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Nintendo profits jump 400% thanks to the Switch and ‘Animal Crossing’

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The Japanese company posted another round of blockbuster earnings Thursday, proving that its hot streak from the pandemic is far from over.
The company said it made 145 billion yen ($1.37 billion) in operating profit for the quarter ended June, marking a 428% surge compared to the same time a year ago. That blew away expectations from analysts, who had estimated about 62 billion yen of profit, according to data provided by Refinitiv.

Nintendo also doubled sales from a year ago, taking in about 358 billion yen ($3.4 billion).

The results show that months into the pandemic, people are still turning to the Nintendo Switch game console in droves. Nintendo sold about 5.7 million of the devices from April through June, marking a 167% increase year-over-year.

'Animal Crossing,' a Nintendo Switch bestseller, now lets you go swimming
The runaway success of “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” continued to be a boon for the company. The game, which is set on a relaxing virtual island utopia and allows users to fish, catch bugs and play with friends on the beach, runs on the Switch and has been in high demand since people worldwide started staying home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nintendo sold 10.6 million copies of the game in the most recent quarter.

“Sales of this title continue to be strong, with no loss of momentum,” the company said in a statement. It added that the game was its bestseller this quarter, “contributing greatly to the overall growth in software sales.”

Nintendo has sold 22.4 million copies of “Animal Crossing” overall, putting it just under Nintendo’s best-selling game of all time, “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.” That title has racked up 26.7 million sales.

The Switch, which was first released in 2017, sold out on various websites earlier this year as customers scrambled to find new forms of home entertainment.

This spring, the Kyoto-based company ran into supply issues with the Switch as factories were shut down in China. Those closures triggered some component shortages and slowed output at factories in Vietnam.

Now, “the overall production situation has almost recovered,” the company said.

Nintendo also took the opportunity to tease its pipeline of games. This fall, it plans to release a new title, “Pikmin 3 Deluxe,” as well as offer some new content for Pokémon players. The company released another new Switch game, “Paper Mario: The Origami King,” last month.

“We will work to keep the platform active with new titles and by reinforcing sales of popular titles that have already been released,” the company said.

— Kaori Enjoji contributed to this report.



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Tennessee picks Trump-backed Bill Hagerty to be Senate Republican nominee

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Last year, Trump publicly endorsed Hagerty before he even announced his campaign. That should’ve been enough in a conservative state where Republicans overwhelmingly approve of the President.

But the primary election on Thursday to replace retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander turned into a bitter, competitive contest between Hagerty and Dr. Manny Sethi over who could be Tennessee’s Trump.

Hagerty and Sethi campaigned as Trump loyalists, even though they found things in each other’s backgrounds to try to suggest otherwise. Hagerty founded a private equity firm and served as the state’s economic commissioner under former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Sethi, the son of first-generation immigrants from India, is an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who founded the nonprofit organization Healthy Tennessee.

Trump himself intervened in the primary, reminding voters of his endorsement in a tweet last week and agreeing to a tele-town hall with Hagerty on the eve of the primary.

Hagerty thanked Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn for their support after his primary victory.

“Now more than ever, we need strong conservative Senators who will not kowtow to the angry liberal mob that is tearing apart the fabric of the America we love. President Trump won’t stand for it, and neither will I,” he said in a statement Thursday night.

The divisive race extended to the Senate Republican conference. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky stumped for Sethi. And the Protect Freedom PAC, a group aligned with Paul, spent over $1.2 million on ads supporting him. In one spot, Paul said directly to the camera, “Tennessee is too conservative a state to keep sending Democrats in Republican clothing to represent Tennessee.”

Blackburn and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas took Hagerty’s side at campaign rallies, saying he will stand with Trump. “Bill is pro-life, he is pro-gun, he is pro-family, he is pro-small business and he is pro-conservative values,” Blackburn said in a recent video posted on Twitter.

