Posts tagged with "NPR"

Quidditch rebrands as ‘quadball,’ to distance game from J.K. Rowling, league says

July 21, 2022

Fans of quidditch are now fans of “quadball,” the new name for the real-life sport that was first inspired by the Harry Potter book series, reports NPR.

U.S. Quidditch and Major League Quidditch announced the name change on Tuesday as well as their own rebranding as U.S. Quadball and Major League Quadball. The groups announced their intention to find a new name for the sport in December, citing what they called anti-trans positions of the series’ author J.K. Rowling.

In addition to distancing themselves from the author, organizers hope the name change will give the sport more opportunities to grow and not be inhibited by the trademark for “quidditch” being owned by Warner Bros.

“Bringing full creative control of the name of our sport to the vibrant community of players and fans that has grown and sustained it will allow our organizations to take the next step,” MLQ co-commissioner Amanda Dallas said in a statement. “We are now able to pursue the kinds of opportunities that our community has dreamed about for years.”

Fans and players were polled as part of the name change process, MLQ said, with “quadball” receiving “strong support across demographic groups in the surveys.”

The rules of the sport will remain the same, with four balls on the field and four different positions. Both of those are referenced in the new name.

The names of those positions and the balls will remain the same for now, but MLQ notes that both could change at a later date.

The first quidditch match took place at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2005, where the game was created by. Benepe called the name change a “bold move.”

“For me personally there is definitely some nostalgia to the original name, but, from a long-term development perspective, I feel confident this is a smart decision for the future that will allow the sport to grow without limits into its own unique space for many years to come,” he said in a statement.

During the sport’s initial years, many were drawn to it because of the connection with the blockbuster book and movie series, but since then it has become known as an intense, full-contact sport full of athleticism. It’s now played in at least 40 countries with nearly 600 teams in existence.

While the inspiration for Harry Potter may remain a draw for some, MLQ media outreach coordinator Jack McGovern said it’s important for the sport to remain welcoming to everyone.

“I think our leagues have always and still attract people from lots of different backgrounds. People who come to the sport because they are Harry Potter fans and people who come to the sport because they are looking for an outlet for athletics in their life,” McGovern said. “The sport has also always drawn heavily from the LGBTQ+ community and maintaining a welcoming space for all of those people who might be interested in the sport is really important to us.”

The change in name has already been adopted by USQ and MLQ will officially adopt the new name after the 2022 MLQ Championship, scheduled for August 20 to 22 in Howard County, Maryland.

The International Quidditch Association also plans to adopt the sport’s news name following the conclusion of the IQA European Games this weekend.

Research contact: @NPR

Dog sneaks into couple’s home during storm and snuggles her way into their bed

May 19, 2022

It could have been that a door was left ajar, or maybe a window. Julie Johnson from Tennessee isn’t sure; all she knows is that somehow, someway—a stranger was able to freely enter her house one night.

 This stranger however wasn’t trying to steal, but only to snuggle. A brown bull terrier with a golden heart and silent feet crept into the Johnsons’ house, jumped right into bed next to Julie and her husband Jimmy—and went to sleep, head on the pillows, reports Good News Network.

 “You could see light coming into our curtains in our bedroom and I feel my husband not just roll over—but kind of startled, like almost a jump roll over, and it woke me up,” Julie told NPR this week. “And in a quiet but stern voice, he said, ‘Julie, whose dog is this?’”

Despite the startle, in such a situation; it didn’t take long for Jimmy and Julie to realize the intruder meant them no harm, and was just “100% content being there.”

 How Nala the dog managed to enter their house without disturbing or garnering the attention of Jupiter, Hollis, and Zeppelin, the three dogs who normally sleep alongside the couple, the Johnsons will never know, and it must have made for an interesting chit-chat over morning coffee.

 Julie took to Facebook to see if she could locate the dog’s owners, posting a variety of selfies she took with the pup. Not long after, Nala’s owners contacted them to explain she had slipped out of her collar on a walk the day before just ahead of a serious thunderstorm.

