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Extending SDF missions
Japan Times 2005/10/14


The government has opted to extend by one year the Maritime Self-Defense Force mission to supply fuel in the Indian Ocean to ships of the U.S. Navy and allied nations engaged in anti-terrorist activities related to security in Afghanistan. A law specifying a duration of two years — enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States — has enabled the MSDF mission so far. That law will expire Nov. 1.

The legislation raised a constitutional question and should not be extended offhandedly.

International cooperation is important for thwarting terrorism. Afghanistan took a landmark step in its march toward peace and democracy by holding elections Sept. 18 for the National Assembly and Provincial Councils, the first such elections under its new Constitution. The fact that the elections occurred with relatively little confusion was a sign of progress that strengthens the case for ending the MSDF's mission.

Regrettably, this issue was not publicly debated during the recent election campaign as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi chose to focus on one issue essentially — the postal service privatization bills. The government is scheduled to submit a revision bill that would extend the MSDF mission by one year to the current special session of the Diet. Thorough discussion is demanded of legislators.

The legislation for special measures against terrorism passed the Diet on Oct. 29, 2001, with the support of the Liberal-Democratic Party, New Komeito and the then Conservative Party. The law was opposed by the Democratic Party of Japan, the then Liberal Party, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party. It was revised in October 2003 to permit a two-year extension.

The law's primary aim was to provide backup logistic support to U.S. forces engaged in military activities in Afghanistan. It has enabled the MSDF to carry out support activities, mainly supplying fuel to ships of the U.S. Navy and other nations in the Indian Ocean, and to provide transportation assistance for refugees. It also has enabled the Air Self-Defense Force to transport supplies for the U.S. armed forces.

Under the law, the Self-Defense Forces may carry out their activities only in international waters and areas of foreign countries where there is no fighting. In the latter case, permission from the governments concerned is required.

The special measures legislation marked a turning point in Japan's security policy because it enabled the wartime dispatch of SDF units overseas. The law has aroused suspicion that it may violate the Constitution under which use of force abroad is prohibited.

Separately, a law enacted July 26, 2003, authorizing special measures for humanitarian assistance in Iraq enabled the dispatch of a Ground Self-Defense Force unit to Samawah, Iraq. This, too, provoked suspicion that it might be unconstitutional.

At present, four MSDF supply ships take turns supplying fuel in the Indian Ocean, accompanied by two to four destroyers. By the end of August, the MSDF ships had provided about 407,000 kiloliters of fuel free of charge (but worth about ¥16 billion) to ships of the United States, Britain, Germany, New Zealand, France and six other nations on 541 occasions. The Defense Agency does not disclose the names of ships that receive fuel or the locations where refueling takes place on the grounds that it would unveil details of the operations involved.

Suspicion lingers that the MSDF has provided, or is providing, support to the U.S. armed forces in Iraq-related activities since the Iraq war began. In the Diet, an opposition lawmaker alleged that a declassified document of the U.S. armed forces shows that the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, from which air raids against Iraq were mounted, received fuel from a U.S. supply ship that earlier had been supplied by an MSDF ship. The government has not offered a convincing answer to the allegation.

It has been reported that Mr. Koizumi, at one point, considered pulling the MSDF out of the Indian Ocean but instead has opted for a one-year extension of the 2001 law for fear of souring his government's relations with the Bush administration. The LDP's landslide victory in the Lower House election Sept. 11 may have led Mr. Koizumi to think that a revision to the law will easily pass the Diet. The government is also most likely to choose to extend the GSDF unit's mission in Samawah, which is due to expire in mid-December.

It is impossible to contain terrorism by military means alone. Japan should expand its activities that concentrate on eliminating the social and economic causes of terrorism in cooperation with other nations under the leadership of the U.N.


JULY 26, 2003 NORTHERN MIYAGI (JAPAN) EARTHQUAKE
Tohoku University


A powerful shallow inland earthquake occurred in Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan at 07:13 AM. local time July 26, 2003 with magnitude M6.2. The epicenter is located lat. 38.40 N., long. 141.175 E. (about 25km northeastern Sendai city), with focal depth 12km, as shown in Figure 1 (From USGS).

The same day, foreshock and aftershock of magnitudes -M5.5 and M5.3 - hit the same area at 00:13 AM. and 04:56 PM. with epicenters about 3km and 11km north of the mainshock’s, respectively. The maximum PGA value (2005.1gal at thk.NARUSETY Station) in seismogram history was recorded in the 00:13 event and very high JMA intensity (at many sites 6+(about 10 in MMI scale)) were observed in all the three earthquakes.

The distributions of seismic intensity (in JMA scale) for three earthquakes are shown in Figure 2, 3 and 4.(From JMA). These earthquakes caused total 676 injured persons (slightly injured person: 626, seriously injured person: 50), and 11,341 buildings were damaged, 1,017 of which were collapsed. Fortunately, no death or missing persons were reported. The economic losses due to these earthquakes are 195.4 million dollars (FDMA).


Chinese prime minister visits UK
BBC News 31 January 2009


The Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao, has arrived in London for a three-day trip to the UK.

Talks are expected to focus on the global financial downturn; both the UK and China are keen to boost their economic ties with each other.

The Free Tibet protest group said it was planning a number of demonstrations during the visit.

Mr Wen's European tour also includes Germany, Spain, the EU in Brussels and the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The prime minister is expected to join celebrations in London on Sunday marking the start of the Chinese New Year.

He will also make a speech at the University of Cambridge, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

'Troubled times'

BBC News correspondent Jill McGivering said Mr Wen is expected to promote China's economic prospects and push for more investment from the UK.

She said: "These are troubled times - and Britain and China are sticking together.

"Gordon Brown sees China as a powerful ally as he presses for reform of international financial bodies.

"And China's economy - expected to grow at about 7% this year - is very attractive to British investors."

She added that Mr Wen would be seeking reassurance that the UK will join China's fight against global protectionism.

This is when governments restrict import quotas in a bid to protect domestic industries from global competition - but China says this is damaging to its export trade.

The visit follows an announcement earlier this month by Foreign Secretary David Miliband that improving relations with China is to be a "major priority" for the UK in the years ahead.

'Candid'

In a 20-page framework document Mr Miliband said the UK will be "candid" when it disagrees with China, but will build a relationship based on co-operation

He also stressed the importance of economic ties between the two countries and emphasised China's growing role in international affairs.

The document represents a sort of stock-taking of ties between London and Beijing and sets out aspirations for the way in which Sino-UK ties should develop over the next four years.

Mr Wen has snubbed France during his European tour, reportedly because of a meeting between President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama late last year.

China reacted at the time by cancelling a scheduled summit with the EU.


Storm leaves 15 dead in S Europe
BBC News 25 January 2009


Hurricane-force winds lashed northern Spain on Saturday, bringing down the roof of a sports hall near Barcelona, killing four children, officials said.

Eleven people died in separate incidents in Spain and south-western France as the fiercest storm in a decade blew in from the Atlantic.

Torrential rains and winds of up to 184km/h (114mph) were reported.

It is now tracking across central Italy, bringing rain and winds of 80-95km/h (50-60mph), forecasters say.

Some 1.3 million homes in France suffered power cuts while road and rail links were blocked and airports closed.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will visit the region on Sunday.

The impact of the storm was felt from the Channel Isles to Barcelona, but the strongest winds and heaviest rain were concentrated on south-western France.

See map of the storm's path Although this type of active low pressure system is fairly common in winter, BBC meteorologist Alex Deakin says Saturday's storm has been described as the most damaging since that of December 1999, which killed 88 people and uprooted millions of trees.

The storm tracked south-eastwards and cleared the south-east coast of France during Saturday evening.

The Mediterranean islands of Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily have also been affected.

Children killed

The sports hall partially collapsed in the town of Sant Boi de Llobregat, Catalonia, with between 20 and 30 youngsters inside, officials said.