The race tightened in recent weeks. Of the 15 Republican candidates, Hagerty spent by far the most on advertising, buying over $5 million worth of airtime, according to Kantar’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. He spent most of that campaign cash since the beginning of June. Sethi spent over $2.6 million and Dr. George Flinn, another GOP candidate, spent over $1.5 million. Tom Ingram, a longtime Tennessee Republican strategist, told CNN on Wednesday, “The best I can tell is it’s too close to call.”

Hagerty will now be favored to win the seat in November; Tennessee is a deep red state that Trump carried by 26 points in 2016. The expected Democratic nominee is attorney and former Army helicopter pilot James Mackler.

While the Senate GOP nominee hopes to succeed Alexander, a workhorse legislator who left a leadership position to focus on education and health care policy, the race turned into a series of personal attacks.

Hagerty and Sethi spent much of two recent separate interviews with CNN sharply criticizing each other.

Hagerty called Sethi a “phony conservative” who supported Trump only when it was “convenient.” Sethi tagged Hagerty as a “Mitt Romney Republican,” trying to use Hagerty’s decades-long friendship and campaigning for the former GOP presidential nominee against him. Hagerty defended himself from associations with the Utah senator and Trump critic, criticizing Romney for marching with Black Lives Matter protesters.

“You’ve got senators like Mitt Romney, who, frankly, have lost their way,” Hagerty said.

Hagerty also attacked Sethi for making a $50 donation to a family friend through the online campaign donation portal ActBlue, for receiving a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant and for applying for a nonpartisan White House fellowship during the Obama administration to portray his opponent as a Democrat who supports gun control and former President Barack Obama. Sethi responded that the charges were desperate attacks from a “Washington insider.”

“They’re in deep trouble, and they know it,” Sethi said.

He had tried to mar Hagerty’s conservative bona fides, suggesting that Hagerty was a fan of the Black Lives Matter movement after a brokerage firm whose board he served on expressed support for it. Hagerty subsequently resigned from the board and told CNN that Black Lives Matter is “a Marxist organization” that is “against the nuclear family” and “anti-Semitic.”

But despite the sparring between them, there may not have been much politically different between the two leading candidates.

“Both candidates are not very well-known, and they have battled over who is ‘too liberal’ for Tennessee,” Vanderbilt University political science professor John Geer, the dean of the College of Arts and Science, told CNN ahead of the primary. “The truth is, both are conservative and there is little difference between them other than Sethi being more of an outsider.”



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'It was a massacre.' Hear witnesses describe deadly Beirut blast

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A massive explosion rocked Lebanon’s capital city on August 4, leaving scores of people dead and thousands wounded. Locals recount the scary moments of the blast.




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Trump advisers hesitated to give military options and warned adversaries over fears he might start a war

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“We used to only think of Kim Jong Un as unpredictable. Now we had Trump as unpredictable,” Joseph Yun, who served as President Trump’s special representative for North Korea policy until 2018, told me. “And I would communicate that.”

Yun recalled that during the worsening standoff with North Korea in 2017, the Pentagon hesitated to give the President a broad range of military options, concerned that he might indeed order a major military attack on the North.

“You had to be careful what options you gave him,” he said. “We were being very cautious, because any options you put out there, he could use them.”

That frustrated the White House. “The White House viewed it as ‘Goddamnit! The President is looking for all options!'” Yun recalled. But the Pentagon, under Defense Secretary James Mattis at least, didn’t budge.

Later Trump decided diplomacy was the way forward and met for two historic summits with Kim, even telling a 2018 rally in West Virginia that the “two fell in love.”

A senior White House official told CNN that on North Korea “it was the President who at every turn has encouraged diplomacy over escalation. He took the historic step of meeting with KJU in person to encourage de-escalation.”

‘Is this a joke?’ Pentagon dumbfounded by Iran military options request

Again in 2019, as the President and his team were considering military options against Iran in response to escalating attacks in the Persian Gulf, senior Pentagon officials made clear both to US partners in the region and to Tehran that they could not predict how and where Trump would respond, or if he would respond at all.

