In a city where land is everything, a housing crunch is brewing.
Annie Zheng reports: According to a new study by think tank Our Hong Kong Foundation, the amount of new, developable land in the former British colony is shrinking. Add in a growing population that will outpace the supply of new apartment units, and there’s a pressing need for the creation of more land, says the think tank, led by former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.
“We see a substantial shortage in land and housing resources,” said William Tsang, senior researcher and author of the study. “The government is increasingly relying on changing the use of old land. This means the amount of buildable land is dwindling. When that runs out, what’s next?”
The study found that in 2012, 73% of the nine million square feet of public land for bidding was reclaimed land; by 2015 that had dropped to 50% of the 7.8 million square feet on offer. As a result, the government is relying more on selling converted forms of land, such as work sites, slopes and former staff quarters.
Public land sales in the form of 50-year land grants are a major source of revenue for the government and one way developers secure land on which to build. In recent years, a flurry of new developers including mainland Chinese have entered the bidding process as the government has put up smaller and more pieces of land. Read the rest of this entry »
front page of The Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition
The Yamaguchi-gumi was founded in Kobe in 1915 by Harukichi Yamaguchi as an association of dockworkers. The man credited with building the Yamaguchi-gumi into Japan’s largest yakuza syndicate was Kazuo Taoka, the charismatic third don dubbed ‘the bear’ for clawing his opponent’s eyes during brawls.
Alexander Martin reports: The Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest and most powerful yakuza crime syndicate, is undergoing a major split on its 100th anniversary after years of police crackdowns and financial strains.
“Such exploits furnished material for countless yakuza movies over the years, some of which implicitly celebrated the gangsters as upholders of traditional Japanese values of loyalty and sacrifice.”
Japanese police, fearing the outbreak of a bloody gang war, have been on alert since news broke in late August that groups within the Yamaguchi-gumi were parting ways with its sixth-generation don. The result is two groups– the Yamaguchi-gumi and a rival syndicate, both of which are based in central Japan.
“Even today, the existence of yakuza groups isn’t technically illegal. They have offices as well as fan magazines dedicated to their underworld endeavors.”
Experts say the split reflects the harsh environment facing the yakuza, Japan’s homegrown mafia, following a slew of anti-gang laws that have choked off their revenue.
“Clampdowns against the yakuza have been enforced at all points, making it increasingly difficult for them to rack up profits.”
— Yoshiaki Shinozaki, an attorney with decades of experience fighting organized crime
Once tacitly accepted as a necessary evil to handle society’s dirty work, the yakuza are now taboo for large corporations, and gang members are having more trouble extorting money through protection rackets or serving as muscle men in real-estate schemes.
The Yamaguchi-gumi was founded in Kobe in 1915 by Harukichi Yamaguchi as an association of dockworkers. The man credited with building the Yamaguchi-gumi into Japan’s largest yakuza syndicate was Kazuo Taoka, the charismatic third don dubbed “the bear” for clawing his opponent’s eyes during brawls.
“Once tacitly accepted as a necessary evil to handle society’s dirty work, the yakuza are now taboo for large corporations, and gang members are having more trouble extorting money through protection rackets or serving as muscle men in real-estate schemes.”
During Mr. Taoka’s reign from 1946 to his death in 1981, the Yamaguchi-gumi expanded its membership, developed ties with show business and spread its tentacles into political and financial circles.
“Public attitudes toward the yakuza hardened over the years. Racketeers known as sokaiya were especially feared by corporate Japan for extorting money by threatening to publicly humiliate and expose corporate secrets at annual shareholders meetings.”
Such exploits furnished material for countless yakuza movies over the years, some of which implicitly celebrated the gangsters as upholders of traditional Japanese values of loyalty and sacrifice. Even today, the existence of yakuza groups isn’t technically illegal. They have offices as well as fan magazines dedicated to their underworld endeavors.
“We will undermine them by moving ahead with strategic and focused crackdowns on both their human resources and funding sources.”