The youngsters had gathered to play baseball but the fierce winds drove them to take shelter in a small covered area for spectators, made of concrete, with a corrugated iron roof.

"It seems that the roof shifted and brought down part of the wall," a regional government spokeswoman said.

Local people and fire-fighters helped free the survivors from the rubble but three children aged between nine and 12 died at the scene, and a fourth child died later in hospital. More than a dozen others received treatment for injures.

In other incidents:

In the Landes region of south-western France, near Bordeaux, a driver was killed by a falling tree, a 78-year-old man was killed by flying debris and a third man, 75, was crushed by a tree

A woman, 73, died in France's Gironde region when the storm cut electricity powering her breathing machine

A woman was crushed by a door in Burgos, Spain

A collapsing wall killed a woman and a falling tree killed a male park employee in the Barcelona area; a man, 60, was killed elsewhere in the Catalonia region

In Galicia, a policeman was killed by a falling tree as he directed traffic in Burela and a sailor from a cargo ship died when the vessel got in trouble off the coast

A falling wall crushed a man in Aigues de Busot, near Alicante in the south-east of Spain

Tens of thousands of homes have been left without power in Spain.

'Ghost town'

French weather agencies had forecast the storm but it affected a wider area than expected. A state of "red alert" was declared in nine departments, but lifted by the end of Saturday.

The storm caused havoc from the Dordogne area to the Pyrenees. Torrential rains caused flooding in some areas prompting thousands of calls to the emergency services.

The force of the storm also led to the closure of airports in Bordeaux, Pau, Biarritz and Toulouse, and train services also ground to a halt, leaving several hundred passengers stranded in stations. Many roads were also blocked.

Mark Richardson, a BBC News website reader visiting Bordeaux from the UK, said the city ground to a standstill following the storm overnight and felt like a ghost town.

Another reader, Simon Ritchie, witnessed the damage wrought by the storm in the French town of Rodez.

"This morning, I awoke to the sound of very strong winds and lashing rain or hail," he said.

"I looked out of my kitchen's skylight window to see scaffolding and sheets or corrugated iron blowing of the adjacent cathedral. One such sheet blew about 50 yards from the tower and landed on a car below, smashing it in completely."

"People were screaming on the street below, and bits of masonry and scaffolding continued to fall," he added.


Heavy snow disrupts London travel
BBC News 2 February 2009


Thousands of people have been unable to travel in London as snow disrupted the city's transport network.

Only limited bus routes were running in central London and Tube lines, including the suspended Circle line, coped with the effects of the weather.

London Mayor Boris Johnson suspended the city's congestion charge for the day and said authorities had done "pretty well" under the circumstances.

Both runways at Heathrow Airport were closed although one has since reopened.

London City Airport will remain closed for the rest of Monday and flights at Luton Airport will not resume until 2100 GMT.

The snow caused a Cyprus Airways flight to slip off a taxiway at Heathrow, leaving its front wheel stuck in grass.

Passengers were unhurt in the incident which took place at about 0820 GMT, airport operator BAA said.

The operator added it was the last flight to land before the runways were closed.

British Airways cancelled all flights until 1700 GMT.

A trickle of mainly long-haul flights has since begun to depart Heathrow, but many more are delayed or cancelled.

Passengers are strongly advised to check the BAA website's live departures board before setting out for the airport, a spokesman said.

Earlier, all bus services in the city were suspended. A few were gradually reintroduced but most remain withdrawn owing to slippery road conditions.

London has seen the heaviest snowfall in 18 years, weather experts said, with an accumulation of 20cm (8in) in some areas.

'Message to heaven'

Mr Johnson said: "I think we've done pretty well in what are absolutely extraordinary circumstances.

"There's no doubt about it, this is the right kind of snow, it's just the wrong kind of quantities.

"My message to the heavens is: 'You've put on a fantastic display of snow power but that is probably quite enough'."

By mid-morning, up to 10cm (4in) of snow had fallen in parts of Greater London, with 6cm (2in) of snow reported at Heathrow Airport.

The conditions led the Met Office to issue an extreme weather warning for London and the south east of England.

On the Underground, the Circle line is fully suspended, while Hammersmith & City trains are not continuing eastbound of Aldgate East station.

There are partial suspensions on the Central, Bakerloo, Jubilee, Piccadilly, Metropolitan and District lines.

There are minor delays on the Northern line and a good service reported on the Victoria and Waterloo & City lines. Several Tube stations are also closed.

Services are severely disrupted on Southeastern Trains and there is only one Gatwick Express train an hour. Southern and First Great Western are running reduced services.

The Heathrow Express trains are suspended and the Stansted Express trains are reduced to twice an hour.

Although Gatwick Airport was open, there were significant delays and cancellations.

Passengers were advised to check before leaving for the airport.

'Severe pressure'

On the roads, the southern section of the M25 has treacherous driving conditions between the M23 and the A3.

The Highways Agency said there have been too many minor accidents on the roads "to put a number on" and recommended people should only take essential journeys.

London Ambulance Service spokesman said it received more than 650 calls between midnight and Monday morning and stressed that it would only respond to "life-threatening calls" as it was under "severe pressure".

London NHS has advised patients who have outpatient appointments or are booked to undergo non-emergency surgeries to call their local hospitals before travelling.

Many elective procedures have been cancelled and out-patients clinics closed both Monday and into Tuesday.

More than 260 schools across London have been closed with the boroughs of Haringey and Camden in north London, Westminster in central London, Hounslow and Ealing in west London, Bromley and Lambeth in south London and Barking and Dagenham in the east being the worst affected.

Eurostar services from London are currently operating but are subject to possible delays.

Night-time temperatures across London could drop to -3C as a blast of cold air sweeps in from the North Sea.


Shoe hurled as Chinese PM speaks
BBC News 2 February 2009


A protester has thrown a shoe at Wen Jiabao during a speech at Cambridge University and called the Chinese prime minister a "dictator".

The shoe landed about a metre away from Mr Wen and the protester, a young man, was then removed by security guards.

Mr Wen, who earlier signed a series of trade agreements with Gordon Brown on the final day of a three-day UK visit, described the incident as "despicable".

Protests have taken place about human rights and Tibet during his visit.

Protests

Five people were arrested in London on Sunday after trying to approach Mr Wen.

According to eye-witnesses, Mr Wen was interrupted near the end of a speech he was giving in Cambridge on the global economy.

According to the Press Association, the shoe was thrown from the back of the hall and landed "well away" from Mr Wen.

Reports said the protester urged the audience to challenge the Chinese prime minister, shouting "how can the university prostitute itself with this dictator?"

AFP reported that fellow members of the audience shouted "shame on you" as he was escorted out of the auditorium.

Police later confirmed that the man had been arrested on suspicion of a public order offence.

As Mr Wen arrived to deliver the speech, he was met by both pro-Chinese supporters and people demonstrating against China's human rights record in its own country and in Tibet.

The incident was similar to an event in December when US President George W Bush was forced to duck to avoid shoes thrown at him during a visit to Iraq.

'Determination'

Earlier, Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for greater collaboration on trade between the UK and China during talks with Mr Wen at Downing Street.

Mr Brown said they shared a determination to reverse the economic downturn and Mr Wen said "concerted efforts" were needed to "address the common challenges that we face".

Mr Wen said the economic crisis showed the "dangers of a totally unregulated market".

He added: "Only by working together, only by making a concerted effort, can we address the common challenges we face."

Mr Brown said the 4 trillion yuan (£400bn) fiscal stimulus announced by the Beijing authorities in November would help British exports to China, particularly in low-carbon technologies.

"The strength of the relationship between China and Britain will be a pivotal force in helping us through the downturn and a powerful driving force behind our future growth and prosperity."

