Why the world is full of buttons that don’t work


Have you ever pressed the pedestrian button at a crosswalk and wondered if it really worked? Or bashed the “close door” button in an elevator, while suspecting that it may, in fact, have no effect whatsoever?

You’re not alone, and you may be right. The world is full of buttons that don’t actually do anything.

They’re sometimes called “placebo buttons” — buttons that are mechanically sound and can be pushed, but provide no functionality. Like placebo pills, however, these buttons may still serve a purpose, according to Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychologist who pioneered a concept known as the “illusion of control.”

“They do have a psychological effect,” she said in a phone interview. “Taking some action leads people to feel a sense of control over a situation, and that feels good, rather than just being a passive bystander.

“Doing something typically feels better than doing nothing.”

Don’t walk

In New York City, only about 100 of the 1,000 crosswalk buttons actually function, confirmed a spokesperson from the city’s Department of Transportation in an email. That number has steadily decreased in recent years: When the New York Times revealed that the majority of New York’s buttons didn’t work in 2004, about 750 were still operational.

Worsening traffic may be behind the shift. Crosswalk signals were generally installed before congestion had reached today’s levels, and, over time, they started to interfere with the complex coordination of traffic lights.

But while their function was taken over by more advanced systems — such as automated lights or traffic sensors — the physical buttons were often kept, rather than being replaced at further expense.

A pedestrian crossing in London.

A pedestrian crossing in London. Credit: Newscast/UIG/Getty Images

Other cities, such as Boston, Dallas and Seattle, have gone through a similar process, leaving them with their own placebo pedestrian buttons. In London, which has 6,000 traffic signals, pressing the pedestrian button results in a reassuring “Wait” light. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the “green man” — or “pedestrian stage,” in traffic signal design terminology — will appear any sooner.

“We do have some crossings where the green light comes on automatically, but we still ask people to press the button because that enables accessible features,” said Glynn Barton, director of network management at Transport for London, in a phone interview.

These features, such as tactile paving and audible traffic signals, help people with visual impairments cross the road and are only activated when the button is pressed. As for the lights, a growing number of them are now integrated into an electronic system that detects traffic and adjusts intervals accordingly (giving priority to buses if they’re running late, for example), which means that pressing the button has no effect.

Others, meanwhile, only respond to the button at certain times of day.

“But, in the majority of cases, pressing the button will call the pedestrian stage,” said Barton.

Close the door?

So what about the most jabbed button of them all: the “close door” in elevators? If you live in the US, it almost certainly doesn’t work.

“To put it simply, the riding public will not be able to make the doors close any faster using that button,” said Kevin Brinkman of the National Elevator Industry in an email.

But there’s a very good reason for this: the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. “This legislation required that an elevator’s doors remain open long enough for anyone with disability or mobility issues, such as using crutches or a wheelchair, to get on board the cab safely,” said Brinkman.
Buttons found on elevators.

Buttons found on elevators. Credit: praphab louilarpprasert/Shutterstock

So, unless the allotted boarding time has been reached, pressing the button will do nothing. It’s only there for firefighters, emergency personnel and maintenance workers, who can override the delay with a key or a code.

Outside the US, there’s a higher chance — though not a certainty — that the button will work.

“The functionality of the button — whether or not it actually closes the door sooner — is determined by the building code or customer,” said Robin Fiala of Otis, the world’s largest manufacturer of elevators, in an email.

Too hot to handle

Thermostats in hotel rooms are known to limit the temperature range available to users, thus reducing energy costs. The practice isn’t limited to hotels, according to Robert Bean of the American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. But that’s not strictly a bad thing, because air temperature, which is what most thermostats control, is just one piece of the thermal puzzle.

“In absence of controlling the other metrics, air temperature often makes a poor proxy for thermal comfort,” he said. In other words: Full control doesn’t necessarily equate to more comfort.

Sometimes, however, thermostats can be deceptive by design. Some models even include a “placebo function” option.
Office thermostats may not always be operational.

Office thermostats may not always be operational. Credit: Martin Keene/PA Images/Getty Images

“Thermal comfort research demonstrates that when people have perceived temperature control over their spaces, some may tolerate higher levels of discomfort,” said Bean.

“If a non-functioning (placebo) thermostat or limited function thermostat is installed, just having the option to manipulate it can affect one’s perception.”

Dummy thermostats — those not wired into the system at all — can also be found in offices, according to Donald Prather of Air Conditioning Contractors of America.

“(They) were placed there to quiet a constant complainer by giving them control,” he said in an email. “As an engineering trainee I was sent to calibrate one. When I asked why they had me calibrate a thermostat that was not hooked up, they panicked and asked if I told the occupant it wasn’t hooked up.

“After assuring them I hadn’t spilled the beans, they admitted that, by not telling me it was disconnected, they thought I would put on a more realistic calibration show.”

Good buttons

According to Langer, placebo buttons have a net positive effect on our lives, because they give us the illusion of control — and something to do in situations where the alternative would be doing nothing (which explains why people press the elevator call button when it’s already lit).

Buttons can give people an "illusion of control."

Buttons can give people an “illusion of control.” Credit: Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the case of pedestrian crossings, they may even make us safer by forcing us to pay attention to our surroundings. And ultimately, pressing a button doesn’t require much effort.

“When you think about it, it’s such a small response that, even if it doesn’t have any effect, it hardly has a cost,” Langer said. “I think it’s a shame if people call it a ‘placebo button’ and, by that name, think that people are behaving foolishly. Hidden in that (term), is the belief that people are foolish for pressing them — or mean for putting buttons there that serve no purpose in the first place.

“They serve a psychological purpose at the very least,” she added, “and sometimes they do have an effect.”



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UK anti-abortion protests: The fight back against ‘Americanized’ anti-abortion demonstrations


Most Saturday mornings, Neall puts on a pink vest and joins a small group of women from the volunteer organization Sister Supporter. They stand outside the Marie Stopes clinic in the northern English city to oppose the anti-abortion protests that are held there weekly.

On this particular weekend, Neall said, the anti-abortion protesters had blocked in the woman’s car with their signs. “She was quite distressed and just clearly had no idea what to do about it at all,” she told CNN.

Neall said she made sure that the protesters removed their placards, so the woman could get to her vehicle without being approached.

“We will be a physical buffer zone between the protesters on the front door of the clinic, so that if women need support, or even if they just need to see that somebody else is there, countering the message,” Neall said.

Anti-abortion activists have been holding "vigils" outside clinics in several UK cities.

