The Japanese archipelago sits atop the Pacific ‘Ring of fire’ and has more than 100 volcanoes. The 2014 eruption of Mount Ontake in central Japan killed 57 people.
Mount Sakurajima, a volcano that overlooks the city of Kagoshima, erupted Friday with a fiery blast that sent lava rolling down its slope.
“I jumped out of my house after I heard the news but I didn’t see anything or hear anything.”
— Yoko Noguchi, 75, who lives in the northwestern part of the Sakurajima island
Local television showed an orange burst out of the side of the volcano, near the summit, accompanied by lightning-like flashes. Dark gray smoke billowed into the sky.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The Meteorological Agency banned entry to the area, expanding an existing no-go zone around the crater to a 2-kilometer radius.
Given the eruption, the weather agency upgraded the volcanic alert from level 2 to level 3, which prohibits people from entering the mountain. The agency warned areas near residential districts on the mountain’s foot could be gravely affected.
“I’m not scared because I’m used to it.”
— Toru Sakamoto, 56, who heard the blast at his home
Kazuhiro Ishihara, professor emeritus at Kyoto University and an volcano expert, was quoted by NHK as saying that the eruption was unlikely to have an immediate serious impact on nearby residential areas because the live video images appeared to show rocks flying only 2 km from the mountain’s top. Read the rest of this entry »
The U.S., South Korea and Japan condemned North Korea’s plan to launch a long-range rocket that Pyongyang says is carrying an earth-observation satellite. Photo: Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North satellite imagery.
Spread’s new automation technology will not only produce more lettuce, it will also reduce labor costs by 50%, cut energy use by 30%, and recycle 98% of water needed to grow the crops.
So much so that Spread is creating the world’s first farm manned entirely by robots. Instead of relying on human farmers, the indoor Vegetable Factory will employ robots that can harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce every day.
“The use of machines and technology has been improving agriculture in this way throughout human history. With the introduction of plant factories and their controlled environment, we are now able to provide the ideal environment for the crops.”
— J.J. Price, a spokesperson at Spread
Don’t expect a bunch of humanoid robots to roam the halls, however; the robots look more like conveyor belts with arms. They’ll plant seeds, water plants, and trim lettuce heads after harvest in the Kyoto, Japan farm.
“The use of machines and technology has been improving agriculture in this way throughout human history,” J.J. Price, a spokesperson at Spread, tells Tech Insider. “With the introduction of plant factories and their controlled environment, we are now able to provide the ideal environment for the crops.”
The Vegetable Factory follows the growing agricultural trend of vertical farming, where farmers grow crops indoors without natural sunlight. Instead, they rely on LED light and grow crops on racks that stack on top of each other.
In addition to increasing production and reducing waste, indoor vertical farming also eliminates runoff from pesticides and herbicides — chemicals used in traditional outdoor farming that can be harmful to the environment. Read the rest of this entry »
Stanley Lubman writes: A trio of recent repressive actions by the Chinese party-state represents a disturbing three-pronged attack that treats legality as an unnecessary burden on governance over society, and illustrates how far China is willing to go to snuff out dissent.
The actions include the arrest of seven lawyers accused of “subversion” and four others charged with lesser offenses; the televised “confession” of a China-based Swedish citizen who worked for a rights NGO and has been charged with “endangering state security;” and the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers and publishers One reemerged on CCTV to confess to a prior crime years earlier, and a second has written to his wife from Shenzhen to say that he has been “assisting in an investigation.”
Arrests for “subversion of state power”
The lawyers who have been arrested have all been in the forefront of defending controversial activists. Seven are accused of “subversion of state power,” an offense that has been on the books since 1997 but infrequently used. More commonly, activists such as Pu Zhiqiang have been convicted for the lesser charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels.” (Pu received a three-year sentence that was simultaneously suspended for the same length of time; however, because of his conviction, Pu is barred from practicing law.) Conviction for subversion can lead to a sentence of anywhere from three years to life in prison.
Three of the other lawyers were charged with the lesser offense of “inciting subversion against state power” which, according to a recent posting by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, is used against individuals who “express criticism of the government” and is punishable by a sentence of up to five years. One other person, a paralegal, has been charged with “assisting in destruction of evidence; other lawyers have been detained incommunicado or forcibly disappeared for at least six months.