Mr Wen met Conservative leader David Cameron for 45 minutes on Sunday to talk about topics including the economic crisis and fighting climate change.

Mr Cameron raised human rights issues with the Chinese leader and emphasised the importance of "greater participation" in Beijing's political process.

Mr Wen's European tour includes visits to Germany, Spain, and Brussels.


Beverly Eckert, widow of 9/11 victim, was aboard Flight 3407
Buffalo News 02/13/09


The usually joyful meet-and-greet area of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport was a corridor of tears and sorrow early this morning as family and friends of those aboard Continental Express Flight 3407 filed in to get official word of their loved ones' fates.

For Sue Bourque, the wait for confirmation regarding her sister, Beverly Eckert, was all too familiar. Eckert is the widow of Sean Rooney, a Buffalo native who lost his life in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Eckert was traveling to Buffalo for a weekend celebration of what would have been her husband's 58th birthday. She also had planned to take part in presentation of a scholarship award at Canisius High School that she established in honor of her late husband. Bourque said that while the family had not yet received official confirmation of her sister's fate, the reality was settling in. "We know she was on that plane," Bourque said, "and now she's with him." Eckert, Rooney's high school sweetheart, continued to live in their home in Stamford, Conn., after the terrorists' attacks of 2001. As co-chairwoman of Voices of Sept. 11, she pushed for a formal commission to investigate intelligence failures and for a proper memorial to the victims. Family members and friends identified two other people believed to be on the plane as Ellyce Kausner, a graduate of Clarence High School and Canisius College who was studying law at Florida Coastal University in Jacksonville, and Maddy Loftus, a Buffalo State College graduate who lives in New Jersey. Friends said Loftus was heading here for a weekend reunion of Buffalo State women hockey players. One friend said she may have been flying with other young women heading here for the same reunion. "You never think this is going to happen to you," Kausner's aunt, Susan Leckey, also from Clarence, said at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. "It always happens to somebody else, and you see it on TV." Those waiting to pick up passengers from the ill-fated flight at the time of the crash were ushered to the USAirways Lounge, where airline employees answered general questions and offered consolation, beverages and snacks. A chaplain also was brought in to calm the distraught loved ones. But formal conformation was not expected to be given until later this morning, when Continental corporate officials could be flown to Buffalo. "We know they're dead. Why can't they just tell us or take us to ID them," said one grieving man who declined to give his name.

Passengers arriving for early morning flights also were subdued. "I really don't feel like getting on a plane right now," said Runda Ry, who had driven from Toronto to catch a flight to Atlanta.


Niigata team inspects nuclear power plant
Japantimes July 22, 2007


Prefecture looks to verify Tepco's measurements on radiation leaks

KASHIWAZAKI, Niigata Pref. — The Niigata Prefectural Government inspected the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant Saturday to check for radioactive water leaks and other problems caused by last week's powerful earthquake.

The plant — the world's largest in terms of capacity — announced a barrage of leaks and malfunctions in the wake of last Monday's magnitude-6.8 temblor, which killed 10 people and injured more than 1,000.

The inspection was based on a safety agreement signed by the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., with Niigata Prefecture, the city of Kashiwazaki and the village of Kariwa.

"Concerns over nuclear power plants have been spreading. It is important for Tepco to ensure transparency and promptly disclose information," Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida said after a meeting on the disaster.

The prefectural team spent more than four hours inspecting radiation measurement data provided by Tepco and leak sites after arriving at the nuclear power plant at around 11 a.m.

"The data that Tepco has been showing is correct, and the measures they employed for (radiation) detection were appropriate," team member Tetsuo Hashimoto said after the inspection.

The team agreed with the assessment that the leaks appear to have posed no threat to local residents.

The earthquake resulted in a raft of malfunctions, damage and mistakes at the plant. Among them were an electrical transformer catching fire, planks toppling into a pool of spent nuclear fuel and some barrels of atomic waste getting knocked over.

The problems — exacerbated by Tepco's delays in notifying the public — were capped by news that radioactive water had sloshed out of a tank and was flushed out to sea, and that radioactive material was vented into the air in two separate instances.

Plant officials acknowledged they had not foreseen such a powerful quake hitting the facility. They also repeatedly underreported its impact after it hit.

The government has urged the operators of all 55 nuclear reactors, which supply nearly a third of the nation's energy — to speed up safety checks for earthquake resistance.

No IAEA inspection

Kyodo News

Japan has decided not to ask the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant for damage caused by last week's powerful earthquake, government sources said Saturday.

Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida criticized the decision, saying "withholding an acceptance (of inspection) could give an unintended impression that there may be something wrong."

Izumida said Japan should bring in an IAEA team "as soon as possible to show to the world what has happened."

The government has already conveyed its decision to the IAEA, the sources said.

They added that while Japan's nuclear safety authorities will go it alone for the time being, the government's decision leaves room to seek an IAEA inspection in the future.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said Wednesday that Japan needs to conduct a full and transparent assessment.


Earthquake simulation by nuclear explosions
Nature


A country wishing to evade a comprehensive test ban treaty could disguise a clandestine nuclear test as a natural earthquake by detonating a sequence of explosions, one of which would be caused by the device of interest.


Trimming bureaucracy would give Japan years of 'buried treasure'
Japan Times Jan. 26, 2009


Every time a new economic indicator is released by the government, it becomes even more evident that this year will be a tough one for the Japanese economy.

Take industrial output. If it keeps shrinking at this pace for another six months, manufacturing and mining production could drop to half.

Last week, the government revised its assessment of the economy from "worsening" to "worsening rapidly" — its fourth downgrade in as many months.

Given the state of the global economy, we have to realize that the recession has only just begun. With the interest rate already close to zero, there's little room for monetary policy to boost the economy. It would be inconceivable, for example, to penalize depositors by charging them negative interest rates on their savings, now that a "rainy day" has finally arrived in the form of a recession.

Because of this and the approaching general election, hopes are building for a government boost in fiscal spending to shore up the economy. It almost seems like all the countries of the world are in a competition to increase public spending.

The fiscal 2009 budget features stimulus measures that will push total expenditures to more than ¥88 trillion. The question is revenue. Tax income is expected to drop while sales of government bonds are scheduled to see their first year-on-year rise in four years to ¥33 trillion.

The government has already given up its target of achieving a balance in the primary account by 2011, and lawmakers are now debating how to insert a consumption tax hike into the ruling coalition's policy platforms.

Hopes for big government may be understandable, given the wide-ranging damage brought about by excessive trust in market forces over the past several years. Still, the need for radical cuts in wasteful public spending remains, and any effort to seize the recession as a golden opportunity to boost political and bureaucratic interests must be stopped at all costs.

This year's annual labor-management wage talks highlighted the issue of manpower cuts in the private sector. Given that national and local governments are heavily in debt, it would be natural to reduce expenditures related to the Diet and local assemblies. Several legislative groups, including one linked to former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, have advocated that Japan switch to a one-chamber legislature, but such proposals should have been made much earlier.

The annual salary of a Diet member is about ¥34 million. I won't go as far as calling for abolishing the House of Councilors, but reducing the 242-member Upper House to just 100 members — the same as the United States Senate (which represents a population more than twice as large as Japan's) — would save the government about ¥4.8 billion a year.

It also would be common sense for loss-making companies to skip bonus payments. It is unreasonable for a debt-laden government to pay bonuses to members of the legislature and public servants.

Diet members get an annual bonus of about ¥6.3 million. That means the bill for paying the Upper House and the 480 members of the House of Representatives is ¥4.5 billion.

Toss in prefectural and municipal assembly members, bureaucrats, quasi-bureaucrats hired by groups that pose as private-sector entities, and ex-bureaucrats engaged in the "watari" system of rapid job-hopping to pad their retirement allowances, and you get a number so huge that there is suddenly no excuse to avoid paring expenditures.

