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Roll up! Roll up! For a freak show starring 'Koizumi's children'
Japan Times Oct. 9, 2005

Adding salt to its wounds, it was reported recently that the Democratic Party of Japan paid 129 million yen to the American public relations firm Fleischmann-Hillard to buff its image in 2004. Though it might have helped in last year's Upper House election, the company's strategy didn't seem to work so well at last month's general election, which the DPJ lost big time to the Liberal Democratic Party.

The LDP itself spent 2.7 billion yen for PR services in 2004, but before you say "worth every penny," think carefully about what it was that won this election for them. It wasn't Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's one-note message of postal reform, but rather a combination of the so-called Koizumi Theater made up of media-propelled candidates and the peculiar arithmetic used to determine winners in national polls. As economics Professor Masaru Kaneko said on at least one TV talk show last week, the LDP attracted the kind of people who usually don't vote by fielding the kind of people who usually don't run.

What you get is the kind of lawmakers who usually don't make laws. This is not an anomaly. Anyone who pays attention to the political situation in Japan understands that the National Assembly doesn't guide the country's policies. The politicians are led by the bureaucracy, which writes the bills that get passed and then implements them, and that includes Koizumi's beloved postal privatization plan. The job of national politicians is to make sure their constituents get something out of this arrangement. In return the politicians can get re-elected and enjoy a career.

Political rookies Candidates without political experience are nothing new. But in the past, the celebrities who were recruited by the LDP to run for national office at least had their celebrity. They started out well-known, which is half the battle in an election campaign. Koizumi's recruitment of what the media termed "assassins" to run against LDP "traitors" (party members who voted against his postal privatization plan) worked the same way. The media covered these candidates extensively and as a result more people voted.

Also, the LDP garnered more votes than expected for its proportional representation candidates, where you simply vote for the party and the seats are allocated to candidates on a roster drawn up by the said party. Those candidates were not only not politicians, they were not even famous.

Cult of personality What we get are the 83 new LDP Diet members dubbed the "Koizumi children." Basically a cult of personality, these rookies need a manual to know what to say to the media, and applauded ecstatically during the prime minister's Sept. 26 policy speech. New DPJ president Seiji Maehara said afterward that the 83 "clapped in places where you're not supposed to clap, but then that seems to be their role."

Some members of this group, having exerted no effort to get elected, are said to have enjoyed a "windfall" (tanabota), while their election has provided the press with its own windfall.

Shukan Bunshun ran a feature that graded all 83 newcomers in terms of their "Koizumi-do" (level of loyalty to the prime minister), "senkyo-ryoku" (how much their victory was based on factors that had nothing to do with them), and "shiroto-do" (level of inexperience).

Shukan Shincho zeroed in on the two most controversial "children."

Satsuki Katayama is portrayed as a haughty prima donna who bristles at suggestions she's an amateur. Katayama spent 23 years as a bureaucrat in the Finance Ministry and knows her way around the Diet in Nagatacho. "Everybody just asks me elementary questions," she snapped at reporters. "You people have to study more." She has a point, but Shincho and other media play up what they see is her arrogance, implying that she can now look down on former colleagues who rose higher in the ministry than she did while she was there.

'Weirdo' The other new lawmaker, labeled a "weirdo," by Shukan Shincho is Taizo Sugimura, the 26-year-old Hokkaido native who first used the word tanabota to describe his victory. Sugimura was working as a clerical temp when he stumbled on the web page of the LDP, which was looking for candidates. He signed up on a whim, becoming 35th on the LDP proportional list from the South Kanto bloc.

It was like winning the lottery, and Sugimura reacted accordingly. Informed that his salary would be 25 million yen a year, the underachiever talked about buying a BMW. On camera, he literally became bug-eyed with excitement when he realized he could take green cars on bullet trains for free and gain entrance to ryotei, those expensive, exclusive restaurants where politicians make deals.

LDP bigwigs reacted negatively, and it's clear from their reaction that they were less concerned with Sugimura's lack of civic conscience than with the possibility that he might blow it for the rest of them. "I don't go to ryotei so often," said LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe.

Sugimura's Sept. 27 press conference, where he apologized for his remarks, was packed, and the reporters got more than they could hope for. The novice lawmaker was humble and hilarious, and the room rocked with laughter at his seemingly disingenuous answers. There are those who think Sugimura's antics hurt the LDP, but as an anonymous LDP staff member told Asahi Shimbun, those antics have kept the DPJ's Maehara off the morning news shows.

'Artless candor' It's important to remember that it was the morning news shows that elected the 83 children in the first place. A few commentators have said that Sugimura will be good for the Diet, since his artless candor is the kind of thing that can shine a light in the dark corners of national politics. But isn't that the job of the media itself? Sugimura's press conference was attended by 150 people while LDP honcho Mikio Aoki (chairman of the LDP's House of Councilors caucus) was testifying before the Tokyo District Court that he didn't remember receiving a bribe from the Japan Dental Association. Some things are more important than others.

Fighting Fraud in Afghanistan's Elections

KABUL -- Afghanistan's presidential election next week is proving to be a complicated exercise in democracy. A raging insurgency threatens to close voting centers. Some of the 38 candidates maintain ties to armed militias. Others have threatened violence if they lose. And reports of widespread fraud endanger the poll's credibility.

It is Grant Kippen's job to keep the process honest. Mr. Kippen heads the Electoral Complaints Commission, an independent body given the task of receiving complaints about candidates, auditing the process for fraud, and, when necessary, imposing sanctions on violators to try to ensure the vote is as credible as possible.

"It's a challenge, an enormous challenge," Mr. Kippen says. "We expect thousands of complaints and allegations by Election Day. You do your best given the circumstances."

The commission, established in 2005, grew out of the experience of the 2004 Afghan presidential elections, when politicians complained that there was no independent body to deal with accusations of vote stealing and ballot stuffing. It is wholly separate from the Independent Elections Commission, the institution that is organizing and conducting the Aug. 20 polls.

Western officials say the United Nations-funded complaints commission, with nearly 270 people in Kabul and offices in each of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, will be key in trying to ensure the election's success. A vote marred by fraud and irregularities would be a setback in the drive to show the country's political institutions are making progress.

Mr. Kippen, a 54-year-old, mild-mannered native of Ottawa, Canada, is prepared for the role, having spent decades working with political parties and elections. He was an activist with the Canadian Liberal Party, and later worked in the prime minister's office.

In recent years, he was country director for the National Democratic Institute in Afghanistan, a nonprofit organization created by the U.S. government. His work in the last presidential elections caught the eye of U.N. officials, who nominated him to head up the complaints commission in 2005.

"The complaints range from serious allegations of human-rights abuses to cases that have nothing to do with elections," he says. "Most, however, involve the misuse of government resources."

The commission weighs complaints in light of the law governing elections. For example, candidates can't have dual citizenship or ties to illegal militias.

So far, the commission has barred 59 candidates from running for president or for provincial-council seats, 56 of them because of ties to illegally armed groups. The commission also has levied fines: One of President Hamid Karzai's running mates, Karim Khalili, was fined $1,400 for using a government helicopter to attend a campaign rally. Other common infractions include failing to declare campaign finances or holding government offices -- except the presidency -- while campaigning. The complaints are usually brought by members of the public or rival political parties.

Such a process is necessary to keep potentially explosive situations in check, Mr. Kippen says. For instance, the commission is investigating a statement from the camp of Mr. Karzai's chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah, that threatened armed opposition if Mr. Karzai won.

"While there are serious complaints, often we get bogged down by less-serious ones because the public doesn't understand the nature of the commission," Mr. Kippen adds. In parliamentary elections a few years ago, a man lodged a complaint because a candidate ran off with his wife.