She had escaped into the woods, and between the four dog parents, the working theory arose that Nala had entered the Johnsons’ house out of fear of the thunder and lighting.

“Our overly friendly pup, Nala, has hit an all-time record for ignoring personal space and added yet another trick to her long list of Houdini acts,” Cris Hawkins, one of Nala’s owners, wrote on Facebook.

“Shame [on] Nala for somehow breaking into a stranger’s house and invading their personal space. Thankfully, the couple thought it was hilarious and they aren’t even mad about it.”

Since the incident, the four pooches have had playdate in the park, celebrating their new, and entirely accidental friendship.

Research contact: @goodnewsnetwork

Sandy Hook families agree to $73 million settlement with Remington Arms

February 17, 2022

The families of nine victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, have settled their lawsuit against Remington Arms—the manufacturer of the rifle that was used in the 2012 mass shooting—in an historic moment they said should put the gun industry and the banks and insurance companies that work with it on notice, reports Business Insider.

“Today is a day of accountability for an industry that has thus far enjoyed operating with immunity and impunity,” Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed in the shooting, told reporters. “And for this I am grateful.”

The settlement was for $73 million, Josh Koskoff, an attorney for the families, said at a news conference on Tuesday, February 15. Four insurers for the gunmaker will cover the costs, Koskoff said.

It marks the first time a gunmaker has been held responsible for a mass shooting in the United States.

“The gun industry’s protection is not bulletproof,” Koskoff said at the news conference.

Koskoff said the biggest feature of the settlement is not even the cash amount, but rather the “hundreds of thousands of documents” the families received through the discovery process that presumably details Remington’s internal decisions about how to market and manufacture what became one of its best-selling products.

The families of victims of the shooting first filed suit against Remington Arms in 2014 over its marketing of the Bushmaster rifle that was used by Adam Lanza to kill 26 young children and educators at the school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Many of the families pointed out that legal experts said their case faced long odds. At issue is a 2005 federal law that offered gun makers and dealers sweeping immunity protections with narrow exceptions. Hockley called the settlement a “crack” in “the gun industry’s impenetrable armor.”

Remington took its legal fight over the situation all the way to the Supreme Court. In 2019, the high court declined to intervene after the Connecticut Supreme Court allowed the suit to proceed. Remington argued that it was protected by the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

The Connecticut court found that the federal law did “not permit advertisements that promote or encourage violent, criminal behavior,” NPR reported at the time.

Koskoff took reporters at the press conference through a lengthy review of Bushmaster’s marketing for the firearm Lanza later used in the massacre.

“They will tell you it’s made for hunting, but where’s the animal in all of this?” Koskoff said pointing to one ad. Another ad in the presentation depicted the firearm with a message to prospective buyers about their “man card.”

Research contact: @BusinessInsider

Yokesters: The Dutch vow to egg Jeff Bezos’ yacht if a bridge is dismantled to let it pass through

February 11, 2022

It’s not exactly smooth sailing these days in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, where locals are voicing their objection to a plan that would temporarily dismantle an historic bridge to enable the passage of a mega-yacht reportedly owned by former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, reports NPR.

In fact, some already are making plans—albeit, in jest—for what they will do if the project comes to fruition: Throw eggs at the yacht as it traverses the water under the Koningshaven Bridge, known locally as “De Hef.”

Some 13,000 people are “interested” and nearly 4,000 have said they will attendFacebook event titled “Throwing eggs at superyacht Jeff Bezos,” which has been shared more than 1,000 times in the week since its creation.

“Calling all Rotterdammers, take a box of rotten eggs with you and let’s throw them en masse at Jeff’s superyacht when it sails through the Hef in Rotterdam,” wrote organizer Pablo Strörmann.

He told the NL Times that the protest started as a joke among friends and has quickly gotten “way out of hand.” (The English-language news site also notes that this isn’t Strörmann’s first campaign to go viral.)