“We told allies that we did not know what the President would be willing to do against Iran,” Mick Mulroy, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East until 2019, recalled. “It was possible he could make a decision that would lead to an escalation of the conflict, and that escalation could lead to war, so they needed to relay that to Iran so they realized not even his staff knew what would happen if they attacked another oil facility, for instance.”

From pandering to Putin to abusing allies and ignoring his own advisers, Trump's phone calls alarm US officials

These warnings were part of a longer-term effort to contain some of the President’s worst impulses when confronted with military action abroad. Earlier, in September 2018, when a handful of mortar shells struck near the US Embassy in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone causing no casualties or serious damage, Pentagon officials were surprised when they received a call from a senior official on the National Security Council demanding military options for the President to retaliate against Iran. That NSC official said the President wanted to know immediately how and when the United States could respond.

“The NSC called us in on a Sunday,” a former senior US official told me. “[The NSC official] was basically telling us we had to have military options against Iran, today, on that day.”

Pentagon officials were dumbfounded. On a conference call with the White House, which included the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood, Selva muted the line on the Pentagon’s end and turned to his colleagues in disbelief.

“He said, ‘Is this a joke? They really want us to propose direct military action into Iran, against Iran, based on this?'” the same former senior US official told me.” And I said, ‘No, we’ve been dealing with this all morning. Have they spent any time in Iraq?’ This is a constant thing.”

When they got off the call, General Selva and Secretary Rood made it clear to their colleagues they would not be providing the White House with any military options unless directed explicitly by the President himself.

“There’s no way we’re going to provide the NSC military options for this,” the former senior US official recalled their saying. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Saudi Crown Prince accused of assassination plot against senior exiled official

That “urgent” request from the White House did not last. “It just died after that,” the official remembered.

A handful of mortars. One forceful demand for military options. Then silence. It was just the first of many times the NSC would reach out to the Pentagon for military options against Iran, without warning and without the normal interagency process to determine if a military response was warranted or wise.

The aftermath of those wayward mortars in September 2018 began a months-long policy-making seesaw with Trump and Iran, alternating between urgency and inaction, threat and retreat. On which side would Trump emerge? And did he have a strategy?

In June 2019, President Trump would balk at retaliation for Iran’s shootdown of a US drone over international airspace, calling off military action with US warplanes already in the air. That September, he also decided against retaliation after an Iranian attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia which temporarily shut down half of Saudi oil production.

“‘Well, [the President] didn’t want to do it, so we’re done,'” Mulroy recalled. “The first time that happened, I think there was kind of a sigh of relief. The second time, I think there was shock. So it’s like ‘What do you mean, we’re not doing anything? I mean, we’ve got to do something.'”

Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator who served as Defense Secretary under President Barack Obama said the situation was unprecedented.

“In all my years dealing with national security and intelligence and foreign policy I’ve never heard any senior military leaders express concern about a president’s decision-making,” Hagel said.

“When I was Secretary of Defense my Pentagon colleagues and I always knew that President Obama had studied the issues, was well informed and wanted our opinions and recommendations. He listened to those charged with national security experience,” he added.

NFL owner and Trump ambassador to UK sparks watchdog inquiry over allegations of racist and sexist remarks and push to promote Trump business

“The President’s foreign policy — particularly in the Middle East, has been defined by taking strong action when necessary (see strikes in Syria in 2018), deescalating to avoid protracted conflicts (draw down in Afghanistan, taking a lesser response to Iran.) However, make no mistake — the President will take decisive action when it warrants to protect US interests,” the senior White House official said.

Trump did eventually take military action against Iran, ordering the killing of the country’s most senior General Qasem Solemaini in a drone strike on Baghdad airport in January of this year. Iran retaliated by striking a US base in Iraq, injuring dozens of US service members, but at least up until now tensions have alleviated. Had the US launched an attack on Iranian soil, many feared an all-out war was possible.