— Ichiro Kume, police chief of the prefecture that includes Kobe
But public attitudes toward the yakuza hardened over the years. Racketeers known as sokaiya were especially feared by corporate Japan for extorting money by threatening to publicly humiliate and expose corporate secrets at annual shareholders meetings. In 1997, the former chairman of Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank (now part of Mizuho Financial Group) committed suicide after the bank was found to have lent tens of millions of dollars to a sokaiya leader.
The government’s top spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, confirmed signs of recent disorder in the Yamaguchi-gumi and described them as an opportunity to weaken the groups. Read the rest of this entry »
Just 30 percent of people polled said that the next president ‘should take an approach similar to that of Barack Obama’.
Ed Morrissey writes:
So much for continuity. Recently, Barack Obama bragged that he could win a third term in office if the Constitution didn’t prohibit it, but a new Monmouth poll shows that Americans overwhelmingly want a change of direction and approach. Only 27% would support a hypothetical Obama re-election, and more than two-thirds would vote for someone else if Obama appeared on the ticket:
The poll also looked at Pres. Barack Obama’s overall standing with the public. In a recent speech, Obama said that he could win a third term if the Constitution didn’t limit him to two. The poll’s results suggest this may be a bit of wishful thinking. Just 26% of American voters say they would vote to re-elect Obama if he was allowed to run for another term while fully 68% would vote for somebody else. It’s no surprise that Obama would find little enthusiasm for another four years in the White House among Republicans (5%) or even independents (23%) at this stage. However, his support among Democrats is not particularly strong either – just 53% would back the incumbent for a third term while 43% of his fellow partisans would vote for somebody else.
“Well, it was worth a shot,” said Murray. “It’s not like the president’s claim could ever be tested for real.”
Pres. Obama’s job rating has dropped after temporarily poking its head above water last month. He currently has a negative 45% approve to 50% disapprove rating with the American public. That’s lower than the 47% positive to 46% negative rating he held in July, but it is similar to his job ratings from earlier in the year. Currently, 79% of Democrats approve of the president’s job performance – similar to 80% in July – whereas 85% of Republicans disapprove – up from 80% in July. Independents give Obama a negative split at 39% approve and 52% disapprove, which is slightly worse than last month’s rating of 42% approve and 48% disapprove.
Part of this might be the Iran deal, which reminds Americans why term limits in this office are a good idea. While a large number of people remain unsure about the deal, a narrow plurality (27/32) opposes it, with independents breaking almost exactly with the public at large (27/33). Read the rest of this entry »
How can the U.S. hope to keep tabs on Tehran’s nuclear program when we can’t even track its oil tankers?
Ms. Rosett is journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and heads its Investigative Reporting Project.
Claudia Rosett writes: American negotiators and their cohorts are trying to close a deal that would let Iran keep its nuclear program, subject to intricate conditions of monitoring and enforcement. Yet how is a deal like that supposed to be verified? The Obama administration can’t even keep up with the Iran-linked oil tankers on the U.S. blacklist.
Currently, there are at least 55 of these tankers the Treasury Department says are under U.S. sanctions. These are large ships, major links in the oil chain that sustains the Tehran regime, many of them calling at ports from Turkey to China. They are easier to spot and track than, say, smuggled nuclear parts (which, in a pinch, they could potentially squeeze on board).
“Typical of Iran’s shrouded tanker fleet is the blacklisted ship called the Sinopa, previously named the Superior and before that, the Daisy. Since early 2014, the Sinopa has visited India and China. It has also made multiple trips from Iran to Turkey, via the Suez Canal, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence shipping database, the main source of ship-tracking data for this article.”
But Iran has engaged for years in what Treasury called “deceptive practices” to dodge sanctions. These include trying to mask the identities, and sometimes the smuggling activities, of its blacklisted ships by renaming them, reflagging them to other countries, veiling their ownership behind front companies, presenting false documents, and engaging in illicit ship-to-ship oil transfers.
“Judging by Treasury’s blacklist, the Sinopa—which Treasury still describes under her previous name of Superior—has done all of this under no identified flag. Why not—what is she hiding? The Treasury refuses to comment on specific cases.”
