This Japanese Inn Is Offering Sleepovers With Cats to Encourage Adoption

My Modern Met /  Sonya Harris / September 22, 2020|

If you’ve found yourself imagining a life with a cat, but you’ve lacked the fortitude to commit to an unknown roommate, there’s an inn located in Japan that might be the perfect testing grounds for you. Located in the hot spring town of Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan, My Cat Yugawara is an inn that’s enticing its visitors with a cuddly proposition: a “trial” sleepover with a cuddly feline.

Traditional Japanese inns known as “ryokans” are most recognizable by their signature minimalistic designs and furnishings, as well as communal baths and personalized services. This particular ryokan has the added bonus of the overnight guest potentially ending in pet ownership. The owner of My Cat Yugawara, Akihiro Ochi, saw an opportunity to help those seeking cat companions but wrestled with uncertainties because of various living conditions. The owner wanted to provide hopefuls a safe trial run at pet ownership. The “trial packages” are attached to the price of a normal room booking. The inn’s rates are modest, but prices range depending on room size. Some rooms can house up to five people, so an entire family can experience a day in the life of pet ownership.

Those who seek the packages are first required to spend time in the establishment’s cat café, where staff can gauge how comfortable they are around its feline residents. Ochi comments, “We, the staff, know the personality of each and every cat ‘child’ we have because of how close we all are. The cats are smart, friendly, obedient, and calm.” The owner also explains that this special sleepover is a passion project. “We are not operating for profit,” Ochi admits. “A huge portion of our income goes to maintaining the facility, including feeding the cats and maintaining their health.”

The guests (who are referred to as “foster parents”) will need to agree to the inn’s rules for being a hospitable roommate and caregiver. After this, a cat will arrive at the guest’s room at 5:30 PM and will stay until 9:00 AM the following morning. During that time, guests aren’t allowed to leave the cat unattended. This is to encourage them to bond with a feline visitor via feeding, litter box cleaning, and play.

If the guests enjoy their sleepovers, they can move on to the next phase—they have to fill out an adoption application followed up by an interview. This last stage is so staff can determine if the guest and the cat are a great fit for one another. Once adopted, cats are then called “graduates” and are celebrated at their departure. This novel approach to pet adoption and cat feline relations is certain to provide memorable stories and welcomed additions to families.

The My Cat Yagawara Inn located in Japan gives its guest the option to have a sleepover with one of the inn’s cat residents.

There are designated rooms for the sleepovers, but some rooms provide enough space for an entire family to enjoy bonding with a cat.

The Japanese inn is providing a charming way for hopeful pet owners to get to know a potential future housemate.

Here are photos of some of the fuzzy residents at the inn.

These friendly felines are ready to cuddle, play, and lay about.

Most of all, they’re ready to “graduate” onto life with their new forever family!

Photographer Preserves the Forgotten Beauty of Abandoned Sites Around the UK

My Modern Met / Jessica Stewart / Sep 20, 2020

Photographer Matt Emmett loves exploring locations that have long been ignored. Using his picture taking, he helps unlock the hidden mysteries of these spaces and brings renewed attention to areas that have otherwise been “lost.” And while the British photographer is used to traveling to the far-flung corners of Europe for his explorations, lately he’s been finding inspiration closer to home.

Both a change in career and COVID-19 have grounded his travels as of late, but that hasn’t made him any less productive. Instead, it’s forced Emmett to look at the incredible heritage that surrounds him in the UK. Equally thrilling, these ruins or architectural restoration projects have only continued to fire his passion for photography.

“Each and every location has its own backstory, sometimes the clues to some of that backstory or history are there waiting for you at the location and even more can be discovered by reading and researching online. Due to the nature of these places and that fact they exist quietly, hidden away from public view, these histories are often unknown to the wider public,” he tells My Modern Met. “The last eight years have shown me there is an eager audience out there who love discovering these places from the comfort of their own homes. Not only that but I believe we provide an important service to society through the recording of workplaces, residences, hospitals, industrial sites, and many others before they are demolished or redeveloped into something entirely different. It’s important to remember where we came from I think.”

Currently, during his time at home, Emmett has been exploring anything within a short drive or bike ride. This has led his craft to open up in other ways, as he’s begun working with local heritage groups and is even making a foray into video. Though things may be evolving, what remains the same is his desire to share his joy in discovering these amazing places.

Photographer Matt Emmett is a master of documentary abandoned ruins.

While he often travels Europe, the past few years have seen him exploring his own backyard in the UK much more.

Pope Francis to parents of LGBT kids: ‘God loves your children’

New York Post / Jorge Fitz-Gibbon / Sep 20, 2020

Pope Francis

Pope Francis reassured parents of LGBT children that “God loves your children as they are,” and that there is a place in the church for them, according to a report.

“The church loves your children as they are because they are children of God,” the pontiff told the group, according to a report in the Jesuit weekly America Magazine.

The exchange came during a meeting last week with “Tenda di Gionata,” or “Jonathan’s Tent,” an Italian group of Christian parents of LBGT children founded in 2018, the magazine said.