On Election Day, Mr. Kippen expects most complaints to be serious. Watchdog groups documented many cases of fraud in the voter-registration process. The Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan, an independent body that Mr. Kippen helped to found, documented irregularities in 85% of the registration centers in one phase of the process. The commission is training its members to spot fraud by checking for proper ID cards and ensuring that voters have their fingers inked to prevent double voting.

Some say the commission can't be truly impartial because it relies on the government for many important decisions. For instance, it relies on the findings of a government body headed by Mr. Khalili, Mr. Karzai's vice-presidential candidate, to determine whether a candidate has ties to an illegally armed group.

"President Karzai has too much power over that process," says Akbar Bai, a presidential candidate who was disqualified because of alleged ties to such groups.

Electoral law also bars candidates who have committed human-rights violations. Human-rights groups have amassed evidence some candidates were involved in violations, but the commission hasn't disqualified any candidate on those grounds. Instead of making an independent assessment, it relies on findings of the government, despite the fact that many powerful figures in the government have been accused of violations themselves, Mr. Bai says.

Jandad Spinghar, of the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan, says the commission often doesn't respond to detailed allegations of violations that his agency provides.

"We only have limited capacity to deal with all of these things," Mr. Kippen says. He adds, however, that Afghan democracy is slowly moving in the right direction. "If we can get people to understand that we are building a mechanism for the future," he says, "where one day people will resolve disputes by filing complaints and having debates, instead of trading bullets, we will have done our job."

David Wallechinsky Gives His Answers to Readers’ Questions (Part II)
Ney York Times Olympics Blogs

Q: I collect philatelic material relating to the Olympics, and several years ago at a stamp show was shown two postcards emanating from Japan, dating roughly 1939/40; the picture side of the postcards showed Japanese passenger liners, and the message side had a legend announcing the 1940 Olympics as being in Tokyo. Can you fill in any of that history of how the Olympics might have gone to Tokyo that year? — Johann

DW: On July 31, 1936, the I.O.C. awarded the 1940 Olympics to Tokyo. Japan soon became immersed in a war with China, and on July 16, 1938, Tokyo withdrew as hosts. The IOC re-awarded the Games to Helsinki, but the spread of World War II forced the cancellation of the 1940 Olympics altogether.

League Adoption of Stimson Formula in Manchukuo
League of Nations Chronology 1933

February 24, 1933

The League of Nations Assembly approved the Lytton Report and adopted the Stimson formula of non-recognition of the Manchukuo government. The League also called on the Japanese to end their military presence in Manchuria.

Aso seeks 'amakudari' ban in '09
New Cabinet secretariat bureau to handle civil servant management under four-year plan
Feb. 4, 2009 Japan Times

Prime Minister Taro Aso said Tuesday he plans by year's end to effectively ban ministries and agencies from being go-betweens in finding "amakudari" and "watari" jobs for their retiring officials.

The government meanwhile said a new bureau to be established at the Cabinet secretariat in April 2010 will assume the personnel functions of administrative agencies now handled by the National Personnel Authority.

In a road map approved by a Cabinet task force earlier in the day, the government set a three-year transition period through 2011 before banning amakudari and watari. But Aso moved the schedule up, telling the House of Representatives Budget Committee, "I would like to create a government ordinance to ban it by the end of this year."

Amakudari, often deemed a source of corruption, is the practice of senior bureaucrats landing postretirement jobs at entities related to the sectors they formerly supervised.

Watari is the practice of retired bureaucrats landing successive posts in semigovernmental bodies for short stints and walking away from each with a lucrative retirement package.

In deciding on the envisaged transfer of authority over civil servants during the task force meeting, the government brushed aside protests from the NPA.

The transfer is a key part of the four-year road map for reforming the national public service system. The government plans to submit bills in March to achieve the goals.

The road map involves the government launching a new public service personnel system in 2011 with an eye to formally abolishing amakudari.

"We would like to work hard on reforming the public service system," Aso said at the task force meeting, telling his ministers to make every effort to proceed with the reforms presented in the road map.

He asked them to work out the areas in which the government remains at odds with the personnel authority.

The authority is the independent administrative commission that advises the prime minister and the Diet on central government civil servants, notably recruitment and salaries.

NPA President Masahito Tani, who attended the meeting, expressed opposition to the decision.

He has said that transferring authority to the Cabinet side, which employs bureaucrats, could violate the rights of employees and lack fairness.

The road map was initially supposed to be adopted last Friday, but no meeting was held because Tani boycotted the proceedings.

Aso apparently decided on the transfer despite the backlash from the authority because there is growing concern that a prolonged row inside the government would undermine his leadership.

"It is unfortunate that the government could not gain full understanding from the authority," at the task force meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said.

Under the road map, the Cabinet personnel and administrative bureau would integrate functions of such ministries and agencies as the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Cabinet secretariat, as well as the authority.

In the bureau, the post of national strategy officer will be created in 2010 to serve as an aide to the prime minister, and the job of political affairs officer will be established to assist Cabinet ministers.

On ways to eradicate amakudari, the reform plan would ban every government ministry and agency from playing a mediating role in finding jobs for retiring officials after the new public service personnel system is put in place in 2011, although Aso hopes to effectively have the practice banned by year's end.

Diet extension gives Aso breathing space
Analysts split on when he will call election
Japan Times June 4, 2009

Now that the Diet session has been extended until July 28, the spotlight has shifted back to Prime Minister Taro Aso as politicians and analysts try to predict when he will dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election.

Political insiders and commentators speculate that Aso, seeking a ratings boost by appearing on the global stage, will not dissolve the house before the July 8-10 Group of Eight summit in Italy. The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election on July 12 will probably provide enough reason for a further delay.

Some analysts say the general election, which must be called by September, could be held as early as Aug. 2, while others think Aso may try to push it back to the end of August or early September. A mid-August race seems unlikely because it would conflict with the Bon holiday.

"Aso's real intention is to go to the summit," said Kenji Yamaoka, the Democratic Party of Japan's Diet affairs chief. "The schedule is going to be basically planned so that Aso will be able to remain in power for as long as he can, and hold the election on Aug. 30 or Sept. 6."

As always, Aso is playing his cards close to his vest.

"Regarding the dissolution of the house, I will decide after taking various factors into consideration," he said earlier this week, refusing to elaborate.

With the 55-day extension of the Diet session, Aso and the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc have gained both more time to deal with a raft of pending legislation as well as breathing space on when to call the election.

The extra budget for fiscal 2009, one of Aso's key goals, cleared the Diet last week, but related bills are still being deliberated in both Diet chambers.

Other pending legislation includes the antipiracy bill that would allow the Maritime Self-Defense Force to protect ships of any nationality from pirate attack, and the contentious revision of the organ transplant law.

"I will devote all of my energy to see that the remaining bills are approved," Aso said this week.

Although the most likely scenario is for Aso to dissolve the Lower House during the current session, it is also possible he may convene an extraordinary session in late August or early September if his ratings remain unfavorable.

There is no official rule against the prime minister dissolving the house when the Diet is not in session, but that would be unprecedented.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, however, called the current session "the final" one before the election, suggesting Aso will dissolve the Lower House before July 28.

Kazuhisa Kawakami, a political science professor at Meiji Gakuin University, said it probably won't make much difference when Aso calls the election because there's little chance he will come up with a last-minute plan to attract voters.

The best time Aso could have called the election was last October or November, just after he became prime minister, according to Kawakami.

"The right to dissolve the Lower House is a weapon only the prime minister wields," he said, suggesting that Aso, by not calling the election, may come off looking as if he blew his chance.

