unless authorities tackle the environmental damage caused by tourists more generally — by imposing a limit on tourist number for instance, it may just be a matter of time before other national parks meet a similar fate.

THE NETHERLANDS — Amsterdam

De-marketing as last resort. Last year, an estimated 19 million tourists descended on the 850,000-inhabitant Dutch capital...! Last December, the city decided to remove the "I Amsterdam" letters, a famous selfie hotspot for tourists. Symbolically, it marked the beginning of their intention to "de-market", i.e. stop advertising, the destination, after it reached its breaking point. Locals had had enough of disturbances and were pushed out to quieter areas, outside of the city center.

I (and them) Amsterdam — Photo: Kevin Mcgill

New regulations were introduced in 2018 to fight against mass tourism, as listed in Dutch Review: higher tourist taxes, Airbnb accommodations won't be rented to tourists for more than 30 days per year (in some neighborhoods, there is even a complete ban on holiday rentals), several awareness campaigns. In an interview for Het Parool, Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema has even started considering relocating the Red Light District — famous for its prostitution industry — farther out of the city as it had become an attraction for tourists, and disturbed both sex workers and locals.

Future

Take 5: How China's Big Brother Inspires Surveillance Tech Around The World

Personal privacy seems to be fleeting in a world where technology is constantly advancing — and it's no accident: Around the globe, authorities are creating new ways to collect information about their citizens, be it in the streets or in supermarkets.

Identity verification is a growing business, and the market is expected to grow from $6 billion to $12.8 billion by 2024. China is clearly leading in this domain, using identity verification to record even minor infractions like jaywalking.

Moreover, recent reports suggest that China has developed this business overseas. Foreign companies and governments are adapting Chinese technology to both keep track of crime and monitor simple daily tasks. Many countries are not only inspired by China's surveillance tech — specifically the automated face detection camera — but they're starting to use it themselves.

Here are five places in the world applying China's surveillance methods:

ECUADOR

During the former presidency of Rafael Correa, whom many accused of leading in an autocratic way because of his heavy hand when it came to censorship, China brought its surveillance system to Quito in exchange for oil. Chinese workers installed nearly 4,000 surveillance cameras, called ECU- 911, which the government says have been key in helping the police solve crimes. Authorities also say the surveillance system encouraged people to moderate their behavior as they don't know if information about them is being collected, though crime statistics show that crime has not been effectively curbed.

ECU-911 surveillance system. Photo: Rong Hao/ZUMA

Critics say that these cameras are being used for reasons other than tracking crime. Certain high-crime areas in Quito do not have ECU-911; instead, cameras appear in areas where government critics live, former Ecuadorean legislator Martha Roldós, an open Correa critic, told the New York Times.

Retired Colonel Mario Pazmiño, another vocal critic of Correa's, believes there are cameras that look directly into his living room, parking lot and daughter's room. He says cameras are being used to track political dissidents like him and not for security reasons.

A video from the New York Times suggests that by installing these cameras, China is exporting its method of autocratic surveillance abroad.

U.S.

America, much like China, created face recognition cameras to be installed in the streets. Yet, unlike China, this technology isn't installed in cities — with a few exceptions.

Civil liberty activists are currently discouraging the use of facial recognition cameras, suggesting they will inspire an authoritarian leadership similar to China's. Yet, the system has been brought to two cities, Chicago and Detroit. The software, Face Watch Plus, was bought from a company in South Carolina in 2016 for Chicago's police department. Even though it could benefit the city by tracking crime, three years have gone by and the system still hasn't been installed.

In Detroit, the project is referred to as "Project Greenlight" and, according to WIRED, the police department hopes it will "deter late night crime." Their facial recognition cameras were bought in 2017, and have been installed everywhere from churches to reproductive health centers.

FRANCE

The food service company Sodexo has invested in Aeye-Go, a company that provides services to identify shelved food items and provide payment through facial recognition. This technology has already been distributed in some Chinese restaurants and schools. The product is expected to arrive in France this year.

According to Le Monde, this is an example of face recognition technology being adapted differently. Unlike most countries, France is not using the facial recognition cameras to detect crime on the streets, but instead bringing it into supermarkets for a more convenient and quicker shopping experience. This technology is expected to see its debut at the Carrefour-Google Lab, an interactive initiative that helps explore, analyze, transform and visualize data to build better models through the Google Cloud Platform, in the 13th arrondissement of Paris.

"In China, it does not pose a problem to keep a face on a central server," Pierre Blanc, former executive at HP and IBM, told Le Monde. France, however, does not seem to be at ease with everyday facial recognition.