According to activists, women trying to access reproductive health services in Manchester face some of the worst anti-abortion harassment ever seen in the UK.

“Over the past 14 years, anti-abortion gatherings outside the (Manchester) center, in particular, have been escalating in frequency and size and there has been an escalation in the harassing behavior as well,” Franki Appleton, advocacy and public affairs adviser for Marie Stopes UK, told CNN.

“We’ve seen an increase in, I suppose you could describe it as Americanized tactics,” she added.

The methods used by protesters vary. “There was a woman who used to sit on the front step of the clinic and just breastfeed her baby as a form of intimidation,” Sister Supporter volunteer Beth Redmond told CNN.

Appleton said that the protests can include so-called “pavement counseling,” when the demonstrators intercept people trying to enter the clinic and try to dissuade them from attending appointments.

Michael Freeley, a local representative from international anti-abortion group 40 Days for Life, told CNN that the group’s main focus in its Manchester protests was “quietly praying outside the clinic for the mothers and the children and for the staff.”

“Sometimes, some volunteers might approach someone going into the clinic and offer them a leaflet with some information on helplines where they could get help on adoption or just help with the pregnancy … to provide other options,” he added.

The group 40 Days for Life was originally started in Texas in 2004, but it now organizes “vigils” in countries in Europe, Africa and South America.

Freeley insisted that members of his group did not harass women outside the clinics.

Exclusion zones

Abortion has been legal in England, Wales and Scotland since 1967, but some groups still oppose the procedure. While some of the protests are associated with international anti-abortion movements, other groups are locally run, many of them linked to churches nearby.

To counter the protests, Sister Supporter is campaigning for an exclusion zone — a public spaces protection order (PSPO) — around the clinic. On June 20, a Manchester City Council committee supported the petition and recommended a formal consultation over the introduction of a PSPO.

The council found that “many protesters use deliberately disturbing and graphic images and models, including those purporting to be of dismembered fetuses” and that leaflets including “misleading information” had been distributed.

The committee also noted that protesters often follow, record and question women as they enter or leave abortion centers in the city.

Anti-abortion activists hold a rally outside the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston on June 17, 2019.

The next stage of the process, the council said, will be to work with all the concerned parties and hold a public consultation. “The use of a PSPO is a serious matter, and it is our responsibility to ensure it would be used fairly and legally,” they added.

Protests at the center occur throughout the year but intensify around the Christian holiday of Lent, where groups including 40 Days for Life gather around clinics every day.

Robert Colquhoun, director of international campaigns for 40 Days for Life, denied that members of his group harass women seeking abortions, telling CNN via email: “40 Days for Life local volunteers have organized peaceful, prayerful and legal vigils outside the Manchester Marie Stopes abortion center for 10 years now.”

“During that time we have not seen a single substantiated case of harassment from any of our volunteers from any location in the United Kingdom.”

Turning a ‘private decision into a public spectacle’

Pam Lowe, a lecturer in sociology who researches women’s reproductive health at the UK’s Aston University, told CNN: “Very aggressive or violent incidents are extremely rare. But that doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t harassment, intimidation.”

The behavior of most anti-abortion protesters amounts to “street harassment,” she added. “They’re drawing attention to the clinic, and this is deliberate, they specifically call themselves public witnesses, they want the public to be noticing the women going into the clinic,” Lowe told CNN. “What it does is it makes this private decision into a public spectacle,” she added.

Lowe told CNN that it is difficult to measure the level of clinic protests because of the different groups involved and the varying and unpredictable tactics used.

Indeed, the nature of the anti-abortion protests is drawing some women to join the counter demonstrations.

After becoming involved in abortion rights campaigning before the Irish abortion referendum in 2018, Sister Supporter volunteer Shanna Lennon said she was shocked to discover that women seeking abortions faced harassment in her home city of Manchester.

Ireland's yes voters celebrate a 'leap forward' in landmark vote on abortion

“I was totally shocked that it’s happening so close to where I live,” she said. “I very much thought it was something that only happened in America.”

Abigail Sheldon was 19 when she got pregnant and decided to have an abortion. She initially wanted to have the procedure at the Manchester Marie Stopes center, located a few minutes from her house, but after some research discovered that a 40 Days For Life protest was taking place at the clinic.

“I asked my boyfriend to go down and just see what it was like, (to) see if it was intimidating,” Sheldon told CNN. “He came back and was just like, ‘we’ll go to the hospital instead, I just don’t want to put you through extra stress, not on a day that is already obviously going to be very difficult and hard.'”

After the procedure, Sheldon volunteered with Sister Supporter outside the clinic. Seeing the anti-abortion protesters outside makes her angry, she said.

“It’s trying to make girls think that they haven’t thought this through. Nobody goes into this situation, thinking that this is an easy decision. Nobody ever wants to have an abortion … it’s already a really devastating choice you have to make, it’s already one of the hardest things you’ll probably have to do in your lifetime,” she said.

Campaigners are calling for more "buffer zones" around abortion clinics in the UK.

A nationwide debate

In 2018, 200,608 women living in England and Wales had abortions, and another 4,687 non-residents underwent the procedure here, according to government data.

Every year, thousands of Irish women also travel to northern English cities, such as Manchester and Liverpool, for the procedure. While abortion was legalized in the Republic of Ireland last year, it remains illegal — even in cases of rape, incest and fatal fetal abnormality — in Northern Ireland, where a restrictive law dating back to 1861 remains in place.

In September 2018, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid rejected calls to introduce national buffer zones to all abortion facilities in England and Wales.

In a written statement, Javid acknowledged that “protest activities can involve handing out model fetuses, displaying graphic images, following people, blocking their paths and even assaulting them,” but concluded “that these activities are not the norm,” with most anti-abortion activities being “more passive in nature.”

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According to reproductive health clinics and abortion providers, however, the events in Manchester are not isolated incidents.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) reported protest activity at 47 clinics, healthcare centers or hospitals in the UK since 2017 — in both towns and large cities, including Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Oxford and Brighton.

Adele Warton, treatment unit manager for a BPAS clinic in Bournemouth, told CNN that protests happen outside her clinic every week.

“Some of our protesters have been coming here for years. We’ve got a little old lady who knits little booties and puts them in the bush outside,” she said. “They’ll often be outside with big placards of fetuses post-abortion. It’s very visually grim.”

“The protesters will also speak to the staff — one followed a staff member to her car with a dictaphone asking her how she feels about murdering babies. We’ve had damage done to cars … we’ve had nails in tires. They have … thrown what they call holy water on the entrance of our buildings.”