The news of De Hef’s potential disassembly, however brief, has clearly struck a chord with both locals and international observers.

It all started last week when Dutch broadcaster Rijnmond reported that the city appeared willing to grant a request to dismantle the centuries-old steel bridge so that Bezos’ yacht could pass through.

De Hef was built in 1927 as a railway bridge, with a midsection that can be lifted to allow ship traffic to pass underneath, according to The Washington Post. It was replaced by a tunnel and decommissioned in 1994–but was saved from demolition by public protests and later declared a national monument.

The yacht’s three masts apparently would be too high for the bridge’s roughly 130-foot clearance. The yacht in question was reportedly commissioned by Bezos and currently is being built at the Oceanco shipyard in The Netherlands, according to Boat International. It will comprise three masts with aluminum and steel construction and will measure more than 415 feet in length.

Once delivered, not only will she become the world’s largest sailing yacht, but she also will hold the title for the largest superyacht ever built in the Netherlands.

The waterway where the bridge sits is the only way the ship can get from the shipyard in Alblasserdam to the open seas, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. So Oceanco asked Rotterdam officials to temporarily remove the middle section of the bridge.

City spokesperson Netty Kros told the CBC that “the applicant” would cover the costs of the project but did not clarify whether that refers to the yacht’s owner, the shipbuilder or both.

Bloomberg reports that Oceanco will foot the bill. NPR has reached out to Amazon and Oceanco to confirm these details.

The city appeared to agree to the arrangement last week, with municipal project leader Marcel Walravens telling Rijnmond that the project would proceed for logistical and economic reasons. He said an exact plan was being developed but estimated it would take about a week to prepare and another week to “put everything back in place.”

Research contact: @NPR

A California redwood forest has officially been returned to a group of Native tribes

January 27, 2022

A conservation group is returning guardianship of hundreds of acres of redwood forestland to a coalition of Native tribes that were displaced from the land generations ago by European American settlers, reports NPR.

Save the Redwoods League purchased the 523-acre area (known as Andersonia West) on the Lost Coast of California’s Menodcino County in July 2020.The group announced on Tuesday, January 25, that it had donated and transferred ownership of the property to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council—a consortium of 10 Northern California tribal nations focused on environmental and cultural preservation.

The forest will be renamed Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ—which means “fish run place” in the Sinkyone language—as “an act of cultural empowerment and a celebration of Indigenous resilience,” the league said in a release. The tribal council has granted it a conservation easement, meaning use of the land will be limited for its own protection.

“Renaming the property Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ lets people know that it’s a sacred place; it’s a place for our Native people. It lets them know that there was a language and that there was a people who lived there long before now,” said Crista Ray, a tribal citizen of the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians and a board member of the Sinkyone Council. She is of Eastern Pomo, Sinkyone, Cahto, Wailaki, and other ancestries.

According to NPR, the league’s 2020 purchase of the forest cost $3.55 million and was fully funded by Pacific Gas & Electric Company (the utility, which has been behind multiple deadly wildfires, supports habitat conservation programs to mitigate other environmental damage it has caused).

Establishing Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ supports meeting the power company’s 30-year conservation goals, which the league says were developed alongside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency also approved the long-term management and stewardship plan for the property.

Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ is home to ancient trees, important bodies of water and a variety of endangered species. It comprises 200 acres of old-growth coast redwoods and 1.5 miles of Anderson Creek, a stream and tributary of the South Fork Eel River.

“Second-growth redwoods, Douglas-firs, tanoaks, and madrones also tower over a lush understory of huckleberries, elderberries, manzanitas, and ceanothuses,” as the league describes it. This habitat supports endangered species like the northern spotted owl, steelhead trout, coho salmon, marbled murrelet and yellow-legged frog.

The council and the league say their partnership will protect the environment by preventing habitat loss, commercial timber operations, construction, and other development.