Kawakami said he foresees the support rate for the Aso Cabinet tumbling as the public ire shifts away from the DPJ and the funding scandal that ousted Ichiro Ozawa as its president, and back to Aso and his apparent leadership shortcomings.

Aso was dealt a couple of setbacks in May.

The first involved his friend and political ally Yoshitada Konoike, the former deputy chief Cabinet secretary, who allegedly used his lawmaker's special rail pass for an extramarital tryst. Aso refused to fire him, but Konoike was eventually forced to step down anyway.

More recently, Aso's plan to split the health ministry failed following strong protests from within his own party. In the end, the prime minister, often criticized for policy flip-flops, was once again grilled for backtracking and claiming he had never given orders to divide the ministry in the first place.

"People's attention is going to shift from the DPJ to Aso's policy flip-flops and the way he protects his allies," Kawakami said. "Aso's lack of leadership is going to stand out once again . . . and while it may not be as strong as (before), I feel that public sentiment is leaning toward a change in government power."

The DPJ has so far benefited from Ozawa's exit as party leader and replacement by Yukio Hatoyama, who served as secretary general.

In a Kyodo News survey immediately after Hatoyama was elected DPJ president on May 16, 44 percent of respondents said they supported him as the next prime minister, while Aso was backed by only 32 percent. In the same survey, 25.2 percent said they would support the LDP in the election, while 30 percent declared they would vote for the DPJ.

This represented a dramatic turnaround for the DPJ, which had been bleeding away public support after the arrest and indictment of Ozawa's chief aide over the scandal involving allegedly illegal contributions from Nishimatsu Construction Co.

"People see Hatoyama as Ozawa's puppet, but the majority are satisfied with the fact that Ozawa has stepped back," said Hiyasuki Miyake, a political commentator. "People were mainly critical of Ozawa, but he has stepped into the shadows for the time being."

Miyake said the public is tired of the old LDP politics and looking for a change.

"People are just sick of the LDP and think a change in government may be good," Miyake said. "Things may not change for the better immediately even if the DPJ takes over . . . but the dominant public opinion is that there should be a change."

Cleaning up Diet, inside and out
Asahi Shimbun August 22,2009

The Diet building is undergoing a facelift while campaigning for the Aug. 30

Lower House election gets into high gear. In the Lower House plenary session hall, the 480 seats are being reupholstered for the first time in 39 years.

Scaffolding covers the granite exterior, which is being scoured clean with high-pressure spray. Window panes are also being replaced in the parliament building's first such cleanup since it was completed in 1936. The exterior work is expected to continue until the end of the year, while the inside work in the plenary session hall will be finished by late September.

Aso sets Aug. 30 poll after metro drubbing
Lower House to be dissolved by next week July 13, 2009

The House of Representatives will be dissolved next week and a general election held on Aug. 30, Prime Minister Taro Aso said Monday, a day after the ruling bloc lost its majority in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly poll.

The decision was unveiled and agreed upon at a liaison meeting involving Cabinet ministers and the top officials of the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc Monday afternoon, coalition sources said.

Aso initially wanted the general election on Aug. 8, but LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda and New Komeito leader Akihiro Ota pushed him to reconsider his plan, the sources said.

Aso was quoted as saying by the sources that he will "seek the people's mandate after (seeing through) important bills" in the ongoing Diet session.

Aso was apparently referring to bills to amend the Organ Transplant Law and a special measure to enable inspections of North Korean cargo vessels in line with a U.N. resolution. The bill to revise the transplant law was enacted later Monday with approval by the House of Councilors.

The Democratic Party of Japan won a landslide victory in Sunday's metro assembly election, taking over as the No. 1 force from the LDP.

The LDP, for which Aso serves as president, lost not only its leading position in the assembly for the first time in 40 years but also lost the decisive majority it has held with New Komeito.

On Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura called the metro election results "grave" for the ruling bloc but denied Aso would immediately be called to account for the drubbing.

"Although it was a local election, we must receive this outcome solemnly as a ruling party," Kawamura told reporters. "But the outcome does not immediately bring into question Prime Minister Aso's responsibility."

But it is still uncertain whether the loss, along with the ruling bloc-backed candidate's defeat in the July 5 Shizuoka gubernatorial election, will fuel the growing fire within the LDP to oust Aso before next week's Lower House dissolution.

Whether Aso can keep the mounting resignation calls at bay despite his move to dissolve the house and call the snap election in late August will be the main focus this week.

Norihiko Narita, president of Surugadai University in Saitama Prefecture, said public criticism will only worsen if the LDP switches leaders again — Aso is the fourth prime minister since the last general election in September 2005 — and the party faces a no-win situation without a Tokyo assembly majority.

"Losing the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly (spells) a disastrous defeat for the LDP," Narita said. "It will be hell" regardless of whether the LDP keeps Aso at the helm.

The DPJ scooped up 54 seats, while the LDP won only 38 and New Komeito 23.

"The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly members are the victims of the situation at the national level," LDP lawmaker Katsuei Hirasawa said at party headquarters in Chiyoda Ward. "I feel sorry for them."

While Sunday's election was viewed as a preliminary battle for the Lower House campaign, for Tokyo residents it was a chance to hand down an indirect judgment on hawkish Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.

Key issues included the ailing lender Shinginko Tokyo, Ishihara's pet project that lost more than ¥100 billion in its first three years after opening in April 2005, and the plan to move the popular Tsukiji fish market from Chuo Ward to a highly toxic area in Koto Ward.

Ishihara also is keen on Tokyo hosting the 2016 Olympics and has set aside ¥400 billion to pay for it.

A total of 221 candidates, including 52 women, vied for the 127 seats in the metropolitan assembly. Voter turnout was an unusually high 54.49 percent.

The LDP lost many of the 48 seats it held before the election, despite being the premier force in the assembly since 1969. The DPJ, on the other hand, added significantly to its 34 seats.

New Komeito, which is backed by Soka Gakkai, Japan's largest lay Buddhist organization, gained one seat to 23.

Surugadai University's Narita said the results will impact the general election.

"This Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly race is the barometer for the upcoming general election," he said. "And no other general election since the LDP was established (in 1955) has been the object of this much attention because the people will be choosing which party they want to rule Japan."

At a polling station in Shibuya Ward, a 62-year-old man who didn't want his name used, said he voted for the DPJ candidate because he thought she gave a good speech.

He also linked the metropolitan assembly race with the upcoming national election.

"Give the DPJ a chance to manage the government, as they've been repeatedly saying that they will cut waste," he said, adding that the ruling bloc has made too many wasteful budgetary allocations.

In Shinagawa Ward, a 35-year-old man who identified himself as Sugimoto also said his vote went to the DPJ.

"I have to admit I haven't really been following what each (party) has been saying, but I just didn't want to vote for the LDP," said Sugimoto, who came to the polling station with his wife and 2-year-old daughter.

He said the LDP's poor performance at the national level affected his choice in the metropolitan election.

Possibly to Aso's relief, however, others said they see local politics and national politics as separate.

A 72-year-old retired school teacher at the Shinagawa polling station said the LDP's dubious standing in national politics did not affect his vote in the Tokyo election.

"Although the LDP is in a dire state in national politics, the Tokyo election is a different matter. I voted for the LDP because I like the way things have been generally in the last few years, and there's no reason to change my opinion," he said.

Political analysts and insiders say Aso will have an extremely difficult time controlling his party and keeping his position.

The DPJ, meanwhile, was set on submitting a vote of no confidence and a censure motion against Aso in both the Lower and Upper houses as early as Monday afternoon. A censure motion is not legally binding, but it was likely to win approval in the opposition-controlled Upper House, which could bring most deliberations in the chamber to a screeching halt.