The protests, Warton says, pose a risk to women’s health.

“We’ve had instances where some clients are so distressed by protesters that they are too distressed to go ahead with their treatment and have postponed treatment to the next week. It’s impacting the risk factor because further into the pregnancy, the risks become higher,” Warton said.

Anti-abortion protesters hold a demonstration outside the Marie Stopes clinic in London in 2017.
Several British councils have already taken steps to stop such protests — in April 2018, the West London borough of Ealing approved the introduction of the country’s first PSPO around a Marie Stopes facility that provides abortion services. In March 2019, a PSPO was also introduced around a BPAS clinic in Richmond, London.

The presence of protests relating to abortion had a “detrimental impact on those accessing the clinic, working in the clinic and those living in, working in and passing through the area,” a spokeswoman for Ealing council told CNN.

The Ealing PSPO is subject to an appeal made by the Good Counsel Network, an anti-abortion group which had coordinated some of the protests in the area, the council spokeswoman said.

Clare McCullough, a member of the Good Counsel Network, told CNN that the group did not harass women at abortion centers. “We have had a witness in Ealing for 24 years now. No warnings, cautions or arrests in that time says our behavior is not harassment,” she said via email.

McCullough said her group offers alternatives to women considering abortion, as well as practical assistance and support, and that its members distribute leaflets detailing this outside abortion centers.

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Alithea Williams, a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion group Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) told CNN: “SPUC does not hold or organize prayer vigils outside abortion clinics, but we support the right of pro-lifers to witness and peacefully offer help to women in need.”

“Bans like this are bad news for free speech, and, more importantly bad news for women, who will be denied help they do not get anywhere else,” she said.

The women in Manchester disagree. Lennon told CNN: “Ideally, there would be nobody outside that clinic — that is the dream. We all want our Saturday mornings back, you know, we’d love not to be there.”



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UK’s ‘biggest modern slavery network had 400 victims’


The gang is thought to have made more than £2 million ($2.5 million) from trafficking its victims from Poland.

Five men and three women, all originally from Poland, were sentenced for a total of more than 55 years. Some had been sentenced in February, but reporting restrictions on the case prevented them being named until last Friday.

Police believe there were up to 400 victims in all. Aged from 17 to their 60s, they were promised jobs and accommodation in the UK, but were forced to work at farms and waste recycling centers in the West Midlands, and had most of their salaries taken by traffickers. Some worked for just 50p (63 cents) an hour.

They were made to live in cramped housing, some without working toilets or heating. Some victims said they were forced to wash in canal water and fed out-of-date food; some were beaten.

A property where some of the victims lived.

Treated as ‘commodities’

Police began investigating in February 2015, after two victims escaped their captors and were helped by slavery charity Hope for Justice.

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Detective chief inspector Nick Dale, senior investigating officer, said the gang treated its victims as “commodities purely for their own greed.”

He said that if victims objected to their treatment, they were beaten or threatened with violence and were told family members in Poland would be attacked. Some were told they would be taken to the woods to dig their own graves, Dale said.

“Most felt powerless to escape, with no knowledge of the area, little or no English language skills, and no-one to turn to for help,” Dale added. “Their lives were reduced to misery and they all have the physical and psychological scars of their exploitation.”

‘A growing problem’

The charity Salvation Army provides outreach and accommodation for traffickineg survivors, and supported some of the victims in this case. Emilie Martin, of the group’s anti-trafficking and modern slavery unit, told CNN that labor trafficking is a growing problem in the UK.

“It used to be that our referrals were predominantly for female exploitation and forced prostitution, but with awareness training people are starting to notice different kinds of exploitation and police are realizing labor exploitation is very much on the increase,” she said.

Report claims thousands of North Korean women sold into sex slavery in China

She added that exploitation of Eastern Europeans was increasing.

In 2017, 6,837 potential slavery victims were identified in the UK, according to the 2018 UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery. Albania was the most common country of origin among adults, followed by Vietnam and China. Romania and Poland were also among the 10 most common origin countries.

Labor exploitation was the most reported, followed by sexual exploitation.

In May 2018, a report by a group of UK lawmakers said that sex trafficking was taking place on what one lawmaker called an “industrial scale” across England and Wales, with huge numbers of women, predominantly from Eastern Europe, being trafficked into “pop-up” brothels. More than a third of potential victims were Romanian.

It also noted that organized crime groups “increasingly dominate the sexual exploitation of women.”

In 2015 the UK introduced the Modern Slavery Act, which gave crime agencies new tools for tackling trafficking, including a maximum life sentence for perpetrators. In an independent review published earlier this year, a lawmaker described the act as “world leading,” but said there were still too few convictions.

Martin said labor trafficking victims weren’t always vulnerable people, but simply job seekers who were being tricked by deceitful traffickers into going to the UK, and then exploited.

“Some people are very educated, well qualified individuals applying for what looks like a genuine role only to find themselves in a situation of exploitation,” she said.



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How long until Hyperloop is here?


(CNN) — The year is 2030. You’re in a sleek pod-like capsule that’s levitating inside a low pressure steel tube and accelerating across the country at speeds of more than 600 miles per hour.

This is Hyperloop, the futuristic transportation method pitched by controversial US entrepreneur Elon Musk, drawing on 100-year-old principals updated for the 21st century.

Big companies are investing serious money into projects to get Hyperloop — both literally and figuratively — off the ground, with pilot tubes being erected in Dubai‘s deserts and futuristic pods unveiled in European warehouses.

Advocates say the technology’s more sustainable than aviation and significantly faster than high-speed trains — but is Hyperloop really a viable future transportation method and can the hurdles involved in making this concept a reality be surmounted?

In short, will we really be able to hop on one of these high tech vehicles any time soon?

Future of transportation

Virgin-Hyperloop-One (3)

Virgin Hyperloop One is one of the companies developing Hyperloop.

Courtesy Virgin Hyperloop One

It’s already been a long time coming. For all its futuristic claims, Hyperloop’s roots lie well in the past.

“It isn’t, in terms of technology, a new concept, because the concept of vacuum transportation’s been around for quite some time,” explains Chris Dulake, global railways and transit leader at consultancy Mott MacDonald, a company that’s worked on the London Underground and Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5.

He points to the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a pioneering British engineer who experimented with using compressed air to transport carriages in the late 1800s.