‘It wasn’t a ploy’

Trump’s unpredictability is something that permeated official US interactions with the leaders of countries across the globe—from Iran to Syria to North Korea to Canada and Mexico to NATO allies.

“The general concept was discussed, not as a strategy we deliberately adopted, but rather as something we pointed out as a matter of fact,” said Mulroy. “The thing is, it wasn’t a ploy,” he explained. “I think both allies and enemies realize that his decision process was unpredictable even to those advising him up to and including the secretary of defense and national security adviser.”

Trump’s capriciousness left the advisers responsible for virtually every corner of the globe guessing.

“I had many meetings where my counterparts would ask, ‘Can we really believe what you’re saying? On whose behalf are you speaking?'” said Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council and key witness during the impeachment investigation of the President in November 2019. “This makes the US a capricious partner for anyone who is interacting with us as a collective.”

Trump’s unpredictability was not a national secret. US adversaries were keenly aware that his own advisers and the institutions and agencies they lead were often in the dark about the President’s intentions and therefore sought to take advantage, said Susan Gordon, who served as the United States’ second-highest-ranking intelligence official as principal deputy director of national intelligence.

“Our partners, adversaries, and competitors know we don’t know the next play,” Gordon said.

With any other president or any other administration, such deliberate unpredictability might be seen as a flaw, identifying it as a criticism. But in the view of Trump and his most devout supporters, his unpredictability is a keen negotiator’s strength to be lauded.

“For him, the unpredictability is a card that he liked having,” said Yun.



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Tourist snaps toes off statue while posing for photo

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Written by Livia Borghese, Barbie Latza NadeauJack Guy, CNNRome

Police in Italy have identified a 50-year-old Austrian man who broke three toes off a statue at a museum as he posed for a photo with the artwork.
The 200-year-old plaster cast model of Antonio Canova’s statue of Paolina Bonaparte was damaged in the incident on July 31 at the Gipsoteca Museum in Possagno, northern Italy, Treviso Carabinieri, the local law enforcement agency, told CNN.

The man, whose name has not yet been released, was caught on a surveillance camera jumping up onto the statue’s base to get a picture when the maneuver inadvertently snapped its toes.

The damaged statue is the original plaster cast model from which Canova carved a marble statue that is housed in the Borghese Gallery in Rome.

Canova was a revered sculptor who lived from 1757-1822 and was famous for his marble statues.

The statue is a plaster cast used to make a marble statue of Paolina Bonaparte.

The statue is a plaster cast used to make a marble statue of Paolina Bonaparte. Credit: Rubens Alarcon/Alamy

Police told CNN that the man was with a group of eight Austrian tourists and broke away to take a selfie of himself “sprawled over the statue.”

In doing so, he broke three toes off the statue’s right foot and “there could be further damage to the base of the sculpture that the museum experts still have to ascertain,” according to investigators.

Vittorio Sgarbi, the president of the Antonio Canova Foundation, wrote in a Facebook post that he has asked police for “clarity and rigor.” He wrote that the man must not “remain unpunished and return to his homeland. The scarring of a Canova is unacceptable.”

Coronavirus measures mean that all museum visitors must leave their personal information for eventual contact tracing in the event that an outbreak is tied to a museum visit. This is how the man was identified.

When police contacted a woman who signed in on behalf of herself and her husband, she burst into tears and admitted her husband was the toe breaker, according to a press release from Treviso Carabinieri.

The husband, who was also upset, then confessed and repented for the “stupid move,” according to the release.

A court in Treviso is currently deciding whether to press charges.

It is not the first time a valuable piece of artwork has been damaged in an attempt to get a memorable picture.

In October 2018, a woman damaged two artworks, by Francisco Goya and Salvador Dali, after knocking them over while trying to take a selfie at a gallery in Yekaterinburg, Russia.



