THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
The Asahi Shimbun ("Morning Sun newspaper") is a Japanese language daily headquartered in Osaka. It was founded in 1879 and is historically considered to be a left-leaning publication.
Society
Genevieve Mansfield

Tokyo Olympic Protest: Woman Tries To Extinguish Torch With Squirt Gun

Many Japanese want to Games cancelled because of COVID risks.

Less than three weeks from the start of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, much of the Japanese public continues to demand the Games be cancelled because of the risks associated with COVID-19.

After weeks of street protests and petitions, Kayoko Takahashi found a creative way to demonstrate her disapproval: trying to extinguish the Olympic flame with a squirt gun.

Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun reported that the Olympic torch, which is being symbolically carried across the nation in the lead-up to the Games, passed through the Ibaraki prefecture near Takahashi's home on Sunday. A video shows the 53-year-old raising the plastic toy gun and taking aim at the flame, which was being carried by an elderly man.

Police immediately arrested Takahashi, fearing she may have sprayed another liquid besides water onto the flame.

"I am against the Olympics. Stop the Olympics," Takahashi can be heard saying after spraying toward the torch. For the record: The runner kept going, and the flame kept burning. Opening Ceremonies are set for July 23.

Geopolitics

Coronavirus ~ Global Brief: Chinese New Wave, Italian Shopping, Trump Control

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus global pandemic. The rapid, insidious path of the COVID-19 outbreak across the planet teaches us in a whole new way how small the world has become. Our network of multilingual journalists are finding out what's being reported locally — everywhere — to provide as clear a picture as possible of what it means for all of us at home, around the world.

CHINA: WORRYING ABOUT A SECOND WAVE

"Is there an end in sight?" It's the question that hangs just behind more pressing matters like emergency care and people losing their jobs. It's a question that also brings us (back) to China, where the coronavirus outbreak began late last year, and where the number of new cases and deaths has been quietly abating for the past several weeks.

But the fear in Beijing now, as reported in the state-run Global Times newspaper, is that foreign carriers of COVID-19 are starting to bring the virus back to Chinese shores. Beyond the debate over travel bans, this points to some key unanswered questions that are purely medical — and which will be weighing over the world in the coming months. Is a natural immunity created by those who have contracted the virus? Will COVID-19 come back next winter even stronger? If so, can a vaccine be created, and distributed, quickly enough? Questions for the future. Questions for right now.​​

NUMBER DU JOUR

LATEST

• A rash of new restrictions is rolled out both within and between European countries, as the toll of the virus appears set to multiply in France, Germany and elsewhere, with Italy's death toll hitting new daily records and nearing the 2,000 mark (for updates, consult the World Health Organisation live map).

• Nearly $2 trillion in stock value evaporated in the first few minutes of Wall Street trading Monday, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to send fears rippling through global markets.

• The U.S. woke up to widespread new closures of schools and other public spaces, as well as to a President Trump press conference in which he declared, counter to every possible indication, medical and otherwise, that the COVID-19 outbreak is something "we have tremendous control over."

FRANCE

Last Kiss: French daily Libération says it in ALL CAPS on the front page of its Monday edition: In the country of l'amour, la liberté and "bises' air-kisses, the state of emergency has turned into a STATE OF RECKLESSNESS: Even after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the closing of non-essential businesses (including cafés and restaurants) on Saturday, French crowds still insisted on going out to markets and parks. In Paris like elsewhere, the only way to stop such nonchalance in the face of a grave health emergency, was ultimately to impose ever stricter regulations — which President Emmanuel Macron announced Monday night, declaring that France is "at war."

ITALY

Counting Toll In Newspaper Pages: Italy offers a distressing picture of where other countries may be headed with COVID-19. And that starts, sadly, with the rising rate of deaths each day. Italian journalist David Carretta quantified the toll with an unsettling video that showed 10 pages of obituaries in L'Eco di Bergamo, the local newspaper in the northern city of Bergamo. Typically the daily death notices take up little more than a page.​

Supermarket Tips: With Italy on a strict nationwide lockdown, the Turin daily La Stampa offered tips for what to do when you go shopping to limit both the spread of the virus and any problems with fellow shoppers or the authorities:

- Go alone

- Wear gloves

- Keep 1 meter distance from other shoppers

- Only shop for essentials

- Make a list beforehand to limit time in store

- Try to limit trips to store, and go when fewer shoppers are there.