“If you go down to the Brunel Museum in Bristol [in southwest England] you’ll see the original prototype that Brunel put together for propelling trains,” he says. “And you look at that, you think, ‘Yeah, it’s just a new cycle of some existing technologies.'”
Despite Brunel’s efforts, it was more than a century before Musk premiered his futuristic transportation concept. In 2013, he described Hyperloop as “a cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table.”
“It would be great to have an alternative to flying or driving, but obviously only if it is actually better than flying or driving,” wrote Musk in a technical paper outlining his vision.

The billionaire said that this new transit system should be safer, faster, lower cost, more convenient, immune to weather, sustainable and self-powering, resistant to earthquakes and not disruptive.

So how’s that ambition panning out five years later?

Musk himself has never played a particularly active role in rendering Hyperloop a physical reality, limiting involvement to a yearly Hyperloop design competition run by his SpaceX company with the aim of promoting and celebrating young engineering talent.

TransPod_Calgary_Skyline_night

Canadian company TransPod is also looking into Hyperloop.

Courtesy TransPod

Others are, however, running with the concept.

Each organization regularly touts its progress via press releases and social media campaigns — whether it’s unveiling full-scale test pods or undertaking feasibility tests.

But turning Hyperloop into a real-life mode of transport is proving a long process.

Need for speed

As competition for the world’s first operational hyperloop heats up, CNN asks how the super-fast transport system could change lives and business in the UAE.

There’s no denying the appeal of Hyperloop — for one thing, it’s pretty cool. The idea of whisking passengers across country at super high speed, in a levitating tube, is an impressive idea. All the pods we’ve seen so far are sleek, streamlined structures that wouldn’t look out of place in a futuristic sci-fi movie.

Then there’s the speed.

Claustrophobia sufferers might baulk at the idea of being propelled in a windowless tube but, as tunneling expert Herbert Einstein of US university MIT points out, many of us would tolerate it if it meant reaching our destination quicker.

HyperloopTT_Toulouse_System

Hyperloop TT has developed test tracks.

Courtesy Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

“People may be willing to put up with something, which is sort of a disagreeable environment by [arriving in] half of the time or a quarter of the time,” he suggests.

“If you’re able to go from one city to another, going at a max speed of 670 miles per hour or 1,080 kilometers per hour, and you’re able to do that, instead of in three to five hours depending on traffic, in under 30 minutes — that creates huge socio-economic benefits that are equivalent or exponential to the creation of the plane or the train, as an example,” says Ryan Kelly, head of marketing and communications for Virgin Hyperloop One.

Sure, traveling by airplane is generally swift, but, says Sebastien Gendron, co-founder and CEO of TransPod, Hyperloop will combine “the frequency of the subway with the speed of the aircraft.”

Gendron envisages a metro-like system where Hyperloop trains arrive frequently, allowing passengers to get on the first available service.

The various companies involved in developing the technology also say they plan for the service to be an affordable mass transit system with ticket prices more comparable to railways than aviation.

Sustainable alternative?

Virgin-Hyperloop-One (1)

Hyperloop is being touted as a sustainable alternative to flying.

Courtesy Virgin Hyperloop One

With more travelers now wanting to switch from air to rail travel because of environmental concerns, Hyperloop raises the tantalizing prospect of greener transport networks that don’t rely on decades-old, temperamental infrastructure.

So could it be a better alternative? Unsurprisingly, those involved in Hyperloop projects think it is, although they admit it will have some environmental impact, particularly during the testing phase.

“It’s 10 times more efficient than airplane and even more efficient than trains,” says Tim Houter, CEO and co-founder of Hardt Hyperloop. Virgin Hyperloop One’s Kelly says the tech will be about five times more energy-efficient than short-haul flights.

And while it’s unlikely it will replace air travel completely — cross-continental Hyperloops would be incredibly costly and logistically complicated — the technology could be an alternative to short-haul budget flights.

“I’d look at places like the connection between Melbourne and Sydney, in Australia, which I think is the fourth most heavily used domestic air corridor,” says transport expert Dulake.

Safety and security

Virgin-Hyperloop-One (7)

For Hyperloop to succeed, it needs to be eco-friendly.

Courtesy Virgin Hyperloop One

Whether Hyperloop could really function as a viable alternative to air travel likely depends on how prevalent it becomes, and there are some doubts about its universal appeal.

“My concern with Hyperloop is that it would — just by the physics of the way it functions — probably discriminate against quite a few in the population, who’d want to use it,” Dulake says.

“It’s at the limit of the top of the tolerance of the human’s ability to be able to manage those sorts of accelerations. So if you are a frail old lady — I don’t think you’d be putting them in what would be a quite an extreme ride, whereas you would put them on a high speed train.”

Kelly, of Virgin Hyperloop One, insists the pods are safe and will be suitable for all.

“Being in a closed environment gets rid of a lot of safety concerns that rail has — and even autonomous vehicles,” he says. “Our mission is to make this the most boring trip of your life. We want it to be comfortable, we don’t want it to be a roller coaster.”

The controlled environment will avoid turbulence, says Kelly. “So while you’ll be going at airplane speed, you won’t feel that take off and you won’t feel those sudden drops or that shaking that you would feel in a plane.”

TransPod’s Gendron agrees, saying the experience will be safe for most, “in the same way pretty much everybody can take the aircraft.” He adds: “We won’t make any compromise regarding passenger comfort and safety.”

While the tubes will need to withstand natural disasters, questions also currently remain over how people will be evacuated from a pod in the case of an emergency.

Challenges of Hyperloop

2019_HyperloopTT_Toulouse_System_2

Turning Hyperloop into a reality is not without its challenges.

Courtesy Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Turning a groundbreaking concept into a reality naturally comes with some difficulties.

The Hyperloop companies who spoke to CNN Travel were all keen to emphasize their confidence in their projects’ viability. Their main quibbles were potential challenges caused by red tape.

“We know that the tech works, right, the physics works,” says Kelly, who explains that Virgin Hyperloop One is currently focused on certification and regulatory steps.

“I would say that the challenge is more on the political side,” agrees Gendron. “The challenge is more to convince a government that if they are serious about supporting innovation, true innovation — I’m not talking about improvements, but true innovation, creating jobs — risks must be taken in a way that they need to be confident in the work we’re doing.”

Chris Dulake says that private finance will be a necessity in many instances with Hyperloop companies unable to rely on government investment alone, and that would present its own difficulties.

He says there’s also confusion about whether Hyperloop would be overseen by railway authorities or aviation.

When will this happen?

So just how close is Hyperloop to reality?

Virgin Hyperloop One built a full-size pod back in 2017 which has reached speeds of 387 kilometers per hour on a test track in Nevada.