The binding vote of no confidence, on the other hand, was likely to be rejected in the Lower House, where the ruling LDP-New Komeito bloc still holds a comfortable majority.

"I am not sure what the justifiable reason for the submission of a vote of no confidence would be, but the Aso Cabinet has steadily achieved satisfactory results through various policies, including economic measures, and the ruling coalition will stick together and reject it," stressed Kawamura, the government's top spokesman.

The DPJ, however, has its own problems stemming from party President Yukio Hatoyama's fundraising scandal. Hatoyama recently admitted his political funds management body reported ¥22 million in donations from dead people or from people who deny making any contributions.

Although ruling bloc lawmakers happily note that the scandal is a "body blow" to the DPJ and has triggered public criticism, it does not appear to be doing much damage.

North Korea to Free 4 Detained Fishermen, South Says
Bloomberg August 28, 2009

North Korea said it will release four South Korean fishermen detained after their vessel strayed across a maritime border, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

North Korea will hand over the fishing boat 800 Yeonan and crew members at 5 p.m. local time today, the ministry said in an e-mailed statement last night.

“Albeit belated, the government thinks it’s good that North moved to return our vessel and fishermen,” the statement said. “Such an incident should not be repeated again.”

The fishing boat was seized on July 30 after crossing into North Korean waters when its satellite navigation system malfunctioned. North Korea said on Aug. 1 that the boat had “illegally intruded” into its territorial waters, and a relevant institution was conducting investigation into it.

Relations began improving between the two Koreas after former U.S. President Bill Clinton traveled to Pyongyang and won the release of two detained American journalists on Aug. 5. North Korea then freed a South Korean worker it had detained for more than four months and sent a delegation to Seoul to pay respects after the death of former President Kim Dae Jung.

The two Koreas also agreed yesterday to hold reunions for separated families on Sept. 26 to Oct. 1 at Mount Geumgang.

Massive wildfire near Athens nearly put out
Associated Press August 26, 2009

With a wildfire contained after raging for days near Athens, the Greek government faced a different kind of firestorm Tuesday as opposition parties and media lambasted its response to the blaze as inadequate.

Firefighters patrolled smoldering areas north and east of the capital Tuesday, guarding against flareups while assessing the damage.

At least 150 homes have been damaged, officials said, while thousands of hectares of pine forest, olive grove, brush and farmland have been destroyed. Experts warned it would take generations to replace the forests, and that many were burnt beyond the hope of natural regrowth.

It was the most destructive blaze in decades in the Attica region, and the worst in Greece since the 2007 wildfires that burned for more than two months and killed 76 people while laying waste 275,000 hectares (679,500 acres).

Officials have not said how the fire was started Friday night. Hundreds of forest blazes plague Greece every summer and some are set intentionally — often by unscrupulous land developers or animal farmers seeking to expand their grazing land.

Main opposition Pasok party leader George Papandreou called the devastation "a crime."

"This destruction is totally inexcusable because it could have been avoided," Papandreou said. "It would have been avoided had a lesson been learned from (the fires of) 2007."

Papandreou accused the government of failing to coordinate its response, not taking decisive action against rogue developers and not making proper use of volunteers.

Throughout the four-day fight, volunteers tried to beat back the flames with pine branches, buckets of water and garden hoses, while several local mayors were sharply critical of the help they received from the government.

The conservative government defended its effort in fighting the fire, which involved water-dropping aircraft from Italy, Cyprus and France. Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said the effort had been "well-coordinated."

The government said Tuesday it would provide financial aid to the owners of legally built homes that were destroyed or damaged in the fires.

Greek newspapers said, however, that the government had learned nothing from the 2007 wildfires, and had failed to improve fire protection measures and equipment from two years ago.

"Fatal errors and omissions," the conservative daily Kathimerini said in a front-page headline. "The same mistakes were repeated all over ... lack of coordination, a faulty assessment of the situation, delays and infighting."

Opposition papers were even more critical. The daily Eleftherotypia headlined one story on the fires with "The Criminal State." Another daily Ta Nea wrote "It's the pine trees' fault!" — a headline mocking Monday's statement by Antonaros that said "Pine trees may be beautiful but they impede firefighting efforts."

The fire broke out Friday night in a mountainous area near the town of Marathon — site of one of ancient history's most famous battlegrounds.

For days a pall of smoke hung over Athens, cloaking capital in an eerie brown half-light. Most of Mount Penteli, which separates Athens from the Marathon plain, was scorched to its 1,109-meter (3,638-foot) peak.

Before firefighters managed to contain the flames Monday, some 21,000 hectares (51,890 acres) of pine forest, olive grove and farmland had been destroyed, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.

Some 500 firefighters, assisted by 300 soldiers, patrolled the area Tuesday, a firefighting spokesman said. From the air, three planes and one helicopter were dropping water on the remaining flames, after 19 aircraft involved Monday unleashed some 14,000 tons of water on the Athens blaze.

A fire was still burning Tuesday near villages on Evia island, east of the capital, and another to the northwest near the coastal town of Porto Germeno was under partial control, the spokesman said.

Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga said the government had been "ineffective and disorganized" in responding to what she claimed was an organized move by land speculators.

"The government must account for ... the lack of a master plan, the delay in acquiring adequate equipment to fight the fires from the air and the lack of trained personnel."

Mink Run Amok After Greek Fur Farm Escape
SKY NEWS August 13, 2009

A Greek town has been battling an invasion by thousands of mink set loose from two fur farms by suspected activists, the mayor has said.

Some 10,000 of the carnivorous mammals descended on the northern community of Askio on Sunday, raiding chicken and rabbit pens, mayor Vassilis Patras told reporters.

The town mobilised fur farmers to round them up but about 3,000 are still unaccounted for, he said.

"These are dangerous predators that can kill even small sheep - there won't be a single small animal left in the area, if they're not recaptured," Mr Patras said.

Reports in Greece said a four-year-old girl was bitten on the leg.

A large number of mink have ended up dead on the nearby Egnatia Odos motorway, Mr Patras added.

Activists calling themselves Corvus Revengis (Crows of Revenge) are suspected of being responsible for the animals' release.

The group carried out a similar operation in neighbouring Siatista in December 2008.

At the time, the activists said in an online statement that the mink were being kept in "hell holes" under miserable conditions of captivity and flayed alive.

In landslide, DPJ wins over 300 seats
LDP crushed; Hatoyama set to take power

The Democratic Party of Japan won the Lower House election by a landslide Sunday, grabbing more than 300 seats in the 480-seat chamber.

The victory by the main opposition party will end more than half a century of almost uninterrupted rule by the Liberal Democratic Party. It will also usher in DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama, 62, as the new prime minister by mid-September.

The DPJ-led opposition camp secured 340 seats against just 140 for the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc. In the opposition camp, the DPJ alone had 308.

Flush with victory, DPJ executives started full-fledged preparations for launching a new administration in the evening, party sources said, adding that talks were also planned with its two allies — the Social Democratic Party and Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party) — on forming a coalition government.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Taro Aso said he will step down as LDP president to "take responsibility" for his party's defeat. An election to pick his successor as LDP chief will be held soon, he said.

LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda also said on NHK the party's top three executives have all told Aso they plan to resign.

"We'd like to straightly face the severe results. We will search our souls and start preparing for the next election," Hosoda said, adding that the LDP will overhaul its policies to gain more support.

The LDP also lost some big names in single-seat races, including former Foreign Ministers Nobutaka Machimura and Taro Nakayama, as well as Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano and former Finance chief Shoichi Nakagawa.

However, Machimura and Yosano regained their seats in proportional representation.