A group of about 40 parents met briefly with the pope last week in the courtyard of San Damaso at the Vatican — with the parents presenting the pontiff with a rainbow-colored T-shirt that read, “In love, there is no fear.”

They also gave the pope a book titled “Genitori Fortunati,” or “Fortunate Parents,” which documents their difficulties fitting into the Catholic Church.

“We wish to create a bridge to the church so that the church too can change its way of looking at our children, no longer excluding them but fully welcoming them,” Mara Grassi, the group’s vice-president, told the pope.

Grassi later told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica she had “very strong emotions” during the visit, America said.

People attend Pope Francis’ Angelus prayer at Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City, 20 September 2020. EPA/FABIO FRUSTACI

“For many years I was like a blind person,” she said. “After I came to know that my son was homosexual, I suffered a lot because the rules of the church made me think that he was excluded from the love of God. Nobody helped me.”

The group grew out of a church vigil in the northern city of Reggio Emilia, where Grassi met several other parents of LGBTQ children — inspired by the preaching of the Rev. Paolo Cugini, who believes that “faith and homosexuality are not in opposition.”

The Catholic Church has long struggled with the acceptance of gay parishioners. Last year, a Polish archbishop pronounced during a sermon in Warsaw that the country was under siege from a “rainbow plague” sparked by gay rights advocates.

Military Confirms It Sought Information on Using ‘Heat Ray’ Against D.C. Protesters

NPR / Dina Temple-Raston / Sep 16, 2020

Military police hold a line near the White House on June 1 as demonstrators gather to protest police brutality in Washington, D.C.Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A spokesperson for Joint Forces Headquarters Command in Washington, D.C., confirmed to NPR that hours before federal police officers cleared a crowded park near the White House with smoke and tear gas on June 1, a military police staff officer asked if the D.C. National Guard had a kind of “heat ray” weapon that might be deployed against demonstrators in the nation’s capital.

Col. Robert Phillips, a spokesperson for the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region, or JFHQ-NCR, said the inquiry was made “as a matter of due diligence and prudent military planning.”

The command “inquired informally about capabilities across the full-spectrum of non-lethal systems, to include the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) and Active Denial System (ADS),” Phillips told NPR in a written statement. “JFHQ-NCR does not possess these systems, did not request such systems, and no further action was taken as a result of the officer’s E-Mail query.”

This statement comes hours after NPR obtained and published written responses to the House Committee on Natural Resources from Maj. Adam DeMarco of the D.C. National Guard, who revealed he had been copied on an email from the provost marshal of Joint Force Headquarters. The email said the top military police officer in D.C. was looking for two things: a Long Range Acoustic Device, a kind of sound cannon known as an LRAD, and a device called the Active Denial System, or ADS.

The military developed the ADS some 20 years ago as a way to disperse crowds. There have been questions about whether it worked, or should be deployed in the first place. It uses millimeter wave technology essentially to heat the skin of people targeted by its invisible ray.

In his written response, DeMarco, who has sought whistleblower protection, quoted from an email he said was forwarded to him that originated from the provost marshal that read the “ADS can provide our troops a capability they currently do not have, the ability to reach out and engage potential adversaries at distances well beyond small arms range, and in a safe, effective, and non-lethal manner.”

The email went on to say that the ADS can direct a beam toward a group and that “provides a sensation of intense heat on the surface of the skin. The effect is overwhelming, causing an immediate repel response by the targeted individual.”

Last month, The New York Times reported that U.S. border officials weighed deploying the so-called heat ray against migrants a few weeks before the 2018 elections. The Times reported that Kirstjen Nielsen, then secretary of homeland security, told an aide after the meeting “that she would not authorize the use of such a device, and that it should never be brought up again in her presence.”

Yet, according to DeMarco, it was something considered by the Defense Department’s lead military police officer the morning of June 1 after days of fiery protests and looting in Washington. DeMarco said in his written comments that he responded about a half hour later that “the D.C. National Guard was not in possession of either an LRAD or an ADS.”

The Active Denial System, or ADS, is mounted on a truck, and when it is aimed at an individual it gives the unpleasant sensation of heat or burning on the skin.
Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Sound cannon

The second piece of equipment DeMarco said they asked for was a kind of sound cannon called an LRAD. NPR reported last week that by not using one, authorities may have violated court-ordered regulations that spell out how demonstrators in the nation’s capital are to be warned before aggressive tactics are used against them.

Attorneys who helped write the agreed-upon rules as part of a 2015 settlement agreement said federal police are required to warn large crowds multiple times they need to disperse, and they must do so loudly enough that the orders can be heard for blocks. That’s how an LRAD would be used in this case. The LRAD emits a piercing noise and then can broadcast a voice or a recording at a deafening level. The idea is to allow people at the back of a crowd to hear instructions.

That notice did not appear to happen on June 1. Protesters who were there said police advanced through the crowd with little warning, firing tear gas and smoke canisters shortly before President Trump appeared outside for a photograph in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“They have an obligation to notify that group that they are in violation of the law and to give them the opportunity to comply with a lawful order,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, who helped write the settlement agreement. In a class-action lawsuit, she represented demonstrators, tourists and passersby who were arrested during a 2002 demonstration against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington.