The arrests raise the severity of the charges by aiming at speech related to “subversion” — rather than acts. Foreign experts are dismayed; Eva Pils (Kings College London) comments that the situation “is basically about as serious as it gets for human rights advocacy.”
The arrest of the human rights lawyers is a continuation of the crackdown that exploded in July, but the rise of the accusation of “subversion” raises the odds of harsher punishment.
Arrest and televised “confession” of Swedish citizen affiliated with a human rights NGO
A Swedish man in his 30s, Peter Dahlin, a co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action) that organizes training programs for human rights defenders, was detained in early January, on a charge of “endangering state security.” On Wednesday, he was paraded on China Central Television and shown admitting to have broken Chinese laws, in a televised “confession” that has been denounced by rights advocates as coerced.
According to a statement from China Action, the NGO focuses on land law and administrative law and trains non-lawyers to provide pro-bono legal aid to victims of rights violations. Dahlin is in need of daily medication due to affliction by a rare disease; Chinese state media reports say he is receiving it, but no other information has been available. China’s Foreign Ministry says it is granting Swedish consular officials access to him, although no information has been available on his whereabouts. Read the rest of this entry »
Noting a marked shift in China’s behaviour around the islands since last December, a Japanese foreign ministry official said: “The situation in the East China Sea is getting worse.”
Tension over the group of five uninhabited islands and three barren rocks mounted in September 2012, when the Japanese government — which has administered the islands since 1895 — bought them from a private owner.
Japanese officials fear Beijing is using the shift in international attention towards the South China Sea — where China has been constructing artificial islands — to mount a new push in the waters further north.
Tokyo has formally protested the Chinese actions, which it calls a “forceful, coercive attempt to change the status quo”, but has so far avoided any escalation with countermeasures of its own.
In late December, China sailed an armed vessel into territorial waters around the disputed islands for the first time.
Sailing with three other Chinese vessels, a former naval frigate converted for coastguard use but carrying four quick-firing 37mm cannon, entered the 24 nautical mile “contiguous zone” around the islands for the first time on December 22, and the 12 nautical mile territorial waters on December 26. Read the rest of this entry »
Mitchell Blatt continues:
The Guojiang Subtitle Group, which is made up of about six dozen volunteers across China, subtitles American debates and uploads them to Chinese video sharing sites like Sina. But if the hope is that Chinese viewers would be more supportive of democracy after watching them, we are in for a disappointment. In fact, some Chinese viewers come away thinking democracy is a joke. “There isn’t that much discussion of policy issues. Many remarks are just sensational,” the New York Times quoted a former business consultant as saying. Other viewers compared it to watching a reality show or a sitcom.
To be fair, the Chinese aren’t alone in laughing at The Donald and other ridiculous characters in politics. A debate moderator accused Trump of running “a comic book version of presidential campaign, and FOX News host Bill O’Reilly opened a segment of his show by imagining what the GOP primary contenders would be like if they were stars of a reality television show. Joking about politics is an international pass time.
Even in China, with its limited scope of political discourse, social media users mock local government officials and joke about corruption. One popular joke holds that in America, rich people get involved in politics, while in China people involved in politics get rich.
Still, from the many conversations and experiences I’ve had during the four years I’ve been living in China, it seems as if the Chinese public views the flaws in democracy as the rule rather than the exception. Americans have our complaints—and rightfully so—about politicians, but at the end of the day, most of us believe in Winston Churchill’s famous remark, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Politicians might say stupid things to appeal to the public, but isn’t that better than the public having no say at all? By contrast, Chinese people often look at countries with unstable or failing democratic systems and use those systems as examples of why democracy itself is flawed. Thailand (with its many coups), Libya, and Iraq are frequently cited examples in China in the past few years.
But the Chinese save their worst criticism and their favorite cautionary tales about the foibles of democracy for Taiwan…(read more)
The Making of Asian America: A History, by Erika Lee, 528 pages, Simon & Schuster, Nonfiction.