They plan to rely on a mix of Indigenous place-based land guardianship principles, conservation science, climate adaptation, and fire resiliency concepts to heal and preserve the area.

“We believe the best way to permanently protect and heal this land is through tribal stewardship,” said Sam Hodder, resident and CEO of Save the Redwoods League. “In this process, we have an opportunity to restore balance in the ecosystem and in the communities connected to it, while also accelerating the pace and scale of conserving California’s iconic redwood forests.”

People involved with the partnership stress that it’s not just the protection of the land that matters — it’s also the restoration of the property to descendants of its original inhabitants.

Notably, the Sinkyone Council has designated Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ as a tribal protected area. “This designation recognizes that this place is within the Sinkyone traditional territory, that for thousands of years it has been and still remains an area of importance for the Sinkyone people, and that it holds great cultural significance for the Sinkyone Council and its member tribes,” said Priscilla Hunter, a tribal citizen of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians and chairwoman of the Sinkyone Council.

Returning farmland to Yakama Nation is a step toward self-sufficiency tribes once had: It joins another 180,000 acres of conserved lands along the Sinkyone coast, the release notes. The council hopes that the acquisition will continue expanding the network of adjacent protected lands with similar ecosystems and cultural histories.

Research contact: NPR

Biden phones Putin to de-escalate tensions along Ukraine border

January 3, 2022

U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday afternoon, December 30, again warned Russian President Vladimir Putin of painful economic consequences, should Russian forces invade Ukraine, reports NPR.

But Biden also made clear that the United States sees a diplomatic path forward to address some of Russia’s concerns about the expansion of the Western-backed NATO in the region.

An Administration official who asked to have his name withheld said the purpose of the call, which Putin requested, was primarily to set the “tone and tenor” for planned security talks between U.S. and Russian officials on January 10 in Geneva.

It was the second time the two leaders spoke during December, as Russia has assembled as many as 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, prompting fears of an invasion.

Another Administration official has described the situation as a “moment of crisis.” U.S. officials say they have not seen any significant signs of de-escalation.

“President Biden urged Russia to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement after the call. “He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.”

The 50-minute call was “serious and substantive,” according to the administration official who briefed reporters on Thursday.

Biden laid out two paths forward, the official said: “One is a path of diplomacy, leading toward a de-escalation of the situation. The other path is more focused on deterrence, including serious costs and consequences should Russia choose to proceed with a further invasion of Ukraine.”

But both leaders acknowledged areas where “meaningful progress” could be made, as well as some areas “where agreements may be impossible,” the official said.

Putin aide Yuri Ushakov described the talks as good and frank, but said that Putin warned Biden that his promise of punishing sanctions could lead to a complete breakdown in U.S.-Russian relations that would in the future be seen as a big mistake.

According to NPR, Putin has made his concerns clear: He wants written assurances that Ukraine will not be admitted into NATO. He also wants Western troops and arms out of other former Soviet states in Eastern Europe.

The U.S. and its allies have refused any such guarantees, but White House officials said they were open to hearing Russia’s concerns about NATO.

In addition to economic sanctions, Biden told Putin in their earlier call, on December 7, that if Russia were to invade Ukraine, the U.S. would provide additional defensive equipment and supplies to the Ukraine—and potentially deploy U.S troops to other nearby Eastern European countries.

U.S. and Russian leaders will lay out their concerns during the January 10 talks. Moscow is expected to continue the conversation with NATO officials two days later and then after, on January 13, tp meet separately with the members of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), of which Ukraine is a member.

Whether there is a resolution that can satisfy Putin’s demands and avoid war is unclear.

Samuel Charap, who was a top Russia adviser in the Obama Administration, is not optimistic. “I don’t yet see a pathway out of this where everyone can go home and there’s no conflict,” said Charap, who is now an analyst at the Rand Corporation. “It seems clear to me that Putin is not willing to take away the threat until he gets something. And if he doesn’t get something, I think he seems prepared to act.”