Gregory Monahan, acting chief of U.S. Park Police, told lawmakers in July that his officers had abided by the rules in that agreement. “The protocol was followed,” he said during sworn testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources in July. “There were three warnings given and they were given utilizing a Long Range Acoustic Device; it’s called an LRAD, that’s what it stands for, that was the device used.”

DeMarco said in his written answers to the committee that the National Guard “was not in possession” of an LRAD that day.

“There is zero evidence that there were any officers who can testify that they were in the farthest reaches of the crowd,” Verheyden-Hilliard said. “There has to be documentation that the notice was given multiple times, and there are supposed to be recordings made that the notice was given. We wrote all these in specifically for this reason. In fact, unfortunately, it would appear in anticipation of what happened in Lafayette Park.”

A U.S. Park Police spokesman told NPR that Monahan “stands by his testimony to the committee.” The official said because of ongoing litigation the U.S. Park Police couldn’t comment further.

World’s 10 most scenic airport landings for 2020

CNN / Maureen O’Hare / Sep 16, 2020

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

The world’s most scenic airport airport approaches, as ranked annually by booking platform PrivateFly, are this year looking more glorious than ever.

More than 6,000 frequent fliers and aviation enthusiasts took part in the 2020 poll, with voting taking place in February and March, just before travel restrictions to fight Covid-19 were introduced around the world.

The winner, for the third year in a row, is Ireland’s Donegal Airport. On the island’s northwest coast, there are sweeping views of rugged coastline, pristine beaches and the steep slopes of Mount Errigal on the approach to this regional airport in Carrickfinn.


Donegal Airport, Ireland: Located on Ireland’s northwest Atlantic coast, Donegal Airport claimed the top spot for the third year in a row. Steve O’Culain, the airport’s chairman, said, “When they can, we hope more travelers will come and share this beautiful part of the world with us, located in the Gaelic-speaking Donegal Gaeltacht on the Wild Atlantic Way.”
Msembe Airstrip, Tanzania: The highest new entry to the top ten is Tanzania’s Msembe Airstrip, which serves East Africa’s Ruaha National Park.
Skiathos (Alexandros Papadiamantis) Airport, Greece: This airport on the Greek island of Skiathos, in the Aegean Sea, is popular with planespotters thanks to its short runway and close proximity to a public road.
Orlando Melbourne International Airport: This Florida airport also featured in the top 10, holding onto its ranking as the fourth most scenic airport view in the world.
Barra Airport, Scotland: The view on the approach to Scotland’s Barra Airport, which offers stunning coastal views, was in second place in 2019.
Bora Bora (Motu Mute) Airport, French Polynesia: Bora Bora’s Motu Mute Airport is ranked sixth best in the world. It’s built on a island on a crystal-blue lagoon.
Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten: It’s just beautiful,” a 2019 voter said of the view on landing at this airport in the beautiful island of St. Maarten. “The water, the color, the land to the side and yes — the awesome approach just above spectators’ heads can’t be beat!”
Praslin Island Airport, Seychelles: Praslin, once a hideaway for pirates, is the second-largest island in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.
Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates : Dubai’s airport is one of six new entries in UK-based booking platform PrivateFly’s annual list.
The approach to Fiji’s Nadi International Airport, with its views of tropical coastline, has been voted the 10th most beautiful in the world.

While the top spot was held by an old favorite, there are six new entries in this new year’s top 10.

The highest new entry is Tanzania’s Msembe Airstrip, in second place, which serves East Africa’s Ruaha National Park.

Skiathos Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport, at number three, is also making its debut. The airport on the Greek island of Skiathos, in the Aegean Sea, is popular with planespotters thanks to its short runway and close proximity to a public road.

“Many of us have flown less frequently this year, but these ultimate destination landings are a welcome reminder of the uplifting power of travel and aviation — and a jaw-dropping inspiration for some memorable future flights,” Adam Twidell, CEO of the UK-based booking platform for private jet charters, said in a press release.

Florida’s Orlando Melbourne International Airport was the only top 10 entry for the United States, holding onto its ranking as the fourth most scenic airport view in the world.

“First, you see the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and then pass over the Indian and Banana Rivers,” one 2019 voter said of this descent.

“Then, there is a pass over the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where you may get a glimpse of a rocket on a launch pad.”

Scotland’s Barra Airport approach, which offers stunning coastal views, slipped down three spots to fifth place, while Bora Bora’s Motu Mute Airport is ranked sixth best in the world. It’s built on a island on a crystal-blue lagoon in French Polynesia.

St Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport, where planes swoop low over Maho Beach, is at number eight, and the Seychelles’ Praslin Island Airport at number nine.

The top 10 was rounded out by two new entries: Dubai International Airport and Fiji’s Nadi International Airport.St Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport, where planes swoop low over Maho Beach, is at number eight, and the Seychelles’ Praslin Island Airport at number nine.

The top 10 was rounded out by two new entries: Dubai International Airport and Fiji’s Nadi International Airport.