Nicolas Gattig reports: In 1922, a Japanese immigrant to the United States named Takao Ozawa applied for citizenship with the U.S. Supreme Court. Having lived in America for almost 30 years, Ozawa was fluent in English and an active Christian, assuring the court that his skin was “white in color” and that he wished to “return the kindness which our Uncle Sam has extended me.” Still, his appeal was denied — naturalization at the time was exclusive to Caucasians.
“Asian-Americans have experienced both the promise of America as well as the racism of America. As we debate what kind of America we want to be in the 21st century — with concerns about immigration policy, racial equality and our ties to the rest of the world — Asian Americans and their long history in the U.S. can inform on these issues.”
— Author Erika Lee
A recurring theme in Erika Lee’s new book “The Making of Asian America: A History” is the humiliations of immigrant life — the “collective burden” of people who have to keep proving they are worthy. With a keen eye for telling quotes, Lee shows the human dimensions of Asian immigration to the U.S., which now spans 23 different groups and makes up 6 percent of the total population. Incidentally, she tells of a nation expanding its identity, of the inclusion of people once vilified.
From the start, Japanese sojourners feature prominently in this history, as the second largest group of Asian immigrants —the bulk being Chinese — during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hailing mostly from Okinawa, Kumamoto, Fukuoka and Hiroshima prefectures, they were mainly young men dodging military service or farmers fleeing the taxation of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) government.
The immigrant dream was soon interrupted. The “gentlemen’s agreement” between the U.S. and Japan was signed in 1908, barring all Japanese laborers from entering the U.S. This spurred illegal immigration via Mexico, and in a quirky aside Lee quotes a letter by a stateside contact named Nakagawa, who advised border-crossers laconically: “Some people go to Nogales. But sometimes they are killed by the natives. So you had better not go that way.”
The book reminds us how hedging the “Yellow Peril” was a part of U.S. immigration policy, culminating in 1924, when “immigration from Asia was banned completely, with the establishment of an ‘Asiatic Barred Zone.’”
“There is widespread condemnation. But there is also a lot of amnesia about WWII incarceration, a lot of misinformation and misremembering. So the lesson still needs to be learned by many, and with great urgency.”
Fitting this theme, two whole chapters here are devoted to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Imperial Army, the “military necessity” allowed for the U.S. government to round up all persons of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast, without due process or proof of wrongdoing. In fact, the measure was unwarranted: reports by the FBI and other offices showed that second-generation Japanese Americans were “pathetically eager” to show their loyalty to the U.S.
“Since the 1980s, American media have been praising the ‘rise of Asian America,’ pointing to Chinese and Indian Americans who enjoy better schooling and salaries than many whites. Still, it is misleading to speak of a ‘model minority.’ A wildly disparate community, Asian Americans also grapple with lower income and high crime rates.”
More than 120,000 Japanese Americans spent the war in camps, many losing their homes and livelihood. About 5,500 internees renounced their U.S. citizenship — becoming “Native American Aliens” — and some of them were deported to Japan. Read the rest of this entry »
The metal balls fell from the sky, scaring local residents.
Vietnam’s military is investigating the appearance of three mysterious metal balls — believed to be debris from space — which landed in the country’s remote north, a senior army official said Friday.
Two metal balls were discovered in northwestern Yen Bai province on January 2, army spokesman Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan told AFP.
Later a larger ball weighing some 45 kilograms (100 pounds) landed in a maize field in neighbouring Tuyen Quang province, he said.
“We are still identifying where they came from,” he said, adding the army had determined they did not contain explosives or hazardous material.
The metal balls fell from the sky, he said, scaring local residents.
“Before and after these objects were discovered, the Vietnamese army was not conducting any military activity in the region,” Tuan said.
The billionaire founder of Metersbonwe, one of China’s best-known fashion brands, has gone missing, the latest in a series of Chinese business people and financiers apparently embroiled in the country’s anti-corruption campaign.
“The company said in a second statement on Thursday night that it was unable to reach Mr Zhou or the secretary of the board, Tu Ke. The statement gave no further details.”
Metersbonwe suspended trading in its shares on the Shenzhen stock exchange on Thursday while the company said it was investigating reports in the Chinese media that Zhou Chengjian, its chairman, had been picked up by police.