New Komeito suffered even worse, with party chief Akihiro Ota and heavyweights Kazuo Kitagawa and Tetsuzo Fuyushiba all defeated in their single-seat districts. They didn't "insure" themselves by putting their names on the party's list of proportional-representation candidates.

DPJ deputy chief Ichiro Ozawa declined comment before the poll results were complete but said "there is nothing (for voters) to worry" about concerning an impending change in government.

"We'd like to steadily implement what we have promised to the nation," Ozawa told NHK.

Pre-election media polls showed the DPJ leading the LDP thanks to strong populist tail winds propelled in part by frustration with years of stagnation and mismanagement under the LDP.

As many as 1,374 candidates, including a record 229 women, competed for seats in the 480-member chamber — 300 in single-seat districts and 180 in the 11 proportional representation blocks nationwide.

Due to strong voter interest, voter turnout was estimated to have reached 69.29 percent, exceeding the 67.51 percent in the previous general election in 2005.

A record 13.98 million people, or 13.4 percent of all eligible voters, cast early ballots.

Most of the nearly 51,000 polling stations opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 8 p.m.

The DPJ, which had just 115 seats before the election, secured 308.

The LDP, in contrast, captured as few as 119, a shocking decline from its 300 seats before the race. New Komeito won 21 seats, far short of the 31 seats it had before the election.

The LDP's fall from power was only its second since it was founded in 1955. It was out of power for about 11 months between 1993 and 1994.

After campaigning officially began Aug. 18, Aso made clear his priority was to stimulate the economy, saying the economy is only halfway through its recovery.

He argued against giving a popular mandate to the DPJ on the grounds that the opposition party tends to waver on national security matters, and that his LDP is the only party responsible enough to govern.

The DPJ's Hatoyama promised to up support to households, saying a DPJ-led government will "cut waste created in bureaucrat-reliant politics and reorganize the budget in such a way as to spend money on what's really important."

The change in the Lower House will clear the legislative deadlock in the Diet, which has plagued the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc for the past two years, when the less-powerful Upper House came under control of the opposition.

Campaigning effectively began July 21, when Aso, 68, dissolved the Lower House. Since then, parties had pitched their policies to voters based on their campaign platforms.

In its platform, the DPJ pledges to cut wasteful spending, offer cash to households and keep the 5 percent consumption tax intact for the next four years, the duration of the term for new Lower House lawmakers.

But its big-budget policies, like the monthly child allowance to families, have been criticized as lacking specifics about sources of funding.

Aso was widely expected to call the poll soon after taking office last September after two of his immediate predecessors quit after about a year in office each. But as the recession deepened, he vowed to focus on reviving the economy and delayed dissolving the lower chamber.

In the general election of September 2005, the LDP captured a whopping 296 seats as then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi painted the race as a contest between those for his postal system privatization initiative and those against it.

Flights grounded as typhoon hits Japan
Ireland On-Line 31/08/2009

Typhoon Krovanh slammed into Japan’s east coast today, bringing heavy rain and strong winds.

The country’s Meteorological Agency said the typhoon, which dumped heavy rain on the Tokyo area, was moving north and was not expected to hit Japan’s mainland.

The typhoon disrupted train and flight schedules. Aviation officials said it grounded at least 59 flights at Tokyo’s main international airport at Narita as well as the largely domestic Haneda airport.

Japan’s national broadcaster NHK television reported that there were three minor injuries. No deaths were reported.

Krovanh is a Cambodian word for a kind of tree, according to the agency.

DPJ Policy Implementation Could Inflate Japan's Fiscal Deficits; Compensating Measures Will Be Key
NEWSWIT 1 September 2009

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said today that the change in government heralded by The Democratic Party of Japan's (DPJ) landslide victory in the nation's general election on Aug. 30, 2009, is unlikely to positively or negatively affect the sovereign ratings on Japan (AA/Stable/A-1+) in the short term. However, Standard & Poor's believes that there is potential risk that the implementation of some of the incoming government's policies could lead to future fiscal overruns or higher fiscal deficits.

In Sunday's election, the DPJ wrenched control from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had dominated Japanese politics since it was formed in 1955. The victory resolves the fragmentation of power between the Lower House of parliament, which was controlled by the LDP-led coalition, and the Upper House, which is controlled by DPJ-led opposition parties. Although the DPJ won 308 seats, more than half of the 480 seats contested, it is expected to form a coalition as in the Upper House, as it does not enjoy a majority and will likely seek the cooperation of other parties, such as the Social Democratic Party and the National New Party.

The new government is expected to make numerous policy changes. From a sovereign ratings perspective, however, its fiscal and economic policies will be most important. Generally speaking, the DPJ's policies place greater emphasis on distribution and welfare than those of the LDP. The DPJ has pledged to increase child benefits, make public high school education free, and abolish highway tolls; policies that are slated to take effect in fiscal 2010 (starting April 1, 2010). Before the election, the DPJ gave an overview of the financial resources needed to implement such policies without increasing the size of the fiscal deficit. If the DPJ-led government can achieve reforms in budget allocation and improve the efficiency of the use of public funds, it would be positive from a sovereign ratings point of view. However, we see a lack of detailed measures to reduce the cost of government and reallocate the budget to mitigate increasing fiscal pressure that would result from the above initiatives. As such, there is a potential risk that the implementation of the DPJ's plans could lead to fiscal overrun or higher fiscal deficits.

The DPJ leader, Yukio Hatoyama, has said that he will not increase the consumption tax in the next four years, a comment similar to that made by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi when he was reelected in 2005. As a general election for the Upper House of parliament is expected next summer, in our opinion, the DPJ-led government's fiscal policies will likely focus to a greater extent on policies that generate immediate results and those that take time such as structural reforms, after that election. As such, although there is no immediate impact from the change in government, there is a potential negative impact, depending on the future implementations of DPJ-led government policies and the macroeconomic environment in the medium term.

For local and regional governments (LRGs), the DPJ has proposed integrating various transfers to local governments and reducing the involvement of various ministries. This would make LRGs in Japan more independent in implementing policies from the central government and there would be more room for LRGs to improve efficiency of the use of public funds. This could potentially be a positive factor for the ratings on some of the LRGs, depending on the level of commitment and feasibility for further fiscal consolidation. If this policy is implemented, it could enhance the power of LRGs for self governance and increase their fiscal independence. Other measures include creating new fiscal adjustments and support mechanisms for LRGs by the central government, although the effect on the credit ratings on LRGs remains unclear. On the other hand, the central government will be challenged in significantly revamping its allocation budgets to various ministries to realize such a policy change.

The new government is also likely to review and reorganize government related entities. For example, there is potential for change to the process or structure of the privatization of Development Bank of Japan (AA-/Stable/A-1+). As a part of the policy for the abolition of highway toll fees, Japan Expressway Holding and Debt Repayment Agency's (JEHDRA, AA/Stable/--) debt, which amounts to ¥35 trillion, could be transferred back to the government. However, we see no significant impact on the risk of repayments of the debt as the current ratings on JEHDRA are equal to those on the sovereign.

Japan heading for extinction, low birthrate
Medical News TODAY 06 Dec 2004

The first annual white paper on the nation's low birthrate contains little new information, but it nevertheless should function as a wake-up call for the nation.

The Japanese government compiled the white paper in line with a basic law enacted in September last year to halt the steady decline in the birthrate.

The law requires the government to compile an annual report on the situation and governmental measures to deal with it.

There is nothing particularly noteworthy in the data included in the white paper, which lists the population, changes in the birthrate, causes of the low birthrate, expected social and economic impacts and countermeasures. v But the paper sounds a warning that by the time we become aware of the problem, our society will be heading toward extinction instead of being the prosperous one we wanted to create for our children.