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Latest news from around the world

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said he’s “satisfied” with the enrollment in the first week of the first US Phase 3 clinical trial of a Covid-19 vaccine.

CNN has obtained part of a Friday, July 31 email from Moderna, the company running the trial, that states 1,290 people were randomly assigned to get either the vaccine or a dummy shot as of that date. The trial began on Monday, July 27.

The email was sent to sites across the US that are participating in the Moderna trial. Moderna plans to enroll 30,000 people at its 89 sites.

“We hope within a period of a few months, a couple of months, that we’ll be able to enroll hopefully by the end of the summer so that we can start getting some results,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said July 27 when he announced the start of the Phase 3 trial. Fauci told CNN that he expects “to get an answer” about whether the vaccine works in November or December. “Maybe we’ll get an answer as early as October, but I doubt it,” he said.

If the pace of enrollment in the first week of the trial – 1,290 over five days – were to continue, the study wouldn’t be fully enrolled until late fall or early winter. But Fauci told CNN he expects the enrollment numbers to increase as the study continues.

“The first week had very few sites activated,” he said. “As more sites get activated, enrollment will very likely increase significantly.”

Each participant receives two injections spaced about 28 days apart.

In a statement, Moderna said they are “on track to complete enrollment in September, 2020. The company will provide an update when enrollment is complete.”

At the July 27 briefing, Fauci said he hoped for much higher enrollment numbers – but he now says he was joking.

“We’d like to have 15,000 by the end of the week. I’m not sure that we’re going to get there, but hopefully we’ll get as many as we possibly can in order to keep our timelines where we need to be,” Fauci said at the briefing. But Thursday he told CNN he meant that “tongue-in-cheek.” 

President Trump said Thursday that he was “optimistic” a vaccine would be ready around election day on November 3. “I believe we’ll have the vaccine before the end of the year, certainly, but around that date, yes. I think so,” Trump told reporters. On Monday, Trump said “we’re on pace to have a vaccine available this year, maybe far in advance of the end of the year.”



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French President Macron: No blank checks will be given

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French President Emmanuel Macron took aim at Lebanon’s political class while speaking to reporters at Residence des Pins, the French ambassador’s house in Beirut, Lebanon.




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Arizona was a Covid-19 hot spot a month ago. Here’s how it’s turning things around

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Today, that decision appears to have paid off.

A CNN analysis of Covid-19 data from Johns Hopkins University shows that on July 8, Arizona averaged about 3,501 daily new cases over a seven-day period. That average has been steadily declining week-over-week, and on Wednesday, the state averaged 1,990 daily new cases over a seven-day period.

This turn around has caught the attention of health experts, who have praised Arizona as an example of a state that successfully reimplemented mitigation efforts as cases rose.

“We saw in Arizona, which was a good example, they went up (in cases) and they started to really clamp down and do things right. And the cases came right down,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s John Berman on Thursday morning.

The state and its governor, Doug Ducey, were praised on Wednesday by President Donald Trump and Dr. Deborah Birx in the Oval Office, where Ducey credited the downward trend to Arizonans wearing masks, physically distancing, washing hands and staying home if sick.

“They’ve really done a great job putting these pieces together and really creating that path forward,” Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said. She pointed to the improvement in Arizona as a model that could work for other states.

Of course, while things are improving, the state — like the rest of the country — is not in the clear.

Arizona reported nearly 1,400 cases on Thursday, bringing the statewide total to more than 183,000. And the number of deaths continues to climb, with more than 4,000 total deaths as of Thursday.

“This is not a victory lap,” Ducey said last week after discussing the state’s downward trend. “This is not a celebration. If anything, it’s evidence that the decisions and the sacrifice that Arizonans are making are working.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, right, speaks as President Donald Trump, center, meets with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, August 5, 2020.

How Arizona did it

Arizona’s downward trend in cases came after the state reimposed coronavirus restrictions amid a summer surge.

