Thursday, December 05, 2002

Places&Culture File from
NY Times

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 23 — High above the streets on rooftops flat and wide, nearly a dozen sun-gazing contraptions are shedding new light on this city's foggy reputation. Resembling lunar probes on spindly legs, the machines are equipped with sensors that measure solar energy. Readings are transmitted by radio to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, where engineers plot them on a computerized "fog map" of the city. The Solar Energy Monitoring Network, as the rooftop system is known, is the backbone of an unusual effort to transform San Francisco into the country's largest municipal generator of solar power and other renewable energy.

TOKYO— In many countries, it is illegal to smoke indoors, but legal to smoke outdoors. In Tokyo, people light up with abandon in restaurants, taxis and many offices. But now on some congested downtown sidewalks, new red-and-white stencils mark zones where it is illegal to smoke outdoors. Health-conscious Americans might suspect the new rules are an effort to shield nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, or to put a dent in cancer rates. But to Japanese critics, the new outdoor smoking ban suggests that officials in this tidy nation worry more about singed suits than sooty lungs.The new rules, which apply only to premier districts of central Tokyo, are intended not to promote health, but rather to cut the litter of discarded cigarette butts and to reduce damage to clothing on busy sidewalks.

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