Saturday, July 31, 2010

News Blast: U.S. To Memorialize Hiroshima, Open Executions, Manhwa Vs. Manga And More

Watermelon love. Via.

U.S. Memorializes Hiroshima

Nearly 70 countries plan to attend the annual peace memorial service in Hiroshima on August 6, commemorating the atomic bombing of the city. For the first time in 65 years, the U.S. will send a representative, Ambassador John Roos. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told Bloomberg-BusinessWeek: "the Japanese government welcomes this... The event will become an opportunity for major nations’ officials to deepen their understanding of our desire for nuclear disarmament and resolve never to allow the misery of A-bomb attacks to be repeated."

Also this week, the U.S.Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt M. Campbell testified before the House Armed Services Committee, discussing the political and economic drama unfolding in Asia:
"The U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of our engagement in the Asia-Pacific. The alliance has provided a basis for peace and security in the Asia-Pacific for a half-century and has -- in many ways -- underwritten the 'Asian economic miracle' and the spread of democratic governance throughout the region. This year the United States and Japan are celebrating the 50th anniversary of our Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, a historic milestone that offers both an opportunity to reflect on the successes of the past and, perhaps more importantly, to chart a forward-looking course for this relationship to ensure that it is well positioned to manage issues of consequence both in the region and beyond."

Foot-and-mouth Contained

Big news in Japan this summer has been the outbreak of Foot-and-mouth Disease in southern Miyazaki Prefecture. While hundreds of cows have been infected and put down, causing consternation with farmers, the disease has not spread to humans yet. After about three months, it seems to have run its course, with the last remaining ban on transfers of livestock in foot-and-mouth affected areas lifted on July 27. Public and sporting facilities are re-opening, and the state of emergency, called May 18th by prefectural governor Hideo Higashikokubaru, has been called off.

The causes of the disease in Miyazaki Prefecture are unknown. The first case was confirmed in late April on a small cattle farm. Scientists have identified the gene sequence of this particular strain of Foot-and-Mouth as similar to recent outbreaks in South Korea.

Japan's Executions Open to the Media

Japan conducted its first executions since the DPJ took power over a year ago. Two hangings were presided over by Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, who has long been an opponent of capital punishment. Many accuse her of political wrangling: she lost her seat in the House in last month’s elections, but retains her position in the Cabinet. Chiba "never signed executions while she was a lawmaker. But now as a private citizen, she quickly gave the go-ahead. I don't understand it," opposition Your Party Secretary General Kenji Eda said. She defends herself though by stating that she "thought long and hard about the death penalty and felt strongly the need for thorough deliberations about capital punishment among the public."

Two days after the executions, the Justice Ministry announced it will open the execution chamber to the media, to address the secretive nature of Japan's capital punishment system and stir debate over the death penalty.

Bite-size News:

►A '111 year-old' man thought to be alive was found dead in Tokyo an estimated 30 years after his death. His family, who recevied pension payments as recently as this year is under investigation on suspicion of fraud and negligence.

Japanese women had the longest life expectancy in the world for the 25th straight year in 2009.

►Police earlier in the week arrested a truck driver suspected of illegally dumping 2 metric tons of discarded gravestones in a remote, abandoned seafood processing plant.

►Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi talks to CNN about 640 he took from space and posted on Twitter.

►With China's soft power strides and South Korea's manhwa competing with manga, Asahi asks if Japan is slipping in the 'cool' culture battles.

►With rural Japan seeing decline, incredible rice paddy art keeps one region on the map.

►A robot that can help people find their glasses is the toast of a Japanese expo.

►The JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) accepted 4334 young people from 36 countries to spend a year (or more) for paid positions teaching English to Japanese elementary and middle school students. The program has long been a cornerstone for Japan-US exchange.

►PM Naoto Kan wife's published a book entitled What on Earth will Change in Japan After You Become Prime Minister?--a scathing list of her husband’s failings.

►From now until November, New York City’s IFC Center holds a Yasujiro Ozu retrospective. This weekend, it’s Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family. The film came out in 1941 at the height of World War II, and the Japanese occupation of China. It’s a subtly political and rigorously humanistic response to those troubled times.

►Boing Boing’s Mark Frauenfelder is vacationing in Japan this summer, and he’s blogged pictures of some seriously strange watermelons. They’re grown in confined spaces, therefore taking the shape of their containers: hearts, pyramids and boxes. And yes, you’re reading those prices right: 9,450 yen for a watermelon is roughly equivalent to $100.

N.O., S.J.

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