That Putin called for Thursday’s call led some to believe that he may be seeking a way out of the stand-off.

The Biden official told reporters that Putin did not share if he had made a decision on whether he would invade Ukraine.”We’re not going to draw conclusions and there were certainly no declarations as to intention from this conversation,” the official said. “But regardless, our focus is really on action, and on indicators, not on words at this point.”

Research contact: @NPR

Why is DOJ still defending Trump in E. Jean Carroll lawsuit?

June 10, 2021

The Biden Justice Department is forging ahead with a controversial legal effort started under former President Donald Trump to intervene on Trump’s behalf in a defamation lawsuit brought against him by a writer who says Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s, NPR reports. But the question remains, why?

E. Jean Carroll leveled the accusations against Trump in her memoir published in Jean Carroll leveled the accusations against Trump in her memoir published in 2019. Trump denied the allegations and accused Carroll of lying to sell books.

Carroll sued the then-president for defamation, but the suit has been caught up in litigation since the Trump-era Justice Department attempted to step in on Trump’s behalf and make the government the defendant instead of the now-former president.

In its filing late Monday, the Justice Department—now led by Attorney General Merrick Garland under the Biden Administration—sought to continue its defense of Trump while distancing itself from his alleged actions.

“Then-President Trump’s response to Ms. Carroll’s serious allegations of sexual assault included statements that questioned her credibility in terms that were crude and disrespectful,” Brian Boynton, the acting head of the department’s Civil Divisionwrote in the brief. “But this case does not concern whether Mr. Trump’s response was appropriate. Nor does it turn on the truthfulness of Ms. Carroll’s allegations.”

Instead, Boynton said, it boils down to a few legal questions, including whether a president is an “employee of the government” and whether Trump’s denials were made within the scope of his office. The department said the answer to both questions is yes, and therefore under federal law it said the government should be able to replace Trump as defendant in the case.

If the department were to succeed in its efforts, legal experts said the move would effectively end the case because the federal government can’t be sued for defamation.

According to NPR, Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, slammed the Justice Department’s decision to continue the Trump-era effort to intervene.

“The DOJ’s position is not only legally wrong, it is morally wrong since it would give federal officials free license to cover up private sexual misconduct by publicly brutalizing any woman who has the courage to come forward,” she said on Twitter.

“Calling a woman you sexually assaulted a ‘liar,’ a ‘slut,’ or ‘not my type’—as Donald Trump did here—is NOT the official act of an American president.”

The new filing is the latest development in the case since the Trump-era Justice Department first took the unusual step of seeking to intervene in the lawsuit last year.

The Justice Department and then-Attorney General William Barr came under fierce criticism for the move, which opponents argued was one in a series of actions the department took under Barr that benefited Trump or his friends.

A federal judge in October denied the Justice Department’s initial attempt to step in on Trump’s behalf. Trump appealed the decision to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, where the matter now stands.

Research contact: @NPR

Architect of the Capitol outlines $30 million In damages from pro-Trump insurrection

March 1, 2021

The cost of repairing damages caused by rioters during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol—paired with investments to harden security there right afterward—already has spiraled to a number in excess of $30 million and will keep rising, Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton told lawmakers last week, NPR reports.

The events of January 6, he said, were “difficult for the American people and extremely hard for all of us on campus to witness.”

Blanton said that, to date, congressional appropriations committees have approved a transfer request of $30 million to pay for expenses and extend a temporary perimeter fencing contract through March 31.

But more money will be needed, he added: “History teaches us that project costs for replacements and repairs beyond in-kind improvements across campus will be considerable and beyond the scope of the current budgetary environment.”

The price tag will go even higher, Blanton told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee, if the fence and other security measures are needed beyond March.

In his prepared testimony, Blanton described how his employees tried to minimize the threat to the Capitol and lawmakers on January 6, when thousands of former President Donald Trump’s supporters breached security perimeters at the Capitol grounds.