SINGAPORE

The Singaporean government has decided to create a surveillance system with facial recognition — close to China's technology — and hopes to install 110,000 cameras on lamp poles. The government is calling the project the "Smart Nation" plan, Fast Company reports.

The government's goal for the project is to collect crowd analytics and support anti-terror operations through sensors. The system they are installing this year will be able to keep track of citizens and foreign visitors alike. To prevent hacking, the Singaporean government has taken the controversial measure of cutting off civil servants from the Internet.

According to CityLab, Singaporeans are not hugely concerned with their privacy and trust the government to look after their interests.

UK

London is the second most surveilled city in the world after Beijing. This year, the number of surveillance cameras in London hit an all-time high, at a ratio of one camera for every 14 people. By 2025, the numbers are expected to go up, with one million cameras due to be present in the city, or one camera for every 11 people.

Facially recognized? — Photo: h heyerlein

London has started using Automated Facial Recognition (AFC) cameras on the streets. The Guardian reports that the cameras are used to track down possible suspects, criminals, and offenders. Similarly to China's facial recognition cameras, the London cameras map faces, and the faces are later compared with a list of images in the police department.

The cameras are located everywhere in London, tracking human interactions in streets, shopping centers, football crowds and music events. According to The Guardian, "the officer on the ground looking at the individual will make their assessment and will decide whether or not to intervene."

Society
Mathieu Pollet

Still Ok To Spank? Corporal Punishment Around The World

From South Africa to Singapore to France, the question of when or where adults can physically discipline children continues to fuel debate.

PARIS — French parenting has earned a reputation as an approach just strict enough to raise well-behaved, well-adjusted children. And that has often included a swift slap or spank for a petit or petite who steps out of line. But now, a new law passed earlier this month in France officially prohibits "ordinary educational violence" — i.e. spanking —guaranteeing "violence-free education" for children, including "psychological violence."

The practice has increasingly come into question around the world, from spanking, paddling, slapping, smacking, caning, hair-pulling, ear-twisting, whipping, flogging… you name it. They're all examples of corporal punishment and are prohibited by the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Convention was signed by 140 states and yet, only about 60 of those fully implemented these restrictions in the form of national laws, and even in those cases, the practice sometimes continues because of lax enforcement.

On a global scale, a UNICEF report highlighted in November 2018 that nearly 300 million children between the ages of 2 and 4 face some type of physical discipline on a regular basis. While child welfare advocates may be gaining ground, there's clearly much to do still to ensure that minors have the protections they deserve.

Here are five countries where, one way or another, violent discipline has made the news recently.

SINGAPORE

Judicial caning is still fairly common in this island city-state, where it is applicable for more than 30 offenses and even compulsory for crimes such as rape and murder. What is more problematic is that it can be meted out to young boys, though not to girls.

School caning is also a thing and is allowed by the Ministry of Education — again, for boys only. Public caning is meant to be done at last resort. In 2016 for instance, about 30 students were punished for sharing up-skirt photos and videos of six teachers.

Not surprisingly, what is applicable in the classroom is also applicable at home. It is not unlawful for parents to cane their children in Singapore, as long as it does not constitute what can be considered as "abuse." What precisely distinguishes the two is unclear.

Whether at home, in schools or in daycare facilities, Singapore has a long way to go still if it wants to respect the terms of the 1989 convention, which it signed while at the same time defending "the judicious application of corporal punishment in the best interest of the child."

Children's rights advocates were happy, however, to see that in May, the nation's parliament passed legislation lifting the age of criminal responsibility from 7 to 10 and thus increasing the minimum age at which boys can be canned. A small victory.

LEBANON

Unlike Singapore, Lebanon outlawed corporal punishment in schools ⁠— all the way back in 1974. And yet, more than four decades later, the practice remains widespread due to a lack of enforcement, according to a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.

In 2011, a national survey conducted by Beirut's Saint Joseph University found that 76% of students interviewed had been victims to violence from teachers or staff. And many studies concede that this ongoing practice has a direct impact on the country's dropout rate.

A penal code reform in 2014 tried to tackle this issue by removing an exemption that teachers had been using as a legal loophole. Until then, teachers were allowed to inflict "culturally accepted" levels of physical punishment without being held accountable. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child wants Lebanon to go further still and pass new legislation criminalizing corporal corporal punishment "however light, in all settings."

The story of Fadi, one of 51 children interviewed by HRW, is representative of the situation. He was diagnosed with leukemia when he was five and takes medications that make it hard for him to pay full attention in class. His school teachers, on the grounds that they could not grant him any "special treatment," kept abusing him physically and verbally.