The vast presence of public and semipublic workers produced unnecessary regulations that have lowered national productivity as a whole. As the proverb "Less is more" suggests, lawmakers and public-sector workers who debate the employment issues facing the private sector should take the lead in reducing their manpower costs.

Another concern is that the expanding fiscal deficit caused by increased public spending is exacerbating fear of the future by raising the likelihood of a consumption tax hike, reduced pension benefits and a rise in the age limit from which pension payouts start, chilling consumer sentiment for the near term.

Last year's popular phrases included "maizokin" (buried treasure), which is used to refer to the mysterious cash reserves socked away in special government accounts.

Given that the nation is facing a recession some describe as the most serious in 100 years, it would be logical for the government to tap these reserves as they will disappear once used. On the other hand, cutting wasteful government spending will create surplus funds the nation can use each year for other purposes.

Japan is saddled with public-sector debts that have been acknowledged as the largest in the world. We need to stop wasteful spending, especially in times of recession.


Plane crash in NY state kills 50
BBC News Friday, 13 2009


Fifty people have died after a US passenger plane crashed into a house in Buffalo, New York state.

The Continental Connection flight 3407 was five minutes from Buffalo airport when it came down at 2210 (0310 GMT).

Officials said there were no survivors from the 45 passengers and four crew on board the flight from Newark. One person on the ground also died.

It is not clear what caused the crash. There was reported to be light snow and fog at the time.

TV footage showed a house engulfed in flames and the tail of the plane sticking out of the ground.

Officials said surrounding homes suffered only superficial damage. Twelve other homes were evacuated around the crash site in Clarence Center, a suburb of Buffalo.

State police spokeswoman Rebecca Gibbons said that of those on board, "there were no survivors".

The number of passengers is now thought to have numbered 45, after it was revealed that an off-duty pilot was also on board.

Erie County Executive Chris Collins said there were three people in the house that was hit.

One died and the other two - believed to be a woman and child - managed to escape with apparently minor injuries, he said.

President Barack Obama said he and his wife Michelle were "deeply saddened" by the news.

"Our hearts go out to the families and friends of loved ones," he said, thanking the "brave first responders" who tried to save lives and make the area safe.

'Dropped off radar'

The twin-prop Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft, operated by Colgan Air for Continental Airlines, was flying from Newark airport in New Jersey to Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

US media say a recording of Buffalo's air traffic control before the crash showed no concerns by either the controller or the pilot.

However, a minute later, the controller was unable to contact flight 3407 and asked other planes in the area if they could spot it.

One airport official said he had been told "the plane simply dropped off the radar screen".

Eyewitnesses spoke of hearing unusual sounds coming from the plane before it crashed.

"It sounded quite loud, and then the sound stopped," David Luce, who lives 150 yards (137m) from the crash site, told the Buffalo News.

"Then one or two seconds later, there was a thunderous explosion. I thought something hit our house. It shook our whole house."

He described going to the scene of the crash and seeing flames up to 50ft (15m) high.

"The house was already flattened. There was no house, just a pile of rubbish and still burning," he said.

Dave Bissonette, emergency control director in Clarence, described the crash as a "catastrophic event".

"It's remarkable that it only took one house," he added.

"As devastating as that was, it could have easily wiped out that entire neighbourhood.

"The fuselage of the plane lies directly on the footprint of the house. It basically dove right into the top of the house from my perspective, and again I am no expert on recreations, but it landed on the house," he said.

Investigation

Relatives of the victims have been offered counselling and support as they wait for news.

One of those believed to be on board the plane was Beverly Eckert, widow of Sean Rooney who was killed in the 9/11 attacks on New York.

Her sister Sue Bourque told the Buffalo News that Ms Eckert had been travelling home to mark what would have been her husband's 58th birthday.

"We know she was on that plane," she told the newspaper, although she had not received official confirmation, "and now she's with him."

Chris Kausner, whose sister is believed to have been on the plane, was forced to break the news to his mother, holidaying in Florida.

"I heard my mother make a noise on the phone that I never heard her make before," he told reporters.

Officials say the fire has been brought under control and the area has been sealed off.

An investigation into the accident is expected to begin at midday local time on Friday, when the site has cooled down enough.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are going to the scene.

Continental Airlines expressed profound sadness over the crash and said it was working closely with Colgan Air to "provide as much support as possible for all concerned".


Bombardier delivers 8 DHC8-Q300 prop planes to Japan Coast Guard
BREITBART.COM Feb 12, 2009


TOKYO, Feb. 13 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Canada's Bombardier delivered eight DHC8-Q300 prop planes to the Japan Coast Guard on Friday. A ceremony for the delivery took place at the JCG hanger in Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The DHC8-Q300s will replace the outmoded YS11 propeller planes, which the JCG introduced more than 30 years ago.

The twin-engine Bombardier plane, worth about 4.2 billion yen, has a flying range nearly double that of the YS-11, developed more than 40 years ago as the first made-in-Japan civil airplane since the end of World War II.

The 26-meter DHC8-Q300 has about 50 seats. The ones delivered to the JCG have only 32 seats with patrol equipment furnished in part of the seating area.

Of the eight planes, two will be deployed at the JCG air base in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture and one at the Haneda air base in Tokyo, both by March. Others will be deployed at the Chitose base in Hokkaido Prefecture in fiscal 2009 and later.

The JCG has introduced five YS11s for patrol missions since 1969. But all of them will have been retired by the end of fiscal 2010 in view of the difficulty of procuring replacement parts.


Politics and Culture in Wartime Japan

When the Pacific War broke out, the newspapers rivalled each other in praising the brilliant achievements of the armed forces and in calling for national unity. On 10th December 1941 all major newspapers sponsored a rally in Tokyo on the theme of 'Crushing the US and Britain'. The main speakers were Ogata Taketora, Shoriki Matsutaro,and Tokutomi Soho. They hailed the military and condemned the wickedness of the US and Britain. The editorial of the Nichi nichi on 17 December declared:'The War of Great East Asia is not a war of destruction. There has never been a more constructive war than this. Every bullet fired from the guns of the Japanese forces carries the destruction of the old order and helps to bring a new and better one.'

In January 1942 the government designated the eighth day of each month as Imperial Rescript Proclamation Day (taisho hotaibi), and from that time, all newspapers carried the imperial proclamation of war on their front pages on the eith day of each month. On these days Ogata, according to his biographers, used to come to his office in a national uniform (kokumin fuku) and conduct a thanksgiving prayer towards the imperial palace. In this way the newspapers used their prestige and credibility for the purpose of whipping up support for the war, and by doing so became propaganda tools of the wartime regime.


US rejects N Korean conditions for new talks
ABC News Oct 23, 2004


US rejects N Korean conditions for new talks

The United States will not accept North Korean demands as "conditions" for the resumption of stalled talks on resolving the Korean nuclear deadlock but Pyongyang is free to raise them if it returns to the table, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said today.

Mr Powell, in Japan on the first leg of a three-nation Asian tour that will also take him to China and South Korea, said North Korea would not win rewards for simply agreeing to attend a next round of the so-called "six-party talks."

"Anything they wish to talk about we should talk about in the six-party framework and not talk about conditions to have another session of the six-party group," he told reporters on his plane en route to Tokyo.

"They're free to bring anything forward at those discussions but to put forward these kinds of conditions, which may lead to yet another set of conditions, is not the way to approach this problem," Mr Powell said.

His comments came after the North Korean foreign ministry on Friday signalled that Pyongyang would be willing to return to the talks but only if the United States met three conditions.

Washington must drop its "hostile intent" toward North Korea, must agree to reward Pyongyang for giving up its nuclear weapons program, and South Korea must fully explain secret uranium and plutonium enrichment experiments it conducted in the 1980s and 1990s, it said.