The result, according to information on Treasury’s publicly available blacklist, is that the U.S. government cannot establish under what flag at least 31 of these tankers are doing business. They can be identified by their unique seven-digit hull numbers, or IMO numbers, issued for the life of each ship. But a ship’s flag also is a vital identifier, one under which it signals its position, carries cargo and presents credentials to visit ports, buy insurance and pay fees. On Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals list, which helps ensure global compliance with U.S. sanctions, in the category of “flag” for these 31 tankers Treasury states: “none identified.”
Under terms of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action that frames the Iran nuclear talks, the U.S. does grant temporary waivers for a handful of places to buy Iranian oil in limited quantities: Turkey, India, China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. This means that some activities of these tankers may be legitimate. Read the rest of this entry »
How people are using U.S. cloud providers to sidestep China’s Internet censors
NBC Has Launched an Internal Investigation into Brian Williams’s Comments on Iraq, Katrina, and Other StoriesPosted: February 6, 2015
NBC has launched an internal investigation into Brian Williams’s comments on Iraq, Katrina, and other stories http://t.co/mq2RDzp9ax
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) February 7, 2015
Sarene Leeds reports: Below (after the jump) is Sony’s completed Christmas Day release list as of this morning, but click here throughout the day for updates and for the theaters that plan to show “The Interview” starting Jan. 1.
And if you need a quick refresher on what this film is all about (North Korea, killing Kim Jong-un, bumbling journalists, Lizzy Caplan as a CIA agent – you know, harmless stuff), here are three teasers.
[Update: You can also watch “The Interview” online, starting today at 1 p.m. via YouTube Movies, Google Play, Microsoft Xbox, and at Sony’s site, seetheinterview.com. It will cost $5.99 to rent and $14.99 to purchase an HD version.]
The footnotes alone could fill a library
Alyssa Abkowitz reports: Braising chicken is a science in itself.
That’s according to an 80,000-word doctoral dissertation by a 34-year-female PhD candidate in China’s Shanxi Province, written in an effort to find out how spices impact the taste of meat.
Sun Lingxia, a student at Shanxi Normal University, conducted a two-year study on braised chicken to help pave the way for standardizing production of traditional food on a large scale, she told the Southern Metropolis Daily, a local newspaper in Guangzhou.
“While Chinese microbloggers have nicknamed the dissertation “The Most Yummy Paper,” one of Ms. Sun’s professors said scientific research on food is quite normal, citing examples including Japanese research papers on bread.”
By comparing differences between chicken braised with star anise and those braised without the popular spice, she was able to control taste by quantifying the temperature, time and power needed to make braised chicken taste the most delicious. To ensure consistency in her experiments, Ms. Sun used one factory in Henan Province to source all her chicken and only used star anise from Guangxi, the report said.
Ms. Sun focused on star anise because it’s affordable and commonly used in both braised chicken and braised pork, two popular dishes in China. Read the rest of this entry »
“Hong Kong has many people who are against Occupy Central. The fact that a majority of people are against Occupy…but that you guys continue to occupy the sites, that’s most undemocratic of all.”
— David Lau, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. banker, corporate finance division
For WSJ, Prudence Ho reports: A senior J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. banker walking to lunch on Wednesday interrupted a live roundtable webcast on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests to express his frustration over the continued street blockage.
“Do you think you’re being democratic? There’s a show going on and then you just come in to interrupt us.”
— Martin Lee, founding chairman of Democratic Party, who was one of the guests
David Lau, who heads the U.S. investment bank’s China corporate finance division, walked into the interview with protest leaders and a democracy advocate that was being streamed by local paper Apple Daily, live from the Admiralty protest site.
“People are trying to get to work, and you’ve blocked off the streets. That’s not democratic either, is it?”
— David Lau, who didn’t realize his comments were being streamed live
“Hong Kong has many people who are against Occupy Central,” said Mr. Lau, who was wearing a blue shirt. “The fact that a majority of people are against Occupy…but that you guys continue to occupy the sites, that’s most undemocratic of all.”