It's also a good idea, more than ever, to acknowledge the work of the people serving you at your local market, whose job requires them to come in contact with hundreds of people every day. One was quoted in La Stampa: "We're not angels like nurses, we're just supermarket cashiers and shelf-stockers. But we (too) are forced to risk our lives."​

U.S.​

Uberization-19: The unprecedented global health crisis is intersecting with the digital revolution's transformation of work. The Verge reports that Uber is expanding its emergency policy on sick pay for its drivers during the pandemic. The company announced this week that drivers forced off the road (those who test positive for COVID-19 or forced into quarantine or have their Uber accounts suspended because of health regulations will be eligible for up to 14 days of paid sick leave. It remains to be seen how the so-called "gig economy" will emerge from this crisis — along with the rest of the economy.​

SOUTH KOREA

Behind The Mask: Coronavirus is sparking a brand new fear among the younger generation in South Korea: not finding a soulmate. Spring is usually the busiest season for professional matchmakers to make love blossom between their many clients through blind dates, but business has predictably been badly hit. The Chosun Ilbo daily reports that COVID-19 is taking its toll on the romance industry not just because men and women are reluctant to meet their potential partner in person, but because when they do, the masks so many wear to protect them from the virus is seen as a big turn-off, especially by women who also don't want to have readjust their makeup because of it.​

JAPAN

COVIDictionary: The Asahi Shimbun reports on a new word entering the Japanese lexicon. With quarantines forcing people to share cocktail hour with friends virtually, you can now invite someone for some オン飲み (on-nomi), or online drinking.​

IRAN

Battle Cries And Begging: The COVID-19 crisis is testing the limits of rhetoric coming from national and local leaders around the world. In Iran, one of the countries worst-hit by the pandemic, (nearly 15,000 infections and 853 deaths as of Monday) the head of the country's revolutionary guards corps, Hossein Salami, said his troops were "on a war footing in all the provinces, alongside the medical community," to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Still, as we have seen around the world, much of the responsibility for stemming the spread comes to the personal choices of individuals. To that end, according to a report in the semi-official ISNA agency, Salami, also used the same declaration to "beg" Iranians to respect limits imposed on their movement.

Economy
Rozena Crossman

Work In Progress: TikTok Hiring, CV Hacking, Pawternity Leave

PARIS — We've seen the employee of the future … and she's pale, red-eyed and hunchbacked. A recent article and a spooky life-size doll named Emma showing what can happen to the human body after working in front of a screen for 25 years, published in the French outlet We Demain, was meant to shock. And it does, on a pure health-related level for anyone working a desk job these days. But it's also a particularly good reminder of employee needs for those whose job it is to recruit and retain the best talent in our digital era.

You OK, Emma? — Photo: Fellowes

This edition of Work → In Progress dives into the realm of human resources, looking around the world for ways that technology and other factors are driving the way we find the right job — and right job seeker. We'll visit a German hospital using TikTok to garner new recruits, would-be new hires hacking their way to outwit HR bots, not to mention a cuddly selection of companies worldwide implementing "furturnity leave" policies ...​​​

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Geopolitics
Natalie Malek

How Five Countries Are Integrating Robots Into Daily Life

People in Asia already trust robots enough to let them take care of their loved ones and deliver the evening news. Meanwhile, a hitchhiking robot's world tour successfully passed through Germany, the Netherlands and Canada, but the American leg of the journey was cut short when it was decapitated and beaten to death in Philadelphia.

Yes, we humans are an unpredictable and diverse lot. And inevitably, different regions of the world are bound to perceive artificial intelligence in different ways. Here is how five countries are incorporating robotics into their cultures... On their own terms.

China

Robots in China are widely welcomed with open arms. They are programed to work as receptionists and clean windows around the house. The South China Morning Post reports that China's Xinhua state news agency has developed two news anchors using artificial intelligence. The "anchors," named Xin Xiaomeng and Qiu Hao, are based off of real people. They can mimic facial expressions, lifelike movements, and speak both English and Chinese.