“We did take some further steps,” Ducey said on Wednesday. “We were in the unhappy but responsible position of dispersing large crowds, so bars and nightclubs and gyms all closed temporarily,” he said.

“But upon putting those steps out there, we’ve seen improvement every week, week-over-week for four weeks,” he said.

Arizona first started lifting stay-at-home restrictions in early May, with Ducey saying that cases were declining and that “Arizona is heading in the right direction.”

On May 8, retail stores, barbershops and salons were allowed to resume in-person business with some guidelines. A few days later, on May 11, restaurants were allowed to resume dine-in service. That day, the state had a total of 11,383 cases of Covid-19.

Then things went downhill from there. Cases rose throughout the month of June, totaling 79,228 on June 30 — up from 20,129 on June 1. The state was forced to try and rectify the situation before it spun out of control.

“The Covid-19 crisis didn’t hit Arizona until later,” Ducey explained. “We had a very difficult June, we’ve had a much better July.”

The governor paused the state’s reopening on June 29. He issued an executive order closing down bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks for at least 30 days. The order also prohibited large events of more than 50 people, just days before the Fourth of July.
Additionally, the governor encouraged Arizonans to “mask up,” one week after he said he wouldn’t require thousands of people attending a Trump rally in Phoenix to wear them. Still, he stopped short of issuing a statewide mandate.

At the time, Ducey warned his state it would take time for the restrictions to be reflected in the state’s Covid-19 numbers.

“Our expectation is that next week, our numbers will be worse,” he said. “It will take several weeks for the mitigations we are putting in place to take effect.” A week later, the state’s department of health reported that Arizona had surpassed 100,000 cases.
Educators face new cases and shifting guidance as they try to reopen schools safely

In early July, the state was paid a visit by members of the White House coronavirus task force, including Birx and Vice President Mike Pence. A few days later, on July 9, Ducey took another step back, limiting indoor dining to 50% capacity before things started looking up.

The average of new daily cases over a seven-day period began steadily declining each week, something the governor touted in his visit to the Oval Office on Wednesday.

Despite the improvement, Ducey recognizes that the Grand Canyon State was not out of the woods.

“Like I said, no celebration, no victory lap,” he said. “We’re going to stay the course, stay vigilant and keep our guard up. But we have a path forward in Arizona.”

CNN’s Joe Youorski contributed to this report.



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Covid-19 is taking elevator anxiety to the next level. This Indian tech company has a solution

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Now, as coronavirus cases exceed 18 million worldwide, many people are concerned about catching the virus, whether from someone else in the elevator or via the buttons.

Software engineer Bhavin Ahir felt the fear in the apartment block where he lives in March, when the Indian government implemented what would become a four-month lockdown.

Ahir lives on the 12th floor of a 13-floor apartment block in the western state of Gujarat. The tower block is home to hundreds of people who take the elevator multiple times each day.

“There is always fear to touch the buttons, so I decided to do some developments from that side,” says Ahir, the founder of Indian electronics company, TechMax Solution.

Unable to leave his apartment, he set to work in his spare room, creating prototypes for a product now known as “Sparshless” (sparsh means touch in Sanskrit).

The system consists of a panel that is fitted alongside existing elevator buttons. It allows users to select a floor by pointing their finger at each button from a distance of 10 to 15 millimeters (0.4 to 0.6 inches), triggering an infrared signal which tells the elevators where they want to go.

Sparshless units are also mounted at elevator entrances on each floor, says Ahir. Users place their hands under the arrows on the unit to indicate whether they want to travel up or down.

It’s a completely contactless system designed for a world where people have become cautious about everything they touch.

Dirtier than a toilet seat

We’ve long known that elevator buttons are dirty. Studies have found more bacteria on elevator buttons than toilet seats.
Modeling shows that the risk of catching the virus from people traveling in elevators is relatively low, as the cars are typically well-ventilated and passengers spend a short time inside.
However, as the virus is believed to survive on some surfaces for up to 72 hours, it’s not surprising that people feel anxious about touching buttons.
The pandemic has led to some creative solutions. In Thailand, a shopping mall has installed pedals so patrons can choose their floor with their feet. And in Japan, one toothpick company is marketing “noncontact sticks” for pressing the buttons. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people avoid touching the buttons directly and instead “use an object (such as a pen cap) or their knuckle.”