He ignored attempts by the program’s host to stop him, and continued speaking for nearly two minutes, though he never lost his cool during the interruption. Read the rest of this entry »
When 19-year-old Dilar and her girlfriends learned last spring that a woman who taught at a local school had died fighting Islamic State, they made a pact: They would join an all-female Syrian Kurdish brigade named in the teacher’s honor.
“When I walk with my gun, the men who haven’t volunteered keep their eyes down around me. My bravery shames them.”
Her unit, the Martyr Warsin Brigade, saw action this summer in a tough battle against the extremist fighters for Ras al-Ayn, a town along the Turkish border. Dilar came away without injury and returned home to a hero’s welcome.
[Also see The Mystery of Ceylan Ozalp]
Now, during her downtime, she and her female comrades stride with a swagger through their villages east of the embattled city of Kobani.
“When I walk with my gun, the men who haven’t volunteered keep their eyes down around me,” said Dilar, who didn’t want to give her family name. “My bravery shames them.”
“Really we have no differences. We do what the men do.”
As debate flares in Washington and other capitals about whether the battle against Islamic State can succeed without more boots—even U.S. ones—on the ground, Kurdish women have stepped up to defend their lands in Syria and Iraq. An estimated one-third of the Syrian Kurdish fighters in Kobani are women, fighters and residents say, a figure that mirrors their role in other significant battles across Kurdish territories this year.
The monthlong battle over the city on the Turkish border is straining Islamic State, Kurdish politicians and U.S. officials say, and hampering its overall expansion strategy.
The overriding motivation that Kurds give for fighting the insurgents is to save their ancestral homeland from destruction. Yet many women combatants also cite a more personal crusade. Across the territory in Syria and Iraq that it now controls, Islamic State has reinstituted slavery, prohibited women from working and threatened to kill those Muslims, including Kurds, who don’t adhere to their ideology.
“Sometimes we are so close to them without knowing it, because they hide in empty buildings.”
“Islamic State are terrorists, inhuman,” said a 28-year-old female commander of both men and women in Kobani who uses the nom-de-guerre Afsin Kobane.
Ms. Kobane was a kindergarten teacher when she decided last year to join the female unit of the Syrian Kurdish resistance force, known as YPJ. Speaking by telephone from her post in the besieged city on the Turkish border, she said her mixed-gender unit had been fighting for more than a month and was holding a position only a half-mile from Islamic State fighters. Read the rest of this entry »
Macs and iPhones finally speak the same language.
I can begin replying to an email on my phone, then walk over to my laptop and finish it off there. While my phone charges on my nightstand, I can pick up calls from my mom with a mouse click at my desk. And when someone texts me a photo, it’s already on my laptop, where I can quickly jazz it up in Photoshop then tweet it.
With the Thursday release of the Mac’s free OS X Yosemite update, Apple is finally getting its devices to behave like a real, happy family—a family that not only talks to each other but even looks very much alike. The Mac operating system has acquired apps and features from iOS—and vice versa—over the past few years, but this is the biggest leap toward each other yet.
The advantage is so big that if you are an iPhone or iPad owner but don’t have a Mac, Yosemite might get you to consider buying one. It makes living in Apple’s ecosystem harder to resist. But before you fall into the Apple trap, keep in mind that there are still plenty of reasons to play with Google (and even Microsoft ) on a Mac or iPhone.
An iOS-Inspired Face-Lift
Late one night, Jony Ive, Apple’s design chief, threw on the “White Album,” took out a bucket of translucent primer, mixed it together with some of his rainbow-colored iOS paint and tossed it at the computer screen. At least, that’s how I imagine the Mac operating system got its new look.
There are traces of iPhone and iPad design everywhere you look. Icons have been revamped to look flatter and more modern. The edges of windows are translucent so you can see what’s behind them. The red, yellow and green window-position buttons look like a futuristic traffic light. Even the notification pane now has a “Today” view that is identical to the iPhone’s. Read the rest of this entry »
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) October 15, 2014
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) October 5, 2014
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) September 30, 2014
On Sept. 28, organizers of Occupy Central, a civil disobedience movement pushing for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, joined student protesters in calling for democracy in the city. Occupy Central decided to launch its protests early after student protesters attempted to break into the Hong Kong government headquarters, sparking clashes with police.