For the first time, the poll also revealed the highest-ranked airport by region. The Asian winner, Malé (Velana) International Airport the Maldives, was the only one not to also break the top 10.

The airport is a base for Trans Maldivian Airways, the world’s largest seaplane operator, which is famed for its unconventionally clad “barefoot pilots.”

Even as Cases Rise, Europe Is Learning to Live With the Coronavirus

New York Times / Norimitsu Onishi / Sep 15, 2020

A bar in Paris on Sunday. Deaths from the coronavirus in France, about 30 people a day, have reduced markedly from the peak, when hundreds and sometimes more than 1,000 died daily.Credit…Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

PARIS — In the early days of the pandemic, President Emmanuel Macron exhorted the French to wage “war” against the coronavirus. Today, his message is to “learn how to live with the virus.”

From full-fledged conflict to cold war containment, France and much of the rest of Europe have opted for coexistence as infections keep rising, summer recedes into a risk-filled autumn and the possibility of a second wave haunts the continent.

Having abandoned hopes of eradicating the virus or developing a vaccine within weeks, Europeans have largely gone back to work and school, leading lives as normally as possible amid an enduring pandemic that has already killed nearly 215,000 in Europe.

The approach contrasts sharply to the United States, where restrictions to protect against the virus have been politically divisive and where many regions have pushed ahead with reopening schools, shops and restaurants without having baseline protocols in place. The result has been nearly as many deaths as in Europe, though among a far smaller population.

Europeans, for the most part, are putting to use the hard-won lessons from the pandemic’s initial phase: the need to wear masks and practice social distancing, the importance of testing and tracing, the critical advantages of reacting nimbly and locally. All of those measures, tightened or loosened as needed, are intended to prevent the kind of national lockdowns that paralyzed the continent and crippled economies early this year.

“It’s not possible to stop the virus,” said Emmanuel André, a leading virologist in Belgium and former spokesman for the government’s Covid-19 task force. “It’s about maintaining equilibrium. And we only have a few tools available to do that.”

He added, “People are tired. They don’t want to go to war anymore.”

Martial language has given way to more measured assurances.

“We are in a living-with-the-virus phase,” said Roberto Speranza, the health minister of Italy, the first country in Europe to impose a national lockdown. In an interview with La Stampa newspaper, Mr. Speranza said that though a “zero infection rate does not exist,” Italy was now far better equipped to handle a surge in infections.

“There is not going to be another lockdown,” Mr. Speranza said.

Checking temperatures outside a cinema in Málaga, Spain, last month. New infections have soared in recent weeks in the country.Credit…Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

Still, risks remain.

New infections have soared in recent weeks, especially in France and in Spain. France recorded more than 10,000 cases on a single day last week. The jump is not surprising since the overall number of tests being performed — now about a million a week — has increased steadily and is now more than 10 times what it was in the spring.

The death rate of about 30 people a day is a small fraction of what it was at its peak when hundreds and sometimes more than 1,000 died every day in France. That is because those infected now tend to be younger and health officials have learned how to treat Covid-19 better, said William Dab, an epidemiologist and a French former national health director.

“The virus is still circulating freely, we’re controlling poorly the chain of infections, and inevitably high-risk people — the elderly, the obese, the diabetic — will end up being affected,” Mr. Dab said.

In Germany, too, young people are overrepresented among the rising cases of infections.

While the German health authorities are testing over a million people a week, a debate has started over the relevance of infection rates in providing a snapshot of the pandemic.

At the beginning of September, only 5 percent of confirmed cases had to go to the hospital for treatment, according to data from the country’s health authority. During the height of the pandemic in April, as many as 22 percent of those infected ended up in hospital care.

Hendrik Streeck, head of virology at a research hospital in the German city of Bonn, cautioned that the pandemic should not be judged merely by infection numbers, but instead by deaths and hospitalizations.

“We’ve have reached a phase where the number of infections alone is no longer as meaningful,” Mr. Streeck said.

Much of Europe was unprepared for the arrival of the coronavirus, lacking masks, test kits and other basic equipment. Even nations that came out better than others, like Germany, registered far greater death tolls than Asian countries that were much closer to the source of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, but that reacted more quickly.

National lockdowns helped get the pandemic under control across Europe. But infection rates began rising again over the summer after countries opened up and people, especially the young, resumed socializing, often without adhering to social-distancing guidelines.

A student using hand sanitizer at a school in Berlin last month. In Germany, as in other European countries, young people are overrepresented among the rising cases of infections.Credit…Lena Mucha for The New York Times

Even as infections have been rising, Europeans have returned to work and to school this month, creating more opportunity for the virus to spread.

“We control infection chains better compared to March or April when we were completely powerless,” said Mr. Dab, the former French national health director. “Now the challenge for the government is to find a balance between reviving the economy and protecting people’s health.”

“And it’s not an easy balance,” Mr. Dab added. “They want to reassure people so they’ll go back to work, but at the same time, we have to make them worried so that they’ll keep respecting preventive measures.’’

Among those measures, masks are now widely available across Europe, and governments, for the most part, agree on the need to wear them. Early this year, faced with shortages, the French government discouraged people from wearing masks, saying they did not protect wearers and could even be harmful.