“Since then, we have been working on moving this system from a very cool technology, and proving that it works in the early days, to making this a new form of mass transportation,” says Kelly.

Richard Branson stepped down from his former role of chairman of the board in late 2018, but his replacement, Jay Walder, is described by Kelly as a “pretty heavy hitter in the mass transportation space.” Walder helped launch London’s Oyster Card cashless payment system for the London Underground.

Meanwhile American company Hyperloop TT unveiled a snazzy full-size capsule in October 2018 in Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain, near where it was constructed at Airtificial, a partner of HyperloopTT. The company released video footage, below, depicting the construction of the test track.

In June 2019, Hardt Hyperloop announced the opening of a test facility, and distant long term plans to develop a Europe-wide transportation system.

“That will be the first step towards an eventual Hyperloop alternative network. It’s going to provide an alternative for the polluting short haul flights,” Tim Houter, co-founder and CEO at Hardt, tells CNN Travel.

TransPod, meanwhile, is working on feasibility studies and construction of a test track.

In India, Virgin Hyperloop One is about to go through the procurement process for a service between the cities of Mumbai and Pune, which lie about 75 miles apart. This route, says Kelly, is “probably globally the furthest along.”

Kelly says the company is hoping certification will be concluded by 2023 with a service up and running by 2029. Gendron says TransPod wants certification by 2025.

Experts roughly concur on the timeline.

“Probably, realistically, 2030 is the earliest that anybody will get to that point,” says Dulake, who contends that once one of the companies’ successfully makes the concept work in actuality, the others will follow suit.

As yet, there’s still been no pilot journeys with people involved.

But, says Kelly: “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

So who knows, in 10 years time, we might find ourselves speeding across the surface of the planet in a metal tube, with short haul flights a distant memory.



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Amal Clooney will represent Maria Ressa of Rappler


“It is clear that the government is manipulating the law to muzzle and intimidate one of its most credible media critics,” said the Committee to Protect Journalists after her arrest in March.

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“Maria Ressa is a courageous journalist who is being persecuted for reporting the news and standing up to human rights abuses. We will pursue all available legal remedies to vindicate her rights and defend press freedom and the rule of law in the Philippines,” Clooney said in a press statement released by London-based law firm Doughty Street Chambers announcing the relationship.

Ressa is the cofounder and editor of online news site Rappler, which has gained prominence for its unflinching coverage of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and his brutal war on drugs. She has been indicted multiple times on libel and tax evasion charges that critics have described as designed to silence independent media in the southeast Asian country. She worked for CNN before starting Rappler.

In an op-ed published this year by Columbia Journalism Review, Ressa accused Duterte of leading a systematic campaign against news organizations in the Philippines, and against herself personally.

“Legal hassles can take up 90 percent of my time; a day after our May midterm elections, I was arraigned for cyber libel in the morning and appeared for a case of securities fraud in the afternoon,” she wrote.

What is Rappler, the website targeted by the Philippine government?

After being arrested on cyber libel charges in February, she told CNN it was an example of how the law is being “weaponized” against critics of the country’s president. Speaking to CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout, Ressa said the law was “draining … democracy dry.”

Ressa had been charged with a lawsuit relating to a story written in 2012, which alleged that businessman Wilfredo Keng had links to illegal drugs and human trafficking. However, the article was published by Rappler two years before the new cyber libel laws came into effect in the Philippines.
In March, she was detained at Manila airport and later charged with violating the anti-dummy law, legislation related to securities fraud.
Clooney has previously represented Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were jailed in Myanmar under the country’s Official Secrets Act for reporting on a massacre of Rohingya civilians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning pair were released in May.



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US approves major arms sale to Taiwan amid trade tensions with Beijing


Congress was notified Monday that the State Department had approved both potential sales, which include 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks, plus related equipment, and some 250 Stinger missiles.

Both types of equipment had been requested by Taiwan.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said in March that the weaponry she had requested from Washington would “greatly enhance our land and air capabilities, strengthen military morale and show to the world the US commitment to Taiwan’s defense.”

In response, China’s Defense Ministry said Beijing was “firmly opposed to US arms sales to Taiwan and US military contact with Taiwan.”

The tanks are valued at up to $2 billion while the portable surface-to-air Stinger missiles are estimated to cost up to $223 million.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said that the tank sale serves “US national, economic, and security interests by supporting” Taiwan’s “continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability.” The agency also said that the Stinger missile sale would improve the security and defensive capability of Taiwan, which it called “an important force for political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region.”

Neither sale, the agency said, would “alter the basic military balance in the region.”

While the US has long provided arms to Taiwan as part of the 40-year-old Taiwan Relations Act, Beijing has long chaffed at those sales.

Trump says he will no longer deal with UK ambassador who labeled him 'inept'

“Although China advocates for peaceful unification with Taiwan, China has never renounced the use of military force, and continues to develop and deploy advanced military capabilities needed for a potential military campaign,” a report from the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency warned in May.

The report also warned that Taiwan’s traditional military advantages over Beijing in the event of a cross-strait conflict were eroding in the face of China’s military modernization efforts.

“Taiwan has historically enjoyed military advantages in the context of a cross-Strait conflict, such as technological superiority and the inherent geographic advantages of island defense, China’s multi-decade military modernization effort has eroded or negated many of these advantages,” the report added, saying that “although Taiwan is taking important steps to compensate for the growing disparities … these improvements only partially address Taiwan’s declining defensive advantages.”

Since 2010, the US has announced more than $15 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.

The US has also been locked in a long running trade dispute with Beijing. On Sunday, President Donald Trump told reporters that “we’re doing very well with China” and that his administration’s imposition of tariffs on China had helped the negotiations.

CNN’s Joshua Berlinger and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.



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Denise Ho of Hong Kong interrupted by China during UN speech


In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A demonstrator sprays paint inside a chamber at Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building, where protesters forced their way in on Monday, July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Within minutes of protesters taking a collective decision to exit the Legislative Council building, police fired tear gas and used baton charges to disperse the crowd.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Police officers walk in tear gas as they break up the crowd.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A protester uses a megaphone to speak to other protesters inside the Legislative Council building.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

The meeting hall of the Legislative Council is taken over by demonstrators on July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Protesters stream into the Legislative Council building.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

People rally outside the Legislative Council on July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A protester smashes a window of the Legislative Council building.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Protesters holding umbrellas face off with police officers wearing anti-riot gear on July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Police standing inside the Hong Kong government headquarters look through broken glass as protesters try to smash their way into the building on July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Columns of sunlight are cast on a crowd during the march on July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Helicopters carrying the flags of China and Hong Kong fly over demonstrators on July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Pro-democracy lawmaker Roy Kwong rallies demonstrators with a megaphone on July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A protester holds up a placard as thousands flood the streets of Hong Kong on July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A police officer uses pepper spray during a clash with protesters on July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Protesters face police on July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A protester wearing a T-shirt with the word “revolution” walks past an inscription on a road that reads “Long Live HK.”