Washington’s foolish approaches to the Islamic State will not destroy them or discourage others from following in their footsteps. Angelo Codevilla’s advice: Get Your Heads Out of
Your Ass The Sand
“As in Bush’s war, as is the custom in Washington nowadays, our ruling class’s several sectors decide what actions they feel comfortable undertaking about any given problem, while avoiding reasonable judgment about whether these actions will actually fix the problem.”
Angelo Codevilla writes: The American people’s reaction to Muslim thugs of the “Islamic State” ritually knifing off the heads of people who look like you and me boils down to “let’s destroy these bastards”—which is common sense. But our ruling class, from President Obama on the Left to The Wall Street Journal on the Right, take the public’s pressure to do this as another occasion for further indulging their longtime preferences, prejudices, and proclivities for half-measures in foreign affairs—the very things that have invited people from all over the planet to join hunting season on Americans.
“We need to crush ISIS and not work on arming more Islamic radicals. Just what would arming these people accomplish?”
— Representative Duncan Hunter, a Marine veteran
This indulgence so overwhelms our ruling class’s perception of reality that the recipes put forth by its several wings, little different from one another, are identical in the one essential respect: none of them involve any plans which, if carried out, would destroy the Islamic State, kill large numbers of the cut-throats, and discourage others from following in their footsteps. Hence, like the George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and for the same reasons, this exercise of our ruling class’s wisdom in foreign affairs will decrease respect for us while invigorating our enemies.
[Check out Angelo Codevilla’s book “To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves and with All Nations“ at Amazon.com]
The WSJ’s recommendations, like the Obama administration’s projected activities, are all about discrete measures—some air strikes, some arming of local forces, etc. But they abstract from the fundamental reality of any and all activities: He who wills any end must will the means to achieve it. As in Bush’s war, as is the custom in Washington nowadays, our ruling class’s several sectors decide what actions they feel comfortable undertaking about any given problem, while avoiding reasonable judgment about whether these actions will actually fix the problem. This is the very definition of irresponsibility. But they call it “strategy.”
Irresponsibly Avoiding Debate
Our Constitution prescribes that war happens subsequent to votes by elected representatives. By debate and vote, presumably they reconcile the war’s ends with the means to be employed. But to reconcile ends and means is to banish illusions and pretenses. Read the rest of this entry »
— Joanna Stern (@JoannaStern) September 9, 2014
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) August 24, 2014
Use of force by police officers declined 60% in first year since introduction of cameras in Rialto, California
With all eyes on Ferguson, Mo., in the wake of the death of Michael Brown, a renewed focus is being put on police transparency. Is the solution body-mounted cameras for police officers?
“Thomas Jefferson once advised that ‘whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.'”
Sometimes, like the moments leading up to when a police officer decides to shoot someone, transparency is an unalloyed good. And especially lately, technology has progressed to a point that it makes this kind of transparency not just possible, but routine.
“One problem with the cameras, however, has been cost.”
So it is in Rialto, Calif., where an entire police force is wearing so-called body-mounted cameras, no bigger than pagers, that record everything that transpires between officers and citizens.
“Unfortunately, one place where expenses can mount is in the storage and management of the data they generate.”
In the first year after the cameras’ introduction, the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%.
Sign on support of Officer Darren Wilson, Barney’s Sports Pub, South City MO pic.twitter.com/vBY0bFGNbR
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 24, 2014
It isn’t known how many police departments are making regular use of cameras, though it is being considered as a way of perhaps altering the course of events in places such as Ferguson, Mo., where an officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. Read the rest of this entry »
“I bleed Microsoft.” – Steve Ballmer resigns from the company board after 14 years. http://t.co/yDzwYc6scN
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) August 19, 2014
64% of China’s Rich, Those With Assets of More Than $1.6 Million, are Either Emigrating or Planning ToPosted: August 17, 2014
64% of China’s rich, those with assets of more than $1.6 million, are either emigrating or planning to. http://t.co/YmA7oNZFG1
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) August 17, 2014