Wearing a face covering has become part of the lives of Europeans, most of whom last March still regarded with suspicion and incomprehension mask-wearing tourists from Asia, where the practice has been widespread for the past two decades.

Instead of applying national lockdowns with little regard to regional differences, the authorities — even in a highly centralized nation like France — have begun responding more rapidly to local hot spots with specific measures.

On Monday, for example, Bordeaux officials announced that, faced with a surge in infections, they would limit private gatherings to 10 people, restrict visits to retirement homes and forbid standing at bars.

In Germany, while the new school year has started with mandatory physical classes around the country, the authorities have warned that traditional events, like carnival or Christmas markets, may have to be curtailed or even canceled. Soccer games in the Bundesliga will continue to be played without fans until at least the end of October.

In Britain, where mask wearing is not especially widespread or strictly enforced, the authorities have tightened the rules on family gatherings in Birmingham, where infections have been rising. In Belgium, people are restricted to limiting their social activity to a bubble of six people.

A street in Birmingham, England, on Monday. The authorities tightened the rules on family gatherings in the city after infections began rising.Credit…Oli Scarff/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In Italy, the government has sealed off villages, hospitals or even migrant shelters to contain emerging clusters. Antonio Miglietta, an epidemiologist who conducted contact tracing in a quarantined building in Rome in June, said that months of battling the virus had helped officials extinguish outbreaks before they got out of control, the way they did in northern Italy this year.

“We got better at it,” he said.

Governments still need to get better at other things.

At the peak of the epidemic, France, like many other European nations, was so desperately short of test kits that many sick people were never able to get tested.

Today, though France carries out a million tests a week, the widespread testing has created delays in getting appointments and results — up to a week in Paris. People can now get tested regardless of their symptoms or the history of their contacts, and officials have not established priority tests that would speed up results for the people at highest risk to themselves and others.

“We could have a more targeted testing policy that would probably be more useful in fighting the virus than what we’re doing now,” Lionel Barrand, president of the Union of Young Medical Biologists, said, adding that the French government should restrict the tests to people with a prescription and engage in targeted screening campaigns to fight the emergence of clusters.

Experts said that French health officials must also greatly improve contact-tracing efforts that proved crucial in reining in the spread of the virus in Asian nations.

Testing in Vénissieux, France, last week. At the peak of the epidemic, France, like many other European nations, was desperately short of test kits.Credit…Jeff Pachoud/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After the end of its two-month lockdown in May, France’s social security system put in place a manual contact-tracing system to track infected people and their contacts. But the system, which relies greatly on the skills and experience of human contact tracers, has produced mixed results.

At the start of the campaign, each infected person gave the contact tracer an average of 2.4 other names, most likely family members. The campaign improved steadily as the number of names rose to more than five in July, according to a recent report by the French health authorities.

But since then, the average figure has fallen gradually to less than three contacts per person, while the number of Covid-19 confirmed cases has increased tenfold in the meantime, rising from a seven-day average of about 800 new cases per day in mid-July to an average of some 8,000 per day currently, according to figures compiled by The New York Times.

At the height of the epidemic, most people in France were extremely critical of the government’s handling of the epidemic. But polls show that a majority now believe that the government will handle a possible second wave better than the first one.

Jérôme Carrière, a police officer who was visiting Paris from his home in Metz, in northern France, said it was a good sign that most people were now wearing masks.

“In the beginning, like all French people, we were shocked and worried,” Mr. Carrière, 55, said, adding that two older family friends had died of Covid-19. “And then, we adjusted and went back to our normal lives.”


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Who Is Paris Hilton, Really?

The New York Times / Ilana Kaplan / Sep 12, 2020

“I built this kind of shield around me and kind of this persona, almost to hide behind,” Paris Hilton said.  Daniel Jack Lyons for The New York Times

Lounging cross-legged on her bed at home in Beverly Hills and wearing a turquoise hoodie, Paris Hilton appeared at ease. There were none of the affectations that have defined her public image for two decades: the flat baby voice, the tiny, shimmering outfits, the faux ditziness, the stance that everything cool was “hot.”

“I built this kind of shield around me and kind of this persona, almost to hide behind, because I’ve been through so much where I just didn’t even want to think about it anymore,” Ms. Hilton, 39, said over Zoom. Behind her stood a towering mirror illuminated by a sea of LED lights that refracted off her platinum hair like diamonds.

Before there were influencers, there was Paris Hilton: a beautiful blank slate of a person onto whom all kinds of ideas and brand sponsorships could be projected. She was the celebrity burnished, if not created, by a sex tape. She was the face of the Sidekick (and the victim of a Sidekick hack that brought more of her personal life into the public eye). She was a reality star, trying her hand at manual labor as a rich person. She recorded music, modeled, appeared at parties, made TV cameos, wrote an advice book. And she was mercilessly criticized, written off as “famous for being famous.”