Immediately after World War II, about 2.7 million babies were born annually, but the number has dwindled to 1.12 million a year.

The number will fall below the 1 million mark in the first half of the 2010s and break through the 800,000 line 10 years after that.

As the annual number of deaths has increased, along with the graying of society, the population is expected to shrink by 700,000 each year from 2020, meaning that a population the size of Tottori or Shimane prefectures will disappear from the country every year.

The paper also refers to changes in the family make-up. In 1960, a household had an average of 4.14 people, but the figure had dropped to 2.67 in 2002.

More than 50 percent of households had children until the 1970s, but the number of such households has since plunged to 25 percent. Meanwhile, the number of single-person households has increased.

Tani quits personnel authority

National Personnel Authority President Masahito Tani, criticized for taking a succession of lucrative amakudari jobs after retiring as a vice minister of the former Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, said Thursday he will quit his current post.

Tani, 69, submitted a letter of resignation to the Cabinet on Aug. 11, with two and a half years of his four-year term remaining.

He denied speculation he resigned because the Democratic Party of Japan will take control of government next week.

He said his decision followed a clash with Akira Amari, state minister in charge of administrative reform, over the government's plan to transfer some functions of the personnel authority to a new body called the Cabinet personnel bureau.

Tani was reappointed to the personnel authority's top post in April 2008 with the backing of the majority of lawmakers in both chambers of the Diet.

Tougher adult business law takes effect May 1
Japan Times Dec. 14, 2005

The revised adult entertainment control law will go into force May 1 featuring measures designed to crack down on human trafficking, the government decided Tuesday.

Those arrested or sent to prosecutors for violating the human-trafficking provisions of the Penal Code will be denied business permits.

The revised Law Regulating Adult Entertainment Businesses requires business owners to keep documents confirming that any foreign woman employed for "entertainment services" holds a work permit. It also features measures to punish distributors of sex service fliers and those who advertise sex businesses.

Violators will face a fine of up to 1 million yen. There was no penalty previously.

The revised law contains provisions to curb aggressive touting in entertainment districts.

The move comes amid international criticism of Japan's adult entertainment industry, which has been described as a hotbed for human trafficking.

According to a National Police Agency report issued in July, 51 Thai women were brought into Japan illegally and forced to work in the adult entertainment industry in the first half of this year. It was the highest figure for a six-month period since the NPA began tracking the statistic in 2001.

Human rights groups and researchers, however, estimate that thousands of women, mostly from poor parts of Asia, enter Japan illegally every year and are forced to work in the sex industry.

Tamaki to become face of Japanese finance on July 14
Japan Times July 4, 2009

Rintaro Tamaki, head of the Finance Ministry's International Bureau, will become Japan's next top financial diplomat in charge of international affairs and currency issues, the ministry said Friday.

Tamaki, 55, will take up the post of vice minister for international affairs on July 14, succeeding Naoyuki Shinohara, the ministry said.

Tamaki's stance on currency policy is not expected to differ greatly from his recent predecessors. The Finance Ministry has not ventured into the foreign-exchange market since March 2004.

Tamaki, a graduate of the University of Tokyo, entered the ministry in 1976 and has since served in many key posts related to international affairs.

Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano also decided to promote Yasutake Tango, head of the ministry's Budget Bureau, to the post of administrative vice minister to replace Kazuyuki Sugimoto, the ministry said.

Tango, 58, will assume the ministry's top bureaucratic post, also effective July 14. He served as a secretary of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi from April 2001 until he became director general of the ministry's Financial Bureau in October 2006.

The new director general of the ministry's International Bureau will be Takehiko Nakao, 53, who is now the bureau's senior deputy director general, while Eijiro Katsu, 59, deputy vice minister of the ministry's secretariat, will head the Budget Bureau, according to the ministry.

Meanwhile, the Financial Services Agency said Friday that Katsunori Mikuniya, head of its supervisory bureau, will succeed FSA Commissioner Takafumi Sato on July 14.

Mikuniya, 58, is currently in charge of the bureau supervising private-sector financial institutions.

Graduating from the University of Tokyo, he joined the Finance Ministry in 1974, and later moved to Japan's financial watchdog.

Before taking his current post last July, he was the head of the planning and coordination bureau in charge of policymaking concerning the financial system.

Shigeo Katsu
The World Bank 07-23-2008

Shigeo Katsu, a Japanese national, took up the position of Regional Vice President for ECA on August 1, 2003.

Mr. Katsu joined the Bank in 1979 under the institution's Young Professional program, and soon moved to the Western Africa Projects Department as an economist, first in the Energy, Water & Telecom Division, and later in the Water Supply & Urban Division. His activities in this sector included work on water supply and sanitation, as well as slum upgrading and power projects. In 1985, Mr. Katsu was appointed the Bank's first full-time Resident Representative in Benin, where he served until the autumn of 1989.

Between fall 1989 and end 1991, Mr. Katsu was seconded to the Export-Import Bank of Japan as Deputy Director, Country Economic Policy Analysis Department, where he was responsible for introducing appraisal procedures for quick disbursing operations.

Between 1992 and 1995, Mr. Katsu served as Principal Operations Officer for the Industry & Energy Operations Division in the China Department of the East Asia & Pacific Region, working primarily on enterprise reform and financial sector reform. Mr. Katsu was subsequently was appointed Chief, and then Country Director, of the Bank's Regional Mission in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. In Abidjan, under his leadership, the Bank's assistance program included work on governance issues, privatization, and reform of the cocoa sector.

Prior to taking his first position at the World Bank, Mr. Katsu worked for the United Nations Industrial Development Association (UNIDO) as a development advisor to the Ministry of Planning in Grenada.

Mr. Katsu received his B.A. in International Relations/Economics from the Tokyo University for International Studies and pursued graduate studies at the Tokyo University. He also received a Diploma in International Economics/ International Relations from the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, Austria. He speaks Japanese, English, French, and German fluently, and also has some working knowledge of Chinese and Russian.


Kagoshima-cry Hall

The Rokumeikan (鹿鳴館) is said to mean "Deer-cry Hall" in Japanese. Ka "鹿" means deer and "鳴" means to cry. However, "鹿" also means Kagoshima "鹿児島", another name for Satsuma "薩摩".

Since the Japanese government has frequently used insulting insinuation, its intention was no doubt an insult.

Saigo Takamori
Encyclopaedia Britannica

Rebellion against the imperial government Saigo, who was in the mountains on a hunting trip, hastily returned. By the time that he reached Kagoshima, his supporters were operating the arsenal themselves to provide supplies for further military action, and Saigo reluctantly agreed to become the leader of their rebellion. Plans were made to march on Tokyo with the vague idea of presenting grievances to the government, and on February 15 Saigo's army started out. Government forces blocked his advance at Kumamoto, and full-scale war ensued for the next six months. Saigo's old friend Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922), now minister of war, became the field commander against him. By May, Saigo was on the defensive; during the summer he suffered a series of disastrous defeats, and by September the situation was hopeless. With a few hundred men, he returned to Kagoshima to make his last stand on a hill overlooking the city. On Sept. 24, 1877, the government troops launched the final attack; Saigo was critically wounded, and, as had previously been arranged, one of his faithful lieutenants took his life by beheading him. Of the 40,000 troops he had led in February, only some 200 remained to surrender. Losses on both sides were estimated at approximately 12,000 dead and 20,000 wounded.