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Police detain protesters near the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A protester places anti-government posters at the traffic sign that indicates the entrance to the government complex building.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Protesters remove their shirts after being pepper-sprayed by police.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A man receives medical treatment during the protests on July 1.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

An overhead view shows thousands of protesters marching through a Hong Kong street on Sunday, June 16.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Many of those attending the rally on June 16 carried signs with the slogan “stop killing us” alongside images of bloodied protesters.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Protesters attend the rally on June 16.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A protester returns a tear-gas canister fired by police during clashes outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on Wednesday, June 12.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Rubber bullets, pepper spray and hand-thrown tear gas were used to push back protesters who had occupied the city’s main thoroughfare and other roads near the government headquarters on June 12, Hong Kong Police Commissioner Steven Lo Wai-chung said.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Protesters run after police fired tear gas on June 12.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A police officer reacts to an umbrella that was thrown near the Legislative Council building on June 12. The Umbrella Movement in 2014 galvanized Hong Kong’s youth and was mainly student-led. But lately there have been lawyers, business people and middle-aged people protesting for the first time.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Police officers use a water cannon on a protester near the government headquarters.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Protesters shield themselves against pepper spray used by police.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Police officers fire tear gas during the demonstration on June 12.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A protester reacts as she is grabbed by police on June 12.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Police and protesters clash outside the Legislative Council building on June 12.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Protesters face off with police during the rally on June 12.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A protester rests during the demonstration on June 12. Protesters began arriving the night before.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

By the morning of June 12, tens of thousands of mainly young people had arrived in the area, blocking streets and bringing central Hong Kong to a standstill.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Protesters block major roads near the Legislative Council and government headquarters. Hundreds of businesses, parents and teachers called for a boycott of work and school to show their opposition to the extradition bill.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A demonstrator holds a sign during the June 12 rally.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Police officers charge toward protesters during clashes on Monday, June 10. It was a continuation of protests that started the day before.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A protester reacts as police and demonstrators clash on June 10.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A police camera films the rally on Sunday, June 9.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Protesters hold pictures of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on June 9.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Protesters on June 9 waved placards and wore white — the designated color of the rally. “Hong Kong, never give up!” some chanted.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Demonstrators hold signs during the protest on June 9.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

A crowd fills a Hong Kong street on June 9.

In pictures: Hong Kong protesters storm government building

Students wear chains during a demonstration on Saturday, June 8.



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Can overtourism be stopped? Yes — here’s how it’s being done


(CNN) — We first hear about these places when we’re kids. Famous destinations full of wondrous architecture, spectacular scenery or ancient mysteries that fire our imaginations and fill us with yearning.

We dream, we grow, we save up all our money and one day we finally get to visit — only to discover that everyone else is visiting at the same time.

Overtourism is fast becoming one of the most hotly debated issues in the modern age of travel. Thanks to cheaper air fares, rising incomes and social media’s ability to laser focus attention on specific destinations, more travelers than ever before are descending on places that can no longer cope with their own popularity.

In the past few years, the number of destinations raising the alarm over this has steadily increased. In 2018, the Oxford English Dictionary made “overtourism,” one of its words of the year — it’s defined as an excessive number of visitors heading to famous locations, damaging the environment and having a detrimental impact on resident’s lives.

Countless headlines have followed as cities that have become reliant on tourism dollars undergo an identity crisis, wondering if they can start turning away such important sources of income.

For travelers it’s also been time for some soul searching. Is it time to abandon those dreams? Is it possible to travel responsibly? Or should they simply brace themselves for the crowds and go see these places while they still can.

“Tourism is like any other industry: it needs to be regulated and managed locally to prevent negative impacts,” says Justin Francis, CEO of UK-based tour operator Responsible Travel, which has produced its own guide to the issue of overtourism.

The situation could be poised to get worse. The World Tourism and Travel Council says that of 1.4 billion international tourist trips in 2018, more than 36%, or half a billion, involved a visit to one of the planet’s 300 most popular cities, a trend that’s set to continue upwards.

Familiar overtouristed destinations could soon be joined by others, with the WTTC identifying cities such as Delhi, Cairo, Manila, Bangkok and Moscow as unprepared for the surge in travelers expected in the next decade.

The good news is that many destinations, governments and tour operators are now tackling the issue head on. With goodwill, proper planning and some bold decision making, those at the forefront of the problem may yet find a way to balance tourist demand with the needs of local communities.

Here’s how some of the world’s most famous tourist hotspots are trying to get on top of the problem:

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu has introduced a four-hour time limit for visitors.

Pablo Porciuncula Brune/AFP/Getty Images

Visitor numbers to Peru’s most famous attraction rocketed in 2018, with 1,578.030 people heading to the ruins of 15th century Incan citadel, a jump of 12% on the previous year.

With an average of 4,300 tourists crowding its narrow walkways every day, officials took bold action, introducing a strict new ticketing system in January 2019. Tickets are now time limited, with slots lasting four hours and no re-entry allowed.

The aim is to spread the number of visitors, encouraging tourists to come in less popular afternoon slots.

“The new ticketing system at Machu Picchu has not reduced the number of visitors each day, but has been very effective in managing the flow of visitor numbers entering the citadel,” says Sarah Miginiac, General Manager for Peru at G Adventures.

“This has significantly improved overcrowding both inside and outside the citadel.”

Plans for a new airport in nearby Chinchero have raised concerns that visitor numbers could jump further still, but Miginiac suggests this may not be an issue for Machu Picchu itself.

“As it stands, the number of visitors to Machu Picchu are restricted and there has been no announcement that these numbers will be increased should the new airport be approved,” she adds.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam canals

The Netherlands Tourism Board has stopped promoting Amsterdam as a destination for travelers.

Aurore Belot/AFP/Getty Images

The Dutch capital has taken bold steps to ease the chronic tourist overcrowding of its narrow streets.

With visitor numbers forecast to rise from 18 million in 2018 to 42 million by 2030, the city’s tourist board has simply decided to stop advertising.

