Thursday March 21, 2019
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As New Year Comes Around, The World Rings With Celebration

The United Nations issued a somber warning to the world of continued threats of climate change, growing intolerance, geopolitical divisions and inequality, but also expressed "reasons for hope."

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The World Rings in 2019. VOA

Fireworks displays lit up cities across the world Tuesday as people marked the beginning of 2019.

Tens of thousands of people packed New York City’s Times Square where the traditional ball drop took on extra meaning this year in recognizing journalism and free speech.

In another first, New York police used a drone to monitor the crowds. The camera-carrying drone was be added to the arsenal of more than 1,200 fixed video cameras that will be deployed by police.

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Confetti drops over the crowd as the clock strikes midnight during the New Year’s celebration in Times Square as seen from the Marriott Marquis in New York, Jan. 1, 2019. VOA

In Paris, revelers gathered on the Champs-Elysees to watch fireworks, as well as a light show above the Arc de Triomphe, despite continuing antigovernment protests.

In a televised address, French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged Monday the French government “can do better” to help people economically.

In Berlin, residents and tourists enjoyed a huge open-air concert at the Brandenburg Gate with fireworks set off at midnight.

Londoners heard the familiar chime of Big Ben at midnight, even though the famous clock is undergoing renovations and has been disconnected. A specially built electric mechanism was used to power the clock’s hammer. Revelers in London also watched fireworks over the River Thames.

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Fireworks light up the sky around the London Eye wheel to welcome the New Year in London, Britain, Jan. 1, 2019. VOA

Russia ushered in the New Year over several time zones, having started in far eastern Kamchatka.

Fireworks were set off over Moscow’s Red Square, and concerts and light shows were held across the city’s parks. More than 1,000 ice rinks were also opened in the Russian capital for celebrators.

Revelers in Dubai saw fireworks and a colorful light show at the world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa. Elsewhere in the United Arab Emirates, a fireworks display in Ras al-Khaimah reaching nearly 12 kilometers attempted to set a new Guinness World Record.

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Fireworks explode at the Burj Khalifah, said to be the world’s tallest building, on New Year’s Eve to welcome 2019 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 31, 2018. VOA

Australia, New Zealand, and surrounding Pacific Island nations were among the first countries to ring in 2019 with fireworks and other celebrations.

Monday evening thunderstorms threatened the fireworks show in Sydney, but an estimated 1 million people gathered around various points in Australia’s largest city to witness the annual show.

Over 400 couples in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta rang in the New Year by participating in a mass wedding ceremony amid tight security.

Thousands of spectators gathered in the South Korean capital of Seoul for a laser show, as well as a fireworks display at the city’s COEX Mall, as a traditional bell-tolling ceremony rang in 2019 at City Hall.

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People attend a ceremony to celebrate the new year in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 1, 2019. VOA

In Japan, many locals went to temples to celebrate the New Year, while others attended an exhibition match between retired U.S. boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather and Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa — a multimillion dollar fight outside of Tokyo that Mayweather said “was all about entertainment.”

Also Read: The New Year’s Eve Ball To Drop For Honoring Journalism

The United Nations issued a somber warning to the world of continued threats of climate change, growing intolerance, geopolitical divisions and inequality, but also expressed “reasons for hope.” (VOA)

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South Korea Installs Laser Beams at a Road Crossing to Warn ‘Smartphone Zombies’ of Traffic

In addition to red, yellow and blue LED lights on the pavement, "smombies" - smartphone zombies - will be warned by laser beam projected from power poles and an alert sent to the phones by an app that they are about to step into traffic

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A researcher demonstrates an application that gives an alert to a user distracted by using smart phone while crossing a zebra crossing, in Ilsan, South Korea, March 12, 2019. VOA

A city in South Korea, which has the world’s highest smartphone penetration rate, has installed flickering lights and laser beams at a road crossing to warn “smartphone zombies” to look up and drivers to slow down, in the hope of preventing accidents.

The designers of the system were prompted by growing worry that more pedestrians glued to their phones will become casualties in a country that already has some of the highest road fatality and injury rates among developed countries.

State-run Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) believes its system of flickering lights at zebra crossings can warn both pedestrians and drivers.

In addition to red, yellow and blue LED lights on the pavement, “smombies” – smartphone zombies – will be warned by laser beam projected from power poles and an alert sent to the phones by an app that they are about to step into traffic.

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A warning sign is projected next to a zebra crossing in Ilsan, South Korea, March 12, 2019. VOA

“Increasing number of smombie accidents have occurred in pedestrian crossings, so these zombie lights are essential to prevent these pedestrian accidents,” said KICT senior researcher Kim Jong-hoon.

The multi-dimensional warning system is operated by radar sensors and thermal cameras and comes with a price tag of 15 million won ($13,250) per crossing.

Drivers are alerted by the flashing lights, which have shown to be effective 83.4 percent of the time in the institute’s tests involving about 1,000 vehicles.

In 2017, more than 1,600 pedestrians were killed in auto related accidents, which is about 40 percent of total traffic fatalities, according to data from the Traffic Accident Analysis System.

South Korea has the world’s highest smartphone penetration rate, according to Pew Research Center, with about 94 percent of adults owning the devices in 2017, compared with 77 percent in the United States and 59 percent in Japan.

ALSO READ: US Government Working with Intel and Cray to Develop Nation’s Fastest Computer by 2021

For now, the smombie warning system is installed only in Ilsan, a suburban city about 30 km northwest of the capital, Seoul, but is expected to go nationwide, according to the institute.

Kim Dan-hee, a 23-year-old resident of Ilsan, welcomed the system, saying she was often too engrossed in her phone to remember to look at traffic.

“This flickering light makes me feel safe as it makes me look around again, and I hope that we can have more of these in town,” she said. (VOA)