In India, Ahir sought more sophisticated technology.

At a shopping mall in Bangkok, a woman uses a foot pedal to choose her floor.

Making the product

Ahir usually works from his company’s office in the city of Surat, where he employs 12 permanent staff. The 31-year-old entrepreneur started his business, TechMax Solution, in 2009, straight after graduating from college. The company’s key products are security devices, but during India’s four-month lockdown, work dried up. During that time “we didn’t raise even one rupee,” he says.

Ahir responded to the crisis by developing the Sparshless system, testing the first prototypes on his neighbors. Early models were adjusted when he discovered that daylight triggered false readings. The system also needed to be installed in such a way that it didn’t affect the elevators’ normal workings — or warranty.

With those problems solved, the next step was finding customers. That hasn’t been easy during a nationwide lockdown, says Ahir, but so far, the units have been fitted in 15 buildings in India.

Users call lifts fitted with Sparshless by placing their hand under a unit equipped with infrared transmitters.

Sumit and Sushila Katariya live in one of those buildings. Sumit is an elevator consultant, and Sushila is a doctor at Medanta Hospital, southwest of Delhi, who has treated hundreds of coronavirus patients since March.

Sumit Katariya had the touchless buttons installed in the personal elevator at his two-story housing complex to reduce the risk of this wife infecting the family and their visitors, if she caught the virus. He says the panel has been working “perfectly fine” since they had it installed about one month ago.

Ahir says he has received inquiries from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Brazil about the panels. He hopes to sell up to 1,500 units by the end of the year, an ambitious target for a small company with one manufacturing facility in the country with the world’s third highest number of coronavirus cases.

It’s a “tough situation” he says, but “I always think positive.”




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US State Department lifts global ‘Do Not Travel’ advisory

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However, “(w)ith health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice (with Levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions), in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions,” a Thursday note from the State Department said.

“This will also provide U.S. citizens more detailed information about the current status in each country,” the note said. “We continue to recommend U.S. citizens exercise caution when traveling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.”

Although the guidance from the diplomatic agency has been lifted, American travelers continue to face travel restrictions in countries worldwide due to rising cases of the deadly disease in the United States.

The European Union has blocked entry to US tourists, and the UK requires travelers from the US to quarantine for 14 days.

There are restrictions on non-essential travel between the US and its neighbors to the north and south — Canada and Mexico — until at least late August.
The US Centers for Disease Control still recommends against non-essential travel to more than 200 destinations due to the high Covid-19 risk.

“We are closely monitoring health and safety conditions across the globe, working in partnership with the CDC and other agencies. As always, we will regularly update our destination-specific advice to U.S. travelers as conditions evolve,”the State Department note said.

“The Department of State has worked closely with the CDC since the start of the pandemic to align our public messages and travel advice and to keep Americans safe,” it said. “The Department’s COVID-19 Travel Advisories are informed by CDC’s expert judgement of the health situation as well as other factors related to travel, infrastructure, healthcare resources, and potential closures and restrictions in the country which are important for U.S. citizens to consider.”

The Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory put into effect in March advised “U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19” and urged Americans “in countries where commercial departure options remain available” to “arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.”

As commercial flight options disappeared and borders were shuttered to combat the spread of the virus, the department undertook an unprecedented repatriation effort to get Americans back home. Between January 27 and June 10, they coordinated the repatriation of 101,386 Americans on 1,140 flights from 136 countries and territories.

The international travel industry has taken a huge hit by the spread of the virus. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced last week that global air travel won’t recover from the pandemic until 2024.

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that travelers from the US are required to quarantine upon entry to the UK.



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