In its Perspective 2030 report, the Netherlands tourist board said it was now engaged in “destination management” rather than “destination promotion”, with efforts being made to switch tourists’ attention to other cities in the country.

Responsible Travel’s Francis has praised Amsterdam’s attempts to “de-marketize” itself, suggesting it could be a blueprint for other cities around the world.

Venice, Italy

Around 30 million tourists descend on the streets of Venice every year.

Around 30 million tourists descend on the streets of Venice every year.

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

Venice has long been at the forefront of overtourism and once again hit the headlines in June 2019 after a cruise ship hit a tourist boat in the Giudecca canal.

Cruise liners have been at the center of local concerns about high tourist numbers for years.

Local demands to prevent them passing through the Giudecca are allied with growing disquiet that day trippers do not spend money at local businesses.

“The main problem is ‘mordi e fuggi’ tourism, day trip tourism,” says Guido Moltedo, Editor in Chief of Ytali, who claims this accounts for two thirds of visitors.

The city has introduced a new levy on day trippers, which starts at three euros. By 2020, this fee will range from three to 10 euros, depending on the time of year and the amount of visitors in the area.

However, Moltedo says “the real problem is not getting more money, but reducing the impact of tourism.”

Food blogger and tour guide Monica Cesarato says she has noticed a major shift away from visitors coming to stay for a longer period and exploring the city’s unknown corners.

“I have seen a huge decrease on requests and bookings compared to the past,” she says. “People who come for one night do not have time to take a long walking tour.”

Iris Lorendana, who runs the La Venessiana blog, says locals have started to take the problem into their own hands.

“Today, Venetians are dealing with mass tourism by addressing tourists directly and giving clear directions. It usually works in nine cases out of 10.”

However, she stresses that can’t fix wider issues caused by soaring visitor numbers, such as high rents and the demise of local shops.

Major locations such as St. Mark’s Basilica, the Clock Tower and Doge’s Palace have introduced limits on sightseers.

Turnstiles have also been installed to limit the flow of tourists in certain areas of the city.

While this approach has its benefits, Moltedo doesn’t feel a wholly defensive attitude can stem the tide.

According to the editor and author, a stronger political resolve to restore artisan businesses and make Venice more affordable for locals is the only way it can become a more sustainable destination.

Croatia

Dubrovnik's popularity soared when the city was used as a filming location for "Game of Thrones."

Dubrovnik’s popularity soared when the city was used as a filming location for “Game of Thrones.”

ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Like Venice, Dubrovnik deals with thousands of visitors arriving at its ancient walls via cruise liners.

The city has seen its popularity surge after locations across its Old Town were used in “Game of Thrones”.

Official Croatian Tourist Board figures revealed that a massive 1.27 million people visited Dubrovnik in 2018, an eight per cent jump on 2017.

“Dubrovnik is successfully conducting a project called ‘respect the city’, with the aim of sustainable and responsible tourism development,” says Romana Vlašić, director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board.

“One of the measures is limiting the number of cruise ship passengers to 4,000 at the same time.”

Vlašić adds that the city’s tourist board is promoting Dubrovnik as a “city for all seasons”, with the aim of spreading visitor numbers throughout the year. A new direct flight from Philadelphia, the first from the US in 30 years, is at the forefront of its strategy to become a year-round destination.

Dubrovnik Local Guides has introduced a policy of limiting its tour groups to just eight people, saying it is committed to “quality over quantity”.

Iceland

Jokulsarlon, Iceland

Iceland has experienced a major tourism boom in the last decade.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Iceland’s tourist numbers slipped slightly in January 2019, with visitors totaling 139,055, a drop of 8,514 compared with the same month in 2018.

However, with annual numbers jumping from 500,000 in 2010 to 2.3 million in 2018, there’s no denying the country, and particularly famous locations close to the capital, Reykjavik, have had to deal with huge crowds in recent years.

Rather than discouraging visitors, however, Iceland is looking to diversify its tourism offering, according to Francis.

“Recognizing the strain being placed on Reykjavik and a small number of other sites, they have tried to promote areas further afield to ease the pressure on the ‘Golden Circle,'” he says, referring to a popular day tour of geological attractions.

“We have to control the influx more if we don’t want it to become a complete Disneyland here”

Dirk de Fauw, Mayor of Bruges

The country’s Tourist Site Protection Fund, which funnels tax funds to protect natural heritage, has been hailed as a success, although charges to enter national parks are now being considered.

Bruges, Belgium

During peak times, visitors outnumber residents by three to one in Bruges.

During peak times, visitors outnumber residents by three to one in Bruges.

Alamy Stock Photo

Renowned for its Belfry and picturesque houses, the UNESCO-protected city of Bruges has long been a stop off for those exploring Europe’s most arresting locations.

“We have to control the influx more if we don’t want it to become a complete Disneyland here,” De fauw told local media in May 2019.

His proposals include limiting the number of cruise liners that can dock at nearby Zeebrugge to two at any one time, down from the five it has room for.

The local tourist board is also set to stop promoting day trips. The hope is that in doing so, it will boost hotels that currently lose out on revenue from those who choose not to stay overnight.

Bali, Indonesia

bali indonesia tourist tax

Bali is considering introducing a tourism tax.

Getty Images/ErmakovaElena

Bali’s enduring popularity shows no sign of abating. The Indonesian island’s tourist board says that 6,511,610 people arrived at its international airport in 2019, a 10% rise compared with 2018.

While Bali continues to target tourists, locals have raised concerns about the impact of growing numbers on the fragile environment, citing a rise in single use plastic waste as one of the many ways overtourism is hitting this small, but beautiful island.

The head of Bali’s provincial parliament, I Nyoman Adi Wiryatama, has proposed a $10 tourist tax, to be paid by foreign visitors on leaving the country.

However, Francis says tourist taxes alone cannot fight the issue, although they can help fight symptoms such as litter.

“To properly confront the causes of overtourism, tourism management and planning must take into account the negatives of higher visitor numbers, accepting that ‘more’ doesn’t always mean ‘better,'” he says.

Taj Mahal, India

Ticket prices at the Taj Mahal have been increased in a bid to lower visitor numbers.

Ticket prices at the Taj Mahal have been increased in a bid to lower visitor numbers.

Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images

With visitor numbers topping seven million a year, overcrowding has long been an issue at the Taj Mahal.

Following the decision to limit visits to three hours, officials announced a price hike in December 2018, in a bid to regulate numbers. Reports say visitors could also be fined for overstaying their welcome.