Regardless of whether that characterization was fair at the time, it seems pretty hard to defend these days. Ms. Hilton spends more than 250 days of the year traveling the world as a D.J., raking in a reported $1 million per gig. She oversees more than 19 product lines, including fragrances, clothing (for humans and pets) and accessories. And so many people are now famous for being famous, she might now seem more venerable pioneer than contemptible fly-by-night.

Paris and Nicky Hilton in 2001. Ron Galella. Ron Galella Collection, via Getty Images
Ms. Hilton in her Beverly Hills backyard.  Daniel Jack Lyons for The New York Times

Now, moreover, she’s ready to talk about the past. On Sept. 14, the documentary “This Is Paris” will be released on YouTube. It aims to crack the facade she created in the aughts, focusing instead on the decade that preceded her fame.

Ms. Hilton said that she gave the director, Alexandra Dean, full creative control over the project. “It was really difficult for me because I’m so used to having so much control and ‘The Simple Life,’ just having everything perfect and edited,” she said. “And with this, I had just to let go of all that control and let them use everything.”

There are moments of opulence in the film — jet-setting around the world, endless racks of gowns and stilettos and closets stacked with jewelry she’s never worn — and she’s quick to remind that she’s “never been photographed in the same thing twice.”

But at the heart of the documentary is trauma, stemming from Ms. Hilton’s years spent in boarding schools for troubled teens. The last one she attended was Provo Canyon School, a psychiatric residential treatment center in Utah, where she would spend 11 months.

“They just assumed it was like a normal boarding school because that’s the way that they portray it to parents and people who are putting their children in these places,” Ms. Hilton said of her parents, Kathy and Rick Hilton (her mother appears in the documentary). Before the making of the film, Ms. Hilton had never told her family about what happened to her.

The night she arrived at Provo, Ms. Hilton recalls in the documentary, she was taken from her bed as if she was being kidnapped. She said she and her peers were routinely given mystery pills, and when Ms. Hilton refused to take them, she would be sent to solitary confinement for sometimes 20 hours at a time without clothing. She also claims emotional, verbal and physical abuse from teachers and administrators. “It was just like living in hell,” Ms. Hilton said.

The school has noted on its website that it changed ownership in 2000, after Ms. Hilton was a student. A representative from Provo said the school does “not condone or promote any form of abuse.” They added that “any and all alleged/suspected abuse is reported to our state regulatory authorities, law enforcement and Child Protective Services immediately as required.”

In the years since, Ms. Hilton has grappled with nightmares and avoided therapy, which played a big part in her residential treatment programs. “From being at Provo and those types of schools, just the therapists in there I felt were just not good people,” she said. “I just have never, ever trusted them.”

The experience broke other forms of trust, too, Ms. Hilton said. In the documentary, she can be seen installing spyware in her house before her boyfriend stays there while she’s out of town.

“That definitely affected me in my relationships because I just didn’t know what real love was, and from being abused, you just get kind of used to it almost where you think it’s normal,” Ms. Hilton said.

Later events reinforced that belief. When a sex tape of her and her ex-boyfriend Rick Salomon was leaked online without her consent in 2003, the footage received widespread attention, and subjected Ms. Hilton to ridicule.

Ms. Hilton and Nicole Richie, her “Simple Life” co-star, arrive at a party for the show in 2004. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Ms. Hilton with Kim Kardashian, her friend and former assistant, and their devices of yore. Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

“To have that come out, such a private moment, and for the whole world to be watching it and laughing like it’s some sort of entertainment, was just traumatizing,” Ms. Hilton said. Still, in some ways, the exposure turbocharged her career as something other than an heiress, leading to reality show gigs and other deals; her friend and former assistant, Kim Kardashian, followed the same path to worldwide fame a few years later.

“Kim and I have been friends since we were little girls and have traveled the world together,” Ms. Hilton said. “I could not be more proud of everything she has accomplished.”

Publicly, Ms. Hilton has not always voiced support for women who have come forward with stories of abuse. But since she told the reporter Irin Carmon, in 2017, that the women who accused President Donald Trump — a family friend — of sexual misconduct were looking for “fame” and “attention,” her perspective has changed.

“I’m happy that there’s been the #MeToo movement where people have completely changed their views on that,” Ms. Hilton said. “But at the start, it was just really unfair for a woman to be treated that way because somebody exposed them.”

She learned to mask her emotions. “In every relationship I’ve always been like, ‘Oh, this is amazing. I’ve never been so happy,’” she said. “It was just something I would just say to the world, even when the worst things in the world were happening to me in my relationships. I didn’t want anyone to know because I didn’t want my brand to be affected.”

Ms. Hilton said that as a teenager she learned to to mask her emotions, a coping mechanism she carried into adulthood. “I didn’t want anyone to know because I didn’t want my brand to be affected,” she said. Daniel Jack Lyons for The New York Times

Originally scheduled to premiere at Tribeca Film Festival in April, “This Is Paris” is one of a handful of celebrity documentaries and docu-series to be released by streaming giants in recent years. Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers have all joined Ms. Hilton in giving an “inside look” at their lives.

Of course, depending how involved celebrities are with their documentaries, a compelling narrative can be a way to build up or defend their public image.

Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s global head of original content, said she doesn’t see these documentaries as a “defense.” “They know that their image is complex, and at some point, they’re ready to share all the complexities of why they’ve made the choices they have,” she said, of the celebrities. “I think to a certain extent it can be considered brave.”

For Ms. Daniels, every documentary YouTube takes on is “a leap of faith” that there’s going to be a “surprise or twist.” “I thought to myself, ‘OK, either this is a really good hook that these producers created because they’re really good producers, in which case maybe they could make it work, or just for real, it’s going to be incredibly compelling,” Ms. Daniels said. She was won over. “I hope the audience is, too, because I think Paris is deserving of that revelation,” she said.

Now, Ms. Hilton hopes to use her brand for good. She wants to expose institutions that administer cruel psychiatric treatment to minors, working with former students who said they had similar experiences to do so. “I’m really going to dedicate a lot of my life to helping make this happen and shutting these places down,” she said.

She’s no longer interested in playing a character, she said. “I’m happy for people to know that I am not a dumb blonde,” she said. “I’m just very good at pretending to be one.”

What the World Can Learn From Life Under Tokyo’s Rail Tracks

Bloomberg / Max Zimmerman / Sep 11, 2020

A bullet train pulls into Yurakucho station. Japan’s first elevated rail was completed nearby in 1910, and the first restaurant owner set up shop below the rail a decade later.
Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg

The spaces beneath elevated railways generally get a bad rap. At least that’s the case in the U.S. and mainland Europe, where they are often considered dark, dangerous and noisy.

In Tokyo, however, the undertracks’ reputation is rather different.

These spaces are more than just storage and parking. They are agglomerations of cozy restaurants and shops that are intimately tied to the identity of certain commercial districts. Perhaps the best-known example is near the business district of Yurakucho, where the latest overhaul of the area’s brick archways opened on Sept. 10. The arches traditionally house a jumble of old-school pubs and tiny eateries illuminated by red paper lanterns; the revamped section will modernize the interior with a walkway lit by floor lamps that guide visitors through zones of dining, retail and nightlife.

Developments outside the city center have expanded the possibilities, too: Workshops, nurseries, college dormitories and medical clinics can all be found under the tracks.

Yurakucho has many traditional izakaya eateries packed together under the tracks.
Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg

Japan’s first elevated rail was completed near Yurakucho in 1910. It was designed to house commercial facilities from the start; the first restaurant owner set up shop below the rail a decade later. As Japan’s economic growth accelerated in the 1950s and 1960s, the rail network boomed. Operators began to raise more trains to help ease congestion, integrating commercial facilities below some of their tracks. Since 1959, 112.2 kilometers (69.7 miles) of ground-level track have been elevated, according to government data.

“Before the war, and after in the 1960s, there was a lot of population and demographic pressure in Tokyo. So any inch of space was really valuable and people were really colonizing everywhere,” said Jorge Almazán, an associate professor at Keio University’s Center for Space and Environment Design Engineering and author of “Emergent Tokyo,” which explores the city’s use of undertrack space.

This vending machine outlet built under the tracks near Akihabara Station maximizes Tokyo’s urban space.
Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg

Japan’s early adoption of undertrack for commercial activities is relatively unusual. In cities like New York and Chicago, railways often had to be built over existing roads leaving local residents complaining of noise, lack of sunlight, pollution and filth. Elevated highways in many U.S. cities face similar criticism, and European cities like Paris encountered the same problems in building elevated rails, with the added issue of preserving the historic architecture around them. While centrally planned, public projects like the Promenade Plantée and New York’s High Line aim to revive these areas, the undertracks were — and still are — largely considered to be dead spaces that divide neighborhoods.

In Tokyo, elevated structures were often built over wider passages or in undeveloped areas outside the city center, leaving the space underneath available for use. Rather than creating a monolithic rail-and-road partition through the city, occupied undertrack spaces remained somewhat permeable and carried less of a stigma.

Student dormitories are tucked under the track between Higashi-Koganei and Musashi-Koganei stations.
Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg

Japan’s early adoption of undertrack for commercial activities is relatively unusual. In cities like New York and Chicago, railways often had to be built over existing roads leaving local residents complaining of noise, lack of sunlight, pollution and filth. Elevated highways in many U.S. cities face similar criticism, and European cities like Paris encountered the same problems in building elevated rails, with the added issue of preserving the historic architecture around them. While centrally planned, public projects like the Promenade Plantée and New York’s High Line aim to revive these areas, the undertracks were — and still are — largely considered to be dead spaces that divide neighborhoods.

In Tokyo, elevated structures were often built over wider passages or in undeveloped areas outside the city center, leaving the space underneath available for use. Rather than creating a monolithic rail-and-road partition through the city, occupied undertrack spaces remained somewhat permeable and carried less of a stigma.

Newly raised lines in Tokyo’s suburbs, however, present similar issues to those in American cities. As of April 2020, 19.5 kilometers of overhead track was under construction with 12.8 kilometers more in the pipeline, according to government data. Many of these projects are located in residential neighborhoods, where rail operators have been less eager to develop the real estate.