“[Architect of the Capitol] employees sheltered congressional staff in their shops to protect them from the roving mob,” Blanton said, adding, “Other members of our team raced to the roof to reverse the airflows within the building to help clear the air of chemical irritants, like bear repellents and pepper spray, while more team members rushed bottles of water and eyewash stations to Capitol Police officers in need of assistance.”

When the mob thronged the Capitol, the Architect of the Capitol’s painters and artisans were laboring to complete the massive task of readying the campus to host a presidential inauguration. “Over the course of a couple of hours, the hard work of our team was destroyed,” Blanton said.

“The [inauguration] platform was wrecked. There was broken glass and other debris. Sound systems and photography equipment was damaged beyond repair or stolen. Two historic Olmsted lanterns were ripped from the ground, and the wet blue paint was tracked all over the historic stone balustrades and Capitol building hallways.”

In the Capitol building complex, historical statues, murals and furniture were damaged, mainly from pepper spray accretions and residue from chemical irritants and fire extinguishers, requiring expert cleaning and conservation. Work crews covered gaping holes with plywood and cleared “a small mountain of debris left behind on the west and east fronts,” Blanton said.

Blanton also said many lawmakers have asked his office about preserving mementos from the unprecedented violence wrought by U.S. citizens on their own Capitol. While most damaged items had to be removed because of safety concerns, he said his staff preserved the panels of the historical Columbus Doors on the east front “for a potential presentation or display.”

According to NPR, Blanton also addressed the security failures that contributed to the U.S. Capitol being occupied by an angry mob that sought to block the certification of then-President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.

“The events of January 6 were stark reminders that institutional biases, priorities and actions taken out of sync with actionable data resulted in poor decisions,” he said. “If we do not learn from these mistakes, the campus will continue to remain vulnerable to unknown and unexpected threats.”

Blanton also asked the committee for help in securing additional funds for a campuswide security assessment to prevent similar events in the future and to protect the Capitol and the people who work there.

Research contact: @NPR

‘Wheels come off’ for bus companies, closing down travel options for lower-income Americans

December 30, 2020

The wheels on the nation’s buses aren’t going round and round very much these days. Indeed, demand for bus travel has fallen by more than 80% during the pandemic, NPR reports.

That is raising concerns about the potential long-term damage to an essential transport sector for millions of lower-income Americans—even as air travel has shown signs of picking up since the Thanksgiving holiday period.

Even now, getting a bus ticket is becoming more expensive—and routes are being cut nationwide.

Feeling the pinch most are people such as Andrew Sarkis, said NPR, which interviewed him as he tried to make his way home for the holidays. Sarkis said he paid $97 for a one-way bus ticket from Hampton, Virginia, to New York City—a 12-hour journey that required two transfers.

“It’s expensive, man,” said Sarkis, while stretching his legs after his bus took a brief stop at Union Station in Washington, D.C.

“I used to go on another bus, for $45 a trip, that goes straight to New York,” he added.

Sarkis was on his way to visit family for Christmas but ended up with a half-day travel option on a Greyhound bus after finding his usual options in competing services pared down. “The service is not bad,” he said. “It’s just long hours of traveling.”

For its part, Greyhound told NPR that it’s operating at less than half its normal bus routes during the pandemic, while revenues have fallen nearly 60%.

“Greyhound has been immensely impacted by the effects of COVID-19,” the company said in a statement. “From temporary and permanent closures of routes to sudden workforce reductions, our ability to provide critical service to communities—especially those that are underserved and/or rural—has been reduced.”

Industrywide, the service cuts are even deeper.

We see the industry operating at about 10% capacity,” said Peter Pantuso, president of the American Bus Association.

And it’s hard to estimate how soon demand will pick up. Not many people are interested in riding the bus these days, which means spending hours with strangers in an enclosed space.

Unlike airlines, which saw an uptick in travel over Thanksgiving, demand for bus tickets remains severely depressed, according to Wanderu, a travel website.