At the last round of six-party talks in June, the United States proposed an aid-for-disarmament offer that would give North Korea a formal security assurance and provide economic and energy benefits for its complete and verifiable dismantling of its nuclear arms programs.

North Korea then boycotted a fourth round which was to have been held in September while the other parties to the Beijing-hosted talks - China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States - have urged Pyongyang to return.

Friday's statement from the state's foreign ministry, which followed a three-day trip to China by North Korea's second-ranking leader, was the first overt sign that the North might be willing to resume participation.

Mr Powell said the United States would not sweeten its proposed package and appeared exasperated that the North Koreans continued to dwell on US "hostile intent" after Washington had repeatedly said it would not invade the North.

"We have discussed this hostile attitude issue over and over," he said, rejecting suggestions that upcoming naval exercises off Japan aimed at stopping and seizing shipments of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons might be seen by the North as antagonistic.

Powell also downplayed North Korea's concerns about South Korea's admission last month that it secretly enriched a tiny amount of plutonium in 1982 and uranium in 2000 for scientific research.

"That should not be an obstacle," Mr Powell said, noting that Seoul was already addressing international concerns on the matter.


TIFF Kicks Off
Japan Entertainment News October 25, 2004


The 17th Tokyo International Film Festival kicked off at the weekend. In addition to the usual screenings in Shibuya, this year also sees the Roppongi Hills complex hosting many entries. Roppongi's Keyakizaka Dori street was lined with a whopping 200m-long red carpet and 6,000 people turned out to welcome such local beauties as Matsu Takako, Matsuzaka Keiko, Hasegawa Kyoko and Ueto Aya, all of whom were dressed to the nines. Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro gave the opening speech, and said he used to go to the cinema at least once a month before becoming leader, but now has no chance to. The festival opened with a screening of Yamada Yoji's latest samurai pic "Kakushi Ken, Oni to Tsume" starring Matsu and Nagase Masatoshi. The prize money has been increased to $100,000 this year, the highest among the 11 major international festivals. The panel of 6 judges is led by Yamada, and the winner of the main Grand Prix award will be announced on October 31.


Japan rebuffs Rice on lifting beef ban
Japan Times March 20, 2005


Japan did not provide a timetable for reopening its market for American beef on Saturday as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice strongly pressed Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura for an early resumption of imports.

Rice said Japan should at least accelerate the process for lifting the ban, noting that the dispute is starting to damage Japan-U.S. relations, according to a Japanese official who briefed the media.

Japan started the ban in December 2003 following the first case of mad cow disease in the U.S.

Machimura, meanwhile, said political pressure on the government's food safety panel won't help bring about an early resumption of imports but may negatively affect U.S. beef consumption in Japan after the imports are resumed, the official said.

Rice's remarks came amid growing pressure from U.S. lawmakers from farming states who have threatened to retaliate if Japan does not provide a timetable for lifting the 15-month-old ban.

With the deadlock continuing after Saturday's talks, the U.S. lawmakers are likely to increase pressure, including launching a campaign to limit tire imports from Japan.

"I urged the minister to put in place efforts to resolve these issues as quickly as possible, given that there is indeed a science-based standard that is global on this issue," Rice told reporters after the meeting with Machimura. "This has gone on for a very long time."

While Japan tests all slaughtered cattle for mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the European Union conducts testing for suspect cattle aged 24 months and older and unsuspected cattle aged 30 months and older.

In an apparent effort to show that Japan is doing everything it can toward resuming the beef trade, Machimura briefed Rice on domestic procedures expected to take place in the coming months.

Machimura said he told Rice that the Food Safety Commission should come up with a conclusion to ease blanket testing on March 28, and the government will then refer to the commission the question of whether to reopen the market to U.S. beef.

"But I cannot say for sure when the conclusion will be reached," he said. "It is important that we try not to make this issue an impediment in Japan-U.S. relations."

Japan and the U.S. agreed in October to partially resume U.S. beef imports for cattle 20 months and younger. But there is strong opposition in Japan to stopping blanket testing, particularly among consumer groups.

As for North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons program, Machimura and Rice agreed that Pyongyang should unconditionally return to the six-party talks at an early date. Both emphasized that China, as North Korea's ally, should play a greater role in pressuring Pyongyang to come back to the talks, which also involve South Korea and Russia.

Rice is expected to push China on this when she visits Beijing on the final leg of her Northeast Asia trip.

After her two-day stay in Tokyo, during which she also met with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono, Rice left for Seoul later Saturday. She is scheduled to move on to Beijing on Sunday.

"It is the only way that (North Korea) can resolve this issue in a way that gives them access to the international system and to the benefits thereof," Rice said.

North Korea's intention to pursue nuclear weapons and declaring their possession to the international community are damaging its relationship with other nations, she said.

Rice reiterated to Machimura that the U.S. supports Japan's efforts to force North Korea to come clean on the fate of Japanese it abducted during the 1970s and 1980s.

Machimura told Rice calls are mounting in Japan for the government to impose economic sanctions on North Korea, the official said.

Machimura and Rice agreed to "accelerate talks" on the realignment of U.S. military forces in Japan.

Rice also reiterated her support for Japan's effort to gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Schieffer confirmed WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The U.S. Senate late Thursday confirmed Thomas Schieffer as ambassador to Japan, according to a congressional record.

The Senate also approved Christopher Hill as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and the promotion of Joseph DeTrani, special envoy for the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions, to the rank of ambassador. Schieffer is succeeding Howard Baker, who left last month.

During a Senate confirmation hearing earlier in the week, Schieffer, currently ambassador to Australia and a longtime Texas friend of President George W. Bush, urged Japan to lift its 15-month-old import ban on U.S. beef to prevent it from damaging overall bilateral ties.

In 1989, Schieffer became an investor in the partnership led by Bush and Edward Rose that bought the Texas Rangers, later working as the partner-in-charge of ballpark development, president and general partner.


Summary of Typhoons in 2008
Digital Typhoon 2008-12-27


The 2008 typhoon season had 22 typhoons, which is a smaller number than average, and this season was even less active than the 2007 typhoon season. Because many typhoons did not turn north and move westward, the number of typhoons that passed near Japan was 9, which is less than the average of 10.8, and the number of landfall was even zero, which is only the fourth year on record since 1951. In Japan, only Izu and Ogasawara Islands have more typhoons than average, 6 to the average of 5.0, but generally speaking, the effect of typhoons on Japan was small this year.


Clinton visits Asia to send key message
CNN February 16, 2009


TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Japan Monday to begin a week-long trip through four Asian nations, looking to begin building new international relationships to help tackle some of the world's toughest challenges.

Speaking to reporters en route to Tokyo, Clinton said "going to Asia is, for me, a very big part of how we're going to demonstrate the Obama administration's approach to dealing with the multitude of problems that we see, but also the opportunities as well."

Her visits to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and China will include discussions on a host of sensitive topics, from climate change to nuclear proliferation. And Clinton vowed that she will not be "shying away from talking about human rights issues."

But there will likely be few fireworks or confrontations. "I think it's fair to say that this first trip will be one intended to really find a path forward, to have as robust an engagement as possible on a range of issues," she said.

Clinton added: "I chose to go to Asia deliberately in order to send that message that we are reaching out. We do see Asia as part of America's future."

Her meetings will not be limited to government officials, Clinton said, "because I think it's important that we get out of the ministerial buildings and listen to the people in the countries where I'll be visiting. So to that end, I'll be doing town halls and visits in areas of concern that we can discuss with NGO leaders and local officials."

Clinton has had official travels through Asia previously, dating back to when her husband was U.S. president. She described the trip as "an opportunity to renew relationships with some people that I've known before" and to speak face-to-face with "those with whom I'll be meeting for the first time."

The backdrop for the visit is the global economic crisis, she said. All four nations are members of the G-20, which is composed of financial leaders of 19 nations and the European Union. The group was formed in the late 1990s to bring together key figures to help improve the world economy. The next G-20 meeting is in London in April.