“Mr Zhou is the latest high-profile private sector businessman believed to have been caught up in probes, and his disappearance follows the detention last month of Guo Guangchang of the conglomerate Fosun, which owns Club Med.”
The company is a household name on the Chinese high street and Mr Zhou was China’s 65th-richest man last year, according to the Hurun Rich list, with a fortune of Rmb26.5bn ($4.01bn).
The company said in a second statement on Thursday night that it was unable to reach Mr Zhou or the secretary of the board, Tu Ke. The statement gave no further details.
Mr Zhou is the latest high-profile private sector businessman believed to have been caught up in probes, and his disappearance follows the detention last month of Guo Guangchang of the conglomerate Fosun, which owns Club Med. Read the rest of this entry »
Chinese stock exchanges closed early for the second time this week after the CSI 300 Index plunged more than 7 percent.
Trading of shares and index futures was halted by automatic circuit breakers from about 9:59 a.m. local time. Stocks fell after China’s central bank weakened the currency’s daily reference rate by the most since August.
“The yuan’s depreciation has exceeded investors’ expectations,” said Wang Zheng, Shanghai-based chief investment officer at Jingxi Investment Management Co. “Investors are getting spooked by the declines, which will spur capital outflows.”
Under the mechanism which became effective Monday, a move of 5 percent in the CSI 300 triggers…(read more)
Source: Bloomberg Business
Rick Moran writes: The new year has gotten off to quite a start. Shia Iran and the Sunni Arab states have broken relations and are beginning to sound a lot like belligerents ready to go to war. The Chinese stock market tanked by nearly 7% while the Dow bled 300 points to open the year. And with the Iowa caucuses 30 days away, we will soon be faced with the probable choice of electing a screeching liberal harridan or a screaming celebrity tycoon.
But beyond that, there are at least 10 reasons why the global outlook for 2016 is so bad, we will end up envying the ostrich. The Eurasia Group has issued its annual list of the political and geopolitical trends that threaten stability, and if only a couple of these trends end up materializing, we’re going to wish we never woke up on New Year’s Day.
1. The Hollow Alliance
The trans-Atlantic partnership has been the world’s most important alliance for nearly 70 years, but it’s now weaker, and less relevant, than at any point in decades. It no longer plays a decisive role in addressing any of Europe’s top priorities.
2. Closed Europe
In 2016, divisions in Europe will reach a critical point as a core conflict emerges between Open Europe and Closed Europe — and a combination of inequality, refugees, terrorism, and grassroots political pressures pose an unprecedented challenge to the principles on which the new Europe was founded.
3. The China Footprint
The recognition in 2016 that China is both the most important and most uncertain driver of a series of global outcomes will increasingly unnerve other international players who aren’t ready for it, don’t understand or agree with Chinese priorities, and won’t know how to respond to it.
4. ISIS and “Friends”
For 2016, this problem will prove unfixable, and Isil (and other terrorist organisations) will take advantage of that. The most vulnerable states will remain those with explicit reasons for Isil to target them (France, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United States)…(read more)
Source: PJ Media
Yifan Xie and Shen Hong report: China’s stock market regulator announced last month that come the New Year it would introduce a circuit breaker–a forced pause to trading–if shares fell too precipitously. On the first trading day of the year, officials had to reach for the newly installed system, twice.
“The U.S. adopted the circuit breaker system in 1988, and it was only triggered once. The history of China’s circuit breaker is one day, and we’ve triggered it twice.”
An index of the 300 biggest stocks listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen plunged Monday, triggering the circuit breaker and leading first to one 15-minute pause in trading and then a second halt, which closed the markets for the remainder of the day 80 minutes earlier than scheduled.
“Excessive interference with trading will affect market efficiency and become counter-productive.”
— Chief economist Lin Caiyi
The markets opened in negative territory and stayed there as a flurry of bad news arrived: a weaker-than-expected gauge of manufacturing activity and a further slide in the value of the country’s currency. Adding to the bearish mood are worries among investors about the lapse this Friday of a six-month ban on selling shares by major shareholders–those holding 5% stakes or larger in a listed company. The ban was imposed in July last year to stem a meltdown in the stock markets, and its end may lead to more selling.