Qiu Hao, one of Xinhua's AI news anchors — Photo: China Xinhua Sci-Tech

China has also applied artificial intelligence to its education system. China Daily says that Keeko, a robot-teacher, has made its way into kindergarten classrooms in more than 200 schools across the country. It encourages interactive learning by sharing stories and helping children solve logical problems. Its round head and big eyes give it a "cute" appearance, appealing to children under the age of seven.

Japan

In addition to using artificial intelligence to ease domestic burdens like laundry and elderly care, Japan also sees it benefiting more serious industries down the line. Japan Today reports that Japan's ambassador to the U.N. recently defended the use of "killer robots' under human supervision at a conference. While the country doesn't condone fully autonomous armed robots, he said that it can see a future where robots save labor costs and reduce collateral damage in a military setting. The Asahi Shimbun says that Japan believes human oversight is crucial in this situation.

The country also plans on bringing robots to the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, the Japan Times says. Organizers are developing robots to assist visitors and staff during the event. Some of the technology has been developed to specifically help spectators in wheelchairs by guiding them to their seats and by carrying their heavy belongings. Massaki Komiya, the committee's vice director, said they want robots that are "friendly to people….and enhance convenience at events, as well as provide the audience with a new experience."

Thailand

Perhaps the world's most striking— and most controversial — robots are in Thailand. Built with bright red eyes and yellow uniforms, a small army of robots now work at Mongkutwattana General Hospital in Bangkok. They are busy each day ferrying documents from office to office along magnetic strips— a menial task nurses once did. The hospital insists that this advancement is not undermining human employment. Hospital director Reintong Nanna assured Newsflare last year that "these robotic nurses help to improve the efficiency and performance of working in the hospital ... They are not being used to reduce the number of employees."

France

While European robots tend to look more like machines than real people, they are still taking over human jobs. French chefs may find themselves unemployed sometime soon as artificial intelligence starts to infiltrate the culinary industry. Le Parisien says that a robot named Pazzi in Montévrain, France, can prepare, cut, and serve a pizza in less than five minutes and create 500,000 unique recipes. The start-up behind this three-armed metal chef, Ekim, is aiming to launch a restaurant in Paris and Val d'Europe by the end of the year.

Pazzi, Ekim's robot pizza chef — Photo: pazzi_tastemakers via Instagram

Human valets may fade into oblivion as well. At the Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport, robots are parking cars in two minutes. According to a France Info video clip, this is how it works: you leave your car in a designated garage and the robot picks it up and stores it in the parking lot, optimizing space by essentially playing a game of Tetris with your car. The technology has allowed the airport to have 50% more space in the lot and only costs travelers an extra 2 euros. The system is already making plans to expand to Charles de Gaulle and London Gatwick airports.

United States

Americans may be the least open to incorporating robotics into daily life — a 2018 Brookings Institution study revealed that 61% of adult internet users in the U.S. are uncomfortable with robots. Another poll showed that 84% explicitly stated that they are not interested in a robot that helps care for loved ones.

Nevertheless, artificial intelligence has moved into the U.S. healthcare industry. Some doctors are maximizing their time by conferencing into hospitals to talk to patients through a video chat. Their faces appear on a screen that sits atop a 5-foot-6-inch robot. One version of this, Dr. Bear Bot, makes rounds at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C. The robot made its debut on Valentine's Day and handed out greeting cards to young patients around the hospital.

Dr. Bear Bot — Photo: Children's National Hospital

Though Dr. Bear Bot successfully garnered popularity among children in D.C., one robotic doctor in Fremont, California is having a harder time. Ernest Quintana, 79, was being treated in Kaiser Permanente Medical Center's intensive care unit when a doctor, via video chat, told him that he would not survive because his lungs were failing. His granddaughter, Annalisia Wilharm, was with him at the time and was shocked by the delivery of the news.

"No granddaughter, no family member should have to go through what I just did with him...I was so scared for him and disappointed with the delivery," Wilharm told CNN.

Since the incident, the hospital has disputed the use of the word "robot" to describe the technology. If Americans are reluctant to even use the term "robot," artificial intelligence may not make it very far.