"I will be discussing with them the approaches that each are taking, explaining what we have just done with the passage of our stimulus bill, and seeking greater cooperation about how together we're going to work our way through these very difficult economic times," Clinton said.


Japan finance minister steps down
BBC News 17 February 2009


Japan's Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa has resigned, amid claims that he was drunk at a recent G7 meeting.

Mr Nakagawa said earlier that he would wait until parliament had approved a supplementary budget to step down.

But he brought forward his departure after calls for his immediate exit escalated.

Prime Minister Taro Aso said he respected Mr Nakagawa's decision and named Economics Minister Kaoru Yosano to take over the finance portfolio.

At a news conference just hours after his appointment, Mr Yosano said the country's economy had deteriorated "beyond expectation".

Mr Yosano said his priority was to "smooth" the financial system as well as stimulating demand.

He said he would decide whether to take additional steps after consulting not only the government but business leaders, academics and the media.

'Embarrassing'

Mr Nakagawa's departure is seen as a major blow to Mr Aso's government in an election year.

The prime minister was already facing plummeting support; a poll by broadcaster NTV on Sunday put backing for his cabinet at 9.7%.

Voters are worried both about the economy and Mr Aso's leadership credentials in the wake of a series of gaffes, analysts say.

Mr Nakagawa apologised for "causing such a big fuss" and told journalists: "I decided that it would be better for the country if I quit."

He has already apologised for his behaviour at last weekend's news conference in Rome but blamed cold remedies for a slurred performance there.

He said he had not drunk more than a sip of alcohol before facing the media.

The news conference in Rome followed a meeting of finance ministers focussing on the current world economic crisis.

Footage showed Mr Nakagawa slurring his speech and closing his eyes repeatedly as if he was dozing off.

At one point, he mistook a question aimed at the governor of the Bank of Japan as one intended for him.

"It's embarrassing," said Democratic Party Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama. "This has sent a message to the whole world. He's damaged the national interest."

He explained that he had sipped wine at a luncheon toast on the day of the news conference, but had not consumed an entire glass.

He said he had taken too much medicine, including cold remedy, and that had made him drowsy.

Mr Nakagawa has denied reports - including the view of a former prime minister - that he is a regular drinker.


Aso accepts blame for Nakagawa
Japan Times Feb. 20, 2009


Ex-minister was warned about alcohol in past

Prime Minister Taro Aso apologized Thursday over the abrupt exit in disgrace of Shoichi Nakagawa as finance minister and accepted responsibility for appointing him.

"There were no cases in the past where a finance minister was replaced during Diet deliberations" of a budget bill, Aso said during a Lower House Budget Committee session.

"I really apologize for this," he said, stressing that swift enactment of the fiscal 2009 budget should be the Diet's priority.

Nakagawa stepped down as finance minister and head of the Financial Services Agency after slurring his speech and looking like he was having trouble staying awake during a news conference after a Group of Seven meeting in Rome on Saturday.

In the subsequent firestorm, Nakagawa denied he was drunk.

Aso revealed during the session that when he appointed Nakagawa in September, he cautioned him "to be careful about drinking sake."

Nakagawa has long been known as a heavy drinker.

"It is true that I did hear various rumors" about his drinking habits, Aso said.

He also tried to defend his disgraced ally by stressing that Nakagawa stepped down "mainly" because he could not manage his " health condition."

Also appearing before the budget committee, Rintaro Tamaki, director general of the Finance Ministry's International Bureau, revealed that Nakagawa ordered a bottle of wine during a private working lunch before the news conference.

But Tamaki, who accompanied Nakagawa to Rome, also said the finance chief didn't drink a lot of the wine and only "tasted it with his lips."

Aso told the committee he was shocked when he saw footage of Nakagawa's behavior at the news conference, which was aired repeatedly by national TV stations and picked up by overseas media as well.

"My first reaction was one of surprise — I couldn't grasp the situation," Aso said. "I was shocked and didn't understand what was happening" to Nakagawa.

"Maybe it had to do with health reasons, but people would normally assume Nakagawa was drunk after seeing those images," said committee member Yukio Edano of the Democratic Party of Japan. "Don't you know how ashamed the people felt over this incident?"

DPJ deputy chief Naoto Kan also grilled Aso during the session, saying Aso was responsible for choosing a Cabinet minister rumored to have alcohol problems.

Strong calls for Nakagawa's resignation came from not only the opposition force but also the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc, which meant his fate was sealed.


Little Tramp still big in Japan
The Standard April 21, 2006


Charlie Chaplin's ties with his Asian assistant throw new light on the legend, says Bruce Wallace

Friday, April 21, 2006

Charlie Chaplin's ties with his Asian assistant throw new light on the legend, says Bruce Wallace

Charlie Chaplin traveled to Japan just four times in his long life and narrowly missed being assassinated by a gang of rogue naval officers on one visit.

But the Japanese loved Charlie and his Little Tramp. Still do. Chaplin's films and Tramp character carved a lasting place in Japanese culture, and new evidence of a little-discussed relationship with his longtime Japanese assistant is offering fresh opportunities to explore one of the most poked and perused lives of the 20th century.

The barely mined Japanese connection is what drew many of the world's top Chaplinologists as well as a few hundred fans and the late comedian's daughter Josephine to the first conference on Chaplin in Japan.

In chilly Kyoto one weekend last month, participants swapped business cards and traded Chaplin anecdotes, examining such questions as how much influence Kabuki theater had on his art and what moved prewar Japanese cinema audiences to embrace a movie character originally dubbed "Strange Person" and, later, "Professor Alcohol."

Kathryn Millard, an Australian shooting Here Comes Charlie, a feature documentary on Chaplin's influence around the world, says: "I'm searching for an explanation of why Chaplin's Tramp has had such resonance in so many cultures for so long and why he keeps popping up everywhere.

"It's not just about the appeal of silent film stars. It's that the Tramp seems infinitely adaptable."

But the honey that drew the specialists to Kyoto was the recent emergence of documents and photographs from the estate of Chaplin's longtime assistant Toraichi Kono, a Japanese national who had settled in California. Kono went to work as the star's driver in 1916 and was, for the next 18 years if you believe his most enthusiastic Japanese supporters, one of the comedian's closest confidants.

The FBI had another view. They thought Kono became a Japanese spy after he left Chaplin's employ in the mid-1930s. In the run-up to Pearl Harbor, with Japanese-American tensions rising, they caught Kono meeting with Japanese naval officers looking for information about US naval deployments. He was arrested, released and then quickly interned after the attack.

That hazy, curious life story has somehow remained below Hollywood's radar. The question, as phrased by conference organizer Hiroyuki Ono, the leading authority on Kono and who is writing his biography, is: "Why did the right-hand man of the world's greatest comedian disappear from history?"

Until Ono started asking questions, the truth about what Kono did for his movie star boss - and perhaps for the Japanese navy - had disappeared into the mists. Chaplin called Kono his secretary in the fleeting references he made to him in his 1964 autobiography. He also had minor roles - as a chauffeur - in three Chaplin films, although he was credited in just one: 1917's The Adventurer.

But Ono sees Kono, who died in 1971, as much more than a gofer: He was Chaplin's gatekeeper. Although Ono says the relationship between the men was "never warm," he cites dozens of letters intended for Chaplin but addressed to Kono as evidence the Japanese assistant was the man you had to go through to get to the star.

Ono argues that Kono had such control over Chaplin's domestic arrangements that at one point in the mid-20s, all 17 male workers at the actor's estate were Japanese. And it was Kono, he says, who encouraged his boss to visit Japan for the first time in 1932 and cultivated a love in Chaplin for everything from Japanese literature to tempura.