Indian visitors saw prices jump to 250 rupees ($3.50), up from 50 rupees, while foreign guests must now pay 1,100 rupees, plus a further 20 rupees to access the main mausoleum.

At the time, the Archaeological Survey for India said it was hoping to see numbers fall by between 15 and 20%.

Santorini, Greece

Santorini

Santorini welcomes around 1.5 million tourists every year.

Pixabay / Creative Commons

The committee launched a scathing attack on authorities for letting tourism get out of hand.

“The lack of tourism governance and strategic cooperation between local and national authorities might put the future of the destination at risk,” it wrote.

Concerns have also been raised about the level of pollution from cruise liners docking in the island’s famous caldera.

Mayor Nikos Zorzos has imposed a limit on tourists disembarking cruise liners, with 8,000 allowed per day, a move welcomed by the European Parliament.

The Greek tourist board is also looking to diversify, promoting less popular destinations and pushing Greece as a year-round destination.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is set to become the first UK city to introduce a tourist tax.

Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

With numbers swelling during its annual August festivals, the Scottish capital has felt the pressure of huge numbers descending on its city center.

In February 2019, the city council voted in favor of introducing a tourist tax of £2 ($2.54) per day per tourist.

This would be levied against all accommodation, including short term lets via Airbnb, raising up to £14.6 million ($18.5 million) a year.

The money would then be spent to cover the costs of hosting as many as four million visitors per year.

Some locals have had enough, however, with activists going under the name of Citizen staging protests and non-violent direct action to expose the problems that high tourist numbers are causing locals.

They have raised concerns that short term lets are driving up rents for normal people

Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain, Rome

Tourists who swim in the fountains of Rome can now be issued with hefty fines.

Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Rome has taken a somewhat specific approach to clamping down on the symptoms of overtourism, introducing a raft of new laws designed to improve behavior and boost respect for the ancient city.

Anyone caught posing as a Roman centurion with tourists and demanding cash can now be fined 450 euros ($400). While that might seem rather unlikely, new rules against street drinking are perhaps more understandable.

It’s now illegal for bars to serve alcohol between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m., while anyone with an open alcoholic drinks container found drinking in the street after 10 p.m. can be hit with a fine.

Organizing a pub crawl is also an offence now. Swimming in the famous Trevi fountain will land visitors in metaphorical deep water, while wheelie suitcases have been forbidden on the Spanish Steps.

In reality, policing some of these more niche laws may prove tricky. But the hope is that the publicity will help bring a bit more decorum to the Italian capital.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona city

An estimated 32 million tourists visited Barcelona in 2016.

David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona charges a tax on all overnight accommodation and has even gone as far as to create a badge to show which projects are funded by it.

The Barcelona Tourism Consortium received 4.5 million euros ($5 million) directly from the tax in 2017.

And 9.6 million euros was spent on projects to upgrade infrastructure and promote culture across the city in 2018, according to the World Tourism and Travel Council’s Destination 2030 report.

Yet despite this, there is still much disquiet about overtourism in the Catalan capital.

But as in Venice, Dubrovnik and Santorini, cruise passengers also make up a huge number of tourists, often visiting for just a day.

Around 2.7 million arrived at the city’s vast port in 2017, up from just 115,000 in 1990.

In 2017, 150,000 people marched against the growing number of tourists flocking to the city, with signs appearing on beaches in Barceloneta complaining about locals being priced out of the rental market.

During her campaign to become Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau decried tourism’s effect on the quality of life in the city.

While taxes may help local businesses, Barcelona’s popularity shows no sign of abating.

Queenstown, New Zealand

New Zealand's Queenstown attracts more than three million visitors a year.

New Zealand’s Queenstown attracts more than three million visitors a year.

MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images

While a tourist admission tax of NZ$35 ($22) for visitors to New Zealand was announced in June 2018, albeit not yet introduced, the city of Queenstown voted to introduce its own bed tax in June of this year.

A referendum of its 40,000 residents found 81% backed the move.

Known for its adventure sports and spectacular mountains, Queenstown had a massive 3.3 million visitors in 2018. The hope is that the tax will bring in fewer visitors who spend more money.

However, tourism chiefs have voiced concern that hotel providers may see a hit to their businesses, calling for central government to be more involved.



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The Motley Fool


By: Jon Unterseh

A Bitcoin.

The legendary investors at The Motley Fool have unveiled their latest financial game plan… and I haven’t been this excited about a brand new investment guide in a long time!

Because this latest game plan is a “backdoor” opportunity into a big trend that’s become the financial story of the year.

I’m talking about Bitcoin — which surged up to 2,122% in just 2017 alone, creating a new wave of “Bitcoin millionaires” in the process.

Turn the clock back a little bit further and $1,000 invested into Bitcoin seven and a half years ago turned into more than $22 million today.

Of course — there’s a downside and reason so many investors have yet to touch Bitcoin. It’s volatile, having had massive sell-offs of 38%, 40%, and 29% in just the past six months!

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Past performance is not a predictor of future results. Individual investment results may vary. All investing involves risk of loss.

Returns data as of May 24, 2019. Jon Unterseh has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.



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The Motley Fool


By: Rex Moore

Apple Store.

If you own Apple’s stock, know someone who does, or have even thought about buying it… there’s something you need to know.

If history has taught us anything, you could miss out on something HUGE.

You see, there could be a king’s ransom up for grabs as what could be Apple’s next game-changer makes its way outside of the company’s secretive design labs in Silicon Valley. But, we think one stock that’s poised to benefit the most from Apple’s next game-changer IS NOT Apple.

Yes, some of the biggest names on Wall Street are calling for once-in-a-decade opportunity for Apple.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley report many investors are “still underestimating” the coming “iPhone Supercycle”

Forbes is calling it an “iPhone tsunami.”

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But you already knew that.

What most people don’t know is tech insiders think there’s an invaluable, tiny component inside Apple’s newest iPhone that Apple doesn’t manufacture in-house! They don’t make it because they don’t have the technology OR the patents to do so.

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Translation: This tiny company essentially gets paid every time Apple sells their revolutionary new iPhone.

You don’t have to be a numbers-whiz to understand what that kind of growth can do to a company’s stock price.

That’s why I hope you take a few minutes to unlock the full research a team of highly trained stock analysts from The Motley Fool put together on this developing story and discover why we could be near a turning point.

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Past performance is not a predictor of future results. Individual investment results may vary. All investing involves risk of loss.

Rex Moore has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.



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