In the narrow sense, the failure of Saigo's rebellion meant the end of what he had lived for. The conscript army had defeated the samurai; never again would the government fear local uprisings or samurai threats. If the great Saigo could not win, no one else would be foolhardy enough to try. But in a broader sense, Saigo probably emerged the victor. To the Japanese people, he became the apotheosis of the national character, one more exemplification of the giri-ninjo conflict ("duty" versus "sentiment," or "compassion") that is such a well-loved theme of Japanese tale and drama. He became a legend: as late as the 1890s, some still believed that he had not really died but was in retirement waiting to emerge once more at the proper time.

Assessment. Such a complex character must necessarily have had detractors as well as admirers. His critics have called him changeable, because he joined a government he did not believe in and then left it; insincere, because he proposed offering negotiation to Korea although he was hoping for war; and undignified, in seriously proposing to have himself murdered by the Koreans. Possibly the most serious criticism is that, if Saigo had truly regarded the rebellion as unwise, he could certainly have prevented it. Yet there are few who would call him a rebel: the government itself gave him a posthumous pardon and raised his son, Torataro, to the nobility. His contemporary, Fukuzawa Yukichi, Japan's great modernizer and one of its most independent thinkers, in a detailed analysis of the rebellion pointed out that Saigo could not be called a rebel against the emperor, since there was never the slightest doubt of his loyalty, and that the government with its increasing authoritarianism, suppression of criticism, and lack of interest in consulting public opinion, was as much at fault as Saigo. In attempting to summarize this argument objectively, it is probably fair to say that Saigo's real weakness lay in his inability to think things through logically to their conclusion; that he was ruled more by intuition than by reason. To say this is to say that he was a tragic figure, possessed of undeniable talent, who, although he had had much to do with bringing a new age to birth, could not make a complete adjustment to it in his own mind, and finally sought escape in the only way that seemed honourable to him: self-destruction.

Titanic Discovered
Titanic Station

On 1986, July 14th, the Titanic was discovered! It was the first time the great ship had been seen for more than 70 years. A French and American research team joined up with Bob Ballard to search for and find the Titanic. Once again, the ship caught the world’s attention. At the American inquires, not much could be reported because the ship was gone there was no hard fact evidence. But now that the ship was rediscovered, it raised new questions and gave new answers! For the first time, it was verified that the ship did break in two. Why did the steel plates snap apart? Why were they speeding through a known ice field? Why? Why? Why? As a result of finding the Titanic, many of these questions could be answered.

1985 Discovery of Titanic
Woods Hole Oceanografic Institution

A new era in underwater exploration and scientific research began on September 1, 1985 with the discovery of the sunken luxury liner R.M.S. Titanic by investigators and crew aboard the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Research Vessel Knorr. Titanic, found in more than 12,400 feet of water, was first photographed by the new deep-towed sonar and video camera system Argo, under development in the Institution's Deep Submergence Laboratory (DSL). Additional 35-mm photographs were taken by ANGUS (Acoustically Navigated Geological Underwater Survey), another towed vehicle developed at the Institution and used on a number of major science programs since the mid-1970s.

The discovery of Titanic was a joint French-American effort begun earlier in the summer of 1985 with a cruise aboard the French research vessel Le Suroit to test France's new sonar system, SAR (System Acoustique Remorquè). Dr. Robert D. Ballard, leader of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Deep Submergence Laboratory and another WHOI colleague, participated in that cruise, which ended in early August. Three scientists from Institut Français De Recherche Pour L'Exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER) joined the American cruise aboard Woods Hole’s Knorr August 15 in Ponta Delgada, Azores, for the trip across the Atlantic to the vessel's home port at Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Using sonar imagery in the hunt for Titanic, the earlier French cruise had ruled out large sections in a 150-square-mile search area, allowing the Knorr cruise to concentrate on the remaining areas under a different search strategy. The first visual contact of Titanic was made about 230 miles south of Nova Scotia. Debris including one of the ship's boilers and was made by Argo just after 1:00 a.m. EST September 1, 1985. The seven-member scientific watch that saw the first images included four Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution personnel, two French scientists, and a U.S. Navy officer and was led by Jean-Louis Michel (IFREMER), co-chief scientist with Dr. Ballard of the expedition. Video filming from Argo and 35-mm filming from ANGUS were conducted throughout the remaining four days of the voyage.

Rio to stage 2016 Olympic Games
BBC News 2 October 2009

Brazil will become the first South American country to host the Olympics after the city of Rio de Janeiro was chosen to stage the 2016 Games.

Rio won a majority of the 95 votes at the meeting in Copenhagen, eliminating Madrid in the final round. Tokyo and Chicago had already been knocked out.

"The world has recognised that the time has come for Brazil," said President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Chicago's early exit was a surprise, after bookmakers made them favourites.

US President Barack Obama had flown to Denmark on Friday morning to join his wife, Michelle, and make an emotional address to the International Olympic Committee delegates.

But the gesture - the first time a current US president had addressed the IOC in an attempt to win the Games - failed to persuade the voters as Chicago became the first city to see its dream of hosting the biggest sporting event in the world fall by the wayside.

Japanese ex-minister found dead
BBC News 4 October 2009

Police in Japan say former finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa, who resigned over apparent drunken behaviour at a G7 meeting, has been found dead.

Mr Nakagawa, 56, was found dead in a bedroom at his Tokyo home, Japanese news agencies reported.

The long-time LDP lawmaker stepped down as finance minister after appearing groggy at a news conference in February at G7 talks in Rome.

He then lost his seat in his party's 30 August election drubbing.

The cause of Mr Nakagawa's death was under investigation, a police spokeswoman told the Associated Press news agency.

Japanese media reports said he was found face down on the bed by his wife, with no external injuries.

The incident at the Rome summit was a major embarrassment for the Japanese government, says the BBC's Roland Buerk in Tokyo.

Mr Nakagawa later denied he had been drunk, blaming jet lag and medicine he had taken for a cold.

But during his campaign for August's general election, Mr Nakagawa promised to give up alcohol, toasting supporters in his constituency with locally produced milk instead.

Despite these promises, he lost his seat in Parliament.

Mr Nakagawa - a lawmaker from the northern island of Hokkaido - was a member of the Japanese parliament for more than 25 years.

Tokyo Gov. blames loss on internal politics
CTV Olympics October 4, 2009

TOKYO - Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara blamed his city's failure to win the right to host the 2016 Games on behind-the-scenes deals, saying Japanese sports officials must become more adept in dealing with the inner workings of the International Olympic Committee.

"Tokyo's presentation was far better than the others,'' Ishihara said at a press conference Sunday. "But invisible dynamics were at play. It is a game that is very difficult to win.''

Ishihara said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made "daring promises'' to African people and that French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to support Rio's bid if Brazil bought French-made fighter jets.

back to Japan's First Simultaneous Attacks (2)

Hero-of-justice Tactic

Japan has a unique culture of staged performance. It is unacceptable for me. I understand the logic yet it is psychologically unacceptable. However, this mindset is a necessary weapon for office workers to climb the corporate ladder.

The other day, I happened to watch a stupid film on TV. But I found an essence of the hero-of-justice tactic in the story. The short story epitomized the tactic very well. Let me summarize the story here.

There was a beautiful girl(X) of a rich family in a town. Boy(A) had a crush on her. The boy(A) had an errand boy(B).

One day the boy(A) came up with an idea for creating an opportunity to become good friends with her. The scenario was as follows.
The boy(B) harasses her and attempts to attack her. But fortunately the boy(A) appears on the spot. The boy(A) hits the boy(B) and the boy(B) runs away. Finally she appreciates the boy(A).
They prepared tomato ketchup for the fake nose bleed.