In its report, the New York City-based rights group also mentioned a boy whose nose was broken twice, and a girl who was wrongly accused of cheating and beaten up.

FRANCE

The new law, passed July 2, is hardly self-evident in a country where 85% of parents admit to having slapped or spanked their children in the past, and where the right to "physically discipline" their offspring has long been seen as a normal educational tool.

Lawmakers first tried to take on spanking in 2009, unsuccessfully. Seven years later, the parliament again visited the issue, approving a law that was very similar to the legislation passed this month. In that case, though, the French Constitutional Council blocked the move on a technicality.

Even now there are still sectors of the French population that oppose the new law on grounds that it will lead to a "society of little tyrants" — of spoiled children, in other words.

UNITED STATES

Corporal punishment, mostly paddling and spanking, is still permitted in public schools in 19 states — mostly in the so-called Bible Belt — and in private schools in all but two of the country's 50 states.

For the 2013-2014 school year, roughly 106,000 American children are estimated to have been punished physically. More alarming still is that such punishment are disproportionately meted out to black and/or disabled children. A study pointed out that in Alabama and Mississippi, for instance, black children were more than five times as likely as white children to face such disciplinary measures.

Percentage of public schools reporting any corporal punishment by state in 2011-2012 – Source: Society for Research in Child Development

A 1977 Supreme Court decision, Ingraham v. Wright, stated that corporal punishment in school was constitutional, leaving states to decide whether to allow it. While it's still culturally accepted in some places, paddling is de facto never used in many because school districts and boards have banned or restricted it. Just last year, the last county in North Carolina to still use corporal punishment in schools voted finally to ban the practice.

New Mexico, in 2011, was the latest state to prohibit corporal punishment outright in schools, but others have yet to follow suit. In a letter to governors and chief state school officers in 2016, the then-U.S. education secretary, John B. King, Jr, urged states to change their laws. "This practice has no place in the public schools of a modern nation that plays such an essential role in the advancement and protection of civil and human rights," he wrote.

SOUTH AFRICA

Twenty-three years after banning corporal punishment in schools, South Africa continues to debate the issue. And the practice is still allowed in homes, where under South African common law, parents are entitled "to inflict moderate and reasonable chastisement on a child" — for now, at least.

In 2017 a high court ruled corporal punishment to be unconstitutional. But the decision was contested by Freedom of Religion South Africa, a Christian organization. The case has now made its way to the constitutional court, which is expected to render a decision later this year.

Some teachers, in the meantime, continue to argue that the ban on corporal punishment in schools deprives them of a tool to control unruly students. The situation there is a good example of how cultural norms can be slow to change, especially in a country with such a striking history of violence.

But that's also an argument for why policy changes from on high can be so important. Perhaps tackling violence from infancy will help end the vicious circle. As Ndabenhle Mdluli, a principal, argued during a round table discussion at the University of KwaZulu-Natal​:

"The only value of corporal punishment is that it takes us deep into becoming a violent society when we should be a caring one. We need to find ways to move constructively forward to create a peaceful society."

Geopolitics
Emeraude Monnier

From Punjabi To Breton: Five Language Controversies Around The World

More than just a vehicle to communicate, language expresses and helps construct identity. As such, it has the power to inspire and unite people — but language can also be a source of division, or an impediment to peace between groups already in conflict. From squabbles over things like spelling and pronunciation, to minority groups fighting for the survival of their mother tongue — and everything it stands for — language politics can be deeply disruptive. Here are five examples from around the world:

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food / travel
Jillian Deutsch

Take 5: Vromageries And Other Restaurants Turning Traditional Cuisine Vegan

Restaurants around the world take the meat and dairy out of food to make traditional food trendy.

PARIS — Cheese boutiques (or "fromageries' in French) line the streets of almost all French towns. Their expertly crafted — and sometimes infamously stinky — cheeses draw locals every week and tourists from around the world.

But one new cheese shop in the heart of Paris is making something a bit different: vegan cheese, or as the French might one day say, "vromage."

Venezuela-born Mary Carmen Iriarte Jähnke got the idea for the inventive cheese after she moved to Paris to study and started to go vegan a few years later, in 2010. For a culture so proud of its special cheese, Jähnke found it difficult to not partake in the cuisine.

Cheeses were her "Achilles heel, especially in France, where they are so good," Jähnke told French daily Libération in mid-March.

Ten years after arriving in the city, Jähnke is now the founder, owner and chief vegan cheese maker at Jay & Joy near Bastille, in Paris' 11th arrondissement.