That raises concerns about the long-term health of a sector that generally operates on thinner margins and has less financial cushion.

Pantuso estimates that 85% of the 100,000 people who work in the bus industry have been laid off or furloughed—in most cases since March.

It’s not just long-haul services like Greyhound that are limping. Traffic on commuter lines that ordinarily ferry workers to and from the suburbs has also dried up, since many people are working from home.

Charter buses and specialty services are struggling as well.

The Nitetrain Coach Co. in Nashville offers tricked-out buses with bars and bunk beds for touring musicians. Since March, the company’s 120-bus fleet has gone silent.

“It’s been a hard time with concerts not happening,” said Nitetrain’s Angela Eicher. “No job. No income.” The company has idled more than 200 drivers as well as mechanics and office staff.

“We’re at the mercy of the venues,” Eicher said. “When the venues allow the concerts to start happening, that’s when our buses will start rolling again.”

But while Congress has offered billions of dollars in financial aid to airlines and Amtrak, bus companies have been overlooked.

Pantuso, the bus trade group president, told NPR that the lack of attention from Congress was a concern, calling his sector a critical piece of the nation’s transportation network. “If more members of Congress took the bus on a more regular basis,” he said, “we’d probably be at the top of the list for funding.”

Research contact: @NPR

In lieu of the interior ‘loo’: Transparent public toilets open in Tokyo parks—but they also offer privacy

August 21, 2020

Public toilets always have been a necessary evil: Anyone in need of such a communal, open-door convenience always harbors two fears:  Who is already in there? And just how filthy are the facilities?

Now, a famous Japanese architect has solved those problems with transparent walls that become opaque when the door locks on a single-service unit , and with vibrant colors and illumination that light up even the darkest area, to make the restrooms safe and attractive, NPR reports.

The glass walls of Ban’s new public bathrooms turn opaque when people enter and lock the door. (Photo source: Satoshi Naare/The Nippon Foundation)

Indeed, according to architect Shigeru Ban;—and the Nippon Foundation, which funded the The Tokyo Toilet project— the transparent walls reveal to potential users what awaits them inside. After users enter the restroom and lock the door, the powder room’s walls turn a powdery pastel shade—and are no longer see-through.

“Using a new technology, we made the outer walls with glass that becomes opaque when the lock is closed, so that a person can check inside before entering,” the Nippon Foundation says of the new bathrooms in the parks throughout Tokyo’s Shibuya ward district. .

In order to come up with the prototype, the foundation enlisted world-famous architects to create toilets “like you’ve never seen.”

Indeed, the 16 architects who have been asked to reimagine public toilets are some of the brightest names in Japanese architecture. The list includes four Pritzker  Architecture Prize winners—Ban, Toyo Ito, Tadao Ando and Fumihiko Maki – along with international stars such as Kengo Kuma and Sou Fujimoto. The fashion designer Nigo is also contributing.

As for cleanliness, the organizers say, “We at The Tokyo Toilet believe that providing a comfortable user experience through cleaning and maintenance is … important. The Nippon Foundation, the Shibuya city Government and the Shibuya Tourism Association will work together to maintain these facilities. We will also work with professional toilet inspectors to periodically survey the toilets to ensure we are providing the best user experience.”

The maintenance satus will be posted on the Toyko Toilet website to encourage users to help maintain cleanliness for the next person.

In all, NPR says, the Nippon Foundation is redesigning 17 public toilets in Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s busiest shopping and entertainment districts. The foundation is working with the local government to deploy two of Japan’s national strengths —devotion to cleanliness and design —to address a public necessity.

Well-known toilet company TOTO, famous for its toilets that coddle users with features such as heated seats, bidets and deodorizers, “will advise on toilet equipment and layout,” the foundation says.

Ban’s colorful public bathrooms opened to the public this month in two parks: Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park and Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park. Other bespoke commodes will be opening in coming months.

Research contact: @NPR