“On the outskirts, the undertrack’s image is the same as in America: fragmenting features that are unsafe,” according to Kazuhisa Matsuda, an architect whose latest work includes an undertrack project near Tokyo’s southern border.

In these areas, Tokyo’s conventional model of retailers and restaurants would be unprofitable. Instead, novel uses that draw on local characteristics and resources have sprung up.

When a rail line near Kamata — a neighborhood not far from the city’s Haneda airport — was elevated in 2012, the area beneath the track was initially slated to become parking. Matsuda describes the adjacent road as having little foot traffic, especially after nightfall. “It was not the type of place a woman would want to walk alone. Kamata is not really that safe a place from the start,” he said.

The Koca coworking space.
Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg

So a group of local designers, architects, artists and businessmen including Matsuda proposed leveraging the area’s base of small factories and craftsmen. The result was Koca, a coworking space aimed at connecting creatives with each other and local workshops that can serve their needs.

“Kamata is on the edge of Tokyo so it was a different approach here. The focus was how to develop something that will take root in the local area,” Matsuda said. The undertrack now hosts another factory next to Koca, with plans for more facilities extending to the next station north.

It’s just one example of the practice. Under a stretch of the Chuo Line, which reaches deep into western Tokyo, East Japan Railway Co. has developed not just its own shopping complex but also student dormitories serving nearby universities as well as a nursery, an event space, shared offices, restaurants and public seating. In Nerima Ward, a highly residential area of western Tokyo, Seibu Railway Co. opened a “medical mall” with three specialized clinics and a pharmacy, reducing residents’ need to travel to hospitals for minor issues.

The arches of Yurakucho traditionally house old-school pubs and tiny eateries.
Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg

While Yurakucho’s most recent revamp has been led by owner JR East, key factors for many of Tokyo’s successful undertrack spaces are emptiness and economy. “One of the lessons is that when you have these kind of difficult spaces — these gaps or cracks in the city where somehow public space doesn’t work — let many entrepreneurs in, giving them very low rental prices and giving them freedom,” Almazán said.

“Historically we see that is the case, and they can turn that space into a magnet, even a connector, not a barrier.”

Clashes and arrests as ‘yellow vest’ protests return in France

Al Jazeera / Sep 13, 2020

The French police fired tear gas and arrested more than 250 people in Paris as “yellow vest” protesters returned to the capital’s streets in force for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown.

The “yellow vest” movement, named after motorists’ high-visibility jackets, began in late 2018 in protest against fuel taxes and economic reform, posing a big challenge to President Emmanuel Macron as demonstrations spread across France.

On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the starting points of two authorised marches.

While one cortege set off without incident, the other march was held up as police clashed with groups who left the designated route and set fire to rubbish bins and a car.

Some of the protesters wore black clothes and carried the flag of an anti-fascist movement, suggesting the presence of radical demonstrators dubbed “black blocs” often blamed for violence at street marches in France.

The police arrested 256 people by 6pm (16:00 GMT), many of them for carrying items such as tools that could be used as weapons, including screwdrivers, ice axes and knives.

Protesters face police officers during demonstrations in Paris, France [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]
The return of the protest movement comes as France grapples with a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The country’s daily cases of COVID-19 reached a record high of nearly 10,000 on Thursday.

A day later, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced plans to speed up testing and toughen measures in certain cities as the government seeks to avoid a repeat of the nationwide lockdown earlier this year.

Police called on demonstrators to respect coronavirus measures in Paris, which is among France’s high-risk “red zones” and where it is compulsory to wear a face mask on the street.

On Friday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced slightly tougher rules on how police use controversial rubber-coated bullets and other crowd-control weapons before the marches.

Officers must now ask supervisors for permission to fire the projectiles, which have been responsible for injuries. Jerome Rodrigues emerged as a prominent leader after losing an eye to a police rubber bullet during a protest.

‘Last stand’

Commenting on the relatively low turnout on Saturday, Michael, a 43-year-old protester in the crowd at Place de Wagram, told AFP news agency, “The movement is dead, I’ll say that clearly, but we’re here because we have nothing to lose. This is a kind of last stand.”

Another protester, a 50-year-old civil servant who asked to remain anonymous, said “social and economic robbery” and “our fundamental freedoms increasingly [coming] under attack” drove him out onto the streets.

Pensioners Pascale and Patrick, who had travelled to Paris from Crolles in southeast France, said they were sure “the movement isn’t running out of steam”.

Veterans of demonstrations at traffic roundabouts in provincial towns, the pair said they “don’t want this world for our children and grandchildren, where we’re subjugated by this oligarchy”.

“We’re anti-capitalist, anti-system, former hippies and yellow vests,” they said.

Elsewhere in France, several hundred “yellow vest” protesters gathered in the southwestern city Toulouse in defiance of a ban authorities said had been imposed over coronavirus infection risks.

Police tried to disperse the group with tear gas, a scene matched in Lyon, while people also gathered in Bordeaux and other towns.

“I didn’t back the yellow vests at first but things have only got worse for people in poverty. Nothing’s changed after two years of struggle,” a 53-year-old man calling himself Dodo said at the Toulouse protest.