The idea of dairy-less cheese might make the French pose questions (and possibly cringe), but Jähnke hopes their curiosity will make them actually taste it. She also has "joyourts," vegan yogurt made from rice, and "fat joy," vegan foie gras from cashew nuts.

Jay & Joy is not the first place to turn a culture's key cuisine vegan. Across the globe, examples abound — from Mexico City to Seoul:

GERMAN CURRYWURST

Vegans don't really flock to Germany for the food. The country's culinary culture relies heavily on brats and beer, the latter of which might be vegan but isn't advised as a sole source of nutrients. But Berlin, the nation's capital and hipster hotspot, has vegan currywurst spots that allow vegans to partake in a local favorite.

Currywurst Berlin Street Food

Photo: Curry at the Wall's Official Website

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Society
Sadia Rao

Five Places Around The World Where Women Are (Still) Banned

Many are up in arms after UNESCO granted a small Japanese island World Heritage Site status in June. On face value, Okinoshima Island, home to a 17th-century Shinto shrine, is a worthy World Heritage Site. But it's not what the island has that has caused controversy — rather, what it lacks: There are no women on Okinoshima. In fact, those of the "fairer sex" are forbidden to set foot on the island.

Believe it or not, there are still several places in the world where women are banned. Here is a rundown of five places, ranging from a monastic enclave in Greece to a coffee shop in Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to enter.

Society

5 Strange-But-True College Courses Around The World

Congratulations to all those 2017 graduates out there. It couldn't have been easy! Elsewhere, we have gathered some examples of the wackiest college courses from around the world. If you could go back to school, which one would you pick?

Economy
Giacomo Tognini

Universal Basic Income, 5 Experiments From Around The World

Imagine receiving a check from the government every month. The concept of guaranteed basic income for all citizens has been gaining prominence around the world, leading to referendums and national political debate in several countries.

Known by different names, a policy of "universal basic income" (UBI) is a form of government assistance where every citizen receives a monthly income — regardless of their age or employment status. In a referendum in June last year, 76.9% of Swiss voters rejected a proposal that would have enshrined basic income as a constitutional right. But despite the Swiss setback, the idea is gaining currency elsewhere in Europe and beyond. Recently, the foundation run by billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar laid out $493,000 to help fund a UBI program in Kenya.

Here are five different basic income schemes around the world:

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Society
Anne Sophie Goninet

White Elephants Around The World, A Video Tour

Brazil struggled to complete the sporting venues needed for the Olympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro. But what about the brand new stadiums that were built especially for the FIFA World Cup, just two years ago? Although they cost billions, most of these stadiums now have a very low occupancy rate: The Arena Pantanal only hosted 47 matches in two years.

In retrospect, the South American giant may have taken on too much by hosting the back-to-back mega events. But it isn't the only country with high-cost buildings that look more like a burden than a monument to innovation and efficiency.

Huge towers, stadiums, hotels, artificial islands or even entire cities ... Big construction projects start with high expectations but end in disappointment, with an empty and sometimes half-complete structure. Here are five examples of these so-called "white elephants" from all around the world:

Take 5 â€" White Elephants Around The World par Worldcrunch

Society
Benjamin Witte

Take 5: Olympic Underdogs To Watch In Rio Games

With the Olympic Games finally upon us, many spectators are focused on living legends like Brazilian soccer superstar Neymar, Jamaica’s record-holding sprinter Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, the American swimmer who’s won more Olympic hardware than any athlete in history.

And that’s just to name a few. The mega-event certainly doesn’t lack star power. But the Games also feature plenty of compelling competitors who aren’t household names â€" at least not beyond the borders of their home nations. Each comes to Brazil with his or her own goals and incredible life stories. And all of them carry the hopes of their respective countries on their shoulders. Here are five of those athletes.

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Geopolitics
Bertrand Hauger

Beaches To Cheese: 5 Unexpected Brexit Consequences

"This has implications for absolutely everything," political editor for BBC News Laura Kuenssberg declared of the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union.

And now that Brexit camp has won, and the UK prepares to bid farewell to the EU, the parties and the gawkers have begun to gauge the fallout of ending the 43-year-long marriage.

Some are far-reaching: from travel and trade restrictions to immigration policy and even the risk of a domino effect toward a total disintegration of the EU. On the homefront, the British political landscape has been rocked, prompting Prime Minister David Cameron's resignation (hello, Boris?).

But as with every divorce â€" who gets custody of Mr. Bubbles? â€" there are unforeseen ramifications, some of them directly impacting people's everyday life in the most surprising ways. Here are five worth noting:

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