One day, girl(X) was taking a walk on the beach. Boy(B) harassed her and tried to assault her. Boy(A) heard her screaming and rushed over to the scene. The two boys got into fight. The boy(B) ran inside into a nearby hut. They continued fighting in the hut.


Then, the boy(B) put the prepared ketchup around his nose. He rushed out of the hut and ran away in front of her.

She was much shocked. But the boy(A) kindly talked to her.

Boy(A): "Are you all right, young lady?"

Girl(X): "Yes! Thank you so much for your help. My name is ....... Can I have your name? My mother and I would like to visit your home to say thank you..................."

The film was too ridiculous for me to remember the whole story. But the scene above burnt in my memory. In fact, I once fell prey to a similar fraud.

Let me call this kind of staged performance as "hero-of-justice tactic" on this site. In the Japanese media, a strange Japanese expression "macchiponpu" is often used to describe this kind of trick. I think you can understand it very well if you read the Wikipedia's explanation.

Japanese Immigration to Hawaii
Hawaii for Visitors

Information about the first Japanese immigrants in Hawaii including where they came from and why they moved to Hawaii.

In 1868 a group of approximately 150 Japanese contract laborers arrived in Hawaii. The immigration was not considered a success, because Japan was unhappy about their treatment. Two years later an agreement was reached for those workers to return to Japan, but in actuality, only about 40 returned to their homeland and the rest chose to remain in Hawaii.

In 1885 Hawaii and Japan resolved issues related to the treatment of Japanese workers in Hawaii, and that year The first major immigration from Japan began. (It's interesting to note that the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigration was celebrated in Hawaii 1985.)

By 1902 there were more then 30,000 Japanese plantation workers in Hawaii.

By 1893, nearly 70% of the plantation workers in Hawaii were Japanese.

The "Bayonet Constitution" of 1887 denied Hawaiian citizenship to all Asians.

In 1894 private companies were allowed to take over recruiting Japanese laborers for Hawaii and 57,000 more Japanese arrived in Hawaii between 1894 and 1900.

When contract labor in Hawaii was prohibited after Hawaii became a U.S. territory, many of Hawaii's Japanese immigrants immigrated to the U.S. mainland where wages were twice what they were in Hawaii.

Executive order stops migration of Japanese laborers from Hawaii, Mexico and Canada on March 14, 1907 (what does this mean???)

In 1908 a "Gentlemen's Agreement" restricted Japanese immigration to the United States (what does this mean?).

In 1909 the Japanese laborers went on strike but they lost.

In 1920 the Japanese and Filipinos organized a strike for higher wages. They lost that strike, but they learned to work together for the common good.

Between 1885 and 1924 approximately 200,000 Japanese immigrated to Hawaii, most of them to work on Hawaii's sugar plantations.

In 1924 the United States prohibited further immigration from Japan.

In 1935 the Onomea Camps were segregated into Japanese, Filipino,and Portuguese camps

Chicago Burns Again: The Second Great Fire
Gapers Block

If there is one event in Chicago's history that everyone knows, it's the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 9, 1871, destroying the downtown business district and leaving a third of city's residents homeless. But did you know the city suffered a second massive fire less than three years later? Although not nearly as destructive as the 1871 conflagration, the fire of 1874 led to important changes in the city. This is the story of the Second Great Chicago Fire.

The first alarm sounded around 3:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday, July 14, 1874. It was raised near the corner of Clark and 12th Street (Roosevelt Road), just a few blocks south of the downtown business district. A fire had broken out, inauspiciously beginning the same way the Great Fire had, in a small barn. Unluckily, the barn was located next to an oil factory. And that unfortunate location, coupled with the same dry conditions and wind from the southwest that proved so fatal in 1871 fire, again spelled disaster for the city.

Originally, the date is described as "Tuesday, July 16, 1874". But this is wrong. The date is "Tuesday, July 14, 1874." Please refer to other sites for confirmation.

A segregated company of black firemen was the first to respond to the fire, but although they arrived within minutes of the general alarm, it was already too late. Flaming oil from the factory had already spread the fire the width of the block between Clark and 3rd Avenue (Plymouth Court) and it was burning its way north towards Taylor Street. The firemen attempted to halt the blaze, but were forced to abandon the fire engine in the street as the fire grew in strength and threatened to overwhelm them.

The fire continued in a northeasterly direction, burning through to the intersection at Taylor and State streets by 5:30pm, consuming everything in its path. An hour later the fire was making its way north on State Street and breaking through to Wabash Avenue between Eldredge and Peck Courts (8th and 9th Streets). There it burned the First Baptist Church, a huge stone structure described as "the finest church structure in the city." The loss of the church was a heavy blow. Other major buildings lost in the fire included the post office, Aiken's Theatre and the St. James Hotel.

Wealthy residents living in mansions along South Michigan Avenue saw the flames approaching and feared the scene of the Great Fire was being repeated. They began packing up their belongings, loading furniture onto wagons, and prepared to leave their homes.

But sometime after 10pm, the fire finally stopped on Wabash Avenue, between Adams and Van Buren streets. Critics observed that the fire stopped not because of the efforts of the Chicago Fire Department, but because the fire had run out of wood to burn. The firemen were only able to gain control when the flames encountered the impenetrable brick walls of the newly rebuilt business district.

Reporters made much of the fact that the neighborhood burned in the fire consisted "of the worst rookeries imaginable," most of which were "occupied as houses of ill-fame." One reporter went as far as to estimate more than 500 prostitutes were left homeless by the fire, including "all the most notorious keepers of the vile abodes."

But in addition to prostitutes the densely populated area had been home to many poor immigrants, including Germans, Irish and Poles. The neighborhood also included a small but burgeoning African American community. All lived close together in compact, poorly constructed wooden housing. But now even what little they had was gone, and while Chicago's more well-to-do residents felt badly for the victims of the fire, they were not especially sorry to see the dilapidated "shanties" wiped out.

Many of the residents displaced by the fire dispersed to other corners of the city, but some just moved a little farther south. The prostitutes relocated between 18th and 22nd Streets, establishing Chicago's notorious Levee District. And many of the African Americans left homeless by the disaster moved south of 22nd Street, forming the beginning of the so-called "Black Belt."

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the fire, Nathan Isaacson, the man who owned the barn where the fire began, was arrested and charged with arson. But whether Mr. Isaacson deliberately set fire to his barn is unclear from early newspaper accounts. Several neighbors testified in court that Isaacson or his wife had started the fire, but their testimony and accusations bordered on the outlandish. Accounts lead one to believe Nathan Isaacson was as likely a victim of his neighbors' racial prejudice, who bore little affection for "the Jews," as he was an arsonist.

Early reports estimated 60 acres had been destroyed by the fire, only a small fraction of the 2,100 acres burned in the 1871 fire. But the lessons learned from this second fire had important consequences for the city.

After the Great Fire of 1871, the city had established fire limits prohibiting the construction of any wooden building north of 22nd Street or east of Halsted Street in the downtown area. However, the city then permitted temporary wood structures to be built within the fire limits until more permanent buildings could be completed. These "temporary" wood buildings were supposed be torn down within a year of construction, but their demolition was never enforced. And now the entire area had burnt to the ground.

Business owners, prominent residents and insurance companies tired of paying out for fire losses seized their chance to demand real reform. Their efforts immediately after the fire of 1874 resulted in the fire limits being extended to encompass the entire city limits. This act laid the foundation for the later formulation of Chicago's building code. In addition, their criticism led to the increased organization of the Fire Department and infrastructure changes to increase the city's water supply to critical areas.

On the scale of destruction, the fire of 1874 was only a lighted candle to the Great Fire's roaring inferno. But Chicago's Second Great Fire resulted in many real changes that would shape the city as it moved towards the 20th Century.


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