Markets turned critical 12 minutes into the afternoon session, as the CSI 300 Index fell 5%, prompting the 15-minute suspension. Six minutes after trading resumed, at 1:27 p.m.,the hemorrhaging continued. The CSI 300 index dived further, hitting a 7% limit and bringing the trading day to an end.
Caught off guard by the plunge, traders speculated that the securities regulator was conducting a test of the new circuit breaker mechanism. Read the rest of this entry »
A fifth person affiliated with a bookstore that sells books critical of China’s government went missing last week, raising concerns over Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Fiona Law reports: Hong Kong police are investigating the disappearance of the co-owner of a bookstore specializing in works critical of the Chinese government, that has prompted local lawmakers to voice fears that mainland Chinese law-enforcement agencies crossed the border to detain him.
Hong Kong and foreign media have reported that the wife of Lee Bo, a shareholder of Causeway Bay Books, told police on Friday that Mr. Lee had gone missing and that four people who worked for the bookstore or a publisher affiliated with it have gone missing in recent months, including one who disappeared in Thailand.
“It is terrifying,” said Albert Ho, a pro-democracy lawmaker. “So the mainland police can publicly arrest people in Hong Kong?”
On Sunday, a group of lawmakers and activists marched to the central Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, demanding answers about the missing people. Read the rest of this entry »
Factory activity cools for fifth month running as overseas demand for Chinese goods continues to fall
A further slowdown in China’s vast manufacturing sector has intensified worries about the year ahead for the world’s second largest economy.
“Against the backdrop of a faltering global economy, turmoil in the country’s stock markets and overcapacity in factories, Chinese economic growth has slowed markedly. The country’s central bank expects growth in 2015 to be the slowest for a quarter of a century.”
The latest in a string of downbeat reports from showed that activity at China’s factor ies cooled in December for the fifth month running, as overseas demand for Chinese goods continued to fall.
Against the backdrop of a faltering global economy, turmoil in the country’s stock markets and overcapacity in factories, Chinese economic growth has slowed markedly. The country’s central bank expects growth in 2015 to be the slowest for a quarter of a century.
After growing 7.3% in 2014, the economy is thought to have expanded by 6.9% in 2015 and the central bank has forecast that it may slow further in 2016 to 6.8%.
A series of interventions by policymakers, including interest rate cuts, have done little to revive growth and in some cases served only to heighten concern about China’s challenges.
Friday’s figures showed that the manufacturing sector limped to the end of 2015. The official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) of manufacturing activity edged up to 49.7 in December from 49.6 in November.
The December reading matched the forecast in a Reuters poll of economists and marked the fifth consecutive month that the index was below 50, the point that separates expansion from contraction. Read the rest of this entry »
The rap was released in conjunction with a special program on CCTV called ‘The Power of Deepening Reforms‘.
Alyssa Abkowitz, Yang Jie and Chang Chen report: As 2015 comes to an end, China Central Television is rolling out a novel rap song that presents a year in review, Communist Party style – with only good news.
On Monday, the state broadcaster released a 2:44-minute rap to celebrate the achievements of everyone’s favorite party organ, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform, which will mark its two-year anniversary on Dec. 30.
The song — which struck China Real Time as more Skee-Lo than Kendrick Lamar – reminds the Chinese public to “trust the government” and look at China’s progress on advancing education, combating smog and reforming the health care system during 2015.
It also features voice clips from President Xi Jinping (although the soundbites appear to have been sampled from Mr. Xi’s speeches rather than performed by the Chinese leader live in-studio).
The rap was released in conjunction with a special program on CCTV called “The Power of Deepening Reforms.” It comes on the heels of the second year of Mr. Xi’s far-reaching anticorruption campaign, which has snagged, as the song says, hundreds of “flies, tigers and large foxes.”
It also touts China’s establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the International Monetary Fund’s move to accept the yuan as its fifth reserve currency and the progress made by the “One Belt, One Road” network of infrastructure projects.
Xi makes his debut at around 49 seconds with the phrase: “To turn the people’s expectations into our actions.” Ten seconds later, he comes back, saying, “An arrow will never return once it’s shot.” Read the rest of this entry »