Ono's fascination with Chaplin began 22 years ago when, at nine, he saw The Great Dictator on Japanese TV. As an adult, he has visited all the Chaplin haunts: from the south London of his impoverished childhood to the road in California where the Tramp walks off into the unknown arm in arm with Paulette Goddard's gamin at the end of Modern Times.

An energetic storyteller dripping with enthusiasm, Ono is what the Japanese would kindly call an otaku - a Chaplin geek.

In 2004, he met Kono's second wife, who uncrated hundreds of photos and letters for him and gave approval for a biography that would unveil the driver- valet-fixer's importance in the Chaplin pantheon. Ono took news of his find to a Chaplin conference in London last July, where the assembled Chaplin scholars excitedly encouraged him to host his own conference in Japan.

In 1931, six months after the world premiere of City Lights, a Kabuki company adapted it in a piece called Komori no Yasusan, with a lead actor in a Chaplin mustache and the boxing scene converted into a sumo wrestling match.

Chaplin made his first visit to Japan a year later, shepherded by Kono. His autobiography describes it as a trip bristling with intimidation and violence.

The visit's defining moment came while Chaplin watched a sumo match with Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai's son, Ken, on the afternoon of May 15. Six young naval officers broke into the leader's official residence in Tokyo and murdered the prime minister, hoping to spark a revolution that would reinstate an emperor-based government.

Their plot dissolved. But later court- martial testimony into what the Japanese call the May 15 Incident suggested the officers had debated killing Chaplin, on the dubious premise it would provoke the United States into war with Japan.

But the conference in Kyoto skipped over any discussion of the political violence of those times. Chaplin was a leading critic of fascism, militarism and imperialism - extremist forces that were all swelling in strength in Japan during that visit and two more in 1936.

Yet there was no discussion on what effect Japanese nationalism might have had on him, his politics or films. And it was noted but never deeply discussed that Japan's wartime government banned The Great Dictator, Chaplin's film skewering Adolf Hitler. It was not shown in Japan until 1960.

Ono said the conference ignored Chaplin's collision with nationalist extremism because the near assassination of the world's greatest comedian is well known in Japan - a debatable statement in a country whose school texts are notoriously skimpy on the history of that dark period.

Instead the participants stuck safely to a mandate of uncovering evidence of Chaplin's Japanophilia. They learned he once devoured 30 shrimp tempura in one sitting. And they heard from Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, a leading TV personality who met Chaplin in New York in 1972, that the actor told her of his love for Japan, even bursting into tears at the sight of her in a kimono.

Kono's story - the driver entered Chaplin's orbit in 1916, by which time he had been living off and on in California for more than a dozen years - was the perfect catalyst for the conference. Unlike many Japanese who arrived in America fleeing poverty, Kono was a party guy running from the restraints of an arranged marriage and a wealthy but demanding father.

He was a pilot whose first wife would not let him fly, and he worked in a shop and as a houseboy before meeting Chaplin at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, where the actor then lived. Their relationship did not end until 1934, when Kono complained about the spending habits of Goddard, Chaplin's third wife. Chaplin sided with his wife. Kono walked out. "It was a matter of face for him," Ono says.

Kono did take up Chaplin's offer to become the Japan representative of United Artists, which Chaplin co- owned, but quit after a year, muttering about sabotage from other Chaplin employees. He then slid into a social world that included Japanese naval spies who were scouting for information on US Navy battleships.

The FBI arrested Kono on espionage charges although the allegations were dropped in favor of attempts to deport him. But when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Kono was rearrested the same day.

He spent the war in internment camps, where he ran the projector on movie nights, just as he had done for the screenings at the Chaplin mansion, says Clyde Kusatsu, a Los Angeles actor and filmmaker who is finishing a shooting script for a documentary on Kono.

He was not released until 1948.

Kono's defenders say he never was a spy, though he did sign a confession while in custody. Ono contends that Kono sought only to be a bridge between Japan and America. "While the Japanese navy may have used Kono as a tool, we do not believe he betrayed the United States," Ono says.

Kono fought further attempts to deport him after the war but by the 1950s had returned to his birthplace of Hiroshima.

He was living there in 1961 when Chaplin came to Japan for the last time.

On that trip, Chaplin went to Hiroshima, where he visited the Peace Memorial Park built below the spot where the atomic bomb was detonated. Kono lived in an apartment facing the park.

The two never met.

LOS ANGELES TIMES


Tokyo Journal; Japan's New Generation Of Old Political Names
The New York Times July 17, 1993


Asahiko Mihara and more than 900 other Japanese politicians have spent the last two weeks exhaustively crisscrossing their districts, but Mr. Mihara admits he is one of those who enjoy an advantage that is all but unassailable.

It is not his policies, his charisma or even his money-raising abilities. It is his father, who held the seat before him.

In this critical election, to be held on Sunday, the principal issue is the discredited state of the Liberal Democratic Party after five years of scandals and whether it will lose its majority. Nearly all of the candidates, whether Liberal Democrats or not, are running on platforms of breaking with the past. A Peculiar Institution

But there is one peculiar, if highly influential, institution that is likely to survive all this turmoil intact: most expect Parliament to remain dominated by what are known as "nisei," the children or close relatives of politicians. In Japanese elections, destiny plays as much of a role as policy.

"It's not fair for other politicians, but it costs us less because we can use our fathers' names," said Mr. Mihara, who is running in the family's district in Fukuoka, in southwestern Japan. "If someone new wants to run against me, he is going to have a heck of a time."

Added Kenji Kosaka, who is running for a second term in a seat in Nagano prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, that has been in his family for four generations, "I just mention my name and people say: 'I know your father and I knew your grandfather. Come in.' Japanese like brand names."

A total of 45.5 percent of the Liberal Democratic majority elected three years ago to the lower house of Parliament are nisei -- the word literally means second generation -- and a similar percentage is likely to be returned to office, according to various polls. There are also opposition nisei, so that 29 percent of the 512 members of Parliament have inherited their seats.

Of course, there are political families in American politics, too. Vice President Al Gore and former President George Bush are both the sons of United States Senators, for instance. But Japan's new aristocrats clearly outnumber and wield far more influence in this country's political power structure.

Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa is the son and grandson of prominent politicians, and 10 of the 21 members of his Cabinet are nisei. The percentage is similar for the parties that have been formed in the last month by Liberal Democratic defectors. Tsutomu Hata, who helped set off the current crisis by forming a conservative splinter party, and his chief lieutenant, Ichiro Ozawa, are nisei.

Even Sadao Yamahana, the head of the Socialists, Japan's largest opposition party, "inherited" his seat.

"We are totally handicapped when we run against them," complained Takaaki Koga, 40, a member of the local assembly in Yamaguchi prefecture in the southwest who is running against a nisei. "We run the entire marathon with all our energy and still do not know whether or not we will finish. The nisei start two or three kilometers from the finish and then just walk across the line." Egalitarianism vs. Bloodlines

The nisei phenomenon speaks volumes about the underlying values of a society that likes to think of itself as a meritocracy. After having been run by an aristocracy for centuries, Japan sought to free itself from its feudal past after World War II by installing a new elite chosen on the basis of rigorous tests and ability. Young Japanese are still told that hard work and brains will be rewarded fairly.

But over the years reality has diverged further and further from the ideal as the new aristocracy became more entrenched. The same is also true in the powerful Government bureaucracy, and even at the training ground of the elite, Tokyo University, showing the strength of bloodlines beneath Japan's egalitarian facade.

"This is a threat to real democracy," said Susumu Saito, who is making a second run for a seat in Shizu oka prefecture, southwest of Tokyo near Mount Fuji, against two nisei opponents. "It makes the system so rigid."


Getting Japan's politics wrong
Japan Times Oct. 8, 2007


Western media have reported Japan's new prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, as drab and unexciting and even as "lukewarm pizza." But anyone who watched him during his more than three-year stint as chief Cabinet secretary would know that he has a sharp mind and a laid-back sense of humor.

