Tuesday, January 26, 2010

News Blast

When Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited Japan's new leaders in October, not long after their historic election, he pressed so hard and so publicly for a military base agreement that the Japanese news media labeled him a bully. The difference between that visit and the friendly welcome that a high-level Japanese delegation received just two months later in China, Japan's historic rival, could not have been more stark.

When presented with oat flakes arranged in the pattern of Japanese cities around Tokyo, brainless, single-celled slime molds construct networks of nutrient-channeling tubes that are strikingly similar to the layout of the Japanese rail system, researchers from Japan and England report Jan. 22 in Science. A new model based on the simple rules of the slime mold’s behavior may lead to the design of more efficient, adaptable networks, the team contends.

Now that the administration has announced its base figure for the first time, it will have a clear, public benchmark. Once ministries start announcing statistics, academic researchers, independent organizations and the press can check these figures. That will help to hold the current and future administrations accountable. Admitting the problem is the first, big step, but finding solutions is the more important second step.

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