We are now discovering that he also has a quiet determination. If he is unexciting, it is because he realizes the virtue of conciliation rather than confrontation.

Just a few years back, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi was dubbed "cold pizza" by some Western media. In fact, to anyone who knew him, he was open and warmhearted. Even if you did not know him, his willingness to ignore the United States and have Japan approve the global ban on lethal land mines suggested that he was not your ordinary insensitive, power-grabbing Japanese politician — that he had a heart and a soul. None of that got much mention in the Western media.

His successor, Yoshiro Mori, was equally misrepresented. He refused to play up to the Japanese media, so in revenge they pounced on anything frank and impromptu he said before any audience, no matter how private, to prove that he was a bumbler.

To anyone who knew him, he was sharp and incisive — a quality that allows him even today to play a kingmaker role in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. He also made some very sensible moves to try to resolve the abductee issue with North Korea and the territorial issue with Moscow. But sure enough, Japan's lightheaded media said those moves were also bumbles. In the Western media, which inevitably takes its lead from the Japanese media, he is still accused of being "gaffe prone."

Next came Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the showman. Japan was always vulnerable to booms and fads, and provided they stayed at the level of koalas, pandas and Australian frilly lizards, they could not do too much damage. But when it came to Kozumi waving hands and hair and promising something called "structural reform," we should have known we were in trouble.

Claiming a need to clean up bank bad loans and cut public debt, he and his heavily U.S.-influenced adviser, Heizo Takenaka, caused massive bankruptcies, threw the nation into unneeded recession, created severe wealth divisions (kakusa) in this once fairly egalitarian society and left us with an ugly banking oligopoly plus an extra ¥200 trillion of public debt to boot. Brilliant.

Meanwhile, China, with an even larger bank bad-loan problem, solved it simply by continued economic expansion. It also greatly enhanced its Asian status at Japan's expense as a result.

Yet throughout this fiasco the media, the commentators and anyone else of influence would religiously recite the Koizumi mantra of structural reform as if it had biblical authority. Western media were equally enthralled. Anyone who cast doubts on his wisdom was quickly ignored and blackballed. We were back to the Japan of the past when the nation, mesmerized by emperor worship, believed its own propaganda about ultimate victory even as its forces were being wiped out and its cities bombed.

True, Fukuda still feels he has to pay ritual homage to the structural reform slogan. But his promise to spend more in neglected areas of the economy reverses a large part of the Koizumi-Takenaka program.

Yet another sign of the times is the way the few who opposed the Koizumi obsession over post office privatization are finally being allowed to return from blackball exile. They include Takeo Hiranuma, a leading Liberal Democratic Party intellectual, who also realized the folly of the Koizumi-Takenaka economic policies even if he had to remain silent at the time.

Finally the commentators are beginning to say openly that Japan has had enough of Koizumi's theater (gekijo) politics, and that it was time for the more conciliatory and mild-mannered Fukuda to take the stage.

Foreign policies are also being revamped. The Koizumi obsession with visiting the contentious Yasukuni Shrine and boosting the military did enough damage to Japan's diplomacy in Asia. But his successor, Shinzo Abe, did far worse with his obsessive desire for constitutional reform that would allow Japan's remilitarization; his deliberate exaggeration of the abductee issue to destroy the Koizumi breakthrough with North Korea; and his bizarre attempt to create an anti-China arc extending from Taiwan, down to Australia, then up to India, and including the U.S. and possibly the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Abe did not pull these ideas out of thin air. Calls for Japan's militarization, the rewriting of school textbooks, denial of war guilt, bitter contempt for Japan's alleged postwar "pacifist senility" (heiwa boke) and dislike of China had been meat and bread on the rightwing guru circuit for decades.

Abe was one of their students. But now, with the nonconfrontational and pro-China Fukuda in control, this rightwing push could come to a shuddering halt. Highly significant is Tokyo's current willingness to listen to vocal Okinawan protests against the move under Abe to have school textbooks deny the role of the Japanese military in forcing mass suicides during the last stages of the war there.

Toward North Korea the changes could be more dramatic. The strange rightwing attempt to drag the U.S. into supporting Japan's contrived abductee issue, even at the expense of delaying North Korea's denuclearization, seems clearly to have backfired. With it has gone the hope that Pyongyang could continue to be demonized and used as a threat to justify Japan's continued remilitarization.

The commentators now feel free to suggest the previously unthinkable — that Tokyo's hard abductee line toward Pyongyang is going nowhere and needs to be reversed. Reports say Fukuda will soon send an envoy to Pyongyang to seek a solution.

What we are seeing in all this is typically Japanese. For a time the nation allows itself willy-nilly to be dragged in one direction. But when it hits a brick wall, as it clearly had with the economy and the China/North Korea issues, it is just as happy to start moving in the opposite direction. Japan's 1945 switch from rampant militarism to deep pacifism was one example. Let's hope this time the mood for change does not get derailed. And that the Western media finally get their act right over Japan.


Patriot 'Mariko' asks populace to develop global mind-set
Japan Times Feb. 10, 2000


True patriotism does not equal narrow-minded nationalism, said Mariko Terasaki Miller, the first female honorary consul general of Japan, as she called on the Japanese to develop a sense of internationalism and pacifism at the core of their identity. "To develop an international or cosmopolitan mind requires substantial effort and tolerance from individuals. But I want all Japanese people to develop such senses to contribute to the peace and harmony of the world," Miller said in an interview with The Japan Times this week. Miller was born in Shanghai to parents Hidenari Terasaki, a Japanese diplomat, and American Gwen Harold Terasaki. Due to the nature of her father's work, she grew up in such major cities as Havana, Beijing, Washington and Tokyo, exposing her to many different cultures. Miller has devoted more than 30 years of her life to issues ranging from disarmament to world peace, as well as racial and sexual equality. She has also acted as a bridge between the United States and Japan to promote goodwill. Her name, Mariko, won national recognition in Japan with the 1981 airing of a NHK documentary drama, "Mariko," based on the experiences of her family. Her father was known for his last-minute effort to avoid war between Japan and the U.S. during his tenure at the Japanese Embassy in Washington in 1941. He used his daughter's name, Mariko, as a code for Japanese-U.S. relations, sending messages to Japan such as "Mariko is well" and "Mariko is getting worse." Miller was appointed honorary consul general of Japan in Denver in 1995, and was invited to a luncheon hosted by then Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto in 1996 during his visit to Washington. At the meeting, she urged Hashimoto to encourage Japan's youth to foster international and cosmopolitan minds. She is currently in Japan on a speaking tour. "I encourage Japanese people to maintain hope for the future in this time of economic hardship, because I believe they have the ability and brave minds to overcome hardships just like they did after World War II," Miller said. But she pointed out that a great danger lies in the time of hardship Japan is now experiencing. "It is easier for people to incline to jingoism, ethnocentrism or extreme nationalism when a country has lost its confidence. But they are ultimate luxuries that must be payed for later," she said. Miller said her father's failure to avert war also affected her family, including her uncle, Taira Terasaki. He suffered radiation exposure after joining, as a doctor, the first medical team that arrived in Hiroshima three days after the atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945. She said she would find it regretful if there were a growing sentiment among Japanese to glorify the time in its history that led to the war, which cost the lives of millions of Japanese. "People must always learn from history to develop true patriotism as well as cosmopolitan minds," she said. Regarding Japan's contributions to the international community, Miller said it should not always follow U.S. foreign policy, although a bilateral partnership is indispensable for a new world order in the coming century. "Japan has its own distinctive role in the world, as the second-largest world economy, as a country with a pacifist Constitution and as the only country that experienced the tragedies of the atomic bombings," she said. "People here must recognize that there are so many things that Japan can do for the world and also must start thinking what they can do for the world as individuals," she added.


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